The Gaming Table, Its Votaries and Victims Volume #2
Andrew Steinmetz

Part 4 out of 5

[58] Justini Hist., lib. xxxviii. 9. 9.

Dice are also mentioned in the New Testament, where occurs the
word cubeia (Eph. iv. 14), ('the only word for "gambling" used in
the Bible'), a word in very common use, among Paul's kith and
kin, for 'cube,' 'dice,' 'dicery,' and it occurs frequently in
the Talmud and Midrash. The Mishna declares unfit either as
'judge or witness,' 'a cubea-player, a usurer, a pigeon-flier
(betting-man), a vendor of illegal (seventh-year) produce, and a
slave.' A mitigating clause--proposed by one of the weightiest
legal authorities, to the effect that the gambler and his kin
should only be disqualified 'if they have but that one
profession'--is distinctly negatived by the majority, and the
rule remains absolute. The classical word for the gambler or
dice-player, cubeutes, appears aramaized in the same sources into
something like kubiustis, as the following curious instances may
show: When the Angel, after having wrestled with Jacob all
night, asks him to let him go, 'for the dawn has risen' (A. V.,
'the day breaketh'), Jacob is made to reply to him, 'Art thou,
then, a thief or a kubiustis, that thou art afraid of the day?'
To which the Angel replies, 'No, I am not; but it is my turn to-
day, and for the first time, to sing the Angelic Hymn of Praise
in Heaven: let me go.' In another Tadmudical passage an early
biblical critic is discussing certain arithmetical difficulties
in the Pentateuch. Thus he finds the number of Levites (in
Numbers) to differ, when summed up from the single items, from
that given in the total. Worse than that, he finds that all the
gold and silver contributed to the sanctuary is not accounted
for, and, clinching his argument, he cries, 'Is, then, your
master Moses a thief or a kubiustis? Or could he not make up his
accounts properly?' The critic is then informed of a certain
difference between 'sacred' and other coins; and he further gets
a lesson in the matter of Levites and Firstborn, which silences
him. Again, the Talmud decides that, if a man have bought a
slave who turns out to be a thief or a kubiustis,--which has here
been erroneously explained to mean a 'manstealer,'--he has no
redress. He must keep him, as he bought him, or send him away;
for he has bought him with all his vices.

Regarding the translation 'sleight' in the A.V., this seems a
correct enough rendering of the term as far as the SENSE of the
passage goes, and comes very near the many ancient
translations--'nequitia,' 'versutia,' 'inanis labor,' 'vana et
inepta (?) subtilitas,' &c., of the Fathers. Luther has
'Schalkheit,'--a word the meaning of which at his time differed
considerably from our acceptation of the term. The Thesaurus
takes Paul's cubeia (s.v.) more literally, to mean 'in alea
hominum, i. e., in certis illis casibus quibus jactantur

[59] E. Deutseh in the Athenaeum of Sept. 28, 1867.

The ancient tali, marked and thrown as above described, were also
used in DIVINATION, just as dice are at the present day; and
doubtless the interpretations were the same among the ancients--
for all superstitions are handed down from generation to
generation with wondrous fidelity. The procedure is curious
enough, termed 'the art of telling fortunes by dice.'

Three dice are taken and well shaken in the box with the left
hand, and then cast out on a board or table on which a circle is
previously drawn with chalk; and the following are the supposed
predictions of the throws:--

Three, a pleasing surprise; four, a disagreeable one; five, a
stranger who will prove a friend; six, loss of property; seven,
undeserved scandal; eight, merited reproach; nine, a wedding;
ten, a christening, at which some important event will occur;
eleven, a death that concerns you; twelve, a letter speedily;
thirteen, tears and sighs; fourteen, beware that you are not
drawn into some trouble or plot by a secret enemy; fifteen,
immediate prosperity and happiness; sixteen, a pleasant journey;
seventeen, you will either be on the water, or have dealings with
those belonging to it, to your advantage; eighteen, a great
profit, rise in life, or some desirable good will happen almost
immediately, for the answers to the dice are said to be fulfilled
within nine days. To throw the same number twice at one trial
shows news from abroad, be the number what it may. If the dice
roll over the circle, the number thrown goes for nothing, but the
occurrence shows sharp words impending; and if they fall on the
floor it is blows. In throwing the dice if one remain on the top
of the other, 'it is a present of which you must take care,'
namely, 'a little stranger' at hand.

Two singular facts throw light on the kind of dice used some 100
and 150 years ago. In an old cribbage card-box, curiously
ornamented, supposed to have been made by an amateur in the reign
of Queen Anne, and now in my possession, I found a die with one
end fashioned to a point, evidently for the purpose of spinning--
similar to the modern teetotum. With the same lot at the sale
where it was bought, was a pack of cards made of ivory, about an
inch and a half in length and one inch in width--in other
respects exactly like the cards of the period.

Again, it is stated that in taking up the floors of the Middle
Temple Hall, about the year 1764, nearly 100 pairs of dice were
found, which had dropped, on different occasions, through the
chinks or joints of the boards. They were very small, at least
one-third less that those now in use. Certainly the benchers of
those times did not keep the floor of their magnificent hall in a
very decent condition.

A curious fact relating to dice may here be pointed out. Each of
the six sides of a die is so dotted or numbered that the top and
bottom of every die (taken together) make 7; for if the top or
uppermost side is 5, the bottom or opposite side will be 2; and
the same holds through every face; therefore, let the number of
dice be what it may, their top and bottom faces, added together,
must be equal to the number of dice multiplied by 7. In throwing
three dice, if 2, 3, and 4 are thrown, making 9, their
corresponding bottom faces will be 5, 4, and 3, making 12, which
together are 21--equal to the three dice multiplied by 7.


The origin of cards is as doubtful as that of dice. All that we
know for certain is that they were first used in the East. Some
think that the figures at first used on them were of moral
import: the Hindoo and Chinese cards are certainly emblematic in
a very high degree; the former illustrate the ten avatars, or
incarnations of the deity Vishnu; and the so-called 'paper-
tickets' of the Chinese typify the stars, the human virtues, and,
indeed, every variety of subject. Sir William Jones was
convinced that the Hindoo game of Chaturaji--that is, 'the Four
Rajahs or Kings'--a species of highly-complicated chess--was the
first germ of that parti-coloured pasteboard, which has been the
ruin of so many modern fortunes. A pack of Hindoostani cards, in
the possession of the Royal Asiatic Society, and presented to
Captain Cromline Smith in 1815, by a high caste Brahman, was
declared by the donor to be actually 1000 years old: 'Nor,' said
the Brahman, 'can any of us now play at them, for they are not
like our modern cards at all.' Neither, indeed, do they bear any
remarkable resemblance to our own--the pack consisting of no less
than eight sorts of divers colours, the kings being mounted upon
elephants, and viziers, or second honours, upon horses, tigers,
and bulls. Moreover, there are other marks distinguishing the
respective value of the common cards, which would puzzle our
club-quidnuncs not a little--such as 'a pine-apple in a shallow
cup,' and a something like a parasol without a handle, and with
two broken ribs sticking through the top. The Chinese cards have
the advantage over those of Hindoostan by being oblong instead of

It was not before the end of the 14th century that cards became
known in Europe; and it is a curious fact that the French clergy
took greatly to card-playing about that time--their favourite
game being the rather ungenteel 'All Fours,' as now reputed; for
they were specially forbidden that pastime by the Synod of
Langres in 1404.

The ancient cards of both Spain and France, particularly the
'court-cards,' exhibit strong marks of the age of chivalry; but
here we may observe that the word is written by some ancient
writers, 'coate-cards,' evidently signifying no more than figures
in particular dresses. The giving pre-eminence or victory to a
certain suit, by the name of 'trump,' which is only a corruption
of the word 'triumph,' is a strong trait of the martial ideas of
the inventors of these games. So that, if the Chinese started
the idea, it seems clear that the French and Spanish improved
upon it and gave it a plain significance; and there is no reason
to doubt that cards were actually employed to amuse Charles VI.
in his melancholy and dejection.

The four suits of cards are supposed to represent the four
estates of a kingdom:--1. The nobility and gentry; 2. The
ecclesiastics or priesthood; 3. The citizens or commercial men;
4. The peasantry or Husbandmen. The nobility are represented in
the old Spanish cards by the espada, or sword, corrupted by us
into 'spades,'--by the French with piques, 'pikes or spears.'
The ecclesiastical order is pointed out by copas, or sacramental
cups, which are painted in one of the suits of old Spanish cards,
and by coeurs, or 'hearts,' on French cards, as in our
own--thereby signifying choir-men, gens de choeur, or
ecclesiastics--from choeur de l'eglise, 'the choir of the
church,' that being esteemed the most important part or the HEART
of the church.

The Spaniards depicted their citizens or commercial men under
dineros, a small coin, an emblem very well adapted to the
productive classes; the French by carreaux, squares or
lozenges--importing, perhaps, unity of interest, equality of
condition, regularity of manners, and the indispensable duty of
this class of men to deal with one another 'on the square.' The
Spaniards made bastos, or knotty clubs, the emblem of the 'bold
peasantry,' taken probably from the custom that the plebeians
were permitted to challenge or fight each other with sticks and
quarter-staves only, but not with the sword, or any arms carried
by a gentleman; while the French peasantry were pointed out under
the ideas of husbandry, namely, by the trefles, trefoil or
clover-grass. So much for the SUITS.

With regard to the depicted figures of cards, each nation
likewise followed its own inventions, though grounded in both on
those ideas of chivalry which then strongly prevailed. The
Spanish cards were made to carry the insignia and accoutrements
of the King of Spain, the ace of deneros being emblazoned with
the royal arms, supported by an eagle. The French ornamented
their cards with fleurs de lis, their royal emblem. The Spanish
kings, in conformity to the martial spirit of the times when
cards were introduced, were all mounted on horseback, as befitted
generals and commanders-in-chief; but their next in command
(among the cards) was el caballo, the knight-errant on
horseback--for the old Spanish cards had no queens; and the third
in order was the soto, or attendant, that is, the esquire, or
armour-bearer of the knight--all which was exactly conformable to
those ideas of chivalry which ruled the age. It is said that
David (king of spades), tormented by a rebellious son, is the
emblem of Charles VII., menaced by his son (Louis XI.), and that
Argine (queen of clubs) is the anagram of Regina, and the emblem
of Marie d'Anjou, the wife of that prince; that Pallas (queen of
spades) represents Joan of Arc, the Maid of Orleans; that Rachel
(queen of diamonds) is Agnes Sorel; lastly, that Judith (queen of
hearts) is the Queen Isabeau. The French call the queens at
cards dames.

The four knaves (called in French, valets or varlets) are four
valiant captains--Ogier and Lancelot, the companions of
Charlemagne, Hector de Gallard, and Lahire, the generals of
Charles VII. The remainder of the pack equally presents a sort
of martial allegory; the heart is bravery; the spade (espad,
'sword') and the diamond (carreau, that is, a square or shield)
are the arms of war; the club (in French trefle, 'trefoil') is
the emblem of provisions; and the ace (in French as, from the
Latin aes, 'coin') is the emblem of money--the sinews of war.

