Monday 25 April 2016

Gentlemen Behaving Badly

"Clubs and gaming houses were patronised by the social elite, politicians and royalty." 

Bath to London was like Atlantic City to New York City.  Both cities, located two hours away, were vacation resorts which offered gambling.  Both locations used to attract an elite crowd.

Gambling dates back a full millenium according to one blogger.  Early gamblers used to use sheep knuckle bones as dice.  Gambling was taken to the next level in Britain when the country's elite began to see it as a sport.  "Clubs and gaming houses were patronised by the social elite, politicians and royalty."  British royalty was in the habit of visiting spas for health reasons.  With an extravagant amount of money, they looked for ways to spend it.  Gambling was one such pastime.  Casinos opened in resorts such as Bath, Cheltenham, Leamington, Tunbridge Wells and Brighton.  

Antigambling laws in 1739 and 1745 tried to curb the gentlemen's activities.  A 20 pound fine was implemented for illegal gambling activities, which was to be donated to the local hospital in Bath.  However, the British gentlemen argued that they were in a private club and that public laws should not affect them.

Because Britain's lower classes were banned from the casinos, they found a venue for gambling in the London coffeehouses.  "Like Noah's ark, every kind of creature from every walk of life [frequented coffeehouses]." Thanks to British puritanism, intoxicants were forbidden at coffeehouses.  Conversation was encouraged and anyone could participate, regardless of their social status. Coffee house rules "forbade games of chance, such as cards and dice".   However, in reality, gambling did take place.  

Painting "Four Times of the Day" in front of Tom King's Coffee House courtesy

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