On Monday I finished teaching Daniel Defoe‘s Roxana, his 1724 novel about a woman who exchanges sex for money. (As my students pointed out, it’s difficult to call her a prostitute, since she never sells her body directly; she’s always a kept mistress.)

Defoe was, of course, one of the great early English novelists. In some ways, his works, including Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders were seminal in creating the novel as a genre. His life is also interesting. A Whig, Defoe was able to write politically motivated prose works while maintaining his government position regardless of whether the administration in power was Whig or Tory. In many ways, he was very much a modern man.

I have admit that my memory of reading Roxana turned out to be more pleasurable than the actual practice of reading it. I first read the novel in the first graduate seminar I took in 1992 at Texas A&M University, one on the eighteenth-century novel. I loved the class, and my memory was that I really enjoyed the novel.

I should have thought twice about this memory when I recalled that I also have fond memories of reading Samuel Richardson‘s Sir Charles Grandison, a novel that I’ve published on but that also doesn’t get easier to read with subsequent efforts. (But my memory of it is still very positive; I just don’t want to read it over and over again.)

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