What Is The Origin Of (262)?…

According to Hoyle

This is another one of those phrases, no languishing in obscurity, that denote that something is done within a strict set of rules and, therefore, has been accomplished in accordance with the highest authority. The Hoyle in question is the English barrister and writer, Edmund Hoyle (1672-1769).

Hoyle’s claim to fame was that he was the fount of all knowledge on matters relating to card and board games. At the age of 70, in 1742, he published A Short Treatise on the Game of Whist, a very popular game at the time, especially amongst the leisured classes. It not only codified the rules of the game but also gave the reader insights into tactics so that they might improve their cardmanship and win a game or two. It was an early example of what might be termed an instruction manual and spawned a new genre of literature. Hoyle went on to publish instruction manuals for the games of backgammon, piquet, chess, quadrille, and brag.

So popular was Hoyle’s book on whist and expensive, a copy would set you back a guinea, that it was pirated by a couple of printers. This led to a battle royal over rights, Hoyle trying to keep ahead of his rivals by continually revising and expanding his book, resorting to litigation and, finally, including the legend, “no copies of this book are genuine but what are signed by Edmund and Thomas Osborne (his publisher)” together with his autograph on the title page, using a goose quill, no less.

It became one of the best sellers of the century and was cited as the final authority in settling disputes around the game and still is to this day.

Hoyle’s strictures on the game of whist was used in a rather forced simile in an account of a duel in which William Byron killed the unfortunate William Chaworth, immortalised in A Circumstantial and Authentic Account of a Late Unhappy Affair Which Happened at the Star and Garter Tavern, in Pall Mall by a Person Present and published in 1765. During the course of this account the anonymous reporter lamented how often men trained in the noble art of fencing, which presumably Chaworth was, were skewered by men relying solely on fury and natural strength, which presumably described Byron’s approach. “It is like”, he bemoaned, “a professed whist-player, disposing of every card according to Mr Hoyle, whilst an ignorant gamester, unacquainted with that gentleman’s maxims, plays in so extraordinary a manner, and so very different from the established rules, that all his antagonist’s plan is entirely destroyed”. It just isn’t cricket.      

The Town and Country Magazine I n 1786 reported on a gentleman, lauded for his skill at cards, who “played every card according to Hoyle, nay…he frequently made improvements on him”. Inevitably, the phrase gravitated from the narrow world of cards to a more general application as this passage from the Morning Chronicle of September 26, 1829, reporting on a meeting of the Third Reformation in Cork. Shows; “it is not altogether according to Hoyle to assert, as the Resolution does, that we owe the pure form of Protestantism to the Prelacy alone”.

Perhaps because Hoyle had a more limited influence on the lives of many than did Cocker, this reference to a well-respected source has rather languished in obscurity.

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