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Daniel Defoe

      Daniel Defoe, whose "Robinson Crusoe" remains, at the end of two centuries, the most popular work of fiction in a literature abounding in imaginative works of superlative excellence, was born in London in 1661. His father was plain Mr. Foe, a butcher, of St. Giles, Cripplegate. Though Defoe speaks gratefully and respectfully of his father, he implies here and there in his writings a pride of birth which probably did not induce him to talk freely of the parental calling. He must needs be of Norman extraction, and go back with the best of those whose family claims he sneers at; and that posterity might be in no doubt of the antiquity of his descent, he, at the age of about forty, changed the plain sturdy name of Foe into De Foe; but the accepted name is as it is spelt in this contribution.

      His father wished to make a Dissenting teacher of him, and sent him to Morton's Academy, in Newington Green. Morton thoroughly grounded him in knowledge of a practical and useful sort; and Defoe claimed for his preceptor's system of education that the pupils became masters of the English tongue. But language is a genius. No teacher could make a writer of a boy who was without the talent of words. In after years Defoe appears to have picked up several tongues, as may be judged by his challenge to John Tutchin, to translate with him any Latin, French, or Italian author for twenty pounds each book; one sees his proficiency also in the character he gives of himself in a paper in Appl...

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