Home  »  Volume IX: English FROM STEELE AND ADDISON TO POPE AND SWIFT  »  § 6. L’Estrange’s late troubles and literary work

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

§ 6. L’Estrange’s late troubles and literary work

The date of his knighting by James II, April, 1685, may be held to mark the zenith of L’Estrange’s career. In 1686, he was sent on a mission to Scotland; in 1687, in his answer to Halifax’s famous Letter to a Dissenter, he supported the king’s claim to the dispensing power; in 1688, he received from James a reward in money that may have made him feel less keenly the suppression of The Observator. At the revolution, he was dismissed from his post of licenser and imprisoned. For several years after his release, he led a troubled life. He was more than once rearrested; his health declined; his wife died ruined by gambling; he was disappointed in his children; and, long before his death, on 11 December, 1704, he had lost all his influence and become a bookseller’s hack. Yet it is to this period that we owe his most important literary work, The Fables of Æsop and other Eminent Mythologists: with Moral Reflections, which appeared as a folio in 1692, and was followed, in 1699, by a second part, Fables and Storyes Moralized. His long series of translations, many of them from the French and the Spanish, is noted elsewhere. Defoe did not follow far in his steps as a translator; but it is not improbable that, when, in his old age, he found himself cut off from journalism, he remembered the example set him by L’Estrange and displayed an even more remarkable general literary fecundity. It is almost needless to add that, whether as journalist, pamphleteer, or miscellaneous writer, Defoe, in comparison with his predecessor, profited from the general advance made by the late seventeenth century toward a less cumbrous prose.