This essay clarifies the bibliographical history of the three published accounts of the sufferings of a Dutch sailor abandoned on Ascension Island in 1726 for sodomy, but is ultimately less concerned with what actually happened than with how the story was represented in each of three versions and with what those changes might tell us about shifts in expectations of fiction readers between 1726 and 1740. It also examines how later critics have responded to the story to demonstrate that ideas about credibility are relative and socially determined. While narrative theory generally argues that “the more information we have on a narrator, the more concrete will be our sense of the quality and distinctness of his or her voice,” this case study questions that relationship, at least for the early novel, when narrative techniques and readerly practices were still being developed.

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