1703 – Daniel Defoe is placed in a pillory for the crime of seditious libel after publishing a politically satirical pamphlet, but is pelted with flowers.
Daniel Defoe (/ˌdænjəl dᵻˈfoʊ/; c. 1660 – 24 April 1731), born Daniel Foe, was an English trader, writer, journalist, pamphleteer, and spy. He is most famous for his novel Robinson Crusoe; only the Bible has been printed in more languages. Defoe is noted for being one of the earliest proponents of the novel, as he helped to popularise the form in Britain with others such as Aphra Behn and Samuel Richardson, and is among the founders of the English novel. He was a prolific and versatile writer, producing more than three hundred works – books, pamphlets, and journals – on diverse topics, including politics, crime, religion, marriage, psychology, and the supernatural. He was also a pioneer of economic journalism.
Daniel Foe (his original name) was probably born in Fore Street in the parish of St. Giles Cripplegate, London. Defoe later added the aristocratic-sounding “De” to his name, and on occasion claimed descent from the family of De Beau Faux. His birthdate and birthplace are uncertain, and sources offer dates from 1659 to 1662, with 1660 considered[by whom?] the most likely. His father James Foe was a prosperous tallow chandler and a member of the Worshipful Company of Butchers. In Defoe’s early life, he experienced some of the most unusual occurrences in English history: in 1665, 70,000 were killed by the Great Plague of London, and next year, the Great Fire of London left standing only Defoe’s and two other houses in his neighbourhood. In 1667, when he was probably about seven, a Dutch fleet sailed up the Medway via the River Thames and attacked the town of Chatham in the raid on the Medway. His mother Annie had died by the time he was about ten.
Defoe was educated at the Rev. James Fisher’s boarding school in Pixham Lane in Dorking, Surrey. His parents were Presbyterian dissenters, and around the age of 14 he attended a dissenting academy at Newington Green in London run by Charles Morton, and he is believed to have attended the Newington Green Unitarian Church. During this period, the English government persecuted those who chose to worship outside the Church of England.
Defoe entered the world of business as a general merchant, dealing at different times in hosiery, general woollen goods, and wine. His ambitions were great and he was able to buy a country estate and a ship (as well as civets to make perfume), though he was rarely out of debt. He was forced to declare bankruptcy in 1692. In 1684, Defoe married Mary Tuffley, the daughter of a London merchant, receiving a dowry of £3,700 – a huge amount by the standards of the day. With his debts and political difficulties, the marriage may have been troubled, but it lasted 50 years and produced eight children.
In 1685, Defoe joined the ill-fated Monmouth Rebellion but gained a pardon, by which he escaped the Bloody Assizes of Judge George Jeffreys. Queen Mary and her husband William III were jointly crowned in 1688, and Defoe became one of William’s close allies and a secret agent. Some of the new policies led to conflict with France, thus damaging prosperous trade relationships for Defoe, who had established himself as a merchant. In 1692, Defoe was arrested for debts of £700 (and his civets were seized), though his total debts may have amounted to £17,000. His laments were loud and he always defended unfortunate debtors, but there is evidence that his financial dealings were not always honest. He died with little wealth and evidence of lawsuits with the royal treasury.
Following his release, he probably travelled in Europe and Scotland, and it may have been at this time that he traded wine to Cadiz, Porto, and Lisbon. By 1695, he was back in England, now formally using the name “Defoe” and serving as a “commissioner of the glass duty”, responsible for collecting taxes on bottles. In 1696, he ran a tile and brick factory in what is now Tilbury in Essex and lived in the parish of Chadwell St Mary.
Pamphleteering and prison
Defoe’s first notable publication was An essay upon projects, a series of proposals for social and economic improvement, published in 1697. From 1697 to 1698, he defended the right of King William III to a standing army during disarmament, after the Treaty of Ryswick (1697) had ended the Nine Years’ War (1688–97). His most successful poem, The True-Born Englishman (1701), defended the king against the perceived xenophobia of his enemies, satirising the English claim to racial purity. In 1701, Defoe presented the Legion’s Memorial to the Speaker of the House of Commons, later his employer Robert Harley, flanked by a guard of sixteen gentlemen of quality. It demanded the release of the Kentish petitioners, who had asked Parliament to support the king in an imminent war against France.
The death of William III in 1702 once again created a political upheaval, as the king was replaced by Queen Anne who immediately began her offensive against Nonconformists. Defoe was a natural target, and his pamphleteering and political activities resulted in his arrest and placement in a pillory on 31 July 1703, principally on account of his December 1702 pamphlet entitled The Shortest-Way with the Dissenters; Or, Proposals for the Establishment of the Church, purporting to argue for their extermination. In it, he ruthlessly satirised both the High church Tories and those Dissenters who hypocritically practised so-called “occasional conformity”, such as his Stoke Newington neighbour Sir Thomas Abney. It was published anonymously, but the true authorship was quickly discovered and Defoe was arrested. He was charged with seditious libel. Defoe was found guilty after a trial at the Old Bailey in front of the notoriously sadistic judge Salathiel Lovell. Lovell sentenced him to a punitive fine, to public humiliation in a pillory, and to an indeterminate length of imprisonment which would only end upon the discharge of the punitive fine. According to legend, the publication of his poem Hymn to the Pillory caused his audience at the pillory to throw flowers instead of the customary harmful and noxious objects and to drink to his health. The truth of this story is questioned by most scholars, although John Robert Moore later said that “no man in England but Defoe ever stood in the pillory and later rose to eminence among his fellow men”.
