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excitement of looking on, or dis- simple deserves attention ; far cover the attractions of a love oftener, however, the exhibition game at billiards. But no sooner of human nature offered to the has the Napoleon disappeared observer will repay study and than the smaller fry are back afford satisfaction and gratificaagain, all the keener for their tem- tion to every well-regulated mind. porary abstinence. Still, billiards Before passing the various types has advanced greatly in respect- under review, it may be desirable ability; all sorts and conditions of to gossip on comparatively modern men, and ladies too, play, and find developments of the game. If an the interest of the game, which they ordinary man whose experience are only beginning to understand, extends over ten or twenty years sufficient without the inducement is asked, he will probably reply of a money stake.
that the elder Roberts invented Under favourable circumstances, the spot-stroke, and that his son when the atmosphere is not satu- discarded it and discovered the rated with tobacco-smoke and the secret of nursery cannons— addfumes of beer and spirits, there ing, perhaps, if he knows what it can be no question that the means, that he is also the author game, in moderation, is good for of the push-stroke, which he will mind and body; it may be learnt condemn as foul with a certainty when young the sooner the in exact proportion to his ignorbetter and may be played in
Now, curiously enough, a But at the same time, somewhat careful examination of the devotion it requires, if more the books on billiards of the first than ordinary excellence is to be half of this century leads to the attained, is perhaps a drawback, conclusion that though tables and for time is limited, and should be implements generally have been wisely apportioned. If, after work vastly improved, yet the game has or business is provided for, the not altered as much as might have balance for recreation is subdivided been expected. Kentfield's matchbetween many games or pastimes, table at Brighton was apparently the share which can be given to as difficult as any championship billiards is insufficient to secure (i.e., 3-inch pocket) table now in even moderate proficiency. use, and many of the strokes are
It is this, no doubt, which ac- shown to have been played much counts for the vast difference be- as we play them. His book was tween the form of amateur and published in 1839, and in it the professional players. The latter statement is found that the introbegin for the most part as markers, duction of the red ball is of recent and after years of work pass their date, the older game having been fellows and emerge as players in played with two white balls only. public and teachers.
These con- Each player's object was to pocket siderations, however, need deter his adversary's ball and to keep his no one from ying to do bis best, own on the table. Play was alterwith the reasonable hope, if he has nate, irrespective of success any natural aptitude for crime, failure. That called the that he will succeed in amusing winning game. In the winninghimself and in interesting others. and - following game the player For it is to the credit of billiards continued his break till failure, that spectators are interested only but in both he lost by pocketing in a less degree than principals. his own ball, just as is the case at Sometimes the game pure and pool or pyramids, and thence arose
the term losing hazard. The win- amateurs he met. He himself ning-and-losing game, in which says, "My game, though difficult both sorts of hazards are scored, to beat by those who will not conwas the next development, and is, descend to play defensively, would in fact, the present English game. nevertheless be termed, by the
About Kentfield friend generality of players, a 'pottering writes :
game.' This is a result to be ex
pected if play is chiefly on a very “I can just remember the old man, difficult table. and was, when a child, a member of his subscription-roon soms at Brighton ;
Looking at his “diagrams and he was commonly known as 'Old K.'
observations," one cannot fail to The essence of his game lay in losing
be struck with the great similarity hazards and delicate strengths, the of the strokes to those now played. latter more or less a modern feature A sound game then is still sound, in his day. His largest break was and the strokes that are new are 196, and his greatest number of spot
Under the strokes 57. During the last fifteen comparatively few.
title “A Cannon of great service" or twenty years of his life he rarely played away from his own table-a nurseries are described, not of very difficult one. K.'s play in his course with every modern developlater years was almost entirely con- ment, but the principle is there, fined to games with members of his and he remarks with complacency rooms, he playing the one - pocket that he has made as many as fifteen. game, at which he was wonderfully He played the spot-stroke, and of the table was extraordinary, and clearly discerned its importance ; his two and three cushion cannons
there is also a diagram which were wonderfully accurate, as also
shows that the push-stroke was was his play at balls behind the played and taught in Kentfield's baulk-line. He was a clever man of day. considerable general information, and
In one respect Mr Mardon may a good gardener. His
claim to have been a remarkable Brighton attracted the best amateurs of the day, but latterly custom fell player, for Mr Russell Walker off, and he died anything but a rich recollects having seen him, when man, early in the seventies, I think.” eighty-nine years old, make fifteen
consecutive losing hazards in the One of Kentfield's most devoted middle pockets, a great performance admirers was Mr Edward Russell at that age. Even if his
age Mardon, who in 1849 published a wittingly exaggerated, the achievebook on billiards, the first part of ment is a remarkable one for an which is chiefly a description of a old man.
