Monday, May 18, 2020

Literary Faces (IX)

So, feels like a good time to wind down and wrap up this little 'Literary Faces' series. And for the penultimate entry here's a real challenge: an author we don't have any depictions of at all. And this despite his being widely read from his day to our own. We only know what he looked like from the following description on a Wanted poster:


 a middle siz'd spare man, about 40 years old, 
of a brown complexion, and dark brown coloured hair, 
but wears a wig; a hooked nose, a sharp chin, 
grey eyes and a large mole near his mouth.

 Any guesses?



David Bratman said...

I cheated. I Googled on part of the written description. Yep, he's still read: I read a book by him (not the best-known one) in school.

John D. Rateliff said...

As David discovered, the answer is DANIEL FOE, who changed his name right about that time to 'Defoe'.

Obviously, this was a hard one. In his own time Defoe was widely read (I wonder how many people have read ROBINSON CRUSOE over the years?)* but not considered a literary figure, just very popular. I'm told that while there are carefully preserved first editions of works by major authors of the time like Pope and Swift, first editions of CRUSOE are vanishingly scarce, having been read to pieces.

In addition to being generally considered the father of the modern novel, Defoe was remarkable for his ability to get inside the reader's head. I've been thinking of going back and re-reading his JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR, which was written with so much insight that most people who read it were disbelieving when they learned Defoe didn't experience that era himself, having been born a few years later; he assembled the book based on talking to people who had experienced it for themselves.

Plus he had a wicked way with satire (cf. 'The Shortest Way with Dissentors', which got him put in the stocks).

--John R.

*more than have read the sequel(s), that's for sure

David Bratman said...

A Journal of the Plague Year is the one I had assigned in school.