course, it is quite probable that they were suggested to Defoe by the careers of certain people who cannot now be identified.
It may be said in extenuation of these offences against literary ethics, that they were transgressions of laws not yet codified, and indeed not properly understood. With but a few exceptions, the Realism of these two books was of a thoroughly legitimate kind, and they are almost perfect examples of Defoe's use of detail as the most effective instrument of verisimilitude. He taught once for all that the novel has its own method of imaginative actuality, and so laid the foundations of modern Realism deep and secure. He carried out the most decisive revolution in the history of prose fiction, and for that reason alone deserves to be counted as the first modern novelist. That it is no mere advance in skill and invention, but a fundamental change of principle, that we are witnessing, is forcibly realised if we compare the opening of the Arcadia with that of Robinson Crusoe, the type of the old poetical fiction with the type of the new prose novel. This is how Sidney begins:—
'It was in the time when the earth begins to put on her new apparel against the approach of her lover, and that the sun running a most even course becomes an indifferent arbiter between the night and the day, when the hopeless shepherd Strephon was come to the sands which lie against the island of Cithera, where, viewing the place with a heavy kind of delight, and sometimes casting his eyes to the isleward, he called his friendly rival Claius unto him; and setting first down in his darkened countenance a doleful copy of what he would speak, "O my Claius", said he, "hither we are now come to pay the rent for which we are so called unto by overbusy remembrance; remembrance, restless remembrance, which claims not only this duty of us, but for it will have us forget ourselves".'
Sidney makes his appeal frankly to the imagination; Defoe as frankly addresses himself to our sense of the actual:—
'I was born in the year 1632, 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 afterward at York, from whence he had married my mother, whose relations were named Robinson, a very good family in that country, and after whom I was called Robinson Kreutznaer; but by the usual corruption of words in England, we are now called, nay we call ourselves, and write our name Crusoe, and so my companions always called me.
'I had two elder brothers, one of which was lieutenant colonel to an English regiment of foot in Flanders, formerly commanded by the famous Col. Lockhart, and was killed at the battle near Dunkirk against the Spaniards: what became of my second brother I never knew, any more than my father and mother did know what was become of me.'