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The Dutch Wives' Good Husbandry: Defoe's "Roxana" and Financial Literacy

D. Christopher Gabbard
Eighteenth-Century Studies
Vol. 37, No. 2, Spaces of Enlightenment (Winter, 2004), pp. 237-251
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25098045
Page Count: 15
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The Dutch Wives' Good Husbandry: Defoe's "Roxana" and Financial Literacy
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Abstract

This article argues the supposed economic mastery displayed by Defoe's heroine Roxana is the product of financial self-fashioning. Bookkeeping and Dutchness, deployed as metaphors for economic competence, belie Roxana's pretensions. In the English imagination of the period, Dutch wives were reputed to possess commercial wisdom. Roxana's financial illiteracy and inability to heed her Dutch husband's request to do "as the Wives do in Holland" undermine the assumption that she manipulates the forces of emerging capitalism. Her inability to keep books correlates with her poor literary accounting; these interrelated failings suggest that Defoe's novel should be read as an inversion of the spiritual autobiography.

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