Whether the Journal can properly be regarded as a novel has been disputed. It was initially read as a work of non-fiction but by the 1780s the work's fictional status was accepted. Debate continued as to whether Defoe could be regarded as the work's author rather than merely its editor. One modern literary critic has asserted that 'the invented detail is... small and inessential', while Watson Nicholson – writing in 1919 – argued that the work can be regarded as 'authentic history'. Other literary critics have argued that the work can indeed be regarded as a work of imaginative fiction, and thus can justifiably be described as a 'historical novel'.
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