Yesterday was the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice. As I was reminiscing about the first [couple of] times I read the book, I remembered some of the words I had to look up to bridge the 200 years between the Pride and Prejudice world and mine. It seemed as if every word I looked up was either a card games or a kind of carriage. Commerce, vingt-un, whist, loo, quadrille, lottery, fish — all card games! Except the fish. And sometimes quadrille.
Commerce is played with 3 to 10 players, who trade or buy cards from the dealer to achieve the best 3-card combination. Vingt-un, which Jane and Bingley find they prefer to Commerce, is a version of Blackjack or Twenty-One. Whist is a trick-taking game for 4 players in partnered teams. Loo, which Elizabeth declined to play because she suspected they were “playing high,” is for 5 or more players, who try to take tricks to get a share of the pool. It can be played as a casual pastime or as a high-stakes gambling game. Quadrille, favored by Lady Catherine, is an older, more complex trick-taking game for 4. It’s played with 40 cards and has special rules governing trumps. When quadrille isn’t a card game, it’s a dance for 4 couples arranged in a square. Lottery, a favorite of Lydia, is a simple game of chance in which the winning player is the one who ends up holding a certain card (the “lottery ticket”). And fish are game markers — what we would call “chips” (as in “poker chips”) today. As far as I know, there’s no relationship between the fish, our chips, and the English meal of fish and chips.
As for the carriages, I can’t count the number of times I tried to figure out the differences between a barouche, chaise, and so on. For delightful reads about the various types of transportation in Pride and Prejudice, I recommend “A Closer Look at Carriages and Characters in Pride and Prejudice” by Mags on the AustenBlog and “Transports of Delight: How Jane Austen's Characters Got Around” by Ed Ratcliffe on the Jane Austen Society of North America website.
Image by C. E. Brock [public domain], from scans at Pemberley.com, via Wikimedia Commons