Usurers Of The Seventeenth Century by Isaac Disraeli

Story type: Essay

A person whose history will serve as a canvass to exhibit some scenes of the arts of the money-trader was one AUDLEY, a lawyer, and a great practical philosopher, who concentrated his vigorous faculties in the science of the relative value of money. He flourished through the reigns of James I., Charles I., and held a lucrative office in the “court of wards,” till that singular court was abolished at the time of the Restoration.[1] In his own times he was called “The great Audley,” an epithet so often abused, and here applied to the creation of enormous wealth. But there are minds of great capacity, concealed by the nature of their pursuits; and the wealth of Audley may be considered as the cloudy medium through which a bright genius shone, and which, had it been thrown into a nobler sphere of action, the “greatness” would have been less ambiguous.

Audley lived at a time when divines were proclaiming “the detestable sin of Usury,” prohibited by God and man; but the Mosaic prohibition was the municipal law of an agricultural commonwealth, which being without trade, the general poverty of its members could afford no interest for loans; but it was not forbidden the Israelite to take usury from “the stranger.” Or they were quoting from the Fathers, who understood this point, much as they had that of “original sin,” and “the immaculate conception;” while the scholastics amused themselves with a quaint and collegiate fancy which they had picked up in Aristotle, that interest for money had been forbidden by nature, because coin in itself was barren and unpropagating, unlike corn, of which every grain will produce many. But Audley considered no doubt that money was not incapable of multiplying itself, provided it was in hands which knew to make it grow and “breed,” as Shylock affirmed. The lawyers then, however, did not agree with the divines, nor the college philosophers; they were straining at a more liberal interpretation of this odious term “Usury.” Lord Bacon declared, that the suppression of Usury is only fit for an Utopian government; and Audley must have agreed with the learned Cowell, who in his “Interpreter” derives the term ab usu et aere, quasi usu aera, which in our vernacular style was corrupted into Usury. Whatever the sin might be in the eye of some, it had become at least a controversial sin, as Sir Symonds D’Ewes calls it, in his manuscript Diary, who, however, was afraid to commit it.[2] Audley, no doubt, considered that interest was nothing more than rent for money; as rent was no better than Usury for land. The legal interest was then “ten in the hundred;” but the thirty, the fifty, and the hundred for the hundred, the gripe of Usury, and the shameless contrivances of the money-traders, these he would attribute to the follies of others, or to his own genius.

This sage on the wealth of nations, with his pithy wisdom and quaint sagacity, began with two hundred pounds, and lived to view his mortgages, his statutes, and his judgments so numerous, that it was observed his papers would have made a good map of England. A contemporary dramatist, who copied from life, has opened the chamber of such an Usurer,–perhaps of our Audley.

—- Here lay
A manor bound fast in a skin of parchment,
The wax continuing hard, the acres melting;
Here a sure deed of gift for a market-town,
If not redeem’d this day, which is not in
The unthrift’s power; there being scarce one shire
In Wales or England, where my monies are not
Lent out at usury, the certain hook
To draw in more.

This genius of thirty per cent. first had proved the decided vigour of his mind, by his enthusiastic devotion to his law-studies: deprived of the leisure for study through his busy day, he stole the hours from his late nights and his early mornings; and without the means to procure a law-library, he invented a method to possess one without the cost; as far as he learned, he taught, and by publishing some useful tracts on temporary occasions, he was enabled to purchase a library. He appears never to have read a book without its furnishing him with some new practical design, and he probably studied too much for his own particular advantage. Such devoted studies was the way to become a lord-chancellor; but the science of the law was here subordinate to that of a money-trader.

