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BENZIONS BOOK., Issue 8036, 12 October 1889, Supplement
HOW HE LOST L 250.000 IN TWO YEARS.
[From Our Special Correspondent.] London, August 30. Notwithstanding delays, mysteries, and stolen proof-sheets, the Jubilee Plunger's book is at last in the hands of the public. Ihe first thing that strikes one is the extraordinary unlikeness of the writer's tone to the writer himself. Is it possible that the modest-minded person who chronicles such ineffable follies with such unaffected simplicity can be Mr Ernest Benzon '! If so, he must indeed have changed. My memory of Mr Benzon pictures a tall, over-dressed, rather Hebraic-featured youth, with loud, flashy manners, an offensive address to inferiors, and apainf ully apparent hankering for being in the foreground everywhere. The Mr Beuzon of the book—but—well, judge for yourselves. The book is dedicated "to all parents and guardians to whom is entrusted the responsibility of making or marring the future of the helpless children entrusted to their care, wishing them a full complement of discretion and amiability, and their watds a happy immunity from the miseries endured by the author during his minority." The first chapter is devoted to a 3ketch of his minority. He gives a rather painful description of the early period of his life. It appears that he lost both parents when a mere child, and m.ti.l he was almost of age, had not the faintest idea that he had any fortune whatsoever. As to what happened when he knew of the wealth in store for him he writes : " The possession of this knowledge brought, however, no amelioration of the discomforts and petty tyrannies to which I had hitherto been subjected. On the other hand, the paternal, and rather aggressive, solicitude of the Court of Chancery appeared to increase as the day for my emancipation drew nearer and nearer. I am, indeed, enabled to remark of my minority, that for absolute wretchedness its last state wa3 considerably worse than the first. It having been decided between myself and my trustee, and I daresay one or two other unknown advisers, that I wa3 to go into the army, I was sent when I waa sixteen to the establishment of a tutor who occupied r imself bycoachiug youngsters whose relations proposed that they should enter Her Majesty's service. Influenced, no doubt, by that perspicuity which seemed to rule all those who were somehow or another connected with my guardiauship, rny trustee decided that my supply of pocket money should he very limited; whilst for reasons best known to himself, the gentleman to whose care I waa entrusted took very little pains to win either my regard or respect. Although I was not a strong boy, 1 very naturally resented being treated as an invalid child, and without possessing any decided opinions upon the question of becoming my own master, I wanted a certain amount of liberty, but any idea of my obtaining even limited freedom of action was scouted by Mr . The plain truth is that wc mutually disliked each other from the first. Possibly he may have been prejudiced against me, but certainly we did not agree. He took no pains to conciliate me, whilst I resented the hateful espionage to which I was subjected." Mr Benzon resolved to enlist in the army, but first went with a friend to Aldershot Races. This same friend accompanied him later on to a well-known money lender in town, and introduced him, the result being his first experience of flying kites, which served to show " there was a big difference between an acceptance and the cheque one gets in exchange." Whilst endeavoring to gain acceptance as a recruit in the 10th Hussars Regiment at Shorncliffe, ho waa discovered by two detectives, who compelled him to return to his uncle. When infirst learnt that he was coming into money he had not the slightest idea of the value of the commodity. " Here was I, well within Bight of the Promised Laud of plenty, without a notion in my head of how to husband my resources, or how to get anything like value for my money. All I felt was that I had been shabbily treated by not being taken into the confidence of those about me, and I soon made up my mind that as they had not thought fit to make a friend of me, it was no use my thinking of making friends of them. The sense of relief and future immunity from the impecuniosity that had restrained my movements hitherto was delicious. I had no friend to go to for advice, for my confidence in my pastors and masters was shaken by their withholding my prospects from me, so I was compelled to do the hr.-.t I could for myself according to n-y own lights. In fact, the interesting piece of intelligence which I have already referred to had the immediate effect of bringing me up to London, where I ascertained that my credit was practically unlimited, and soon contrived to do business with a leading West end money lender, but only to a small amount, some L3O or L4O. After this I got rooms in Jermyn street, and stayed there until Ascot races, at which I met my cousin and another friend. I soon let them know I wanted to borrow some money, and they managed to persuade B M to let me have LSOO, upon a friend backing the bill, and I agreeing to pay LI,OOO when I came of age. 'This was enormous interest, but when one , does business with the Hebrews it has to be paid for. I soon found out, too, that West end tradesmen are marvellously confiding in the case of a minor who is coming into a fortune. Consequently, I experienced no difficulty in getting everything I wished for on credit. I must, however, confess that I consider that tho expression ' difficulty,' in connection with a minor (with expectations) obtaining credit, is a wrong epithet to make use of. If there is any difficulty at all in the case it lies with the unfortunate ' infant,' wlio has to dodge and evade the dealers in all sorts of rubbish, necessaries and _unnecessaries, who try and inveigle him into doing business with them. I believe that some years ago likely victims had a bad time of it; nowadays matters have become a scandal. I could scarcely show my face out of doors but tho hunt in the streets commenced, and had it not been for a preternaturally sagacious cordon of sentries who, very likely from interested and purely personal motives, placed themselves round me, I firmly believe that my bedroom would have been besieged by cringing tradesmen. One thing that experience has taught me is that the persons of this class who are most anxious to enlist the patronage of a minor, and who grovel in the dust to obtain their object, are generally the keenest after their money when the time for payment comes."
