Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Colchester. Town in southeastern England’s Essex district, in which Moll’s narrative begins by moving quickly through her early years. After being orphaned, she is taken into a home in Colchester in which she first is seduced by one brother and then married by the other, in a loveless relationship.


*London. England’s capital city and mercantile center, to which Moll goes after her husband dies. Now wiser about the ways of the world, she schemes to make a rich match for herself, only to connect with a gentleman-tradesman who proves to be as much a fraud as she is. Moll takes a greater hand in determining her own fate in London, where, as she learns, everything is business.

After having brief relationships with men in the countryside, Moll returns to London on her own and becomes a prostitute and a thief. The bulk of the book concerns her second sojourn in London, where, from her point of view as a storyteller, she is near to full-bloom.


*Virginia. British North American colony where Moll lives for eight years with her third husband, a gentleman-planter whom she marries after her second marriage fails. She is initially content in this new situation, but when she is given reason to believe that she may have a blood-relationship to her husband, she is aghast at the possibility of having committed incest and returns to England on her own.

After another sojourn in England—where she lives in Bath—Moll comes back to North America, finds that her third husband has died, and inherits his land. She thus returns to Virginia a landowner. Although it is doubtful the local courts would uphold her claim if someone were to challenge it, Moll knows that she has a better chance to own land in America than she could ever have in Europe. The novel ends with her making a formal claim to the Virginia land, thereby declaring to her readers that she has, at last, substantially the same rights as a man.