Home  »  Volume IX: English FROM STEELE AND ADDISON TO POPE AND SWIFT  »  § 13. The True-Born Englishman

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IX. From Steele and Addison to Pope and Swift.

I. Defoe—The Newspaper and the Novel

§ 13. The True-Born Englishman

“The Author of The True-Born Englishman, as Defoe for many years delighted to style himself, did not rest on his laurels as a writer during the short period before the death of his hero William. He published numerous tracts in which he dealt with occasional conformity, foreign affairs, particularly the inevitable war with France, the misdeeds of stock-jobbers and the rights of the people as opposed to the high-handed independence claimed by tories in parliament. The most weighty of these pamphlets is The Original Power of the Collective Body of the People of England, which is worthy of Somers; but we get a better idea of the character of Defoe himself through his attitude in the affair of the Kentish petitioners. There is something of the demagogue in the famous Legion’s Address, which he wrote on this occasion; but, in his bold delivery of the document to Harley, the speaker, there is something of the uncalculating love of liberty that marks the true tribune of the people. Although he was probably still under a cloud on account of his bankruptcy, and although fellow-dissenters detected treason in his utterances on occasional conformity, he was, doubtless, at the zenith of his reputation among his contemporaries when he sat by the side of the Kentish worthies at the banquet given them on their release from prison.