Mr Benzon's voyage to Australia yielded no remarkable incident. On arriving at Melbourne he put up at Scott's Hotel. "As luck would have it," he says, "we were just in time for Flemington races, and of course we went over to see them. Really, after this absence of time, which permits of any temporary feelings of enthusiasm being considerably discounted, I don't think that English racing arrangements are ah comfortable for the public in general as they are in Australia. Everything over there is so much better organised, and the horses (which usually run without shoes) are firstrate. In fact, I believe that there should be a good future for the animals which Mr White has determined to run in this country; and if they do well, and some ot their cracks come over later on, it is very much within the limits of probability that the Derby will go to Australia before any of us tire much older men. I very much wonder what the habitual English racegoers —men whose business it is to go racing, and who suffer from the most frightful inconveniences on attending some of the English race-meetings—would say if they could transport themselves to a meeting such as the Victorian Racing Club's spring meeting, during the progress of which the biggest Australasian handicap of the year is decided ? It is often said that from 100,000 to 120,000 people attend Epsom on Derby day, but during my visit to Flemington on Cup day I saw a crowd of from 120,000 to 1(30,000 people, and there was not a single symptom of disorder. All the arrangements are so perfect that the executive have little, if any, trouble in managing the crowd. By way of comparison, I would like to mention that a man in the ring or in Tattersall's enclosure at Epsom on Derby day, if he wishes to visit the paddock, has to fight his way for at least 300 yds to reach it. He doesn't know exactly where to fiad the particular horse he is seeking ; but having at leDgth found the animal and done his business in connection therewith, he has to walk the same distance back again. Now, to the man whose business it is to go racing this delay is of serious import. It has taken him probably half an hour to find his way there and back. During the progress of that half-hour the market may have changed very considerably, which it was directly to his interest to know and to take advantage of if he thought fit. At Newmarket it is somewhat the same. The same delays take place owing to the horses starting from all sorts of points and finishing at different posts. In Australia there is nothing of that description; all horses finish at one given winning-post." The writer goes on to admit that he lost a lot of money at Victorian race meetings: he knew nothing about the horses, but when the general public made a favorite he backed it. In four days he lost L.4,000, and to pay this sum it was necessary to raise money. "To effect this many and often were the visits I paid to an accommodating money-lender in Little Collins street. Our transactions were something after this scale: I would get LSOO for an acceptance due when I came of age for L 5,000, but the more I borrowed the less cash I used to get for the paper, till at la3t I used to get very little. Altogether there must have been L 30.000 worth of my paper in the Victorian bill-discounter's hands. Then the Ring were accommodating, too, and in many cases were good enough to take my paper for double the amount I cwed them. Altogether I had a very good but very expensive time in Melbourne. In addition to my racing losses I did a little card-playing; and must here remark there were a few men, not wholly unconnected with Melbourne clubs, who were capital poker-players." At one sitting Mr Benzon's losings at a game of unlimited 100, played with two other persons, represented on paper no less a sum than L 25,000. In speaking of New Zealand the author draws attention to two things that struck him as being very remarkable in connection with racing in that country: "the first is the size, bone, and substance of the New Zealand horses, and the second the beneficial effects on racing of the machine known to moat people in the colonies as the ' totalisator,' and in France as the vari-mutucl. From first to last my Australasian trip cost rne about L 63.000." Of the occasion of bis coming of age the author writes thus: " Something iikein round figures I had a quarter of a million at my disposal. Not all in ready money, but all in negotiable securitiee. There was about L 5,000 lying loose, and one of my guardians drew a cheque for that. Then I went off straight to Coutts'a, where the securities were lying, and with these as security borrowed L 50.000 from them. Of this sum I paid L33.G00 to Mr Sam Lewis, for money obtained for me before I came of age. I have no desire to complain of the treatment I received from the lender; upon the contrary, I think he used me exceedingly well, and always has been a great friend to me.
