March 27th, 2011

In preparation for tomorrow’s General Meeting of the New York Nineteenth Century Society, I have been reading up on the game of Whist. According to Whist: its history and practice, by “an amateur,” published in London, 1844, the game finds its roots in a 17th century game (reportedly played by Jonathan Swift and his fellow bishops) called Whisk & Swabbers.

By the 19th century, Whist had become a drawing room staple. Gentlefolk spent hours taking tricks, memorizing cards, and exchanging small stakes over the green baize of the card table. Played with a standard deck of cards, Whist requires four players, in two partnerships. In many ways, it is quite similar to Bridge. But of course, being 19th century, the imagery is much more pleasant.

Here, for example, is a representation of the whist partnership (as illustrated in the aforementioned book):

Whist Partners

They hardly look as though they are playing cards, do they?

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