When yet but a clerk to the Clerk in the Counter, frequent opportunities occurred which Audley knew how to improve. He became a money-trader as he had become a law-writer, and the fears and follies of mankind were to furnish him with a trading capital. The fertility of his genius appeared in expedients and in quick contrivances. He was sure to be the friend of all men falling out. He took a deep concern in the affairs of his master’s clients, and often much more than they were aware of. No man so ready at procuring bail or compounding debts. This was a considerable traffic then, as now. They hired themselves out for bail, swore what was required, and contrived to give false addresses, which is now called leg-bail. They dressed themselves out for the occasion; a great seal-ring flamed on the finger, which, however, was pure copper gilt, and they often assumed the name of some person of good credit. Savings, and small presents for gratuitous opinions, often afterwards discovered to be very fallacious ones, enabled him to purchase annuities of easy landowners, with their treble amount secured on their estates. The improvident owners, or the careless heirs, were soon entangled in the usurer’s nets; and, after the receipt of a few years, the annuity, by some latent quibble, or some irregularity in the payments, usually ended in Audley’s obtaining the treble forfeiture. He could at all times out-knave a knave. One of these incidents has been preserved. A draper, of no honest reputation, being arrested by a merchant for a debt of L200, Audley bought the debt at L40, for which the draper immediately offered him L50. But Audley would not consent, unless the draper indulged a sudden whim of his own: this was a formal contract, that the draper should pay within twenty years, upon twenty certain days, a penny doubled. A knave, in haste to sign, is no calculator; and, as the contemporary dramatist describes one of the arts of those citizens, one part of whose business was

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To swear and break: they all grow rich by breaking!

the draper eagerly compounded. He afterwards “grew rich.” Audley, silently watching his victim, within two years, claims his doubled pennies, every month during twenty months. The pennies had now grown up to pounds. The knave perceived the trick, and preferred paying the forfeiture of his bond for L500, rather than to receive the visitation of all the little generation of compound interest in the last descendant of L2000, which would have closed with the draper’s shop. The inventive genius of Audley might have illustrated that popular tract of his own times, Peacham’s “Worth of a Penny;” a gentleman who, having scarcely one left, consoled himself by detailing the numerous comforts of life it might procure in the days of Charles II.

Such petty enterprises at length assumed a deeper cast of interest. He formed temporally partnerships with the stewards of country gentlemen. They underlet estates which they had to manage; and anticipating the owner’s necessities, the estates in due time became cheap purchases for Audley and the stewards. He usually contrived to make the wood pay for the land, which he called “making the feathers pay for the goose.” He had, however, such a tenderness of conscience for his victim, that, having plucked the live feathers before he sent the unfledged goose on the common, he would bestow a gratuitous lecture in his own science–teaching the art of making them grow again, by showing how to raise the remaining rents. Audley thus made the tenant furnish at once the means to satisfy his own rapacity, and his employer’s necessities. His avarice was not working by a blind, but on an enlightened principle; for he was only enabling the landlord to obtain what the tenant, with due industry, could afford to give. Adam Smith might have delivered himself in the language of old Audley, so just was his standard of the value of rents. “Under an easy landlord,” said Audley, “a tenant seldom thrives; contenting himself to make the just measure of his rents, and not labouring for any surplusage of estate. Under a hard one, the tenant revenges himself upon the land, and runs away with the rent. I would raise my rents to the present price of all commodities: for if we should let our lands, as other men have done before us, now other wares daily go on in price, we should fall backward in our estates.” These axioms of political economy were discoveries in his day.

Audley knew mankind practically, and struck into their humours with the versatility of genius: oracularly deep with the grave, he only stung the lighter mind. When a lord borrowing money complained to Audley of his exactions, his lordship exclaimed, “What, do you not intend to use a conscience?” “Yes, I intend hereafter to use it. We moneyed people must balance accounts: if you do not pay me, you cheat me; but, if you do, then I cheat your lordship.” Audley’s moneyed conscience balanced the risk of his lordship’s honour against the probability of his own rapacious profits. When he resided in the Temple among those “pullets without feathers,” as an old writer describes the brood, the good man would pule out paternal homilies on improvident youth, grieving that they, under pretence of “learning the law, only learnt to be lawless;” and “never knew by their own studies the process of an execution, till it was served on themselves.” Nor could he fail in his prophecy; for at the moment that the stoic was enduring their ridicule, his agents were supplying them with the certain means of verifying it. It is quaintly said, he had his decoying as well as his decaying gentlemen.

