Tag Archive | Thomas Rowlandson

The Microcosm of London or London in Miniature: An Auction

published by Rudolph Ackermann in 3 volumes, 1808–1811.

The print annexed is a spirited representation of that interesting scene, a public auction. The various effect which the lot (a Venus) has on the company, is delineated with great ability and humour. The auctioneer, animated with his subject, seems to be rapidly pouring forth such a torrent of eloquence as cannot fail to operate on the feelings of his auditors; indeed, having two of their senses enlisted in his favour, there seems to be little doubt that he will succeed. The eloquence of the rostrum is of a peculiar nature, Foote, who delineated every object that he chose with an astonishing truth and felicity, has, in his Minor, drawn an auctioneer with so much whim and drollery, and which, if a little outré, possesses so many striking characteristics, that it may serve for a portrait of the whole. Our animated auctioneer, adorning his Venus with all the flowers of rhetoric, seems to be saying, with Smirke in the Minor, “A-going for five and forty, — no body more than five and forty? — Pray, ladies and gentlemen, look at this piece! — quite flesh and blood, and only wants a touch from the torch of Prometheus, to start from the canvass and fall a-bidding!” And these flowers are not scattered in vain; (‘for,” continues Smirke, “a general plaudit ensued, — I bowed, and in three minutes knocked it down at sixty-three — ten” 

The tout-ensemble of this print is marked with propriety and interest. The great variety of character, the masses of light and shade judiciously opposed to each other, the truth of the perspective, and the felicity of touch which the artist has adopted to give the idea of old pictures in the back ground, hwe the happiest effect imaginable. 

That in the rage for purchasing old pictures the craft of experienced dealers should frequently impose upon those who might think it necessary to appear to have, what nature had denied them, taste and judgment, is not to be wondered at. All living genius was discouraged, or only found patrons in these dealers if they would condescend to manufacture for them Raphaels and Claudes, Corregios and Salvator Rosas. That they could not always get a sufficient supply of copies from Italy, the following extract from a valuable work may give some idea: — “Among the papers of a lately deceased virtuoso, I met with a few manuscript sheets, entitled ‘Hints for a History of the Arts in Great Britain, from the Accession of the Third George.’ The following extract proves, that painting pictures called after the ancient masters, was not confined to Italy: we had in England some industrious and laborious painters, who, like the unfortunate Chatterton, gave the honours of their best performances 

To others. To the narrative there is no date, but some allusions to a late sovereign determine it to be a short time before we discovered that there were, in the works of our own poets, subjects as well worthy of the pencil as any to be found in the idle tales of antiquity, or the still more idle legends of Popery. 

“The late edict of the emperor for selling the pictures of which he has despoiled the convents, will be a very fortunate circumstance for many of the artists in this country, whose sole employment is painting of old pictures; and this will be a glorious opportunity for introducing the modern antiques into the cabinets of the curious. 

“A most indefatigable dealer, apprehensive that there might be a difficulty and enormous expence in procuring from abroad a sufficient quantity to gratify the eagerness of the English connoisseurs, has taken the more economical method of having a number painted here. The bill of one of his workmen, which came into my hands by an accident, I think worth preservation, and I have taken a copy for the information of future ages. Every picture is at present most sacredly preserved from the public eye, but in the course of a few months they will be smoked into antiquity, and roasted into old age, and may probably be announced in manner and form following: 

‘To the Lovers of Virtu. 

‘Mr. — has the heartfelt pleasure of congratulating the lovers of the fine arts upon such an opportunity of enriching their collections, as no period, from the days of the divine Apelles to the present irradiated era, ever produced; nor is it probable that there ever will be in any future age so splendid, superb, brilliant, and matchless ail assemblage of unrivalled pictures, as he begs leave to announce to the connoisseurs, are now exhibiting at his great room in; being the principal part of that magnificent bouquet, which has been accumulating for so many ages, been preserved with religious care, and contemplated with pious awe, while they had an holy refuge in the peaceful gloom of the convents of Germany. By the edict of the emperor, they are banished from their consecrated walls, and are now emerged from their obscurity with undiminished lustre! with all their native charms mellowed by the tender softening- pencil of time, and introduced to this emporium of taste! this favourite seat of the arts! this exhibition-room of the universe! and need only to be seen to produce the most pleasing and delightful sensations. 

