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Title: Daniel Defoe
Author: Minto, William, 1845-1893
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Daniel Defoe" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.









   JOHNSON             Leslie Stephen.
   GIBBON              J.C. Morison.
   SCOTT               R.H. Hutton.
   SHELLEY             J.A. Symonds.
   HUME                T.H. Huxley.
   GOLDSMITH           William Black
   DEFOE               William Minto.
   BURNS               J.C. Shairp.
   SPENSER             R.W. Church.
   THACKERAY           Anthony Trollope.
   BURKE               John Morley.
   MILTON              Mark Pattison.
   HAWTHORNE           Henry James, Jr.
   SOUTHEY             E. Dowden.
   CHAUCER             A.W. Ward
   BUNYAN              J.A. Froude.
   COWPER              Goldwin Smith.
   POPE                Leslie Stephen.
   BYRON               John Nichol.
   LOCKE               Thomas Fowler.
   WORDSWORTH          F. Myers.
   DRYDEN              G. Saintsbury.
   LANDOR              Sidney Colvin.
   DE QUINCEY          David Masson.
   LAMB                Alfred Ainger.
   BENTLEY             R.C. Jebb.
   DICKENS             A.W. Ward.
   GRAY                E.W. Gosse.
   SWIFT               Leslie Stephen.
   STERNE              H.D. Traill.
   MACAULAY            J. Cotter Morison.
   FIELDING            Austin Dobson.
   SHERIDAN            Mrs. Oliphant.
   ADDISON             W.J. Courthope.
   BACON               R.W. Church.
   COLERIDGE           H.D. Traill.
   SIR PHILIP SIDNEY   J.A. Symonds.



There are three considerable biographies of Defoe--the first, by George
Chalmers, published in 1786; the second by Walter Wilson, published in
1830; the third, by William Lee, published in 1869. All three are
thorough and painstaking works, justified by independent research and
discovery. The labour of research in the case of an author supposed to
have written some two hundred and fifty separate books and pamphlets,
very few of them under his own name, is naturally enormous; and when it
is done, the results are open to endless dispute. Probably two men could
not be found who would read through the vast mass of contemporary
anonymous and pseudonymous print, and agree upon a complete list of
Defoe's writings. Fortunately, however, for those who wish to get a
clear idea of his life and character, the identification is not pure
guess-work on internal evidence. He put his own name or initials to some
of his productions, and treated the authorship of others as open
secrets. Enough is ascertained as his to provide us with the means for a
complete understanding of his opinions and his conduct. It is Defoe's
misfortune that his biographers on the large scale have occupied
themselves too much with subordinate details, and have been misled from
a true appreciation of his main lines of thought and action by
religious, political, and hero-worshipping bias. For the following
sketch, taking Mr. Lee's elaborate work as my chronological guide, I
have read such of Defoe's undoubted writings as are accessible in the
Library of the British Museum--there is no complete collection, I
believe, in existence--and endeavoured to connect them and him with the
history of the time.



   DEFOE'S YOUTH AND EARLY PURSUITS                    1

   KING WILLIAM'S ADJUTANT                            13

   A MARTYR TO DISSENT?                               30


   THE ADVOCATE OF PEACE AND UNION                    62



   LATER JOURNALISTIC LABOURS                        115


   HIS MYSTERIOUS END                                155



The life of a man of letters is not as a rule eventful. It may be rich
in spiritual experiences, but it seldom is rich in active adventure. We
ask his biographer to tell us what were his habits of composition, how
he talked, how he bore himself in the discharge of his duties to his
family, his neighbors, and himself; what were his beliefs on the great
questions that concern humanity. We desire to know what he said and
wrote, not what he did beyond the study and the domestic or the social
circle. The chief external facts in his career are the dates of the
publication of his successive books.

Daniel Defoe is an exception to this rule. He was a man of action as
well as a man of letters. The writing of the books which have given him
immortality was little more than an accident in his career, a
comparatively trifling and casual item in the total expenditure of his
many-sided energy. He was nearly sixty when he wrote _Robinson Crusoe_.
Before that event he had been a rebel, a merchant, a manufacturer, a
writer of popular satires in verse, a bankrupt; had acted as secretary
to a public commission, been employed in secret services by five
successive Administrations, written innumerable pamphlets, and edited
more than one newspaper. He had led, in fact, as adventurous a life as
any of his own heroes, and had met quickly succeeding difficulties with
equally ready and fertile ingenuity.

For many of the incidents in Defoe's life we are indebted to himself. He
had all the vaingloriousness of exuberant vitality, and was animated in
the recital of his own adventures. Scattered throughout his various
works are the materials for a tolerably complete autobiography. This is
in one respect an advantage for any one who attempts to give an account
of his life. But it has a counterbalancing disadvantage in the
circumstance that there is grave reason to doubt his veracity, Defoe was
a great story-teller in more senses than one. We can hardly believe a
word that he says about himself without independent confirmation.

Defoe was born in London, in 1661. It is a characteristic circumstance
that his name is not his own, except in the sense that it was assumed by
himself. The name of his father, who was a butcher in the parish of St.
Giles, Cripplegate, was Foe. His grandfather was a Northamptonshire
yeoman. In his _True Born Englishman_, Defoe spoke very contemptuously
of families that professed to have come over with "the Norman bastard,"
defying them to prove whether their ancestors were drummers or colonels;
but apparently he was not above the vanity of making the world believe
that he himself was of Norman-French origin. Yet such was the restless
energy of the man that he could not leave even his adopted name alone;
he seems to have been about forty when he first changed his signature
"D. Foe" into the surname of "Defoe;" but his patient biographer, Mr.
Lee, has found several later instances of his subscribing himself "D.
Foe," "D.F.," and "De Foe" in alternation with the "Daniel De Foe," or
"Daniel Defoe," which has become his accepted name in literature.

In middle age, when Defoe was taunted with his want of learning, he
retorted that if he was a blockhead it was not the fault of his father,
who had "spared nothing in his education that might qualify him to match
the accurate Dr. Browne, or the learned Observator." His father was a
Nonconformist, a member of the congregation of Dr. Annesley, and the son
was originally intended for the Dissenting ministry. "It was his
disaster," he said afterwards, "first to be set apart for, and then to
be set apart from, that sacred employ." He was placed at an academy for
the training of ministers at the age, it is supposed, of about fourteen,
and probably remained there for the full course of five years. He has
himself explained why, when his training was completed, he did not
proceed to the office of the pulpit, but changed his views and resolved
to engage in business as a hose-merchant. The sum of the explanation is
that the ministry seemed to him at that time to be neither honourable,
agreeable, nor profitable. It was degraded, he thought, by the entrance
of men who had neither physical nor intellectual qualification for it,
who had received out of a denominational fund only such an education as
made them pedants rather than Christian gentlemen of high learning, and
who had consequently to submit to shameful and degrading practices in
their efforts to obtain congregations and subsistence. Besides, the
behaviour of congregations to their ministers, who were dependent, was
often objectionable and un-Christian. And finally, far-flown birds
having fine feathers, the prizes of the ministry in London were
generally given to strangers, "eminent ministers _called_ from all parts
of England," some even from Scotland, finding acceptance in the
metropolis before having received any formal ordination.

Though the education of his "fund-bred" companions, as he calls them, at
Mr. Morton's Academy in Newington Green, was such as to excite Defoe's
contempt, he bears testimony to Mr. Morton's excellence as a teacher,
and instances the names of several pupils who did credit to his labours.
In one respect Mr. Morton's system was better than that which then
prevailed at the Universities; all dissertations were written and all
disputations held in English; and hence it resulted, Defoe says, that
his pupils, though they were "not destitute in the languages," were
"made masters of the English tongue, and more of them excelled in that
particular than of any school at that time." Whether Defoe obtained at
Newington the rudiments of all the learning which he afterwards claimed
to be possessed of, we do not know; but the taunt frequently levelled at
him by University men of being an "illiterate fellow" and no scholar,
was one that he bitterly resented, and that drew from him many
protestations and retorts. In 1705, he angrily challenged John Tutchin
"to translate with him any Latin, French, or Italian author, and after
that to retranslate them crosswise for twenty pounds each book;" and he
replied to Swift, who had spoken of him scornfully as "an illiterate
fellow, whose name I forget," that "he had been in his time pretty well
master of five languages, and had not lost them yet, though he wrote no
bill at his door, nor set Latin quotations on the front of the
_Review_." To the end of his days Defoe could not forget this taunt of
want of learning. In one of the papers in _Applebee's Journal_
identified by Mr. Lee (below, Chapter VIII.), he discussed what is to be
understood by "learning," and drew the following sketch of his own

"I remember an Author in the World some years ago, who was generally
upbraided with Ignorance, and called an 'Illiterate Fellow,' by some of
the _Beau-Monde_ of the last Age...."

"I happened to come into this Person's Study once, and I found him busy
translating a Description of the Course of the River Boristhenes, out of
_Bleau's_ Geography, written in _Spanish_. Another Time I found him
translating some Latin Paragraphs out _of Leubinitz Theatri Cometici_,
being a learned Discourse upon Comets; and that I might see whether it
was genuine, I looked on some part of it that he had finished, and found
by it that he understood the Latin very well, and had perfectly taken
the sense of that difficult Author. In short, I found he understood the
_Latin_, the _Spanish_, the _Italian_, and could read the _Greek_, and I
knew before that he spoke _French_ fluently--_yet this Man was no

"As to Science, on another Occasion, I heard him dispute (in such a
manner as surprised me) upon the motions of the Heavenly Bodies, the
Distance, Magnitude, Revolutions, and especially the Influences of the
Planets, the Nature and probable Revolutions of Comets, the excellency
of the New Philosophy, and the like; _but this Man was no Scholar_."

"In Geography and History he had all the World at his Finger's ends. He
talked of the most distant Countries with an inimitable Exactness; and
changing from one Place to another, the Company thought, of every Place
or Country he named, that certainly he must have been born there. He
knew not only where every Thing was, but what everybody did in every
Part of the World; I mean, what Businesses, what Trade, what
Manufacture, was carrying on in every Part of the World; and had the
History of almost all the Nations of the World in his Head--_yet this
Man was no Scholar_."

"This put me upon wondering, ever so long ago, what this _strange Thing_
called a Man of Learning _was_, and what is it that constitutes a
_Scholar_? For, _said I_, here's a man speaks five Languages and reads
the Sixth, is a master of Astronomy, Geography, History, and abundance
of other useful Knowledge (which I do not mention, that you may not
guess at the Man, who is too Modest to desire it), and yet, they say
_this Man is no Scholar_."

How much of this learning Defoe acquired at school, and how much he
picked up afterwards under the pressure of the necessities of his
business, it is impossible to determine, but at any rate it was at least
as good a qualification for writing on public affairs as the more
limited and accurate scholarship of his academic rivals. Whatever may
have been the extent of his knowledge when he passed from Mr. Morton's
tuition, qualified but no longer willing to become a Dissenting
preacher, he did not allow it to rust unused; he at once mobilised his
forces for active service. They were keen politicians, naturally, at the
Newington Academy, and the times furnished ample materials for their
discussions. As Nonconformists they were very closely affected by the
struggle between Charles II. and the defenders of Protestantism and
popular liberties. What part Defoe took in the excitement of the closing
years of the reign of Charles must be matter of conjecture, but there
can be little doubt that he was active on the popular side. He had but
one difference then, he afterwards said in one of his tracts, with his
party. He would not join them in wishing for the success of the Turks in
besieging Vienna, because, though the Austrians were Papists, and though
the Turks were ostensibly on the side of the Hungarian reformers whom
the Austrian Government had persecuted, he had read the history of the
Turks and could not pray for their victory over Christians of any
denomination. "Though then but a young man, and a younger author" (this
was in 1683), "he opposed it and wrote against it, which was taken very
unkindly indeed." From these words it would seem that Defoe had thus
early begun to write pamphlets on questions of the hour. As he was on
the weaker side, and any writing might have cost him his life, it is
probable that he did not put his name to any of these tracts; none of
them have been identified; but his youth was strangely unlike his mature
manhood if he was not justified in speaking of himself as having been
then an "author." Nor was he content merely with writing. It would have
been little short of a miracle if his restless energy had allowed him to
lie quiet while the air was thick with political intrigue. We may be
sure that he had a voice in some of the secret associations in which
plans were discussed of armed resistance to the tyranny of the King. We
have his own word for it that he took part in the Duke of Monmouth's
rising, when the whips of Charles were exchanged for the scorpions of
James. He boasted of this when it became safe to do so, and the truth of
the boast derives incidental confirmation from the fact that the names
of three of his fellow-students at Newington appear in the list of the
victims of Jeffreys and Kirke.

Escaping the keen hunt that was made for all participators in the
rebellion, Defoe, towards the close of 1685, began business as a hosier
or hose-factor in Freeman's Court, Corn hill. The precise nature of his
trade has been disputed; and it does not particularly concern us here.
When taunted afterwards with having been apprentice to a hosier, he
indignantly denied the fact, and explained that though he had been a
trader in hosiery he had never been a shopkeeper. A passing illustration
in his _Essay on Projects_, drawn from his own experience, shows that he
imported goods in the course of his business from abroad; he speaks of
sometimes having paid more in insurance premios than he had cleared by
a voyage. From a story which he tells in his _Complete English
Tradesman_, recalling the cleverness with which he defeated an attempt
to outwit him about a consignment of brandy, we learn that his business
sometimes took him to Spain. This is nearly all that we know about his
first adventure in trade, except that after seven years, in 1692, he had
to flee from his creditors. He hints in one of his _Reviews_ that this
misfortune was brought about by the frauds of swindlers, and it deserves
to be recorded that he made the honourable boast that he afterwards paid
off his obligations. The truth of the boast is independently confirmed
by the admission of a controversial enemy, that very Tutchin whom he
challenged to translate Latin with him. That Defoe should have referred
so little to his own experience in the _Complete English Tradesman_, a
series of Familiar Letters which he published late in life "for the
instruction of our Inland Tradesmen, and especially of Young Beginners,"
is accounted for when we observe the class of persons to whom the
letters were addressed. He distinguishes with his usual clearness
between the different ranks of those employed in the production and
exchange of goods, and intimates that his advice is not intended for the
highest grade of traders, the merchants, whom he defines by what he
calls the vulgar expression, as being "such as trade beyond sea."
Although he was eloquent in many books and pamphlets in upholding the
dignity of trade, and lost no opportunity of scoffing at pretentious
gentility, he never allows us to forget that this was the grade to which
he himself belonged, and addresses the petty trader from a certain
altitude. He speaks in the preface to the _Complete Tradesman_ of
unfortunate creatures who have blown themselves up in trade, whether
"for want of wit or from too much wit;" but lest he should be supposed
to allude to his own misfortunes, he does not say that he miscarried
himself, but that he "had seen in a few years' experience many young
tradesmen miscarry." At the same time it is fair to conjecture that when
Defoe warns the young tradesman against fancying himself a politician or
a man of letters, running off to the coffee-house when he ought to be
behind the counter, and reading Virgil and Horace when he should be busy
over his journal and his ledger, he was glancing at some of the causes
which conduced to his own failure as a merchant. And when he cautions
the beginner against going too fast, and holds up to him as a type and
exemplar the carrier's waggon, which "keeps wagging and always goes on,"
and "as softly as it goes" can yet in time go far, we may be sure that
he was thinking of the over-rashness with which he had himself embarked
in speculation.

There can be no doubt that eager and active as Defoe was in his trading
enterprises, he was not so wrapt up in them as to be an unconcerned
spectator of the intense political life of the time. When King James
aimed a blow at the Church of England by removing the religious
disabilities of all dissenters, Protestant and Catholic, in his
Declaration of Indulgence, some of Defoe's co-religionists were ready to
catch at the boon without thinking of its consequences. He differed from
them, he afterwards stated, and "as he used to say that he had rather
the Popish House of Austria should ruin the Protestants in Hungaria,
than the infidel House of Ottoman should ruin both Protestants and
Papists by overrunning Germany," so now "he told the Dissenters he had
rather the Church of England should pull our clothes off by fines and
forfeitures, than the Papists should fall both upon the Church and the
Dissenters, and pull our skins off by fire and faggot." He probably
embodied these conclusions of his vigorous common sense in a pamphlet,
though no pamphlet on the subject known for certain to be his has been
preserved. Mr. Lee is over-rash in identifying as Defoe's a quarto sheet
of that date entitled "A Letter containing some Reflections on His
Majesty's declaration for Liberty of Conscience." Defoe may have written
many pamphlets on the stirring events of the time, which have not come
down to us. It may have been then that he acquired, or made a valuable
possession by practice, that marvellous facility with his pen which
stood him in such stead in after-life. It would be no wonder if he wrote
dozens of pamphlets, every one of which disappeared. The pamphlet then
occupied the place of the newspaper leading article. The newspapers of
the time were veritable chronicles of news, and not organs of opinion.
The expression of opinion was not then associated with the dissemination
of facts and rumours. A man who wished to influence public opinion wrote
a pamphlet, small or large, a single leaf or a tract of a few pages, and
had it hawked about the streets and sold in the bookshops. These
pamphlets issued from the press in swarms, were thrown aside when read,
and hardly preserved except by accident. That Defoe, if he wrote any or
many, should not have reprinted them when fifteen years afterwards he
published a collection of his works, is intelligible; he republished
only such of his tracts as had not lost their practical interest. If,
however, we indulge in the fancy, warranted so far by his describing
himself as having been a young "author" in 1683, that Defoe took an
active part in polemical literature under Charles and James, we must
remember that the censorship of the press was then active, and that
Defoe must have published under greater disadvantages than those who
wrote on the side of the Court.

At the Revolution, in 1688, Defoe lost no time in making his adhesion to
the new monarch conspicuous. He was, according to Oldmixon, one of "a
royal regiment of volunteer horse, made up of the chief citizens, who,
being gallantly mounted and richly accoutred, were led by the Earl of
Monmouth, now Earl of Peterborough, and attended their Majesties from
Whitehall" to a banquet given by the Lord Mayor and Corporation of the
City. Three years afterwards, on the occasion of the Jacobite plot in
which Lord Preston was the leading figure, he published the first
pamphlet that is known for certain to be his. It is in verse, and is
entitled _A New Discovery of an Old Intrigue, a Satire levelled at
Treachery and Ambition_. In the preface, the author said that "he had
never drawn his pen before," and that he would never write again unless
this effort produced a visible reformation. If we take this literally,
we must suppose that his claim to have been an author eighteen years
before had its origin in his fitful vanity. The literary merits of the
satire, when we compare it with the powerful verse of Dryden's _Absalom
and Achitophel_, to which he refers in the exordium, are not great.
Defoe prided himself upon his verse, and in a catalogue of the Poets in
one of his later pieces assigned himself the special province of
"lampoon." He possibly believed that his clever doggerel was a better
title to immortality than _Robinson Crusoe_. The immediate popular
effect of his satires gave some encouragement to this belief, but they
are comparatively dull reading for posterity. The clever hits at living
City functionaries, indicated by their initials and nicknames, the rough
ridicule and the biting innuendo, were telling in their day, but the
lampoons have perished with their objects. The local celebrity of Sir
Ralph and Sir Peter, Silly Will and Captain Tom the Tailor, has vanished,
and Defoe's hurried and formless lines, incisive as their vivid force
must have been, are not redeemed from dulness for modern readers by the
few bright epigrams with which they are besprinkled.



Defoe's first business catastrophe happened about 1692. He is said to
have temporarily absconded, and to have parleyed with his creditors from
a distance till they agreed to accept a composition. Bristol is named as
having been his place of refuge, and there is a story that he was known
there as the Sunday Gentleman, because he appeared on that day, and that
day only, in fashionable attire, being kept indoors during the rest of
the week by fear of the bailiffs. But he was of too buoyant a
temperament to sink under his misfortune from the sense of having
brought it on himself, and the cloud soon passed away. A man so fertile
in expedients, and ready, according to his own ideal of a thoroughbred
trader, to turn himself to anything, could not long remain unemployed.
He had various business offers, and among others an invitation from some
merchants to settle at Cadiz as a commission agent, "with offers of very
good commissions." But Providence, he tells us, and, we may add, a
shrewd confidence in his own powers, "placed a secret aversion in his
mind to quitting England upon any account, and made him refuse the best
offers of that kind." He stayed at home, "to be concerned with some
eminent persons in proposing ways and means to the Government for
raising money to supply the occasions of the war then newly begun." He
also wrote a vigorous and loyal pamphlet, entitled, _The Englishman's,
Choice and True Interest: in the vigorous prosecution of the war against
France, and serving K. William and Q. Mary, and acknowledging their
right_. As a reward for his literary or his financial services, or for
both, he was appointed, "without the least application" of his own,
Accountant to the Commissioners of the Glass Duty, and held this post
till the duty was abolished in 1699.

From 1694 to the end of William's reign was the most prosperous and
honourable period in Defoe's life. His services to the Government did
not absorb the whole of his restless energy; He still had time for
private enterprise, and started a manufactory of bricks and pantiles at
Tilbury, where, Mr. Lee says, judging from fragments recently dug up, he
made good sound sonorous bricks, although according to another authority
such a thing was impossible out of any material existing in the
neighbourhood. Anyhow, Defoe prospered, and set up a coach and a
pleasure-boat. Nor must we forget what is so much to his honour, that he
set himself to pay his creditors in full, voluntarily disregarding the
composition which they had accepted. In 1705 he was able, to boast that
he had reduced his debts in spite of many difficulties from 17,000£. to
5,000£., but these sums included liabilities resulting from the failure
of his pantile factory.

Defoe's first conspicuous literary service to King William, after he
obtained Government employment, was a pamphlet on the question of a
Standing Army raised after the Peace of Ryswick in 1697. This Pen and
Ink War, as he calls it, which followed close on the heels of the great
European struggle, had been raging for some time before Defoe took the
field. Hosts of writers had appeared to endanger the permanence of the
triumph of William's arms and diplomacy by demanding the disbandment of
his tried troops, as being a menace to domestic liberties. Their
arguments had been encountered by no less zealous champions of the
King's cause. The battle, in fact, had been won when Defoe issued his
_Argument showing that a Standing Army, with consent of Parliament, is
not inconsistent with a Free Government_. He was able to boast in his
preface that "if books and writings would not, God be thanked the
Parliament would confute" his adversaries. Nevertheless, though coming
late in the day, Defoe's pamphlet was widely read, and must have helped
to consolidate the victory.

Thus late in life did Defoe lay the first stone of his literary
reputation. He was now in the thirty-eighth year of his age, his
controversial genius in full vigour, and his mastery of language
complete. None of his subsequent tracts surpass this as a piece of
trenchant and persuasive reasoning. It shows at their very highest his
marvellous powers of combining constructive with destructive criticism.
He dashes into the lists with good-humoured confidence, bearing the
banner of clear common sense, and disclaiming sympathy with extreme
persons of either side. He puts his case with direct and plausible
force, addressing his readers vivaciously as plain people like himself,
among whom as reasonable men there cannot be two opinions. He cuts rival
arguments to pieces with dexterous strokes, representing them as the
confused reasoning of well-meaning but dull intellects, and dances with
lively mockery on the fragments. If the authors of such arguments knew
their own minds, they would be entirely on his side. He echoes the pet
prejudices of his readers as the props and mainstays of his thesis, and
boldly laughs away misgivings of which they are likely to be half
ashamed. He makes no parade of logic; he is only a plain freeholder like
the mass whom he addresses, though he knows twenty times as much as many
writers of more pretension. He never appeals to passion or imagination;
what he strives to enlist on his side is homely self-interest, and the
ordinary sense of what is right and reasonable. There is little
regularity of method in the development of his argument; that he leaves
to more anxious and elaborate masters of style. For himself he is
content to start from a bold and clear statement of his own opinion, and
proceeds buoyantly and discursively to engage and scatter his enemies as
they turn up, without the least fear of being able to fight his way back
to his original base. He wrote for a class to whom a prolonged
intellectual operation, however comprehensive and complete, was
distasteful. To persuade the mass of the freeholders was his object, and
for such an object there are no political tracts in the language at all
comparable to Defoe's. He bears some resemblance to Cobbett, but he had
none of Cobbett's brutality; his faculties were more adroit, and his
range of vision infinitely wider. Cobbett was a demagogue, Defoe a
popular statesman. The one was qualified to lead the people, the other
to guide them. Cobbett is contained in Defoe as the less is contained in
the greater.

King William obtained a standing army from Parliament, but not so large
an army as he wished, and it was soon afterwards still further reduced.
Meantime, Defoe employed his pen in promoting objects which were dear to
the King's heart. His _Essay on Projects_--which "relate to Civil Polity
as well as matters of negoce"--was calculated, in so far as it
advocated joint-stock enterprise, to advance one of the objects of the
statesmen of the Revolution, the committal of the moneyed classes to the
established Government, and against a dynasty which might plausibly be
mistrusted of respect for visible accumulations of private wealth.
Defoe's projects were of an extremely varied kind. The classification
was not strict. His spirited definition of the word "projects" included
Noah's Ark and the Tower of Babel, as well as Captain Phipps's scheme
for raising the wreck of a Spanish ship laden with silver. He is
sometimes credited with remarkable shrewdness in having anticipated in
this Essay some of the greatest public improvements of modern times--the
protection of seamen, the higher education of women, the establishment
of banks and benefit societies, the construction of highways. But it is
not historically accurate to give him the whole credit of these
conceptions. Most of them were floating about at the time, so much so
that he had to defend himself against a charge of plagiarism, and few of
them have been carried out in accordance with the essential features of
his plans. One remarkable circumstance in Defoe's projects, which we may
attribute either to his own natural bent or to his compliance with the
King's humour, is the extent to which he advocated Government
interference. He proposed, for example, an income-tax, and the
appointment of a commission who should travel through the country and
ascertain by inquiry that the tax was not evaded. In making this
proposal he shows an acquaintance with private incomes in the City,
which raises some suspicion as to the capacity in which he was
"associated with certain eminent persons in proposing ways and means to
the Government." In his article on Banks, he expresses himself
dissatisfied that the Government did not fix a maximum rate of interest
for the loans made by chartered banks; they were otherwise, he
complained, of no assistance to the poor trader, who might as well go to
the goldsmiths as before. His Highways project was a scheme for making
national highways on a scale worthy of Baron Haussmann. There is more
fervid imagination and daring ingenuity than business talent in Defoe's
essay; if his trading speculations were conducted with equal rashness,
it is not difficult to understand their failure. The most notable of
them are the schemes of a dictator, rather than of the adviser of a free
Government. The essay is chiefly interesting as a monument of Defoe's
marvellous force of mind, and strange mixture of steady sense with
incontinent flightiness. There are ebullient sallies in it which we
generally find only in the productions of madmen and charlatans, and yet
it abounds in suggestions which statesmen might profitably have set
themselves with due adaptations to carry into effect. The _Essay on
Projects_ might alone be adduced in proof of Defoe's title to genius.

One of the first projects to which the Government of the Revolution
addressed itself was the reformation of manners--a purpose at once
commendable in itself and politically useful as distinguishing the new
Government from the old. Even while the King was absent in Ireland at
the beginning of his reign, the Queen issued a letter calling upon all
justices of the peace and other servants of the Crown to exert
themselves in suppressing the luxuriant growth of vice, which had been
fostered by the example of the Court of Charles. On the conclusion of
the war in 1697, William issued a most elaborate proclamation to the
same effect, and an address was voted by Parliament, asking his Majesty
to see that wickedness was discouraged in high places. The lively
pamphlet in which Defoe lent his assistance to the good work entitled
_The Poor Man's Plea_, was written in the spirit of the parliamentary
address. It was of no use to pass laws and make declarations and
proclamations for the reform of the common _plebeii_, the poor man
pleaded, so long as the mentors of the laws were themselves corrupt. His
argument was spiced with amusing anecdotes to show the prevalence of
swearing and drunkenness among members of the judicial bench. Defoe
appeared several times afterwards in the character of a reformer of
manners, sometimes in verse, sometimes in prose. When the retort was
made that his own manners were not perfect, he denied that this
invalidated the worth of his appeal, but at the same time challenged his
accusers to prove him guilty of any of the vices that he had satirised.

