‘Robinson Crusoe’ at 300
Three hundred years ago today, Daniel Defoe published Robinson Crusoe. Or, rather, a book that purported to be written by Crusoe. The actual title of the first edition was:
The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, Of York, Mariner: Who lived Eight and Twenty Years, all alone in an un-inhabited Island on the Coast of America, near the Mouth of the Great River of Oroonoque; Having been cast on Shore by Shipwreck, wherein all the Men perished but himself. With An Account how he was at last as strangely deliver’d by Pyrates. Written by Himself.
Charles Boyle, marking the anniversary for The Guardian, argues that “Defoe infantilised [Crusoe]. Crusoe in turn can infantilise his readers.” Chris Moss, who travelled to Robinson Crusoe Island, off the coast of Chile, for Telegraph Travel, disagrees; in his view, the book “has a timeless power and the virtues it celebrates are universal”.