L O I T E R E R.
"Speak of us as we are."
PRINTED FOR THE AUTHOR,
And sold by Messrs. PRINCE and COOKE, OXFORD.
Mess. EGERTONS, Whitehall, LONDON; Mess. PEARSON
And ROLLASON, BIRMINGHAM; Mr. W. MEYLER, Grove,
BATH; AND Mess. COWSLADE and SMART, READING.
L O I T E R E R.
SATURDAY, February 20, 1790.
— — — — — — quando
Major avaritiæ patuit finus? alea quando
Hos animos? JUVENAL.
WHOEVER has done us the honour of reading the light essays with which (for somewhat more than a twelvemonth) we have endeavoured to amuse the World, will surely allow that whatever other failings may be imputed to us, we have been by no means deficient in candour. In this article, indeed, we may, without vanity, claim a superiority over all out predecessors in the periodical line, who have sometimes gone most unwarrantable lengths in their zeal for reformation; and, under the poor pretence of correcting the frailties and follies of the age, have been induced to say many things which must be highly shocking to readers of any fashion.
Amongst many other topics of this kind, the love of Gaming so predominate in the present times, however innocent and laudable, has not altogether escaped censure. Were we not well acquainted with the barbarous pleasure which many authors take in calumny and detraction, it would be really Surprising that so natural a propensity of the human mind should have been so Unmercifully attacked. In charity, however, we must suppose this mistake originated rather from their utter ignorance of the subject, than from any intention of leading their readers astray; a supposition more probable when we reflect on the extremely low company which, from their poverty, authors in general are obliged to keep. But this, though perhaps a sufficient excuse for the generality of authors, would in vain be urged in favour of a person who has had the honour of a University Education, and who, from having kept the best company, must have imbibed notions on this subject very different from the common herd of scribblers. I must, therefore, beg leave to offer my readers some few, amongst the many arguments which may be brought in support of a practice which is equally worthy the patronage of the liberal, whether we consider the Pleasing resources of amusement at present derived from it, or the happy effect it may have on our future lives and fortunes.
And here it might perhaps be sufficient to point out the real utility of Gaming, which would highly recommend it to the serious and considerate part of mankind, without insisting on its great antiquity, and the universal esteem it has been held in by all nations, barbarous as well as civilized. But as many people have a strange partiality for whatever is old, it may not be amiss to observe, that the Science of Gaming has very high pretension to a respectable antiquity, and can plead the practice of many illustrious nations in its favour.
The classic reader will, with pleasure, recollect what Tacitus tells us of the Germans; an example which I quote with the greater pleasure, not only because it proves the antiquity of the Science I am recommending, but because it establishes, beyond controversy, that the present inhabitants of Great Britain have in their veins much of the blood of those brave and illustrious warriors, whom they resemble in so material a trait in their character. The respectable historian abovementioned informs us, that the Germans were so exceedingly addicted to Games of Chance, that when every thing else was lost, they would play for their household furniture and clothes, and at last even stake their wives and daughters a very honourable testimony in their favour, especially when we reflect, that they had never enjoyed the advantage of a modem fashionable education; and that this eulogium comes from the pen of a Roman and an enemy. In this, however, I think we have pretty exactly followed them, and have, even in many points, much improved on their notions. It is true, that our wives and daughters generally save us the trouble of staking them, either at Newmarket or at B — s, by disposing of their persons in payment of their own debts; nor does the resemblance exactly hold good with regard to our furniture, which would be of 5mali use to the winner, when there was an execution in the house. Yet in every other respect we certainly exceed them, since we not only stake all that is our own, but a great deal which belongs to other people; and, instead of becoming slaves to our antagonists, as was the rage at that time after a bad run, we settle the matter in a much shorter way, by clapping a pistol either to his head or our own.
Having said thus much on the antiquity of Gaming, let is now consider in how many ways it may be serviceable in amending either our heads or our hearts, In the first place it may be fairly asserted, that nothing more effectually inures young people to a habit of attention than this Science, which though often called Play, might with much greater propriety be denominated Work, a name of which all must be struck with the propriety who have ever been by-standers at a Gaming Table, and observed the extreme attention and anxiety marked in the countenances of those people who are so foolishly called Players. A very little penetration will surely enable them to discover, that far from being engaged in amusement or play, they are in reality occupied in calculations; compared to which, the problems of Euclid are easy, and the discovery of the Longitude a trifle. After this is may be scarce necessary to say how much Gaming strengthens the memory; a perfection which young people can never purchase too dear. Yet, I must observe, that a man who can accurately remember all the different calculations of the chances at Hazard, and the order in which every card was played in a game of Whist, might be equally enabled to retain in his head an equal number of Acts of Parliament, Cases, and Precedents; and with very little reading would make an excellent Lawyer. Nor is this Science less calculated to improve the qualities of the Heart, than the powers of the Head; and, is, in a Particular manner, adapted to soften men’s tempers, and teach them patience and fortitude under the sudden changes in life. But to the point which alone I shall here insist on, is, that command over all our passions, affections, and feelings of every sort and kind, which Madame de Genlis, in her letters on education, thinks so very desirable to young people, and which this Science is so eminently proper to produce, that I am surprised, amidst all her various plans, the ingenj05 authoress never hit upon it; for nothing can be more efficacious in checking that unaccountable propensity in the young of both sexes to form an attachment with the other, than a thorough love of Gaming. Without this safeguard, it is, as the old justly observe, exceedingly dangerous to let two young people of different sexes be much together; but from the moment this passion has taken firm root in the mind, the danger is at once over; — beauty and youth, elegance and wit, good nature and good sense plead in vain against four by Honours and the odd Trick. The modem young man of fashion regard not the person of the lady; it is her pocket only he had a design on; and would cheerfully quit a tête-a-tête with the prettiest girl in England, to join the Whist table of her Grandmother and Aunt! Considering, therefore, all these advantages, my reader will not surely think it extraordinary, that I should recommend this Science to their particular attention; or that I should express my happiness in observing, that many members of this University seem to be perfectly of my way of thinking; and doubtless, for the reasons I have given, bestow much time in making themselves Masters of the different Games of Chance which are most fashionable in the Great World. And should their enemies, or my own, question the truth of my doctrine, and the propriety of their practice, I have one more observation to offer, which, I think, must carry conviction with it. The great Doctor Johnson asserts, in one of his prefaces to the Poets, that “where the public think long, they generally think right.” Now it appears to me, that the public have so long thought upon this subject, that by this time they must have thought right; and we may fairly infer, from their actions, that they find its advantages greatly superior to its evils; and that there is really a charm in Gaming, so exceedingly bewitching as to make full amends for the loss of Fortune, Reputation, and Health!
As this Work will soon be concluded, such of our Correspondents who may be inclined to favour us with any farther Contributions, are requested to do so as early s possible; and we should esteem it an additional obligation, if they would make us acquainted with their names, that we may have it in our power to thank them in our last number.
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