In accordance with this allegorical meaning, the function of the
ace is most significant. It leads captive every other card,
queen and king included--thus indicating the omnipotence of gold
or mammon!

'To the mighty god of this nether world--
To the spirit that roams with banner unfurl'd
O'er the Earth and the rolling Sea--
And hath conquer'd all to his thraldom
Where his eye hath glanced or his footstep sped--
Who hath power alike o'er the living and dead--
Mammon![59] I sing to thee!

[59] Steinmetz Ode to Mammon.

Some say that the four kings represent those famous champions of
antiquity--David, Alexander, Julius Caesar, and Charlemagne; and
that the four queens, Argine, Pallas, Esther, and Judith, are the
respective symbols of majesty, wisdom, piety, and fortitude; and
there can be no doubt, if you look attentively on the queens of a
pack of cards, you will easily discern the appropriate
expressions of all these attributes in the faces of the grotesque
ladies therein depicted. The valets, or attendants, whom we call
knaves, are not necessarily 'rascals,' but simply servants royal;
at first they were knights, as appears from the names of some of
the famous French knights being formerly painted on the cards.

Thus a pack of cards is truly a monument of the olden time--the
days of chivalry and its numberless associations.

In addition to the details I have given in the previous chapter
respecting the probability of holding certain cards, there are a
few other curious facts concerning them, which it may be
interesting to know.

There is a difference in the eyes of two of the knaves--those of
diamonds and hearts, more apparent in the old patterns,
suggesting the inference that they are blind. This has been made
the basis of a card trick, as to which two of the four knaves
presenting themselves would be selected as servants. Of course
the blind ones would be rejected. A bet is sometimes proposed to
the unwary, at Whist, but one of the party will have in his hand,
after the deal, only one of a suit, or none of a suit. The bet
should not be taken, as this result very frequently happens.

Lastly, there is an arithmetical puzzle of the most startling
effect to be contrived with a pack of cards, as follows. Let a
party make up parcels of cards, beginning with a number of pips
on any card, and then counting up to twelve with individual
cards. In the first part of the trick it must be understood that
the court cards count as ten, all others according to the pips.
Thus, a king put down will require only two cards to make up 12,
whereas the ace will require 11, and so on. Now, when all the
parcels are completed, the performer of the trick requires to
know only the number of parcels thus made, and the remainder, if
any, to declare after a momentary calculation, the exact number
of pips on the first cards laid down--to the astonishment of
those not in the secret. In fact, there is no possible
arrangement of the cards, according to this method, which can
prevent an adept from declaring the number of pips required,
after being informed of the number of parcels, and the remainder,
if any. This startling performance will be explained in a
subsequent chapter--amusing card tricks.

Cards must soon have made their way among our countrymen, from
the great intercourse that subsisted between England and France
about the time of the first introduction of cards into the latter
kingdom. If the din of arms in the reign of our fifth Henry
should seem unfavourable to the imitation of an enemy's private
diversions, it must be remembered that France was at that period
under the dominion of England, that the English lived much in
that country, and consequently joined in the amusements of the
private hour, as well as in the public dangers of the field.

Very soon, however, the evil consequences of their introduction
became apparent. One would have thought that in such a
tumultuous reign at home as that of our sixth Henry, there could
not have been so much use made of cards as to have rendered them
an object of public apprehension and governmental solicitude; but
a record appears in the beginning of the reign of Edward IV.,
after the deposition of the unfortunate Henry, by which playing
cards, as well as dice, tennis-balls, and chessmen, were
forbidden to be imported.

If this tended to check their use for a time, the subsequent
Spanish connection with the court of England renewed an
acquaintance with cards and a love for them. The marriage of
Prince Arthur with the Infanta Catherine of Arragon, brought on
an intimacy between the two nations, which probably increased
card-playing in England,--it being a diversion to which the
Spaniards were extremely addicted at that period.

Cards were certainly much in use, and all ideas concerning them
very familiar to the minds of the English, during the reign of
Henry VIII., as may be inferred from a remarkable sermon of the
good bishop Latimer. This sermon was preached in St Edward's
church, Cambridge, on the Sunday before Christmas day, 1527, and
in this discourse he may be said to have 'dealt' out an
exposition of the precepts of Christianity according to the terms
of card-playing. 'Now ye have heard what is meant by this "first
card," and how you ought to "play" with it, I purpose again to
"deal" unto you "another card almost of the same suit," for they
be of so nigh affinity that one cannot be well "played" without
the other, &c.' 'It seems,' says Fuller, 'that he suited his
sermon rather to the TIME--being about Christmas, when cards were
much used--than to the text, which was the Baptist's question to
our Lord--"Who art thou?"--taking thereby occasion to conform his
discourse to the "playing at cards," making the "heart triumph."'

This blunt preaching was in those days admirably effectual,
but it would be considered ridiculous in ours--except from the
lips of such original geniuses as Mr Spurgeon, who hit upon this
vein and made a fortune of souls as well as money. He is,
however, inimitable, and any attempt at entering into his domain
would probably have the same result as that which attended an
imitation of Latimer by a country minister, mentioned by Fuller.
'I remember,' he says, 'in my time (about the middle of the
seventeenth century), a country minister preached at St Mary's,
from Rom. xii. 3,--"As God has DEALT to every man the measure of
faith." In a fond imitation of Latimer's sermon he followed up
the metaphor of DEALING,--that men should PLAY ABOVE-BOARD, that
is, avoid all dissembling,--should not POCKET CARDS, but improve
their gifts and graces,--should FOLLOW SUIT, that is, wear the
surplice, &c.,-- all which produced nothing but laughter in the
audience. Thus the same actions by several persons at several
times are made not the same actions, yea, differenced from
commendable discretion to ridiculous absurdity. And thus he will
make but bad music who hath the instruments and fiddlesticks, but
none of the "resin" of Latimer.'

The habit of card-playing must have been much confirmed and
extended by the marriage of Philip of Spain with our Queen Mary,
whose numerous and splendid retinue could not but bring with them
that passionate love of cards which prevailed in the Spanish

It seems also probable that the cards then used (whatever they
might have been before) were of Spanish form and figure, in
compliment to the imperious Philip; since even to this day the
names of two Spanish suits are retained on English cards, though
without any reference to their present figure. Thus, we call one
suit spades, from the Spanish espada, 'sword,' although we retain
no similitude of the sword in the figure,--and another clubs, in
Spanish, bastos, but without regard to the figure also.

Old Roger Ascham, the tutor of Queen Elizabeth, gives us a
picture of the gambling arts of his day, as follows:--How will
they use these shiftes when they get a plaine man that cannot
skill of them! How they will go about, if they perceive an
honest man have moneye, which list not playe, to provoke him to
playe! They will seek his companye; they will let him pay
noughte, yea, and as I hearde a man once saye that he did, they
will send for him to some house, and spend perchaunce a crowne on
him, and, at last, will one begin to saye: at, my masters, what
shall we do? Shall every man playe his twelve-pence while an
apple roste in the fire, and then we will drincke and departe?"
"Naye" will another saye (as false as he), "you cannot leave when
you begin, and therefore I will not playe: but if you will gage,
that every man as he hath lost his twelve-pence, shall sit downe,
I am contente, for surelye I would Winne no manne's moneye here,
but even as much as woulde pay for my supper." Then speaketh the
thirde to the honeste man that thought not to play:--"What? Will
you play your twelve-pence?" If he excuse him--"Tush! man!" will
the other saye, "sticke not in honeste company for twelve-pence;
I will beare your halfe, and here is my moneye." Nowe all this
is to make him to beginne, for they knowe if he be once in, and
be a loser, that he will not sticke at his twelve-pence, but
hopeth ever to get it againe, whiles perhappes he will lose all.
Then every one of them setteth his shiftes abroache, some with
false dyse, some with settling of dyse, some with having
outlandish silver coynes guilded, to put awaye at a time for good
golde. Then, if there come a thing in controversye, must you be
judged by the table, and then farewell the honeste man's parte,
for he is borne downe on every syde.'

It is evident from this graphic description of the process, that
the villany of sharpers has been ever the same; for old Roger's
account of the matter in his day exactly tallies with daily
experience at the present time.

The love of card-playing was continued through the reign of
Elizabeth and James I.,[60] and in the reign of the latter it had
reached so high a pitch that the audiences used to amuse
themselves with cards at the play-house, while they were waiting
for the beginning of the play. The same practice existed at
Florence. If the thing be not done at the present day, something
analogous prevails in our railway carriages throughout the
kingdom. It is said that professed card-sharpers take
season-tickets on all the lines, and that a great DEAL of money
is made by the gentry by duping unwary travellers into a game or
by betting.

[60] King James, the British Solomon, although he could not
'abide' tobacco, and denounced it in a furious 'Counterblaste,'
could not 'utterly condemn' play, or, as he calls it, 'fitting
house-pastimes.' 'I will not,' he says, 'agree in forbidding
cards, dice, and other like games of Hazard,' and enters into an
argument for his opinion, which is scarcely worth quoting. See
Basilicon Doron--a prodigy of royal fatuity--but the perfect
'exponent' of the characteristics of the Stuart royal race in

There is no reason to suppose that the fondness for this
diversion abated, except during the short 'trump or triumph of
the fanatic suit'--in the hard times of Old Oliver--when
undoubtedly cards were styled 'the devil's books.' But, indeed,
by that time they had become an engine of much fraud and
destruction; so that one of the early acts of Charles II.'s reign
inflicted large penalties on those who should use cards for
fraudulent purposes.

'Primero was the fashionable game at the court of England during
the Tudor dynasty. Shakspeare represents Henry VIII. playing at
it with the Duke of Suffolk; and Falstaff says, "I never
prospered since I forswore myself at Primero." In the Earl of
Northumberland's letters about the Gunpowder-plot, it is noticed
that Joscelin Percy was playing at this game on Sunday, when his
uncle, the conspirator, called on him at Essex House. In the
Sidney papers, there is an account of a desperate quarrel between
Lord Southampton, the patron of Shakspeare, and one Ambrose
Willoughby. Lord Southampton was then "Squire of the Body" to
Queen Elizabeth, and the quarrel was occasioned by Willoughby
persisting to play with Sir Walter Raleigh and another at
Primero, in the Presence Chamber, after the queen had retired to
rest, a course of proceeding which Southampton would not permit.
Primero, originally a Spanish game, is said to have been made
fashionable in England by Philip of Spain, after his marriage
with Queen Mary.

Maw succeeded Primero as the fashionable game at the English
court, and was the favourite game of James I., who appears to
have played at cards, just as he played with affairs of state, in
an indolent manner; requiring in both cases some one to hold his
cards, if not to prompt him what to play. Weldon, alluding to
the poisoning of Sir Thomas Overbury, in his Court and Character
of King James, says: 'The next that came on the stage was Sir
Thomas Monson, but the night before he was to come to his trial,
the king being at the game of Maw, said, "To-morrow comes Thomas
Monson to his trial." "Yea," said the king's card-holder,
"where, if he do not play his master's prize, your Majesty shall
never trust me." This so ran in the king's mind, that at the
next game he said he was sleepy, and would play out that set the
next night.

