A Manifest Detection of Diceplay
by Gilbert Walker (1552)
The original pamphlet A Manifest Detection of Diceplay was published in 1552, signed G.W. (later attributed to Gilbert Walker), and has been consequently published in several modernized or semi-modernized editions. It appears in Rogues, Vagabonds and Sturdy Beggars, a Collection of Tudor and Early Stuart Rogue Literature, edited by Arthur F. Kinney (published in 1973; second printing in 1990).
Rogues, Vagabonds and Sturdy Beggars is a collection of seven works:
Another work that should be of great interest to our readers is A Notable Discovery of Cozenage, by Robert Greene, luckily also included in this collection. This later work, undoubtedly influenced by Gilbert Walker's pamphlet, provides a detailed account of card cheats in action, and is much easier to read than Walker's text.
For additional information visit our site CARDSHARK Online.
Used out-of-print copies of Rogues, Vagabonds and Sturdy Beggars are available from Amazon.com.
The following text has been edited with help from transcriptions by Arthut F. Kinney, Gillian Spraggs and Alexx Kay. Spelling, grammar, and punctuations have been somewhat modernized. Some parts of the text that describe cheating have been highlighted.
A Manifest Detection of the Most Vile and Detestable Use of Diceplay, and Other Practices Like the Same
Gentle Reader, when you shall read this book, devised as a mean to show and set forth such naughty practices as have been, and be peradventure yet used in houses of Diceplay, think it not to be written in dispraise of offence of the honest, but for that under color and cloak of friendship many young Gentlemen be drawn to their undoing. And to the intent that such as have not yet fed of that sour-sweet or hungry bait, wherewith they at length unawares be choked, shall learn, not only to avoid the danger thereof by knowing their mischevious and most subtle practice, in getting a prey to spoil the same, but shall also by means thereof see, as it were in a glass, the miserable ends that a sort of handsome Gentlemen have by this crafty and subtle device come to, imputing, for want of knowledge, their cause of misery to ill fortune. Thus having in few words showed the effect of that which the book shall declare with some more circumstance, I bid you farewell.
The names of Dice:
Interlocuters: R. and M.
Anon, while I devised with myself what means I might make to understand his behavior, and what sort he was of (for man's nature, as you know, is in those things curious, specially in such as profess courting), he humbled himself far beneath my expectation, and began to speak first after this manner:
"Sir it seems to me that we have both one errand hither, for I have marked you well now more than half an hour, stalking up and down alone without any company, sometimes with such heavy and uncheerful countenance, as if you had some hammers working in your head, and that breech of company had moved your patience. And I, for my part, what face soever I set on the matter, am not all in quiet. For had all promises been kept, I should ere this hour have seen a good piece of money told here upon the Font. and as many indentures, obligations, and other writings sealed as cost me twice 40 shillings for the drawing and council. But as to me, let them that be a-cold blow the coals, for I am already on the sure side and if I miss of my hold this way, I doubt not to pinch them as near by another shift; though indeed, I must confess, the unkindness and breach of promise is so much against my nature that nothing can offend me more. And you, on the other side, if your grief and tarrying be the same that I take it, you cannot do better, than to make little of the matter, for you seem to be a man that wades not so unadvisedly in the deep, but that always you be sure of an anchor hold. And therefore, let us by my advice forget such idle griefs and while noon-tide draws on, talk of other matters that may quicken our spirits to make a merry dinner. Perchance this occasion may confirm a joyful acquaintance between us."
"Sir," quoth I, "as touching the cause of my long abiding here, it is not very great, neither is it tied to any such thrift as you speak of, but lack of company will soon lead a man into a brown study."
"Well then," quoth he, "if your head be fraught with no heavier burden it is an easy matter to lighten your load, for a little grief is soon forgotten. But, I pray you, sir, long you not to the court? Methinks I have seen you ere now and cannot call it home where it should be."
M: A good workman, by Saint Mary! Now do I easily foresee, without any instruction further, whereto this matter tends. But yet tell what further talk had you.
R: I told him I was yet but a raw Courtier, as one that came from school not many months afore, and was now become servant to my Lord Chancellor of England, partly to see experience of things, the better to govern my self here after, and chiefly to have a staff to lean unto to defend my own. And he again commended me much therein, declaring, how diverse notable persons, rashly by ignorance misguiding themselves, were suddenly shaken asunder, and fallen on the rocks of extreme penury. And how some other even goodly wits circumspectly working in all their doings, have by want of such a leaning stock, been overthrown with tyrant's power. "For which cause," quoth he, "like as I cannot but praise your wary working in this your first courting, so, for my Lord your master's sake, you shall not lack the best that I may do for you. For albeit that I am much beholding to all the Lords of the council (as whom they stick not at all times to take to their board, and use sometime for a companion at play) yet is be my singular good Lord above all the rest, and if I shall confess the truth, a great part of my living has risen by his friendly preferment. And though I say it my self, I am too old a courtier, and have seen too much to bear nothing away, and in case our acquaintance hold, and by daily company gather deep root, I shall now and then show you a lesson worth the learning, and to the end hereafter each of us may be the bolder of the other. I pray you, if you be not otherwise bespoken, take a capon with me at dinner. Though your fare be but homely, and scant, yet a cup of good win I can promise you, and all other lacks shall be supplied with a friendly welcome."
"I thank you sir," quoth I, "you offer me more gentleness than I can deserve, but since I have tarried all this while, I will abide the last hour, to prove how well my companions will hold their appointment, and for that cause I will forbear to trouble you till another time."
"Nay, not so," quoth he, "yet had I rather spend 20 pounds than that my Lord your Master should know but that the worst groom of his stable is as dear to me as any kinsman I have. And therefore lay all excuses aside, and shape yourself to keep me company for one dinner, while your man and mine shall walk here together till 12 of the clock, and if your friends happen to come hither, he shall bring them home to us. I love to see Gentlemen swarm, and cleave together like Burrs."
M: How, then? Went you home together?
R: What else? Would you have me forsake so gentle a friend, and so necessary acquaintance?
M: Go to, say on! Lo, how gentle lambs are led to the slaughter man's fold! How some reckless youth falls in snare of crafty dealing!
