the twelfth night wager
by regan walker
*Regan will be awarding a copy of three (3) of her books, Racing with the Wind, The Holly and the Thistle and The Shamrock and the Rose to one randomly drawn commenter during the tour.
On a dull day at White’s, the Redheaded Rake agreed to a wager: seduce and abandon the lovely Lady Leisterfield by Twelfth Night. After one taste of her virtue, he will stop at nothing less than complete possession.
I’m so pleased that Girl meets Books is able to host a guest post from Regan Walker where she talks about the Wagering Culture in Regency London.
The Wagering Culture in Regency London
By Regan Walker
Gambling is, as they say, as old as the hills. As long as there have been people willing to take risk, and the money to back up a challenge, there have been wagers and gaming.
Regency England (1811-1820 when Prince George was Regent) was no different, except that the wealthy members of le bon ton had the leisure time and the money to indulge. Men of the upper classes had their richly appointed clubs like Brook’s and White’s where, in the course of social gathering, political discussions and networking, outlandish wagers were made and recorded in “the book” for all the members to see. Fortunes could be won or lost with a single wager. Historical Romance novels set in the Regency often reflect the demise of a peer brought on by his unrestrained gaming.
White’s, a gentlemen’s club in London, established in the 17th century from a regular meeting of wealthy men, is the setting of the first scene in my novella, The Twelfth Night Wager, when one October evening in 1818, two bored men of the aristocracy enter into a scandalous wager involving a virtuous young widow.
Historically, White’s played host to many ridiculous wagers. William Arden, 2nd Baron Alvanley once bet a friend £3,000 as to which of two raindrops would first reach the bottom of a pane of the bow window of White’s. Other bets dealt with sports, politics and social events, such as when a man might marry. No matter was too small or too great for the wager book. And some men piled up huge debts gaming and wagering. The politician Charles James Fox was famous for this. Lord Holland, Fox’s father once paid off almost £140,000 in gambling debts for his son.
In the Regency culture, gaming and wagers were glamorized in a society addicted to luxury. Gambling was entwined with the conspicuous consumption of the aristocracy, led by the Prince Regent himself. As Lawrence Stone said, “…wealth is not a sufficient source of honour in itself…it needs to be advertised.” What better way than an outlandish wager for some small matter? It was one way the aristocracy showed its detachment from the value of money. Still, there was honor among those who gambled. A gentleman might wager vast sums of money, which he might lose, but he must never lose his temper or his integrity—and he must pay his debts.