A Scottish Adventurer of the Eighteenth Century
By James Buchan
The mesmerising story of the eighteenth-century financier of genius who rose from humble Scottish origins to control of the purse-strings of the most powerful nation in Europe
At the summit of his power, John Law was the most famous man in Europe.
Born in Scotland in 1671, he was convicted of murder in London and, after his escape from prison, fled Scotland for the mainland when Union with England brought with it a warrant for his arrest.
On the continent he lurched from one money-making scheme to the next - selling insurance against losing lottery tickets in Holland, advising the Duke of Savoy - amassing a fortune of some £80,000.
But for his next trick he had grander ambitions. When Louis XIV died, leaving a thoroughly bankrupt France to his five-year-old heir, Law gained the ear of the Regent, Philippe D'Orleans. In the years that followed, Law's financial wizardry transformed the fortunes of France, enriching speculators and investors across the continent, and he was made Controller-General of Finances, effectively becoming the French Prime Minister.
But the fall from grace that was to follow was every bit as spectacular as his meteoric rise.
John Law, by a biographer of Adam Smith and the author of Frozen Desire and Capital of the Mind, dramatises the life of one of the most inventive financiers in history, a man who was born before his time and in whose day the word millionaire came to be coined.
James Buchan is the author of several novels, including A Parish of Rich Women, which won the 1984 Whitbread Book of the Year award, and Heart's Journey in Winter which won the Guardian prize. He is also an outstanding literary critic and non-fiction writer. He is the grandson of John Buchan, the Scottish novelist.
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- Publication date:
06 Sep 2018
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One of our finest writers. — John Burnside, The Times.
I don't believe this country has a better writer to offer than James Buchan. — Michael Hofmann, London Review of Books.
An utterly compelling and captivating work . . . he brings a natural storyteller's relish to his subject — Irvine Welsh, Guardian, on The Capital of the Mind.
Mr Buchan has a clear writing style, a light touch and a irreverent sense of humour . . . he makes difficult subjects accessible and, sometimes, poetic. — Economist.
In Mr. Buchan's able hands, Smith and his words come across as they should, in all their lucidity and elegance. — William Grimes, New York Times, on Adam Smith: and the Pursuit of Perfect Liberty.
James Buchan's elegant prose sparkles on the page. — New Statesman.
Each book he writes is a discovery. — Steven Poole, Guardian.