6 Annotations

First Reading

Stolzi  •  Link

Game of gleek


gives brief information on the game which Sam is playing with his wife and Aunt Wright on Monday 13 January 1661/62.

This page


gives more information and some charming names for the cards:

"If the turn-up is a Four (Tiddy), the dealer receives 4p from each opponent - or, similarly, 5 for the Five (Towser) or 6 for the Six (Tumbler), but only by prior agreement."

Trumps are mentioned, but a good deal of the game and the betting and bluffing involved sounds like poker. A page of a near-contemporary manual (The Compleat Gamester, 1674) is shown, where it declares that the game must only have three players, as we see happening here in the Pepys family.

Todd Bernhardt  •  Link

More info on Gleek, in a definition of "mournival" from Michael Quinion's excellent World Wide Words website ( http://www.worldwidewords.org ) and newsletter. Sam even gets a mention:

Weird Words: Mournival /'mO:nIvl/

A mournival beats a gleek. If we were playing poker, you might well comment equivalently that four of a kind beats three.

We are, indeed, in the realm of card games, though gleek, which takes its name from the threesome group in it, is one you have probably never heard of. People are first recorded playing it in England under that name early in the 1530s, though Henry VIII's first wife, Catherine of Aragon, was reportedly fond of it in her youth, which would take it back to the beginning of the century or perhaps a little earlier. In fact, it's almost certainly the same game as the earlier French glic.

It was a gambling game for three players, often called halfpenny gleek, penny gleek or twopenny gleek, whose names refer to the monetary value of each point scored, not the total bet. An English penny was worth a lot at the time, so losing could be expensive - in 1646, the poet and writer John Hall warned that "gleeke requires a vigilant memory and a long purse". Samuel Pepys recorded in his Diary in February 1662, "We played at gleeke, and I won 9s. 6d. clear, the most that ever I won in my life. I pray God it may not
tempt me to play again."

One phase of the game involved declaring any gleeks or mournivals of aces or court cards that you had in your hand, which gained money from each opponent. In penny gleek, for example, a mournival of aces got you eight pence from each of the other two players.

"Mournival" comes most probably from old French "mornifle" for a group of four cards, which may be the same word as that for a slap in the face (which might be the figurative effect of finding an opponent has one). Gleek is also French, perhaps from an older Dutch word that means "like". It's unconnected with the obsolete English word of the same spelling, contemporary with the card game sense, that refers to a joke or playing a trick on somebody."

Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

SUR. Heart! can it be,
That a grave sir, a rich, that has no need,
A wise sir, too, at other times, should thus,
With his own oaths, and arguments, make hard means
To gull himself? An this be your elixir,
Your lapis mineralis, and your lunary,
Give me your honest trick yet at primero,
Or gleek; and take your lutum sapientis,
Your menstruum simplex! I'll have gold before you,
And with less danger of the quicksilver,
Or the hot sulphur.

Bill  •  Link

But keep the gallant'st company, and the best games—
DAP. Yes, sir.
SUB. Gleek and primero; and what you get, be true to us.
DAP. By this hand, I will.
---The Alchemist. Ben Jonson, 1610. [The above annotation also]

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.