In Reginald on Tariffs, Saki writes:

[Reginald]: I should like, for instance, a really prohibitive duty put upon the partner who declares on a weak red suit and hopes for the best.

What does it mean to declare "on a weak red suit"? Would "suit" refer to a piece of clothing or a playing card suit in this instance, and what is the significance of it being red? (There is also a reference to a "weak red tendency" at the conclusion of the story.)

  • @user14111 bridge or whist, but not Contract Bridge (invented 1925 according to Wikipedia). Saki was killed in action in 1916.
    – mikado
    Oct 28, 2020 at 8:46

1 Answer 1


"the partner who declares on a weak red suit and hopes for the best" is certainly a reference to the card game Bridge, specifically the early form called Bridge Whist.

The game is played by two pairs of players, known as partnerships; this structure makes any player very dependent on their partner's ability, particularly in the opening stage where an unwise declaration (choice of suits) can be expensive, particularly in the valuable red suits.

  • 1
    Is "Red" significantly different from "Black" in this context?
    – mikado
    Oct 28, 2020 at 10:09
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    If one of the red suits was declared, the points (to the trick winners) were higher than if a black suit was declared (pagat.com/auctionwhist/biritch.html). I've added this new reference. Oct 28, 2020 at 11:58
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    @mikado: You would rather declare a red suit than a black suit in Bridge Whist, all other things being equal, because the trick values are higher than red. But if you have a strong black suit and all your red suits are weak, you really, really want to ignore the trick values and declare the black suit.
    – Peter Shor
    Oct 28, 2020 at 15:53
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    And of course, it should read "higher than black" in my previous comment.
    – Peter Shor
    Nov 9, 2020 at 16:17

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