Moll Flanders 2e (NCE)

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9780393978629: Moll Flanders 2e (NCE)

Book by Defoe Daniel

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The Preface

THE world is so taken up of late with novels and romances that it will be hard for a private history to be taken for genuine where the names and other circumstances of the person are concealed; and on this account we must be content to leave the reader to pass his own opinion upon the ensuing sheets and take it just as he pleases.

The author is here supposed to be writing her own history, and in the very beginning of her account she gives the reasons why she thinks fit to conceal her true name, after which there is no occasion to say any more about that.

It is true that the original of this story is put into new words and the style of the famous lady we here speak of is a little altered; particularly she is made to tell her own tale in modester words than she told it at first, the copy which came first to hand having been written in language more like one still in Newgate than one grown penitent and humble, as she afterwards pretends to be.

The pen employed in finishing her story, and making it what you now see it to be, has had no little difficulty to put it into a dress fit to be seen and to make it speak language fit to be read. When a woman debauched from her youth, nay, even being the offspring of debauchery and vice, comes to give an account of all her vicious practices, and even to descend to the particular occasions and circumstances by which she first became wicked, and of all the progressions of crime which she run through in threescore years, an author must be hard put to it to wrap it up so clean as not to give room, especially for vicious readers, to turn it to his disadvantage.

All possible care, however, has been taken to give no lewd ideas, no immodest turns, in the new dressing up this story; no, not to the worst part of her expressions. To this purpose some of the vicious part of her life, which could not be modestly told, is quite left out, and several other parts are very much shortened. What is left ’tis hoped will not offend the chastest reader or the modestest hearer; and as the best use is to be made even of the worst story, the moral, ’tis hoped, will keep the reader serious even where the story might incline him to be otherwise. To give the history of a wicked life repented of necessarily requires that the wicked part should be made as wicked as the real history of it will bear, to illustrate and give a beauty to the penitent part, which is certainly the best and brightest if related with equal spirit and life.

It is suggested there cannot be the same life, the same brightness and beauty, in relating the penitent part as is in the criminal part. If there is any truth in that suggestion, I must be allowed to say ’tis because there is not the same taste and relish in the reading; and indeed it is too true that the difference lies not in the real worth of the subject so much as in the gust and palate of the reader.

But as this work is chiefly recommended to those who know how to read it and how to make the good uses of it which the story all along recommends to them, so it is to be hoped that such readers will be much more pleased with the moral than the fable, with the application than with the relation, and with the end of the writer than with the life of the person written of.

There is in this story abundance of delightful incidents, and all of them usefully applied. There is an agreeable turn artfully given them in the relating, that naturally instructs the reader either one way or another. The first part of her lewd life with the young gentleman at Colchester has so many happy turns given it to expose the crime, and warn all whose circumstances are adapted to it of the ruinous end of such things, and the foolish, thoughtless, and abhorred conduct of both the parties, that it abundantly atones for all the lively description she gives of her folly and wickedness.

The repentance of her lover at the Bath and how brought by the just alarm of his fit of sickness to abandon her, the just caution given there against even the lawful intimacies of the dearest friends and how unable they are to preserve the most solemn resolutions of virtue without divine assistance—these are parts which to a just discernment will appear to have more real beauty in them than all the amorous chain of story which introduces it.

In a word, as the whole relation is carefully garbled of all the levity and looseness that was in it, so it is applied, and with the utmost care, to virtuous and religious uses. None can, without being guilty of manifest injustice, cast any reproach upon it or upon our design in publishing it.

The advocates for the stage have in all ages made this the great argument to persuade people that their plays are useful, and that they ought to be allowed in the most civilized and in the most religious government; namely, that they are applied to virtuous purposes, and that by the most lively representations they fail not to recommend virtue and generous principles and to discourage and expose all sorts of vice and corruption of manners; and were it true that they did so and that they constantly adhered to that rule as the test of their acting on the theatre, much might be said in their favour.

