The Smart: The True Story of Margaret Caroline Rudd and the Unfortunate Perreau Brothers

The Smart: The True Story of Margaret Caroline Rudd and the Unfortunate Perreau Brothers

Paperback

By (author) Sarah Bakewell

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  • Publisher: VINTAGE
  • Format: Paperback | 321 pages
  • Dimensions: 139mm x 200mm x 23mm | 254g
  • Publication date: 23 April 2002
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0099286637
  • ISBN 13: 9780099286639
  • Edition: New edition
  • Edition statement: New edition
  • Illustrations note: facsimiles, , portraits

Product description

The Smart is a true drama of eighteenth-century life with a mercurial, mysterious heroine. Caroline is a young Irishwoman who runs off to marry a soldier, comes to London and slides into a glamorous life as a high-class prostitute, a great risk-taker, possessing a mesmerising appeal. In the early 1770s, she becomes involved with the intriguing Perreau twins, identical in looks but opposite in character, one a sober merchant, the other a raffish gambler. They begin forging bonds, living in increasing luxury until everything collapses like a house of cards - and forgery is a capital offence. A brilliantly researched and marvellously evocative history, The Smart is full of the life of London streets and shots through with enduring themes - sex, money, death and fame. It bridges the gap between aristocracy and underworld as eighteenth-century society is drawn into the most scandalous financial sting of the age.

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Author information

Sarah Bakewell is a curator at the Wellcome Library, London, where she stumbled across this fascinating story. She has written for publications ranging from journals of medical history to Fortean Times: this is her first book.

Review quote

"A fascinating story in the shady life and scandalous times of Caroline Rudd... gripping reading." - "Daily Telegraph""Sarah Bakewell has written a scholarly biography that reads like a detective novel with a historical setting... full of sharp pen-portraits, lively asides and quirky details... every bit as colourful and enjoyable as the title suggests." - "Independent"

Editorial reviews

An impoverished adventuress from Ireland, the 'celebrated Mrs Rudd' arrived in 18th century London to seek her fortune through high-class prostitution. While in London she utilized her undoubted charms to ensnare many of the leading names in English society, including Dr Johnson's biographer James Boswell, but her appeal could prove fatal, as the 'unfortunate' Perreau brothers found to their cost. Identical twins, Robert and Daniel Perreau had left the West Indies and established themselves as businessmen in England, where they came into contact with Caroline Rudd. All three became involved in a scam - the 'Smart' of the title - entailing the fraudulent issue of the financial bonds. In 18th century Britain forgery was a capital offence, and those who fell foul of the law could expect little mercy. At their trial the desperate defendants each blamed each other, but Caroline's assiduous charm again won the day and she was aquitted, leaving the Perreau brothers to face the gallows. The trial forms the centrepiece of this informative book, but author Sarah Bakewell places the court proceedings against the background of a London obsessed with sex, money, fame and notoriety. As a curator at the Wellcome Institute Library, Bakewell has made a thorough trawl through the archives, including diaries, letters, pamphlets and court transcripts, to provide an illuminating account of a high-spirited woman living on her wits and making her own way in the world. (Kirkus UK)