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1720. Du Fresnoy's poem, so highly esteemed upon the continent, had been translated into English prose by Dryden, and his version met with a corresponding approbation in England. Although no attempt had been made to turn it into English metre, yet the rejection of it by Dryden might have been sufficient to deter our author from so venturous an experiment. De Foe's ear was never attuned to music, he was therefore incapable of that nice discrimination which is requisite to produce harmony. Dryden had set before him the noble example of abandoning a vicious taste ; and Pope, who was now in the height of his popularity, had imparted a smoothness and perspicuity to his verse that procured the admiration of his contemporaries. With these models before him, it is surprising that De Foe could still take delight in his unmusical rhymes, for his present effort is even inferior to many of his former productions. It may be difficult to assign a motive for the publication, unless, as Mr Chalmers suggests, it was to gain a few guineas without much labour of the head or hand.
Towards the end of the same year, De Foe employed his pen upon & subject more congenial with his talents, and better adapted to purposes of usefulness. In a series of moral discourses, written by way of dialogue, he showed how competent he was to explain the real nature of religion, and to unfold its consolations. He entitled his work Christian Conversation : in six Dialogues. London : 1720.' “ The moralities of De Foe," observes Mr Chalmers, “whether published in single volumes, or interspersed through many passages, must at last give him a superiority over the crowd of his contemporaries." In this judgment, those who have perused his writings cannot but concur. Upon most of them a favourable verdict was pronounced by his contemporaries ; and they require only to be extensively known, to obtain for the author that meed of praise which is due to his meritorious exertions.
The misfortunes of De Foe, at a former period, had thrown him into circumstances I which subjected him to the sight of human nature in its lowest and most degraded forms. Whilst immured in prison, he was necessarily brought into contact with persons who were in a position to let him into those scenes of crime and misery of which his fertile genius knew how to avail itself in the publications we are about to notice. The various incidents in the eventful life of Moll Flanders, from the time of her seduction to that of ber becoming a convict and a quiet settler in Maryland, are those of real life, as exemplified by multitudes of individuals. The artless disposition of the narrative, the lively interest excited by unlooked for coincidences, the rich natural painting, the moral reflections, are all so many proofs of the knowledge and invention of the writer ; but the facts were furnished him by the annals of Newgate.
The dish which De Foe here served up to gratify the taste of the public, was certainly of somewhat coarser materials than ordinary, but adapted to amuse, and, by its moral, to benefit a numerous class of readers. It was entitled "The Fortunes and Misfortunes of Moll Flanders. London: 1721;' a novel of high interest, in spite of the very detestable character of the heroine. Mrs Flanders was certainly born in sin, and does justice to her parentage. The best parts are the account of her childhood, which is pretty and affecting; the fluctuations of her feelings between remorse and hardened impenitence in Newgate ; and the incident of her leading off the horse from the inn-door, though she had no place to put it in after she had stolen it. This was carrying the love of thieving to an ideal pitch, and making it perfectly disinterested and mechanical. The work has passed through many editions.
Next came “The History of the most remarkable Life and extraordinary Adventures of the truly Honourable Colonel Jaque, vulgarly called Colonel Jack. London: 1722;' a work excellent in its kind, which, if it contains much manner of low life, at the same time aspires to an elevation of character; whilst the painting is that of nature, and the tendency strictly virtuous. There is, in truth, but little that can associate it in character
with Moll Flanders ; for, if there is a correspondency in some of their actions, the principle that actuated them was widely different, and our hero appears, through the greater part of the volume, a personage entitled to some respect.
It was the fortune of De Foe, that the circumstances of his life, concurring with the bent of his genius, enabled him to study human nature in all its gradations, from the prince to the peasant; and in accommodation to the variety of tastes, he adapted his food to the appetite of the persons for whom he provided. In the stories hitherto noticed he adıninistered moral instruction to the lower orders in the shape most accessible to their capacities. In some of those about to be mentioned he brings us into better company, and whilst his story rises in character it loses none of its interest.
