Published by the Folio Society, London, 2010. This book is in excellent condition, with covers bound in purple cloth, blocked with a design by the artist. Introduced by Frances Wilson. llustrated by Clare Melinsky including a colour frontispiece and seven linocuts. The slipcase has some minimal wear.
Written in 1724, Roxana is Daniel Defoe's final and most satisfying novel, an ebullient first-person account of the 'wicked life' of Mademoiselle Beleau. Born in France and brought to England as a child during the purge of the Huguenots, she is witty, pretty, wealthy and married.
Tempted and flattered by the lures of wealthy men, she becomes the glamorous courtesan 'Roxana', a name taken from the seductive Turkish dance she performs. Despite gaining enormous wealth, prestige and even a new and respectable husband, Roxana is unable either to stifle the pangs of guilt or truly to repent. Finally, enmeshed in the consequences of her own actions, Roxana suffers the 'blast of heaven' as her deserted daughter returns.
Often called the father of the English novel, Defoe wrote his works as fictitious autobiographies. He believed in 'lying like the truth' and in the prologue to Roxana he explains that 'the Work is not a Story, but a History'. Roxana is one of Defoe's most truthful, subtle characters - and his most tragic. The novel's drama lies both in her 'vast variety of fortunes' and in her attempts to learn the bitter lessons of her life. While Roxana's actions throughout the novel are governed by her awareness that everything has a price, she ultimately realises the true cost of her sacrifices.
There is much sensual humour in the book, especially in the antics of Amy, Roxana's engaging but dangerous servant and accomplice, who urges her mistress on to ever greater corruption. In the end, however, the genius of the book lies in its moving study of a woman fatally torn between her ambitions and an eternal yearning for a clear conscience as Defoe explores what for him was the most painful conflict of his time - between outward respectability and private corruption.
Roxana by Daniel Defoe
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