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310 EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY FICTION 8:2 P.N. Furbank and W.R. Owens. Defoe De-Attributions: A Critique of J.R. Moore's "Checklist." London and Rio Grande: Hambledon Press, 1995. xxxiv + 161pp. US$40.00. ISBN 1-85285-128-7. There is a scary appropriateness in reviewing a book on the Defoe canon in a journal called Eighteenth-Century Fiction. Most of the fictionality of the Defoe canon is, of course, a product of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries: at the end of the eighteenth century, just over a hundred titles were attributed to Defoe, and by 1971—when John Robert Moore published his revised Checklist of the Writings ofDaniel Defoe—the list had grown to 570. But fictions about attributions arise in all centuries, and although Defoe is a dramatic example of authorial inflation, he is by no means a singular one. Few are the writers who in death are only the author of the texts they claimed in life, and some notable scholarly industries have risen mainly to swell an author's output. Changes in canons are almost all expansionary; new attributions, especially for authors in ages and print economies where anonymous publication is common, tend to outnumber de-attributions by staggering ratios. In fact, de-attributions (although popular activities for some few scholars) have seldom received much academic attention in the modem era of textual scholarship, while inflationary cycles of attribution have made or enhanced academic careers. The implications of the Furbank-Owens project far transcend the question of the indefatigable Defoe. The burden of Defoe De-Attributions, as of Furbank and Owens's earlier 77ie Canonisation ofDaniel Defoe (1988), is to ask how it could have happened that the Defoe canon became so inflated in a relatively unproblematic and unchallenged way. Their contention that Moore's list should be reduced by almost half still leaves the canon three times as long as it was two hundred years ago, and does not seriously change Defoe's reputation as a prolific, varied, and sometimes self-contradictory writer of fact and fiction on politics, religion, economics, law, travel, social policy, and all kinds of occasional issues—though it does take away some crucial titles which scholars have relied on to argue points about Defoe's ideas, beliefs, and habits: A General History ofthe ... Pirates [Moore 458], Street Robberies, Consider'd [Moore 504], The Four Years Voyages ofCapt. George Roberts [Moore 483], Madagascar: or, Robert Drury's Journal [Moore 511], The Memoirs ofan English Officer [Moore 500], three Jack Shepherd and two Jonathan Wild titles [Moore 466, 468, 470-71, 473], and A BriefHistory ofthe Poor Palatine Refugees [Moore 160a]. Some of the candidates for elimination here were previously discussed in their earlier book (Madagascar, for example), but in this new volume—conceived as the detailed footnotes to Canonisation and as a sort of supplement, or rather subtractive companion, to Moore—all 252 items that they find doubtful or worse are listed chronologically and briefly discussed. For each title, there is a list of the canonizers who have ascribed it to Defoe and a summary of whatever arguments have been made for inclusion , concluding with their own reasons for doubt. Their conclusions vary from outright denial to simple uncertainty; quite frequently their judgment is merely that no convincing case has ever been made, for their aim in this volume is not to create a definitive new Defoe canon but rather to unsettle the old one. They promise that in the third edition of the Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature they will present their own considered conclusions about the Defoe canon, and they suggest that they might still have & fourth go at Defoe—a post-CSEL 3 volume that would provide detailed evidence for their inclusions and exclusions. They deserve enormous credit for their effort and dedication on behalf of Defoe studies and for the implications of their watchdog role in the scholarly commumity. Their work is courageous and (at least so far) sound and judicious. REVIEWS 311 Furbank and Owens keep their eyes firmly trained on the plausibility of particular kinds of evidence, and they extend here (from Canonisation) the highly personal sense of what demons or habits drove...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1911-0243
Print ISSN
0840-6286
Pages
pp. 310-312
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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