Andrew Steinmetz: From `The Gaming Table: Its Votaries and Victims, Vol II – Chapter IV: Atrocities, Duels, Suicides and Executions of Gamblers

The history of all nations is but the record of their cupidity; and when the fury of gaming appears on the scene, it has never failed to double the insolence and atrocities of tyranny.

The atrocious gambling of the Hindoo Rajas has been related;(14) and I have incidentally adverted to similar concomitants of the vice among all nations. I now propose to bring together a series of facts specially elucidative of the harrowing theme.

(14) Chapter II.

One of the Ptolemys, kings of Egypt, required all causes to be submitted to him whilst at play, and pronounced even sentence of death according to chance. On one occasion his wife, Berenice, pronounced thereanent those memorable words:—’There cannot be too much deliberation when the death of a man is concerned’—afterwards adopted by Juvenal—Nulla unquam de morte hominis cunctatio longa est.(15)

(15) Aelian, Var. Hist. lib. XLIV. c. xiii.; Juvenal, Sat. vi.

Tolomnius, King of the Veii, happened to be playing at dice when the arrival of Roman ambassadors was announced. At the very instant he uttered the word KILL, a term of the game; the word was misinterpreted by the hearers, and they went forthwith and massacred the ambassadors. Livy suggests that this was an excuse alleged AFTER the commission of the deed; but gamesters are subject to such absence of mind that there is really nothing incredible or astonishing in the act. ‚Sire,‘ exclaimed a messenger to the Caliph Alamin, ‚it is no longer time for play—Babylon is besieged!‘ ‚Silence!‘ said the caliph, ‚don’t you see I am on the point of giving checkmate?‘ The same story is told of a Duke of Normandy.

Wars have arisen from very trivial causes—among the rest gambling. Henry, the son of William the Conqueror, was playing at chess with Louis, the son of Philip, King of France. The latter, perceiving that he was losing the game got into a passion, and calling Henry the son of a bastard, flung the chess-board into his face. Henry took the chess-board and struck Louis with it so violently that he drew blood, and would have killed him if his brother, who happened to come in, had not prevented him. The two brothers took to flight, but a great and lasting war was the consequence of the gambling fracas.

A gaming quarrel was the cause of the slap in the face given by the Duc Rene to Louis XII., then only Duc d’Orleans. This slap was the origin of a ligue which was termed ‚the mad war.‘ The resentment of the outraged prince was not appeased until he mounted the throne, when he uttered these memorable words:—’A King of France does not avenge insults offered to a Duke of Orleans.‘

Many narratives of suicide committed by desperate gamblers are on record, some of which I now adduce.


Sir John Bland, of Kippax Park, flirted away his whole fortune at Hazard. ‚He, t’other night,‘ says Walpole, ‚exceeded what was lost by the late Duke of Bedford, having at one period of the night (though he recovered the greater part of it) lost two and thirty thousand pounds.‘ Sir John Kippax shot himself in 1705.


Lord Mountford came to a tragic end through his gambling. He had lost money; feared to be reduced to distress; asked for a government appointment, and determined to throw the die of life or death on the answer received from court. The answer was unfavourable. He consulted several persons, indirectly at first, afterwards pretty directly, on the easiest mode of finishing life; invited a dinner-party for the day after; supped at White’s, and played at Whist till one o’clock of the New Year’s morning. Lord Robert Bertie drank to him ‚a happy new year;‘ he clapped his hand strangely to his eyes. In the morning, he sent for a lawyer and three witnesses, executed his will, made them read it over twice, paragraph by paragraph, asked the lawyer if that will would stand good though a man were to shoot himself. Being assured it would, he said—’Pray stay, while I step into the next room;‘ went into the next room and shot himself, placing the muzzle of the pistol so close to his head that the report was not heard.


Gamblers have been known to set as coolly and deliberately about blowing out their brains as if they had only been going to light their cigars. Lord Orford, in his correspondence with Horace Walpole, mentions two curious instances.

One of the fashionable young men of Lord Orford’s day had been unhappily decoyed into a gambling house, where his passion for play became so great that he spent nearly the whole of his time in throwing the dice. He continued to gamble until he had not only lost a princely fortune, but had incurred a large amount of debt among his tradesmen. With the loss of his money, and the utter beggary which stared him in the face, the unfortunate victim of play lost all relish for life; and sought in death the only refuge he could fancy from the infamy and misery which he had brought upon himself. But whilst fully resolved on self-destruction, he thought, before carrying his fatal purpose into execution, he might as well do his tradesmen an act of justice, even if in so doing he should do injustice to others. He insured his life to the extent of his debts, amounting to several thousand pounds. Being acquainted with several of the directors of the company (he called them his life-and-death brokers) in which he insured, he invited them to dinner the following day, with the ostensible view of celebrating the completion of the insurance. The tradesmen also received strict orders to be present; and as the non-payment of their accounts for a long period to come was the penalty of not acceding to his wishes in this respect, it can scarcely be necessary to say that they were all ‚punctual as lovers to the moment sworn.‘ The dinner over, and a liberal allowance of wine having been quaffed, the ruined gambler desired the servant to call up all who were in the hall below. In a few seconds the dining-room was filled with tradesmen, all eager to receive payment of their accounts. ‚Now, gentlemen,‘ said the gambler, addressing his guests, and pointing to the little crowd of tradesmen,—’now, gentlemen, these are all my tradesmen; they are honest industrious men, to whom I am indebted, and as I see no other earthly means of being ever able to meet their just claims, you will be so kind as to pay them out of the sum for which I insured my life yesterday. Allow me, gentlemen, to bid you farewell.‘ And so saying, he pulled a pistol from his pocket, and placing it to his head, that instant blew out his brains. Of course his insurance office must have been one that undertook to pay insurances whatever might be the cause of death, not excepting suicide—which, like duelling, has usually been a bar to such claims.


The following is ‚A full and particular account of a person who threw himself into the Thames, from Blackfriars Bridge, on Wednesday, July 10, 1782; with the melancholy paper he left behind him, accounting to his wife and children for so rash an action.‘ It is said that several thousands of the papers were dispersed through London, and it is to be hoped that some of them might produce that good effect which seems to have been so anxiously desired by the person who wished them to be distributed.

