Happy New Year, everyone! Time for another lovely book showing. When I bought this one I recognized Daniel Defoe’s (the author’s) name because he wrote Robinson Crusoe, though I’d never even heard of this novel. A work friend quickly reassured me I’d unknowingly made a great purchase when she called the main character “the original Scarlett O’Hara. Believe me, I was not disappointed. Keep reading for a brief description of the novel (no spoilers as always) and more pics of an old edition.
The Fortunes & Misfortunes of Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe
Moll Flanders is the retroactive autobiography of an old bandit. Moll Flanders, narrator and protagonist, introduces the story by speaking to the reader, musing how her name (which isn’t real) is widely renowned from the old tavern to the prison, preparing us for the adventure, the horror, and the life lessons that will proceed. She starts as a pitiful orphan and is taken in by a “gentlewoman” who cares for abandoned children. Flanders distinguishes herself as rebellious from the beginning, resisting the orphans’ training for servitude, instead desiring to become a “gentlewoman” herself. Most of the novel focuses on her exhilarating adulthood years, which include several marriages, several abandoned children, sleeping with brothers, cross-country moves, accidental incest, feigning wealth to entice a man, prostituting, and much more.
Her affair with a married man who impregnates her but leaves her introduces her to a midwife who would become her most loyal friend and partner during her later years; the midwife ropes her into the business of thievery. Flanders is so successful in her life of crime that she becomes rich and sustains the “job” for years, providing the reader with many shocking and hilarious incidents of her stealing and narrowly escaping. You’ll have to read the novel yourself to find out the ending! Flanders is a badass, but fully embracing her is difficult sometimes because she is selfish (like O’Hara). Flanders’ occasional repulsiveness as a character is tempered with her reflective, didactic digressions in the narration, though. [Side note: it’s interesting to consider those didactic digressions in the context of a man writing a story from a woman’s perspective in 1722, especially on topics like sexuality.] Overall, the story is incredibly entertaining.
Daniel Defoe wasn’t given the credit for authorship until decades after his death. The work was genuinely published as an autobiography. Can you imagine what the world would be like if we didn’t put disclaimers on everything nowadays?
Information on this edition is hard to find, but from what I can gather, Fine Editions Press commissioned these semi-leather, burgundy, hardback editions of the classics in 1946-1947. The tops of the pages are gilded, and some of the novels from the series include illustrations, though this one doesn’t. The book has a distinctive “old library” smell when opened, which appeals to nerdy girls like myself.
Do you feel intrigued to read Moll Flanders now? Let me know, and thanks for reading!