The Mutineers (page 169) — the volume's forty-sixth composite wood-block engraving for Defoe's The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe of York, Mariner. Related by himself (London: Cassell, Petter, and Galpin, 1863-64). Chapter XVII, "The Visit of the Mutineers." The conventional chapter title prepares readers for Crusoe's intervening in the mutiny on behalf of the ship's legitimate commander and against the ringleaders of the mutiny. The subsequent running head ("Preparations for a Contest," p. 175) suggests that, when the longboats that the mutinous crew have despatched come ashore, an armed confrontation will ensue. Half-page, framed: 10.5 cm high (including caption) x 14 cm wide, including the framing border of competing flagpoles.

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The Passage Illustrated

The present question abundantly confirms me in the justice of this reasoning; for had I not been made cautious by this secret admonition, come it from whence it will, I had been done inevitably, and in a far worse condition than before, as you will see presently. I had not kept myself long in this posture till I saw the boat draw near the shore, as if they looked for a creek to thrust in at, for the convenience of landing; however, as they did not come quite far enough, they did not see the little inlet where I formerly landed my rafts, but ran their boat on shore upon the beach, at about half a mile from me, which was very happy for me; for otherwise they would have landed just at my door, as I may say, and would soon have beaten me out of my castle, and perhaps have plundered me of all I had. When they were on shore I was fully satisfied they were Englishmen, at least most of them; one or two I thought were Dutch, but it did not prove so; there were in all eleven men, whereof three of them I found were unarmed and, as I thought, bound; and when the first four or five of them were jumped on shore, they took those three out of the boat as prisoners: one of the three I could perceive using the most passionate gestures of entreaty, affliction, and despair, even to a kind of extravagance; the other two, I could perceive, lifted up their hands sometimes, and appeared concerned indeed, but not to such a degree as the first. I was perfectly confounded at the sight, and knew not what the meaning of it should be. Friday called out to me in English, as well as he could, "O master! you see English mans eat prisoner as well as savage mans." "Why, Friday," says I, "do you think they are going to eat them, then?" "Yes," says Friday, "they will eat them." "No no," says I, "Friday; I am afraid they will murder them, indeed; but you may be sure they will not eat them."

All this while I had no thought of what the matter really was, but stood trembling with the horror of the sight, expecting every moment when the three prisoners should be killed; nay, once I saw one of the villains lift up his arm with a great cutlass, as the seamen call it, or sword, to strike one of the poor men; and I expected to see him fall every moment; at which all the blood in my body seemed to run chill in my veins. I wished heartily now for the Spaniard, and the savage that had gone with him, or that I had any way to have come undiscovered within shot of them, that I might have secured the three men, for I saw no firearms they had among them; but it fell out to my mind another way. After I had observed the outrageous usage of the three men by the insolent seamen, I observed the fellows run scattering about the island, as if they wanted to see the country. [Chapter XVII, "The Visit of the Mutineers," pp. 168-170]


The illustrator, Matt Somerville Morgan, depicts the mutineers, who are temporarily in control of the situation, as they bring their chief prisoners ashore. The placement of the illustration above the violent action unfolding in the text beneath reveals the temporary triumph of the mutineers.

Since the illustrator depicts the prisoners in clothing worn by members of the upper classes and the mutineers in ordinary seamen's uniforms, he seems to imply that the mutiny runs along class lines. The border contributes to the reader's sense of suspense because it contains weapons and contrasting flags. A British naval ensign (upper left, a metonymy for the ship's legally empowered officers) appears opposite the skull-and-cross-bones pirate flag (upper right), reinforcing the reader's impression that both sides are about to engage in combat with weapons ranging from swords, cutlasses, and axes (left border) to a variety of firearms (right border).

Related Material

Relevant illustrations from other 19th century editions, 1790-1891

Above: George Cruikshank's more explicit indication of how Crusoe will at last be able to leave the island, Crusoe and Friday encounter the captain of a British ship whose crew have mutinied (1831). [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

Above: Wal Paget's dramatic lithograph of Crusoe's hailing three sailors in seventeenth-century clothing, in a scene that could have come from his Treasure Island illustrations, "What are ye, gentlemen?" (1891). [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

Left: Stothard's 1790 realisation of another significant meeting at the end of the first book, Robinson Crusoe and Friday making a tent to lodge Friday's father and the Spaniard (Chapter XVI, "Rescue of the Prisoners from the Cannibals," copper-engraving). Centre: In the children's book illustration, the Captain offers Crusoe his ship without any reference to quelling the mutiny first, The Captain offers a Ship to Robinson Crusoe (1818). Right: In the 1820 children's book illustration, The poor man, with a gush of tears, answered, "Am I talking to a man or an angel?", Crusoe (in oversized goatskin hat) and Friday (marginalised) encounter the victims of the mutiny. [Click on the images to enlarge them.]


Defoe, Daniel. The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe of York, Mariner. Related by himself. With upwards of One Hundred Illustrations. London: Cassell, Petter, and Galpin, 1863-64.

Last modified 20 March 2018