The Smart

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

3.5 (18 ratings by Goodreads)
  • Hardback
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Britain was on the verge of war with America, yet foreign affairs were far from the thoughts of Londoners, spellbound by the proceedings of two spectacular trials, one involving a strange pair of twins, and the other an elegant young woman. Caroline Rudd had left Ireland for London where she came to enjoy a glamorous life as a high-class prostitute. Her mesmerizing charisma attracted the identical but opposite Perreau twins one a sober merchant, the other a raffish gambler. Caroline and the twins forged bonds and lived in luxury until everything collapsed like a house of cards and charges of forgery were laid. Meticulously researched, this evocative history brilliantly bridges the gap between aristocracy and underworld, as eighteenth-century society is drawn into the most scandalous financial smart of the age."show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 336 pages
  • 156 x 234mm | 578g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • facsimiles, portraits
  • 070117109X
  • 9780701171094

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" "From the Trade Paperback edition.""show more

About Sarah Bakewell

Sarah Bakewell is a Curator at the Wellcome Library, London, where she stumbled across this fascinating story. This is her first more

Review Text

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)show more

Rating details

18 ratings
3.5 out of 5 stars
5 17% (3)
4 44% (8)
3 17% (3)
2 17% (3)
1 6% (1)
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