صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

and uncontrollable than ever. He came to me, and begged me to lend him money again and again. Of course I refused him, and for it received his abuse. He went through the whole circle of his friends, and teased them all for money. Many of them gratified him; but he lost as fast as he borrowed, until he could borrow no more; and before the season was over he was expelled from Crockford's and several other similar establishments in town, and was seen in the lowest and vilest holes in London, gambling with every ill-bred fellow who would accept his stake for a shilling! I believe he has not seen his wife since they parted. She is ruined as well as himself. I saw her a few days ago, and tried to restore her former spirits; but I found it a hopeless task. The bloom and joy have all fled from her face, and she looks as though twenty years had been added to her life-pale, haggard, and desponding. She cannot live six months. It is awful to see such a brilliant pair, whose prospects one year ago were so fair for a long, happy, and honourable life, crushed by such a blow. It is terrible !

“ There are many, very many, who seek refuge from remorse, brought on by gambling, in deep debauchery; some in villany, and some in self-destruction. Their families are sometimes brought to pinching want, or condemned to live the rest of their days in comparative suffering and obscurity. More splendid fortunes are lost at Crockford's than at any other place. And yet this Crockford was once a



small fishmonger, near Temple Bar, as ignorant as he was low. He was in the habit of frequenting vile places and betting a few shillings. He learned by private information that a certain horse at the races was to win, and he made a large bet, and gained it. Then he purchased a small share in a gambling bank; afterward he engaged in a larger establishment, which cleared in one season £200,000. Loaded dice and other means of foul play which were afterward found in that place by the magistrates, accounted for their success. By cunning, villany, and perseverance, he has won his way to his present wealth and notoriety. He is still an exceedingly illiterate fellow, and speaks in the style of a hackney-coachman. He is supreme lord among the crowds of noblemen who flock to his club-house; and what can be so humiliating as to think that a base-born scoundrel like him should make slaves of the ancient nobility of the land? There is much force and truth in what Bulwer says of our nobility: • They are more remarkable,' he says, 'for an extraragant recklessness of money; for an impatient ardour for frivolities; for a headlong passion for the caprices, the debaucheries, the absurdities of the day, than for any of those prudent and considerate virtues which are the offspring of common sense. How few of their estates are not deeply mortgaged! The Jews and the merchants (and he might have added the gamblers) have their grasp upon more than three parts of the property of the peerage.'

“ This house of Crockford's, and similar places in the metropolis, of which, great and small, their name is legion, are usually designated by the appropriate title of 'Hells': a better name could not be found. Not a night passes that these dens of iniquity and dissipation are not crowded, from Crockford's, where the mad crew play to the tune of £100,000, and where they go with carriage and livery, to the vile and filthy “hells' in the poorest parts of the metropolis, where you see squalid, ragged, shirtless wretches, who have begged or stolen one more shilling to stake and lose, and then be kicked out of a "hell in London into the hell of the eternal world.

“ The passion for gambling is the worst passion that can possibly enter the human heart. I hardly ever knew a man who had once yielded to it, to break away from the strong temptation. It seems to seize upon him with the grasp of death. The victim of it is beyond the reach of counsel. It is vain to address his judgment, his hopes, or his fears. He may be a kind-hearted man by nature, but it does no good to talk to him about his wife and children: he loves them, perhaps, although this infernal passion generally annihilates the social affections; but he would take the last crust from his child's mouth, and cast him upon the unpitying world, sooner than give up the gratification of this hellish passion. Why! it is stated, and probably with truth, that the late aiddecamp of Lord Hutch



inson, after having ruined himself by play, cut his throat in a fit of despair. It happened, however, that his life was saved ; and after some weeks he recovered. The first place he went to, after he was allowed by his surgeon to go out, was the very gaming-house where he had lost his money and formed the desperate purpose of destroying himself. Mr. Grant, who has paid a good deal of attention to this subject, thinks that the amount of money which is lost in the different gaming-houses of London cannot be less than £8,000,000 a year. I have no doubt myself that the sum is much greater. But this degrading and horrible passion is not confined to our sex. It prevails to an enormous extent among fashionable ladies! Many is the husband who has been embarrassed most deeply by the cards of his wife.

“In nearly all the fashionable circles this practice prevails. And there are cliques of women who assemble night after night for no other purpose but play, and the wine flashes on the card-table. They gamble on till their money is gone; they pledge their jewels, family plate, horses and carriages, to the pawnbrokers; and often the first intimation their husbands have of it is from some long-bearded Jew, who presents his claim, with the very comforting intelligence that the day of grace is over, and that he has now an opportunity of redeeming the property. The Jew had received from 50 to 500 per cent. for

his money

[ocr errors]

“If you can conceive it possible, gaming becomes in woman a more absorbing and debasing passion than among men.

I have known many very painful instances of conjugal infidelity and domestic quarrels which were occasioned directly by this vice. Ladies are blamed more sererely, I know, for such practices; but how can men expect anything better of their wives when they indulge in the same practices themselves? If there be a passion which turns the heart to ashes, and ruins both body and soul in a more rapid and fearful manner than any other, it is the passion for gaming; as it opens the way to every other vice.

“ You will not suppose, from what I have said, that this disgraceful passion infects the whole body of the nobility. Very many of them are among the purest and best men in the world. In virtue, in domestic fidelity and love; in accomplishments of mind and person, many of the British nobility are not surpassed. But still, all the statements I have made to you in regard to their vices are not the less true; and the half I have not told you.”

In the midst of our conversation, a dense cloud of black smoke in the distance announced that we were in the neighbourhood of Birmingham, which Burke appropriately called “the great toyshop of Europe.” Here we stopped nearly an hour. We were charged at the refreshment-rooms, for a cold slice of beef and a single buttered roll, half a crown (sixty-two and a half cents), which reminded me

« السابقةمتابعة »