inflammatory works The Shortest Way with Dissenters was written in the following year. In this satire, Defoe takes the part of a High Church spokesman, parodying phrases which had been published over the previous fifteen years to denounce Dissenters. The initial reaction to the pamphlet showed his skill at taking on a persona, in this case one that speaks of Dissenters as villains and traitors. Backscheider notes that the pamphlet led to Anglicans being treated in the same manner as Dissenters had been, "it stirred up the common people to that degree that the clergy were insulted in the streets and on the highways, and were in danger of being mobbed all over the nation" (Daniel Defoe: His Life p.99). Not everyone was so gullible and the House of Commons raised a complaint that the pamphlet, "promot[ed] sedition". It was ordered that the work should be burned; Defoe was eventually arrested in May and questioned for three days before being sent to Newgate. In November, Defoe was released with four men standing as sureties for his keeping the peace. His fines and fees which were due to Newgate were paid, indirectly, through secret service money, authorised by Robert Harley and Godolphin, with the consent of Queen Anne.
Defoe's publications continued, but at the same time he was writing to Harley, looking for a way to be of service to the government, finding out what he was required to do for the favour that had been granted him. In 1704 there appeared Defoe's first imaginative works, which include The Storm, a work pretending an eye-witness account of the great storm of November 1703, looking at the effect of the event upon human behaviour and at the idea of providence being enacted through a natural disaster.
Between 1703-1713 Defoe wrote and edited The Review, a pro-government newspaper, and in 1704 the chance to serve Harley arose. Defoe travelled and gathered information on various political factions, infiltrating groups and gaining the trust of influential leaders. Despite monetary remuneration for his writings, Defoe was still troubled by debt and it was political influence that kept him out of jail. In 1705, Defoe was situated in Scotland, using contacts at the Church of Scotland in order to support the parliamentary union of Scotland and England, an aim achieved in 1707.
Debt and political writings continued to be reasons for Defoe's arrest, but influence from government allowed his freedom. 1714 saw both the accession of George I and the fall from power of Harley and in 1715, The Family Instructor, a conduct manual was published. Between the years of 1719 and 1724, Defoe's best known works, the novels, were written. The Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1719) may be the most famous of these, but it would be wrong to ignore the sequel which was published in 1720, Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe or the essays of the third part, Serious Reflections on the Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1720). The novels about criminals -
Moll Flanders in 1722 and Roxana (The Fortunate Mistress) in 1724 - and the examination of providence in the form of a warning - A Journal of the Plague Year (1722) - should be given as much time as the more famous Robinson Crusoe for their comments upon contemporary literature and events, as well as their examination of providence: God manifested in the physical world. Defoe also wrote Captain Singleton (1720) and Colonel Jack (1722). Towards the end of his life, Defoe remained as prolific as ever, producing the first volume of A Tour thro the Whole Isle of Great Britain in 1724, The Complete English Tradesman in 1725, The Political History of the Devil in 1726, and a tract against "matrimonial whoredom," Conjugal Lewdness, in 1727. At one point, it was thought that Defoe had written in excess of 500 works by the time he died in April 1731, although Furbank and Owen's work has proved the canon to be rather smaller.
Nonetheless, Defoe was a prolific writer and it is perhaps this that has led to the overstating of his haste in writing and the idea that Defoe was less concerned with artistry and the whole than the minutia of each episode within his fictions. Defoe's writing is characterised by a sharpness of detail and a wit that surpassed many of his contemporaries. His fictional works, especially the novels, combine the realism of journalism and the satirical take on current affairs with a propensity for role-play that lends a far greater interest in character and identity to his writing than shown in any contemporary fiction.
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