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Periodicals

Defoe had of course already written many pamphlets and other occasional works in the first part of his career, but it was not until after his release from prison (and his agreement to work for Robert Harley) after the Shortest Way affair that he began writing the Review, his first weekly periodical. It quickly increased to twice-weekly and, in the second year, came out in three issues per week. Not content with being limited to this one outlet for his ideas, however, Defoe contributed to many different periodicals through the years, both as writer and editor, some of which were rivals or even antagonistic to the Review. Much of these contributions were anonymous, and there are doubtless many submissions by Defoe that will never be identified, but there were a few journals, such as the Review and Mercator, that were most likely written almost single-handedly by Defoe himself.




The Review Title Page
A Weekly Review of the Affairs of France: Purg'd from the Errors and Partiality of News-Writers and Petty-Statesmen, of all Sides.

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Defoe's Review was not so much a newspaper as it was a journal of opinion, where he could express his views on everything from trade with France to social mores. It was first published on 19 February 1704, in the midst of the war with France over the Spanish succession, and ran for nine years. The original stated intent was to demonstrate the greatness of France and to urge the English to learn from the French example. Eventually, the Review deviated from this particular issue and ranged over many topics in current affairs, often focusing on the Protestant cause.

The Review had a section entitled “Advice from the Scandalous Club,” which originally was set up as “A Weekly History of Nonsense, Impertinence, Vice and Debauchery.” In this section, Defoe ridiculed some of the poor writing of other newspapers, critiquing the writers’ facts, style, or even grammar. The Scandal Club eventually came to address other social concerns, offering advice on conduct and morals to correspondents who had written in with questions or stories of vice and misconduct.

Mercator Title Page
Mercator: or, Commerce Retrieved, being Considerations on the State of the British Trade; particularly as it respects Holland, Flanders, and the Dutch Barrier; the Trade to and from France, the Trade to Portugal, Spain, and the West-Indies, and the Fisheries of Newfound-Land, and Nova Scotia: With other Matters and Advantages accruing to Great Britain by the Treaties of Peace and Commerce, lately concluded at Utrecht. The whole being founded upon just Authorities, faithfully collected from Authentick Papers; and now made Publick for General Information. London, 1713-14.

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This periodical ran from May 1713 through July 1714, and its whole purpose was to support Bolingbroke’s Commercial Treaty with France. Many of the sentiments were contrary to what Defoe had been printing in the Review, and when it was suspected that Defoe was the author of both, it added fuel to the fires of those who liked to brand him an unprincipled hack.

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