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For Professor Robert Payson Creed,

who taught me classic literature could be fun.


Throughout history, it's been the nature of storytellers to make their tale fit the audience, no matter what the truth of that tale may be. Most people are horrified to read the unedited fairy tales that were popularized by the Brothers Grimm. Many college students are stunned by the action-packed tale of Beowulf printed in its true form as a long epic poem. Even the epics The Odyssey and The Iliad are dry on the page without a skilled translation.

In a like manner, when writing out the biography of Robinson Crusoe, budding writer and pamphleteer Daniel Defoe decided on several edits to the assembled journals and accounts that made up the manuscript. While there were numerous popular tales of shipwrecked mariners at the time, Crusoe's experiences were so singular and unnatural that they far outshone the tales of contemporary castaways such as Alexander Selkirk and Henry Pitman. Still, Defoe felt certain changes needed to be made if Crusoe's story were to receive any sort of audience (indeed, if it was even to see print).

Chief among these changes, alas, was a personal bias. Defoe, a Presbyterian dissenter who once debated becoming a minister, felt the need to include numerous passages on Christianity, faith, and devotion in the manuscript, contrary to Crusoe's well-documented dislike of organized religion (having been raised in England during the religiously-conflicted reign of Charles I, at a time shortly after the Spanish Inquisition had burned almost a dozen people for witchcraft in Europe). In an angry 1721 letter to Jonathan Swift, rebutting that author's latest criticism of Robinson Crusoe, Defoe justifies the excessive additions by the belief it was impossible for a man to spend so much time in isolation without turning to Jesus Christ in some regular form or another.

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