I read the Chetwood edition, presented by Modern Library Classics, and found it to be highly entertaining and insightful. Now and then, I had to re-read passages, because Daniel Defoe's sometimes-archaic English syntax at times confounded me. However, the language is not always so archaic that it's not possible to figure it out without consulting the 447 notes.
About "Moll Flanders"
Defoe presents "Moll Flanders" in the guise of an autobiography, written by a woman of advanced years. Defoe was adroit at creating a narrative, relaying the details of this life from a woman's point of view. In fact, his female persona is so realistic that the reader would willingly truste that the book was written by a woman, if the book was published with an "Anonymous" byline.
Moll often moves in a caste of society, in which a woman's station in life counts more than her personality. Since she was born poor, and since she has ambitions to rise above her poverty, she resorts to questionable ploys to improve her station. In retrospect, she admits to her own hypocrisy and scheming, realizing that she sacrificed her personal virtue to achieve her goals.
However, even in that somewhat retrospective and sentimental mode, she believes she has behaved as virtuous as possible. Of course, throughout many pages, the reader comes to understand that Moll has a liberal definition of virtue. While it is true that Moll has a conscience, she does not often listen to the admonishments of her inner voice. Nevertheless, she has a multitude of excuses to justify bygone actions.
What It's All About
One of the most charming and finest features of the book is the art of cultivated conversation, found in the moments when Moll and her (usually male) counterparts are expressing their honest feelings and thoughts. It's not just the stilted jargon of snobbish highbrows; it appears to be enviably natural and refined.
"Moll Flanders" is fiction-made-credible; the novel ranks as a milestone of 18th-century English literature, and it continues to find favor. For someone who is keen on encountering a spectrum of human motivations this book undoubtedly delivers the colors of the many facets of conduct.