Monday, August 29, 2011

According to Hoyle

‘…The playing at backgammon and draughts had been a frequent amusement of Mr. Whackbairn, Butler's principal, when at Liberton school. The minister, therefore, still piqued himself on his skill at both games, and occasionally practised them, as strictly canonical, although David Deans, whose notions of every kind were more rigorous, used to shake his head, and groan grievously, when he espied the tables lying in the parlour, or the children playing with the dice boxes or backgammon men. Indeed, Mrs. Butler was sometimes chidden for removing these implements of pastime into some closet or corner out of sight. "Let them be where they are, Jeanie," would Butler say upon such occasions; "lam not conscious of following this, or any other trifling relaxation, to the interruption of my more serious studies, and still more serious duties. I will not, therefore, have it supposed that I am indulging by stealth, and against my conscience, in an amusement which, using it so little as I do, I may well practise openly, and without any check of mind—Nil conscire sibi, Jeanie, that is my motto; which signifies, my love, the honest and open confidence which a man ought to entertain when he is acting openly, and without any sense of doing wrong."
Such being Butler's humour, he accepted the Captain's defiance to a twopenny hit at backgammon, and handed the letter to his wife, observing the post-mark was York, but, if it came from her friend Mrs. Bickerton, she had considerably improved her handwriting, which was uncommon at her years…’

In “The Heart of Mid-Lothian”, men enjoy playing backgammon.  Sir Walter Scott was reportedly an avid player.   The individual responsible for determining the rules of so many card and board games, Edmund Hoyle, died this day, August 29th, in 1769.  Hoyle’s “A short treatise on the Game of Backgammon” was published in 1743.

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