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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars

on 28 January 2015
After many years of wanting to read Daniel Defoe’s Roxana: The Fortunate Mistress, I have just finished this classic and I really enjoyed it.

Daniel Defoe who lived from 1660 – 1731, was a fascinating historical figure: he was a rebel in Monmouth’s Rebellion in 1685, to his work as a spy, and his books A Journal of the Plague Year and Moll Flanders. I thoroughly enjoyed this story. Published in 1724, and in the first-person as a memoir, “Roxana” describes her youth, marriage to a man she constantly refers to as “a fool” and the dire straits she found herself in following her abandonment by this man (the brewer).

I would, however, recommend potential readers seek the full 1745 edition – as this gives a fuller ending (a common cause for complaint is the abruptness of the ending in the original and in the abridged versions). I also disagree with those ready to label this "feminist" or "proto-feminist" as this book was very much before the movement began. Yes, "Roxana" becomes a woman of independent means, but in my opinion, it is surely wrong to use a 20th-century label on an 18th-century book.
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on 11 July 2007
The itinerary of Daniel Defoe's heroine is absolutely not a common example of life in Paris and London in the 18th century. At that time, only 10 % of the population was older than 30 years and only one in one thousand was rich.
For Roxana, `Poverty was my Snare', `the dreadful Argument of wanting Bread'. And, `Poverty is the strongest Incentive; a Temptation against which no Virtue is powerful enough to stand out.'
What saves Roxana from a certain early death is her beauty, her sex-appeal: `In une Deshabile you charm me a thousand times more.'
With her beauty she amasses a fortune. After being a slave (`comply and live, deny and starve'), she is free (`the sweetest of Miss is Liberty'): `that while a Woman was single, that she had then the full Command of what she had, and the full Direction of what she did.'
She abhors the institution of matrimony and prefers to be a Mistress: `A Wife is treated with Indifference, a Mistress with a strong Passion; a Wife is looked upon as but an Upper-Servant, a Mistress is a Sovereign.'
But what ultimately brings Roxana down is religion and its correlative, remorse: `the Sence of Religion, and Duty to God, all Regard to Virtue and Honour given up ... (I was) no more than a Whore.'
Remorse makes her look after her abandoned children, but this quest turns into a tragedy.

Like `Moll Flanders', this more moralist text constitutes a formidable portrait of the `horrid Complication' to be a woman.

Not to be missed.
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on 24 October 2000
Roxana is the last of Defoe's novels (1724). Its full title contains a whole programme of extraordinary adventures. The romantic, exotic Mademoiselle de Beleau - for Roxana is only a nickname of the heroin - experiences all the aspects of eighteenth century life. After her first bankrupt husband abandoned her penniless with her children to care for, Roxana tries to mend her fortune, and little by little she climbs up the social ladder until she decides to fulfil her supreme ambition: being the mistress of the King... Roxana goes the way from rags to riches several times, thus leading the readers into all sorts of stations in life. The memoirs of this wicked criminal woman who led a life of scandal and hypocrisy, sometimes verging on madness, have a moral purpose - at least Defoe tells us so ; they are a compelling, moving spiritual autobiography, but at the same time it is an occasion to see eighteenth-century life in very striking and vivid colours. This is why I liked "Roxana" very much. It is also interesting because it contains many ideas and is very modern in a way, eg when Roxana appears as a genuine proto-feminist. This edition is very practical to use because the notes are numerous and relevant, but not "intruding". The introduction also provides interesting perspectives on the significance and the originality of "Roxana". This novel is not so wel-known as "Robinson Crusoe" or "Moll Flanders" but it is worth reading for it's really enjoyable.
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on 28 November 2003
I read this having recently enjoyed Moll Flanders. They are very different, Moll's story is something of a bawdy, satirical comedy, whereas Roxana's is a tragic tale. I think that other reviewers have perhaps missed the irony that is inherent in Defoe's work. While presenting these tales of 'fallen' women as confessions of repentence, I think that was something of a cover, without which his novels would have been unacceptable to his contemporary audience. He creates strong, autonomous women, driven by economics. He does not judge them and because of that neither do we. Was he in fact an early feminist? He believed strongly in the education of women and advocated equality in marriage in 'Conjugal Lewdness.' I think Roxana is an extention of those ideas.
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on 6 February 2013
This is the first time that I read a novel without any full stops . Defoe delighted himself in semi-colons throughout the tale which was quite wearisome to some extent. Though such a sordid tale of adultery /lust is hard to come by in ordinary course of events, nevertheless it is a tale which kept me fully absorbed. Prose Style which was cumbersome and which was quite archaic and belonging to Swift period tired me to despair on certain occasions. However on reading the paragraphs repeatedly I was able to comprehend the meaning of Defoe's novel. Many quotations like sin and shame follow on heels are pregnant with meaning. Certain sentences though complex in nature still afforded me pleasure of reading particularly those with double negative emphasis . In a sense the idiom prevalent among English masses was brought out by Defoe by his rich imagination.

