The Gaming Table: Its Votaries and Victims
Andrew Steinmetz

Part 4 out of 6

gambling--some of the Vicksburghers invariably getting on board
to ply their profession.

On one occasion, one of these came on board, and soon induced
some of the passengers to proceed to the upper promenade-deck for
gambling. Soon the stakes increased and a heap of gold was on
the table, when a dispute arose, in the midst of which one of the
players placed his hand on the stake. Thereupon the Vicksburg
gambler drew his knife and plunged it into the hand of the
former, with a terrible imprecation.

Throughout the Southern States, as before observed, gambling
prevailed to a very great extent, and its results were often

A planter went to a gambling house, accompanied by one of his
negroes, whom he left at the door to wait his return. Whilst the
master was gambling the slave did the same with another whom he
found at the door. Meanwhile a Mexican came up and stood by
looking at the game of the negroes. By-and-by one of them
accused the other of cheating, which was denied, when the Mexican
interposed and told the negro that he saw him cheat. The latter
told the Mexican that he lied--whereupon the Mexican stabbed him
to the heart, killing him on the spot.

Soon the negro's master came out, and on being informed of the
affair, turned to the Mexican, saying--`Now, sir, we must settle
the matter between us--my negro's quarrel is mine.' `Agreed,'
said the Mexican; they entered the house, proceeded to a dark
room, fired at each other, and both were killed.

About six and twenty years ago there lived in New York a well-to-
do merchant, of the name of Osborne, who had an only son, who was
a partner in the concern. The young man fell in love with
the daughter of a Southern planter, then on a visit at New
York, to whom he engaged himself to be married, with the perfect
consent of all parties concerned.

On the return of the planter and his daughter, young Osborne
accompanied them to Mobile. On the very night of their arrival,
the planter proposed to his intended son-in-law to visit the
gaming table. They went; Osborne was unlucky; and after some
hours' play lost an immense amount to the father of his
sweetheart. He gave bills, drawn on his house, in payment of the
debt of honour.

On the following morning the planter referred to the subject,
hinting that Osborne must be ruined.

`Indeed, I am!' said the young man; `but the possession of your
daughter will console me for the calamity, which, I doubt not, I
shall be able to make up for by industry and exertion.'

`The possession of _MY_ daughter?' exclaimed the planter; `do
you think I would marry my daughter to a beggar? No, no, sir,
the affair is ended between you--and I insist upon its being
utterly broken off.' Such was the action of the heartless
gambler, rendered callous to all sentiments of real honour by his
debasing pursuit.

Young Osborne was equal to the occasion. Summoning all his
powers to manfully bear this additional shock of fate, he calmly

`So be it, sir, as you wish it. Depend upon it, however, that my
bills will be duly honoured'--and so saying he bowed and
departed, without even wishing to take leave of his betrothed.

On returning to New York Osborne immediately disclosed the
transaction to his father, who, in spite of the utter ruin which
impended, and the brutality of the cause of the ruin, resolved to
meet the bills when due, and maintain the honour of his son--
whatever might be the consequences to himself.

The bills were paid; the concern was broken up; old Mr Osborne
soon died broken-hearted; and young Osborne went as clerk to some
house of business in Wall Street.

A year or so passed away, and one day a lady presented herself at
the old house of Osborne--now no longer theirs--inquiring for
young Osborne. She was directed to his new place of business;
being no other than his betrothed, who loved him as passionately
as ever, and to whom her father had accounted for the non-
fulfilment of the engagement in a very unsatisfactory
manner. Of course Osborne could not fail to be delighted at this
proof of her devotedness; the meeting was most affectionate on
both sides; and, with the view of coming to a decision respecting
their future proceedings, they adjourned to an hotel in the
vicinity. Here, whilst seated at a table and in earnest
conversation, the young lady's father rushed in, and instantly
shot down Osborne, who expired at his feet. With a frantic
shriek the poor girl fell on the body of her betrothed, and
finding a poniard or a knife concealed in his breast, she seized
it, instantly plunged it into her heart, and was soon a corpse
beside her lover.



The passions of the two sexes are similar in the main; the
distinctions between them result less from nature than from
education. Often we meet with women, especially the literary
sort, who seem veritable men, if not so, as the lawyers say, `to
all intents and purposes;' and often we meet with men, especially
town-dandies, who can only be compared to very ordinary women.

Almost all the ancients had the bad taste to speak ill of women;
among the rest even that delightful old Father `of the golden
mouth,' St Chrysostom.[94] So that, evidently, Dr Johnson's
fierce dictum cannot apply universally--`Only scoundrels speak
ill of women.'

[94] Hom. II.

Seneca took the part of women, exclaiming:-- `By no means
believe that their souls are inferior to ours, or that they are
less endowed with the virtues. As for honour, it is equally
great and energetic among them.'

A foreign lady was surprised at beholding the equality
established between the men and women at Sparta; whereupon the
wife of Leonidas, the King of Sparta, said to her:--`Do you not
know that it is we who bring forth the men? It is not the
fathers, but the mothers, that effectually form the heart.'

Napoleon seems to have formed what may be called a professional
estimate of women. When the demonstrative Madame de Stael
asked him--evidently expecting him to pay her a compliment--`Whom
do you think the greatest woman dead or alive?' Napoleon
replied, `Her, Madame, _WHO HAS BORNE MOST SONS_.' Nettled by
this sarcastic reply, she returned to the charge, observing, `It
is said you are not friendly to the sex.' Napoleon was her match
again; `Madame,' he exclaimed, `I am passionately fond of my
wife;' and off he walked. Assuredly it would not mend matters in
this world (or the next) if all men were Napoleons and all women
de Staels.

If we consider the question in other points of view, have
there been, proportionally, fewer celebrated women than
illustrious men? fewer great queens than truly great kings?
Compare, on all sides, the means and the circumstances; count the
reigns, and decide.

The fact is that this question has been argued only by tyrannical
or very silly men, who found it difficult to get rid of the
absurd prejudices which retain the finest half of human nature in
slavery, and condemn it to obscurity under the pretext that it is
essentially corrupted. Towards the end of the 15th century a
certain demented writer attempted to prove that women do not even
deserve the title of reasonable creatures, which in the original
sounds oddly enough, namely, _probare nititur mulieres non
homines esse_. Another, a very learned Jesuit, endeavoured to
demonstrate that women have no souls! Some say that women
surpass us in wickedness; others, that they are both worse and
better than men.

That morbid wretch, Alexander Pope, said, `Every woman is at
heart a rake;' and a recent writer in the _Times_ puts more venom
in the dictum by saying, `Every woman is (or likes) at heart a
rake.' Both these opinions may be set down as mere
claptrap, witty, but vile.

But a truce to such insults against those who beautify the earth;
_THEIR_ vices cannot excuse ours. It is we who have depraved
them by associating them with excesses which are repugnant to
their delicacy. The contagion, however, has not affected all of
them. Among our `plebeians,' and even among nobility, many women
remind us of the modesty and courage of those ancient republican
matrons, who, so to speak, founded, the manners and morals of
their country; and among all classes of the community there are
thousands who inspire their husbands with generous impulses in
the battle of life, either by cheering words of comfort, or by
that mute eloquence of duties well fulfilled, which nothing can
resist if we are worthy of the name of men. How many a gambler
has been reformed by the tender appeals of a good and devoted
wife. `Venerable women!' one of them exclaims, `in whatever rank
Heaven has placed you, receive my homage.' The gentleness of
your souls smooths down the roughness of ours and checks its
violence. Without your virtues what would we be? Without
YOU, my dear wife, what would have become of me? You
beheld the beginning and the end of the gaming fury in me, which
I now detest; and it is not to me, but to you alone, that the
victory must be ascribed.'[95]

[95] Dusaulx, _De la Passion du Jeu_.

A very pretty anecdote is told of such a wife and a gaming

In order to simplify the signs of loss and gain, so as not to be
overburdened with the weight of gold and silver, the French
players used to carry the representation of their fortunes in
small boxes, more or less elegant. A lady (who else could have
thought of such a device?), trembling for the fate of her
husband, made him a present of one of these dread boxes. This
little master-piece of conjugal and maternal affection
represented a wife in the attitude of supplication, and weeping
children, seeming to say to their father--_THINK OF US!_ . . . .

It is, therefore, only with the view of avenging good and
honourable women, that I now proceed to speak of those who have
disgraced their sex.

I have already described a remarkable gamestress--the Persian
Queen Parysatis.[96]

[96] Chapter III.

There were no gamestresses among the Greeks; and the Roman
women were always too much occupied with their domestic affairs
to find time for play. What will our modern ladies think, when I
state that the Emperor Augustus scarcely wore a garment which had
not been woven by his wife, his sister, or grand-daughters.[97]

[97] Veste non temere alia quam domestica usus est, ab
uxore et filia nepotibusque confecta. Suet. in Vita Augusti.

Although deeply corrupted under Nero and the sovereigns that
resembled him, the Roman women never gambled among themselves
except during the celebration of the festival of the Bona Dea.
This ceremonial, so often profaned with licentiousness, was not
attended by desperate gambling. The most depraved women
abstained from it, even when that mania was at its height, not
only around the Capitol, but even in the remainder of the Empire.

Contemporary authors, who have not spared the Roman ladies, never
reproached them with this vice, which, in modern times, has been
desperately practised by women who in licentiousness vied with

In France, women who wished to gamble were, at first, obliged to
keep the thing secret; for if it became known they lost
caste. In the reign of Louis XIV., and still more in that of
Louis XV., they became bolder, and the wives of the great engaged
in the deepest play in their mansions; but still a gamestress was
always denounced with horror. `Such women,' says La Bruyiere,
`make us chaste; they have nothing of the sex but its garments.'

By the end of the 18th century, gamestresses became so numerous
that they excited no surprise, especially among the higher
classes; and the majority of them were notorious for unfair play
or downright cheating. A stranger once betted on the game of a
lady at a gaming-table, who claimed a stake although on a losing
card. Out of consideration for the distinguished trickstress,
the banker wished to pay the stranger as well; but the latter
with a blush, exclaimed--`Possibly madame won, but as for myself,
I am quite sure that I lost.'