'It is evident that Maw differed very slightly from Five Cards,
the most popular game in Ireland at the present day. As early as
1674 this game was popular in Ireland, as we learn from Cotton's
Compleat Gamester, which says: "Five Cards is an Irish game, and
is much played in that kingdom for considerable sums of money, as
All-fours is played in Kent, and Post-and-pair in the west of

'Noddy was one of the old English court games. This has been
supposed to have been a children's game, and it was certainly
nothing of the kind. Its nature is thus fully described in a
curious satirical poem, entitled Batt upon Batt, published in

"Show me a man can turn up Noddy still,
And deal himself three fives too, when he will;
Conclude with one-and-thirty, and a pair,
Never fail ten in Stock, and yet play fair,
If Batt be not that wight, I lose my aim."

'From these lines, there can be no doubt that the ancient Noddy
was the modern cribbage--the Nod of to-day, rejoicing in the name
of Noddy, and the modern Crib, being termed the Stock.

'Ombre was most probably introduced into this country by
Catherine of Portugal, the queen of Charles II.; Waller, the
court poet, has a poem on a card torn at Ombre by the queen.
This royal lady also introduced to the English court the
reprehensible practice of playing cards on Sunday. Pepys, in
1667, writes: "This evening, going to the queen's side to see
the ladies, I did find the queen, the Duchess of York, and
another at cards, with the room full of ladies and great men;
which I was amazed at to see on a Sunday, having not believed,
but contrarily flatly denied the same, a little while since, to
my cousin."[61]

[61] Hombre, or rather El Hombre, or 'The Man,' was so named as
requiring thought and reflection, which are qualities peculiar to
man; or rather, alluding to him who undertakes to play the game
against the rest of the gamesters, emphatically called The Man.
It requires very great application to play it well: and let a man
be ever so expert, he will be apt to fall into mistakes if he
thinks of anything else, or is disturbed by the conversation of
those that look on. It is a game of three, with 40 cards, that
is, rejecting the eights, nines, and tens of all the suits.

'In a passage from Evelyn's Memoirs, the writer impressively
describes another Sunday-evening scene at Whitehall, a few days
before the death of Charles II., in which a profligate assemblage
of courtiers is represented as deeply engaged in the game of
Basset. This was an Italian game, brought by Cardinal Mazarin to
France; Louis XIV. is said to have lost large sums at it; and it
was most likely brought to England by some of the French ladies
of the court. It did not stand its ground, however, in this
country; Ombre continuing the fashionable game in England, down
till after the expiration of the first quarter of the last

'Quadrille succeeded Ombre, but for a curious reason did not
reign so long as its predecessor. From the peculiar nature of
Quadrille, an unfair confederacy might be readily established, by
any two persons, by which the other players could be cheated.

'While the preceding games were in vogue the magnificent temple
of Whist, destined to outshine and overshadow them, was in course
of erection.

"Let India vaunt her children's vast address,
Who first contrived the warlike sport of Chess;
Let nice Piquette the boast of France remain,
And studious Ombre be the pride of Spain;
Invention's praise shall England yield to none,
When she can call delightful Whist her own."

'All great inventions and discoveries are works of time, and
Whist is no exception to the rule; it did not come into the world
perfect at all points, as Minerva emerged from the head of
Jupiter. Nor were its wonderful merits early recognized. Under
the vulgar appellations of Whisk and Swobbers, it long lingered
in the servants'-hall ere it could ascend to the drawing-room.
At length, some gentlemen, who met at the Crown coffee-house, in
Bedford Row, studied the game, gave it rules, established its
principles, and then Edward Hoyle, in 1743, blazoned forth its
fame to all the world.

'Many attempts have been made, at various times, to turn playing-
cards to a very different use from that for which they were
originally intended. Thus, in 1518, a learned Franciscan friar,
named Murner, published a Logica Memorativa, a mode of teaching
logic, by a pack of cards; and, subsequently, he attempted to
teach a summary of civil law in the same manner. In 1656, an
Englishman, named Jackson, published a work, entitled the
Scholar's Sciential Cards, in which he proposed to teach reading,
spelling, grammar, writing, and arithmetic, with various arts and
sciences, by playing-cards; premising that the learner was well
grounded in all the games played at the period. And later still,
about the close of the seventeenth century, there was published
the Genteel Housekeeper's Pastime; or the Mode of Carving at
Table represented in a Pack of Playing-Cards, by which any one of
ordinary Capacity may learn how to Carve, in Mode, all the most
usual Dishes of Flesh, Fish, Fowl, and Baked Meats, with the
several Sauces and Garnishes proper to Every Dish of Meat. In
this system, flesh was represented by hearts, fish by clubs, fowl
by diamonds, and baked-meat by spades. The king of hearts ruled
a noble sirloin of roast-beef; the monarch of clubs presided over
a pickled herring; and the king of diamonds reared his battle-axe
over a turkey; while his brother of spades smiled benignantly on
a well-baked venison-pasty.

'The kind of advertisements, now called circulars, were often,
formerly, printed on the backs of playing-cards. Visiting-cards,
too, were improvised, by writing the name on the back of playing-
cards. About twenty years ago, when a house in Dean Street,
Soho, was under repair, several visiting-cards of this
description were found behind a marble chimney-piece, one of them
bearing the name of Isaac Newton. Cards of invitation were
written in a similar manner. In the fourth picture, in Hogarth's
series of "Marriage a-la-Mode," several are seen lying on the
floor, upon one of which is inscribed: "Count Basset begs to no
how Lade Squander sleapt last nite." Hogarth, when he painted
this inscription, was most probably thinking of Mrs Centlivre's
play, The Basset Table, which a critic describes as containing a
great deal of plot and business, without much sentiment or

'A curious and undoubtedly authentic historical anecdote is told
of a pack of cards. Towards the end of the persecuting reign of
Queen Mary, a commission was granted to a Dr Cole to go over to
Ireland, and commence a fiery crusade against the Protestants of
that country. On coming to Chester, on his way, the doctor was
waited on by the mayor, to whom he showed his commission,
exclaiming, with premature triumph, "Here is what shall lash the
heretics of Ireland." Mrs Edmonds, the landlady of the inn,
having a brother in Dublin, was much disturbed by overhearing
these words; so, when the doctor accompanied the mayor
downstairs, she hastened into his room, opened his box, took out
the commission, and put a pack of cards in its place. When the
doctor returned to his apartment, he put the box into his
portmanteau without suspicion, and the next morning sailed for
Dublin. On his arrival he waited on the lord-lieutenant and
privy council, to whom he made a speech on the subject of his
mission, and then presented the box to his Lordship; but on
opening it, there appeared only a pack of cards, with the knave
of clubs uppermost. The doctor was petrified, and assured the
council that he had had a commission, but what was become of it
he could not tell. The lord-lieutenant answered, "Let us have
another commission, and, in the mean while, we can shuffle the
cards." Before the doctor could get his commission renewed Queen
Mary died, and thus the persecution was prevented. We are
further informed that, when Queen Elizabeth was made acquainted
with the circumstances, she settled a pension of L40 per annum on
Mrs Edmonds, for having saved her Protestant subjects in

[62] The Book of Days, Dec. 28.

All the pursuits of life, all the trades and occupations of men,
have, in all times, lent expressions to the languages of nations,
and those resulting from the propensity of GAMING are among those
which perpetually recur in daily conversation, and with the
greatest emphasis. Thus we have:--'He has played his cards well
or ill,'--applied to the management of fortune or one's interest;
jacta est alea, 'the die is cast,' as exclaimed Julius Caesar
before crossing the Rubicon; 'he has run his RACE--reached the
GOAL' a turf adage applied to consummate success or disastrous
failure; 'a lucky throw or hit;' 'within an ACE,' meaning one
point of gaining a thing; 'he HAZARDS everything;' 'chances are
for and against;' 'he was PIQUED,' from the game of piquet,
meaning, angry at losing something; 'left in the lurch,' from the
French game l'Ourche, wherein on certain points happening the
stake is to he paid double, and meaning, 'under circumstances
unexpected and peculiarly unfavourable;' 'to save your bacon or
gamon,' from the game Back-gammon[63] a blot is hit,' from the
same; 'checked in his career,' that is, stopped in his designs
from the game of chess.

[63] The etymology of the word Back-gamon has been disputed.
Hyde seems to have settled it. A certain portion of the hog is
called in Italian gambone, whence our English word gambon or
gammon. Confounding things that differ, many think that 'gamon'
in the game has the same meaning, and therefore they say--'he
saved his gamon or bacon,' which is absurd, although it is a
proverbial phrase of sufficient emphasis. The word Backgamon
seems to be derived from the very nature of the game itself,
namely, back-game-on, that is, when one of your pieces is taken,
you must go back--begin again--and then game on-- 'Back-game-on'.

The fabrication of cards is a most important manufacture of
France; and Paris and Nancy are the two places where most cards
are made. The annual consumption of cards in France amounts to
1,500,000 francs, or L62,500; but France also supplies foreigners
with the article, especially the Spanish, American, Portuguese,
and English colonies, to the value of 1,000,000 francs, or
L41,666. The government derives from this branch of French
industry not much less than L25,000 annual revenue, that is, from
20 to 25 per cent. of the product. The duty on cards is secured
and enforced by severe penalties.

English cards are about a third larger than the French. The
double-headed cards are an English invention, and they are being
adopted by the French. Their advantage is obvious, in securing
the secrecy of the hand, for by observing a party in arranging
his cards after the deal, the act of turning up a card plainly
shows that it must be at least a face card, and the oftener this
is done the stronger the hand, in general. In Germany, a fourth
face-card is sometimes added to the pack, called the Knight, or
Chevalier. The Italians have also in use long cards, called
tarots, which, however, must not be confounded with the French
cards called tarotees, with odd figures on them, and used by

The method of making playing-cards seems to have given the first
hint to the invention of printing, as appears from the first
specimens of printing at Haerlem, and those in the Bodleian

