Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe of York

Next year we celebrate the 300th anniversary of the publication of Daniel Defoe's novel about the adventurer Robinson Crusoe. But where did the name Crusoe come from? The answer is that it probably comes from a friend of Defoe whose family had emigrated to England from Flanders. Let me explain. In the sixteenth century, there was a lot of religious and economic turmoil in Flanders. Jan and Jane Cruso of Hondschoote, now in northern France, were among the thousands of Dutch-speaking Flemish who escaped to England. They settled in Norwich and had four children, one of whom was Timothy. He moved to London, and his son, Timothy, also had a son called Timothy. In 1675 he attended Charles Morton’s Dissenters’ Academy in Newington Green. Among his fellow students was Daniel Defoe. It is thought that Defoe took the name of his hero from that of his friend, Timothy Cruso, who could trace his roots to the Dutch-speaking town of Hondschoote. It's fair to say that even today the name Crusoe is well and truly established in the popular imagination. 

Further reading: 
‘Classical and early modern sources of the poetry of Jan Cruso of Norwich (1592-fl. 1655),’ International Journal of the Classical Tradition, 21/2, July 2014, pp. 89-120. 

‘Dutch poetry in early modern Norfolk’, Dutch Crossing, 38(2), July 2014, pp. 189-203. 

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