Critical Evaluation

(Masterpieces of British Fiction)

The year 1720 was an eventful one in the career of Daniel Defoe, for in that year he published three works: THE MEMOIRS OF A CAVALIER, CAPTAIN SINGLETON, and his SERIOUS REFLECTIONS OF ROBINSON CRUSOE. Like the other book-length narratives by Defoe, THE MEMOIRS OF A CAVALIER did not originally carry the author’s name, a circumstance apparently intended to lend an air of authenticity to his realistic work. Over the years, attempts have been made to prove that Defoe merely edited the memoirs of some real person, but scholars are now in agreement that this book, along with others by Defoe, was his own creation and that he probably had no specific person in mind as the original for his fictional narrator-protagonist. One interesting feature of the novel is that its hero is a member of the upper class, while the usual Defoe hero is taken from the middle or lower classes, groups that Defoe knew at first hand, as he did not know the life of the upper class. The Cavalier who narrates the story is similar to other Defoe creations in that, uninterested in religion as a young man, he is worldly and materialistic. Also noteworthy is the fact that Defoe, a Protestant himself and a Dissenter from Anglicanism, glorifies the Protestant side in the Thirty Years’ War but has little to say for the English Protestants who rebelled against the monarchy and the Anglican Church during the 1640’s.

Defoe has been called the first social historian,...

(The entire section is 589 words.)