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THE CHESS AUTOMATON by George Walker, part II

from Chess and Chess-players By George Walker
pp 1-37

 

THE CHESS AUTOMATON.

"Doubtless, the pleasure is as great
Of being cheated, as to cheat."—Butler.

Part II

But England contains a good deal of blood rather sceptical in these latter times as to the possibility of miracles, and there was not wanting a man now to stand up in the cause of common sense. Mr. Philip Thicknesse printed a pamphlet in 1785, in which he denounces the chess-playing Automaton as a piece of imposture, in no measured terms. Irrtly hitting the secret, he assumes that a child is confined in the chest, from ten to fourteen years of age, who pla;s the game; but adds, absurdly enough, that Master Johmy sees the state of the board reflected from a looking glass 'n the ceiling. In fact, Mr. Thicknesse appears to have b»en one of those true old English grumblers who find fair t with every thing, and therefore are certain now and then to be in the right, by chance. He had previously discovered a somewhat analogous case of curious imposture worth quoving, as tending to shew what had put him on the scent: —

" Forty years since," writes Thicknesse, " I found three hundred people assembled io see, at a shilling each, a coach go without horses moved by a man withinside of a wheel, ten feet in diameter, just as the crane-wheel raises goods from ships on a quay. Mr. Quin, the Duke of Athol, and many persons present, were angry with me for saying it was trod round by a man within the hoop, or hinder wheel; but a small paper of snuff put into the wheel, soon convinced all around that it could not only move, but sneeze too, like a Christian."

We wonder how De Kempelen would have met a proposition to throw an ounce or two of snuff upon speculation among his springs and levers ?

Mr. Thicknesse proceeds to assume that the concealed child may be equally enabled to look over the board, through " Monsieur Automaton's robes and hair-trimmings." A similar idea was broached, with equal ingenious fallacy, in our own time. The high price of admission is especially complained of by Thicknesse. He writes,— " E was one of the many who have paid fifteen shillings to shew iny i'amily the figure of a Turk, which has a moveable arm, a thumb, and two clumsy fingers; which, by pulling a string within the arm, can embrace or leave a chess-man just where a living hand directs it Let the exhibitor, therefore, call it a good deception, and I will subscribe to the truth of it; but while he draws a large sum of morey from us under the assurance of its being an automaton that moves by mechanical powers, he endeavours to deceive; and it is a fair ^ame to expose it, that the price, at least, may be reduced; for 1 confess it is a curiosity, and I believe as much money would be received at one shilling each, as is now gained by demanding five.

" I saw," continues he, " the ermine trimmings of the Turk's outer garment move once or twice, when the figure should have ieen quite motionless, and that a confederate is concealed is past all doubt; for they only exhibit the Automaton from 1 to 2 o'clock, because the invisible player could not bear a longer confinement; for if he could, it cannot be supposed that they would refuse to receive crowns for admittance from 12 o'clock to 4, instead of only from 1 to 2. Indeed M. de Kempelen had the candour to say to a certain nobleman in Paris who asked him to disclose the solution of the problem,  'Quand vous le saurez, mon prince, ce ne sera plus rien.'"

If not altogether correct, it is certain that Mr. Thicknesse was very like " burning," in the approach he made towards finding the hidden treasure; but the soi-disant exposure being mere declamation, unaccompanied by any thing like architectural drawings or detailed proofs, fell quietly to the ground, and withered not the laurel on which it dared to breathe.