'The manufacture of playing-cards comprises many interesting
processes. The cardboard employed for this purpose is formed of
several thicknesses of paper pasted together; there are usually
four such thicknesses; and the paper is so selected as to take
paste, paint, and polish equally well. The sheets of paper are
pasted with a brush, and are united by successive processes of
cold-drying, hot-drying, and hydraulic pressure. Each sheet is
large enough for forty cards. The outer surfaces of the outer
sheets are prepared with a kind of flinty coating, which gives
sharpness to the outline of the various coloured devices. Most
packs of cards are now made with coloured backs. The ground-tint
is laid on with a brush, and consists of dis-temper colour, or
pigments mixed with warm melted size. The device impressed on
this ground-tint is often very beautiful. Messrs De la Rue, the
leading firm in the manufacture, employ tasteful artists, and
invest a large amount of capital in the introduction of new
patterns. On cards sold at moderate prices, the colours at the
back are generally two--one for the ground, and one for the
device; but some of the choicer specimens display several
colours; and many of the designs are due to the pencil of Mr Owen
Jones. The printing of the design is done on the sheets of
paper, before the pasting to form cardboard. The pips or spots
on the faces of playing-cards are now spades, clubs, hearts, and
diamonds; but at different times, and in different countries,
there have been leaves, acorns, bells, cups, swords, fruit,
heads, parasols, and other objects similarly represented. In
English cards the colours are red and black; Messrs De la Rue
once introduced red, black, green, and blue for the four suits;
but the novelty was not encouraged by card-players. The same
makers have also endeavoured to supersede the clumsy devices of
kings, queens, and knaves, by something more artistic; but this,
too, failed commercially; for the old patterns, like the old
willow-pattern dinner-plates, are still preferred--simply because
the users have become accustomed to them. Until within the last
few years the printing of cards was generally done by
stencilling, the colour being applied through perforated devices
in a stencil-plate. The colour employed for this purpose is
mixed up with a kind of paste. When there is a device at the
back, the outline of the device is printed from an engraved wood-
block, and the rest filled in by stencilling. The stencilling of
the front and back can be done either before or after the pasting
of the sheets into cardboard. One great improvement in the
manufacture has been the substitution of oil colour for paste or
size colour; and another, the substitution of printing for
stencilling. Messrs De la Rue have expended large sums of money
on these novelties; for many experiments had to be made, to
determine how best to employ oil colour so that the spots or pips
may be equal-tinted, the outline clear and sharp, the pigment
well adherent to the surface, and the drying such as to admit of
polishing without stickiness. The plates for printing are
engraved on copper or brass, or are produced by electrotype, or
are built up with small pieces of metal or interlaced wire. The
printing is done in the usual way of colour-printing, with as
many plates as there are colours (usually five), and one for the
outlines; it is executed on the sheets of paper, before being
pasted into cardboard. When the printing, drying, and pasting
are all completed, a careful polish is effected by means of
brush-wheels, pasteboard wheels, heated plates, and heated
rollers; in such a way that the polish on the back may differ
from that on the face--since it is found that too equally
polished surfaces do not slide quite so readily over each other.
Formerly, every pack of cards made in England for home use paid a
duty of one shilling, which duty was levied on the ace of spades.

The maker engraved a plate for twenty aces of spades; the
printing was done by the government at Somerset House, and L1 was
paid by the maker for every sheet of aces so printed. The law is
now altered. Card sellers pay an annual license of 2s. 6d., and
to each pack of cards is affixed a three-pence stamp, across
which the seller must write or stamp his name, under a penalty of
L5 for the omission.

The cardboard, when all the printing is finished, is cut up into
cards; every card is minutely examined, and placed among the
'Moguls,' 'Harrys,' or 'Highlanders,' as they are technically
called, according to the degree in which they may be faultless or
slightly specked; and the cards are finally made up into

[64] Chambers's Cyclopaedia.

Machinery has been called into requisition in card-playing. In
1815 a case was tried in which part of the debt claimed was for
an instrument to cut cards so as to give an unfair advantage to
the person using it. The alleged debtor had been most fortunate
in play, winning at one time L11,000 from an officer in India.
For an exactly opposite reason another machine was used in 1818
by the Bennet Street Club. It consisted of a box curiously
constructed for dealing cards, and was invented by an American

Another curious fact relating to cards is the duty derived from
them. In the year 1775 the number of packs stamped was 167,000,
amounting to between L3000 and L4000 duty. Lord North put on
another sixpence. Of course, a vast number of packs were
smuggled in, paying no duty, as in the case of tobacco, in all
times since its fiscal regulations. In the time of Pitt, 1789,
L9000 were to be raised by an additional duty of sixpence on
cards and dice, consequently there must have been no less than
360,000 packs of cards and pairs of dice stamped in the year
1788, to justify the calculation--a proof that gaming in England
was not on the decline. In the year 1790, the duty on cards was
two shillings per pack, and on dice thirteen shillings per pair.

This duty on cards went on increasing its annual addition to the
revenue, so that about the year 1820 the monthly payments of Mr
Hunt alone, the card-maker of Picadilly, for the stamp-duty
on cards, varied from L800 to L1000, that is, from L9600 to
L12,000 per annum. In 1833 the stamp-duty on cards was 6d., and
it yielded L15,922, showing a consumption of 640,000 packs per
annum. Much of this, however, was sheer waste, on account of the
rule of gamesters requiring a fresh pack at every game.

In the Harleian Miscellany[65] will be found a satirical poem
entitled 'The Royal Gamesters; or, the Odd Cards new shuffled for
a Conquering Game,' referring to the political events of the
years from 1702 to 1706, and concluding with the following

'Thus ends the game which Europe has in view,
Which, by the stars, may happen to be true.'

[65] Vol. i. p. 177.

In vol. iv. of the same work there is another poem of the kind,
entitled 'The State Gamesters; or, the Old Cards new packed and
shuffled,' which characteristically concludes as follows--

'But we this resolution have laid down--
Never to play so high as for a Crown.'

Finally, as to allusions to gaming, the reader may remember the
famous sarcasm of the late Earl of Derby (as Lord Stanley) some
thirty years ago, comparing the Government to Thimble-riggers in





Piquet is said to have derived its name from that of its
who contrived it to amuse Charles VI. of France. The game was
played with thirty two cards, that is, discarding out of the pack
all the deuces, treys, fours, fives, and sixes. Regular
piquet-packs were sold. In reckoning up the points, every card
counted for its value, as ten for ten, nine for nine, and so on
down to seven, which was, of course, the lowest; but the ace
reckoned for eleven. All court cards reckoned for ten. As in
other games, the ace won the king, the king the queen, and so on,
to the knave, which won the ten. The cards were dealt at option
fours, threes, or twos, to the number of twelve, which was the
hand--'discarding' being allowed; but both the dealer and he that
led were OBLIGED to discard at least one card, let their game be
ever so good. When the cards were played out, each counted his
tricks; and he that had most reckoned 10 for winning the cards;
if the tricks were equal, neither reckoned at all. He who,
without playing (that is, according to the various terms of the
game), could reckon up 30 in hand, when his antagonist reckoned
nothing, scored 90 for them; this was called a repic; and all
above 30 counted so many,--32 counting 92, and so on. He who
could make up 30, part in hand and part by play, before the other
made anything, scored 60; this was called a pic.

The game was also played as pool precisely according to the rules
briefly sketched as above, the penalty for losing being a guinea
to the pool.

Piquet required much practice to play it well. It became so
great a favourite that, by the middle of the 18th century, the
meanest people were well acquainted with it, and 'let into all
the tricks and secrets of it, in order to render them complete
sharpers.' Such are the words of an old author, who adds that
the game was liable to great imposition, and he explains the
methods in use. Short cards were used for cutting, as in Whist,
at the time. Of these cards there were two sorts, one longer
than the rest; and the advantage gained by them was as the
adversary managed it, by cutting the longer or broader, as best
suited his purpose, or imposing on the dealer, when it was his
turn, to cut those which made most against him. The aces, kings,
queens, and knaves were marked with dots at the corners, and in
the very old book from which I am quoting precise directions are
given how this marking can be effected in such a manner 'as not
to be discovered by your ADVERSARY, and at the same time appear
plain to YOURSELF.' With a fine pointed pen and some clear
spring water, players made dots upon the glazed card at the
corners according to the above method; or they coloured the water
with india ink, to make the marks more conspicuous. The work
concludes as follows:--'There are but 32 cards made use of at
Piquet, so that just half of them will be known to you; and in
dealing you may have an opportunity to give yourself those you
LIKE best; and if you cannot conveniently CHANGE the PACK
according to your desire, you will commonly KNOW what YOU are to
TAKE IN, which is a demonstrative advantage to win any one's

Evidently they did not 'assume a virtue' in those days, 'if they
had it not.'


The game of Basset (in French Wassette) was considered one of the
most polite games with cards, and only fit for persons of the
highest rank to play at, on account of the great losses or gains
that might accrue on one side or the other.

The sums of money lost in France at this game were so
considerable that the princes of the blood were in danger of
being undone; and after many persons of distinction were ruined
the court of France thought fit to forbid Basset. Then Faro was
invented; and both were soon introduced into England, and after
three or four years' play here, they impoverished so many
families, that Parliament enacted a suppression of both games,
with severe penalties. The two games are, therefore, of
historical interest, and deserve an explanation.

Basset was a sort of lottery. The dealer who kept the bank at
Basset, having the sole disposal of the first and last card, and
other considerable privileges in dealing the cards, had a much
greater prospect of gaining than those who played. This was a
truth so acknowledged in France that the king, by public edict,
ordered that the privilege of a talliere, or banker at Basset,
should only be allowed to the 'chief cadets,' or sons of
noblemen--supposing that whoever kept the bank must, in a very
short time, acquire a considerable fortune.

In this game there was: 1. The Talliere, the banker, who laid
down a sum of money to answer every winning card which might turn
up. 2. The Croupiere, the assistant of the former, standing by
to supervise the losing cards,--so that when there were many at
play he might not lose by overlooking anything which might turn
up to his profit. 3. The Punter, or every player. 4. The Fasse,
that is, the first card turned up by the talliere, by which he
gained half the value of the money laid upon every card of THAT
SORT by the punters or players. 5. The Couch, which was the
first stake that every punter laid upon each card-- every player
having a book of 13 cards before him, upon which he must lay his
money, more or less, according to his fancy. 6. The Paroli: in
this, whoever won the couch, and intended to go on for another
advantage, crooked the corner of his card, letting his money lie,
without being paid the value by the talliere. 7. The Masse,
which was, when those who had won the couch, would venture more
money on the SAME card. 8. The Pay, which was when the player
had won the couch, and, being doubtful of making the paroli, left
off; for by going the pay, if the card turned up wrong, he lost
nothing, having won the couch before; but if by this adventure
fortune favoured him, he won double the money he had staked. 9.
The Alpieu was when the couch was won by turning up, or crooking,
the corner of the winning card. 10. The Sept-et-le-va was the
first great chance that showed the advantages of the game,
namely, if the player had won the couch, and then made a paroli
by crooking the corner of his card, and going on to a SECOND
chance, if his winning card turned up again it became a
sept-et-le-va, which was seven times as much as he had laid upon
his card. 11. Quinze-et-le-va, was attending the player's
humour, who, perhaps, was resolved to follow his fancy, and still
lay his money upon the SAME card, which was done by crooking the
third corner of his card: if this card came up by the dealing of
the talliere, it made him win fifteen times as much money as he
staked. 12. Trent-et-le-va was marked by the lucky player by
crooking the end of the fourth corner of his card, which, coming
up, made him win thirty-three times as much money as he staked.
13. Soissante-et-le-va was the highest chance that could happen
in the game, for it paid sixty-seven times as much money as was
staked. It was seldom won except by some player who resolved to
push his good fortune to the utmost.

