Belle AssembléeTo Stephen J. Mangan (aka Kwaw) at Aeclectic’s tarotforum we owe two recent finds on the early history of fortune-telling with playing cards. I include one here (the other soon) with his blessings. More and more references are turning up as google puts old books that are out-of-copyright on the web.

This 1820 description of a revealing card reading was published as part of an excerpt, titled “Confidential Servants” from a French work, Les Jeunes Femmes, of M. Bouilly, as published in Belle Assemblee: Or, Court and Fashionable Magazine.

To discover what her husband did the previous night, Madame de Saucerre has her maid read the cards. What is revealed, however, is the story of her own affair with a younger man:

“Good! well, let us see, now we are alone. Sancerre, who did not come home till midnight, will not come in before breakfast to give me an account of his sport.”

“Will Madame have the whole fortune?”


“Cut. Remark, now, that Queen of Hearts, young and blooming, with that King of Spades, with his long beard, and thick mustache. Disparity of age, that always falls heavy on the youngest party — I dare say Madame has often found that out?”

“Go on.”

“Do you see near that Queen of Hearts where the Queen of Diamonds is placed? That is Friendship, opposed by this confounded King of Spades, the emblem of an uneasy and jealous churl. I’ll suffer my hand to be burnt if something of this kind has not happened to Madame?”

“In fact, he has made me break off intimacy with a female friend: but we ought to sacrifice every thing to domestic quiet.”

“Oh! Madame, here’s a pleasant circumstance! Do you see that charming Knave of Hearts, who shelters himself beside his Queen? How delighted he is! and I think he is pursued by the Queens of Clubs and Spades; those are old coquets, and spiteful enough. Poor young man! he has nothing for his defence but that Ace of Hearts, emblem of a pure mind. How they do beset him — how they torment him with that Ten of Spades and that Nine of Clubs, which signify the blackest designs! But here, very fortunately, is a Three of Hearts, surnamed the lance, which signifies that the handsome Knight is armed against his adversaries. Good! the Five of Diamonds, surnamed the shield, which proves that he will defend himself with bravery. Hai, hai; is not here a Knave of Clubs, agent of the two coquettes, and sent by them after this charming Knave of Hearts? Hai, hai, hai; see, too, that nasty King of Clubs taking part in the quarrel. Oh! charming Knave of Hearts, what will become of you ? Ah! I begin to breathe again: here is the Ten of Diamonds opposed against the Ten of Spades, and the Nine of Hearts that stands fast against the Nine of Clubs; and, at length, that excellent Queen of Hearts, who is always the protectress of her faithful Knight, shelters him from all attacks, and binds him to her for ever by his gratitude. I would pawn my honour that Madame has saved some handsome young man who has been pursued by two wicked women; and who cherishes for his dear deliverer a recollection——”

“What a mad creature you are,” answered Madame de Saucerre, with a blush; “come, cease this nonsense and finish dressing me.”

(Note: this is an addition to an earlier post on the Origins of Playing Card Divination.)