Games People Play

WHIST is a card game well associated with the 18th and 19th centuries. But here is a game which sounds so much more up Jane Austen’s alley; it is called Conversation. The description of the game comes from the two-volume set of diaries (edited by Andrew Oliver) of Samuel Curwen. Curwen was an American, but he spent much time in England – hence the name of the book published by Harvard University Press in 1972: The Journal of Samuel Curwen, Loyalist.

It is March 1784, and Curwen is in London:

28. Fair but very cold sharp air… Dined at Mr. Charles Brand’s in Lambs Conduit street with our whole family, by invitation given 10 days ago. Drank tea and passed evening till near 12 o’clock there, the younger part playing at a game called Conversation Cards, which is done in the following manner. To each person is dealt 9, by 3 at each time, on each card is inscribed a word as King, Queen, Gentleman, Lady, Night, Morning, or any short sentence. The person on the dealer’s left hand throws one and addresses or speaks it, and so each peson successively adding some pertinent as he can invent till all being out of hand, the cards are [one word {ie, illegible or missing word; I wonder: gathered?} ] and the person who first threw a card down forms a story from his hand taking the words on his card for the text filling up the interval in the best manner he can till each has told his story; these being laid aside a new parcel is dealt as before &c. &c.
                        — The Journal of Samuel Curwen, Loyalist (vol 2), pp. 979-80

Conversation Cards, anyone??

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