Loo at the library

Photo:Library on the Steine, 1778

Library on the Steine, 1778

Making a book!

By Maureen Brand, North Laine resident

In 1808 James Brown, a visitor 'banished' to Brighton to take the warm salt water baths for his health, described the way librarians of the day circumvented the legislature's ban on raffles:

"A large sheet of paper is provided, at the top of which are printed the words 'One Card Loo',* under which is a Line of Numbers from 1 to 52, against which the Adventurer, upon paying a Shilling per number, may write his own Name, or any fanciful Name he pleases, and at 9 o'clock in the Evening the Librarian produces a Pack of Cards which he turns up in order and the Claimant of the Name written against the Number which answers to Pam** has a prize of 16/-, against the Numbers answering to Aces 5/- each, and to Kings 4/- each, all to be laid out in things to be found in respective shops."

The squeeze

He describes the social throng at 9pm: "Host of ladies and gentlemen resort to the Libraries and frequently create such a delightful 'squeeze' that it is difficult to make one's way in or out, and, when one is got safe up Donaldson's steps, almost impossible either to stir, or to bear the intense Heat arising from the Presence of so many persons collected together, and the number of candles and lamps burning."

By way of explanation:

*'Loo' in this case may be short for Lanterloo, a game in some forms disreputable, gambling, or played domestically.

**'Pam' may refer to the clubsJ. in its capacity as permanent top trump in Five-Card Loo.

Pope's 'Rape of the Lock' makes reference:

"Ev'n mighty Pam, that Kings and Queens o'erthrew, And mow'd down armies in the fights of Lu."

[A useful website to check the detail of 'Loo' is that of David Parlett's historic card games.]

This page was added on 28/02/2008.

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