Moll Flanders; the tale of a bawdy wench out and about being bawdy and getting up to all manner of, well, bawdiness. For those of you not up on your ye olde Englishness, bawdy is a general term for something which is lewd, obscene and lascivious. If you don't know what any of those words mean then Moll Flanders will be a nice surprise for you (and maybe you should get out more).
Moll is essentially a working girl on the make but really she's just trying to find Mr Right and settle down with a nice respectable fellow in order to get a bit of financial security. Life in the early 18th century was no picnic after all, especially if you're a lady with a bit of a reputation and not two coppers to rub together. Social services were not around to step in, help you into a small flat and give you advice about being a job seeker.
Nope, life on the banks of the Thames was very much a sink or swim affair although many people find it difficult to swim when their throats have been cut from ear to ear and they've been heaved in head first after their pockets have been emptied. London was not a pretty place to be and no one can blame Moll for trying to make the best of a bad situation. And try she does, although this mainly involves going through husbands faster than Elizabeth Taylor.
Husband One dies an early death and leaves her with small children to care for. She leaves them tucked up at home and heads out onto the street to begin a career as an artful con-woman hoping to snare another husband. Husband Two is wealthy but quickly bankrupts himself and does a runner to France leaving Moll with some fond memories and an empty bank account.
Swiftly moving on to husband number three, there is some exciting foreign travel followed by an unfortunate bought of incest (well, the world was a lot smaller in those days). Potential husband number four never comes through with the goods which brings Moll to potential husband number five. Number five is a slow mover and is put on the back-burner while Number six is sought out to fill the hole (pun intended) in the interim. Number six turns out to be an even bigger con-artist than Moll and hi-jinx ensue when they both think the other is looted.
Nine children later and six husbands down Moll is still far from living the high life and resorts to meaner crimes than seduction in order to fill her purse. You can imagine that a life like this is probably going to be less than kind on a lady's general appearance but Moll still seems to pull in the gentlemen. Perhaps bawdiness is a virtue in its own right.
A brilliant alternative classic tale with an unusual and bold heroine who is not chaste, girly or prim. A refreshing antidote to the later ladies of the Austen school of writing. Moll Flanders would kick Elizabeth Bennet's ass any day of the week.