by Daniel Defoe
Moll Flanders Authorship Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Paragraph)
The world is so taken up of late with novels and romances, that it will be hard for a private history to be taken for genuine, where the names and other circumstances of the person are concealed, and on this account we must be content to leave the reader to pass his own opinion upon the ensuing sheet, and take it just as he pleases. (Preface 1)
Daniel Defoe is totally messing with our heads. He says right off the bat that this book will be different from the novels and romances that people are reading. But, Daniel, this is a novel. We readers know this, of course, so we're forced to question why he feels the need to assure us Moll's story is true, when we know, for a fact, it's not. Our heads are spinning already.
The pen employed in finishing her story, and making it what you now see it to be, has had no little difficulty to put it into a dress fit to be seen, and to make it speak language fit to be read. When a woman debauched from her youth, nay, even being the offspring of debauchery and vice, comes to give an account of all her vicious practices, and even to descend to the particular occasions and circumstances by which she ran through in threescore years, an author must be hard put to it wrap it up so clean as not to give room, especially for vicious readers, to turn it to his disadvantage. (Preface 4)
Okay, how much do you want to read the original raunchier, more graphic, and "debauched" version of Moll's story? In the fictional world Defoe has created, the fictional author version of himself has made Moll's story more acceptable for its audience. Unfortunately, we're betting that version doesn't exist, because the version we're reading is untrue, anyway. And notice the metaphor he uses here. In cleaning up the story, he has "put it into a dress fit to be seen." Hey, isn't that exactly what Moll does to herself in order to convince those around her that she's a gentlewoman?
There is in this story abundance of delightful incidents, and all of them usefully applied. There is an agreeable turn artfully given them in the relating, that naturally instructs the reader, either one way or other. (Preface 8)
This is a pretty confident way for an author to describe his work. Everything about it is "delightful," "useful," "agreeable," and so forth. Defoe, we're worried you might be overcompensating for something. But it does remind us of how Moll describes her own appearance. Both the author and Moll would probably claim they're not being conceited, though – just honest. You sure can get away with a lot if you promise you're telling the truth.