Moll Flanders ENDNOTES

Author’s Preface

1 (p. 3) concealed: Defoe is referring to secret histories, a popular genre of writing in the eighteenth century in which well-known people and events were masked in remote and allegorical plots. Often, keys were published separately to reveal true names, places, and events.

2 (p. 3) Newgate: This London prison was notorious for the hardened criminal offenders incarcerated there and the harsh conditions in which they were held. Defoe often writes in what he calls a “warm” manner on Newgate because he spent five months there himself in 1703 for writing a seditious pamphlet. He thinks of the place as the veritable nadir of human experience, and Moll compares Newgate to “an emblem of hell itself, and a kind of an entrance into it” (p. 249).

3 (p. 6) transported: To reduce overcrowding in England’s prisons, convicted felons (usually facing a sentence of execution) were sometimes offered the choice of transport abroad to the colonies, where they went into indentured servitude for a period of five to seven years.

Volume I

4 (p. 11) Moll Flanders: “Moll” is often used to denote a woman who is a criminal or consorts with gangsters or, in some circumstances, is a prostitute. Flanders is a kind of fine lace from the Netherlands that, at the time of the novel, was often under restrictive tariff in England to protect local manufacturers.

5 (p. 12) parish: Under a series of comprehensive “poor laws” in England, individual parishes throughout the country bore responsibility for the care of orphans and indigents within their precincts. Newgate Prison was not under parish auspices, so no public institution was responsible for caring for the infant Moll.

6 (p. 22) Mrs. Betty: At the time of the novel “Mrs.” was a generic address for a woman, whether married or unmarried, and “Betty” was a generic name for a chambermaid.

7 (p. 31) bred to law: The laws of primogeniture in England passed estates in their entirety to firstborn sons, so the younger sons of families often took to the law and other professions. In this case, the younger brother assumes that though his family would prefer that he marry a woman who would bring him a substantial sum as a dowry, there is less concern about his choice of a wife than there is for the choice his older brother will make.

8 (p. 35) all along told me I was his wife: Parties who agreed that they were married had legal marital status until the mid-eighteenth century, when new laws mandated official legal and religious sanction for marriage.

9 (p. 39) I entreated him ... pull bis sword out and kill me: In protesting her lover’s approval of her marriage to his younger brother, Moll is nearly as histrionic as the character Dido, queen of Carthage, when she speaks of her implied marriage to the warrior Aeneas in the epic poem Aeneid, by first-century B.C. Roman poet Virgil.

10 (p. 50) “Answer, and answer not, says Solomon”: The reference is to the Bible, Proverbs 26:4-5: “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him. / Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit” (King James Version).

11 (p. 57) We saw all the rarities at Oxford: Defoe is referring to the many antiquarian objects housed in the college collections.

12 (p. 58) sponging-house: This is a kind of holding cell for potential inhabitants of debtor’s prison, usually run by the local bailiff or officer of a parish court.

13 (p. 58) caused the rest of his goods to be removed into the Mint: The reference is to a section in the London district of Southwark that was an established, legal sanctuary for debtors and bankrupts; originally it was the site in London for the minting of English coin.

14 (p. 60) Lord Rochester’s mistress ... to have the scandal of a whore without the joy: Defoe had an unusual predilection for the poems of that most notorious of Restoration rakes, John Wilmot, second earl of Rochester (1647-1680), many of whose poems were of a lascivious nature. These lines are from his “Song to Phillis”: “Dye with the scandal of a Whore, / and never know the joy.”

15 (p. 67) “A woman ne‘er so ruined... her undoer, man”: Moll slightly misquotes “Letter from Artemiza in the Country to Chloe in the Town,” by the poet John Wilmot, second earl of Rochester: “A Woman’s ne’r so wretched but she can / Be still revenged on her undoer, man.” (See also endnote 14.)

16 (p. 80) There are more thieves and rogues made by... Newgate: Defoe felt, as have many after him, that miserable conditions in prisons bred more crime than the threat of prison sentences deterred.

17 (p. 88) for my mother’s opinion was, bury the whole thing entirely: Moll’s mother here takes a position very similar to that of Jocasta in Oedipus Tyrannos, by fifth-century B.C. Greek playwright Sophocles. When Jocasta realizes that her husband is also her son, she claims that since we actually dream of such things, we can learn to endure them. Obviously Freud had recourse to Jocasta’s words for his theory of the Oedipus complex. He might well have had recourse to the words of Moll’s mother as well.

