Background to "And the Baboon Played Chess"

I have a soft spot for And The Baboon Played Chess With The Emperor. This was the first book I published through Lulu. I first had the idea for a book of this sort back in the 1970s. I tried then to interest "traditional" publishers in the idea of a book based on the best bits of a Victorian magazine. No joy. But how things have changed. In the 1970s I wrote (manual typewriter, tippex and snailmail) to traditional publishers. One publisher came from London I think to discuss my idea with me in Cambridge. Another publisher invited me to his offices for lunch to discuss the idea. Somehow I could not imagine that happening today.

And so the material stayed on a backburner until I discovered Lulu. As with my other books I know that I am biased but I really do think that this sort of material deserves to be resurrected. I have copied some extracts below. Why not buy the book and see the rest of the material?

In case you are wondering about the title of the book

CHARLES V
The emperor used to unbend his mind in the society of a large baboon, which he had taught to play chess, a game the emperor was remarkably fond of. One day the animal checkmated the emperor, upon which, being extremely irritated, he took up the chess-board, and struck the ape so violent a blow on the head that the blood flowed; but, on recollection, seeing the absurdity of his conduct, he soothed the poor animal, which with some difficulty became again familiar with him.
Some time after the emperor invited the baboon again to his favourite amusement, when the animal again checkmated the emperor, and recollecting the emperor's anger on the former occasion sprung from his seat, and hid himself under the table, from whence he was enticed with great difficulty.

The book is arranged alphabetically. I have added a list of contents - index - to give you a better idea of the wide range of material in the book.

And some other extracts.

ALPINE FARMERS
The farmers of the Upper Alps, though by no means wealthy, live like lords in their houses, while the heaviest portion of agricultural labour devolves on the wife. It is no uncommon thing to see a woman yoked to the plough along with an ass, while the husband guides it. A farmer of the Upper Alps accounts it an act of politeness to lend his wife to a neighbour who is too much oppressed with work; and the neighbour, in his turn, lends his wife for a few day's work, whenever the favour is requested.

BAPTISM
A merchant who had to sign the baptismal register of one of his children, wrote "Peter Cooke and Company," without perceiving his error till aroused to it by the laughter of his friends.

BITTER COLD
An apothecary who used to value himself on his knowledge of drugs, asserted that all bitter things were hot. "No," said a gentleman present, "there is one of a very different quality; a bitter cold day.

BREAKFAST IN 1480;
a tavern bill of this date ran as follows: Breakfast provisions "Syr Goefry Walton, the gude Ladie Walton, and their fair daughter Gabrielle - 3 pounds of saved salmon, 2 pounds of boiled mutton and onions, 3 slices of porke, 6 red herrings, 6 pounds of leavened bread, 1 choppin of mead, 5 choppins of strong beer."

BROTHERLY LOVE
It was a pretty saying of a little boy who, seeing two nestling birds pecking at each other, inquired of his elder brother what they were doing. "They are quarrelling," was the answer. "No," replied the child, "that cannot be; they are brothers."

THE CAT
The publication has been gravely announced at Paris, of a "Treatise raisonné on the education of the domestic cat, preceded by its philosophical and political history, and followed by the treatment of its disorders"! The name of the author is very characteristic - M. RATON.

FATHER AND SON-IN-LAW
"Be easy," said a rich invalid to his son-in-law, who was every hour perplexing him with complaints of his wife's misbehaviour—-"Be easy, I say; as her behaviour is so very blameable, I will alter my will, and cut her off with a shilling." The old man heard no more of his daughter's failings.

GOOD SENSE
A very ignorant person being complimented on his good sense, in the presence of a clever lady, she said, "I don't wonder at his possessing a large stock of good sense; he never spends any."

HANDKERCHIEFS
Handkerchiefs, wrought and edged with gold, used to be worn in England by gentlemen in their hats, as favours from young ladies, the value of them being from five to twelve pence for each, in the reign of Elizabeth, 1558. Handkerchiefs were of early manufacture, and are mentioned in our oldest works. Handkerchiefs of the celebrated Paisley manufacture were first made in that town in 1743.

LIGHT AND SHADE
A citizen, whom industrious habits had advanced to a country house, walking one hot day in his garden, caught the gardener asleep under a tree. He scolded him soundly for his laziness, telling him that such a sluggard was not worthy to enjoy the light of the sun. "It was for that reason, exactly," said the gardener, "that I crept into the shade."

OMNIBUSES
These vehicles, of which there are now more than 4000 in the London circuit, were introduced by an enterprising coach proprietor named Shillibeer, and first licensed at Somerset-house in July, 1829. The first omnibus started from Paddington to the Bank of England on Saturday, July 4, in that year. The omnibus is usually licensed to carry thirteen passengers inside, and from four to six outside; and is attended by a footman, called a conductor.

QUACK,
from the Dutch word "quacken," a goose, applied to pretenders in medicine, in England more especially encouraged; quack medicines taxed in 1783, and the tax increased 1803; a notorious quack, named St. John Long, was tried for manslaughter of a Miss Cashin, Aug. 21, 1830, and found guilty; he was subsequently tried for the same offence in relation to Mr. C. Lloyd, and got off, Feb. 19, 1831; this quack was supported by persons who, from their position in life, might be supposed better informed.

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