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wend his steps to the Mulberry Gardens to eat tarts or to sip syllabubs in their cool and shady arbours. He might proceed citywards for the purpose of keeping an assignation in an India shop, or at the New Exchange. Nor when still evening came on, and had clad all things in her sober livery, did the day of a fashionable beau conclude. Another round of visits, another discussion of scandal, another card party, another entertainment of conjuring, another game of romps, and then the evening would be finished. But the day was not yet done, seeing that after participating in these amusements the beaux either wended their steps in the direction of the Court, or to one of the taverns, there to stay till midnight, passing the hours away with revels suited to their whims and fancies, with cards, dice, dancing, or bottles of champagne and Burgundy, the potent effects of which soon laid them at full length beneath the table. We suspect that some of our hypercritical readers, after perusing the foregoing sketch, will feel inclined to dissent from it, on the ground of its imperfection. In that opinion, none but ourselves would more heartily concur. Most assuredly it is imperfect; it is a fact that we most readily admit; nevertheless, we feel constrained to submit that it represents faithfully, so far as it goes, the way in which the precious light-winged hours of time were passed by the fashionable dandies of London in that age, and it is no exaggeration to add, by fashionable ladies of London of that age also. Moreover, with certain limitations and with certain exceptions, it indicates with a fair amount of correctness the mode of life which those who are included under the category of the middle classes of society were wont to lead. Change the scene of the action, substitute one locality for another, the Mall in Hyde Park for Marrowbone Gardens, St. James's for Spring Gardens or the Folly, and the life in such was only in a few respects dissimilar. Is it to be supposed that the people were not influenced by the example of the Court 2 Is it to be supposed that they were less addicted to the pursuit of pleasure than those who socially were their superiors P Certainly not. The Puritan party had been crushed, and crushed effectually, and boundless was the national exultation at the event. Men, in the times of Puritan ascendency, had hardly dared to call their souls their own. He who had ventured openly to sigh for the fleshpots of the Caroline age, he who had ventured to recall the fragrant memories of the past, who had frequented Spring Gardens when in town and had indulged in hawking when in the country, soon found himself branded by “the righteous overmuch " as a malignant, as a heretic or as a knave. To all this the Restoration effectually put an end. The people breathed freely once again. Nor can we be surprised that when they did breathe freely they should have acted freely, and should have rushed into the wildest excesses.
Of all the many stains on national manners and morals for which the Restoration must be held responsible, that of gaming was certainly one of the deepest. During the whole of the second half of the seventeenth century, gaming under one form or another constituted the ordinary amusement of both sexes in the highest society of England. A residence abroad so prolonged as that of Charles II. had been, had initiated him into all the mysteries of the gamester's craft, and his followers were by no means slow in following his example. The consequence was, that when they returned to England in 1660, they returned proficient in all the wisdom of the Continental gamblers, and lost no time in communicating their knowledge to almost everyone into whose company they were thrown. Forthwith Whitehall Palace became in everything but name a gambling hell. The same courtier who but a few short months before might fairly have been regarded as living in the odour of sanctity, who would have pretended to have been horror-stricken at the bare mention of cards or dice, now threw himself with heart and soul into the vortex, as if anxious at all hazards to make amends for his former abstinence. From the saloons of Whitehall to the booths of Moorfields or Smithfield the gambling mania raged. Many a man of fashion literally passed the whole of his life at play for the highest stakes that any one could be found to play with him, doing nothing else but gaming from the time he left his bed until the time he stepped into it again. The life of many another man was a continual alternation between poverty and wealth, winning one day and losing the next. At the Court the extent to which card-playing and dicing were carried on gave great offence to the few whom the all-prevailing mania had not affected. Thus, for example, John Evelyn entered in his “Diary,” under date of January 6, 1662, a scene which he beheld with his own eyes, and which, it may be concluded, filled him with deep concern. “This evening,” he wrote, “according to custom, his Majesty opened the revels of the night by throwing dice himself in the privy chamber, where was a table set on purpose, and lost his A 100. (The year before he won 4, 1,500.) The ladies also played very deep. I came away when the Duke of Ormond had won about £1,000 ; and left them still at passage, cards, &c. At other tables both there and at the groom-porters, observing the wicked folly and monstrous excess of passion among some losers; sorry am I that such a wretched custom as play to that excess should be countenanced in a court which ought to be an example of virtue to the rest of the kingdom.” Nor was the amazement of that other veracious chronicler of contemporary fashionable folly less great than that of Evelyn. “This evening,” wrote he in his “Diary,” under date of February 17, 1667, “going to the queen's side (in the palace at Whitehall) to see the ladies, I did find the Queene, the Duchesse of York, and another or two, at cards, with the room full of great ladies and men; which I was amazed at to see on a Sunday, having not believed it; but, contrarily, flatly denied the same a little time since to my cosen Roger Pepys.” ” Much as Pepys had seen and heard of Court life under the sway of his royal master, this came upon him as a revelation. The truth was that all the members of the royal family preferred the fashionable games at cards on the seventh day to the society and conversation of Court chaplains and divines eminent for their talents or for their oratorical powers. Moreover, the Princess Mary, after she had been united in the bonds of wedlock to the Prince of Orange, introduced the practice into Holland, and in so doing scandalised in no small degree a people whose ecclesiastical polity and practice had been founded on the gloomy system of John Calvin, the great French teacher of Geneva. *
We may with great reason conclude that the predilection which women displayed in the Caroline age for gambling must have been very great indeed when it was rebuked publicly on the stage in the prologues and epilogues to plays, the sole portions of dramatic compositions in which playwrights endeavoured to correct that which was amiss in the public morality. Most of our readers who possess any acquaintance with the dramatic writings of the George Sand of the Restoration, Mrs. Afra Behn—a lady, who through her marriage with a Dutch merchant of the City of London, gained an entrance to the Court of Charles II., whom she was wont to amuse with her witty sallies and eloquent descriptions—will bear us out when we say that it is impossible, from what is known of her career, to admit her claim to be considered as a censor of fashionable manners and morals. Yet in the prologue to her tragedy of “The Moor's Revenge,” Mrs. Behn bids the young ladies of the period to beware of keeping unreasonable hours at gambling if they desired to preserve their complexions :
Yet sitting up so late, as I am told,
The celebrated dramatist, Sir George Etherege, again, whose life
' Diary, ed. Braybrooke, 1850, i. p. 359.