The arts practised by the money-traders of that time have been detailed by one of the town-satirists of the age. Decker, in his “English Villanies,” has told the story: we may observe how an old story contains many incidents which may be discovered in a modern one. The artifice of covering the usury by a pretended purchase and sale of certain wares, even now practised, was then at its height.

In Measure for Measure we find,

“Here’s young Master Rash, he’s in for a commodity of brown
paper and old ginger
, nine score and seventeen pounds; of
which he made five marks ready money.”

The eager “gull,” for his immediate wants, takes at an immense price any goods on credit, which he immediately resells for less than half the cost; and when despatch presses, the vender and the purchaser have been the same person, and the “brown paper and old ginger” merely nominal.[3]

The whole displays a complete system of dupery, and the agents were graduated. “The Manner of undoing Gentlemen by taking up of Commodities,” is the title of a chapter in “English Villanies.” The “warren” is the cant term which describes the whole party; but this requires a word of explanation.

It is probable that rabbit-warrens were numerous about the metropolis, a circumstance which must have multiplied the poachers. Moffet, who wrote on diet in the reign of Elizabeth, notices their plentiful supply “for the poor’s maintenance.”–I cannot otherwise account for the appellatives given to sharpers, and the terms of cheatery being so familiarly drawn from a rabbit-warren; not that even in that day these cant terms travelled far out of their own circle; for Robert Greene mentions a trial in which the judges, good simple men! imagined that the coney-catcher at the bar was a warrener, or one who had the care of a warren.

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The cant term of “warren” included the young coneys, or half-ruined prodigals of that day, with the younger brothers, who had accomplished their ruin; these naturally herded together, as the pigeon and the black-leg of the present day. The coney-catchers were those who raised a trade on their necessities. To be “conie-catched” was to be cheated. The warren forms a combination altogether, to attract some novice, who in esse or in posse has his present means good, and those to come great; he is very glad to learn how money can be raised. The warren seek after a tumbler, a sort of hunting dog; and the nature of a London tumbler was to “hunt dry-foot,” in this manner:–“The tumbler is let loose, and runs snuffing up and down in the shops of mercers, goldsmiths, drapers, haberdashers, to meet with a ferret, that is, a citizen who is ready to sell a commodity.” The tumbler in his first course usually returned in despair, pretending to have out-wearied himself by hunting, and swears that the city ferrets are so coaped (that is, have their lips stitched up close) that he can’t get them to open to so great a sum as L500, which the warren wants. “This herb being chewed down by the rabbit-suckers, almost kills their hearts. It irritates their appetite, and they keenly bid the tumbler, if he can’t fasten on plate, or cloth, or silks, to lay hold of brown paper, Bartholomew babies, lute-strings, or hob-nails. It hath been verily reported,” says Decker, “that one gentleman of great hopes took up L100 in hobby-horses, and sold them for L30; and L16 in joints of mutton and quarters of lamb, ready roasted, and sold them for three pounds.” Such commodities were called purse-nets.–The tumbler, on his second hunt, trots up and down again; and at last lights on a ferret that will deal: the names are given in to a scrivener, who inquires whether they are good men, and finds four out of the five are wind-shaken, but the fifth is an oak that can bear the hewing. “Bonds are sealed, commodities delivered, and the tumbler fetches his second career; and their credit having obtained the purse-nets, the wares must now obtain money.” The tumbler now hunts for the rabbit suckers, those who buy these purse-nets; but the rabbit-suckers seem greater devils than the ferrets, for they always bid under; and after many exclamations the warren is glad that the seller should repurchase his own commodities for ready money, at thirty or fifty per cent. under the cost. The story does not finish till we come to the manner “How the warren is spoiled.” I shall transcribe this part of the narrative in the lively style of this town writer. “While there is any grass to nibble upon, the rabbits are there; but on the cold day of repayment they retire into their caves; so that when the ferret makes account of five in chase, four disappear. Then he grows fierce, and tears open his own jaws to suck blood from him that is left. Serjeants, marshalmen, and bailiffs are sent forth, who lie scenting at every corner, and with terrible paws haunt every walk. The bird is seized upon by these hawks, his estate looked into, his wings broken, his lands made over to a stranger. He pays L500, who never had but L60, or to prison; or he seals any bond, mortgages any lordship, does anything, yields anything. A little way in, he cares not how far he wades; the greater his possessions are, the apter he is to take up and to be trusted–thus gentlemen are ferretted and undone!” It is evident that the whole system turns on the single novice; those who join him in his bonds are stalking horses; the whole was to begin and to end with the single individual, the great coney of the warren. Such was the nature of those “commodities” to which Massinger and Shakspeare allude, and which the modern dramatist may exhibit in his comedy, and be still sketching after life.

