The Fortunate Mistress (Parts 1 and 2)
Defoe Daniel. The Fortunate Mistress (Parts 1 and 2)
A HISTORY OF THE LIFE OF ROXANA
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The history of this beautiful lady is to speak for itself; if it is not as beautiful as the lady herself is reported to be; if it is not as diverting as the reader can desire, and much more than he can reasonably expect; and if all the most diverting parts of it are not adapted to the instruction and improvement of the reader, the relator says it must be from the defect of his performance; dressing up the story in worse clothes than the lady whose words he speaks, prepared for the world.
He takes the liberty to say that this story differs from most of the modern performances of this kind, though some of them have met with a very good reception in the world. I say, it differs from them in this great and essential article, namely, that the foundation of this is laid in truth of fact; and so the work is not a story, but a history.
In the manner she has told the story, it is evident she does not insist upon her justification in any one part of it; much less does she recommend her conduct, or, indeed, any part of it, except her repentance, to our imitation. On the contrary, she makes frequent excursions, in a just censuring and condemning her own practice. How often does she reproach herself in the most passionate manner, and guide us to just reflections in the like cases!
It is true she met with unexpected success in all her wicked courses; but even in the highest elevations of her prosperity she makes frequent acknowledgments that the pleasure of her wickedness was not worth the repentance; and that all the satisfaction she had, all the joy in the view of her prosperity – no, nor all the wealth she rolled in, the gaiety of her appearance, the equipages and the honours she was attended with, could quiet her mind, abate the reproaches of her conscience, or procure her an hour's sleep when just reflection kept her waking.