Robinson Crusoe attacked and robbed by Tartars (facing p. 548) — Phiz's seventh and final illustration for Daniel Defoe's Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, including A Memoir of the Author, and an Essay on his Writings (London and New York). Vertically-mounted steel engraving for the second part of the 1864 single-volume edition, The Further Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, Chapter XIV, "Attacked by Tartars." Particularly evident in the excellence of his horses, Phiz's style of composition is far more vigorous and anatomically correct than either Cruikshank's or Stothard's. Vignette: 8.0 cm high x 14.2 cm wide.

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.]

Passage Illustrated: Violence about to erupt

I walked it on foot, with my old pilot and a Chinese, being very desirous of a little variety. When we came to the place it was a low, marshy ground, walled round with stones, piled up dry, without mortar or earth among them, like a park, with a little guard of Chinese soldiers at the door. Having bought a camel, and agreed for the price, I came away, and the Chinese that went with me led the camel, when on a sudden came up five Tartars on horseback. Two of them seized the fellow and took the camel from him, while the other three stepped up to me and my old pilot, seeing us, as it were, unarmed, for I had no weapon about me but my sword, which could but ill defend me against three horsemen. The first that came up stopped short upon my drawing my sword, for they are arrant cowards; but a second, coming upon my left, gave me a blow on the head, which I never felt till afterwards, and wondered, when I came to myself, what was the matter, and where I was, for he laid me flat on the ground; but my never-failing old pilot, the Portuguese, had a pistol in his pocket, which I knew nothing of, nor the Tartars either: if they had, I suppose they would not have attacked us, for cowards are always boldest when there is no danger. The old man seeing me down, with a bold heart stepped up to the fellow that had struck me, and laying hold of his arm with one hand, and pulling him down by main force a little towards him, with the other shot him into the head, and laid him dead upon the spot. He then immediately stepped up to him who had stopped us, as I said, and before he could come forward again, made a blow at him with a scimitar, which he always wore, but missing the man, struck his horse in the side of his head, cut one of the ears off by the root, and a great slice down by the side of his face. The poor beast, enraged with the wound, was no more to be governed by his rider, though the fellow sat well enough too, but away he flew, and carried him quite out of the pilot's reach; and at some distance, rising upon his hind legs, threw down the Tartar, and fell upon him.

In this interval the poor Chinese came in who had lost the camel, but he had no weapon; however, seeing the Tartar down, and his horse fallen upon him, away he runs to him, and seizing upon an ugly weapon he had by his side, something like a pole-axe, he wrenched it from him, and made shift to knock his Tartarian brains out with it. But my old man had the third Tartar to deal with still; and seeing he did not fly, as he expected, nor come on to fight him, as he apprehended, but stood stock still, the old man stood still too, and fell to work with his tackle to charge his pistol again: but as soon as the Tartar saw the pistol away he scoured, and left my pilot, my champion I called him afterwards, a complete victory.‚Äč[Chapter XIV, "Attacked by Tartars," pp. 548-549]


The passage through the hostile territory of Tartary (Mongolia) in Central Asia marks the last stage in Crusoe's Asiatic adventures. In the background, the Tartar horsemen are shadowing the party of Chinese dignitaries and their European guest (left foreground). Crusoe has Chinese several archers serving as bodyguards in Stothard's illustration, even though Defoe does not specifically mention them, and the guide pointing at the warriors in the distance looks curiously European. Crusoe seems appropriately nervous about the Tartars' intentions. In that the mount in the left-hand margin is a camel rather than a horse, Stothard seems to be anticipating Crusoe's having purchased such a beast about a month after the Tartars harassed Crusoe and his party. The illustration by Phiz is full of energy as violence is about to erupt, as opposed to the sense of calm that pervades the Stothard plate.

The stolen camel is in the right rear quadrant of the five mounted Tartars, Phiz has depicted four, individualized in terms their hats in the foreground Crusoe lies unconscious beside his sword the European pointing the pistol at the Tartar horseman who has just assaulted Crusoe is the Portuguese pilot. He is just about to shoot the Tartar in the head. Afterwards, he draws the sword from its scabbard and attacks the lead Tartar, centre, whom we assume he has taken by surprise. The Chinese camel-vendor is kneeling, bareheaded, in the background, right, as two Tartars menace him, having thrown his silk hat onto the ground. Since Crusoe has been delirious this whole time, the reader must assume that he has constructed the narrative of the robbery and resistance from accounts by the Chinese merchant and the valiant pilot. Phiz once again has elected to illustrate an incident that contains multiple characters in a variety of poses, physical action, and suspense — as well as horses. Phiz gives us not what the usually observant Crusoe saw, but what he imagined was transpiring while he was unconscious.

Stothard's (1820), Cruikshank's (1831), and Cassell's (1864) Scenes of Combat with the Tartars

Left: As Crusoe regain consciousness, he discovers that his companions have driven off the robbers in Crusoe, regaining consciousness, sees the dead Tartar. Centre: The first illustration of Crusoe's adventure on the Russian steppes, Robinson Crusoe travelling in Chinese Tartary, a scene full of apprehension, but no action. Right: Cruikshank's dramatic tailpiece for Farther Adventures: Crusoe and his party deliver a furious volley from behind a stockade of stacked tree trunks in The Europeans fire a withering volley at the charging Tartar horde in Russia. [Click on the images to enlarge them.]

Above: A far more animated and detailed full-page illustration of the Europeans' cavalry charge: A Fight with the Tartars. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

Related Material


De Foe, Daniel. Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, including A Memoir of the Author, and an Essay on his Writings. Illustrated by Phiz. London & New York: Routledge, Warne, and Routledge, 1864.

Lester, Valerie Browne. Phiz: The Man Who Drew Dickens. London: Chatto and Windus, 2004.

Last modified 17 February 2018