It is impossible now to ascertain what induced Defoe to break with the
Dissenters, among whom he had been brought up, but break with them he
did in his pamphlet against the practice of _Occasional Conformity_.
This practice of occasionally taking communion with the Established
Church, as a qualification for public office, had grown up after the
Revolution, and had attracted very little notice till a Dissenting lord
mayor, after attending church one Sunday forenoon, went in the afternoon
with all the insignia of his office to a Conventicle. Defoe's objection
to this is indicated in his quotation, "If the Lord be God, follow Him,
but if Baal, then follow him." A man, he contended, who could reconcile
it with his conscience to attend the worship of the Church, had no
business to be a Dissenter. Occasional conformity was "either a sinful
act in itself, or else his dissenting before was sinful." The Dissenters
naturally did not like this intolerant logical dilemma, and resented its
being forced upon them by one of their own number against a practical
compromise to which the good sense of the majority of them assented. No
reply was made to the pamphlet when first issued in 1698; and two or
three years afterwards Defoe, exulting in the unanswerable logic of his
position, reprinted it with a prefatory challenge to Mr. Howe, an
eminent Dissenting minister. During the next reign, however, when a bill
was introduced to prohibit the practice of occasional conformity, Defoe
strenuously wrote against it as a breach of the Toleration Act and a
measure of persecution. In strict logic it is possible to make out a
case for his consistency, but the reasoning must be fine, and he cannot
be acquitted of having in the first instance practically justified a
persecution which he afterwards condemned. In neither case does he point
at the repeal of the Test Act as his object, and it is impossible to
explain his attitude in both cases on the ground of principle. However
much he objected to see the sacrament, taken as a matter of form, it was
hardly his province, in the circumstances in which Dissenters then
stood, to lead an outcry against the practice; and if he considered it
scandalous and sinful, he could not with much consistency protest
against the prohibition of it as an act of persecution. Of this no
person was better aware than Defoe himself, and it is a curious
circumstance that, in his first pamphlet on the bill for putting down
occasional conformity, he ridiculed the idea of its being persecution to
suppress politic or state Dissenters, and maintained that the bill did
not concern true Dissenters at all. To this, however, we must refer
again in connexion with his celebrated tract, _The Shortest Way with

The troubles into which the European system was plunged by the death of
the childless King of Spain, and that most dramatic of historical
surprises, the bequest of his throne by a deathbed will to the Duke of
Anjou, the second grandson of Louis XIV., furnished Defoe with a great
opportunity for his controversial genius. In Charles II's will, if the
legacy was accepted, William saw the ruin of a life-long policy. Louis,
though he was doubly pledged against acknowledging the will, having
renounced all pretensions to the throne of Spain for himself and his
heirs in the Treaty of the Pyrenees, and consented in two successive
treaties of partition to a different plan of succession, did not long
hesitate; the news that he had saluted his grandson as King of Spain
followed close upon the news of Charles's death. The balance of the
great Catholic Powers which William had established by years of anxious
diplomacy and costly war, was toppled over by a stroke of the pen. With
Spain and Italy virtually added to his dominions, the French King would
now be supreme upon the Continent. Louis soon showed that this was his
view of what had happened, by saying that the Pyrenees had ceased to
exist. He gave a practical illustration of the same view by seizing,
with the authority of his grandson, the frontier towns of the Spanish
Netherlands, which were garrisoned under a special treaty by Dutch
troops. Though deeply enraged at the bad faith of the most Christian
King, William was not dismayed. The stone which he had rolled up the
hill with such effort had suddenly rolled down again, but he was eager
to renew his labours. Before, however, he could act, he found himself,
to his utter astonishment and mortification, paralysed by the attitude
of the English Parliament. His alarm at the accession of a Bourbon to
the Spanish throne was not shared by the ruling classes in England. They
declared that they liked the Spanish King's will better than William's
partition. France, they argued, would gain much less by a dynastic
alliance with Spain, which would exist no longer than their common
interests dictated, than by the complete acquisition of the Spanish
provinces in Italy.

William lost no time in summoning a new Parliament. An overwhelming
majority opposed the idea of vindicating the Partition Treaty by arms.
They pressed him to send a message of recognition to Philip V. Even the
occupation of the Flemish fortresses did not change their temper. That,
they said, was the affair of the Dutch; it did not concern England. In
vain William tried to convince them that the interests of the two
Protestant States were identical. In the numerous pamphlets that wore
hatched by the ferment, it was broadly insinuated that the English
people might pay too much for the privilege of having a Dutch King, who
had done nothing for them that they could not have done for themselves,
and who was perpetually sacrificing the interests of his adopted country
to the necessities of his beloved Holland. What had England gained by
the Peace of Ryswick? Was England to be dragged into another exhausting
war, merely to secure a strong frontier for the Dutch? The appeal found
ready listeners among a people in whose minds the recollections of the
last war were still fresh, and who still felt the burdens it had left
behind. William did not venture to take any steps to form an alliance
against France, till a new incident emerged to shake the country from
its mood of surly calculation. When James II. died and Louis recognised
the Pretender as King of England, all thoughts of isolation from a
Continental confederacy were thrown to the winds. William dissolved his
Long Parliament, and found the new House as warlike as the former had
been peaceful. "Of all the nations in the world," cried Defoe, in
commenting on this sudden change of mood, "there is none that I know of
so entirely governed by their humour as the English."

For ten months Defoe had been vehemently but vainly striving to
accomplish by argument what had been wrought in an instant by the French
King's insufferable insult. It is one of the most brilliant periods of
his political activity. Comparatively undistinguished before, he now, at
the age of forty, stepped into the foremost rank of publicists. He lost
not a moment in throwing himself into the fray as the champion of the
king's policy. Charles of Spain died on the 22nd of October, 1701; by
the middle of November, a few days after the news had reached England,
and before the French King's resolve to acknowledge the legacy was
known, Defoe was ready with a pamphlet to the clear and stirring title
of--_The Two Great questions considered_. I. _What the French King will
do with respect to the Spanish Monarchy._ II. _What measures the English
ought to take._ If the French King were wise, he argued, he would reject
the dangerous gift for his grandson. But if he accepted it, England had
no choice but to combine with her late allies the Emperor and the
States, and compel the Duke of Anjou to withdraw his claims. This
pamphlet being virulently attacked, and its author accused of bidding
for a place at Court, Defoe made a spirited rejoinder, and seized the
occasion to place his arguments in still clearer light. Between them the
two pamphlets are a masterly exposition, from the point of view of
English interests, of the danger of permitting the Will to be fulfilled.
He tears the arguments of his opponents to pieces with supreme scorn.
What matters it to us who is King of Spain? asks one adversary. As well
ask, retorts Defoe, what it matters to us who is King of Ireland. All
this talk about the Balance of Power, says another, is only "a
shoeing-horn to draw on a standing army." We do not want an army; only
let us make our fleet strong enough and we may defy the world; our
militia is perfectly able to defend us against invasion. If our militia
is so strong, is Defoe's reply, why should a standing-army make us fear
for our domestic liberties? But if you object to a standing-army in
England, avert the danger by subsidising allies and raising and paying
troops in Germany and the Low Countries. Even if we are capable of
beating off invasion, it is always wise policy to keep the war out of
our own country, and not trust to such miracles as the dispersion of the
Armada. In war, Defoe says, repeating a favourite axiom of his, "it is
not the longest sword but the longest purse that conquers," and if the
French get the Spanish crown, they get the richest trade in the world
into their hands. The French would prove better husbands of the wealth
of Mexico and Peru than the Spaniards. They would build fleets with it,
which would place our American plantations at their mercy. Our own trade
with Spain, one of the most profitable fields of our enterprise, would
at once be ruined. Our Mediterranean trade would be burdened with the
impost of a toll at Gibraltar. In short Defoe contended, if the French
acquired the upper hand in Spain, nothing but a miracle could save
England from becoming practically a French province.

Defoe's appeal to the sense of self-interest fell, however, upon deaf
ears. No eloquence or ingenuity of argument could have availed to stem
the strong current of growling prepossession. He was equally
unsuccessful in his attempt to touch deeper feelings by exhibiting in a
pamphlet, which is perhaps the ablest of the series, _The danger of the
Protestant Religion, from the present prospect of a Religious War in
Europe_. "Surely you cannot object to a standing army for the defence of
your religion?" he argued; "for if you do, then you stand convicted of
valuing your liberties more than your religion, which ought to be your
first and highest concern." Such scraps of rhetorical logic were but as
straws in the storm of anti-warlike passion that was then raging. Nor
did Defoe succeed in turning the elections by addressing "to the good
people of England" his _Six Distinguishing Characters of a Parliament
Man_, or by protesting as a freeholder against the levity of making the
strife between the new and the old East India Companies a testing
question, when the very existence of the kingdom was at stake. His
pamphlets were widely distributed, but he might as soon have tried to
check a tempest by throwing handfuls of leaves into it. One great
success, however, he had, and that, strangely enough, in a direction in
which it was least to be anticipated. No better proof could be given
that the good-humoured magnanimity and sense of fair-play on which
English people pride themselves is more than an empty boast than the
reception accorded to Defoe's _True-Born Englishman_. King William's
unpopularity was at its height. A party writer of the time had sought to
inflame the general dislike to his Dutch favourites by "a vile pamphlet
in abhorred verse," entitled _The Foreigners_, in which they are loaded
with scurrilous insinuations. It required no ordinary courage in the
state of the national temper at that moment to venture upon the line of
retort that Defoe adopted. What were the English, he demanded, that they
should make a mock of foreigners? They were the most mongrel race that
ever lived upon the face of the earth; there was no such thing as a
true-born Englishman; they were all the offspring of foreigners; what
was more, of the scum of foreigners.

   "For Englishmen to boast of generation
   Cancels their knowledge, and lampoons the nation.
   A true-born Englishman's a contradiction,
   In speech an irony, in fact a fiction."

          *       *       *       *       *

   And here begins the ancient pedigree
   That so exalts our poor nobility.
   'Tis that from some French trooper they derive,
   Who with the Norman bastard did arrive;
   The trophies of the families appear,
   Some show the sword, the bow, and some the spear
   Which their great ancestor, forsooth, did wear.
   These in the herald's register remain,
   Their noble mean extraction to explain,
   Yet who the hero was no man can tell,
   Whether a drummer or colonel;
   The silent record blushes to reveal
   Their undescended dark original.

          *       *       *       *       *

   "These are the heroes that despise the Dutch
   And rail at new-come foreigners so much;
   Forgetting that themselves are all derived
   From the most scoundrel race that ever lived;
   A horrid crowd of rambling thieves and drones,
   Who ransacked kingdoms and dispeopled towns;
   The Pict and painted Briton, treacherous Scot,
   By hunger, theft, and rapine hither brought;
   Norwegian pirates, buccaneering Danes,
   Whose red-haired offspring everywhere remains;
   Who joined with Norman French compound the breed
   From whence your true-born Englishmen proceed."

   "And lest, by length of time, it be pretended,
   The climate may this modern breed have mended,
   Wise Providence, to keep us where we are,
   Mixes us daily with exceeding care;
   We have been Europe's sink, the jakes where she
   Voids all her offal outcast progeny;
   From our fifth Henry's time the strolling bands
   Of banished fugitives from neighbouring lands
   Have here a certain sanctuary found:
   The eternal refuge of the vagabond,
   Wherein but half a common age of time,
   Borrowing new blood and manners from the clime,
   Proudly they learn all mankind to contemn,
   And all their race are true-born Englishmen."

As may be judged from this specimen, there is little delicacy in Defoe's
satire. The lines run on from beginning to end in the same strain of
bold, broad, hearty banter, as if the whole piece had been written off
at a heat. The mob did not lynch the audacious humourist. In the very
height of their fury against foreigners, they stopped short to laugh at
themselves. They were tickled by the hard blows as we may suppose a
rhinoceros to be tickled by the strokes of an oaken cudgel. Defoe
suddenly woke to find himself the hero of the hour, at least with the
London populace. The pamphlet was pirated, and eighty thousand copies,
according to his own calculation, were sold in the streets. Henceforth
he described himself in his title-pages as the author of the _True-Born
Englishman_, and frequently did himself the honour of quoting from the
work as from a well-established classic. It was also, he has told us,
the means of his becoming personally known to the King, whom he had
hitherto served from a distance.

Defoe was not the man to be abashed by his own popularity. He gloried in
it, and added to his reputation by taking a prominent part in the
proceedings connected with the famous Kentish Petition, which marked
the turn of the tide in favour of the King's foreign policy. Defoe was
said to be the author of "Legion's Memorial" to the House of Commons,
sternly warning the representatives of the freeholders that they had
exceeded their powers in imprisoning the men who had prayed them to
"turn their loyal addresses into Bills of Supply." When the Kentish
Petitioners were liberated from the custody of the Sergeant-at-Arms, and
feasted by the citizens at Mercers' Hall, Defoe was seated next to them
as an honoured guest.

Unfortunately for Defoe, William did not live long after he had been
honoured with his Majesty's confidence. He declared afterwards that he
had often been privately consulted by the King. The pamphlets which he
wrote during the close of the reign are all such as might have been
directly inspired. That on the Succession is chiefly memorable as
containing a suggestion that the heirs of the Duke of Monmouth should be
heard as to King Charles's alleged marriage with Lucy Walters. It is
possible that this idea may have been sanctioned by the King, who had
had painful experience of the disadvantages attending a ruler of foreign
extraction, and besides had reason to doubt the attachment of the
Princess Sophia to the Protestant faith. When the passionate aversion to
war in the popular mind was suddenly changed by the recognition of the
Pretender into an equally passionate thirst for it, and the King seized
the opportunity to dissolve Parliament and get a new House in accord
with the altered temper of the people, Defoe justified the appeal to the
freeholders by an examination and assertion of "the Original Power of
the Collective Body of the People of England." His last service to the
King was a pamphlet bearing the paradoxical title, _Reasons against a
War with France_. As Defoe had for nearly a year been zealously working
the public mind to a warlike pitch, this title is at first surprising,
but the surprise disappears when we find that the pamphlet is an
ingenious plea for beginning with a declaration of war against Spain,
showing that not only was there just cause for such a war, but that it
would be extremely profitable, inasmuch as it would afford occasion for
plundering the Spaniards in the West Indies, and thereby making up for
whatever losses our trade might suffer from the French privateers. And
it was more than a mere plundering descent that Defoe had in view; his
object was that England should take actual possession of the Spanish
Indies, and so rob Spain of its chief source of wealth. There was a most
powerful buccaneering spirit concealed under the peaceful title of this
pamphlet. The trick of arresting attention by an unexpected thesis, such
as this promise of reasons for peace when everybody was dreaming of war,
is an art in which Defoe has never been surpassed. As we shall have
occasion to see, he practised it more than once too often for his



From the death of the King in March, 1702, we must date a change in
Defoe's relations with the ruling powers. Under William, his position as
a political writer had been distinct and honourable. He supported
William's policy warmly and straightforwardly, whether he divined it by
his own judgment, or learned it by direct or indirect instructions or
hints. When charged with writing for a place, he indignantly denied that
he held either place or pension at Court, but at another time he
admitted that he had been employed by the King and rewarded by him
beyond his deserts. Any reward that he received for his literary
services was well earned, and there was nothing dishonourable in
accepting it. For concealing the connexion while the King was alive, he
might plead the custom of the time. But in the confusion of parties and
the uncertainty of government that followed William's death, Defoe slid
into practices which cannot be justified by any standard of morality.

It was by accident that Defoe drifted into this equivocal position. His
first writings under the new reign were in staunch consistency with what
he had written before. He did not try to flatter the Queen as many
others did by slighting her predecessors; on the contrary, he wrote a
poem called _The Mock Mourners_, in which he extolled "the glorious
memory"--a phrase which he did much to bring into use--and charged those
who spoke disrespectfully of William with the vilest insolence and
ingratitude. He sang the praises of the Queen also, but as he based his
joy at her accession on an assurance that she would follow in William's
footsteps, the compliment might be construed as an exhortation. Shortly
afterwards, in another poem, _The Spanish Descent_, he took his revenge
upon the fleet for not carrying out his West Indian scheme by ridiculing
unmercifully their first fruitless cruise on the Spanish coast, taking
care at the same time to exult in the capture of the galleons at Vigo.
In yet another poem--the success of the _True Born Englishman_ seems to
have misguided him into the belief that he had a genius for verse--he
reverted to the Reformation of Manners, and angered the Dissenters by
belabouring certain magistrates of their denomination. A pamphlet
entitled _A New Test of the Church of England's Loyalty_--in which he
twitted the High-Church party with being neither more nor less loyal
than the Dissenters, inasmuch as they consented to the deposition of
James and acquiesced in the accession of Anne--was better received by
his co-religionists.

But when the Bill to prevent occasional conformity was introduced by
some hot-headed partisans of the High Church, towards the close of 1702,
with the Queen's warm approval, Defoe took a course which made the
Dissenters threaten to cast him altogether out of the synagogue. We have
already seen how Defoe had taken the lead in attacking the practice of
occasional conformity. While his co-religionists were imprecating him as
the man who had brought this persecution upon them, Defoe added to
their ill-feeling by issuing a jaunty pamphlet in which he proved with
provoking unanswerableness that all honest Dissenters were noways
concerned in the Bill. Nobody, he said, with his usual bright audacity,
but himself "who was altogether born in sin," saw the true scope of the
measure. "All those people who designed the Act as a blow to the
Dissenting interests in England are mistaken. All those who take it as a
prelude or introduction to the further suppressing of the Dissenters,
and a step to repealing the Toleration, or intend it as such, are
mistaken.... All those phlegmatic Dissenters who fancy themselves
undone, and that persecution and desolation is at the door again, are
mistaken. All those Dissenters who are really at all disturbed at it,
either as an advantage gained by their enemies or as a real disaster
upon themselves, are mistaken. All those Dissenters who deprecate it as
a judgment, or would vote against it as such if it were in their power,
are mistaken." In short, though he did not suppose that the movers of
the Bill "did it in mere kindness to the Dissenters, in order to refine
and purge them from the scandals which some people had brought upon
them," nevertheless it was calculated to effect this object. The
Dissenter being a man that was "something desirous of going to Heaven,"
ventured the displeasure of the civil magistrate at the command of his
conscience, which warned him that there were things in the Established
form of worship not agreeable to the Will of God as revealed in
Scripture. There is nothing in the Act to the prejudice of this
Dissenter; it affects only the Politic Dissenter, or State Dissenter,
who if he can attend the Established worship without offending his
conscience, has no cause to be a Dissenter. An act against occasional
conformity would rid the Dissenting body of these lukewarm members, and
the riddance would be a good thing for all parties.

It may have been that this cheerful argument, the legitimate development
of Defoe's former writings on the subject, was intended to comfort his
co-religionists at a moment when the passing of the Act seemed certain.
They did not view it in that light; they resented it bitterly, as an
insult in the hour of their misfortune from the man who had shown their
enemies where to strike. When, however, the Bill, after passing the
Commons, was opposed and modified by the Lords, Defoe suddenly appeared
on a new tack, publishing the most famous of his political pamphlets,
_The Shortest Way with the Dissenters_, which has, by a strange freak of
circumstances, gained him the honour of being enshrined as one of the
martyrs of Dissent. In the "brief explanation" of the pamphlet which he
gave afterwards, he declared that it had no bearing whatever upon the
Occasional Conformity Bill, pointing to his former writings on the
subject, in which he had denounced the practice, and welcomed the Bill
as a useful instrument for purging the Dissenting bodies of
half-and-half professors. It was intended, he said, as a banter
upon the High-flying Tory Churchmen, putting into plain English the
drift of their furious invectives against the Dissenters, and so, "by an
irony not unusual," answering them out of their own mouths.

The _Shortest Way_ is sometimes spoken of as a piece of exquisite irony,
and on the other hand Mr. Saintsbury[1] has raised the question whether
the representation of an extreme case, in which the veil is never lifted
from the writer's own opinions, can properly be called irony at all.

[Footnote 1: In an admirable article on Defoe in the _Encyclopaedia

This last is, perhaps, a question belonging to the strict definition of
the figures of speech; but, however that might be settled, it is a
mistake to describe Defoe's art in this pamphlet as delicate. There are
no subtle strokes of wit in it such as we find in some of Swift's
ironical pieces. Incomparably more effective as an engine of
controversy, it is not entitled to the same rank as a literary exercise.
Its whole merit and its rousing political force lay in the dramatic
genius with which Defoe personated the temper of a thorough-going
High-flier, putting into plain and spirited English such sentiments as a
violent partisan would not dare to utter except in the unguarded heat of
familiar discourse, or the half-humorous ferocity of intoxication. Have
done, he said, addressing the Dissenters, with this cackle about Peace
and Union, and the Christian duties of moderation, which you raise now
that you find "your day is over, your power gone, and the throne of this
nation possessed by a Royal, English, true, and ever--constant member of
and friend to the Church of England.... We have heard none of this
lesson for fourteen years past. We have been huffed and bullied with
your Act of Toleration; you have told us that you are the Church
established by law as well as others; have set up your canting
synagogues at our Church doors, and the Church and members have been
loaded with reproaches, with oaths, associations, abjurations, and what
not. Where has been the mercy, the forbearance, the charity, you have
shown to tender consciences of the Church of England, that could not
take oaths as fast as you made them; that having sworn allegiance to
their lawful and rightful King, could not dispense with that oath, their
King being still alive, and swear to your new hodge-podge of a Dutch
constitution?... Now that the tables are turned upon you, you must not
be persecuted; 'tis not a Christian spirit." You talk of persecution;
what persecution have you to complain of? "The first execution of the
laws against Dissenters in England was in the days of King James I. And
what did it amount to? Truly the worst they suffered was at their own
request to let them go to New England and erect a new colony, and give
them great privileges, grants, and suitable powers, keep them under
protection, and defend them against all invaders, and receive no taxes
or revenue from them. This was the cruelty of the Church of
England--fatal lenity! 'Twas the ruin of that excellent prince, King
Charles I. Had King James sent all the Puritans in England away to the
West Indies, we had been a national, unmixed Church; the Church of
England had been kept undivided and entire. To requite the lenity of the
father, they take up arms against the son; conquer, pursue, take,
imprison, and at last put to death the Anointed of God, and destroy the
very being and nature of government, setting up a sordid impostor, who
had neither title to govern, nor understanding to manage, but supplied
that want with power, bloody and desperate councils, and craft, without
conscience." How leniently had King Charles treated these barbarous
regicides, coming in all mercy and love, cherishing them, preferring
them, giving them employment in his service. As for King James, "as if
mercy was the inherent quality of the family, he began his reign with
unusual favour to them, nor could their joining with the Duke of
Monmouth against him move him to do himself justice upon them, but that
mistaken prince thought to win them by gentleness and love, proclaimed a
universal liberty to them, and rather discountenanced the Church of
England than them. How they requited him all the world knows." Under
King William, "a king of their own," they "crope into all places of
trust and profit," engrossed the ministry, and insulted the Church. But
they must not expect this kind of thing to continue. "No, gentlemen, the
time of mercy is past; your day of grace is over; you should have
practised peace, and moderation, and charity, if you expected any

In this heroic strain the pamphlet proceeds, reaching at length the
suggestion that "if one severe law were made, and punctually executed,
that whoever was found at a conventicle should be banished the nation,
and the preacher be hanged, we should soon see an end of the tale--they
would all come to church, and one age would make us all one again." That
was the mock churchman's shortest way for the suppression of Dissent. He
supported his argument by referring to the success with which Louis XIV
had put down the Huguenots. There was no good in half-measures, fines of
five shillings a month for not coming to the Sacrament, and one shilling
a week for not coming to church. It was vain to expect compliance from
such trifling. "The light, foolish handling of them by mulcts, fines,
etc., 'tis their glory and their advantage. If the gallows instead of
the counter, and the galleys instead of the fines, were the reward of
going to a conventicle, to preach or hear, there would not be so many
sufferers--the spirit of martyrdom is over. They that will go to church
to be chosen sheriffs and mayors, would go to forty churches rather than
be hanged." "Now let us crucify the thieves," said the author of this
truculent advice in conclusion, "And may God Almighty put it into the
hearts of all friends of truth to lift up a standard against pride and
Antichrist, that the posterity of the sons of error may be rooted out
from the face of this land for ever."

Defoe's disguise was so complete, his caricature of the ferocious
High-flier so near to life, that at first, people doubted whether the
_Shortest Way_ was the work of a satirist or a fanatic. When the truth
leaked out, as it soon did, the Dissenters were hardly better pleased
than while they feared that the proposal was serious. With the natural
timidity of precariously situated minorities, they could not enter into
the humour of it. The very title was enough to make them shrink and
tremble. The only people who were really in a position to enjoy the jest
were the Whigs. The High-Churchmen, some of whom, it is said, were at
first so far taken in as to express their warm approval, were furious
when they discovered the trick that had been played upon them. The Tory
ministers of the Queen felt themselves bound to take proceedings against
the author, whose identity seems to have soon become an open secret.
Learning this, Defoe went into concealment. A proclamation offering a
reward for his discovery was advertised in the _Gazette_. The
description of the fugitive is interesting; it is the only extant record
of Defoe's personal appearance, except the portrait prefixed to his
collected works, in which the mole is faithfully reproduced:--

     "He is a middle-aged, spare man, about forty years old, of a brown
     complexion, and dark-brown coloured hair, but wears a wig; a hooked
     nose, a sharp chin, grey eyes, and a large mole near his mouth: was
     born in London, and for many years was a hose-factor in Freeman's
     Yard in Cornhill, and now is the owner of the brick and pantile
     works near Tilbury Fort in Essex."

This advertisement was issued on the 10th of January, 1703. Meantime the
printer and the publisher were seized. From his safe hiding, Defoe put
forth an explanation, protesting, as we have seen, that his pamphlet had
not the least retrospect to or concern in the public bills in Parliament
now depending, or any other proceeding of either House or of the
Government relating to the Dissenters, whose occasional conformity the
author has constantly opposed. It was merely, he pleaded, the cant of
the Non-juring party exposed; and he mentioned several printed books in
which the same objects were expressed, though not in words so plain, and
at length. But the Government would not take this view; he had
represented virulent partisans as being supreme in the Queen's counsels,
and his design was manifest "to blacken the Church party as men of a
persecuting spirit, and to prepare the mob for what further service he
had for them to do." Finding that they would not listen to him, Defoe
surrendered himself, in order that others might not suffer for his
offence. He was indicted on the 24th of February. On the 25th, the
_Shortest Way_ was brought under the notice of the House of Commons, and
ordered to be burnt by the common hangman. His trial came on in July. He
was found guilty of a seditious libel, and sentenced to pay a fine of
200 marks to the Queen, stand three times in the pillory, be imprisoned
during the Queen's pleasure, and find sureties for his good behaviour
for seven years.

Defoe complained that three Dissenting ministers, whose poor he had fed
in the days of his prosperity, had refused to visit him during his
confinement in Newgate. There was, doubtless, a want of charity in their
action, but there was also a want of honesty in his complaint. If he
applied for their spiritual ministrations, they had considerable reason
for treating his application as a piece of provoking effrontery. Though
Defoe was in prison for this banter upon the High-fliers, it is a
mistake to regard him as a martyr, except by accident, to the cause of
Toleration as we understand it now, and as the Dissenters bore the brunt
of the battle for it then. Before his trial and conviction, while he lay
in prison, he issued an exposition of his views of a fair Toleration in
a tract entitled _The Shortest Way to Peace and Union_. The toleration
which he advised, and which commended itself to the moderate Whigs with
whom he had acted under King William and was probably acting now, was a
purely spiritual Toleration. His proposal, in fact, was identical with
that of Charles Leslie's in the _New Association_, one of the pamphlets
which he professed to take off in his famous squib. Leslie had proposed
that the Dissenters should be excluded from all civil employments, and
should be forced to remain content with liberty of worship. Addressing
the Dissenters, Defoe, in effect, urged them to anticipate forcible
exclusion by voluntary withdrawal. Extremes on both sides should be
industriously crushed and discouraged, and the extremes on the
Dissenting side were those who, not being content to worship after their
own fashion, had also a hankering after the public service. It is the
true interest of the Dissenters in England, Defoe argued, to be governed
by a Church of England magistracy; and with his usual paradoxical
hardihood, he told his co-religionists bluntly that "the first reason of
his proposition was that they were not qualified to be trusted with the
government of themselves." When we consider the active part Defoe
himself took in public affairs, we shall not be surprised that offence
was given by his countenancing the civil disabilities of Dissenters, and
that the Dissenting preachers declined to recognise him as properly
belonging to their body. It was not, indeed, as a Dissenter that Defoe
was prosecuted by the violent Tories then in power, but as the suspected
literary instrument of the great Whig leaders.

This, of course, in no way diminishes the harsh and spiteful impolicy of
the sentence passed on Defoe. Its terms were duly put in execution. The
offending satirist stood in the pillory on the three last days of July,
1703, before the Royal Exchange in Cornhill, near the Conduit in
Cheapside, and at Temple Bar. It is incorrect, however, to say with Pope

   "Earless on high stood unabashed Defoe."

His ears were not cropped, as the barbarous phrase went, and he had no
reason to be abashed. His reception by the mob was very different from
that accorded to the anti-Jacobite Fuller, a scurrilous rogue who had
tried to make a few pounds by a Plain Proof that the Chevalier was a
supposititious child. The author of the _True-Born Englishman_ was a
popular favourite, and his exhibition in the pillory was an occasion of
triumph and not of ignominy to him. A ring of admirers was formed round
the place of punishment, and bunches of flowers instead of handfuls of
garbage were thrown at the criminal. Tankards of ale and stoups of wine
were drunk in his honour by the multitude whom he had delighted with his
racy verse and charmed by his bold defiance of the authorities.

The enthusiasm was increased by the timely publication of a _Hymn to the
Pillory_, in which Defoe boldly declared the iniquity of his sentence,
and pointed out to the Government more proper objects of their severity.
Atheists ought to stand there, he said, profligate beaux, swindling
stock-jobbers, fanatic Jacobites, and the commanders who had brought
the English fleet into disgrace. As for him, his only fault lay in his
not being understood; but he was perhaps justly punished for being such
a fool as to trust his meaning to irony. It would seem that though the
Government had committed Defoe to Newgate, they did not dare, even
before the manifestation of popular feeling in his favour, to treat him
as a common prisoner. He not only had liberty to write, but he found
means to convey his manuscripts to the printer. Of these privileges he
had availed himself with that indomitable energy and fertility of
resource which we find reason to admire at every stage in his career,
and most of all now that he was in straits. In the short interval
between his arrest and his conviction he carried on a vigorous warfare
with both hands,--with one hand seeking to propitiate the Government,
with the other attracting support outside among the people. He proved to
the Government incontestably, by a collection of his writings, that he
was a man of moderate views, who had no aversion in principle even to
the proposals of the _New Association_. He proved the same thing to the
people at large by publishing this _Collection of the writings of the
author of the True-Born Englishman_, but he accompanied the proof by a
lively appeal to their sympathy under the title of _More Reformation, a
Satire on himself_, a lament over his own folly which was calculated to
bring pressure on the Government against prosecuting a man so innocent
of public wrong. When, in spite of his efforts, a conviction was
recorded against him, he adopted a more defiant tone towards the
Government. He wrote the _Hymn to the Pillory_. This daring effusion was
hawked in the streets among the crowd that had assembled to witness his
penance in the

  "hieroglyphic State-machine,
   Contrived to punish Fancy in."

