Cover image for Daniel Defoe : master of fictions : his life and ideas
Daniel Defoe : master of fictions : his life and ideas
Novak, Maximillian E.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2001.
Physical Description:
xi, 756 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, portraits ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PR3406 .N68 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Daniel Defoe, best known as the author of Robinson Crusoe, lived during a period of dramatic historical, political, and social change in Britain, and was by any standard a superb observer of his times. Through his pamphlets, newspapers, books of travel, and works of fiction he commented onanything and everything, from birth control to the price of coal, from flying machines to academies for women, from security for the aged to the dangers of the plague. In his fiction he created a type of vivid realism that powerfully influenced the development of the novel. The publication of workssuch as Robinson Crusoe are major events because they shape the ways in which we see our world, so that ever afterwards thoughts of desolation and desert islands immediately evoke Defoe's masterpiece. We should not be surprised: Defoe always wrote to make things happen. During his career as anauthor, he was a provocative pamphleteer, journalist, and poet; but when he was not writing, he was, at times, a spy and a double agent, a revolutionary and a dreamer. He was variously hunted by mobs with murderous intent and treated as a celebrity by the most powerful leaders of the country.Imprisoned four times or more, pilloried and reviled by his enemies, through it all he never lost confidence in his ability as a writer and thinker. Daniel Defoe: Master of Fictions is the first biography to view Defoe's complex life through the angle of vision that is most important to us as modern readers--his career as a writer. From his earliest collection of brief stories, which he presented to his future wife under the sobriquet Bellmour,to his Compleat English Gentleman, left unpublished at his death, Defoe was pre-eminently a creator of fictions. This life gives us, for the first time, a full understanding of the thought and personal experience that went into such great works as Crusoe, Moll Flanders, and Roxana.

Author Notes

Maximillian E. Novak is Professor of English Literature at the University of California, Los Angeles

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

The author of three previous books on Defoe and numerous other books and articles on 18th-century English literature, Novak (English, UCLA) here presents an in-depth examination of Defoe's life and times. He views Defoe mainly in terms of his development as a writer, so while he enumerates Defoe's family life and personal problems, he focuses on the religious, political, and social events in England that shaped him. This approach parallels Richard West's in Daniel Defoe (LJ 9/1/98), but unlike that shorter, more popular study, Novak's, with its 34-page bibliography, is a scholarly book. Though Novak often indulges in speculation about Defoe's life and writings, his assumptions are backed up by impressive research and a lifetime of studying the author. And though he greatly admires Defoe, he does not hesitate to point out the author's faults. Despite some repetitious passages, this is a definitive study of the novelist, journalist, and pamphlet writer, and it deserves to be in all larger public and college libraries. Morris A. Hounion, New York City Technical Coll. Lib., Brooklyn (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Novak's biography took years to write and the process included a failed collaboration with Paula Backscheider, who came out with her own biography, Daniel Defoe: His Life (CH, Jan'90). The result of Novak's effort is the most complete, single treatment of Defoe's voluminous writings to date. Novak (UCLA) relies heavily on Defoe's works to structure his book, and he avoids psychological projection into Defoe's character. Like many Defoe biographers before him, Novak portrays Defoe as an opportunist but he shows that Defoe's actions rarely strayed from his convictions on issues like Protestant succession, trade, and the laboring poor. Most of Defoe's writings were political, and he mastered the technique of flooding the press with pamphlets written in different voices in order to sway public opinion. Since Defoe did not discover his "new method" of writing fiction until late in life with the publication of Robinson Crusoe, Novak's discussion of Defoe's major fiction is brief in comparison with his detailed accounts of Defoe's participation in 18th-century politics. Defoe's interests were wide-ranging, and Novak shows the continuity of ideas and beliefs of this highly educated, prolific writer, who used his command of history and politics to both England's and his own advantage. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. A. T. Vaver Brandeis University

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. ix
List of Abbreviationsp. x
Introductionp. 1
1. After the Revolutionp. 11
2. The Education of a Dissenterp. 32
3. Meditating on Matters Spiritual and Secularp. 51
4. Marriage and Rebellionp. 73
5. Financial Woes and Recoveryp. 101
6. Propagandist for William IIIp. 120
7. The True-Born Englishman and Other Satiresp. 142
8. An Age of Plot and Deceit, of Contradiction and Paradoxp. 168
9. From Pilloried Libeller to Government Propagandistp. 189
10. 'Writing History Sheet by Sheet': Defoe, The Review, and The Stormp. 213
11. From Public Journalist to Lunar Philosopherp. 237
12. Defoe as Spy and Whig Propagandistp. 262
13. A 'True Spy' in Scotlandp. 289
14. In Limbo Between Causes and Mastersp. 313
15. Journalism and History in 'An Age of Mysteries and Paradoxes'p. 338
16. How to Sell Out While Keeping One's Integrity (Somewhat) Intact in That 'Lunatick Age'p. 360
17. These Dangerous Times: Or Wild Doings in This Worldp. 386
18. 'A Miserable Divided Nation'p. 411
19. A Change of Monarchs and the Whig's Revengep. 436
20. Times When Honest Men Must Reserve Themselves for Better Fortunesp. 464
21. Corrector General of the Press: A Digression on Defoe as a Journalistp. 490
22. The Year before Robinson Crusoe: Intellectual Controversies and Experiments in Fictionp. 513
23. Robinson Crusoe and the Variability of Lifep. 535
24. After Crusoe: Pirate Adventures, Military Memoirs and the South Sea Scandalp. 565
25. Creating Fictional Worldsp. 593
26. Describing Britain in the 1720sp. 624
27. Enter Henry Bakerp. 648
28. Last Productive Yearsp. 674
29. Sinking Under the Weight of Afflictionp. 695
Works Citedp. 707
Indexp. 741