Defoe's Britain

978-1-58731-205-2; 978-1-58731-206-9; 978-1-58731-207-6
Forthcoming Books
Paperback $24.00; ebook $24.00; Hardback $90.00
260 pages, 6" x 9"

Buy Now

Defoe's Britain

Black, Jeremy

"This book fits into a sequence of books I have written in which writers are used to throw light on their times, and vice versa, a sequence beginning with Fleming, Shakespeare and Austen, and continuing with Dickens, Christie, Doyle, Fielding, Smollett and the Gothic novelists. I have found the approach a fascinating one, not least in leading me to re-read much from earlier years. […]

This study is not a biography, in whole or part, of Defoe. […] Instead of biography, we have here a study of Britain in the Age of Defoe, a work intended to throw light on his life and to benefit from a close reading of his works, but also to stand on its own separate to an engagement with the author himself. The range of Defoe’s interest and the extent of his writings would make the latter a different task, as indeed any attempt to offer an easy coherence to personality, career and works. Yet, Defoe can be approached as a traveller, both literally so, and in his interests and imagination. […]

 In his range of interests, vigorous engagement with life and issues, often polemical content and style, and willingness to engage with low life, Defoe prefigures Tobias Smollett, another writer covered in this series and, to a lesser extent, Henry Fielding, who can be more ‘polite.’ Defoe was an outsider, as Smollett was to be, but as Fielding certainly was not.

‘One whose business is observation,’ Defoe’s description of himself in his Tour thro’ the Whole Island of Great Britain (1724–6), captured, however, a pose as well as a reality, for he had values aplenty to offer. As a writer, Defoe brought together a reality usually presented as, and endorsed by, history, with the imaginative focus of storytelling, and the direction of, variously, propaganda, analysis, and exemplary tale."


––Taken from the Preface