But the period was now at hand when the poor Automaton was destined a second time to afford fresh proofs of the ingratitude and inconstancy of man. He was to be deserted by his brilliant train of admirers, and go once more, for a space, into outer darknesss Returning from France and England to Germany, De. Kempelen carried his Saracenic toy, by special invitation, to the court of Frederick (called " the Great"), at Berlin. This prince vas an enthusiastic admirer of Chess, and carried his de- vttion to Caissa so far as even to play a game, by correspondence, with Voltaire, sending a royal courier to and fro, between Paris and Berlin, with the moves. The Automaton beat Frederick and his whole court, which he might easily do, as the prince was only what is termed in the London Chess Club, a "rook player." Eager to solve the riddle, Frederick adopted the truly royal means of purchasing it. For a large sum, the Automaton Chessplayer became his majesty's subject, slave, and serf, with all its rights and appendages. The cash being paid down, De Kempelen, in a tete-a-tete with the King, divulged the whole of his magic art. Frederick's pride was mortified by the disclosure, though he never revealed the secret; nor did he send his purchase to rot, like a living offender, in the dungeons of Spandau. He was hurt, however, at having been, as he fancied, duped. The spell was dissolved ; the charm broken. The Automaton, shorn of its beams, and denounced by offended majesty as a swindling imposture, was carelessly thrown aside into an obscure lumber-room; where, for the next thirty years, it lay in profound repose, like the sleeping beauty in the fairy tale, awaiting the visit of the prince destined alone to dissolve its long inglorious slumber.

That prince came, and that prince was Napoleon ; sent by fate to stir up many other slumberers nodding on their thrones, as well as our mighty wooden Tamerlane. Napoleon came to Berlin, and the Chess Automaton was again himself. Freshly armed and caparisoned, did he gaily sally forth once more to victory. He had been forgotten, and was therefore received like a fresh creation. Accompanied, during the next few years of his life, by a demonstrator formed in the school of De Kempelen—then dead—the Automaton once more journeyed by land and by sea, in search of fresh victims. As of old, he was every where successful ; and the veil of necromancy which covered his movements, remained still equally impenetrable to the lights of philosophy and science.

Napoleon, himself a chess-player, honoured the Automaton by playing a game in person against it. The contest was marked by an interesting circumstance. Half-a- dozen moves had barely been played, when Buonaparte, purposely to test the powers of the machine, committed a false move; the Automaton bowed, replaced the offending piece, and motioned to Napoleon that he should move correctly. Highly amused, after a few minutes the French chief again played an illegal move. This time, the Automaton, without hesitation, snatched off the piece which had moved falsely, confiscated it, and made his own move. Buonaparte laughed ; and, for the third time, as if to put the patience of his antagonist to a severe trial, played a false move. The Automaton raised his arm, swept the whole of the pieces off the board, and declined continuing the game !

We must here pass rapidly over a rather long interval of time, at the end of which we find the Automaton Chessplayer at the court of Eugene Beauharnois, then King of Bavaria. Preceded by its colossal reputation, our figure (the property then of M. Maelzel, the celebrated fabricator of the musical metronome, and other works of art) fully sustained his well-won fame. Eugene was fond of chess, and money was of little object. He could not resist the temptation of acquiring the secret which had set the wits of the world at defiance for so many years ; and, for the second time, was the Automaton Chess-player sold, like a slave, for a price. Thirty thousand francs were asked hy the proprietor, and this sum was unhesitatingly paid by Prince Eugene for the machine and its key.

And now the moment has arrived when the treasured mystery of De Kempelen is again to he opened at the golden bidding of royalty. The veil is about to be raised, and the curiosity of the King to be gratified. The courtiers are dismissed the room, the door locked by Eugene, and every precaution taken to ensure his acquiring the sole knowledge of the hidden enigma. The prince is alone with the demonstrator; the latter, unhesitatingly and in silence, flings open simultaneously all the doors of the chest; and Prince Eugene saw—what he saw !

Mr. Blue Beard, at the door of the azure chamber, looked not more blue than did Bavaria's monarch; but Eugene faced the denouement with greater wisdom than had done the former royal purchaser of the secret. He shrugged up his shoulders, took a pinch of snuff, laughed at the joke, and, though he probably thought his purchase rather dear at the price, expressed much gratification at inspecting the figure in all its parts. He even subsequently placed himself in the necessary relation with the Automaton, and giving it the invisible impulse, conducted it during several games against some of his most intimate friends.

