25 Pages


WithW. R. Owens, P. N. Furbank, John Mullan

In the 1720s, Daniel Defoe produced, in quick succession, three substantial works on the supernatural, or what he called ‘the World of Spirits’. It has sometimes been suggested that the field might simply have seemed commercially appealing to most commercial writers. The number of editions of the Political History that appeared in the five years before Defoe’s death suggests that the works did indeed have a considerable appeal: there were two authorised editions, one Irish edition, one English piracy and two French editions. Equally, Defoe writes of the Devil being behind the most troubling religious disputes of the day. The Political History is sometimes literally a ‘political history’ — a history of Satan’s scheming in the realm of politics. The Political History is a corrective to the assumption that Defoe is an unlearned, unbookish writer, quick with proverbial or anecdotal wisdom, but uninterested in textual authority.