William Tobias Merrick, an energetic young man from the provinces, travels to the big city in a time of great optimism and ferment, hoping to make his mark on a frenzied, money-crazed society obsessed with the promise of new technologies.
The city in question is London in the 1690s; but it is also New York in the 1990s. The new technologies are diving bells, pneumatic winches, and "sucking-worm" drainage engines; but they are also wireless telecommunication devices, patented biotechnology processes, and revolutionary electronic Internet routers. Only the sense of unlimited possibility remains the same throughout.
Unfolding simultaneously in two distant--but remarkably similar--periods of history, Extravagance is a comic, pictaresque novel of financial mania, the story of a world gripped by a terminal case of irrational exuberance. Navigating the perils of both eras is a single cast of characters: Will himself, a young man on the make, eager to do whatever it takes to make his fortune; Will's uncle (and sponsor) Gilbert Hawking, a shrewd businessman with one foot in the Old Economy and one in the New; Benjamin Fletcher, the developer of a pioneering new technology destined to set the world on fire; and Theodore Witherspoon, the cheerfully unscrupulous wizard of the financial markets who promises to make them all wealthy beyond their dreams.
Meanwhile, Will's aspirations are complicated by his pursuit of Ben Fletcher's sister, Eliza, the gorgeous and disconcertingly aggressive woman who is as desirable as she is elusive. Can Will succeed in his efforts to win both Eliza and the fortune that her brother's new technology seems likely to bring him? And can he make it all happen before the general euphoria of the age reaches its inevitable climax?
Extravagance is a uniquely conceived work of high comic entertainment -- an ultra-smart time machine of a novel that proves that both love and greed are timeless.
From the Hardcover edition.
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|Title of eBook: Extravagance|
|Release Date: 09-24-2002|
|Allowed Countries (hover)|
|Publisher: Crown Publishing Group|
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In September of the year 169-, I, William Tobias Merrick-twenty years old and possessed of more sense and education than prospects-was sent from my father's house at Exeter to live with my bachelor uncle, a prominent wine merchant of Wapping, near London. It was thought that I, being the fourth son in a family whose brickworks would only comfortably support three, might learn something there of the shipping trade, my uncle's connexions in this area being quite extensive. Neither my father nor my uncle saw fit to consult me in this matter. Having assumed that any young man should welcome the chance to work amid great seagoing ships, they regarded my opinions as settled beforehand. Thus it never came into their consideration that I disliked the sea above all things, and had once resolved, during an intolerable bark crossing from Cardiff to Portishead some years past, never to set foot on the boards of a ship again.
Wapping-as viewed from the horse cart sent to fetch me upon my arrival day-seemed a foul and smoky place. Ships of all sizes lined the blackstone wharves along the Thames, groaning under rank-smelling cargoes of charcoal, wool, indigo, tea, and all else imaginable that a seaworthy craft might hold. The high street, such as it was then, was thronged with a considerable array of humanity-watermen and sailmakers, lightermen and coopers, not to mention members of the other trades, both respectable and not, associated with large river ports. As one reared amid the quiet lanes of Exeter, I knew at once there would be novelties here to fill a year of idle Sundays. And see them I would. Suspecting my uncle to be a man much engaged in his busi...