“The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders” was published in 1722 by Daniel Defoe. The book relates the supposed true account of the life and adventures of Moll Flanders. As it is commonly known simply as Moll Flanders, begins with her birth in Newgate Prison in London, and ends with her death at an old age.
Moll’s mother was a prisoner who was held at Newgate until six months after her daughter’s birth than was transported. Moll lived with gypsies until she escaped and then lived with a nurse as a charity case. The nurse was kind to her, and Moll’s beauty made her popular with the women of the village. So, when the nurse died, Moll was taken in by a wealthy woman to be raised with her children. Moll was educated with her daughters.
The oldest son was the first to seduce Moll, and the younger son was the first to marry her. After his death, Moll moved to London where she found her next husband who lost all their money and escaped to France to get away from his debtors.
This left Moll with an interesting dilemma. She wasn’t a widow but, she needed to find another husband. Her next husband takes her to America, where she discovers they share a mother. When she goes back to England, Moll finds herself broke, again. She goes from husband to husband and finally ends up on the streets trying to support herself with thievery. She is arrested and spends time in Newgate, then instead of being hung, she is sent to America with her favorite of her husbands. She finds an inheritance left for her by her mother and uses the money so she and her husband can set up their new lives in Maryland. When she hits seventy years old, Moll returns to England where she and her husband spend the rest of their lives repenting their misdeeds.
Moll Flanders changes her name in the book to protect the innocent since her “true name is so well known in the Records, or Registers at Newgate and in the Old Bailey.” She was born in Newgate prison. Her mother was sent to Australia when Molly was six months old. Molly’s first memory is wandering with a band of gypsies. Then she ran away from the caravan and was left in Colchester, and the town magistrates place her with a kind nurse who was paid to care for her. She was given a rudimentary education. When she is eight years old, she is supposed to find employment as a servant, but she tearfully begs to stay with her mistress. She pleads her case so nicely that the woman keeps her for a while longer and tells other women about her.
Moll becomes a darling of the woman of the village. Soon the women began to give her gifts like money and clothes. When Moll is fourteen the nurse dies and Moll goes to live with a prominent family. There she continues her education in dance, singing and French along side the other girls in the family. She is raised as one of them and taught how to act like a lady, but she is always aware that she isn’t a daughter of the family.
Moll grows into a beautiful young girl. But, she is also vain. Soon the two sons of the family she lives with start to notice her. Her vanity makes her accept the attention without thinking of their different social classes. When she is around seventeen or eighteen, the oldest boy starts to work at seducing her. He is a handsome and worldly man but debauched. He promises things to her and makes her believe he loves her and will marry her. It doesn’t take a lot of work for him to push her towards sex. They continue to have sex regularly, and he gives her money in exchange. She doesn’t think of it as him paying for sex since she thinks they will marry someday.
Moll is very surprised when Robert, or Robin, the younger son proposes to her. He says that he wants to marry her right away and is taken by her beauty. Because of his attentions, the women of the house threaten to evict her. They think she has bewitched the young man in some way. They do not want someone with no family marrying into their family. She is still poor and a charity case for them.
When she talks it over with the older brother, he tells her to take the proposal. He sees it as a way to get out of their relationship, but she is shocked. She tells him that he made promises to her and called her his wife. He has said that he loved her and she feels as if they are committed to each other. She also knows that if she accepts the proposal, then that would make her feel like a prostitute to the elder brother.
Because of all the stress involved, Moll becomes ill with a high fever. She is down for five weeks and during that time the family pushes her for answers on Robin’s attachment to her. She tries to tell them that he couldn’t be serious and besides she would never marry him with out their consent. This pushes Robin to step up his campaign for Moll to marry him. Robin tries to attain his families consent while she is ill, and his older brother helps by trying to get Moll to agree with out breaking his promises to her. Finally, he convinces her that whether she marries Robin or not, their relationship is over. Moll begins to see that the older brother is serious about not wanting to be with her anymore, so when the mother finally consents, Moll agrees to marry Robin. His older brother makes sure Robin can’t understand Moll’s lack of virginity. He comes to bed so “fuddled” that he can’t remember the next morning what happened, so Moll assures him they had sex the night before.