. . . Then there were those enormous Australian liabilities to be paid off. Naturally enough, the solicitor I employed took good care of me in settling up. Some fellows who made an absurd claim of L 30.000 against me took LSOO cheerfully, and so that was all right. Again, a mau named Barnard, who held LIO,OOO of paper, for which I had had L 1,500, received L 5.000, and then thought himself badly treated. When this matter came to be settled I was accompanied in my rooms by my friends, Lord S. D. and Mr G. 8., two of the best, who were exceedingly angry at my paying so much, as they thought 1 should not have paid more than L 2,000." To many persons, the most fascinating chapter of this remarkable autobiography will be that headed ' My Racing Experiences.' Here are a few extracts from it:—" The first race meeting that I attended as a man of full age was the Epsom spring mnetiug, at which I lost about L 6.000 upon i :: u nn, and got eased of a valuable scarf piu .. ■: the same time. In the previous chapter I have alluded to my visit to the Isle of Wight Steeplechases, to which I went within a very few days of my becoming my own master. Hero I was not very much more successful, the week's racing costing L 2.500; but I had a really good time of it and enjoyed myself vastly, tor money was not of much consideration to me in those halcyon days. . . I bought four horses in the Isle of Wight—Lucre, Philemia, Devilry, and Eve were there names—and I should have won a good stake over Eve in the big race at the meeting if the fellow who was riding had not fallen off at the last jump. As it was, I dropped about L 3.000 at the meeting, though I backed Eve for the race she won. . . Just at this time I had a good win, for Enterprise won me L 1,500 when he won the Two Thousand Guineas. The Isle of Wight trip cost me L 3.000, so far as betting went, for though I won a race on the last day I couldn't half back my horse. I paid Ll5O for Devilry, and sent him to Mr Arthur Yates to be trained, but he did me no good at all." Amongst many instances of his winnings and losseß we may quote the following in reference to the Hamilton Hunt Club meeting, where he ran Lucre in the first race ; " I here bought a horse called Bayonet, who won his race by a head, and upon whom I won LIOO, having laid LSOO to LIOO on him. I would have gone on, but they would not bet, as the race was considered to be a gift for Bayonet. My old friend, Mr Arthur Yates, was still managing my steeplechase horses, and I had Dalesman, Gamecock, Chancery, and Propriety, the latter trained by Sherrard, up at Liverpool. All of them won up there, and I had a real good time, winning about LIO.OOO. Then we got on to the Jubilee Stakes, at Kempton, where I backed Beudigo to winme L 16,000, and people weie very angry with me for the high way in which I was betting. It was here I was first called the Jubilee Plunger—a name I hate, although now I am accustomed to it. In fact, I got into trouble with owners all round for interfering with their market, but I soon got taught better than that. However, Bendigo won, and I had another good week, and consequently arrived at the conclusion that racing was the best game in the world. It was at this meeting that I first made the acquaintance of Sir George Chetwynd, who has certainly been, all through, the greatest friend to me that I ever had. If I had always listened to him I should have had the greater part of the L 250.000 now, instead of being without it. I went to see Sir Qeorge, in Cur?on street, on the night of the Jubilee Stakes, and he arranged with me that I should come into the stable,. After he had won a selling race I boughtßinfieldjbuthedidnotruninmyoolors until Windsor, when I won about L 5.000 on him, aB he had been tried very well. I again ran him in a selling race, and bet on
him ' until the cows came home,' and won another L 5.000 on him. He fetched L7OO at auction, and I was advised to let him go, greatly against my wish, but fortunately as it turned out, for he never won a race afterwards. After this I went to Goodwood, where I experienced a most awful time, nearly everything I backed going down. As a matter of fact, I lost L 20.000 on the week and L 30.000 on the fortnight. . . . After that four of us—Lord Lurgan, Sir George Chetwynd, Mr Hungerford, and myself—in Sherrard's stable went to stay at Manchester, and there I ran Stanislas, who won his race in a common canter. Of course I backed him, winning L 5,000. He never did me another turn, however, beyond winning a maiden hurdle race at Sandown, for which I was afraid to back him, as he had turned a cur. I sold him for L2so—a good price, for he wasn't worth twopence—a» this meeting. Again, I had a very bacl race over | Ayrshire in the Whitsuntide Plate. Wood rode him, and I had a lot of money on; but he got beat. Finally, when Stanislas started favorite for the Do Trafford Welter Cup of LSOO I had a dash on him, but hie could not get into the first three on the heawy ground, and The Sage won by half a distance. In short, this was a most disastrous meeting for me, as, though I had a good race