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The Danes were early fond of Chess and dice, for Bishop Etheric, coming to Canute the Great about midnight upon urgent business, found the King and his courtiers engaged at play ; some at dice, and others at Chess.
Chess has from a very early period been: a favourite game among the inhabitants of Iceland; many of whom, particularly those who inhabit the western part of that island, are at this day very skilful players, peasants as well as gentlemen. The same rules which are observed in other countries, are with very few exceptions followed here; the words and phrases in the game are those which were adopted by the ancient Norwegians.
It is a custom among the most illustrious Goths and Swedes, when they intend to marry their daughters, to prove the disposition of the suitors that come to them, and to know their passions, especially by playing with them at tables, or Chess. For at these games, the passions and motions of their minds, and the forces and
properties of their fortunes are used to be seen: as whether the wooer be rudely disposed, that he will indiscreetly rejoice, and suddenly triumph when he wins ; or whether, when he is wronged he can patiently and wisely endure it.
OF THE POWERFUL EFFECTS OF CHESS
ON THE MIND AND PASSIONS.
The great interest taken in this warlike game—the importance attached to a victory —and the disgrace attending defeat, are exemplified in numerous instances handed down to us by various writers, of which the most worthy of notice are the following,
The Anatomy of Melancholy * says, William the Conqueror, in his younger years, playing at Chess with the Prince of France (Dauphiny was not annexed to that Crown in those days,) losing a mate, knocked the chess-board about his
* This extraordinary book, this heterogeneous mass of learned quotations, which long slept in obscurity on old book stalls, unless occasionally rescued by curiosity for the trifling sum of one shilling, was brought into public notice and admiration by a paper read to the Philosophical Society of Manchester, January 21, 1791, (see Vol. IV. p. 4 of their Transactions), by Dr. Ferriar ; in which he clearly proves, that to this book Sterne owes much of his apparently original humour. The price, which before seldom exceeded half-a-crown, now rose to one guinea and one guinea and a half, if the copy was in good condition, and bound in the usual stile of modern elegance. Commerce, ever on the watch, soon occasioned an edition to be published in 2 vols. 8vo. but so great was the public curiosity become, and such the rapid demand, that the whole was speedily taken off, and in the meantime the original editions scarcely sunk in value a moment. The book was published under the signature of Democritus Junior. It was first printed in quarto, afterwards in folio in 1624, 1628, 1632, 1638, 1651, and 1652; and it is said the bookseller got a fortune by it. The author having foretold his own death, was strongly suspected of causing it himself rather than that his prophecy should be belied.
pate, a cause afterwards of much enmity betwixt them.
King John was playing at Chess when the deputies from Rouen came to acquaint him that their city was besieged, but
The public seems to catch at a circumstance of this kind; and for the same reason, The Divine Weeks and Works of Du Bartas, from which it is supposed Milton freely drew, has experienced a similar, though not an equal rise.
he would not hear them until he had finished his
game. Charles I. was also playing at it when news was brought of the resolution of the Scots to sell him to the English; but so little was he discomposed by this alarming intelligence, that he continued his game with the utmost com posure.
In a battle between the French and English, in the year 1117, an English knight seizing the bridle of Louis le Gros, and crying to his comrades, “ the King is taken !" the Prince struck him to the ground with his sword, saying “ Ne sçais tu pas qu'aux echecs on ne prend pas le roi ?"_“ Dost thou not know that at chess the king is never taken ?” The meaning of which is, that at the
game of Chess, when the king is reduced to that pass, that there is no way for him to escape, the game ends ; because the royal piece is not to be exposed to an imaginary affront.
John Frederic, Elector of Saxony, was, in 1547, taken prisoner by the Emperor Charles V. and condemned to suffer death by being beheaded.
This decree was intimated to the Elec