صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

out loss of time is it emptied of its contents. Ladies who, at home or at parties, would blush to do more than take two or three sips of the liquid extracted from the grateful juice, now quaff a full glass, and it may be a second, with as much despatch, and as little ceremony, as would an officer of the Tenth Hussars. Eating, in some shape or other, may be said to be everywhere the order of the day; for most of those who took no dinner with them, purchase a pennyworth of bread, biscuit, or gingerbread, In the shape of vendible liquids, there are sundry articles, severally baptized porter, gin, and ginger-beer. If you have nothing drinkable of your own, you are glad to become purchasers; for what between the heat of the weather, the dust that is flying about, and the extreme pressure of the crowd, from which you have just partly escaped, you feel as thirsty as if you could drink up the Thames at one draught. Do you patronise the porter, the gin, or the ginger-beer? No matter which ; you will soon discover that they are all the same in this one respect,—that the one-half, and the largest half too, consists of water; and as if to aggravate the evil, there is strong reason to suspect that it is not of the purest sort. The truth is, that the liquids vended at Epsom races are like the razors immortalised by Peter Pindar the younger-made to sell, not to drink. The poor wight who is doomed to drink either of the ungrateful liquids, can scarcely help cursing the hardness of his destiny, when he hears, in the vehicle next to him, the bursting of a bottle of delicious champagne, and sees glass after glass transferred to some gentleman's or lady's lips. Our enjoyments are said to be heightened by contrasting them with the privations of others; not less true is it that the magnitude of the evils we are doomed to suffer is increased when we compare those evils with the good things enjoyed by our neighbours. Philosophers may talk as they please about the excellence and beauty of fortitude ; and moralists may tell us that it is our duty to be content with our lot: it is easy enough to preach up doctrines like these : it is a very different and rather difficult matter to practise them under such circumstances as I am attempting to describe. I should cheerfully perform a pilgrimage of some distance to see the man without a drop of anything drinkable, while almost expiring of thirst, and yet, without a murmur or the slightest feeling of dissatisfaction with his circumstances, could see his next neighbour quaffing glass after glass of the choicest champagne.

The ground is again all in a hubbub. Everything around seems instinct with human life and motion. Your ears are almost rendered deaf by the Babel of sounds which salute, or rather grate upon them. Could you have before supposed that it was within the compass of possibility that any person, however gifted with the gab,' could have been so voluble, if not so eloquent, in praise of his ginger-beer, as that stentorian-voiced fellow who is bawling out the pretended good qualities of his wash ? Hear, again, that unshaved ruffian-looking person praising his gingerbread to the skies. Don't you wonder that that young rascal without hat, cap, or napking-without anything indeed worthy the name of clothing, but with a face which has clearly not come in contact with water for the last eight days,--don't you wonder that he is not quite hoarse, if not speechless, from the very excess of his oratorical efforts to attract purchasers for his pies ? To be sure, such exertions would kill any one else, but these fellows are inured to the thing: it has become a second nature to them-a mere matter-of-course affair.

“ The thimble-riggers are reaping a rich harvest from the cockney greenhorns, who fancy that they see the thimble which ‘kivers’ the pea. The thimble is lifted, there is no pea there ; but the money of the simpleton finds an immediate passage to the pocket of the rogue who is playing at victims. Ah! but though mistaken this time, the greenhorn will not be so again. He watches the rapid motions of the thimble-rigger; he is quite certain where the pea is now. • Half-a-crown !a crown!a sovereign!" as the case may be,' that it's there ! pointing to a particular thimble. It is lifted. Where is the pea? Echo answers, Where? It is not there anyhow,' observes a clownish-looking country lad who is standing by, but has too much sense to throw his money away. . This beats everything ; this is passing strange,' ejaculates the victim. Still he determines not to be done:' he tries again and again, and he is only done' the more. At last his money is done,' and therefore he must be done' playing the game of thimble-rigging.

