Roxana: The Fortunate Mistress

Roxana: The Fortunate Mistress Summary and Analysis of Part 6

As Roxana feels more and more longing to change her lifestyle so that she can build a relationship with her children, she confides these feelings to Amy. They start plotting ways in which Roxana could disappear, move somewhere else, and start life under a new identity. They decide that Roxana will dress as a gentlewoman of modest means and find a humble lodging house for herself and Amy. After she has moved out, Amy will tell everyone that the Lady Roxana has gone to Holland, arrange to pay out all of the household staff and sell off their furniture and other items. Roxana agrees to this plan, and Amy finds her lodgings in an unfashionable neighborhood of London, where they can rent rooms in the house of a Quaker woman. The Quaker woman is estranged from her husband, who has gone to New England, but is quite financially comfortable. Roxana quickly moves in and forms a quick friendship with the Quaker woman; Amy manages the logistics, and then comes to join her. Roxana, living under a new name and beginning to wear Quaker dress like her landlady, is now virtually unrecognizable, and no one would connect her with the glamorous courtesan she used to be.

Roxana feels safe in her new life, and enjoys the company of her new friend, but she misses her former life, and also begins to miss the Dutch Merchant. Amy offers to go to Paris to find out about him; Roxana agrees only if Amy makes sure that the enquiries cannot be connected back to her. Since Amy is going on this mission, Roxana also asks her to ask about her husband the Brewer (last seen serving in the French military), the Jew who had harassed Roxana in Paris, and about the Prince (her former lover). Amy gets to Paris and learns that the Dutch Merchant has moved to Roan, so she plans to go there to learn more. However, she happens to run in to the Prince's gentleman who had been her lover for many years. The Prince's gentleman doesn't want Amy to leave Paris, so he arranges to find out about the Dutch Merchant, and learns that Merchant left Roan for Holland. The Gentleman also explains that the Prince has gone back to Germany; he missed Roxana, and tried to find her, but could not track her down. The Gentleman hints that if the Prince were to reunite with Roxana, he would likely offer to marry her.

When Roxana learns from Amy that she has heard that the Dutch Merchant has gone back to Holland, she wants this information verified, so she writes to Amy telling her to go to Roan to find out for herself. Shortly after sending this letter, and before receiving a reply, Roxana is shocked to catch sight of the Dutch Merchant in London, while she is on an outing with the Quaker. The Quaker notices that Roxana has a strong reaction to the sight of the man, and Roxana admits that she had a relationship with him a long time ago. The Quaker arranges to have the Merchant followed, and eventually tells Roxana where he is living. In the interval, Roxana has received word from Amy: after going to Roan, Amy found out more details, and confirmed that the Merchant did indeed move from Holland to London. Roxana is very unsure about what to do, and orders Amy to come home. Amy agrees to leave France, but before she arrives, the Dutch Merchant comes to call at the house of the Quaker woman, looking for Roxana.

Roxana is flustered, and not sure of how to behave; the Merchant is very affectionate with her, and explains that he had tried to write to her, but the letters could not be delivered because she could not be found. He also tried to search for her after he came to England; Roxana leads him to believe that she was hard to find because she has been leading a quiet life with the Quaker, leaving out the story of her life as a courtesan. He is very anxious to hear about their child, which touches Roxana. The two of them begin to spend time together, and he starts to hint at the topic of them marrying. The two of them even start planning their future together: Roxana knows it will be too risky for her to live a public life in London, as someone might recognize her, so she insists they either live quietly in the countryside, or move to England. However, Amy has sent further word from France. She confirms that the Brewer has died in battle, and that the Jew seems to have been imprisoned. This is when Amy shares what she has learned from the Prince's gentleman: the Prince still loves Roxana, and would likely marry her. Roxana becomes tempted by the idea of becoming a Princess: even though she is so wealthy, she still does not have a title. She starts to draw away from the Merchant, feigning illness.

Roxana has almost resolved to end the relationship with the Merchant entirely, when Amy sends word that the Prince has been seriously injured while hunting. Roxana hesitates, because she worries that the Prince may die; Amy arrives back in England, and explains that while the Prince recovered, he repented for his sinful past while lying ill, and is now no longer willing to pursue Roxana. Roxana resolves to stay with the Merchant, but keeps feeling melancholy that she will not get to have a title. One day, the Merchant happens to explain that he can purchase a title, either in England or Holland. Amy and Roxana hatch a plan; Roxana tells the Merchant that she is willing to live in England if they can live outside of London. He becomes a naturalized resident of England, and purchases a baronetcy for them. They have a very small wedding the next day, and the Quaker treats them very well to celebrate their marriage. Roxana rewards the Quaker with lavish gifts and sums of money, astonishing the older woman.

