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ten page upon page of pious homily without being a hypocrite of the deepest dye?

Probably no one can answer these questions satisfactorily in an article, and perhaps no one will ever answer them adequately, unless it be that thoroughly competent biographer of Defoe for whose speedy appearance some of us are hoping. I can say for myself only that, after a considerable amount of study spent upon Defoe as a man and a writer, I am convinced that, however crooked his conduct, he was essentially a religious and, in his own opinion, an honest man. Some of his actions were execrable and must have appeared more than questionable to his own conscience; but I fancy that he grew slowly to be a consummate casuist, that a certain unity of patriotic purpose, summed up in the words "peace and moderation," may be discovered in all his political writings and actions, that gratitude to his benefactor, Harley, the example of great men around him who were intriguing and taking bribes, the imperfect differentiation of parties, the continued pressure of financial difficulties, and the growth through practice of a delight in mystifying people and in controlling, through his own shrewdness and ingenuity, the actions of men less subtly intelligent than himself, account in a large measure for all the uncanny actions of Defoe that have brought him into such discredit, especially of late years. His conduct, in other words, can and should be extenuated, though not excused, and is not inconsistent with genuine piety of a narrow Puritan type, not lovely to us of to-day, but common enough not so many years ago.

As for applying to Defoe the epithets "unscrupulous," "vulgar," "thick-skinned," which modern critics freely bestow upon him, I find myself more and more inclined to think the procedure hazardous, if not positively unfair. He had not a few scruples of his own; he had touches of refinement, especially in his conception of the true dignity of women, distinctly in advance of his age; he was very sensitive on not a few matters. There is a basis for every charge brought against him; but there is always something to be said in his favor. At one moment he is servile to Harley; then he writes him a letter that reads as though it were written from one friend to another rather than from a bankrupt political spy to his employer in high station. I suspect that the critics have been for so many years accustomed to see in Defoe the trickster, the shopkeeper, the plebeian journalist, that they will continue for many years, if not forever, to belabor him with uncomplimentary epithets, much as men have for centuries belabored a certain humble beast of burden. They will make allowances for Cowper's "dear Mat Prior,"

who was petted by the great men of his time, but led in many respects a far from exemplary life, and on one occasion gave a vote in Parliament that was perhaps as indefensible on grounds of true honor as anything with which Defoe stands charged. "Give a dog a bad name" is an aphorism that continually suggests itself in connection with Defoe's character and career. It held good of him when he was alive; it holds good of him to-day; yet then, as now, an attempt of a close observer to analyze his character was sure to be baffled. Henry Baker, afterward his son-in-law, wrote to Sophia Defoe that her father loved to shroud himself in mists, which was but another way of saying that Baker, who was anxious about the dowry to be paid him, studied the old man closely without being able to comprehend him. I am by no means certain that we are much nearer to understanding him than that prudent lover, Baker, was.

Take only the matter of his verbal honesty. The critics, including the late Prof. Minto and Defoe's latest editor, warn us that it will not do to rely on Defoe's statements. For years they held up the story of the deceased Mrs. Veal's remarkable visit to Mrs. Bargrave as an example of Defoe's skill in lending plausibility to the most unbelievable narrative, paying a tribute to the writer, but generally accompanying it with a back-handed compliment to the man, who was supposed to have invented the tale of the apparition in order that it might be used to advertise a certain religious treatise. But within eleven years Mr. Wright has suggested and Mr. Aitken has completely proved that Defoe invented next to nothing; that he merely reported with great fidelity a ghost story current in Canterbury in 1705; that, in other words, he was a great interviewer, instead of a remarkable story-teller. Many of the geographical details introduced into "Captain Singleton" have been shown to be due not to Defoe's vivid imagination marvellously forestalling the discoveries of Livingstone and Stanley, but to his careful study of old maps and of books of travel. The result has been to make some of us at least very chary of asserting that a statement made by Defoe is unworthy of credence unless it is corroborated by outside evidence.

I may mention a case in point. In his account of the famous storm of November, 1703, the first of his minutely realistic narratives, there are passages in which the editor says he saw things which no one shut up in Newgate as Defoe is generally believed to have been at the time could possibly have witnessed. In view of Defoe's reiterated assurances of the meticulous accuracy with which he compiled his account, there

was nothing to do but to suppose either that he was not in Newgate, a supposition which the biographers thought untenable, or that he was giving an early illustration of his fondness for indulging in details of verisimilitude impossible to a strictly honest man careful of the words he employs, or else that he had a collaborator whose eyes he assumed to be equivalent to his own. I made up my own mind after reading the book that Defoe was out of Newgate when he wrote it, and I was confirmed in this opinion by some remarks he makes in one of his accounts of famous thieves with regard to the facility with which criminals induced the turnkeys to allow them to absent themselves for a time from the prison.

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Defoe, I thought, might have had special reasons of business to take the horseback ride in Kent that he mentions; * and certainly there was no ground to suspect that he did not know how to offer a bribe. This was before I had had time to go carefully through the Harley Papers. Two of the earliest letters, that of November 9, 1703, to Harley and that of November, but with no specified day, to James Stancliffe, make Defoe's "enlargement" in that month practically certain, and thus render possible the personal experiences recounted in the volume on "The Storm." I may be credulous by nature, but it will take a good deal hereafter to make me agree with the scrupulous modern gentlemen who do not hesitate to call homespun Daniel Defoe on every possible occasion an unmitigated liar. He undoubtedly acted lies often enough; he advocated policies and measures he did not believe in, fancying that good might come of it; he changed sides at the direction of men to whom he cringed; but to say that he was "perhaps the greatest liar that ever lived" is a coarse and blundering way to characterize an extraordinarily complex personality.

