Defoe was born (probably in the City of London) as "Daniel Foe" and became a merchant. He engaged in political journalism, notably campaigning for the union of England and Scotland. Some of his satirical writings were misunderstood, and at one point he was imprisoned and made to stand in the pillory.
In recent years it has been suggested that Defoe may have been bisexual. The former MP Leo Abse wrote a book on this subject, at one point calling Defoe "William III's catamite. The historian John Martin also claims that Defoe was gay, and in particular that he had an affair with the politician Robert Harley, Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer. However these assertions have been criticised as unconvincing.
- Leo Abse, The bi-sexuality of Daniel Defoe: a psychoanalytic survey of the man and his works Karnac Books, London, 2006. ISBN 978-1-85575-456-0
- John Martin, Beyond Belief: The Real Life of Daniel Defoe, Accent Books, Pembrke Dock, 2006. ISBN 978-1-905170-56-2
- http://digitalcommons.mcmaster.ca/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1542&context=ecf John Richetti, "Review of: John Martin, Beyond Belief: The Real Life of Daniel Defoe; and Leo Abse, The Bi-Sexuality of Daniel Defoe: A Psychoanalytic Survey of the Man and His Works" in Eighteenth-century Fiction Volume 20 Issue 2, Article 17 (2008)