On the evening of November 26, 1703, a hurricane from the north Atlantic hammered into Britain: it remains the worst storm the nation has ever experienced. Eyewitnesses saw cows thrown into trees and windmills ablaze from the friction of their whirling sails—and some 8,000 people lost their lives. For Defoe, bankrupt and just released from prison for his “seditious” writings, the storm struck during one of his bleakest moments. But it also furnished him with material for his first book, and in this powerful depiction of suffering and survival played out against a backdrop of natural devastation we can trace the outlines of Defoe’s later masterpieces, A Journal of the Plague Year and Robinson Crusoe.
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Daniel Defoe was born Daniel Foe in London in 1660. It was perhaps inevitable that Defoe, an outspoken man, would become a political journalist. As a Puritan he believed God had given him a mission to print the truth, that is,… More about Daniel Defoe