Although Moll stays with Robin until his death five years later and gives him two children, she is still in love with the older brother. When Robin dies, the children go to live with Robin’s parents. Moll goes on to London as a young and wealthy widow. Moll takes the money the older brother gave her to persuade her to marry Robin and the little she had from his estate with her to London. After being courted by several men, she finally settles on a draper. Although he is in trade, he is also a bit of a gentleman.
Her new husband lives an extravagant lifestyle and is quickly broke. After he is arrested and tossed into prison, he escapes and heads to France. This leaves Moll in a strange place. She is not a widow anymore, but she knows her husband will not return, so she can’t remarry again. Her answer is to go back to her widow’s clothes and call herself Mrs. Flanders. Unfortunately, the group of men she attracts now is of the wicked sort, and she doesn’t want anything to do with them. Although she is still young, pretty and appears well bred, without her wealth she is not going to attract a good husband.
Finally, Moll and her friend come up with the idea to take her into the country and tell everyone she has 1500 pounds. There she meets a plantation owner and tricks him into agreeing that even if he found out she was penniless, he would still marry her. After the wedding, when he finds out that she has no money, he doesn’t repent his decision. But, since their fortune is so much less than he thought it would be, he suggests they move to Virginia where his plantations and mother and sister are. Moll agrees.
Everything is going along nicely. Moll gets along with his mother and sister until Moll discovers after some stories from her mother in law that she is her mother who was forced to leave her at Newgate. Moll knows now that she is married to her half-brother. Moll is horrified and begins to argue to be allowed to return to England. Her husband or half-brother doesn’t want her to leave so she finally goes to his and her mother to reveal what she knows. The mother tells her to forget it and just let things keep going since they were all so happy. She promises to leave Moll an inheritance in her will. But, Moll can’t let it go and stay married to her brother, or husband. So she finally reveals all to her husband or half brother. He is equally horrified and becomes ill with consumption. This time when Moll insists on going back to England he agrees and they dissolve their marriage.
Back in England Moll expects to be able to use the things she brought along to set herself up and look for her next husband at her leisure. But, her things are destroyed in transit, so she is left with only two or three hundred pounds to start over, again. She is also friendless, so she ends up in Bath. There men don’t usually look for wives but mistresses. She meets a nice man, and they become friends. He is quite wealthy and sets her up nicely, but he is also married, although his wife is mad. They get along well, and he asks her to move to London with him, where he becomes ill. As she nurses him, their relationship increases and then on a trip to Bristol the two finally become lovers. Now Moll titles herself a whore.
As time progresses, Moll gives birth to children, who he supports as well as he supports herself financially. Since she has learned to be practical, Moll saves her money against the day her fortunes drop again. All goes along fine, except that Moll must keep away from other people because their relationship is secret. For six years this keeps going until one day he comes to see her after being gone for a while and being ill. He tells her that he has decided to repent his ways and not keep committing adultery with her. He offers to pay her off with a large sum of money, but she manages to get more from him by playing on his guilt. Soon she releases him from the obligation after getting as much money as she can from him.
Now at forty-two years old, Moll is alone again. She has four hundred and fifty pounds to her name and tries to pass herself off as wealthier than she is so she can find another more stable set up. She meets a woman who encourages her to move to the North where the cost of living is less, and the men are richer. Moll goes to a banker in London who agrees to look after her finances in London while she is gone. The banker also offers to marry her, but since he is already married to a cheating wife, Moll turns him down. She tells him to call on her after he has a legal divorce. Meanwhile, Moll heads North to find a wealthy husband.
When Moll arrives in Lancashire, she is courted by Jemy, the supposed brother of her friend who sent her there. He is actually the woman’s accomplice in fraud. So after lying to Moll about his estates in Ireland and his wealth they marry. Afterward he discovers she lied to him, too, and they are both poor. They discuss ways to improve their finances throughout the night, but the next morning he is gone. When he finally returns, he tells Moll that he is going on to Ireland to make his fortune and he will look her up if he succeeds.
