by William Makepeace Thackeray
Vanity Fair Cunning and Cleverness Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
Now Crawley, from being only a brilliant amateur, had grown to be a consummate master of billiards. Like a great General, his genius used to rise with the danger, and when the luck had been unfavourable to him for a whole game, and the bets were consequently against him, he would, with consummate skill and boldness, make some prodigious hits which would restore the battle, and come in a victor at the end, to the astonishment of everybody--of everybody, that is, who was a stranger to his play. Those who were accustomed to see it were cautious how they staked their money against a man of such sudden resources and brilliant and overpowering skill.
At games of cards he was equally skilful; for though he would constantly lose money at the commencement of an evening, playing so carelessly and making such blunders, that newcomers were often inclined to think meanly of his talent; yet when roused to action and awakened to caution by repeated small losses, it was remarked that Crawley's play became quite different, and that he was pretty sure of beating his enemy thoroughly before the night was over. Indeed, very few men could say that they ever had the better of him. His successes were so repeated that no wonder the envious and the vanquished spoke sometimes with bitterness regarding them. And as the French say of the Duke of Wellington, who never suffered a defeat, that only an astonishing series of lucky accidents enabled him to be an invariable winner; yet even they allow that he cheated at Waterloo, and was enabled to win the last great trick: so it was hinted at headquarters in England that some foul play must have taken place in order to account for the continuous successes of Colonel Crawley. (36.7-8)
We're so used to Rawdon always being called an idiot that it's sort of a shock to find that he's actually quite clever about some things. Here, of course, the moral problem is that gambling is supposed to be a matter of luck. If all the players are simply relying on the way the cards run, then it's a fair game. But when you play with Rawdon, you're dealing with a card shark who is really good and knows how to cheat really well (as well as pull a good money hustle, from the sound of it). So does this make Rawdon morally suspect? Or is gambling itself already so ethically problematic that Rawdon's cheating doesn't really matter?