A Brief History
On May 21, 1703, English writer Daniel Defoe was arrested and jailed for the crime of “seditious libel,” his offense being the writing of a pamphlet critical of rich and powerful English authorities.
Defoe was the author of Robinson Crusoe, a novel that has reportedly been translated more than any other book in history besides the Bible. Defoe was also a poet and pamphleteer, often treading on the toes of those high and mighty in charge of English society. Unfortunately for Defoe, these pillars of the community were sensitive about criticism and being called hypocrites, and Defoe was arrested, fined, jailed, and given some time in the pillory to contemplate his alleged crimes.
While in the pillory, supposedly for public ridicule, Defoe entertained crowds by reciting political poems he had composed. Oddly enough, Defoe was released from prison under an agreement to become a spy for the Tories. Defoe also resumed his writing career, and in 1719 published his magnum opus, Robinson Crusoe. His work as an English novelist was groundbreaking, though not highly profitable and he was often in debt, including at his death in 1731.
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For more information, please see…
Defoe, Daniel. The Daniel Defoe Collection: Robinson Crusoe, A Journal of the Plague Year, Moll Flanders. Independently published, 2020.
West, Richard. The Life and Strange, Surprising Adventures of Daniel Defoe. Sharpe Books, 2019.
The featured image in this article, Daniel Defoe by James Charles Armytage (died 1902), is a faithful photographic reproduction of a two-dimensional, public domain work of art. The work of art itself is in the public domain for the following reason: This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or fewer.
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