"Come," he cried, in the concluding lines--

   "Tell 'em the M---- that placed him here
   Are Sc----ls to the times,
   Are at a loss to find his guilt,
   And can't commit his crimes."

"M----" stands for Men, and "Sc---- ls" for Scandals. Defoe delighted
in this odd use of methods of reserve, more common in his time than in

The dauntless courage of Defoe's _Hymn to the Pillory_ can only be
properly appreciated when we remember with what savage outrage it was
the custom of the mob to treat those who were thus exposed to make a
London holiday. From the pillory he was taken back to Newgate, there to
be imprisoned during her Majesty's pleasure. His confinement must have
been much less disagreeable to him than it would have been to one of
less hardy temperament. Defoe was not the man to shrink with loathing
from the companionship of thieves, highwaymen, forgers, coiners, and
pirates. Curiosity was a much stronger power with him than disgust.
Newgate had something of the charm for Defoe that a hospital full of
hideous diseases has for an enthusiastic surgeon. He spent many pleasant
hours in listening to the tales of his adventurous fellow-prisoners.
Besides, the Government did not dare to deprive him of the liberty of
writing and publishing. This privilege enabled him to appeal to the
public, whose ear he had gained in the character of an undismayed
martyr, an enjoyment which to so buoyant a man must have compensated for
a great deal of irksome suffering, he attributed the failure of his
pantile works at Tilbury to his removal from the management of them; but
bearing in mind the amount of success that had attended his efforts when
he was free, it is fair to suppose that he was not altogether sorry for
the excuse. It was by no means the intention of his High-Church
persecutors that Defoe should enjoy himself in Newgate, and he himself
lamented loudly the strange reverse by which he had passed within a few
months from the closet of a king to a prisoner's cell; but on the whole
he was probably as happy in Newgate as he had been at Whitehall. His
wife and six children were most to be commiserated, and their distress
was his heaviest trial.

The first use which Defoe made of his pen after his exhibition in the
pillory was to reply to a Dissenting minister who had justified the
practice of occasional conformity. He thereby marked once more his
separation from the extreme Dissenters, who were struggling against
having their religion made a disqualification for offices of public
trust. But in the changes of parties at Court he soon found a reason for
marking his separation from the opposite extreme, and facing the other
way. Under the influence of the moderate Tories, Marlborough, Godolphin,
and their invaluable ally, the Duchess, the Queen was gradually losing
faith in the violent Tories. According to Swift, she began to dislike
her bosom friend, Mrs. Freeman, from the moment of her accession, but
though she may have chafed under the yoke of her favourite, she could
not at once shake off the domination of that imperious will. The
Duchess, finding the extreme Tories unfavourable to the war in which her
husband's honour and interests were deeply engaged, became a hot
partisan against them, and used all their blunders to break down their
power at Court. Day by day she impressed upon the Queen the necessity
of peace and union at home in the face of the troubles abroad. The
moderate men of both parties must be rallied round the throne. Extremes
on both sides must be discouraged. Spies were set to work to take note
of such rash expressions among "the hot and angry men" as would be
likely to damage them in the Queen's favour. Queen Anne had not a little
of the quiet tenacity and spitefulness of enfeebled constitutions, but
in the end reason prevailed, resentment at importunity was overcome, and
the hold of the High-Churchmen on her affections gave way.

Nobody, Swift has told us, could better disguise her feelings than the
Queen. The first intimation which the High-Church party had of her
change of views was her opening speech to Parliament on the 9th
November, 1703, in which she earnestly desired parties in both Houses to
avoid heats and divisions. Defoe at once threw himself in front of the
rising tide. Whether he divined for himself that the influence of the
Earl of Nottingham, the Secretary of State, to whom he owed his
prosecution and imprisonment, was waning, or obtained a hint to that
effect from his Whig friends, we do not know, but he lost no time in
issuing from his prison a bold attack upon the High-Churchmen. In his
_Challenge, of Peace, addressed to the whole Nation_, he denounced them
as Church Vultures and Ecclesiastical Harpies. It was they and not the
Dissenters that were the prime movers of strife and dissension. How are
peace and union to be obtained, he asks. He will show people first how
peace and union cannot be obtained.

"First, Sacheverell's Bloody Flag of Defiance is not the way to Peace
and Union. _The shortest way to destroy is not the shortest way to
unite_. Persecution, Laws to Compel, Restrain or force the Conscience of
one another, is not the way to this Union, which her Majesty has so
earnestly recommended."

"Secondly, to repeal or contract the late Act of Toleration is not the
way for this so much wished-for happiness; to have laws revived that
should set one party a plundering, excommunicating and unchurching
another, that should renew the oppressions and devastations of late
reigns, this will not by any means contribute to this Peace, which all
good men desire."

"New Associations and proposals to divest men of their freehold right
for differences in opinion, and take away the right of Dissenters voting
in elections of Members; this is not the way to Peace and Union."

"Railing pamphlets, buffooning our brethren as a party to be suppressed,
and dressing them up in the Bear's skin for all the dogs in the street
to bait them, is not the way to Peace and Union."

"Railing sermons, exciting people to hatred and contempt of their
brethren, because they differ in opinions, is not the way to Peace and

"Shutting all people out of employment and the service of their Prince
and Country, unless they can comply with indifferent ceremonies of
religion, is far from the way to Peace and Union."

"Reproaching the Succession settled by Parliament, and reviving the
abdicated title of the late King James, and his supposed family, cannot
tend to this Peace and Union."

"Laws against Occasional Conformity, and compelling people who bear
offices to a total conformity, and yet force them to take and serve in
those public employments, cannot contribute to this Peace and Union."

       *       *       *       *       *

In this passage Defoe seems to ally himself more closely with his
Dissenting brethren than he had done before. It was difficult for him,
with his published views on the objectionableness of occasional
conformity, and the propriety of Dissenters leaving the magistracy in
the hands of the Church, to maintain his new position, without incurring
the charge of inconsistency. The charge was freely made, and his own
writings were collected as a testimony against him, but he met the
charge boldly. The Dissenters ought not to practise occasional
conformity, but if they could reconcile it with their consciences, they
ought not to receive temporal punishment for practising it. The
Dissenters ought to withdraw from the magistracy, but it was persecution
to exclude them. In tract after tract of brilliant and trenchant
argument, he upheld these views, with his usual courage attacking most
fiercely those antagonists who went most nearly on the lines of his own
previous writings. Ignoring what he had said before, he now proved
clearly that the Occasional Conformity Bill was a breach of the Act of
Toleration. There was little difference between his own _Shortest Way to
Peace and Union_, and Sir Humphrey Mackworth's _Peace at Home_, but he
assailed the latter pamphlet vigorously, and showed that it had been the
practice in all countries for Dissenters from the established religion
to have a share in the business of the State. At the same time he never
departed so far from the "moderate" point of view, as to insist that
Dissenters ought to be admitted to a share in the business of the State.
Let the High-Church ministers be dismissed, and moderate men summoned to
the Queen's councils, and the Dissenters would have every reason to be
content. They would acquiesce with pleasure in a ministry and magistracy
of Low-Churchmen.

Defoe's assaults upon the High-Church Tories were neither interdicted
nor resented by the Government, though he lay in prison at their mercy.
Throughout the winter of 1703-4 the extreme members of the Ministry,
though they had still a majority in the House of Commons, felt the
Queen's coldness increase. Their former high place in her regard and
their continued hold upon Parliament tempted them to assume airs of
independence which gave deeper offence than her unruffled courtesy led
either them or their rivals to suspect. At last the crisis came. The
Earl of Nottingham took the rash step of threatening to resign unless
the Whig Dukes of Somerset and Devonshire were dismissed from the
Cabinet. To his surprise and chagrin, his resignation was accepted
(1704), and two more of his party were dismissed from office at the same

The successor of Nottingham was Robert Harley, afterwards created Earl
of Oxford and Mortimer. He gave evidence late in life of his love for
literature by forming the collection of manuscripts known as the
Harleian, and we know from Swift that he was deeply impressed with the
importance of having allies in the Press. He entered upon office in May,
1704, and one of his first acts was to convey to Defoe the message,
"Pray, ask that gentleman what I can do for him." Defoe replied by
likening himself to the blind man in the parable, and paraphrasing his
prayer, "Lord, that I may receive my sight!" He would not seem to have
obtained his liberty immediately, but, through Harley's influence, he
was set free towards the end of July or the beginning of August. The
Queen also, he afterwards said, "was pleased particularly to inquire
into his circumstances and family, and by Lord Treasurer Godolphin to
send a considerable supply to his wife and family, and to send him to
the prison money to pay his fine and the expenses of his discharge."

On what condition was Defoe released? On condition, according to the
_Elegy on the Author of the True-Born Englishman_, which he published
immediately after his discharge, that he should keep silence for seven
years, or at least "not write what some people might not like." To the
public he represented himself as a martyr grudgingly released by the
Government, and restrained from attacking them only by his own bond and
the fear of legal penalties.

   "Memento Mori here I stand,
   With silent lips but speaking hand;
     A walking shadow of a Poet,
   But bound to hold my tongue and never show it.
     A monument of injury,
     A sacrifice to legal t(yrann)y."

"For shame, gentlemen," he humorously cries to his enemies, "do not
strike a dead man; beware, scribblers, of fathering your pasquinades
against authority upon me; for seven years the True-Born Englishman is
tied under sureties and penalties not to write."

   "To seven long years of silence I betake,
   Perhaps by then I may forget to speak."

This elegy he has been permitted to publish as his last speech and dying

   "When malefactors come to die
   They claim uncommon liberty:
   Freedom of speech gives no distaste,
   They let them talk at large, because they talk their last."

The public could hardly have supposed from this what Defoe afterwards
admitted to have been the true state of the case, namely, that on
leaving prison he was taken into the service of the Government. He
obtained an appointment, that is to say a pension, from the Queen, and
was employed on secret services. When charged afterwards with having
written by Harley's instructions, he denied this, but admitted the
existence of certain "capitulations," in which he stipulated for liberty
to write according to his own judgment, guided only by a sense of
gratitude to his benefactor. There is reason to believe that even this
is not the whole truth. Documents which Mr. Lee recently brought to
light make one suspect that Defoe was all the time in private relations
with the leaders of the Whig party. Of this more falls to be said in
another place. The True-Born Englishman was, indeed, dead. Defoe was no
longer the straightforward advocate of King William's policy. He was
engaged henceforward in serving two masters, persuading each that he
served him alone, and persuading the public, in spite of numberless
insinuations, that he served nobody but them and himself, and wrote
simply as a free lance under the jealous sufferance of the Government of
the day.

I must reserve for a separate chapter some account of Defoe's greatest
political work, which he began while he still lay in Newgate, the
_Review_. Another work which he wrote and published at the same period
deserves attention on different grounds. His history of the great storm
of November, 1703, _A Collection of the most remarkable Casualties and
Disasters which happened in the late Dreadfal Tempest, both by Sea and
Land_, may be set down as the first of his works of invention. It is a
most minute and circumstantial record, containing many letters from
eye-witnesses of what happened in their immediate neighbourhood. Defoe
could have seen little of the storm himself from the interior of
Newgate, but it is possible that the letters are genuine, and that he
compiled other details from published accounts. Still, we are justified
in suspecting that his annals of the storm are no more authentic history
than his _Journal of the Plague_, or his _Memoirs of a Cavalier_, and
that for many of the incidents he is equally indebted to his



It was a bold undertaking for a prisoner in Newgate to engage to furnish
a newspaper written wholly by himself, "purged from the errors and
partiality of news-writers and petty statesmen of all sides." It would,
of course, have been an impossible undertaking if the _Review_ had been,
either in size or in contents, like a newspaper of the present time. The
_Review_ was, in its first stage, a sheet of eight small quarto pages.
After the first two numbers, it was reduced in size to four pages, but a
smaller type was used, so that the amount of matter remained nearly the
same--about equal in bulk to two modern leading articles. At first the
issue was weekly; after four numbers it became bi-weekly, and so
remained for a year.

For the character of the _Review_ it is difficult to find a parallel.
There was nothing like it at the time, and nothing exactly like it has
been attempted since. The nearest approach to it among its predecessors
was the _Observator_, a small weekly journal written by the erratic John
Tutchin, in which passing topics, political and social, were discussed
in dialogues. Personal scandals were a prominent feature in the
_Observator_. Defoe was not insensible to the value of this element to a
popular journal. He knew, he said, that people liked to be amused; and
he supplied this want in a section of his paper entitled "Mercure
Scandale; or, Advice from the Scandalous Club, being a weekly history of
Nonsense, Impertinence, Vice, and Debauchery." Under this attractive
heading, Defoe noticed current scandals, his club being represented as a
tribunal before which offenders were brought, their cases heard, and
sentence passed upon them. Slanderers of the True-Born Englishman
frequently figure in its proceedings. It was in this section also that
Defoe exposed the errors of contemporary news-writers, the _Post-man_,
the _Post-Boy_, the _London Post_, the _Flying Post_, and the _Daily
Courant_. He could not in his prison pretend to superior information
regarding the events of the day; the errors which he exposed were
chiefly blunders in geography and history. The Mercure Scandale was
avowedly intended to amuse the frivolous. The lapse of time has made its
artificial sprightliness dreary. It was in the serious portion of the
_Review_, the Review proper, that Defoe showed most of his genius. The
design of this was nothing less than to give a true picture, drawn with
"an impartial and exact historical pen," of the domestic and foreign
affairs of all the States of Europe. It was essential, he thought, that
at such a time of commotion Englishmen should be thoroughly informed of
the strength and the political interests and proclivities of the various
European Powers. He could not undertake to tell his readers what was
passing from day to day, but he could explain to them the policy of the
Continental Courts; he could show how that policy was affected by their
past history and present interests; he could calculate the forces at
their disposal, set forth the grounds of their alliances, and generally
put people in a position to follow the great game that was being played
on the European chess-board. In the _Review_, in fact, as he himself
described his task, he was writing a history sheet by sheet, and letting
the world see it as it went on.

This excellent plan of instruction was carried out with incomparable
brilliancy of method, and vivacity of style. Defoe was thoroughly master
of his subject; he had read every history that he could lay his hands
on, and his connexion with King William had guided him to the
mainsprings of political action, and fixed in his mind clear principles
for England's foreign policy. Such a mass of facts and such a maze of
interests would have encumbered and perplexed a more commonplace
intellect, but Defoe handled them with experienced and buoyant ease. He
had many arts for exciting attention. His confinement in Newgate, from
which the first number of the _Review_ was issued on the 19th February,
1704, had in no way impaired his clear-sighted daring and self-confident
skill. There was a sparkle of paradox and a significant lesson in the
very title of his journal--_A Review of the Affairs of France_. When, by
and by, he digressed to the affairs of Sweden and Poland, and filled
number after number with the history of Hungary, people kept asking,
"What has this to do with France?" "How little you understand my
design," was Defoe's retort. "Patience till my work is completed, and
then you will see that, however much I may seem to have been digressing,
I have always kept strictly to the point. Do not judge me as you judged
St. Paul's before the roof was put on. It is not affairs _in_ France
that I have undertaken to explain, but the affairs _of_ France; and the
affairs of France are the affairs of Europe. So great is the power of
the French money, the artifice of their conduct, the terror of their
arms, that they can bring the greatest kings in Europe to promote their
interest and grandeur at the expense of their own."

Defoe delighted to brave common prejudice by throwing full in its face
paradoxes expressed in the most unqualified language. While we were at
war with France, and commonplace hunters after popularity were doing
their utmost to flatter the national vanity, Defoe boldly announced his
intention of setting forth the wonderful greatness of the French nation,
the enormous numbers of their armies, the immense wealth of their
treasury, the marvellous vigour of their administration. He ridiculed
loudly those writers who pretended that we should have no difficulty in
beating them, and filled their papers with dismal stories about the
poverty and depopulation of the country. "Consider the armies that the
French King has raised," cried Defoe, "and the reinforcements and
subsidies he has sent to the King of Spain; does that look like a
depopulated, country and an impoverished exchequer?" It was perhaps a
melancholy fact, but what need to apologise for telling the truth? At
once, of course, a shout was raised against him for want of patriotism;
he was a French pensioner, a Jacobite, a hireling of the Peace-party.
This was the opportunity on which the chuckling paradox-monger had
counted. He protested that he was not drawing a map of the French power
to terrify the English. But, he said, "there are two cheats equally
hurtful to us; the first to terrify us, the last to make us too easy and
consequently too secure; 'tis equally dangerous for us to be terrified
into despair and bullied into more terror of our enemies than we need,
or to be so exalted in conceit of our own force as to undervalue and
contemn the power which we cannot reduce." To blame him for making clear
the greatness of the French power, was to act as if the Romans had
killed the geese in the Capitol for frightening them out of their sleep.
"If I, like an honest Protestant goose, have gaggled too loud of the
French power, and raised the country, the French indeed may have reason
to cut my throat if they could; but 'tis hard my own countrymen, to whom
I have shown their danger, and whom I have endeavoured to wake out of
their sleep, should take offence at the timely discovery."

If we open the first volume, or indeed any volume of the _Review_, at
random, we are almost certain to meet with some electric shock of
paradox designed to arouse the attention of the torpid. In one number we
find the writer, ever daring and alert, setting out with an eulogium on
"the wonderful benefit of arbitrary power" in France. He runs on in this
vein for some time, accumulating examples of the wonderful benefit, till
the patience of his liberty-loving readers is sufficiently exasperated,
and then he turns round with a grin of mockery and explains that he
means benefit to the monarch, not to the subject. "If any man ask me
what are the benefits of arbitrary power to the subject, I answer these
two, _poverty_ and _subjection"_ But to an ambitious monarch unlimited
power is a necessity; unless he can count upon instant obedience to his
will, he only courts defeat if he embarks in schemes of aggression and

   "When a Prince must court his subjects to give him leave
   to raise an army, and when that's done, tell him when he
   must disband them; that if he wants money, he must assemble
   the States of his country, and not only give them good
   words to get it, and tell them what 'tis for, but give them an
   account how it is expended before he asks for more. The
   subjects in such a government are certainly happy in having
   their property and privileges secured, but if I were of his
   Privy Council, I would advise such a Prince to content himself
   within the compass of his own government, and never
   think of invading his neighbours or increasing his dominions,
   for subjects who stipulate with their Princes, and make
   conditions of government, who claim to be governed by laws
   and make those laws themselves, who need not pay their
   money but when they see cause, and may refuse to pay it
   when demanded without their consent; such subjects will
   never empty their purses upon foreign wars for enlarging the
   glory of their sovereign."

This glory he describes as "the leaf-gold which the devil has laid over
the backside of ambition, to make it glitter to the world."

Defoe's knowledge of the irritation caused among the Dissenters by his
_Shortest Way_, did not prevent him from shocking them and annoying the
high Tories by similar _jeux d'esprit_. He had no tenderness for the
feelings of such of his brethren as had not his own robust sense of
humour and boyish glee in the free handling of dangerous weapons. Thus
we find him, among his eulogies of the Grand Monarque, particularly
extolling him for the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. By the
expulsion of the Protestants, Louis impoverished and unpeopled part of
his country, but it was "the most politic action the French King ever
did." "I don't think fit to engage here in a dispute about the honesty
of it," says Defoe; "but till he had first cleared the country of that
numerous injured people, he could never have ventured to carry an
offensive war into all the borders of Europe." And Defoe was not content
with shocking the feelings of his nominal co-religionists by a light
treatment of matters in which he agreed with them. He upheld with all
his might the opposite view from theirs on two important questions of
foreign policy. While the Confederates were doing battle on all sides
against France, the King of Sweden was making war on his own account
against Poland for the avowed purpose of placing a Protestant prince on
the throne. Extreme Protestants in England were disposed to think that
Charles XII. was fighting the Lord's battle in Poland. But Defoe was
strongly of opinion that the work in which all Protestants ought at that
moment to be engaged was breaking down the power of France, and as
Charles refused to join the Confederacy, and the Catholic prince against
whom he was fighting was a possible adherent, the ardent preacher of
union among the Protestant powers insisted upon regarding him as a
practical ally of France, and urged that the English fleet should be
sent into the Baltic to interrupt his communications. Disunion among
Protestants, argued Defoe, was the main cause of French greatness; if
the Swedish King would not join the Confederacy of his own free will, he
should be compelled to join it, or at least to refrain from weakening

Defoe treated the revolt of the Hungarians against the Emperor with the
same regard to the interests of the Protestant cause. Some uneasiness
was felt in England at co-operating with an ally who so cruelly
oppressed his Protestant subjects, and some scruple of conscience at
seeming to countenance the oppression. Defoe fully admitted the wrongs
of the Hungarians, but argued that this was not the time for them to
press their claims for redress. He would not allow that they were
justified at such a moment in calling in the aid of the Turks against
the Emperor. "It is not enough that a nation be Protestant and the
people our friends; if they will join with our enemies, they are
Papists, Turks, and Heathens, to us." "If the Protestants in Hungary
will make the Protestant religion in Hungary clash with the Protestant
religion in all the rest of Europe, we must prefer the major interest to
the minor." Defoe treats every foreign question from the cool
high-political point of view, generally taking up a position from which
he can expose the unreasonableness of both sides. In the case of the
Cevennois insurgents, one party had used the argument that it was
unlawful to encourage rebellion even among the subjects of a prince with
whom we were at war. With this Defoe dealt in one article, proving with
quite a superfluity of illustration that we were justified by all the
precedents of recent history in sending support to the rebellious
subjects of Louis XIV. It was the general custom of Europe to "assist
the malcontents of our neighbours." Then in another article he
considered whether, being lawful, it was also expedient, and he answered
this in the negative, treating with scorn a passionate appeal for the
Cevennois entitled "Europe enslaved if the Camisars are not relieved."
"What nonsense is this," he cried, "about a poor despicable handful of
men who have only made a little diversion in the great war!" "The haste
these men are in to have that done which they cannot show us the way to
do!" he cried; and proceeded to prove in a minute discussion of
conceivable strategic movements that it was impossible for us in the
circumstances to send the Camisards the least relief.

There is no reference in the _Review_ to Defoe's release from prison.
Two numbers a week were issued with the same punctuality before and
after, and there is no perceptible difference either in tone or in plan.
Before he left prison, and before the fall of the high Tory Ministers,
he had thrown in his lot boldly with the moderate men, and he did not
identify himself more closely with any political section after Harley
and Godolphin recognized the value of his support and gave him liberty
and pecuniary help. In the first number of the _Review_ he had declared
his freedom from party ties, and his unreserved adherence to truth and
the public interest, and he made frequent protestation of this
independence. "I am not a party man," he kept saying; "at least, I
resolve this shall not be a party paper." In discussing the affairs of
France, he took more than one side-glance homewards, but always with the
protest that he had no interest to serve but that of his country. The
absolute power of Louis, for example, furnished him with an occasion for
lamenting the disunited counsels of Her Majesty's Cabinet. Without
imitating the despotic form of the French Government, he said, there are
ways by which we might secure under our own forms greater decision and
promptitude on the part of the Executive. When Nottingham was dismissed,
he rejoiced openly, not because the ex-Secretary had been his
persecutor, but because at last there was unity of views among the
Queen's Ministers. He joined naturally in the exultation over
Marlborough's successes, but in the _Review_, and in his _Hymn to
Victory_, separately published, he courteously diverted some part of the
credit to the new Ministry. "Her Majesty's measures, moved by new and
polished councils, have been pointed more directly at the root of the
French power than ever we have seen before. I hope no man will suppose I
reflect on the memory of King William; I know 'tis impossible the Queen
should more sincerely wish the reduction of France than his late
Majesty; but if it is expected I should say he was not worse served,
oftener betrayed, and consequently hurried into more mistakes and
disasters, than Her Majesty now is, this must be by somebody who
believes I know much less of the public matters of those days than I had
the honour to be informed of." But this praise, he represented, was not
the praise of a partisan; it was an honest compliment wrung from a man
whose only connexion with the Government was a bond for his good
behaviour, an undertaking "not to write what some people might not

Defoe's hand being against every member of the writing brotherhood, it
was natural that his reviews should not pass without severe criticisms.
He often complained of the insults, ribaldry, Billingsgate, and
Bear-garden language to which he was exposed; and some of his
biographers have taken these lamentations seriously, and expressed their
regret that so good a man should have been so much persecuted. But as he
deliberately provoked these assaults, and never missed a chance of
effective retort, it is difficult to sympathise with him on any ground
but his manifest delight in the strife of tongues. Infinitely the
superior of his antagonists in power, he could affect to treat them with
good humour, but this good humour was not easy to reciprocate when
combined with an imperturbable assumption that they were all fools or
knaves. When we find him, after humbly asking pardon for all his errors
of the press, errors of the pen, or errors of opinion, expressing a wish
that "all gentlemen on the other side would give him equal occasion to
honour them for their charity, temper, and gentlemanlike dealing, as for
their learning and virtue," and offering to "capitulate with them, and
enter into a treaty or cartel for exchange of good language," we may, if
we like, admire his superior mastery of the weapons of irritation, but
pity is out of place.

The number of February 17, 1705, was announced by Defoe as being "the
last Review of this volume, and designed to be so of this work." But on
the following Tuesday, the regular day for the appearance of the
_Review_, he issued another number, declaring that he could not quit the
volume without some remarks on "charity and poverty." On Saturday yet
another last number appeared, dealing with some social subjects which he
had been urged by correspondents to discuss. Then on Tuesday, February
27, apologising for the frequent turning of his design, he issued a
Preface to a new volume of the _Review_, with a slight change of title.
He would overtake sooner or later all the particulars of French
greatness which he had promised to survey, but as the course of his
narrative had brought him to England, and he might stay there for some
time, it was as well that this should be indicated in the title, which
was henceforth to be A Review of the Affairs of France, with
Observations on Affairs at Home. He had intended, he said, to abandon
the work altogether, but some gentlemen had prevailed with him to go on,
and had promised that he should not be at a loss by it. It was now to be
issued three times a week.



In putting forth the prospectus of the second volume of his _Review_,
Defoe intimated that its prevailing topic would be the Trade of
England--a vast subject, with many branches, all closely interwoven with
one another and with the general well-being of the kingdom. It grieved
him, he said, to see the nation involved in such evils while remedies
lay at hand which blind guides could not, and wicked guides would not,
see--trade decaying, yet within reach of the greatest improvements, the
navy flourishing, yet fearfully mismanaged, rival factions brawling and
fighting when they ought to combine for the common good. "Nothing could
have induced him to undertake the ungrateful office of exposing these
things, but the full persuasion that he was capable of convincing
anything of an Englishman that had the least angle of his soul untainted
with partiality, and that had the least concern left for the good of his
country, that even the worst of these evils were easy to be cured; that
if ever this nation were shipwrecked and undone, it must be at the very
entrance of her port of deliverance, in the sight of her safety that
Providence held out to her, in the sight of her safe establishment, a
prosperous trade, a regular, easily-supplied navy, and a general
reformation both in manners and methods in Church and State."

Defoe began as usual by laying down various clear heads, under which he
promised to deal with the whole field of trade. But as usual he did not
adhere to this systematic plan. He discussed some topics of the day with
brilliant force, and then he suddenly digressed to a subject only
collaterally connected with trade. The Queen, in opening the session of
1704-5, had exhorted her Parliament to peace and union; but the
High-Churchmen were too hot to listen to advice even from her. The
Occasional Conformity Bill was again introduced and carried in the
Commons. The Lords rejected it. The Commons persisted, and to secure the
passing of the measure, tacked it to a Bill of Supply. The Lords refused
to pass the Money Bill till the tack was withdrawn. Soon afterwards the
Parliament--Parliaments were then triennial--was dissolved, and the
canvass for a general election set in amidst unusual excitement. Defoe
abandoned the quiet topic of trade, and devoted the _Review_ to
electioneering articles.

