The early works of Daniel Defoe (1660-1731)
Defoe's first work was The True-Born Englishman (1701), a long satire in verse in which he defended the King William of Orange against the attacks of not being of pure English stock.
In The Shortest Way with the Dissenters (1702) he satirically advocated the measure of hanging the Dissenters, and such was the gravity of his irony that he was taken in earnest and committed to prison as a fomenter.
When Defoe was released from prison he devoted himself to journalism: his periodical "The Review" (1703-1713) is a deeply significant and innovative work in the history of English journalism. It also serves as an invaluable, detailed record of domestic and international political history in the early 18th century, and provides an extensive running commentary on the culture and society of Defoe's time. In journalistic terms, Defoe's periodical offered readers the relatively novel experience of 'human interests' stories, related by a sympathetic and humane narrator. It earned him a wide and responsive reading audience. "The Review" must be read as both a contemporary mouthpiece for Ministry propaganda and as an ongoing journalistic record of political events. The basic conflict between these roles reflects the problematic nature of political journalism itself. Then as now, journalists were consistently vulnerable to criticism as political mercenaries; then as now, Defoe defended his stance as an independent and politically unbiased writer of utmost integrity. The lifetime of "The Review", however, sees Defoe's pen in service to both moderate Tory and Whig interests.