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Daniel Defoe


Famous People from London - Daniel Defoe



Daniel Defoe, famous English writer, trader and a journalist was born in London in 1660. He is best known for his novel “Robinson Crusoe” which is still taught in many schools as part of their literature syllabus. Daniel has more than 500 more books to his credit which cover a variety of subjects including religion, marriage, psychology, counselling and crime. He also has done considerable work in economic journalism. His real name is Daniel Foe. “De” to his name was added from the family of De Beau Fox. The exact date and place of his birth is unknown.

His father James Foe was a rich man. During his early childhood Daniel Defoe experienced some of the most unusual things around him. This includes the great plague of London and the great fire of London that left only two houses standing including Defoe’s. Defoe observed that the rubbish clearance in London resulting from the fire reduced the incidence of the plague. Daniel was only 7 years old when he witnessed a Dutch fleet sailing up River Thames and attacking Chatham. Later on when he was 10 his mother died. All these incidents left a great impact on Daniel and what he became and did later on was actually a result of his early childhood and incidents that  took place during this time. Daniel got his early education from a dissenting academy in Newington Green in East London and it is believed that he started attending the Church there. The Daniel Defoe Pub in Stoke Newington bears testament to the place where the author had his early education.


Although intended for the Presbyterian ministry, Defoe decided against this and by 1683 had set up as a merchant. He dealt in many commodities, traveled widely at home and abroad, and became an acute and intelligent economic theorist, in many respects ahead of his time; but misfortune, in one form or another, dogged him continually. England was not at all like what it is today. Religious point of views and beliefs were not respected. Roman Catholics were hated and dissenters were oppressed and crushed. Due to all the religious drama surrounding him, his writing reflects and covers some of the negative aspects of religion.

Daniel entered the business market as a general merchant dealing in hosiery, wine and woollen items. He always had high ambitions and big dreams; however he continued to face problems with his business and was always badly in debt. In the year 1684 he married a daughter of another wealthy merchant and received a dowry of 3700 pounds which was quiet a large amount at that time. There was a lavish reception and a great wedding magician. This marriage lasted for more than 50 years and his wife gave birth to 8 children during this time. Daniel Defoe never got completely out of crisis and was arrested for debts of around 700 pounds. It is believed that he had debts in actual of 17000 pounds which he was able to hide due to his cunning nature. He enlisted the advice of a civil litigation solictor in North London. After his release he travelled to Europe and settled there for few years. It was at this time that he started his wine business which was comparatively more successful than all his previous forms of business. He got back to England where he started a brick factory for the builders industry.


Daniel Defoe became a writer with his first notable publication “An essay on projects” which covered areas of improvement in social and economic field. His other famous publication includes, the shortest way with the dissenters, A journal of the plague year, Colonel Jack, Memoirs of a cavalier etc. One of the most versatile English writers, Daniel Defoe died on 24th April 1731.