Moll returns to London with intentions on marrying the banker when she discovers she is pregnant. She hides away from him long enough to give birth and has a woman who she calls “my Governess” help her to take the baby away after it is born. Without pregnancy or baby, Moll is free to marry the banker who had spent the time obtaining a divorce from his cheating wife. Moll meets the banker and makes him think she has just returned from Lancashire. She agrees to marry him right away, and a minister is called to perform the ceremony. The next morning while looking out the window Moll is surprised to see Jemy. He is with two other men. When the constables question her about some highway men they are searching for, she tells them that the men she saw could not be highway men as one of them is a gentleman.
For the next five years, Moll lives happily with her banker husband. Then he makes some bad business decisions and loses all their money. He soon dies of despair and Moll is poor and alone again. She spends the next two years getting poorer. Finally, she reluctantly turns to crime and begins to steal. She turns out to have a good eye for merchandise and is very lucky. Soon Moll has a large stash and must look for a fence to help sell her loot.
She turns to her “old Governess” who is now a pawn broker. Moll has some hope of finding legitimate employment and spends some time as a seamstress; she even becomes the mistress of a baronet for a short time. But, she misses the rush and easy money of stealing and soon turns back to it. She plans jobs with her Governess and makes friends with other criminals. Moll gets them to teach her how to pick pockets and other tricks. Soon she is the best thief in London and earns the moniker, Moll Flanders. Although she works with other thieves now and then she prefers to work alone. Sometimes the constables get too close, and she escapes out of London, but then she will. Once she is arrested but manages to get away. Each job makes Moll more addicted to the rush, even though she sees her comrades being hauled away to prison and hung. Finally, she is sent to Newgate for stealing some fabric.
In Newgate Moll thinks it is the entrance to Hell. Newgate is filled with despair and the disreputable. “All my terrifying thoughts were past the horrors of the place.” She spends her time at first repenting, but soon becomes used to her surroundings. “In a word I was become a meer Newgate Bird, as wicked and outrageous as any of them.” Her Governess tries to get her sentence reduced from hanging. But, she is unable to.
During her feelings of guilt and remorse for all the sins she has committed just short of murder and treason, Jemy arrives at the prison. He has been caught as a highway man. “I was struck dumb at the sight, and knew neither what to say, or what to do; he did not know me and that was all the present relief I had, I quitted my company, and retir’d as much as that dreadful place suffers any body to retire, and I cried vehemently for a great while.”
Moll continues to say she is repenting, but she doesn’t actually feel real guilt. Unable to get her sentence reduced her Governess calls for a minister to help. He manages to get her sentence reduced to transportation to America. She finds Jemy and convinces him to ask for transportation, too. They end up on the same ship and with enough funds to outfit them with the supplies for a new start. They land in Virginia, but Moll doesn’t want to see any of her relatives. When she learns that her mother is dead and her brother, the husband is a blind invalid, she sneaks to the plantation to get a look at their son, Humphrey.
Afterward, Moll convinces Jemy they need to settle in Maryland without telling him about her prior marriage, just that she had family their. She goes back to Virginia alone and writes a letter to her brother in hopes of getting her inheritance her mother promised her in her will. Her son intercepts the letter and meets with her. He is happy to see his long lost mother and helps her get a yearly income from her inheritance.
Moll returns to Maryland with money and gifts from her son. She and Jemy settle into a happy life. When her brother dies, Humphrey arranges to visit her. She tells Jemy the whole story, and they let Humphrey think they were recently married.
When Moll is seventy years old, she and Jemy return to England. There they plan to spend their remaining years in penitence for the “wicked Lives we have lived.”
Moll Flanders – she is born while her mother is a prisoner at Newgate in London. When she is six months old, her mother is transported, and Moll is sent out. Her first memory is at three years old when she is traveling with a band of gypsies. Soon she leaves them and is taken in by a nurse who is paid to take care of her. Finally, at eight years old she is supposed to go into service but uses her beauty to stay with the nurse for a while longer. The women in the village bring her gifts and spoil her. When she is still young the nurse dies, and Moll is sent to live with a lady and her family in the village. She is taught along with the daughters of the house and learns how to comport herself as a lady. She begins her first affair with the oldest son when he seduces her; then she marries the youngest son when he falls in love with her.
