صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

kings, or affect to pronounce what a sovereign can, or cannot do, to discountenance gaming in this kingdom; but I will venture to say, that something more is requisite than mere example. • It was in the decline of Rome, when the provinces were falling off from her empire, whilst a virtuous but unfortunate prince possessed the throne, that the greatest part of Africa was in revolt; the general, who commanded the Roman legions, was a soldier of approved courage in the field, but of mean talents and dissolute manners. This man, in the most imminent crisis for the interests of Rome, suffered and encouraged such a spirit of gaming to obtain amongst the officers in their military quarters, that the finest army in the world entirely lost their discipline, and remained inactive, whilst a few levies of raw insurgents wrested from the Roman arms the richest provinces of the empire.' History records nothing farther of this man's fate or fortune, but leaves us to conclude that the reproaches of his own conscience and the execrations of posterity were all the punishment he met with. The empire was rent by faction, and his party rescued him from the disgrace he merited. The last resource in all desperate cases,

which the law cannot, or will not reach, lies with the people at large; it is not without reason I state it as the last, because their method of curing disorders is like the violent medicines of empirics, never to be applied to but in absolute extremity. If the people were like Shakspeare's Julius Cæsar,

never to do wrong but with just cause,' I should not so much dread the operation of their remedies; I shall therefore venture no farther than to express an humble wish, than when it shall be their high and mighty pleasure to proceed again to the pulling down and burning of houses, those houses may not be the repositories of science, but the receptacles of gamesters.

XXXVIII.

[ocr errors]

When a man of fortune turns gamester, the act is so devoid of reason, that we are at a loss to find a motive for it; but when one of desperate circumstances takes to the trade, it only proves that he determines against an honest course of life for a maintenance, and having his choice to make between robbery and gaming, prefers that mode of depredation, which exposes him to least danger, and has a coward's plea for his vocation. Such a one may say with Antient Pistol

I'll live by Nym, and Nym shall live by me,
And friendship shall combine and brotherhood :

Is not this just?In the justice of his league I do not join with Antient Pistol, but I am ready to allow there is some degree of common sense in this class of the brotherhood, of which common sense I cannot trace a shadow amongst the others. A preference therefore in point of understanding is clearly due to the vagabonds and desperadoes; as to the man, who, for the silly chance of winning what he does not want, risks every thing he ought to value, his defence is in his folly, and if we rob him of that, we probably take from him the only harmless quality he is possessed of. If however such an instance shall occur, and the demon of gaming shall enter the same breast, where honour, courage, wit, wisdom reside, such a mind is like a motley suit of cards, where kings, queens, and knaves, are packed together, and make up the game with temporary good-fellowship, but it is a hundred to one but the knave will beat them out of doors in the end.

As there are separate gangs of gamesters, so there are different modes of gaming; some set their property upon games of simple chance, some depend upon skill, others upon fraud.

The gamesters of the first description run upon

luck: a silly crew of Fortune's fools; this kind of play is only fit for them, whose circumstances cannot be made worse by losing, otherwise there is no proportion between the good and the evil of the chance; for the good of doubling a man's property bears no comparison with the evil of losing the whole; in the one case he only gains superfluities, in the other he loses necessaries; and he, who stakes what life wants against that which life wants not, makes a foolish bet, to say no worse of it. Games of chance are traps to catch school-boy novices and gaping country-squires, who begin with a guinea and end with a mortgage; whilst the old stagers in the game, keeping their

passions in check, watch the ebb and flow of fortune, till the booby they are pillaging sees his acres melt at every cast.

In games of skill, depending upon practice, rule, and calculation, the accomplished professor has advantages, which

may bid defiance to fortune; and the extreme of art approaches so closely to the beginning of fraud, that they are apt to run one into the other: in these engagements, self-conceit in one party and dissimulation in the other are sure to produce ruin, and the sufferer has something more than chance to arraign, when he reviews the wreck of his fortune and the distresses of his family.

The drama of a gamester commonly has self-murder for its catastrophe, and authors, who write to the passions, are apt to dwell upon

this

scene with partial attention, as the striking moral of the piece; I confess it is a moral, that does not strike me; for as this action, whenever it happens, devolves to the share of the losing, not of the winning gamester, I cannot discover any particular edification, nor feel any extraordinary pathos, in a man's falling by his own hand, when he is no longer in a capacity of doing or suffering farther injury in society. I look

upon every man as a suicide from the moment he takes the dice-box desperately in hand, and all that follows in his career from that fatal time is only sharpening the dagger before he strikes it to his heart.

My proper concern in this short essay is, to shew, that gaming is the chief obstructing cause, that affects the state of society in this nation, and I am sensible I need not have employed so many words to convince my reader that gamesters are very dull and very dangerous companions. When blockheads rattle the dice-box, when fellows of vulgar and base minds sit up whole nights contemplating the turn of a card, their stupid occupation is in character; but whenever a cultivated understanding stoops to the tyranny of so vile a passion, the friend to mankind sees the injury to society with that sort of aggravation, as would attend the taking of his purse on the highway, if, upon seizure of the felon, he was unexpectedly to discover the person of a judge.

NUMBER XXIII.

Melissa was the daughter of a weak indulgent mo ther, who was left a young widow with two children; she had a handsome person, a tolerable fortune, and good natural parts; uncontrolled in her education, she was permitted to indulge herself in studies of a romantic turn, and before she completed her sixteenth year was to be found in all the circles of prating sentimentalists, who fill the silly heads of young women with female friendship and Platonic love.

The ordinary pleasures and accomplishments of

her own sex were below the notice of Melissa; from the tumult of a noisy country-dance she revolted with horror, as from the orgies of Bacchus; a soul of her seraphic cast could not descend to the vulgar employment of the needle, and the ornaments of dress claimed no share in the attention of a being so engaged in studies of a sublimer sort. She loved music, but they were plaintive Lydian airs with dying cadences, warbled by some female friend at the side of a rivulet, or under the shade of an arbour; and if the summer zephyrs murmured to the melody, it was so much the better for Melissa; then she would sit rapt in pensive pleasure with the hand of her friend fast closed in her's, and call it the soul's harmony. To these nymph-like retirements that filthy satyr man was never admitted; he was not thought or spoken of but with terror and aversion : when the strain was finished, she would break out into some poetic rhapsody upon friendship, contemplation, night, or some such subject, which her memory supplied her with very readily on such occasions.

In the mean time the impertinence of suitors occasionally interrupted the more refined enjoyments of Melissa's soul: one of these was a gentleman of good birth, considerable fortune, and an unexceptionable character; but the florid health of the robust creature was an insuperable objection, and having casually let fall a hint that he was fond of hunting, she dismissed him to his vulgar sports with a becoming disdain : her second suitor was a handsome young officer, the cadet of a noble house; this attack was carried on very briskly, and Melissa was only saved from the horrors of matrimony by luckily discovering that her lover was so devoid of taste and understanding, as to profess a preference to that rake Tom Jones before the moral Sir Charles Grandison; such a sin against sentiments would have

« السابقةمتابعة »