But, the novelty over, what was the use of our hero's newly-made purchase ? Napoleon's followers had little time granted them for rest, and Prince Eugene felt the Automaton likely to become a dead, as well as a dumb, weight on his hands. True, he could amuse himself with it, by suffering it to march in his suite; but it appeared a good player, a real living man, was a necessary accompaniment to produce the desired degree of eclat. The demonstrator, who received the audience, was not sufficient, and could do no good single-handed ; a player must therefore be engaged and attached to the court to conduct it properly, and the fox would be unearthed from his hole in a fortnight. The prince found himself in a most unkindly description of dilemma. He had got the lamp, but found he must also retain the genius of the lamp, or else throw away his toy, like a child when it has broken the works of its threepenny watch to see what made it tick. Prince Eugene was still wavering as to the course to be adopted, when the sagacious M. Maelzel, who had already experienced some regret at parting with his protegb, requested the favour to be again reinstated in the charge, promising to pay Eugene the interest of the thirty thousand francs Mr. M. had pocketed. This proposition was graciously conceded by the gallant Beauharnois, and Maelzel thus had the satisfaction of finding he had made a tolerably good bargain, getting literally the money for nothing at all!

Leaving Bavaria with the Automaton, Maelzel was once more en route, as travelling showman of the wooden genius. Other automata were adopted into the family, and a handsome income was realized by their ingenious proprietor. Himself an inferior player, he called the assistance of first- rate talent to the field as his ally. Our limits compel us to skip over some interval of time here, during which M. Boncourt (we believe) was Maelzel's chef in Paris, where the machine was received with all its former favour ; and we take up the subject in 1819, when Maelzel again appeared with the Chess Automaton in London. Here the exhibition drew crowds of visitors, and excited universal admiration. The press teemed with compliments to the wooden player; and its success, as a curiosity, was considerably enhanced by the circumstance of its almost universally coming off victorious. Maelzel well knew that the effect produced by the exhibition would be incalculably greater in proportion to the skill displayed by the figure. He engaged the powerful assistance of a first-rate English player (Mr. Lewis), who conducted the Automaton for something like a twelvemonth; at the end of which time he was relieved from his laborious duty by the celebrated Mouret, one of the first players in France.

Mouret was a chess-player of the Deschapelles' school, and stood deservedly high on the list of great players. His game was, perhaps, less brilliant than sound and sure. To make the play of the Automaton still more striking, it was now resolved that it should give the odds of pawn and move to all comers. Under the inspiration of Mouret, it accomplished this, hardly losing one game in a hundred. Fifty of the games played during the Siamese-twin-like connection of Mouret and the Automaton (body and board), were taken down, in 1820, by Mr. Hunneman, and published in a small volume. These games contain a fair specimen of Mouret's great skill, and embody some beautiful emanations of genius. Throughout the whole, he gives the pawn and move, numbering among his opponents Messrs. Brand, Cochrane, Keen, and Mercier,—some of the first chess-players of the time. Mouret, be it stated, en passant, had the honour of being chess-teacher to the family of Louis Philippe, king of the French. Every encouragement was given by the chess circle to Mouret's talent; but he unhappily formed habits of dissipation fatal to his respectability and standing in society. He burnt out his brain with brandy, and died recently in Paris, reduced to the extremest stage of misery and degradation.

While the Automaton made this, his farewell visit to London, several published essays appeared on the subject. One of these, by an Oxford graduate (Observations on the Automaton Chess-Player, 8vo., 1819), gives a full description of the figure, and its mode of playing; which was but slightly varied, and that in unimportant points, from what the Automaton appeared as originally fabricated by Kem- pelen. Its present proprietor had thrown the casket overboard ; but gave equal facilities of inspection to the assembled crowd. He held a lighted candle in the interior before playing, to shew up even its remotest corners, and then left the candle burning on an adjoining slab. The Oxford graduate owns, that, with all his research, he could not solve the enigma ; and dismisses it with a parcel of " probablys," leading to no conclusion whatever.

