Robinson Crusoe

Posted: February 26, 2014 in Articles

Right now, I’m reading Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, published in 1719. Robinson Crusoe is about a boy who goes against his father’s wishes and goes aboard a ship. He is eventually captured and enslaved, but escapes and buys a plantation. This he maintains until he wants to go to sea again, whereupon he goes on board a slave ship. This is wrecked on an island, and all of the crew is drowned – except for Crusoe. Unfortunately, this is all I’ve read so far, but in my reading, I’ve noticed (it’s easy to see) that the writing was a lot different back in 1719. For instance, the sentences are usually about 5 or 6 lines long and there are a lot more clauses which makes it harder to follow. I don’t really care that the sentences are so long, but sometimes I do have to read them twice in order to understand them. I certainly like books like this better than books that have sentences that are two words long.

The capitalization and spelling are also different in this book. For instance, Defoe spelled calender with a K.

This is an example of the types of sentences found in this book: “I was born in the Year 1623, in the City of York, of a good Family, tho’ not of that Country, my father being a Foreigner of Bremen, who settled first at Hull : He got a good Estate by Merchandise, and leaving off his Trade, lived afterwards at York, from whence he had married my Mother, whose relations were named Robinson, a very good Family in that Country, and from whom I was called Robinson Kruetznaer; but by the usual Corruption of Words in England, we are now called, nay we call our selves, and write our Name Crusoe, and so my Companions always call’d me.”

This sentence isn’t difficult to read, it’s just long. It’s actually very interesting and engaging to read. You can see how many commas and clauses are in it – many more than in modern-day writing. I don’t mind the harder reading. It’s interesting to see how much different written English has become.  It’s also a little sad.

by John

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