The players sat round a table, the talliere in the midst of them,
with the bank of gold before him, and the punters or players each
having a book of 13 cards, laying down one, two, three, or more,
as they pleased, with money upon them, as stakes; then the
talliere took the pack in his hand and turned them up--the bottom
card appearing being called the fasse; he then paid half the
value of the stakes laid down by the punters upon any card of

After the fasse was turned up, and the talliere and croupiere had
looked round the cards on the table, and taken advantage of the
money laid on them, the former proceeded with his deal; and the
next card appearing, whether the king, queen, ace, or whatever it
might be, won for the player, the latter might receive it, or
making paroli, as before said, go on to sept-et-le-va. The card
after that won for the talliere, who took money from each
player's card of that sort, and brought it into his
bank--obviously a prodigious advantage in the talliere over the

The talliere, if the winning card was a king, and the next after
it was a ten, said (showing the cards all round), 'King wins, ten
loses,' paying the money to such cards as are of the winning
sort, and taking the money from those who lost, added it to his
bank. This done, he went on with the deal, it might be after
this fashion--'Ace wins, five loses; ' 'Knave wins, seven loses;'
and so on, every other card alternately winning and losing, till
all the pack was dealt but the last card.

The LAST card turned up was, by the rules of the game, for the
advantage of the talliere; although a player might have one of
the same sort, still it was allowed to him as one of the dues of
his office, and he paid nothing on it.

The bold player who was lucky and adventurous, and could push on
his couch with a considerable stake to sept-et-le-va, quinze-
et-le-va, trente-et-le-va, &c., must in a wonderful manner have
multiplied his couch, or first stake; but this was seldom done;
and the loss of the players, by the very nature of the game,
invariably exceeded that of the bank; in fact, this game was
altogether in favour of the bank; and yet it is evident that--in
spite of this obvious conviction--the game must have been one of
the most tempting and fascinating that was ever invented.

Our English adventurers made this game very different to what it
was in France, for there, by royal edict, the public at large
were not allowed to play at more than a franc or ten-penny
bank,--and the losses or gains could not bring desolation to a
family; but in England our punters could do as they liked--
staking from one guinea to one hundred guineas and more, upon a
card, 'as was often seen at court,' says the old author, my
informant. When the couch was alpieued, parolied, to sept-
et-le-va, quinze-et-le-va, trente-et-le-va, &c., the punter's
gains were prodigious, miraculous; and if fortune befriended him
so as to bring his stake to soissante-et-le-va, he was very
likely to break the bank, by gaining a sum which no talliere
could pay after such tremendous multiplication. But this rarely
happened. The general advantage was with the bank--as must be
quite evident from the explanation of the game--besides the
standing rule that no two cards of the same sort turning up could
win for the players; the second always won for the bank. In
addition to this there were other 'privileges' which operated
vastly in favour of the banker.

However, it was 'of so bewitching a nature,' says our old writer,
'by reason of the several multiplications and advantages which it
seemingly offered to the unwary punter, that a great many like it
so well that they would play at small game rather than give out;
and rather than not play at all would punt at six-penny,
three-penny, nay, a twopenny bank,--so much did the hope of
winning the quinze-et-le-va and the trente-et-le-va intoxicate

Of course there were frauds practised at Basset by the talliere,
or banker, in addition to his prescriptive advantages. The cards
might be dealt so as not to allow the punter any winning
throughout the pack; and it was in the power of the dealer to let
the punter have as many winnings as he thought convenient, and no

It is said that Basset was invented by a noble Venetian, who was
punished with exile for the contrivance. The game was prohibited
by Louis XIV., in 1691, and soon after fell into oblivion in
France, although flourishing in England. It was also called
Barbacole and Hocca.


Although both Basset and Faro were forbidden in France, on severe
penalties, yet these games still continued in great vogue in
England during the 18th century, especially Faro; for the alleged
reasons that it was easy to learn, that it appeared to be very
fair, and, lastly, that it was a very quiet game. It was,
however, the most dangerous game for the destruction of families
ever invented. The Faro bankers seem to have employed some
'gentlemen' to give a very favourable report of the game to the
town, and so every one took it upon trust without further
inquiry. Faro was the daughter of Basset--both alike notorious
frauds, there being no one, except professed gamblers, who could
be said to understand the secrets of these games.

Faro was played with an entire pack of cards, and admitted of an
indeterminate number of players, termed 'punters,' and a
'banker.' Each player laid his stake on one of the 52 cards.
The banker held a similar pack, from which he drew cards, one for
himself, placed on the right, and the other, called the carte
anglaise, or English card, for the players, placed on the left.
The banker won all the money staked on the card on the right, and
had to pay double the sums staked on those on the left. Certain
advantages were reserved to the banker:--if he drew a doublet,
that is, two equal cards, he won half of the stakes upon the card
which equalled the doublet; if he drew for the players the last
card of the pack, he was exempt from doubling the stakes
deposited on that card.

Suppose a person to put down 20s. upon a card when only eight are
in hand; the last card was a cipher, so there were four places to
lose, and only three to win, the odds against being as 4 to 3.
If 10 cards only were in, then it was 5 to 4 against the player;
in the former case it was the seventh part of the money, whatever
it was, L1 or L100; in the latter case, a ninth. The odds from
the beginning of the deal insensibly stole upon the player at
every pull, till from the first supposed 4 per cent. it became
about 15 per cent.

At the middle of the 18th century the expenses of a Faro bank, in
all its items of servants, rent, puffs, and other incidental
charges of candles, wine, arrack-punch, suppers, and safeguard
money, &c., in Covent Garden, amounted to L1000 per annum.
Throughout this century Faro was the favourite game. 'Our life
here,' writes Gilly Williams to George Selwyn in 1752, 'would not
displease you, for we eat and drink well, and the Earl of
Coventry holds a Pharaoh-bank every night to us, which we have
plundered considerably.' Charles James Fox preferred Faro to any
other game.


This game was properly so called; for it made a man or undid him
in the twinkling of an eye.

It is played with only two dice; 20 persons may be engaged, or as
many as will. The chief things in the game are the Main and the
Chance. The chance is the caster's and the main is the setter's.

There can be no main thrown above 9, nor under 5; so that 5, 6,
7, 8, and 9 are all the mains which are flung at Hazard. Chances
and nicks are from 4 to 10. Thus 4 is a chance to 9, 5 to 8, 6
to 7, 7 to 6, 8 to 5, and 9 and 10 a chance to 5, 6, 7, and 8; in
short, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 are chances to any main, if any
of these 'nick' it not.

Nicks are either when the chance is the same with the main, as 5
and 5, 6 and 6, 7 and 7, and so on; or 6 and 12, 7 and 11, 8 and
12, where observe, that 12 is out to 9, 7, and 5, and 11 is out
to 9, 8, 6, and 5.

The better to illustrate the game we shall give an example. Let
7 be the main named. The caster throws 5, and that is his
chance; and so he has 5 to 7. If the caster throws his own
chance he wins all the money set to him by the setter; but if he
throws 7, which is the main, he must pay as much money as is on
the table.

If, again, 7 be the main, and the caster throws 11, that is a
nick, and sweeps away all the money on the table; but if he
throws a chance he must wait which will come first.

The worst chances in the game are 4 to 10, and 7 is considered
the best and easiest main to be thrown. It might be thought that
6 and 8 should admit of no difference in advantage to 7, but it
is just the reverse, although 6, 7, and 8 have eight equal

For 6, or sice, we have quatre-duce, cinque-ace, and two treys;
for 8, we have sice-duce, cinque-trey, and two quatres; but the
disadvantage is in the doublets required-- two treys, two
quatres; therefore sice-duce is easier thrown than two quatres,
and so, consequently, cinque-ace or quatre-duce sooner than two

'I saw an old rook (gambler),' says the writer before quoted,
'take up a young fellow in a tavern upon this very bet. The
bargain was made that the rook should have seven always, and the
young gentleman six, and throw continually. To play they went;
the rook won the first day L10, and the next day the like sum;
and so for six days together, in all L60. Notwithstanding the
gentleman, I am confident, had fair dice, and threw them always
himself. And further to confirm what I alleged before, not only
this gamester, but many more have told me that they desired no
greater advantage than this bet of 7 to 6. But it is the opinion
of most that at the first throw the caster hath the worst of it.

'Hazard is certainly the most bewitching game that is played with
dice; for when a man begins to play, he knows not when to leave
off; and having once accustomed himself to it, he hardly ever
after minds anything else.'[66]

[66] The Compleat Gamester, by Richard Seymour, Esq. 1739.

As this game is of a somewhat complicated character, another
account of it, which appeared in the Pall Mall Gazette for Sept.
3, 1869, may not be unacceptable.

'The players assemble round a circular table, a space being
reserved for the "groom-porter," who occupies a somewhat elevated
position, and whose duty it is to call the odds and see that the
game is played correctly. Whoever takes the box and dice places
in the centre of the table as much money as he wishes to risk,
which is at once covered with an equal amount either by some
individual speculator, or by the contributions of several. The
player (technically called the "caster") then proceeds to call a
"main." There are five mains on the dice, namely, 5, 6, 7, 8,
and 9; of these he mentally selects that one which either chance
or superstition may suggest, calls it aloud, shakes the box, and
delivers the dice. If he throws the exact number he called, he
"nicks" it and wins; if he throws any other number (with a few
exceptions, which will be mentioned), he neither wins nor loses.
The number, however, which he thus throws becomes his "chance,"
and if he can succeed in repeating it before he throws what was
his main, he wins; if not, he loses. In other words, having
completely failed to throw his main in the first instance, he
should lose, but does not in consequence of the equitable
interference of his newly-made acquaintance, which constitutes
itself his chance. For example, suppose the caster "sets"--that
is, places on the table--a stake of L10, and it is covered by an
equal amount, and he then calls 7 as his main and throws 5; the
groom-porter at once calls aloud, "5 to 7"-- that means, 5 is the
number to win and 7 the number to lose, and the player continues
throwing until the event is determined by the turning up of
either the main or the chance. During this time, however, a most
important feature in the game comes into operation--the laying
and taking of the odds caused by the relative proportions of the
main and the chance. These, as has been said, are calculated
with mathematical nicety, are proclaimed by the groom-porter, and
are never varied. In the above instance, as the caster stands to
win with 5 and to lose with 7, the odds are declared to be 3 to 2
against him, inasmuch as there are three ways of throwing 7, and
only two of throwing 5. As soon as the odds are declared, the
caster may increase his stake by any sum he wishes, and the other
players may cover it by putting down (in this instance)
two-thirds of the amount, the masse, or entire sum, to await the
turning up of either main or chance. If a player "throws out"
three times in succession, the box passes to the next person on
his left, who at once takes up the play. He may, however, "throw
in" without interruption, and if he can do so some half-dozen
times and back his luck, the gains will be enormous.

'The choice of a main is quite optional: many prefer 7 because
they may make a coup at once by throwing that number or by
throwing 11, which is a "nick" to 7, but to 7 only. Shrewd
players, however, prefer some other main, with the view of having
a more favourable chance to depend upon of winning both stake and
odds. For example, let us reverse what was mentioned above, and
suppose the caster to call 5 and throw 7; he then will have 7 as
his chance to win with odds of 3 to 2 IN HIS FAVOUR.

