Crusoe Writing his Journal (p. 41) — the volume's thirteenth composite wood-block engraving for Defoe's The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe of York, Mariner. Related by himself (London: Cassell, Petter, and Galpin), 1863-64. Chapter 4, "First Weeks on the Island." In these earlier plates, the team of artists emphasize Crusoe's isolation by depicting him alone, struggling to survive in a series of twenty-five illustrations that begins with Crusoe loading his raft, and climaxes with Crusoe's rescuing a young aboriginal from the cannibals, Crusoe and Friday. The illustrator presents a convincing image of Crusoe at work on his journal that does not match the sequence of events, for the castaway has yet to construct his palisade (seen in the background), and looks considerably older than when he first arrives on the island off the South American coast. Full-page, framed: 12.8 cm high x 13.9 cm wide, including a frame of mixed objects: four parrots, books, rolled manuscript, an ink-well, a telescope, and a compass. Running head: "He Commences His Journal" (p. 47). [Click on image to enlarge it.]

Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the image and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]

The Passage Illustrated

And this put me in mind that I wanted many things notwithstanding all that I had amassed together; and of these, ink was one; as also a spade, pickaxe, and shovel, to dig or remove the earth; needles, pins, and thread; as for linen, I soon learned to want that without much difficulty.

This want of tools made every work I did go on heavily; and it was near a whole year before I had entirely finished my little pale, or surrounded my habitation. The piles, or stakes, which were as heavy as I could well lift, were a long time in cutting and preparing in the woods, and more, by far, in bringing home; so that I spent sometimes two days in cutting and bringing home one of those posts, and a third day in driving it into the ground; for which purpose I got a heavy piece of wood at first, but at last bethought myself of one of the iron crows; which, however, though I found it, made driving those posts or piles very laborious and tedious work.

But what need I have been concerned at the tediousness of anything I had to do, seeing I had time enough to do it in? nor had I any other employment, if that had been over, at least that I could foresee, except the ranging the island to seek for food, which I did, more or less, every day.

I now began to consider seriously my condition, and the circumstances I was reduced to; and I drew up the state of my affairs in writing, not so much to leave them to any that were to come after me — for I was likely to have but few heirs — as to deliver my thoughts from daily poring over them, and afflicting my mind; and as my reason began now to master my despondency, I began to comfort myself as well as I could, and to set the good against the evil, that I might have something to distinguish my case from worse; and I stated very impartially, like debtor and creditor, the comforts I enjoyed against the miseries I suffered, thus. . . . [Chapter IV, "First Few Weeks on the Island," page 44]


Crusoe, who was raised to be a merchant, tries to overcome his depression by keeping a balance sheet that records instances of his good and bad fortune. By writing about his circumstances, Crusoe demonstrates to himself (and the reader) that he has much to be thankful for, even if he has much to regret and much to endure. He regards social isolation (being divided from mankind and having nobody to talk to) as an evil, and so sets up a dialogue with himself in his journal. He subsequently communes with the voice of his conscience by reading the Bible, and he also teaches Poll the parrot to speak. In his writing he is at one with his creator, the journalist and pamphleteer Daniel Defoe.

The particular moment captured by the illustration reinforces Crusoe's status for much of the first half of the story as a solitary castaway.

Related Material

Parallel Scenes from Stothard (1790), a Children's Book (1818), Cruikshank (1831), and Gilbert (1860s)

Left: Stothard's 1790 realisation of the solitary and reflective protagonist, Robinson Crusoe at work in his cave (Chapter IV, "First Few Weeks on the Island," copper-engraving). Centre: The children's book frontispiece that exemplifies Crusoe's attempts to replicate European constructs upon the tropical island, Robinson Crusoe's Calendar (1818). Right: Sir John Gilbert, Robinson Crusoe in his Tent​(1860s). [Click on image to enlarge it.]

Above: Cruikshank's version of Crusoe's record-keeping, Robinson Crusoe's Calendar (1831). [Click on image to enlarge it.]


De Foe, Daniel. The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe of York, Mariner. Related by himself. With upwards of One Hundred Illustrations. London: Cassell, Petter, and Galpin, 1863-64.

Last modified 10 March 2018