This fraternity of artists--whether they were to be denominated
rooks, sharps, sharpers, black-legs, Greeks, or gripes--were
exceedingly numerous, and were dispersed among all ranks of
 So called because rooks are famous for stealing materials out
of other birds' nests to build their own.
The follies and vices of others--of open-hearted youth in
particular--were the great game or pursuit of this odious crew.
Though cool and dispassionate themselves, they did all in their
power to throw others off their guard, that they might make their
advantage of them.
In others they promoted excess of all kinds, whilst they
themselves took care to maintain the utmost sobriety and
temperance. 'Gamesters,' says Falconer, 'whose minds must be
always on the watch to take advantages, and prepared to form
calculations, and to employ the memory, constantly avoid a full
meal of animal food, which they find incapacitates them for play
nearly as much as a quantity of strong liquor would have done,
for which reason they feed chiefly on milk and vegetables.'