©National Archives

Letter from Daniel Defoe, 1703 This letter is from Daniel Defoe to the earl of Nottingham, Secretary of State.

Defoe apologises for his concealment, prays for the queen's mercy, and offers either to serve as a volunteer in the Netherlands or to raise a troop of horse at his own charge, under a sentence 'a Little More Tollerable to me as a Gentleman, Than Prisons, Pillorys, and such like, which are Worse to me Than Death'. Defoe signed the letter 'Your most obedient, distressed, humble peticioner and servant, De Foe'.

Daniel Defoe was an adventurer, journalist and novelist whose works included Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders. He was persecuted for his Non-Conformist religious beliefs and found many avenues of work closed.

Defoe settled into life as a merchant and earned a tidy living. Yet he served two terms of imprisonment and died hounded for the debts he had accrued.