The Compleat English Gentleman: Perspectives on Defoe’s Major Unfinished Work

  • Donald Leinster-MacKay


During Defoe’s life-time (c1660-1731) several projects were launched for the improvement of mankind. Defoe was in the forefront of this later seventeenth/early eighteenth-century phenomenon. It was the ‘projection’ age. Defoe’s major unfinished educational work was The Compleat English Gentleman (CEG) 1729: an educational project. Defoe wrote the CEG as a means of improving the education of the English gentry, many of whom were elder sons for whom often formal education through the Classics was deemed to be unnecessary. Defoe’s suggestion to improve this sad state was to suggest his Post-Entries, the study of the Classics through the vernacular.