Another scene, closely connected with the present, will complete the picture. “The Ordinaries” of those days were the lounging places of the men of the town, and the “fantastic gallants,” who herded together.[4] Ordinaries were the “exchange for news,” the echoing places for all sorts of town-talk: there they might hear of the last new play and poem, and the last fresh widow, who was sighing for some knight to make her a lady; these resorts were attended also “to save charges of housekeeping.” The reign of James I. is characterised by all the wantonness of prodigality among one class, and all the penuriousness and rapacity in another, which met in the dissolute indolence of a peace of twenty years. But a more striking feature in these “Ordinaries” showed itself as soon as “the voyder had cleared the table.” Then began “the shuffling and cutting on one side, and the bones rattling on the other.” The “Ordinarie,” in fact, was a gambling-house, like those now expressively termed “Hells,” and I doubt if the present “Infernos” exceed the whole diablerie of our ancestors.

In the former scene of sharping they derived their cant terms from a rabbit-warren, but in the present their allusions partly relate to an aviary, and truly the proverb suited them, “of birds of a feather.” Those who first propose to sit down to play are called the leaders; the ruined gamesters are the forlorn-hope; the great winner is the eagle; a stander-by, who encourages, by little ventures himself, the freshly-imported gallant, who is called the gull, is the wood-pecker; and a monstrous bird of prey, who is always hovering round the table, is the gull-groper, who, at a pinch, is the benevolent Audley of the Ordinary.

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There was, besides, one other character of an original cast, apparently the friend of none of the party, and yet in fact, “the Atlas which supported the Ordinarie on his shoulders:” he was sometimes significantly called the impostor.

The gull is a young man whose father, a citizen or a squire, just dead, leaves him “ten or twelve thousand pounds in ready money, besides some hundreds a-year.” Scouts are sent out, and lie in ambush for him; they discover what “apothecarie’s shop he resorts to every morning, or in what tobacco-shop in Fleet-street he takes a pipe of smoke in the afternoon;” the usual resorts of the loungers of that day. Some sharp wit of the Ordinarie, a pleasant fellow, whom Robert Greene calls the “taker-up,” one of universal conversation, lures the heir of seven hundred a-year to “The Ordinarie.” A gull sets the whole aviary in spirits; and Decker well describes the flutter of joy and expectation: “The leaders maintained themselves brave; the forlorn-hope, that drooped before, doth now gallantly come on; the eagle feathers his nest; the wood-pecker picks up the crumbs; the gull-groper grows fat with good feeding; and the gull himself, at whom every one has a pull, hath in the end scarce feathers to keep his back warm.”