                    'Midnight, July 10, 1782.

‚Whoever thou art that readest this paper, listen to the voice of one from the DEAD. While thine eyes peruse the lines their writer may be suffering the most horrid punishments which an incensed Creator can inflict upon the greatest sinner.

‚Reader, art thou of my own sex? Art thou a man? Oh, in whatever rank of life, whether high or low,—beware of gambling! Beware of so much as approaching an E O table! Had I ever met with such a dreadful warning as I now offer thee, I might perhaps have been saved from death—have been snatched from damnation. Reader, art thou a woman? Oh, whether rich or poor, whether wife, mother, sister, or daughter,—if thou suspect that the late hours, the feverish body, the disturbed mind, the ruffled temper, the sudden extravagance of him whom thou lovest, are caused by frequenting the gaming table, oh, fail not to discover thy suspicions—fail not to remonstrate! Had but my dear wife remonstrated with me, when she saw me, in consequence of my winnings, indulge in expense, which she must have known I could not honestly afford, she would not now, within the next hour, be deprived of her husband—of the only support of herself and her three poor children in this world,—and deprived of him in a manner which effectually cuts off all hopes of our ever meeting in the happiness of another. * * * *

‚Yes, in less than an hour, coward as I am, I shall have deserted my duty and my family in this world; and, wretch as I am, shall have rushed into all the horrors of hell in another world, by drowning myself.

‚By curiosity I was first led to the E O table. Ashamed to stand idle I put upon E, it came E; upon O, it came O. Fortune favoured me (as I foolishly called it), and I came away a winner.

Something worse than curiosity, though hardly more dangerous, carried me to another table another night. My view in going was answered. My view was to WIN, and again I WON in the course of the evening. Again I went, and again I won. For some weeks this was the constant story. Oh, happy had I lost at first! Now I went every night. Everything I ought to have done, neglected. Up all night, I was forced to lie in bed all day. The strength of my mind, which at THIS moment might save me, was hourly wasting away. My wife was deceived with continual falsehoods, to which nothing but her fondness for me blinded her. Even my winnings, with the expense and extravagance in which I indulged myself and family, were every day more than half exhausted. But I felt that I was always to win. Fortune favoured me. Fortune was now my deity. * * * *

‚But fortune, my new, my false deity, deserted me. My luck TURNED. I am undone! Ruined! A beggar! My wife and children will want a morsel of bread to eat. * * * * To destroy myself is the only way to preserve my family from want, and to keep myself from the GALLOWS. This morning I absolutely hesitated whether I should not procure a sum of money with which to try my luck by FORGERY. Gamesters, think of that—FORGERY! O my dear wife, is not anything better than seeing me conveyed to Tyburn? Yes, it is better that before many hours you and your three helpless daughters should be hanging in tears (I little merit) over my lifeless, cold, and swollen body.

‚Readers, farewell! From my sad and voluntary death, learn wisdom. In consequence of gaming I go to seek my destruction in the Thames. Oh, think in what manner he deserves to be punished who commits a crime which he is fully persuaded merits, and will not fail to meet, the severest punishment.‘

The narrative proceeds to state that, ‚between one and two o’clock in the morning he took a sad farewell of this world, and leaped over Blackfriars Bridge. It pleased Providence, however, that he should be seen committing this desperate action by two watermen, who found his body after it had been a considerable time under water. In consequence of the methods used by the men of the Humane Society, he was at length almost miraculously restored to life and to his family. It is further stated that—’In consequence of the advice of a worthy clergyman he was restored to reason and to religion. He now wonders how he could think of committing so horrid a crime; and is not without hope that by a life of continual repentance and exemplary religion, he may obtain pardon hereafter. The paper which he wrote before he set forth to drown himself he still desires should be made as public as possible, and that this narrative should be added to it.


In the year 1799, Sir W. L—, Bart., finding his eldest son extremely distressed and embarrassed, told him that he would relieve him from all his difficulties, on condition that he would state to him, without reserve, their utmost extent, and give him his honour never to play again for any considerable sum. The debts—amounting to L22,000—were instantly discharged. Before a week had elapsed he fell into his old habits again, and lost L5000 more at a sitting; upon which he next morning shot himself!


In 1816 a gentleman, the head of a first-rate concern in the city, put a period to his existence by blowing out his brains. He had gone to the Argyle Rooms a few nights before the act, and accompanied a female home in a coach, with two men, friends of the woman. When they got to her residence the two men proposed to the gentleman to play for a dozen champagne to treat the lady with, which the gentleman declined. They, however, after a great deal of persuasion, prevailed on him to play for small sums, and, according to the usual trick of gamblers, allowed him to win at first, till they began to play for double, when there is no doubt the fellows produced loaded dice, and the gentleman lost to the amount of L1800! This brought him to his senses—as well it might. He then invented an excuse for not paying that sum, by saying that he was under an agreement with his partner not to draw for a larger amount than L300 for his private account—and gave them a draft for that amount, promising the remainder at a future day. This promise, however, he did not attend to, not feeling himself bound by such a villainous transaction, especially after giving them so much. But the robbers found out who he was and his residence, and had the audacity to go, armed with bludgeons, and attack him publicly on his own premises, in the presence of those employed there, demanding payment of their nefarious ‚debt of honour,‘ and threatening him, if he did not pay, that he should fight!

This exposure had such an effect on his feelings that he made an excuse to retire—did so—and blew out his brains with a pistol!

This rash act was the more to be lamented because it prevented the bringing to condign punishment, the plundering villains who were the cause of it.(16)

(16) Annual Register, vol. lviii.


A gallant Dutch officer, after having lost a splendid fortune not long since (1823) in a gambling house at Aix-la-Chapelle, shot himself. A Russian general, also, of immense wealth, terminated his existence in the same manner and for the same cause. More recently, a young Englishman, who lost the whole of an immense fortune by gambling at Paris, quitted this world by stabbing himself in the neck with a fork. A short time previously another Englishman, whose birth was as high as his wealth had been considerable, blew his brains out in the Palais Royal, after having literally lost his last shilling. Finally, an unfortunate printer at Paris, who had a wife and five children, finished his earthly career for the same cause, by suffocating himself with the fumes of charcoal; he said, in his farewell note to his unhappy wife—’Behold the effect of gaming!'(17)

(17) Ubi supra.


