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The following remarks by Sir John Fielding[10] upon the dangerous classes to be found in our metropolitan Coffee-houses three-quarters of a century since, are described as "necessary Cautions to all Strangers resorting thereto."

"A stranger or foreigner should particularly frequent the Coffee-houses in London. These are very numerous in every part of the town; will give him the best insight into the different characters of the people, and the justest notion of the inhabitants in general, of all the houses of public resort these are the least dangerous. Yet, some of these are not entirely free from sharpers. The deceivers of this denomination are generally descended from families of some repute, have had the groundwork of a genteel education, and are capable of making a tolerable appearance. Having been equally profuse of their own substance and character, and learned, by having been undone, the ways of undoing, they lie in wait for those who have more wealth and less knowledge of the town. By joining you in discourse, by admiring what you say, by an officiousness to wait upon you, and to assist you in anything you want to have or know, they insinuate themselves into the company and acquaintance of strangers, whom they watch every opportunity of fleecing. And if one finds in you the least inclination to cards, dice, the billiard-table, bowling-green, or any other sort of gaming, you are morally sure of being taken in. For this set of gentry are adepts in all the arts of knavery and tricking. If, therefore, you should observe a person, without any previous acquaintance, paying you extraordinary marks of civility; if he puts in for a share of your conversation with a pretended air of deference; if he tenders his assistance, courts your acquaintance, and would be suddenly thought your friend, avoid him as a pest; for these are the usual baits by which the unwary are caught."

[10] 'The Magistrate: Description of London and Westminster,' 1776.

John Timbs
Club Life of London Vol. II
London, 1866