But if women cheated at play, they also frequently lost; and were
often reduced to beggary, or to what is far viler, to sacrifice,
not only their own honour, but that of their daughters.

Gaming sometimes led to other crimes. The Countess of
Schwiechelt, a young and beautiful lady from Hanover, was much
given to gambling, and lost 50,000 livres at Paris. In order to
repair this great loss, she planned and executed the robbery of a
fine coronet of emeralds, the property of Madame Demidoff. She
had made herself acquainted with the place where it was kept, and
at a ball given by its owner the Hanoverian lady contrived to
purloin it. Her youth and rank in life induced many persons to
solicit her pardon; but Buonaparte left her to the punishment to
which she was condemned. This occurred in 1804.

In England, too, the practice of gambling was fraught with the
worst consequences to the finest feelings and best qualities of
the sex. The chief danger is very plainly hinted at in the
comedy of _The Provoked Husband_.

_Lord Townley_.--'Tis not your ill hours that always distract me,
but, as often, the ill company that occasions those hours.

_Lady Townley_.--Sure I don't understand you now, my lord. What
ill company do I keep?

_Lord Townley_.--Why, at best, women that lose their money, and
men that win it; _or, perhaps, men that are voluntary bubbles at
one game, in hopes a lady will give them fair play at another._

`The facts,' says Mr Massey,[98] `confirm the theory.
Walpole's Letters and Mr Jesse's volumes on George Selwyn and his
Contemporaries, teem with allusions to proved or understood cases
of matrimonial infidelity; and the manner in which notorious
irregularities were brazened out, shows that the offenders did
not always encounter the universal reprobation of society.

[98] History of England, ii.

`Whist was not much in vogue until a later period, and was far
too abstruse and slow to suit the depraved taste which required
unadulterated stimulants.'

The ordinary stakes at these mixed assemblies would, at the
present day, be considered high, even at the clubs where a rubber
is still allowed.

`The consequences of such gaming were often still more lamentable
than those which usually attended such practices. It would
happen that a lady lost more than she could venture to confess to
her husband or father. Her creditor was probably a fine
gentleman, or she became indebted to some rich admirer for the
means of discharging her liabilities. In either event, the
result may be guessed. In the one case, the debt of honour was
liquidated on the old principle of the law-merchant, according to
which there was but one alternative to payment in purse. In
the other, there was likewise but one mode in which the
acknowledgment of obligation by a fine woman would be acceptable
to a man of the world.'

`The pernicious consequences of gambling to the nation at large,'
says another writer, `would have been intolerable enough had they
been confined to the stronger sex; but, unfortunately, the women
of the day were equally carried away by this criminal
infatuation. The disgusting influence of this sordid vice was so
disastrous to female minds, that they lost their fairest
distinction and privileges, together with the blushing honours of
modesty. Their high gaming was necessarily accompanied with
great losses. If all their resources, regular and irregular,
honest and fraudulent, were dissipated, still, _GAME-DEBTS MUST
BE PAID!_ The cunning winner was no stranger to the necessities
of the case. He hinted at _commutations_--which were not to be

"So tender these,--if debts crowd fast upon her,
She'll pawn her _VIRTUE_ to preserve her _HONOUR!_"

Thus, the last invaluable jewel of female possession was
unavoidably resigned. That was indeed the forest of all
evils, but an evil to which every deep gamestress was
inevitably exposed.'

Hogarth strikingly illustrated this phase of womanhood in
England, in his small picture painted for the Earl of Charlemont,
and entitled `_Picquet, or Virtue in Danger_.' It shows a young
lady, who, during a _tete-a-tete_, had just lost all her
money to a handsome officer of her own age. He is represented in
the act of returning her a handful of bank-bills, with the hope
of exchanging them for another acquisition and more delicate
plunder. On the chimney-piece are a watch-case and a figure of
Time, over it this motto--_Nunc_, `Now!' Hogarth has caught his
heroine during this moment of hesitation--this struggle with
herself--and has expressed her feelings with uncommon success.

But, indeed, the thing was perfectly understood. In the
_Guardian_ (No. 120) we read:--`All play-debts must be paid in
specie or by equivalent. The "man" that plays beyond his
income pawns his estate; the "woman" must find out something
else to mortgage when her pin-money is gone. The husband has his
lands to dispose of; the wife her person. Now when the female
body is once dipped, if the creditor be very importunate, I
leave my reader to consider the consequences.' . . . .

A lady was married when very young to a noble lord, the honour
and ornament of his country, who hoped to preserve her from the
contagion of the times by his own example, and, to say the truth,
she had every good quality that could recommend her to the bosom
of a man of discernment and worth. But, alas! how frail and
short are the joys of mortals! One unfortunate hour ruined his
darling visionary scheme of happiness: she was introduced to an
infamous woman, was drawn into play, liked it, and, as the
unavoidable consequence, she was ruined,--having lost more in one
night than would have maintained a hundred useful families for a
twelvemonth; and, dismal to tell, she felt compelled to sacrifice
her virtue to the wretch who had won her money, in order to
recover the loss! From this moment she might well exclaim--

`Farewell the tranquil mind! farewell content!'

The affectionate wife, the agreeable companion, the indulgent
mistress, were now no more. In vain she flattered herself that
the injury she had done her husband would for ever remain one of
those secrets which can only be disclosed at the last day.
Vengeance pursued her steps, she was lost; the villain to whom
she had sacrificed herself boasted of the favours he had
received. The fatal report was conveyed to her injured husband.
He refused to believe what he thought impossible, but honour
obliged him to call the boaster to the field. The wretch
received the challenge with much more contentment than concern;
as he had resolution enough to murder any man whom he had
injured, so he was certain, if he had the good fortune to conquer
his antagonist, he should be looked upon as the head of all
modern bucks and bloods--esteemed by the men as a brave fellow,
and admired by the ladies as a fine gentleman and an agreeable
rake. The meeting took place--the profligate gambler not content
with declaring, actually exulted in his guilt. But his triumph
was of short date--a bullet through the head settled his account
with this world.

The husband, after a long conflict in his bosom, between justice
and mercy, tenderness and rage, resolved--on what is very seldom
practised by an English husband--to pardon his wife, conceal her
crime, and preserve her, if possible, from utter destruction.
But the gates of mercy were opened in vain-- the offender refused
to receive forgiveness because she had offended. The lust of
gambling had absorbed all her other desires. She gave herself up
entirely to the infamous pursuit and its concomitants, whilst her
husband sank by a quick decay, and died the victim of grief and

[99] Doings in London.

Of other English gamestresses, however, nothing but the ordinary
success or inconveniences of gambling are recorded. In the year
1776, a lady at the West End lost one night, at a sitting, 3000
guineas at Loo.[100] Again, a lady having won a rubber of 20
guineas from a city merchant, the latter pulled out his pocket-
book, and tendered L21 in bank notes. The fair gamestress,
with a disdainful toss of the head, observed--`In the great
houses which I frequent, sir, we always use gold.' `That may be,
madam,' said the gentleman, `but, in the _LITTLE_ houses which I
frequent, we always use paper.'

[100] Annual Register.

Goldsmith mentions an old lady in the country who, having been
given over by her physician, played with the curate of the parish
to pass the time away. Having won all his money, she next
proposed playing for the funeral charges to which she would be
liable. Unfortunately, the lady expired just as she had taken up
the game!

A lady who was desperately fond of play was confessing herself.
The priest represented, among other arguments against gaming, the
great loss of time it occasioned. `Ah!' said the lady, `that is
what vexes me--so much time lost in shuffling the cards!'

The celebrated Mrs Crewe seems to have been fond of gaming.
Charles James Fox ranked among her admirers. A gentleman lost a
considerable sum to this lady at play; and being obliged to leave
town suddenly, he gave Fox the money to pay her, begging him to
apologize to the lady for his not having paid the debt of honour
in person. Fox unfortunately lost every shilling of it before
morning. Mrs Crewe often met the supposed debtor afterwards,
and, surprised that he never noticed the circumstance, at length
delicately hinted the matter to him. `Bless me,' said he, `I
paid the money to Mr Fox three months ago!' `Oh, you did, sir?'
said Mrs Crewe good-naturedly, `then probably he paid me and I
forgot it.'

This famous Mrs Crewe was the wife of Mr Crewe, who was
created, in 1806, Lord Crewe. She was as remarkable for her
accomplishments and her worth as for her beauty; nevertheless she
permitted the admiration of the profligate Fox, who was in the
rank of her admirers, and she was a gamestress, as were most of
the grand ladies in those days. The lines Fox wrote on her were
not exaggerated. They began thus:--

`Where the loveliest expression to features is join'd,
By Nature's most delicate pencil design'd;
Where blushes unhidden, and smiles without art,
Speak the softness and feeling that dwell in the heart,
Where in manners enchanting no blemish we trace,
But the soul keeps the promise we had from the face;
Sure philosophy, reason, and coldness must prove
Defences unequal to shield us from love.'

`Nearly eight years after the famous election at Westminster,
when she personally canvassed for Fox, Mrs Crewe was still in
perfection, with a son one-and-twenty, who looked like her
brother. The form of her face was exquisitely lovely, her
complexion radiant. "I know not," Miss Burney writes, "any
female in her first youth who could bear the comparison. She
_uglifies_ every one near her."

`This charming partisan of Fox had been active in his cause;
and her originality of character, her good-humour, her
recklessness of consequences, made her a capital canvasser.'[101]

[101] Wharton, _The Queens of Society._


In 1776 the barrow-women of London used generally to carry dice
with them, and children were induced to throw for fruit and nuts.

However, the pernicious consequences of the practice beginning to
be felt, the Lord Mayor issued an order to apprehend all such
offenders, which speedily put an end to such street-gambling. At
the present day a sort of roulette is used for the same purpose
by the itinerant caterers to the sweetmeat and fruit-loving
little ones.


Mrs Trollope has described two specimens of the modern
gamestresses at the German watering-places, one of whom seems to
have specially attracted her notice:--

`There was one of this set,' she says, `whom I watched, day after
day, during the whole period of our stay, with more interest
than, I believe, was reasonable; for had I studied any other as
attentively I might have found less to lament.

