Monday, 16 March 2009

Chess Quote - Samuel Johnson & John Denham - Chess & Puppets

Samuel Johnson (1772):
[Painting by Joshua Reynolds]

"CHESS. n.s. A nice and abstruse game in which two sets of puppets are moved in opposition to each other." Denham
- from A Dictionary of the English Language By Samuel Johnson (link)

Dr Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) was an author and "arguably the most distinguished man of letters in English history" (Rogers, 2006). Johnson wrote the Dictionary of the English Language, which was first published in 1755. Some authorities believe that Johnson's behaviour and mannerisms were consistent with a diagnosis of Tourette syndrome.

The above chess quote appears to have been attributed to Sir John Denham, whom Johnson held in very high regard.

Sir John Denham:

Sir John Denham (1615-1669) was a poet, born in Dublin, and educated at Trinity College Oxford, initially training as a lawyer. After the Restoration, under the rule of Charles II, Denham was politically appointed in 1661 as the King's Surveyor. Sir Denham's last years were troubled with insanity, and on his death Christopher Wren (Denham's deputy) succeeded him as King's Surveyor.

A Dictionary of the English Language By Samuel Johnson - Google Books link
Rogers, Pat (2006), "Johnson, Samuel (17091784)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.), Oxford University Press.
Wikipedia Articles - Dr Samuel Johnson - Sir John Denham - Christopher Wren


Felix said...

at that time, "nice" meant "precise"

ALCHEssMIST said...

Thanks for that clarification Felix. Makes perfect in the context of the quote.