“Putting to Hazard a Certainty”: Lotteries and the Romance of Gambling in Eighteenth-Century England

“Putting to Hazard a Certainty”: Lotteries and the Romance of Gambling in Eighteenth-Century England

Richard, Jessica

Studies in Eighteenth Century Culture, Volume 40, (2011) pp. 179-200    


In London, on January 6, 1662 (n. s.) Charles II opened the first Epiphany revels of the Restoration celebrating the final night of an especially festive Christmas season “by throwing the Dice himselfe, in the Privy Chamber, where a table was set on purpose, & lost his 100 pounds.” The king’s throne was secure, the Cavalier Parliament was seated, and the serious gambling could begin: “the Ladys also plaied very deepe,” diarist John Evelyn recorded, and “I came away when the Duke ofOrmond had won about 1000 pounds & left them still at passage, Cards, &c: at other Tables, both there and at the Groome-porters.” This gambling scene represents a significant nexus in economic history, where archaic symbolic expenditure meets and indeed inspires modern capitalism, for as I shall discuss in this essay, the same groom-porter who was responsible for overseeing the gambling at the royal residences also introduced the lottery-loans that initiated the National Debt and thus modern finance capitalism.

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