He must also have match he played with Mr Porker, heard many stories and much who gave him 25 points in 500. gossip concerning the game and It must of course be remembered players, and one regrets that he that 25 points meant a good deal did not record more.
He menin those days, so much indeed that tions gentleman recognised he has illustrated his account of formerly as the “Dutch Baron," the game with nine diagrams of who by retreating judiciouslyhis final break of 25 points. The in other words, by concealing his break, if the diagrams are game gained signal victories, approximately accurate, is a re- winning every shilling from markable one, for no single stroke “gentleman who had returned is played correctly. Mardon, how- from India with a considerable ever, never was fine player, fortune." Could the Dutchman though probably he defeated most be any relation of Mr Coxe
Tuggeridge Coxe's acquaintance, game that the practice necessary Baron von Punter, who when for making a considerable break defeated for shillings on a pro- from it is unlikely to be undervincial table remarked, “Id is de taken. horrid dables ; gom viz me to Lon- It is unnecessary to say much don and dry a slate-table, and I concerning the strides made by vill beat
you ”?—which he effectu- players since Kentfield's time. It ally did, having bet what he called should, however, be recollected, "bonies” on the game.
when one is disposed to contrast Again, when writing on the to their disadvantage the modest importance of a knowledge of breaks of old days with the great strength, Mardon tells the follow- ones now common, that not only ing story, which has a distinctly are implements improved, but the humorous side, though that did tables are often much easier. John not apparently present itself to Roberts of Manchester, who suchim. He was playing with an ceeded Kentfield as champion, was acquaintance, and had so learnt a marvellous player. He had a the strength of the table that his genius for the game, great physical antagonist had no chance, and said powers of endurance, and for about he would play no more :
twenty years, from 1849 to 1869, “The proprietor of the room, fear
he could give any one a third of ing his departure, thus addressed him :
He may be said to *Try once more, sir ; I will endeavour have been succeeded, and doubtto prevent it. After the play for the less surpassed, by three men, Cook, day had ceased, he removed the lower Bennett, and his son, the present cushion, and, placing it for the night champion. Of the first and the before the kitchen-fire, so softened it last there is no doubt of the and increased its speed and power that the strength which had previ superiority ; opinions may differ ously only taken the object - ball to
as to the second-named, though the centre-pocket carried it into the it can scarcely be contended that baulk! I remember perfectly well he ever was really in the class of frequently exclaiming, “Why, what the other two. Still
, each in turn ails the balls ?' but many months had held the championship on the patelapsed ere I was informed of the
tern of table and under the rules dirty trick that had been played.”
devised when the first match was In those days the feather-stroke played, till at length the younger was much practised; Mardon calls Roberts so completely passed all it extremely serviceable, and thus rivals that since 1885 no candidescribes it : “When either of the date has been found adventurous balls is so near the baulk-line as enough to challenge his position, to be pronounced playable, the which has been unconquered since player's ball must be placed as 1875. near to it as possible without Now, though the chief interest touching, and then by a push the of a spectator in a billiard-room striker can hole his own ball in should be the play, yet it often the corner pocket as often as he happens, the performance with the pleases." This stroke is some- cue being so poor, that compensatimes called the “quill," and is tion must be sought elsewhere. forbidden by the rules of the And to tell the truth, though a present Billiard Association,-a player of experience who happens somewhat useless prohibition, we to be looking on can learn little in are inclined to think, for the posi- the way of instruction, yet if he tion is so seldom attainable in a keeps eyes and ears open he may
obtain a vast amount of amuse- when some impossible event is ment. The antics of the players, achieved, looks round with much not to mention the running con- complacency, and eventually comes versation they so often affect, dis- to believe that he played for playing an appalling ignorance of the stroke or for safety, as the case the elements of the game, are pass- may be. When the extreme iming strange, and they vary with probability of his having tried for different types. Of these let us something is brought home to him, try and recall a few. There is the as likely as not he will explain very careful man who seems to that he played for two strokes at derive more satisfaction from see- once, knowing that if he missed ing his opponent in difficulties than the one he must get the other ! from scoring on his own account. Occasionally, however, and very He is fearfully slow and deliberate, often if deserted by his luck, the with a strong propensity for pot- fluker is cantankerous enough, ting his adversary's ball and play. the boisterous and somewhat oping a double baulk. When he pressive good-humour being quicksucceeds in this enterprise his ly changed for an uncommonly satisfaction is ineffable and his sulky gloom. port