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A Vindication of the Press   By: (1661?-1731)

Book cover

First Page:

The Augustan Reprint Society

Daniel Defoe

A Vindication of the Press (1718)

With an Introduction by Otho Clinton Williams

Publication Number 29

Los Angeles

William Andrews Clark Memorial Library

University of California



H. RICHARD ARCHER, Clark Memorial Library

RICHARD C. BOYS, University of Michigan

EDWARD NILES HOOKER, University of California, Los Angeles

JOHN LOFTIS, University of California, Los Angeles


W. EARL BRITTON, University of Michigan


EMMETT L. AVERY, State College of Washington

BENJAMIN BOYCE, Duke University

LOUIS I. BREDVOLD, University of Michigan

CLEANTH BROOKS, Yale University

JAMES L. CLIFFORD, Columbia University

ARTHUR FRIEDMAN, University of Chicago

LOUIS A. LANDA, Princeton University

SAMUEL H. MONK, University of Minnesota

ERNEST MOSSNER, University of Texas

JAMES SUTHERLAND, Queen Mary College, London

H.T. SWEDENBERG, JR., University of California, Los Angeles


A Vindication of the Press is one of Defoe's most characteristic pamphlets and for this reason as well as for its rarity deserves reprinting. Besides the New York Public Library copy, here reproduced, I know of but one copy, which is in the Indiana University Library. Neither the Bodleian nor the British Museum has a copy.

Like many items in the Defoe canon, this tract must be assigned to him on the basis of internal evidence; but this evidence, though circumstantial, is convincing. W.P. Trent included A Vindication in his bibliography of Defoe in the CHEL , and later bibliographers of Defoe have followed him in accepting it. Since the copy here reproduced was the one examined by Professor Trent, the following passage from his ms. notes is of interest:

The tract was advertised, for "this day," in the St. James Evening Post , April 19 22, 1718. It is not included in the chief lists of Defoe's writings, but it has been sold as his, and the only copy I have seen, one kindly loaned me by Dr. J.E. Spingarn, once belonged to some eighteenth century owner, who wrote Defoe's name upon it. I was led by the advertisement mentioned above to seek the pamphlet, thinking it might be Defoe's; but I failed to secure a sight of it until Professor Spingarn asked me whether in my opinion the ascription to Defoe was warranted, and produced his copy.

Perhaps the most striking evidence for Defoe's authorship of A Vindication is the extraordinary reference to his own natural parts and to the popularity of The True Born Englishman some seventeen years after that topical poem had appeared [pp. 29f.]. Defoe was justly proud of this verse satire, one of his most successful works, and referred to it many times in later writings; it is hard to believe, however, that anyone but Defoe would have praised it in such fulsome terms in 1718.

The general homeliness and facility of the style, together with characteristic phrases which occur in his other writings, indicate Defoe's hand. Likewise homely similitudes and comparisons, specific parallels with his known work, and characteristic treatment of matter familiar in his other works, all furnish evidence of his authorship of this pamphlet.

Just what motive caused Defoe to write A Vindication of the Press is not clear. Unlike his earlier An Essay on the Regulation of the Press (1704), A Vindication does not seem to have been occasioned by a specific situation, and in it Defoe is not alone concerned with freedom of the press, but writes on a more general and discursive level. His opening paragraph states that "The very great Clamour against some late Performances of Authorship, and the unprecedented Criticisms introduc'd" make such an essay as he writes "absolutely necessary... Continue reading book >>

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