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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Charles Lamb (1775–1834)

A Comparison Between Whist and Quadrille

From “Essays of Elia”

QUADRILLE, Mrs. Battle has often told me, was her first love; but whist had engaged her maturer esteem. The former, she said, was showy and specious, and likely to allure young persons. The uncertainty and quick shifting of partners (a thing which the constancy of whist abhors); the dazzling supremacy and regal investiture of spadille—absurd, as she justly observed, in the pure aristocracy of whist, where his crown and garter give him no proper power above his brother-nobility of the aces; the giddy vanity, so taking to the inexperienced, of playing alone; above all, the overpowering attractions of a Sans Prendre Vol, to the triumph of which there is certainly nothing parallel or approaching in the contingencies of whist—all these, she would say, make quadrille a game of captivation to the young and enthusiastic. But whist was the solider game: that was her word. It was a long meal—not, like quadrille, a feast of snatches. One or two rubbers might coextend in duration with an evening. They gave time to form rooted friendships and to cultivate steady enmities. She despised the chance-started, capricious, and ever-fluctuating alliances of the other. The skirmishes of quadrille, she would say, reminded her of the petty ephemeral embroilments of the little Italian States, depicted by Machiavelli: perpetually changing postures and connections—bitter foes to-day, sugared darlings to-morrow; kissing and scratching in a breath—but the wars of whist were comparable to the long, steady, deep-rooted, national antipathies of the great French and English nations.