In that wherein Oxford failed, Cambridge was more successful. Mr Robert Willis, of the University of Cambridge, gave the British public, in 1821, an interesting work on the subject, in which the builds up a hypothesis, partly, but not wholly, based on truth, as will be presently seen (An Attempt to Analyze the Automaton Chess-Player. 8vo. London, 1821). Mr. Willis fairly proves, by figures and drawings, that a man may be concealed in the chest, able to overlook the board through the stuff waistcoat of the figure; having shifted his position in his lonely little cell several times, while the different parts of the apparatus were being exposed successively to view. This is something like the view of the subject originally taken by Thicknesse; but it is now beautifully and exactly made out even to demonstration, by the aid of a skillful draughtsman and mechanist. Dr. Brewster, in his clever work on natural magic, has copied his account of the Automaton from the work of our Cantab ; but neither he nor Willis appear sufficiently to have taken into consideration the almost utter impossibility of the concealed man's being impervious to detection, with merely a veil between him and the public. The least sound or motion would, in such case, destroy the illusion, and his very breathing would infallibly lead to ultimate exposure. i

Throughout the preceding pages of this essay, although we have said, probably, sufficient to put our readers on the right track, as to finding their own way to the centre of the Cretan labyrinth of which we write; yet have we purposely deferred fully uncovering our Mokanna prematurely to the gaze of the multitude. We now proceed to give our own explanation of the whole affair, and in so doing shall turn the Automaton Chess-player inside out. Our early reading supplies our memory with a bit of Sandford and Merton, in which one of the boys is deservedly reprimanded for taking the bread out of the mouth of the juggler, at the country fair, through neutralizing a portion of his legerdemain by public exposure ; and, for a somewhat similar reason, never should our good goosequill have dissected the Chess Automaton without fair and sufficient cause. Still this demands explanation. The two cases of the juggler and the Automaton, placed in juxtaposition, are by no means analogous. The conjuror at once honourably admits that he works by sleight of wrist,—by confederacy,—and also by previously combining certain laws of nature, and' established causes of effect, to produce corresponding results unknown to the vulgar.

The Chess-Automaton, on the other hand, stood before its patrons with a lie in its mouth; dipping his timber fingers saucily into the pockets of the lieges, under most foul and false pretences. Had the gulled mob opened their wits as wide as they did eyes and mouth, they would probably have broken Mr. Automaton's head ; and in so doing would have incurred as little reasonable or legal blame for assault and battery as they would do for ducking a convicted handkerchief-conveyancer. Other causes combine to give us absolution in the performance of our task. De Kempelen, Maelzel, and Mouret, are now all dead, and the Chess-Automaton will probably never revisit our shores. Mouret sold the secret of his prison-house to the French Penny Magazine ; and M. De Tournay, a member of the Paris chess-club, has also published an abstract of the matter in the Palamede. No one scruple of delicacy can cause us longer to refrain from completely unmasking this clever piece of sheer impudent imposture. The man who really played the Chess-Automaton was concealed in the chest! Such, in half-a-dozen words, is the sum and substance of the whole truth of the contrivance ; but the manner in which his concealment was managed is as curious as ingenious. He sat upon a low species of stool, moving on castors, or wheels, and had every facility afforded him of changing and shifting his position, like an eel. While one part of the machine was shewn to the public, he took refuge in another; now lying down, now kneeling; placing his body in all sorts of positions, studied beforehand, and all assumed in regular rotation, like the A B c of a catechism. The interior pieces of clock-work—the wheels, and ' make-weight apparatus— were all equally moveable; and additional assistance was thus yielded to the fraud. Even the trunk of the Automaton was used as a hiding-place, in its turn, for part of the player's body. A very short amount of practice, by way of rehearsal, was found sufficient to meet the purposes of the occasion ; and one regular order being observed by the two confederates as to the opening the machine, a mistake rarely or never occurred. Should any thing go radically wrong, the prisoner had the means of telegraphing his gaoler, and the performance could be suspended.

