Before Crusoe: Defoe, Voice, and the Ministry
Showcasing Defoe’s early canon in relation to contemporary popular religious writing and a burgeoning print culture, this book offers new perspective on the 1719 literary watershed that was Robinson Crusoe. At a time when the clergy dominated the ranks of popular authorship, Defoe established a form of moral authority for the ‘voices’ articulating his works which made absolutely clear they were anything but ministers. It is Defoe’s profoundly ambivalent relationship with his own London-based nonconformist background, as well as the changing popular status of ministerial authority as a whole, which enabled his crafting of myriad anonymised ‘voices’ throughout his canon. Defoe emulates – and sometimes mimics - the rhetorical and moral postures of that most influential cohort of contemporary authority figures, the clergy, even while distancing himself from them. How and why he does so, as well as the cultural precedence, stylistics, and popular status of contemporary ministers, are considered in detail in this investigation.