R: Soon after, we came home to his house. The table was fair spread with Diaper cloths, the Cupboard garnished with much goodly plate, and last of all came forth the gentle woman his wife clothed in Silks and embrodered works, the attire of her head brodered with gold and Pearl, a Carkenet about her neck agreeable thereto, with a flower of Diamonds pendant thereat, and many fair rings on her finger. "Bess," quoth he, "bid this gentleman welcome," and with that she courteously kissed me and after moved communication of my name, my natural countrym what time my father died, and whether I were Married yet or not, always powdering our talk with such pretty devices, that I saw not a woman in all my life, whose fashions and entertainment I liked better.
The good man, in the mean season, had been in the Kitchen, and suddenly returning and breaking our talk, somewhat sharply blamed his wife that the dinner was no further forward. And whiles she withdrew her from us, by like to put all things in a good readiness, "Come on," quoth he, "you shall go see my house the while, it is not like your large country houses; rooms, you know, in London be straight, but yet the furniture of them is costly enough, and victuals be here at such high prices that much money is soon consumed, specially with them that maintain an idle household. Nevertheless assure yourself, that no man is welcomer than you to such cheer as you find." And consequently bringing me through diverse well trimmed chambers, the worst of them appareled with verdures, some with rich cloth of Arras, all with beds, Chairs, and Cushions of Silk, and Gold, of sundry colors suitably wrought. "Lo here," quoth he, "a poor man's lodging, which if you think it may do you any pleasure (for the Inns of London be the worst of England), take your choice and heartily welcome, reserving but one for my Lord my wife's Cousin, whom I dare not disappoint lest happely he should lowre and make the house too hot for us." I gave him thanks as meet it was I should, neither yet refusing his gentle offer, for indeed my own lodging is somewhat loathsome, and pestered with company: not yet embracing it, because hitherto I had not by any means, deserved so great a pleasure.
So, down we came again into the parlor, and found there diverse gentlemen, all strangers to me, and what should I say more, but to dinner we went.
M: Let me hear then what matters were moved at dinner time, and how you passed the afternoon, till the company broke up, and sundered themselves.
R: That, can I readily tell you. I have not yet forgotten it since, done it was so late. As touching our fare, though Partidge, and quail, were no dainties, and wines of sundry grapes flowed abundantly, yet spare I to speak thereof, because you have demanded a contrary question. So, soon as we had well vittled ourselves, I know not how, but easily it came to pass that we talked of news, namely of Boulogne [in September 1544, Boulogne was captured after a two-months siege] , how hardly it was won, what policy then was practiced to get it, and what case the Soldiers had in the siege of it, in so much that the least progress the King makes into the inland parts of the Realm, dislodges more of his train, and leaves them to their own provision, with less relief of vittles, than had the worst, unwaged adventurer there.
From this, the goodman lead us to talk of home pleasures, enlarging the beauties of peace, and London pasttimes, and made so jolly a discourse thereof that to my judgement he seemed skillfull in all things. "Methinks," quoth he, "such simple fare as this taken in peace, without fear and danger of gunshot, is better than a prince's purveyance in war, where each morsel he eats shall bring with it a present fear of sudden mischance or violent hostility. And though that in the open camp none might have more familiar access to the nobility than here at home, yet for my part, I thank God, I have no cause to complain, either, because of their gentleness; no usher keeps the door between me and them when I come to visit them, or that the greatest princes refuse not sometimes to hallow my poor table and house with their person. Which, be it, spoken without boast or imbraiding, does sometimes cost me 20 pounds a day. I am sure that some of this company of Lords supped with me the last term, and I think how you have heard, how some of them got an 100 pounds or 2 by their coming." With this and that like talk consumed was our dinner, and after the table was removed, in came one of the waiters with a fair silver bowl full of Dice and Cards. "Now masters," quoth the goodman, "who is so disposed, fall to. Here is my 20 pounds. Win it and wear it." Then each man chose his game. Some kept the goodman company at the hazard. Some matched themselves as a new game called Primero [a period showdown-type card game reminiscent to Poker].
M: And what did you the while?
R: They egged me to have made one at Dice, and told me it was a shame for a gentleman not to keep gentlemen company for his 20 or 40 crowns. Nevertheless, because I alleged ignorance, the gentlewoman said I should not sit idle, all the rest being occupied, and so we two fell to saunt five games a Crown.
M: And how sped you in the end?
R: In good faith, I passed not for the loss of 20 or 40 shillings for acquaintance, and so much I think it cost me, and then I left off. Marry, the Diceplayers stack well by it and made very fresh play, saving one or two that were clean shriven, and had no more money to lose. In the end when I should take my leave to depart, I could not by any means be suffered to break company, unless I would deliver the gentlewoman a Ring, for a gage of my return to supper. And so I did, and to tell you all in few words, I have haunted none other since I got that acquaintance; my meat and drink and lodging is every way so delicate, that I make no haste to change it.
M: And what pay you, nothing for it? Have you not an ordinary charge for your meals?
R: None at all, but this device we have: that every Player at the first hand he draws, pays a Crown to the box, by way of a relief towards the house charges.
M: You may fare well of that price at the stark staring stews.
R: In good faith, and methinks it an easy burden for him that will put his 40 pounds in adventure to pay the tribute of a crown, and fare well for it, whose chance is to lose a 100 crowns or 2 would never have spared one to make a new stock withal. And whose hap is to win, were a very churl to be a niggard of so little.
M: Is every man a player there, or do some go scot-free?
R: Who so lists not to put much in hazard plays at mum-chance for his crown with someone or other. So some goes free and some be at double charge, for always we have respect that the house be relieved, and it stands so much the more with good reason, because that besides the great charges of vittles, and great attendance of the servants, and great spoil of napery and household stuff the goodman also loses his 20 or 40 pounds to keep his company.
M: And what do you the whiles? I am sure you be not yet so cunning as to keep such workmen company?
R: And why not, I pray you? Is it so hard a thing to tell twenty or to remember two or three chances? But yet in deed I play little myself, unless it be at the Cards. Otherwise I am the goodman's half for the most part, and join both our lucks together.
M: How sped you there, for the most part?
R: Not always so well as I would wish. I will be plain with you, as with my friend: it has cost me 40 pounds within this seven-night. But I vouchsafe my loss the better, I had such fair play for it, and who would not hazard 20 pounds among such quiet company, where no man gives a foul word? At one good hand, a man may chance, as I have often seen, to make his 40 pounds a 100. And I have seen again a man begin to play with 500 mark lands, and once yet, ere the year went about, would have old land if he had had it.
