That all Defoe's novels, with the exception of Robinson Crusoe, should have been covered with the dust of neglect for many generations, is a plain proof of how much fashions in taste affect the popularity of the British classics. It is true that three generations or so ago, Defoe's works were edited by both Sir Walter Scott and Hazlitt, and that this masterly piece of realism, Captain Singleton, was reprinted a few years back in The Camelot Classics, but it is safe to say that out of every thousand readers of Robinson Crusoe; only one or two will have even heard of the Memoirs of a Cavalier,olonel Jack, Moll Flanders, or Captain Singleton. It is indeed distressing to think that while many scores of thousands of copies of Lord Lytton's flashy romance, Paul Clifford,have been devoured by the public,Captain Singleton has remained unread and almost forgotten. But the explanation is simple. Defoe's plain and homely realism soon grew to be thought vulgar by people who themselves aspired to be refined and genteel.
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June 30, 2010
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