Summary and Analysis
Chapter 5 - The Fugitive Widow
Even though Moll was hiding in the Mint among "the sons of affliction," she continued to have many admirers. She discovered that the men in the Mint, though poor, always seemed to have money for drinking and carousing. But she decided they were too wicked even for her. With plenty of time to think, Moll reflected upon her present condition and the course her life would now have to take. She had no friends or relatives and little money left. Because she felt disgusted with the people in the Mint and with the way she had lived previously, she decided to leave.
While Moll was living in the Mint, she had become friendly with a widow whose husband had been captain of a merchant ship. This widow, too, had taken refuge in the Mint in an attempt to escape her creditors. However, with the help of friends she was able to pay them off and was free to return to her home in another part of town.
After discovering that Moll was not a criminal, the widow invited Moll to live with her, suggesting that one of the ship captains might like her. Hoping to find a husband, Moll had accepted the invitation. But six months later, the widow found one, instead.
Most of Moll's money had been spent by this time. Most of her suitors, too, were looking for a woman with money or influential friends. Moll discovered that in London one married for money and position, not love. Men openly went fortune-hunting, although they themselves had no fortunes, and rejected women who even inquired about their character or finances. Moll had this clearly demonstrated to her because of what happened to a friend of hers, a woman who attempted to find out something about her suitor's background and who was consequently rejected by the suitor.
Moll convinced this friend that she should resent being rejected thus and that she should seek revenge by ruining his reputation. Moll said that if the woman did not avenge herself, she would be held in contempt by the other women in that part of town. After listening to Moll very carefully, the friend agreed that she would like either to have her suitor back or to ruin his reputation. Moll planned a campaign to get him back. They decided to smear his name by spreading rumors that he was penniless, bad-tempered, and bigamous. The campaign worked so well that no other woman in that part of town allowed him to court her. Soon he was frantic to see Moll's friend; when she finally allowed him to call on her, she confronted him with the various stories which the two women had invented. Because he was now eager to marry her, the man, a captain, brought proof that he had paid for his part of the ship and proof from the owners that they had no intention of removing him from the command of the ship. Therefore, Moll's friend decided she would marry the seaman, since he now was quite humble enough. And so they were married, the seaman still ignorant of the amount of his wife's fortune. Thus the young lady made the seaman feel that obtaining her was the most difficult thing in the world and, in a sense, turned the tables on him. In addition, she put part of her fortune in trust, without letting him know anything of it; the rest she gave to him after a time, and thus assured his good treatment of her.
Moll felt that men got the best of the deal in courtship and marriage. A woman was supposed to feel that a man had done her a favor by asking her to marry him. If she turned him down, she was not asked again. And if he was refused at one house, he would be received at another. In addition, a woman was supposed to be content to remain ignorant of her suitor's background. This situation distressed Moll, and she was determined to change it.
Because the seaman was so arrogant, Moll and her acquaintance were able to humble him by destroying his reputation among the other women in town.
A woman's ne'er so ruined but she can Revenge herself on her undoer, Man,
means that a woman's reputation is never so completely ruined that she cannot ruin a man's as well.
In this chapter Moll began moralizing about life when she said that men have so much choice among women. She further said that women who cheapen themselves by being too easy to get are not worth having.