Monday, February 3, 2014

Daniel Defoe - Biography

Daniel Defoe (1660-1731)

v     Daniel Defoe was an English writer, pamphleteer, journalist, spy, and merchant.

v     Defoe is considered one of the first English novelists, with his most famous work being Robinson Crusoe.

v     Defoe was a social critic, arguing for greater freedom of speech, and the rights of immigrants. He wrote satirical pamphlets making fun of the government, for which he was imprisoned, and stood for three days in a pillory (pranier).

v     Defoe often wrote anonymously, using over 198 different pen names (literárny pseudonymy).

v     Some of Defoe’s satires include Letters Writ by a Turkish Spy, Everybody’s Business is Nobody’s Business, and a Political History of the Devil, in which he describes how the Devil caused historical events like the holy crusades (križiacky výpravy).

v     Defoe opposed (postavil sa) the Catholic King James II, because Defoe was a Presbyterian, and King James didn’t like them. Presbyterians were Christians, mostly Scottish, who rebelled against the Church of England. They wanted a different church government with a council of elders.

v     The next king, William III, liked Presbyterians, so Defoe was  happy, and worked for him, and later Queen Anne, as a spy.

v     Defoe wrote a newspaper, The Review, 3 times a week from 1702-1713, telling details about the War of Spanish Succession in Europe. This war was over who would be the next Spanish king.

v     The Review also supported the Act of Union, in 1707 that joined Scotland and England into one nation, called Great Britain. Before this act, England and Scotland were separate states, with the same monarch, but two different legislatures.

v     Besides writing The Review, Defoe went to Edinburgh where he acted as a spy, risking his life to help form the union. Another unionist said, “He was a spy among us, but not known as such, otherwise the Mob (dav, luza) of Edinburgh would pull him to pieces.”

Personal Life:
Daniel was born in London, and was the son of a chandler (sviečkár) named John Foe. Daniel added the “De” later in life to sound more aristocratic (šľachtický). His mother died when he was ten. As a child, Daniel witnessed the Great Plague (Veľký Mor) of 1665, and the Great Fire of 1666 which destroyed all but three houses in his neighbourhood. Lucky for him, one of those three was his. In 1684 Defoe married Mary Tuffley. Their marriage lasted over fifty years, and they had eight children (six survived).
Defoe was a successful business man, but he spent too much money, and was always in debt. He was arrested in 1692 for debts and again in 1702 for a pamphlet he wrote, making fun of the new Queen Anne. He was released from prison on the condition that he work for the Tories, a political party that paid for his release.

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