Set in England in the early 1760s, this is a chilling and deliciously dark tale of manipulation, sex, and seduction.
When Richard Fenwick, a young man without family or means, returns to London from the Grand Tour, his wealthy godfather, James Gilbert, has an unexpected proposition. Gilbert has led a fastidious life in Worcestershire, but now in his advancing years, he feels the urge to experience, even vicariously, the extremes of human feeling-love and passion, adultery and deceit-along with something much more sinister. He has selected Fenwick to be his proxy, and his ward has no option but to accept.
But Gilbert's elaborate and manipulative "experiments" into the workings of human behaviour drag Fenwick into a vortex of betrayal and danger where lives are ruined and tragedy is always one small step away. And when Fenwick falls in love with one of Gilbert's pawns and the stakes rise even higher - is it too late for him to escape the Faustian pact?
After teaching at the Catholic University of Lublin and the University of Lodz, both in Poland, at the University of Tokyo and at Smith College in the United States, Michael Irwin moved to the University of Kent, in Canterbury, where he became Professor of English, specialising in eighteenth and nineteenth-century literature. His published eighteenth-century work includes a full-length study of Fielding and essays that take in Defoe, Richardson, Sterne, Smollett, Johnson and Pope.
'This is a surprising and thrilling Rake's Progress. I enjoyed every word' Diana Athill, author of Stet
'An atmospheric portrait of the Georgian world' Sunday Times
'Rollickingly enjoyable' Literary Review
'Part crime thriller, part historical novel - with a heady dose of women, wine and weird company to boot - Irwin's epistolary novel is entirely captivating' We Love This Book
'A splendid novel: immaculately researched, morally fascinating and strangely troubling. It kept surprising me and delighting me in equal measure' Andrew Taylor, author of The American Boy