A young man having gambled away his last shilling, solicited the loan of a few pounds from one of the proprietors of the hell in which he had been plundered. ‚What security will you give me?‘ asked the fellow. ‚My word of honour,‘ was the reply. ‚Your word of honour! That’s poor security, and won’t do,‘ rejoined the hellite; ‚if you can pawn nothing better than that, you’ll get no money out of me.‘ ‚Then you won’t lend me a couple of pounds?‘ ‚Not without security,‘ was the reply. ‚Why, surely, you won’t refuse me a couple of sovereigns, after having lost so much?‘ ‚I won’t advance you a couple of shillings without security.‘

Still bent upon play, and greedy for the means to gratify his passion, the unhappy man, as if struck by a sudden thought, exclaimed—’I’ll give you security—the clothes on my back are quite new, and worth eight guineas; you shall have them as security. Lend me two sovereigns on them.‘

‚Suppose you lose,‘ doggedly rejoined the other, ‚I cannot strip them off your back.‘ ‚Don’t trouble yourself on that head,‘ replied the desperate wretch; ‚if I lose I shall commit suicide, which I have been meditating for some time, and you shall surely have my clothes. I shall return to my lodgings before daylight, in the most worn-out and worthless dressing-gown or great-coat you can procure for me, leaving my clothes with you.‘

The two sovereigns were advanced, and in ten or twelve minutes were lost. The keeper of the table demanded the clothes, and the unfortunate man stripped himself with the utmost coolness of manner, and wrapping his body in a worn-out greatcoat, quitted the place with the full purpose of committing self-murder. He did not direct his steps homeward, however, but resolved to accomplish the horrid deed by suspending himself from a lamp-post in a dark lane near the place. While making the necessary preparations he was observed by a constable, who at once took him into custody, and on the following morning he was carried before the magistrate, where all the circumstances of the affair came out.


During the great French War, among other means resorted to in order to ease the English prisoners at Verdun of their loose cash, a gaming table was set up for their sole accommodation, and, as usual, led to scenes of great depravity and horror. For instance, a young man was enticed into this sink of iniquity, when he was tempted to throw on the table a five-franc piece; he won, and repeated the experiment several times successfully, until luck turned against him, and he lost everything he had. The manager immediately offered a rouleau of a thousand francs, which, in the heat of play, he thoughtlessly accepted, and also lost. He then drew a bill on his agent, which his captain (he was an officer in the English army) endorsed. The proceeds of this went the way of the rouleau. He drew two more bills, and lost again. The next morning he was found dead in his bed, with his limbs much distorted and his fingers dug into his sides. On his table was found an empty laudanum bottle, and some scraps of paper on which he had been practising the signature of Captain B——. On inquiry it was found that he had forged that officer’s name to the two last bills.


In 1819 an inquest was held on the body of a gentleman found hanging from one of the trees in St James’s Park. The evidence established the melancholy fact that the deceased was in the habit of frequenting gambling houses, and had sunk into a state of dejection on account of his losses; and it seemed probable that it was immediately after his departure from one of these receptacles of rogues and their dupes that he committed suicide. The son of the gate-keeper at St James’s saw several persons round the body at four o’clock in the morning, one of whom, a noted gambler, said: ‚Look at his face; why, have you forgotten last night? Don’t you recollect him now?‘ They were, no doubt, all gamblers—in at the death.‘

The three following stories, if not of actual suicide, relate crimes which bear a close resemblance to self-murder.


A clerk named Chambers, losing his monthly pay, which was his all, at a gaming table, begged to borrow of the manager’s; but they knew his history too well to lend without security, and therefore demanded something in pawn. ‚I have nothing to give but my ears,‘ he replied. ‚Well,‘ said one of the witty demons, ‚let us have them.‘ The youth immediately took a knife out of his pocket and actually cut off all the fleshy part of one of his cars and threw it on the table, to the astonishment of the admiring gamesters. He received his two dollars, and gambled on.


The following incident is said to have occurred in London:—Two fellows were observed by a patrol sitting at a lamp-post in the New Road; and, on closely watching them, the latter discovered that one was tying up the other, who offered no resistance, by the neck. The patrol interfered to prevent such a strange kind of murder, and was assailed by both, and very considerably beaten for his good offices; the watchmen, however, poured in, and the parties were secured. On examination next morning, it appeared that the men had been gambling; that one had lost all his money to the other, and had at last proposed to stake his clothes. The winner demurred—observing that he could not strip his adversary naked in the event of his losing. ‚Oh,‘ replied the other, ‚do not give yourself any uneasiness about that; if I lose I shall be unable to live, and you shall hang me, and take my clothes after I am dead, for I shall then, you know, have no occasion for them.‘ The proposed arrangement was assented to; and the fellow having lost, was quietly submitting to the terms of the treaty when he was interrupted by the patrol, whose impertinent interference he so angrily resented.


In the year 1812 an extraordinary investigation took place at Bow Street. Croker, the officer, was passing along Hampstead Road; he observed at a short distance before him two men on a wall, and directly after saw the tallest of them, a stout man, about six feet high, hanging by his neck from a lamp-post attached to the wall, being that instant tied up and turned off by the short man.

This unexpected and extraordinary sight astonished the officer; he made up to the spot with all speed, and just after he arrived there the tall man, who had been hanged, fell to the ground, the handkerchief with which he had been suspended having given way. Croker produced his staff, said he was an officer, and demanded to know of the other man the cause of such conduct; in the mean time the man who had been hanged recovered, got up, and on Croker’s interfering, gave him a violent blow on his nose, which nearly knocked him backward. The short man was endeavouring to make off; however, the officer procured assistance, and both were brought to the office, where the account they gave was that they worked on canals. They had been together on Wednesday afternoon, tossed for money, and afterwards for their CLOTHES; the tall man who was hanged won the other’s jacket, trousers, and shoes; they then tossed up which should HANG THE OTHER, and the short one won the toss. They got upon the wall, the one to submit, and the other to hang him on the lamp-iron. They both agreed in this statement. The tall one, who had been hanged, said if he had won the toss he would have hanged the other. He said he then felt the effects upon his neck of his hanging, and his eyes were so much swelled that he saw DOUBLE.