`She was young--certainly not more than twenty-five--and, though
not regularly nor brilliantly handsome, most singularly winning
both in person and demeanour. Her dress was elegant, but
peculiarly plain and simple,--a close white silk bonnet and gauze
veil; a quiet-coloured silk gown, with less of flourish and
frill, by half, than any other person; a delicate little hand
which, when ungloved, displayed some handsome rings; a jewelled
watch, of peculiar splendour; and a countenance expressive of
anxious thoughtfulness--must be remembered by many who were at
Baden in August, 1833. They must remember, too, that, enter the
rooms when they would, morning, noon, or night, still they found
her nearly at the same place at the _Rouge et Noir_ table.

`Her husband, who had as unquestionably the air of a gentleman as
she had of a lady, though not always close to her, was never very
distant. He did not play himself, and I fancied, as he hovered
near her, that his countenance expressed anxiety. But he
returned her sweet smile, with which she always met his eye,
with an answering smile; and I saw not the slightest indication
that he wished to withdraw her from the table.

`There was an expression in the upper part of her face that my
blundering science would have construed into something very
foreign to the propensity she showed; but there she sat, hour
after hour, day after day, not even allowing the blessed sabbath,
that gives rest to all, to bring it to her;--there she sat,
constantly throwing down handfuls of five-franc pieces, and
sometimes drawing them back again, till her young face grew rigid
from weariness, and all the lustre of her eye faded into a glare
of vexed inanity. Alas! alas! is that fair woman a mother? God

`Another figure at the gaming table, which daily drew our
attention, was a pale, anxious old woman, who seemed no longer to
have strength to conceal her eager agitation under the air of
callous indifference, which all practised players endeavour to
assume. She trembled, till her shaking hand could hardly grasp
the instrument with which she pushed or withdrew her pieces; the
dew of agony stood upon her wrinkled brow; yet, hour after hour,
and day after day, she too sat in the enchanted chair. I
never saw age and station in a position so utterly beyond the
pale of respect. I was assured she was a person of rank; and my
informant added, but I trust she was mistaken, that she was an
_ENGLISH_ woman.'[102]

[102] Belgium and Western Germany, in 1833.


There is no doubt that during the last half of the last century
many titled ladies not only gambled, but kept gaming houses.
There is even evidence that one of them actually appealed to the
House of Lords for protection against the intrusion of the peace
officers into her establishment in Covent Garden, on the plea of
her Peerage! All this is proved by a curious record found in the
Journals of the House of Lords, by the editor of the
_Athenaeum_. It is as follows:--

`Die Lunae, 29 Aprilis, 1745.--_Gaming_. A Bill for
preventing the excessive and deceitful use of it having been
brought from the Commons, and proceeded on so far as to be agreed
to in a Committee of the whole House with amendments,--
information was given to the House that Mr Burdus, Chairman of
the Quarter Sessions for the city and liberty of
Westminster, Sir Thomas de Veil, and Mr Lane, Chairman of the
Quarter Sessions for the county of Middlesex, were at the door;
they were called in, and at the Bar severally gave an account
that claims of privilege of Peerage were made and insisted on by
the Ladies Mordington and Casselis, in order to intimidate the
peace officers from doing their duty in suppressing the public
gaming houses kept by the said ladies. And the said Burdus
thereupon delivered in an instrument in writing under the hand of
the said Lady Mordington, containing the claim she made of
privilege for her officers and servants employed by her in her
said gaming house. And then they were directed to withdraw. And
the said instrument was read as follows:--"I, Dame Mary,
Baroness of Mordington, do hold a house in the Great Piazza,
Covent Garden, for and as an Assembly, where all persons of
credit are at liberty to frequent and play at such diversions as
are used at other Assemblys. And I have hired Joseph Dewberry,
William Horsely, Ham Cropper, and George Sanders as my servants
or managers (under me) thereof. I have given them orders to
direct the management of the other inferior servants (namely):
John Bright, Richard Davis, John Hill, John Vandenvoren, as
box-keepers,--Gilbert Richardson, housekeeper, John Chaplain,
regulator, William Stanley and Henry Huggins, servants that wait
on the company at the said Assembly, William Penny and Joseph
Penny as porters thereof. And all the above-mentioned persons I
claim as my domestick servants, and demand all those privileges
that belong to me as a peeress of Great Britain appertaining to
my said Assembly. M. MORDINGTON. Dated 8th Jan., 1744."

`Resolved and declared that no person is entitled to privilege of
Peerage against any prosecution or proceeding for keeping any
public or common gaming house, or any house, room, or place for
playing at any game or games prohibited by any law now in force.'

That such practice continued in vogue is evident from the police
proceedings subsequently taken against


This notorious gamestress of St James's Square, at the close of
the last century, actually slept with a blunderbuss and a pair of
pistols at her side, to protect her Faro bank.

On the 11th of March, 1797, her Ladyship, together with Lady
E. Lutterell and a Mrs Sturt, were convicted at the Marlborough
Street Police-court, in the penalty of L50, for playing at the
game of Faro; and Henry Martindale was convicted in the sum of
L200, for keeping the Faro table at Lady Buckinghamshire's.
The witnesses had been servants of her Ladyship, recently
discharged on account of a late extraordinary loss of 500 guineas
from her Ladyship's house, belonging to the Faro bank.[103]

[103] The case is reported in the Times of March 13th, 1797.
One cannot help being struck with the appearance of the Times
newspaper at that period--70 years ago. It was printed on one
small sheet, about equal to a single page of the present issue,
and contained four pages, two of which were advertisements, while
the others gave only a short summary of news--no leader at all.

In the same year, the croupier at the Countess of
Buckinghamshire's one night announced the unaccountable
disappearance of the cash-box of the Faro bank. All eyes were
turned towards her Ladyship. Mrs Concannon said she once lost a
gold snuff-box from the table, while she went to speak to Lord
C--. Another lady said she lost her purse there last winter.
And a story was told that a certain lady had taken, _BY
MISTAKE_, a cloak which did not belong to her, at a rout
given by the Countess of ----. Unfortunately a discovery of the
cloak was made, and when the servant knocked at the door to
demand it, some very valuable lace which it was trimmed with had
been taken off. Some surmised that the lady who stole the cloak
might also have stolen the Faro bank cash-box.

Soon after, the same Martindale, who had kept the Faro bank at
Lady Buckinghamshire's, became a bankrupt, and his debts amounted
to L328,000, besides `debts of honour,' which were struck off
to the amount of L150,000. His failure is said to have been
owing to misplaced confidence in a subordinate, who robbed him of
thousands. The first suspicion was occasioned by his purchasing
an estate of L500 a year; but other purchases followed to a
considerable extent; and it was soon discovered that the Faro
bank had been robbed sometimes of 2000 guineas a week! On the
14th of April, 1798, other arrears, to a large amount, were
submitted to, and rejected by, the Commissioners in Bankruptcy,
who declared a first dividend of one shilling and five-pence in
the pound.[104]

[104] Seymour Harcourt, _Gaming Calendar._

This chapter cannot be better concluded than with quoting
the _Epilogue_ of `The Oxonian in Town,' 1767, humorously
painting some of the mischiefs of gambling, and expressly
addressed to the ladies:--

`Lo! next, to my prophetic eye there starts
A beauteous gamestress in the Queen of Hearts.
The cards are dealt, the fatal pool is lost,
And all her golden hopes for ever cross'd.
Yet still this card-devoted fair I view--
Whate'er her luck, to "_honour_" ever true.
So tender there,--if debts crowd fast upon her,
She'll pawn her "virtue" to preserve her "honour."
Thrice happy were my art, could I foretell,
Cards would be soon abjured by every belle!
Yet, I pronounce, who cherish still the vice,
And the pale vigils keep of cards and dice--
'Twill in their charms sad havoc make, ye fair!
Which "rouge" in vain shall labour to repair.
Beauties will grow mere hags, toasts wither'd jades,
Frightful and ugly as--the _QUEEN OF SPADES_.'



Perhaps the stern moralist who may have turned over these pages
has frowned at the facts of the preceding chapter. If so, I know
not what he will do at those which I am about to record.

If it may be said that gamesters must be madmen, or rogues, how
has it come to pass that men of genius, talent, and virtue
withal, have been gamesters?

Men of genius, `gifted men,' as they are called, are much to be
pitied. One of them has said--`Oh! if my pillow could reveal my
sufferings last night!' His was true grief--for it had no
witness.[105] The endowments of this nature of ours are so
strangely mixed--the events of our lives are so unexpectedly
ruled, that one might almost prefer to have been fashioned after
those imaginary beings who act so _CONSISTENTLY_ in the nursery
tales and other figments. Most men seem to have a double soul;
and in your men of genius--your celebrities--the battle between
the two seems like the tremendous conflict so grandly (and
horribly) described by Milton. Who loved his country more than
Cato? Who cared more for his country's honour? And yet Cato was
not only unable to resist the soft impeachments of alcohol--

Narratur et prisci Catonis
Saepe mero caluisse virtus--

but he was also a dice-player, a gambler.[106]

[105] Ille dolet vere qui sine teste dolet. Martial, lib. I.

[106] Plutarch, _Cato._

Julius Caesar did not drink; but what a profligate he was! And
I have no doubt that he was a gambler: it is certain that he got
rid of millions nobody knew how.

I believe, however, that the following is an undeniable fact.
You may find suspicious gamesters in every rank of life, but
among men of genius you will generally, if not always, find only
victims resigned to the caprices of fortune. The
professions which imply the greatest enthusiasm naturally
furnish the greater number of gamesters. Thus, perhaps, we may
name ten poet-gamesters to one savant or philosopher who deserved
the title or infamy.

Coquillart, a poet of the 15th century, famous for his satirical
verses against women, died of grief after having ruined himself
by gaming. The great painter Guido--and a painter is certainly a
poet--was another example. By nature gentle and honourable, he
might have been the most fortunate of men if the demon of
gambling had not poisoned his existence, the end of which was
truly wretched.

Rotrou, the acknowledged master of Corneille, hurried his
poetical effusions in order to raise money for gambling. This
man of genius was but a spoilt child in the matter of play. He
once received two or three hundred _louis_, and mistrusting
himself, went and hid them under some vine-branches, in order not
to gamble all away at once. Vain precaution! On the following
night his bag was empty.

