The Connoisseur 15 (1754)

Colman, George and Thornton, Bonnell
Thomas Rowlandson, ‘Kick Up at a Hazard Table’, 1787, Met Museum, 59.533.348


"This love of gaming has taken such entire possession of their ideas, that it infects their common conversation."

A Friend of mine who belongs to the Stamp-Office acquaints me that the revenue arising from the duty on cards and dice continues to increase every year, and that it now brings in near six times more than it did at first. This will not appear very wonderful, when we confider that gaming is now become rather the bufiness than amusement of our perfons of quality; that their whole attention is employed in this important article, and that they are more concerned about the transactions of The two clubs at White's than the proceedings of both Houses of Parliament. Thus it happens that estates are now almost as frequently made over by whiff and hazard as by deeds and Settlements; and the chariots of many of our nobility may be said (like Count Basset's in the play) "to roll upon the four aces."

This love of gaming has taken such entire possession of their ideas, that it infects their common conversation. The management of a dispute was formerly attempted by reason and argument; but the new way of adjusting all difference in opinion is by the sword or a wager: so that the only genteel method of dissent is to risk a thousand pounds, or take your chance of being run through the body. The strange custom of deciding every thing by a wager is so universal, that if (in imitation of Swift) any body was to publish a specimen of Polite Converfation, instead of old sayings 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 present grand scene of these transactions was formerly distinguished by gallantry and intrigue. During the publication of the Tatler, Sir Richard Steel thought proper to date all his love-news from that quarter: but it would now be as absurd to pretend to gather any such intelligence from White's; as to send to Batson'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 universal Scepticism; and as they look upon every thing as dubious, put the issue upon a wager. There is nothing however trivial or ridiculous, which is not capable of producing a bet. Many pounds have been lost 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 in the least related to the family it was born in; and the breaking off a match has affected many in their fortunes, besides 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 English, wagering which of the two will live longest. In this manner people of the moft opposite characters make up the subject of a bet.


Taken from The Connoisseur, n° 15 (May 9, 1754). Transcribed by Alain Kerhervé. Full text from Burney Newspaper Collection.