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The Thieves' Opera: the Mesmerizing Story of Two-Notorious Criminals in Eighteenth-Century London

by Moore, Lucy

  • ISBN: 9780151003648
  • ISBN10: 0151003645

The Thieves' Opera: the Mesmerizing Story of Two-Notorious Criminals in Eighteenth-Century London

by Moore, Lucy

  • List Price: $25.00
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Publisher: Harcourt
  • Publish date: 01/01/2002
  • ISBN: 9780151003648
  • ISBN10: 0151003645
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Description: Georgian London was a city of contrasts: Its bourgeois elegance and refinement thrived amidst filth and foul smells, decadence and depravity. Crime was everywhere -- from pickpockets and prostitutes in the center city to plundering highwaymen on the outskirts.

Jonathan Wild came to dominate eighteenth-century London's criminal underworld in part by orchestrating the theft of personal goods and then offering them back to their rightful owners -- at a price. The reputation and credibility of this serf-styled "Thief-Taker General" was such that in 1720 the government's Privy Council sought his advice on how to deal with the rising crime rate in England's capital city.

Jack Sheppard, on the other hand, was the archetypal idle apprentice, who spent his free time drinking, gambling, and whoring in London's Covent Garden, eventually falling into a life of petty crime. When Sheppard refused to work for Wild (as every other thief was forced to do), Wild had him arrested, tried, and convicted. But his extraordinary ability to escape from prison -- repeatedly and against stalking odds -- made Jack Sheppard a celebrated folk hero.

As popular opinion -- and with it, money and power -- swayed away from the thief-taker to the housebreaker, tension between the two spiraled to a dramatic climax.

The Thieves' Opera is an eminently readable work of popular history that blends meticulous scholarship with the best of the storyteller's art -- illustrated with period engravings by William Hogarth.

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