on Stanislas for the first event, L lost quite LIO,OOO on the week. Then came what turned out to be for me a very bad Ascot. On the first day I lost L 3,000 ou Bendigo for the Jubilee Cup ; L2.G00 on Anarch for the Thirtieth Biennial Stakes; .L 2,000 on Revo d'Or for the Prince of Waias Stakes ; LI.OOO on Exmoor for the Ascot Stakes: and Ll.OOt) on Carraico for the G<ild Vase. The following two days were a littEe better, for I backed Exmoor for the secoad time, when he won the Visitors' Plate, and also Gay Hermit for a nice stake for the Rojvai Hunt Cup. I likewise won over Timothy for the Ascot Derby Stakes, and Whitefriara: far the All-Aged Stakes, and laid L 4.000 to Li,ooo on Ormonde for the Rous Memorial Stakes. I, however, had a very bad race over The Baron for the Gold Cup, and lost over, LI.OOO on Ayrshire for the New Staakes. I' also lost over Cayenne Pepper for the St. Jameß's Palace Stakes, and backed Whitefriars when Cactus won the Twenty-fourth New Biennial Stakes, and also Anmmite, who ran second to Everitt for the Wckingham Stakes. In the historic Hardwicke Stakes I laid L 20.000 to L 16.000 upon Ormonde when he beat Minting and .Bendigo, but I lost a lot of money when S jfe'ety beat Senanus in the Windsor Castle Stakes, and wound up by losing a thousand on Stone Clink in the Alexandra Plate. . . . After Stockbridge came the Northumberland Plate, on which I won a good lot ot monerj. Mr Blake having told me to back Exmoor, I backed it to win me L 16.000, and it won. After that we went to Liverpool, where I had a very bad meeting, hardly backing a winner before Castor's race, when I won LIO,OOO, and with all that in I lost over LB.OOO on the week. Then we ran Butt in the City Plate, starting at 3 to 1, and it was beaten a head by Bandmaster. Everything we backed went down that day; and I did no good on the week, losing, iu all, about L 5.000. . . . Then we came to Sandown Park, and I was going to get home all my losses. I laid L 13.800 to LB,OOO on Harpenden, which got beat in a canter by Humewood. Nobody knew then what a good horse Humewood was. Anyhow, he afterwards won the Cesarewitch. Considering Harpenden had to give him two stone, it waß not a surprise that he won; but I got a bit back on Satiety in the next j race. Still I could do no good. In fact, I i lost L 15.000 that day." j His gambling experiences in cards were! most disastrous. His opinion is that cardplaying is, bar none, the worst game ever invented, and if he should have money again he says he would never touch another card. "The first big deal," he says, "I ever had in this direction in England, and after I came of age, was at the Field Club. We had lots of flutters at the Field Club, and of course there is no good denying it, j we used to play very high, indeed. I have won and lost there L 16.000 or L 17.000 a j night." j
He attributes 1113 losses at cards to the fact that he played irregularly and for all sorts of stakes. There was no system about his puuting. He thus relates how he "took 011" the champion at pyramids, and what became of it. "To give you some idea of the amount of conceit I must have had iu me, although I think . even my eucmies will do me the, justice to say that it was not obtrusive, I actually went and took on the champion, Roberts, at pyramids. I should think no man in the world could have been so superior at his profession as John Roberts, because I don't suppose one could have selected a man so far above others in his own calling to have attacked. Nothing loth, Roberts at once accepted my challenge. He began by owing me five pyramid balls, which really any good amateur could easily have done, only I thought I was a tremendously good player. We played many games, he gradually increasing the points given me, on account of the money he was winning from me, and ended by giving me every ball on the table except one, and playing behind his back. He wound up by owing me thirteen and laying me 100 to 1. Iu one game I was eight to his nothing, and I laid him LIOO to LI that I would win the game. I' ran in ' twice; and, curious to relate, off a fluke I tjok two balls and won the gnme, and did win the sovereign. This little experience cost me about LBOO, which, however, I do not grudge, as I think perhaps it made me more chary of doing ridiculous things." On one occasion, playing at chemin.-de.-fer, while waiting for a train, he lost LIO,OOO in about as many minutes. What followed upon this incident is thus told: " Next morning Sir George Chetwynd came to see me, and found me in bed. Of course, he began asking me if it were true that I had lost all this money. Being pressed like that, I had to admit that what he had heard was absolutely the case, and this made him very angry. 