But he did not take a side, at least not a party side. He took the side
of peace and his country. "I saw with concern," he said, in afterwards
explaining his position, "the weighty juncture of a new election for
members approach, the variety of wheels and engines set to work in the
nation, and the furious methods to form interests on either hand and put
the tempers of men on all sides into an unusual motion; and things
seemed acted with so much animosity and party fury that I confess it
gave me terrible apprehensions of the consequences." On both sides "the
methods seemed to him very scandalous." "In many places most horrid and
villainous practices were set on foot to supplant one another. The
parties stooped to vile and unbecoming meannesses; infinite briberies,
forgeries, perjuries, and all manner of debauchings of the principles
and manners of the electors were attempted. All sorts of violences,
tumults, riots, breaches of the peace, neighbourhood, and good manners
were made use of to support interests and carry elections." In short,
Defoe saw the nation "running directly on the steep precipice of
confusion." In these circumstances, he seriously reflected what he
should do. He came to the conclusion that he must "immediately set
himself in the _Review_ to exhort, persuade, entreat, and in the most
moving terms he was capable of, prevail on all people in general to

Under cover of this profession of impartiality, Defoe issued most
effective attacks upon the High-Church party. In order to promote peace,
he said, it was necessary to ascertain first of all who were the enemies
of peace. On the surface, the questions at stake in the elections were,
the privileges of the Dissenters and the respective rights of the Lords
and the Commons in the matter of Money Bills. But people must look
beneath the surface. "King James, French power, and a general turn of
affairs was at the bottom, and the quarrels between Church and
Dissenters only a politic noose they had hooked the parties on both
sides into." Defoe lashed the Tackers into fury by his exhortations to
the study of peace. He professed the utmost good-will to them
personally, though he had not words-strong enough to condemn their
conduct in tacking the Occasional Bill to a Money Bill when they knew
that the Lords would reject it, and so in a moment of grave national
peril leave the army without supplies. The Queen, in dissolving
Parliament, had described this tacking as a dangerous experiment, and
Defoe explained the experiment as being "whether losing the Money Bill,
breaking up the Houses, disbanding the Confederacy, and opening the
door to the French, might not have been for the interest of the
High-Church." Far be it from him to use Billingsgate language to the
Tackers, but "the effect of their action, which, and not their motive,
he had to consider, would undoubtedly be to let in the French, depose
the Queen, bring in the Prince of Wales, abdicate the Protestant
religion, restore Popery, repeal the Toleration, and persecute the
Dissenters." Still it was probable that the Tackers meant no harm.
_Humanum est errare_. He was certain that if he showed them their error,
they would repent and be converted. All the same, he could not recommend
them to the electors. "A Tacker is a man of passion, a man of heat, a
man that is for ruining the nation upon any hazards to obtain his ends.
Gentlemen freeholders, you must not choose a Tacker, unless you will
destroy our peace, divide our strength, pull down the Church, let in the
French, and depose the Queen."

From the dissolution of Parliament in April till the end of the year
Defoe preached from this text with infinite variety and vigour. It is
the chief subject of the second volume of the _Review_. The elections,
powerfully influenced by Marlborough's successes as well as by the
eloquent championship of Defoe, resulted in the entire defeat of the
High Tories, and a further weeding of them out of high places in the
Administration. Defoe was able to close this volume of the _Review_ with
expressions of delight at the attainment of the peace for which he had
laboured, and, the victory, being gained and the battle over, to promise
a return to the intermitted subject of Trade. He returned to this
subject in the beginning of his third volume. But he had not pursued it
long when he was again called away. The second diversion, as he pointed
out, was strictly analogous to the first. It was a summons to him to do
his utmost to promote the union of the two kingdoms of England and
Scotland. "From the same zeal," Defoe said, "with which I first pursued
this blessed subject of peace, I found myself embarked in the further
extent of it, I mean the Union. If I thought myself obliged in duty to
the public interest to use my utmost endeavour to quiet the minds of
enraged parties, I found myself under a stronger necessity to embark in
the same design between two most enraged nations."

The union of the two kingdoms had become an object of pressing and
paramount importance towards the close of William's reign. He had found
little difficulty in getting the English Parliament to agree to settle
the succession of the House of Hanover, but the proposal that the
succession to the throne of Scotland should be settled on the same head
was coldly received by the Scottish Parliament. It was not so much that
the politicians of Edinburgh were averse to a common settlement, or
positively eager for a King and Court of their own, but they were
resolved to hold back till they were assured of commercial privileges
which would go to compensate them for the drain of wealth that was
supposed to have followed the King southwards. This was the policy of
the wiser heads, not to accept the Union without as advantageous terms
as they could secure. They had lost an opportunity at the Revolution,
and were determined not to lose another. But among the mass of the
population the feeling was all in favour of a separate kingdom. National
animosity had been inflamed to a passionate pitch by the Darien disaster
and the Massacre of Glencoe. The people listened readily to the
insinuations of hot-headed men that the English wished to have
everything their own way. The counter-charge about the Scotch found
equally willing hearers among the mass in England. Never had cool-headed
statesmen a harder task in preventing two nations from coming to blows.
All the time that the Treaty of Union was being negotiated which King
William had earnestly urged from his deathbed, throughout the first half
of Queen Anne's reign they worked under a continual apprehension lest
the negotiations should end in a violent and irreconcilable rupture.

Defoe might well say that he was pursuing the same blessed subject of
Peace in trying to reconcile these two most enraged nations, and writing
with all his might for the Union. An Act enabling the Queen to appoint
Commissioners on the English side to arrange the terms of the Treaty had
been passed in the first year of her reign, but difficulties had arisen
about the appointment of the Scottish Commissioners, and it was not till
the Spring of 1706 that the two Commissions came together. When they did
at last meet, they found each other much more reasonable and practical
in spirit than had appeared possible during the battle over the
preliminaries. But while the statesmen sat concocting the terms of the
Treaty almost amicably, from April to July, the excitement raged
fiercely out of doors. Amidst the blaze of recriminations and
counter-recriminations, Defoe moved energetically as the Apostle of
Peace, making his _Review_ play like a fireman's hose upon the flames.
He did not try to persuade the Scotch to peace by the same methods which
he had used in the case of the High-fliers and Tackers. His Reviews on
this subject, full of spirit as ever, are models of the art of
conciliation. He wrestled ardently with national prejudices on both
sides, vindicating the Scotch Presbyterians from the charge of religious
intolerance, labouring to prove that the English were not all to blame
for the collapse of the Darien expedition and the Glencoe tragedy,
expounding what was fair to both nations in matters concerning trade.
Abuse was heaped upon him plentifully by hot partisans; he was charged
with want of patriotism from the one side, and with too much of it from
the other; but he held on his way manfully, allowing no blow from his
aspersers to pass unreturned. Seldom has so bold and skilful a soldier
been enlisted in the cause of peace.

Defoe was not content with the _Review_ as a literary instrument of
pacification. He carried on the war in both capitals, answering the
pamphlets of the Scotch patriots with counter-pamphlets from the
Edinburgh press. He published also a poem, "in honour of Scotland,"
entitled _Caledonia_, with an artfully flattering preface, in which he
declared the poem to be a simple tribute to the greatness of the people
and the country without any reference whatever to the Union. Presently
he found it expedient to make Edinburgh his head-quarters, though he
continued sending the _Review_ three times a week to his London printer.
When the Treaty of Union had been elaborated by the Commissioners and
had passed the English Parliament, its difficulties were not at an end.
It had still to pass the Scotch Parliament, and a strong faction there,
riding on the storm of popular excitement, insisted on discussing it
clause by clause. Moved partly by curiosity, partly by earnest desire
for the public good, according to his own account in the _Review_ and in
his _History of the Union,_ Defoe resolved to undertake the "long,
tedious, and hazardous journey" to Edinburgh, and use all his influence
to push the Treaty through. It was a task of no small danger, for the
prejudice against the Union went so high in the Scottish capital that he
ran the risk of being torn to pieces by the populace. In one riot of
which he gives an account, his lodging was beset, and for a time he was
in as much peril "as a grenadier on a counter-scarp." Still he went on
writing pamphlets, and lobbying members of Parliament. Owing to his
intimate knowledge of all matters relating to trade, he also "had the
honour to be frequently sent for into the several Committees of
Parliament which were appointed to state some difficult points relating
to equalities, taxes, prohibitions, &c." Even when the Union was agreed
to by the Parliaments of both kingdoms, and took effect formally in May,
1707, difficulties arose in putting the details in operation, and Defoe
prolonged his stay in Scotland through the whole of that year.

In this visit to Scotland Defoe protested to the world at the time that
he had gone as a diplomatist on his own account, purely in the interests
of peace. But a suspicion arose and was very free expressed, that both
in this journey and in previous journeys to the West and the North of
England during the elections, he was serving as the agent, if not as the
spy, of the Government. These reproaches he denied with indignation,
declaring it particularly hard that he should be subjected to such
despiteful and injurious treatment even by writers "embarked in the same
cause, and pretending to write for the same public good." "I contemn,"
he said in his _History_, "as not worth mentioning, the suggestions of
some people, of my being employed thither to carry on the interest of a
party. I have never loved any parties, but with my utmost zeal have
sincerely espoused the great and original interest of this nation, and
of all nations--I mean truth and liberty,--and whoever are of that
party, I desire to be with them." He took up the same charges more
passionately in the Preface to the third volume of the _Review_, and
dealt with them in some brilliant passages of apologetic eloquence.

"I must confess," he said, "I have sometimes thought it very hard, that
having voluntarily, without the least direction, assistance, or
encouragement, in spite of all that has been suggested, taken upon me
the most necessary work of removing national prejudices against the two
most capital blessings of the world, Peace and Union, I should have the
disaster to have the nations receive the doctrine and damn the teacher."

"Should I descend to particulars, it would hardly appear credible that
in a Christian, a Protestant, and a Reformed nation, any man should
receive such treatment as I have done, even from those very people whose
consciences and judgments have stooped to the venerable truth, owned it
has been useful, serviceable, and seasonable...."

"I am charged with partiality, bribery, pensions, and payments--a thing
the circumstances, family, and fortunes of a man devoted to his
country's peace clears me of. If paid, gentlemen, for writing, if hired,
if employed, why still harassed with merciless and malicious men, why
pursued to all extremities by law for old accounts, which you clear
other men of every day? Why oppressed, distressed, and driven from his
family and from all his prospects of delivering them or himself? Is this
the fate of men employed and hired? Is this the figure the agents of
Courts and Princes make? Certainly had I been hired or employed, those
people who own the service would by this time have set their servant
free from the little and implacable malice of litigious persecutions,
murthering warrants, and men whose mouths are to be stopt by trifles.
Let this suffice to clear me of all the little and scandalous charges of
being hired and employed."

But then, people ask, if he was not officially employed, what had he to
do with these affairs? Why should he meddle with them? To this he

"Truly, gentlemen, this is just the case. I saw a parcel of people
caballing together to ruin property, corrupt the laws, invade the
Government, debauch the people, and in short, enslave and embroil the
nation, and I cried 'Fire!' or rather I cried 'Water!' for the fire was
begun already. I see all the nation running into confusions and directly
flying in the face of one another, and cried out 'Peace!' I called upon
all sorts of people that had any senses to collect them together and
judge for themselves what they were going to do, and excited them to lay
hold of the madmen and take from them the wicked weapon, the knife with
which they were going to destroy their mother, rip up the bowels of
their country, and at last effectually ruin themselves.

"And what had I to do with this? Why, yes, gentlemen, I had the same
right as every man that has a footing in his country, or that has a
posterity to possess liberty and claim right, must have, to preserve the
laws, liberty, and government of that country to which he belongs, and
he that charges me with meddling in what does not concern me, meddles
himself with what 'tis plain he does not understand."

       *       *       *       *       *

"I am not the first," Defoe said in another place, "that has been stoned
for saying the truth. I cannot but think that as time and the conviction
of their senses will restore men to love the peace now established in
this nation, so they will gradually see I have acted no part but that of
a lover of my country, and an honest man."

Time has undeniably shown that in these efforts to promote party peace
and national union Defoe acted like a lover of his country, and that his
aims were the aims of a statesmanlike as well as an honest man. And yet
his protestations of independence and spontaneity of action, with all
their ring of truth and all their solemnity of asseveration, were merely
diplomatic blinds. He was all the time, as he afterwards admitted, when
the admission could do no harm except to his own passing veracity,
acting as the agent of Harley, and in enjoyment of an "appointment" from
the Queen. What exactly the nature of his secret services in Scotland
and elsewhere were, he very properly refused to reveal. His business
probably was to ascertain and report the opinions of influential
persons, and keep the Government informed as far as he could of the
general state of feeling. At any rate it was not as he alleged, mere
curiosity, or the fear of his creditors, or private enterprise, or pure
and simple patriotic zeal that took Defoe to Scotland. The use he made
of his debts as diplomatic instruments is curious. He not merely
practised his faculties in the management of his creditors, which one of
Lord Beaconsfield's characters commends as an incomparable means to a
sound knowledge of human nature; but he made his debts actual pieces in
his political game. His poverty, apparent, if not real, served as a
screen for his employment under Government. When he was despatched on
secret missions, he could depart wiping his eyes at the hardship of
having to flee from his creditors.



Some of Defoe's biographers have claimed for him that he anticipated the
doctrines of Free Trade. This is an error. It is true that Defoe was
never tired of insisting, in pamphlets, books, and number after number
of the _Review_, on the all-importance of trade to the nation. Trade was
the foundation of England's greatness; success in trade was the most
honourable patent of nobility; next to the maintenance of the Protestant
religion, the encouragement of trade should be the chief care of English
statesmen. On these heads Defoe's enthusiasm was boundless, and his
eloquence inexhaustible. It is true also that he supported with all his
might the commercial clauses of the Treaty of Utrecht, which sought to
abolish the prohibitory duties on our trade with France. It is this last
circumstance which has earned for him the repute of being a pioneer of
Free Trade. But his title to that repute does not bear examination. He
was not so far in advance of his age as to detect the fallacy of the
mercantile system. On the contrary, he avowed his adherence to it
against those of his contemporaries who were inclined to call it in
question. How Defoe came to support the new commercial treaty with
France, and the grounds on which he supported it, can only be understood
by looking at his relations with the Government.

While Defoe was living in Scotland in 1707, and filling the _Review_ so
exclusively with Scotch affairs that his readers, according to his own
account, began to say that the fellow could talk of nothing but the
Union, and had grown mighty dull of late, Harley's position in the
Ministry was gradually becoming very insecure. He was suspected of
cooling in his zeal for the war, and of keeping up clandestine relations
with the Tories; and when Marlborough returned from his campaign at the
close of the year he insisted upon the Secretary's dismissal. The Queen,
who secretly resented the Marlborough yoke, at first refused her
consent. Presently an incident occurred which gave them an excuse for
more urgent pressure. One Gregg, a clerk in Harley's office, was
discovered to be in secret correspondence with the French Court,
furnishing Louis with the contents of important State papers. Harley was
charged with complicity. This charge was groundless, but he could not
acquit himself of gross negligence in the custody of his papers.
Godolphin and Marlborough threatened to resign unless he was dismissed.
Then the Queen yielded.

When Harley fell, Defoe, according to his own account, in the _Appeal to
Honour and Justice_, looked upon himself as lost, taking it for granted
that "when a great officer fell, all who came in by his interest fall
with him." But when his benefactor heard of this, and of Defoe's
"resolution never to abandon the fortunes of the man to whom he owed so
much," he kindly urged the devoted follower to think rather of his own
interest than of any romantic obligation. "My lord Treasurer," he said,
"will employ you in nothing but what is for the public service, and
agreeably to your own sentiments of things; and besides, it is the Queen
you are serving, who has been very good to you. Pray apply yourself as
you used to do; I shall not take it ill from you in the least." To
Godolphin accordingly Defoe applied himself, was by him introduced a
second time to Her Majesty and to the honour of kissing her hand, and
obtained "the continuance of an appointment which Her Majesty had been
pleased to make him in consideration of a former special service he had
done." This was the appointment which he held while he was challenging
his enemies to say whether his outward circumstances looked like the
figure the agents of Courts and Princes make.

The services on which Defoe was employed were, as before, of two kinds,
active and literary. Shortly after the change in the Ministry early in
1708, news came of the gathering of the French expedition at Dunkirk,
with a view, it was suspected, of trying to effect a landing in
Scotland. Defoe was at once despatched to Edinburgh on an errand which,
he says, was "far from being unfit for a sovereign to direct or an
honest man to perform." If his duties were to mix with the people and
ascertain the state of public feeling, and more specifically to sound
suspected characters, to act, in short, as a political detective or spy,
the service was one which it was essential that the Government should
get some trustworthy person to undertake, and which any man at such a
crisis might perform, if he could, without any discredit to his honesty
or his patriotism. The independence of the sea-girt realm was never in
greater peril. The French expedition was a well-conceived diversion, and
it was imperative that the Government should know on what amount of
support the invaders might rely in the bitterness prevailing in Scotland
after the Union. Fortunately the loyalty of the Scotch Jacobites was not
put to the test. As in the case of the Spanish Armada, accident fought
on our side. The French fleet succeeded in reaching the coast of
Scotland before the ships of the defenders; but it overshot its arranged
landing-point, and had no hope but to sail back ingloriously to Dunkirk.
Meantime, Defoe had satisfactorily discharged himself of his mission.
Godolphin showed his appreciation of his services by recalling him as
soon as Parliament was dissolved, to travel through the counties and
serve the cause of the Government in the general elections. He was
frequently sent to Scotland again on similarly secret errands, and seems
to have established a printing business there, made arrangements for the
simultaneous issue of the _Review_ in Edinburgh and London, besides
organizing Edinburgh newspapers, executing commissions for English
merchants, and setting on foot a linen manufactory.

But we are more concerned with the literary labors of this versatile and
indefatigable genius. These, in the midst of his multifarious commercial
and diplomatic concerns, he never intermitted. All the time the _Review_
continued to give a brilliant support to the Ministry. The French
expedition had lent a new interest to the affairs of Scotland, and Defoe
advertised, that though he never intended to make the _Review_ a
newspaper, circumstances enabled him to furnish exceptionally correct
intelligence from Scotland as well as sound impartial opinions. The
intelligence which he communicated was all with a purpose, and a good
purpose--the promotion of a better understanding between the united
nations. He never had a better opportunity for preaching from his
favourite text of Peace and Union, and he used it characteristically,
championing the cause of the Scotch Presbyterians, asserting the
firmness of their loyalty, smoothing over trading grievances by showing
elaborately how both sides benefited from the arrangements of the Union,
launching shafts in every direction at his favourite butts, and never
missing a chance of exulting in his own superior wisdom. In what a
posture would England have been now, he cried, if those wiseacres had
been listened to, who were for trusting the defence of England solely to
the militia and the fleet! Would our fleet have kept the French from
landing if Providence had not interposed; and if they had landed, would
a militia, undermined by disaffection, have been able to beat them back?
The French king deserved a vote of thanks for opening the eyes of the
nation against foolish advisers, and for helping it to heal internal
divisions. Louis, poor gentleman, was much to be pitied, for his
informers had evidently served him badly, and had led him to expect a
greater amount of support from disloyal factions than they had the will
or the courage to give him.

During the electoral canvass, Defoe surpassed himself in the lively
vigour of his advocacy of the Whig cause. "And now, gentlemen of
England," he began in the _Review_--as it went on he became more and
more direct and familiar in his manner of addressing his readers--"now
we are a-going to choose Parliament men, I will tell you a story." And
he proceeded to tell how in a certain borough a great patron procured
the election of a "shock dog" as its parliamentary representative. Money
and ale, Defoe says, could do anything. "God knows I speak it with
regret for you all and for your posterity, it is not an impossible thing
to debauch this nation into a choice of thieves, knaves, devils, shock
dogs, or anything comparatively speaking, by the power of various
intoxications." He spent several numbers of the _Review_ in an ironical
advice to the electors to choose Tories, showing with all his skill
"the mighty and prevailing reason why we should have a Tory
Parliament." "O gentlemen," he cried, "if we have any mind to buy some
more experience, be sure and choose Tories." "We want a little
instruction, we want to go to school to knaves and fools." Afterwards,
dropping this thin mask, he declared that among the electors only "the
drunken, the debauched, the swearing, the persecuting" would vote for
the High-fliers. "The grave, the sober, the thinking, the prudent,"
would vote for the Whigs. "A House of Tories is a House of Devils." "If
ever we have a Tory Parliament, the nation is undone." In his _Appeal to
Honour and Justice_ Defoe explained, that while he was serving
Godolphin, "being resolved to remove all possible ground of suspicion
that he kept any secret correspondence, he never visited, or wrote to,
or any way corresponded with his principal benefactor for above three
years." Seeing that Harley was at that time the leader of the party
which Defoe was denouncing with such spirit, it would have been strange
indeed if there had been much intercourse between them.

Though regarded after his fall from office as the natural leader of the
Tory party, Harley was a very reserved politician, who kept his own
counsel, used instruments of many shapes and sizes, steered clear of
entangling engagements, and left himself free to take advantage of
various opportunities. To wage war against the Ministry was the work of
more ardent partisans. He stood by and waited while Bolingbroke and
Rochester and their allies in the press cried out that the Government
was now in the hands of the enemies of the Church, accused the Whigs of
protracting the war to fill their own pockets with the plunder of the
Supplies, and called upon the nation to put an end to their jobbery and
mismanagement. The victory of Oudenarde in the summer of 1708 gave them
a new handle. "What is the good," they cried, "of these glorious
victories, if they do not bring peace? What do we gain by beating the
French in campaign after campaign, if we never bring them nearer to
submission? It is incredible that the French King is not willing to make
peace, if the Whigs did not profit too much by the war to give peace any
encouragement." To these arguments for peace, Defoe opposed himself
steadily in the _Review_. "Well, gentlemen." he began, when the news
came of the battle of Oudenarde, "have the French noosed themselves
again? Let us pray the Duke of Marlborough that a speedy peace may not
follow, for what would become of us?" He was as willing for a peace on
honourable terms as any man, but a peace till the Protestant Succession
was secured and the balance of power firmly settled, "would be fatal to
peace at home." "If that fatal thing called Peace abroad should happen,
we shall certainly be undone." Presently, however, the French King began
to make promising overtures for peace; the Ministry, in hopes of
satisfactory terms, encouraged them; the talk through the nation was all
of peace, and the Whigs contented themselves with passing an address to
the Crown through Parliament urging the Queen to make no peace till the
Pretender should be disowned by the French Court, and the Succession
guaranteed by a compact with the Allies. Throughout the winter the
_Review_ expounded with brilliant clearness the only conditions on which
an honourable peace could be founded, and prepared the nation to doubt
the sincerity with which Louis had entered into negotiations. Much
dissatisfaction was felt, and that dissatisfaction was eagerly fanned by
the Tories when the negotiations fell through, in consequence of the
distrust with which the allies regarded Louis, and their imposing upon
him too hard a test of his honesty. Defoe fought vigorously against the
popular discontent. The charges against Marlborough were idle
rhodomontade. We had no reason to be discouraged with the progress of
the war unless we had formed extravagant expectations. Though the French
King's resources had been enfeebled, and he might reasonably have been
expected to desire peace, he did not care for the welfare of France so
much as for his own glory; he would fight to gain his purpose while
there was a pistole in his treasury, and we must not expect Paris to be
taken in a week. Nothing could be more admirable than Godolphin's
management of our own Treasury; he deserved almost more credit than the
Duke himself. "Your Treasurer has been your general of generals; without
his exquisite management of the cash the Duke of Marlborough must have
been beaten."

The Sacheverell incident, which ultimately led to the overthrow of the
Ministry, gave Defoe a delightful opening for writing in their defence.
A collection of his articles on this subject would show his
controversial style at its best and brightest. Sacheverell and he were
old antagonists. Sacheverell's "bloody flag and banner of defiance," and
other High-flying truculencies, had furnished him with the main basis of
his _Shortest Way with the Dissenters_. The laugh of the populace was
then on Defoe's side, partly, perhaps, because the Government had
prosecuted him. But in the changes of the troubled times, the Oxford
Doctor, nurtured in "the scolding of the ancients," had found a more
favourable opportunity. His literary skill was of the most mechanical
kind; but at the close of 1709, when hopes of peace had been raised only
to be disappointed, and the country was suffering from the distress of a
prolonged war, people were more in a mood to listen to a preacher who
disdained to check the sweep of his rhetoric by qualifications or
abatements, and luxuriated in denouncing the Queen's Ministers from the
pulpit under scriptural allegories. He delivered a tremendous philippic
about the Perils of False Brethren, as a sermon before the Lord Mayor in
November. It would have been a wise thing for the Ministry to have left
Sacheverell to be dealt with by their supporters in the press and in the
pulpit. But in an evil hour Godolphin, stung by a nickname thrown at him
by the rhetorical priest--a singularly comfortable-looking man to have
so virulent a tongue, one of those orators who thrive on ill-conditioned
language--resolved, contrary to the advice of more judicious colleagues,
to have him impeached by the House of Commons. The Commons readily voted
the sermon seditious, scandalous, and malicious, and agreed to a
resolution for his impeachment; the Lords ordered that the case should
be heard at their bar; and Westminster Hall was prepared to be the scene
of a great public trial. At first Defoe, in heaping contemptuous
ridicule upon the High-flying Doctor, had spoken as if he would consider
prosecution a blunder. The man ought rather to be encouraged to go on
exposing himself and his party. "Let him go on," he said, "to bully
Moderation, explode Toleration, and damn the Union; the gain will be

   "You should use him as we do a hot horse. When he
   first frets and pulls, keep a stiff rein and hold him in if you
   can; but if he grows mad and furious, slack your hand, clap
   your heels to him, and let him go. Give him his belly full
   of it. Away goes the beast like a fury over hedge and ditch,
   till he runs himself off his mettle; perhaps bogs himself, and
   then he grows quiet of course.... Besides, good people, do
   you not know the nature of the barking creatures? If you
   pass but by, and take no notice, they will yelp and make a noise,
   and perhaps run a little after you; but turn back, offer to strike them
   or throw stones at them, and you'll never have done--nay, you'll raise
   all the dogs of the parish upon you."

This last was precisely what the Government did, and they found reason
to regret that they did not take Defoe's advice and let Sacheverell
alone. When, however, they did resolve to prosecute him, Defoe
immediately turned round, and exulted in the prosecution, as the very
thing which he had foreseen. "Was not the _Review_ right when he said
you ought to let such people run on till they were out of breath? Did I
not note to you that precipitations have always ruined them and served
us?... Not a hound in the pack opened like him. He has done the work
effectually.... He has raised the house and waked the landlady.... Thank
him, good people, thank him and clap him on the back; let all his party
do but this, and the day is our own." Nor did Defoe omit to remind the
good people that he had been put in the pillory for satirically hinting
that the High-Church favored such doctrines as Sacheverell was now
prosecuted for. In his _Hymn to the Pillory_ he had declared that
Sacheverell ought to stand there in his place. His wish was now
gratified; "the bar of the House of Commons is the worst pillory in the
nation." In the two months which elapsed before the trial, during which
the excitement was steadily growing, Sacheverell and his doctrines were
the main topic of the _Review_. If a popular tempest could have been
allayed by brilliant argument, Defoe's papers ought to have done it. He
was a manly antagonist, and did not imitate coarser pamphleteers in
raking up scandals about the Doctor's private life--at least not under
his own name. There was, indeed, a pamphlet issued by "a Gentleman of
Oxford," which bears many marks of Defoe's authorship, and contains an
account of some passages in Sacheverell's life not at all to the
clergyman's credit. But the only pamphlet outside the _Review_ which the
biographers have ascribed to Defoe's activity, is a humorous Letter from
the Pope to Don Sacheverellio, giving him instructions how to advance
the interest of the Pretender. In the _Review_ Defoe, treating
Sacheverell with riotously mirthful contempt, calls for the punishment
of the doctrines rather than the man. During the trial, which lasted
more than a fortnight, a mob attended the Doctor's carriage every day
from his lodgings in the Temple to Westminster Hall, huzzaing, and
pressing to kiss his hand, and spent the evenings in rabbling the
Dissenters' meeting-houses, and hooting before the residences of
prominent Whigs. Defoe had always said that the High-fliers would use
violence to their opponents if they had the power, and here was a
confirmation of his opinion on which he did not fail to insist. The
sentence on Sacheverell, that his sermon and vindication should be burnt
by the common hangman and himself suspended from preaching for three
years, was hailed by the mob as an acquittal, and celebrated by
tumultuous gatherings and bonfires. Defoe reasoned hard and joyfully to
prove that the penalty was everything that could be wished, and exactly
what he had all along advised and contemplated, but he did not succeed
in persuading the masses that the Government had not suffered a defeat.

The impeachment of Sacheverell turned popular feeling violently against
the Whigs. The break up of the Gertruydenberg Conference without peace
gave a strong push in the same direction. It was all due, the Tories
shouted, and the people were now willing to believe, to the folly of our
Government in insisting upon impossible conditions from the French
King, and their shameless want of patriotism in consulting the interests
of the Allies rather than of England. The Queen, who for some time had
been longing to get rid of her Whig Ministers, did not at once set sail
with this breeze. She dismissed the Earl of Sunderland in June, and sent
word to her allies that she meant to make no further changes. Their
ambassadors, with what was even then resented as an impertinence,
congratulated her on this resolution, and then in August she took the
momentous step of dismissing Godolphin, and putting the Treasury
nominally in commission, but really under the management of Harley. For
a few weeks it seems to have been Harley's wish to conduct the
administration in concert with the remaining Whig members, but the
extreme Tories, with whom he had been acting, overbore his moderate
intentions. They threatened to desert him unless he broke clearly and
definitely with the Whigs. In October accordingly the Whigs were all
turned out of the Administration, Tories put in their places, Parliament
dissolved, and writs issued for new elections. "So sudden and entire a
change of the Ministry," Bishop Burnet remarks, "is scarce to be found
in our history, especially where men of great abilities had served both
with zeal and success." That the Queen should dismiss one or all of her
Ministers in the face of a Parliamentary majority excited no surprise;
but that the whole Administration should be changed at a stroke from one
party to the other was a new and strange thing. The old Earl of
Sunderland's suggestion to William III. had not taken root in
constitutional practice; this was the fulfilment of it under the gradual
pressure of circumstances.