M: Perchance so, too.
R: But his luck was too bad; the like falls scarcely once in a hundred years.
M: That is but one doctor's opinion. I see it betide every day, though not in this so large a proportion and because I see you so raw in these things, that you account that for most unfeigned friendship where most deceit is meant, and being already given to play, may in few days come further behind than all your travail of your latter years can overtake again. I can neither forbear thee for the zeal I bear unto you, or the hatred I bear to the occupation to make you understand some parts of the sleights and falsehoods that are commonly precticed at Dice and Cards. Opening and overturning the things, not so that I would learn you to put the same in use, but open their wicked snares.
R: I thank you for your gentle offer. I would be glad to know the worst, lest happely I should fall in such crafty company. But yonder at my lodging comes none but men of worship, some mounted upon mules fair trapped, some upon fine hackneys with foot-clothes; all such as I dare say would not practice a point of legerdemain for an hundred pounds.
M: Well, as to that, there lay a straw till anon, that the matter lead us to speak more of it. And in the mean season, let this be sufficient: that so soon as you began your declaration of the first acquaintance in Paul's, I felt aforehand the hooks that were layed to pick your purse with all.
R: Wist I that, I would from henceforth stand in doubt of my own hands, the matter hath such appearance of honesty.
M: Well hearken to me a while. There is no man I am sure that has experience of the world, and by reading of histories confers our time to the days of our elders, but will easily grant that as time has grown and gathered increase by running, so wit, first planted in a few, has in time taken so many roots, that in every corner you may find new branches budding and issuing from the same. For proof whereof to speak one thing among many that at this time may serve our purpose, although the Greek and Latin histories be full of notable examples of good princes, that utterly exiled Dicing, out of their seignories and countries, or at least held them as infamed persons yet find I not that in those our forefather's days, any the like sleight and crafty deceit was practiced in play, as now is common in every corner. Yea, and he, namely Hodge Setter whose surname witnesses what opinion men had of him, though 40 years ago was thought peerless in crafty play, and had as they say neither mate nor fellow, yet now towards his death was so far behind some younger men in that knowledge, that I myself have known more than twenty that could make him a fool: and cannot suffer him to have the name of a workman in that faculty.
And it is not yet 20 years ago since all that sought their living that way, as then were few in number, scarcely so many as were able to maintain a good fray so were they much of Hodge Setter's estate, the next door to a beggar. Now such is the misery of our time, or such is the licentious outrage of idle misgoverned persons, that of only dicers a man might have half an army, the greatest number so gayly be seen, and so full of money that they bash not to insinuate themselves into the company of the highest, and look for a good hour to creep into a gentleman's room of the privy chamber. And hereof, you may right well assure yourself that if their cost were not exceeding great, it were not possible by the only help thereof, to lead so sumptuous a life as they do always, shining like blazing stars in their apparell.
By night, taverning with Trumpets, by day spoiling Gentlemen of their inheritance, and to speak all at once, like as all good and liberal sciences had a rude beginning, and by the industry of good men, being augmented by little and by little at last grew to a just perfection. So this detestable privy robbery from a few and deceitful rules is in few years grown to the body of an art, and has his peculiar terms, and thereof as great a multitude applied to it, as has Grammar or Logic, or any other of the approved sciences. Neither let this seem strange unto you, because the thing is not commonly known. For this faculty has one condition of juggling -- that if the sleight be once discovered marred is all the market. The first precept thereof is to be as secret in working, as he that keeps a man company from London to Maidenhead, and makes good cheer by the way, to the end in the thicket to turn his prick upward, and cast a weaver's knot on both his thumbs behind him. And they, to the intent that ever in all companies they may talk familiarly in all appearance and yet so covertly in deed, that their purpose may not be espied: They call their worthy art by a new found name, calling themselves Cheaters, and the dice Cheaters, borrowing the term from among our lawyers, with whom all such casuals as fall unto the Lord at the holding his lets, as waifs, strays and such like be called cheats, and are accustomably said to be escheated to the lord's use.
R: Trow you, then, that they have any affinity with our men of Law?
M: Never with those that be honest. Marry, with such as be ambidexters and use to play on both the hands, they have a great League, so have they also with all kinds of People, that from a good order of civility, are fallen and resolved as it were from the hardness of virtuous living to the delicacy and softness of uncareful idleness, and gainfull deceit.
For gain and ease be the only pricks that they shoot at. But what right or honest means they might acquire it, that part never comes in question among them.
And hereof it rises that, like as law, when the term is truly considered, signifies an ordinance of good men, established for the common wealth, to repress all vicious living, so these Cheaters turned the cat in the pan, giving to diverse vile patching shifts, an honest, and godly title, calling it by the name of a law. Because by a multitude of hateful rules a multitude of dregs and draff [rubbish, riff-raff] (as it were all good learning), govern and rule their idle bodies, to the destruction of the good laboring people. And this is the cause that diverse crafty sleights devised only for guile, hold up the name of a Law, ordained you know to maintain plain dealing. Thus give they their own conveyance [method of stealing] the name of cheating law, so do they other terms, as sacking law, high law, Figging law, and such like.
R: What mean you hereby? Have you spoken broad English all this while, and now begin to choke me with mysteries, and quaint terms?
M: No, not for that. But always you must consider, that a carpenter has many terms familiar enough to his prentices that other folk understand, not at all, and so have the cheaters not without great need for a falsehood once detected can never compass the desired effect. Neither is it possible to make you grope the bottom of their art, unless I acquaint you with some of their terms. Therefore note this at the first: that Sacking Law signifies whoredom; High law, robbery; Figging law, pick-purse craft.
R: But what is this to the purpose, or what have cheaters a do with whores or thieves?
M: As much as with their very entire friend, that hold all of one corporation. For the first originall ground of Cheating is, a counterfeit countenance in all things: a study to seem to be, and not to be in deed. And because no great deceit can be wrought but where special trust goes before, therefore the cheater when he pitches his hay to purchase his profit enforces all his wits to win credit and opinion of his honesty, and uprightness. Who has a great[er] outward show of simplicity than the pick purse? Or what woman will seem so fervent in love as will the common harlot? So, as I told you before, the foundation of all those sorts of people is nothing else but mere simulation, and being in hand [stringing along]. And like as they spring all from one root, so tend, they all to one end: idly to live by rape [seizing by force], and rauin [robbery], devouring the fruit of other men's labors. All the odds between them be in the mean [in-between] actions, that lead towards the end and final purpose.
