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قراءة كتاب The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction Volume 10, No. 281, November 3, 1827

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‏اللغة: English
The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction
Volume 10, No. 281, November 3, 1827

The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction Volume 10, No. 281, November 3, 1827

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 7

company for other coin; whilst others listlessly played with their cash, or in a vulgar phrase, handled it like dirt, the distinguishing feature of the cold and calculating gamester, to whom money is an object of secondary concern compared with that of play. In the standing groupe I remember to have noticed (from his personal resemblance to a friend) a young Englishman, whom I afterwards learned had been a constant visiter to that table during the previous three months, and had then won about two hundred Napoleons. He had just married an interesting woman, about his own age, twenty-two, and had professedly taken up his degree in the practice of play, as an elegant and honourable mode of subsistence. A few weeks after I met him and his wife, on the Italian Boulevards; in dress he was woefully changed, and in his countenance a ghastly stare, sunken eye, and emaciated cheeks, bespoke some strong reverse of fortune: his wife too seemed dimmed by sorrow, and suffering might be traced in every lineament of her features, notwithstanding the artifice of dress was tastefully displayed about her person. Alas! thought I, how often is the charm of wedded life snapped asunder by man—the proud lord of the creation, and how often by his strong hold on her affections, does he sink lovely woman still fondly clinging to his disgrace, in the abyss of crime and guilt.

But as such incidents must be common to many of your readers who have visited the French metropolis, I shall desist from further recital. The following outline of those receptacles of vice, French Gaming Houses, from facts which I collected on the spot, aided by authenticated resources, may not prove uninteresting.

Gaming-houses in Paris were first licensed in 1775, by the lieutenant of police, who, to diminish the odium of such establishments, decreed that the profit resulting from them should be applied to the foundation of hospitals. The gamesters might therefore be said to resemble watermen, looking one way and rowing another. Their number soon amounted to twelve, and women were permitted to resort to them two days in the week. Besides the licensed establishments, several illegal ones were tolerated. In 1778, gaming was prohibited in France; but not at the court or in the hotels of ambassadors, where police-officers could not enter. By degrees the public establishments resumed their wonted activity, and extended their pernicious effects. The numerous suicides and bankruptcies which they occasioned, attracted the attention of the Parlement, who drew up regulations for their observance; and threatened those who should violate them with the pillory and whipping. At length, the passion for gambling prevailing in the societies established in the Palais Royal, under the title of clubs or salons, a police ordinance was issued in 1785, prohibiting them from gaming, and in the following year, additional prohibitory measures were enforced. During the revolution the gaming-houses were frequently prevented and licenses withheld; but notwithstanding the rigour of the laws, and the vigilance of the police, they still contrived to exist; and they are now regularly licensed by the police, and are under its immediate inspection. The following items of twenty tables distributed about Paris (the established stake varying from a Napoleon to sous) are from the most authentic documents:—

Current expenses 1,551,480 Francs.
Bail to Government 6,000,000 Francs.
Bonus for the bail 166,666 Francs.
Making together 7,716,146 Francs, or about £321,589 English.
Gain of the tables, per annum 9,600,000 Francs.
Expenses as above 7,718,146 Francs.
Leaving a clear profit of 1,881,854 Francs,

or about £78,244 English! And yet, in spite of this unanswerable logic of figures and facts, there are every day fresh victims who are infatuated enough to believe that it is possible to counterbalance the advantages which the bank possesses, by a judicious management of the power the player has of altering his stake! The revenue formerly paid to the government for licenses, has recently been transferred to the city of Paris.

In England, the outcry against gaming is loud, and deservedly so; and the extent to which it is stated to be curried in the higher circles is rather underrated than exaggerated; but the severity of our laws on this crime, and recent visitations of its rigour, confine it to the saloons of wealthy vice. With us it is not a national vice, as in France, where every license, facility, and even encouragement presents itself. Lotteries, which have been abolished in England, as immoral nuisances, are tolerated in France, with more mischievous effect, since, the risk is considerably less than our least shares formerly were, the lotteries smaller, and those drawn three times every month. The relics of our gaming system are only to be found on race-courses; but in France, half the toys sold at a fair or fête, where mothers win rattles for their children, are by lottery, whilst our gaming at fairs is restricted to a few low adventurers for snuff-boxes, &c. Despair is the gloomiest feature of the French character, and of which gaming produces a frightful proportion, notwithstanding all that our neighbours say about our hanging and drowning in November: witness their suicides:—

In 1819: Suicides, 376; of which, 126 women.
1820: do. 325; do. 114 do.
1821: do. 348; do. 112 do.

Of the suicides of these three years 25, 50, and 36, were attributed to love, and 52, 42, 43, to despair arising from gaming, the lottery, &c. In the winter of 1826, several exaggerated losses by gaming were circulated in Paris with great finesse, to enable bankrupts to account for their deficiencies, many of whom were exposed and deservedly punished.

A few words on the prevention of gaming, the consideration of which gave rise to this hasty sketch; I mean by dramatic exhibitions of its direful effects. On our stage we have a pathetic tragedy by E. Moore, which, though seldom acted, is a fine domestic moral to old and young; but the author