“Far more thriving still, because the stakes are much deeper, is the business which the blacklegs from London are driving within those tented or portable hells which encounter your eye in every direction. See how rapidly the foolish persons who are there risking their sovereigns or fivepound notes, are plundered of their money. Scarcely more insane would be the act of going out, throwing open their pockets, and asking the first person they meet with to empty them of the last shilling they have, than is their conduct in going into one of these places for the purpose of playing with a gang of rogues and robbers. The only difference between the two cases is, that in the first, the process of cleaning out would be more expeditiously gone through than it is in the other.

The concluding race takes place. It is over! and there is a universal rush towards the road leading in the direction of home. Such a scene of bustle and confusion as is now presented has been but very rarely witnessed since the creation of the world. Vehicles come in collision, and, what is worse, pedestrians are often jammed between two or more of these vehicles. The sufferers shriek, the ladies scream, and the drivers of the vehicles swear at, and abuse, and blame each other. Horses become restive; legs are broken, and bones are fractured. Great injury is done to the limbs of her Majesty's subjects: it is fortunate if no lives be lost. The more tender-hearted of the myriads present feel for those who have already suffered, and are filled with fear and trembling lest other and still greater disasters should yet occur. Eventually the ground appears less densely peopled; the immense concourse assembled are now rapidly undergoing the process of dispersion. The majority of the tenants of the vehicles, and of the equestrians and pedestrians, have now forced their way to the road, and are earnestly bound in a homeward direction. Did you ever see such a road ? Did you ever before witness such extensive lines—all as close as they can be, so as to be able to move -of carriages, cabriolets, carts, horses, and human beings ? Never, I will answer for it. You fear there must yet be many accidents before they all get home. Your fears are but too well founded; for I believe there has never yet been a Derby day in which there has not been a greater or less number of accidents, many of them serious: it is well if none prove fatal.

“Has the day been dry? Well, then, such a ludicrous spectacle as that presented by those who have been to Epsom, on their return, was

Their throats, not even excepting the throats of the most fashionable and delicate ladies, are so many dust-holes on a small scale. Their eyes are embedded in dust; while their carriages, cabriolets, horses, and their own persons, are all coated over with the same commodity. They look, for all the world, like so many dusty millers. What a figure do the ladies appear, with the finery of which they were so proud in the morning, and the preparation of which had cost them so many anxious thoughts! Did it rain heavily ?-and Derby day is always remarkable for being either very dry or very wet,—then it is difficult to say which of the evils is the greatest. A heavy shower at Epsom inspires the multitude with perfect horror. It plays fearful havoc with the ladies' dresses, and gives the whole assemblage the most crest-fallen and melancholy appear. ance which it were possible to imagine. See how drenched and downcast they look on their way home! One can hardly persuade himself that these are the parties he saw going to Epsom in the morning, so full of life and gaiety in their countenances and demeanour. How sad are their visages now! They are heartily sick of horse-racing; and their only wonder is that they were silly enough to leave their comfortable beds and their happy homes-assuming them to be happy—in the morning, on such an errand as that on which they had gone. And yet, after all, the chance is that they will go again next year, should they be living and well, and have the necessary ways and means.

never seen.

“Such is an attempted description of a Derby day at Epsom. It falls short of the actual thing itself. It is a scene that is not to be described. To form a correct idea of it, it must be witnessed.

“Settling-day at Tattersall's, after the Derby, is always a day of great importance. It takes place on the Tuesday after the races.

