according to Hoyle


A Short Treatise on the Game of Whist (1743), by Edmond Hoyle

autograph signature of Edmond Hoyle
in a copy of A Short Treatise on the Game of Whist (1743 edition)







according to plan or the rules





In Pirates, Autographs, and a Bankruptcy: ‘A Short Treatise on the Game of Whist’ by Edmond Hoyle, Gentleman (published in Script and Print in 2010), David Levy wrote:

Edmond Hoyle (1672-1769) is immortalized in the phrase “according to Hoyle” and by ubiquitous anthologies called ‘Hoyle’s Games’ that are still in print today. These modern editions contain none of his original text and include hundreds of games that were unknown in Hoyle’s time. Almost forgotten are the works which he actually authored. In 1742, at age 70, he published his first book, ‘A Short Treatise on the Game of Whist’. With ‘Whist’ and his subsequent works on backgammon, piquet, chess, quadrille, and brag, Hoyle became the preeminent authority on card and board games for over a century, and launched a new genre of literature—instructional, analytic books about popular games.
Hoyle published and distributed the first edition of ‘Whist’ himself, and then sold the rights to the chronically unsuccessful bookseller Francis Cogan. Before Cogan could publish a new edition, two audacious printers pirated the work, leading to an intense battle over what was to become one of the bestselling books of the eighteenth century. Cogan and Hoyle devised numerous strategies to combat the pirates: new expanded editions, new titles, litigation, and, most famously, the autograph signature of Hoyle in every authorized copy.

The earliest known use of the phrase according to Hoyle is found 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. (1765), an account of the duel in which William Chaworth (1726-65) was killed by William Byron (1722-98), great-uncle of the poet George Gordon Byron:

How frequently do we find the best fencer wounded; nay, have we not had instances of professors of the art being killed by mere novices? If their knowledge in covering all those parts of their body which they thought attackable, could have secured them, these events could never have happened: but the ignorant person attacks with so much fury, and in such an unexpected manner, that he quite disconcerts the adept, who is for defending himself by such rules as his adversary is entirely ignorant of. It is like 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, as he is defending a game which the other has really no idea of.

In the preface to Hoyle’s Games. Illustrated edition. Embracing all the most modern modes of play, and the rules practised at the present time, in billiards, whist, draughts, cribbage, backgammon, and all other fashionable games (1857 edition), Thomas Frère mentioned both the authorised signature of Hoyle and the phrase:

We happen to have a copy of the “Eleventh Edition” of a book by one “Edmond Hoyle, Gent.;” every volume of which edition was given to the world only with the author’s real, genuine autograph, done on the title-page with veritable goose-quill, and countersigned in the same manner by his publisher, (a course which we would suggest to some modern publishers—only to prevent piracy, you know!) Hoyle’s object being, as he states, “to detect and prosecute whoever shall presume to print or vend a private edition;” and he further informs us that he “has already arrested nine persons,” (got them in the nine holes) “for pirating and selling pirated editions.” Now, being aware of the sentiments of Hoyle on piracy, we call upon his Shade to compare our book with his own genuine—according to himself—“according to Hoyle”—and by his own hand subscribed; and if he finds a line of his in it, and will “communicate,” we agree to come down handsomely, for damages, to the legal representatives of his assignee at once.

The Dairy Messenger (Chicago) of January 1893 had the following:


Whist players know the importance of playing according to Hoyle, but it remains for our dairymen to learn to run their dairies according to Hoyle. Mr. J. L. Hoyle of Springfield, Iowa, milks eight cows who averaged 350 pounds of butter each last year. Moral: Dairy according to Hoyle.

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