Cornhill Magazine,  7 (1863), 589–600.


[S Leslie Breakey]




Mathematics, Ethnology, Amusement, Genius, Reasoning, Human Species, War, Gender, Instinct, Race

    After noting that there are two distinct categories of chess player, observes that 'it would be amusing to watch the collision where genius is pitted against science over a chess-board. On this field genius is sure to get the worst of it. [...] Science rather enjoys a wild-beast struggle like this, and sometimes lets the animal loose on purpose to torture him again, and see him plunge and tear. All this time science may be, originally, the less noble beast of the two. But the arms, the "appliances and means" she has provided, more than make up the difference' (591). The two faculties necessary to be successful at chess—depth and breadth—'differ as the mathematician differs from the man of the world. The mathematician reasons more patiently and more profoundly. But he reasons along a straight line, and sometimes forgets to take in all the facts when setting up his premises. A mathematician, therefore, is not always a safe man of business' (594). Asserts that 'Man is a fighting animal. The element of war is in his blood; and being there it must come forth and show itself—somewhere' (596). The competitiveness of chess, however, is a 'safety-valve for the spirit of war' (597). It is a 'curious fact that ladies can never learn chess. But the reason is plain enough. It is an art of war, and nature intended them to shine in arts of peace. For this particular recreation, therefore, they are incapacitated by natural constitution. In common life instinct serves them instead of logic' (598). Also notes that 'the Zulu mind' is 'a mind arithmetically disposed' (590).

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