Defoe's conduct while the political balance was rocking, and after the
Whig side had decisively kicked the beam, is a curious study. One
hardly knows which to admire most, the loyalty with which he stuck to
the falling house till the moment of its collapse, or the adroitness
with which he escaped from the ruins. Censure of his shiftiness is
partly disarmed by the fact that there were so many in that troubled and
uncertain time who would have acted like him if they had had the skill.
Besides, he acted so steadily and with such sleepless vigilance and
energy on the principle that the appearance of honesty is the best
policy, that at this distance of time it is not easy to catch him
tripping, and if we refuse to be guided by the opinion of his
contemporaries, we almost inevitably fall victims to his incomparable
plausibility. Deviations in his political writings from the course of
the honest patriot are almost as difficult to detect as flaws in the
verisimilitude of _Robinson Crusoe_ or the _Journal of the Plague_.

During the two months' interval between the substitution of Dartmouth
for Sunderland and the fall of Godolphin, Defoe used all his powers of
eloquence and argument to avert the threatened changes in the Ministry,
and keep the Tories out. He had a personal motive for this, he
confessed. "My own share in the ravages they shall make upon our
liberties is like to be as severe as any man's, from the rage and fury
of a party who are in themselves implacable, and whom God has not been
pleased to bless me with a talent to flatter and submit to." Of the
dismissed minister Sunderland, with whom Defoe had been in personal
relations during the negotiations for the Union, he spoke in terms of
the warmest praise, always with a formal profession of not challenging
the Queen's judgment in discharging her servant. "My Lord Sunderland,"
he said, "leaves the Ministry with the most unblemished character that
ever I read of any statesman in the world." "I am making no court to my
Lord Sunderland. The unpolished author of this paper never had the
talent of making his court to the great men of the age." But where is
the objection against his conduct? Not a dog of the party can bark
against him. "They cannot show me a man of their party that ever did act
like him, or of whom they can say we should believe he would if he had
the opportunity." The Tories were clamouring for the dismissal of all
the other Whigs. High-Church addresses to the Queen were pouring in,
claiming to represent the sense of the nation, and hinting an absolute
want of confidence in the Administration. Defoe examined the conduct of
the ministers severally and collectively, and demanded where was the
charge against them, where the complaint, where the treasure misapplied?

As for the sense of the nation, there was one sure way of testing this
better than any got-up addresses, namely, the rise or fall of the public
credit. The public stocks fell immediately on the news of Sunderland's
dismissal, and were only partially revived upon Her Majesty's assurance
to the Directors of the Bank that she meant to keep the Ministry
otherwise unchanged. A rumour that Parliament was to be dissolved had
sent them down again. If the public credit is thus affected by the mere
apprehension of a turn of affairs in England, Defoe said, the thing
itself will be a fatal blow to it. The coy Lady Credit had been wavering
in her attachment to England; any sudden change would fright her away
altogether. As for the pooh-pooh cry of the Tories that the national
credit was of no consequence, that a nation could not be in debt to
itself, and that their moneyed men would come forward with nineteen
shillings in the pound for the support of the war, Defoe treated this
claptrap with proper ridicule.

But in spite of all Defoe's efforts, the crash came. On the 10th of
August the Queen sent to Godolphin for the Treasurer's staff, and Harley
became her Prime Minister. How did Defoe behave then? The first two
numbers of the _Review_ after the Lord Treasurer's fall are among the
most masterly of his writings. He was not a small, mean, timid
time-server and turncoat. He faced about with bold and steady caution,
on the alert to give the lie to anybody who dared to accuse him of
facing about at all. He frankly admitted that he was in a quandary what
to say about the change that had taken place. "If a man could be found
that could sail north and south, that could speak truth and falsehood,
that could turn to the right hand and the left, all at the same time, he
would be the man, he would be the only proper person that should now
speak." Of one thing only he was certain. "We are sure honest men go
out." As for their successors, "it is our business to hope, and time
must answer for those that come in. If Tories, if Jacobites, if
High-fliers, if madmen of any kind are to come in, I am against them; I
ask them no favour, I make no court to them, nor am I going about to
please them." But the question was, what was to be done in the
circumstances? Defoe stated plainly two courses, with their respective
dangers. To cry out about the new Ministry was to ruin public credit. To
profess cheerfulness was to encourage the change and strengthen the
hands of those that desired to push it farther. On the whole, for
himself he considered the first danger the most to be dreaded of the
two. Therefore he announced his intention of devoting his whole energy
to maintaining the public credit, and advised all true Whigs to do
likewise. "Though I don't like the crew, I won't sink the ship. I'll do
my best to save the ship. I'll pump and heave and haul, and do anything
I can, though he that pulls with me were my enemy. The reason is plain.
We are all in the ship, and must sink or swim together."

What could be more plausible? What conduct more truly patriotic? Indeed,
it would be difficult to find fault with Defoe's behaviour, were it not
for the rogue's protestations of inability to court the favour of great
men, and his own subsequent confessions in his _Appeal to Honour and
Justice_, as to what took place behind the scenes. Immediately on the
turn of affairs he took steps to secure that connexion with the
Government, the existence of which he was always denying. The day after
Godolphin's displacement, he tells us, he waited on him, and "humbly
asked his lordship's direction what course he should take." Godolphin at
once assured him, in very much the same words that Harley had used
before, that the change need make no difference to him; he was the
Queen's servant, and all that had been done for him was by Her Majesty's
special and particular direction; his business was to wait till he saw
things settled, and then apply himself to the Ministers of State to
receive Her Majesty's commands from them. Thereupon Defoe resolved to
guide himself by the following principle:--

   "It occurred to me immediately, as a principle for my conduct,
   that it was not material to me what ministers Her Majesty
   was pleased to employ; my duty was to go along with
   every Ministry, so far as they did not break in upon the Constitution,
   and the laws and liberties of my country; my part
   being only the duty of a subject, viz., to submit to all lawful
   commands, and to enter into no service which was not justifiable
   by the laws; to all which I have exactly obliged myself."

Defoe was thus, as he says, providentially cast back upon his original
benefactor. That he received any consideration, pension, gratification,
or reward for his services to Harley, "except that old appointment which
Her Majesty was pleased to make him," he strenuously denied. The denial
is possibly true, and it is extremely probable that he was within the
truth when he protested in the most solemn manner that he had never
"received any instructions, directions, orders, or let them call it what
they will, of that kind, for the writing of any part of what he had
written, or any materials for the putting together, for the forming any
book or pamphlet whatsoever, from the said Earl of Oxford, late Lord
Treasurer, or from any person by his order or direction, since the time
that the late Earl of Godolphin was Lord Treasurer." Defoe declared that
"in all his writing, he ever capitulated for his liberty to speak
according to his own judgment of things," and we may easily believe him.
He was much too clever a servant to need instructions.

His secret services to Harley in the new elections are probably buried
in oblivion. In the _Review_ he pursued a strain which to the reader who
does not take his articles in connexion with the politics of the time,
might appear to be thoroughly consistent with his advice to the electors
on previous occasions. He meant to confine himself, he said at starting,
rather to the manner of choosing than to the persons to be chosen, and
he never denounced bribery, intimidation, rioting, rabbling, and every
form of interference with the electors' freedom of choice, in more
energetic language. As regarded the persons to be chosen, his advice was
as before, to choose moderate men--men of sense and temper, not men of
fire and fury. But he no longer asserted, as he had done before, the
exclusive possession of good qualities by the Whigs. He now recognised
that there were hot Whigs as well as moderate Whigs, moderate Tories as
well as hot Tories. It was for the nation to avoid both extremes and
rally round the men of moderation, whether Whig or Tory. "If we have a
Tory High-flying Parliament, we Tories are undone. If we have a hot Whig
Parliament, we Whigs are undone."

The terms of Defoe's advice were unexceptionable, but the Whigs
perceived a change from the time when he declared that if ever we have a
Tory Parliament the nation is undone. It was as if a Republican writer,
after the _coup d'état_ of the 16th May, 1877, had warned the French
against electing extreme Republicans, and had echoed the
Marshal-President's advice to give their votes to moderate men of all
parties. Defoe did not increase the conviction of his party loyalty when
a Tory Parliament was returned, by trying to prove that whatever the new
members might call themselves, they must inevitably be Whigs. He
admitted in the most unqualified way that the elections had been
disgracefully riotous and disorderly, and lectured the constituencies
freely on their conduct. "It is not," he said, "a Free Parliament that
you have chosen. You have met, mobbed, rabbled, and thrown dirt at one
another, but election by mob is no more free election than Oliver's
election by a standing army. Parliaments and rabbles are contrary
things." Yet he had hopes of the gentlemen who had been thus chosen.

   "I have it upon many good grounds, as I think I told you,
   that there are some people who are shortly to come together,
   of whose character, let the people that send them up think
   what they will, when they come thither they will not run the
   mad length that is expected of them; they will act upon the
   Revolution principle, keep within the circle of the law, proceed
   with temper, moderation, and justice, to support the
   same interest we have all carried on--and this I call being
   Whiggish, or acting as Whigs."

  "I shall not trouble you with further examining why they will be so, or
  why they will act thus; I think it is so plain from the necessity of the
  Constitution and the circumstances of things before them, that it needs
  no further demonstration--they will be Whigs, they must be Whigs; there
  is no remedy, for the Constitution is a Whig."

The new members of Parliament must either be Whigs or traitors, for
everybody who favours the Protestant succession is a Whig, and everybody
who does not is a traitor. Defoe used the same ingenuity in playing upon
words in his arguments in support of the public credit. Every true Whig,
he argued, in the _Review_ and in separate essays, was bound to uphold
the public credit, for to permit it to be impaired was the surest way to
let in the Pretender. The Whigs were accused of withdrawing their money
from the public stocks, to mark their distrust of the Government.
"Nonsense!" Defoe said, "in that case they would not be Whigs."
Naturally enough, as the _Review_ now practically supported a Ministry
in which extreme Tories had the predominance, he was upbraided for
having gone over to that party. "Why, gentlemen," he retorted, "it
would be more natural for you to think I am turned Turk than High-flier;
and to make me a Mahometan would not be half so ridiculous as to make me
say the Whigs are running down credit, when, on the contrary, I am still
satisfied if there were no Whigs at this time, there would hardly be any
such thing as credit left among us." "If the credit of the nation is to
be maintained, we must all act as Whigs, because credit can be
maintained upon no other foot. Had the doctrine of non-resistance of
tyranny been voted, had the Prerogative been exalted above the Law, and
property subjected to absolute will, would Parliament have voted the
funds? Credit supposes Whigs lending and a Whig Government borrowing. It
is nonsense to talk of credit and passive submission."

Had Defoe confined himself to lecturing those hot Whigs who were so
afraid of the secret Jacobitism of Harley's colleagues that they were
tempted to withdraw their money from the public stocks, posterity,
unable to judge how far these fears were justified, and how far it was
due to a happy accident that they were not realized, might have given
him credit for sacrificing partisanship to patriotism. This plea could
hardly be used for another matter in which, with every show of
reasonable fairness, he gave a virtual support to the Ministry. We have
seen how he spoke of Marlborough, and Godolphin's management of the army
and the finances when the Whigs were in office. When the Tories came in,
they at once set about redeeming their pledges to inquire into the
malversation of their predecessors. Concerning this proceeding, Defoe
spoke with an approval which, though necessarily guarded in view of his
former professions of extreme satisfaction, was none the less calculated
to recommend.

   "Inquiry into miscarriages in things so famous and so
   fatal as war and battle is a thing so popular that no man
   can argue against it; and had we paid well, and hanged
   well, much sooner, as some men had not been less in a condition
   to mistake, so some others might not have been here
   to find fault. But it is better late than never; when the inquiry
   is set about heartily, it may be useful on several accounts,
   both to unravel past errors and to prevent new. For
   my part, as we have for many years past groaned for want
   of justice upon wilful mistakes, yet, in hopes some of the careful
   and mischievous designing gentlemen may come in for a
   share, I am glad the work is begun."

With equal good humour and skill in leaving open a double
interpretation, he commented on the fact that the new Parliament did
not, as had been customary, give a formal vote of thanks to Marlborough
for his conduct of his last campaign.

   "We have had a mighty pother here in print about rewarding
   of generals. Some think great men too much rewarded,
   and some think them too little rewarded. The case
   is so nice, neither side will bear me to speak my mind; but
   I am persuaded of this, that there is no general has or ever
   will merit great things of us, but he has received and will
   receive all the grateful acknowledgments he OUGHT to expect."

But his readers would complain that he had not defined the word "ought."
That, he said, with audacious pleasantry, he left to them. And while
they were on the subject of mismanagement, he would give them a word of
advice which he had often given them before. "While you bite and devour
one another, you are all mismanagers. Put an end to your factions, your
tumults, your rabbles, or you will not be able to make war upon
anybody." Previously, however, his way of making peace at home was to
denounce the High-fliers. He was still pursuing the same object, though
by a different course, now that the leaders of the High-fliers were in
office, when he declared that "those Whigs who say that the new Ministry
is entirely composed of Tories and High-fliers are fool-Whigs." The
remark was no doubt perfectly true, but yet if Defoe had been thoroughly
consistent he ought at least, instead of supporting the Ministry on
account of the small moderate element it contained, to have urged its
purification from dangerous ingredients.

This, however, it must be admitted, he also did, though indirectly and
at a somewhat later stage, when Harley's tenure of the Premiership was
menaced by High-fliers who thought him much too lukewarm a leader. A
"cave," the famous October Club, was formed in the autumn of 1711, to
urge more extreme measures upon the ministry against Whig officials, and
to organize a High-Church agitation throughout the country. It consisted
chiefly of country squires, who wished to see members of the late
Ministry impeached, and the Duke of Marlborough dismissed from the
command of the army. At Harley's instigation Swift wrote an "advice" to
these hot partisans, beseeching them to have patience and trust the
Ministry, and everything that they wished would happen in due time.
Defoe sought to break their ranks by a direct onslaught in his most
vigorous style, denouncing them in the _Review_ as Jacobites in disguise
and an illicit importation from France, and writing their "secret
history," "with some friendly characters of the illustrious members of
that honourable society" in two separate tracts. This skirmish served
the double purpose of strengthening Harley against the reckless zealots
of his party, and keeping up Defoe's appearance of impartiality.
Throughout the fierce struggle of parties, never so intense in any
period of our history as during those years when the Constitution itself
hung in the balance, it was as a True-born Englishman first and a Whig
and Dissenter afterwards, that Defoe gave his support to the Tory
Ministry. It may not have been his fault; he may have been most unjustly
suspected; but nobody at the time would believe his protestations of
independence. When his former High-flying persecutor, the Earl of
Nottingham, went over to the Whigs, and with their acquiescence, or at
least without their active opposition, introduced another Bill to put
down Occasional Conformity, Defoe wrote trenchantly against it. But even
then the Dissenters, as he loudly lamented, repudiated his alliance. The
Whigs were not so much pleased on this occasion with his denunciations
of the persecuting spirit of the High-Churchmen, as they were enraged by
his stinging taunts levelled at themselves for abandoning the Dissenters
to their persecutors. The Dissenters must now see, Defoe said, that they
would not be any better off under a Low-Church ministry than under a
High-Church ministry. But the Dissenters, considering that the Whigs
were too much in a minority to prevent the passing of the Bill, however
willing to do so, would only see in their professed champion an artful
supporter of the men in power.

A curious instance has been preserved of the estimate of Defoe's
character at this time.[2] M. Mesnager, an agent sent by the French King
to sound the Ministry and the country as to terms of peace, wanted an
able pamphleteer to promote the French interest. The Swedish Resident
recommended Defoe, who had just issued a tract, entitled _Reasons why
this Nation ought to put an end to this expensive War_. Mesnager was
delighted with the tract, at once had it translated into French and
circulated through the Netherlands, employed the Swede to treat with
Defoe, and sent him a hundred pistoles by way of earnest. Defoe kept the
pistoles, but told the Queen, M. Mesnager recording that though "he
missed his aim in this person, the money perhaps was not wholly lost;
for I afterwards understood that the man was in the service of the
state, and that he had let the Queen know of the hundred pistoles he had
received; so I was obliged to sit still, and be very well satisfied that
I had not discovered myself to him, for it was not our season yet." The
anecdote at once shows the general opinion entertained of Defoe, and the
fact that he was less corruptible than was supposed. There can be little
doubt that our astute intriguer would have outwitted the French emissary
if he had not been warned in time, pocketed his bribes, and wormed his
secrets out of him for the information of the Government.

[Footnote 2: I doubt whether it adds to the credibility of the story in
all points that the minutes of M. Mesnager's Negotiations were
"translated," and probably composed by Defoe himself. See p. 136.]

During Godolphin's Ministry, Defoe's cue had been to reason with the
nation against too impatient a longing for peace. Let us have peace by
all means, had been his text, but not till honourable terms have been
secured, and mean-time the war is going on as prosperously as any but
madmen can desire. He repeatedly challenged adversaries who compared
what he wrote then with what he wrote under the new Ministry, to prove
him guilty of inconsistency. He stood on safe ground when he made this
challenge, for circumstances had changed sufficiently to justify any
change of opinion. The plans of the Confederates were disarranged by the
death of the Emperor, and the accession of his brother, the Archduke
Charles, to the vacant crown. To give the crown of Spain in these new
circumstances to the Archduke, as had been the object of the Allies when
they began the war, would have been as dangerous to the balance of power
as to let Spain pass to Louis's grandson, Philip of Anjou. It would be
more dangerous, Defoe argued; and by far the safest course would be to
give Spain to Philip and his posterity, who "would be as much Spaniards
in a very short time, as ever Philip II. was or any of his other
predecessors." This was the main argument which had been used in the
latter days of King William against going to war at all, and Defoe had
then refuted it scornfully; but circumstances had changed, and he not
only adopted it, but also issued an essay "proving that it was always
the sense both of King William and of all the Confederates, and even of
the Grand Alliance itself, that the Spanish monarchy should never be
united in the person of the Emperor." Partition the Spanish dominions in
Europe between France and Germany, and the West Indies between England
and Holland--such was Defoe's idea of a proper basis of peace.

But while Defoe expounded in various forms the conditions of a good
peace, he devoted his main energy to proving that peace under some
conditions was a necessity. He dilated on the enormous expense of the
war, and showed by convincing examples that it was ruining the trade of
the country. Much that he said was perfectly true, but if he had taken
M. Mesnager's bribes and loyally carried out his instructions, he could
not more effectually have served the French King's interests than by
writing as he did at that juncture. The proclaimed necessity under which
England lay to make peace, offered Louis an advantage which he was not
slow to take. The proposals which he made at the Congress of Utrecht,
and which he had ascertained would be accepted by the English Ministry
and the Queen, were not unjustly characterised by the indignant Whigs as
being such as he might have made at the close of a successful war. The
territorial concessions to England and Holland were insignificant; the
States were to have the right of garrisoning certain barrier towns in
Flanders, and England was to have some portions of Canada. But there was
no mention of dividing the West Indies between them--the West Indies
were to remain attached to Spain. It was the restoration of their trade
that was their main desire in these great commercial countries, and even
that object Louis agreed to promote in a manner that seemed, according
to the ideas of the time, to be more to his own advantage than to
theirs. In the case of England, he was to remove prohibitions against
our imports, and in return we engaged to give the French imports the
privileges of the most favoured nations. In short, we were to have free
trade with France, which the commercial classes of the time looked upon
as a very doubtful blessing.

It is because Defoe wrote in favour of this free trade that he is
supposed to have been superior to the commercial fallacies of the time.
But a glance at his arguments shows that this is a very hasty inference.
It was no part of Defoe's art as a controversialist to seek to correct
popular prejudices; on the contrary, it was his habit to take them for
granted as the bases of his arguments, to work from them as premisses
towards his conclusion. He expressly avowed himself a prohibitionist in

   "I am far from being of their mind who say that all prohibitions
   are destructive to trade, and that wise nations, the
   Dutch, make no prohibitions at all."

   "Where any nation has, by the singular blessing of God,
   a produce given to their country from which such a manufacture
   can be made as other nations cannot be without, and
   none can make that produce but themselves, it would be distraction
   in that nation not to prohibit the exportation of
   that original produce till it is manufactured."

He had been taunted with flying in the face of what he had himself said
in King William's time in favour of prohibition. But he boldly
undertakes to prove that prohibition was absolutely necessary in King
William's time, and not only so, but that "the advantages we may make of
taking off a prohibition now are all founded upon the advantages we did
make of laying on a prohibition then: that the same reason which made a
prohibition then the best thing, makes it now the maddest thing a nation
could do or ever did in the matter of trade." In King William's time,
the balance of trade was against us to the extent of 850,000 l., in
consequence of the French King's laying extravagant duties upon the
import of all our woollen manufactures.

   "Whoever thinks that by opening the French trade I
   should mean ... that we should come to trade with them
   850,000 _l. per annum_ to our loss, must think me as mad as I
   think him for suggesting it; but if, on the contrary, I prove
   that as we traded then 850,000 l. a year to our loss, we can
   trade now with them 600,000 l. to our gain, then I will venture
   to draw this consequence, that we are distracted, speaking
   of our trading wits, if we do not trade with them."

In a preface to the Eighth Volume of the _Review_ (July 29, 1712), Defoe
announced his intention of discontinuing the publication, in consequence
of the tax then imposed on newspapers. We can hardly suppose that this
was his real motive, and as a matter of fact the _Review_, whose death
had been announced, reappeared in due course in the form of a single
leaf, and was published in that form till the 11th of June, 1713. By
that time a new project was on foot which Defoe had frequently declared
his intention of starting, a paper devoted exclusively to the discussion
of the affairs of trade. The _Review_ at one time had declared its main
subject to be trade, but had claimed a liberty of digression under which
the main subject had all but disappeared. At last, however, in May,
1713, when popular excitement and hot Parliamentary debates were
expected on the Commercial Treaty with France, an exclusively trading
paper was established, entitled _Mercator_. Defoe denied being the
author--that is, conductor or editor of this paper--and said that he had
not power to put what he would into it; which may have been literally
true. Every number, however, bears traces of his hand or guidance;
_Mercator_ is identical in opinions, style, and spirit with the
_Review_, differing only in the greater openness of its attacks upon the
opposition of the Whigs to the Treaty of Commerce. Party spirit was so
violent that summer, after the publication of the terms of the Treaty of
Utrecht, that Defoe was probably glad to shelter himself under the
responsibility of another name, he had flaunted the cloak of impartial
advice till it had become a thing of shreds and patches.

To prove that the balance of trade, in spite of a prevailing impression
to the contrary, not only might be, but had been, on the side of
England, was the chief purpose of _Mercator_. The Whig _Flying Post_
chaffed _Mercator_ for trying to reconcile impossibilities, but
_Mercator_ held stoutly on with an elaborate apparatus of comparative
tables of exports and imports, and ingenious schemes for the development
of various branches of the trade with France. Defoe was too fond of
carrying the war into the enemy's country, to attack prohibitions or the
received doctrine as to the balance of trade in principle; he fought the
enemy spiritedly on their own ground. "Take a medium of three years for
above forty years past, and calculate the exports and imports to and
from France, and it shall appear the balance of trade was always on the
English side, to the loss and disadvantage of the French." It followed,
upon the received commercial doctrines, that the French King was making
a great concession in consenting to take off high duties upon English
goods. This was precisely what Defoe was labouring to prove. "The French
King in taking off the said high duties ruins all his own manufactures."
The common belief was that the terms of peace would ruin English
manufacturing industry; full in the teeth of this, Defoe, as was his
daring custom, flung the paradox of the extreme opposite. On this
occasion he acted purely as a party writer. That he was never a
free-trader, at least in principle, will appear from the following
extract from his _Plan of the English Commerce_, published in 1728:--

   "Seeing trade then is the fund of wealth and power, we
   cannot wonder that we see the wisest Princes and States
   anxious and concerned for the increase of the commerce and
   trade of their subjects, and of the growth of the country;
   anxious to propagate the sale of such goods as are the manufacture
   of their own subjects, and that employs their own
   people; especially of such as keep the money of their dominions
   at home; and on the contrary, for prohibiting the importation
   from abroad of such things as are the product of
   other countries, and of the labour of other people, or which
   carry money back in return, and not merchandise in exchange."

   "Nor can we wonder that we see such Princes and States
   endeavouring to set up such manufactures in their own countries,
   which they see successfully and profitably carried on
   by their neighbours, and to endeavour to procure the materials
   proper for setting up those manufactures by all just and
   possible methods from other countries."

   "Hence we cannot blame the French or Germans for endeavouring
   to get over the British wool into their hands, by
   the help of which they may bring their people to imitate our
   manufactures, which are so esteemed in the world, as well
   as so gainful at home."

   "Nor can we blame any foreign nation for prohibiting the
   use and wearing of our manufactures, if they can either make
   them at home, or make any which they can shift with in their

   "The reason is plain. 'Tis the interest of every nation to
   encourage their own trade, to encourage those manufactures
   that will employ their own subjects, consume their own
   growth of provisions, as well as materials of commerce, and
   such as will keep their money or species at home."

   "'Tis from this just principle that the French prohibit the
   English woollen manufacture, and the English again prohibit,
   or impose a tax equal to a prohibition, on the French silks,
   paper, linen, and several other of their manufactures. 'Tis
   from the same just reason in trade that we prohibit the wearing
   of East India wrought silks, printed calicoes, &c.; that
   we prohibit the importation of French brandy, Brazil sugars,
   and Spanish tobacco; and so of several other things."



Defoe's unwearied zeal in the service of Harley had excited the
bitterest resentment among his old allies, the Whigs. He often
complained of it, more in sorrow than in anger. He had no right to look
for any other treatment; it was a just punishment upon him for seeking
the good of his country without respect of parties. An author that wrote
from principle had a very hard task in those dangerous times. If he
ventured on the dangerous precipice of telling unbiassed truth, he must
expect martyrdom from both sides. This resignation of the simple
single-minded patriot to the pains and penalties of honesty, naturally
added to the rage of the party with whose factious proceedings he would
have nothing to do; and yet it has always been thought an extraordinary
instance of party spite that the Whigs should have instituted a
prosecution against him, on the alleged ground that a certain remarkable
series of Tracts were written in favour of the Pretender. Towards the
end of 1712 Defoe had issued _A Seasonable Warning and Caution against
the Insinuations of Papists and Jacobites in favour of the Pretender_.
No charge of Jacobitism could be made against a pamphlet containing such
a sentence as this:--

   "Think, then, dear Britons! what a King this Pretender
   must be! a papist by inclination; a tyrant by education; a
   Frenchman by honour and obligation;--and how long will
   your liberties last you in this condition? And when your
   liberties are gone, how long will your religion remain?
   When your hands are tied; when armies bind you; when
   power oppresses you; when a tyrant disarms you; when a
   Popish French tyrant reigns over you; by what means or
   methods can you pretend to maintain your Protestant religion?"

