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The History Of Dice And Cards

Volume I

The Gaming Table by Andrew Steinmetz, Volume II

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The History Of Dice And Cards

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'The kind of advertisements, now called circulars, were often,
formerly, printed on the backs of playing-cards. Visiting-cards,
too, were improvised, by writing the name on the back of playing-
cards. About twenty years ago, when a house in Dean Street,
Soho, was under repair, several visiting-cards of this
description were found behind a marble chimney-piece, one of them
bearing the name of Isaac Newton. Cards of invitation were
written in a similar manner. In the fourth picture, in Hogarth's
series of "Marriage a-la-Mode," several are seen lying on the
floor, upon one of which is inscribed: "Count Basset begs to no
how Lade Squander sleapt last nite." Hogarth, when he painted
this inscription, was most probably thinking of Mrs Centlivre's
play, The Basset Table, which a critic describes as containing a
great deal of plot and business, without much sentiment or
delicacy.

'A curious and undoubtedly authentic historical anecdote is told
of a pack of cards. Towards the end of the persecuting reign of
Queen Mary, a commission was granted to a Dr Cole to go over to
Ireland, and commence a fiery crusade against the Protestants of
that country. On coming to Chester, on his way, the doctor was
waited on by the mayor, to whom he showed his commission,
exclaiming, with premature triumph, "Here is what shall lash the
heretics of Ireland." Mrs Edmonds, the landlady of the inn,
having a brother in Dublin, was much disturbed by overhearing
these words; so, when the doctor accompanied the mayor
downstairs, she hastened into his room, opened his box, took out
the commission, and put a pack of cards in its place. When the
doctor returned to his apartment, he put the box into his
portmanteau without suspicion, and the next morning sailed for
Dublin. On his arrival he waited on the lord-lieutenant and
privy council, to whom he made a speech on the subject of his
mission, and then presented the box to his Lordship; but on
opening it, there appeared only a pack of cards, with the knave
of clubs uppermost. The doctor was petrified, and assured the
council that he had had a commission, but what was become of it
he could not tell. The lord-lieutenant answered, "Let us have
another commission, and, in the mean while, we can shuffle the
cards." Before the doctor could get his commission renewed Queen
Mary died, and thus the persecution was prevented. We are
further informed that, when Queen Elizabeth was made acquainted
with the circumstances, she settled a pension of L40 per annum on
Mrs Edmonds, for having saved her Protestant subjects in
Ireland.'[62]

[62] The Book of Days, Dec. 28.

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