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Sporting Magazine Jan 1837 p 59

My grateful thanks to Eric Graham from Devon, who heard my plea for information about Lord Henry De Ros and sent me two articles: this one and Henry de Ros at Graham's table and Elsewhere

We regret that the first of our "notes offhand" should involve a question of a "trick of hand" wherein the character of a nobleman at present occupies an unenviable position. We allude of course to the transaction at Graham's Club in the course of last autumn, a transaction that we know the late Editor of this Magazine abstained from alluding to from a hope that the matter would be satisfactorily adjusted and an anxious desire to uphold the aristocracy in the eyes of the world, but the affair having become matter of general publicity, and appearing likely to assume a still more important character, we feel that we should not be acting up to the professions contained in our opening address were we to omit placing the transaction, as far as it goes, upon record.

The following correspondence will relate all that has passed ; and at present of course we abstain from offering any opinion as to the probable result. We may however express our regret that Lord de Ros declined acceding to the proposition contained in the letter of Lord H. Bentinck and others, referring the matter to a "committee of gentlemen." "Laws," as Rivers said to Sir Harry, "were never made for men of honour; they want no bond but the rectitude of their own sentiments, and laws are of no use but to bind the villains of society."

Hoping that Lord de Ros's case may prove the reverse of this opinion we subjoin the correspondence without further comment.

"My Lord, (copy) " White's, Dec. 2. 1836. The charges of unfair play which have been long circulated against you did not originate with ourselves, who were late and reluctant believers in them ; neither, when convinced of the truth, did we propagate the report, which we were anxious to suppress—our personal feelings, and the conviction of the injury that would be inflicted on society by the exposure of a person of your Lordship's rank and station, prompting us to forbearance.

"All that we required, in justice to others, was, that you should abstain from play, and, at a meeting attended by Lord Henry Bentinck, Mr.Payne, and Col. Anson, who was also reluctantly convinced of the truth of the accusations, it was agreed that no further measures should be adopted by us unless you recommenced play, which you had discontinued since the occurrence misrepresented in The Satirist newspaper. It was only upon learning that you intended returning to


1 Deaths Jun 1839 De Ros Henry Marylebone 1 p187

England to meet the charge, and to call to severe account all who might accuse you, that we considered it our duty towards ourselves, and those whom we knew to have spoken the truth, undisguisedly to declare our own sentiments. Having done this, and knowing that you were aware of our having done so, we considered ourselves exonerated from taking further steps.

Our motives, however, having been misinterpreted, our moderation treated as timidity, and our openly avowed conviction as malevolent whisperings, it becomes imperative on us to take immediate measures for the elucidation of the whole truth. We, therefore, utterly disclaiming any indentity with The Satirist newspaper, in which a statement appeared that was totally incorrect, and over whose defence, under any circumstances, we could have no controul, now distinctly charge your Lordship with cheating at cards at Graham's Club and elsewhere, and undertake to prove our assertions by evidence before a committee of gentlemen of unblemished honour and reputation. To this investigation we now invite your Lordship, and in proposing this tribunal as the most fit to pass judgment on such an affair, we are sanctioned by the opinion of society at large, and of at least a large portion of your Lordship's own friends.

"H. Bentinck. J. Cumming. "
B. Greville George Payne."

