Moll Flanders.

By Daniel Defoe

Printed: Circa 1980

Publisher: Heron Books.

Dimensions 13 × 21 × 3 cm

Language: English

Size (cminches): 13 x 21 x 3

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Navy leatherette binding with gilt decoration and decoration.

  • F.B.A. provides an in-depth photographic presentation of this item to stimulate your feeling and touch. More traditional book descriptions are immediately available.

A well kept edition produced by Heron Books.

Moll Flanders is purported to be the autobiography of the daughter of a woman who had been transported to Virginia for theft after her child’s birth. The child is brought up in the house of the mayor of Colchester. The story relates her seduction, her marriages and liaisons, and her visit to Virginia.

Moll Flanders is a novel by Daniel Defoe, first published in 1722. It purports to be the true account of the life of the eponymous Moll, detailing her exploits from birth until old age.

By 1721, Defoe had become a recognised novelist, with the success of Robinson Crusoe in 1719. His political work was tapering off at this point, due to the fall of both Whig and Tory party leaders with whom he had been associated; Robert Walpole was beginning his rise, and Defoe was never fully at home with Walpole’s group. Defoe’s Whig views are nevertheless evident in the story of Moll, and the novel’s full title gives some insight into this and the outline of the plot.

It is usually assumed that the novel was written by Daniel Defoe, and his name is commonly given as the author in modern printings of the novel. However, the original printing did not have an author, as it was an apparent autobiography. The attribution of Moll Flanders to Defoe was made by bookseller Francis Noble in 1770, after Defoe’s death in 1731. The novel is based partially on the life of Moll King, a London criminal whom Defoe met while visiting Newgate Prison.

Historically, the book was occasionally the subject of police censorship.

Moll King: little is known of King’s early life; she was probably a native Londoner and born in the 1670s. In October 1693 she had one of her hands branded after robbing a house in St Giles, Cripplegate. It is thought she married a city officer in 1718.

King went into business with infamous London criminal Jonathan Wild, from whom she learned pick-pocketing.  In October 1718, King, now using the name Mary Gilstone, was arrested for stealing a gold watch from a woman near St Anne’s Church, Soho. She was sentenced to death in December 1718, but this was commuted to fourteen years’ transportation to America when it was confirmed by a ‘Panel of Matrons’ that she was pregnant. After her baby was weaned, King was transported on the convict ship Susannah and Sarah, to Annapolis, Maryland, arriving on 23 April 1720, but within a short time had returned to England. It is assumed that King’s connection with Jonathan Wild facilitated her release. In Annapolis King had teamed up with fellow felon Richard Bird, originally from Whitechapel, and the pair traveled back to England together, King using the name Bird.

In June 1721, King was arrested robbing a house in Little Russell Street, Covent Garden and incarcerated in Newgate Prison. The legal documents from this case refer to King, alias Moll Bird, alias Mary Godson. Jonathan Wild was able to use his influence with “tame” magistrates for the charges to be dropped. A second indictment for returning from transportation was added, and in January 1722 King was again transported to America, this time on the ship Gilbert. However, by June 1722 she was back in London and in September that year was arrested and returned to Newgate. She was again transported to America in June 1723.

In 1723, a man named John Stanley was hanged for murdering his mistress. According to a pamphlet which was published after Stanley’s death, he had allegedly been intimate with Moll King as well.

In 1734, King was allegedly sentenced to transportation to America a final time.

Daniel Defoe (c. 1660 – 24 April 1731) was an English writer, trader, journalist, pamphleteer and spy. He is most famous for his novel Robinson Crusoe, published in 1719, which is claimed to be second only to the Bible in its number of translations. He has been seen as one of the earliest proponents of the English novel, and helped to popularise the form in Britain with others such as Aphra Behn and Samuel Richardson. Defoe wrote many political tracts, was often in trouble with the authorities, and spent a period in prison. Intellectuals and political leaders paid attention to his fresh ideas and sometimes consulted him.

Defoe was a prolific and versatile writer, producing more than three hundred works —books, pamphlets, and journals—on diverse topics, including politics, crime, religion, marriage, psychology and the supernatural. He was also a pioneer of business journalism and economic journalism.

In 1722, Defoe wrote Moll Flanders, another first-person picaresque novel of the fall and eventual redemption, both material and spiritual, of a lone woman in 17th-century England. The titular heroine appears as a whore, bigamist and thief, lives in The Mint, commits adultery and incest, and yet manages to retain the reader’s sympathy. Her savvy manipulation of both men and wealth earns her a life of trials but ultimately an ending in reward. Although Moll struggles with the morality of some of her actions and decisions, religion seems to be far from her concerns throughout most of her story. However, like Robinson Crusoe, she finally repents. Moll Flanders is an important work in the development of the novel, as it challenged the common perception of femininity and gender roles in 18th-century British society. More recently it has come to be misunderstood as an example of erotica.

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