The Profligate Son: Or, A True Story of Family Conflict, Fashionable Vice, and Financial Ruin in Regency Britain

The Profligate Son: Or, A True Story of Family Conflict, Fashionable Vice, and Financial Ruin in Regency Britain

by Nicola Phillips


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The Profligate Son: Or, A True Story of Family Conflict, Fashionable Vice, and Financial Ruin in Regency Britain by Nicola Phillips

A profligate son was every Georgian parent's worst nightmare. To his father, William Jackson's imprudent spending, incessant partying, and sexual adventures were a sure sign he was on the slippery slope to ruin. But to his friends, William was a “damned good fellow,” a charming, impeccably dressed young gentleman with enviable seductive skills who was willing to defend his honor in duels. Mr. Jackson and his son viewed each other across a generational gap that neither could bridge, and their flawed relationship had catastrophic consequences for their family.

In The Profligate Son, historian Nicola Phillips hauntingly reconstructs this family tragedy from a recently discovered trove of letters and court documents. After Mr. Jackson's acquisition of a fortune during his service for the East India Company in Madras was undermined by false accusations that ruined his career, he invested all his future ambitions in his only son. William grew up in great comfort and was sent to the best schools in the country. But when the family moved to London, the teenager rebelled against the loneliness and often brutal regimes of public schooling and escaped to explore the pleasures of the town with his wealthy friends. His attempts to impress his peers led him into disastrous levels of debt that resulted in his imprisonment and ever more illegal efforts to satisfy his creditors, which appalled his prudent, sternly moralistic father. Mr. Jackson decided that the only way to combat his son's wayward behavior was to completely cut him off. In doing so, he condemned William to repeated imprisonment and a perilous voyage to an Australian penal colony. In Sydney William sought to rebuild his life with a family of his own, but even there his father's legacy brought further tragedy.

A masterpiece of literary nonfiction as dramatic as any Dickens novel, The Profligate Son transports readers from the steamy streets of India and the elegant squares and seedy brothels of London to the sunbaked shores of Australia, tracing the arc of a life long buried in history.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780465008926
Publisher: Basic Books
Publication date: 08/27/2013
Pages: 360
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.50(d)
Age Range: 13 - 18 Years

About the Author

Nicola Phillips is a Lecturer in History at Kingston University, London and author of Women in Business. She lives in Surrey, England.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations and Credits viii

A Note About Money and Financial Values ix

Maps x

Introduction: The Profligate Heir xiii

1 The Sins of the Fathers: India and England, 1798-1805 1

2 An Improper Education: Home, School, and Sponging House, 1805-1807 21

3 Lessons in Love and Life in London: London and Reading School, 1808 45

4 An Officer and a Gentleman: London and Guernsey, 1809-1810 71

5 Boarding the Fleet: London Debtors' Prisons, 1810-1812 95

6 To the Brink of Destruction: London, 1812 121

7 A Mansion of Misery: Newgate and the Old Bailey, 1812 143

8 Cheltenham and Gloucester Unmasked: Town and Jail, 1812-1813 167

9 Retribution: Woolwich Hulks, 1813 189

10 The Nature of a Contagious Distemper: Transportation, 1814 213

11 Of Gentlemen and Convicts: Australia, 1814-1820 237

12 Ruined Suitors: Australia and England, 1820-1828 259

Epilogue 273

Acknowledgments 279

Notes 281

Selected Bibliography 313

Index 325

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