ULTIMATE FOLLY: The Rises and Falls of Whitaker Wright

Book number: 91179 Product format: Hardback Author: HENRY MACRORY

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Bibliophile price £6.00
Published price £20

Whitaker Wright has been dubbed the world's most shameless swindler. He was one of the great characters of the Victorian age - Methodist, minister, businessman, swindler and symbol of excess, whose life inspired some of H. G. Wells's finest books. Henry Macrory has found a glorious subject in telling the forgotten story of an extraordinary man, a roguish hustler with a genius for self-reinvention who was for a time the richest man in Britain. Beginning his career as an impoverished preacher, Wright crossed the Atlantic to prospect for gold, surviving a Native American massacre before he made his fortune. Then the bubble burst. Leaving behind a string of angry investors, he fled to England to start again and soon he was one of the world's richest men. At his 10,000 acre estate in Surrey he employed an entourage of 77 staff, moved a hill that blocked his view, and built an underwater glass smoking room. On his vast steam yacht, he entertained the Prince of Wales, the Kaiser, and half of Britain's aristocracy. His downfall was as dramatic as his ascent. On the last trading day of the 19th century his financial empire, which he had propped up by cooking the books, went belly up. This time, the trail of furious investors stretched all the way to the Prime Minister. With the police in hot pursuit, Wright fled to New York, but his escape was short-lived. At the end of what the press dubbed 'the most dramatic trial of modern times' he was sentenced to seven years in jail. Minutes later, he sprang a last dreadful surprise. 356pp.

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ISBN 9781785903786

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