30 Sep: The Shipwrecked Mr. Crusoe

Literature’s most famous castaway, Robinson Crusoe, was washed up on a desert island – where he would remain for 28 years – on 30th September, 1659.

By selecting this date, author Daniel Defoe ensured that his fictional protagonist’s fate pre-dated the real-life estrangement of Royal Navy man Alexander Selkirk, who was stranded some 46 years later: 14 years prior to Defoe writing his novel.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how his story pioneered not only the English novel, but also the movie trailer; ask whether Crusoe’s narrative voice sounds like an authentic young man of the period, or betrays the fact that Defoe was nearly sixty when he created him; and dig around in the writer’s early career (including, but not limited to, creating perfume from civets)…

Further Reading:

• Daniel Defoe profile (The British Library): https://www.bl.uk/people/daniel-defoe

• ‘Debunking the Myth of the ‘Real’ Robinson Crusoe’ (National Geographic, 2016): https://www.nationalgeographic.com/culture/article/robinson-crusoe-alexander-selkirk-history

• The Shipwreck scene from ‘Robinson Crusoe’ (1927):