2 Morphy Articles found en passant

Oct 28, 2010, 4:40 PM |


From the New Orleans Times-Democrat, of May 1st, 1892 :—

Paul Morphy, renowned in the annals of chess playing, and noted for the possession of a peculiar mental organisation which is usually attributed to genius, was the younger son of Judge Alonzo Morphy, and the only brother of Mr. Edouard Morphy. He was born in this city (New Orleans), June 27th, 1837, and he died here on the 10th of July, 1884. Very few men have lived in any epoch of the world's history who achieved the celebrity at the age of twenty-two, that marked the experiences of Paul Morphy, when he first came before the world as the incomparable chess player of his or any other time. Perhaps his accomplishment as a chess player and calculator was inherited, although developed in him to the highest degree, for his maternal grandfather, Mr. Joseph Le Carpentier, his father, Judge Morphy, and his uncle, Mr. Ernest Morphy, were all devotees of chess and players of strength. At the age of ten he began playing chess. At the age of twelve he played against the strongest players of New Orleans, and when thirteen years old he was ranked among the best players in the United States, having defeated in 1850 Lowenthal, the celebrated Hungarian chess player, who was passing through New Orleans at the time. In 1850 his parents sent him to Spring Hill College, near Mobile, Ala. He remained at that institution until October, 1855, in which year he graduated with the highest honours. After his return to New Orleans, he entered the University of Louisiana and studied law. He was admitted to the bar, but he rarely practised his profession. Between the years 1858 and i860, he came prominently before the public as the greatest chess player that ever lived, defeating in succession every antagonist among the strongest players of the day.

Mr. Howard Staunton, the champion English player, at first declined to play with him, although Paul went to England for the purpose of inducing him to play; Staunton, however, combining with Owen, another English player of reputation, agreed finally to play against Morphy, who defeated both of them. It was in those days that he visited many cities in many lands—going from New Orleans to New York, and thence to England and Europe. He played frequently blindfold and often, even when blindfolded, against four, and as many as eight strong players, in every instance securing a substantial victory. He achieved his greatest triumphs in chess playing when he defeated Harrwitz, the Prussian, in Paris, in September, 1858, and Andersenn, of Breslau, of Prussia, in the same city, in the same month. It was while he was in Paris in that period of his life that his bust, a copy of which is at the residence of Mr. Edouard Morphy, was made by the great French sculptor, Lequesne, of Paris, for a club of chess players of that city. Another bust of Mr. Morphy, made by the distinguished sculptor and painter, the late Signor Perelli, of this city, is at the rooms of the Chess, Checkers, and Whist Club, of New Orleans. In 1859, when there were no more great players to defeat, and nothing further remained for Paul Morphy wherein to display the intellectual accomplishment in which he easily was chief, Paul Morphy returned to New Orleans. Among his contemporaries there were no other champions of chess to compete with him. His name and fame had spread abroad throughout the four continents and among the isles. And so, for the remaining years of his life, he rested on his laurels.

A vivid personal description of Paul Morphy is given by the Rev. G. A. M'Donnell in his work, published in 1883, entitled " Chess-Life Pictures." " On a beautiful sunshiny day in June, 1858," writes Mr. M'Donnell, " I was talking to the late Mr. Barnes, at Simpson's Divan, when the door opened and Paul Morphy entered the room. Unlike some other notabilities, he did not immediately unbonnet himself to display his capacious forehead, nor did he pause to look around to attract and gratify his admirers, but quietly and unobtrusively walked up the room to the place where we were sitting, and, having shaken hands with my companion, sat down to play him a game of chess. He was literally canopied with a huge broad Panama hat, and wore a light suit of clothes, seemingly of fine grey linen. He was neat in his dress and gentlemanly in demeanour. Upon taking his seat at the board, he doffed his hat and revealed to my sight a large and well-proportioned head. His brow was remarkably fine and massive, broad as well as lofty. His eyes were dark, neither prominent nor deeply set, but very luminous and, better still, very pleasant in expression. Just above them rose those bumps which are supposed to betoken the possession of the calculating faculty. The lower part of the face, and particularly the firmly-set jaw, indicated, if not obstinacy, considerable determination of character. His smile was delightful. It seemed to kindle up the brain-fuel that fed his eyes with light, and it made them shoot forth most brilliant rays. Morphy was short of stature, but well, and even gracefully, proportioned, save that his hands and feet were preternaturally small, the former being very white and well shaped. Throughout the game with Barnes he never uttered a word or raised his eyes from the board. He moved very fast, but never hurriedly. He never put his hand to a piece until he was going to move it, nor placed any of them inexactly on the board."

The later years of his career, succeeding his great triumphs, were passed in the quiet of private life. A solitary by inclination, so far as strangers were concerned. In his last years his trim, delicate figure, clad stylishly, was a familiar one on Canal and Broad Streets to thousands of our citizens. With a light walking cane in his hand, Paul Morphy, for seven or eight years before his death, which occurred July 10th, 1884, could be seen on any fine day sauntering up and down Canal Street, between Chatres and Bourbon, always alone and communing with himself, for the peculiar tendency of his mind neither sought nor desired companionship. One hot day he was absent from Canal Street; he had been found dead in the bath-room of his family residence, 89, Royal Street, which had been for fifty years the home of Judge Alonzo Morphy, and wherein he was born. He imprudently indulged in a shower bath while overheated, and the shock to the system produced congestion of the brain. Paul Morphy never married.


From the Proceedings of the Trustees of the Newberry Library 1905 :—
The music collection purchased from Mrs. R. Morphy-Voitier of New Orleans made an interesting addition to our resources in this subject. In an article describing our purchase Mr. Karleton Hackett, the critic of the Chicago Evening Post, said: "The Newberry Library has come into possession of the musical library of Mme. T. Le Carpentier-Morphy of New Orleans, which throws a rather surprising light on the feeling for music in the old French city in the years before the war. Mme. Le Carpentier-Morphy was the mother of Paul Morphy, the famous chess player, and the music she owned and played would do credit to the salon of the advanced amateurs of our own proud generation. We are apt to think of the music of New Orleans as being circumscribed within the limits of Gottschalk's 'Last Hope,' but in this collection of a wealthy amateur we find Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Kalkbrenner, Thalberg, and all the important figures of the day, symphonies in full score, chamber music, and, of course, piano music without end. The collection is most interesting as an unusual human document, illustrating a dim corner in American music history, and it is to be hoped that the authorities of the Library will keep it together in order that its peculiar quality may not be dissipated by dispersion. Such things are all too rare in our American life, so those into whose hands they come should take special care of them."
The collection will of course be kept intact and so serve as historical material for the future historians of music in America.