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Moll Flanders (Modern Library Classics) by…

Moll Flanders (Modern Library Classics) (original 1722; edition 2002)

by Daniel Defoe, Virginia Woolf (Introduction)

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4,99475910 (3.49)277
Title:Moll Flanders (Modern Library Classics)
Authors:Daniel Defoe
Other authors:Virginia Woolf (Introduction)
Info:Modern Library (2002), Edition: Modern Library, Paperback, 368 pages
Collections:Read & Owned, Your library (inactive)
Tags:England, Anglophone, Germanic Language, British, 1001, 18th Century, Modern Library, Picaresque

Work details

Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe (1722)

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Showing 1-5 of 68 (next | show all)
“…let the Experience of one Creature compleatly Wicked, and compleatly Miserable be a storehouse of useful warning to those that read.” Daniel Defoe’s summation (at the bottom of p.250 in the 2002 Modern Library paperback edition I just read) in the mouth — or at least in the thoughts — of Moll Flanders is, thankfully, as close to didacticism or morality as the author ever comes. It’s also a good illustration of the non-standard spelling, capitalization, punctuation and syntax of his era (he finished the book in 1683), which may be the greatest obstacle to an otherwise clear and thorough enjoyment of the text.

To print Moll Flanders in the original was a conscious choice on the part of the publisher — and a choice I’m not entirely certain I agree with. As I had a similar difficulty with John Cleland’s Fanny Hill, let the reader beware. (Imagine trying to dig through the unedited manuscript of a contemporary writer whose writing mechanics are, to say the least, primitive, and you’ll get the picture.)

That caveat notwithstanding, Moll Flanders is a grand story — and eminently worth reading — no less than Fielding’s Tom Jones or John Cleland’s Fanny Hill. And one of the more interesting aspects of this novel is the point of view: in this case, first-person singular. In other words, a man (Defoe) tells the story through the eyes and heart — and, however obliquely, between the legs — of a woman (Moll). Moreover, he does so — in my opinion — quite convincingly.

What is perhaps most remarkable about the author of Moll Flanders (but also of the more popular if not necessarily more notable Robinson Crusoe) is that Defoe first turned his hand to fiction only at the age of fifty-nine! One has to wonder whether he was an example and an inspiration to Benjamin Franklin, who first turned his hand to the violin at fifty-three. Who says — on the basis of this evidence — you can’t teach a (smart) old dog new tricks?

Brooklyn, NY
( )
1 vote RussellBittner | Dec 12, 2014 |
Moll Flanders
1996, Recorded Books LLC, Read by Virginia Leishman
Want to Read
“I am giving an account of what was, not of what ought or ought not to be.”

Having read Moll Flanders many years ago in university, in the usual panicked rush which characterized that time, I wanted to visit it again for a clearer sense of it. Too, it’s in [1001 Books], and I like to make some effort to read a number of these each year. I decided to listen to Defoe this time, and am happy to highly recommend Viriginia Leishman as a wonderful narrator.

What struck me about Moll’s character in the first half of the story were her contrasts: she has experienced a great deal of life and yet is naïve; she is an intelligent woman and yet a foolish woman – or at least one who makes foolish decisions. As her story unfolds and as she matures, she becomes much more weathered in the ways of her world: a seasoned con (and later convict), bold thief, wary whore. I wondered whether Moll chose her way of life, or whether having set out on that wrong path, albeit perhaps unintentionally, it was impossible to find her way back. Part of me thinks the latter, particularly as a woman living in the 17th century; and yet I believe she enjoys her wily, wicked ways. In the novel’s concluding chapters in which Moll falls into favour with the gift of a grown son and a handsomely profitable plantation in Virginia, I was amused at her humility and penitence in the face of Providence – after all, what’s a woman to do? Whatever the case, I don’t intend to spend any more time with the character.