The magistrates, continues the report in the ‚Annual Register,‘ expressed their horror and disgust; and ordered the man who had been hanged to find bail for the violent and unjustifiable assault upon the officer; and the short one, for hanging the other—a very odd decision in the latter case—since the act was murder ‚to all intents and purposes‘ designed and intended. The report says, however, that, not having bail, they were committed to Bridewell for trial.(20) The result I have not discovered.

(20) Annual Register, 1812, vol. liv.

Innumerable duels have resulted from quarrels over the gaming table, although nothing could be more Draconic than the law especially directed against such duels. By the Act of Queen Anne against gaming, all persons sending a challenge on account of gaming disputes were liable to forfeit all their goods and to be committed to prison for two years. No case of the kind, however, was ever prosecuted on that clause of the Act, which was, in other respects, very nearly inoperative.


It so happened that almost every month of the year 1818 was ‚distinguished‘ by a duel or two, resulting from quarrels at gambling or in gambling houses.

January. ‚A meeting took place yesterday at an early hour, between Captain B—r—y and Lieutenant T—n—n, in consequence of a dispute at play. Wimbledon Common was the ground, and the parties fired twice, when the lieutenant was slightly wounded in the pistol hand, the ball grazing the right side; and here the affair ended.‘

January. ‚A meeting took place on the 9th instant, at Calais, between Lieut. Finch, 20th regiment of Dragoons, and Lieut. Boileau, on half-pay of the 41st regiment. Lieut. Finch was bound over, some days back, to keep the peace in England; in consequence of which he proceeded to Calais, accompanied by his friend, Captain Butler, where they were followed by Lieut. Boileau and his friend Lieut. Hartley. It was settled by Captain Butler, previous to Lieut. Finch taking his ground, that HE WAS BOUND IN HONOUR to receive LIEUT. BOILEAU’S FIRE as he had given so serious a provocation as a blow. This arrangement was, however, defeated, by Lieut. Finch’s pistol „accidentally“ going off, apparently in the direction of his opponent, which would probably have led to fatal consequences had it not been for the IMPLICIT RELIANCE placed by Lieut. Boileau’s friend on the STRICT HONOUR of Capt. Butler, whose anxiety, steadiness, and gentlemanly conduct on this and every other occasion, were too well known to leave a doubt on the minds of the opposite party, that Lieut. Finch’s pistol going off was ENTIRELY ACCIDENTAL. A reconciliation, therefore, immediately took place.‘

February 17. ‚Information was received at the public office, Marlborough Street, on Saturday last, that a duel was about to take place yesterday, in the fields contiguous to Chalk Farm, between Colonel Tucker and Lieut. Nixon, the latter having challenged the former in public company, for which and previous abuse the colonel inflicted severe chastisement with a thick stick. Subsequent information was received that the colonel’s friends deemed it unnecessary for him to meet the challenger, but that his remedy was to repeat the former chastisement when insulted. It was further stated that a few half-pay officers, of inferior rank, had leagued together for the purpose of procuring others to give a challenge, and which it was the determination to put down by adopting the colonel’s plan.‘

February. ‚A captain in the army shook hands with a gallant lieut.-colonel (who had distinguished himself in the Peninsula) at one of the West End gaming houses, and Lieut. N—, who was present, upbraided the colonel with the epithet of „poltroon.“ On a fit opportunity the colonel inflicted summary justice upon the lieutenant with a cane or horse-whip. This produced a challenge; but the colonel was advised that he would degrade himself by combat with the challenger, and he therefore declined it, but promised similar chastisement to that inflicted. It was then stated that the colonel was bound to fight any other person who would stand forth as the champion of Lieut. N—, to which the colonel consented,—when a Lieut. J—n—e appeared as the champion, and the meeting was appointed for Tuesday morning at Turnham Green. The information of the police was renewed, and Thomas Foy apprehended the parties at an inn near the spot, early in the morning. They were consequently bound over to keep the peace. It appears, however, that the lieutenant in this instance was not the champion of the former, but had been challenged by the colonel.‘

April. ‚A meeting was to have taken place yesterday in consequence of a dispute at play, between Captain R—n—s and Mr B—e—r, a gentleman of fortune; but it was prevented by the interference of the police, and the parties escaped. It took place, however, on the following day, on Wimbledon Common, and after exchanging a single shot the matter was adjusted.‘

May. ‚In consequence of a dispute at a gaming table, on Monday night, in the vicinity of Piccadilly, Mr M—, who was an officer in the British service at Brussels, and Mr B—n, a medical man, met, at three in the morning, on Tuesday, in the King’s Road. They fought at twelve paces. Mr B—n was wounded on the back part of the hand, and the affair was adjusted.‘

July. ‚A duel was fought yesterday morning, on Wimbledon Common, between a Mr Arrowsmith and Lieut. Flynn, which ended in the former being wounded in the thigh. The dispute which occasioned the meeting originated in a gaming transaction.‘

September. ‚A duel was fought this morning on Hounslow Heath, between Messrs Hillson and Marsden. The dispute arose in one of the stands at Egham races. The latter was seriously wounded in the left side, and conveyed away in a gig.‘

November. ‚A duel originating, over a dispute at play was fixed to take place on Wimbledon Common, at daybreak, yesterday morning, but information having been received that police officers were waiting, the parties withdrew.‘


A medical student, named Goulard, quarrelled at billiards with a fellow-student named Caire. Their mutual friends, having in vain tried every means of persuasion to prevent the consequences of the dispute, accompanied the young men without the walls of Paris. Goulard seemed disposed to submit to an arrangement, but Cairo obstinately refused. The seconds measured the ground, and the first shot having been won by Goulard, he fired, and Caire fell dead. Goulard did not appear during the prosecution that followed; he continued absent on the day fixed for judgment, and the court, conformably to the code of criminal proceedings, pronounced on the charge without the intervention of a jury. It acquitted Goulard of premeditation, but condemned him for contumacy, to perpetual hard labour, and to be branded; and this in spite of the fact that the advocate-general had demanded Goulard’s acquittal of the charge.


