PREFACE TO THE STORY
OF MY ADVENTURES
by Daniel DefoeRobinson Crusoe
Some have said that the story of Robinson Crusoe is feigned, that it is all fiction. They say there never was such a man, and never such a place or such circumstances in a man's life.
They say that the entire story is an invention imposed on the world.
I, Robinson Crusoe, being of perfectly sound mind and memory (and I thank God for this) do hereby declare that such objections are false and scandalous.
I affirm that the story, though allegorical, is also historical. It is the beautiful representation of a life of unparalleled misfortune and of varied experiences found nowhere else in the world. It has been adapted with the common good of the reader in mind. It was designed from the very first for the most serious purposes possible.
Further, I wish to affirm that there is a man alive, and well known too, whose life is the proper subject of these volumes and to whom all, or the most part of the story, directly alludes. This may be depended upon as truth, and to this I set my name.
The famous story of Don Quixote, a work which thousands read with pleasure, was an emblematic history of the Duke de median Sidonia, a remarkable person in Spain at that time. To those who knew the original, the figures were alive and easily uncovered, as is the case here also.
The Emblem and the Original
Without taking the reader into a closer explication of the matter, I proceed to let him know that the happy deductions I have drawn from all the circumstances of my life will abundantly make up for his not having the Emblem explained further by the Original. When in all my observations and reflections in theses volume I mention my solitude and allude to my lonely circumstances, every part of the story is a real fact in my history, by whatever borrowed lights that history may be represented.
So the way in which I was driven up on the shore by the surging sea, the ship on fire, the story of my man Friday, and many more incidents I relate and on which my spiritual reflections have been made, are all historical and true to fact. The fright and fancies which followed the discovery of the print of a man's foot, and the surprise of the old goat, are also real stories.
It is most real that I kept a parrot and it called me by my name. It is true that I had a servant who later became a Christian, that his name was called Friday, and that he was taken from me by force and died in the hands of those who took him. This is all literally true and there are many alive who could testify to the comfort and assistance he gave to me in my real solitudes and disasters.
Desolate and Afflicting Circumstances
In a word, the adventures of Robinson Crusoe are one whole scheme of a real life of twenty-eight years spent in the most desolate and afflicting circumstances that a man ever went through. I have lived for this long a time a life of continual storms. I have fought with the worst kind of savages and have met with unaccountable and surprising incidents. I have been fed by miracles greater than that of ravens feeding Elijah, and have suffered all manner of oppression and violence, including the contempt of men, the attacks of demons, corrections from Heaven and oppositions on earth.
I have faced innumerable ups and downs in my fortune. I have been picked up at sea, rose again and fell again, and that oftener perhaps in one man's life than has ever been known before. I have been shipwrecked often, though more on land than at sea.
In a word, there is not a circumstance in the imaginary story that does not have its exact allusion to the real story and chimes part for part and step for step with the inimitable life of Robinson Crusoe.
In the same way, when in my reflections I speak of particular actions and circumstances which happened in the solitude of my island-life, the reader will be so kind as to take it as it is, that it is intended as a part of the real story, to which the island-life is an exact allusion.
Moral and Spiritual Enrichment
Besides all this, there is here the proper and good purpose of all parables and allegorical history, that it is for moral and spiritual enrichment.
Here, invincible patience is recommended under the worst of misery, and undaunted resolution under the most discouraging circumstances. I say, these are recommended as the only way to work through these miseries. The fable is always made for the moral, not the moral for the fable.
Had the common writing of a man's personal history been undertaken and I had given you the life of a man you know, along with his misfortunes and infirmities, all I could have said would have yielded no diversion and probably would scarcely have obtained a reading. The teacher, like the Greater One, would find no honor in his own country. Thoughts that are designed to touch the mind must come from a great way off. Even the miracles of the blessed Savior of the world were met with scorn and contempt when it was seen that they were done by the Carpenter's Son, one whose brothers and sisters were ordinary people like themselves.
But I am far from being anxious about whether or not these thoughts of mine will be effective. I am certain that even if the obstinacy of our age should shut its ears against the meaningful reflections presented in these pages, there will come a time when the minds of men will be more open.
There will come a time when the guidelines of virtue and Christian living which I have recommended will be more gratefully received than they are now. One generation will be strengthened by the same teaching which another generation has despised.Robinson Crusoe, 1720