(1660-1731) English writer, pamphleteer, merchant and occasional secret agent, born Daniel Foe, best-known for Robinson Crusoe (1719 2 vols; ot The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, of York and The Further Adventures of Robinson Crusoe), sometimes regarded as the first true English novel. DD's prolific output, begun circa 1691, consisted primarily of political commentary, which earned him both keen supporters and dangerous enemies. He was imprisoned in 1702-1703 for his views on government religious reform, and it was upon his release that he changed his name to Defoe and turned to writing for his living. Although he continued with political Satire and social observation, he drifted towards fiction, first with The Consolidator, or Memoirs of Sundry Transactions from the World of the Moon (1705), a form of proto Science Fiction, and then with A True Relation of the Apparition of One Mrs Veal, the Next Day After her Death, to One Mrs Bargrave, at Canterbury, the 8th of September 1705 (1706 chap), one of the earliest fictional Ghost Stories – though apparently based on a true incident. He wrote a similar piece of reportage about a butler's experiences with some mischievous Goblins in The Friendly Daemon, or The Generous Apparition (1726 chap; vt "The Devil Frolics with a Butler"). Anecdotes on hauntings and other manifestations are recounted in The Political History of the Devil (1726-1727 2 vols), A System of Magick, or A History of the Black Art (1727) and An Essay on the History and Reality of Apparitions (1727; vt The Secrets of the Invisible World Disclos'd, or An Universal History of Apparitions 1729). A compendium was compiled by Carl Withers as Tales of Piracy, Crimes and Ghosts (coll 1945 US). [MA]
other works: Life and Adventures of Mr Duncan Campbell (1720), concerning a mute conjurer (see Magicians); Captain Singleton (1720); Moll Flanders (1722); A Journal of the Plague Year (1722), which arguably influenced Albert Camus (1913-1960); The History of Peter the Great (1722); Colonel Jack (1722); Roxana (1724); Memoirs of a Cavalier (1724); A New Voyage Round the World (1724); many others.
further reading: Realism, Myth, and History in Defoe's Fiction (1983) by M E Novak; Daniel Defoe: A Life (1989) by Paula R Backscheider.