" But," says the reader, " what becomes of the vast apparatus of wheels, springs, levers, and caskets, which we ourselves saw ? Why did Maelzel require to wind up his man of wood and brass ] " The answer is short. These things were the dust thrown in the eyes of the public. The mind of the gaping spectator dwelt on the sound of springs and wheels, and was thus diverted from the main question. Mr. Willis, of Cambridge, with considerable sagacity, drew an inference from the winding up, by Maelzel, of the machine, rather different to that which was intended. Take his own words :—

" In all machinery requiring to be wound up, two consequences are inseparable from the construction. The first is, that in winding up the machinery, the key is limited in the number of its revolutions; and the second is, that some relative proportion must be constantly maintained betwixt the winding up and the work performed, in order to enable the machine to continue its movements. Now these results are not observable in the Chess-player; for the Automaton will sometimes execute sixty-three moves with only one winding up; at other times, the exhibitor has been observed to repeat the winding-up after seven moves, and even three moves; and once, probably from inadvertance, without the intervention of a single move; whilst in every instance the key appeared to perform the same number of revo- Intions; evincing, thereby, that the revolving axis was unconnected with machinery; except, perhaps, a ratchet wheel and click, or some similar apparatus, to enable it to produce the necessary sounds ; and, consequently, that the key, like that of a child's watch, might be turned whenever the purposes of the exhibition seemed to require it."

Had the deluded public reasoned on the matter earlier, in this close and shrewd manner, verily King Automaton would have been speedily deposed from his high places.

" But, again," objects a friend, " how could a man be concealed in the interior, when we saw all of that interior displayed at once ? " The same supposition was adopted by the original describer, Windisch; and herein again lay the real merit of the inventor,—that he ingeniously caused the public thus to believe they saw the whole at once, when, in reality, they saw its different compartments but in detail. Certain doors dropped and closed of themselves, with spring locks; others were opened in their places. The machine was turned round, but still was never wholly exposed to view at once. It becomes perfectly ludicrous to read over again Windisch's glowing description of the miraculous monster, when we find that even a reference to his own drawings shews that at the time he says all the doors were open, two were closed; and, doubtless, many of our readers who saw the Automaton in Spring Gardens, or St. James's Street, will recollect that, after the pretended investigation, which so irresistibly reminds us of the Trojans probing the Greek wooden horse, all the doors were locked before the machine played. It is evident, that had the thing been, as pretended, a creation wholly of brass, and wood, and steel, the cause of the inventor would have been strengthened by allowing the whole of the interior to remain open while set in action; for there would have been but little fear of a spectator carrying away the plan, so as to form a second Dromio. The secret once known, how clear a meaning is thrown on the words of De Kempelen, as to its being a mere bagatelle, or trifle. It was, indeed, just that sort of clever hoax an artist of first-rate genius might form to please the mob of society; but no wonder he shrunk from the eulogiums lavishly bestowed upon his Caliban, when he found his jest was construed into earnest; and that men rushed, so very open-mouthed, to drain the cup of credulity.

Every adjunct that intellect could devise was skilfully superadded, to enhance the marvel. The machine was railed off, for a now tolerably clear reason ; and a lighted candle having been first introduced into the body of the Automaton, to show the interior, at a moment nothing could be seen, was purposely left burning close at hand, in order to prevent any inopportune rays of light flashing from the interior, where a second candle was necessarily in process of ignition.

The director of the Automaton was quietly seated, then, in the interior. All public inspection over, and the doors being safely closed, he had only to make himself as comfortable as he could under existing circumstances. A wax candle supplied him with light, which the candle burning outside prevented being observed ; and due measures were taken that he should not die for want of oxygen. Whether he was furnished with bread, meat, and wine, these deponents say not.