The room is crowded with sporting characters of all descriptions. With what opposite feelings,-in what different moods of mind do the parties meet ! The entire assemblage—and a motley looking assemblage it is in more respects than one-may be ranged into two classes: those who have won, and those who have lost. A physiognomist, of very ordinary skill in the art, might easily enough tell to which of the two classes almost every individual before him be s. The unfortunate wight who has lost his money is dull and downcast in his looks -of pale complexion,-hurried in his manner, and is altogether quite crest-fallen. If there be an occasional smile observable in his countenance, you perceive at once it is not natural: it is of forced production. It is got up for the occasion, in the vain hope that he will so far impose on those around him, as to pass himself off for a philosopher who can firmly, and with fortitude, bear up under his adversities. But even if his forced smiles were so far successful, his abrupt and irritable manner of speaking would dispel the delusion, and reveal the depth and bitterness of his chagrin at his own folly. In the case of many, you see the self-reproaches and regrets which agitate their breasts as clearly exhibited in the confusion and uneasiness of their manner, as if the fact that they had been losers had been written on their foreheads. Everything around them is odious in their eyes. The very place is hateful to them: doubly so are those who have won their money, and who are now about to receive it. The Bank of England notes with which they meet their losses, formerly so pleasant to gaze on, are an abomination in their sight; or, if they pay with a cheque, or by bill, equally obnoxious is the instrument of exchange.' The winners, on the other hand, carry their good fortune in their faces. They are no knights of the woful countenance. See the contrast which the physiognomy of the winner presents to that of the loser! Was there ever any thing more striking ? Who could believe that the human face was capable of such opposite expressions? He whose speculations have been crowned with good fortune, is the very incarnation of all that is cheerful and agreeable. He smiles within himself, and he smiles on every one and everything around him. But you perceive a special proficiency in the art of smiling as he looks on and converses with the party at whose expense, very possibly ruin, he has filled his pockets. He talks in honied accents; he is a bundle of sweets.' He appears so remarkably obliging, and so full of the milk of human kindness, that you almost begin to doubt whether Mr. Owen's pictures of the excellence and amiability of human nature be over-coloured in the slightest degree. You never, in other words, felt yourself before in so suitable a condition for believing in the possibility of a social millennium on earth. And then see the eagerness with which he receives the money, and the infinite delight with which he puts it into his capacious pocket-book; an eagerness and delight which are greatly heightened by the reluctance with which the losing party drags it from his coffers.

* I should here observe that the usual charge for a horse and gig to Epsom on the Derby day is four guineas, being, as the sporting characters phrase it, a guinea for every horse-leg. If a coach and two horses be preferred the charge is eight guineas ; if a coach and four, sixteen. Coaches and six are out of the question; nobody thinks of hiring a vehicle with six horses. Very possibly one good reason for this, independently of the expense, is, that very few of our modern Corinthians could drive six in hand.”

"It is a painful reflection, that men can be found—and most generally found, too, in the upper and middling ranks of life-- who could thus take a pleasure in preying on each other. The one's pain is the other's pleasure; the one's sorrow is the other's joy; the one's misery is the other's happiness. The better or gambler-for the latter is the most appropriate word-coolly seeks to make his own fortune at the utter ruin of another, and that other, most probably, a friend. He wishes to be rich by reduc. ing the other to beggary. No truly noble mind could consent to receive money on such conditions. If there were no other argument against this species of gambling than this one, it ought to put an end to the practice at once, for it is utterly destructive of all the better feelings of our nature.

“When a party who has lost does not appear at Tattersall's on settling-day to discharge his obligations, he is spoken of as one who does not show. If he takes flight to the continent or some other place, he is called a Levanter.

“ The same term is made use of on the Stock Exchange to characterise those who are unable or unwilling to pay the amount of their losses. I believe the term owes its origin to the circumstance of some persons of distinction, at a former period, who quitted the country to escape from their creditors, having sought a place of refuge in the Levant.

“On settling-day in Tattersali's there are occasionally violent disputes between the winning and the losing parties. The latter, as may well be supposed, are always in that angry mood of mind which predisposes the party to quarrel with his fortunate opponent. If there be room for a quibble,-any pretext for the non-payment of the money lost, it is seized on with avidity, and urged with the utmost pertinacity. Violent altercations frequently ensue, and acquire such a height as almost to frighten from their propriety the more strict and quietly disposed of the sporting characters present.

In several memorable cases of late years, these vio. lent altercations have ended in blows. Who does not remember the cele brated squabble, five or six years ago, between an M.P. and another sporting character, ending in an assault committed by one of the gentle. men on the person of the other ?

