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It is not often that money is made by gambling; yet now and then this is the case. General Scott, the father-in-law of George Canning and the Duke of Portland, was known to have won at White’s £200,000, thanks to his notorious sobriety and knowledge of the game of whist. The general possessed a great advantage over his companions by avoiding those indulgences at the table which used to muddle other men’s brains. He confined himself to dining off a boiled chicken, with toast-and-water. By such a regimen he came to the whist-table with a clear head, and possessing, as he did, a remarkable memory, with great coolness of judgment, he was enabled honestly to win the sum of £200,000. If the general was not an eccentric money-getter, he evidently got his money in an eccentric way.

Equally successful was the millionaire Crockford, who was originally a fishmonger, keeping a shop near Temple Bar. His fortune was all made at his gambling-house in fifteen or sixteen years. A vast sum, perhaps half a million, was sometimes due to him; but as he won all his debtors were able to raise, and gave credit, it was hard for men of fashion, fond of play, to keep out of his lures. He retired in 1840, much as an Indian chief retires from a hunting country when there is not game enough left for his tribe; and the club, which bore his name, tottered to its fall. It really seems that at that time there were no more very high players visiting the place. It was said that there were persons of rank and station who had never paid their debts to Crockford up to 1844.

Morissey, the well-known American gambler, has passed away. At one time he kept a small drinking-saloon of the lowest character. So disreputable was the place that it was closed by the authorities. Morissey was also a prize-fighter. Drunken, brutal, without friends or money, he came from Troy to New York to see what would turn up. At that time an election was in progress; and elections were carried by brute force. There was no registry law; and the p. 140injunction to vote early and vote often was literally obeyed. In such a city, and at such a time, Morissey was in his element. Having acquired a little money, he opened a place for play. He became thoroughly temperate. He resolved to behave well, to be sober, and not gamble. Those resolutions he carried out. His house in New York was the most elegantly furnished of any of the kind in the State; the table, the attendants, and the cooking, were of the first order. He followed his patrons to Saratoga, and opened there what was called a club-house; judges, senators, merchants, bankers, millionaires, became his guests: the disguise was soon thrown off, and the club-house assumed the form of a first-class gambling-house at the Springs. Horse-racing and attendant games followed, all bringing custom and profit to Morissey’s establishment; and thus he amassed a large fortune, and died in the odour of respectability which wealth confers. Morissey, as Congress man, was not exactly a working member. When he first went to Washington, Mr. Colfax hardly knew on which of the committees of the House it would be best to put him; so he said, in a very apologetic tone, “Well, Mr. Morissey, I should be very glad to oblige in regard to a great many old members, and all the best places belong by right to them. Still, I will see what I can do for you.” “Well, Mr. Speaker,” said the new member, “I am pretty particular; but 1 will, at any rate, tell you what I want. If there is a committee that has no committee-room, never has any business sent to it, and never meets, I should like to be put on the tail-end of that committee. How does it strike you?” “You relieve me wonderfully,” said Mr. Colfax. “I will put you on the Committee of Revolutionary Pensions.”

Another case of that rarity, a successful gambler, is thus described in “Sunshine and Shadow,” in New York:—“A man lives in the upper part of this city, and in fine style. He is reputed to be worth 500,000 dollars. He came to New York penniless. He decided to take up play as a business; not to keep a gambling-house, but to play every night as a trade. He made certain rules which he has kept over thirty years. He would avoid all forms of licentiousness, would attend church regularly on Sunday, would avoid all low, disreputable company, would drink no kind of intoxicating liquors, wine or ale, would neither smoke nor p. 141chew, would go nightly to his play as a man would go to his office or his trade, would play as long as he won, or until the bank broke, would lose a certain sum and no more; when he lost that he would stop playing, and leave the room for the night; if he lost ten nights, he would wait till his luck changed;” and this system he followed exactly, while tens of thousands around him were carried away into irretrievable ruin.

As I write I see the report of a peculiar case heard in Dublin, before Chief Justice Morris and a special jury; and, as the Times’ correspondent informs us, some very curious revelations were made in the course of the hearing. The action was brought by a Mr. Kavanagh to recover £7,000 on account of work and labour alleged to have been done by the plaintiff in his capacity of manager to the defendant, a Mr. Henry Lindsay, a bill-discounter, who, it was stated, did business to the extent of £20,000 to £30,000 a month, and who lived alone in a large house in a respectable street, sleeping on a stretcher, and having bills on the house announcing it as to be let, in order that he might avoid, as he actually succeeded in avoiding, the payment of rates, on the plea that he was merely caretaker of the house. It also came out that defendant, who was advanced in years, had recently paid £5,000 to compromise an action for breach of promise of marriage. So the old gentleman had a soft side after all!