'Such is the game of English Hazard, at which large fortunes have
been won and lost. It is exceedingly simple, and at times can
become painfully interesting. Cheating is impossible, unless
with loaded dice, which have been used and detected by their
splitting in two, but never, perhaps, unless at some disreputable
silver hell. The mode of remunerating the owner of the rooms was
a popular one. The loser never paid, and the winner only when he
succeeded in throwing three mains in succession; and even then
the "box fee," as it was called, was limited to 5s.--a mere
trifle from what he must have gained. In French Hazard a bank is
constituted at a board of green cloth, and the proceedings are
carried on in a more subdued and regular mode than is the case in
the rough-and-ready English game. Every stake that is "set" is
covered by the bank, so that the player runs no risk of losing a
large amount, when, if successful, he may win but a trifling one;
but en revanche, the scale of odds is so altered as to put the
double zero of roulette and the "aprez" of Rouge et Noir to the
blush, and to operate most predjudicially to the player. In no
case is an equal rate of odds between main and chance laid by the
French "banquier," as is insisted on by the English groomporter;
while again "direct nicks" alone are recognized by the former.
Very extraordinary runs of luck have occurred at Hazard, one
player sometimes throwing five, seven, and even eleven mains in a
single hand. In such cases as these the peculiar feature in the
French game becomes valuable, the bank being prepared to pay all
winnings, while, generally speaking, a hand of six or seven mains
at English Hazard would exhaust all the funds of the players, and
leave the caster in the position of "setting the table" and
finding the stakes totally unnoticed or only partially covered.

'In addition to the fixed rules of English Hazard, there are
several regulations which require to be observed. The round
table on which it is played has a deeply bevelled edge, which is
intended to prevent the dice from landing on the floor, which
would be no throw. Again, if either die after having left the
box should strike any object on the table (such as a man's elbow
or stick) except MONEY, it would be called no throw. Again, each
player has the privilege of "calling dice," even when the dice
are in transitu, which, if done, renders the throw void, and
causes another set to be handed to the caster by the groom-
porter. Many a lucky coup has become manque by some captious
player exercising this privilege, and many an angry rencontre has
ensued between the officious meddler and the disappointed caster,
who finds that he has nicked his main to no advantage. Sometimes
one die remains in the box after the other has been landed; then
the caster may either throw it quickly, or may tantalize those
interested in the event by gently coaxing it from the bow. If
one die lands on the top of another, it is removed by the
groom-porter and declared a throw.

'Some thirty years ago English Hazard was a favourite game in
Ireland, and Dublin could boast of three or four hells doing a
brisk trade. The most frequented and longest established was
called "The Coal Hole," being situated on the coal quay. Here,
at any hour after midnight, a motley company might be seen, each
individual, however, well known to the porter, who jealously
scanned his features before drawing back the noiseless bolts
which secured the door. The professional gambler trying to live
by his winnings, the fashionable swell finishing his round of
excitement, the struggling tradesman hoping to avert impending
bankruptcy, the prize-fighter, and, more conspicuous than any,
the keen-eyed usurer with his roll of notes and sheaf of bill
stamps, were to be found there. Many strange scenes have
occurred in this house, some followed by tragic consequences too
painful to relate, others ridiculous and amusing. Here it was
that an angry caster, having lost his last sovereign and his
temper, also placed his black hat in the centre of the table,
swore that it was white, and finding no one disposed to dispute
his accuracy, flung himself from the room, and enabled the next
player who had won so largely and smiled so good-humouredly to
take the box in turn. But fortune deserted him also, and left
him penniless, when, glaring savagely round the room, and
striking the table violently, he thundered forth the inquiry,
"Where was the rascal who said his hat was white?" It was here
also (although the venue has been changed by story-mongers) that
a well-known frequenter of the house, a sporting M.P., on one
occasion dropped on the 'door or in the passage a bank-note
without discovering his loss till he had reached home. On the
next evening he returned to inquire for it in a forlorn-hope
spirit, when the following conversation took place between him
and the porter:--

"M.P. I think, Simpson, I dropped a note here last night--did
you see it?

"Porter. Shure, then, mony a note was dropped here beside yours.

"M. P. Ah! but I mean out of my pocket. I did not lose it at
play. It was for L20, one of Ball's Bank, and very old."

'Hereupon the porter brought the senator into a corner, fumbled
the note out of his fob, and, placing it in his hands, whispered,
"Shure, I know it's yours, and here it is; but (looking
cautiously round) wasn't it lucky that none of the jintlemin
found it?"

'Another establishment much patronized in those days was in
Nassau Street, where early in the evening unlimited Loo, never
under "three and three," sometimes "six and six," might be
indulged in, while a little later Roulette formed the attraction
of an adjacent room, and still later at night all flocked down-
stairs to the hot supper and rattling English Hazard. For one or
two seasons St Stephen's Green lent one of its lordly mansions,
formerly the residence of a cruel and witty Lord Chief Justice,
to the votaries of fortune; here everything was done in grand
style, with gilded saloons, obsequious waiters, and champagne
suppers. All this has long since become matter of the past, and
it would now puzzle the keenest detective to find the trace even
of a silver hell in the Irish capital. No one will be hardy
enough to defend the vice of gambling, but some have argued, and
not without truth, that if a man will play it is far better for
him to indulge the propensity at Hombourg or Baden, where he
cannot lose more money than he has with him, than to do so in the
cozy club-room of a private "salon," where indulgent friends may
tempt him to become bankrupt not only in fortune but in

Passing over other less important games, called Biribi, and Kraps
(played with dice), we come to Passe-Dix, which seems to demand
some notice.


This game, considered the most ancient of all games of chance, is
said to have actually been made use of by the executioners at the
crucifixion of our Saviour, when they 'parted his garments,
casting lots,' Matt. xxvii. 35.

It is played with three dice. There is always a banker, and the
number of players is unlimited. Each gamester holds the box by
turns, and the other players follow his chance; every time he
throws a point UNDER ten he, as well as the other players, loses
the entire stakes, which go to the banker. Every time he throws
a point ABOVE ten (or PASSES TEN--whence the name of the game),
the banker must double the player's stakes and the stakes of all
those who have risked their money on the same chance. When the
game is played by many together, each gamester is banker in his


This was and doubtless still is the special card-game of our
London sharpers. Many of these are men who have run through a
fortune in the early part of their lives, by associating with
gamblers and sharpers, set up for themselves, set honour and
conscience at defiance, become blacklegs, and are scouted out of
even the gambler's company; and, as a last resource, are obliged
to resort to low pot-houses, robbing the poorest and most
ignorant of society.

Behind the dupe there stood a confederate sharper, looking over
the novice's hand, and telling his opponent, by his fingers, what
cards he holds--hence he was said to work the telegraph, of which
more in the sequel. Another confederate plied the novice with

'The game of Put is played with an entire pack of cards,
generally by two, and sometimes by four persons. At this game
the cards rank differently from all others; a trey being the
best, then a two, then an ace, then the king, queen, &c. The
game consists of five points. The parties cut for deal, as in
Whist. The deal is made by giving three cards, one at a time, to
each player. The non-dealer then examines his cards, and if he
thinks them bad, he is at liberty to PUT them upon the pack, and
his adversary scores one point to his game. This, however,
should never be done. Either party saying--"I put," that is, I
play, cannot retract, but must abide the event of the game, or
pay the stakes.

'The THREE being the best card, if the sharper can make certain
of having a three every time his opponent deals, he must have
considerably the best of the game; and this is effected as
follows:--the sharper places a three underneath an old gentleman
(a card somewhat larger and thicker than the rest of the pack),
and it does not signify how much his opponent shuffles the pack,
it is about five to one that he does not disturb the OLD
GENTLEMAN or the three. The sharper then cuts the cards, which
he does by feeling for the old gentleman; the three being then
the top card, it is dealt to the sharper by his opponent. That
is one way of securing a three, and this alone is quite
sufficient to make a certainty of winning.'[67]

[67] Doings in London.


Cross and Pile, so called because anciently English coins were
stamped on one side with a cross, now bears the names, Head and
Tail, and is a pastime well known among the lowest and most
vulgar classes of the community, and to whom it is now confined;
formerly, however, it held a higher rank and was introduced at
Court. Edward II. was partial to this and other frivolous
diversions, and spent much of his time in the pursuit of them.
In one of his wardrobe 'rolls,' or accounts, we find the
following entries--'Item, paid to Henry, the king's barber, for
money which he lent to the king to play at Cross and Pile, five
shillings. Item, paid to Pires Bernard, usher of the king's
chamber, money which he lent the king, and which he lost at Cross
and Pile; to Monsieur Robert Wartewille, eight- pence.'

A half-penny is now generally used in playing this game; but any
other coin with a head impressed will answer the purpose. One
person tosses the half-penny up and the other cries at pleasure
HEAD or TAIL, and loses according to the result.

Cross and Pile is evidently derived from the Greek pastime called
Ostra Kinda, played by the boys of ancient Greece. Having
procured a shell, they smeared it over with pitch on one side and
left the other side white. A boy tossed up this shell, and his
antagonist called white or black,[68] as he thought proper, and
his success was determined by the white or black part of the
shell being uppermost.

[68] In the Greek, nux kai hmera, that is, 'night and day.'

It is the favourite game of the boys of London and the vicinity,
now, however, considerably, if not entirely, discontinued through
the vigilance of the police and the severity of the magistrates.
Not long ago, however, I witnessed a sad and striking scene of it
at Twickenham. It was on a Sunday morning. Several boys
surrounded two players, one of the latter being about 14 years of
age, well dressed, and the other of about 10 years, all in
tatters and shoeless. The younger urchin had a long run of good
luck, whereat his antagonist exhibited much annoyance, swearing
intemperately. At length, however, his luck changed in turn, and
he went on winning until the former refused to play any longer,
saying--'There, you've got back all I won from you.' The bigger
boy became enraged at this refusal to continue the play, and
seemed inclined to resort to fisticuff, but I interposed and put
a stop to the affray. I then questioned the elder boy, and
gathered from him that he played as often as he could, sometimes
winning or losing from eight to ten shillings. 'And do you
generally win? was my next question.' 'No, sir,' he replied, 'I
oftener lose.' I shuddered to conjecture what would be the
future of this boy. The word of warning I gave him was received
with a shrug of the shoulder, and he walked off with the greatest


All races, fairs, and other such conglomerations of those whom
Heaven had blessed with more money than wit, used to be
frequented by minor members of 'The Fancy,' who are technically
called flat-catchers, and who picked up a very pretty living by a
quick hand, a rattling tongue, a deal board, three thimbles, and
a pepper-corn. The game they played with these three curious
articles is a sort of Lilliputian game at cups and balls; and the
beauty of it lies in dexterously seeming to place the pepper-corn
under one particular thimble, getting a green to bet that it was
there, and then winning his money by showing that it is not.
Every operator at this game was attended by certain of his
friends called eggers and bonnetters--the eggers to 'egg' on the
green ones to bet, by betting themselves; and the bonnetters to
'bonnet' any green one who might happen to win-- that is to say,
to knock his hat over his eyes, whilst the operator and the
others bolted with the stakes.