A second pamphlet, _Hannibal at the Gates_, strongly urging party union
and the banishment of factious spirit, was equally unmistakable in tone.
The titles of the following three of the series were more
startling:--_Reasons against the Succession of the House of
Hanover_--_And what if the Pretender should come? or Some considerations
of the advantages and real consequences of the Pretender's possessing
the Crown of Great Britain_--_An Answer to a Question that nobody thinks
of, viz. But what if the Queen should die?_ The contents, however, were
plainly ironical. The main reason against the Succession of the Prince
of Hanover was that it might be wise for the nation to take a short turn
of a French, Popish, hereditary-right _régime_ in the first place as an
emetic. Emetics were good for the health of individuals, and there could
be no better preparative for a healthy constitutional government than
another experience of arbitrary power. Defoe had used the same ironical
argument for putting Tories in office in 1708. The advantages of the
Pretender's possessing the Crown were that we should be saved from all
further danger of a war with France, and should no longer hold the
exposed position of a Protestant State among the great Catholic Powers
of Europe. The point of the last pamphlet of the series was less
distinct; it suggested the possibility of the English people losing
their properties, their estates, inheritance, lands, goods, lives, and
liberties, unless they were clear in their own minds what course to take
in the event of the Queen's death. But none of the three Tracts contain
anything that could possibly be interpreted as a serious argument in
favour of the Pretender. They were all calculated to support the
Succession of the Elector of Hanover. Why, then, should the Whigs have
prosecuted the author? It was a strange thing, as Defoe did not fail to
complain, that they should try to punish a man for writing in their own

The truth, however, is that although Defoe afterwards tried to convince
the Whig leaders that he had written these pamphlets in their interest,
they were written in the interest of Harley. They were calculated to
recommend that Minister to Prince George, in the event of his accession
to the English throne. We see this at once when we examine their
contents by the light of the personal intrigues of the time. Harley was
playing a double game. It was doubtful who the Queen's successor would
be, and he aimed at making himself safe in either of the two possible
contingencies. Very soon after his accession to power in 1710, he made
vague overtures for the restoration of the Stuarts under guarantees for
civil and religious liberty. When pressed to take definite steps in
pursuance of this plan, he deprecated haste, and put off and put off,
till the Pretender's adherents lost patience. All the time he was making
protestations of fidelity to the Court of Hanover. The increasing
vagueness of his promises to the Jacobites seems to show that, as time
went on, he became convinced that the Hanoverian was the winning cause.
No man could better advise him as to the feeling of the English people
than Defoe, who was constantly perambulating the country on secret
services, in all probability for the direct purpose of sounding the
general opinion. It was towards the end of 1712, by which time Harley's
shilly-shallying had effectually disgusted the Jacobites, that the first
of Defoe's series of Anti-Jacobite tracts appeared. It professed to be
written by An Englishman at the Court of Hanover, which affords some
ground, though it must be confessed slight, for supposing that Defoe had
visited Hanover, presumably as the bearer of some of Harley's assurances
of loyalty. The _Seasonable Warning and Caution_ was circulated, Defoe
himself tells us, in thousands among the poor people by several of his
friends. Here was a fact to which Harley could appeal as a
circumstantial proof of his zeal in the Hanoverian cause. Whether
Defoe's Anti-Jacobite tracts really served his benefactor in this way,
can only be matter of conjecture. However that may be, they were upon
the surface written in Harley's interest. The warning and caution was
expressly directed against the insinuations that the Ministry were in
favour of the Pretender. All who made these insinuations were assumed by
the writer to be Papists, Jacobites, and enemies of Britain. As these
insinuations were the chief war-cry of the Whigs, and we now know that
they were not without foundation, it is easy to understand why Defoe's
pamphlets, though Anti-Jacobite, were resented by the party in whose
interest he had formerly written. He excused himself afterwards by
saying that he was not aware of the Jacobite leanings of the Ministry;
that none of them ever said one word in favour of the Pretender to him;
that he saw no reason to believe that they did favour the Pretender. As
for himself, he said, they certainly never employed him in any Jacobite
intrigue. He defied his enemies to "prove that he ever kept company or
had any society, friendship, or conversation with any Jacobite. So
averse had he been to the interest and the people, that he had
studiously avoided their company on all occasions." Within a few months
of his making these protestations, Defoe was editing a Jacobite
newspaper under secret instructions from a Whig Government. But this is

That an influential Whig should have set on foot a prosecution of Defoe
as the author of "treasonable libels against the House of Hanover,"
although the charge had no foundation in the language of the
incriminated pamphlets, is intelligible enough. The Whig party writers
were delighted with the prosecution, one of them triumphing over Defoe
as being caught at last, and put "in Lob's pound," and speaking of him
as "the vilest of all the writers that have prostituted their pens
either to encourage faction, oblige a party, or serve their own
mercenary ends." But that the Court of Queen's Bench, before whom Defoe
was brought--with some difficulty, it would appear, for he had fortified
his house at Newington like Robinson Crusoe's castle--should have
unanimously declared his pamphlets to be treasonable, and that one of
them, on his pleading that they were ironical, should have told him it
was a kind of irony for which he might come to be hanged, drawn, and
quartered, is not so easy to understand, unless we suppose that, in
these tempestuous times, judges like other men were powerfully swayed by
party feeling. It is possible, however, that they deemed the mere titles
of the pamphlets offences in themselves, disturbing cries raised while
the people were not yet clear of the forest of anarchy, and still
subject to dangerous panics--offences of the same nature as if a man
should shout fire in sport in a crowded theatre. Possibly, also, the
severity of the Court was increased by Defoe's indiscretion in
commenting upon the case in the _Review_, while it was still _sub
judice_. At any rate he escaped punishment. The Attorney-General was
ordered to prosecute him, but before the trial came off Defoe obtained a
pardon under the royal seal.

The Whigs were thus baulked of revenge upon their renegade. Their loyal
writers attributed Defoe's pardon to the secret Jacobitism of the
Ministry--- quite wrongly--as we have just seen he was acting for Harley
as a Hanoverian and not as a Jacobite. Curiously enough, when Defoe next
came before the Queen's Bench, the instigator of the prosecution was a
Tory, and the Government was Whig, and he again escaped from the
clutches of the law by the favour of the Government. Till Mr. William
Lee's remarkable discovery, fourteen years ago, of certain letters in
Defoe's handwriting in the State Paper Office, it was generally believed
that on the death of Queen Anne, the fall of the Tory Administration,
and the complete discomfiture of Harley's trimming policy, the veteran
pamphleteer and journalist, now fifty-three years of age, withdrew from
political warfare, and spent the evening of his life in the composition
of those works of fiction which have made his name immortal. His
biographers had misjudged his character and underrated his energy. When
Harley fell from power, Defoe sought service under the Whigs. He had
some difficulty in regaining their favour, and when he did obtain
employment from them, it was of a kind little to his honour.

In his _Appeal to Honour and Justice_, published early in 1715, in which
he defended himself against the charges copiously and virulently urged
of being a party-writer, a hireling, and a turncoat, and explained
everything that was doubtful in his conduct by alleging the obligations
of gratitude to his first benefactor Harley, Defoe declared that since
the Queen's death he had taken refuge in absolute silence. He found, he
said, that if he offered to say a word in favour of the Hanoverian
settlement, it was called fawning and turning round again, and therefore
he resolved to meddle neither one way nor the other. He complained
sorrowfully that in spite of this resolution, and though he had not
written one book since the Queen's death, a great many things were
called by his name. In that case, he had no resource but to practise a
Christian spirit and pray for the forgiveness of his enemies. This was
Defoe's own account, and it was accepted as the whole truth, till Mr.
Lee's careful research and good fortune gave a different colour to his
personal history from the time of Harley's displacement.[3]

[Footnote 3: In making mention of Mr. Lee's valuable researches and
discoveries, I ought to add that his manner of connecting the facts for
which I am indebted to him, and the construction he puts upon them, is
entirely different from mine. For the view here implied of Defoe's
character and motives, Mr. Lee is in no way responsible.]

During the dissensions, in the last days of the Queen which broke up the
Tory Ministry, _Mercator_ was dropped. Defoe seems immediately to have
entered into communication with the printer of the Whig _Flying Post_,
one William Hurt. The owner of the _Post_ was abroad at the time, but
his managers, whether actuated by personal spite or reasonable
suspicion, learning that Hurt was in communication with one whom they
looked upon as their enemy, decided at once to change their printer.
There being no copyright in newspaper titles in those days, Hurt
retaliated by engaging Defoe to write another paper under the same
title, advertising that, from the arrangements he had made, readers
would find the new _Flying Post_ better than the old. It was in his
labours on this sham _Flying Post_, as the original indignantly called
it in an appeal to Hurt's sense of honour and justice against the
piracy, that Defoe came into collision with the law. His new organ was
warmly loyal. On the 14th of August it contained a highly-coloured
panegyric of George I., which alone would refute Defoe's assertion that
he knew nothing of the arts of the courtier. His Majesty was described
as a combination of more graces, virtues, and capacities than the world
had ever seen united in one individual, a man "born for council and
fitted to command the world." Another number of the _Flying Post_, a few
days afterwards, contained an attack on one of the few Tories among the
Lords of the Regency, nominated for the management of affairs till the
King's arrival. During Bolingbroke's brief term of ascendency, he had
despatched the Earl of Anglesey on a mission to Ireland. The Earl had
hardly landed at Dublin when news followed him of the Queen's death, and
he returned to act as one of the Lords Regent. In the _Flying Post_
Defoe asserted that the object of his journey to Ireland was "to new
model the Forces there, and particularly to break no less than seventy
of the honest officers of the army, and to fill up their places with the
tools and creatures of Con. Phipps, and such a rabble of cut-throats as
were fit for the work that they had for them to do." That there was some
truth in the allegation is likely enough; Sir Constantine Phipps was, at
least, shortly afterwards dismissed from his offices. But Lord Anglesey
at once took action against it as a scandalous libel. Defoe was brought
before the Lords Justices, and committed for trial.

He was liberated, however, on bail, and in spite of what he says about
his resolution not to meddle on either side, made an energetic use of
his liberty. He wrote _The Secret History of One Year_--the year after
William's accession--vindicating the King's clemency towards the
abettors of the arbitrary government of James, and explaining that he
was compelled to employ many of them by the rapacious scrambling of his
own adherents for places and pensions. The indirect bearing of this
tract is obvious. In October three pamphlets came from Defoe's fertile
pen; an _Advice to the People of England_ to lay aside feuds and
faction, and live together under the new King like good Christians; and
two parts, in quick succession, of a _Secret History of the White
Staff_. This last work was an account of the circumstances under which
the Treasurer's White Staff was taken from the Earl of Oxford, and put
his conduct in a favourable light, exonerating him from the suspicion of
Jacobitism, and affirming--not quite accurately, as other accounts of
the transaction seem to imply--that it was by Harley's advice that the
Staff was committed to the Earl of Shrewsbury. One would be glad to
accept this as proof of Defoe's attachment to the cause of his disgraced
benefactor; yet Harley, as he lay in the Tower awaiting his trial on an
impeachment of high treason, issued a disclaimer concerning the _Secret
History_ and another pamphlet, entitled _An Account of the Conduct of
Robert, Earl of Oxford_. These pamphlets, he said, were not written with
his knowledge, or by his direction or encouragement; "on the contrary,
he had reason to believe from several passages therein contained that it
was the intention of the author, or authors, to do him a prejudice."
This disclaimer may have been dictated by a wish not to appear wanting
in respect to his judges; at any rate, Defoe's _Secret History_ bears no
trace on the surface of a design to prejudice him by its recital of
facts. _An Appeal to Honour and Justice_ was Defoe's next production.
While writing it, he was seized with a violent apoplectic fit, and it
was issued with a Conclusion by the Publisher, mentioning this
circumstance, explaining that the pamphlet was consequently incomplete,
and adding: "If he recovers, he may be able to finish what he began; if
not, it is the opinion of most that know him that the treatment which he
here complains of, and some others that he would have spoken of, have
been the apparent cause of his disaster." There is no sign of
incompleteness in the _Appeal_; and the Conclusion by the Publisher,
while the author lay "in a weak and languishing condition, neither able
to go on nor likely to recover, at least in any short time," gives a
most artistic finishing stroke to it. Defoe never interfered with the
perfection of it after his recovery, which took place very shortly. The
_Appeal_ was issued in the first week of January; before the end of the
month the indomitable writer was ready with a Third Part of the _Secret
History_, and a reply to Atterbury's _Advice to the Freeholders of
England_ in view of the approaching elections. A series of tracts
written in the character of a Quaker quickly followed, one rebuking a
Dissenting preacher for inciting the new Government to vindictive
severities, another rebuking Sacheverell for hypocrisy and perjury in
taking the oath of abjuration, a third rebuking the Duke of Ormond for
encouraging Jacobite and High-Church mobs. In March, Defoe published his
_Family Instructor_, a book of 450 pages; in July, his _History, by a
Scots Gentleman in the Swedish Service, of the Wars of Charles XII_.

Formidable as the list of these works seems, it does not represent more
than Defoe's average rate of production for thirty years of his life.
With grave anxieties added to the strain of such incessant toil, it is
no wonder that nature should have raised its protest in an apoplectic
fit. Even nature must have owned herself vanquished, when she saw this
very protest pressed into the service of the irresistible and triumphant
worker. All the time he was at large upon bail, awaiting his trial. The
trial took place in July, 1715, and he was found guilty. But sentence
was deferred till next term. October came round, but Defoe did not
appear to receive his sentence. He had made his peace with the
Government, upon "capitulations" of which chance has preserved the
record in his own handwriting. He represented privately to Lord Chief
Justice Parker that he had always been devoted to the Whig interest, and
that any seeming departure from it had been due to errors of judgment,
not to want of attachment. Whether the Whig leaders believed this
representation we do not know, but they agreed to pardon "all former
mistakes" if he would now enter faithfully into their service. Though
the Hanoverian succession had been cordially welcomed by the steady
masses of the nation, the Mar Rebellion in Scotland and the sympathy
shown with this movement in the south warned them that their enemies
were not to be despised. There was a large turbulent element in the
population, upon which agitators might work with fatal effect. The
Jacobites had still a hold upon the Press, and the past years had been
fruitful of examples of the danger of trying to crush sedition with the
arm of the law. Prosecution had been proved to be the surest road to
popularity. It occurred therefore that Defoe might be useful if he still
passed as an opponent of the Government, insinuating himself as such
into the confidence of Jacobites, obtained control of their
publications, and nipped mischief in the bud. It was a dangerous and
delicate service, exposing the emissary to dire revenge if he were
detected, and to suspicion and misconstruction from his employers in
his efforts to escape detection. But Defoe, delighting in his superior
wits, and happy in the midst of dangerous intrigues, boldly undertook
the task.



For the discovery of this "strange and surprising" chapter in Defoe's
life, which clears up much that might otherwise have been disputable in
his character, the world is indebted solely to Mr. William Lee. Accident
put Mr. Lee on the right scent, from which previous biographers had been
diverted by too literal and implicit a faith in the arch-deceiver's
statements, and too comprehensive an application of his complaint that
his name was made the hackney title of the times, upon which all sorts
of low scribblers fathered their vile productions. Defoe's secret
services on Tory papers exposed him, as we have seen, to
misconstruction. Nobody knew this better than himself, and nobody could
have guarded against it with more sleepless care. In the fourth year of
King George's reign a change took place in the Ministry. Lord Townshend
was succeeded in the Home Secretary's office by Lord Stanhope. Thereupon
Defoe judged it expedient to write to a private secretary, Mr. de la
Faye, explaining at length his position. This letter along with five
others, also designed to prevent misconstruction by his employers, lay
in the State Paper Office till the year 1864, when the "whole packet"
fell into the hands of Mr. Lee. The following succinct fragment of
autobiography is dated April 26, 1718.

"Though I doubt not but you have acquainted my Lord Stanhope with what
humble sense of his lordship's goodness I received the account you were
pleased to give me, that my little services are accepted, and that his
lordship is satisfied to go upon the foot of former capitulations, etc.;
yet I confess, Sir, I have been anxious upon many accounts, with respect
as well to the service itself as my own safety, lest my lord may think
himself ill-served by me, even when I have best performed my duty."

"I thought it therefore not only a debt to myself, but a duty to his
lordship, that I should give his lordship a short account, as clear as I
can, how far my former instructions empowered me to act, and in a word
what this little piece of service is, for which I am so much a subject
of his lordship's present favour and bounty."

"It was in the Ministry of my Lord Townshend, when my Lord Chief Justice
Parker, to whom I stand obliged for the favour, was pleased so far to
state my case that notwithstanding the misrepresentations under which I
had suffered, and notwithstanding some mistakes which I was the first to
acknowledge, I was so happy as to be believed in the professions I made
of a sincere attachment to the interest of the present Government, and,
speaking with all possible humility, I hope I have not dishonoured my
Lord Parker's recommendation."

"In considering, after this, which way I might be rendered most useful
to the Government, it was proposed by my Lord Townshend that I should
still appear as if I were, as before, under the displeasure of the
Government, and separated from the Whigs; and that I might be more
serviceable in a kind of disguise than if I appeared openly; and upon
this foot a weekly paper, which I was at first directed to write, in
opposition to a scandalous paper called the _Shift Shifted_, was laid
aside, and the first thing I engaged in was a monthly book called
_Mercurius Politicus_, of which presently. In the interval of this,
Dyer, the _News-Letter_ writer, having been dead, and Dormer, his
successor, being unable by his troubles to carry on that work, I had an
offer of a share in the property, as well as in the management of that

"I immediately acquainted my Lord Townshend of it, who, by Mr. Buckley,
let me know it would be a very acceptable piece of service; for that
letter was really very prejudicial to the public, and the most difficult
to come at in a judicial way in case of offence given. My lord was
pleased to add, by Mr. Buckley, that he would consider my service in
that case, as he afterwards did."

"Upon this I engaged in it; and that so far, that though the property
was not wholly my own, yet the conduct and government of the style and
news was so entirely in me, that I ventured to assure his lordship the
sting of that mischievous paper should be entirely taken out, though it
was granted that the style should continue Tory as it was, that the
party might be amused and not set up another, which would have destroyed
the design, and this part I therefore take entirely on myself still."

"This went on for a year, before my Lord Townshend went out of the
office; and his lordship, in consideration of this service, made me the
appointment which Mr. Buckley knows of, with promise of a further
allowance as service presented."

"My Lord Sunderland, to whose goodness I had many years ago been
obliged, when I was in a secret commission sent to Scotland, was pleased
to approve and continue this service, and the appointment annexed; and
with his lordship's approbation, I introduced myself, in the disguise of
a translator of the foreign news, to be so far concerned in this weekly
paper of _Mist's_ as to be able to keep it within the circle of a secret
management, also prevent the mischievous part of it; and yet neither
Mist, or any of those concerned with him, have the least guess or
suspicion by whose direction I do it."

"But here it becomes necessary to acquaint my lord (as I hinted to you,
Sir), that this paper, called the _Journal_, is not in myself in
property, as the other, only in management; with this express
difference, that if anything happens to be put in without my knowledge,
which may give offence, or if anything slips my observation which may be
ill-taken, his lordship shall be sure always to know whether he has a
servant to reprove or a stranger to correct."

"Upon the whole, however, this is the consequence, that by this
management, the weekly _Journal_, and _Dormer's Letter_, as also the
_Mercurius Politicus_, which is in the same nature of management as the
_Journal_, will be always kept (mistakes excepted) to pass as Tory
papers and yet, be disabled and enervated, so as to do no mischief or
give any offence to the Government."

Others of the tell-tale letters show us in detail how Defoe acquitted
himself of his engagements to the Government--bowing, as he said, in the
house of Rimmon. In one he speaks of a traitorous pamphlet which he has
stopped at the press, and begs the Secretary to assure his superiors
that he has the original in safe keeping, and that no eye but his own
has seen it. In another he apologizes for an obnoxious paragraph which
had crept into _Mist's Journal_, avowing that "Mr. Mist did it, after I
had looked over what he had gotten together," that he [Defoe] had no
concern in it, directly or indirectly, and that he thought himself
obliged to notice this, to make good what he said in his last, viz. that
if any mistake happened, Lord Stanhope should always know whether he had
a servant to reprove or a stranger to punish. In another he expresses
his alarm at hearing of a private suit against Morphew, the printer of
the _Mercurius Politicus_, for a passage in that paper, and explains,
first, that the obnoxious passage appeared two years before, and was
consequently covered by a capitulation giving him indemnity for all
former mistakes; secondly, that the thing itself was not his, neither
could any one pretend to charge it on him, and consequently it could not
be adduced as proof of any failure in his duty. In another letter he
gives an account of a new treaty with Mist. "I need not trouble you," he
says, "with the particulars, but in a word he professes himself
convinced that he has been wrong, that the Government has treated him
with lenity and forbearance, and he solemnly engages to me to give no
more offence. The liberties Mr. Buckley mentioned, viz. to seem on the
same side as before, to rally the _Flying Post_, the Whig writers, and
even the word 'Whig,' &c., and to admit foolish and trifling things in
favour of the Tories. This, as I represented it to him, he agrees is
liberty enough, and resolves his paper shall, for the future, amuse the
Tories, but not affront the Government." If Mist should break through
this understanding, Defoe hopes it will be understood that it is not his
fault; he can only say that the printer's resolutions of amendment seem
to be sincere.

   "In pursuance also of this reformation, he brought me this
   morning the enclosed letter, which, indeed, I was glad to see,
   because, though it seems couched in terms which might have
   been made public, yet has a secret gall in it, and a manifest
   tendency to reproach the Government with partiality and
   injustice, and (as it acknowledges expressly) was written to
   serve a present turn. As this is an earnest of his just intention,
   I hope he will go on to your satisfaction."

   "Give me leave, Sir, to mention here a circumstance which
   concerns myself, and which, indeed, is a little hardship upon
   me, viz. that I seem to merit less, when I intercept a piece of
   barefaced treason at the Press, than when I stop such a letter
   as the enclosed; because one seems to be of a kind which no
   man would dare to meddle with. But I would persuade myself,
   Sir, that stopping such notorious things is not without
   its good effect, particularly because, as it is true that some
   people are generally found who do venture to print any
   thing that offers, so stopping them here is some discouragement
   and disappointment to them, and they often die in our

   "I speak this, Sir, as well on occasion of what you were
   pleased to say upon that letter which I sent you formerly
   about _Killing no Murder_, as upon another with verses in it,
   which Mr. Mist gave me yesterday; which, upon my word,
   is so villainous and scandalous that I scarce dare to send it
   without your order, and an assurance that my doing so, shall
   be taken well, for I confess it has a peculiar insolence in it
   against His Majesty's person which (as blasphemous words
   against God) are scarce fit to be repeated."

In the last of the series (of date June 13, 1718), Defoe is able to
assure his employers that "he believes the time is come when the
journal, instead of affronting and offending the Government, may many
ways be made serviceable to the Government; and he has Mr. M. so
absolutely resigned to proper measures for it, that he is persuaded he
may answer for it."

Following up the clue afforded by these letters, Mr. Lee has traced the
history of _Mist' Journal_ under Defoe's surveillance. Mist did not
prove so absolutely resigned to proper measures as his supervisor had
begun to hope. On the contrary, he had frequent fits of refractory
obstinacy, and gave a good deal of trouble both to Defoe and to the
Government. Between them, however, they had the poor man completely in
their power. When he yielded to the importunity of his Jacobite
correspondents, or kicked against the taunts of the Whig organs about
his wings being clipped--they, no more than he, knew how--his secret
controllers had two ways of bringing him to reason. Sometimes the
Government prosecuted him, wisely choosing occasions for their
displeasure on which they were likely to have popular feeling on their
side. At other times Defoe threatened to withdraw and have nothing more
to do with the _Journal_. Once or twice he carried this threat into
execution. His absence soon told on the circulation, and Mist entreated
him to return, making promises of good behaviour for the future.
Further, Defoe commended himself to the gratitude of his unconscious
dupe by sympathizing with him in his troubles, undertaking the conduct
of the paper while he lay in prison, and editing two volumes of a
selection of _Miscellany Letters_ from its columns. At last, however,
after eight years of this partnership, during which Mist had no
suspicion of Defoe's connexion with the Government, the secret somehow
seems to have leaked out. Such at least is Mr. Lee's highly probable
explanation of a murderous attack made by Mist upon his partner.

Defoe, of course, stoutly denied Mist's accusations, and published a
touching account of the circumstances, describing his assailant as a
lamentable instance of ingratitude. Here was a man whom he had saved
from the gallows, and befriended at his own risk in the utmost distress,
turning round upon him, "basely using, insulting, and provoking him, and
at last drawing his sword upon his benefactor." Defoe disarmed him, gave
him his life, and sent for a surgeon to dress his wounds. But even this
was not enough. Mist would give him nothing but abuse of the worst and
grossest nature. It almost shook Defoe's faith in human nature. Was
there ever such ingratitude known before? The most curious thing is that
Mr. Lee, who has brought all these facts to light, seems to share
Defoe's ingenuous astonishment at this "strange instance of ungrateful
violence," and conjectures that it must have proceeded from imaginary
wrong of a very grievous nature, such as a suspicion that Defoe had
instigated the Government to prosecute him. It is perhaps as well that
it should have fallen to so loyal an admirer to exhume Defoe's secret
services and public protestations; the record might otherwise have been
rejected as incredible.

Mr. Lee's researches were not confined to Defoe's relations with Mist
and his journal, and the other publications mentioned in the precious
letter to Mr. de la Faye. Once assured that Defoe did not withdraw from
newspaper-writing in 1715, he ransacked the journals of the period for
traces of his hand and contemporary allusions to his labours. A rich
harvest rewarded Mr. Lee's zeal. Defoe's individuality is so marked that
it thrusts itself through every disguise. A careful student of the
_Review_, who had compared it with the literature of the time, and
learnt his peculiar tricks of style and vivid ranges of interest, could
not easily be at fault in identifying a composition of any length.
Defoe's incomparable clearness of statement would alone betray him; that
was a gift of nature which no art could successfully imitate.
Contemporaries also were quick at recognising their Proteus in his many
shapes, and their gossip gives a strong support to internal evidence,
resting as it probably did on evidences which were not altogether
internal. Though Mr. Lee may have been rash sometimes in quoting little
scraps of news as Defoe's, he must be admitted to have established that,
prodigious as was the number and extent of the veteran's separate
publications during the reign of the First George, it was also the most
active period of his career as a journalist. Managing Mist and writing
for his journal would have been work enough for an ordinary man; but
Defoe founded, conducted, and wrote for a host of other newspapers--the
monthly _Mercurius Politicus_, an octavo of sixty-four pages
(1716-1720); the weekly _Dormer's News-Letter_ (written, not printed,
1716-1718); the _Whitehall Evening Post_ (a tri-weekly quarto-sheet,
established 1718); the _Daily Post_ (a daily single leaf, folio,
established 1719); and _Applebee's Journal_ (with which his connexion
began in 1720 and ended in 1726).

The contributions to these newspapers which Mr. Lee has assigned, with
great judgment it seems to me, to Defoe, range over a wide field of
topics, from piracy and highway robberies to suicide and the Divinity of
Christ. Defoe's own test of a good writer was that he should at once
please and serve his readers, and he kept this double object in view in
his newspaper writings, as much as in _Robinson Crusoe_, _Moll
Flanders_, and the _Family Instructor_. Great as is the variety of
subjects in the selections which Mr. Lee has made upon internal
evidence, they are all of them subjects in which Defoe showed a keen
interest in his acknowledged works. In providing amusement for his
readers, he did not soar above his age in point of refinement; and in
providing instruction, he did not fall below his age in point of
morality and religion. It is a notable circumstance that one of the
marks by which contemporaries traced his hand was "the little art he is
truly master of, of forging a story and imposing it on the world for
truth." Of this he gave a conspicuous instance in _Mist's Journal_ in an
account of the marvellous blowing up of the island of St. Vincent, which
in circumstantial invention and force of description must be ranked
among his master-pieces. But Defoe did more than embellish stories of
strange events for his newspapers. He was a master of journalistic art
in all its branches, and a fertile inventor and organizer of new
devices. It is to him, Mr. Lee says, and his researches entitle him to
authority, that we owe the prototype of the leading article, a Letter
Introductory, as it became the fashion to call it, written on some
subject of general interest and placed at the commencement of each
number. The writer of this Letter Introductory was known as the "author"
of the paper.

Another feature in journalism which Defoe greatly helped to develop, if
he did not actually invent, was the Journal of Society. In the _Review_
he had provided for the amusement of his readers by the device of a
Scandal Club, whose transactions he professed to report. But political
excitement was intense throughout the whole of Queen Anne's reign; Defoe
could afford but small space for scandal, and his Club was often
occupied with fighting his minor political battles. When, however, the
Hanoverian succession was secured, and the land had rest from the hot
strife of parties, light gossip was more in request. Newspapers became
less political, and their circulation extended from the coffee-houses,
inns, and ale-houses to a new class of readers. "They have of late," a
writer in _Applebee's Journal_ says in 1725, "been taken in much by the
women, especially the political ladies, to assist at the tea-table."
Defoe seems to have taken an active part in making _Mist's Journal_ and
_Applebee's Journal_, both Tory organs, suitable for this more frivolous
section of the public. This fell in with his purpose of diminishing the
political weight of these journals, and at the same time increased their
sale. He converted them from rabid party agencies into registers of
domestic news and vehicles of social disquisitions, sometimes grave,
sometimes gay in subject, but uniformly bright and spirited in tone.

The raw materials of several of Defoe's elaborate tales, such as _Moll
Flanders_ and _Colonel Jack_, are to be found in the columns of _Mist's_
and _Applebee's_. In connexion with _Applebee's_ more particularly,
Defoe went some way towards anticipating the work of the modern Special
Correspondent. He apparently interviewed distinguished criminals in
Newgate, and extracted from them the stories of their lives. Part of
what he thus gathered he communicated to _Applebee_; sometimes, when the
notoriety of the case justified it, he drew up longer narratives and
published them separately as pamphlets. He was an adept in the art of
puffing his own productions, whether books or journals. It may be
doubted whether any American editor ever mastered this art more
thoroughly than Defoe. Nothing, for instance, could surpass the boldness
of Defoe's plan for directing public attention to his narrative of the
robberies and escapes of Jack Sheppard. He seems to have taken a
particular interest in this daring gaol-breaker. Mr. Lee, in fact, finds
evidence that he had gained Sheppard's affectionate esteem. He certainly
turned his acquaintance to admirable account. He procured a letter for
_Applebee's Journal_ from Jack, with "kind love," and a copy of verses
of his own composition. Both letter and verses probably came from a more
practised pen, but, to avert suspicion, the original of the letter was
declared to be on view at Applebee's, and "well known to be in the
handwriting of John Sheppard." Next Defoe prepared a thrilling narrative
of Jack's adventures, which was of course described as written by the
prisoner himself, and printed at his particular desire. But this was not
all. The artful author further arranged that when Sheppard reached his
place of execution, he should send for a friend to the cart as he stood
under the gibbet, and deliver a copy of the pamphlet as his last speech
and dying confession. A paragraph recording this incident was duly
inserted in the newspapers. It is a crowning illustration of the
inventive daring with which Defoe practised the tricks of his trade.

One of Defoe's last works in connection with journalism was to write a
prospectus for a new weekly periodical, the _Universal Spectator_, which
was started by his son-in-law, Henry Baker, in October, 1728. There is
more than internal and circumstantial evidence that this prospectus was
Defoe's composition. When Baker retired from the paper five years
afterwards, he drew up a list of the articles which had appeared under
his editorship, with the names of the writers attached. This list has
been preserved, and from it we learn that the first number, containing a
prospectus and an introductory essay on the qualifications of a good
writer, was written by Defoe. That experienced journalist naturally
tried to give an air of novelty to the enterprise. "If this paper," the
first sentence runs, "was not intended to be what no paper at present
is, we should never attempt to crowd in among such a throng of public
writers as at this time oppress the town." In effect the scheme of the
_Universal Spectator_ was to revive the higher kind of periodical essays
which made the reputation of the earlier _Spectator_. Attempts to follow
in the wake of Addison and Steele had for so long ceased to be features
in journalism; their manner had been so effectually superseded by less
refined purveyors of light literature--Defoe himself going heartily with
the stream--that the revival was opportune, and in point of fact proved
successful, the _Universal Spectator_ continuing to exist for nearly
twenty years. It shows how quickly the _Spectator_ took its place among
the classics, that the writer of the prospectus considered it necessary
to deprecate a charge of presumption in seeming to challenge comparison.