What has just been said will perhaps suffice to show why in my judgment every help should be afforded such students as are willing to

*"The Storm" (1704), p. 135. This journey is represented as having taken place about a month after the storm, but there are other details showing that the editor of the book could not have been pent up in prison while the tempest was raging.

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+ See "Historical Manuscripts Commission, Fifteenth Report," Appendix, Part IV., 1897, pp. 75, 76. Also E. S. Roscoe's "Robert Harley, Earl of Oxford," 1902, p. 48. Mr. Whitten, in his little volume on Defoe in the " Westminster Biographies (1900), seems to adhere to the old dates. Mr. Thomas Bateson, in his article on "Defoe and Harley" ("English Historical Review," April, 1900), places Defoe's release in the spring of 1704, apparently overlooking the above-mentioned letters. He is followed by Dr. Maynadier, who, although somewhat unsympathetic to Defoe, seems to have based his introductions on the latest materials.

spend the necessary time on a study of Defoe's life. As the author of the greatest story of adventure in our literature, and as an important actor in one of the most interesting epochs of English history, to say nothing of the fascination attaching to his enigmatic character, he is surely worthy of all the study that is likely to be put upon him. And he must be studied by critics in the light of his miscellaneous works just as thoroughly as by historians in the light of his correspondence.

Nor should the task of reading extensively his pedestrian satires in verse, his political, economic, and ecclesiastical pamphlets, and his miscellaneous books and journalistic work prove altogether arduous and unattractive to a wide-awake mind. It is perennially interesting to watch a keen debater get the better of his adversaries. It is worth while to read incisive English prose, even though one's eyes are tried by careless printing and yellow paper. Surely it is in order time and again to protest against the prevalent notion that literary pleasure is given only by poems and dramas and novels and tales, and an occasional history, or biography, or volume of essays. The prose tracts of Milton, for all their controversial bitterness, contain the most sublimely eloquent passages I have ever read. The controversial works of Andrew Marvell are full of admirable sense and pungent wit. The tracts of Defoe lack wit and humor, as a rule, and are rarely marked by real eloquence; but they are full of quintessential English sense and vigor, and they seem to me to be almost unrivalled in their power of appeal to the average reader. Defoe and that other great pamphleteer, Tom Paine, may have been thoroughly philistine journalists, but any definition of literature that excludes their powerful pamphlets is to my mind a very faulty one.

But I have wandered far afield from the edition of the stories which the Messrs. Crowell are offering the American public. Whether some of us like the fact or not, these sixteen volumes contain all that even a wide reader wants to know of Defoe and a good deal more than many persons will be able to compass. The second and third parts of "Robinson Crusoe "to wit, the "Farther Adventures" and the "Serious Reflections," are not likely to be deeply dipped into, even though the former ought to possess considerable interest to persons concerned in the fate of the Philippines, Japan, and Russia. "A New Voyage Round the World" might interest readers occupied with the affairs of South America; yet neither it, nor "Due Preparations for the Plague," nor the latter half of "Colonel Jacque" seems calculated to hold the attention of even the strenuous readers of to-day, despite the fact that in the first and the last Defoe, as Dr. Maynadier reminds us, was something of an early im

perialist. His accounts of famous thieves and pirates and of the Scotch prodigy of second sight, Duncan Campbell, must, I suspect, be content with few though fit readers. Even the "Memoirs of a Cavalier," highly praised though it has been by competent authorities, is by no means certain of being often taken down from the shelves. I should be sorry to think that "Captain Singleton" runs any risk of sharing this fate; yet I doubt whether it will ever be a truly popular book, even with boys or with men who have fortunately not laid aside all their boyish love of strange adventures and heroic achievements.

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What will the modern public say to the books that are left to the first part of "Robinson Crusoe," to the "Journal of the Plague Year," to "Moll Flanders," and "Roxana "? This is the first question I asked myself when I heard that a new edition of Defoe was in preparation. Will a large number of new readers be secured for these immortal works, or will they be put on the top shelf or kept under lock and key? Has America yet developed a public of appreciable size that is capable of putting quietly to one side the coarseness of "Moll Flanders" and of enjoying the book as a realistic narrative full of interesting adventure, presenting vivid pictures of lower and middle class life two centuries ago, and showing, in view of the time of its publication, not a little skill in the portrayal of character? Will somewhat the same attitude be taken toward "Roxana," less successful though it be than "Moll Flanders," save perhaps in the matter of plot? Will the "Journal of the Plague Year," which has been read in our schools and has appeared in several series of English classics, appeal to a new stratum of readers as an extraordinarily artistic work of the constructive imagination, or seem too grew some book to be read with pleasure by any sensitive person? Finally, will the first part of "Robinson Crusoe" cease to be regarded by a large number of adults as a famous old book specially adapted for presentation to boys in their teens?

If I could answer these questions with precision I should have a much more definite and extensive knowledge of the present state of popular culture in America than any man can possibly have. If many persons share the opinion of the editor of a well-known magazine that Defoe never showed genius outside of "Robinson Crusoe," it is certainly to be hoped that this new edition will be widely sold and widely read, and that some of the best criticism of Defoe will be read in connection with it. If many persons hold with a recent supporter of the old story that Harley, not Defoe, was the real author of "Robinson Crusoe," that that great book differs essentially in style from Defoe's other narratives,


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