R: I am almost weary of my trade already to hear that out gay gamblers are so strongly allied with thieves, and pickpurses. But, I pray you, proceed and let me hear what sundry shifts of deceit they have to meet all well together at the close?
M: That is more than I promised you at the beginning, and more than I intended to perform at this time, for every of them keeps as great schools in their own faculty, as the cheaters do. And if I should make an open discourse of every wynkel they have to cover and work deceit withal, I should speak of more sundry quaint conveyances, than be rocks in Milford haven to defend the ships from the boisterous rage of weather. But I will first go forward with that I have in hand, and by the way, as occassion shall serve, so touch the rest that you may see their workmanship, as it were, afar off, more than half a kenning. The cheater for the most part never receives his scholar to whom he will discover the secrets of his art, but such one as before he had from some wealth and plenty of things, made so bare, and brought to such misery, that he will refuse no labor, nor leave no stone unturned to pick up a penny underneath. And this he does not, but upon a great skill. For like as it is an old Proverb and a true, that he must needs go, whom the Devil drives, so is there not such a Devil to force a man to an extreme refuge, as is necessity and want, specially where it has proceeded of abundance.
Therefore, the cheater, using necessity for and great part of persuasion, when he has sucked this needy companion so dry that there remains no hope too press any drop of further gain from him, takes some occassion to show him a glimpse of his faculty. And if happely he find him eagle-eyed, and diligent to mark, anone shapes him in such a fashion, as that he will raise a new gain by him, and with all, somewhat relieve his urgent poverty. Then walking aside into some solitary place, he makes the first way to his purpose after this, or the like manner: "I am sure it is not yet out of your remembrance how late it is since you first fell into my company; how great loss you had at play before we entered in any acquaintance, and how little profit redounded unto me, since you first haunted my house. Neither can you forget, on the other side, how friendly I have entertained you in every condition making my house, my Servants, my Horses, my apparel, and other things whatsoever I had, rather common to us both than private to myself. And now, I perceive that of a youthfull wantonness and as it were, a childish oversight, you have suddenly brought yourself, unwares to me, so far under the hatches, and are shaken with lavish dispence that you cannot find the way to rise again, and bear any sail among men as heretofore you have done. Which thing whiles I deeply consider with myself, I can not but lament much your negligence, and more the harm that is like to ensue upon it. For first, your friends being, as I have heard, many in number and all of worship, shall conceive such inward grief of your unthriftiness, that not one will vouchsafe a gentle plaster to quench the malice of this fretting corosie, that penury has applied."
"And I, again because my hap was to have you in my house, and to gain a little of other men's leavings, shall be counted the cause of your undoing, and slandered for taking a few feathers out of the nest when other had stolen the birds already, for which causes, and specially to help you to maintain yourself like a gentleman as hitherto of yourself you have been able. I can be content to put you in a good way, so as treading the steps that I shall appoint you, neither shall you need to run to your friends for succor, and all men shall be glad to use you for a companion. But wist I that I should find you crafting with me in any point and void of that fidelity, and secretness (some sparks whereof I have noted in your nature) assure yourself, that I would never make you privy to the matter, but give you over to your own provision, perchance to end your life with infamy and wretchedness."
The young man that lately flowed in plenty and pleasures, and now was pinched to the quick with lack of all things, humbled himself anon to be wholly at his devotion, and gave him a thousand thanks for his great kindness. Then forth goes the cheater, and further says, "Though your experience in the world be not so great as mine, yet am I sure you see that no man is able to live an honest man, unless he have some privy way to help himself withal, more than the world is witness of. Think you that noble men could do as they do if in this hard world they should maintain so great a port only upon their rent? Think you that lawyers could be such purchasers if their pleas were short, and all their judgements, justice, and conscience? Suppose you that offices would be so dearly bought, and the buyers so soon enriched if they counted not pillage an honest point of purchase? Could merchants without lies false making their wares, and selling them by a crooked light to deceive the chapman in the thread or color grow so soon rich, and to a baron's possessions, and make all their posterity gentlemen? What will you more? Who so has not some anchorward way to help himself, but follows his nose, as they say, always straight forward, may well hold up the head for a year or two, but the third he must needs sink and gather the wind into begger's haven. Therefore, my advice shall be that you beat all your wits, and spare not to break your brains always, to save and help one. Your acquaintance, I know, is great among your country men, such as be rich and full of money; nevertheless, more simple than that they know what good may be done in play, and better it is that each man of them, smart a little, than you to live in lack. Therefore, seek them out busily at their lodgings, but always bear them in hand that you met them by chance. Then will it not be hard to call them hither to take part of a supper and, having them once within the house doors, doubt you not but they shall have a blow at one pasttime or other, that shall lighten their purses homeward. Myself will lend you money to keep them company, and nevertheless make you partaker of the gain. And to the end you shall not be ignorant by what means I will compass the matter, come on go we unto my closet, and I shall give you a lesson worth the learning." Then brings he forth a great box with dice, and first teaches him to know a langret.
[The following discussion assumes that the reader recalls that the numbers on the opposite sides of all dice always total 7.]
R: A God's name, what stuff is it? I have often heard men talk of false dice, but I never yet heard so dainty a name given them.
M: So much the sooner may you be deceived. But suffer me a while and break not my talk, and I shall paint you anon a proper kind of pouling, "Lo here," says the cheater to this young Novice, "a well-favored die that seems good and square, yet is the forehead longer on the cater and trey, than any other way, and therefore holds the name of langret. Such be also called bard cater treys, because commonly the longer end will of his own sway draw downwards, and turn up to the eye sixe sink, deuce or ace. The principal use of them is at Novem quinque. So long as a pair of bard cater treys be walking on the board so long can you cast neither 5 nor 9, unless it be by a great mischance that the roughness of the board, or some other stay, force them to stay and run against their kind. For without cater trey, you know that, 5 nor 9 can never fall."
R: By this reason, he that has the first dice is like always to strip, and rob all the table about!