   "Let no man envy us the celebrated title we have assumed,
   or charge us with arrogance, as if we bid the world expect
   great things from us. Must we have no power to please, unless
   we come up to the full height of those inimitable performances?
   Is there no wit or humour left because they are
   gone? Is the spirit of the _Spectators_ all lost, and their mantle
   fallen upon nobody? Have they said all that can be
   said? Has the world offered no variety, and presented no
   new scenes, since they retired from us? Or did they leave
   off, because they were quite exhausted, and had no more to

Defoe did not always speak so respectfully of the authors of the
_Spectator_. If he had been asked why they left off, he would probably
have given the reason contained in the last sentence, and backed his
opinion by contemptuous remarks about the want of fertility in the
scholarly brain. He himself could have gone on producing for ever; he
was never gravelled for lack of matter, had no nice ideas about manner,
and was sometimes sore about the superior respectability of those who
had. But here he was on business, addressing people who looked back
regretfully from the vulgarity of _Mist's_ and _Applebee's_ to the
refinement of earlier periodicals, and making a bid for their custom. A
few more sentences from his advertisement will show how well he
understood their prejudices:--

   "The main design of this work is, to turn your thoughts a
   little off from the clamour of contending parties, which has
   so long surfeited you with their ill-timed politics, and restore
   your taste to things truly superior and sublime."

   "In order to this, we shall endeavour to present you with
   such subjects as are capable, if well handled, both to divert
   and to instruct you; such as shall render conversation pleasant,
   and help to make mankind agreeable to one another."

   "As for our management of them, not to promise too much
   for ourselves, we shall only say we hope, at least, to make our
   work acceptable to everybody, because we resolve, if possible,
   to displease nobody."

   "We assure the world, by way of negative, that we shall
   engage in no quarrels, meddle with no parties, deal in no scandal,
   nor endeavour to make any men merry at the expense of
   their neighbours. In a word, we shall set nobody together
   by the ears. And though we have encouraged the ingenious
   world to correspond with us by letters, we hope they will not
   take it ill, that we say beforehand, no letters will be taken
   notice of by us which contain any personal reproaches, intermeddle
   with family breaches, or tend to scandal or indecency
   of any kind."

   "The current papers are more than sufficient to carry on all
   the dirty work the town can have for them to do; and what
   with party strife, politics, poetic quarrels, and all the other
   consequences of a wrangling age, they are in no danger of
   wanting employment; and those readers who delight in such
   things, may divert themselves there. But our views, as is
   said above, lie another way."

Good writing is what Defoe promises the readers of the _Universal
Spectator_, and this leads him to consider what particular
qualifications go to the composition, or, in a word, "what is required
to denominate a man a _good writer_". His definition is worth quoting as
a statement of his principles of composition.

   "One says this is a polite author; another says, that is an
   excellent _good writer_; and generally we find some oblique
   strokes pointed sideways at themselves; intimating that
   whether we think fit to allow it or not, they take themselves
   to be very _good writers_. And, indeed, I must excuse them
   their vanity; for if a poor author had not some good opinion
   of himself, especially when under the discouragement of having
   nobody else to be of his mind, he would never write at
   all; nay, he could not; it would take off all the little dull
   edge that his pen might have on it before, and he would not
   be able to say one word to the purpose."

   "Now whatever may be the lot of this paper, be that as
   common fame shall direct, yet without entering into the
   enquiry who writes better, or who writes worse, I shall lay
   down one specific, by which you that read shall impartially
   determine who are, or are not, to be called _good writers_. In a
   word, the character of a good writer, wherever he is to be
   found, is this, viz., that he writes so as to please and serve at
   the same time."

   "If he writes to _please_, and not to _serve_, he is a flatterer and
   a hypocrite; if to _serve_ and not to _please_, he turns cynic and
   satirist. The first deals in smooth falsehood, the last in
   rough scandal; the last may do some good, though little;
   the first does no good, and may do mischief, not a little; the
   last provokes your rage, the first provokes your pride; and in
   a word either of them is hurtful rather than useful. But the
   writer that strives to be useful, writes to _serve_ you, and at
   the same time, by an imperceptible art, draws you on to be
   pleased also. He represents truth with plainness, virtue with
   praise; he even reprehends with a softness that carries the
   force of a satire without the salt of it; and he insensibly
   screws himself into your good opinion, that as his writings
   merit your regard, so they fail not to obtain it."

   "This is part of the character by which I define a good
   writer; I say 'tis but part of it, for it is not a half sheet that
   would contain the full description; a large volume would
   hardly suffice it. His fame requires, indeed, a very good
   writer to give it due praise; and for that reason (and a good
   reason too) I go no farther with it."



Those of my readers who have thought of Defoe only as a writer of
stories which young and old still love to read, must not be surprised
that so few pages of this little book should be left for an account of
his work in that field. No doubt Defoe's chief claim to the world's
interest is that he is the author of _Robinson Crusoe_. But there is
little to be said about this or any other of Defoe's tales in
themselves. Their art is simple, unique, incommunicable, and they are
too well known to need description. On the other hand, there is much
that is worth knowing and not generally known about the relation of
these works to his life, and the place that they occupy in the sum total
of his literary activity. Hundreds of thousands since Defoe's death, and
millions in ages to come, would never have heard his name but for
_Robinson Crusoe_. To his contemporaries the publication of that work
was but a small incident in a career which for twenty years had claimed
and held their interest. People in these days are apt to imagine,
because Defoe wrote the most fascinating of books for children, that he
was himself simple, child-like, frank, open, and unsuspecting. He has
been so described by more than one historian of literature. It was not
so that he appeared to his contemporaries, and it is not so that he can
appear to us when we know his life, unless we recognise that he took a
child's delight in beating with their own weapons the most astute
intriguers in the most intriguing period of English history.

Defoe was essentially a journalist. He wrote for the day, and for the
greatest interest of the greatest number of the day. He always had some
ship sailing with the passing breeze, and laden with a useful cargo for
the coast upon which the wind chanced to be blowing. If the Tichborne
trial had happened in his time, we should certainly have had from him an
exact history of the boyhood and surprising adventures of Thomas Castro,
commonly known as Sir Roger, which would have come down to us as a true
record, taken, perhaps, by the chaplain of Portland prison from the
convict's own lips. It would have had such an air of authenticity, and
would have been corroborated by such an array of trustworthy witnesses,
that nobody in later times could have doubted its truth. Defoe always
wrote what a large number of people were in a mood to read. All his
writings, with so few exceptions that they may reasonably be supposed to
fall within the category, were _pièces de circonstance_. Whenever any
distinguished person died or otherwise engaged public attention, no
matter how distinguished, whether as a politician, a criminal, or a
divine, Defoe lost no time in bringing out a biography. It was in such
emergencies that he produced his memoirs of Charles XII., Peter the
Great, Count Patkul, the Duke of Shrewsbury, Baron de Goertz, the Rev.
Daniel Williams, Captain Avery the King of the Pirates, Dominique
Cartouche, Rob Roy, Jonathan Wild, Jack Sheppard, Duncan Campbell. When
the day had been fixed for the Earl of Oxford's trial for high treason,
Defoe issued the fictitious _Minutes of the Secret Negotiations of Mons.
Mesnager_ at the English Court during his ministry. We owe the _Journal
of the Plague in 1665_ to a visitation which fell upon France in 1721,
and caused much apprehension in England. The germ which in his fertile
mind grew into _Robinson Crusoe_ fell from the real adventures of
Alexander Selkirk, whose solitary residence of four years on the island
of Juan Fernandez was a nine days' wonder in the reign of Queen Anne.
Defoe was too busy with his politics at the moment to turn it to
account; it was recalled to him later on, in the year 1719, when the
exploits of famous pirates had given a vivid interest to the chances of
adventurers in far-away islands on the American and African coasts. The
_Life, Adventures, and Piracies of the famous Captain Singleton_, who
was set on shore in Madagascar, traversed the continent of Africa from
east to west past the sources of the Nile, and went roving again in the
company of the famous Captain Avery, was produced to satisfy the same
demand. Such biographies as those of _Moll Flanders_ and the _Lady
Roxana_ were of a kind, as he himself illustrated by an amusing
anecdote, that interested all times and all professions and degrees; but
we have seen to what accident he owed their suggestion and probably part
of their materials. He had tested the market for such wares in his
Journals of Society.

In following Defoe's career, we are constantly reminded that he was a
man of business, and practised the profession of letters with a shrewd
eye to the main chance. He scoffed at the idea of practising it with any
other object, though he had aspirations after immortal fame as much as
any of his more decorous contemporaries. Like Thomas Fuller, he frankly
avowed that he wrote "for some honest profit to himself." Did any man,
he asked, do anything without some regard to his own advantage? Whenever
he hit upon a profitable vein, he worked it to exhaustion, putting the
ore into various shapes to attract different purchasers. _Robinson
Crusoe_ made a sensation; he immediately followed up the original story
with a Second Part, and the Second Part with a volume of _Serious
Reflections_. He had discovered the keenness of the public appetite for
stories of the supernatural, in 1706, by means of his _True Relation of
the Apparition of one Mrs. Veal_.[4] When, in 1720, he undertook to
write the life of the popular fortune-teller, Duncan Campbell--a puff
which illustrates almost better than anything else Defoe's extraordinary
ingenuity in putting a respectable face upon the most disreputable
materials--he had another proof of the avidity with which people run to
hear marvels. He followed up this clue with _A System of Magic, or a
History of the Black Art_; _The Secrets of the Invisible World
disclosed, or a Universal History of Apparitions_; and a humorous
_History of the Devil_, in which last work he subjected _Paradise Lost_,
to which Addison had drawn attention by his papers in the _Spectator_,
to very sharp criticism. In his books and pamphlets on the Behaviour of
Servants, and his works of more formal instruction, the _Family
Instructor_, the _Plan of English Commerce_, the _Complete English
Tradesman_, the _Complete English Gentleman_ (his last work, left
unfinished and unpublished), he wrote with a similar regard to what was
for the moment in demand.

[Footnote 4: Mr. Lee has disposed conclusively of the myth that this
tale was written to promote the sale of a dull book by one Drelincourt
on the _Fear of Death_, which Mrs. Veal's ghost earnestly recommended
her friend to read. It was first published separately as a pamphlet
without any reference to Drelincourt. It was not printed with
Drelincourt's _Fear of Death_ till the fourth edition of that work,
which was already popular. Further, the sale of Drelincourt does not
appear to have been increased by the addition of Defoe's pamphlet to the
book, and of Mrs. Veal's recommendation to the pamphlet.]

Defoe's novel-writing thus grew naturally out of his general literary
trade, and had not a little in common with the rest of his abundant
stock. All his productions in this line, his masterpiece, _Robinson
Crusoe_, as well as what Charles Lamb calls his "secondary novels,"
_Captain Singleton_, _Colonel Jack_, _Moll Flanders_, and _Roxana_, were
manufactured from material for which he had ascertained that there was a
market; the only novelty lay in the mode of preparation. From writing
biographies with real names attached to them, it was but a short step to
writing biographies with fictitious names. Defoe is sometimes spoken of
as the inventor of the realistic novel; realistic biography would,
perhaps, be a more strictly accurate description. Looking at the
character of his professed records of fact, it seems strange that he
should ever have thought of writing the lives of imaginary heroes, and
should not have remained content with "forging stories and imposing them
on the world for truth" about famous and notorious persons in real life.
The purveyors of news in those days could use without fear of detection
a licence which would not be tolerated now. They could not, indeed,
satisfy the public appetite for news without taking liberties with the
truth. They had not special correspondents in all parts of the world, to
fill their pages with reports from the spot of things seen and heard.
The public had acquired the habit of looking to the press, to periodical
papers and casual books and pamphlets, for information about passing
events and prominent men before sufficient means had been organized for
procuring information which should approximate to correctness. In such
circumstances, the temptation to invent and embellish was irresistible.
"Why," a paragraph-maker of the time is made to say, "if we will write
nothing but truth, we must bring you no news; we are bound to bring you
such as we can find." Yet it was not lies but truth that the public
wanted as much as they do now. Hence arose the necessity of fortifying
reports with circumstantial evidence of their authenticity. Nobody
rebuked unprincipled news-writers more strongly than Defoe, and no
news-writer was half as copious in his guarantees for the accuracy of
his information. When a report reached England that the island of St.
Vincent had been blown into the air, Defoe wrote a description of the
calamity, the most astonishing thing that had happened in the world
"since the Creation, or at least since the destruction of the earth by
water in the general Deluge," and prefaced his description by saying:--

   "Our accounts of this come from so many several hands
   and several places that it would be impossible to bring the
   letters all separately into this journal; and when we had
   done so or attempted to do so, would leave the story confused,
   and the world not perfectly informed. We have therefore
   thought it better to give the substance of this amazing
   accident in one collection; making together as full and as
   distinct an account of the whole as we believe it possible to
   come at by any intelligence whatsoever, and at the close of
   this account we shall give some probable guesses at the natural
   cause of so terrible an operation."

Defoe carried the same system of vouching for the truth of his
narratives by referring them to likely sources, into pamphlets and books
which really served the purpose of newspapers, being written for the
gratification of passing interests. The History of the Wars of Charles
XII., which Mr. Lee ascribes to him, was "written by a Scot's gentleman,
in the Swedish service." The short narrative of the life and death of
Count Patkul was "written by the Lutheran Minister who assisted him in
his last hours, and faithfully translated out of a High Dutch
manuscript." M. Mesnager's minutes of his negotiations were "written by
himself," and "done out of French." Defoe knew that the public would
read such narratives more eagerly if they believed them to be true, and
ascribed them to authors whose position entitled them to confidence.
There can be little doubt that he drew upon his imagination for more
than the title-pages. But why, when he had so many eminent and notorious
persons to serve as his subjects, with all the advantage of bearing
names about which the public were already curious, did he turn to the
adventures of new and fictitious heroes and heroines? One can only
suppose that he was attracted by the greater freedom of movement in pure
invention; he made the venture with _Robinson Crusoe_, it was
successful, and he repeated it. But after the success of _Robinson
Crusoe_, he by no means abandoned his old fields. It was after this that
he produced autobiographies and other _primâ facie_ authentic lives of
notorious thieves and pirates. With all his records of heroes, real or
fictitious, he practised the same devices for ensuring credibility. In
all alike he took for granted that the first question people would ask
about a story was whether it was true. The novel, it must be remembered,
was then in its infancy, and Defoe, as we shall presently see, imagined,
probably not without good reason, that his readers would disapprove of
story-telling for the mere pleasure of the thing, as an immorality.

In writing for the entertainment of his own time, Defoe took the surest
way of writing for the entertainment of all time. Yet if he had never
chanced to write _Robinson Crusoe_, he would now have a very obscure
place in English literature. His "natural infirmity of homely plain
writing," as he humorously described it, might have drawn students to
his works, but they ran considerable risk of lying in utter oblivion.
He was at war with the whole guild of respectable writers who have
become classics; they despised him as an illiterate fellow, a vulgar
huckster, and never alluded to him except in terms of contempt. He was
not slow to retort their civilities; but the retorts might very easily
have sunk beneath the waters, while the assaults were preserved by their
mutual support. The vast mass of Defoe's writings received no kindly aid
from distinguished contemporaries to float them down the stream;
everything was done that bitter dislike and supercilious indifference
could do to submerge them. _Robinson Crusoe_ was their sole life-buoy.

It would be a mistake to suppose that the vitality of _Robinson Crusoe_
is a happy accident, and that others of Defoe's tales have as much claim
in point of merit to permanence. _Robinson Crusoe_ has lived longest,
because it lives most, because it was detached as it were from its own
time and organized for separate existence. It is the only one of Defoe's
tales that shows what he could do as an artist. We might have seen from
the others that he had the genius of a great artist; here we have the
possibility realized, the convincing proof of accomplished work. _Moll
Flanders_ is in some respects superior as a novel. Moll is a much more
complicated character than the simple, open-minded, manly mariner of
York; a strangely mixed compound of craft and impulse, selfishness and
generosity--in short, a thoroughly bad woman, made bad by circumstances.
In tracing the vigilant resolution with which she plays upon human
weakness, the spasms of compunction which shoot across her wily designs,
the selfish afterthoughts which paralyse her generous impulses, her fits
of dare-devil courage and uncontrollable panic, and the steady current
of good-humoured satisfaction with herself which makes her chuckle
equally over mishaps and successes, Defoe has gone much more deeply into
the springs of action, and sketched a much richer page in the natural
history of his species than in _Robinson Crusoe._ True, it is a more
repulsive page, but that is not the only reason why it has fallen into
comparative oblivion, and exists now only as a parasite upon the more
popular work. It is not equally well constructed for the struggle of
existence among books. No book can live for ever which is not firmly
organized round some central principle of life, and that principle in
itself imperishable. It must have a heart and members; the members must
be soundly compacted and the heart superior to decay. Compared with
_Robinson Crusoe, Moll Flanders_ is only a string of diverting
incidents, the lowest type of book organism, very brilliant while it is
fresh and new, but not qualified to survive competitors for the world's
interest. There is no unique creative purpose in it to bind the whole
together; it might be cut into pieces, each capable of wriggling
amusingly by itself. The gradual corruption of the heroine's virtue,
which is the encompassing scheme of the tale, is too thin as well as too
common an artistic envelope; the incidents burst through it at so many
points that it becomes a shapeless mass. But in _Robinson Crusoe_ we
have real growth from a vigorous germ. The central idea round which the
tale is organized, the position of a man cast ashore on a desert island,
abandoned to his own resources, suddenly shot beyond help or counsel
from his fellow-creatures, is one that must live as long as the
uncertainty of human life.

The germ of _Robinson Crusoe,_ the actual experience of Alexander
Selkirk, went floating about for several years, and more than one artist
dallied with it, till it finally settled and took root in the mind of
the one man of his generation most capable of giving it a home and
working out its artistic possibilities. Defoe was the only man of
letters in his time who might have been thrown on a desert island
without finding himself at a loss what to do. The art required for
developing the position in imagination was not of a complicated kind,
and yet it is one of the rarest of gifts. Something more was wanted than
simply conceiving what a man in such a situation would probably feel and
probably do. Above all, it was necessary that his perplexities should be
unexpected, and his expedients for meeting them unexpected; yet both
perplexities and expedients so real and life-like that, when we were
told them, we should wonder we had not thought of them before. One gift
was indispensable for this, however many might be accessory, the genius
of circumstantial invention--not a very exalted order of genius,
perhaps, but quite as rare as any other intellectual prodigy.[5]

[Footnote 5: Mr. Leslie Stephen seems to me to underrate the rarity of
this peculiar gift in his brilliant essay on Defoe's Novels in _Hours in
a Library_.]

Defoe was fifty-eight years old when he wrote _Robinson Crusoe_. If the
invention of plausible circumstances is the great secret in the art of
that tale, it would have been a marvellous thing if this had been the
first instance of its exercise, and it had broken out suddenly in a man
of so advanced an age. When we find an artist of supreme excellence in
any craft, we generally find that he has been practising it all his
life. To say that he has a genius for it, means that he has practised
it, and concentrated his main force upon it, and that he has been driven
irresistibly to do so by sheer bent of nature. It was so with Defoe and
his power of circumstantial invention, his unrivalled genius for "lying
like truth." For years upon years of his life it had been his chief
occupation. From the time of his first connexion with Harley, at least,
he had addressed his countrymen through the press, and had perambulated
the length and breadth of the land in assumed characters and on
factitious pretexts. His first essay in that way in 1704, when he left
prison in the service of the Government, appealing to the general
compassion because he was under government displeasure, was skilful
enough to suggest great native genius if not extensive previous
practice. There are passages of circumstantial invention in the
_Review_, as ingenious as anything in _Robinson Crusoe_; and the mere
fact that at the end of ten years of secret service under successive
Governments, and in spite of a widespread opinion of his
untrustworthiness, he was able to pass himself off for ten years more as
a Tory with Tories and with the Whig Government as a loyal servant, is a
proof of sustained ingenuity of invention greater than many volumes of

Looking at Defoe's private life, it is not difficult to understand the
peculiar fascination which such a problem as he solved in _Robinson
Crusoe_ must have had for him. It was not merely that he had passed a
life of uncertainty, often on the verge of precipices, and often saved
from ruin by a buoyant energy which seems almost miraculous; not merely
that, as he said of himself in one of his diplomatic appeals for

   "No man hath tasted differing fortunes more,
   For thirteen times have I been rich and poor."

But when he wrote _Robinson Crusoe_, it was one of the actual chances of
his life, and by no means a remote one, that he might be cast all alone
on an uninhabited island. We see from his letters to De la Faye how
fearful he was of having "mistakes" laid to his charge by the Government
in the course of his secret services. His former changes of party had
exposed him, as he well knew, to suspicion. A false step, a
misunderstood paragraph, might have had ruinous consequences for him. If
the Government had prosecuted him for writing anything offensive to
them, refusing to believe that it was put in to amuse the Tories,
transportation might very easily have been the penalty. He had made so
many enemies in the Press that he might have been transported without a
voice being raised in his favour, and the mob would not have interfered
to save a Government spy from the Plantations. Shipwreck among the
islands of the West Indies was a possibility that stood not far from his
own door, as he looked forward into the unknown, and prepared his mind,
as men in dangerous situations do, for the worst. When he drew up for
Moll Flanders and her husband a list of the things necessary for
starting life in a new country, or when he described Colonel Jack's
management of his plantation in Virginia, the subject was one of more
than general curiosity to him; and when he exercised his imagination
upon the fate of Robinson Crusoe, he was contemplating a fate which a
few movements of the wheel of Fortune might make his own.

But whatever it was that made the germ idea of _Robinson Crusoe_ take
root in Defoe's mind, he worked it out as an artist. Artists of a more
emotional type might have drawn much more elaborate and affecting
word-pictures of the mariner's feelings in various trying situations,
gone much deeper into his changing moods, and shaken our souls with pity
and terror over the solitary castaway's alarms and fits of despair.
Defoe's aims lay another way. His Crusoe is not a man given to the
luxury of grieving. If he had begun to pity himself, he would have been
undone. Perhaps Defoe's imaginative force was not of a kind that could
have done justice to the agonies of a shipwrecked sentimentalist; he has
left no proof that it was: but if he had represented Crusoe bemoaning
his misfortunes, brooding over his fears, or sighing with Ossianic
sorrow over his lost companions and friends, he would have spoiled the
consistency of the character. The lonely man had his moments of panic
and his days of dejection, but they did not dwell in his memory. Defoe
no doubt followed his own natural bent, but he also showed true art in
confining Crusoe's recollections as closely as he does to his efforts to
extricate himself from difficulties that would have overwhelmed a man of
softer temperament. The subject had fascinated him, and he found enough
in it to engross his powers without travelling beyond its limits for
diverting episodes, as he does more or less in all the rest of his
tales. The diverting episodes in _Robinson Crusoe_ all help the
verisimilitude of the story.

When, however, the ingenious inventor had completed the story
artistically, carried us through all the outcast's anxieties and
efforts, and shown him triumphant over all difficulties, prosperous, and
again in communication with the outer world, the spirit of the iterary
trader would not let the finished work alone. The story, as a work of
art, ends with Crusoe's departure from the island, or at any rate with
his return to England. Its unity is then complete. But Robinson Crusoe
at once became a popular hero, and Defoe was too keen a man of business
to miss the chance of further profit from so lucrative a vein. He did
not mind the sneers of hostile critics. They made merry over the
trifling inconsistencies in the tale. How, for example, they asked,
could Crusoe have stuffed his pockets with biscuits when he had taken
off all his clothes before swimming to the wreck? How could he have
been at such a loss for clothes after those he had put off were washed
away by the rising tide, when he had the ship's stores to choose from?
How could he have seen the goat's eyes in the cave when it was pitch
dark? How could the Spaniards give Friday's father an agreement in
writing, when they had neither paper nor ink? How did Friday come to
know so intimately the habits of bears, the bear not being a denizen of
the West Indian islands? On the ground of these and such-like trifles,
one critic declared that the book seems calculated for the mob, and will
not bear the eye of a rational reader, and that "all but the very
canaille are satisfied of the worthlessness of the performance." Defoe,
we may suppose, was not much moved by these strictures, as edition after
edition of the work was demanded. He corrected one or two little
inaccuracies, and at once set about writing a Second Part, and a volume
of _Serious Reflections_ which had occurred to Crusoe amidst his
adventures. These were purely commercial excrescences upon the original
work. They were popular enough at the time, but those who are tempted
now to accompany Crusoe in his second visit to his island and his
enterprising travels in the East, agree that the Second Part is of
inferior interest to the first, and very few now read the _Serious

The _Serious Reflections_, however, are well worth reading in connexion
with the author's personal history. In the preface we are told that
_Robinson Crusoe_ is an allegory, and in one of the chapters we are told
why it is an allegory. The explanation is given in a homily against the
vice of talking falsely. By talking falsely the moralist explains that
he does not mean telling lies, that is, falsehoods concocted with an
evil object; these he puts aside as sins altogether beyond the pale of
discussion. But there is a minor vice of falsehood which he considers it
his duty to reprove, namely, telling stories, as too many people do,
merely to amuse. "This supplying a story by invention," he says, "is
certainly a most scandalous crime, and yet very little regarded in that
part. It is a sort of lying that makes a great hole in the heart, in
which by degrees a habit of lying enters in. Such a man comes quickly up
to a total disregarding the truth of what he says, looking upon it as a
trifle, a thing of no import, whether any story he tells be true or
not." How empty a satisfaction is this "purchased at so great an expense
as that of conscience, and of a dishonour done to truth!" And the crime
is so entirely objectless. A man who tells a lie, properly so called,
has some hope of reward by it. But to lie for sport is to play at
shuttlecock with your soul, and load your conscience for the mere sake
of being a fool. "With what temper should I speak of those people? What
words can express the meanness and baseness of the mind that can do
this?" In making this protest against frivolous story-telling, the
humour of which must have been greatly enjoyed by his journalistic
colleagues, Defoe anticipated that his readers would ask why, if he so
disapproved of the supplying a story by invention, he had written
_Robinson Crusoe_. His answer was that _Robinson Crusoe_ was an
allegory, and that the telling or writing a parable or an allusive
allegorical history is quite a different case. "I, Robinson Crusoe, do
affirm that the story, though allegorical, is also historical, and that
it is the beautiful representation of a life of unexampled misfortunes,
and of a variety not to be met with in this world." This life was his
own. He explains at some length the particulars of the allegory:--

   "Thus the fright and fancies which succeeded the story
   of the print of a man's foot, and surprise of the old goat, and
   the thing rolling on my bed, and my jumping up in a fright,
   are all histories and real stories; as are likewise the dream
   of being taken by messengers, being arrested by officers, the
   manner of being driven on shore by the surge of the sea, the
   ship on fire, the description of starving, the story of my man
   Friday, and many more most natural passages observed here,
   and on which any religious reflections are made, are all historical
   and true in fact. It is most real that I had a parrot,
   and taught it to call me by my name, such a servant a savage
   and afterwards a Christian and that his name was called Friday,
   and that he was ravished from me by force, and died in
   the hands that took him, which I represent by being killed;
   this is all literally true; and should I enter into discoveries
   many alive can testify them. His other conduct and assistance
   to me also have just references in all their parts to the
   helps I had from that faithful savage in my real solitudes and

   "The story of the bear in the tree, and the fight with the
   wolves in the snow, is likewise matter of real history; and
   in a word, the adventures of Robinson Crusoe are a whole
   scheme of a life of twenty-eight years spent in the most wandering,
   desolate, and afflicting circumstances that ever man
   went through, and in which I have lived so long in a life of
   wonders, in continued storms, fought with the worst kind of
   savages and man-eaters, by unaccountable surprising incidents;
   fed by miracles greater than that of the ravens, suffered
   all manner of violences and oppressions, injurious reproaches,
   contempt of men, attacks of devils, corrections from
   Heaven, and oppositions on earth; and had innumerable ups
   and downs in matters of fortune, been in slavery worse than
   Turkish, escaped by an exquisite management, as that in the
   story of Xury and the boat of Sallee, been taken up at sea
   in distress, raised again and depressed again, and that oftener
   perhaps in one man's life than ever was known before;
   shipwrecked often, though more by land than by sea; in a
   word, there's not a circumstance in the imaginary story but
   has its just allusion to a real story, and chimes part for
   part, and step for step, with the inimitable life of Robinson

But if Defoe had such a regard for the strict and literal truth, why did
he not tell his history in his own person? Why convey the facts
allusively in an allegory? To this question also he had an answer. He
wrote for the instruction of mankind, for the purpose of recommending
"invincible patience under the worst of misery; indefatigable
application and undaunted resolution under the greatest and most
discouraging circumstances."