It was probably about this period (for there is no date to the first edition of the work) that he published the Memoirs of a Cavalier ; or, a Military Journal of the Wars in Germany and the Wars in England, from the year 1632 to the year 1648, &c. London. The second edition of the work, also without a date, was printed at Leeds. These memoirs are composed with a spirit and vivacity that keep alive the reader's attention, while he is charmed with the extreme simplicity of the narrative. The cavalier's account of the civil wars is distinguished by great candour and fairness ; not concealing the errors of his own party, whilst he does justice to the bravery and good conduct of his enemies. The work is said to have been a favourite with the great Lord Chatham, who long considered it an authentic history, and was in the habit of recommending it as the best account of the Civil Wars extant; nor was he a little mortified when told that it was only a romance. It is, indeed, a romance the likest to truth that ever was written. As a narrative of important events, containing a correct picture of the times, and enlivened by many just observations, it will always be read with a keen interest by those who may wish to occupy a spare hour in amusement combined with instruction.
A subject so uninviting as that of the plague is one of the last from which we might expect pleasure in the contemplation. Yet De Foe has founded upon it one of the finest of his productions; one that can never be read without the deepest interest, and which will continue to be read as long as the memory of that awful event shall remain upon record. It is written with all the characteristic traits of the author's genius, intenso reality, excessive minuteness, rich natural pathos, and exquisite moral feeling. Whilst it is impossible to read his description without the keenest sensations of sorrow, the attention is rivetted by the constant succession of incidents that crowd upon the scene.
It was one of the felicities of De Foe to select such subjects for his pen as would be of permanent interest ; and such are all those pictures of life and manners that carry us back to former days, in the delineation of which he so greatly excelled. Nothing in the world is finer than the impression of the old city of London, before the fire, which one gathers from his History of the Plague. Throughout the whole of that most striking narrative his mind is visibly haunted with the idea, how princely was the desolation of her grass-grown streets-how awful the silence of her deserted palaces, and the fatal calmness of her shipless river. In this affecting narrativc he has contrived to mix up so much that is authentic with the fabrications of his own brain, that it is impossible to distinguish the one from the other; and he has given to the whole such a likeness to the drcadful original, as to confound the sceptic, and encircle him in his enchantments. No one can take up the book without believing that it is the saddler of Whitechapel who is telling his own story; and that he was an eye-witness to all that he relates ; that he actually saw the blazing stars which portended the calamity; that he witnessed the grass growing in the streets, reading the inscriptions upon the doors of the infected houses, heard the bell-men crying, “ Bring out your dead !” saw the dead-carts conveying the people to their graves, and was present at the digging of the pits in which they were deposited. In this, indeed, consists the charm of the narrative. It is not merely a record of the transactions that happened during the calamity, nor even of private circumstances that would escape the public eye ; it is rather the familiar recital of a man's own observations upon all that passed before him, possessing all the minuteness of a log-Book, without its dulness. The advantage derived from this mode of telling the story is, that it prepossesses the reader in a full belief of its reality. When a man sits down to record the events that happened in any given year, and crowds it with incidents, many of which are known to be true, we do not hesitate to give him credit for the remainder; and this more especially when he tells us that he was upon the spot when such a thing happened, that he saw and spoke with the persons he describes, and relates the substance of the conversation. With the same unhesitating confidence we take up the book before us. It is not the journal of a third party ; there is not even the formality of a preface ; but we open it, and come in contact at once with the author, who sees and hears all that he writes, and tells us so in the first person.
By adopting this familiar method of treating his subject, it cannot be doubted that De Foe secured to himself many advantages which he could not have hoped for in a formal history. Thus, whilst detailing incidents of importance, he will sometimes introduce a story, apparently trilling in itself, and by no means necessary to his main design ; but merely to show that he is willing to keep back nothing, or rather must communicate everything in the exact way that it happened. But however trivial his incidents, or common-place his mode of relating them, they possess a secret charm that keeps the mind upon the full stretch, and gains it over to an unhesitating confidence in the relation. No one thinks of skipping over a single particle of his narrative, nor of exchanging for other words the homely language of the writer. In truth, the circumstantiality of De Foe never wearies ; it rather adds to that intense consciousness of reality that hovers over every page of his writings. His · History of the Plague' is one of those books in which he has carried his art to the greatest perfection. So faithful is the portrait of that distressing calamity, so entire its accordance with what has been delivered by other writers, so probable the circumstances of all the stories, and so artless the style in which they are delivered, that it would baffle the ingenuity of any one but De Foe to frame a history with so many attributes of truth upon the basis of fiction, though, indeed, the only fiction may be said to be that which represents it as the result of personal observation. It is no wonder that a work so gravely written should have deceived Dr Mead, who quoted it as an authentic history in his Treatise upon the Plague.
