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“She Never Had Been a Bride in Her Life”: The Marriage of Roxana and Amy

Sarah Rasher


1. Defoe would not have been unique in depicting a marriage-like relationship between a mistress and maid. Betty Rizzo, in Companions Without Vows, has examined a pattern of quasi-marriages between women in the eighteenth century. However, Rizzo's study focuses on the later eighteenth century, and the intense emotional and spiritual bond between Roxana and Amy distinguishes them from real-world analogues.
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2. Both Roxana and Conjugal Lewdness were published anonymously during Defoe's lifetime. As Ashley Marshall has explored in a provocative recent article, “Did Defoe Write Moll Flanders and Roxana?” it is impossible to be certain that Defoe wrote either novel, and it is indeed possible that Defoe’s success led authors, publishers, and readers to misattribute others’ works to him, either by accident or with the intention to mislead. Nonetheless, there is sufficient stylistic and ideological similarity between Roxana and Conjugal Lewdness to conclude that they most likely arose from the same mind and the same pen. Additionally, as Marshall has not identified a specific alternative contender for Roxana’s authorship, Defoe remains the most probable author of both novels as well as of late nonfiction works like Conjugal Lewdness. The philosophical continuity between Defoe’s earlier writings and later texts like Roxana and Conjugal Lewdness strengthens the case for Defoe's authorship.
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3. Earlier in the novel, Roxana rejects the Dutch Merchant, claiming that she does not believe in marriage. While her argument is occasionally read as an expression of the author’s stance against marriage, Roxana herself admits that when the Merchant assures her that his motives are not avaricious, he has removed her principal objection, and from that point forward she is arguing on principle (147). Additionally, her argument echoes a poem attributed to Defoe, “Good Advice to the Ladies,” which satirically advises young women to remain single because all men are terrible.
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4. See also Peter Christian Marbais, who extends Kahn’s reading; he sees Roxana as a “tyrannical child” to Amy's “permissive mother” (118). According to Marbais, Amy spoils Roxana so badly that Roxana becomes incapable of finding an equal partner (135).
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