During the gull’s progress through Primero and Gleek,[5] he wants for no admirable advice and solemn warnings from two excellent friends; the gull-groper, and at length, the impostor. The gull-groper, who knows, “to half an acre,” all his means, takes the gull when out of luck to a side-window, and in a whisper talks of “dice being made of women’s bones, which would cozen any man:” but he pours his gold on the board; and a bond is rapturously signed for the next quarter-day. But the gull-groper, by a variety of expedients, avoids having the bond duly discharged; he contrives to get a judgment, and a serjeant with his mace procures the forfeiture of the bond; the treble value. But the “impostor” has none of the milkiness of the “gull-groper”–he looks for no favour under heaven from any man; he is bluff with all the Ordinarie; he spits at random; jingles his spurs into any man’s cloak; and his “humour” is, to be a devil of a dare-all. All fear him as the tyrant they must obey. The tender gull trembles, and admires this roysterer’s valour. At length the devil he feared becomes his champion; and the poor gull, proud of his intimacy, hides himself under this eagle’s wings.

The impostor sits close by his elbow, takes a partnership in his game, furnishes the stakes when out of luck, and in truth does not care how fast the gull loses; for a twirl of his mustachio, a tip of his nose, or a wink of his eye, drives all the losses of the gull into the profits of the grand confederacy at the Ordinarie. And when the impostor has fought the gull’s quarrels many a time, at last he kicks up the table; and the gull sinks himself into the class of the forlorn-hope; he lives at the mercy of his late friends the gull-groper and the impostor, who send him out to lure some tender bird in feather.

Such were the hells of our ancestors, from which our worthies might take a lesson; and the “warren” in which the Audleys were the conie-catchers.

But to return to our Audley; this philosophical usurer never pressed hard for his debts; like the fowler, he never shook his nets lest he might startle, satisfied to have them, without appearing to hold them. With great fondness he compared his “bonds to infants, which battle best by sleeping.” To battle is to be nourished, a term still retained at the University of Oxford. His familiar companions were all subordinate actors in the great piece he was performing; he too had his part in the scene. When not taken by surprise, on his table usually lay open a great Bible, with Bishop Andrews’s folio Sermons, which often gave him an opportunity of railing at the covetousness of the clergy; declaring their religion was “a mere preach,” and that “the time would never be well till we had Queen Elizabeth’s Protestants again in fashion.” He was aware of all the evils arising out of a population beyond the means of subsistence, and dreaded an inundation of men, spreading like the spawn of cod. Hence he considered marriage, with a modern political economist, as very dangerous; bitterly censuring the clergy, whose children, he said, never thrived, and whose widows were left destitute. An apostolical life, according to Audley, required only books, meat, and drink, to be had for fifty pounds a year! Celibacy, voluntary poverty, and all the mortifications of a primitive Christian, were the virtues practised by this puritan among his money bags.

Yet Audley’s was that worldly wisdom which derives all its strength from the weaknesses of mankind. Everything was to be obtained by stratagem; and it was his maxim, that to grasp our object the faster, we must go a little round about it. His life is said to have been one of intricacies and mysteries, using indirect means in all things; but if he walked in a labyrinth, it was to bewilder others; for the clue was still in his own hand; all he sought was that his designs should not be discovered by his actions. His word, we are told, was his bond; his hour was punctual; and his opinions were compressed and weighty: but if he was true to his bond-word, it was only a part of the system to give facility to the carrying on of his trade, for he was not strict to his honour; the pride of victory, as well as the passion for acquisition, combined in the character of Audley, as in more tremendous conquerors. His partners dreaded the effects of his law-library, and usually relinquished a claim rather than stand a latent suit against a quibble. When one menaced him by showing some money-bags, which he had resolved to empty in law against him, Audley then in office in the court of wards, with a sarcastic grin, asked “Whether the bags had any bottom?” “Ay!” replied the exulting possessor, striking them. “In that case, I care not,” retorted the cynical officer of the court of wards; “for in this court I have a constant spring; and I cannot spend in other courts more than I gain in this.” He had at once the meanness which would evade the law, and the spirit which could resist it.

