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934
BILLET—BILLIARDS

against Robespierre, whom he attacked on the 8th Thermidor as a “moderate” and a Dantonist. Surprised and menaced by the Thermidorian reaction, he denounced its partisans to the Jacobin club. He was then attacked himself in the Convention for his cruelty, and a commission was appointed to examine his conduct and that of some other members of the former Committee of Public Safety. He was arrested, and as a result of the insurrection of the 12th Germinal of the year 3 (the 1st of April 1795), the Convention decreed his immediate deportation to French Guiana. After the 18th Brumaire he refused the pardon offered by the First Consul. In 1816 he left Guiana and took refuge in Port-au-Prince (Haiti), where he died of dysentery.

In 1821 were published the Mémoires de Billaud-Varenne écrits à Port-au-Prince (Paris, 2 vols.), but they are probably forgeries. An interesting autobiographical sketch of his youth, Tableau du premier âge, composed in 1786, was published in 1888 in the review, La Révolution française. The facts of such a life need no comment. See, in addition to histories of the Revolution, F. A. Aulard, Les Orateurs de la législative et de la convention (2nd ed., 1906).

 (R. A.*) 

BILLET. (1) (Like the Fr. billet, a diminutive of bille, a writing), a small paper or “note,” commonly used in the 18th and early 19th centuries as a “billet of invitation.” A particular use of the word in this sense is to denote an order issued to a soldier entitling him to quarters with a certain person (see Billeting). From meaning the official order, the word billet came to be loosely used of the quarters thus obtained, giving rise to such colloquial expressions as “a good billet.” Hence arises the sense of “billet” as the destination allotted to anything, for example in the saying of William III. “every bullet has its billet.” Another special sense of the word is that of a voting-paper, found in the 17th century, especially with reference to the Act of Billets passed by the Scottish parliament in 1662.

(2) (From the diminutive billette or billot of the Fr. bille, the trunk of a tree), a piece of wood roughly cylindrical, cut for use as fuel. In medieval England it was used of the club or bludgeon which was the weapon proper to the serf (Du Cange, s. Billus). The name has been transferred to various objects of a similar shape: to ingots of gold, for example, or bars of iron; and in heraldry, to a bearing of rectangular shape. The term is applied in architecture to a form of ornamental moulding much used in Norman and sometimes in Early English work. It bears a resemblance to small billets of wood arranged at regular intervals in a sunk moulding. In French architecture it is found in early work and there, sometimes, forms the decoration of a string-course under the gutter, with two or three rows of billets.

BILLETING, the providing of quarters (i.e. board and lodgings) for soldiers (see Billet, 1). Troops have at all times made use of the shelter and local resources afforded by the villages on or near their line of march. The historical interest of billeting in England begins with the repeated petitions against it in the reigns of Elizabeth, James I. and Charles I., which culminated in the Petition of Right. The billeting of troops was superintended by a civil magistrate of the district to which the troops were sent or through which they passed. The magistrate, who acted under an order from the king, too often spared his friends at the expense of his political or personal opponents. Owing to the abuses to which the system led, it was declared illegal by the Petition of Right 1628, and again by an act of 1679. During the reign of James II., however, orders were frequently issued for billeting, and one of the grievances in the Bill of Rights was the quartering of soldiers contrary to law. On the organization of a standing army after the revolution it was necessary to make legal provision for billeting owing to the deficiency of barrack accommodation, which sufficed only for 5000 men. Accordingly, the Mutiny Act 1689 authorized billeting among the various innkeepers and victuallers throughout the kingdom. This statute was renewed annually from 1689 to 1879, when the Army Discipline Act, consolidating the provisions of the Mutiny Act, was passed. This statute was replaced by the Army Act 1881 (renewed annually by a “commencement” act), which contains the provisions by which billeting is now regulated. But modern conditions have practically dispensed with the necessity for billeting; there is extensive barrack accommodation in most parts of the United Kingdom, and, moreover, troops are entrained or sent by sea when the distance to be covered is more than one day’s march. In Scotland the provisions as to billeting were assimilated to those in England in 1857, and in Ireland in 1879. The Army (Annual) Act 1909 provided for the billeting of the Territorial forces in case of national emergency, on occupiers of any kind of house at the discretion of the chief officer of police.

BILLIARDS, an indoor game of skill, played on a rectangular table,[1] and consisting in the driving of small balls with a stick called a cue either against one another or into pockets according to the methods and rules described below. The name probably originated in the Fr. bille (connected with Eng. “billet”) signifying a stick. Of the origin of the game comparatively little is known—Spain, Italy, France and Germany all being regarded as its original home by various authorities. In an American text-book, Modern Billiards, it is stated that Catkire More (Conn Cetchathach), king of Ireland in the 2nd century, left behind him “fifty-five billiard balls, of brass, with the pools and cues of the same materials.” The same writer refers to the travels of Anacharsis through Greece, 400 B.C., during which he saw a game analogous to billiards. French writers differ as to whether their country can claim its origin, though the name suggests this. While it is generally asserted that Henrique Devigne, an artist, who lived in the reign of Charles IX., gave form and rule to the pastime, the Dictionnaire universel and the Académie des jeux ascribe its invention to the English. Bouillet in the first work says: “Billiards appear to be derived from the game of bowls. It was anciently known in England, where, perhaps, it was invented. It was brought into France by Louis XIV., whose physician recommended this exercise.” In the other work mentioned we read: “It would seem that the game was invented in England.” It was certainly known and played in France in the time of Louis XI. (1423-1483). Strutt, a rather doubtful authority, notwithstanding the reputation attained by his Sports and Pastimes of the People of England, considers it probable that it was the ancient game of Paille-maille (Pall Mall) on a table instead of on the ground or floor—an improvement, he says, “which answered two good purposes: it precluded the necessity of the player to kneel or stoop exceedingly when he struck the bowl, and accommodated the game to the limits of a chamber.” Whatever its origin, and whatever the manner in which it was originally played, it is certain that it was known in the time of Shakespeare, who makes Cleopatra, in the absence of Anthony, invite her attendant to join in the pastime—


“Let us to billiards: come, Charmian.”

Ant. and Cleo. Act ii. sc. 5.


In Cotton’s Compleat Gamester, published in 1674, we are told that this “most gentile, cleanly and ingenious game” was first played in Italy, though in another page he mentions Spain as its birthplace. At that date billiards must have been well enough known, for we are told that “for the excellency of the recreation, it is much approved of and played by most nations of Europe, especially in England, there being few towns of note therein which hath not a public billiard table, neither are they wanting in many noble and private families in the country.”

The game was at one time played on a lawn, like modern croquet.[2] Some authorities consider that in this form it was

  1. In 1907 an oval table was introduced in England by way of a change, but this variety is not here considered.
  2. A later form of “lawn-billiards” again enjoyed a brief popularity during the latter half of the 19th century. It was played on a lawn, in the centre of which was a metal ring about 5½ in. in diameter, planted upright in such a manner as to turn freely on its axis on a level with the ground. The players, two or more, were provided with implements resembling cues about 4 ft. long and ending in wire loops somewhat smaller in diameter than the wooden balls (one for each player), which were of such a size as barely to pass through the ring. In modern times such games as billiards have afforded scope for various imitations and modifications of this sort.