The Old Bailey

Daniel Defoe Daniel Defoe and Moll Flanders

In 1702 Daniel Defoe wrote The Shortest Way with the Dissenters, mimicking the extreme attitudes of High Anglican Tories and arguing (sarcastically) for the annihilation of all dissenters. In the politically volatile atmosphere of the time, the author was fined, imprisoned and pilloried -- but it made him a popular hero. He continued to write from prison.

Years later, Defoe let his famous heroine introduce herself in Chapter 1 of Moll Flanders: The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous (published in 1722):

My true name is so well known in the records or registers at Newgate, and in the Old Bailey, and there are some things of such consequence still depending there, relating to my particular conduct, that it is not be expected I should set my name or the account of my family to this work; perhaps, after my death, it may be better known; at present it would not be proper, no not though a general pardon should be issued, even without exceptions and reserve of persons or crimes.

It is enough to tell you, that as some of my worst comrades, who are out of the way of doing me harm (having gone out of the world by the steps and the string, as I often expected to go), knew me by the name of Moll Flanders, so you may give me leave to speak of myself under that name till I dare own who I have been, as well as who I am.