The poet Voiture was the delight of his contemporaries,
conspicuous as he was for the most exquisite polish and
inexhaustible wit; but he was also one of the most desperate
gamesters of his time. Like Rotrou, he mistrusted his folly, and
sometimes refrained. `I have discovered,' he once wrote to a
friend, `as well as Aristotle, that there is no beatitude in
play; and in fact I have given over gambling; it is now seven
months since I played--which is very important news, and which I
forgot to tell you.' He would have died rich had he always
refrained. His relapses were terrible; one night he lost fifteen
hundred pistoles (about L750).

The list of foreign poets ruined by gambling might be extended;
whilst, on the other hand, it is impossible, I believe, to quote
a single instance of the kind among the poets of England,--
perhaps because very few of them had anything to lose. The
reader will probably remember Dr Johnson's exclamation on hearing
of the large debt left unpaid by poor Goldsmith at his death--
`Was ever poet so trusted before!' . . .

The great philosophers Montaigne and Descartes, seduced at an
early age by the allurements of gambling, managed at length to
overcome the evil, presenting examples of reformation--which
proves that this mania is not absolutely incurable.
Descartes became a gamester in his seventeenth year; but it is
said that the combinations of cards, or the doctrine of
probabilities, interested him more than his winnings.[107]

[107] Hist. des Philos. Modernes: _Descartes_.

The celebrated Cardan, one of the most universal and most
eccentric geniuses of his age, declares in his autobiography,
that the rage for gambling long entailed upon him the loss of
reputation and fortune, and that it retarded his progress in the
sciences. `Nothing,' says he, `could justify me, unless it was
that my love of gaming was less than my horror of privation.' A
very bad excuse, indeed; but Cardan reformed and ceased to be a

Three of the greatest geniuses of England--Lords Halifax,
Anglesey, and Shaftesbury--were gamblers; and Locke tells a very
funny story about one of their gambling bouts. This philosopher,
who neglected nothing, however eccentric, that had any relation
to the working of the human understanding, happened to be present
while my Lords Halifax, Anglesey, and Shaftesbury were playing,
and had the patience to write down, word for word, all their
discordant utterances during the phases of the game; the result
being a dialogue of speakers who only used exclamations--all
talking in chorus, but more to themselves than to each other.
Lord Anglesey observing Locke's occupation, asked him what he was
writing. `My Lord,' replied Locke, `I am anxious not to lose
anything you utter.' This irony made them all blush, and put an
end to the game.

M. Sallo, Counsellor to the Parliament of Paris, died, says
Vigneul de Marville, of a disease to which the children of the
Muses are rarely subject, and for which we find no remedy in
Hippocrates and Galen;--he died of a lingering disease after
having lost 100,000 crowns at the gaming table--all he possessed.

By way of diversion to his cankering grief, he started the well-
known _Journal des Savans_, but lived to write only 13 sheets of
it, for he was wounded to the death.[108]

[108] Melanges, d'Hist. et de Litt. i.

The physician Paschasius Justus was a deplorable instance of an
incorrigible gambler. This otherwise most excellent and learned
man having passed three-fourths of his life in a continual
struggle with vice, at length resolved to cure himself of
the disease by occupying his mind with a work which might be
useful to his contemporaries and posterity.[109] He began his
book, but still he gamed; he finished it, but the evil was still
in him. `I have lost everything but God!' he exclaimed. He
prayed for delivery from his soul's disease;[110] but his prayer
was not heard; he died like any gambler--more wretched than

[109] `De Alea, sive de curanda in pecuniam cupiditate,' pub. in

[110] Illum animi morbum, ut Deus tolleret, serio et
frequenter optavit.

M. Dusaulx, author of a work on Gaming, exclaims therein--`I have
gambled like you, Paschasius, perhaps with greater fury. Like
you I write against gaming. Can I say that I am stronger than
you, in more critical circumstances?'[111]

[111] La Passion du Jeu.

What, then, is that mania which can be overcome neither by the
love of glory nor the study of wisdom!

The literary men of Greece and Rome rarely played any games but
those of skill, such as tennis, backgammon, and chess; and even
in these it was considered `indecent' to appear too skilful.
Cicero stigmatizes two of his contemporaries for taking too
great a delight in such games, on account of their skill in
playing them.[112]

[112] Ast alii, quia praeclare faciunt, vehementius quam causa
postulat delectantur, ut Titius pila, Brulla talis. De Orat.
lib. iii.

Quinctilian advised his pupils to avoid all sterile amusements,
which, he said, were only the resource of the ignorant.

In after-times men of merit, such as John Huss and Cardinal
Cajetan, bewailed both the time lost in the most innocent games,
and the disastrous passions which are thereby excited. Montaigne
calls chess a stupid and childish game. `I hate and shun it,' he
says, `because it occupies one too seriously; I am ashamed of
giving it the attention which would be sufficient for some useful
purpose.' King James I., the British Solomon, forbade chess to
his son, in the famous book of royal instruction which he wrote
for him.

As to the plea of `filling up time,' Addison has made some very
pertinent observations:--`Whether any kind of gaming has ever
thus much to say for itself, I shall not determine; but I think
it is very wonderful to see persons of the best sense passing
away a dozen hours together in shuffling and dividing a pack of
cards, with no other conversation but what is made up of a
few game-phrases, and no other ideas but those of black or red
spots ranged together in different figures. Would not a man
laugh to hear any one of his species complaining that life is

Men of intellect may rest assured that whether they win or lose
at play, it will always be at the cost of their genius; the soul
cannot support two passions together. The passion of play,
although fatigued, is never satiated, and therefore it always
leaves behind protracted agitation. The famous Roman lawyer
Scaevola suffered from playing at backgammon; his head was
always affected by it, especially when he lost the game, in fact,
it seemed to craze him. One day he returned expressly from the
country merely to try and convince his opponent in a game which
he had lost, that if he had played otherwise he would have won!
It seems that on his journey home he mentally went through the
game again, detected his mistake, and could not rest until he
went back and got his adversary to admit the fact--for the sake
of his _amour propre_.[113]

[113] Quinctil., _Instit. Orat_. lib. XI. cap. ii.

`It is rare,' says Rousseau, `that thinkers take much
delight in play, which suspends the habit of thinking or diverts
it upon sterile combinations; and so one of the benefits--perhaps
the only benefit conferred by the taste for the sciences, is that
it somewhat deadens that sordid passion of play.'

Unfortunately such was not the result among the literary and
scientific men, in France or England, during the last quarter of
the last century. Many of them bitterly lamented that they ever
played, and yet played on,--going through all the grades and
degradations appointed for his votaries by the inexorable demon
of gambling.


Nature had by no means formed Nash for _beau_. His person was
clumsy, large, and awkward; his features were harsh, strong, and
peculiarly irregular; yet even with these disadvantages he made
love, became an universal admirer of the sex, and was in his turn
universally admired. The fact is, he was possessed of, at least,
some requisites of a `lover.' He had assiduity, flattery, fine
clothes--and as much wit as the ladies he addressed. Accordingly
he used to say--`Wit, flattery, and fine clothes are enough
to debauch a nunnery!' This is certainly a fouler calumny of
women than Pope's

`Every woman is at heart a rake.'

Beau Nash was a barrister, and had been a remarkable, a
distinguished one in his day--although not at the bar. He had
the honour to organize and direct the last grand `revel and
pageant' before a king, in the Hall of the Middle Temple, of
which he was a member.

It had long been customary for the Inns of Court to entertain our
monarchs upon their accession to the crown with a revel and
pageant, and the last was exhibited in honour of King William,
when Nash was chosen to conduct the whole with proper decorum.
He was then a very young man, but succeeded so well in giving
satisfaction, that the king offered to give him the honour of
knighthood, which, however, Nash declined, saying:--`Please your
Majesty, if you intend to make me a knight, I wish it may be one
of your poor knights of Windsor; and then I shall have a fortune
at least able to support my title.'

In the Middle Temple he managed to rise `to the very summit of
second-rate luxury,' and seems to have succeeded in becoming
a fashionable _recherche_, being always one of those who were
called good company--a professed dandy among the elegants.

No wonder, then, that we subsequently find him Master of the
Ceremonies at Bath, then the theatre of summer amusements for all
people of fashion. It was here that he took to gambling, and was
at first classed among the needy adventurers who went to that
place; there was, however, the great difference between him and
them, that his heart was not corrupt; and though by profession a
gamester, he was generous, humane, and honourable.

When he gave in his accounts to the Masters of the Temple, among
other items he charged was one--`For making one man happy,
L10.' Being questioned about the meaning of so strange an
item, he frankly declared that, happening to overhear a poor man
declare to his wife and large family of children that L10
would make him happy, he could not avoid trying the experiment.
He added, that, if they did not choose to acquiesce in his
charge, he was ready to refund the money. The Masters, struck
with such an uncommon instance of good nature, publicly
thanked him for his benevolence, and desired that the sum might
be doubled as a proof of their satisfaction.

`His laws were so strictly enforced that he was styled "King of
Bath:" no rank would protect the offender, nor dignity of
station condone a breach of the laws. Nash desired the Duchess
of Queensberry, who appeared at a dress ball in an apron of
point-lace, said to be worth 500 guineas, to take it off, which
she did, at the same time desiring his acceptance of it; and when
the Princess Amelia requested to have one dance more after 11
o'clock, Nash replied that the laws of Bath, like those of
Lycurgus, were unalterable. Gaming ran high at Bath, and
frequently led to disputes and resort to the sword, then
generally worn by well-dressed men. Swords were, therefore,
prohibited by Nash in the public rooms; still they were worn in
the streets, when Nash, in consequence of a duel fought by
torchlight, by two notorious gamesters, made the law absolute,
"That no swords should, on any account, be worn in
Bath." '[114]

[114] The Book of Days, Feb. 3.