In 1788, a Scotch gentleman, named William Brodie, was tried and convicted at Edinburgh, for stealing bank-notes and money, with violence. This man, at the death of his father, twelve years before, inherited a considerable estate in houses, in the city of Edinburgh, together with L10,000 in money; but, by an unhappy connection and a too great propensity to gaming, he was reduced to the desperation which brought him at last to the scaffold. It is stated that his demeanour on receiving the dreadful sentence was equally cool and determined; moreover, that he was dressed in a blue coat, fancy vest, satin breeches, and white silk stockings; a cocked hat; his hair full dressed and powdered; and, lastly, that he was carried back to prison in a chair. Such was the respectful treatment of ‚gentlemen‘ prisoners in Scotland towards the end of the last century.


A Monsieur de Boisseuil, one of the Kings equerries, being at a card-party, detected one of the players cheating, and exposed his conduct.

The insulted ‚gentleman‘ demanded satisfaction, when Boisseuil replied that he did not fight with a person who was a rogue.

‚That MAY be,‘ said the other, ‚but I do not like to be CALLED one.‘

They met on the ground, and Boisseuil received two desperate wounds from the sharper.

This man’s plea against Boisseuil is a remarkable trait. Madame de Stael has alluded to it in her best style. ‚In France,‘ she says, ‚we constantly see persons of distinguished rank, who, when accused of an improper action, will say—“It may have been wrong, but no one will dare assert it to my face!“ Such an expression is an evident proof of confirmed depravity; for, what would be the condition of society if it was only requisite to kill one another, to commit with impunity every evil action,—to break one’s word and assert falsehood—provided no one dared tell you that you lied?‘

In countries where public opinion is more severe on the want of probity and fair-dealing, should a man transgress the laws of these principles of human conduct, ten duels a day would not enable him to recover the esteem he has forfeited.


This duel originated as follows:—It appears that a Major Oneby, being in company with a Mr Gower and three other persons, at a tavern, in a friendly manner, after some time began playing at Hazard; when one of the company, named Rich, asked if any one would set him three half-crowns; whereupon Mr Gower, in a jocular manner, laid down three half-pence, telling Rich he had set him three pieces, and Major Oneby at the same time set Rich three half-crowns, and lost them to him.

Immediately after this, Major Oneby, in a angry manner, turned about to Mr Gower and said—’It was an impertinent thing to set down half-pence,‘ and called him ‚an impertinent puppy‘ for so doing. To this Mr Gower answered—’Whoever calls me so is a rascal. ‚Thereupon Major Oneby took up a bottle, and with great force threw it at Mr Gower’s head, but did not hit him, the bottle only brushing some of the powder out of his hair. Mr Gower, in return, immediately tossed a candlestick or a bottle at Major Oneby, which missed him; upon which they both rose to fetch their swords, which were then hung in the room, and Mr Gower drew his sword, but the Major was prevented from drawing his by the company. Thereupon Mr Gower threw away his sword, and the company interposing, they sat down again for the space of an hour.

At the expiration of that time, Mr Gower said to Major Oneby—’We have had hot words, and you were the aggressor, but I think we may pass it over’—at the same time offering him his hand; but the Major replied—’No, d—n you, I WILL HAVE YOUR BLOOD.‘

After this, the reckoning being paid, all the company, excepting Major Oneby, went out to go home, and he called to Mr Gower, saying—’Young man, come back, I have something to say to you.‘ Whereupon Mr Gower returned to the room, and immediately the door was closed, and the rest of the company excluded—when a clashing of swords was heard, and Major Oneby gave Mr Gower a mortal wound. It was found, on the breaking up of the company, that Major Oneby had his great coat over his shoulders, and that he had received three slight wounds in the fight. Mr Gower, being asked on his death-bed whether he had received his wounds in a manner among swordsmen called fair, answered—’I think I did.‘ Major Oneby was tried for the offence, and found guilty of murder, ‚having acted upon malice and deliberation, and not from sudden passion.‘


In 1813, the nephew of a British peer was executed at Lisbon. He had involved himself by gambling, and being detected in robbing the house of an English friend, by a Portuguese servant, he shot the latter dead to prevent discovery. This desperate act, however, did not enable him to escape the hands of justice. After execution, his head was severed from his body and fixed on a pole opposite the house in which the murder and robbery were committed.

The following facts will show the intimate connection between gambling and Robbery or Forgery.


Edward Wortley Montagu was the only son of the celebrated Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, whose eccentricities he inherited without her genius. Montagu, together with Lords Taffe and Southwell, was accused of having invited one Abraham Payba, alias James Roberts, a Jew, to dine with them at Paris, in the year 1751; and of having plied him with wine till he became intoxicated, and so lost at play the sum of 800 louis d’ors. It was affirmed that they subsequently called at his house, and that on his exhibiting an evident disinclination to satisfy their demands, they threatened to cut him across the face with their swords unless he instantly paid them. Terrified by their violence, and, at the same time, unwilling to part with his gold, the Jew had cunning enough to give them drafts on a Paris banker, by whom, as he had no dealings with him, he well knew that his bills would be dishonoured; and, to escape the vengeance of those whom he had outwitted, quitted Paris. On ascertaining how completely they had been duped, Montagu, with his associates Lords Taffe and Southwell, repaired to the house of the Jew, and after ransacking his drawers and strong boxes, are said to have possessed themselves of a very considerable sum of money, in addition to diamonds, jewels, and other valuable articles. The Jew had it now in his power to turn on his persecutors, and accordingly he appealed to the legislature for redress. Lord Southwell contrived to effect his escape, but Lord Taffe and Montagu were arrested, and were kept in separate dungeons in the Grand Chatelet, for nearly three months. The case was subsequently tried in a court of law, and decided in favour of the accused,—the Jew being adjudged to make reparation and defray the costs! Against the injustice of this sentence he appealed to the high court of La Tournelle at Paris, which reversed it. Lord Taffe and Montagu afterwards appealed, in their turn, but of the definitive result there is no record.


Le Sage, in his ‚Gil Blas,‘ says that ‚the devil has a particular spite against private tutors;‘ and he might have added, against popular preachers. By popular preachers I do not mean such grand old things as Bossuet, Massillon, and Bourdaloue. All such men were proof against the fiery darts of the infernal tempter. From their earliest days they had been trained to live up to the Non nobis Domine, ‚Not unto us, O Lord, but unto thy name, give glory.‘ All of them had only at heart the glory of their church-cause; though, of course, the Jesuit Bourdaloue worked also for his great Order, then culminating in glory.