‘When it is added, that they were selected by that most judicious and quick-sighted collector. Monsieur D, it will be unnecessary to say more; his penetrating eye and unerring judgment, his boundless liberality and unremitting industry, have insured him the protection of a generous public, ever ready to patronise exertions made solely for their gratification. 

‘N. B. Descriptive catalogues, with the names of the immortal artists, may be had as above.’ 


‘Monsieur Varnish, To Benjamin Bistre, Dr. 

‘To painting the Woman caught in Adultery, on a green ground, by Hans Holbein £3 3 0 

‘To Solomon’s wise Judgment, on pannel, by Michael Angelo . 2 12 6 

‘To painting and canvass for a naked Mary Magdalen, in the undoubted style of Paul Veronese 2 2 0 

‘To brimstone for smoking ditto 0 2 6 

‘Paid Mrs. W for a live model to sit for Diana bathing, by Tintoretto 0 16 8 

‘Paid for the hire of a layman, to copy the Robes of a Cardinal, for a Vandyke 0 5 0 

‘Portrait of a Nun doing Penance, by Albert 0 2 2 

‘Paid the female figure for sitting thirty minutes in a wet sheet, that I might give the dry manner of Vandyke* 0 10 6 

‘The Tribute Money rendered with all the exactness of Quintin Mestius, the famed blacksmith of Antwerp 2 12 6 

‘To Ruth at the Feet of Boaz, on an oak board, by Titian 3 3 0 

‘St. Anthony preaching to the Fishes, by Salvator Rosa 3 10 0 

‘The Martyrdom of St. Winifred, with a view of Holy well Bath, by Old Frank 1 11 6 

‘To a large allegorical Altar-piece, consisting of Men and Angels, Florses and River-gods; ’tis thought most happily hit off for a Rubens 5 5 0 

‘To Susannah bathing; the two Elders in the back ground, by Castiglione 2 2 0 

‘To the Devil and St. Dunstan, high finished, by Teniers 2 2 0 

‘To the Queen of Sheba falling down before Solomon, by Murillio 2 12 6 

‘To Judith in the Tent of Holofernes, by Le Brun 1 16 0 

‘To a Sisera in the Tent of Jael, its companion, by the same 1 16 0 

‘Paid for admission into the House of Peers, to take a sketch of a great character, for a picture of Moses breaking the Tables of the Law, in the darkest manner of Rembrandt, not yet finished 0 2 6 

It is to be hoped, that a general knowledge and taste for the arts are now so far diffused among us, that the nobility and gentry are awake to living merit, and can properly appreciate those powers by which the old masters have acquired their high reputation. They are no longer to be imposed on by the stale tricks of those jugglers in picture-craft, who made large fortunes by their ill-reposed confidence. A few recent examples will suffice to prove the increased taste and judgment of the public. 

In March 1795, the very fine collection of pictures by the ancient masters, the property of Sir Joshua Reynolds, was sold by auction for 10,319/. 2s. 6d .; and in April 1796, various historical and fancy pieces of his own painting, together with some unclaimed portraits, were sold for 4505/. 18s. His very valuable collection of drawings and prints is not yet disposed of. 

In April 1806, thirty-two choice Flemish pictures were sold by auction, and produced 6733 guineas. One of them, by Paul Potter, was knocked down at 1450 guineas; though this, it is said, was bought in. 

But it is only for works of the very first-rate excellence, which, in the present state of pictorial knowledge, the nobility and gentry will be liberal; and many speculators in second and third-rate pictures have been miserably disappointed, notwithstanding the pompous and high-sounding names with which they crowded their catalogues. In the year 1802, Count Hagen consigned to England a collection of pictures, the catalogue of which announced a most select assemblage of the very first masters; and the prices they were valued at raised the expectation of cognoscent to the highest pitch: their number was about sixty, and their value he estimated at 20,000/. After many consultations whether they should be exhibited and sold by private contract, or public auction, the latter were as determined on; and that Mr. Christie, instead of two days’ view, should allow a week for their exhibition. This being settled, the sale came on, and the produce did not nearly cover the expences: it is true, that four of the best were bought in and sent back to Dresden; but the proprietor had a deficit to pay upon the others amounting to 183/. 16s. besides the freight, &c. for the return of the four unsold: so that he paid for selling his pictures, and gave them into the bargain. 

