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N Primo Amore, La Sera del Di di Festa, Il Risorgimento, and other effusions, in a similar vein, are instinct with this deep yet attractive melancholy, the offspring of profound thought and emotion. “Uscir di pena,” he sadly declares, " é diletto fra noi ; non brillin gli ochi se non di pianto; due cose belle ha il mondo : amore e morto." In that most characteristic poem, Amore e Morte, he speaks of the maiden who la gentilezza del morir comprende :
“ Quando novellamente
Nasce nel cor profondo
THE WRITER FOR THE PEOPLE.
DANIEL DE FOE.
Few of the crowd that throng the old avenues of Cripplegate, at the present day, revert to the prophet and thinker born and bred there, whose romance has been the household story of two great nations, and has been domesticated, as a model narrative, in every country of Europe for more than a century. Yet there is no name which should be more gratefully honored by a London citizen than that of Daniel De Foe. His genius and efficiency vindicate the claims even of " a nation of shopkeepers,” and turn that satire into eulogy. His book has survived the more finished writings of the courtly authors who ridiculed him. In literature and politics he was essentially a representative man; in life he stood in the front rank of the people, and their universal recognition has long since crowned his memory with enduring fame.
In the great national problem worked out and permanently solved by the course of events and the war of opinion, between the birth of Puritanism in England and the realization of constitutional liberty under William of Orange, many illustrious names appear identified with the progress of civil and religious freedom. In the field, the council, the church, the courts, in society and in literature, these noble advocates taught, struggled, endured, and often died, in behalf of truths and privileges sacred to humanity. Among those who promoted the great end in the noblest way, that is, by appeals to reason, and by assiduous endeavors to enlighten the masses, — no one deserves higher credit than Daniel
De Foe. And yet, by one of those caprices of fame, which so often astonish us in the history of gifted men, this voluminous writer and stanch advocate of human freedom and a progressive civic life is chiefly, and, so far as the many are concerned, exclusively, known as the author of the most popular story in the English language. The fierce polemical works upon which the viyor of his years was expended, the strange vicissitudes, the public services, and the private virtues, of the man De Foe, have been lost sight of in the renown of the author of Robinson Crusoe. Indeed, that familiar book, in the popular imagination, is rather esteemed as a lucky hit of inventive genius, than as the flowering of a mind rendered earnest and fruitful through a life of anxious mental toil and relentless persecution. To one thoroughly acquainted with De Foe's career, and aware of his fortunes and achievements, the remarkable fiction which embalms his inemory has a new and pathetic significance. It was his first attempt to enlist his extraordinary powers in a work of pure lite
To write it, he stood aloof from the party strife in which, for thirty years, his thoughts had been engaged. Like a brave soldier who had returned home from a long but successful campaign, with victory achieved, yet no spoils acquired, he seems to have laid aside the armor of political and religious warfare, cheered only by a sense of duty bravely performed, and then, in the autumn of life, the lull of the storm, the pensive twilight of honest age, yielded himself to a work prompted by his own idiosyncrasies, unmarred by faction, and thoroughly adapted to the popular heart. The intrinsic charm of the narrative, therefore, is infinitely expanded when thus viewed with reference to De Foe's circumstances and aims.
Could the life of this extraordinary man be represented in a dramatic form, we should behold him in the utmost extremes of social position, each explicable by his course as an author. He might be seen the familiar and admired habitué of a Puritan coffcehouse, ardently discussing the latest news from the seat of war, or the local question of the hour; alternating between his hosier's shop in Cornhill and the Dissenters' chapel at Surrey; in arms for the Duke of Monmouth; one of the handsomely-mounted escort of volunteers who attended William and Mary from White
hall to the Mansion House; a bankrupt refugee, talking with Selkirk at the Red Lion Tavern in Bristol; the confidential visitor ensconced in the cabinet of William of Orange; the occupant of a cell in Newgate; an honored guest at Edinburgh, promoting
' the Union; a secret ambassador to the Continent; the delegate of the people, handing to Harley a mammoth petition; the cynosure of a hundred sympathetic and respectful eyes as he stands in the pillory; in comfortable retirement at Newington; and at last a victim of filial ingratitude, his health wasted in noble intellectual toil, dying at the age of seventy. Such are a few of the strong contrasts which the mere external drama of De Foe's life presents.
To appreciate his course we must vividly recall the events of his time and the spirit of his age. As if ordained by Providence for a legitimate representative of the English mind, he derived his descent from the better class of yeomen; his birthplace was the heart of London; and his home was chiefly there at a period when its citizenship was a high distinction and privilege, when municipal glory had not faded before the splendor of fashion, now dominant in a region which, in De Foe's time, was suburban, and when locomotive facilities had not almost identified town and country. One of the people by birth and association, he became more intimately related to them through his public spirit, his political ideas, and his religious sentiments. These were all essentially democratic. The wants of the ignorant many, the thirst for social reform, the popular basis of the constitution, and the right of free judgment and action in religion, appear to have been original instincts rather than mere opinions in the mind of De Foe. They were confirmed by the family discipline, the non-conformist rites, the simple habits, and the manly self-reliance, incident to the household of a dissenting London trader of that day.
Although so obviously endowed for the vocation of an author, De Foe began life as a tradesman. Cut off by his religious associations from any share in a university education, he studied the higher academic branches with a preceptor of his own faith, of acknowledged scholarship; and at first designed to adopt the clerical profession. In his commercial speculations he was unsuccessful, as might have been anticipated; for his mind was too speculative to engage prosperously in business, for which, however, he was not deficient in talent, as his appointment as secretary, first to a glass and then to a brick manufacturing company, sufficiently proves. His friends also arranged a mercantile enterprise for him at Cadiz; but he yielded to a strong innate conviction that his appropriate sphere was England, and his first duty that of a writer. Trade, however, while it proved unfortunate as a pursuit, elicited character, and yielded valuable lessons. He, with rare integrity, paid the balance of his debts, when subsequently enriched, although legally acquitted by a compromise ; and his knowledge of the wants, usages, and condition, of the “ English Tradesman,” enabled him to write the useful and su gestive treatise which bears that title. It gave him also a fund of experience; and we trace in his books a familiarity with human nature and London life, that could in few other ways have been so authentically gained. While Swift was noting the banquets he attended for the diversion of Stella, Steele dodging bailiffs in his luxurious establishment, Addison, in elegant trim, paying his court to the Countess of Warwick, and Bolingbroke embodying his heartless philosophy in artificial rhetoric, De Foe was wrestling for truth in Cripplegate. A man of the people, a writer of plain, vigorous, unembellished English, there he stood, manfully claiming the right of private judgment; battling to the death against the prejudices which interfered with a liberal government; explaining, with intelligent emphasis, the popular basis of the constitution; initiating that philosophy of trade, of social economy, of charitable institutions, and of literature, then a bold and radical innovation, now, in its varied forms, recognized as the evidence of human progress, and the pledge of a glorious future. Taste, wit, and refined sensualism, were the dominant traits of the acknowledged men of genius in society around him; privation, slander, imprisonment, and ridicule, were the reward of his manly self-consecration. His contemporary authors are known to us through elaborate and loving memoirs; their portraits adorn noble galleries; scholars still emulate their works, and glorify them in reviews; while their monumental effigies are clustered in imposing beauty in the venerable Abbey. Our knowledge of