The Impostress: The Dishonest Adventures of Sarah Wilson

Written by R.J. Clarke
Review by Marina Maxwell

“The greatest impostress of the present age” was the mysterious Sarah Wilson who, from her late teens, wandered alone across 18th-century England duping not only “waiters, servants and chaise boys” but also the middle and upper classes, exploiting them for cash, clothes and position. When the law finally caught up with her, she was incarcerated in the most notorious English prisons before being transported to America.

Being a convict didn’t stop her, and Sarah pushed the boundaries of her con artistry and phony aristocratic connections even further. It is astonishing to discover she may have witnessed the Boston Tea Party in 1773 as she went on her merry way exploiting the gullible among the Sons of Liberty.

The book has topical illustrations including extracts of newspaper reports and even Sarah’s own letters. It is also an excellent resource for historical researchers with its wealth of detail on transport, living conditions and the intricacies of society and the class system.

Although she was a criminal, you can’t help but have sneaking admiration for Sarah’s free spirit and effrontery at a time when “… there were very few ways that a poor woman was able to rise above the status she was born in, and most of those involved some form of falsehood.”

Highly recommended.