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Moll Flanders [Paperback]

Daniel Defoe
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
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Book Description

25 May 1989 Classics

Daniel Defoe's bawdy tale of a woman's struggle for independence and redemption, Moll Flanders is edited with an introduction and notes by David Blewett in Penguin Classics.

Born in Newgate prison and abandoned six months later, Moll Flanders' drive to find and hold on to a secure place in society propels her through incest, adultery, bigamy, prostitution and a resourceful career as a thief ('the greatest Artist of my time') before her crimes catche up with her, and she is transported to the colony of Virginia in the New World. If Moll Flanders is on one level a Puritan's tale of sin and repentance, through self-made, self-reliant Moll, Daniel Defoe's rich subtext conveys all the paradoxes and amoralities of the struggle for property and power in the newly individualistic society of Eighteenth-century England.

Based on the first edition of 1722, this volume includes a chronology, suggestions for further reading, notes on currency and maps of London and Virginia in the late seventeenth century.

Daniel Defoe (1660-1731) had a variety of careers including merchant, soldier, spy, and political pamphleteer. Over the course of his life Daniel Defoe wrote over two hundred and fifty books on economics, history, biography and crime, but is best remembered for the fiction he produced in late life, which includes Robinson Crusoe (1719), Moll Flanders (1722) and Roxana (1724). Defoe had a great influence on the development of the English novel and many consider him to be the first true novelist.

If you enjoyed Moll Flanders, you might like Samuel Richardson's Pamela, also available in Penguin Classics.

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Moll Flanders + The Red Badge of Courage & Other Stories (Wordsworth Classics) + A Visit From the Goon Squad
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Product details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reissue edition (25 May 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140433139
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140433135
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 2.2 x 20 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 357,059 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Daniel Defoe was a Londoner, born in 1660 at St Giles, Cripplegate, and son of James Foe, a tallow-chandler. He changed his name to Defoe from c. 1695. He was educated for the Presbyterian Ministry at Morton's Academy for Dissenters at Newington Green, but in 1682 he abandoned this plan and became a hosiery merchant in Cornhill. After serving briefly as a soldier in the Duke of Monmouth's rebellion, he became well established as a merchant and travelled widely in England, as well as on the Continent.

Between 1697 and 1701 he served as a secret agent for William III in England and Scotland, and between 1703 and 1714 for Harley and other ministers. During the latter period he also, single-handed, produced the Review, a pro-government newspaper. A prolific and versatile writer he produced some 500 books on a wide variety of topics, including politics, geography, crime, religion, economics, marriage, psychology and superstition. He delighted in role-playing and disguise, a skill he used to great effect as a secret agent, and in his writing he often adopted a pseudonym or another personality for rhetorical impact.

His first extant political tract (against James II) was published in 1688, and in 1701 appeared his satirical poem The True-Born Englishman, which was a bestseller. Two years later he was arrested for The Shortest-Way with the Dissenters, an ironical satire on High Church extremism, committed to Newgate and pilloried. He turned to fiction relatively late in life and in 1719 published his great imaginative work, Robinson Crusoe. This was followed in 1722 by Moll Flanders and A Journal of the Plague Year, and in 1724 by his last novel, Roxana.

His other works include A Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain, a guide-book in three volumes (1724-6; abridged Penguin edition, 1965), The Complete English Tradesman (1726), Augusta Triumphans, (1728), A Plan of the English Commerce (1728) and The Complete English Gentleman (not published until 1890). He died on 24 April 1731. Defoe had a great influence on the development of the English novel and many consider him to be the first true novelist.

Product Description


"A very helpful edition of Moll Flanders with its informative introduction and especially its thorough endnotes. It is an edition especially helpful for undergraduates who do not have such a broad knowledge of the 18th century laws, social problems, etc."--Judith B. Slagle. Carson-NewmanCollege"Excellent edition has all of the necessary 'extras': introduction and notes, both reflecting excellent scholarship."--Arline Garbarini, Dominican College --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Daniel Defoe was born in London in 1660. He was a successful hosiery merchant. He served as a secret agent for William III and single-handedly produced the review, a pro-government newspaper. He turned to fiction late in life and published his firstimaginative work 'Robinson Crusoe' in 1719. Defoe had a great influence on the development of the English novel and many consider him to be the first true novelist.