"Gentlemen. (copy.) " Park place, Dec. 3. I received this morning the letter you addressed to me, announcing the association you have formed to accuse me of cheating at cards. Your charges I am ready to meet, but it is rather too much to expect that I should submit to your dictation as to the tribunal that is to adjudicate between us. Your industry in defamation has given such extreme publicity to the affair, that it is impossible for me now to resort to any investigation of a private nature, such as you appear disposed to prefer. An appeal to a Court of Justice, where evidence is taken upon oath, and published to the world, is the only proceeding that could be either satisfactory or effectual as matters now stand, I shall neither be deterred by your reasonings, nor intimidated by your numbers, from the course I have been advised to pursue. That course is, to prosecute The Satirist in such a form as to give all those who have any charges to make an opportunity of bringing them forward ; and I hereby invite you all four, formally, whether in your joint or individual capacity, to avail yourselves of that occasion. It may not accord with your wishes to appear before the public in support of The Satirist, but I beg to remind you that the libel in that paper originated solely and entirely in the stories which you circulated yourselves immediately after my departure for the Continent. Till that period, the 14th of August, not a syllable of accusation was breathed, and then the storm burst forth, so that your boasted forbearance seems to have consisted in maintaining silence till my back was turned. I have nothing, further at present to state than that your charges are false, and that I repel them with scorn, indignation, and defiance, "I am your obedient servant, De Ros; "

Messrs. Payne, B. Greville, Cumming, and Lord H. Bentinck."

" My Lord. (copy.) White's Dec. 8.

Being legally advised that a prosecution of The Satirist will not afford me an opportunity of calling witnesses to substantiate the distinct charges I have made against you, and that it is inadmissible that my reputation for veracity should be made in the slightest degree contingent on the defence of a third party, over whom I can have no controul, I take the liberty of submitting to your Lordship the propriety of bringing an action for defamation against myself, if you wish a legal investigation of our accusations, and not merely an easy verdict over a Sunday newspaper for an acknowledged misstatement. I have not the least dread of being brought before the public, but should, on the contrary, seize with eagerness any opportunity to explain and prove my whole conduct in this deplorable affair, feeling confident that if I have committed any error during its progress, it is not one which would be judged severely by others, or with which it becomes your Lordship to reproach me. I shall not now attempt to combat the statement, or imitate the tone of your Lordship's last letter, my wish throughout being to avoid angry and premature discussions, and to bring the whole question fully and fairly before any impartial tribunal. Your Lordship prefers a legal one: a legal one let it be : but one where I can prove my own allegations, call my own witnesses, and appoint my own legal advisers. Any other trial must be a mockery as far as I and those whose names are associated with mine in a recent appeal to your Lordship are concerned. We proposed a Committee of Gentlemen, because public opinion pointed it out as the fittest; and, to avoid all misapprehension, I must add, that we did not mean a Committee of Graham's Club, but one composed of persons selected by mutual consent, and which we should be happy to see presided over by *•••••••••••* I offer to take the whole onus probandi on myself individually, because two of the other parties who signed the former letter are in the country. Should you prosecute us collectively, for the purpose of neutralizing part of the evidence, we have still sufficient to prove the case.—I have only to repeat, that I am ready to prove the truth of my own allegations, whenever I may have a fair opportunity of doing so, and that your Lordship will not disprove that which I assert to be true, by bringing me forward to prove what I admit to be false. " I remain, my Lord, your most obedient Servant, "Lord de Ros." " John Cumming.

[We have reason to believe that the names submitted were the Duke of Wellington and Lord Wharncliffe.]

"Sir, (copy.) Park-place, Dec. 9.

I beg to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 8th instant. I promptly replied to the letter signed by you and the three other gentlemen, containing the charge against me, but I must decline any further correspondence upon the subject of that charge.—The matter has been for some time in the hands of my solicitor, and you will hear without any unnecessary delay what the course is that I am advised to pursue. " I am, Sir, your obedient servant, " J. Cumming, Esq." " " DE ROS.

[We have authority to stale in conclusion, that Lord de Ros's solicitor has intimated to Mr. Cumming his lordship's intention to proceed against him for a libel.]

False Cards.—The following extract from a new and voluminous treatise on Cribbage, by Mr. G. Walker, just published, may not be uninteresting at the present moment:—" In prepared packs of cards, the fives, sevens, eights, &c., are sometimes marked on the corners of the backs with spots of different numbers, and placed in a different order, according to the cards they are intended to denote. This is done either with clear water, or else water tinged with Indian ink, so as to be distinguished only by such persons as are in the secret. For whist, aces are marked with single spots on the two opposite diagonal corners ; kings in the same way, with two spots; knaves with the same number transversed, &c. By way of variation, such marks are frequently made with the point of a penknife, showing merely a slight abrasion of the polish, but as legible to the 'professor' as if the characters were written in letters a foot long."