The last-named, too, was another La Fontaine in simplicity, preparing for his grandest predications by sorrily rasping on an execrable fiddle. So, if the devil had lifted him up to a high mountain, showing him all he would give him, he would have simply invited him to his lonely cell, to have a jig to the tune of his catguts.

Your popular preachers in England have been, and are, a different sort of spiritual workers. They have been, and are, individualities, perpetually reminded of the fact, withal; and fiercely tempted accordingly. The world, the flesh, and the devil, incessantly knock at their door. If they fall into the snare it is but natural, and much to be lamented.

Dr Dodd had many amiable qualities; but his reputation as a scholar, and his notoriety as a preacher, appear to have entirely turned his head.

He had presented to him a good living in Bedfordshire; but the income thereof was of no avail in supplying his wants: he was vain, pompous, in debt, a gambler. Temptation came upon him. To relieve himself he tried by indirect means to obtain the rectory of St George’s, Hanover Square, by sending an anonymous letter to Lady Apsley, offering the sum of L3000 if by her means he could be presented to the living; the letter was immediately sent to the chancellor, and, after being traced to the sender, laid before the king. His name was ordered to be struck out of the list of chaplains; the press abounded with satire and invective; Dodd was abused and ridiculed, and even Foote, in one of his performances at the Haymarket, made him a subject of entertainment. Dodd then decamped, and went to his former pupil, Lord Chesterfield, in Switzerland, who gave him another living; but his extravagance being undiminished, he was driven to schemes which covered him with infamy. After the most extravagant and unseemly conduct in France, he returned to England, and forged a bond as from his pupil, Lord Chesterfield, for the sum of L4200, and, upon the credit of it, obtained a large sum of money; but detection instantly following, he was committed to prison, tried and convicted at the Old Bailey, Feb. 24, and executed at Tyburn, June 27 (after a delay of four months), exhibiting every appearance of penitence. The great delay between the sentence and execution was owing to a doubt for some time respecting the admissibility of an evidence which had been made use of to convict him.

Lord Chesterfield has been accused of a cold and relentless disposition in having deserted his old tutor in his extremity. But Mr Jesse says that he heard it related by a person who lived at the period, that at a preliminary examination of the unfortunate divine, Lord Chesterfield, on some pretence, placed the forged document in Dodd’s hands, with the kind intention that he should take the opportunity of destroying it, but the latter wanted either the courage or the presence of mind enough to avail himself of the occasion. This, however, is scarcely an excuse, for, certainly, it was not for Dr Dodd to destroy the fatal document. If Lord Chesterfield had wished to suppress that vital evidence he could have done so.

Dr Johnson exerted himself to the utmost to try and save poor Dodd; but George III. was inexorable. Respecting this benevolent attempt of the Doctor, Chalmers writes as follows:—

Dr Johnson appears indeed in this instance to have been more swayed by popular judgment than he would perhaps have been willing to allow. The cry was—“the honour of the clergy;“ but if the honour of the clergy was tarnished, it was by Dodd’s crime, and not his punishment; for his life had been so long a disgrace to his cloth that he had deprived himself of the sympathy which attaches to the first deviation from rectitude, and few criminals could have had less claim to such a display of popular feeling.‘

All applications for the Royal mercy having failed, Dr Dodd prepared himself for death, and with a warmth of gratitude wrote to Dr Johnson as follows:—

                                'June 25, Midnight.

‚Accept, thou GREAT and GOOD heart, my earnest and fervent thanks and prayers for all thy benevolent and kind efforts in my behalf.—Oh! Dr Johnson! as I sought your knowledge at an early hour in my life, would to Heaven I had cultivated the love and acquaintance of so excellent a man!—I pray God most sincerely to bless you with the highest transports—the infelt satisfaction of HUMANE and benevolent exertions!—And admitted, as I trust I shall be, to the realms of bliss before you, I shall hail YOUR arrival there with transport, and rejoice to acknowledge that you were my comforter, my advocate, and my FRIEND. God be EVER with YOU!‘

Dr Johnson’s reply.

‚To the Reverend Dr Dodd.

‚Dear Sir,—That which is appointed to all men is now coming upon you. Outward circumstances, the eyes and thoughts of men, are below the notice of an immortal being about to stand the trial for eternity, before the Supreme Judge of heaven and earth. Be comforted: your crime, morally or religiously considered, has no very deep dye of turpitude. It corrupted no man’s principles. It attacked no man’s life. It involved only a temporary and reparable injury. Of this, and of all other sins, you are earnestly to repent; and may God, who knoweth our frailty, and desireth not our death, accept your repentance, for the sake of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord!

‚In requital of those well-intended offices which you are pleased so emphatically to acknowledge, let me beg that you make in your devotions one petition for my eternal welfare. ‚I am, dear Sir,

          'Your affectionate servant,

                              'SAM. JOHNSON.

Next day, 27th June, Dr Dodd was executed.


Captain Davis was some time in the Life Guards, and a lieutenant in the Yeomen of the Household—a situation which placed him often about the persons of the Royal family. He was seldom known to play for less stakes than L50, often won or lost large sums, and was represented as a gentleman of extensive and independent fortune, although some of his enemies declared otherwise, and repeated anecdotes to confirm the assertion. He was at length committed for forgeries to an immense amount. To the fidelity of a servant he owed his escape from Giltspur Street prison—another fatal example of the sure result of gambling. Heir to a title—moving in the first society—having held a commission in the most distinguished of the Royal regiments—he was reduced to the alternative of an ignominious flight with outlawry, or risking the forfeiture of his wretched life, to the outraged laws of his country. When in Paris, he at one time had won L30,000, and on his way home he dropped into another gambling house, where he lost it all but L3000. He set out in life with L20,000 in money!


Henry Weston was nephew to the distinguished Admiral Sir Hugh Palliser.

Having unlimited control of the large property of his employer, a Mr Cowan, during the absence of the latter from town, he was tempted first to gamble in the funds, wherein being unfortunate, he next went to a gambling house in Pall Mall, and lost a very large sum; and at length, gamed away nearly all his master’s property.

