Daniel Defoe was born in 1660 in London, to James and Alice Foe. His father worked as a butcher and the young Daniel regretted the fact that he could not attend a prestigious school, such as Oxford or Cambridge. Defoe tried his best to be a gentleman, even changing his name from Foe to Defoe. As a result of his controversial writings, Defoe was arrested, imprisoned for a period of time, tried, and sentenced to pay a fine and to stand three times in the pillory.
His novel Robinson Crusoe was published in 1719. The story is about a young man who strongly desires to become a sailor. In spite of his family's opposition, he runs away to go to sea. His adventures lead him all over the world, but his most important journey is a spiritual one. The novel is basically about the life and adventures of Crusoe on the island, where he arrived after a shipwreck. A series of disasters happen to him as punishment for his rebellious nature. For example he was forced to spend twenty-eight years of his life on that deserted island. On the island, Crusoe is transformed. As he searches for peace, he must come to grips with his relationship to God. When he finally acknowledges his own Christianity, all the rebelliousness is driven out of him and he begins to live a peaceful existence on the island. This book was inspired by the true story of Alexander Selkirk, a Scottish sailor. Robert Louis Stevenson admired it, saying that the footprint scene in Crusoe was one of the greatest in English literature, and most unforgettable: "One day, about noon, going towards my boat, I was exceedingly surprised with the print of a man's naked foot on the shore, which was very plain to be seen on the sand." This scene was a prelude to his meeting with Friday, one of the savages, whom Crusoe rescues from his captors. Crusoe "civilizes" Friday and converts him to Christianity. Friday remains faithful to Crusoe until the end.
It is not known how Defoe, living in London, came to know enough to write a story about ships, sailing, pirates, and savages. No matter the sources for Robinson Crusoe, it is definitely an entertaining and realistic adventure tale. Although not written for children, this book was extremely popular with them. It has inspired a new genre, the Robinsonade as works like The Swiss Family Robinson (1812) by Johann David Wyss.
Jonathan Swift was born in 1667 in Dublin, Ireland. Not only he had...