Throughout the infinite variety of this book, this fundamental is most strictly adhered to; there is not a wicked action in any part of it but is first or last rendered unhappy and unfortunate; there is not a superlative villain brought upon the stage but either he is brought to an unhappy end or brought to be a penitent; there is not an ill thing mentioned but it is condemned, even in the relation, nor a virtuous, just thing but it carries its praise along with it. What can more exactly answer the rule laid down, to recommend even those representations of things which have so many other just objections lying against them? Namely, of example of bad company, obscene language, and the like.

Upon this foundation this book is recommended to the reader, as a work from every part of which something may be learnt and some just and religious inference is drawn, by which the reader will have something of instruction if he pleases to make use of it.

All the exploits of this lady of fame, in her depredations upon mankind, stand as so many warnings to honest people to beware of ’em, intimating to ’em by what methods innocent people are drawn in, plundered, and robbed, and by consequence how to avoid them. Her robbing a little child dressed fine by the vanity of the mother to go to the dancing-school is a good memento to such people hereafter, as is likewise her picking the gold watch from the young lady’s side in the park.

Her getting a parcel from a hare-brained wench at the coaches in St. John’s Street, her booty at the fire and also at Harwich—all give us excellent warning in such cases to be more present to ourselves in sudden surprises of every sort.

Her application to a sober life and industrious management at last, in Virginia, with her transported spouse, is a story fruitful of instruction to all the unfortunate creatures who are obliged to seek their re-establishment abroad, whether by the misery of transportation or other disaster; letting them know that diligence and application have their due encouragement even in the remotest part of the world, and that no case can be so low, so despicable, or so empty of prospect, but that an unwearied industry will go a great way to deliver us from it, will in time raise the meanest creature to appear again in the world and give him a new cast for his life.

These are a few of the serious inferences which we are led by the hand to in this book, and these are fully sufficient to justify any man in recommending it to the world, and much more to justify the publication of it.

There are two of the most beautiful parts still behind, which this story gives some idea of and lets us into the parts of them, but they are either of them too long to be brought into the same volume and indeed are, as I may call them, whole volumes of themselves, viz.: 1. The life of her governess, as she calls her, who had run through, it seems, in a few years all the eminent degrees of a gentlewoman, a whore, and a bawd; a midwife and a midwife-keeper, as they are called; a pawnbroker, a child-taker, a receiver of thieves and of stolen goods; and, in a word, herself a thief, a breeder up of thieves and the like, and yet at last a penitent.

The second is the life of her transported husband, a highwayman, who, it seems, lived a twelve years’ life of successful villainy upon the road, and even at last came off so well as to be a volunteer transport, not a convict, and in whose life there is an incredible variety.

But, as I said, these are things too long to bring in here, so neither can I make a promise of their coming out by themselves.

We cannot say, indeed, that this history is carried on quite to the end of the life of this famous Moll Flanders, for nobody can write their own life to the full end of it unless they can write it after they are dead. But her husband’s life, being written by a third hand, gives a full account of them both, how long they lived together in that country, and how they came both to England again after about eight years, in which time they were grown very rich, and where she lived, it seems, to be very old, but was not so extraordinary a penitent as she was at first; it seems only that indeed she always spoke with abhorrence of her former life and every part of it.

In her last scene, at Maryland and Virginia, many pleasant things happened, which makes that part of her life very agreeable, but they are not told with the same elegancy as those accounted for by herself; so it is still to the more advantage that we break off here.

MY true name is so well known in the records, or registers, at Newgate and in the Old Bailey, 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 though a general pardon should be issued, even without exceptions 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 string, as I often expected to go, knew me by the name of Moll Flanders, so you may give me leave to go 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 condemned, either to die, or to the galleys, or to be transported, if they leave any children, as such are generally unprovided for by the forfeiture of their parents, so they are immediately taken into the care of the government and put into an hospital called the House of Orphans, where they are bred up, clothed, fed, taught, and, when fit to go out, are placed 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 clothes, without help or helper, as was my fate; and by which I was not only exposed to very great distresses even before I was capable either of understanding my case or how to amend it, but brought into a course of life scandalous in itself and 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 petty theft scarce worth naming, viz., borrowing three pieces of fine holland of a certain draper in Cheapside. The circumstances are too long to repeat, and I have heard them related so many ways that I can scarce tell which is the right account.