About the same time a Mr. Lemmer arrived with another cargo from Vienna. This was a smaller collection, amounting to about thirty: it was generally supposed that they belonged to Count Harrach. This collection, however, met with no better success: for, after a long private exhibition, a public sale was resorted to; and the result was, that Mr. Lemmer let his rubbish go for whatever it would fetch, and bought in all the pictures that were tolerable. This mad speculation, considering the great distance, the travelling of three people in a carriage built on purpose, and drawn by six horses, and a residence of above eight months in London, could not have cost the noble speculator less than 12 or 1500/. 

The fate of the Truschessian gallery is still a stronger proof of the absurd notions which foreigners entertain of the knowledge and judgment of English collectors. The count brought over a collection consisting of above one thousand pictures: and that among them were several chefs d’oeuvres, cannot be denied; but he asserted that the whole were unique, and of themselves sufficient to form a splendid national gallery; and, by his estimation, at a fourth part of their real value, they were worth 60,000/. But as Messrs. Fries, bankers at Vienna, had advanced 27,000/. to the count, and taken this collection as a security, after many unsuccessful endeavours to dispose of it, the mortgager determined to sell by public auction those not sold by private sale. These pictures were publicly exhibited for about two years: of course their merits and demerits would be fully ascertained. The net produce of the public and private sale did not amount to more than 18,000/.: and here it must be observed, that the mortgagees bought in more than twenty of the best, which they accounted for to the proprietor at the sums the auctioneer knocked them down at, and which are included in the 18,000/. 

By the statute 19th Geo. III. c. 56. s. 3. it is provided, that no person shall exercise the trade or business of an auctioneer, or seller by commission, at any sale of estate, goods, or effects whatsoever, whereby the highest bidder is deemed the purchaser, without taking out a licence; which, if it is in the bills of mortality, shall be granted by the commissioners of excise, and elsewhere by the collectors, supervisors, & c.; for which licence to sell by auction in any part of England or Wales, shall be paid the sum of twenty shillings, and elsewhere five shillings; and the said licence shall be renewed annually, ten days at least before the expiration of the former; and if any person shall act without such licence, he shall forfeit 100/. if it is within the bills, and elsewhere 50/. 

All kinds of property sold by auction, except cloth wove in this kingdom, and sold in the piece as taken from the loom, and in lots of 20/. or upwards, pays a duty of seven-pence in the pound; and the auctioneer shall give a bond on receiving his licence, with two sureties in 5000/. that he will, within fourteen days after every such sale, deliver an account thereof at the next excise-office, and will not sell any goods contrary to the directions of this act, 27th Geo. III. c. 13. &c. 

Christie’s Auction Room

*Some of the ancient masters acquired a dry manner of painting from studying after wet drapery. WEBB on painting.

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The Microcosm of London or London in Miniature: The Royal Academy

published by Rudolph Ackermann in 3 volumes, 1808–1811.

Previous to the institution of a Royal Academy, there was an exhibition at the Lyceum in the Strand. It was denominated THE SOCIETY OF ARTISTS OF GREAT BRITAIN; and the profits were to be applied to the relief of distressed artists, their widows and children. In this place were exhibited some very fine productions by Mortimer and other of our most celebrated painters. 

The princes of the house of Hanover had many virtues of a description that adorn and dignify human nature. George II, was a gentleman of high honour and undeviating integrity; but he possessed no portion of taste for the fine arts, the professors of which were very coldly considered during his reign. 

The accession of his present majesty displayed a very different scene, and those who had talents found now a sovereign who had taste to discern and appreciate them, and sought every opportunity of affording them countenance and protection.

The Royal Academy

In the year 1774, old Somerset Place was purchased of the crown, and an act of parliament passed for embanking the river Thames before Somerset House, and for building upon its scite various public offices, &c. The part of the building appropriated to the artists, is the object of our present enquiry. 

The room on the ground-floor is allotted to models of statues, plans, elevations, and drawings. 

