Top positive review
Oxford Press is likely the best way to read Roxana
on March 9, 2018
This work could easily deserve five stars depending on your taste and desire, but I've given it four simply because Defoe can at times be cumbersome and pedantic.
Roxana serves as a novel that is more interesting to analyze than breeze through in my opinion. It deals with many intriguing themes and ideas, some which were certainly at least somewhat novel at the time of publication in 1724, such as: the desperation of poverty, the value and status of female virtue, the feared Master/Slave dichotomy of marriage, the all consuming nature of avarice, lust, vanity, and pride, and the whether repentance can be genuine or meaningful.
There are a fair amount of similarities between Roxana and Moll Flanders, but Roxana deals more with the escape from poverty and marriage into what may be considered an equally morally dangerous, albeit less dismal, realm of riches and desires.
A few quotes:
"...that's a hard thing too, that we should judge a Man to be wicked because he's charitable; and vicious because he's kind: O Madam, says Amy, there's abundance of Charity begins in that Vice, and he is not so unacquainted with things, as not to know, that Poverty is the strongest Incentive; a Temptation, against which no Virtue is powerful enough to stand out..."
"In things we wish, 'tis easie to deceive;
What we would have, we willingly believe."
"So possible is it for us to roll ourselves up in Wickedness, till we grow invulnerable by Conscience; and that Centinel once doz'd, sleeps fast, not to be awaken'd while the Tide of Pleasure continues to flow, or till something dark and dreadful brings us to ourselves again."
"That the very Nature of the Marriage-Contract was in short, nothing but giving up Liberty, Estate, Authority, and every-thing, to the Man, and the Woman was indeed, a meer Woman ever after, that is to say, a Slave. [...] I added that whoever the Woman was, that had an Estate, and would give it up to be the slave of a Great Man, that Woman was a Fool, and must be fit for nothing but a Beggar; that it was my opinion, a Woman was as fit to govern and enjoy her own Estate, without a man, as a Man was, without a woman; and that if she had a-mind to gratifie herself as to Sexes, she might entertain a Man, as a Man does a Misstress; that while she was thus single, she was her own, and if she gave away that power, she merited to be as miserable as it was possible that any Creature cou'd be."
"This, however, shews us with what faint Excuses, and with what Trifles we pretend to satisfie ourselves, and suppress the Attempts of Conscience in the Pursuit of agreeable Crime, and in the possessing those Pleasures which we are loth to part with."
As you can tell, the Oxford text is a facsimilie presentation of the original work down to the period-specific spelling. This does make the book harder to read at pace, but I actually enjoyed seeing the oddities and relics of written language.