Robinson Crusoe

Alexander Selkirk never felt quite at home in his village in Lower Largo, Fife, Scotland. Dreaming of an escape, he convinced successful buccaneer William Dampier to take him on the next expedition. He got as far as South America before asking to be dropped off on the nearest inhabitable island, in fears the captain would soon lead his ship to the bottom of the ocean. Selkirk was left alone for four years, with only a small amount of supplies, some tobacco and a bible. Upon his rescue he became the subject of several contemporary stories of his ordeal, very likely including one by Daniel Defoe.

On this day, April 25, in 1719 Defoe published The Life and Strange Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, about a shipwrecked sailor who spent 28 years years alone on a desert isle.

Defoe is best known today for the book, but in his time we was also a successful, if controversial, pamphleteer. An early publication of his mocking the clergy got him arrested and thrown in jail for a while. Defoe was rescued by his friend the First Earl of Oxford, who commissioned Defoe to write and edit a political newspaper espousing the Earl’s own views. Defoe was past retirement age when he first took up fiction, and 60 years old when Robinson Crusoe came out.