The coved ceiling of the library was painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds and Cipriani. The center is by Sir Joshua, and represents the Theory of the Art, under the form of an elegant and majestic female, seated on the clouds and looking up wards: she holds in one hand a compass, in the other a label, on which is written, 

Theory is the knowledge of what is truly nature. 

The four compartments in the coves of the ceiling are by Cipriani, and represent Nature, History, Allegory, and Fable. These are well imagined, and sufficiently explain themselves. 

The adjoining room, being originally appropriated to models and casts from the antique, of which this society has a most valuable and curious collection, is plain and unornamented. 

The council room is more richly decorated ; the stucco is in a good taste, and in the center compartment of the ceiling are five pictures painted by Mr. West. The center picture represents the Graces unveiling Nature; the others display the four elements from which the imitative arts collect their objects, under the description of female figures, attended by genii, with Fire, Water, Earth, and Air, exhibited under different forms and modifications. The large oval pictures which adorn the two extremities of the ceiling, are from the pencil of Angelica Kauffman, and represent Invention, Composition, Design, and Colouring. Besides these nine large pictures, there are in the angles, or ospandrells in the center, four coloured medallions, representing Apelles the painter, Phidias the sculptor, Apollodorus the architect, and Archimedes the mathematician; and round the great circle of the center, eight smaller medallions, held up by lions, on which are represented, in chira-obscuro, Palladio, Bernini, Michael Angelo, Fiamingo, Raphael, Dominichino, Titian, and Rubens; all of which are painted by Rebecca.

Sir Joshua Reynolds

Sir Joshua Reynolds was the first president ; and his urbanity of manners, and high rank in the arts, gave him a respectability with the society, which it will not be easy for any of his successors to equal. 

It is not proper to pass the name of this great man without some general account of his character: 

“His art was nature, and his pictures thought.” 

He was born heir to the manor of portrait-painting, the soil of which he has so improved, enriched, and fertilized, as to give this hitherto barren spot in the province of art, an importance it was never before thought capable of receiving. At the hour he began to paint he was the leader of his art, and, whatever improvements were made by his contemporaries, preserved that rank to the last year of his life. He was sometimes praised for excellences which he did not possess, and sometimes censured for errors of which he was not guilty. To analyze his character fairly, it is necessary to consider the state of the arts when he began to paint; and to say a man was superior to the painters who immediately succeeded Hudson, is, with very few exceptions, saying little more than that he was a giant among pigmies. By his fondness for experiments in colours, he frequently used such as vanished before the originals they were designed to commemorate, and many of them the world need not lament. 

Every succeeding year of his life he improved; and that some of his later pictures have been painted with colours that fled, every man of true taste will regret; at the same time that the mezzotintoes so frequently engraved from them, shew us in shadow, that such things were. He did not aim at giving a mere ground-plan of the countenance, but the markings of the mind, the workings of the soul, the leading features which distinguish man from man; by which means he has represented real beings with all the ideal graces of fiction, and united character  to individuality. Invention and originality have been said to be the leading excellences of a poet or a painter, and the president has been accused of borrowing from the works of others. Let it be remembered, that the merit does not lie in the originality of any single circumstance, but in the conduct and use of all the branches and particular beauties which enter into each composition. Such appropriation has a right to the praise of invention, and to such praise was Sir Joshua entitled. He frequently united the elegance of the French style with the chastity of the Roman; he imitated the brilliant hues of Rembrandt, but never introduced what was either mean or disgusting; he had the richness of colouring of Rubens without his excess and tumult; and by thus judiciously selecting and skilfully blending the colours of the various masters, he has formed a style wholly his own, on the merit of which other painters have separately about as high claim, as the mason who hewed the stones for Whitehall had to the honours due to Inigo Jones. 

Considered in every point of view, he has given a new character to portrait-painting, and his pencil may, without exaggeration, be called creative. 

The School

The stated professors of painting in its different departments, read lectures to the students in their various branches; and as they possess a most capital collection of casts and models from antique statues, &c. they have what may be fairly deemed a good school for drawing. A school for colouring they still want; and it has been recommended to them to purchase a collection of pictures, to which the students might resort, and compare their own productions with those of the great masters, whose works have stood the test of ages. The Lectures by Sir Joshua Reynolds are published, and are models of elegant composition as well as scientific taste. Those by Mr. Barry were published a few years ago, and contain much original and useful information, blended with some of this singular painter’s peculiarities. 

