The Profligate Son: Or, a True Story of Family Conflict, Fashionable Vice, and Financial Ruin in Regency England Hardcover – 24 Oct 2013
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The Profligate Son held me spellbound from start to finish. Nicola Phillips brings the seamy side of Regency England to life with remarkable clarity, and her anti-hero William Jackson s headlong descent into a hell of his own making is so vivid and so foolhardy that more than once I wanted to reach into the book and shake some sense into him. A compelling read. --Adrian Tinniswood, author of The Verneys and The Rainborowes
Nicola Phillips has given us a compulsively readable story of a young man of good family who went dramatically astray in the fleshpots and gambling houses of Regency England. The book brings to life the glitter, the tawdriness, the promise and the heartbreak of the times in a way that few more conventional histories have done. At the same time it is a perceptive study of two flawed, headstrong men who had the signal misfortune to be father and son. --Margaret R. Hunt, Professor of History and Women s and Gender Studies, Amherst College
A gripping story of privilege and power, ungrateful sons and disappointed fathers in Regency England. Phillips brings the period to life with great authority and also sets the history in a thoughtful, modern context. A very enjoyable read. --Kate Mosse, author of the Languedoc Trilogy
“A tale of juvenile folly turning into serious crime is afforded by Nicola Phillips’s splendid The Profligate Son, .... [which] charts the boy’s chosen path to its sordid and inevitable end and in the process makes an age come wonderfully alive.” -- Henrik Bering, Wall Street Journal
“[A] terrific book ... told with style, flair and solid history.” -- Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post
“This is an engrossing tale of a Regency rake’s fast times and tragic unravelling that vivifies the history of Georgian England and colonial Sydney, Australia.” -- Publishers Weekly
“An immensely readable work of literary depths.” -- Kirkus Reviews
“A true Regency tale, with dollops of absorbing social, legal and criminal history thrown in, beautifully told. Warmly recommended.” -- London Historians
About the Author
Dr Nicola Phillips is an expert in gender history and a lecturer in the department of History and Politics at Kingston University. Her first book was on women in business from 1700 to 1850, and her research focuses on eighteenth-century gender, work, family conflict, and criminal and civil law. Nicola is also an advocate of public history. A co-founder of Kingston University's Centre for the Historical Record, she is also a member of the National Archives User Advisory Group and the Historical Association's Public History Committee, and has acted as a historical consultant for the National Trust, the Royal Mail, and Addidi Wealth Ltd. She has also contributed to radio and TV programmes on gender history.
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Top Customer Reviews
The story, set in the early 1800's, follows the life of a beloved son William Jackson. Born in India, his father was a successful employee of the East India Company. When the family return to England their fortune is made and with it comes affluence and wealth and all its trappings. As William grows up it is unfortunately the trappings which most appeal to him. Unlike his morally principled and cautious father, William hankers after a young gentleman's life filled with the excitement of wine, women and song along with accruing debts, carousing in the dark streets of London and duelling with pistols when offended - hence the label of profligate behaviour.
But William did not see things this way at all. Indeed, he considered his behaviour normal, of no serious consequence and only what a spirited young gentleman was entitled to. Unfortunately, these were the times of Regency England when misdemeanours of this kind could lead straight to the gallows, the prison hulks anchored in the Thames or shackled below deck and transported off to Australia.
As William played a dangerous game staying a step ahead of a growing number of enemies and creditors, which he did with a swagger, his father despaired and filial love was pushed to the limit.
The book's author, Nicola Phillips, does not judge William in his reckless behaviour nor does she pass judgment on his father as he struggled to contain his son's excesses nor the traders who so willingly offered credit to ensure a sale. Phillips does not wallow in sentimentality either. Rather, she acknowledges the human frailties of her subjects and tells a true story of family disintegration which led to financial ruin and tragic outcomes with deep empathy and understanding of the human spirit.
This book of history will appeal to a wide range of readers.
This book chronicles his shameful fall from grace, resulting in his father refusing to allow him to find refuge in his own home. William wants to appear to be a well-to-do man about town but he doesn’t know when to call a halt to womanising, drinking and borrowing. He’s living on credit, and at the age of around 18, he goes too far and commits a fraud that inevitably leads to imprisonment. Phillips is instructive about the various spongeing houses and the mounting dangers of the prison regime in which he finds himself.
It’s a matter of fraud that does for him when he tries to forge a cheque. Debt, these days doesn’t usually end with a prison term, but the price had to be paid, in the 1800s, exorbitant though it might be. William had behaved disgracefully, defrauding friends and shopkeepers but the worst was to come when he contacted an old servant, Betty, and conned money out of her.
When debt was compounded by fraud it could be a far more serious matter. Of course, the upper classes could get away with things – witness the astounding debts of the Prince of Wales of that time. William was only middle-class, however and he was sentenced to seven years deportation to Australia.Read more ›
The profligate son was William Jackson, the dearly loved and only son of William Collins Jackson and his wife Jane. Born in 1791 in India, William and his mother had returned to England while his father continued in his role as an East India man. But in 1798, Mr Jackson made an apparent error in his dealings with one of the local leaders, and the Company recalled him to England. In 1803 Jackson was acquitted of all the charges by the Court of Directors, but Jackson felt that his reputation had suffered. While a wealthy man by the standards of the time, his character had been impugned, and the remainder of his life was spent trying to live up to the standards that he imposed on himself, and on his family, with tragic consequences for his son.
Striving to give his son the best possible education for the life of a gentleman’s son, and a gentleman himself, Jackson placed William with highly recommended educational institutions, but William seemed determined to ruin every chance he was given, and the chances for a good education grew slimmer with every discouragement. By the age of twenty, William was already the despair of his father, but Jackson was still grimly determined to try and make William learn the lessons he felt he needed to.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a balanced, even handed account of the slow descent of the son of a self-made man, who had worked for the East India company and run into problems himself concerning... Read morePublished on 24 April 2014 by Mike Davey
I am hugely interested in the Regency period so this book interested me from the beginning. It’s always great to get social history presented in a new book especially one which has... Read morePublished on 7 Feb. 2014 by josie82
I was surprised to find so much in this book. It's so much more than a biography or a history book. It contains plenty of insights into Georgian society and its values. Read morePublished on 3 Feb. 2014 by C. J. Tyler
There is a tricky line to tread when you are trying to write a scholarly historical book that might also have a broader appeal to those outside of academia. Read morePublished on 24 Jan. 2014 by Simon Tavener
This was a very interesting and well researched read. Nicola Phillips has done a marvellous job in relating the fall from grace of a young gentleman in regency England. Read morePublished on 22 Jan. 2014 by J. Aitken
This is one of the most enjoyable books I have ever read. Although it centres on the scandalous and tragic life of a privileged young man born in the late 1700s, it is so much more... Read morePublished on 15 Jan. 2014 by Emile Zola reader
I really enjoyed this book for two main reasons - the first and most important is that author Nicola Phillips is totally non judgmental, she does not try to judge or give a verdict... Read morePublished on 14 Jan. 2014 by Craddock Edwards from Bristol
This is a fascinating story of one particular rake's progress, from birth to a well to do middle class family in the late eighteenth century, to a death in squalor in Australia. Read morePublished on 12 Jan. 2014 by Nicholas J. R. Dougan
There are plenty of letters and journals preserved regarding royalty, aristocrats and other rich and famous people but less about more ordinary people. Read morePublished on 11 Jan. 2014 by Mrs. D. J. Smith
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