Abrupt ending of the tale in two sentences was quite unexpected and that too from an author beloning to Swift period.

I give two marks only.

with regards

muralidharan madras India
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on 20 November 2014
A fine early example of an English early novel. It suffers only by comparison with Defoe's wonderful Moll Flanders.
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on 30 October 2013
A couple of years ago I began concentrating in my reading matter on 'classic' English novels, written anywhere between (roughly) 1700 and 1900, and though I had read both Robinson Crusoe (Oxford World's Classics) and Moll Flanders (English Library), somehow I had not read 'Roxana, The Fortunate Mistress' at the time. And though my memories of 'Robinson Crusoe' and 'Moll Flanders' are perhaps a bit vague by now, I found this novel to be both very alike and yet also very different.

'Roxana', just as 'Robinson Crusoe' and 'Moll Flanders' is a fictitious autobiography by an 'exceptional' character: we all know what befell Robinson Crusoe, Moll Flanders has, to say the least, an eventful life with lots of ups and as many downs, and so too Roxana. However, this is pretty much where the similarities end. Whereas for instance Robinson Crusoe could be described as 'rational man' overcoming, against all odds, whatever life (or perhaps that should be 'Nature') can throw at him and striving to better himself (both materially and morally), Roxana is quite the opposite: if anything, in countless instances the story of her life confirms over and over again how much she is led by her emotions (pride, vanity, greed, fear, etc.), knows that she does wrong but is unable to stop herself from doing so ('I sinn'd with Open Eyes'), and - looking back upon it at the (open) end of the book - there's not really a sense that Roxana has 'learned' all that much from her vast experience.

And a vast experience it is! From page one the story sweeps you away and drags you along, eager to find out what will happen next. In the course of her life Roxana will go from riches to rags and back to riches, live in England, France, Italy, the Netherlands, have several husbands and children with most of those husbands, and so on and so forth. There's plenty to tell, and Roxana (we never learn her true name) tells her story at a breath-taking pace: there's no chapters, barely paragraphs, the whole story gushes forth from Roxana's pen as if she is working against some deadline, telling what she wants to tell roughly chronologically but often as not stopping mid-point by saying 'But of that hereafter' or words to that effect. There's little or no grand plan here, Roxana is an immaculate opportunist and siezes opportunity by the forelock whenever she can.

Aptly enough, as this is in a way almost a sort of Morality Play about human frailty in the face of temptation, none of characters (with the exception of Roxana's constant companion, her maid Amy, and her banker Sir Robert Clayton) have names, even Roxana's husbands we only get to know as 'The Brewer', 'The Merchant from Paris', etc.

Perhaps I should add - because it takes a bit of getting used to - that this edition is to such an extent true to the original first edition that all Nouns are spelled with Capitals, and that some (though not many) words are spelled as they were spelled then: people wear 'Cloaths' instead of clothes, and when Roxana reflects upon her own behaviour she does so not with horror but 'Horrour'. Lastly, as I have come to expect from the Oxford World's Classics, here too there is an excellent introduction (in this case by John Mullan) and ample explanatory notes.

All in all, though Defoe will probably always be associated first and foremost with 'Robinson Crusoe', 'Roxana' is well worth the read as well!
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on 23 February 2015
My grandchild loved it
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on 10 October 2016
as described
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