by Daniel Defoe
Husband: The Lancashire Man
Code name alert: Even though Moll at one point tells us that this guy's name is James, that moment is so brief that we blinked and missed it. So, to keep things simple, we're going to go ahead and call him Lancashire in this section, and elsewhere in the study guide. Moll only ever calls him "my husband," so we think she'd be cool with that.
Of all the guys Moll gets involved with, the one from Lancashire is probably the one she likes best. Of course it would be weird if, out of all her husbands, she didn't have at least one favorite, but why this guy? It turns out that Moll's preference for Lancashire over all the others says even more about her than it does about him. But don't you worry – we'll get to that in a second.
Lancashire makes his grand entrance into the novel as one heck of a great catch: a rich estate holder who's ripe pickings for Moll's husband hunting. He seems like the perfect solution to all her problems, and is somehow all too willing to marry her without hashing out all those pesky financial details up front. Moll is attracted to him and thinks he fits the part of a "gentleman" to a T:
He had, to give him his due, the appearance of an extraordinary fine gentleman; he was tall, well-shaped, and had an extraordinary address; talked as naturally of his park and his stables, of his horses, his gamekeepers, his woods, his tenants, and his servants, as if we had been in the mansion-house. (548)
Swoon. Our girl has got a crush it seems. She even describes him as "extraordinary" twice in one sentence. Normally she would only use such a word in reference to herself. If this were high school, she'd be writing his initials in hearts on her binder. It's hard to know what she likes best about him – his good looks, his gentlemanly qualities, or all the possessions he seems to have. Because all these qualities are wrapped up together in one package, Moll doesn't have to separate them or settle for less. Perfect. Except for the fact that Lancashire turns out to be too good to be true.
See, Lancashire is a trickster on the same level as Moll and is perhaps even more devious than she. The whole time she's been trying to entrap him into a marriage, he's been doing the exact same thing to her. Funny how that works out. In both cases, the trickster becomes the tricked. The end result, of course, is that they dupe each other into getting married, only to find out they have zero buckaroos altogether.
Lancashire talked the talk but couldn't walk the walk. He's no gentleman at all – he's a fraud who happens to have some good looks that help him out no matter his class or financial position. Of course, ultimately, that's why Moll likes him best; he's a lot like her. They approach the world in the same way and are both committed to making money by less-than-honest means. In this sense, Lancashire reflects back to Moll exactly what she has been doing to the men in her life. He gives her a taste of her own medicine. And while you might assume this would make Moll feel wronged, and therefore guilty about her own behavior, she actually doesn't seem to mind at all.
Even though Lancashire originally tried to trick Moll into marriage, which would have probably sent her off the deep end if it had come from anyone else, she doesn't blame the guy for it. In fact, she just thinks it's a shame that his real life doesn't match his assumed persona. She tells us, "a fortune would not have been ill bestowed on him, for he was a lovely person indeed, of generous principles, good sense, and of abundance of good-humour" (575). Sure he tricked her into a fraudulent marriage, but after that she still calls him "lovely," "generous," full of "good sense," and "good-humour[ed]." Hmm. We wonder if this Lancashire fellow wasn't even easier on the eyes than we first thought.
Despite the fact that Lancashire and Moll are a lot alike, their relationship can't succeed the first time they get together, because they have no money – and, of course, neither of them is okay with that. The fact that they both really like each other just doesn't matter without the cash to back it up. Moll tells us,
I really believe he spoke as he intended, and that he was a man that was as well qualified to make me happy, as to his temper and behaviour, as any man ever was; but his having no estate, and being run into debt on this ridiculous account in the country, made all the prospect dismal and dreadful. (566)
At first, it would be easy for us to write off Lancashire as another failed husband for Moll. Upon discovering their mutual poverty, they part ways for many years. And when they finally do meet up, it's in prison, which isn't exactly promising. Nevertheless, it's fate, and as it turns out, throughout the book, they go through similar events and end up in the same places. When Moll turns to crime to pay the bills, so, too does Lancashire. When Moll winds up imprisoned, so does he. They make similar choices and endure similar consequences. And both of them – the lucky ducks – always land on their feet. A match made in heaven, we say. Soul mates.