Parts 3-4 - Moll’s Early Adventures in Marriage
Part Three: The Draper
The Draper: Moll’s second husband
The Linen Draper: Moll’s landlord after the death of her first husband
The Linen Draper’s sister: the woman who introduces Moll to her second husband
Vowing to find a rich husband before her savings ran out, Moll took a room in the home of a linen-draper. She soon discovered that the linen-draper desired her to become his mistress, but she decided to hold out for a man who would take her as his wife. Moll turned to the linen-draper’s sister, a somewhat dissolute woman of wide acquaintance, to help her locate a suitable catch. The linen-draper’s sister introduced Moll to a variety of men. However, none of the likeable ones seemed to be interested in marriage, while none of the marrying kind appeared at all appealing.
After many disappointments, Moll finally encountered the type of man she had been seeking, another draper, but a “gentleman-tradesman” who seemed to have the wherewithal both to provide her with material comforts and to keep her entertained. Moll never lied to the gentleman-tradesman about her financial circumstances, but she managed to give him a highly exaggerated impression of her material worth. Meanwhile, in view of his lavish lifestyle, she surmised that he possessed a considerable fortune. Because she believed that he would soon begin to draw from his own bank accounts, Moll allowed him to spend a great deal of her money during the first months of their marriage.
As time passed, Moll began to realize not only that her husband had less money than she did, but that his spending habits were entirely out of control. When her husband was arrested for debt and confined to a “sponging house,” a debtors’ prison, Moll was distressed, but not surprised. Moll’s husband sent for her to meet with him in prison and instructed her to gather as many of his valuables as she could lay her hands on and place them somewhere safe from debt collectors. He also told her that his predicament obliged him to abandon her and flee to France.
Moll followed her husband’s directives and, a few weeks later, received a letter from him from France telling her how to redeem certain items he had deposited with pawnbrokers. Although Moll made a significant profit from the sale of these goods, she worried about her prospects in life. She knew her husband would never return, but the fact that he was still alive and still her husband meant that she could not marry again without violating the law or without lying about her situation. To give herself time to contemplate her next move, Moll took rooms in a section of London known as the Mint, a part of town that served as a customary haven for fugitives and debtors.
During this period, Moll posed as a widow and, for a time, called herself “Mrs. Flanders.” Although she was repulsed by the low characters she encountered in the Mint, she appreciated the anonymity she gained by taking shelter there. She accordingly decided to leave as soon as she managed to put her affairs in order and find a better place.
When Robin died, Moll grieved not about his demise, but about her economic circumstances, a response that confirms her purely materialistic approach to marriage. In her usual style, she admits that she “was not suitably affected by the loss of my husband;” then, rather than resolving to improve her behavior, moved on to an even more demoralized relationship with the draper. What made the draper particularly attractive, Moll recalls, was that he came into a sum of money which, combined with her savings, enabled them to travel about the country with an entourage of servants. Thus, Moll observes, “I was hurried on by my fancy to a gentleman, to ruin myself in the grossest manner that ever woman did.”
In line with her clear-eyed resignation to her own shortcomings, Moll never blames the draper for misleading her about the size of his fortune. On the contrary, she acknowledges that she frittered...
(The entire section is 2,270 words.)