Crusoe tosses the Moorish deckhand overboard by George Cruikshank as the headpiece for the opening chapter in John Major's edition of The Life and Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1831). Although this is but a small-scale vignette, Cruikshank works in such contextual details as the cabin on the fishing-boat and the port of Sallee on the horizon. Vignette: 6.7 cm high by 6.8 cm wide, p. 20. [Click on the 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: Seizing the opportunity to escape

After we had fished some time and caught nothing​— for when I had fish on my hook I would not pull them up, that he might not see them​— I said to the Moor, "This will not do; our master will not be thus served; we must stand farther off."​He, thinking no harm, agreed, and being in the head of the boat, set the sails; and, as I had the helm, I ran the boat out near a league farther, and then brought her to, as if I would fish; when, giving the boy the helm, I stepped forward to where the Moor was, and making as if I stooped for something behind him, I took him by surprise with my arm under his waist, and tossed him clear overboard into the sea. He rose immediately, for he swam like a cork, and called to me, begged to be taken in, told me he would go all over the world with me. He swam so strong after the boat that he would have reached me very quickly, there being but little wind; upon which I stepped into the cabin, and fetching one of the fowling-pieces, I presented it at him, and told him I had done him no hurt, and if he would be quiet I would do him none. "But,"​said I, "you swim well enough to reach to the shore, and the sea is calm; make the best of your way to shore, and I will do you no harm; but if you come near the boat I’ll shoot you through the head, for I am resolved to have my liberty;" so he turned himself about, and swam for the shore, and I make no doubt but he reached it with ease, for he was an excellent swimmer. [Chapter II, "Slavery and Escape," pp. 20-21]

Related Material

Parallel Scenes from the Children's Books (1815, 1818), Wehnert (1862), and Cassell's (1863-64)

Left: Colourful children's book realisation of the same episode, Robinson Crusoe's escaping from Sallee (1818). Centre: A Chapbook-like woodblock engraving with broken chains, signifying young Crusoe's escaping slavery, Robinson Crusoe throwing the Moor overboard (1815). Right: Wehnert's realisation of the same scene, with a highly realistic and dynamic interpretation: Crusoe throwing the Moor overboard (1862). [Click on the images to enlarge them.]

Above: Cassell's highly realistic wood-engraving of the Corsair fishing-boat and the coast of Sallee, Crusoe escapes with Xury (1863-64). [Click on image to enlarge it.]


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 16 February 2018