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The genius of Audley had crept out of the purlieus of Guildhall, and entered the Temple; and having often sauntered at “Powles” down the great promenade which was reserved for “Duke Humphrey and his guests,”[6] he would turn into that part called “The Usurer’s Alley,” to talk with “Thirty in the hundred,” and at length was enabled to purchase his office at that remarkable institution, the court of wards. The entire fortunes of those whom we now call wards in chancery were in the hands, and often submitted to the arts or the tyranny of the officers of this court.

When Audley was asked the value of this new office, he replied, that “It might be worth some thousands of pounds to him who after his death would instantly go to heaven; twice as much to him who would go to purgatory: and nobody knows what to him who would adventure to go to hell.” Such was the pious casuistry of a witty usurer. Whether he undertook this last adventure, for the four hundred thousand pounds he left behind him, how can a sceptical biographer decide? Audley seems ever to have been weak when temptation was strong.

Some saving qualities, however, were mixed with the vicious ones he liked best. Another passion divided dominion with the sovereign one: Audley’s strongest impressions of character were cast in the old law-library of his youth, and the pride of legal reputation was not inferior in strength to the rage for money. If in the “court of wards” he pounced on incumbrances which lay on estates, and prowled about to discover the craving wants of their owners, it appears that he also received liberal fees from the relatives of young heirs, to protect them from the rapacity of some great persons, but who could not certainly exceed Audley in subtilty. He was an admirable lawyer, for he was not satisfied with hearing, but examining his clients; which he called “pinching the cause where he perceived it was foundered.” He made two observations on clients and lawyers, which have not lost their poignancy. “Many clients in telling their case, rather plead than relate it, so that the advocate heareth not the true state of it, till opened by the adverse party. Some lawyers seem to keep an assurance-office in their chambers, and will warrant any cause brought unto them, knowing that if they fail, they lose nothing but what was lost long since–their credit.”

The career of Audley’s ambition closed with the extinction of the “court of wards,” by which he incurred the loss of above L100,000. On that occasion he observed that “His ordinary losses were as the shavings of his beard, which only grew the faster by them; but the loss of this place was like the cutting off of a member, which was irrecoverable.” The hoary usurer pined at the decline of his genius, discoursed on the vanity of the world, and hinted at retreat. A facetious friend told him a story of an old rat, who having acquainted the young rats that he would at length retire to his hole, desiring none to come near him; their curiosity, after some days, led them to venture to look into the hole; and there they discovered the old rat sitting in the midst of a rich Parmesan cheese. The loss of the last L100,000 may have disturbed his digestion, for he did not long survive his court of wards.

Such was this man, converting wisdom into cunning, invention into trickery, and wit into cynicism. Engaged in no honourable cause, he however showed a mind resolved; making plain the crooked and involved path he trod. Sustine et abstine, to bear and forbear, was the great principle of Epictetus, and our moneyed Stoic bore all the contempt and hatred of the living smilingly, while he forbore all the consolations of our common nature to obtain his end. He died in unblest celibacy,–and thus he received the curses of the living for his rapine, while the stranger who grasped the million he had raked together owed him no gratitude at his death.

[Footnote 1:
The Court of Wards was founded in the right accorded to the king from the earliest time, to act as guardian to all minors who were the children of his own tenants, or of those who did the sovereign knightly service. They were in the same position, consequently, as the Chancery Wards of the present day; but much complaint being made of the private management of themselves and their estates by the persons who acted as their guardians, and who were responsible only to the king’s exchequer, King Henry VIII., in the thirty-second year of his reign, founded “the Court of Wards” in Westminster Hall, as an open court of trial or appeal, for all persons under its jurisdiction. In the following year, a court of “liveries” was added to it; and it was always afterwards known as the “Court of Wards and Liveries.” By “liveries” is meant, in old legal phraseology, “the delivery of seisin to the heir of the king’s tenant in ward, upon suing for it at full age,” the investiture, in fact, of the ward in his legal right as heir to his parents’ property. This court was under the conduct of a very few officers who enriched themselves; and one of the first acts of the House of Lords, when the great changes were made during the troubles of Charles I., was to suppress the court altogether. This was done in 1645, and confirmed by Cromwell in 1656. At the restoration of Charles II. it was again specially noted as entirely suppressed. ]