“Wherever God erects a house of prayer
the Devil always builds a chapel there;
And ‘t will be found, upon examination,
the latter has the largest congregation.”
– Defoe’s The True-Born Englishman, 1701
After his three days in the pillory, Defoe went into Newgate Prison. Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer, brokered his release in exchange for Defoe’s co-operation as an intelligence agent for the Tories. In exchange for such co-operation with the rival political side, Harley paid some of Defoe’s outstanding debts, improving his financial situation considerably. Within a week of his release from prison, Defoe witnessed the Great Storm of 1703, which raged through the night of 26/27 November. It caused severe damage to London and Bristol, uprooted millions of trees, and killed more than 8,000 people, mostly at sea. The event became the subject of Defoe’s The Storm (1704), which includes a collection of witness accounts of the tempest. Many regard it as one of the world’s first examples of modern journalism. In the same year, he set up his periodical A Review of the Affairs of France which supported the Harley Ministry, chronicling the events of the War of the Spanish Succession (1702–1714). The Review ran three times a week without interruption until 1713. Defoe was amazed that a man as gifted as Harley left vital state papers lying in the open, and warned that he was almost inviting an unscrupulous clerk to commit treason; his warnings were fully justified by the William Gregg affair. When Harley was ousted from the ministry in 1708, Defoe continued writing the Review to support Godolphin, then again to support Harley and the Tories in the Tory ministry of 1710–1714. The Tories fell from power with the death of Queen Anne, but Defoe continued doing intelligence work for the Whig government, writing “Tory” pamphlets that undermined the Tory point of view.
Not all of Defoe’s pamphlet writing was political. One pamphlet was originally published anonymously, entitled “A True Relation of the Apparition of One Mrs. Veal the Next Day after her Death to One Mrs. Bargrave at Canterbury the 8th of September, 1705.” It deals with interaction between the spiritual realm and the physical realm and was most likely written in support of Charles Drelincourt’s The Christian Defense against the Fears of Death (1651). It describes Mrs. Bargrave’s encounter with her old friend Mrs. Veal after she had died. It is clear from this piece and other writings that the political portion of Defoe’s life was by no means his only focus.
1904 – Brett Halliday, American engineer, surveyor, and author (d. 1977)
Brett Halliday (July 31, 1904 – February 4, 1977), primary pen name of Davis Dresser, was an American mystery writer, best known for the long-lived series of Michael Shayne novels he wrote, and later commissioned others to write. Dresser wrote non-series mysteries, westerns and romances under the names Asa Baker, Matthew Blood, Kathryn Culver, Don Davis, Hal Debrett, Anthony Scott, Peter Field, and Anderson Wayne.
Dresser was born in Chicago, Illinois, but mostly grew up in West Texas. Here he lost an eye to barbed wire as a boy, and thus had to wear an eye patch for the rest of his life.
At the age of 14, he ran away from home and enlisted in the U.S. 5th Cavalry Regiment at Fort Bliss, Texas, followed by a year of Border Patrol duty on the Rio Grande. After his service, he returned to Texas to finish high school. In search of adventure, Dresser traveled throughout the Southwest working at various odd jobs, including that of muleskinner, farm hand, deckhand on a freighter in the Gulf of Mexico, laborer in the California oilfields, etc. Eventually, he went to Tri-State College of Engineering, where he received a certificate in civil engineering. Back in Texas, he worked as an engineer and surveyor for several years before turning to writing in 1927.
After his first marriage (to Kathleen Rollins, who had two daughters from a previous marriage), Dresser was married to mystery writer Helen McCloy from 1946 to 1961; they had a daughter named Chloe. As partners, they formed a literary agency called Halliday and McCloy. Dresser also established Torquil Publishing Company, which published his books as well as those of other authors, from 1953 to 1965. In 1961, he married Mary Savage, also a writer; their son, Halliday, was born in 1965.
The first Shayne novel was rejected by 21 publishers before being accepted by Henry Holt & Co. in 1939. The Shayne series went on to be highly successful, reprinted in many editions and translated into French, Spanish, Italian, German, Swedish, Japanese and Hebrew.
A radio series based on the Shayne character was heard during the 1940s. Twelve motion pictures were made, seven of them featuring Lloyd Nolan as Shayne. Five of the Nolan films, which were produced by 20th Century Fox, have been released on DVD: Michael Shayne, Private Detective; Sleepers West; Dressed to Kill; Blue, White and Perfect and The Man Who Wouldn’t Die. After the Fox series ended, five more Shayne films were made by PRC which featured Hugh Beaumont as the detective. There was also a TV series in 1960, starring Richard Denning, as well as a pulp fiction magazine that began as Michael Shayne Mystery Magazine and ran for nearly 30 years. The 2005 film Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is based partly on Halliday’s novel Bodies Are Where You Find Them. The 2016 film The Nice Guys gave an acknowledgement to the works of Brett Holliday.
In 1958, Dresser ceased penning the novels published under the name “Brett Halliday”, and Dell Publishers arranged for ghostwriters, among them Bill Pronzini and Robert Terrell.
Dresser was a founding member of the Mystery Writers of America, and in 1954 he and McCloy were given Edgar Awards for their critical writings on the genre.
He lived in Santa Barbara, California, until his death at the age of 72.
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