Defoe and the Nature of Man

Defoe and the Nature of Man

Defoe and the Nature of Man

Defoe and the Nature of Man


'I am most entertained with those Actions which give me a Light into the Nature of Man.'

Daniel Defoe, A Collection of Miscellany Letters, Selected out of Mist's Weekly Journal

THE following study grew out of a search after the sources for the ideas which appear in Defoe's fiction. Noting references to Hugo Grotius and Samuel Pufendorf in Defoe's long poem, Jure Divino, I decided to see if these writers might account for some of his unusual theories of law and human behaviour. Much to my surprise, I discovered what I feel to be the ideological basis for some of his best themes and stories.

While relying heavily on the philosophers of natural law, I have tried, through a careful examination of Defoe's reading, to trace every relevant source. Whenever possible I have supported my arguments from authors whom Defoe had mentioned or quoted.

Since there is neither a complete edition nor a wholly satisfactory bibliography of Defoe's writings, I have had to use a combination of modern editions and original sources. For Defoe's fiction I have relied on the Shakespeare Head Edition whenever possible, and for a bibliography, the Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature, supplemented by the catalogues of the Bodleian, Boston Public, British Museum, William Andrews Clark and Henry E. Huntington Libraries, and by Professor John Robert Moore's helpful suggestions and his invaluable Checklist of the Writings of Daniel Defoe.

I am deeply indebted to the librarians of these institutions and to Professor Moore. I also wish to thank the late Professor Edward Niles Hooker and Professor H. T. Swedenberg, who first interested me in Defoe, Mr. F. W. Bateson, who criticized my earliest ideas on this subject, the Fulbright Commission, whose grant enabled me to study in England, and the editors . . .

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