[Footnote 2:
D’Ewes’s father lost a manor, which was recovered by the widow of the person who had sold it to him. Old D’Ewes considered this loss as a punishment for the usurious loan of money; the fact is, that he had purchased that manor with the interests accumulating from the money lent on it. His son entreated him to give over “the practice of that controversial sin.” This expression shows that even in that age there were rational political economists. Jeremy Bentham, in his little treatise on Usury, offers just views, cleared from the indistinct and partial ones so long prevalent. Jeremy Collier has an admirable Essay on Usury, vol. iii. It is a curious notion of Lord Bacon, that he would have interest at a lower rate in the country than in trading towns, because the merchant is best able to afford the highest. ]

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[Footnote 3:
In Rowley’s “Search for Money,” 1609, is an amusing description of the usurer, who binds his clients in “worse bonds and manacles than the Turk’s galley-slaves.” And in Decker’s “Knights’ Conjuring,” 1607, we read of another who “cozen’d young gentlemen of their land, had acres mortgaged to him by wiseacres for three hundred pounds, payde in hobby-horses, dogges, bells, and lutestrings; which, if they had been sold by the drum, or at an outrop (public auction), with the cry of ‘No man better,’ would never have yielded L50.” ]

[Footnote 4:
“The Meeting of Gallants at an Ordinarie, or the Walkes in Powles,” 1603, is the title of a rare tract in the Malone collection, now in the Bodleian Library. It is a curious picture of the manners of the day. ]

[Footnote 5:
Games with cards. Strutt says Primero is one of the most ancient games known to have been played in England, and he thus describes it:–“Each player had four cards dealt to him, the 7 was the highest card in point of number that he could avail himself of, which counted for 21; the 6 counted for 16, the 5 for 15, and the ace for the same; but the 2, the 3, and the 4 for their respective points only. The knave of hearts was commonly fixed upon for the quinola, which the player might make what card or suit he thought proper; if the cards were of different suits, the highest number won the primero; if they were all of one colour, he that held them won the flush.” Gleek is described in “Memoirs of Gamesters,” 1714, as “a game on the cards wherein the ace is called Tib, the knave Tom, the 4 of trumps Tiddy. Tib the ace is 15 in hand and 18 in play, because it wins a trick; Tom the knave is 9, and Tiddy is 4; the 5th Towser, the 6th Tumbler, which, if in hand, Towser is 5 and Tumbler 6, and so double if turned up; and the King or Queen of trumps is 3. Now, as there can neither more nor less than 3 persons play at this game, who have 12 cards a-piece dealt to them at 4 at a time, you are to note that 22 are your cards; if you win nothing but the cards that were dealt you, you lose 10; if you have neither Tib, Tom, Tiddy, King, Queen, Mournival, nor Gleek, you lose, because you count as many cards as you had in tricks, which must be few by reason of the badness of your hand; if you have Tib, Tom, King and Queen of trumps in your hand, you have 30 by honours, that is, 8 above your own cards, besides the cards you win by them in play. If you have Tom only, which is 9, and the King of trumps, which is 3, then you reckon from 12, 13, 14, 15, till you come to 22, and then every card wins so many pence, groats, or what else you play’d for; and if you are under 22, you lose as many.” ]

[Footnote 6:
A note to Singer’s edition of “Hall’s Satires,” says the phrase originated from the popular belief that the tomb of Sir John Beauchamp, in old St. Paul’s, was that of Humphrey Duke of Gloucester. Hence, to walk about the aisles dinnerless was termed dining with Duke Humphrey; and a poem by Speed, termed “The Legend of his Grace,” etc., published 1674, details the popular idea–

Nor doth the duke his invitation send
To princes, or to those that on them tend,
But pays his kindness to a hungry maw;
His charity, his reason, and his law.
For, to say truth, Hunger hath hundreds brought
To dine with him, and all not worth a groat.

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