« PreviousContinue »
the Castle, either Naukā or Rokā.1 The corruption is as easy as the French Vierge, from Ferz, and the only difference is, that Persian pride has endeavoured to legitimise the blunder by assigning a reason for it.
"The pieces we call Bishops, the Honourable Mr. Daines Barrington says, are called by the French Fou or Fools, and supposes the epithet to have been bestowed on them by some wag, because Kings and Queens were anciently attended by fools. I am ready to admit that war is but too often the offspring of vice and folly, and that it is no great proof of wisdom in Bishops to forsake their habits of peace for war, but think it is refining a little too much to stigmatise them in particular as fools on that account. Sir William Jones, in my opinion, adduces a more legitimate derivation, supposing the Fol or Fou of the French (for it is pronounced both ways occasionally) to be derived from the Persian Fil, or Feel, an Elephant. In Italian these pieces are still denominated Il Alfino, or the Elephant, and so they were in England at the beginning of the seventeenth century. Perhaps the French Fou may have been derived from the Chinese Fou, the grave councillors who attend on the Choohong or General, and who have the same diagonal moves as the Bishops; and their mandarin caps may have been changed with their names for mitres, as we now see them engraved."
The pieces we now call Knights or Horses have in general the same appellation in other languages. The Pawns, it is easy to perceive, are derived from Pãon (a foot) Hindūstānī, Piyāda Persian, and Padāti Sanskrit.
1 The Persian" Rukh" is evidently derived from "Roka." I consider its derivation from "Rath" or Roth" to be very unsatisfactory, and fitted only to the taste of those ingenious etymologists, among whom, as Voltaire hath wittily said, "the consonants go for very little, and the vowels, for nothing." -F.
The learned Doctor Hyde says, 'that the word Chess is derived from the Persian word Shah or King, which is often used in playing, to caution the King against danger. Hence Europeans and others have denominated the game Shachiludium and Shahiludium, and the English Chess.' The term Mate or Check-mate used at the termination of the game is from the Persian Shāh-māt, the King is conquered or driven to the last distress. The Persians, also, have a term peculiar to themselves, to denote the advancement of a Pawn or Piyada. When it arrives at the last line of checks in the adversary's division, they say it is Farzin or distinguished, and in case the Vizir or Farz has been lost,2 it assumes its rank, and is distinguished by one of the adversary's Pawns being placed on the same square with it.
When I sat down to write this letter, I had no idea of extending it to so great a length, nor had I, as you will easily perceive, formed any regular plan of discussion. I therefore fear it will not only be found tedious, but perplexed. Yet, however imperfect or unimportant in itself, I am induced to hope it will be received with indulgence, as tending to excite the inquiries of abler critics on a subject equally interesting and curious, and to produce that collision of mind whence truth is elicited."
I have the honour to remain, &c.,
1 Dr. Hyde, in this, as in most other things, is correct.-F.
2 The Captain is out of his depth here. The Persian word for what we now call Queen is Farz, or Farzin. On reaching the opposite extremity of the board, a Pawn immediately became a Farzin, whether the original Vizir or Farz had been lost or not. Finally, the word Wazir or Vizir is pure Arabic and not Persian.-F.
I now finish HISTORY OF CHESS so far as my original plan extended, as fully detailed in the table of contents. I am well aware that it contains some imperfections, partly owing to the deficiency of my materials, and partly arising from my own inability to do the subject full justice. In not a few instances, the reader may observe that where positive evidence could not be produced, I have had recourse to what Voltaire calls "the science of judging," which simply consists in the weighing of probabilities.
I have, throughout, to the best of my power, endeavoured to follow THE BARD's advice, viz.—
"Nothing extenuate, nor set down aught in malice;
and if I have occasionally expressed my opinions of men and things in general somewhat plainly and strongly, I can safely aver that it arose neither from malice nor uncharitableness. My sole object has been to dissipate illusions, and so far as possible to approximate the truth.
The late Mr. Francis Douce closes his Essay on Chess, &c., alluded to in page 200, with the following appropriate words, which I humbly apply in my own case, viz.—“ I shall conclude with a wish that the foregoing observations may be in any degree serviceable or acceptable to those who may interest themselves in the most excellent game that the wit of man has yet devised. The subject is certainly difficult, and I am not without
apprehension that future researches may convict me of many errors. To have drawn forth such a conviction, may, nevertheless, have its use; and it should be remembered, that in speculative inquiries like the present, the truth is seldom attained till many visionary systems have been destroyed."
The sixty pages of APPENDIX which here follow, consist of what the French call "Pièces Justificatives." They all bear directly on the main subject, viz." The History of Chess," but, owing to their length, they could not have been conveniently inserted in the body of the work, as they would have tended more to embarrass than to illustrate the narrative. The APPENDIX closes with page lx., which contains the explanation of the three folding plates to be inserted at the end of the volume.
Page 5.-Note 2.
Illustrated from Oriental sources; especially in reference to the Great Chess, improperly ascribed to Timur, and in vindication of the Persian origin of the game against the claims of the Hindus. By N. BLAND, Esq., M.R.A.S. (London, 1850.)
Nearly four centuries ago the venerable Caxton (honoured be his memory), presented us with the "Booke of the Chesse," as the first fruit of his divine art. Some two centuries later the learned Dr. Hyde of Oxford, ransacked the then "intact treasures" of the gorgeous East, with the view of discovering the origin, and of tracing the progress of the royal game; and towards the close of the last century the gifted Sir William Jones penetrated still further into the arcana of this enchanting pastime. He was one of the first of our countrymen to whom the Brahmans of India were induced to impart a knowledge of their sacred language-till then a sealed book to all that were out of the pale of their own caste and creed, and he was thus enabled to point out the true path to the very cradle of chess, which, when carefully investigated, will be found in the remote depths of Hindu antiquity. In our own day, we are indebted to the extensive information and accurate research of Sir Frederic Madden for a fair and satisfactory account of the introduction of chess into cen tral and northern Europe. Till the appearance of Sir Frederic's
1 This Review of Mr. Bland's "Persian Chess," appeared in the Chessplayer's Chronicle, for February &c., 1853, before I had entertained any intention of attempting a "History of Chess."