Editor’s note: For fans of the British period drama “Downton Abbey,” the fifth season can’t come too soon. In the meantime, this is one of half a dozen books — both novels and nonfiction — that have crossed our desks that have an upstairs/downstairs drama, are set in a similar era or may be of interest to fans of the historical series.
"The Profligate Son: A True Story of Family Conflict, Fashionable Vice and Financial Ruin in Regency Britain” by Nicola Phillips tells the story of a gentleman who becomes so enmeshed in the addictions of gambling, fashion and other follies, that he is disinherited by his father and mother in an effort to bring him back to virtue.
William Jackson, who was born to the life of a gentleman, is forced to confront the demise of all of his once bright prospects at the tender age of 20. Having borrowed on credit to fuel his fanciful tastes, William falls from the ranks of the elite and sinks to the depths of a debtor, and eventually a criminal.
Throughout the book, which is based on a true story, Phillips entwines William’s cautionary tale with frequent commentary on the financial folly of indebtedness via purchasing on credit in both the Regency era and modern times.
It includes a substantial amount of sexual content and some swearing and other foul language. There is a small amount of violence.
Overall, Phillips’ reliance on historical accounts and the lives of real people makes for an interesting but slow-moving account of the life and times of Regency era Britain and the Australian penal colonies.