chapter
28 Pages

Introduction

Published in late December 1722, the same year that Moll Flanders appeared, Col. Jacque could in many ways appear to offer the male version of Moll’s story, since the two picaresque narratives share a number of features. Both protagonists are born orphaned bastards who become preoccupied with aspirations to gentility, but are embroiled in crime until the providential placing of them on Virginian tobacco plantations sets them on the road to moral reform and prosperity through trade, and settled marriages are finally attained. The prefaces to each work also enjoin us to read them as personal histories of characters whose repentance of their wicked thieving ways should teach us valuable lessons – even if most readers can hardly fail to notice that Moll and Jack end up being far from devout Christian converts. Yet closer inspection shows that the differences between the books and their design and execution are as great as their similarities. Col. Jacque certainly has more serious intentions than its exorbitant title-page – seemingly trailing a picaresque frolic in the Moll Flanders mould – would seem to suggest. 1