M: True it is, were there not another help. And for that purpose, an odd man is at hand, called a flat cater trey, and none other number. The granting that trey or cater be always one upon the other die, if there is no chance upon the other die but may serve to make 5 or 9 and so cast forth and lose all. "Therefore," says the master, "mark well your flat and learn to know him surely when he runs on the board. The whiles he is abroad, you forbear to cast at much, and keeping this rule to avoid suspection, because I am known for a player, you shall see me bring all the gain into your hands."
R: But what shift have they to bring the flat in and out?
M: A jolly fine shift that properly is called foisting; and it is nothing else but a sleight to carry easily within the hand, as often as the foister lift. So that when either he or his partner shall cast the dice, the flat comes not abroad, till he have made a great hand, and won as much as him list. Otherwise, the flat is ever on, unless at few times that of purpose he suffer the silly fools to cast in a hand or two to give them courage to continue their play and live in hope of winning.
R: This gear seems very strange unto me, and it sinks not yet into my brain. How a man might carry so many dice in one hand, and chop them and change them so often, and the thing not be espied?
M: So juggler's conveyance seems to exceed the compass of reason till you know the feat. But what is it that labor overcomes not? And true it is, to foist finely, and readily, and with the same hand to tell money, to and fro is a thing hardly learned, and asks a bold sprite, and long experience though it be one of the first be learned.
But to return to the purpose. If haply this young scholar have not so ready and so skillfull an eye, to discern the flat at every time that he is foisted in (for use makes mastery, as well in this as in other things) then partly to help this ignorance withal, and partly to teach the young Cock to crow, all after the cheater's kind, the old cole instructs the young in the terms of his art after this manner: "You know that this outrageous swearing and quarrelling that some use in play, gives occassion to many to forebear, that else would adventure much money at it. For this we have a device among us, that rather we relent and give place to a wrong, than we would cause the play, by strife to cause any company to break. Neither have we any oaths in use but lightly these: 'of honesty,' 'of truth,' 'by salt,' 'Martin,' which when we use them affirmatively, we mean always directly the contrary. As for example, if haply I say unto you when the dice come to your hands, 'of honesty cast at all,' my meaning is that you shall cast at the board or else very little. If when a thing is offered in gage, I swear 'by saint Martin, I think it fine gold,' then mean I the contrary, that it is but copper. And like as it is a gentle and old proverb, 'Let losers have their words,' so by the way take forth this lesson, ever to show gentleness to the silly fools, and creep if you can into their very bosoms. For harder it is to hold them when you have them, then for the first time to take them up. For this young wits be so light, and so wavering, that it requires great travel, to make them always dance after one pipe. But to follow that we have in hand: be they young, be they old, that falls into our laps, and be ignorant of our art, we call them all by the name of a cousin [dupe, sucker], as men that we make as much of, as if they were of our kin in deed."
"The greatest wisdom of our faculty rests in this point, diligently to foresee to make the cousin sweat -- that is to have a will to keep play, and company, and always to beware that we cause him not smoke, lest that having any feel or savor of guile intended against him, he slip the collar as it were a hound, and shake us off forever. And whensoever you take up a cousin, be sure as near as you can to know aforehand what store of bit he has in his buy -- that is, what money he has in his purse; and whether it be in great cogs or in small -- that is gold or silver; and at what game he will soonest stoop, that we may feed him with his own humo,r and have coules ready for him. For thousands there be, that will not play a groat at novem and yet will lose a 100 pounds at the hazard, and he that will not stoop a dodkin at the dice, perchance at cards will spend God's cope. Therefore, they must be provided for every way."
"Generally, your fine cheats, though they be good, made both in the King's Bench and in the Marshalsea, yet Bird in Holburn is the finest workman. Acquaint yourself with him, and let him make you a bale or two of squariers of sundry sizes, some less, some more, to throw into the first play, till you perceive what your company is. Then have in a readiness, to be roisted in when time shall be, your fine cheats of all sorts."
"Be sure to have in store of such as these be: a bale of bard sink-deuces and flat sink-deuces, a bale of bard 6-aces, and flat 6-aces; a bale of bard cater-treys, and flat cater-treys. The advantage whereof is all on the one side, and consists in the forging. Provide also a bale or two of Fullans, for they have great use at the hazard, and though they be square outward. Yet being within at the corner with lead, or other ponderous matter stopped, minister as great an advantage as any of the rest."
"You must also be furnished with high-men, and low-men for a mumchance, and for passage. Yea, a long die for even and odd, is good to strike a small stroke withal for a crown or two or the price of a dinner. As for Gourds and bristle-dice, [they] be now to gross a practice to be put in use. Light graviers there be, demies, contraries and of all sorts, forged clean against the apparent vantage, which have special and sundry uses. But it is enough at this time to put you in a remembrance what tools you must prepare to make you a workman."
"Hereafter, at more leisure I shall instruct you of the several uses of them all, and in the mean season take with you also this lesson: that, when fine squariers only be stirring, there rests a great help in cogging -- that is, when the undermost die stands dead by the weighty fall of his fellow, so that if 6 be my chance, and 10 yours, grant that upon the die I cog and keep always an ace, deuce, or trey, I may perhaps soon cast 6, but never 10. And there be diverse kinds of cogging, but of all other, the Spanish cog bears the bell, and seldom raises any smoke."
"Gramercy," says the scholar, and now thinks he himself so ripely instructed, that though he be not yet able to beguile others, yet he supposes himself sufficiently armed against all falsehood that might be wrought to bring him to an afterdeal; and little sees he the while, how many other ends remain, how many points there be in slippery cheaters science, that he shall not yet be skillful enough to tag in their kind, perchance in 4 or 5 years' practice.
R: Why? Have they any deeper reaches to lift a man out of his saddle, and rid him of his money, than you have opened already?
M: Alas, this is but a warning, and, as it were, the shaking of a rod to a young boy, to fear him from places of peril. All that I have told you yet, or that I have minded to tell you, agrees not to the purpose to make you skillful in cheaters' occupation. For as soon would I teach you the next way to Tyburn [the most frequent location for execution, in London], as to learn you the practice of it; only my meaning is to make you see as far into it, as should a cobbler into a tanner's faculty, to know whether his leather be well liquored, and well and workmanly dressed or not. And like as I would with a cobbler and a currier, lest two sundry occupations running together into one, might perhaps make a lewd London medley in our shoes, the one using falsehood in working, the other facing and lying in uttering.
