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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

§ 2. The Oxford, afterwards The London, Gazette

When Defoe established his most important periodical, The Review, in February, 1704, the English newspaper, in a technical sense, was not quite fifty years old. There had been weekly Corantos, or pamphlets of foreign news, from 1622 to 1641, and, throughout the period of the civil war and the commonwealth, there had been weekly “newsbooks” designed to spread domestic news, official or unofficial, parliamentary or royalist; but there existed no real newspaper, no news periodical, not a pamphlet or a newsletter, until the appearance of The Oxford Gazette in November, 1665. The intrigues that led to the founding of this paper, which soon became The London Gazette and, for many years, meagre and jejune though it was, possessed a monopoly of the printed news, are of abundant interest, but have already been noticed in this work. It must suffice to say that such predecessors in journalism as Defoe had before he was of an age to be influenced by what he read were, in the main, purveyors of news through pamphlets and written newsletters—interesting and able men, many of them; generally staunch partisans; sometimes, as in the case of Marchamont Nedham, whom one regrets to encounter in Milton’s company, shameless turncoats. From their rather sorry ranks, two figures of special importance stand out: Henry Muddiman, the best news disseminator of his day, who has been mentioned previously, and Roger L’Estrange, who was worsted by Muddiman as an editor of “newsbooks,” but in whom, as political journalist, indefatigable pamphleteer and competent man of letters, we discover Defoe’s most significant prototype.