I was born in the year 1632, in the city of York, of a good family,though not of that country, my father being a foreigner of Bremen, whosettled first at Hull. He got a good estate by merchandise, and leavingoff his trade, lived afterwards at York, from whence he had married mymother, whose relations were named Robinson, a very good family in thatcountry, and from whom I was called Robinson Kreutznaer; but, by theusual corruption of words in England, we are now called — nay we callourselves and write our name — Crusoe; and so my companions always calledme.
I had two elder brothers, one of whom was lieutenant-colonel to anEnglish regiment of foot in Flanders, formerly commanded by the famousColonel Lockhart, and was killed at the battle near Dunkirk against theSpaniards. What became of my second brother I never knew, any more thanmy father or mother knew what became of me.
Being the third son of the family and not bred to any trade, my headbegan to be filled very early with rambling thoughts. My father, who wasvery ancient, had given me a competent share of learning, as far ashouse-education and a country free school generally go, and designed mefor the law; but I would be satisfied with nothing but going to sea; andmy inclination to this led me so strongly against the will, nay, thecommands of my father, and against all the entreaties and persuasions ofmy mother and other friends, that there seemed to be something fatal inthat propensity of nature, tending directly to the life of misery whichwas to befall me.
My father, a wise and grave man, gave me serious and excellent counselagainst what he foresaw was my design. He called me one morning into hischamber, where he was confined by the gout, and expostulated very warmlywith me upon this subject. He asked me what reasons, more than a merewandering inclination, I had for leaving father’s house and my nativecountry, where I might be well introduced, and had a prospect of raisingmy fortune by application and industry, with a life of ease and pleasure.He told me it was men of desperate fortunes on one hand, or of aspiring,superior fortunes on the other, who went abroad upon adventures, to riseby enterprise, and make themselves famous in undertakings of a nature outof the common road; that these things were all either too far above me ortoo far below me; that mine was the middle state, or what might be calledthe upper station of low life, which he had found, by long experience,was the best state in the world, the most suited to human happiness, notexposed to the miseries and hardships, the labour and sufferings of themechanic part of mankind, and not embarrassed with the pride, luxury,ambition, and envy of the upper part of mankind. He told me I mightjudge of the happiness of this state by this one thing — viz. that this wasthe state of life which all other people envied; that kings havefrequently lamented the miserable consequence of being born to greatthings, and wished they had been placed in the middle of the twoextremes, between the mean and the great; that the wise man gave histestimony to this, as the standard of felicity, when he prayed to haveneither poverty nor riches.
He bade me observe it, and I should always find that the calamities oflife were shared among the upper and lower part of mankind, but that themiddle station had the fewest disasters, and was not exposed to so manyvicissitudes as the higher or lower part of mankind; nay, they were notsubjected to so many distempers and uneasinesses, either of body or mind,as those were who, by vicious living, luxury, and extravagances on theone hand, or by hard labour, want of necessaries, and mean orinsufficient diet on the other hand, bring distemper upon themselves bythe natural consequences of their way of living; that the middle stationof life was calculated for all kind of virtue and all kind of enjoyments;that peace and plenty were the handmaids of a middle fortune; thattemperance, moderation, quietness, health, society, all agreeablediversions, and all desirable pleasures, were the blessings attending themiddle station of life; that this way men went silently and smoothlythrough the world, and comfortably out of it, not embarrassed with thelabours of the hands or of the head, not sold to a life of slavery fordaily bread, nor harassed with perplexed circumstances, which rob thesoul of peace and the body of rest, nor enraged with the passion of envy,or the secret burning lust of ambition for great things; but, in easycircumstances, sliding gently through the world, and sensibly tasting thesweets of living, without the bitter; feeling that they are happy, andlearning by every day’s experience to know it more sensibly.