So, seek I to avoid, that you should not both be a courtier (in whom a litlle honest moderate play is tolerable) and withal a Cheater, that with all honesty has made an indefensible dormant defiance. For even this new-nurtured novice (notwithstanding he is received into the College of these double dealers, and is become so good a scholar that he knows readily his flats and bars, and has been snapper with the old cole at two or three deep strokes; yea, and though he have learned to verse, and lay in the reason well favoredly to make the cousin stoop, all the cogs in his buy), yet if he once were slow in seeking out cousins, and be proud of his new thrift, and so goodly a passage to recover his old losses, the knap of the case, the goodman of the house, calls secretly upon him the third person, for the most part a man that might be warden of his company, and talks with him after this manner: "Here is a young man in my house, if you know him, that has been one of the sweetest cousins alive, so long as he was able to make a groat. Now, at the last, I know not how he came by it, but he has gotten some knowledge and talks of a great deal more than he can in deed. Marry, a langret he knows meetly well and that is all his skill. I made much of him all this month because he has great acquaintance of men of the country, and specially the cloth-men of the West parts, and at the beginning would every day fill the case with jolly fat cousins, and albeit he had no knowledge to work any feat himself, yet did I use him always honestly, and gave him his whole snap, to the end he should be painfull and diligent to take the cousins up, and bring them to the blow."
"Now waxen is he so proud of his gain because he has gotten a new chain, fine new apparel, and some store of bite, that I can not get him once out of the door, to go about any thing. 'Take some pains yourself,' says he, 'and bring some of your own Cousins home or else let all alone for me.' Thus if you see that nothing mars him, but that he is too fat, and might we make him once lean again as he was within this month, then should we see the hungry whoreson trudge. There should not be stirring a cousin in any quarter but he would wind him straight. Therefore, come you in anon like a stranger and he shall see him take you by roundly. If you lack contraries to crossbite him withal, I shall lend you a pair of the same size that his cheats be."
R: Is there no more fidelity among them? Can they not be content, one false knave to be true to his fellow, though they conspire to rob all other men?
M: Nothing less! Did not I warn you in the begining that the end of the science is mere deceit? And would you have themselves against their kind, to work contrary to their profession? Nay, they be ever so like themselves, that when all other deceits fail, look which of them in play gets any store of money into his hands, he will every fote as he draws a hand, be figging more or less and rather than fail cram it and hide it in his hose, to make his gain greatest.
Then when they fall to the division of the gain, and the money that the cousin has lost is not forthcoming, nor will be confessed among them, it is a world to hear what rule they make, and how the one imbradeth the other with dishonesty, as if there were some honesty to be found among them! What should I then speak of swearing and staring! Were they always liberal of alms, as they be of oaths! I had rather bring a dagger to have the reward of a cheater, than to the best alms knights' room that the king gives at Windsor. But these florins never fall but in secret counsels within themselves, and then peradventure the stronger part will strip the weaker out of his clothes rather than he should flock away with the stuff, and make them lout to labor for his lucre.
R: Then is it but folly to recover my losses in yonder company? And if there can not be one faithful couple found in the whole band, how might I hope, that am but a stranger to win an unfeigned friend amongst them?
M: As for in that case, never speak more of the matter, and be as sure as you are of your Creed, that all the friendly entertainment you have at your lodging is for no other end but for to persuade you to play, and bring you to loss. Neither was it any better than falsehood in fellowship when the goodman got you to be half, and seemed unwillingly to lose both your moneys.
R: By these means other, must I utterly forbear to hazard anything at the dice, or live in doubt and suspection of my friend, whereofre I fall to play?
M: No question thereof, for that contagion of cheating is now so universal that they swarm in every quarter, and therefore you cannot be in safety from deceit, unless you shun the company of hazarders, as a man would fly a scorpion.
R: Then am I sufficiently lessoned for the purpose? But because at the first our talk matched Dice and cards together, like a couple of friends that draw both in a yolk, I pray you, is there as much craft at cards as you have rehearsed at the dice?
M: Altogether, I would not give a point to choose; they have such a sleight in sorting, and shuffling of the Cards, that play at what game you will, all is lost aforehand. If two be confederated to beguile the third, the thing is compassed with the more ease, than if one be but alone. Yet are there many ways to deceive. Primero, now, as it has most use in court, so is there most deceit in it. Some play upon the prick [punch-deal], some pinch the cards privily with their nails, some turn up the corners, some mark them with fine spots of ink. One fine trick brought in a Spaniard; a finer than this invented an Italian, and won much money with it by our doctors, and yet at the last they were both overreached by new sleights devised here at home. At trump, sant, and such other like, cutting at the neck is a great vantage. So is cutting by a bum card finely, under and over, stealing the stock of the discarded cards, if there brode laws be forced aforehand.
At decoy they draw easily twenty hands together, and play all upon assurance when to win or lose.
Other helps I have heard of besides, as to set the cousin upon the bench with a great looking-glass [mirror] behind him on the wall, wherein the cheater might always see what cards were in his hand. Sometimes they work by signs made by some of the lookers-on. Whereof, methinks this among the rest proceeded of a fine invention: a gamester after he had been oftentimes bitten among the cheaters, and after much loss, grew very suspicious in his play, that he could not suffer any of the sitters-by to be privy to his game. For this, the cheaters devised a new shift. A woman should sit sewing besides him, and by the shift or slow drawing her needle, give a token to the cheater what was the cousin's game. So that a few examples instead of infinite that might be rehearsed, this one universal conclusion may be gathered: that give you to play and yield yourself to loss.
R: I feel well that if a man happen to put his money in hazard, the odds are great that he will rise a loser. But many men are so continent of their hands, that nothing can cause them to put ought in adventure; and some, again unskillful, that lack of cunning forces them to forbear.
M: I grant you well both. But, nevertheless, I never yet saw man so hard to be vanquished but they would make him stoop [lose his money], at one law or another. And for that purpose, their first travel is, after that they have taken up the cousin and made him somewhat sweat [lose money], to seek by all means they can to understand his nature, and whereunto he is inclined. If they find that he takes pleasure in the company of females, then seek they to strike [fleece] him at the sacking law. And take this always for a maxim: that all the bawds in a country be of the cheaters familiar acquaintance. Therefore, it shall not be hard at all times to provide for this amorous knight, a lewd lecherous lady, to keep him loving company.