The propriety of such an alliance between history and fiction, more especially when 50 managed as to impose upon the most wary reader, has been called in question, but who would sacrifice the “Memoirs of a Cavalier,' or the Journal of the Plague Year,' to be disenchanted of so pleasing a delusion? De Foe well knew that a dry detail of circumstances collected from the Bills of Mortality and the pamphlets of the day would interest none but an antiquarian, the subject, thus treated, being of too repulsive a nature to invite general attention. By personating a citizen of London, who lived in the midst of the contagion, and was a spectator of the scenes he describes, he not only secured credit for his narrative, but was enabled to enliven it with numerous stories of probable occurrence, and with picturesque descriptions of the agitated feelings of the people. These, with the moral reflections which would naturally occur to persons in so distressing a situation, combine to render a story, in itself forbidding, highly attractive. His work bears the following title: 'A Journal of the Plague Year : being Observations or Memorials of the most remarkable Occurrences, as well public as private, which happened in London during the last great Visitation in 1665. London: 1722.' Of this volume numerous editions have appeared.
With a mind ardently devoted to the iniprovement of his fellow men, and energies
that seemed incapable of exhaustion, De Foe continued to instruct the world by his moralities, whilst he amused it with his fictions. The same year that produced some of the foregoing publications gave birth to a work that is composed with his characteristic talent, and distinguished as well for its utility as for its genius, for the importance of the story as for skill in its management. There are few books better known in the middle classes of society than the ‘Religious Courtship, and few that are more deserving of general perusal. To those who have been trained to religious habits it needs no formal recommendation; whilst others, who have yet to learn their value, may be amused by an interesting story, at the same time that they are instructed by the moral. Much of it is a faithful picture of manners in the upper classes of life. The work that lays claim to such regard bears the following title : ‘Religious Courtship : being Historical Discourses on the Necessity of Marrying Religious Husbands and Wives only. As also, of Husbands and Wives being of the same Opinions in Religion with one another. London : 1722 8vo. As the work was brought early into general notice, so its wellestablished popularity procured for it a constant sale and a widely extended circulation. This favourable decision of the public is the highest testimony of its merits ; for, notwithstanding other and more modern treatises upon the subject, it still maintains its ground, and will secure for its author a lasting fanie, independently of his other works.
In discussing a subject of so much importance to young persons of both sexes, and one that required to be handled with great nicety, De Foe was well aware that precept would be of less weight than example; that whilst the world refused to be instructed by a didactic treatise, it might be disposed to listen to a familiar story. He therefore chose to convey his ideas in this more inviting form, that, by raising the curiosity of the reader, he might the more effectually fix him with the moral. Historical dialogues, when written with spirit, are particularly acceptable to the humbler classes, and to young people in general, who make themselves parties to the conversation, and can fix the subject with a slight effort on their memories. The familiar style of the present work, its deep acquaintance with human nature, and the exquisite moral feeling that pervades every page, render it peculiarly adapted to infuse instruction into the young and uninformed, and to leave an abiding impression upon the heart.
The year 1724 gave birth to another romance by our author, which, for originality of invention, for accuracy of painting, and for utility of purpose, was not exceeded by any of the former. It is entitled, “The Fortunate Mistress ; or, a History of the vast Variety of Fortunes of Mademoiselle de Beleau, being the Person known by the Name of the Lady Roxana. London : 1724.' Roxana is a lady of pleasure, like Moll Flanders, but soaring a higher flight, instead of grovelling almost always in the mire of poverty and distress. Still, like Mistress Flanders, she has neither refinement nor a heart ; we are only dazzled with the outward ostentation of jewels, finery, and wealth. The scene where she dances in her Turkish dress before the King, and obtains the name of Roxana, is of the true romantic cast.