After this he pressed me earnestly, and in the most affectionate manner,not to play the young man, nor to precipitate myself into miseries whichnature, and the station of life I was born in, seemed to have providedagainst; that I was under no necessity of seeking my bread; that he woulddo well for me, and endeavour to enter me fairly into the station of lifewhich he had just been recommending to me; and that if I was not veryeasy and happy in the world, it must be my mere fate or fault that musthinder it; and that he should have nothing to answer for, having thusdischarged his duty in warning me against measures which he knew would beto my hurt; in a word, that as he would do very kind things for me if Iwould stay and settle at home as he directed, so he would not have somuch hand in my misfortunes as to give me any encouragement to go away;and to close all, he told me I had my elder brother for an example, towhom he had used the same earnest persuasions to keep him from going intothe Low Country wars, but could not prevail, his young desires promptinghim to run into the army, where he was killed; and though he said hewould not cease to pray for me, yet he would venture to say to me, thatif I did take this foolish step, God would not bless me, and I shouldhave leisure hereafter to reflect upon having neglected his counsel whenthere might be none to assist in my recovery.
I observed in this last part of his discourse, which was truly prophetic,though I suppose my father did not know it to be so himself — I say, Iobserved the tears run down his face very plentifully, especially when hespoke of my brother who was killed: and that when he spoke of my havingleisure to repent, and none to assist me, he was so moved that he brokeoff the discourse, and told me his heart was so full he could say no moreto me.
I was sincerely affected with this discourse, and, indeed, who could beotherwise? and I resolved not to think of going abroad any more, but tosettle at home according to my father’s desire. But alas! a few dayswore it all off; and, in short, to prevent any of my father’s furtherimportunities, in a few weeks after I resolved to run quite away fromhim. However, I did not act quite so hastily as the first heat of myresolution prompted; but I took my mother at a time when I thought her alittle more pleasant than ordinary, and told her that my thoughts were soentirely bent upon seeing the world that I should never settle toanything with resolution enough to go through with it, and my father hadbetter give me his consent than force me to go without it; that I was noweighteen years old, which was too late to go apprentice to a trade orclerk to an attorney; that I was sure if I did I should never serve outmy time, but I should certainly run away from my master before my timewas out, and go to sea; and if she would speak to my father to let me goone voyage abroad, if I came home again, and did not like it, I would gono more; and I would promise, by a double diligence, to recover the timethat I had lost.
This put my mother into a great passion; she told me she knew it would beto no purpose to speak to my father upon any such subject; that he knewtoo well what was my interest to give his consent to anything so much formy hurt; and that she wondered how I could think of any such thing afterthe discourse I had had with my father, and such kind and tenderexpressions as she knew my father had used to me; and that, in short, ifI would ruin myself, there was no help for me; but I might depend Ishould never have their consent to it; that for her part she would nothave so much hand in my destruction; and I should never have it to saythat my mother was willing when my father was not.
Though my mother refused to move it to my father, yet I heard afterwardsthat she reported all the discourse to him, and that my father, aftershowing a great concern at it, said to her, with a sigh, “That boy mightbe happy if he would stay at home; but if he goes abroad, he will be themost miserable wretch that ever was born: I can give no consent to it.”
It was not till almost a year after this that I broke loose, though, inthe meantime, I continued obstinately deaf to all proposals of settlingto business, and frequently expostulated with my father and mother abouttheir being so positively determined against what they knew myinclinations prompted me to. But being one day at Hull, where I wentcasually, and without any purpose of making an elopement at that time;but, I say, being there, and one of my companions being about to sail toLondon in his father’s ship, and prompting me to go with them with thecommon allurement of seafaring men, that it should cost me nothing for mypassage, I consulted neither father nor mother any more, nor so much assent them word of it; but leaving them to hear of it as they might,without asking God’s blessing or my father’s, without any considerationof circumstances or consequences, and in an ill hour, God knows, on the1st of September 1651, I went on board a ship bound for London. Neverany young adventurer’s misfortunes, I believe, began sooner, or continuedlonger than mine. The ship was no sooner out of the Humber than the windbegan to blow and the sea to rise in a most frightful manner; and, as Ihad never been at sea before, I was most inexpressibly sick in body andterrified in mind. I began now seriously to reflect upon what I haddone, and how justly I was overtaken by the judgment of Heaven for mywicked leaving my father’s house, and abandoning my duty. All the goodcounsels of my parents, my father’s tears and my mother’s entreaties,came now fresh into my mind; and my conscience, which was not yet come tothe pitch of hardness to which it has since, reproached me with thecontempt of advice, and the breach of my duty to God and my father.