Then fall they to banqueting, to minstrels, masking, and much is the cost that the silly cousin shall be at in Jewels, apparel and otherwise. He shall not once get a grant to have scarcely a lick at this dainty lady's laps. And ever among she lays in this reason: for her sake to put his 20 or 40 crowns in adventure [at risk, at hazard, to stake]. "You know not," says she, "what may be a woman's luck." If he refuse it, lord! how unkidly she takes the water and cannot be reconciled with less than a gown or a kirtle of silk, which commonly is a reward unto her by knap of the case [governor of the house], and the cut-throats his complites, to whom the matter is put in daying [for arbitration].
Yea, and the more is if haply they perceive that he esteemed not brousid ware, but is enamored with virginity, they have a fine cast within an hour's warning, to make John Silverpin as good a maid, as if she had never come at stewes nor opened to any man her quiver.
The mystery thereof you shall understand by this my tale, which I myself saw put in experience. A young roisterly gentleman desiring a maiden make to content his wanton lust, resorted to a bawd, and promised her good wages to provide him a maid against the next day. He declared unto her that he took more pleasure in virginity than beauty, but if both came together the pleasure was much the more thankful, and her reward should be the better. This mother bawd undertook to serve his turn according to his desire, and having at home a well-painted, mannerly harlot as good a maid as Fletcher's mare that bore three great foals, went in the morning to the Apothecary's for half a pint of sweet-water, that commonly is called Surfuling water, or Clinker-device, and on the way homeward turned into a nobleman's house to visit his cook, an old acquaintance of hers. Uneath had she set her feet within the kitchen, and set down her glass the more handsomely to warn her afore the range, but anon the Cook had taken her in his arms, and whiles they wrestled more for manners' sake of the light, than for any sqeamish business, had she been behind the door, down fell the glass and spilled was the water. "Out, alas!" quoth the woman. "Quiet yourself," quoth the cook, "let us go into the buttery to breakfast, and I will buy you a new glass, and pay for the filling." Away they went out of the kitchen, and the boy that turned a couple of spits delighting with the savor of the water, let first one spit stand and after another always with one hand taking up the water as it dropped from the board by him, and washed his eyes, his mouth, and all his face withal. Soon after that this liquor was with the heat of the fire dried, and soaked up in the boy's face.
Down came the cook again into the kitchen, and finding the breast of the capon all burnt, for lack of turning, caught up a great basting stick to beat the turnspit, and haply casting a sour look upon him, espied the boy's mouth and eyes drawn so together and closed that neither had he left an eye to look withal, and scarcely might you turn your little finger in his mouth. The cook, abashed with the sudden chance, ran about the house half out of his wit, and cried "The kitchen boy is taken! He can neither see nor speak," and so the poor boy with his starched face continued more than half an hour a wondering-stock to all the house, till a man of experience, bade bathe his face with hot fat beef broth, whereby forthwith he was restored to as wide a mouth, and as open eyes as he had before.
R: A good miracle, and soon wrought. If maids be so easy to make no marvel is it we have such store in London. But forth, I pray you, with your purpose. When whoredom has no place, what other shifts have they to raise their thrift upon?
M: A hundred more than I can rehearse, but most commonly one of these that follow. If it be winter season when masking is most in use, then missing of their cheaped helps, they spare not for cost of the dearer. Therefore first do they hire in one place or other, a suit of right masking apparel, and after invite diverse guests to a supper -- all such as be there of estimation to give them credit by their acquaintance or such as they think, will be liberal to hazard some thing in a mumchance. By which means they assure themselves at the least to have the supper scot free. Perchance to win 20 pounds aboute. And how soever the common people esteem the thing, I am clean out of doubt that the more half of your gay masks in London are grounded upon such cheating crafts, and tend only the pouling, and robbing of the king's subjects.
Another jolly shift, and for the subtle invention and fineness of wit exceeds far all the rest is the Barnard's law [a confidence trick involving a game of cards] which, to be exactly practiced, asks four persons at the least, each of them to play along several part by himself. The first is the taker-up, of a skillful man in all things, who has by long travel cunned, without the book, a hundred reasons to insimate himself into a man's acquaintance. Talk of matters in law, and he has plenty of cases at his fingers ends that he has seen, tried, and ruled in every of the King's courts. Speak of grasing and husbandry, no man knows more shires than he, no man knows better where to raise a gain, and how the abuses and overture of prices might be redressed. Finally, enter into what discourse of things they list, were it a browm-man's faculty, he knows what gain they have for old boots and shoes, and whence their gain comes. Yea, and it shall escape him hard, but that ere your talk break off he will be your country man at least, and peradventure either of kin, or ally, or some soul sib unto you, if your reach surmount not his too far.
In case he bring to pass that you be glad of his acquaintance, and content with his company, played is the chief of his part, and he gives place to the principal player, the Barnard. Nevertheless, he lightly has in his company a man of more worship than himself, that has the countenance of a possessioner of land and he is called the verser. And though it be a very hard thing to be a perfect taker-up, and as it were, a man universally practiced in all accidents of a man's life, yet does the Barnard go so far beyond him in cunning, as does the sun's summer brightness exceed the glimmering light of the winter stars.
This body's most common practice is, to come stumbling into your company like some rich farmer of the country, a stranger to you all, that had been at some market town there abouts, buying and selling, and there tippled so much Malmsey, that he had never a ready word in his mouth, and is so careless for his money that out he throws a hundred or two of old angels upon the board's end, and standing somewhat aloof calls for a pot of ale, and says, "Masters, I am somewhat bold with you. I pray you be not aggreived that I drink my drink by you," and ministers such idle drunken talk that the verser, who counterfeits the gentleman, comes stoutly, and sits at your elbow, praying you to call him near, to laugh at his folly.