De Foe's next appearance in print was as a tourist, a character which he fills in a most agreeable manner. He was not one of those fire-side travellers who describe countries they have never seen, and deal out the labours of others at second-hand. In the former part of his life he had repeatedly traversed, whether for business or pleasure, most of the counties of England and the south part of Scotland ; and in his relation of what he saw he neglects nothing that is worthy of observation to the philosopher, the historian, or the antiquary. His narrative abounds in anecdotes of local customs, distinguished families, and remarkable events, which are rendered welcome to the reader by their intrinsic interest, or by the happy manner in which they are related. Although nothing material escapes him, either in the works of nature or the productions of art, that is worthy of notice, yet his principal business is with the people, whose customs, habits, and character, in all their varieties, are pourtrayed with great felicity of description. Those who are desirous of a pleasant ramble in search of national manners at the period referred to, may be amply gratified by accompanying our author, whose volumes, notwithstanding more modern publications upon the subject, will always possess a sufficient charm to beguile the attention and please by their variety.
The first of these excursions was given to the public in 1724, under the title of “A Tour through the whole Island of Great Britain, divided into Circuits or Journies, giving a particular and diverting Account of whatever is curious and worth Observation. 1724.' 8vo. This volume includes · A Diary of the Siege and Blockade of Colchester, An. 1648.' The favourable reception of this volume encouraged the author to follow it by a second in the next year, with a similar title ; and a third volume, embracing the North of England and the South of Scotland, and completing the work, was added in 1727. The useful information contained in these volumes is conveyed in the familiar form of letters, and the work was for a long time a standing favourite with the public. The subsequent editions, published in four volumes, bearing the name of the celebrated Richardson as editor, vary so greatly in every respect from De Foe's work, as to be no longer worthy of his name.
The versatility of our author's talents furnished him with topics as various in their nature as they were useful in their design; whilst his desire for reformation led him to select those that came recommended by their importance or their urgency. In the same year that produced Roxana'he addressed another class of the community upon some escesses which he had glanced at before in his . Religious Courtship,' and which were of so notorious a character as to induce him to lay them open in a distinct treatise, entitled
The Great Law of Subordination considered ; or, the Insolence and Unsufferable Behaviour of Servants in England duly inquired into, &c. London : 1724,' However unpromising his subject, De Foe has contrived to make a most entertaining book of it. The numerous stories with which it abounds not only give a spur to the reading, but are strongly indicative of character and manners in those classes of society to which they refer. It does not appear that there was ever more than one edition of the work.
The abuses unfolded by our author in the foregoing treatise calling loudly for redress, he returned to the subject in a pamphlet published in the following year, in which he resumed some topics that he had before handled but slightly. His work is entitled “ Everybody's Business is Nobody's Business ; or, Private Abuses, Public Grievances. Exemplified in the Pride, Insolence, and exorbitant Wages of our Women Servants, Footmen, &c. London : 1725.' This is the first of a series of works which he wrote under the assumed name of Andrew Moreton.
In the course of 1725 De Foe presented the world with a fresh proof of his skill in nautical affairs, in a work replete with interest, and no less ingenious in the contrivance than amusing in its details. He entitled it, 'A New Voyage round the World, by a course never sailed before. 1725. 8vo. Although many voyages of equal extent had been performed by our countrymen, yet their published accounts, contain but little to amuse or instruct the reader, consisting chiefly of dry details extracted from their journals, and these mostly of a professional nature. Our author possessed the happy talent of rendering his voyages attractive by the variety of the incidents, and by the felicity with which he related them; and he is no less happy in making them a vehicle for insinuating instruction. From those who have explored newly discovered countries, we naturally look for information concerning the character, habits, and customs of the people, the productions of the soil, and whatever may be interesting to the philosopher and the historian. But it was the misfortune of our early navigators to be generally men of confined education, who were in the pursuit of wealth rather than of information, so that their adventures correspond more with those of a buccaneer than with anything of a civilized description,