The following passage from Hatton's Club-Land comes from the Internet Archive version of a copy in the University of Toronto Library. George P. Landow has formatted it, adding links. Click on images to enlarge them and to obtain additional information about them.
he famous old clubs of this famous region of club-land were originally taverns and gambling-houses. To-day St. James's Street looks so smug and respectable, Pall Mall so like a region of palaces, that you might fairly think we had indeed got far beyond those wild days of gaming when whist and piquet, and hazard and faro, were the chief amusements of the time; when the palate of a gentleman required the constant titillation of strong wines, and the rattle of the dice-box was music to his soul. These days are past, it is true, but the spirit of gambling is with us still busy as ever, inspiring its votaries with as keen a relish for speculation as that which ruled in 1770, when Walpole wrote, "The gaming at Almack's, which has taken the j»«s of White's, is worthy the decline of our empire, or commonwealth, which you please. The young men of the age lose ten, fifteen, twenty thousand pounds in an evening there. Lord Staverdale, not one-and-twenty, lost £11,000 there last Tuesday, but recovered it by one great hand at hazard." We gamble in a more general and scientific way in these days, and every class engages in the excitement all over the country. The modern phase of gambling is well represented in the old street where Sheridan and Fox, and the Prince of Wales and Brummell, and the rest, drank and gamed and fought, and, according to the tenets of their day, proved themselves gentle men. At the top of the street, on the west corner, with an entrance to Piccadilly, there is a West-end Stock Exchange, Limited; and another kindred institution on the east side, near the bottom. You will find in the windows the opening prices of consols, rentes, Eries, Midlands, Egyptians, &c., with their varying quotations during the day and their closing prices at night. You can go in and speculate and gamble, at a rate never dreamt of by those wild, tearing, duelling gamesters of Walpole's time: you can do it in cold blood in your morning coat, then take a ride in the park, lunch calmly at your club, go home unrufiled to dinner, and escort your wife to the Opera in the evening, or to a meeting at Exeter Hall with the mild air of a bishop. Those topers and gamblers of old, they had sport in company over their culations; they dined and wined, and fired off ribald jests; they made the welkin ring; they troubled the watch, sometimes shot each other and made a noise. I suppose our modern system is best. . . .
The Mohocks, Blasphemous, and kindred clubs encouraged each other to commit public outrages over their meat and drink.
There were in the reign of Queen Anne and later many such clubs — notably "the Mums," "the Hectors," "the Sorcerers," and "the Nickers." The chief delight of the later was " to smash windows with showers of half pence;" but "the Mohocks" were a ruffianly and blood-thirsty crew. "Their avowed design was mischief, and upon this foundation all their rules and orders were framed. They took care to drink themselves into a condition beyond reason or humanity, and then made a general sally, and attacked all who were in the streets. Some were knocked down, others stabbed, and others cut and carbonadoed." The fiends spared neither sex nor age. They were the subject of a Royal Proclamation in 1712; but they held their orgies and flourished in their villainies until the end of the reign of George the First. Victor Hugo revelled in the doings of these and similar clubs (the accounts of some of whose brutal frolics are, in many cases, no doubt much exaggerated) in his graphic, if often curious and misleading, pictures of the English in Le Homme qui rit.
Hatton, Joseph. Clubland London and Provincial. London: J. S. Vertie, 1890. Internet Archive version of a copy in the University of Toronto Library. Web. 1 March 2012.
Last modified 1 March 2012