Between them two, that matter shall be so workmanly conveyed and so finely argued, that out comes a pair of old cards whereat the barnard teaches the verser a new game, that he supposes cost him two pots of ale for the learning not past an hour, or two before. The first wager is drink, the next twopence, or a groat, and lastly to make the tale short they use the matter so that he that has 80 years off his back, and never played for a groat in his life, cannot refuse to be the verser's half, and consequently at one cutting of the Cards to lose all they play for, be it a 100 pounds. And if perhaps when the money is lost, the cousin begins to smoke, and swear that the drunken knave shall not get his money so, then stands the rubber at the door, and draws his sword, and picks a quarrel to his own shadow, if he lack an ostler, or a tapster, or some other to fall out withal.
That whiles the street and company gather to the fray, as the manner is, the barnard steals away with all the stuff, and picks him to one blind tavern or other, such as before is appointed among them, and there abides the coming of his companions to make an equal portion of the gain. And whensoever these shifts may not take place, then lead they the cousin to the gaze of an interlude, or the bear baiting at Paris Garden, or some other place of throng where by [a] fine fingered Fig-boy [pickpurse, pickpocket], a grounded disciple of James Elis, picked shall be his purse, and his money lost in a moment, or else they run to the last refuge of all, and by a knot of lusty companions of the high law, not only shake the harmless body out of all his clothes, but bind him, or bob him to boot [handle him roughly into the bargain], that less had been his harm to have stooped low at the first, and so to have stopped their greedy mouths, than to save himself so long, and in the end to be fleeced as bare as a new-shorn sheep, and, perchance, so far from his friends, that he shall be forced to trip on his ten toes homeward for lack of a hackney to ride on, and beg for his charges by the way.
R: Now, speak you indeed of a ready way to thrift [an easy way to make money], but it has an ill-favored success many times.
M: I know what you mean; you think they come home by Tyburn [the place of execution for London and Middlesex], or S. Thomas of Waterings [the place of execution for Surrey], and so they do in deed, but nothing so soon as a man would suppose. They be but petty figgers, and unlessoned lads that have such ready passage to the gallows. The old thieves go through with their vices well 20 or 30 years together and be seldom taken, or tainted [suspected], specially the fig bodies, that have a goodly corporation for the relief.
Their craft, of all others, requires most sleight, and has a marvelous plenty of terms and strange language; and, therefore, no man can attain to be a workman thereat, till he have had a good time of schooling. And by that means they do not only know each other well, but they be subject to an order, such as the elders shall prescribe. No man so sturdy to practice his feat but in the place appointed, nor for any cause once to put his foot in another's walk. Some two or three have Paul's church in charge, other have Westminster Hall in term-time. Diverse, Cheapside with the flesh and fish shambles, some the borough and bearbaiting, some the court, and part follow markets and fairs in the country with peddler's footpacks, and generally to all their places of assembly.
Some of them are certainly appointed, as it were, by their wardens to keep the haunt with commission but a short while, and to interchange their places as order shall be made to avoid suspicion. By occasion whereof, whensoever any stroke is workmanly stricken though it were at Newcastle, the rest of the Fig-boys that keep resident in London come forth with pronosticate by whom the worthy feat was wrought, and one great provision they have -- that is, a sovereign salve at all times of need, a treasurer they choose in some blind corner, a truly secret friend. That whensoever there comes any Jewels, plate, or such gear to their share, the present sale thereof might chance to discover the matter, the same else committed into his hands in pledge, as it were, of money lent, and he takes a bill of sale in default of repayment, as if all things were done by good faith, and plain dealing. So that whensoever he shall seek to make money of this gages, at the end of two or three months, if any question arise how, he came by them he shows anon a fair bill of sale for his discharge, from John a Knock or John a Stile, a man that never was, never shall be found. And such theft by this occasion is ever mannerly covered.
Another help they have that of every purse that is cleanly conveyed, a ratable portion is duely delivered into the treasurer's hands, to the use that whensoever by some misadventure any of them happen to be taken, and laid in prison, this common stock may serve to satisfy the party grieved and to make friends to save them from hanging.
Now have you a calendar, as it were, to put you in remembrance of the chief points and practices of cheating; enough, I suppose, to serve for a warning that you withdraw yourself from yonder costly company, wherein, if my experience may serve to give you occasion to eschew such evils, I shall be glad of this our happy meeting.
R: Yes, doubt you not thereof but that this talk has wrought already such effects in me, that, though I live a hundred years, I shall not lightly fall into the cheaters' snares. But, because you spoke of the principal points, whereby I conceive that yet some small sparks remain untouched, I pray you, put me out of doubt thereof; and then on God's name, you shall gladly depart, with as many thanks as if you had disbursed a large sum of money for redemption of my land, and saved it from selling. For had not forewarning come, the merchant and I must within few days have coped together, as did my bedfellow but now the last week, whose losses I pity so much the more, as that now I understand by what cheatery it was won.
M: The feat of losing is easily learned, and, as I told you in the beginning, that the cheaters beat and busy their brains, only about a fraud and subtlety, so can it not be chosen but give themselves overall to that purpose, and must every day forge out one new point of knavery or other, to deceive the simple withal. As of late I knew a young gentleman so wary in his doings that neither by dice or cards, nor by damsels of dalliance, nor of the ways afore rehearsed, could be made stoop one penny out of his purse. For this, the cheater consulted with the lewd lady, [who] in this case devised that she should dally with the gentleman, and playing with his chain should find the means to keep it a while, till they might fig a link or two, to make a like by. Done it was anon, and within few days after, another made of copper equal in length to that. At the gentleman's next returning to the house, the Damsel dallied long with the chain, sometimes putting it about her neck, and sometimes about his, that in the end she foisted the copper chain in the other's place and thereby robbed him of better than 40 pounds.
This, and the like shifts, I forbear to remember sooner, because the deceit rests not in any sleight practice at dice, and cards; nevertheless, because cheaters were the first inventors, as well of this, as of all other falsehood in fellowship that now daily is put in use at all manner of games, as when one man lost not many years ago an hundred pound land at shooting, by occassion that some that shot with him on his side, were booty fellows against him. Another was rid of 600 pounds at the tennis in a week by the fraud of his stopper. Methink they can not be better rewarded than sent home to the place they came from.
And since cheaters were the first authors thereof, let them also bear the blame. And having disclosed unto you, as briefly as I can, the principal practices of the cheaters' crafty faculty, and other workmen of their alliance, I will bid you farewell, for this time.
Imprinted at London, in Paul's Churchyard at the sign of the Lamb, by Abraham Veal.