Mr. Sheldon, professor of anatomy, delivers six lectures annually, during the summer season. 

Prize medals (of silver), for the best academy figure, are delivered once a year. 

Gold medals for historical compositions in painting, sculpture, and designs in architecture, once in two years. The latter are presented to a full assembly, and succeeded by a discourse from the president. 

Students have generally during the whole year an opportunity of studying nature from well chosen subjects, and of drawing from the antique casts. 

Admission to the lectures is by a ticket signed by an academician; they are held on Monday evenings, at eight o’clock, in Somerset Place. 

The annual exhibition generally opens in May, and every person admitted pays one shilling ; and sixpence for a catalogue, if he wishes to have one. 


The room in which this is done we have already described; and by the manner in which it is arranged, and their errors being pointed out, a number of our young students draw with great correctness. It is devoutly to be wished that their colouring was as meritorious as their drawing; but for colouring they have not yet a good school, though several of the royal academicians have made many attempts to obtain it; but, alas! those attempts have not hitherto been crowned with success. 


This most spirited drawing is covered with the representation of pictures and figures, in a manner with which it would not be easy to find one with which it could be paralleled; nor would it be easy to find any other artist, except Mr. Rowlandson, who was capable of displaying so much separate manner in the delineations placed on the walls, and such an infinite variety of small figures, contrasted with each other in a way so peculiarly happy, and marked with such appropriate character. The peculiar mode by which different persons shew the earnestness with which they contemplate what they are inspecting, and display an absorbed attention to the object before them, is incomparably delineated; and the whole forms an admirable little picture of that busy scene, in which such crowds are annually engaged in watching the progress of the fine arts as annually exhibited at the Royal Academy. 

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Regency Advertisements: The Miseries of Human Life Travesty’D (1807)

La Belle Assemblée, March 1807


“The Miseries of Human Life, [originally] written in 1806 by James Beresford (1764–1840) of Oxford University, was extraordinarily successful, becoming a minor classic in the satirical literature of the day. In a humorous dialogue between two old curmudgeons, the book details the “petty outrages, minor humiliations, and tiny discomforts that make up everyday human existence.” The public loved it: dozens of editions were published, and printmakers rushed to illustrate their own versions of life’s miseries.

Thomas Rowlandson (1756/57–1827) began drawing scenes based on Beresford’s book as soon as it was published, and after two years the luxury print dealer Rudolph Ackermann selected fifty of his hand-colored etchings for a new edition of Miseries. Many of the now-iconic characters and situations that the artist drew for this project – some based closely on Beresford’s text and others of his own invention–reappeared in later works, with variations on the Miseries turning up until the artist’s death.




Amusements of Old London: The Play Tables

Amusements of Old London

William B. Boulton, 1901

“… an attempt to survey the amusements of Londoners during a period which began… with the Restoration of King Charles the Second and ended with the accession of Her Majesty Queen Victoria.”

Hazard & White’s

Hazard, the precursor of crap) was a game of pure chance where all players had a fairly equal chance of winning. But as it spread into the lower classes, “organized cheating at low taverns and gaming-houses became a regular profession.” Loaded dice was one way, but there were plenty of other ways. The often violent responses to cheating are illustrated in Rowlandson’s “Kick up at a Hazard Table.”


The game of hazard first became popular in the late 17th century at  the coffee-houses, such as (Mrs.) White’s Chocolate House and The Cocoa Tree. Early in the next century, the more fashionable gentlemen at White’s, wishing to avoid the card sharps and other unpleasant types that were inevitably present at these places, formed a more exclusive, private club, “where they could lose fortunes to each other in all privacy and decorum.” Considered by critics to be a “pit of destruction,” White’s saw many fortunes change hands at the turn of a dice.

Young Mr. Harvey of Chigwell, for instance, lost £100,000 to Mr. O’Birne, an Irish gamester. “You can never pay me,” said O’Birne. “Yes, my estate will sell for the money,” was the spirited reply. “No,” said O’Birne, “I will win but ten thousand, and you shall throw for the odd ninety.” They did so and Harvey won, lived to become an admiral, and to fight under Nelson at Trafalgar.

The Georges and Gaming at Court

It was a necessary qualification of a courtier of George the Second to be prepared to sit down with that monarch and the Suffolks and Walmodens and the other picturesque appanages of the court and lose a comfortable sum. Twelfth Night was always a fixture for a sitting of more than ordinary importance at St. James’s. On one of these occasions luck was in favour of Lord Chesterfield, who won so much money that he was afraid to carry it home with him through the streets, and was seen by Queen Caroline from a private window of the palace to trip up the staircase of the Countess of Suffolk’s apartments. He was never in favour at court afterwards.

George III, on the other hand, banished gaming at court and even White’s gambling became quite tame, which is why Almack’s (later Brooks’s) was opened as a venue for serious gamesters, such as Charles James Fox, who was known for playing carelessly “for the excitement alone,” without any concern for the consequences. On one particular day in 1771, after playing hazard for twenty-two hours and losing £11,000, he gave a speech at Westminster, went to White’s and drank until seven in the morning, and then to Almack’s, where he won £6,000, and later in the afternoon took off for Newmarket. A week later, he was back in London and lost £10,000.


The game of Faro evolved from a game called “basset,” played in the Stuart courts.

Faro was played between the dealer or keeper of the “bank” and the rest of the company, and, like hazard, it gave excitement to as many people as could find room round the table… Each of the company placed his stake upon any card of the thirteen he chose, and when the stakes were all set the dealer took a full pack and dealt it into two heaps, one on his right hand the other on his left, two cards at a time. He paid the stakes placed on such cards as fell on the right-hand pack, and received those of such as fell on his left hand. The dealing of each pair of cards was called a “coup,” and the dealer paid or received such stakes as were decided after each coup… [t]he odds were enormously in favour of the dealer. He claimed all ties, that is, when the same card appeared on both packs, the last card but one of the pack delivered its stake to him upon whichever hand it fell, and there was the impalpable but very real advantage of which was known as the “pull of the table” in his favour.

At Brooks’s, where faro reigned supreme, Charles James Fox and Richard Fitzpatrick (a Whig associate) had a very successful partnership. Lord Robert Spencer’s partnership with Mr. Hare enabled him to win £100,000, whereupon he gave up gambling entirely and purchased an estate in Sussex. “The success of the faro banks at Brooks’s was such that it led to the game being forbidden at White’s by a special rule of the managers.”

Faro, however, was played at many of the great houses and by women of fashion, who would “hire a dealer at five guineas a night to conduct operations, and to suggest that the profits of the table went to him and not to the hostess… to disguise the commercial nature of the transaction…”

Following the 1797 public scandal in the courts where three society ladies were each fined £50 for playing at a public gaming-table—and the popularity of Mr. Gillray’s prints, such as “Pharaoh’s daughters in the pillory and at the cart tail”—the game lost much of its following.



E.O., a type of of roulette with a ball and a special table, called roly-poly, from the Continent, found at race meetings, country fairs, and the streets of London, lent itself well to cheating. Colonel O’Kelly, the eventual owner of Eclipse set himself up in business by winning at E.O.

Gaming Houses and the Damage They Caused

Cheap gaming houses all over town featured hazard, roulette, rouge et noir, and macao for small stakes. Frequent raiding did not discourage them, since fines were easily paid.

A hazard table at Crockford's

A hazard table at Crockford’s

The mischief these places did is almost incalculable; bankruptcies, embezzlements, duels, and suicides resulting from gaming were of weekly occurrence, and it would seem that half the tradesmen and clerks of London were before the magistrates or the coroners of the last years of [the 18th] century and the first quarter of [the 19th].

Hazard and faro had gone out of the older clubs, and club gaming of the [early 19th century] was represented by extremely deep play at whist at White’s and Brook’s. Macao flourished for a while at Wattiers, where the members lived on each other for some eight or ten years until their estates disappeared and the club expired by the flight of its supporters to Boulogne.

Such were the houses in which round games flourished after their decline at the great clubs. They steadily drained the pockets of the aristocracy of England for nearly half a century, and there is scarcely a great family to-day which does not still feel the effects of the play that went on within their doors sixty years ago.

Crockford’s Club

crockford_william_npgthomasjonesWilliam Crockford, a fishmonger who had a shop in the Strand near Temple Bar, made a killing on a turf transaction and rose from partnerships in shady gaming establishments to spending £94,000 to open his own fashionable club, Crockford’s Club, in 1827.

There is one thing, and one only, to be said in favour of Mr. Crockford’s enterprise, which, is that this establishment did away with the practice of gentlemen playing against each other for large sums. At Crockford’s, the game was one of Gentlemen versus Players, the players being always Mr. Crockford’s officials at the French hazard table, and the sole object of his business was to win the money of his patrons.

A committee of gentlemen was given charge of accepting and rejecting members, with the effect of making “entry to Crockford’s as difficult as to White’s or Brooks’s.” The price of subscription to Crockford’s establishment was low, but “in exchange for the princely accommodation of his house, and such fare as was unobtainable at any other club, Crockford asked for nothing in return that gentlemen should condescend to take a cast at his table at French hazard.” This incarnation of the old game required a fee called “box money” and “the pull of the table” that went directly into the coffers of the house.


The men who walked into Crockford’s with their eyes open to encounter these odds were the pick of the society of the day, the men who had fought the battles of the country under Wellington, and men who were making great reputations at Westminster, as well as mere butterflies like the Dandies who loafed through life at White’s. They were most of them men of exceptional parts, and distinguished for shrewdness and ability in one walk of life or another, and yet in the short space of ten years, between the opening of the club in 1827 and the succession of her Majesty, their losses converted Mr. Crockford into a millionaire at least. There is absolutely no record of any considerable sum of money ever won at the place by a player.

The second Earl of Sefton lost £200,000 in his lifetime. His son, after paying off the debt, lost another £40,000. Sir Godfrey Webster lost £50,000 at a sitting. Other losers of enormous sums: Lord Rivers, Lord Chesterfield, Lord Anglesey, Lord D’Orsay.

Even before the Gaming Act of 1845, Crockford, having pretty much won all the money to be won, started consolidating and concealing his assets with a view toward retirement. When called to give evidence, he claimed that increasing age caused him to give over the management to the committee of gentlemen tasked with running the membership of the club.

“High play in England, as we believe, burnt itself out in those orgies at Crockford’s.”

The Scandal at Graham’s Club

Another reason for the decline of serious gaming in England was the cheating scandal at Graham’s Club in St. James’s Street.

…a man of an old and honoured name was detected cheating at whist, and was denounced as a dishonest trickster in a newspaper, the Satirist. He brought an action against his accusers, failed in it, went abroad, and died… the details of the trial disclosed ugly features in the circumstances which had much interest for thoughtful people, and undoubtedly tended to bring the whole institution of play for high stakes between gentlemen into great disrepute.

Witnesses at the trial testified that they had witnessed him cheating in any number of ways a hundred times and more, and not only did not turn him in, but continued to sit down with him to play at private clubs. Undoubtedly, many of them were cheating themselves, and thus had no wish to have their play scrutinized. Packs of his marked cards were produced in court. His hacking cough, which always resulted in producing a king of trump, became known as “—’s king cough.”

Since those days of Crockford’s and Graham’s and the Gaming Act, high play has ceased to be any considerable part of the social life of London at clubs or elsewhere.

The Gaming Act of 1845

made a wager unenforceable as a legal contract and stood as law, though amended, until 2007.

Crockford's today is an exclusive casino in Mayfair

Crockford’s today is an exclusive casino in Mayfair


Amusements of Old London series

Vauxhall Gardens: Thomas Rowlandson’s Painting (1785)


Vauxhall Gardens: A History

David Coke & Alan Borg

The Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens is one of the places I’d love to slip back in time to visit, just to catch a glimpse of what it was like. After recently splurging to buy this lovely coffee-table book, I thought it might make a wonderful subject for a new blog series. But do buy the book too, if you can! The photos are fabulous!

I’m so excited! I just bought a mounted poster of this painting in color from art.com to hang in my bedroom/office here in Florida.

By the time this painting appeared, Jonathan Tyers had died and Vauxhall Gardens passed on to his wife and children, but it was his son Jonathan Tyers Jr.—that n’er-do-well younger son who wed a widowed lady much older than he and caused a giant rift among his parents—who assumed his father’s role in managing the park.



In the supper-box on the left we see, reading left to right, James BoswellMrs Thrale (who appears twice), Dr. Johnson, and Oliver Goldsmith.

The ‘macaroni’ Captain Edward Topham (scandalmonger to The World) is quizzing Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire and her sister Lady Duncannon (Sheridan’s Lady Bessborough), watched by a naval figure with an eye patch and a wooden leg (not included in the Mellon version), always called Admiral Paisley, but Paisley did not lose his leg and eye until 1st June 1794, so it cannot be him. To the left of him, a young girl (a young boy in the Mellon version) holding the hand of a man who could be the comic actor, William Parsons, or Rowlandson’s friend Jack Bannister.

Peering at the two ladies from behind a tree is a figure traditionally, though improbably, identified as Sir Henry Bate-Dudley, the ‘Fighting Parson’, editor of the Morning Herald; he is more likely to be Thomas Tyers (son of Jonathan Tyers the great entrepreneur and proprietor of Vauxhall Gardens from 1729 until 1767) who stands next to the Scotsman James Perry, editor of the London Gazette. The couple on their right could well be the artist himself and his current girlfriend. and to the right of them stands the actress Mary ‘Perdita’ Robinson, with her husband on her right and the Prince of Wales (later George IV) on her left.

Looking up at the singer, the couple on the extreme left, have been identified as the actress Miss Hartley, in company with one of her many admirers, possibly Mr. Colman, but, suggested by their position apart from the crowd, they could also be members of the Tyers family (most likely Jonathan jr. and his wife Margaret, or their son-in-law Bryant Barrett and his wife Elizabeth. The large lady seated at the table on the right is Mrs Barry, the old Madam of Sutton Street, Soho, with two of her customers and one of her girls.

In the orchestra, we can see Jacob Nelson, the tympanist, who had played at Vauxhall since 1735, and died there after fifty years’ performing, Mr Fisher on oboe, probably Hezekiah Cantelo and Mr. Sargent on trumpet, and Barthélemon, the leader, who retired in 1783. James Hook, the composer, organist, musical director and prolific song-writer, may be seen between Barthelemon and the singer, the 38-year-old Frederika Weichsell, who was Rowlandson’s next-door neighbour in Church Street, and the mother of Mrs. Elizabeth Billington. Elizabeth had just (aged 18) married James Billington, a double-bass player, in 1783, much against her parents’ wishes.

A number of those present in this scene had already died by the time Rowlandson produced the painting, and the affair between the Prince and Perdita Robinson was already over.

Although there is no direct evidence for this, it seems likely, because of the dating, and because of the central position of the singer, that the painting was created by Rowlandson as a retirement gift for Frederika Weichsel, whether from him personally, or specially commissioned by the proprietors of the gardens.


Susana’s Vauxhall Blog Post Series

  1. Vauxhall Gardens: A History
  2. Vauxhall Gardens: Jonathan Tyers—“The Master Builder of Delight” 
  3. Vauxhall Gardens: A New Direction
  4. Vauxhall Gardens: The Orchestra and the Supper-Boxes 
  5. Vauxhall Gardens: The Organ, the Turkish Tent, and the Rotunda
  6. Vauxhall Gardens: Three Piazzas of Supper-Boxes
  7. Vauxhall Gardens: “whither every body must go or appear a sort of Monster in polite Company”
  8. Vauxhall Gardens: The Competition
  9. Vauxhall Gardens: The Artwork, Part I
  10. Vauxhall Gardens: The Artwork, Part II
  11. Vauxhall Gardens: The Music, 1732-1859
  12. Vauxhall Gardens: The Business Side
  13. Vauxhall Gardens: Developments from 1751-1786
  14. Vauxhall Gardens: Thomas Rowlandson’s Painting (1785)
  15. ‎Vauxhall Gardens: The Third Generation of the Tyers Family and the Jubilee of 1786
  16. Vauxhall Gardens: An Era of Change (1786-1822), Part I
  17. Vauxhall Gardens: An Era of Change (1786-1822), Part II
  18. Vauxhall Gardens: An Era of Change (1786-1822), Part III
  19. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part I
  20. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part II
  21. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part III
  22. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part IV
  23. Vauxhall Gardens: Farewell, for ever