Roxana and the Merchant live with the Quaker for nearly a year, ostensibly trying to decide where to live in England. Roxana, however, had only feigned the plan to stay in England so that she could get an English title as well as a Dutch one. She now decides she actually wants to live in Holland, so they begin to plan their move. They also talk in more detail about their finances, and each realizes that the other is fabulously wealthy. After almost a year of marriage, they move to Holland, where the Merchant purchases the title of Count, and also decides to backdate their marriage so that their son can be legitimized. Everything should be perfect, but Roxana is haunted and tormented by something that happened prior to her move to Holland.


With Amy's unfailing help, Roxana completes one last change of identity and moves in to a new life of modesty and simplicity. In the 17th century, Quakers were a new religious sect in England, and could sometimes be met with persecution (leading to a significant migration to New England). They were known to offer significant challenges to authority and social structure, with an emphasis on equality and a lack of hierarchy. Quakers also often incorporated more prominent roles for women. Thus, Roxana moving in to a Quaker household is both a challenge and continuation of some of the key themes of the novel. The Quaker insistence on simplicity and modesty in dress and behavior is directly at odds with Roxana's vanity and love of luxury. However, the Quaker woman is something of a parallel to Roxana in that she is also living independently and autonomously. Roxana and Amy can step fairly seamlessly into another female-centered household, and retain much of their independence. While the Quaker seems scrupulously virtuous, her unusual lifestyle as a financially independent woman lacking the supervision of a husband aligns her with Roxana, "a woman already deemed unscrupulous by standards of polite society for engaging in modes of prostitution, and who is already operating within a corrupted pseudo-domestic sphere that is distinguished from the moralized conjugal family" (Nawrot 565).

However, Roxana can only maintain the façade of liking a simple and quiet life for a short time. She misses the excitement and even the danger of her previous life, which leads her to risk inviting drama by sending Amy to France. Roxana misses the Merchant; while ostensibly hiding her past was done to make it possible for her to connect with her children, she ends up being much more interested in connecting with her former lover. She would never want the Merchant to know that she had been a famous courtesan, so with that past covered up, it is safe for her to explore reigniting this relationship. The role of coincidence reappears in the narrative again with Roxana running into the Merchant; this surprise encounter furthers the theme that she will never be able to entirely step away from her past. With Amy absent, the Quaker fills in as Roxana's intermediary, and shows her eagerness to bring Roxana back together with her former lover. This behavior shows that the Quaker is more complex than she might seem on the surface: while she seems totally transparent and even naïve, she is clearly also capable of being crafty when needs be.

Roxana and the Merchant are truly happy to be back together, and this relationship represents an opportunity for her to be in a genuine and loving partnership. Nonetheless, Roxana almost squanders this second chance through her ongoing greed. Amy's hints about the Prince still loving her awakens Roxana's ambition and desire to rise higher in the world. By now, she has all the money she could ever want, but the idea of a title is still tempting to her. An increasingly modern notion of social class has been emerging throughout the novel, but Roxana shows a more old-fashioned veneration of what it would mean to have an aristocratic title. Her temptation is rooted in her initial belief that nobility is one thing that money can't buy, and therefore the one thing she craves even more. However, the Merchant disabuses her of this notion by telling her that he can buy her a title if she wants. The novel consistently unsettles notions of what is, or should be, for sale on the open marketplace: Roxana sells her body and affection, and titles which carry prestige precisely because in theory they can only be inherited but also turn out to be available for purchase.

In this section, Defoe plays with narrative convention by teasing a reader with a seemingly happy ending, and then moving to undermine it. With her marriage and move to Holland to live as a Countess, Roxana seems to have achieved everything she ever wanted. She is fabulously wealthy, she has a title, she has safely disguised her past, and she now has a loving husband who trusts her and respects her independence. If the novel ended there, the plot would imply that Roxana had been right to make all the choices she did, and that she was rewarded for her various choices, lies, and crimes. Instead, Defoe turns to a series of dark events that have been quietly unfolding in the background. With her readers, just like with her other audiences, Roxana has been putting on a showy guise of glamour and wealth without fully acknowledging everything that is happening.