Crusoe discovers a dying goat in a cave by George Cruikshank as a realisation of the scene in Volume One, Chapter XII, for the John Major edition of The Life and Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1831). Vignette: ​4.9 cm high by 5.9 cm wide, p. 168. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

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Passage Realised

The mouth of this hollow was at the bottom of a great rock, where, by mere accident (I would say, if I did not see abundant reason to ascribe all such things now to Providence), I was cutting down some thick branches of trees to make charcoal; and before I go on I must observe the reason of my making this charcoal, which was this​— I was afraid of making a smoke about my habitation, as I said before; and yet I could not live there without baking my bread, cooking my meat, &c.; so I contrived to burn some wood here, as I had seen done in England, under turf, till it became chark or dry coal: and then putting the fire out, I preserved the coal to carry home, and perform the other services for which fire was wanting, without danger of smoke. But this is by-the-bye. While I was cutting down some wood here, I perceived that, behind a very thick branch of low brushwood or underwood, there was a kind of hollow place: I was curious to look in it; and getting with difficulty into the mouth of it, I found it was pretty large, that is to say, sufficient for me to stand upright in it, and perhaps another with me: but I must confess to you that I made more haste out than I did in, when looking farther into the place, and which was perfectly dark, I saw two broad shining eyes of some creature, whether devil or man I knew not, which twinkled like two stars; the dim light from the cave’s mouth shining directly in, and making the reflection. However, after some pause I recovered myself, and began to call myself a thousand fools, and to think that he that was afraid to see the devil was not fit to live twenty years in an island all alone; and that I might well think there was nothing in this cave that was more frightful than myself. Upon this, plucking up my courage, I took up a firebrand, and in I rushed again, with the stick flaming in my hand: I had not gone three steps in before I was almost as frightened as before; for I heard a very loud sigh, like that of a man in some pain, and it was followed by a broken noise, as of words half expressed, and then a deep sigh again. I stepped back, and was indeed struck with such a surprise that it put me into a cold sweat, and if I had had a hat on my head, I will not answer for it that my hair might not have lifted it off. But still plucking up my spirits as well as I could, and encouraging myself a little with considering that the power and presence of God was everywhere, and was able to protect me, I stepped forward again, and by the light of the firebrand, holding it up a little over my head, I saw lying on the ground a monstrous, frightful old he-goat, just making his will, as we say, and gasping for life, and, dying, indeed, of mere old age. I stirred him a little to see if I could get him out, and he essayed to get up, but was not able to raise himself; and I thought with myself he might even lie there — for if he had frightened me, so he would certainly fright any of the savages, if any of them should be so hardy as to come in there while he had any life in him. [Chapter XII, "A Cave Retreat," pp. 167-168]


In his 1790 program of illustration, Thomas Stothard features the island's goats prominently, initially as an unknown that inspires fear in Crusoe as he explores the geography and resources​ of the island. With a number of firearms and plentiful supplies of shot and gunpowder, Crusoe​ has made​ the transition from sailor and salvager to hunter-gatherer, but he concludes that, in order to conserve ammunition (a finite resource), he will have to find some alternative to shooting wild goats. This particular narrative moment involving Crusoe's unexpectedly encountering the wild goat was also the subject of one of Stothard's​ 1790​ illustrations, Robinson Crusoe terrified at the dying goat, with which Cruikshank was likely familiar. Cruikshank de-emphasizes the goat in order to focus on the cave and Crusoe's reaction, which we judge from behind him, suggesting that the illustrator deliberately changed the point of perspective in order to engage the viewer. The goat is hardly a menacing presence — just a delightful Cruikshankian caricature.

Related Materials

Related Scenes from Stothard (1790), Cassell's Illustrated (1863-64), and Cruikshank

Left: Stothard's 1790 realisation of Crusoe's being startled by another inhabitant of the island, Robinson Crusoe terrified at the dying goat (copper-plate engraving, Chapter XII, "A Cave Retreat"). Right: A later realisation of the same scene, with a Crusoe thoroughly in control of his emotions in the ornately bordered, full-page wood-engraving, Crusoe finds a dying Goat (1863-64). [Click on the images to enlarge them.]


Defoe, Daniel. The Life and Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, of York, Mariner, with introductory verses by Bernard Barton, and illustrated with numerous engravings from drawings by George Cruikshank expressly designed for this edition. 2 vols. London: Printed at the Shakespeare Press, by W. Nichol, for John Major, Fleet Street, 1831.

De Foe, Daniel. The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, Written by Himself. Illustrated by Gilbert, Cruikshank, and Brown. London: Darton and Hodge, 1867?].

Defoe, Daniel. The Life and Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe of York, Mariner. (1831). Illustrated by George Cruikshank. Major's Edition. London: Chatto & Windus, 1890.

Patten, Robert L. "Phase 2: "'The Finest Things, Next to Rembrandt's,' 1720–1835." Chapter 20, "Thumbnail Designs." George Cruikshank's Life, Times, and Art, vol. 1: 1792-1835. Rutgers, NJ: Rutgers U. P., 1992; London: The Lutterworth Press, 1992. Pp. 325-339.

Last modified 22 February 2018