Having read [Robinson Crusoe] and [Moll Flanders] within a few months of one another, I’ve decided that I can appreciate Defoe for his contribution to the form of the modern novel; but he really is not one I can treasure. I’m glad to have read and reread some of his work presently, but probably with leave him with this final word. ( )
2 vote lit_chick | Oct 5, 2014 |
A wild, chaotic ride through 17th century London, culminating in an unplanned trip as an exile to the New World. Moll Flanders is an amoral opportunist who tries to turn every situation to her advantage when she discovers that as a young woman alone, the deck is stacked against her. She learns not only how to survive, but how to thrive until it all comes crashing down in a legal case that threatens her very life. ( )
  harrietbrown | Sep 2, 2014 |
We get a real taste of old England. Very well written in the King's English. If you are a little unsure about the subject matter, the great writing will make you happy you picked up the book. The leading character always has your sensibilities uppermost in her mind, so no worries. ( )
  Benedict8 | Jul 16, 2014 |
For a book published in 1722, this sure was smutty! It was a good reminder that the Victorian Era prudery was not in full force until Queen Victoria. This is the story of Moll Flanders, a first person account of the life of a woman who lives a life of debauchery and crime in the mid-1600s. Midway through the book, Moll sums up her life thus as she contemplates marrying yet another man who thinks her a good sort:

"What an abominable creature am I! and how is this innocent gentleman going to be abused by me! How little does he think, that having divorced a whore, he is throwing himself into the arms of another! that he is going to marry one that has lain with two brothers, and has had three children by her own brother! one that was born in Newgate, whose mother was a whore, and is now a transported thief! one that has lain with thirteen men, and has had a child since he saw me! Poor gentleman!"

Well, Moll does go on to hide her past successfully and marry this man, have 2 more kids, and marry another man after he dies. Oh, and she turns to stealing when she gets too old to attract more husbands.

There are some interesting themes to consider in this book, especially the limited options that a woman had in those days to earn her keep. Overall, I didn't love this book though. Because it's written in first person, we only see Moll's experiences of how she attracts and marries men and there are almost no other characters. In this respect, the book was a bit too narrow for me. There are also some threads that are lost - like the many children Moll has that seem to just be conveniently forgotten with no mention of who takes care of them.

But then again, considering the time period it was written in, that it is an early example of the novel, and the interesting fact that a man chose to write a first person woman's voice, it was kind of fun to read. And there are some great quotes.

"I began . . . to have the scandal of a whore, without the joy" ( )
2 vote japaul22 | Jun 17, 2014 |
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Defoe Complicates Ethics in Early Novels: Developing Moral Tolerance in 18th C. London
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» Add other authors (83 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Daniel Defoeprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Rexroth, KennethAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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 consquence 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 exception of persons or crimes.
So certainly does interest banish all manner of affection, and so naturally do men give up honour and justice, humanity, and even Christianity, to secure themselves.
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Book description
As Moll Flanders struggles for survival amid the harsh social realities of seventeenth-century England, there is but one snare she is determined to avoid - the deadly snare of poverty.
On the twisting path that leads from her birth in Newgate prison to her final prosperous respectability, love is regarded as worth no more than its weight in gold; and such matters as bigamy, incest, theft, and prostitution occasion but a brief blush before they are reckoned n terms of profit and loss.
Yet so pure is her candor, so healthy her animal appetites, so indomitable her resiliency through every vicissitude of fortune, that this extraordinary wench emerges as far more than a prototype of the mercantile mind.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0140433139, Paperback)

The recent adaptation of Moll Flanders for Masterpiece Theater is a book-lover's dream: the dialogue and scene arrangement are close enough to allow the viewer to follow along in the book. The liberties taken with the tale are few (some years of childhood between the gypsies and the wealthy family are elided; Moll is Moll throughout the tale, rather than Mrs. Betty; Robert becomes Rowland, etc.) and the sets avoid the careless anachronism of the movie version released earlier this year.

The breasts, raised skirts, tumbling hair and heavy breathing on the small screen might catch you by surprise if you don't read the book carefully (as might Moll's abandonment of her children on more than one occasion). Unlike his near-contemporary John Cleland (_Fanny Hill_), Defoe was trying to keep out of jail, and so didn't dwell on the details of "correspondence" between Moll and her varied lovers. But on the page and on the screen, Moll comes across quite clearly as a woman who might bend, but refuses to break, and who is intent on having as good a life as she can get.

E. M. Forster in Aspects of the Novel considers Moll and her creator's art in some detail. While he finds much to criticize in Defoe's ability to plot (where did those last two children go, anyway?), he is as besotted with Moll as I am. Immoral? Sure -- but immortal, and never, ever dull. We hope at least a few of the viewers of the recent adaptation take a couple hours to discover the original, inimitable Moll Flanders.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:04:45 -0400)

(see all 9 descriptions)

Defoe's eighteenth-century picaresque novel of a woman's eventual escape from the life of immorality and wickedness imposed on her by society since her birth.

(summary from another edition)

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