Sporting Magazine March 1837 p. 174

This affair, of which some account will be found in our January Number, has at length been brought before a jury, who, after having been occupied for two days in hearing the speeches of counsel and the examination of witnesses, found a verdict for the defendant.

The libel was contained in a letter, dated 2nd. Dec. 1836, addressed to his lordship by Messrs. John Cumming, Brooke Greville, George Payne, and Lord Henry Bentinck; and the gist of it was, that his lordship had

"cheated at cards, at Graham's club and elsewhere."

This charge his lordship repelled

"with scorn, indignation, and defiance;"

and as Mr. Cumming undertook to prove its truth before a legal tribunal, the action was brought against him individually. From the result it would appear that his lordship was badly advised; and from the report of the Attorney General's speeches on his behalf, we cannot think that he was much better counselled.

The trial came on before Lord Denman and a special jury, on Friday, 10th February. The Attorney General, Sir Wm. Follett, and Mr. Wightman appeared for Lord de Ros; and Mr. Thesiger, Mr. Alexander, and Mr. W. H. Watson were retained by Mr. Cumming.

The Attorney General, in stating the case to the jury, betrayed the nakedness of his client's cause; he dwelt on the weakness of his lordship's health; his fete at his villa in Regent's Park; the correspondence between the attorneys in the cause; and insinuated that Mr. Cumming was but a tool in the hands of others. He took no high ground for his client, but endeavoured to screen him by a flimsy tissue of words, when his lordship could not trust to the protection of his own innocence, and declare with a clear conscience "mea virtute me involvo."

The Attorney General, as if to inspire the jury with a good opinion of Lord de Ros, mentioned the circumstances of his being educated at Oxford, and of his being the representative of a peerage which dates from the reign of Henry III. Now, as Sir John Campbell, according to popular report, thinks very lightly of Oxford, and not more favourably of the House of Peers, it does seem extremely inconsistent for him to attempt to persuade others to receive those things as valuable which personally he despises and sets at nought. It is very like the practice of a Sir Bullface, who tries to pass off his own plentiful stock of brass as pure gold. In his statement to the jury the Attorney General said, among other things,

"I will prove to you before this case is over that a deliberate plot was formed for the purpose of effecting the ruin of Lord do Ros."

After the fashion, however, of many a tall bully—who carries a high head when he is uttering a bouncer—his performance fell wofully short of his brag. The jury by their verdict emphatically declared that they did not believe him.

On the behalf of Lord de Ros, Lord Wharncliffe, Lord Robert Grosvenor, the Earl of Clare, and Sir Charles D'Albiac were called, but their evidence was like a chip in milk—it neither benefitted his lordship's case nor injured that of the defendant. They had all known Lord de Ros for many years; had often played with him, and he neither cheated them nor did they suspect him.

Mr. William Lawrence, a surgeon, and Dr. John Hyde, a physician, who had attended Lord de Ros professionally, were called to speak as to the weak state of his lordship's health and the stiffness of his fingers. The former—whose opinions are not likely to be of much value on a question of belief—confined himself to facts, and proved, that from 1832 Lord de Ros had suffered from a disease which affected his arms, hands, and fingers, rendering the latter stiff and unpliable.

