One of the things I found I had to research hard for my story A Gentleman’s Folly was card games and gambling as Charles Leverret spends some time at the tables.
Gambling, card games and betting were prime entertainment during the 18th century. Gaming took place during private parties, at social events such as balls there would also be a gaming room and people would play cards and gamble at home with visiting guests. At the time of my story the only club in existence was Whites, which at the time of my story would have been sited in Mayfair. The club moved premises in 1755 to St. James’ but that didn’t help the reputation of its gamesters. Like mushrooms more clubs sprang up. Brookes and The Cocoa Tree offered tables for gambling.
I doubt Charles had the funds or standing to take a place among the gentlemen there. He had to content himself with visiting the tables at Vauxhall or the gambling rooms at Ranelagh when he had the funds to do so.
Charles was not alone in his gambling habit and would have found ready games to join. Sadly the stories of fortunes won and lost, of houses and daughters exchanged to pay off gambling debts all have a kernel of truth.
The 18th century was the age of the chancer and not all of them won. Bets could range from sixpence to thousands of guineas, reputations were trashed and made, inheritances destroyed and families shattered.
An early example of this is the Duke of Richmond, who paid off his gambling debts in 1719 by pledging his 18-year-old son and heir to the 13-year-old daughter of the Earl of Cadogan.
The two young people were quickly married, but once the ceremony was concluded the bride did not see her husband again until she was 16. Therein lies a story and I am thankful to say their marriage once begun seems to have been a happy and successful one.
Another sorry tale is that of Lord Thanet who lost his entire income in one sitting at the tables, all of £50,000. The value of that amount in today’s coinage is so huge it makes me dizzy.
In A Gentleman’s Folly Charles takes the biggest chance of his life, win or lose, things will never be the same again.
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