Robinson Crusoe for Younger readers

Note: In this and linked posts, I have recrafted some material from earlier posts to improve navigation.

Robinson Crusoe as a book for Juveniles

Defoe intended his book to be a moral tale that showed how a rather reckless youth can become a thoughtful, religious and worthy man, by application to work and devotion to the scriptures. The original text by Defoe contains many sections of religious or philosophical ruminations, that can make the book quite heavy going for the younger or indeed the modern reader. It was first recognised by a German writer that Robinson Crusoe contained the kernel of an exciting story for younger people. Accordingly, in 1779, Joachim Heinrich Campe translated and edited Defoe’s work to produce Robinson der Jüngere (Robinson the Younger). Campe followed this with a similar treatment of The Farther Adventures published as a second volume in 1780.

These two books came to the attention of the London publisher John Stockdale, who translated them back into English, and then published them in two volumes as The New Robinson Crusoe An Instructive and Entertainment History for the Use of Children of Both Sexes (1788). Stockdale claimed to have translated the book from a French text, but it was clearly a translation of Campe’s German texts. In the following year, Stockdale published a simplified single volume version of this treatment of Robinson Crusoe as a book for children as An Abridgement of The New Robinson Crusoe An Instructive and Entertainment History for the Use of Children of Both Sexes (1789). This was the real start in English of Robinson Crusoe as an adventure book for the younger reader. It is interesting that these two publications by Stockdale predate by one and two years his famous two volume illustrated edition of Robinson Crusoe for adult readers.

Here follows a link to a posting about my copy of An Abridgement of The New Robinson Crusoe An Instructive and Entertainment History for the Use of Children of Both Sexes (1789) and here is a link to a post about my copy of a related reprint published by George Routledge called Robinson the Younger or the New Crusoe (1856).

Since then, there have been many versions of Robinson Crusoe that have been specifically published for the juvenile market. There are editions in simplified language, indeed a couple written in words of one syllable, excluding the personal names. There also continues to be many illustrated editions published for the younger reader, and some more deluxe illustrated editions that were probably intended for the children and adults of wealthy families. The story has also been translated into many different languages over the years.

All of these juvenile editions are based on the first volume of Robinson Crusoe as written by Defoe, which culminates with Crusoe’s escape from the island and his return to England. Some editions may also contain material taken from “The Farther Adventures” that made up the original second volume written by Defoe, particularly the sections describing the return of Crusoe to the island. None of the juvenile editions that I have seen contain material from the more rarefied and philosophical volume 3 of Defoe.

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