One of the great millionaires of France was Ouvrard, the financier—a man sprung from a very humble origin, but of great financial capacity. During his long career of success, which lasted from the latter part of the last century till 1830, he made and spent millions of money. He was ruined by making large sales in the funds, under the expectation that the government of Louis Philippe could not stand. He was born in 1770; and his first operation, which consisted in buying up all the paper made in Poitou and Angoumois, and retailing it at an immense profit to the Paris booksellers, laid the foundation of his fortune. He soon afterwards made a contract for provisioning the Spanish fleet, which had joined the French squadron in 1797, and made a net profit of £600,000. In 1800, he was supposed to possess a million and a-half of English money. Soon after he had the contract for supplying the French army in the campaign which closed p. 142with the battle of Marengo. His prosperity continued for many years; and in 1812, the government owed him, for enormous advances made by him, nearly three millions of English money. He was Munitionnaire-Général for the Waterloo campaign; and, in 1828, contracted to supply the Duc d’Angoulême with everything necessary for the entry of the French army into Spain; but the misfulfilment of his contract entailed heavy losses on him, and in 1830 he was completely ruined.

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No man was more reckless in his expenditure, nor more magnificent in his manner of living. At the time of the Directory, the fêtes given by him were the theme of the whole of Parisian society at that time. At his splendid villa near Rueil, during the Empire, he was in the habit of giving suppers to all the corps de ballet of the opera twice a-week, and he used to send several carriages, splendidly equipped, to bear away the principal performers when the performance was over. There an enormous white marble bath, as large as an ordinary-sized saloon, was prepared for such of the ladies as, in the summer, chose to bathe on their arrival. There a splendid supper was laid out, of which the fair bathers and many of the pleasure-seekers of the day partook; and, besides every luxury of the culinary art, prepared by the best cooks in Paris, each lady received a donation of fifty louis, and the one fortunate enough to attract the especial notice of the wealthy host a large sum of money. Mademoiselle Georges, the celebrated tragedian of that day, cost him, as he was fond of relating, a large sum of money. He had invited her to sup with him at his villa; but the very day she was to come, a note informed him that she was compelled to give up the pleasure of supping with him, as the Emperor Napoleon had given her a rendezvous for the same time, which she dared not refuse. Ouvrard was furious at this contretemps, and he could not bear to yield the pas to le petit Bonaparte, whom he had known as a young captain of artillery, too happy to be invited to his house in the days of the Directory; and under this feeling, with a hint to the lady that she would find 100,000 francs served up at supper, he prevailed on the actress to give the emperor the slip. The following day the great financier received a summons forthwith to appear at the Tuileries, and was ushered into the emperor’s presence. After walking once or twice up and down the room, the great man turned p. 143sharp round on his unwilling guest, and, with his eagle eye riveted on Ouvrard’s face, sternly demanded, “Monsieur, how much did you make by your contract for the army at the beginning of the year?” The capitalist knew it was vain to equivocate, and replied, “4,000,000 francs, sire.” “Then, sir, you made too much; so pay immediately 2,000,000 francs into the treasury.” And Ouvrard, says old Captain Gronow, who tells the story, immediately did—much, probably, to his vexation and disgust.

Before the French Revolution, the largest fortunes in France were possessed by the farmers of the revenue, or fermiers généraux. Their profits were enormous, and their probity was very doubtful. It is related, that one evening at Ferney, when the company were telling stories of robbers, they asked their host, Voltaire, for one on the same subject. The great man, taking up his flat candlestick, as when about to retire, began—“There was once upon a time a fermier général—I have forgotten the rest.”

In the Bagot will case we see another illustration of the way in which money is made, and the dissipation and extravagance to which it leads. Mr. Bagot, a colonial adventurer, returned to Ireland with the reputation of enormous wealth, and married the daughter of a baronet. Paralysed as he was, a son was born to him, which he disowned. The Bagot case ended in a verdict setting aside the late Mr. Bagot’s will, and disinheriting the infant son, and thus Mrs. Bagot was in a measure legally rehabilitated. The disclosures at the trial, however, revealed a panorama of years of extravagance, folly, and riot, which is, we trust, exceptional. The whole story of the Australian millionaire, Mr. Bagot, is fraught with details that can only disgust; and it would have been much better if the public had been spared recitals which, however entertaining to frivolous persons, can hardly serve any good purpose by the extraordinary publicity they have now gained. Should a new trial take place, a good deal of the money must pass into the lawyers’ hands.

Not long ago the death was announced of M. Basilewski, the Rothschild of Russia, which took place at St. Petersburg, at the age of ninety-two. The deceased, who was the father of Princess Souvaroff, was the owner of gold mines in Siberia, which have already produced for him more than 100,000,000 of francs.

p. 144In America, even literary men, if they have luck, make money. It is reported of “Josh Billings” (Henry W. Shaw) that he made more money than almost any American author by persistent working of his peculiar vein of humour. Some years he got as much as 4,000 dollars from a weekly newspaper for exclusive contributions: he made 5,000 or 6,000 dollars by lecturing, and had a profit from his almanack of 8,000 or 9,000 dollars more—18,000 to 20,000 dollars per annum. That is five or six times as much as Emerson, Hawthorne, Lowell, or Holmes had ever made.