Some years ago a curious case was tried, exemplifying the mode of
procedure. A Frenchman, M. Panchaud, was at Ascot Races, and he
there saw the defendant and several other 'gentlemen' betting
away, and apparently winning 'lots of sovereigns,' at one of
these same thimble-rigs. 'Try your luck, gentlemen,' cried the
operator; 'I'll bet any gentleman anything, from half-a-crown to
five sovereigns, that he doesn't name the thimble as covers the
corn!' M. Panchaud betted half-a-crown--won it; betted a
sovereign--won it; betted a second sovereign--LOST it. 'Try your
luck, gentlemen!' cried the operator again, shifting his thimbles
and pepper-corn about the board, here and there and everywhere in
a moment; and this done, he offered M. Panchaud a bet of five
sovereigns that he could not 'name the thimble what covered the
corn.' 'Bet him! Bet him! Why don't you bet him?' said the
defendant (a landlord), nudging M. Panchaud on the elbow; and M.
Panchaud, convinced in his 'own breast' that he knew the right
thimble, said--'I shall betta you five sovereign if you will not
touch de timbles again till I name.' 'Done!' cried the operator;
and M. Panchaud was DONE-- for, laying down his L10 note, it was
caught up by SOMEBODY, the board was upset, the operator and his
friends vanished 'like a flash of lightning,' and M. Panchaud was
left full of amazement, but with empty pockets, with the
defendant standing by his side. 'They are a set of rascals!'
said the defendant; 'but don't fret, my fine fellow! I'll take
you to somebody that shall soon get your money again; and so
saying he led him off in a direction thus described in court by
the fleeced Frenchman.--'You tooke me the WRONG way! The thieves
ran one way, and you took me the other, you know, ahah! You know
what you are about--you took me the WRONG WAY--ahah!'



Cock-fighting is a practice of high antiquity, like many other
detestable and abominable things that still cling to our social
fabric. It was much in vogue in Greece and the adjacent isles.
There was an annual festival at Athens called 'The Cock-
fighting,' instituted by Themistocles at the end of the Persian
war, under the following circumstances. When Themistocles was
leading his army against the Persians, he saw some cocks
fighting; he halted his troops, looked on, and said:--'These
animals fight neither for the gods of their country, nor for the
monuments of their ancestors, nor for glory, nor for freedom, nor
for their children, but for the sake of victory, and in order
that one may not yield to the other;' and from this topic he
inspirited the Athenians. After his victorious return, as an act
of gratitude for this accidental occasion of inspiring his troops
with courage, he instituted the above festival, 'in order that
what was an incitement to valour at that time might be
perpetuated as an encouragement to the like bravery hereafter.'
One cannot help smiling at these naive stories of the ancients to
account for their mightiest results. Only think of any modern
warrior halting his troops to make use of a cock-fight for the
purpose of inspiriting them to victory!

On one occasion during the Peninsular war, when an important
point was to be carried by assault, the officers were required to
say something encouraging to their men, in order to brace them up
for the encounter; but whilst the majority of the former recalled
the remembrance of previous victories, an Irish captain contented
himself with exclaiming--'Now, my lads, you see those fellows up
there. Well, if you don't kill THEM, SHURE they'll kill YOU.
That's all!' Struck with the comic originality of this address,
the men rushed forward with a laugh and a shout, carrying all
before them.

Among the ancient Greeks the cock was sacred to Apollo, Mercury,
and aesculapius, on account of his vigilance, inferred from his
early rising--the natural consequence of his 'early to bed'--and
also to Mars, on account of his magnanimous and daring spirit.

It seems, then, that at first cock-fighting was partly a
religious, and partly a political, institution at Athens; and was
there continued--according to the above legend--for the purpose
of cherishing the seeds of valour in the minds of youth; but that
it was afterwards abused and perverted, both there and in other
parts of Greece, by being made a common pastime, and applied to
the purpose of gambling just as it was (and is still secretly)
practised in England. An Attic law ran as follows--'Let cocks
fight publicly in the theatre one day in the year.'[69]

[69] Pegge, in Archoeologia, quoting aelian, Columella, &c.

As to cock-fighting at Rome, Pegge, in the same work, gives his
opinion, that it was not customary there till very late; but that
quails were more pitted against each other for gambling purposes
than cocks. This opinion seems confirmed by the thankfulness
expressed by the good Antoninus--'that he had imbibed such
dispositions from his preceptor, as had prevented him from
breeding quails for the fight.'

'One cannot but regret,' wrote Pegge in 1775, 'that a creature so
useful and so noble as the cock should be so enormously abused by
us. It is true the massacre of Shrove Tuesday seems in a
declining way, and in a few years, it is to be hoped, will be
totally disused; but the cock-pit still continues a reproach to
the humanity of Englishmen. It is unknown to me when the pitched
battle first entered England; but it was probably brought hither
by the Romans. The bird was here before Caesar's arrival; but no
notice of his fighting has occurred to me earlier than the time
of William Fitz-Stephen, who wrote the Life of Archbishop Becket,
some time in the reign of Henry II. William describes the
cocking as the sport of school-boys on Shrove Tuesday. "Every
year, on the day which is called Carnelevaria (Carnival)--to
begin with the sports of the London boys,--for we have all been
boys--all the boys are wont to carry to their schoolmaster their
fighting-cocks, and the whole of the forenoon is made a holiday
for the boys to see the fights of their cocks in their
schoolrooms." The theatre, it seems, was their school, and the
master was the controller and director of the sport. From this
time at least the diversion, however absurd, and even impious,
was continued among us.'

'Although disapproved of by many, and prohibited by law, cock-
fighting continued in vogue, patronized even by royalty, and
commonly called "the royal diversion." St James's Park, which,
in the time of Henry VIII., belonged to the Abbot of Westminster,
was bought by that monarch and converted into a park, a tennis
court, and a cockpit, which was situated where Downing Street now
is. The park was approached by two noble gates, and until the
year 1708 the Cock-pit Gate, which opened into the court where
Queen Anne lived, was standing. It was surmounted with lofty
towers and battlements, and had a portcullis, and many rich
decorations. Westminster Gate, the other entrance, was designed
by Hans Holbein, and some foreign architect doubtless erected the
Cockpit Gate. The scene of the cruel diversion of cock-fighting
was, however, obliterated before Anne's time, and the palace,
which was a large range of apartments and offices reaching to the
river, extended over that space.'[69]

[69] Wharton, Queens of Society.

Cock-fighting was the favourite amusement of James I., in whose
reign there were cock-pits in St James's Park, Drury Lane, Tufton
Street, Shoe Lane, and Jermyn Street. There was a cock-pit in
Whitehall, erected for the more magnificent exhibition of the
sport; and the present room in Westminster in which her Majesty's
Privy Council hold their sittings, is called the Cock-pit, from
its being the site of the veritable arena of old.

Cock-fighting was prohibited by one of Oliver's acts in 1654; but
with the return of Charles and his profligacy, the sport again
flourished in England. Pepys often alludes to it in his 'Diary.'

Thus, Dec. 21, 1663, he writes:--

'To Shoe Lane, to see a cocke-fighting at a new pit there, a spot
I was never at in my life; but, Lord! to see the strange variety
of people, from Parliament man, by name Wildes, that was Deputy-
Governor of the Tower when Robinson was Lord Mayor, to the
poorest 'prentices, bakers, brewers, butchers, draymen, and what
not; and all these fellows one with another cursing and betting.
I soon had enough of it. It is strange to see how people of this
poor rank, that look as if they had not bread to put in their
mouths, shall bet three or four pounds at a time, and lose it,
and yet bet as much the next battle; so that one of them will
lose L10 or L20 at a meeting.'

Again, April 6, 1668:--

'I to the new Cocke-pit by the king's gate, and there saw the
manner of it, and the mixed rabble of people that came thither,
and saw two battles of cockes, wherein is no great sport; but
only to consider how these creatures, without any provocation, do
fight and kill one another, and aim only at one another's heads!'

Up to the middle of the 18th century cock-fighting was 'all the
rage' in England. 'Cocking,' says a writer of the time, 'is a
sport or pastime so full of delight and pleasure, that I know not
any game in that respect which is to be preferred before it.'

The training of the pugnacious bird had now become a sort of art,
and this is as curious as anything about the old 'royal
diversion.' A few extracts from a treatise on the subject may be
interesting as leaves from the book of manners and customs of the
good old times.

The most minute details are given as to the selection of
fighting-cocks, the breeding of game cocks, and 'the dieting and
ordering a cock for battle.' Under this last head we read:--'In
the morning take him out of the pen, and let him spar a while
with another cock. Sparring is after this manner. Cover each of
your cock's heels with a pair of hots made of bombasted rolls of
leather, so covering the spurs that they cannot bruise or wound
one another, and so setting them down on straw in a room, or
green grass abroad; let them fight a good while, but by no means
suffer them to draw blood of one another. The benefit that
accrues hereby is this: it heateth and chafeth their bodies, and
it breaketh the fat and glut that is within them. Having sparred
as much as is sufficient, which you may know when you see them
pant and grow weary, then take them up, and, taking off their
hots, give them a diaphoretic or sweating, after this manner.
You must put them in deep straw- baskets, made for this purpose,
and fill these with straw half way, then put in your cocks
severally, and cover them over with straw to the top; then shut
down the lids, and let them sweat; but don't forget to give them
first some white sugar-candy, chopped rosemary, and butter,
mingled and incorporated together. Let the quantity be about the
bigness of a walnut; by so doing you will cleanse him of his
grease, increase his strength, and prolong his breath. Towards
four or five o'clock in the evening take them out of their
stoves, and, having licked their eyes and head with your tongue,
and put them into their pens, and having filled their throats
with square-cut manchet, **** therein, and let them feed whilst
the****is hot; for this will cause their scouring to work, and
will wonderfully cleanse both head and body.'

Was ever poor animal subjected to such indignity? The
preparation of the other animal, the jockey, is nothing to it.
But, to continue:--

'The second day after his sparring, take your cock into a fair
green close, and, having a dunghill cock in your arms, show it
him, and then run from him, that thereby you may entice him to
follow, permitting him to have now and then a blow, and thus
chafe him up and down about half an hour; when he begins to pant,
being well-heated, take him up and carry him home, and give him
this scouring, &c.'

This training continued for six weeks, which was considered a
sufficient time for 'ordering a cock for the battle;' and then,
after the 'matching,' came the last preparation of the poor biped
for the terrible fight in which he would certainly be either
killed or kill his antagonist, if both were not doomed to bite
the dust. This consisted in the following disfigurement of the
beautiful creature:--

'With a pair of fine cock-shears cut all his mane off close into
his neck from the head to the setting on of the shoulders:
secondly, clip off all the feathers from the tail close to his
rump; the redder it appears the better is the cock in condition:
thirdly, take his wings and spread them forth by the length of
the first rising feather, and clip the rest slope-wise with sharp
points, that in his rising he may therewith endanger the eye of
his adversary; fourthly, scrape, smooth, and sharpen his spurs
with a pen-knife; fifthly, and lastly, see that there be no
feathers on the crown of his head for his adversary to take hold
of; then, with your spittle moistening his head all over, turn
him into the pit TO MOVE TO HIS FORTUNE.'

