The Gaming Table:
its Votaries and Victims
(Vol I & II)
This title, running to 880 pages over two volumes, was originally published in 1870 and is one of around 50,000 titles that has been "digitised" by those nice volunteers at Project Gutenberg - and at the time of writing the digital download is available completely free of charge either directly from the PG site or via Amazon (in Kindle format).
A good read? I thought so. Lots of anecdotes, yarns and gambling related stories - in the main from around a hundred and fifty years up to the date of publication from across Europe as well as the States, India and the Far East. Prepare yourself for lots of tales: of degenerate gambling amongst the gentry, lost fortunes, ruin, ladies of title settling their gambling debts in the bed chamber, debtors prisons, rakes, "sharpers", cheats, ne'r-do-wells, naive young gentlemen with more money than sense, rigged decks, degenerate gambling amongst the lower orders, lotteries, some infamous names of the time, horses, dice, early wheels of doom, private clubs, temptation, degenerate gambling . . . well, you get the picture? It touches on a lot. If you want fairly solid proof that an awful lot of the gambling scene hasn't really changed in the last two hundred years (apart from the fact that most of it's now licenced and the Chancellor gets a cut of at least some of the action - oh, and the communications technology angle), then this is an entertaining trip into the past.
The only disappointment, I found, was the lack of a conclusion or summary chapter to round the whole thing off. The last 30 pages of volume two is dedicated to a range of card tricks (of the type some do to amuse and entertain others - no TV, radio or interweb thingy in those days), and after that nothing - which is a great shame as the content frequently alludes to the vulnerabilities and foibles of the many who fall prey to the spectre of addictive gambling. A concluding chapter would have rounded this extensive piece of work off nicely.
Andrew Steinmetz (1816-1877) was a barrister by profession and practiced at the bar in London up until his retirement. He authored several other titles, including Japan and her People and The Romance of Duelling across two volumes, with his signature work being History of the Jesuits which comprises three volumes.