Dear Mr. Cornhill, Regarding the Loo

Published:December 19, 2008 by Brendan Wolfe

Having written an earlier post on the writer George Tucker, I thought I’d share this interesting little bit from his oeuvre. (More interesting than his 1827 novel A Voyage to the Moon; with Some Account of the Manners and Customs, Science and Philosophy, of the People of Morosofia, and Other Lunarians? Well, no. But still.)

In his excellent introduction to The Life and Philosophy of George Tucker (a four-volume set you can have delivered by Christmas for a mere $840, not counting shipping), James Fieser makes mention of “A Letter from Hickory Cornhill,” a satirical poem published in the Richmond Enquirer on January 15, 1806. In it, Tucker, under the pseudonym Hickory Cornhill, criticizes women who gamble at Loo, a card game popular in Richmond at the time.

I know. Gasp! I can’t imagine such a thing. Women playing cards? I wonder how George Tucker would have reacted to my grandmother, who once kicked my cousin out of her (my grandmother’s) home for going out on her (my grandmother) in hearts. Is hearts even a game you can “go out” on? I don’t know. I never really caught the card bug myself. But the Richmond ladies did, so I looked up the poem.

Turns out that Tucker was not, in fact, assuming the pseudonym Hickory Cornhill, most excellent moniker that it is, but merely responding to said Cornhill.

The poem is titled, “An anfwer to Hickory Cornhill, Efq. from his friend in the Country.”

And it begins as such:

Dear Hickory, your letter came fafely to hand;
I am glad you have rhyme fo much at command;
But own that one half o’n’t I can’t underfstand.
Such a ftory you tell me of playing at loo,
I fhould with from my heart that it all was not true;
But my friend is not like the vain fparks of the town,
Who fuppofe that with us any tale will go down:
As a plain hoeft farmer, you tongue and your pen
Will always tell truth about women or men—
I muft therefore believe you, yet thinking that the wave
Of the gentry in Richmond, are ftrange now-a-days;
That the Belles, fo gentle, fhould gamble for money!
But pray, let me afk you, what’s meant by the Poney?

Indeed. What IS meant by the Poney? We await the annotated version from Professor Fieser, but fear the cost.