In this tremendous result—lost to all intents and purposes—he made a supreme effort to ‚patch up‘ the ruin he had made. He forged the name of General Tonyn; and so dexterously, that he obtained from the Bank of England the sum of L10,000.

This huge robbery from Peter was not to pay Paul. Not a bit of it. It was to try the fickle goddess of gaming once more—a Napoleonic stroke for an Austerlitz of fortune.

He lost this L10,000 in two nights.

Did he despair at this hideous catastrophe? Did he tear his hair—rush out of the room—blow his brains out or drown himself?

Not a bit of it. He ’set his wits to work‘ once more. He procured a woman to personate General Tonyn’s sister—forged again—and again obtained from the Bank of England another large supply of ready cash—with which, however, he ‚went off‘ this time.

He was caught; and then only he thought of self-murder, and cut his throat—but not effectually. He recovered, was tried at the Old Bailey, and hanged on the 6th of July, 1796.

No doubt the reader imagines that the man of such a career was an OLD stager—some long-visaged, parchment-faced fellow the OTHER side of forty at least. Well, this hero of the gaming table, Henry Weston, was aged only TWENTY-THREE years! What terrible times those must have been to produce such a prodigy!

To the judge who tried him Henry Weston sent a list of a number of PROFESSIONAL GAMBLERS, among them was a person of high rank. Weston, at different times, lost above L46,000 at play; and at a house in Pall Mall, where he lost a considerable part of it, three young officers also lost no less than L35,000.


It seems that the wretched traitor Arthur Thistlewood, who paid the forfeit of his life for his crimes, had dissipated by gaming the property he had acquired by a matrimonial connection—L12,000. An unfortunate transaction at cards, during the Lincoln races, involved him in difficulties, which he found it impossible to meet; and he fled to avoid the importunities of his more fortunate associates. He was afterwards known only as the factious demagogue and the professed gambler!


Henry Fountleroy was a gentleman of rank, a partner in the banking house of Marsh, Sibbold, and Co., of Berners Street. He was convicted of having forged a deed for the transfer of L5450 long annuities, in fraud of a certain Frances Young. Like Thurtell, Fountleroy defended himself, and battled with the prejudicial reports circulated against him—among the rest his addiction to gambling. ‚I am accused,‘ he said, ‚of being an habitual gambler, an accusation which, if true, might easily account for the diffusion of the property. I am, indeed, a member of two clubs, the Albion and the Stratford, but never in my life did I play in either at cards, or dice, or any game of chance; this is well known to the gentlemen of these clubs; and my private friends, with whom I more intimately associated, can equally assert my freedom from all habit or disposition to play.'(21)

(21) See the case in ‚Celebrated Trials,‘ vol. vi

I close this record of crime and misery by a few narratives of a more miscellaneous character.


Marshal Grammont used to tell a story of three soldiers, who, having committed offences punishable by death, it was ordered that one of them should be hanged as an example, and the three were directed to decide which of them should suffer by throwing dice. The first threw fourteen, the second seventeen, and the last, taking up the dice as coolly as though he were engaged in a trivial game, threw eighteen! Thereupon he exclaimed, with an expression of vexation, ‚Ah, now! if I had been playing for money I should not have been so lucky!‘

This may appear ‚taking it very cool;‘ but I think the following cases of Englishmen‘ rather stronger.‘


In the Times of February 11th, 1819, mention is made of a gang of nearly thirty persons, male and female, and all presenting the most shocking appearance of both want and depravity, who were brought to the Marlborough Street Office. Among these wretched beings was a woman named Hewitt, said to be the wife of one Captain Hewitt, a leader of the ton, who, after ruining himself and family at the gambling table, ran away from them, and was not since heard of. His wife being left to herself, and having probably been tainted by his evil example, by an easy gradation became first embarrassed, then a prostitute, then a thief, and on the occasion above mentioned exhibited one of the most distressing spectacles of vice and misery that could be conceived.


This man, it is well known, was executed for the murder of Weare.

Thurtell was evidently no common man. His spoken defence, as reported, is one of the finest specimens of impassioned eloquence—perfectly Demosthenic. His indignation at the reports circulated in prejudice of his case was overwhelming. Nothing can be finer than the turn of the following sentence:—’I have been represented by the Press—WHICH CARRIES ITS BENEFITS OR CURSES ON RAPID WINGS from one extremity of the kingdom to the other—as a man more depraved, more gratuitously and habitually profligate and cruel, than has ever appeared in modern times.‘

Touching his gambling pursuits, he said:—’I have been represented to you as a man who was given to gambling, and the constant companion of gamblers. To this accusation in some part my heart, with feeling penitence, pleads guilty. I have gambled; I have been a gambler, but not for the last three years. During that time I have not attended or betted upon a horse-race, or a fight, or any public exhibition of that nature. If I have erred in these things, half of the nobility of the land have been my examples; some of the most enlightened statesmen of the country have been my companions in them. I have, indeed, been a gambler; I have been an unfortunate one. But whose fortune have I ruined?—whom undone? My own family have I ruined; I have undone myself!'(22)

(22) See the entire speech in ‚Celebrated Trials,‘ vol. vi. 547.


In the Annual Register for the year 1766 occurs the following ‚circumstantial and authentic account of the memorable case of Richard Parsons,‘ transmitted by the high sheriff of Gloucestershire to his friend in London.

On the 20th of February, 1766, Richard Parsons and three more met at a private house in Chalfold, in order to play at cards, about six o’clock in the evening. They played at Loo till about eleven or twelve that night, when they changed their game for Whist. After a few deals a dispute arose about the state of the game. Parsons asserted with oaths that they were six, which the others denied; upon which he wished ‚that he might never enter the kingdom of heaven, and that his flesh might rot upon his bones, if there were not six in the game.‘ These wishes were several times repeated both then and afterwards. Upon this the candle was put out by a party present, who said he was shocked with the oaths and expressions he heard, and that he put out the candle with a design to put an end to the game. Presently upon this they adjourned to another house, and there began a fresh game, when Parsons and his partner had great success. They then played at Loo again till four in the morning. During the second playing Parsons complained to one Rolles, his partner, of a bad pain in his leg, which from that time increased. There was an appearance of a swelling, and afterwards the colour changing to that of a mortified state. On the following Sunday he took advice of a surgeon, who attended him until his death. Notwithstanding all the applications that were made the mortification increased, and showed itself in different parts of the body. He was visited by a clergyman, who administered the sacrament to him, without any knowledge of what had happened before—the man appearing to be extremely ignorant of religion, having been accustomed to swear, to drink, to game, and to profane the Sabbath. After receiving the sacrament he said—’Now, I must never sin again.‘ He hoped God would forgive him, having been wicked not above six years, and that whatever should happen he would not play at cards again.

