Hannah Scott, author of our forthcoming Broken Glass, Broken World: Glass in French Culture in the Aftermath of 1870, got me leafing through a lurid yet nobly-minded magazine of that year called L’illustration Européenne. The horrors of Paris, the stalwart gentleman facing Prussian firing squads, the advance of armies: with the old-school typography and the surprisingly good engravings, it’s all too easy to find it a cosy catastrophe now. But I don’t suppose it was any fun at the time.
So I was surprised to run into a classic Knight’s Tour puzzle in the letters page for issue 17. Readers are invited to construct a route by which all 64 squares of the chessboard are visited once and once only by a sequence of 64 knight’s-moves, each landing on a syllable, which will spell out a poem in honour of plucky little Belgium – or, as our anonymous lawyer setting the puzzle puts it, “notre chère petite patrie”:
I was rather touched to find, an issue later, that the solution is not an angry clarion call at all, but peace among nations:
Here’s the route march for that last cavalry charge of the war, N’as-pi-rez-pas-à-la-ven-geance: