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It is said that the game of ombre, so popular during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, is about to be revived. It is also stated that, contrary to the usual course of things, the charms of the ancient queen of fashion will be found to supersede those of the modern favourite, bezique.

In the prospect of this revival it may be worth while to endeavour to recall something about this shadowy recreation of our ancestors, now almost lost in the obscurity of years past and gone, and to examine what pretensions it has to a second appearance on the stage of modish life.

The very name of "ombre" carries us back at once in imagination to the days of swords and wigs, powder and patches, ruffles and red-heeled shoes. It is Belinda's game in The Rape of the Lock;' and as it is mentioned by Waller, no doubt the fair Sacharissa was one of its votaries. Nor, though piquet appeared to be the most appreciated in clubs and coffee-houses, did those who aspired to a reputation for gallantry disdain to make themselves acquainted with a game in which the gentler sex so much delighted.

It has been conjectured by an authority on these matters that ombre might have been introduced into England by Catherine of Braganza, Queen of Charles the Second. But this is evidently a mistake. During the Civil War between Royalists and Parliamentarians numerous political pamphlets were issued on both sides; one publication among the rest bearing the inauspicious title of 'Bloody Games of Cards'; and in 1660 another brochure appeared, headed The Royal Game of Ombre.' This was purely political, and not, as its name might purport, a manual of the game. Still, it proves ombre to have been at that time familiar to the people of England; and as Queen Catherine did not land on our shores till 1662, she, though in all probability fond of the game, could not be said to have first transmitted it from its native country.

According to a small duodecimo volume on 'The Royal Game of the Ombre,' written, as stated on the title page, "at the request of divers honourable persons," and published by Thomas Palmer at The Crown,' in Westminster Hall, 1665, ombre was originally Spanish, and the name of the game el hombre,' the man; he who undertakes to play the game being called el hombre, or l'ombre.

"It is a common saying with the Spaniards," to quote from Palmer's book (alluding to the name), "that the Spanish l'ombre as far sur

passes the French la beste, as a man do's (sic) a beast ;" and Seymour, in his treatise, adds, "It was so named as requiring thought and reflection, which are qualities peculiar to man;" but he does not further explain himself. We therefore are left at a loss to conjecture whether he intended to convey the idea that thought and reflection are qualities denied to women, or whether, taking man in the sense of humanity, he wished us to infer that the lower orders of the vertebrata might occasionally recreate themselves with a game at all-fours or beggar-my-neighbour, though ombre would prove too much for them.

An Italian treatise on ombre also exists, bearing an early date. And as the expressions commonly used in playing ombre were a strange sort of mongrel between Spanish and Italian, it becomes somewhat uncertain whether ombre came to us direct from Spain, or whether it had not been partially Italianised before transmission.

Ombre continued long in vogue, holding a conspicuous place in all the books of instruction for playing cards published during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Wits' Interpreter,' one of these manuals, dated 1670, was enlarged, with directions for playing the "Courtly games of l'hombre, piquet, gleek, and cribbage"; and in an edition of Cotton's 'Compleat Gamester,' 1709, "L'Ombre, a Spanish Game," is still among the list. Here, however, we meet with the name of "whist," soon to outrival its foreign forerunner; though the latter became modified and took the name of "quadrille," a game dear to the hearts of elderly gentlewomen, even in the first half of this century.

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Among the recollections standing out from the dim mists of childish days is one that presents itself vividly before me as I write. I was on a visit to a venerable relative in a provincial town, and on returning one evening from some forgotten expedition was ushered into the drawing-room, where I beheld six card-tables set out, and four old ladies at each table. I retreated to a corner and surveyed the scene with mingled awe and wonder, wonder where so many old women could have come from, and at the strange jargon that fell from their lips. I was told that they were playing "quadrille," nor was my awe of the strange party at all decreased when I was afterwards informed that one ancient dame, aged eighty-five, remembered in her childhood having been spoken to by Dr. Johnson. So strangely do past and present link themselves together!

Many must, like myself, have in their possession certain counters, round and oblong, and delicate little fish, carved in mother-of-pearl; but perhaps there may be some not aware that these represent the repuesta-the money staked at the game of ombre.

We are assured that ombre is a serious affair. It is not by any means to be approached in a light or careless frame of mind. "To

play well requires a great deal of application," we are told; and further on, that "attention and quietness are absolutely necessary in order to play well." But at the same time our author is careful to impress upon the minds of his readers that he does not wish it to be understood that the pleasure is not worth the pains. On the contrary, he speaks of ombre enthusiastically, as the most "delightful and entertaining" of all games, to those "who have anything in them of what we call the spirit of play."

Was it on account of the delightful and entertaining nature of this game that our ancestors became so devoted to cards? If so, from ombre, angels and ministers of grace defend us! Nor, if we may believe the 'Spectator,' was its moral influence such as to make us long for its revival. "I have observed ladies," says Rachel Basto-for whose grammar Steele is answerable; he doubtless intended this as a specimen of the style usual amongst ladies in his day-"who in all other respects are gentle, good-humoured, and the very pink of good-breeding, who, as soon as the ombre-table is called for, and set down to their business, are immediately transmigrated into the veriest wasps in nature"-a consummation not devoutly to be wished!

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The rage for card-playing arrived at its climax in the reign of Queen Anne, and continued unabated through the Georgian age. Ombre, we find, was still the favourite game with ladies, piquet with gentlemen-as the term was then understood-while whist, being considered more decorous, though also rather slow, was abandoned to clergymen and country squires.

Whist, however, during the latter part of the eighteenth century, began to assert its supremacy.

"Let India vaunt her children's vast address
Who first contrived the warlike sport of chess;
Let nice piquette the boast of France remain
And studious ombre be the pride of Spain;
Invention's praise shall England yield to none
While she can call delightful whist her own."

Thus sang Alexander Thomson in 1792, in a poem entitled Whist,' that extended through twelve cantos; and still more marvellous to relate, this poem went through two editions!

The rival games are also celebrated in a dramatic satire called 'The Humours of Whist,' produced in 1743. One of the characters, Sir Calculation Puzzle, is made to say, "Egad, you remind me, Sir John, of an observation I have made too; which is, that as long as quadrille and ombre were the games in vogue, we certainly were under French influence; whereas, since whist has come into fashion, you see our politics are improved upon us."

Various laudable endeavours were made from time to time to com

bine instruction with amusement. There were games at cards invented, geographical, historical, arithmetical; but they lamentably failed. Both ladies and gentlemen persisted in taking their recreation neat; and ombre or quadrille-almost convertible terms-piquet and whist, still carried the day, and the love of card-playing continued to be indulged in to excess, as most of the authors writing during the last two centuries bear witness.

Seymour, in his preface to the Court Gamester,' 1732, gives as his reason for publishing his treatise that "gaming is become so much the fashion amongst the beau monde that he who in company should appear ignorant of the games in vogue would be reckoned low bred, and hardly fit for conversation." "The Rambler,' holding forth against the custom of spending part of the year in the country, where, he says, "the months of summer are a kind of stagnation, without wind or tide," mentions amongst the causes of the ennui suffered by those who thus fly from "the busy haunts of men," the "card-tables forsaken "; and Goldsmith speaks of women staking their fortunes, beauty, health, and reputations at the card-table.

He relates an anecdote of an old lady, who, in her last illness, was given over by her physician. Quite aware of her state, she sent for the curate of the parish, not to administer ghostly comfort, as might naturally be supposed, but to play at cards with her to pass the time away. Having won all her adversary's money, she proposed playing for her funeral charges. The proposal was accepted; but, alas! the lady expired just as she had made her game.

The lower classes were apparently as fond of gambling as their betters; and while in the great houses the gentry ruined themselves with ombre and piquet, the cottagers indulged in all-fours, cribbage, and other games now scarcely known by name. This was so much taken as a matter of course, that a pack of cards came to be considered an appropriate addition to the "hog's puddings" sent as a Christmas gift to the poor families of the parish.

Ombre may be played by two, three, four, or five persons. There are four principal trumps, spadille, manille, basto, and ponto. The two black aces are always trumps, the other two depending upon the suit chosen; for trumps are not decided by a card turned up, but by the "ombre," or one who undertakes the game. The black suits count in the usual way, but in the red suits, below the knave, the order is reversed; thus, a three takes a four, and so on. Nine cards are dealt to each player, the remainder being placed at the dealer's right hand, to be drawn from in place of those discarded, as in écarté.

No doubt, if ombre should reappear in the world of fashion, various manuals will present themselves before the public to explain the intricacies of the game. Not in these pages must the curious look to be enlightened on the mysteries of spadille and manille; not here

will he be taught how to bring forward his matadors, how to secure the voll, or escape the danger of being beasted.

He may, if he so please, turn to 'The Rape of the Lock,' for there, Barrington says, "every incident in the whole deal is so described that when ombre is forgotten-and it is almost so already-it may be revived with posterity from that admirable poem." And the author of Serious Reflections on the Dangerous Tendency of the common Practice of Card-playing,' 1754, remarks that "Pope is heeded as little by the generality of polite men as a pack-horse upon the road. . . . They hear the jingle of his bells and pass on, without thinking of the treasure he carries;" adding, that the only lines by Pope occasionally quoted in good society are those mock heroics, where, under the guise of a battle, he gives "his beautiful and accurate description of the game of ombre."

We are warned, however, that the study of the theory alone will not suffice to render us adepts in so serious an affair as Ombre. As in violin playing, skill is only to be acquired by practice. Chatto sagely observes, "in card-playing as well as in chemistry, the experienced manipulators have a great advantage over the merely booklearned when matters are brought to the test. The real science of play is not to be acquired by the study of books, but by frequent encounters across the table with men whose keenness ensures attention to the rules of the game."

Nor even when thus skilled must we allow our philosophy to desert us, but must be prepared to meet misfortune with a courageous front; for the author of the old treatise before alluded to foretells that notwithstanding all his directions our hopes may be defeated. As he says, "let a person play with ever so much judgment and caution, he will often find himself disappointed in his game. . . . For," he adds, in conclusion, "Fortune will have a hand in small things as well as great."

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