To direct the arm of the Automaton, the concealed confederate had but to set in motion a simple sort of spring, which caused its fingers to grasp the man he chose to play, and guide it to the performance of its task. To make the figure articulate check, nod its head, or perform other fooleries, similar strings, or wires, required but a pull. It must be observed, that care was taken the performance should never last so long as to fatigue the player to exhaustion. We have before remarked, that the Automaton's chess-board and men were placed in public view before him. The concealed player possessed in the interior a second, and smaller, board, with the men pegged into it, as if for travelling. On this he repeated the move played by the antagonist of the Automaton, and on this he likewise concocted his scheme of action, and made his answer, before playing it on the Automaton's own board, through the agency of Mr. Wood's digits. A very interesting and ingenious part of the secret consists in the manner in which the move played by the stranger was communicated to the concealed artist; and on this, in point of reality, turned the whole thing. A third chess-board, blank, with the squares numbered according to the usual mode of chess notation, was fixed, as it were, in the ceiling of the interior; thus forming the reverse of the table on which the Automaton really appeared to play. Now, the men with which the Automaton conducted his game were all duly magnetized at the foot; and the move being made above, the magnets on the pieces moved set in motion certain knobs, or metallic indices, adapted to each square of the board on the reverse ; and thus was the requisite knowledge of the move played communicated to Jack-in-the-box. To illustrate this more clearly would require the aid of engravings; but we have given the explanation at least sufficiently distinct for our purpose. The real Simon Pure, shut up in his cell, saw by the light of his taper the metallic knobs, or indices, above, vibrating, so as to mark the move just played. He repeated this move on his own little board, calculated his answering " coup," and guided the Automaton's fingers, in order to its being duly performed. The happy association of magnetism with the figure, thus hit npon by De Kem- pelen, was probably suggested to him by the magnetic experiments of Pelletier, at the court of the empress.

Tedious as a " twice-told tale," is the dwelling too long on the reading a riddle. When known, its solution seems simple enough ; but the difficulty lies in its original construction. The Automaton Chess-player affords strong evidence of the fallibility of human judgment and human testimony. Thousands of individuals have seen its performance in Spring Gardens, and St. James's Street, who would have had no scruple about taking their oaths that they had viewed the whole of the interior of the engine at once. In this respect, the ingenuity displayed by its original constructor is above praise. Man loves so to be duped!

In estimating the difficulty of the problem, be it remembered, that it was never solved, until one of the parties implicated in the fraud turned king's evidence. Several persons almost hit the mark ; but none fairly planted his arrow in the gold. Had such been the case, a double of the Automaton would probably have started; indeed, as it is, we are of opinion that a similar figure would prove a first-rate speculation, in a pecuniary point of view, could the moving principle of action be changed, as it easily might, by a clever mechanician.. A man inside will, most assuredly, never again work the charm ; but, advanced as is science during the present generation, a Brunei or a Stephenson could easily, and successfully, vary the deception.

Referring back to our definition of the word automaton it must now be clear that De Kempelen's figure came not within the meaning of the phrase. " The movements which spring from mechanism," says Mr. Wallis, most truly, " are necessarily limited, and uniform. It cannot usurp and exercise the faculties of mind. It cannot be made to vary its operations, so as to meet the ever-varying circumstances of a game at chess."

The history of the Chess-playing Automaton, subsequently to 1820, may be shortly summed up. Having travelled over the greater part of Europe, it was transported to the United States of America, where for a time it proved that the natives of the New World were made of the same stuff as their elder brethren. Jonathan dropped his dollars freely; and the calculating spirit of the land of stripes and stars, methodist conventicles and chained slaves, slumbered beneath the spell of Maelzel's magic. A German accompanied it, as holding the important post of invisible demonstrator, ordinary and extraordinary. Lynch-law would, doubtless, have been awarded the trio, had the secret been discovered in that sweet land of liberty !

Carrying out the same principle of conduct, the Automaton subsequently took to playing whist, as well as chess. For some years, latterly, the figure has lain in a state of inglorious repose in a warehouse at New Orleans; and there we leave him, fearing the word resurgam may not be applied to its escutcheon. A similar bubble once blown, becomes for ever exploded in its pristine form.

Many must be the adventures of the Automaton, lost, unhappily, to the knowledge of man. A being that kept so much good company, during so long a space of time, must, indeed, have gone through an infinity of interesting events. In this age of autobiography, when so many wooden men and women have the assurance to thrust their personal memoirs on the world, a hook on the life and adventures of the Automaton Chess-player would surely be received with proportionate interest. We ourselves recollect once hearing some amusing anecdotes of the thing from Mouret himself. Our limits permit our quoting but a couple of these logwood reminiscences, which we give, by way of wind-up.

