with a marketable store of merchandise, he gave his public interesting portraits of existing types, and descriptions of things been; as a born artist, he traced the inner meaning of the picture. His novels are, in effect if not in intention, chapters in the natural history of his kind. Caring nothing for romantic or comic, dramatic or melodramatic effects, he chose the simplest possible mode of telling his story. He took a perfectly ordinary and representative character, a Moll Flanders, a Roxana, a Colonel Jack—people who had no charms of personality—and related their adventures with the utmost directness, in the natural form of biography. There was a resemblance here to the picaresque novel, inasmuch as events there too followed each other with the fortuitous consecutiveness of life. But there the incidents were carefully selected, in Defoe we get the typical life of a typical person. That is all the difference. His affinity to the old romancers of roguery was, indeed, rather an accidental than a genealogical one: in spirit he is quite unlike them. The comedy of life was not an idea with the remotest attraction for Defoe. He is not a satirist; nor is he at bottom a moral philosoper, like the author of Guzman d'Alfarache, for instance. His object in writing novels was to interest and entertain his readers by reconstructing the world of his experience in the simplest and most direct manner he could.
Defoe has no style. There is here no more searching after effect, or trying to impress himself upon his work, than in the tenor of the narrative. Prose had at length come down to earth. Literary diction had at last been assimilated to the common language of life; and Defoe's was the commonest and plainest that had yet appeared in books. His single aim is to tell his story clearly; and with that aim he seeks neither grace nor polish, disdains grammar, strives for nothing but to be intelligible. Solecisms and common colloquial errors are in every sentence—the page bristles with them. And, strange though it seem to connect him in these characteristics with an accomplished writer like Maupassant, this rough homespun of his testifies to the same single-minded endeavour to render life as he saw it, neither to heighten nor adorn; to state his facts clearly, and let the manner of the statement go. Maupassant wrote well unconsciously; Defoe wrote badly unconsciously. Neither aimed at literary effect; both attained in their several ways the effect of supreme simplicity and truth.
A parallel might be drawn between the two even as to their character-drawing. I spoke of Defoe as a careful limner of character; but it must be borne in mind that the psychology of the Naturalist is of a restricted kind. The interest of his pseudo-biography is not in the idiosyncrasies of personality, but in the traits common to all men. Moll Flanders, Roxana, Colonel Jack, are individuals; but their delineators object was to depict, not an interesting character, but the typical individual, the representative alive of a whole class. Our sense of personality has developed