David Blewett is Professor of English at Mcmaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
My True Name is so well known in the Records, or Registers at Newgate, and in the Old-Baily,1 and there arc 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. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
Having avoided watching various TV adaptations and never reading the book before, I was hesitant to read this book. Whilst working abroad the book was a last option on the book shop shelf. I was very much wrong in my assumption regarding the book. It is a marvelous account of live at the rough end during the 17th century. The story moves between London and Virginia and steps from one drama to the next throughout. I was captivated throughout by the trials and tribulations of Moll and her many aborted marriages and criminal capers. I was torn between feeling sympathy for Moll and being incredulous at just how many scrapes one woman could get into and escape from. As stated by others this is also a great account of live during Molls time and also of traditions, morals and customs of the time. I now almost regret not making time for the TV adaptation, although I'm sure it would not have been as good.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic tale 7 Sep 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Having heard of this book years ago because of the t.v series I finally got round to reading it and glad I was , it's a wonderful read as it's goes right back the end of the 17th century and shows what life was like for the poor a classic tale of a woman born into poverty and the life of crime shes falls into
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Give me not Poverty, lest I steal 11 Sep 2005
This human portrait of a woman is also an excellent sketch of the living conditions and the social stratification in England in the 18th century: 'the Age is so wicked and the Sex so Debauch'd'.
It shows the immense chasm between a small class of wealthy people and the rest (Swift: a thousand to one). The latter were struggling for sheer survival and praying 'Give me not Poverty, lest I steal' ... to be hanged: 'If I swing by the String, I shall hear the Bell ring, and then there's an End of poor Jenny.'
But both classes intermingled.
As E.J. Burford quotes in his masterful book 'The Synfull Citie':
Those who were riche were hangid by the Pursse
Those who were poore were hangid by the Necke
Defoe's Moll Flanders: 'the passive Jade thinks of no Pleasure but the Money; and when he is as it were drunk in the Extasies of his wicked Pleasure, her Hands are in his Pockets.'
Defoe paints the poor's religion as fatalism. Moll Flanders is all the time reproaching herself her Course of life, 'a horrid Complication of Wickedness, Whoredom, Adultery, Incest, Lying, Theft', but in the face of death at the gallows, 'I had now neither Remorse or Repentance ... no Thought of Heaven or Hell ... I neither had a Heart to ask God's Mercy.'
Defoe's work is eminently modern, with his psychological insight 'What a Felicity is it to Mankind that they cannot see into the Hearts of one another', and 'Modest men are better Hypocrites';
or, the ravages of alcoholism: 'the Drunk are the Men whom Solomon says, they go like an Ox to the Slaughter, till a Dart strikes through their Liver';
and his feminism: 'the Disadvantage of the Women is a terrible Scandal upon Men', and 'Money only made a Woman agreeable.
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21 of 27 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
I had known of this book for years, but never picked it up because of what I thought that I knew about DeFoe's writing. The day I did, however, I was shocked to find a timely, vivid, and extremely compelling novel.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Reads Like a Legal Deposition 28 July 2010
This is an extraordinary characterisation of a tough-minded woman making difficult and often flawed choices as she moves through a rags to riches story; unfortunately told as if it were a legal deposition making it overly detailed and dry despite the subject matter. Nonetheless, a remarkable book for its period.

The sub title of the book is "The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders, Etc. 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. Written from her own Memorandums." And that's a pretty good summary of the plot.

Moll Flanders is a composite character who couldn't possibly have had all of the adventures and experiences that she goes through in the novel. She is based on Defoe's own experiences at the lower edges of London Society, including two stretches in prison. Moll is born in gaol to a mother who has been convicted of a felony and transported to America. Moll is left behind in London to survive on charity. Learning some social skills she is taken into a middle class family where her teenage good looks bring her to the attention of first one of the sons (Lover No.1 or, in Moll's eye's, Husband No. 1) and then the other (Husband No. 2), whom she marries. So is set the tone of the book, where Moll is set a series of moral dilemmas with limited room for manoeuvre and has to square the alternatives of behaving basely against survival. She remarries when husband No 2 dies only to have No 3 run off. Faced with starvation, she hitches up to No 4 despite now being a bigamist in the eyes of the law.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Standing the test of - a very long- time 20 July 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A strong woman leads an independent life - doing what she has to do to survive.

In many ways, it is dofficult to believe that this book is over 200 years old. One can just imagine it updated to become the adventures of modern girl - except that she would not be operating under the shadow of the galllows in the event of being discovered.

Avid readers will find this old classic is a gem.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 28 days ago by ai
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Read it years ago, just thought I'd give it another go.
Published 1 month ago by Mrs. Susan Burt
4.0 out of 5 stars Review
At times over wordy, but such was the style..A good read.
Worth the effort. T he tale is well told.
Published 8 months ago by CHRISTINE HAMMONDS
4.0 out of 5 stars A different sort of read.
This book was one long chapter with changes of scene. I found it amusing and a very good read.what a life!
Published 9 months ago by valerie taylor
4.0 out of 5 stars A great Picaresque novel
A great novel Great prices cant beat amazon for delivery. Something i would not have read id i did not need to for university. Again value and wordsworth classic are user friendly. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Shirley Asquith
4.0 out of 5 stars Good
It's quite interesting and educated you on what criminals were like back then. I use it to compare current crimes as I study criminology
Published 10 months ago by Katie Foad
4.0 out of 5 stars Give it a go, you'll be surprised.
I watched the TV adaptation about 20 years ago with Alex Kingston playing the lead. So although I couldn't remember details from that long ago, I had a gist of the storyline. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Dawn
3.0 out of 5 stars The fortunes and misfortunes of the famousmoll flanders
boring and long winded again as the previous Moll Flanders book
not a book for casual reading more on the serious side
Published 14 months ago by Mrs. Jessie Campbell
2.0 out of 5 stars Saucy but repetative.
This aged novel has some charm and is also quite saucy, but there are many internal inconsistencys regarding the number of children she has, and how many husbands. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Tron
5.0 out of 5 stars love hitorical books
looking forward to reading this book have seen film years ago I recommend anyone to try reading if they haven't for a while it is great loosing yourself in a book
Published 15 months ago by kathryn scullion
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