The evidence of Dr. John Hyde is especially curious on one point where he says, "From the debility of the joints it would be impossible for him (Lord de Ros) to make use of any muscular action of the fingers." Now, as Lord de Ros, as was seen by hundreds, and not denied by his advocates, could take up, hold, and deal the cards, perhaps Dr. John Hyde will explain, for the benefit of physiologists and anatomists how his lordship could perform those feats without making use of any muscular action of the fingers. We suspect that the learned physician will find it more difficult to explain this singular instance of voluntary action without muscular effort, than to give an opinion—which was contradicted by facts—as to the possibility of his lordship's performing the trick of reversing the cut, couper la saute, as Sir John Campbell called it in his Cupar French. To the question, "Do you think Lord de Ros had strength to mark the cards?" Dr. Hyde replies, " I think that was practicable, but he was a very infirm person."—"He might make a dent in a pound of butter," said a sporting M. P. who shall be nameless, speaking of a pugilist whom he was not backing, "but I doubt it vastly." The kindly wish, evinced in Dr. Hyde's answer, to assist a lame nobleman over a stile is highly creditable to his humanity.

We have no wish to enter into a detail of the evidence that was produced by Mr. Cumming in support of his charges against Lord de Ros. It is enough to state that twelve persons, who cannot, with the slightest shadow of reason, be supposed to have entered into a conspiracy to defame Lord de Ros, have unequivocally sworn to the fact of his lordship having cheated at cards by marking the honours and reversing the cut. However, we may regret that a nobleman of his lordship's rank should have been guilty of such conduct, we consider that the injury would have been greater to the peerage had it been proclaimed throughout, the land that a nobleman was privileged to cheat with impunity, and that his rank ought to screen him from the charge.

Happily for the order to which Lord de Ros belongs, the insidious appeal of Sir John Campbell was treated by the jury as it deserved. Had it succeeded, he might have proclaimed, in another place, that Lord de Ros had learnt his tricks at Oxford, and that his peerage was his indemnity against exposure. Here we beg to return to the learned gentleman his quotation with an amendment attached to it:

"Talibus insidiis perjurique arte Sinonis,
Sed non credita res."

(Thus they themselves, made captives by belief
Of Sinon's perjur'd fraud)

The evidence of Sir William Ingilby is exceedingly curious; and had we not seen with our own eyes that it was the veritable representative of the ancient families of Ingilby and Amcotts who occupied the witness box, we would have been very likely to suppose that it was Ingilby the Emperor of all Conjurors, who had got himself smuggled into Graham's club, and who was afraid of being discovered and treated accordingly, should he have dared to open his lips and denounce a noble amateur of his own tricky art. Sir William, in his examination, stated on his oath that he had seen Lord de Ros perform the trick of reversing the cut, and thus secure himself an ace or a king for the turn-up card, at least fifty times, and that be first observed his lordship do it "about four, five, or six years ago." When asked why he did not denounce Lord de Ros when he discovered his system, the pusillanimous baronet, who in point of pedigree might almost vie with Lord de Ros himself, answers as follows:

"I did not mention the matter publicly for this reason—I considered that if an obscure and humble individual like myself, not possessed of his rank, were to attempt to go up to a peer of the realm, who held a high station in society, and who at the same time was regarded by all his associates and by the world in general as a man of unblemished honour and of unimpeachable character, and say 'My Lord, you are cheating;' if, I say, I, that humble individual, had addressed Lord de Ros in these terms—if I had denounced a peer of the realm, and a man of such general popularity, I should instantly have gathered around me a host of persons, and I take it, as a matter of course, that I should have had no choice between the door and the window, but that I should have been pitched out of the latter."

As nothing has been more common of late than the heaping of abuse upon a person merely because he was a peer of the realm, we are at a loss to comprehend how the character of a nobleman should seem so sacred in the eyes of Sir William Ingilby, who has never, that we are aware of, entertained conservative opinions with respect to the peerage. If his fears for his personal safety were well founded, the conclusion that we come to is, that those who would have "pitched him out of the window" for exposing the fradulent tricks of a peer, must have been persons of similar character to that of the party denounced; and that their conduct would not have been influenced by a regard for the honour of a peer of the realm, but would have been the result of the vexation which they felt at one of their own stamp being discovered.

