Living Picture of London, for 1828 and Stranger's Guide Through the Streets of the Metropolis
CARDS, DRAUGHTS, BAGATELLE, &c.
Games that occupy great numbers of persons, in the .winter evenings particularly, introduce and keep alive vicious propensities throughout the year, and frequently occasion heart burnings by the destruction. of hours
which ought to be devoted to better purposes, are salutarily interdicted to journeymen, apprentices, and mechanics. Yet are the whole three in universal request, and the first mentioned destructively prevalent. With stated parties, who meet for the express purpose of playing at cards, we profess not to interfere; but in the name of common sense, why should fellows of the lowest order, and thence upward, dare to play at this or any sedentary game, against which so many hands are uplifted, and voices raised, in public-house taprooms, parlours, kitchens, to the infinite annoyance of the better inclined athlete, and with the evident design of intrapping the unwary possessors of small sums, and seducing young men and boys, by their evil example? If people of any degree admire card playing, even let them enjoy their whim, whilst we pity their taste; but let them not insult some parties, whilst they set others a longing by the publicity of such an exhibition. Clumsy cheating takes place at every public-house cardparty-and these pervade every common room throughout the metropolis; a little higher, the more refined the chicanery, the larger the stakes, but equal the ultimate ruination to the parties: time, money, peace of mind, rest, all sacrificed to the itch for play, and a foolish desire to imitate their betters in the lowest of all pursuits that is not a positive crime in men who can scarcely afford to throw away either.
Even in the better sort of taverns and coffeehouses, where the card players have the grace to retire out of sight, upstairs, or into a small cabinet, the cheating system is invariably introduced, so far as I have seen, can learn, or have been given to understand; in this respect, the gaffing shops and flash houses, spoken of higher up, (page 240,) are not exceeded by an equal number of
Nothing is more common throughout the whole of Cockaigne, whether in public or private parties, than for the players to cheat each other at cards, for trifles absolutely worthless, such is the itch for coming off conqueror; and, as the stakes played for would rise commensurate to the situation of the parties in life, we infer that the higher the sum the greater would be the desire to put in practice the well-recognized maxim,
Of course, we do not mean that the whole company would so enact their parts; but will not hesitate to fix that charge upon the majority of the best players, who scruple not to revoke
frequently wish the turnup to Old Nick, and often follow up that devilish wish on another occasion by some sort of substitution. Almost all thorough-paced gamblers of the taverns, who go about from club to club, or dedicate
to the four kings, their consorts, and subjects of the pip quality, unfailingly resort to some contrivance
or other to ensure the victory. Marking the cards, during the play, in an off handed manner
(or concealed card,) and making them up with
are the most common tricks; though their manoeuvres are known to be as varied as the fabled Protean forms of old.
Cards belong only to the higher orders; those whose time hangs heavy on their hands, and requires to be
as they phrase it; and whose property, if suffered to accumulate, would overwhelm them with cares, oppress them with ennui, or being turbulent spirits, embue them with a desire to overturn the state, and raise the standard of King Craesus in the yellow fields of Plutus. By all means, then, let them dispense their drossy heaps as they accumulate, among all the black-legs of all the gamblers of every degree; and when at length the Thellusson mountain brings forth its golden bowels, may some tornado, concocted in the Palais Royal, or any other inferno, sweep along the fissure time has made, and drive large streams of wealth down the barren heaths, and render them doubly productive. Oh, 'tis joyous to think how the narrowing schemes of contracted minds are expanded and driven into ten thousand ramifications by the inscrutable power of natural cause and effect!
Draughts have the recommendation of occupying much time in each contest, that the players are necessarily mute
and thus offer no attractions to the casual visitor; besides that, only two can play at a time, unless Publicans multiply the number of their boards, and therefore few can learn it satisfactorily to themselves, whilst none are amused by looking on. A prevalent notion often is thrown out, that
Chequers are as ancient as Caesar Augustus at least.
Bagatelle is a modern vulgar approximation towards Billiards-the most manly, scientific, and genteel of in-door games. In no other view is the new game fit to be tolerated; but the rapidity with which the matches come off seems to counteract completely its only good quality; besides which, little art is necessary to play these matches, practice, cunning, and a steady arm, supplying the place of every absent quality: a multitude of those boards are constantly going all over the metropolis, at which great quantities of liquor and some wagers are lost; of these, I cannot hear of any higher stakes than a pound or two at farthest, and then but seldom. The landlords invariably play well at their respective boards. In every respect, Backgammon is the very reverse of La Bagatelle. Affording no opportunity for exercise, farther than throwing the dice and moving the men, it yet involves science and dexterity of move in the highest degree. Long in the contestation and
difficult of acquirement, a rubber at back- gammon offers no invitation to the generality of spectators; consequently holds out no inducement to the novice to intermeddle, though the game were to be played in a public room, which is very seldom the case in London.
None of the commonalty undertake to play those games: they are more appropriately smitten with the charms of nine pins-whether this be of skittles, knock-em-down, bowl- andtip, dutch-pins, or the more sturdyfour-corners. These are the bold, athletic, in-door games, that seem pleasingly calculated to exercise the sedentary mechanic after labour, and fill up the holiday sports of the more hardy artizan, in the way best adapted for keeping his limbs in proper suppleness. For a tailor off work, what amusement could we devise so well adapted to afford due exercise at short intervals, of every muscle in his ninth part of a body? The bare flinging a lignum vitae ball of ten or fourteen pounds, upwards of twenty feet, is no child's play. In summer time, many hundreds, on Saint Mondays, thousands of mechanics and others are found playing at those games; mostly at the outskirts of town, though the sport is evidently better adapted to winter use, when is covered overhead.None of the commonalty undertake to play those games: they are more appropriately smitten with the charms of nine pins-whether this be of skittles, knock-em-down, bowl- andtip, dutch-pins, or the more sturdyfour-corners. These are the bold, athletic, in-door games, that seem pleasingly calculated to exercise the sedentary mechanic after labour, and fill up the holiday sports of the more hardy artizan, in the way best adapted for keeping his limbs in proper suppleness. For a tailor off work, what amusement could we devise so well adapted to afford due exercise at short intervals, of every muscle in his ninth part of a body? The bare flinging a lignum vitae ball of ten or fourteen pounds, upwards of twenty feet, is no child's play. In summer time, many hundreds, on Saint Mondays, thousands of mechanics and others are found playing at those games; mostly at the outskirts of town, though the sport is evidently better adapted to winter use, when
is covered overhead.
Tennis, Racket, and Fives are noble games, and demand notice: at the Court in Windmill-street, pistol-shooting is practised-to the terror of all quarrelsome duellists.
 LOW GAMBLERS-RUINATION :
 CARD-PLAYHOUSES; CHEATING AT CARDS.
 HIGHER ORDERS, DISPENSE RICHES TO LEGS.
 IN-DOOR GAMES, DEMERITS OF;
 NINE PINS-SAINT MONDAY-TAILORS.