Written in a time when criminal biographies enjoyed great success, Daniel Defoe's ""Moll Flanders details the life of the irresistible Moll and her struggles through poverty and sin in search of property and power. Born in Newgate Prison to a picaresque mother, Moll propels herself through marriages, periods of success and destitution, and a trip to the New World and back, only to return to the place of her birth as a popular prostitute and brilliant thief. The story of Moll Flanders vividly illustrates Defoe's themes of social mobility and predestination, sin, redemption and reward. This Modern Library Paperback Classic is set from the 1721 edition printed by Chetwood in London, the only edition approved by Defoe.""From the Trade Paperback edition.
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Oxford University Press
January 01, 1989
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Excerpt from Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe
The History and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders, &c. My True Name is so well known in the Records, or Registers at Newgate, and in the Old-Baily,1 and there are some things of such Consequence still depending there, relating to my particular Conduct, that it is not to be expected I should set my Name, or the Account of my Family to this Work; perhaps, after my Death it may be better known, at present it would not be proper, no, not tho’ a general Pardon should be issued, even without Exceptions and reserve of Persons or Crimes. It is enough to tell you, that as some of my worst Comrades, who are out of the Way of doing me Harm, having gone out of the World by the Steps, and the String2 as I often expected to go, know me by the Name of Moll Flanders; so you may give me leave to speak of myself, under that Name till I dare own who I have been, as well as who I am. I have been told, that in one of our Neighbour Nations, whether it be in France, or where else, I know not; they have an Order from the King, that when any Criminal is condemn’d, either to Die, or to the Gallies, or to be Transported, if they leave any Children, as such are generally unprovided for, by the Poverty or Forfeiture of their Parents; so they are immediately taken into the Care of the Government, and put into an Hospital call’d the House of Orphans, where they are Bred up, Cloath’d, Fed, Taught, and when fit to go out, are plac’d out to Trades, or to Services, so as to be well able to provide for themselves by an honest industrious Behaviour. Had this been the Custom in our Country, I had not been left a poor desolate Girl without Friends, without Cloaths, without Help or Helper in the World, as was my Fate; and by which, I was not only expos’d to very great Distresses, even before I was capable, either of Understanding my Case, or how to Amend it, nor brought into a Course of Life, which was not only scandalous in itself, but, which in its ordinary Course, tended to the swift Destruction both of Soul and Body. But the Case was otherwise here, my Mother was convicted of Felony for a certain petty Theft, scarce worth naming, (viz.) Having an opportunity of borrowing three Pieces of fine Holland,3 of a certain Draper4 in Cheapside:5 The Circumstances are too long to repeat, and I have heard them related so many Ways, that I can scarce be certain, which is the right Account. However it was, this they all agree in, that my Mother pleaded her Belly,6 and being found quick with Child; she was respited for about seven Months, in which time having brought me into the World, and being about again, she was call’d Down,7 as they term it, to her former Judgment, but obtain’d the Favour of being Transported to the Plantations, and left me about Half a Year old; and in bad Hands you may be sure. This is too near the first Hours of my Life, for me to relate any thing of myself, but by hear say, ’tis enough to mention, that as I was born in such an unhappy Place, I had no Parish8 to have Recourse to for my Nourishment in my Infancy, nor can I give the least Account how I was kept alive; other, than that as I have been told, some Relation of my Mothers took me away for a while as a Nurse, but at whose Expence, or by whose Direction I know nothing at all of it. The first account that I can Recollect, or could ever learn of myself, was, that I had wandred among a Crew of those People they call Gypsies, or Egyptians;9 but I believe it was but a very little while that I had been among them, for I had not had my Skin discolour’d, or blacken’d, as they do very young to all the Children they carry about with them, nor can I tell how I came among them, or how I got from them. It was at Colchester in Essex, that those People left me; and I have a Notion in my Head, that I left them there, (that