Phileas Fogg was a big fan of Whist, he played it on trains and ships as he made his way around the world in 80 days. Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy were known to play this game in Wuthering Heights. I have seen the game referred to in many book and my curiosity was piqued. While the game is mentioned enough in classic stories, I thought it odd for a popular game to have fallen by the wayside over the years. Knowing only that the game involved trump and taking of tricks, I had envisioned characters playing a game similar to pinocle or possibly euchre. My inquiring mind decided to do some research.
Whist originated around the 17th century, though there is no real proof in existence as to the invention of the game. By the early 18th century, the game was not fashionable for gentry folk to play, mainly just the lower classes played it but by the mid-18th century even the upper classes enjoyed the game.
By the early 20th century, Whist evolved into the card game Bridge. I was surprised to find that Whist IS still played today, mostly in Britain though, which could be why this Yank had never heard of it except in classic English books. So if you like to be able to view a book in your minds eye, like I do, and you run across a group of people playing Whist, you can easily imagine them playing and ancestral version of Bridge.
If you are actually interested in more of the history of this game, or even the rules, please visit Wikipedia, which is where I got most of my information.