Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

be from our refentment, they are still open to ill-natured fufpicions. They do not confider, what ftrange conftructions may be put on thefe laughs and whispers. It were, indeed, of little confequence, if we only imagined, that they were taking the reputation of their acquaintance to pieces, or abufing the company round; but when they indulge themfelves in this behaviour, fome perhaps may be led to conclude, that they are dif courfing upon topics, which they are afhamed to fpeak of in a lefs private manner.

If the mifconduct, which I have defcribed, had been only to be found, Mr. Town, at my friend's table, I fhould not have troubled you with this letter: but the fame kind of ill breeding prevails too often, and in too many places. The gigglers and the whisperers are innumerable; they befet us wherever we go; and it is obfervable, that after a fhort murmur of whifpers out comes the burst of laughter: fike a gun-powder ferpent, which, after hiffing about for fome time, goes off in a bounce.

Some excufe may perhaps be framed for this ill-timed merriment in the fair fex. Venus, the goddess of beauty, is frequently called the laughter-loving dame; and by laughing our modern ladies may poffibly imagine, that they render themfelves like Venus. I have indeed remarked, that the ladies commonly adjuft their laugh to their perfons, and are merry in proportion as it fets off their particular charms. One lady is never further moved than to a fmile or a fimper, because nothing else fhews her dimples to fo much advantage; another, who has a very fine fet of teeth, runs into the broad grin; while a third, who is admired for a well-turned neck and graceful cheft, calls up all her beauties to view by breaking into violent and repeated peals of laughter.

I would not be understood to impofe gravity or too great a reserve on the fair fex. Let them laugh at a feather; but let them declare openly, that it is a feather which occafions their mirth. I must confefs, that laughter becomes the young, the gay, and the handfome: but a whisper is unbecoming at all ages and in both - fexes; nor ought it ever to be practifed, except in the

round

round gallery at St. Paul's, or in the famous whispering place in Gloucefter cathedral, where two whisperers hear each other at the distance of five and twenty yards. I am, SIR, your humble Servant.

On BETS and the Cuftom of PITTING, as
practifed at White's.
[Connoif. No. 15.]

Friend of mine, who belongs to the Stamp-Office, acquaints me, that the revenue arifing from the duty on cards and dice continues to increase every year; and that it now brings in near fix times more than it did at first. This will not appear very wonderful, when we confider, that gaming is now become rather the business than amufement of our perfons of quality; and that they are more concerned about the tranfactions of the two clubs at White's, than the proceedings of both houses of parliament. Thus it happen, that estates are now almost as frequently made over by whist and hazard, as by deeds and settlements; and the chariots of many of our nobility may be faid (like Baffet's in the play)" to roll upon the four aces."

This love of gaming has taken fuch entire poffeffion of their ideas, that it infects their common conversation. The management of a difpute was formerly attempted by reason and argument; but the new way of adjusting all difference of opinion is by the fword or a wager: fo that the only genteel method of diffenting is to rif a thousand pounds, or take your chance of being run through the body. The ftrange cuftom of deciding every thing by a wager is fo univerfal, that if (in imitation of Swift) any body was to publifh a fpecimen of Polite Conversation, inftead of old fayings and trite repartees, he would in all probability fill his dialogues with little more than bet after bet, or now and then a calculation of the odds.

White's, the prefent grand fcene of these transactions, was formerly diftinguished by gallantry and intrigue. During the publication of the TATLER, Sir Richara

Steele

[ocr errors]

Steele thought proper to date all his love-news from that quarter: but it would now be as abfurd to pretend to gather any fuch intelligence from White's, as to fend to Batfon's for a lawyer, or to the Roll's coffee-house for a man-midwife.

The gentlemen, who now frequent this place, profess a kind of univerfal fcepticism; and as they look upon every thing as dubious, put the iffue upon a wager. There is nothing, however trivial or ridiculous, which is not capable of producing a bet. Many pounds have been loft upon the colour of a coach-horse, an article in the news, or the change of the weather. The birth of a child has brought great advantages to perfons not the leaft related to the family it was born in; and the breaking off a match has affected many in their fortunes, befides the parties immediately concerned.

