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XXI
INTRODUCTION

classes in Moll Flanders, make even our modern tales of mean streets sound almost Arcadian. Moll Flanders is the child of a woman who has been sent to the plantations for felony. Her downfall is the work of her master's son. But she is not cast at once upon the tender mercies of the world. For the present she is saved from poverty and its concomitant, crime, by a comfortable, though loveless, marriage. Widowed a year or two later, she marries a second husband, who fails in business and leaves her in the lurch. Want stares her in the face, and frightens her into her first act of dishonesty—she makes off with goods that were legally the property of her husband's creditors, and takes refuge in the Mint, where she loses no time before seeking an opportunity to commit bigamy. In the sequel, she becomes a regular thief, and narrowly excapes the fate of her mother.

Roxana's history is likewise a history of wrong-doing. She was born in comfortable circumstances, and came to grief through the folly of an extravagant husband, who was, in the eye of the law, absolute master of her fortune. He absconds, leaving her penniless, with five children, whom she gets provided for by a stratagem that, in the circumstances, may be winked at. Not so her ensuing conduct. Inexorable circumstance may be held responsible for her initial lapse from virtue, but it was her insatiable covetousness and a vicious twist in her nature that made her fall such a ready prey to the general corruption of morals. In her case, Defoe does not think it necessary to provide an escape from the consequences of her guilty life, and a comfortable opportunity for repentance. At the same time, in Roxana the other side of the picture is more fully delineated; while the autobiographic form is maintained, we get a much better idea of the external conditions that reacted upon the central character. There are one or two excellent portraits, such as Roxana's aider and abettor, Amy, and the Quaker landlady, who is a very taking creature. Then there is more than a glimpse of Restoration society, with its brilliance and dissipation; and a study of the loose morals and reckless extravagance that brought young men of good station to take to the highway. Often, in the analysis of coarse vices, we are reminded of Mirbeau's Celestine and her exclamation, 'Et dire qu'il existe une sociéte' pour la protection des animaux!' 'Ah!.. oui! les hommes!.. Qu'ils solent cochers, valets de chambre, gommeux, curés ou poètes, ils sont tous les mêmes.. Des crapules!..'

The naturalists have always shown a special proneness to this class of subject. Balzac's Splendeurs et Misères des Courtisanes, Hugo's most realistic novel, Les Misérables, Bourget's Disciple, Zola's Rougon-Macquart series, and many others equally typical, might be instanced as dealing largely in the study of crime and criminals. The motive is not, as is so often objected, a fondness for the base and obscene. It is a desire to get at the natural man; to pierce through the artificialities and affectations of social