About the year 1739 the gamblers, in order to evade the laws
against gaming, set up E O tables; and as these proved very
profitable to the proprietors at Tunbridge, Nash determined to
introduce them at Bath, having been assured by the lawyers that
no law existed against them. He therefore set up an E O table,
and the speculation flourished for a short time; but the
legislature interfered in 1745, and inflicted severe penalties on
the keepers of such tables. This was the ruin of Nash's gambling
speculation; and for the remaining sixteen years of his life he
depended solely on the precarious products of the gaming table.
He died at Bath, in 1761, in greatly reduced circumstances, being
represented as `poor, old, and peevish, yet still incapable of
turning from his former manner of life.'

`He was buried in the Abbey Church with great ceremony: a solemn
hymn was sung by the charity-school children, three clergymen
preceded the coffin, the pall was supported by aldermen, and the
Masters of the Assembly-Rooms followed as chief mourners; while
the streets were filled and the housetops covered with
spectators, anxious to witness the respect paid to the venerable
founder of the prosperity of the city of Bath.'[115]

[115] The Book of Days, Feb. 3.

The following are the chief anecdotes told of Beau Nash.

A giddy youth, who had resigned his fellowship at Oxford, brought
his fortune to Bath, and, without the smallest skill, won a
considerable sum; and following it up, in the next October added
four thousand pounds to his former capital. Nash one night
invited him to supper, and offered to give him fifty guineas to
forfeit twenty every time he lost two hundred at one sitting.
The young man refused, and was at last undone.

The Duke of B---- loved play to distraction. One night,
chagrined at a heavy loss, he pressed Nash to tie him up from
deep play in future. The beau accordingly gave his Grace one
hundred guineas on condition to receive ten thousand whenever he
lost that amount at one sitting. The duke soon lost eight
thousand at Hazard, and was going to throw for three thousand
more, when Nash caught the dice-box, and entreated the peer to
reflect on the penalty if he lost. The duke desisted for that
time; but ere long, losing considerably at Newmarket, he
willingly paid the penalty.

When the Earl of T---- was a youth he was passionately fond
of play. Nash undertook to cure him. Conscious of his superior
skill, he engaged the earl in single play. His lordship lost his
estate, equipage, everything! Our generous gamester returned
all, only stipulating for the payment of L5000 whenever he
might think proper to demand it. Some time after his lordship's
death, Nash's affairs being on the wane, he demanded it of his

Nash one day complained of his ill luck to the Earl of
Chesterfield, adding that he had lost L500 the last night.
The earl replied, `I don't wonder at your _LOSING_ money, Nash,
but all the world is surprised where you get it to lose.'

`The Corporation of Bath so highly respected Nash, that the
Chamber voted a marble statue of him, which was erected in the
Pump-room, between the busts of Newton and Pope; this gave rise
to a stinging epigram by Lord Chesterfield, concluding with these

"The _STATUE_ placed these busts between
Gives satire all its strength;
_WISDOM_ and _WIT_ are little seen,
But _FOLLY_ at full length." '[116]

[116] The Book of Days, Feb. 3.


Walpole tells us that the celebrated Earl of Chesterfield
_LIVED_ at White's Club, gaming, and uttering witticisms among
the boys of quality; `yet he says to his son, that a member of a
gaming club should be a cheat, or he will soon be a beggar;' an
inconsistency which reminds one of old Fuller's saw--`A father
that whipt his son for swearing, and swore himself whilst he
whipt him, did more harm by his example than good by his


The character of Selwyn,' says Mr Jesse, `was in many respects a
remarkable one. With brilliant wit, a quick perception of the
ridiculous, and a thorough knowledge of the world and human
nature, he united classical knowledge and a taste for the fine
arts. To these qualities may be added others of a very
contradictory nature. With a thorough enjoyment of the pleasures
of society, an imperturbable good-humour, a kind heart, and a
passionate fondness for children, he united a morbid interest in
the details of human suffering, and, more especially, a
taste for witnessing criminal executions. Not only was he a
constant frequenter of such scenes of horror, but all the details
of crime, the private history of the criminal, his demeanour at
his trial, in the dungeon, and on the scaffold, and the state of
his feelings in the hour of death and degradation, were to Selwyn
matters of the deepest and most extraordinary interest. Even the
most frightful particulars relating to suicide and murder, the
investigation of the disfigured corpse, the sight of an
acquaintance lying in his shroud, seem to have afforded him a
painful and unaccountable pleasure. When the first Lord Holland
was on his death-bed he was told that Selwyn, who had lived on
terms of the closest intimacy with him, had called to inquire
after his health. "The next time Mr Selwyn calls," he said,
"show him up; if I am alive I shall be delighted to see him, and
if I am dead he will be glad to see me." When some ladies
bantered him on his want of feeling in attending to see the
terrible Lord Lovat's head cut off--"Why," he said, "I made
amends by going to the undertaker's to see it sewed on again."
And yet this was the same individual who delighted in the first
words and in the sunny looks of childhood; whose friendship
seems to have partaken of all the softness of female affection;
and whose heart was never hardened against the wretched and
depressed. Such was the "original" George Selwyn.'

This celebrated conversational wit was a devoted frequenter of
the gaming table. Writing to Selwyn, in 1765, Lord Holland
said:--`All that I can collect from what you say on the subject
of money is, that fortune has been a little favourable lately; or
may be, the last night only. Till you leave off play entirely
you must be--in earnest, and without irony--_en verite le
serviteur tres-humble des evenements_, "in truth, the
very humble servant of events." '

His friend the Lord Carlisle, although himself a great gambler,
also gave him good advice. `I hope you have left off Hazard,' he
wrote to Selwyn; `if you are still so foolish, and will play, the
best thing I can wish you is, that you may win and never throw
crabs.[117] You do not put it in the power of chance to
make you them, as we all know; and till the ninth miss is born I
shall not be convinced to the contrary.'

[117] That is, aces, or ace and deuce, twelve, or seven. With
false dice, as will appear in the sequel, it was impossible to
throw any of these numbers, and as the caster always called the
main, he was sure to win, as he could call an impossible number:
those who were in the secret of course always took the odds.

Again:--`As you have played I am happy to hear you have won; but
by this time there may be a triste revers de succes_.'

Selwyn had taken to gaming before his father's death--probably
from his first introduction to the clubs. His stakes were high,
though not extravagantly so, compared with the sums hazarded by
his contemporaries. In 1765 he lost L1000 to Mr Shafto, who
applied for it in the language of an `embarrassed tradesman.'

`July 1, 1765.

`DEAR SIR,--I have this moment received the favour of your
letter. I intended to have gone out of town on Thursday, but as
you shall not receive your money before the end of this week, I
must postpone my journey till Sunday. A month would have made no
difference to me, had I not had others to pay before I leave
town, and must pay; therefore must beg that you will leave the
whole before this week is out, at White's, as it is to be paid
away to others to whom I have lost, and do not choose to leave
town till that is done. Be sure you could not wish an
indulgence I should not be happy to grant, if it my power.'

Nor was this the only dun of the kind that Selwyn had `to put up
with' on account of the gaming table. He received the following
from Edward, Earl of Derby.[118]

[118] Edward, twelfth Earl of Derby, was born September 12, 1752,
and died October 21, 1834. He married first, Elizabeth, daughter
of James, sixth Duke of Hamilton, who died in 1799, and secondly,
the celebrated actress, Miss Farren, who died April 23, 1829.

_The Earl of Derby to George Selwyn_.

`Nothing could equal what I feel at troubling you with this
disagreeable note; but having lost a very monstrous sum of money
last night, I find myself under the necessity of entreating your
goodness to excuse the liberty I am taking of applying to you for
assistance. If it is not very inconvenient to you, I should be
glad of the money you owe me. If it is, I must pay what I can,
and desire Brookes to trust me for the remainder. I repeat again
my apologies, to which I shall beg leave to add how very
sincerely I have the honour to be, my dear sir,

`Your most obedient humble servant,

This is the very model of a dun, and proves how handsomely
such ugly things can be done when one has to deal with a noble
instead of a plebeian creditor.

But Selwyn had not only to endure such indignities, but also to
inflict them, as appears by the following letter to him from the
Honourable General Fitzpatrick, in answer to a dun, which, we are
assured, was `gentle and moderate.'

`I am very sorry to hear the night ended so ill; but to give you
some idea of the utter impossibility of my being useful on the
occasion, I will inform you of the state of my affairs. I won
L400 last night, which was immediately appropriated by Mr
_Martindale_, to whom I still owe L300, and I am in Brookes'
book for thrice that sum. Add to all this, that at Christmas I
expect an inundation of clamorous creditors, who, unless I
somehow or other scrape together some money to satisfy them, will
overwhelm me entirely. What can be done? If I could coin my
heart, or drop my blood into drachms, I would do it, though by
this time I should probably have neither heart nor blood left. I
am afraid. you will find Stephen in the same state of
insolvency. Adieu! I am obliged to you for the gentleness and
moderation of your dun, considering how long I have been your

`Yours most sincerely,
`R. F.'[119]

[119] Apud _Selwyn and his Contemporaries_ by Jesse.

Selwyn is said to have been a loser on the whole, and often
pillaged. Latterly he appears to have got the better of his
propensity for play, if we may judge from the following wise
sentiment:--`It was too great a consumer,' he said, `of four
things--time, health, fortune, and thinking.' But a writer in
the _Edinburgh Review_ seems to doubt Selwyn's reformation; for
his initiation of Wilberforce occurred in 1782, when he was 63;
and previously, in 1776, he underwent the process of dunning from
Lord Derby, before-mentioned, and in 1779 from Mr Crawford (`Fish
Crawford,' as he was called), each of whom, like Mr Shafto, `had
a sum to make up'--in the infernal style so horridly provoking,
even when we are able and willing to pay. However, as Selwyn
died comparatively rich, it may be presumed that his fortune
suffered to no great extent by his indulgence in the vice of

The following are some of George Selwyn's jokes relating to

One night, at White's, observing the Postmaster-General, Sir
Everard Fawkener, losing a large sum of money at Piquet, Selwyn,
pointing to the successful player, remarked--`See now, he is
robbing the _MAIL!_'

On another occasion, in 1756, observing Mr Ponsonby, the Speaker
of the Irish House of Commons, tossing about bank-bills at a
Hazard table at Newmarket--`Look,' he said, `how easily the
Speaker passes the money-bills!'