I should, perhaps, state that, instead of the natural spurs, long
artificial ones of well-tempered steel were fixed to the cock's
heels in later times, and these were frequently driven into the
body of his antagonist with such vigour that the two cocks were
spitted together, and had to be separated.

The dreadful fight having come off, the following was the
treatment prescribed for the fortunate conqueror.

'The battle being ended, immediately search your cock's wounds,
as many as you can find. SUCK the blood out of them; then wash
them well with warm ****, and that will keep them from rankling;
after this give him a roll of your best SCOURING, and so stove
him up as hot as you can for that night; in the morning, if you
find his head swelled, you must suck his wounds again, and bathe
them with warm ****; then take the powder of herb Robert, and put
it into a fine bag, and pounce his wounds therewith; after this,
give him a good handful of bread to eat out of warm ****, and so
put him into the stove again, and let him not feel the air till
the swelling be fallen.'

A cock sometimes took a long time to recover from his wounds--as,
indeed, may be well supposed from the terrible 'punishment' which
he necessarily received; and so our professor goes on to say:--
'If after you have put out your wounded cock to their walks, and
visiting them a month or two after, you find about their head any
swollen bunches, hard and blackish at one end, you may then
conclude that in such bunches there are unsound cores, which must
be opened and crushed out with your thumbs; and after this, you
must suck out the corruption, and filling the holes full of fresh
butter, you need not doubt a cure.'

A poetical description of a cock-fight, by Dr R. Wild, written at
the commencement of the last century, will give an idea of the

'No sooner were the doubtful people set,
The match made up, and all that would had bet,
But straight the skilful judges of the play;
Brought forth their sharp-heel'd warriors, and they
Were both in linnen bags--as if 'twere meet,
Before they died, to have their winding-sheet.
Into the pit they're brought, and being there,
Upon the stage, the Norfolk Chanticleer
Looks stoutly at his ne'er before seen foe,
And like a challenger began to crow,
And clap his wings, as if he would display
His warlike colours, which were black and grey.

'Meantime, the wary Wisbich walks and breathes
His active body, and in fury wreathes
His comely crest, and often with a sound,
He whets his angry beak upon the ground.
This done, they meet, not like that coward breed
Of Aesop; these can better fight than feed:
They scorn the dunghill; 'tis their only prize

'They fought so nimbly that 'twas hard to know,
E'en to the skill'd, whether they fought or no;
If that the blood which dyed the fatal floor
Had not borne witness of 't. Yet fought they more;
As if each wound were but a spur to prick
Their fury forward. Lightning's not more quick,
Or red, than were their eyes: 'twas hard to know
Whether 'twas blood or anger made them so.
I'm sure they had been out had they not stood
More safe by being fenced in with blood.

Thus they vied blows; but yet (alas!) at length,
Altho' their courage was full tried, their strength
And blood began to ebb.

Their wings, which lately at each blow they clapp'd
(As if they did applaud themselves), now flapp'd.
And having lost th' advantage of the heel,
Drunk with each other's blood, they only reel.
From either eyes such drops of blood did fall
As if they wept them for their funeral.
And yet they fain would fight; they came so near,
Methought they meant into each other's ear
TO WHISPER WOUNDS; and when they could not rise,
They lay and look'd blows into each other's eyes.

But now the tragic part! After this fit,
When Norfolk cock had got the best of it,
And Wisbich lay a dying, so that none,
Tho' sober, but might venture Seven to One;
Contracting, like a dying taper, all
His strength, intending with the blow to fall,
He struggles up, and having taken wind,
Ventures a blow, and strikes the other blind!

'And now poor Norfolk, having lost his eyes,
Fights only guided by antipathies:
With him, alas! the proverb holds not true--
The blows his eyes ne'er saw his heart most rue.
At length, by chance, he stumbled on his foe,
Not having any power to strike a blow.
He falls upon him with his wounded head,
And makes his conqueror's wings his feather-bed;
Where lying sick, his friends were very chary
Of him, and fetch'd in haste a Pothecary;
But all in vain! His body did so blister
That 'twas incapable of any glyster;
Wherefore, at length, opening his fainting bill,
He call'd a scriv'ner and thus made his Will.

'IMPRIMIS--Let it never be forgot,
My body freely I bequeath to th' pot,
Decently to be boil'd.
ITEM: Executors I will have none
But he that on my side laid Seven to One;
And, like a gentleman that he may live,
To him, and to his heirs, my COMB I give,
Together with my brains, that all may know
That oftentimes his brains did use to crow.
To him that 's dull I do my SPURS impart,
And to the coward I bequeath my HEART.
To ladies that are light, it is my will
My FEATHERS shall be given; and for my BILL
I'd give 't a tailor, but it is so short,
That I'm afraid he'll rather curse me for 't:
Lastly, because I feel my life decay,
I yield and give to Wisbich COCK THE DAY!'[70]

[70] The passages left out in the Will, as marked by asterisks,
though witty, are rather too gross for modern eyes.

To quote from Pegge once more:--What aggravates the reproach and
disgrace upon us Englishmen, are those species of fighting which
are called--"the battle royal and the Welsh main"--known nowhere
in the world, as I think, but here; neither in China, nor in
Persia, nor in Malacca, nor among the savage tribes of America.
These are scenes so bloody as almost to be too shocking to
relate; and yet as many may not be acquainted with the horrible
nature of them, it may be proper, for the excitement of our
aversion and detestation, to describe them in a few words.

'In the battle royal, an unlimited number of fowls are pitted;
and after they have slaughtered one another, for the diversion
(dii boni!) of the otherwise generous and humane Englishman, the
single surviving bird is to be esteemed the victor, and carries
away the prize. The Welsh main consists, we will suppose, of
sixteen pairs of cocks; of these the sixteen conquerors are
pitted a second time; and, lastly, the two conquerors of these
are pitted a fifth time; so that (incredible barbarity!)
thirty-one cocks are sure to be most inhumanly murdered for the
sport and pleasure, the noise and nonsense, nay, I may say the
profane cursing and swearing, of those who have the effrontery to
call themselves, with all these bloody doings, and with all this
impiety about them--Christians!' Moreover, this ungenerous
diversion was the bane and destruction of thousands, who thus
dissipated their patrimonial fortunes. That its attractions were
irresistible is evident from the difficulty experienced in
suppressing the practice. Down to a very recent date cock-
fighting was carried on in secret,--the police now and then
breaking into the secret pits, dispersing and chasing a motley
crew of noblemen, gentlemen, and 'the scum of rascaldom.'

The practice is very far from having died out; mains are still
fought in various parts of the country; but of course the
greatest precautions are taken to insure secrecy and to prevent
the interference of the police.

In connection with cock-fighting I remember a horrible incident
that occurred in the West Indies. A gentleman who was
passionately fond of the sport, and prided himself on the
victories of his cocks, had the misfortune to see one of his
birds so terribly wounded in the first onset that, although not
killed, it was impossible for it to continue the fight. His rage
at the mishap knew no bounds, and he vented it madly on the poor
creature. He roasted it alive--standing by and hearing its
piteous cries. In the midst of the horrible torture the wretched
man became so excited that a fit of apoplexy supervened, and he
positively expired before the poor bird at the fire!



It appears that horse-races were customary at public festivals
even as early as the times of the patriarchs. They originated
among the eastern nations, who were the first to discover the
physical aptitudes of the noble animal and the spirited emulation
of which he is capable. The Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, in
succession, all indulged in the excitement; and it is a curious
fact that the Romans, like the English jockeys of the present
day, rode in different colours.

Horse-racing began very early in England. Fitz-Stephen, who
wrote in the time of Henry VIII., mentions the delight taken by
the citizens of London in the diversion. In the reign of Queen
Elizabeth it appears to have greatly flourished, and to have been
carried to such an excess as to have ruined many of the nobility.

The celebrated George, Earl of Cumberland, is said to have wasted
more of his estates than any of his ancestors, and principally by
his love of the turf and the tilt-yard. In the reign of James
I., Croydon in the South, and Garterly in the North, were
celebrated courses. Camden also states that in 1607 there were
meetings near York, and the prize was a small golden bell; hence
the origin of the saying 'bearing off the bell.'

Lord Herbert of Cherbury denounced the practice. 'The exercise,'
says this gallant philosopher, 'I do not approve of is running of
horses--there being much CHEATING in that kind,--neither do I see
why a brave man should delight in a creature whose chief use is
to help him to run away.' As far as the cheating is concerned,
the philosopher may be right, but most assuredly his views of the
horse do no credit to his Lordship's understanding.

It appears that the turf-men of those days went on breeding for
shape and speed alone, without considering 'bottom,' until the
reign of Queen Anne; when a public-spirited nobleman left
thirteen plates or purses to be run for, at such places as the
Crown should appoint, upon condition that every horse should
carry twelve stone for the best of three heats--four miles. By
this means a stronger horse was raised, who, if he was not good
enough upon the race-course, made a hunter.

The Merry Monarch, Charles II., had given cups or bowls,
estimated at one hundred guineas value, and upon which the names
of the winning horses, the winner, and jockey were usually
engraved. William III. added to the plates, as did Queen Anne;
but in 1720 George I. discontinued this royal encouragement to
the sport, apparently through sheer meanness. Since that period
'King's Plates' and 'Queen's Plates' have been paid in specie.

In the reign of Charles I. races were performed in Hyde Park; and
until a very recent period 'the Ring' in the Park was the
rendezvous of gentlemen's servants, for the purpose of betting or
making up their betting books.

Newmarket races were established by Charles II., in 1667. Epsom,
by Mr Parkhurst, in 1711. Ascot, by the Duke of Cumberland,
uncle to George III. Doncaster, by Colonel St Leger, in 1778.
Goodwood, by the Duke of Richmond, who died in 1806.

The Jockey Club began in the time of George II. Its latest
rules, by which races are regulated, were enacted in 1828.

Tattersall's, the 'High Change of Horse-flesh,' was established
by Richard Tattersall, near Hyde Park Corner--hence termed 'The
Corner'--in 1766, for the sale of horses. The lease of the
ground having expired, the new premises at Brompton were erected,
and opened for business, in 1803.

On the accession of Queen Victoria the Royal stud was sold for
L16,476, in Oct., 1837.[71]

[71] Haydon, Book of Dates.

Among the distinguished men who have supported the turf in this
country may be mentioned George IV.[72] and William IV.; the late
Duke of York; the Dukes of Richmond, Cleveland, Grafton, Bedford,
and Beaufort; Marquises of Exeter and Westminster; Earls of
Glasgow, Stradbrooke, Wilton, Chesterfield, Eglintoun, Verulam,
and Lonsdale; Lords George Bentinck, Foley, Kinnaird, &c.; and
last, though not least, the Right Honourable Charles James Fox.
As to the turf, Fox used always to animadvert on his losses, and
repeatedly observed--that 'his horses had as much bottom as other
people's, but that they were such slow, good ones that they never
went fast enough to tire themselves.' He had, however, the
gratification of experiencing some few exceptions to this


Back to Full Books