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One of the most marvellous careers in London is that of Baron Grant, who commenced his city life as a clerk in a wine-merchant’s office in Mark Lane, and whose capacity in the way of “financing” and “promoting public companies” appears to have been unrivalled. Of course he made himself many enemies; but that is the way of the world. The men who are the first to fling stones at a successful rival, and to call him hard names, are the men who morally have no claim to be censors on the ground of higher principle or superior virtue. It is thus the unlucky ones revenge themselves on their luckier rivals. They are prone to hit a man when he is risen in the world. Nowhere is there more lack of charity, or more evil speaking of one another, than in the circles where Mammon is king, and where the great object of life is held to be the art of money-getting and money-making.

Let me, in this chapter, give the first place to Samuel Plimsoll, a man who, if he made money, spent it nobly, and deserved the peerage far more than many who have been elected to that honour—at any rate, from the time the Earl of Beaconsfield became Premier. He was down very low in the social scale, and it is thus he writes of his noble poverty and of his companions in misfortune, in that appeal on behalf of our seamen, which stirred up the community as with the voice of a trumpet, and actually forced parliament to legislate. “I don’t wish,” he writes, “to disparage the rich; but I think it may reasonably be doubted whether these qualities are so fully developed in them” (he had been writing of the honesty, of the strong aversion to idleness, of the generosity to one another in adversity, and of the splendid courage of the working classes); “for notwithstanding that not a few of them are not unacquainted with the claims, reasonable and unreasonable, of poor relations, these qualities are not in such constant exercise, and riches seem, in so many cases, to smother the manliness of their possessors, that their sympathies become not so much narrowed as, so to speak, stratified; they are reserved for the sufferings of their own class, and also the woes of those above them. They seldom tend downwards much, and they are far more likely to admire an act of high courage, like that of the engine-driver who saved his passengers lately from an awful collision by cool courage, than to admire the constantly-exercised fortitude and the tenderness which are the daily characteristics of a British workman’s life.

“You may doubt this. I should once have done so myself; but I have shared their lot; I have lived with them. For months and months I lived in one of the model lodging-houses, p. 146established mainly by the efforts of Lord Shaftesbury. There is one in Fetter Lane, another in Hatton Garden; and, indeed, they are scattered all over London. I went there simply because I could not afford a better lodging. I have had to make seven shillings and ninepence halfpenny (three shillings of which I paid for my lodging) last me a whole week, and did it. It is astonishing how little you can live on when you divest yourself of all fancied needs. I had plenty of good wheaten bread to eat all the week, and the half of a herring for a relish (less will do if you can’t afford half, for it is a splendid fish), and good coffee to drink; and I know how much, or rather how little, roast shoulder-of-mutton you can get for twopence for your Sunday’s dinner. Don’t suppose I went there from choice; I went from stern necessity (and this was promotion too), and I went with strong shrinking, with a sense of suffering great humiliation, regarding my being there as a thing to be kept carefully secret from all my old friends. In a word, I considered it only less degrading than spunging upon my friends, or borrowing what I saw no chance of ever being able to pay.

“Now, what did I see there? I found the workmen considerate for each other. I found that they would go out (those who were out of employment), day after day, and patiently trudge miles and miles seeking employment, returning, night after night, unsuccessful and dispirited. They would walk incredibly long distances to places where they heard of a job of work, and this not for a few days, but for very many days. And I have seen such a man sit down wearily by the fire (we had a common room for sitting, and cooking, and everything), with a hungry despondent look—he had not tasted food all day—and accosted by another scarcely less poor than himself, with—‘Here, mate, get this into thee,’ handing him, at the same time, a piece of bread and some cold meat, and afterwards some coffee; and adding, ‘Better luck to-morrow—keep up your pecker;’ and all this without any idea that they were practising the most splendid patience, fortitude, courage, and generosity I had ever seen. You would hear them talk of absent wife and children sometimes—there in a distant workhouse—trade was very bad then—with expressions of affection, and the hope of seeing them again, although the one was irreverently alluded to as my old woman, and the latter as the kids. I p. 147very soon got rid of miserable self-pity there, and came to reflect that Dr. Livingstone would probably be thankful for good wheaten bread; and if the bed was of flock and hay, and the sheets of cotton, that better men than I in the Crimea (the war was then going on) would think themselves very lucky to have as good; and then, too, I began to reflect, that when you come to think of it, such as these men were, so were the vast majority of the working classes; that the idle and the drunken we see about public-houses, are but a small minority of them made to appear more—because public-houses are all put in such places; that the great bulk are at home; for the man who has to be up at six in the morning can’t stay up at night; he is in bed early, and is as I found my fellow inmates. * * * Well, it was impossible to indulge in self-pity in circumstances like these; and emulous of the genuine manhood all around me, I set to work again; for what might not be done with youth and health; and simply by preparing myself rather more thoroughly for my business than had previously been considered necessary, I was soon strong enough to live more in accordance with my previous life, and am now able to speak a true word for the genuine men I left behind, simply because my dear parents had given me greater advantages than these men had.” In this confession we see the secrets of Mr. Plimsoll’s ultimate success—the better education his parents had given him, and the courage infused into him by the example of men lower down in the social scale. Under these circumstances he again went to work, and the result was fame and fortune.