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be from our resentment, they are still open to ill-natured fufpicions. They do not consider, what strange conftructions may be put on these laughs and whispers. It were, indeed, of little consequence, if we only imagined, that they were taking the reputation of their acquaintance to pieces, or abusing the company round; but when they indulge themselves in this behaviour, some perhaps may be led to conclude, that they are disa courfing upon topics, which they are afhamed to speak of in a less private manner,
If the misconduct, which I have described, had been only to be found, Mr. Town, at my friend's table, I should not have troubled you with this leiter : but the same kind of ill breeding prevails too often, and in too many places. The gigglers and the whisperers are innumerable; they beset us wherever we go; and it is observable, that after a short murmur of whispers out comes the burst of laughter: like a gun-powder ferpent, which, after hissing about for some time, goes off in a bounce.
Some excuse may perhaps be framed for this ill-timed merriment in the fair sex. Venus, the goddess of beauty, is frequently called the laughter-loving dame ; and by laughing our modern ladies may possibly imagine, that they render themselves like Venus. I have indeed remarked, that the ladies commonly adjust their laugh to their persons, and are merry in proportion as it sets off their particular charms. One lady is never further moved than to a smile or a fimper, because nothing else fhews her dimples to so much advantage; another, who has a very fine set 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 impose gravity or too great a reserve on the fair sex. Let them laugh at a feather ; but let them declare openly, that it is a feather which occasions their mirth. I must confess, that laughter becomes the young, the gay, and the handsome : but a whisper is unbecoming at all ages and in both sexes; nor ought it ever to be practised, except in the round gallery at St. Paul's, or in the famous whisper. ing place in Gloucester cathedral, where two whisperers hear each other at the distance of five and twenty yards.
I am, SIR, your humble Servant.
Or BETS and the Custom of PITTING, as practifed at White's.
[Connoil. No. 15.]
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 fix times more than it did at first. This will not appear very wonderful, when we consider, that gaming is now become rather the business than amusement of our persons of quality ; 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 happen, that estates are now almost as frequently made over by whift and hazard, as by deeds and settlements; and the chariots of many of our nobility may be said (like Baffet's in the play)“ to roll upon the four aces."
This love of gaming has taken such entire poffeffion 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 adjufting all difference of opinion is by the sword or a wager : so that the only genteel method of dissenting is to rik 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 Conversation, instead of old sayings and trite tepartees, 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 diftinguished by gallantry and intrigue. During the publication of the Tatler, Sir Richara
Steele 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 ą 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 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 persons not 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 Englijk, wagering which of the two will live longest. In this manner, people of the most opposite 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 scarce one remark. able person, upon whose life there are not many thoufand pounds depending; or one person of quality, whose death will not ve several of these kinds of mortgages upon
his eftate. The various changes in the health of one, who is the subject of many bets, occasion very serious reflections in those who have ventured large sums on his life and death. Those, who would be gainers by his decease, upon every flight indisposition, 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 side are very solicitous 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 living
I remember a man with the conftitution of a porcelo
per, upon whose life very great odds were laid; but wher the person he was pitted against, was expected to
die every week, this man shot himself through the head, and the knowing ones were taken in.
Though most of our follies are imported from France, this has had its rise and progress entirely in England. In the last 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 Vol. taire mentions it in his siécle de Louis xiv. " Le Roi “ fut attaqué vers le millieu du mois d'Août.
Le " Comte de Stair Ambassadeur d'Angleterre PARIA,
selon le genie de fa nation, que le Roi ne passeroit pas le mois de Septembre." “ The king (says he)
was taken ill about the middle of August; when Lord " Stair, the ambassador from England, BETTED, ac “cording to the genius of his nation, that the King “ would not live beyond September.”
I am in some pain, left this custom should get among the ladies. They are at present very deep in cards and dice; and while my lord is gaming abroad, her ladyfip has her route at home. I am inclined to suspect, that our women of fashion will also learn to divert themselves with this polite practice of laying wagers. A birth-day suit, the age of a beauty, who invented a par. ticular fashion, or who were supposed to be together at the last masquerade, would frequently give occafion for bets. This would afford them a new method for the ready propagation of scandal; as the truth of several stories, which are continually flying about the town, would naturally be brought to the same teft. Should they proceed further to stake the lives of their acquaintance against each other, they would doubtless bet with the same fearless fpirit, as they are known to do, at brag; one husband perhaps would be pitted against another, or a woman of the town against a maid of ho
In a word, if this once becomes fashionable among the ladies, we may soon see the time, when an allowance for bet-money will be ftipulated in the marriage articles.
As the' vices and the follies of persons of distinction are very apt to spread, I am also much afraid, less
this branch of gaming should descend to the common peop
Indeed, it seems already to have got among them. We have frequent accounts in the daily papers of tradelmen riding, walking, eating and drinking for a wager. The conteited election in the city has occafioned several extraordinary bets ; I know a butcher in Leaden Hall market, who laid an ox to a sin of beef, on the fuc. cess of Sir John Barnard against the field; and have been told of a publican in Thames-firect, who ventured an hogshead of entire butt, on the candidate who serves him with beer.
We may observe, that the spirit of gaming displays itself with as much variety among the lowest, as the higheft order of people. It is the same 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 whist; and the O 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 should be also propagated among the vulgar, it will be common for prizefighters to take their lives against each other; and tivo pick-pockets may lay which of them hall first go to the gallows.
To give the reader a full idea of a person of fashion wholly employed in this manner, I hall 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 school, he soon became the most expert of any of his play-fellows : he was sure to win all their marbles at taw, and would often trip 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 still talked of at the school, for a famous dispute he had with another of his own cast about their superiority in learning ; which they decided, by tosling up heads or tails who was the best scholar. Be. ing too great a genius for our universities at home, he