In a journey once through a remote part of Germany, the Automaton set up his tent in a small town, where a professor of legerdemain being already in possession of the field, a clash between the interests of the two parties was unavoidable. The Automaton, as the monster of later arrival, naturally put the conjuror on the shelf; and poor Hocus-pocus, in the energies developed by famine, conversant as he was with the art he professed, discovered his rival's secret the first time he witnessed the show. Backed by an accomplice, the conjuror raised a sudden cry of, " Fire! fire!" The spectators began to rush forth in alarm; and the Automaton, violently impelled by the struggles of its inward man, suddenly rolled head over heels on the floor. Maelzel flew to the rescue, and dropped the curtain, before terror had quite driven the imprisoned imp to burst its chain, and rush to daylight.

On another occasion, Messrs. Maelzel and Mouret were exhibiting the Automaton at Amsterdam, when it happened that the former was indebted in a considerable sum of money, relatively speaking, to his agent for his services. In fact, Maelzel, acting on the philosophical aphorism of " base is the slave who pays," had not given poor Mouret a shilling for a twelve-month ; and the latter found that, although a spirit of darkness, he could not live upon air. Mouret was lodged and boarded, but wanted also to eat. It so chanced, under these circumstances, that one day the King of Holland sent a messenger to engage the chief part of the exhibition-hall that morning, for himself and court; and kindly seconded his royal command by the sum of three thousand florins, sent by the same courier, Maelzel proclaims the good tidings ; a splendid breakfast is prepared; Mouret is pressed to eat and drink; and the parties are naturally delighted at the pleasing prospect of checkmating royalty. Maelzel hastens to arrange every preparation for receiving the Dutch monarch with "all the honours." The exhibition was to commence at half-past twelve; but, although noon had struck on every clock in the city, Mouret was not at his post. Maelzel inquires the reason, and is told that Mouret has got a fever, and gone to bed. The German flew to the Frenchman's chamber, and found half the story at least to be correct; for there, sure enough, lay Mouret, snugly tucked up in the blankets. " What is the meaning of this?" " I have a fever." " But you were very well just now ? " " Yes; but this disorder—O ciel!— has come on suddenly." " But the king is coming." " Let him go back again!" " But what shall I say to him ? " " Tell him—mon Dieu !—tell him the Automaton has a sore throat!" " Can you jest at such a moment? Consider the money I have received, and that we shall have the saloon full." " Well, Mynheer Maelzel, you can return the money." " Pray, pray, get up!" " I cannot." " What can I do to restore you ? " " Pay me the fifteen hundred francs you owe me ! " " This evening !" " No; pay me now—this moment; money down, or I leave not my bed !" The case was urgent, and the means of restoration to health, however desperate, must be adopted. With a heavy sigh, Maelzel told down the cash; and never had the Automaton played with so much inward unction as he did that morning. The king declined com promising royalty by entering the lists himself; but placed his minister-of-war in the opposition chair, and graciously condescended to offer his royal advice in each critical situation of the pieces. The coalition was beaten, and the surrounding courtiers, of course, attributed defeat solely to the bad play of the minister-of-war!

Westminster Chens Club,

26 Charles Street, Waterloo Place,

May 1839.

 

footnotes: 

"The moving the Knight successively over the sixty-four squares of the board, in as many leaps, is also a feat too remarkable to be passed over. As soon as the chess-men are taken off, one of the bystanders places a knight on any square of the board he chooses. The Automaton lifts up the knight, and beginning at the square on which he stands, causes it to cover the sixty-four squares in the same number of moves, without missing one, and without touching one square twice over. The spectator marks the squares in the progress of this difficult calculation, by placing a counter on each square to which the knight is played. No matter what square you first seat the knight upon, he never misses the performance of his task."

The above description of the Chess Automaton, as he first appeared, is as minute as can be desired: he played chess, and played it well. The data were fairly established, that it was impossible the figure could be in communication with either one of the adjoining rooms, the ceiling, or the floor; and the interior of the machine being apparently so.

  

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