The first is an early American letter from Samuel Smith to his brother Edwin, dated September 20, 1810. The Smith family of Wiscasset, Maine produced several prominent Maine lawyers and one governor. What is interesting for our purposes is the line:
Wish you to bring on with you a little book of mine which I lent to you some time since, called "Hoyles Games", which I very much want, to perfect myself in the Game of Chess one of the games contained in the volume—it can be of no service to any one at our house
|Smith letter p1|
|Smith letter p2|
To get a little bibliography into this essay, let's ask what edition of Hoyle Smith might have owned. The first gaming book to be published in American was Hoyle's Games Improved, edited by James Beaufort. It was a reprint of a London edition first appearing in 1775, after the Hoyle entered the public domain (as discussed here). The the second and final London edition appeared in 1788. The book was printed in the United States in 1796 and was issued in three cities, Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. The imprints are:
- Boston : Printed and sold by William Spotswood, 1796
- New York : Printed for and sold by William Prichard; sold also by Prichard and Davidson, Richmond, 1796.
- Philadelphia : Printed for and sold by H. and P. Rice, no. 50 Market Street. Sold also by James Rice and Co. Market Street, Baltimore, 1796.
Other American editions which preceded the 1810 letter include:
- The Pocket Hoyle. New York: David Longworth, 1803
- The New Pocket Hoyle. Philadelphia: H. Maxwell, 1805
- Hoyle's Games Improved. New York: G. and R. Waite, 1810.
I have discussed scoring tokens for whist in an earlier essay and also discussed the third important English book on whist, Advice to the Young Whist Player by Thomas Matthews (often spelled Mathews), first published in 1804. About 1818, the Birmingham metal smith Edward Thomason made a set of 24 tokens each with a quotation from the book. As one would expect, most of the tokens present suggestions for the game at whist. The one pictured below is of a different sort.
|Mathews token obverse|
|Mathews token reverse|
Advice went through more than two dozen editions, most of which I haven't seen. While the quotation does not appear on page 47 of any that I have, it does appear in the book in a section challenging one of the most basic of Hoyle's principals—to begin with one's longest suit. Matthews recommends leading the single card of a suit in some situations. This controversy among whist players persisted until well into the 20th century.
The quotation in greater context is:
As I have ventured to recommend occasional deviations from what is considered as one of the most classic maxims; i. e. the leading from single cards, without that strength in trumps hitherto judged indispensibly necessary to justify it; I give all the reasons that influence my opinion, in favor of this practice...And I appeal to those who are in the habit of attending whist tables, whether they do not frequently see the players, who proceed more exactly according to the maxims of Hoyle, &c. after losing the game, trying to demonstrate that this ought not to have happened, and that they have been vanquished by the bad, not good play of their adversaries. I do not recommend in general leading from single cards, unless very strong in trumps; but with such hands as I have mentioned, I am convinced it may be occasionally done with very great, though not certain advantage. It may not be unnecessary to inform the reader, that most of Hoyle's maxims were collected during what may be called the infancy of whist; and that he himself, so far from being able to teach the game, was not fit to sit down even with the third-rate players of the present day.Finally, in the essay on whist tokens, I linked to an image of a set of tokens branded "Hoyle's Scoring Method." Here I offer images of a more pleasing set. The first images are the container for the four tokens.
One of the four identical tokens is pictured below. It is dated 1847 with Queen Victoria on the obverse and a seated lady at the card table on the reverse.