But the most extraordinary part of this fashionable practice is, what in the gaming dialect is called PITTING one man against another; that is, in plain Englife, wagering which of the two will live longeft. In this manner, people of the moft oppofite characters make up the subject of a bet. A player perhaps is pitted against a duke, an alderman against a bishop, or a pimp with a privy-counsellor. There is fcarce one remarkable perfon, upon whofe life there are not many thoufand pounds depending; or one person of quality, whose death will not leave feveral of these kinds of mortgages upon his eftate. The various changes in the health of one, who is the fubject of many bets, occafion very serious reflections in those who have ventured large fums on his life and death. Thofe, who would be gainers by his decease, upon every flight indifpofition, watch all the stages of his illness, and are as impatient for his death, as the undertaker who expects to have the care of his funeral; while the other fide are very folicitous about his recovery, fend every hour to know how he does, and take as much care of him as a clergyman's wife does of her husband, who has no other fortune than his livin I remember a man with the conftitution of er, upon whofe life very great odds were laid; but wher the perfon he was pitted againft, was expected to

g.

a port

die every week, this man fhot himself through the head, and the knowing ones were taken in.

Though most of our follies are imported from France, this has had its rife and progrefs entirely in England. In the laft illness of Louis the fourteenth, lord Stair laid a wager on his death; and we may guess what the French thought of it, from the manner in which Voltaire mentions it in his Siécle de Louis xiv. "Le Roi "fut attaqué vers le milieu du mois d'Août. Le "Comte de Stair Ambaffadeur d'Angleterre PARIA, Selon le genie de fa nation, que le Roi ne pafferoit pas le mois de Septembre." "The king (fays he) 66 was taken ill about the middle of Auguft; when Lord Stair, the ambaffador from England, BETTED, ac"cording to the genius of his nation, that the King "would not live beyond September.'

66

66

""

I am in fome pain, left this cuftom should get among the ladies. They are at prefent very deep in cards and dice; and while my lord is gaming abroad, her ladyfhip has her route at home. I am inclined to fufpect, that our women of fashion will alfo learn to divert them

felves with this polite practice of laying wagers. A birth-day fuit, the age of a beauty, who invented a particular fashion, or who were fuppofed to be together at the laft masquerade, would frequently give occafion for bets. This would afford them a new method for the ready propagation of fcandal; as the truth of feveral ftories, which are continually flying about the town, would naturally be brought to the fame teft. Should they proceed further to ftake the lives of their acquaintance against each other, they would doubtless bet with the fame fearless fpirit, as they are known to do, at brag; one hufband perhaps would be pitted against another, or a woman of the town against a maid of ho nour. In a word, if this once becomes fashionable among the ladies, we may foon fee the time, when an allowance for bet-money will he ftipulated in the marriage

articles.

As the vices and the follies of perfons of diftinction are very apt to spread, I am also much afraid, le branch of gaming should defcend to the common peo

this

I

ple.

Indeed,

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

Indeed, it seems already to have got among them. We have frequent accounts in the daily papers of tradesmen riding, walking, eating and drinking for a wager. The contested election in the city has occafioned several extraordinary bets; I know a butcher in Leaden Hall market, who laid an ox to a fhin of beef, on the fuccefs of Sir John Barnard against the field; and have been told of a publican in Thames-freet, who ventured an hogfhead of entire butt, on the candidate who ferves him with beer.

We may obferve, that the fpirit of gaming difplays itself with as much variety among the loweft, as the highest order of people. It is the fame thing, whether the dice rattle in an orange barrow, or at the hazard table. A couple of chairmen in a night-cellar are as eager at put or all-fours, as a party at St. James's at a rubber of whift; and the EO table is but an higher fort of Merry go round, where you may get fix halfpence for one, fix pence for one, and fix two-pences for one. If the practice of pitting fhould be alfo propagated among the vulgar, it will be common for prizefighters to take their lives against each other; and two pick-pockets may lay which of them fhall first go to the gallows.

To give the reader a full idea of a perfon of fashion wholly employed in this manner, I fhall conclude my paper with the character of Montano. Montano was born heir to a nobleman remarkable for deep play; from whom he very early imbibed the principles of gaming, When he first went to fchool, he foon became the most expert of any of his play-fellows: he was fure to win all their marbles at taw, and would often strip them of their whole week's allowance at chuck. He was afterwards at the head of every match at foot-ball or cricket; and when he was captain, he took in all the big boys by making a lottery, but went away without drawing the prizes. He is ftill talked of at the fchool, for a famous difpute he had with another of his own caft about their fuperiority in learning; which they decided, by toffing up heads or tails who was the beft fcholar. Be ing too great a genius for our universities at home, he

L

was

[ocr errors]
« EelmineJätka »