“ Sad disappointments are often experienced at Tattersall’s on settlingday. Only fancy the circumstance of the party who has lost perhaps two or three thousand pounds coming up to the person who had won the money of him, and with a lugubrious countenance, and the expression of as many regrets as there were pounds in the amount lost, informing him that he is unable to pay the money now, but very possibly bopes to be able to do so at some future unmentioned and unmentionable period. How deep must be the disappointment, how bitter the mortification to one who had been fondly flattering himself that he had only to open his hand to receive some thousands, when he finds that not one farthing is forthcoming! This is an every-day occurrence. Among the Turfites there is always a large proportion of desperate characters—men who are as destitute of money as they are of morals; and who bet to the amount of thousands, when they have not a sixpence in the world. But common as such cases are, perhaps there is no authenticated instance of the kind on record, which can be compared to that in which a celebrated sporting character, whose name I need not mention, was, a few years since, the unfortunate, though he had previous to the settling-day imagined himself

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


and regret.

to be the fortunate party. His winnings amounted to little short of 3,0001. and he only received 201. out of the whole. About the same period-I am not indeed sure whether it was not at the same races-another sporting character of great celebrity on the Turf won 28,000l. from various hands; and yet he only recovered 2,5001.

“ The 'betting' at Tattersall's has of late years been practically reduced to a sort of science by the more experienced Turfites. Such persons, by carefully attending to what are called “the odds' from the period at which horses begin to be entered for any particular race, until that race

comes off,' might make a limited certain gair, varying in amount according to circumstances, were they to confine their betting to the taking advantage of those odds.

“ This, however, they seldom do; they usually suffer themselves to be seduced into hazardous speculations to a large amount, and consequently often, in that way, lose more than they gain in the other.

The result of a race is often at variance with appearances at starting: Horses which for the first eighty or a hundred yards would be deemed likely to be the last in coming in, are occasionally found to be the winners; while others, which for the same or even a greater distance are so far a-head of the others as to create a universal impression that they will carry off the prize, are found to be among the last to reach the winning point. Only fancy, in such a case, how sudden must be the transition from despair to hope-from sorrow to joy, which the minds of those whose money is staked on the horses first referred to must undergo; and how suddenly, on the other hand, the hopes and joys of those who have betted in favour of the last-mentioned steeds, must give place to despair

In the latter case the cup of good fortune is raised to the lips merely to tantalise the party ; for it is in a moment dashed on the ground: in the former case the party drinks it out before he is well aware of its being presented to him." It is interesting to think how equally matched, all circumstances considered, the various horses that enter the field usually are.' Even in the case of the Queen's Plate races at Newmarket, where the course is four miles, and there are often ten or twelve horses contesting the prize, there will not be a distance of more than thirty or forty yards between the first and last on reaching the end of the

Two or three of the best horses are frequently so equally matched, that after running the distance already mentioned, the judges have difficulty in awarding the prize. What is still more surprising than the fact of their being abreast on reaching the end of the course, is the circumstance of its often being a neck and neck race between two or more horses from the moment of starting until they have got to the end of the distance. The most extraordinary instance of equal running, of which I ever remember to have heard, occurred a few years ago at one of our leading county races. Three heats or races were run at certain intervals of time in one day, without the judge being able to decide which of the two best horses were entitled to the prize.

Just before entering the race-course, the horses that are about to run are exercised in a sort of canter. Even at this late hour, innumerable bets are laid on the event about to be decided. Deep betting, however, as in the case of the betting that takes place when the animals are first exhibited, is seldom very general, being chiefly limited to working-men, shopkeepers, and others. The horses having thus shown off' in a small way immediately before entering the course, every one naturally conceives himself entitled to form his opinion as to which animal is or is not to win the prize : and conceiving this, he concludes—and no one can question his perfect right to do so-that in this free country he, as well as others, may back his opinion by a sovereign, or crown, or other sum, according to his circumstances. There is one advantage which those who thus bet

Dec, 1838.-VOL. XX111.-NO. Xcu.



« السابقةمتابعة »