P. N. Furbank was born Philip Nicholas Furbank in Cranleigh, Surrey on May 23, 1920. He studied at Cambridge University. During World War II, he served in the British Army in Italy. He was a lifelong stammerer, and this challenge led him to leave Cambridge, where he had taught in the late 1940s and early 1950s, to work in London as a librarian and an editor. He was a critic and scholar who wrote several books including Italo Svevo: The Man and the Writer, E. M. Forster: A Life, and Diderot: A Critical Biography, which was the first recipient of the Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism in 1995. He and fellow scholar W. R. Owens began their Daniel Defoe collaboration in the early 1980s, and over 20 years they published four books and were the general editors of a 44-volume collection of Defoe's works. He died on June 27, 2014 at the age of 94.