THE GAMING TABLE: ITS VOTARIES AND VICTIMS,
In all Times and Countries, especially in England and in France.
IN TWO VOLUMES
By Andrew Steinmetz, Esq.,
Of The Middle Temple, Barrister-At-Law; First-Class Extra Certificate School Of Musketry, Hythe; Late Officer Instructor Musketry, The Queens Own Light Infantry Militia.
Author Of ‘The History Of The Jesuits,’ ‘Japan And Her People,’ ‘The Romance Of Duelling,’ &C., &C.
‘The sharp, the blackleg, and the knowing one,
Livery or lace, the self-same circle, run;
The same the passion, end and means the same
Dick and his Lordship differ but in name.’
TO HIS GRACE
The Duke of Wellington, K.G. THIS WORK IS DEDICATED, WITH PERMISSION, BY HIS GRACE’S MOST DEVOTED SERVANT
Release Date: November 29, 2009
Produced by Mike Lough, and David Widger
To the readers of the present generation much of this book will, doubtless, seem incredible. Still it is a book of facts—a section of our social history, which is, I think, worth writing, and deserving of meditation.
Forty or fifty years ago—that is, within the memory of many a living man—gambling was ‘the rage’ in England, especially in the metropolis. Streets now meaningless and dull—such as Osendon Street, and streets and squares now inhabited by the most respectable in the land—for instance, St James’s Square, THEN opened doors to countless votaries of the fickle and capricious goddess of Fortune; in the rooms of which many a nobleman, many a gentleman, many an officer of the Army and Navy, clergymen, tradesmen, clerks, and apprentices, were ‘cleaned out’—ruined, and driven to self-murder, or to crimes that led to the gallows. ‘I have myself,’ says a writer of the time, ‘seen hanging in chains a man whom a short time before I saw at a Hazard table!’
History, as it is commonly written, does not sufficiently take cognizance of the social pursuits and practices that sap the vitality of a nation; and yet these are the leading influences in its destiny—making it what it is and will be, at least through many generations, by example and the inexorable laws that preside over what is called ‘hereditary transmission.’
Have not the gambling propensities of our forefathers influenced the present generation?….
No doubt gambling, in the sense treated of in this book, has ceased in England. If there be here and there a Roulette or Rouge et Noir table in operation, its existence is now known only to a few ‘sworn-brethren;’ if gambling at cards ‘prevails’ in certain quarters, it is ‘kept quiet.’ The vice is not barefaced. It slinks and skulks away into corners and holes, like a poisoned rat. Therefore, public morality has triumphed, or, to use the card-phrase, ‘trumped’ over this dreadful abuse; and the law has done its duty, or has reason to expect congratulation for its success, in ‘putting down’ gaming houses.
But we gamble still. The gambling on the Turf (now the most uncertain of all ‘games of chance’) was, lately, something that rang through and startled the entire nation. We gamble in the funds. We gamble in endless companies (limited)—all resulting from the same passion of our nature, which led to the gambling of former times with cards, with dice, at Piquet, Basset, Faro, Hazard, E O, Roulette, and Rouge et Noir. At a recent memorable trial, the Lord Chief Justice of England exclaimed—’There can be no doubt—any one who looks around him cannot fail to perceive—that a spirit of speculation and gambling has taken hold of the minds of large classes of the population. Men who were wont to be satisfied with moderate gain and safe investments seem now to be animated by a spirit of greed after gain, which makes them ready to embark their fortunes, however hardly gained, in the vain hope of realizing immense returns by premiums upon shares, and of making more than safe and reasonable gains. We see that continually.’ In fact, we may not be a jot better morally than our forefathers. But that is no reason why we should not frown over the story of their horrid sins, and, ‘having a good conscience,’ think what sad dogs they were in their generation—knowing, as we do, that none of us at the present day lose FIFTY OR A HUNDRED THOUSAND POUNDS at play, at a sitting, in one single night—as was certainly no very uncommon ‘event’ in those palmy days of gaming; and that we could not—as was done in 1820—produce a list of FIVE HUNDRED names (in London alone) of noblemen, gentlemen, officers of the Army and Navy, and clergymen, who were veteran or indefatigable gamesters, besides ‘clerks, grocers, horse-dealers, linen-drapers, silk-mercers, masons, builders, timber-merchants, booksellers, &c., &c., and men of the very lowest walks of life,’ who frequented the numerous gaming houses throughout the metropolis—to their ruin and that of their families more or less (as deploringly lamented by Captain Gronow), and not a few of them, no doubt, finding themselves in that position in which they could exclaim, at OUR remonstrance, as feelingly as did King Richard—
'Slave! I have set my life upon a CAST, And I will stand the HAZARD OF THE DIE!'
Nor is gaming as yet extinct among us. Every now and then a batch of youngsters is brought before the magistrates charged with vulgar ‘tossing’ in the streets; and every now and then we hear of some victim of genteel gambling, as recently—in the month of February, 1868—when ‘a young member of the aristocracy lost L10,000 at Whist.’
Nay, at the commencement of the present year there appeared in a daily paper the following startling announcement to the editor:—
‘Sir,—Allow me, through the columns of your paper, to call the attention of the parents and friends of the young officers in the Channel-fleet to the great extent gambling is carried on at Lisbon. Since the fleet has been there another gambling house has been opened, and is filled every evening with young officers, many of whom are under 18 years of age. On the 1st of January it is computed that upwards of L800 was lost by officers of the fleet in the gambling houses, and if the fleet is to stay there three months there will soon be a great number of the officers involved in debt. I will relate one incident that came under my personal notice. A young midshipman, who had lately joined the Channel fleet from the Bristol, drew a half-year’s pay in December, besides his quarterly allowance, and I met him on shore the next evening without money enough to pay a boat to go off to his ship, having lost all at a gambling house.
Hoping that this may be of some use in stopping the gambling among the younger officers, I remain, yours respectfully, AN OFFICER.'(1)
(1) Standard, Jan. 12, 1870.
In conclusion, I have contemplated the passion of gaming in all its bearings, as will be evident from the range of subjects indicated by the table of contents and index. I have ransacked (and sacked) hundreds of volumes for entertaining, amusing, curious, or instructive matter.
Without deprecating criticism on my labours, perhaps I may state that these researches have probably terminated my career as an author. Immediately after the completion of this work I was afflicted with a degree of blindness rendering it impossible for me to read any print whatever, and compelling me to write only by dictation.
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