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Mr. Twaddleton," continued the major,,“ you speak as if it were an admitted fact that the • ludus latrunculorum' was synonymous with our chess. I admit that it was a game played with Tessera or squares, and Calculi or pieces; but it does not follow that it must have been chess; indeed, the learned Dr. Hyde, whose researches into Oriental games are as much distinguished for accurate discrimination as for profound scholarship, considers it to have resembled our draughts.*
“ You are to move, major,” said Mr. Sey
“ Then I shall take your castle, and open a fresh battery upon the vicar,” replied Major Snapwell.
“ So you may,” cried Mr. Twaddleton, “but you
will not easily drive me from my position ; supported as I am by Vossius and Salmasius, and an army of valiant combatants.”
“ The learned Hyde has endeavoured to prove that chess was first invented in India, and passed from thence to Persia and Arabia.
* « « Ludus Latrunculorum;' ludus, anglice dicitur Draughts, a trahendo calculos.” — Hyde de Ludis Orientalium. Oxon. 1694.
Fabricius considered it a Persian game, and I must say that I am inclined to coincide with him. The terms in present use may evidently be traced to an Oriental source. Schach, in the Persian language, signifies king, and schachmat, whence our check-mate, the king is dead, the original words having been transformed by progressive changes; thus we have schach, echecs, chess ; and by a whimsical concurrence of circumstances, have arisen the English words check, and exchequer.” “ I take your queen,” cried Mr. Seymour.
Ay; and I take a bishop in return,” said the major.
Well,” observed the vicar, “if an Oriental nation really gave origin to the game, it could not, at all events, have been China; since the policy of that people is to exclude females from every kind and degree of influence and power, whereas the queen at chess is a powerful and important piece.”
“ You must not lay too much stress upon the names of the several pieces," observed the major, “since they have varied in different ages and countries. The castle is sometimes called the rook, from the Italian word rocca, which signifies a fortress placed on a rock; the piece which we call the Bishop has been termed by English writers alphan, aufin, &c., from an Arabic word, signifying an elephant; sometimes it was named an archer ; by the Germans, the hound or runner; by Russians and Swedes, the elephant ; by Poles, the priest; and by the French, at a very early period, the fou or fool ; the reason of this last appellation seems to be, that as this piece stands on the sides of the king and queen, some wag of the times styled it the fool, because anciently royal personages were commonly thus attended, from want of other means of amusing themselves.”
66 You cannot thus account for our term bishop,” observed Mr. Seymour, " as our kings and queens have never had such attendants.”
“ Nor is it very easy to ascertain the period at which it was introduced,” replied the major; 66 in Caxton's time it was styled the elphyn. I should think it probable that the change of name took place after the Reformation.”
“ It is probable that the pieces not only underwent changes in name, but changes in value or power," observed Mr. Seymour, "as the game
descended through different ages and countries.”
Mrs. Beacham, who had been for some time listening with much interest to the curious discourse we have just related, here ventured to ask a question.
“ As you appear to have taken some trouble to ascertain the origin of this game, you can perhaps inform me at what period it was introduced into England.”
The major replied, that the learned Hyde supposed it to have been first known in our country about the time of the Conquest; but that Mr. Barrington believed it to have been introduced during the thirteenth century, upon the return of Edward I. from the Holy Land, where he continued so long, and was attended by so many English.
66 It is certain that our ancestors played much at chess before the general introduction of cards," observed the vicar, “as no fewer than twenty-six English families have emblazoned chess-boards and chess-rooks in their arms, and it must therefore have been considered a valuable accomplishment.”
“ Cards,” observed the major, “ must have
been known in England previous to the time of Edward IV.; since a statute was passed in that reign against their importation; but they did not become general for many years, and the progress of the custom appears to have been extremely slow.”
“ Check, - and mate !” exclaimed Mr. Seymour.
“ Upon my word, I have lost the game. Mr. Twaddleton, I lay this to your account,” said the major; “you ought not, sir, to have intruded your antiquarian discussions at such a time.”
“ It is quite natural that you should feel mortified by your defeat : a person never likes to be beat at chess, because it is a trial of skill and address; chance has no place, and no one, therefore, loses except in consequence of the superiority of his adversary. I must say,” continued the vicar, “ that this, in my view of the matter, is an imperfection in the game; for, if it be the type or representative of a military campaign, fortune should have some share in deciding the fate of the day; and, if I remember correctly, Sir William Jones has stated that the use of dice, to regulate the moves, was formerly introduced in the East."