is lofty; if he wins the game, Another contrast is to be found the company may not improbably between the old hand and the be favoured with a few words on novice. The former need not be the beauties of defence, and on a good player, but he is acquainted the rashness of attempting difficult with the ways of the place, and strokes. He is exasperating to is able to take care of himself. play with, especially if favoured Sometimes he is an old officer, not with luck, but he is never really wholly deserted by the ways and formidable; the games he wins manners of the service, of few from better players are secured words, and attentive to his game. not by his skill but by their irri- On the other hand, he may be tation. He is seldom a popular someone who has retired from opponent, and spectators generally business, fond of a game though welcome his discomfiture the more not skilful, and full of anecdotes, heartily should it proceed from which he will relate with gusto the next type, who may be called between the puffs of his cigar or the fluker. A greater contrast pipe. The old hands are generally there can scarcely be—carelessness courteous, and have a reasonable opposed to cushion-crawling. Any respect for the etiquette of the cue will do for this gentleman—the room. The novice is apparent heavier the better; and he does at every movement; if alone, he not spare the balls. He calls his generally contrives to enter the strokes shots, and is surprised if room at the wrong moment, to people complain of his luck, which, saunter about when he should he explains, is in the long-run the stand still, and to talk when he same for all. Not satisfied ap- should be silent. There are many parently with the fluke positive, varieties, some genuinely anxious when in the full bloom of his not to offend, and others careless career, if he does not score he in that respect, but both genersecures the fluke negative by con- ally before long very keen to play. triving to leave to his opponent a And in that stage they have the position of complete safety. The satisfaction of manifest improvefluker is sometimes a happy-go- ment, which gradually vanishes as lucky good-humoured fellow, who, each comes to his best.
There are many varieties of the impression that it is unfair, shouts nervous player—indeed, in the most to the ball, “Stop, you fool !” or extended sense it may justly be words to that effect. Then there is said that every player is occasion- the player who cannot help giving ally nervous; still, some men have a violent kick at the critical moless control over their nerves or ment, or making some other groare less liable to be upset than tesque contortion. These habits are others. It shows differently in bad, and can be controlled ; they different people. With some the are not natural, but are generally body seems chiefly affected, with imitated by the novice from some others the mind. We are all person whose style he admires. familiar with the man who can The form of nervousness which control neither feature nor limb affects the mind is far more diffiwhen watching the progress of a cult to cope with, and even to ball, who brandishes his cue to describe; for the player may have the imminent danger of specta- sufficient self-control to appear tors, of whom for the moment he fairly calm, yet at a critical mois completely oblivious, or of the ment of the game he will surely lamps, and who, as à ball ap- break down. He is often a very proaches a pocket, pirouettes in good player, but he is a very bad front for its encouragement, and
man to back. should it seem to draw off, imme- There are many other types, diately backs or walks gently in such as the conceited player, the other direction, as if some who is always ready to give subtle influence passing from him any amount of points, and whose could induce a deviation from its bounce occasionally seems actupath. Sometimes these antics are ally to command success : if devery amusing, but too many of feated, he will explain that he them soon pall. We also know had nothing to play for, was not the
person who plays steadily up to his old form, or has other enough and in correct form so equally valid excuses to offer. long as success lasts ; but if un- Then we have met men who did lucky and just missing his strokes, not care to play unless they had he gives vent to a prolonged 6 to 4 the best of the game at whistle, intended, we suppose, at starting, and who generally proved once to relieve his own feelings to be very bad losers; others, pleasand to indicate to the spectators ant cheery fellows, who somehow his intense surprise at a phenom- have imbibed a notion that the enon so remarkable as his failure. game is nothing without a flow A variety of this type consoles of conversation, which they supply himself, when things are going according to their ability. It often wrong, by whistling a tune or even takes the form of criticism or insinging sadly to himself, and he quiry concerning the last- played usually is destitute of all ear for stroke, and an explanation, for music; whilst another gentleman, the most part very ridiculous, of seeing his ball approach a cannon the causes of failure. The man or a pocket, cannot contain himself, who plays for exercise because but adjures the ball in terms of ordered to do so by his doctor tender endearment to come on and may almost be considered a type. not be afraid, whereas his opponent, He is generally stout, seldom a alarmed at the encouragement thus superior player, but very often given, and perhaps not without an develops great fondness for the