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What makes this tour possible is the fact that Defoe was intimately involved in the crucial events of his day. He served Robert Harley and other key ministers as a secret agent, publicist, and all-around factotum, while publishing, in a series of newspapers and tracts, crucial articles on issues of trade, religious rights, foreign affairs, and Anglo-Scots unity. West freely acknowledges that he relies on a few outdated monumental histories of the period (Macaulay, Trevelyan, Churchill) and on Paula Backsheider's recent academic biography of Defoe. More seriously, he does not display an awareness of recent controversies over just how many of the works attributed to him Defoe actually wrote. Yet West is clearly an aficionado of English history, and whatever he lacks in scholarly expertise he makes up for with the empathy that he evinces for his fellow journalist's travails, which included several jailings for bankruptcy and afamous spell in the pillory. West's closing chapters on the novels and the Tour tend towards summary, but contain quite moving passages of imaginative sympathy with the author. Not a definitive biography, but rather an endearingly personal one that opens up a window on the soul of a writer who experienced firsthand much of what was vital in his time.