18 (p. 101) “Are the Virginia ships taken by the French?”: Moll is voicing a timely concern. This sequence of the novel is set during the English Civil Wars, when French privateers were a persistent threat to English merchant vessels sailing the trading lanes of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean.

19 (p. 115) indifferent monitor: Moll is saying that she is not a responsible judge of her own moral values. This phrase generated a brilliant essay on the psychology of Defoe’s novel by Maximillian Novak (“‘Unweary’d Traveller’ and ‘Indifferent Monitor’: Openness and Complexity in Moll Flanders,” in Realism, Myth, and History in Defoe’s Fiction; see “For Further Reading”).

20 (p. 116) goldsmith ... broke: Goldsmiths were moneylenders and money changers who functioned as unregulated bankers. By “broke” Moll means he went bankrupt.

21 (p. 129) the family were all Roman Catholics: After Henry VIII broke off from Rome, the English were never sympathetic to the Catholic religion and were especially antagonistic during the years of the Revolution and the Protectorate, in which Moll’s story is for the most part set. The law forbade open Catholic worship in England or the holding of state offices by Catholics. On the whole, Defoe’s own views were tolerant on the religious side of the question but leery when Catholicism, as it so often did, moved into open or covert political support for the reimposition of a Catholic monarchy in England.

22 (p. 130) married by a priest. Though it was illegal to practice Catholicism during this time, a marriage performed by a Roman Catholic priest would be recognized as legal.

23 (p. 144) a much brighter history ... than any I ever saw in print: Defoe planned sequels to Moll Flanders in which he would elaborate on the stories of Jemmy and Moll’s governess in crime, Mother Midnight. But he produced neither; nor did he produce a promised sequel to his novel Roxana, which ends in the midst of a vicious crime.

24 (p. 147) “to prevent the parish impertinences”: The parish bears responsibility for orphans and indigents, and “impertinences” in this case refers to Moll’s fear that the parish will wrest the child from her because of the unseemly circumstances of her pregnancy.

25 (p. 148) “I have given security to the parish... under my roof”: That is, Mother Midnight has made arrangements to satisfy the parish officers about any and all activities in her house, including the birth of newborns.

26 (p. 165) consent of friends should be wanted: If a young lady was to be married underage, she needed the consent of a family member or a guardian for the ceremony.

27 (p. 166) “we are not tied by the canons to marry nowhere but in the church”: The church usually set the hours and places for marriages, though the upper classes could have the rules bent for them with the timely exercise of influence and funds.

Volume II

28 (p. 184) Moll Cutpurse: Mary Frith (a.k.a. Moll Cutpurse; 1584?-1659) was one of the most infamous thieves of seventeenth-century England. Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker depict her life in their play The Roaring Girle, Or Moll Cut-Purse (1611). Pickpockets of the period worked by severing the belt or strap that held a purse near the body and were often called “cutpurses.”

29 (p. 187) They both pleaded their bellies... quick with child. The women are claiming to be pregnant, because a pregnant woman’s sentence was stayed up to and beyond her delivery. This was the case with Moll’s mother at the beginning of the novel.

30 (p. 196) to dress me up in men’s clothes: Mary Frith, the thief also known as Moll Cutpurse, often dressed as a man. Mother Midnight here suggests that Moll Flanders do the same, to avoid detection.

31 (p. 199) Lord Mayor. The Lord Mayor of London holds a largely ceremonial office with some judicial and regulatory power.

32 (p. 205) a merry time of the year, and Bartholomew Fair was begun: This boisterous London fair, which began annually on August 24, had its start in the twelfth century.

33 (p. 219) Bluecoat Hospital: Christ’s Hospital, a charity school, was also known as “Bluecoat Hospital” because the students there wore long blue gowns. Moll’s route here puts her in the same unsavory neighborhoods she has long wandered as a criminal.

34 (p. 222) “are you a justice of peace or a constable?”: The question refers to the fact that a constable does not determine guilt or innocence but merely detains the suspect upon request of the victim. If the charges are plausible, the justice of the peace then holds the criminal or arranges bails.

