The Fortunate Mistress; or Roxana

Daniel Defoe's Roxana is primarily set around London or in London, and in Paris (or more exactly its satellite court-town of Versailles) and Rotterdam and the Hague, the continental cities where Roxana lives for several years. The novel also includes relatively superficial mention of Roxana's grand tour into Italy with her French lover, and her voyages to and from Holland to see the Dutch Merchant whom she eventually marries. Despite Roxana's extensive travels, there are almost no loco-descriptive passages: the novel focuses almost entirely on Roxana's mental state and on interior domestic spaces which are no better described than external spaces. If this was the only Defoe one had read, one might think Defoe could not "do" exterior views, but such an hypothesis is faulted by the topographical descriptions in his maritime novels and his excellent sketches of British places in his Tour of the Whole Island. The inwardness of Roxana seems then to derive not from artistic inability but from the representation of her self-interestedness, her moral preoccupation with her sinfulness, and from the construction of the novel as the representation of a neurotic fugue state as Roxana flees from her guilt about crimes past towards yet another enticing act of greedy accumulation.