Part Five: A Sinful Affair
The Landlady: a woman who keeps a boarding house at Bath
The Gentleman of Bath: a married man who takes care of Moll
When Moll arrived back in England after a storm-tossed journey, she lost track of much of the cargo she had arranged to have delivered and, being forced to wait for it to arrive at its proper destination, she decided to spend some time in the resort town of Bath. In keeping with the highly social atmosphere of Bath, she met a great many fast-living people, but soon found herself spending too freely, a habit she likens to “bleeding to death.” During the off-season, she managed to relocate to cheaper lodgings with a relatively respectable lady and, by letting go her maid and reducing expenses, she carved out a comfortable, though somewhat dull and lonely life.
A gentleman Moll had encountered during the previous season returned to rent lodgings in the same boarding house. Moll’s landlady told her that the gentleman was married, but that his wife suffered from an incurable mental disturbance. Although the gentleman was as honest and respectable as could be, his wife’s illness made him hunger for an agreeable companion, a woman, he soon made clear, exactly like Moll herself. The gentleman paid a great deal of attention to Moll, and they soon became intimate friends. However, even though they passed freely into one another’s rooms, meeting at all hours of the day and night in various degrees of undress, the gentleman never attempted to elicit more from Moll than a friendly kiss.
The gentleman kept up his extremely decorous behavior toward Moll even after he started to provide her with significant financial support. Eventually, the two became so perfectly easy with one another that they decided to take a holiday together in the countryside. When they arrived at their destination, the inn at which they planned to stay had available only one room with two beds. Since Moll and the gentleman had been intimate for so long without impinging on his marriage vows, neither protested this arrangement. In fact, the gentleman had so much confidence in his ability to refrain from molesting Moll that he declared that he could lie with her all night without subjecting her to any untoward advances. Much to Moll’s amazement, the gentleman slept in Moll’s bed and behaved exactly as he had promised.
From then on, Moll and the gentleman frequently occupied the same bed and, each time, Moll wondered how he managed to keep his passion in check. Then, one night, after drinking more wine than usual at dinner, Moll let the gentleman know that, if he happened to be in a mood to take their intimacy further, she would not object. “Thus,” Moll recalls, “the government of our virtue was broken, and I exchanged the place of friend for that unmusical harsh-sounding title of Whore...and the bars of virtue and conscience being thus removed, we had the less difficulty afterwards to struggle with.”
Soon after they commenced their sexual affair, Moll became pregnant and worried that the gentleman would leave her to face her ordeal alone. However, the gentleman made sure that Moll was well taken care of throughout her pregnancy and, without running into any problems, she gave birth to a healthy baby boy. Having no great store of maternal feelings, Moll placed her baby in the care of a servant and proceeded to enjoy, in her words, “what I might call the height of my prosperity.” Moll knew that her position was less secure than if she had been the gentleman’s wife, but she truly enjoyed his companionship, as well as the fact that he gave her money enough to set aside considerable savings.
Six years into his affair with Moll, the gentleman went off for a visit to his wife’s relatives. Upon his arrival at their house, he became deathly ill. Moll...
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