35 (p. 242) French pistoles... ducatoons, orrix-dollars: French pistoles are gold coins worth nearly a pound sterling; Dutch ducatoons are silver coins worth six shillings or so; Dutch rix-dollars are silver coins worth between two and four shillings.

36 (p. 246) alderman of the city: An alderman is a legislative member of the City of London borough council, serving as peace officer for local disputes. There was, at the time of the novel, no citywide police force or court system serving the whole of London. Each borough or parish handled its own criminal and civic cases.

37 (p. 250) score: Prisoners were charged for board and for perks, and those with sufficient funds could purchase what they needed, bribe those useful to them, and live in some style while imprisoned.

38 (p. 252) forfeit his recognizance: The linen merchant is concerned that if he were to show compassion toward Moll he would be contradicting his original statements against her (his recognizance).

39 (p. 255) Hounslow Heath: Highwaymen reconnoitered at this notorious spot, which at the time of the novel was about 10 miles outside the city, and plied their trade on the road.

40 (p. 255) press-yard: This part of the Newgate complex was originally used for torture but eventually became desirable, since it contained better living quarters that prisoners could attain by paying fees to prison officials. John Gay’s wonderful comic extravaganza for the stage, The Beggar’s Opera (1728), set in Newgate, reveals just how the prison system of bribery and corruption worked in early-eighteenth-century London.

41 (p. 256) Hind, or Whitney, or the Golden Farmer: These men were legendarily notorious thieves. James Hind, a highwayman, was brutally executed in 1652 during the Protectorate; James Whitney, also a highwayman, was executed in 1694; and William Davis, a former farmer known for paying his debts with gold coin (hence, “the Golden Farmer”), was executed in 1689.

42 (p. 261) I know not how to express them: Defoe often has his characters claim that they do not have the power to record the deep impression that experiences, usually of a spiritual or frightful nature, make upon them. Robinson Crusoe has something of the same reaction on his island after his fever-induced nightmare of the avenging angel: He claims not to have the words to explain the impression made on him by the vision.

43 (p. 262) extort confessions from prisoners: The chaplain alludes, in part, to what were known as Newgate biographies, confessions sold for religious purposes as the last words of those about to be executed.

44 (p. 266) petition for transportation: Transportation (removal to the colonies as an indentured servant) was not an automatic option, especially for capital crimes. But given the crowding of prisons and the need for indentured service in the colonies, transportation was likely for first-time offenders.

45 (p. 277) term: The term in Jemmy’s case appears to be life, and though he will not become an indentured servant, he apparently gives up any option of returning to England “as long as he lived” (p. 281).

46 (p. 281) However... a little strange: This paragraph seems to be an amended version of the text that Defoe delivered to his printer as a substitution for the two paragraphs beginning “Then I told her...” and “She soon agreed...” (p. 281). Unfortunately, the printer did not delete the two paragraphs as Defoe requested; he simply kept them and added the new material. We have included it all, and the reader is welcome to work out the logic to his or her satisfaction.

47 (p. 290) can’t see well enough: Moll’s brother/husband seems to be almost blind, reminiscent of the blindness that Oedipus inflicts upon himself for the unnatural crimes of killing his father and marrying his mother in Oedipus Tyrannos, by fifth-century B.C. Greek playwright Sophocles.

48 (p. 290) my very bowels moved: In the psychology of the day, still medieval in origin, the bowels were considered to be the seat of the emotions, a holdover echoed in the cliché “gut feeling.”

49 (p. 293) Providence... makes use here of the same natural causes to produce those extraordinary effects: Defoe is always more comfortable dealing with the manifestation of God’s providence in the world if he can attribute the effects to causes that are also natural or psychological. The experiences of Robinson Crusoe on his island are instances of Defoe’s thinking in this vein: There are natural causes on the island for every event Crusoe describes as providential.

50 (p. 294) thief-catchers: The reference is to informers who identify thieves to the authorities after having taken part in the crime themselves.

51 (p. 294) restore for a reward what they had stolen the evening before: The network of crime in London included so-called “fences” who would return them to the theft victim for a price. Moll’s governess, Mother Midnight, does this in the episode involving the baronet (see p. 214).