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SIR FREDERIC MADDEN, K.H., F.R.S.,
KEEPER OF THE MSS. IN THE BRITISH MUSEUM,
HOWARD STAUNTON, Esq.,
OF STREATHAM, SURREY.
There are two excellent reasons why I should have dedicated to you the following chapters on Chess. In the first place, you have, each of you, done the Good Cause, "some yeoman service," and, if I well recollect, you have promised to do something more. Secondly, you are, in a remote degree, the authors, or, at all events, the prompters of this work of mine; barring, of course, its faults and shortcomings, which are all my own.
You will recollect, that, some six years ago, I drew up, at your suggestion, a few Essays on the Eastern origin of the Royal Game, which, from time to time, appeared in the columns of the "Illustrated London News." Those hasty sketches were then favourably received, by the lovers of Chess literature, both in this country and abroad. They were subsequently reproduced in our own "Chess Player's Chronicle;" and
were even deemed not unworthy of being translated into the manly and energetic language of our kinsfolk of Germany.
Within the last two years, I have, at leisure times, carefully revised my original sketches; and, to use the words of Dr. Johnson, I have endeavoured "to make them better," in three ways,-" by putting out, by adding, and by correcting." The adding process, (whether an improvement or not, I must leave you to judge), is certainly the most conspicuous; for the octavo tome now before you is at least seven times the size of the original brochure. I am quite sensible, however, that the work has still many faults, both of omission and commission; and all I can say is, that I believe the design to be good. I think I have proved that the GAME OF CHESS was invented in India, and nowhere else, in very remote times; and from that source I have endeavoured to trace its diffusion throughout the various regions of the Old World.
In my account of the "Modern Oriental Chess" (chapters XVI. & XVII.), you will perceive that there still remain some blanks to be filled up. For obvious reasons, I have been unable to procure any reliable description of the game as now played in the Japanese Empire, which, for more than two centuries, has been closed against all good Christians. I may say the same respecting the vast regions inhabited by the Tartars and Mongols, extending from the Caspian Sea to the Great Chinese Wall; also of the countries situated between India and China (with the exception of Burmha), which, though not absolutely forbidden ground, are rarely
visited by Europeans, and these visitors not necessarily Chess-players. Such deficiencies, however, may be supplied in the course of time, especially those regarding the Japanese Game, now that we have established a friendly intercourse with the government and people of that interesting country.
It remains for me briefly to notice my mode of spelling Oriental words and phrases in the following work. I have adopted the admirable system propounded nearly eighty years ago, by the eminent Sir William Jones, viz:-"pronounce the vowels as in German or Italian, and the consonants, as in English." Thus the three vowels, a, i, and u, if unaccented, have the same sounds as in the English words "fat," "fit," and (oo in) "foot" respectively. The same, accented, are sounded long, as in "far," "police," and "rule." The vowel e, is always sounded as ea in "bear;" and o as oa in boat." The consonants require very little notice. The combinations kh and gh are the only sounds that differ from our own; kh is the German "ch" in "buch,” and gh is the German g in the word "sagen." The Oriental scholar will at once perceive the object of distinguishing some letters, such as k, s, t, &c. by a dot underneath, but this does not in any perceptible degree affect their sound. A few words have become so inveterately established in our language, by evil custom, that it would be sheer pedantry to disturb them; such for instance are "Caliph," and "Caliphate," instead of Khalifa, and Khilafat.
By rigidly following Sir William Jones's system in
Oriental words and phrases, I have been enabled altogether to discard Asiatic characters from my work. To the Oriental scholar, such characters would be superfluous to the non-Oriental, useless. Besides, I am not the least ambitious of obtaining for myself that sort of vulgar reputation for profound learning which consists in merely exhibiting one's knowledge of a multitude of uncouth alphabets.
GENTLEMEN, I commenced, as you may observe, with a DEDICATION; but I find that I am imperceptibly drifting into a PREFACE, which last, they say, nobody ever reads. I will, therefore, at once conclude, wishing you long life and prosperity; and hoping that you will bring down to the present day, from the points at which I have stopped short, the History of the "most excellent game that the wit of man has yet devised."
58, Burton Crescent, AUGUST, 1860.
I am, Gentlemen,