All this while the storm increased, and the sea went very high, thoughnothing like what I have seen many times since; no, nor what I saw a fewdays after; but it was enough to affect me then, who was but a youngsailor, and had never known anything of the matter. I expected everywave would have swallowed us up, and that every time the ship fell down,as I thought it did, in the trough or hollow of the sea, we should neverrise more; in this agony of mind, I made many vows and resolutions thatif it would please God to spare my life in this one voyage, if ever I gotonce my foot upon dry land again, I would go directly home to my father,and never set it into a ship again while I lived; that I would take hisadvice, and never run myself into such miseries as these any more. Now Isaw plainly the goodness of his observations about the middle station oflife, how easy, how comfortably he had lived all his days, and never hadbeen exposed to tempests at sea or troubles on shore; and I resolved thatI would, like a true repenting prodigal, go home to my father.
These wise and sober thoughts continued all the while the storm lasted,and indeed some time after; but the next day the wind was abated, and thesea calmer, and I began to be a little inured to it; however, I was verygrave for all that day, being also a little sea-sick still; but towardsnight the weather cleared up, the wind was quite over, and a charmingfine evening followed; the sun went down perfectly clear, and rose so thenext morning; and having little or no wind, and a smooth sea, the sunshining upon it, the sight was, as I thought, the most delightful thatever I saw.
I had slept well in the night, and was now no more sea-sick, but verycheerful, looking with wonder upon the sea that was so rough and terriblethe day before, and could be so calm and so pleasant in so little a timeafter. And now, lest my good resolutions should continue, my companion,who had enticed me away, comes to me; “Well, Bob,” says he, clapping meupon the shoulder, “how do you do after it? I warrant you were frighted,wer’n’t you, last night, when it blew but a capful of wind?” “A capfuld’you call it?” said I; “’twas a terrible storm.” “A storm, you foolyou,” replies he; “do you call that a storm? why, it was nothing at all;give us but a good ship and sea-room, and we think nothing of such asquall of wind as that; but you’re but a fresh-water sailor, Bob. Come,let us make a bowl of punch, and we’ll forget all that; d’ye see whatcharming weather ’tis now?” To make short this sad part of my story, wewent the way of all sailors; the punch was made and I was made half drunkwith it: and in that one night’s wickedness I drowned all my repentance,all my reflections upon my past conduct, all my resolutions for thefuture. In a word, as the sea was returned to its smoothness of surfaceand settled calmness by the abatement of that storm, so the hurry of mythoughts being over, my fears and apprehensions of being swallowed up bythe sea being forgotten, and the current of my former desires returned, Ientirely forgot the vows and promises that I made in my distress. Ifound, indeed, some intervals of reflection; and the serious thoughtsdid, as it were, endeavour to return again sometimes; but I shook themoff, and roused myself from them as it were from a distemper, andapplying myself to drinking and company, soon mastered the return ofthose fits — for so I called them; and I had in five or six days got ascomplete a victory over conscience as any young fellow that resolved notto be troubled with it could desire. But I was to have another trial forit still; and Providence, as in such cases generally it does, resolved toleave me entirely without excuse; for if I would not take this for adeliverance, the next was to be such a one as the worst and most hardenedwretch among us would confess both the danger and the mercy of.