The Fate of the Eighteenth Century Bastard: Illegitimacy and Determinism in Moll Flanders


  • Michelle L. Sauer Florida State University


Daniel Defoe, Moll Flanders, illegitimate children


The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders, more commonly called Moll Flanders, is an English novel by Daniel Defoe, first published in 1722, that details the exploits of the titular character from birth to old age. Moll is an illegitimate child, whose mother was a felon that Moll never knew. She is beautiful, cunning, and even becomes skilled, due to her time working as a seamstress for a gentlewoman and a housemaid for a wealthy family early in her life. Throughout the course of her life, Moll marries five times, once to her own brother, becomes the mistress of a married man (known as the “Bath gentlemen” for the city in which they met and lived), falls into a life of thievery, and eventually becomes a felon transported to the colonies in her attempts to escape the poverty and misery that often accompany bastard children.

Author Biography

Michelle L. Sauer, Florida State University

Michelle Sauer is a junior double majoring in History and English: Literature at FSU. She plans to attend graduate school in the United Kingdom, pursuing a doctorate in History and a career in research as a professor.






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