   "Had the common way of writing a man's private history
   been taken, and I had given you the conduct or life of a man
   you knew, and whose misfortunes and infirmities perhaps
   you had sometimes unjustly triumphed over, all I could have
   said would have yielded no diversion, and perhaps scarce
   have obtained a reading, or at best no attention; the teacher,
   like a greater, having no honour in his own country."

For all Defoe's profession that _Robinson Crusoe_ is an allegory of his
own life, it would be rash to take what he says too literally. The
reader who goes to the tale in search of a close allegory, in minute
chronological correspondence with the facts of the alleged original,
will find, I expect, like myself, that he has gone on a wild-goose
chase. There is a certain general correspondence. Defoe's own life is
certainly as instructive as Crusoe's in the lesson of invincible
patience and undaunted resolution. The shipwreck perhaps corresponds
with his first bankruptcy, with which it coincides in point of time,
having happened just twenty-eight years before. If Defoe had a real man
Friday, who had learnt all his arts till he could practise them as well
as himself, the fact might go to explain his enormous productiveness as
an author. But I doubt whether the allegory can be pushed into such
details. Defoe's fancy was quick enough to give an allegorical meaning
to any tale. He might have found in Moll Flanders, with her five
marriages and ultimate prostitution, corresponding to his own five
political marriages and the dubious conduct of his later years, a closer
allegory in some respects than in the life of the shipwrecked sailor.
The idea of calling _Robinson Crusoe_ an allegory was in all probability
an after-thought, perhaps suggested by a derisive parody which had
appeared, entitled _The life and strange surprising adventures of Daniel
de Foe, of London, Hosier, who lived all alone in the uninhabited island
of Great Britain_, and so forth.

If we study any writing of Defoe's in connexion with the circumstances
of its production, we find that it is many-sided in its purposes, as
full of side aims as a nave is full of spokes. These supplementary moral
chapters to _Robinson Crusoe_, admirable as the reflections are in
themselves, and naturally as they are made to arise out of the incidents
of the hero's life, contain more than meets the eye till we connect them
with the author's position. Calling the tale an allegory served him in
two ways. In the first place, it added to the interest of the tale
itself by presenting it in the light of a riddle, which was left but
half-revealed, though he declared after such explanation as he gave that
"the riddle was now expounded, and the intelligent reader might see
clearly the end and design of the whole work." In the second place, the
allegory was such an image of his life as he wished, for good reasons,
to impress on the public mind. He had all along, as we have seen, while
in the secret service of successive governments, vehemently protested
his independence, and called Heaven and Earth to witness that he was a
poor struggling, unfortunate, calumniated man. It was more than ever
necessary now when people believed him to be under the insuperable
displeasure of the Whigs, and he was really rendering them such
dangerous service in connexion with the Tory journals, that he should
convince the world of his misfortunes and his honesty. The _Serious
Reflections_ consist mainly of meditations on Divine Providence in times
of trouble, and discourses on the supreme importance of honest dealing.
They are put into the mouth of Robinson Crusoe, but the reader is warned
that they occurred to the author himself in the midst of real incidents
in his own life. Knowing what public repute said of him, he does not
profess never to have strayed from the paths of virtue, but he implies
that he is sincerely repentant, and is now a reformed character. "Wild
wicked Robinson Crusoe does not pretend to honesty himself." He
acknowledges his early errors. Not to do so would be a mistaken piece of
false bravery. "All shame is cowardice. The bravest spirit is the best
qualified for a penitent. He, then, that will be honest, must dare to
confess that he has been a knave." But the man that has been sick is
half a physician, and therefore he is both well fitted to counsel
others, and being convinced of the sin and folly of his former errors,
is of all men the least likely to repeat them. Want of courage was not a
feature in Defoe's diplomacy. He thus boldly described the particular
form of dishonesty with which, when he wrote the description, he was
practising upon the unconscious Mr. Mist.

   "There is an ugly word called cunning, which is very pernicious
   to it [honesty], and which particularly injures it by
   hiding it from our discovery and making it hard to find.
   This is so like honesty that many a man has been deceived
   with it, and have taken one for t'other in the markets: nay,
   I have heard of some who have planted this _wild honesty_, as
   we may call it, in their own ground, have made use of it in
   their friendship and dealings, and thought it had been the
   true plant. But they always lost credit by it, and that was
   not the worst neither, for they had the loss who dealt with
   them, and who chaffered for a counterfeit commodity; and
   we find many deceived so still, which is the occasion there is
   such an outcry about false friends, and about sharping and
   tricking in men's ordinary dealings with the world."

A master-mind in the art of working a man, as Bacon calls it, is surely
apparent here. Who could have suspected the moralist of concealing the
sins he was inclined to, by exposing and lamenting those very sins?
There are other passages in the _Serious Reflections_ which seem to have
been particularly intended for Mist's edification. In reflecting what a
fine thing honesty is, Crusoe expresses an opinion that it is much more
common than is generally supposed, and gratefully recalls how often he
has met with it in his own experience. He asks the reader to note how
faithfully he was served by the English sailor's widow, the Portuguese
captain, the boy Xury, and his man Friday. From these allegoric types,
Mist might select a model for his own behaviour. When we consider the
tone of these _Serious Reflections_, so eminently pious, moral, and
unpretending, so obviously the outcome of a wise, simple, ingenuous
nature, we can better understand the fury with which Mist turned upon
Defoe when at last he discovered his treachery. They are of use also in
throwing light upon the prodigious versatility which could dash off a
masterpiece in fiction, and, before the printer's ink was dry, be
already at work making it a subordinate instrument in a much wider and
more wonderful scheme of activity, his own restless life.

It is curious to find among the _Serious Reflections_ a passage which
may be taken as an apology for the practices into which Defoe,
gradually, we may reasonably believe, allowed himself to fall. The
substance of the apology has been crystallized into an aphorism by the
author of Becky Sharp, but it has been, no doubt, the consoling
philosophy of dishonest persons not altogether devoid of conscience in
all ages.

   "Necessity makes an honest man a knave; and if the
   world was to be the judge, according to the common received
   notion, there would not be an honest poor man alive."

   "A rich man is an honest man, no thanks to him, for he
   would be a double knave to cheat mankind when he had no
   need of it. He has no occasion to prey upon his integrity,
   nor so much as to touch upon the borders of dishonesty.
   Tell me of a man that is a very honest man; for he pays
   everybody punctually, runs into nobody's debt, does no man
   any wrong; very well, what circumstances is he in? Why,
   he has a good estate, a fine yearly income, and no business to
   do. The Devil must have full possession of this man, if he
   should be a knave; for no man commits evil for the sake of
   it; even the Devil himself has some farther design in sinning,
   than barely the wicked part of it. No man is so hardened
   in crimes as to commit them for the mere pleasure of
   the fact; there is always some vice gratified; ambition, pride,
   or avarice makes rich men knaves, and necessity the poor."

This is Defoe's excuse for his backslidings put into the mouth of
_Robinson Crusoe_. It might be inscribed also on the threshold of each
of his fictitious biographies. Colonel Jack, Moll Flanders, Roxana, are
not criminals from malice; they do not commit crimes for the mere
pleasure of the fact. They all believe that but for the force of
circumstances they might have been orderly, contented, virtuous members
of society.

A Colonel, a London Arab, a child of the criminal regiment, began to
steal before he knew that it was not the approved way of making a
livelihood. Moll and Roxana were overreached by acts against which they
were too weak to cope. Even after they were tempted into taking the
wrong turning, they did not pursue the downward road without
compunction. Many good people might say of them, "There, but for the
grace of God, goes myself." But it was not from the point of view of a
Baxter or a Bunyan that Defoe regarded them, though he credited them
with many edifying reflections. He was careful to say that he would
never have written the stories of their lives, if he had not thought
that they would be useful as awful examples of the effects of bad
education and the indulgence of restlessness and vanity; but he enters
into their ingenious shifts and successes with a joyous sympathy that
would have been impossible if their reckless adventurous living by their
wits had not had a strong charm for him. We often find peeping out in
Defoe's writings that roguish cynicism which we should expect in a man
whose own life was so far from being straightforward. He was too much
dependent upon the public acceptance of honest professions to be eager
in depreciating the value of the article, but when he found other people
protesting disinterested motives, he could not always resist reminding
them that they were no more disinterested than the Jack-pudding who
avowed that he cured diseases from mere love of his kind. Having yielded
to circumstances himself, and finding life enjoyable in dubious paths,
he had a certain animosity against those who had maintained their
integrity and kept to the highroad, and a corresponding pleasure in
showing that the motives of the sinner were not after all so very
different from the motives of the saint.

The aims in life of Defoe's thieves and pirates are at bottom very
little different from the ambition which he undertakes to direct in the
_Complete English Tradesman_, and their maxims of conduct have much in
common with this ideal. Self-interest is on the look-out, and
Self-reliance at the helm.

   "A tradesman behind his counter must have no flesh and
   blood about him, no passions, no resentment; he must never
   be angry--no, not so much as seem to be so, if a customer
   tumbles him five hundred pounds' worth of goods, and scarce
   bids money for anything; nay, though they really come to
   his shop with no intent to buy, as many do, only to see what
   is to be sold, and though he knows they cannot be better
   pleased than they are at some other shop where they intend
   to buy, 'tis all one; the tradesman must take it, he must place
   it to the account of his calling, that 'tis his business to be ill-used,
   and resent nothing; and so must answer as obligingly
   to those who give him an hour or two's trouble, and buy
   nothing, as he does to those who, in half the time, lay out
   ten or twenty pounds. The case is plain; and if some do
   give him trouble, and do not buy, others make amends and
   do buy; and as for the trouble, 'tis the business of the shop."

All Defoe's heroes and heroines are animated by this practical spirit,
this thorough-going subordination of means to ends. When they have an
end in view, the plunder of a house, the capture of a ship, the
ensnaring of a dupe, they allow neither passion, nor resentment, nor
sentiment in any shape or form to stand in their way. Every other
consideration is put on one side when the business of the shop has to
be attended to. They are all tradesmen who have strayed into unlawful
courses. They have nothing about them of the heroism of sin; their
crimes are not the result of ungovernable passion, or even of antipathy
to conventional restraints; circumstances and not any law-defying bias
of disposition have made them criminals. How is it that the novelist
contrives to make them so interesting? Is it because we are a nation of
shopkeepers, and enjoy following lines of business which are a little
out of our ordinary routine? Or is it simply that he makes us enjoy
their courage and cleverness without thinking of the purposes with which
these qualities are displayed? Defoe takes such delight in tracing their
bold expedients, their dexterous intriguing and manoeuvring, that he
seldom allows us to think of anything but the success or failure of
their enterprises. Our attention is concentrated on the game, and we pay
no heed for the moment to the players or the stakes. Charles Lamb says
of _The Complete English Tradesman_ that "such is the bent of the book
to narrow and to degrade the heart, that if such maxims were as catching
and infectious as those of a licentious cast, which happily is not the
case, had I been living at that time, I certainly should have
recommended to the grand jury of Middlesex, who presented The Fable of
the Bees, to have presented this book of Defoe's in preference, as of a
far more vile and debasing tendency. Yet if Defoe had thrown the
substance of this book into the form of a novel, and shown us a
tradesman rising by the sedulous practice of its maxims from errand-boy
to gigantic capitalist, it would have been hardly less interesting than
his lives of successful thieves and tolerably successful harlots, and
its interest would have been very much of the same kind, the interest of
dexterous adaptation of means to ends."



"The best step," Defoe says, after describing the character of a
deceitful talker, "such a man can take is to lie on, and this shows the
singularity of the crime; it is a strange expression, but I shall make
it out; their way is, I say, to lie on till their character is
completely known, and then they can lie no longer, for he whom nobody
deceives can deceive nobody, and the essence of lying is removed; for
the description of a lie is that it is spoken to deceive, or the design
is to deceive. Now he that nobody believes can never lie any more,
because nobody can be deceived by him."

Something like this seems to have happened to Defoe himself. He touched
the summit of his worldly prosperity about the time of the publication
of _Robinson Crusoe_ (1719). He was probably richer then than he had
been when he enjoyed the confidence of King William, and was busy with
projects of manufacture and trade. He was no longer solitary in
journalism. Like his hero, he had several plantations, and companions to
help him in working them. He was connected with four journals, and from
this source alone his income must have been considerable. Besides this,
he was producing separate works at the rate, on an average, of six a
year, some of them pamphlets, some of them considerable volumes, all of
them calculated to the wants of the time, and several of them extremely
popular, running through three or four editions in as many months. Then
he had his salary from the Government, which he delicately hints at in
one of his extant letters as being overdue. Further, the advertisement
of a lost pocket-book in 1726, containing a list of Notes and Bills in
which Defoe's name twice appears, seems to show that he still found time
for commercial transactions outside literature.[6] Altogether Defoe was
exceedingly prosperous, dropped all pretence of poverty, built a large
house at Stoke Newington, with stables and pleasure-grounds, and kept a

[Footnote 6: _Lee's Life_, vol. i. pp. 406-7.]

We get a pleasant glimpse of Defoe's life at this period from the notes
of Henry Baker, the naturalist, who married one of his daughters and
received his assistance, as we have seen, in starting _The Universal
Spectator_. Baker, original a bookseller, in 1724 set up a school for
the deaf and dumb at Newington. There, according to the notes which he
left of his courtship, he made the acquaintance of "Mr. Defoe, a
gentleman well known by his writings, who had newly built there a very
handsome house, as a retirement from London, and amused his time either
in the cultivation of a large and pleasant garden, or in the pursuit of
his studies, which he found means of making very profitable." Defoe "was
now at least sixty years of age, afflicted with the gout and stone, but
retained all his mental faculties entire." The, diarist goes on to say
that he "met usually at the tea-table his three lovely daughters, who
were admired for their beauty, their education, and their prudent
conduct; and if sometimes Mr. Defoe's disorders made company
inconvenient, Mr. Baker was entertained by them either singly or
together, and that commonly in the garden when the weather was
favourable." Mr. Baker fixed his choice on Sophia, the youngest
daughter, and, being a prudent lover, began negotiations about the
marriage portion, Defoe's part in which is also characteristic. "He
knew nothing of Mr. Defoe's circumstances, only imagined, from his very
genteel way of living, that he must be able to give his daughter a
decent portion; he did not suppose a large one. On speaking to Mr.
Defoe, he sanctioned his proposals, and said he hoped he should be able
to give her a certain sum specified; but when urged to the point some
time afterwards, his answer was that formal articles he thought
unnecessary; that he could confide in the honour of Mr. Baker; that when
they talked before, he did not know the true state of his own affairs;
that he found he could not part with any money at present; but at his
death his daughter's portion would be more than he had promised; and he
offered his own bond as security." The prudent Mr. Baker would not take
his bond, and the marriage was not arranged till two years afterwards,
when Defoe gave a bond for £500 payable at his death, engaging his house
at Newington as security.

Very little more is known about Defoe's family, except that his eldest
daughter married a person of the name of Langley, and that he speculated
successfully in South Sea Stock in the name of his second daughter, and
afterwards settled upon her an estate at Colchester worth £1020. His
second son, named Benjamin, became a journalist, was the editor of the
_London Journal_, and got into temporary trouble for writing a
scandalous and seditious libel in that newspaper in 1721. A writer in
_Applebee's Journal_, whom Mr. Lee identifies with Defoe himself,
commenting upon this circumstance, denied the rumour of its being the
well-known Daniel Defoe that was committed for the offence. The same
writer declared that it was known "that the young Defoe was but a
stalking-horse and a tool, to bear the lash and the pillory in their
stead, for his wages; that he was the author of the most scandalous
part, but was only made sham proprietor of the whole, to screen the true
proprietors from justice."

This son does not appear in a favourable light in the troubles which
soon after fell upon Defoe, when Mist discovered his connexion with the
Government. Foiled in his assault upon him, Mist seems to have taken
revenge by spreading the fact abroad, and all Defoe's indignant denials
and outcries against Mist's ingratitude do not seem to have cleared him
from suspicion. Thenceforth the printers and editors of journals held
aloof from him. Such is Mr. Lee's fair interpretation of the fact that
his connexion with _Applebee's Journal_ terminated abruptly in March,
1726, and that he is found soon after, in the preface to a pamphlet on
_Street Robberies_, complaining that none of the journals will accept
his communications. "Assure yourself, gentle reader," he says,[7] "I had
not published my project in this pamphlet, could I have got it inserted
in any of the journals without feeing the journalists or publishers. I
cannot but have the vanity to think they might as well have inserted
what I send them, _gratis_, as many things I have since seen in their
papers. But I have not only had the mortification to find what I sent
rejected, but to lose my originals, not having taken copies of what I
wrote." In this preface Defoe makes touching allusion to his age and
infirmities. He begs his readers to "excuse the vanity of an
over-officious old man, if, like Cato, he inquires whether or no before
he goes hence and is no more, he can yet do anything for the service of
his country." "The old man cannot trouble you long; take, then, in good
part his best intentions, and impute his defects to age and weakness."

[Footnote 7: Lee's _Life_, vol. i. p. 418.]

This preface was written in 1728; what happened to Defoe in the
following year is much more difficult to understand, and is greatly
complicated by a long letter of his own which has been preserved.
Something had occurred, or was imagined by him to have occurred, which
compelled him to fly from his home and go into hiding. He was at work on
a book to be entitled _The Complete English Gentleman_. Part of it was
already in type when he broke off abruptly in September, 1729, and fled.
In August, 1730, he sent from a hiding-place, cautiously described as
being about two miles from Greenwich, a letter to his son-in-law, Baker,
which is our only clue to what had taken place. It is so incoherent as
to suggest that the old man's prolonged toils and anxieties had at last
shaken his reason, though not his indomitable self-reliance. Baker
apparently had written complaining that he was debarred from seeing him.
"Depend upon my sincerity for this," Defoe answers, "that I am far from
debarring you. On the contrary, it would be a greater comfort to me than
any I now enjoy that I could have your agreeable visits with safety, and
could see both you and my dear Sophia, could it be without giving her
the grief of seeing her father _in tenebris_, and under the load of
insupportable sorrows." He gives a touching description of the griefs
which are preying upon his mind.

   "It is not the blow I received from a wicked, perjured,
   and contemptible enemy that has broken in upon my spirit;
   which, as she well knows, has carried me on through greater
   disasters than these. But it has been the injustice, unkindness,
   and, I must say inhuman, dealing of my own son, which
   has both ruined my family, and in a word has broken my
   heart.... I depended upon him, I trusted him, I gave up
   my two dear unprovided children into his hands; but he
   has no compassion, but suffers them and their poor dying
   mother to beg their bread at his door, and to crave, as it
   were an alms, what he is bound under hand and seal, besides
   the most sacred promises, to supply them with, himself at
   the same time living in a profusion of plenty. It is too
   much for me. Excuse my infirmity, I can say no more; my
   heart is too full. I only ask one thing of you as a dying request.
   Stand by them when I am gone, and let them not be
   wronged while he is able to do them right. Stand by them
   as a brother; and if you have anything within you owing to
   my memory, who have bestowed on you the best gift I have
   to give, let them not be injured and trampled on by false
   pretences and unnatural reflections. I hope they will want
   no help but that of comfort and council; but that they will
   indeed want, being too easy to be managed by words and

The postscript to the letter shows that Baker had written to him about
selling the house, which, it may be remembered, was the security for
Mrs. Baker's portion, and had inquired about a policy of assurance. "I
wrote you a letter some months ago, in answer to one from you, about
selling the house; but you never signified to me whether you received
it. I have not the policy of assurance; I suppose my wife, or Hannah,
may have it." Baker's ignoring the previous letter about the house seems
to signify that it was unsatisfactory. He apparently wished for a
personal interview with Defoe. In the beginning of the present letter
Defoe had said that, though far from debarring a visit from his
son-in-law, circumstances, much to his sorrow, made it impossible that
he could receive a visit from anybody. After the charge against his son,
which we have quoted, he goes on to explain that it is impossible for
him to go to see Mr. Baker. His family apparently had been ignorant of
his movements for some time. "I am at a distance from London, in Kent;
nor have I a lodging in London, nor have I been at that place in the
Old Bailey since I wrote you I was removed from it. At present I am
weak, having had some fits of a fever that have left me low." He
suggests, indeed, a plan by which he might see his son-in-law and
daughter. He could not bear to make them a single flying visit. "Just to
come and look at you and retire immediately, 'tis a burden too heavy.
The parting will be a price beyond the enjoyment." But if they could find
a retired lodging for him at Enfield, "where he might not be known, and
might have the comfort of seeing them both now and then, upon such a
circumstance he could gladly give the days to solitude to have the
comfort of half an hour now and then with them both for two or three
weeks." Nevertheless, as if he considered this plan out of the question,
he ends with a touching expression of grief that, being near his
journey's end, he may never see them again. It is impossible to avoid
the conclusion that he did not wish to see his son-in-law, and that
Baker wished to see him about money matters, and suspected him of
evading an interview.

Was this evasion the cunning of incipient madness? Was his concealing
his hiding-place from his son-in-law an insane development of that
self-reliant caution, which for so many years of his life he had been
compelled to make a habit, in the face of the most serious risks? Why
did he give such an exaggerated colour to the infamous conduct of his
son? It is easy to make out from the passage I have quoted, what his
son's guilt really consisted in. Defoe had assigned certain property to
the son to be held in trust for his wife and daughters. The son had not
secured them in the enjoyment of this provision, but maintained them,
and gave them words and promises, with which they were content, that he
would continue to maintain them. It was this that Defoe called making
them "beg their bread at his door, and crave as if it were an alms" the
provision to which they were legally entitled. Why did Defoe vent his
grief at this conduct in such strong language to his son-in-law, at the
same time enjoining him to make a prudent use of it? Baker had written
to his father-in-law making inquiry about the securities for his wife's
portion; Defoe answers with profuse expressions of affection, a touching
picture of his old age and feebleness, and the imminent ruin of his
family through the possible treachery of the son to whom he has
entrusted their means of support, and an adjuration to his son-in-law to
stand by them with comfort and counsel when he is gone. The inquiry
about the securities he dismisses in a postscript. He will not sell the
house, and he does not know who has the policy of assurance.

One thing and one thing only shines clearly out of the obscurity in
which Defoe's closing years are wrapt--his earnest desire to make
provision for those members of his family who could not provide for
themselves. The pursuit from which he was in hiding, was in all
probability the pursuit of creditors. We have seen that his income must
have been large from the year 1718 or thereabouts, till his utter loss
of credit in journalism about the year 1726; but he may have had old
debts. It is difficult to explain otherwise why he should have been at
such pains, when he became prosperous, to assign property to his
children. There is evidence, as early as 1720, of his making over
property to his daughter Hannah, and the letter from which I have quoted
shows that he did not hold his Newington estate in his own name. In this
letter he speaks of a perjured, contemptible enemy as the cause of his
misfortunes. Mr. Lee conjectures that this was Mist, that Mist had
succeeded in embroiling him with the Government by convincing them of
treachery in his secret services, and that this was the hue and cry from
which he fled. But it is hardly conceivable that the Government could
have listened to charges brought by a man whom they had driven from the
country for his seditious practices. It is much more likely that Mist
and his supporters had sufficient interest to instigate the revival of
old pecuniary claims against Defoe.

It would have been open to suppose that the fears which made the old man
a homeless wanderer and fugitive for the last two years of his life,
were wholly imaginary, but for the circumstances of his death. He died
of a lethargy on the 26th of April, 1731, at a lodging in Ropemaker's
Alley, Moorfields. In September, 1733, as the books in Doctors' Commons
show, letters of administration on his goods and chattels were granted
to Mary Brooks, widow, a creditrix, after summoning in official form the
next of kin to appear. Now, if Defoe had been driven from his home by
imaginary fears, and had baffled with the cunning of insane suspicion
the efforts of his family to bring him back, there is no apparent reason
why they should not have claimed his effects after his death. He could
not have died unknown to them, for place and time were recorded in the
newspapers. His letter to his son-in-law, expressing the warmest
affection for all his family except his son, is sufficient to prevent
the horrible notion that he might have been driven forth like Lear by
his undutiful children after he had parted his goods among them. If they
had been capable of such unnatural conduct, they would not have failed
to secure his remaining property. Why, then, were his goods and chattels
left to a creditrix? Mr. Lee ingeniously suggests that Mary Brooks was
the keeper of the lodging where he died, and that she kept his personal
property to pay rent and perhaps funeral expenses. A much simpler
explanation, which covers most of the known facts without casting any
unwarranted reflections upon Defoe's children, is that when his last
illness overtook him he was still keeping out of the way of his
creditors, and that everything belonging to him in his own name was
legally seized. But there are doubts and difficulties attending any

Mr. Lee has given satisfactory reasons for believing that Defoe did not,
as some of his biographers have supposed, die in actual distress.
Ropemaker's Alley in Moorfields was a highly respectable street at the
beginning of last century; a lodging there was far from squalid. The
probability is that Defoe subsisted on his pension from the Government
during his last two years of wandering; and suffering though he was from
the infirmities of age, yet wandering was less of a hardship than it
would have been to other men, to one who had been a wanderer for the
greater part of his life. At the best it was a painful and dreary ending
for so vigorous a life, and unless we pitilessly regard it as a
retribution for his moral defects, it is some comfort to think that the
old man's infirmities and anxieties were not aggravated by the pressure
of hopeless and helpless poverty. Nor do I think that he was as
distressed as he represented to his son-in-law by apprehensions of ruin
to his family after his death, and suspicions of the honesty of his
son's intentions. There is a half insane tone about his letter to Mr.
Baker, but a certain method may be discerned in its incoherencies. My
own reading of it is that it was a clever evasion of his son-in-law's
attempts to make sure of his share of the inheritance. We have seen how
shifty Defoe was in the original bargaining about his daughter's
portion, and we know from his novels what his views were about
fortune-hunters, and with what delight he dwelt upon the arts of
outwitting them. He probably considered that his youngest daughter was
sufficiently provided for by her marriage, and he had set his heart upon
making provision for her unmarried sisters. The letter seems to me to be
evidence, not so much of fears for their future welfare, as of a
resolution to leave them as much as he could. Two little circumstances
seem to show that, in spite of his professions of affection, there was a
coolness between Defoe and his son-in-law. He wrote only the prospectus
and the first article for Baker's paper, the _Universal Spectator_, and
when he died, Baker contented himself with a simple intimation of the

If my reading of this letter is right, it might stand as a type of the
most strongly marked characteristic in Defoe's political writings. It
was a masterly and utterly unscrupulous piece of diplomacy for the
attainment of a just and benevolent end. This may appear strange after
what I have said about Defoe's want of honesty, yet one cannot help
coming to this conclusion in looking back at his political career before
his character underwent its final degradation. He was a great, a truly
great liar, perhaps the greatest liar that ever lived. His dishonesty
went too deep to be called superficial, yet, if we go deeper still in
his rich and strangely mixed nature, we come upon stubborn foundations
of conscience. Among contemporary comments on the occasion of his death,
there was one which gave perfect expression to his political position.
"His knowledge of men, especially those in high life (with whom he was
formerly very conversant) had weakened his attachment to any political
party; but, in the main, he was in the interest of civil and religious
liberty, in behalf of which he appeared on several remarkable
occasions." The men of the time with whom Defoe was brought into
contact, were not good examples to him. The standard of political
morality was probably never so low in England as during his lifetime.
Places were dependent on the favour of the Sovereign, and the
Sovereign's own seat on the throne was insecure; there was no party
cohesion to keep politicians consistent, and every man fought for his
own hand. Defoe had been behind the scenes, witnessed many curious
changes of service, and heard many authentic tales of jealousy,
intrigue, and treachery. He had seen Jacobites take office under
William, join zealously in the scramble for his favours, and enter into
negotiations with the emissaries of James either upon some fancied
slight, or from no other motive than a desire to be safe, if by any
chance the sceptre should again change hands. Under Anne he had seen
Whig turn Tory and Tory turn Whig, and had seen statesmen of the highest
rank hold out one hand to Hanover and another to St. Germains. The most
single-minded man he had met had been King William himself, and of his
memory he always spoke with the most affectionate honour. Shifty as
Defoe was, and admirably as he used his genius for circumstantial
invention to cover his designs, there was no other statesman of his
generation who remained more true to the principles of the Revolution,
and to the cause of civil and religious freedom. No other public man saw
more clearly what was for the good of the country, or pursued it more
steadily. Even when he was the active servant of Harley, and turned
round upon men who regarded him as their own, the part which he played
was to pave the way for his patron's accession to office under the House
of Hanover. Defoe did as much as any one man, partly by secret intrigue,
partly through the public press, perhaps as much as any ten men outside
those in the immediate direction of affairs, to accomplish the two great
objects which William bequeathed to English statesmanship--the union of
England and Scotland, and the succession to the United Kingdom of a
Protestant dynasty. Apart from the field of high politics, his powerful
advocacy was enlisted in favour of almost every practicable scheme of
social improvement that came to the front in his time. Defoe cannot be
held up as an exemplar of moral conduct, yet if he is judged by the
measures that he laboured for and not by the means that he employed, few
Englishmen have lived more deserving than he of their country's
gratitude. He may have been self-seeking and vain-glorious, but in his
political life self-seeking and vain-glory were elevated by their
alliance with higher and wider aims. Defoe was a wonderful mixture of
knave and patriot. Sometimes pure knave seems to be uppermost, sometimes
pure patriot; but the mixture is so complex, and the energy of the man
so restless, that it almost passes human skill to unravel the two
elements. The author of _Robinson Crusoe_, is entitled to the benefit of
every doubt.


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