Defoe : Madagascar, or Robert Drury's Journal


Defoe, Daniel, 1661?-1731.

Madagascar, or, Robert Drury's journal, during fifteen years captivity on that islands... The whole is a faithful narrative of matters of fact, interspers'd with variety of surprising incidents, and illustrated with a sheet map of Madagascar, and cuts.

London: Printed, and sold by W. Meadows ... J. Marshall ... T. Worrall ... and by the author, 1729.

Robert Drury's Journal, published in 1729, is a colourful and somewhat unlikely tale of a shipwreck, the massacre of most of the survivors, and Drury's subsequent life as a slave on an island ruled by warring chiefs. Put to work as a cowherd, he narrowly escaped castration after his fellow cowherds ate one of the cows. Forced to fight in clan wars, he captured a girl and made her his wife. He later married again, took a slave of his own, whom he called Sambo, before eventually escaping on a slave ship.

The story was accepted as fact at the time, but over the years people began to question its authenticity. The book opened with a protestation of its 'plain, honest' truth, and offered doubters the opportunity to speak to its author at a London coffee house. It came to be considered to be a work by Daniel Defoe even though a real Robert Drury had existed. It was thought to have been transcribed by Defoe from meetings with Drury.

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