'Why don't you,' he asked me, 'get the remainder of your fortune together and throw it out of the window ? There would then be some chance of your friends getting a little of it. As it is, you are apparently not content with, throwing money about all over the place, but you must needs have it lying about under your bed.' I had one great gamble in my rooms, and lo3t L 27.000 to a fellow who behaved very kindly to ne, for not only did he let me get out of tue money, but I actually got up the winner of LIGO from him. At that time I had plenty of money, and could have paid him the L 27.000 easily, but he did not care to benefit by my inexperience—dear old Johnny." On another occasion, having lost about L 15.000 at a Sandown meeting, he looked in at Park place to try and get it all back at baccarat. "After an extremely exciting game I did so, and, being most awfully tired, was just goiug away, when someone said ' Oh, you must take another bank.' This I was foolish enough to agree to, but my luck had turned, and I lost all my winnings and LIO.OOO more besides." We must quote in brief the opinions of Mr Benzon on bookmakers and moneylenders. "I have," he writes, "a good opinion of bookmakers generally. I know it is tbe fashion for backers who lose money by their own stupidity to abuse the Ring roundly, and say that all bookmakers are the biggest thieves alive. But for my own part I am glad of the opportunity that now presents itself for saying that I have always found them straightforward with me; and, considering what a flat I was, they offered me what were, upon the whole, fair prioea. I have often owed the Ring money, and they have not, with one or two exceptions, bothered me for it. In fact, I can conscientiously say that men like Fry, Wilkinson, Steel, Henry Morris, Perceval, Ulph, Silk, Connor, George Cooper, Greenall, and many others have invariably treated me well.
.... During my progress through life I have had dealings at one time or another with almost every sort of money-lender. I do not think I shall be exceeding the bounds of my prerogative if I assert emphatically that, as a rule, one's family lawyer is about the worst man a fellow who Is hard up can apply to for assistance,' especially if he wants the money quickly. How very different is the treatment a borrower reoeiyes from the best class of professional money-lenders. You go to him most likely in the first instance with an introduction from some client he knows, but anyhow he soon puts you through your facings, and finds W* all about you. If you are a perfect stranger to him, of course he wants a day or two to ascertain, not only if you are the man you profess to. be, but also
I that your story is the truth. Having satisfied himself upon these subjects he will let you have the money you want quickly enough, and he does so without any of those little delays and petty quibblings that usually characterise the conduct of the man of law. At first sight a shilling a month for every pound one borrows seems plenty to pay for money, and more especially so as the interest for the three months is usually deducted from the amount advanced; but in justice to the money-lender it must be remembered that all his transactions do not turn out trumps. Minors occasionally repudiate such transactions, and usually win the case if the man who has advanced them money takes them into Court. As in the case of successful bookmakers, most of the 'swell' moneylenders have worked their own way upin the world by dint of hard work and strict attention to business. The sort of genius that a successful usurer should possess does not seem to be hereditary, though in some cases the son is of direct assistance to his father in his vocation."
A chapter of the book is devoted to " Monte Carlo and Pigeon Shooting." When he left London he had only L 250 in his pocket. Dame Fortune favored him at the outset, for on his way he won LI,OOO at baccarat at the Washington, in Paris. On arriving at Monte Carlo he won another LI,OOO in a few minutes by "backing the black" at the gamiDg tables ; but before dinner time he had contrived to lose every shilling he had in the world. He was at a loss what to do, when to his amazement and relief he met a friend, who lent him L 250, with which he soon parted at the tables. " The rapidity with which one can lose money here is," says Mr Benzon, "simply awful. I saw one friend of mine, J. W., lose LII.OOO in about two hours." He does not think the pigeon shooting at Monte Carlo so good as at Hurlingham or Brighton, where, in 1887, he lost LB.OOO in one afternoon. As for the play at the gaming tables, he thinks it is perfectly fair, "and exciting enough to satisfy any gambler." In treating of London tradesmen, he says: " They a*e, as a body, the most cringing, supplicating crowd of people when they want you to purehaae one can possibly imagine; but when the scene is changed, and they want their money, they are at one and the same time most brutal and overbearing in their character." Jn a "Retrospect" Mr Benzon sums up his experiences, and in conclusion observes : " I freely admit that the Jubilee Year was one big mistake so far as I was personally concerned, At the same time, should I ever again come into money, I do not believe that the experiences of that, to me, ill-fated period will prove to have been otherwise than advantageous."
BENZIONS BOOK., Issue 8036, 12 October 1889, Supplement
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