Still reading The Lion and the Throne (see the previous post), I have come to Chapter Seven, which begins with the following epigraph:

      Anthony Bacon to his mother, Lady Bacon

18 July, 1593
Our most honorable and kind friend the Earl of Essex was here yesterday three hours, and hath most friendly and freely promised to set up, as they say, his whole rest of favour and credit for my brother‘s preferment before Mr. Cooke. . . . His Lordship told me likewise that he hath already moved the Queen for my brother.

Bowen then writes: “To set up a rest’ meant to build a platform from which to shoot one’s heavy cannon. (‘The Spaniard hath set up his rest for England,’ Robert Cecil said in Parliament.)” But is this the correct explanation? The OED has, s.v. rest 1 (“repose or relief from daily activity”), 11.a., “A support for a fire-arm, employed in steadying the barrel to ensure accuracy of aim, esp. that used for the old heavy musket, which was forked at the upper end, and provided with a spike to fix it in the ground.” But this says nothing about heavy cannon, and has no quotes involving a phrase “set up one’s rest.”
However, under rest 2 (“”that which remains over; a remainder or remnant”) we find sense 6, “In primero, the stakes kept in reserve, the loss of which terminated the game; the venture of such stakes.” After several citations, there follows the phrase “to set (up) one’s rest, to venture one’s final stake or reserve” (e.g., c. 1597 “The kinge, 55 eldest hand, set up all restes”), and then (as a separate sense of the noun) “7. To set (up) one’s rest, in fig. uses … a. To stake, hazard, or venture one’s all on or upon something; to set one’s final hope or trust upon or in something” (1587 “we set our rest on the hazard”; 1599 “to set upp his rest upon these men”; 1635 “set up her rest in hope of England”). It seems clear that Bowen misunderstood the phrase; let this serve as a reminder to us all not to set our rest on an apparently satisfactory explanation but to make sure it is steadied by a secure rest.


  1. A familiar way to set up your rest is to put all your eggs in one basket.

  2. rootlesscosmo says

    the stakes kept in reserve, the loss of which terminated the game
    In some pool halls this was called “case money.” If you were shooting (say) nine-ball for five dollars a game, each player would put a five somewhere accessible, often on one of the lampshades above the table. At the end of each game the loser would pay off from his pocket; case money was handed over only at the point when one player quit–it was a way of signaling surrender. This also protected the winner for getting stiffed for the last win–as long as the five is up there, the other player still has five bucks to lose.

  3. Well done, Hat. A sentence from C. S. Lewis’s Studies in Words came to mind: “The smallest semantic discomfort rouses his suspicions.” Here, although the rest of the passage is not so relevant.
    Also not so relevant, here are some musket rests.

  4. The same term is used in bl@ckjack. In some games, you can double down even if you don’t have enough money to literally double the bet, provided you are spending your bottom dollar, so the term is double down for case money.

  5. Why “case”, I wonder.

  6. Perhaps “case” comes from “just in case you really need it”? Not that I have any evidence for that, but it is a use of “case” that has something in common with this one.

  7. HDAS does not give an etymology for case adj.
    Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang hedges its bets:

    ? it has been kept in a case of similar receptable
    ? abbr. SE just in case
    ? case n.5(2) a dollar
    which is
    ? Fr. caisse cash
    ? caser n.1
    which is
    כסף silver via Yiddish.

    Take your pick. Dr. Weevil’s is there.

  8. j. del col says

    Perhaps “case” refers to the case that pool sharks used to carry their custom cues.
    Busking comes to mind,–an open guitar case at the busker’s feet, etc.
    OTOH the case for a pool cue would be rather small.
    All this is sheer speculation, mind you,; I’m not an habitue of such dens of vice, at least not now.

  9. John Emerson says

    Cheese money. No special reason not to call it that.

  10. Serendipity? Last night I finished reading John Ford’s ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore, which I’ve also seen three times so far this fall. In the last speech of V.3, lines 71-79 in the New Mermaids edition, the protagonist Giovanni says:
    Despair or tortures of a thousand hells,
    All’s one to me: I have set up my rest.
    Now, now, work serious thoughts on baneful plots:
    Be all a man, my soul; let not the curse
    Of old prescription rend from me the gall
    Of courage, which enrols a glorious death.
    If I must totter like a well-grown oak,
    Some under-shrubs shall in my weighty fall
    Be crushed to splits; with me they all shall perish.
    The NM editor (Martin Wiggins) adds a note on 72 “set . . . rest committed myself to my final venture, staked my all. In the card game primero, the ‘rest’ was a stake held in reserve; to ‘set up’ your rest was to make a final wager which, if lost, would put you out of the game.”
    Giovanni has just seen his confessor give up on him and leave town, since he refuses to repent of his (consummated) lust for Annabella. For those who don’t know the play, it’s a twisted parody of Romeo and Juliet, a tale of forbidden love in which the barrier to happiness and the cause of 6-7 deaths is not hostile parents but the fact that Giovanni and Annabella are brother and sister.
    Not to look like one of the spammers commenting above, but the American Shakespeare Center‘s touring troupe is giving the play this year in various places in the eastern half of the U.S. Somehow most of the colleges and all of the high schools are asking for Winter’s Tale and Midsummer Night’s Dream, not Pity, but if they come to your town, go see them: they’re excellent. I took a job in the Shenandoah Valley just so I could go to see them (mostly the resident troupe, of course) every week.
    Finally, if you’re wondering what Giovanni has in mind for his final gamble, let’s just say that the ASC props include a very realistic plastic heart. Last time they did they play, it was done in the homer theater, and kept a pig heart in a bucket of ice when it wasn’t needed. I imagine that’s harder to do on the road. Hotels probably object to keeping raw pig hearts in their refrigerators.

  11. rootlesscosmo says

    In Carlos Saura’s film Carmen there’s a tense card-playing scene in which one player shoves all his chips into the middle of the table with the words “Mi resto.”
    I don’t think “case money” refers to a cue case. Part of the meaning of the practice is that each player’s case money is in a neutral, accessible place, like the lampshade; a cue case is highly personal. And one or both players may be using a house cue from the wall rack, or a sneaky pete (a high-quality cue disguised as a house cue)–taking a fancy cue out of a case is like advertising that you’re a hotshot. (This is, of course, a way of advertising that you’re a mark–which is, of course, just what a real hotshot wants to look like. It’s a jungle out there.)

  12. j. del col says

    I defer to the judgment of those who, like rootlesscosmo, have spent more time in pool halls.
    Obligatory movies: The Hustler and The Color of Money.

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