After this he was in great agony—chiefly delirious; spoke of his companions by name, and seemed as if his imagination was engaged at cards. He started, had distracted looks and gestures, and in a dreadful fit of shaking and trembling died on the 4th of March, just about a fortnight after the utterance of his terrible imprecation.

The worthy sheriff of Gloucestershire goes on to say that the man’s eyes were open when he died, and could not be closed by the common method, so that they remained open when he was put into the coffin. From this circumstance arose a report that he WISHED HIS EYES MIGHT NEVER CLOSE; ‚but,‘ says the sheriff, ‚this is a mistake; for, from the most creditable witnesses, I am fully convinced no such wish was uttered; and the fact is, that he did close his eyes after he was taken with the mortification, and either dozed or slept several times.

‚When the body came to be laid out, it appeared all over discoloured or spotted; and it might, in the most literal sense, be said, that his flesh rotted on his bones before he died.‘

At the request of the sheriff, the surgeon (a Mr Pegler) who attended the unfortunate man, sent in the following report:—’Sir,—You desire me to acquaint you, in writing, with what I know relating to the melancholy case of the late Richard Parsons; a request I readily comply with, hoping that his sad catastrophe will serve to admonish all those who profane the sacred name of God.

‚February 27th last I visited Richard Parsons, who, I found, had an inflamed leg, stretching from the foot almost to the knee, tending to a gangrene. The tenseness and redness of the skin was almost gone off, and became of a duskish and livid colour, and felt very lax and flabby. Symptoms being so dangerous, some incisions were made down to the quick, some spirituous fomentations made use of, and the whole limb dressed up with such applications as are most approved in such desperate circumstances, joined with proper internal medicines. The next day he seemed much the same; but on March the 1st he was worse, the incisions discharged a sharp fetid odor (which is generally of the worst consequence). On the next day, which was Sunday, the symptoms seemed to be a little more favourable; but, to my great surprise, the very next day I found his leg not only mortified up to the knee, but the same began anew in four different parts, viz., under each eye, on the top of his shoulder, and on one hand; and in about twelve hours after he died. I shall not presume to say there was anything supernatural in the case; but, however, it must be confessed, that such cases are rather uncommon in subjects so young, and of so good a habit as he had always been previous to his illness.‘

On one occasion Justice Maule was about to pass sentence on a prisoner, who upon being asked to say why judgment should not be pronounced, ‚wished that God might strike him dead if he was not innocent of the crime.‘ After a pause, the judge said:—’As the Almighty has not thought proper to comply with your request, the sentence of the court is,‘ &c.


Every Englishman recollects the fate of that unhappy heiress, the richest of all Europe, married to a man of rank and family, who was plundered in the course of a few years of the whole of his wealth, in one of those club houses, and was obliged to surrender himself to a common prison, and ultimately fly from his country, leaving his wife with her relations in the greatest despair and despondency.'(23)

(23) Rouge et Noir: the Academicians of 1823.

GEORGE IV. There are few departments of human distinction in which Great Britain cannot boast a ‚celebrity’—genteel or ungenteel. In the matter of gambling we have been unapproachable—not only in the ‚thorough‘ determination with which we have exhausted the pursuit—but in the vast, the fabulous millions which make up the sum total that Englishmen have ‚turned over‘ at the gaming table.

I think that many thousands of millions would be ‚within the mark‘ as the contribution of England to the insatiate god of gambling.

I have presented to the reader the record of gambling all the world over—the gambling of savages—the gambling of the ancient Persians, Greeks, and Romans—the gambling of the gorgeous monarchs of France and their impassioned subjects; but I have now to introduce upon the horrible stage a Prince Royal, who surpassed all his predecessors in the gaming art, having right royally lost at play not much less than a million sterling, or, as stated, L800,000—before he was twenty-one years of age!

If the following be facts, vouched for by a writer of authority,(24) the results were most atrocious.

(24) James Grant (Editor of the Morning Advertiser), Sketches in London.

‚Every one is aware that George IV., when Prince of Wales, was, as the common phrase is, over-head-and-ears in debt; and that it was because he would thereby be enabled to meet the claims of his creditors, that he consented to marry the Princess Caroline of Brunswick. But although this is known to every one, comparatively few people are acquainted with the circumstances under which his debts were contracted. Those debts, then, were the result of losses at the gaming table. He was an inveterate gambler—a habit which he most probably contracted through his intimacy with Fox. It is a well-ascertained fact that in two short years, after he attained his majority, he lost L800,000 at play.

‚It was with the view and in the hope that marriage would cure his propensity for the gaming table, that his father was so anxious to see him united to Caroline; and it was solely on account of his marriage with that princess constituting the only condition of his debts being paid by the country, that he agreed to lead her to the hymeneal altar.

‚The unfortunate results of this union are but too well known, not only as regarded the parties themselves, but as regarded society generally. To the gambling habits, then, of the Prince of Wales are to be ascribed all the unhappiness which he entailed on the unfortunate Caroline, and the vast amount of injury which the separation from her, and the subsequent trial, produced on the morals of the nation generally.´



Kommentar verfassen

Trage deine Daten unten ein oder klicke ein Icon um dich einzuloggen:

Du kommentierst mit Deinem Abmelden / Ändern )


Du kommentierst mit Deinem Twitter-Konto. Abmelden / Ändern )


Du kommentierst mit Deinem Facebook-Konto. Abmelden / Ändern )

Google+ Foto

Du kommentierst mit Deinem Google+-Konto. Abmelden / Ändern )

Verbinde mit %s

%d Bloggern gefällt das: