After dawdling around Monaco itself, we went round to the 'Jeux' --- a large gambling-house established on the shore near Monaco, upon the road to Mentone. There is a splendid hotel there, and the large house of sin, blazing with gas lamps by night. So we saw it from the road beneath Turbia our first night, flaming and shining by the shore like Pandemonium, or the habitation of some romantic witch. This place, in truth, resembles the gardens of Alcina, or any other magician's trap for catching souls which poets have devised. It lies close by the sea in a hollow of the sheltering hills. there winter cannot come --- the flowers bloom, the waves dance, and sunlight laughs all through the year. The air swoons with scent of lemon groves; tall palm trees wave their branches in the garden; music of the softest, loudest, most inebriating passion swells from the palace; rich meats and wines are served in a gorgeously painted hall; cool corridors and sunny seats stand ready for the noontide heat or evening calm; without are olive gardens, green and fresh and full of flowers. But the witch herself holds her high court and never-ending festival of sin in the hall of the green tables. There is a passion which subdues all others, making music, sweet scents and delicious food, the plash of melodious waves, the evening air and freedom of the everlasting hills subserve her own supremacy.
When the fiend of play has entered into a man, what does he care for the beauties of nature or even for the pleasure of the sense ? Yet in the moments of his trial he must drain the cup of passion, therefore let him have companions --- splendid women, with bold eyes and golden hair and marble columns of imperial throats, to laugh with him, to sing shrill songs, to drink, to tempt the glassy deep at midnight when the cold moon shines or all the headlands glitter with grey phosphorescence and the palace sends its flaring lights and sound of cymbals to the hills. And many, too, there are over whom love and wine hold empire hardly less than play. This is no vision; it is sober, sad reality. I have seen it to-day with my own eyes. I have been inside the palace and breathed its air. In no other place could this riotous daughter of hell have set her throne so seducingly. Here are the Sirens and Calypso and Dame Venus of Tannhäuser's dream. Almost every other scene of dissipation has disappointed me by its monotony and sordidness. But this inebriates; here nature is so lavish, so beautiful, so softly luxurious, that the harlot's cup is thrice more sweet to the taste, more stealing of the senses than elsewhere. I felt, while we listened to the music, strolled about the gardens and lounged in the play-rooms, as I have sometimes felt at the opera. All other pleasures, thoughts and interests of life seemed to be far off and trivial for the time. I was beclouded, carried off my balance, lapped in strange forebodings of things infinite outside me in the human heart. Yet all was unreal; for the touch of reason, like the hand of Galahad, caused the boiling of this impure fountain to cease --- the wizard's castle disappeared and, as I drove home to Mentone, the solemn hills and skies and seas remained and that house was, as it were, a mirage.
John Addington Symonds : Diary