Robinson Crusoe Critical Overview - Essay

Daniel Defoe

Critical Overview

(Novels for Students)

The first edition of Defoe's novel, from which this title page is taken, was published as a fictional memoir in 1719. Published by Gale Cengage

Robinson Crusoe did not revolutionize the book industry in London, but it was a great commercial success; in fact, a second edition was released within only two weeks after the first had been published. Pirated editions came out within hours of the book's release. One of these pirated editions, known as the 'O' edition, is extremely valuable today.

Critical reaction to Robinson Crusoe is generally negative or patronizing. Many early commentators derided the novel as commercial and unrefined. Yet many commentators celebrated the adventurous hero, Robinson Crusoe.

Charles Gildon launched the first sustained attack on Defoe's novel with The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Mr. D-De F-, in 1719. In his critique, Gildon focuses on the novel's inaccuracies, as well as a "Looseness and Incorrectness of Stile."

His most interesting criticism, however, charges Defoe with slander in regards to English shipping practices. He contends that there is "no Man so ignorant as not to know that our Navigation produces both Safety and our Riches and that whoever therefore shall endeavor to discourage this, is so far a profest Enemy of his Country' s Prosperity and Safety." Little did Gildon, or anyone else at the time, realize that Robinson Crusoe was to inspire many colonial and pioneering dreams.

Decades later, Theophilus Cibber, a playwright and Shakespeare reviser, signaled a change in critical attitudes toward Robinson Crusoe. In his 1753 essay, he praises Defoe for his "moral conduct" and "invincible integrity." Robinson Crusoe, he says, "was written in so natural a manner, and with so many probable incidents,...

(The entire section is 695 words.)