A few months afterwards (when the public journals were daily
containing an account of some fresh town which had conferred the
freedom of its corporation in a gold box on Mr Pitt, afterwards
Earl of Chatham, and the Right Honourable Henry Bilson Legge, his
fellow-patriot and colleague), Selwyn, who neither admired their
politics nor respected their principles, proposed to the old and
new club at Arthur's, that he should be deputed to present to
them the freedom of each club in a _dice-box_.

On one of the waiters at Arthur's club having been committed
to prison for a felony--`What a horrid idea,' said Selwyn, `he
will give of us to the people in Newgate!'

When the affairs of Charles Fox were in a more than usually
embarrassed state, chiefly through his gambling, his friends
raised a subscription among themselves for his relief. One of
them remarking that it would require some delicacy in breaking
the matter to him, and adding that `he wondered how Fox would
take it.' `Take it?' interrupted Selwyn, `why, _QUARTERLY_, to
be sure.'[120]

[120] Jesse, _George Selwyn and his Contemporaries._


This eminent statesman was regarded by his contemporaries as an
able, an influential, and occasionally a powerful speaker.

Though married to a lady for whom in his letters he ever
expresses the warmest feelings of admiration and esteem; and
surrounded by a young and increasing family, who were evidently
the objects of his deepest affection, Lord Carlisle,
nevertheless, at times appears to have been unable to extricate
himself from the dangerous enticements to play to which he
was exposed. His fatal passion for play--the source of
adventitious excitement at night, and of deep distress in the
morning--seems to have led to frequent and inconvenient losses,
and eventually to have plunged him into comparative distress.

`In recording these failings of a man of otherwise strong sense,
of a high sense of honour, and of kindly affections, we have said
the worst that can be adduced to his disadvantage. Attached,
indeed, as Lord Carlisle may have been to the pleasures of
society, and unfortunate as may have been his passion for the
gaming table, it is difficult to peruse those passages in his
letters in which he deeply reproaches himself for yielding to the
fatal fascination of play, and accuses himself of having
diminished the inheritance of his children, without a feeling of
commiseration for the sensations of a man of strong sense and
deep feeling, while reflecting on his moral degradation. It is
sufficient, however, to observe of Lord Carlisle, that the deep
sense which he entertained of his own folly; the almost maddening
moments to which he refers in his letters of self-condemnation
and bitter regret; and subsequently his noble victory over the
siren enticements of pleasure, and his thorough emancipation
from the trammels of a domineering passion, make adequate amends
for his previous unhappy career.'[121]

[121] Jesse, _George Selwyn and his Contemporaries_, ii.

Brave conquerors, for so ye are,
Who war against your own affections,
And the huge army of the world's desires.

Lady Sarah Bunbury, writing to George Selwyn, in 1767, says:--`If
you are now at Paris with poor C. [evidently Carlisle], who I
dare say is now swearing at the French people, give my
compliments to him. I call him poor C. because I hope he is
only miserable at having been such a _PIGEON_ to Colonel Scott.
I never can pity him for losing at play, and I think of it as
little as I can, because I cannot bear to be obliged to abate the
least of the good opinion I have always had of him.'

Oddly enough the writer had no better account to give of her own
husband; she says, in the letter:--`Sir Charles games from
morning till night, but he has never yet lost L100 in one

[122] This Lady Sarah Bunbury was the wife of Sir Charles
Bunbury, after having had a chance of being Queen of England, as
the wife of George III., who was passionately in love with her,
and would have married her had it not been for the constitutional
opposition of his privy council. This charming and beautiful
woman died in 1826, at the age of 82. She was probably the last
surviving great-granddaughter of Charles II.--Jesse, _Ubi supra_.

About the year 1776 Lord Carlisle wrote the following letter
to George Selwyn:--

`I have undone myself, and it is to no purpose to conceal
from you my abominable madness and folly, though perhaps the
particulars may not be known to the rest of the world. I never
lost so much in five times as I have done to-night, and am in
debt to the house for the whole. You may be sure I do not tell
you this with an idea that you can be of the least assistance to
me; it is a great deal more than your abilities are equal to.
Let me see you--though I shall be ashamed to look at you after
your goodness to me.'

This letter is endorsed by George Selwyn--`After the loss of
L10,000.' He tells Selwyn of a set which, at one point of the
game, stood to win L50,000.

`Lord Byron, it is almost needless to remark, was nearly related
to Lord Carlisle. The mother of Lord Carlisle was sister to
John, fourth Lord Byron, the grandfather of the poet; Lord
Carlisle and Lord Byron were consequently first cousins once
removed. Had they happened to have been contemporaries, it would
be difficult to form an idea of two individuals who, alike from
tastes, feelings, and habits of life, were more likely to form a
lasting and suitable intimacy. Both were men of high rank; both
united an intimate knowledge of society and the world with the
ardent temperament of a poet; and both in youth mingled a love of
frolic and pleasure with a graver taste for literary pursuits.'


In the midst of the infatuated votaries of the gaming god in
England, towers the mighty intellectual giant Charles James Fox.
Nature had fashioned him to be equally an object of admiration
and love. In addition to powerful eloquence, he was
distinguished by the refinement of his taste in all matters
connected with literature and art; he was deeply read in history;
had some claims to be regarded as a poet; and possessed a
thorough knowledge of the classical authors of antiquity, a
knowledge of which he so often and so happily availed
himself in his seat in the House of Commons. To these qualities
was added a good-humour which was seldom ruffled,--a peculiar
fascination of manner and address,--the most delightful powers of
conversation,--a heart perfectly free from vindictiveness,
ostentation, and deceit,--a strong sense of justice,--a thorough
detestation of tyranny and oppression,--and an almost feminine
tenderness of feeling for the sufferings of others.
Unfortunately, however, his great talents and delightful
qualities in private life rendered his defects the more glaring
and lamentable; indeed, it is difficult to think or speak with
common patience of those injurious practices and habits--that
abandonment to self-gratification, and that criminal waste of the
most transcendent abilities which exhausted in social
conviviality and the gaming table what were formed to confer
blessings on mankind.

So much for the character of Fox, as I have gathered from Mr
Jesse;[123] and I continue the extremely interesting subject by
quoting from that delightful book, `The Queens of
Society.'[124] `With a father who had made an enormous fortune,
with little principle, out of a public office--for Lord Holland
owed the bulk of his wealth to his appointment of paymaster to
the forces,--and who spoiled him, in his boyhood, Charles James
Fox had begun life _AS A FOP OF THE FIRST WATER_, and squandered
L50,000 in debt before he became of age. Afterwards he
indulged recklessly and extravagantly in every course of
licentiousness which the profligate society of the day opened to
him. At Brookes' and the Thatched House Fox ate and drank to
excess, threw thousands upon the Faro table, mingled with
blacklegs, and made himself notorious for his shameless vices.
Newmarket supplied another excitement. His back room was so
incessantly filled with Jew money-lenders that he called it his
Jerusalem Chamber. It was impossible that such a life should not
destroy every principle of honour; and there is nothing
improbable in the story that he appropriated to himself money
which belonged to his dear friend Mrs Crewe, as before related.

[123] George Selwyn and his Contemporaries, ii.

[124] By Grace and Philip Wharton.

`Of his talents, which were certainly great, he made an affected
display. Of his learning he was proud--but rather as adding
lustre to his celebrity for universal tastes. He was not at all
ashamed, but rather gloried in being able to describe himself as
a fool, as he does in his verses to Mrs Crewe:--

"Is't reason? No; that my whole life will belie;
For, who so at variance as reason and I?
Is't ambition that fills up each chink in my heart,
Nor allows any softer sensation a part?
Oh! no; for in this all the world must agree,

`Sensual and self-indulgent--with a grossness that is even patent
on his very portrait [and bust], Fox had nevertheless a manner
which enchanted the sex, and he was the only politician of the
day who thoroughly enlisted the personal sympathies of women of
mind and character, as well as of those who might be captivated
by his profusion. When he visited Paris in later days, even
Madame Recamier, noted for her refinement, and of whom he
himself said, with his usual coarse ideas of the sphere of woman,
that "she was the only woman who united the attractions of
pleasure to those of modesty," delighted to be seen with him!
At the time of which we are speaking the most celebrated beauties
of England were his most ardent supporters.

`The election of 1784, in which he stood and was returned
for Westminster, was one of the most famous of the old riotous
political demonstrations. . . . . Loving _hazard_ of all kinds
for its own sake, Fox had made party hostility a new sphere of
gambling, had adopted the character of a demagogue, and at a time
when the whole of Europe was undergoing, a great revolution in
principles, was welcomed gladly as "The Man of the People." In
the beginning, of the year he had been convicted of bribery, but
in spite of this his popularity increased. . . . The election
for Westminster, in which Fox was opposed by Sir Cecil Wray, was
the most tempestuous of all. There were 20,000 votes to be
polled, and the opposing parties resorted to any means of
intimidation, or violence, or persuasion which political
enthusiasm could suggest. On the eighth day the poll was against
the popular member, and he called upon his friends to make a
great effort on his behalf. It was then that the "ladies'
canvass" began. Lady Duncannon, the Duchess of Devonshire, Mrs
Crewe, and Mrs Damer dressed themselves in blue and buff--the
colours of the American Independents, which Fox had adopted and
wore in the House of Commons--and set out to visit the
purlieus of Westminster. Here, in their enthusiasm, they shook
the dirty hands of honest workmen, expressed the greatest
interest in their wives and families, and even, as in the case of
the Duchess of Devonshire and the butcher, submitted their fair
cheeks to be kissed by the possessors of votes! At the butcher's
shop, the owner, in his apron and sleeves, stoutly refused his
vote, except on one condition--"Would her Grace give him a
kiss?" The request was granted; and the vote thus purchased
went to swell the majority which finally secured the return of
"The Man of the People."

`The colouring of political friends, which concealed his vices,
or rather which gave them a false hue, has long since faded away.
We now know Fox as he _WAS_. In the latest journals of Horace
Walpole his inveterate gambling, his open profligacy, his utter
want of honour, is disclosed by one of his own opinion.
Corrupted ere yet he had left his home, whilst in age a boy,
there is, however, the comfort of reflecting that he outlived his
vices which seem to have "cropped out" by his ancestral
connection in the female line with the reprobate Charles II.,
whom he was thought to resemble in features. Fox,
afterwards, with a green apron tied round his waist, pruning and
nailing up his fruit trees at St Ann's Hill, or amusing himself
innocently with a few friends, is a pleasing object to remember,
even whilst his early career occurs forcibly to the mind.'

