Moll Flanders

I have begun reading ‘Hours in a Library’, being a selection of reviews of the works of earlier writers by Leslie Stephen, which I think will lead me to visit for first or repeated occasions some of those authors. Stephen, the father of Virginia Woolf, is a skilled and humane writer of elegant, witty, and insightful prose who was a voracious reader, perhaps better known for his editorship of the Dictionary of National Biography.

The first of these “Hours” is ‘Defoe’s Novels’, of which I have read three. Sir Leslie ranks Defoe as beneath the very best authors, and ‘Robinson Crusoe’ as the best of his works. I had no memory of the other two, and did enjoy the story of Crusoe, based on the tale of Alexander Selkirk, as a child. I suspect that such memories I have of that have been because this, filmed at least once, has become part of our British cultural heritage.

Defoe began writing as a journalist, and his novels, coming over as detailed narrative lacking emotional input, perhaps reflect that. I first read “Moll” in 1965. Stephen prompted me to pick her up again. The subtitle of the work, first published in 1722, reads as modern day bullet points. It causes me to deviate from my usual practice of not giving such spoilers.

The Fortunes & Misfortunes of the Famous MOLL FLANDERS Who was Born in Newgate, and during a Life of continu’d Variety for Threescore Years, besides her Childhood, was Twelve Year a Whore, five times a Wife (whereof once to her own Brother), Twelve Year a Thief, Eight Year a Transported Felon in Virginia, at last grew Rich, liv’d Honest, and died a Penitent,

The narrator is the lady herself, with a story allegedly told to help others avoid the life which some would see as inevitable for a woman of her times. Perhaps this was the writer’s object. Very soon, despite her protestations of innocence, she learns how to use her charms to her best advantage, and to become a skilled manipulator. Maybe she did have no choice from the start. We don’t really know how she feels as she climbs the greasy pole of life.

I had been unaware of transportation to Virginia and am grateful for this historical knowledge.

Defoe’s prose follows a steady course in telling the story of a life. It does become repetitive and, for this reader, eventually boring.

My copy is from the Folio Society, 1965, with drawings by Nigel Lambourne. Whilst these are good enough for m to publish here, I will hold them back for future post in order to assist Peacock Computers in the site migration task.

This may be the most read of the author’s works. With those bullet points maybe more salacious details were anticipated. There were none of these.

I was not tempted to revisit ‘Roxana’.

Published by derrickjknight

I am an octogenarian enjoying rambling physically and photographing what I see, and rambling in my head as memories are triggered. I also ramble through a lifetime's photographs. In these later years much rambling is done in a car.

41 thoughts on “Moll Flanders

  1. I know I’ve skimmed through the book, many years ago, but I doubt I read it cover to cover. 😏Yes, I believe like many novels of that time, it’s intended as a sort of cautionary tale.

  2. Having only read ‘Robinson Crusoe’ and ‘Moll Flanders’, I had no idea Defoe was such a prolific writer. I see he produced more than 550 published books, journals and pamphlets! Of course the (now considered sexist) term Girl Friday is based on Man Friday in ‘Robinson Crusoe’ 🙂

  3. Good recap. As I recall, Georgia was originally a penal colony but my guess is that all 13 colonies were used to.house people that England preferred to leave the country. Australia’s 19 Crimes wines are named in homage.to the 19 Crimes that could get you deported.

  4. Good recap. As I recall, Georgia was originally a penal colony but my guess is that all 13 colonies were used to.house people that England preferred to leave the country. Australia’s 19 Crimes wines are named in homage.to the 19 Crimes that could get you deported.

      1. It mostly produces red wines, but I noticed one white wine recently. It is relatively inexpensive (at least in the US) and nice for the price. The backstories on the bottle are a hoot.

  5. I recently re=read a novel ,by a well known journalist, in this case , HG Wells and “War of the Worlds” . For me, that was a perfect exmple of your excellent phrase, “detailed narrative lacking emotional input”.

  6. I read Robinson Crusoe, but not Moll or any other of DeFoe’s books. I sometimes mix Robinson Crusoe with Treasure Island and I’m pretty sure I liked Treasure Island better!

  7. I discovered Moll Flanders when I was 16, the best book I have ever read. It was also avaliable as a movie – I strongly recommend it. When I went to university and was going to take my degree as a teacher, my final essay had the topic being a modern woman in an old fashioned society adapted to men, in which I wrote about that novel. 😊🙏

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