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Daniel Defoe
 

Daniel Defoe

 



Daniel Defoe, Moll Flanders (extract)

My true name is so well known in the records or registers at Newgate, and in the Old Bailey, and there are so many things of such consequence still depending there, relating to my particular conduct, that it is not to be expected I should set my name or the account of my family to this work; perhaps, after my death, it may be better known; at present it would not be proper, no, not though a general pardon should be issued, even without exceptions and reserve of persons or crimes. It is enough to tell you, that as some of my worst comrades, who are out of the way of doing me harm (having gone out of the world by the steps and the string, as I often expected to go), knew me by the name of Moll Flanders, so you may give me leave to speak of myself under that name till I dare own who I have been, as well as who I am.
I have been told that in one of our neighbour nations, whether it be in France or where else I know not, they have an order from the king, that when any criminal is condemned, either to die, or to the galleys, or to be transported, if they leave any children, as such are generally unprovided for, by the poverty or forfeiture of their parents, so they are immediately taken into the care of the Government, and put into an hospital called the House of Orphans, where they are bred up, clothed ,fed, taught, and when fit to go out, are placed out to trades or to services, so as to be well able to provide for themselves by an honest, industrious behaviour.
Had this been the custom in our country, I  had not been left a poor desolate girlwithout friends, without clothes, without help or helper in the world, as was my fate; and by which I was not only exposed to very great distresses, even before I was capable either of understanding my case or how to amend it, but brought into a course of life which was not only scandalous in itself, but which in its ordinary course tended to the swift destruction both of soul and body. But the case was otherwise here. My mother was convicted of felony for a certain petty theft scarce worth naming, viz. having an opportunity of borrowing three pieces of fine holland of a certain draper in Cheapside. The circumstances are too long to repeat, and I have heard them related so many ways, that I can scarce be certain which is the right account.
However it was, this they ail agree in, that my mother pleaded her belly, and being found quick with child, she was respited for about seven months; in which time having brought me into the world and being about again, she was called down, as they term it, to her former judgment, but obtained the favour of being transported to the plantations, and left me about half a year old; and in bad hands, you may be sure.
This is too near the first hours of my life for me to relate anything of myself but by hearsay; it is enough to mention, that I was born in such an unhappy place, I had no parish to have recourse to for my nourishment in my infancy; not can I give the least account how I was kept alive, other than that, as I have been told, some relation of my mother's took me away for a while as a nurse, but at whose expense, or by whose direction, I know nothing at all of it.
The first account I can recollect, or could ever learn of myself, was that I had wandered among a crew of those people they call gypsies, or Egyptians; but I believe it was but a very little while that I had been among them, for I had not my skin discoloured or blackened, as they do very young to all the children they carry about with them; nor can I tell how I came among them, or how I got from them.
I was in Colchester in Essex that those people left me; and I have a notion in my head that I left them there (that is, that I hid myself and would not go any farther with them), but I am not able to be particular in that account; only this I remember, that being taken up by some of the parish officers of Colchester, I gave an account that I came into the town with the gypsies, but I would not go any farther with them, and that so they had left me, but whither they were gone that I knew not, nor could they expect it of me; for though they sent round the country to inquire after them, it seems they could not be found. I was now in a way to be provided for; for though I was not a parish charge upon this or that part of the town by law, yet as my case became to be known, and that I was too young to do any work, being not above three years old, compassion moved the magistrates of the town to order some care to be taken of me, and I became one of their own as much as if I had been born in the place. [...]

(about 920 words)

Assignments

1. Comprehension

 Answer the following questions in complete sentences. Do not quote from the text.

1.1. Who tells this "story"?
1.2. How does that text open?
1.3. Why can't the storyteller reveal her true name?
1.4. Why does she speak about "one of our neighbour nations" and what is her theory about her own life?
1.5. What do we learn about her mother?
1.6. Which details does the reader get to know about the storyteller's infancy?

2. Analysis and discussion
 
2.1. State the subject-matter of the introductory part of this piece of fiction in one sentence.
2.2. How is this text structured (lines/headings)?
2.3. What point of view does the author make use of? Find at least three examples to prove your opinion.
2.4. Would you have liked to live in the eighteenth century? Say why or why not.
Make use of your reading knowledge. Write a composition of 250 words (± 10 %).

 
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