Few writers have had so difficult a path to what Andrew Kippis calls ‘the Temple of Fame’, and fewer yet have had such a difficult time remaining there. Compared to the ups and downs of Daniel Defoe’s reputation, William Blake’s or Emily Dickinson’s rise to positions of literary greatness appears steady and continuous. When it first appeared in 1719, Defoe’s masterpiece, Robinson Crusoe, was attacked viciously by Charles Gildon, as a vulgarisation of art and life, and toward the end of the 18th century he was accused of having plagiarised his work from the Scottish seaman Alexander Selkirk. A playful modern version of the plagiarism theory occurs in J. M. Coetzee’s Foe, in which Defoe has stolen his work from his own creation, Roxana, who appears as Susan in the text. This book offers a biography that sees Defoe mainly in terms of his development as a writer of fiction and travel literature. It focuses on those aspects of his life relevant to his writing Robinson Crusoe, Moll Flanders, Colonel Jack, and Roxana.
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