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Daniel Defoe, Robert Knox, and the Creation of a Myth

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A remarkable literary hybrid—part biography, part detective story—about the enduring figure of Robinson Crusoe 
Where did Crusoe come from? Frank explores the intertwined lives of two real men, Daniel Defoe and Robert Knox, and the character and book that emerged from their peculiar conjunction. January 1719. A man sits at a table, writing. Nearly sixty, Daniel Defoe is troubled with gout and mired in political controversy and legal threats. But for the moment he is preoccupied by a younger man on a barren shore—Robinson Crusoe. Several miles south, another old man, Robert Knox, sits bent over a heavy volume—published nearly forty years before. Knox’s Historical Relation was a bestseller when it was published in 1681, just a year after he escaped from Ceylon and returned to England. Where did Crusoe come from? And what is the secret of his endurance? Crusoe explores the intertwined lives of two real men, Daniel Defoe and Robert Knox, and the character and book that emerged from their peculiar conjunction. It is the biography of a book and its hero: the story of Defoe, the man who wrote Robinson Crusoe, and of Robert Knox, the man who was Crusoe. 
“This is a beautifully constructed book and, ultimately, a moving one. But it is also more than fine literary sleuthwork: it finds profound echoes between its three protagonists’ lives, echoes that make their characters seem all the more three-dimensional, and full of pathos.” —The Sunday Times “The book captures the vigor, toughness, cruelty, romance and excitement of late 17th century England and its early imperial adventures.” —The Independent 
Born and educated in America, Katherine Frank is the author of several acclaimed biographies—of Emily Brontë, Mary Kingsley, and Indira Gandhi. She lives in England.

From Publishers Weekly

Jan 09, 2012 – While authors such as Tim Severin have made the case for various models for Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, Frank’s well-researched if overly detailed account makes the case that his primary model was real-life voyager Robert Knox, who was detained in Ceylon beginning in 1659, the year that saw Crusoe cast away. This is no coincidence. Although Robinson Crusoe was billed as “Written by Himself,” Frank says this ruse represents one more effort by the prolific inventor of the English novel to distance himself from the source of his invention of this most enduring myth of English fortitude and adaptability. Indeed, it is virtually certain that by the time the crafty Defoe published his lesser-known Captain Singleton, writes Frank, he was quite familiar with all the events of Knox’s unpublished autobiography, not to mention the sailor’s (later sea captain’s) 1681 bestselling An Historical Relation of the Island Ceylon. Once it was generally ascertained that Defoe was the author of Crusoe, there was no rush to enlighten the public that, unlike Knox, Defoe may not have journeyed at all. Despite its intrinsic interest, however, Frank’s account is tedious and scattershot in drawing connections between her two protagonists. 12 pages of illus. and maps.
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  • $16.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Literary Criticism
  • Published: Apr 03, 2012
  • Publisher: Pegasus Books
  • Seller: OpenRoad Integrated Media, LLC
  • Print Length: 368 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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