Peace, then, to the shade of Charles James Fox! The three last
public acts which he performed were worthy of the man, and should
suffice to prove that, in spite of his terrible failings, he was
most useful in his generation. By one, he laboured to repair the
outrages of war--to obtain a breathing time for our allies; and,
by an extension of our commerce, to afford, if necessary, to his
country all the advantages of a renovated contest, without the
danger of drying up our resources. By another, he attempted to
remove all legal disabilities arising out of religion--to unite
and thus, by an extension of common rights, and a participation
of common benefits, wisely to render that which has always been
considered the weakest and most troublesome portion of our
empire, at least a useful and valuable part of England's
greatness among the nations. Queen Elizabeth's Minister,
Lord Burleigh, in the presence of the `Irish difficulty' in his
day, wished Ireland at the bottom of the sea, and doubtless many
at the present time wish the same; but Fox endeavoured to grapple
with it manfully and honestly, and it was not his fault that he
did not settle it. The vices of Fox were those of the age in
which he lived; had he been reserved for the present epoch, what
a different biography should we have to write of him! What a
helmsman he might be at the present time, when the ship of Old
England is at sea and in peril!

It appears from a letter addressed by Lord Carlisle to Lady
Holland (Fox's mother) in 1773, that he had become security for
Fox to the amount of fifteen or sixteen thousand pounds; and a
letter to Selwyn in 1777, puts the ruinous character of their
gaming transactions in the strongest light. Lord Ilchester
(Fox's cousin) had lost thirteen thousand pounds at one sitting
to Lord Carlisle, who offered to take three thousand pounds down.
Nothing was paid. But ten years afterwards, when Lord Carlisle
pressed for his money, he complained that an attempt was made to
construe the offer into a _remission_ of the ten thousand
pounds:--`The only way, in honour, that Lord Ilchester could
have accepted my offer, would have been by taking some steps to
pay the L3000. I remained in a state of uncertainty, I think,
for nearly three years; but his taking no notice of it during
that time, convinced me that he had no intention of availing
himself of it. Charles Fox was also at a much earlier period
clear that he never meant to accept it. There is also great
injustice in the behaviour of the family in passing by the
instantaneous payment of, I believe, five thousand pounds, to
Charles, won at the same sitting, without any observations. _At
one period of the play I remember there was a balance in favour
of one of these gentlemen (but which I protest I do not remember)
of about fifty thousand_.'

At the time in question Fox was hardly eighteen. The following
letter from Lord Carlisle, written in 1771, contains highly
interesting information respecting the youthful habits and
already vast intellectual pre-eminence of this memorable
statesman:--`It gives me great pain to hear that Charles begins
to be unreasonably impatient at losing. I fear it is the
prologue to much fretfulness of temper, for disappointment in
raising money, and any serious reflections upon his
situation, will (in spite of his affected spirits and
dissipation) occasion him many disagreeable moments.' Lord
Carlisle's fears proved groundless in this respect. As before
stated, Fox was always remarkable for his sweetness of temper,
which remained with him to the last; but it is most painful to
think how much mankind has lost through his recklessness.

Gibbon writes to Lord Sheffield in 1773, `You know Lord Holland
is paying Charles Fox's debts. They amount to L140,000.'[125]

[125] Timbs, _Club Life in London_.

His love of play was desperate. A few evenings before he moved
the repeal of the Marriage Act, in February, 1772, he had been at
Brompton on two errands,--one to consult Justice Fielding on the
penal laws, the other to borrow L10,000, which he brought to
town at the hazard of being robbed. He played admirably both at
Whist and Piquet,--with such skill, indeed, that by the general
admission of Brookes' Club, he might have made four thousand
pounds a-year, as they calculated, at these games, if he could
have confined himself to them. But his misfortune arose from
playing games of chance, particularly at Faro.

After eating and drinking plentifully, he would sit down at
the Faro table, and invariably rose a loser. Once, indeed, and
once only, he won about eight thousand pounds in the course of a
single evening. Part of the money he paid to his creditors, and
the remainder he lost almost immediately.

Before he attained his thirtieth year he had completely
dissipated everything that he could either command or could
procure by the most ruinous expedients. He had even undergone,
at times, many of the severest privations incidental to the
vicissitudes that attend a gamester's progress; frequently
wanting money to defray the common daily wants of the most
pressing nature. Topham Beauclerc, who lived much in Fox's
society, declared that no man could form an idea of the
extremities to which he had been driven to raise money, often
losing his last guinea at the Faro table. The very sedan-
chairmen, whom he was unable to pay, used to dun him for arrears.
In 1781, he might be considered as an extinct volcano,--for the
pecuniary aliment that had fed the flame was long consumed. Yet
he even then occupied a house or lodgings in St James's Street,
close to Brookes', where he passed almost every hour which
was not devoted to the House of Commons. Brookes' was then the
rallying point or rendezvous of the Opposition, where Faro,
Whist, and supper prolonged the night, the principal members of
the minority in both Houses met, in order to compare their
information, or to concert and mature their parliamentary
measures. Great sums were then borrowed of Jews at exorbitant

His brother Stephen was enormously fat; George Selwyn said he was
in the right to deal with Shylocks, as he could give them pounds
of flesh.

Walpole, in 1781, walking up St James's Street, saw a cart at
Fox's door, with copper and an old chest of drawers, loading.
His success at Faro had awakened a host of creditors; but, unless
his bank had swelled to the size of the Bank of England, it could
not have yielded a half-penny apiece for each. Epsom too had
been unpropitious; and one creditor had actually seized and
carried off Fox's goods, which did not seem worth removing. Yet,
shortly after this, whom should Walpole find sauntering by his
own door but Fox, who came up and talked to him at the coach
window, on the Marriage Bill, with as much _sang-froid_ as
if he knew nothing of what had happened. Doubtless this
indifference was to be attributed quite as much to the
callousness of the reckless gambler as to anything that might be
called `philosophy.'

It seems clear that the ruling passion of Fox was partly owing to
the lax training of his father, who, by his lavish allowances,
not only fostered his propensity to play, but had also been
accustomed to give him, when a mere boy, money to amuse himself
at the gaming table. According to Chesterfield, the first Lord
Holland `had no fixed principles in religion or morality,' and he
censures him to his son for being `too unwary in ridiculing and
exposing them.' He gave full swing to Charles in his youth.
`Let nothing be done,' said his lordship, `to break his spirit,
the world will do that for him.' At his death, in 1774, he left
him L154,000 to pay his debts; it was all `bespoke,' and Fox
soon became as deeply pledged as before.[126]

[126] Timbs, ubi supra. There is a mistake in the
anecdote respecting Fox's duel with Mr Adam (not Adams), as
related by Mr Timbs in his amusing book of the Clubs. The
challenge was in consequence of some words uttered by Fox in
parliament, and not on account of some remark on Government
powder, to which Fox wittily alluded, after the duel,
saying--`Egad, Adam, you would have killed me if it had not been
Government powder.' See Gilchrist, Ordeals, Millingen, Hist.
of Duelling, ii., and Steinmetz, Romance of Duelling, ii.

The following are authentic anecdotes of Fox, as a gambler.

Fox had a gambling debt to pay to Sir John Slade. Finding
himself in cash, after a lucky run at Faro, he sent a
complimentary card to the knight, desiring to discharge the
claim. Sir John no sooner saw the money than he called for pen
and ink, and began to figure. `What now?' cried Fox. `Only
calculating the interest,' replied the other. `Are you so?'
coolly rejoined Charles James, and pocketed the cash, adding--`I
thought it was a _debt of honour_. As you seem to consider it a
trading debt, and as I make it an invariable rule to pay my Jew-
creditors last, you must wait a little longer for your money.'

Fox once played cards with Fitzpatrick at Brookes' from ten
o'clock at night till near six o'clock the next morning--a waiter
standing by to tell them `whose deal it was'--they being too
sleepy to know.

On another occasion he won about L8000; and one of his bond-
creditors, who soon heard of his good luck, presented
himself and asked for payment. `Impossible, sir,' replied Fox;
`I must first discharge my debts of honour.' The bond-creditor
remonstrated, and finding Fox inflexible, tore the bond to pieces
and flung it into the fire, exclaiming--`Now, sir, your debt to
me is a _debt of honour_.' Struck by the creditor's witty
rejoinder, Fox instantly paid the money.[127]

[127] The above is the version of this anecdote which I
remember as being current in my young days. Mr Timbs and others
before him relate the anecdote as follows:--`On another occasion
he won about L8000; and one of his bond-creditors, who soon
heard of his good luck, presented himself and asked for payment.'

`Impossible, sir,' replied Fox `I must first discharge my debts
of honour.' The bond-creditor remonstrated. `Well, sir, give me
your bond.' It was delivered to Fox, who tore it in pieces and
threw it into the fire. `Now, sir,' said Fox, `my debt to you is
a debt of honour;' and immediately paid him .

Now, it is evident that Fox could not destroy the document
without rendering himself still more `liable' in point of law. I
submit that the version in the text is the true one, conforming
with the legal requirement of the case and influencing the debtor
by the originality of the performance of the creditor.

Amidst the wildest excesses of youth, even while the perpetual
victim of his passion for play, Fox eagerly cultivated his taste
for letters, especially the Greek and Roman historians and poets;
and he found resources in their works under the most severe
depressions occasioned by ill-successes at the gaming table. One
morning, after Fox had passed the whole night in company with
Topham Beauclerc at Faro, the two friends were about to separate.

Fox had lost throughout the night, and was in a frame of mind
approaching to desperation. Beauclerc's anxiety for the
consequences which might ensue led him to be early at Fox's
lodgings; and on arriving he inquired, not without apprehension,
whether he had risen. The servant replied that Mr Fox was in the
drawing-room, when Beauclerc walked up-stairs and cautiously
opened the door, expecting to behold a frantic gamester stretched
on the floor, bewailing his losses, or plunged in moody despair;
but he was astonished to find him reading a Greek Herodotus.

