Gambling Club

“The Guard's Club was established for the three regiments of Foot Guards, and was conducted upon a military system. Billiards and low whist were the only games indulged in. The dinner was, perhaps, better than at most clubs, and considerably cheaper. Arthur's and Graham's were less aristocratic than those I have mentioned; it was, at the latter, that a most painful circumstance took place. A nobleman, of the highest position and influence in society, was detected in cheating at cards, and, after a trial, which did not terminate in his favour, he died of a broken heart.
“Upon one occasion, some gentlemen, of both White's and Brooke's, had the honour to dine with the Prince Regent, and, during the conversation, the Prince inquired what sort of dinners they got at their clubs; upon which, Sir Thomas Stepney, one of the guests, observed that their dinners were always the same, ‘the eternal joints, or beefsteaks, the boiled fowl with oyster sauce, and an apple tart—this is what we have, sir, and very monotonous fare it is.' The Prince, without further remark, rang the bell for his cook, Wattier, and, in the presence of those who dined at the Royal table, asked him whether he would take a house and organize a dinner club. Wattier assented, and named Madison, the Prince's page, manager, and Labourie, from the Royal kitchen, as the cook. The club flourished only a few years, owing to the high play that was carried on there. The Duke of York patronized it, and was a member. The dinners were exquisite; the best Parisian cooks could not beat Labourie. The favourite game played there was Macao. Upon one occasion Jack Bouverie, brother of Lady Heytesbury, was losing large sums, and became very irritable; Raikes, with bad taste, laughed at Bouverie, and attempted to amuse us with some of his stale jokes; upon which Bouverie threw his play bowl, with the few counters it contained, at Raikes' head: unfortunately, it struck him, and made the City dandy angry, but no serious results followed this open insult.”

“At Brooke's, for nearly half a century, the play was of a more gambling character than at White's. Faro and Macao were indulged in to an extent which enabled a man to win, or to lose, a considerable fortune in one night. It was here that Charles James Fox, Selwyn, Lord Carlisle, Lord Robert Spencer, General Fitzpatrick, and other great Whigs, won, and lost, hundreds of thousands; frequently remaining at the table for many hours without rising.

“On one occasion, Lord Robert Spencer contrived to lose the last shilling of his considerable fortune, given to him by his brother, the Duke of Marlborough: General Fitzpatrick, being much in the same condition, they agreed to raise a sum of money, in order that they might keep a Faro bank. The members of the club made no objection, and, ere long, they carried out their design. As is generally the case, the bank was a winner, and Lord Robert bagged, as his share of the profits, £100,000. He retired, strange to say, from the fœtid atmosphere of play, with the money in his pocket, and never again gambled. George Harley Drummond, of the famous banking house, Charing Cross, only played once, in his whole life, at White's Club, at whist, on which occasion he lost £20,000 to Brummell. This event caused him to retire from the banking house, of which he was a partner.

“Lord Carlisle was one of the most remarkable victims amongst the players at Brooke's, and Charles Fox, his friend, was not more fortunate, being, subsequently, always in pecuniary difficulties. Many a time, after a long night of hard play, the loser found himself at the Israelitish establishment of Howard and Gibbs, then the fashionable and patronized money-lenders. These gentlemen never failed to make hard terms with the borrower, although ample security was, invariably, demanded.

“Raggett, the well known club proprietor of White's, and the Roxburgh club in St James's Square, was a notable character in his way. He began life as a poor man, and died extremely rich. It was his custom to wait upon the members of these clubs whenever play was going on. Upon one occasion, at the Roxburgh, the following gentlemen, Hervey Combe, Tippoo Smith, Ward (the member for London), and Sir John Malcolm, played for high stakes at whist; they sat during that night, viz., Monday, the following day and night, and only separated on Wednesday morning at eleven o'clock; indeed, the party only broke up then, owing to Hervey Combe being obliged to attend the funeral of one of his partners who was buried on that day. Hervey Combe, on looking over his card, found that he was a winner of thirty thousand pounds from Sir John Malcolm, and he jocularly said, ‘Well, Sir John, you shall have your revenge whenever you like.' Sir John replied, ‘Thank you; another sitting of the kind will oblige me to return again to India.' Hervey Combe, on settling with Raggett, pulled out of his pocket, a handful of counters, which amounted to several hundred pounds, over and above the thirty thousand he had won of the baronet, and he gave them to Raggett, saying, ‘I give them to you for sitting so  long with us, and providing us with all required.' Raggett was overjoyed, and, in mentioning what had occurred to one of his friends, a few days afterwards, he added, ‘I make it a rule never to allow any of my servants to be present when gentlemen play at my clubs, for it is my invariable custom to sweep the carpet after the gambling is over, and I, generally, find on the floor a few counters, which pays me for the trouble of sitting up. By this means I have made a decent fortune.'”

The oldest of all was “White's” in St James Street. Originally a Chocolate House, established in 1698, it was the rendezvous for the Tories in London. It was destroyed by fire on 28th April, 1733, a fact which is immortalised by Hogarth in his sixth picture of the Rake's Progress. The earliest record of it, as a Club, that remains, is a book of rules and list of members of the old Club at White's, dated 30th October 1736. In 1755 it removed to the east side of St James Street to No. 38, and there it still remains. In 1797, according to the rules of the Club, “Every Member who plays at Chess, Draughts, or Backgammon, do pay One Shilling each time of playing by daylight, and half-a-crown each by candlelight.” We have had many references to the gambling that took place at White's, and when betting is discussed, the Club's famous betting-book will be duly noticed. It is now one of the most aristocratic clubs in London.

The Cocoa Tree Club, which was, probably, made into a Club before 1746, and was somewhat lower down St James Street than White's, was the Whig Club, but it does not seem to have been so much used for gambling as its elder confrère.

Almack's Club was essentially for gambling, and was founded in 1764 by twenty-seven noblemen and gentlemen. Among its original rules are the following:—

“21. No gaming in the eating room, except tossing up for reckonings, on penalty of paying the whole bill of the members present.

“40. That every person playing at the new guinea table do keep fifty guineas before him.

“41. That every person playing at the twenty guinea table do not keep less than twenty guineas before him.”

Here is an extract from the Club books which shows the style of play. “Mr Thynne having won only 12,000 guineas during the last two months, retired in disgust. March 21, 1772.”

The Club subsequently became Goosetree's, and after him was taken by a wine merchant and money lender named Brookes, and Brookes's it is to this day, at 60 St James Street, to which locality it moved from Pall Mall in October 1778.

These, with Arthur's, were all the clubs for the nobility and gentry, until the Regency, when clubs multiplied. There were any amount of gambling houses, but they were public—but, of course, a club was strictly confined to its members.