Dreams of Adventure, Deeds of Empire

By Martin Green | Go to book overview

III
Defoe

Defoe and his England

IN a work of this size and purpose, there is no room for any but the most schematic biography of the authors. But Defoe acted out his temperament and represented his caste in a dozen different political and economic roles. 1 He was a representative man of his times. So it helps to remember his social activity while reading his adventures. Therefore I am going to pick out those "themes" of his life story which relate most importantly to Robinson Crusoe and Captain Singleton; and to my general subject, the modern world's imagination. I would say that Defoe embodied that imagination.

First, then, he was born into a Dissenting family, and knew, at least by family tradition, some religious persecution. It always remained one of his major interests to speak for and to Dissenters; and he could, on occasion—for instance, in his Memoirs of the Church of Scotland —talk the old Puritan language about "persecuted saints" and the "worldly men," the "men of blood," who oppressed them. But more characteristically, his stress fell on reconciliation, in religion as in politics. He had a modem kind of tolerance, and wanted to reconcile the Dissenters to the rest of England, and vice versa—put a modern stress on moderation. Thus in "An Appeal to Honour and Justice" (1715) he says, "I was from my first entering into knowledge of public matters, and have ever been to this day, a sincere lover of the consti

-66-

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Dreams of Adventure, Deeds of Empire
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Dreams of Adventure, Deeds of Empire *
  • Contents vii
  • Prefatory Notes xi
  • I - Modern Empire, Caste, and Adventure 3
  • II - Narrative, Other Forms, and Literature-As-A-System 37
  • III - Defoe 66
  • IV - Scott 97
  • V - Cooper 129
  • VI - Tolstoy 164
  • VII - Popular Literature and Children's Literature 203
  • VIII - Twain 235
  • IX - Kipling 264
  • X - Conrad 297
  • XI - In the Trough of the Wave of Imperialism: Adventure Images after 1918 320
  • Conclusion 338
  • Notes 345
  • Bibliography 405
  • Index 411
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