Roxana (1724), Defoe's last and darkest novel, is the autobiography of a woman who has traded her virtue, at first for survival, and then for fame and fortune. Its narrator tells the story of her own 'wicked' life as the mistress of rich and powerful men. A resourceful adventuress, she is also an unforgiving analyst of her own susceptibilities, who tells us of the price she pays for her successes. Endowed with many seductive skills, she is herself seduced: by money, by dreams of rank, and by the illusion that she can escape her own past. Unlike Defoe's other penitent anti-heroes, however, she fails to triumph over these weaknesses. The novel's drama lies not only in the heroine's 'vast variety of fortunes', but in her attempts to understand the sometimes bitter lessons of her life as a 'Fortunate Mistress'. Defoe's achievement was to invent, in 'Roxana', a gripping story-teller as well as a gripping story. This edition uses the rare first edition text, with a new introduction, detailed notes, textual history, and a map.
Almost three hundred years after its first publication, Roxana continues to challenge readers, who, though compelled by Roxana's story, are often baffled by her complex relationships to her children, her fortune, and her vices. As one of Daniel Defoe's four major fictions, Roxana has long been understood as central to the history of the novel, and provides readers with Defoe's sharpest and most specific commentary on the complexities of life in seventeenth-century London. This edition offers a range of contemporary documents that will help readers understand the struggles of Roxana's life as series of metaphoric engagements with pressing issues of her time.
From the Back Cover