On perceiving his friend's surprise, Fox exclaimed, `What would
you have me do? I have lost my last shilling.'

Upon other occasions, after staking and losing all that he could
raise at Faro, instead of exclaiming against fortune, or
manifesting the agitation natural under such circumstances, he
would lay his head on the table and retain his place, but,
exhausted by mental and bodily fatigue, almost immediately
fall into a profound sleep.

Fox's best friends are said to have been half ruined in annuities
given by them as securities for him to the Jews. L500,000 a-
year of such annuities of Fox and his `society' were advertised
to be sold at one time. Walpole wondered what Fox would do when
he had sold the estates of his friends. Walpole further notes
that in the debate on the Thirty-nine Articles, February 6, 1772,
Fox did not shine; nor could it be wondered at. He had sat up
playing at Hazard, at Almack's, from Tuesday evening, the 4th,
till five in the afternoon of Wednesday, the 5th. An hour before
he had recovered L12,000 that he had lost; and by dinner,
which was at five o'clock, he had ended losing L11,000! On
the Thursday he spoke in the above debate, went to dinner at past
eleven at night; from thence to White's, where he drank till
seven the next morning; thence to Almack's, where he won
L6000; and between three and four in the afternoon he set out
for Newmarket. His brother Stephen lost L11,000 two nights
after, and Charles L10,000 more on the 13th; so that in
three nights the two brothers--the eldest not _twenty-five_
years of age--lost L32,000![128]

[128] Timbs, _ubi supra._

On one occasion Stephen Fox was dreadfully fleeced at a gaming
house at the West End. He entered it with L13,000, and left
without a farthing.

Assuredly these Foxes were misnamed. _Pigeons_--dupes of
sharpers at play--would have been a more appropriate cognomen.


These eminent statesmen were gamesters at one period of their
lives. When Wilberforce came to London in 1780, after his return
to Parliament, his great success signalized his entry into public
life, and he was at once elected a member of the leading clubs--
Miles' and Evans', Brookes', Boodle's, White's, and Goosetree's.
The latter was Wilberforce's usual resort, where his friendship
with Pitt--who played with characteristic and intense eagerness,
and whom he had slightly known at Cambridge--greatly increased.
He once lost L100 at the Faro table.

`We played a good deal at Goosetree's,' he states,; and I
well remember the intense earnestness which Pitt displayed when
joining in these games of chance. He perceived their increasing
fascination, and soon after abandoned them for ever.'

Wilberforce's own case is thus recorded by his biographers, on
the authority of his private Journal:--`We can have no play to-
night,' complained some of the party at the club, `for St Andrew
is not here to keep bank.' `Wilberforce,' said Mr Bankes, who
never joined himself, `if you will keep it I will give you a
guinea.' The playful challenge was accepted, but as the game
grew deep he rose the winner of L600. Much of this was lost
by those who were only heirs to fortunes, and therefore could not
meet such a call without inconvenience. The pain he felt at
their annoyance cured him of a taste which seemed but too likely
to become predominant.

Goosetree's being then almost exclusively composed of incipient
orators and embryo statesmen, the call for a gambling table there
may be regarded as a decisive proof of the universal prevalence
of the vice.

`The first time I was at Brookes',' says Wilberforce,
`scarcely knowing any one, I joined, from mere shyness, in play
at the Faro tables, where George Selwyn kept bank. A friend, who
knew my inexperience, and regarded me as a victim decked out for
sacrifice, called to me--"What, Wilberforce, is that you?"
Selwyn quite resented the interference, and, turning to him, said
in his most expressive tone, "Oh, sir, don't interrupt Mr
Wilberforce, he could not be better employed."

Again: `The very first time I went to Boodle's I won twenty-five
guineas of the Duke of Norfolk. I belonged at this time to five
clubs--Miles' and Evans', Brookes', Boodle's, White's, and


Sir Philip Francis, the eminent politician and supposed author of
the celebrated `Letters of Junius,' was a gambler, and the
convivial companion of Fox. During the short administration of
that statesman he was made a Knight of the Bath. One evening,
Roger Wilbraham came up to the Whist table, at Brookes', where
Sir Philip, who for the first time wore the ribbon of the Order,
was engaged in a rubber, and thus accosted him. Laying hold
of the ribbon, and examining it for some time, he said:--`So,
this is the way they have rewarded you at last; they have given
you a little bit of red ribbon for your services, Sir Philip,
have they? A pretty bit of red ribbon to hang about your neck;
and that satisfies you, does it? Now, I wonder what I shall
have. What do you think they will give me, Sir Philip?' The
newly-made knight, who had twenty-five guineas depending on the
rubber, and who was not very well pleased at the interruption,
suddenly turned round, and looking at him fiercely, exclaimed, `A
halter, and be,' &c.


Unquestionably this reverend gentleman was one of the most lucky
of gamesters--having died in full possession of the gifts
vouchsafed to him by the goddess of fortune.

He was educated at Eton, graduated at King's College, Cambridge,
as Bachelor of Arts in 1801, and Master of Arts in 1804, and
obtained a fellowship, having also a curacy at Tiverton, held
conjointly. Some six years after he appeared in print as a
denouncer of a `ghost story,' and in 1812, as the author of
`Hypocrisy,' a satirical poem, and `Napoleon,' a poem. In 1818
he was presented by his college to the vicarage of Kew with
Petersham, in Surrey. Two years after he established a literary
reputation--lasting to the present time--by the publication of a
volume of aphorisms or maxims, under the title of `LACON; or,
Many Things in Few Words.' This work is very far from original,
being founded mainly on Lord Bacon's celebrated Essays, and
Burdon's `Materials for Thinking,' La Bruyiere, and De la
Rochefoucault; still it is highly creditable to the abilities of
the writer. It has passed through several editions; and even at
the present time its only rival is, `The Guesses at Truth,'
although we have numerous collections of apothegmatic extracts
from authors, a class of works which is not without its
fascination, if readers are inclined to _THINK._[129]

[129] The first work I published was of this kind, and
entitled, `Gems of Genius; or, Words of the Wise, with extracts
from the Diary of a Young Man,' in 1838.

Two years after he returned to his `Napoleon,' which he
republished, with extensive additions, under the new title of
`The Conflagration of Moscow.

It would appear that Colton at this period gave in to the
fashionable gaming of the day; at any rate, he dabbled deeply in
Spanish bonds, became involved in pecuniary difficulties, and,
without investigating his affairs closely--which might have been
easily arranged--he absconded.

He subsequently made appearance, in order to retain his living;
but in 1828 he lost it, a successor being appointed by his
college. He then went to the United States of America; what he
did there is not on record; but he subsequently returned to
Europe, went to Paris, took up his abode in the Palais Royal,
and--devoted his talents to the mysteries of the gaming table, by
which he was so successful that in the course of a year or two he
won L25,000!

Oddly enough, one of his `maxims' in his Lacon runs as follows:
`The gamester, if he die a martyr to his profession, is doubly
ruined. He adds his soul to every other loss, and, by the act of
suicide, renounces earth, to forfeit heaven.'

It has been suggested that this was writing his own epitaph, and
it would appear so from the notices of the man in most of the
biographies; but nothing could be further from the fact. Caleb
Colton managed to _KEEP_ his gambling fortune, and what is
more, devoted it to a worthy purpose. Part of his wealth he
employed in forming a picture-gallery; and he printed at Paris,
for private distribution, an ode on the death of Lord Byron. He
certainly committed suicide, but the act was not the gamester's
martyrdom. He was afflicted by a disease which necessitated some
painful surgical operation, and rather than submit to it, he blew
out his brains, at the house of a friend, at Fontainebleau, in

[130] Gent. Mag. New Month. Mag. Gorton's Gen. Biograph. Dict.


This singular man was an inveterate gambler, and for some time
very `lucky;' but the reaction came at last; the stakes were too
high, and the purses of his companions too long for him to stand
against any continued run of bad luck; indeed, the play at
Wattier's, which was very deep, eventually ruined the club, as
well as Brummell and several other members of it; a certain
baronet now living, according to Captain Jesse, is asserted to
have lost ten thousand pounds there at _Ecarte_ at one

[131] Life of Beau Brummell.

The season of 1814 saw Brummell a winner, and a loser
likewise--and this time he lost not only his winnings, but `an
unfortunate ten thousand pounds,' which, when relating the
circumstance to a friend many years afterwards, he said was all
that remained at his banker's. One night--the fifth of a most
relentless run of ill-luck--his friend Pemberton Mills heard him
exclaim that he had lost every shilling, and only wished some one
would bind him never to play again:--`I will,' said Mills; and
taking out a ten-pound note he offered it to Brummell on
condition that he should forfeit a thousand if he played at
White's within a month from that evening. The Beau took it, and
for a few days discontinued coming to the club; but about a
fortnight after Mills, happening to go in, saw him hard at work.
Of course the thousand pounds was forfeited; but his friend,
instead of claiming it, merely went up to him and, touching him
gently on the shoulder, said--`Well, Brummell, you may at least
give me back the ten pounds you had the other night.'

Among the members who indulged in high play at Brookes' Club was
Alderman Combe, the brewer, who is said to have made as much
money in this way as he did by brewing. One evening whilst
he filled the office of Lord Mayor, he was busy at a full Hazard
table at Brookes', where the wit and the dice-box circulated
together with great glee, and where Beau Brummell was one of the
party. `Come, Mash-tub,' said Brummell, who was the _caster_,
`what do you _set?_' `Twenty-five guineas,' answered the
Alderman. `Well, then,' returned the Beau, `have at the mare's
pony' (a gaming term for 25 guineas). He continued to throw
until he drove home the brewer's twelve ponies running; and then
getting up, and making him a low bow, whilst pocketing the cash,
he said--`Thank you, Alderman; for the future I shall never drink
any porter but yours.' `I wish, sir,' replied the brewer, `that
every other blackguard in London would tell me the same.'[132]

[132] Jesse, _ubi supra_.

The following occurrence must have caused a `sensation' to poor

Among the members of Wattier's Club was Bligh, a notorious
madman, of whom Mr Raikes relates:--`One evening at the Macao


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