* /bid. iii. pp. 406–10.
* See in proof of this assertion the Diary of Dr. Edward Lake, published by the Camden Society.
scandalised many even in that age, and whose affection for the fair sex knew scarcely any bounds, was equally angry with the ladies for the decided partiality which they manifested for cards and dice. In a song of his on the game called basset, he remonstrated with them on the subject, saying, among other things :
The time which should be kindly lent
To plays and witty men,
Or wishing for a ten.
Throw down this favorite
Your beauty and your wit.
Which all the world subdue,
Be only on Alpue. To render certain allusions in the foregoing verses comprehensible to some of our readers, we must explain that in the game known as basset, which is now seldom or never played, “waiting for a knave," or “ wishing for a ten,” implied the anxiety which was attendant upon the turning-up of the winning cards, and that the last word of this last line of the third verse, "alpue,” was a term which was applied to the continuation of the bet on a particular card which had previously won. Inability to gamble and to play cards constituted an insuperable hindrance to introduction into polite society. “Gaming," wrote the author of a treatise on the games played " at Court and in the assemblies," written, as the title-page sets forth, for the use of the young princesses to whom it was dedicated, “is become so much the fashion among the beau monde that he who in company should appear ignorant of the games in vogue would be reckoned low-bred and hardly fit for conversation.” These words occur in a publication bearing the suggestive title of “ The Compleat Gamester ; or, Full and Easy Instructions for Playing the Games now in Vogue, &c. By Richard Seymour, Esq.” This treatise was originally published in the year 1674, and subsequently passed through several editions, each of which was enlarged by the introduction of ample descriptions of later games, such as ombre, picquet, and chess. Roger North, in that instructive and entertaining sketch which he has left on record of the life of his brother Francis, Lord Guilford, is careful to mention that he attained considerable proficiency in all games of cards, dice, and billiards, presumably in order to remove any misapprehension in the mind of the reader
| North’s Life of Lord Guilford, i. p. 17.
that he took no interest in the most fashionable forms of amusement in that age.
About eight years after the Restoration the gambling mania for time gave place to one for masquerading. The rage, of course, began in the Court, but soon infected the whole town. “At this time,” says Bishop Burnet, under date of 1668, “the Court fell into much extravagance in masquerading ; both the King and Queen , and all the Court went about masked, and came into houses unknown, and danced there with a good deal of wild frolick. In all this, people were so disguised, that without being in the secret none could distinguish them. They were carried about in hackney chairs. Once the Queen's chairmen, not knowing who she was, went from her. So she was alone, and was much disturbed, and came to Whitehall in a hackney coach. Some say in a cart.” It has been remarked, and we think with much truth, that whenever masquerades in public or private constitute a popular amusement with the pleasure-loving public, including both the Court and the aristocracy, it is a very bad sign of national morals.
The midnight orgy and the mazy dance,
Here for the present we must conclude. Certain periods of history are often surrounded with a halo of glory. Dazzling associations cluster round names. It is distance which lends enchantment to the view. Living witnesses who have known both the past and the present generations, will, by a law of human nature, always award the palm of superiority to the companions of their youth. Yet, unless we greatly deceive ourselves, it will require very strong arguments to convince thoughtful persons that the social powers of any class of English society have fallen off, while morality, taste, knowledge, genera freedom of intercourse and liberality of opinion have been steadily advancing ; that the comparison between the manners and morals of the seventeenth century and our own is not highly satisfactory ; that intellectual tastes have not superseded the necessity which was then felt by the upper class of resorting to coarse indulgences and strong excitements; or that respect for public opinion does not compel those among them who continue unregenerate to conceal their transgressions from the eyes of the world.
WILLIAM CONNOR SYDNEY.
Burnet's History of My Own Times, i. p. 368.