As it appears from the evidence that reports unfavourable to the character of Lord de Ros had been for three or four years in circulation, and knowing how "wide awake" sporting men are to such intelligence, we cannot help thinking that many who played with Lord de Ros were as bad as himself; for, as they must have been aware of his practices, we can only suppose that they played with the intention of cheating him in their turn, thus paying him in kind, and occasionally ''coming York over him," as Sir William Ingilby would say, by a trick worth two of his own.

Sir William Ingilby, probably being aware of the text—"He that humbleth himself shall be exalted," speaks of himself in terms rather too modest. "Obscure and humble individual" indeed! Has not his "shocking bad hat" passed into a proverb which is current in every land where the English language is spoken? Is not his "flare up " in 1834, on the subject of the malt tax fresh in the memory of every man who drinks beer or grows barley? And is not his present of a splendid meerschaum to the Duke of Sussex—a smoking acquaintance of the Yorkshire baronet—known to every man who blows a cloud? If such be instances of obscurity and humility, we know not where to look for distinction and fame.

Before quitting this unpleasant subject, which the humour of an Ingilby only could enliven, we shall take the liberty of comparing one or two passages in the speech of the Attorney-General with one or two others in Lord Denman's summing up; leaving those whom it may concern to "settle the difference." In the course of his speech for the defendant Mr. Thesiger makes the following remark:

"It is hardly necessary for me to say, that common sense tells us that the mere practice of securing an unfair advantage, whether that advantage is attained or not, is all that is required to constitute cheating. Suppose that the noble lord had been detected in applying his hand to the ace of spades, and had been immediately turned out of the club, which he had disgraced, before he had reaped the fruits of his roguery, would any one hesitate to say that he had been guilty of cheating at cards? Yet according to my learned friend .........."

Here the Attoneyr-General interrupted Mr. Thesiger and said:

"I will spare my learned friend the trouble of enlarging further on this point. It is not an argument which I used or ever will use."

Notwithstanding the agreement of the two learned counsel on this point, and we venture to add of nine persons out of ten, learned or unlearned, Lord Denman, unless we misunderstand his lordship, appears to be of a different opinion. In summing up his lordship makes the following remarks:

"I do not think it necessary to trouble you with any further analysis of the evidence, but this fact was elicited by the counsel for the plaintiff, in cross-examining one of the defendant's witnesses, that Lord de Ros in the course of last season was no considerable winner; his winnings at Graham's being under £700, and at the Traveller's, very little exceeding £300, and as you find there were persons playing there who won much larger sums, it is expected you are to infer that could he not be guilty of unfair play—an observation very fit for you to bear in mind in forming your opinion, and weighing the evidence of the various witnesses."

Mr. Brooke Greville having admitted that he had won £35,000 in fifteen years, the Attorney-General in his reply calls the especial attention of the jury to this "enormous sum;" and says, that "it was of the greatest importance that the club should continue — that he should not be exposed to the peril of being excluded." Now, adopting the learned gentleman's line of argument, we shall find that it may be applied with equal force to Lord de Ros. His lordship it appears won last season at Graham's where he attended fifty-one days, the sum of £630, and at the Traveller's where he attended thirteen days, the sum of £311. making the amount of his winnings for sixty-four days £941, a sum which it is intended that the jury should consider moderate. Now, if sixty-four days give £941. what will a year's play with the same luck produce, allowing one hundred and eighty playing days? According to Cocker, the result will be about £2,646, which is rather more than the annual rate of Mr. Brooke Greville's winnings, which we agree with the learned gentlemen in considering as "enormous."

In conclusion we beg to say, that of the parties engaged in this transaction we have not the slightest personal knowledge; we are not indebted to any of them for a favour, nor do we owe one of them a grudge—nec beneficio, nec injuria cogniti. The remarks which we have considered it necessary to make are at least impartial; and though we may say with reference to Lord de Ros, "why let the stricken deer go weep!" most willingly and fearlessly will we lend our assistance to spoil the "play" of any tainted member of the same herd.

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