Whist - A Poem in Twelve Cantos

By: Alexander Thomson, Esq.

Second Edition of 1792, Page 21


"Let India vaunt her children's vast address,

Who first contriv'd the warlike sport of Chess;

Let nice Piquette the boast of France remain,

And studious Ombre be the pride of Spain;

Invention's praise shall England yield to none,

While she can call delightful Whist her own.


But to what name we this distinction owe,

Is not so easy for us now to know:

The British annals all are silent here,

Nor deign one friendly hint our doubts to clear:


Ev'n Hume himself, whose philosophic mind

Could not but love a pastime so refin'd:

Ungrateful Hume, who, till his dying day,

Continued still his fav'rite game to play;

Tho' many a curious fact his page supplies,

To this important point a place denies."



The name of Hume in the poem refers to David Hume, born April 26, 1711, and died August 25, 1776, in Edinburgh, Scotland. He was a philosopher and historian from Scotland. Along with Adam Smith and Thomas Reid, David Hume was one of the most important figures in the Scottish Enlightenment. Many regard David Hume as the third and most radical of the so-called British Empiricists, after the English John Locke and the Anglo-Irish George Berkeley.

Quoted: "We may at this period of his life consider Hume as having reached the age when the mind has entirely ceased to bend to circumstances, and cannot be made to alter its habits. Speaking of him in this advanced period of his life, an author signing himself G. N. and detailing some anecdotes of Hume, with whom he says he was acquainted, states (in the Scots Magazine), that "his great views of being singular, and a vanity to show himself superior to most people, led him to advance many axioms that were dissonant to the opinions of others, and led him into sceptical doctrines, only to show how minute and puzzling they were to other folk; in so far, that I have often seen him (in various companies, according as he saw some enthusiastic person there), combat either their religious or political principles; nay, after he had struck them dumb, take up the argument on their side, with equal good humour, wit, and jocoseness, all to show his pre-eminency." The same person mentions his social feelings, and the natural disposition of his temper to flow with the current of whatever society he was in; and that while he never gambled, he had a natural liking to whist playing, and was so accomplished a player as to be the subject of a shameless proposal on the part of a needy man of rank, for bettering their mutual fortunes, which it need not be said was repelled.

Footnote included: "Upon his return to Edinburgh, though he found himself weaker, yet his cheerfulness never abated; and he continued to divert himself, as usual, with correcting his own works for a new edition, with reading books of amusement, with the conversation of his friends; and sometimes, in the evening, with a party at his favorite game of whist." - Dr. Adam Smith, Letter to Wm. Strahan.

For a complete reading of the publication of David Hume the following link will provide the reader with the publication Life and Correspondence of David Hume, from the papers bequeathed by his nephew to the Royal Society of Edinburgh; and other original sources, Volume II, written and compiled by Mr. John Hill Burton, Esq. This is a .pdf file and will be automatically opened by the browser.