hist-games: Whist / Ruff / Triumph

John McLeod john at pagat.demon.co.uk
Fri Sep 5 01:09:06 PDT 1997

Mark Waks <justin at inmet.com> wrote:
>> Whist: invented by Charles Cotton, 1674
>Well, first *referenced* by Cotton. I strongly doubt he
>invented it -- Cotton was a plagiarist of epic proportions,
>and I don't think he did much original. This is basically
>a variant of the Ruff family, of which there seem to be
>several games...

Thierry Depaulis' recent book "Histoire du Bridge" (editions Bornemann
1997 - ISBN 2 85182 560 7) is useful on this subject. He identifies
English Triumph (or Trump) as the ancestor of Ruff and Whist. 

On page 45 he quotes parts of a sermon given by Latimer in 1529: "The
game that wee wyll playe at shall be called the triumphe, which if it
bee well played, he that dealeth shall win". Latimer adds that at this
game everyone can win whereas at "blinde trompe" ... "they be no winners
but great losers". Later there are the phrases "heartes is trumpe" and
"we wil fyrst cast a trumpe in theyr way, and play with them at cards
who shall have the better", which provide some confirmation that this
was a trick taking game with trumps. 

The text "Cyvile and uncyvile life" (1579) mentions a game "at ruffe, or
Colchester trumpe" which suggests that the two games may be the same or
similar. Matins Months minde (1589) mentions "the auncient game of
England (Trumpe) where everie coate and sute are sorted in their

According to Depaulis, the name "whist" appears for the first time (in
the form "whisk") in 1621 in a poem of John Taylor (1580-1653):

"He flings his money free with carelessnesse:
At Novum. Mumchance, mischance, (chuse ye which),
At One and Thirty, or at Poore and rich,
Ruffe, slam, Trump, nody, whisk, hole, Sant, New-Cut"
John McLeod                      For information on card games visit       
john at pagat.demon.co.uk           http://www.pagat.com/

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