After he first husband dies, Moll goes to London to look for another husband. From there she marries men, becomes a mistress to others and even unknowingly marries her half-brother. After falling into more poverty, Moll becomes a thief and manages to make a name for herself as a good thief until she is sent to Newgate.
Back to where she was born, Moll expects to hang but is transported instead. She goes back to America with one of her husbands and sees her mother who has left her inheritance. The book ends with Moll at seventy years old and returning to England to live the rest of her life in repentance.
The Elder brother – he is the oldest of the brothers of a wealthy local family Moll lives with. He is lazy and debauched. Soon he seduces her with words of love and commitment. But, as time progressed he changed his mind about marrying her and wanted to find a way out of the relationship. When his younger brother professed an interest in marrying Moll, he encouraged it and paid her five hundred pounds so she would marry his brother. Moll is heartbroken because he told her he would marry her when he came into his inheritance.
Robert or Robin – he is the younger of the two brothers Moll lives with. He falls in love with her and becomes her first husband. He is not very smart, but kind. He finally gets his family’s permission to marry Moll, and they are married for five years until he died leaving her with two children. His parents took them, and Moll left for London to find another husband.
Jemy – Moll calls him her Lancashire husband. He lies to Moll and tells her that he has estates in Ireland and is wealthy. She misrepresents her wealth, too when they marry. She loves him and when he is deported with her the spend the rest of their lives together first in America and then in England.
Daniel Defoe Biography
Daniel Defoe was born in London in 1660. His father was a butcher named Foe and Daniel added the De in 1700. He was educated to become a Presbyterian minister but changed his mind and went into business. Defoe started as a hosiery merchant which allowed him to travel throughout Europe. Daniel was against the Roman Catholic King James II, so he took part in the rebellion led by the Duke of Monmouth in 1685. It was unsuccessful.
Defoe’s business went bankrupt in 1692, but he had acquired control of a tile and brick factory. In 1695 he began to write starting with Essay on Projects. It was an in-depth analysis on subjects people were arguing about including education for women and care of the mentally handicapped. In 1701 he wrote, “The True-Born Englishman” that attacked racism and national superiority. The next year he wrote, “The Shortest-Way With the Dissenters.” It satirized religious intolerance. Although he wrote it anonymously, he was found out and imprisoned. Then he was released in 1793, probably to become an undercover agent and find out who was writing against the government, and to publish propaganda supporting the government.
When Defoe was almost sixty years old, he wrote, “The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe.” He also wrote, “Memoirs of a Cavalier” in 1720, “The Fortunes and Misfortunes of Moll Flanders” in 1722, to name a few. His books covered various topics including politics, religion, crime, psychology, marriage and the supernatural. Daniel Defoe was the first to write Economic Journalism. During his many years as a writer, he was accredited with at least one hundred and ninety-eight pen names.
During his lifetime Daniel Defoe survived the Great Plague of London in 1665 when over 70,000 died. Then the next year the Great Fire of London whipped through leaving Defoe’s house along with two others standing in his neighborhood. In 1703 The Great Storm raged through London causing severe damage. It uprooted millions of trees and killed more than eight thousand people, most of them were at sea. He used the storm as a subject for his book, The Storm, was a place which was a collection of witness accounts of the tempest.
Daniel Defoe’s parents were Presbyterian dissenters. He even attended a dissenting academy at Newington Green when he was around fourteen years old. Unfortunately, during this time, people who worshiped any other religion besides the Church of England were persecuted. In 1684 Daniel Defoe married Mary Tuffley. With her came a large dowry of three thousand seven hundred pounds. Since he spent his life with financial difficulties, he had taken up writing for money because he kept failing in businesses, and political dissenting, his marriage was probably troubled, but they were married for fifty years and had eight children.
While hiding from his many creditors, Daniel Defoe died in 1731. He was buried in Bunhill Fields, Borough of Islington, London. A was placed there to show his burial place and eulogize him in 1870.