However it was, they all agree in this: that my mother pleaded her belly, and being found quick with child, she was respited for about seven months; after which she was called down, as they term it, to her former judgement, but obtained the favour afterward 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 anything of myself but by hearsay; ’tis enough to mention that as I was born in such an unhappy place, I had no parish 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 mother took me away, but at whose expense 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 wandered among a crew of those people they call gipsies, or Egyptians; but I believe it was but a little while that I had been among them, for I had not had my skin discoloured, as they do to all 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 is, that I hid myself and would not go any farther with them), but I am not able to be particular in that account; only this I remember: that being taken up by some of the parish officers of Colchester, I gave an account that I came into the town with the gipsies, but that I would not go any farther with them, and that so they had left me, but whither they were gone, that I knew not; for though they sent round the country to inquire after them, it seems they could not be found.

I was now in a way to be provided for; for though I was not a parish charge upon this or that part of the town by law, yet as my case came to be known, and that I was too young to do any work, being not above three years old, compassion moved the magistrates of the town to take care of me, and I became one of their own as much as if I had been born in the place.

In the provision they made for me, it was my good hap to be put to nurse, as they call it, to a woman who was indeed poor, but had been in better circumstances, and who got a little livelihood by taking such as I was supposed to be and keeping them with all necessaries till they were at a certain age, in which it might be supposed they might go to service or get their own bread.

This woman had also a little school, which she kept to teach children to read and to work; and having, I say, lived before that in good fashion, she bred up the children with a great deal of art, as well as with a great deal of care.

But, which was worth all the rest, she bred them up very religiously also, being herself a very sober, pious woman; secondly, very housewifely and clean; and thirdly, very mannerly and with good behaviour. So that excepting a plain diet, coarse lodging, and mean clothes, we were brought up as mannerly as if we had been at the dancing-school.

I was continued here till I was eight years old, when I was terrified with news that the magistrates (as I think they called them) had ordered that I should go to service. I was able to do but very little, wherever I was to go, exce...

Présentation de l'éditeur :

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.

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Description du livre WW Norton Co, United States, 2004. Paperback. État : New. 208 x 129 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. This Norton Critical Edition is again based on the first edition text (1722), the only text known to be Defoe s own. It is accompanied by detailed explanatory annotations and the editor s essay outlining the novel s textual history. Contexts collects related documents on criminal transport, contemporary accounts of lives of crime, and colonial laws as they applied to servants, slaves, and runaways. Criticism includes eleven interpretations by Juliet McMaster, Everett Zimmerman, Maximillian E. Novak, Henry Knight Miller, Ian A. Bell, Carol Kay, Paula B. Backscheider, John Rietz, Ann Louise Kibbie, John Richetti, and Ellen Pollak. A Chronology and Selected Bibliography are also included. N° de réf. du libraire AAC9780393978629

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Description du livre WW Norton Co, United States, 2004. Paperback. État : New. 208 x 129 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. This Norton Critical Edition is again based on the first edition text (1722), the only text known to be Defoe s own. It is accompanied by detailed explanatory annotations and the editor s essay outlining the novel s textual history. Contexts collects related documents on criminal transport, contemporary accounts of lives of crime, and colonial laws as they applied to servants, slaves, and runaways. Criticism includes eleven interpretations by Juliet McMaster, Everett Zimmerman, Maximillian E. Novak, Henry Knight Miller, Ian A. Bell, Carol Kay, Paula B. Backscheider, John Rietz, Ann Louise Kibbie, John Richetti, and Ellen Pollak. A Chronology and Selected Bibliography are also included. N° de réf. du libraire AAC9780393978629

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