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Scotch mariner, who having lived solitarily on the isle of Juan Fernandez, four years and four months, was relieved on the ad of February, 1708-9, by Captain Woodes Rogers, in his cruizing voyage round the world. But let no one draw inferences till the fact be first ascertained. The adventures of Selkirk had been thrown into the air, in 1712, for literary hawks to devour*; and De Foe may have catched a
* The whole story of Selkirk is told in Woodes Rogers’s voyage, which he published in 1712, from p. 125 to 131, inclusive : whence it appears, that Selkirk had preserved no pen, ink, or paper, and had lost his language; so that he had no journal or papers, which he could communicate, or by others could be stolen. There is an account of Selkirk in The Englishman, No. 26. The particular manner how Alexander Selkirk lived four years and four months, in the isle of Juan Fernandez, is related in Captain Cook's voyage into the South Sea, which was published in 1912. And Selkirk's tale was told in the Memoirs of Literature, 5. vol. p. 118: so that the world was fully poffeffed of Selkirk's story in 1712, seven years prior to the publication of Crusoe's adventures. Nor were his adventures fingular; for, Ringrose mentions, in his account of Captain Sharp's voyage, a person who had escaped singly from a ship that had been wrecked on Juan Fernandez, and who lived alone five years before he was relieved: And Dampier meations a Mosquito Indian, who having been accidentally left on this island, fubfifted three years folitarily, till that voyager carried him off. From which of these De Foe borrowed his
great incident, it is not easy to discover. In the preface to The Serious Reflections, he indeed says, 6 That there is a man alive and well known, the actions of whose life are the just subject of these volumes, and to whom the most part of the story directly alludes.” This turns the scale in favour of Selkirk. Nor, was the name of Crusoe wholly fictitious; for, among De Foe's contemporaries, John Danton speaksof Timothy Crusoe, who was called the Golden Preacher, and was so great a textuary, that he could pray two hours together in fcripture language; but, he was not arrived at perfection; as appeared by his sloth in tying the conjugal knot : yet, his repentance was fincere and public, and I fear not but he is now a glorified faint in heaven. -Life and Errors, p. 461.
common prey, which he converted to the uses of his intellect, and distributed for the purposes of his interest. Thus he may have fairly acquired the fundamental incident of Crusoe's life ; but, he did not borrow the various events, the useful moralities, or the engaging style. Few men could write such a poem; and few Selkirks could imitate so pathetic an original. It was the happiness of De Foe, that as many writers have succeeded in relating enterprises by land, he excelled in narrating adventures by fea, with such felicities of language, such attractive varieties, such infinuative instruction, as have seldom been equalled, but never surpassed.
While De Foe in this manner bufied himself in writing adventures, which have charmed every reader, a rhyming fit returned on him. He published in 1720, The complete Art of Painting, which he did into English from the French of Du Fresnoy. Dryden had given, in 1695, a translation of Du Fresnoy's poem, which has been esteemed for its knowledge of the fifter arts. What could tempt De Foe to this undertaking it is not easy to discover, unless we may suppose, that he hoped to gain a few guineas, without much labour of the head or hand. Dryden has been justly praised for relinquishing vicious habits of composition, and adopting better models for his muse. De Foe, after he had seen the correctness, and heard the music of Pope, remained unambitious of accurate rhymes, and regardless of fweeter numbers. His politics and his poetry, for which he was long famous among biographers, would not have preserved his name beyond the fleeting day; yet I suspect that, in imitation of Milton, he would have preferred his Jure Divino to his Robin. son Crusoe.
De Foe lived not then, however, in pecuniary, distress; for his genius and his industry were to him the mines of Potosi: and in 1722, he obtained from the Corporation of Colchester, though my inquiries have not discovered by what interposition, a ninetynine years lease of Kingswood-heath, at a yearly rent of a hundred and twenty pounds, with a fine of five hundred pounds *. This transaction seems to evince a degree of wealth much above want, though the assignment of his lease not long after to Walter Bernard equally proves, that he could not easily hold what he had thus obtained. Kingswood-heath is now worth three hundred pounds a year, and is advertised for sale by Bennet, the present poffeffor.
Whatever may have been his opulence, our Author did not waste his subsequent life in unprofitable idleness. No one can be idly employed who endeavours to make his fellow subjects better citizens and wiser men. This will sufficiently appear if we consider his future labours, under the distinct heads of voyages ; fictitious biography; moralities, either grave or ludicrous; domestic travels; and tracts on trade.
The success of Crusoe induced De Foe to publish, in 1720, The Life and Piracies of Captain Singleton, though not with similar success: The plan is narrower, and the performance is less amusive. In
efs amusive. In 1725, he gave A New Voyage round the World, by a Course never failed before. Most voyagers have had this misfortune, that whatever success they had in the adventure, they had very little in the narration: they are indeed full of the incidents of failing, but they have
Morant's Colchester, p. 134.
nothing of story for the use of readers who never intend to brave the dangers of the sea. These faults De Foe is studious to avoid in his new voyage. He spreads before his readers such adventures as no writer of a real voyage can hope to imitate, if we except the teller of Anson's tale. In the life of Crusoe we are gratified by continually imagining that the fiction is a fact: in the voyage round the world we are pleased by constantly perceiving that the fact is a fiction, which, by uncommon skill, is made more interesting than a genuine voyage.
Of fictitious biography it is equally true, that by matchless art it may be made more instructive than a real life. Few of our writers have excelled De Foe in this kind of biographical narration, the great qualities of which are, to attract by the diverfity of circumstances, and to instruct by the useful, ness of examples.
He published, in 1720, the History of Duncan Campbell. Of a person who was born deaf and dumb, but who himself taught the deaf and dumb to understand, it is easy to see that the life would be extraordinary. It will be found, that the Author has intermixed some disquiations of learning, and has contrived that the merriest passages shall end with some edifying moral. The fortunes and misfortunes of Moll Flanders were made to gratify the world in 1721. De Foe was aware, that in relating a vicious life, it was necessary to make the best use of a bad story; and he artfully endeavours, that the reader shall be more pleased with the moral than the fable; with the application than the relation ; with the end of the writer than the adventures of the person. There was published in 1721, a work
of a similar tendency, the Life of Colonel Jack, who was born a gentleman but was bred a pickpocket.Our Author is ftudious to convert his various adventures into a delightful field, where the reader might gather herbs, wholesome and medicinal, without the incommodation of plants, poisonous, or noxious. In 1724, appeared the Life of Roxana. Scenes of crimes can scarcely be represented in such a manner, says De Foe, but some make a criminal use of them; but when vice is painted in its low-prized colours, it is not to make people love what from the frightfulness of the figures they ought necessarily to hate. Yet, I am not convinced, that the world has been made much wiser, or better, by the perusal of these lives : they may have diverted the lower orders, but I doubt if they have much improved them; if however they have not made them better, they have not left them worse. But they do not exhibit many scenes which are welcome to cultivated minds. Of a very different quality are the Memoirs of a Cavalier, during the Civil Wars in England, which seem to have been published without a date. This is a romance the likest to truth that ever was writ
It is a narrative of great events, which is drawn with such fimplicity, and enlivened with such reflections, as to inform the ignorant and entertain the wise.
The moralities of De Foe, whether published in single volumes, or interspersed through many passages, must at last give him a superiority over the crowd of his contemporaries.
The approbation which has been long given to his Family Instructor and his Religious Courtship, seem to contain the favourable decision of his countrymen. But there are still