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Other Fiction

The success of Robinson Crusoe spurred Defoe on to write more adventure stories, and over the next five years, inspired certainly by the recent upsurge in crime in England and of piracy on the seas, Defoe wrote novels whose protagonists were often faced not with the challenges of living on an uninhabited island like Crusoe but of living on the inhabited island of Great Britain, with all its crime, poverty and social stratification.

Captain Singleton Title Page
The Life, Adventures, and Pyracies, of the Famous Captain Singleton: Containing an Account of his being set on Shore in the Island of Madagascar, his Settlement there, with a Description of the Place and Inhabitants: of his Passage from thence, in a Paraguay, to the Main Land of Africa, with an Account of the Customs and Manners of the People: his Great Deliverances from the Barbarous Natives and Wild Beasts: of his Meeting with an Englishman, a Citizen of London, among the Indians, the Great Riches he Acquired, and his Voyage Home to England: as also Captain Singleton’s return to Sea, with an Account of his many Adventures and Pyracies with the Famous Captain Avery and others.London: Printed for J. Brotherton, at the Black Bull in Cornhill, J. Graves in St. James’s Street, A. Dodd, at the Peacock without Temple-bar, and T. Warner, at the Black Boy in Pater-Noster-Row. 1720.

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A year after Robinson Crusoe was first published, Defoe wrote The Life, Adventures, and Pyracies of the Famous Captain Singleton. This time, the protagonist is stranded on Madagascar for his part in a mutiny, along with his fellow mutineers. After walking the width of Africa, Singleton becomes a pirate and sails all over the southern hemisphere. Eventually Singleton’s Quaker friend, William Walters, convinces him to give up pirating as being immoral, and they settle in England, where Singleton marries Walters’s sister.

Moll Flanders Title Page
The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders, &c. Who was Born in Newgate, and during a Life of continu’d Variety for Threescore Years, besides her Childhood, was Twelve Year a Whore, five times a Wife (whereof once to her own Brother) Twelve Year a Thief, Eight Year a Transported Felon in Virginia, at last grew Rich, liv’d Honest, and died a Penitent, Written from her own Memorandums. London: Printed for, and Sold by W. Chetwood, at Cato’s-Head, in Russel-Street, Covent-Garden; and T. Edling, at the Prince’s-Arms, over-against Exerter-Change in the Strand. MDDCXXI [for 1722].

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As with all of Defoe’s novels, Moll Flanders is written in the first person, as if it were a true account of the life of a most colorful woman. Like Robinson Crusoe and Captain Singleton, it is a tale of survival, but this time the hero is a woman, battling not the wild country of foreign lands but London society itself. She turns to crime (as prostitute and pickpocket rather than pirate, as did Singleton), but eventually grows rich and settles down with the one man she really ever loved, repentant of the wickedness of her former life.

Journal of the Plague Year Title Page
A Journal of the Plague Year: being Observations or Memorials, of the most Remarkable Occurrences, as well Publick as Private, which happened in London during the last Great Visitation in 1665. Written by a Citizen who continued all the while in London. Never made publick before. London: Printed for E. Nutt at the Royal-Exchange; J. Roberts in Warwick-Lane; A. Dodd without Temple-Bar; and J. Graves in St. James’s-street. 1722.

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While similar to his other fiction works insofar as it is written as a first-person account of actual events, Journal of the Plague Year is quite different in subject. The narrator describes scenes not of adventure and action but of death and despair. The timing of the work was apropos, as it was written and published during the Great Plague of Marseille, which had begun in 1720 and by 1722 had wiped out 40% of its population. The narrator’s commentary on how the government behaved during the plague, the cooperation of Dissenters and churchmen, and the critique of policies such as quarantining any affected houses can be read as cautions and suggestions for how England should behave if the current plague were to cross the channel.

Colonel Jack Title Page
The History and Remarkable Life of the truly Honourable Colonel Jaque, vulgarly call'd Colonel Jack; Who was Born a Gentleman, put 'Prentice to a Pick-pocket, flourish’d Six and Twenty Years as a Thief, and was then Kidnapp’d to Virginia: Came back a Merchant, was Five Times married to Four Whores, went into the Wars, behav’d bravely, got Preferment, was made Colonel of a Regiment, return’d again to England, follow’d the Fortunes of the Chevalier de St. George, is now Abroad compleating a Life of Wonders, and resolves to die a General. London: Printed, and Sold by J. Brotherton at the Royal-Exchange; T. Payne near Stationer’s-Hall; W. Mears at the Lamb without Temple-Bar; J. Graves in St. James’s-Street; S. Chapman in Pall-Mall; and J. Stagg at Westminster-Hall. 1724.

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Jack’s early life begins in crime, as with Moll Flanders, but after being kidnapped and sent to Virginia as a slave laborer, his budding abilities as a manager and his belated education lead him to desire to return to England as a gentleman. Things still don’t go smoothly for him, however, as he marries and is cuckolded by four different women and has the misfortune to get involved in the Jacobite uprising of 1715 as well as illegal trading with the Spanish colonies. Eventually he retires to Florida and writes his memoirs.

This is the third long work of fiction Defoe published in 1722 alone, and that in addition to a full-length work on religious courtship.

The Fortunate Mistress Title Page
The Fortunate Mistress: or, a History of the Life and Vast Variety of Fortunes of Mademoiselle de Beleau, afterwards call'd the Countess de Wintselsheim, in Germany. Being the Person known by the Name of the Lady Roxana, in the Time of King Charles II. London: Printed for T. Warner at the Black-Boy in Pater-Noster-Row; W. Meadows at the Angel in Cornhil; W. Pepper at the Crown in Maiden-Lane, Covent-Garden; S. Harding at the Post-House in St. Martin’s-Lane; and T. Ellin at the Prince’s-Arms against Exeter-Exchange in the Strand. 1724.

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The Fortunate Mistress, commonly known simply as Roxana, tells the story of the beautiful daughter of French Huguenot refugees who is forced, when her husband goes bankrupt and abandons her and her five children, to use her one asset—her beauty—to survive in the world. She contrives to get rid of her five children and becomes the mistress of her landlord, who has also been abandoned by his wife. Through the rest of her life, though she recriminates herself for her actions—for her abandonment of her children and her many acts of adultery—she cries out for understanding, since she consented to these crimes only out of desperate poverty.

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