Dickory Cronke by Daniel Defoe

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Page 1

The formality of a preface to this little book might have been very well
omitted, if it were not to gratify the curiosity of some inquisitive
people, who, I foresee, will be apt to make objections against the
reality of the narrative.

Indeed the public has too often been imposed upon by fictitious stories,
and some of a very late date, so that I think myself obliged by the usual
respect which is paid to candid and impartial readers, to acquaint them,
by way of introduction, with what they are to expect, and what they may
depend upon, and yet with this caution too, that it is an indication of
ill nature or ill manners, if not both, to pry into a secret that is
industriously concealed.

However, that there may be nothing wanting on my part, I do hereby assure
the reader, that the papers from whence the following sheets were
extracted, are now in town, in the custody of a person of unquestionable
reputation, who, I will be bold to say, will not only be ready, but
proud, to produce them upon a good occasion, and that I think is as much
satisfaction as the nature of this case requires.

As to the performance, it can signify little now to make an apology upon
that account, any farther than this, that if the reader pleases he may
take notice that what he has now before him was collected from a large
bundle of papers, most of which were writ in shorthand, and very
ill-digested. However, this may be relied upon, that though the language
is something altered, and now and then a word thrown in to help the
expression, yet strict care has been taken to speak the author's mind,
and keep as close as possible to the meaning of the original. For the
design, I think there is nothing need be said in vindication of that.
Here is a dumb philosopher introduced to a wicked and degenerate
generation, as a proper emblem of virtue and morality; and if the world
could be persuaded to look upon him with candour and impartiality, and
then to copy after him, the editor has gained his end, and would think
himself sufficiently recompensed for his present trouble.


Among the many strange and surprising events that help to fill the
accounts of this last century, I know none that merit more an entire
credit, or are more fit to be preserved and handed to posterity than
those I am now going to lay before the public.

Dickory Cronke, the subject of the following narrative, was born at a
little hamlet, near St. Columb, in Cornwall, on the 29th of May, 1660,
being the day and year in which King Charles the Second was restored. His
parents were of mean extraction, but honest, industrious people, and well
beloved in their neighbourhood. His father's chief business was to work
at the tin mines; his mother stayed at home to look after the children,
of which they had several living at the same time. Our Dickory was the
youngest, and being but a sickly child, had always a double portion of
her care and tenderness.

It was upwards of three years before it was discovered that he was born
dumb, the knowledge of which at first gave his mother great uneasiness,
but finding soon after that he had his hearing, and all his other senses
to the greatest perfection, her grief began to abate, and she resolved to
have him brought up as well as their circumstances and his capacity would

As he grew, notwithstanding his want of speech, he every day gave some
instance of a ready genius, and a genius much superior to the country
children, insomuch that several gentlemen in the neighbourhood took
particular notice of him, and would often call him Restoration Dick, and
give him money, &c.

When he came to be eight years of age, his mother agreed with a person in
the next village, to teach him to read and write, both which, in a very
short time, he acquired to such perfection, especially the latter, that
he not only taught his own brothers and sisters, but likewise several
young men and women in the neighbourhood, which often brought him in
small sums, which he always laid out in such necessaries as he stood most
in need of.

In this state he continued till he was about twenty, and then he began to
reflect how scandalous it was for a young man of his age and
circumstances to live idle at home, and so resolves to go with his father
to the mines, to try if he could get something towards the support of
himself and the family; but being of a tender constitution, and often
sick, he soon perceived that sort of business was too hard for him, so
was forced to return home and continue in his former station; upon which
he grew exceeding melancholy, which his mother observing, she comforted
him in the best manner she could, telling him that if it should please
God to take her away, she had something left in store for him, which
would preserve him against public want.

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