Denis Julien was born in the year 1806, in a small town called Les Beaumettes, lying in the south of France, about two miles from the celebrated fountain of Vancluse. His education was such as could be obtained at the village school, where, in all probability, no attempt was made to teach too much. He remained at home until the ago of twenty, when a desire to see more of the world than was contained within the limits of Les Beaumettes induced him to ship on a man-of-war which was about making an extended voyage. He visited Cadiz, Rio de Janeiro and other places, leaving the ship finally at Bourbon Island, where he remained for three years. His wandering disposition next led him to take passage in a merchant vessel for Africa, which portion of the globe he had a curiosity to visit. When too far out to retreat he discovered that he was on board a vessel engaged in the slave trade. Not relishing his position, he prevailed upon the captain to put him on shore at the first land. This proved to be that of Quisooungo, some hundred miles south of Mozambique, and about the same distance from a Portuguese settlement called Klllimore. Left alone in a wilderness, he wandered into the interior until he encountered an African tribe, by whose chief he was well received, and with whom he remained several months.
Returning to the coast, he readied a settlement, from which he finally shipped in a vessel for France. After this ho made two voyages to the East Indies, and then ended his travels In New York, where he has lived ever since.
Mr. Julien obtained his first Insight into the mysteries of chess in the year 1845, at which time he was proprietor of the Julien Hotel, in Washington place, New York. He soon began to construct problems, the earliest of which were published in the Spirit of the Times, Stanley's American Chess Magazine, and the Chess Palladium. One of his five-move positions took the prize in the first problem tourney in the United States—that of the Albion newspaper, in 1855 or 1856.
In 1852 Mr. Julien opened the St. Denis Hotel, at the corner of Broadway and Eleventh street, and remained its proprietor until the autumn of 1858, when he disposed of his Interest and retired from active life.
During his administration, the St. Denis was a noted resort for chess players, and was. In particular, a sort of national headquarters for them In the session of the American Chess Congress in 1857.
Mr. Julien now, to use his own expression, "plays chess and writes a little poetry." As a player he takes but a moderate rank. In the days of the congress he contested many games with Mr. Morphy at the odds of the knight, losing nearly the whole. His problems are difficult, but seldom graceful. A critic will not fail to notice the strange manner in which the pieces are often sprinkled over the board. They seem to have no connection with each other, and altogether, the position has no appearance whatever of constructive design. This peculiarity probably renders the solution more difficult.
Another sketch of Mr. Julien, written by his old friend. Charles A. Gilberg, may be found in the book of the Fifth American Chess Congress, and from this we quote the concluding sentences:—"With a tall, erect and active frame, upon which tile adipose of idleness had not boon allowed to accumulate, Mr. Julien combined a quiet, gentle and unobtrusive disposition, which seemed to have been infused with an excess of shyness; yet in his genial, generous heart there was a magnetic warmth that attached and endeared him to all he came in contact with. The rugged and restless course of his early life has prematurely marked him with the furrows of age, and while yet in the prime of his years, the heavy burden of overstrained energies warned him to seek relaxation and rest from business cares, and in the fall of 1858 he retired from the management of the St. Denis Hotel. For some time thereafter he occasionally visited the haunts of his old chess friends, and enjoyed the tumult of the fray with his accustomed zest; but these visits gradually became more rare, and in the spring of 1868 he passed forever from the bustling world of toil and chess, to that peaceful repose which was here denied him."
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Turning to Julien's problems, of which between thirty and forty may be found in American Chess Nuts, it must be confessed that they are rather archaic, and even at the time of their composition were not at all up to the standard of the best contemporary work of Cook, Cheney, Loyd and other leading American composers. There is a noticeable lack of economy and finish, and the key is frequently a check, or a palpably strong move; yet many of the stratagems are interesting and contain ideas that have since been developed by others. In the first two of the accompanying problems, for example, we find early Instances of a "double pin" and a "cross check." Which problems were the author's pets I do not know, but No. 4. following, was entered in the tournament held In connection with the first American Chess Club and presumably was somewhat of a favorite.
- from the American Chess Magazine 1898
a sketch of Denis Julien by Charles A. Gilberg from the Book of the Fifth American Chess Congress.
was born in the year 1806, in a small town called Les Beaumettes, in the department of Vaucluse, Southern France, and but two miles distant from the celebrated valley and fountain of Vaucluse, where Petrarch's " passion glances" vainly wooed his fair enchantress, Laura. Amid the rural hills and dales of that romantic district, our subject grew to man's estate, but the ambitious dreams of youth thirsted for a wider knowledge of the world than the narrow limits of the Beaumettes could afford him, and at about the age of twenty he shipped on board a man-of-war which had been ordered on an extended cruise. With her he visited Cadiz, Rio Janeiro, and the East Indies, and left the ship at the little island of Bourbon, where he remained three years. His restless inclination to travel next directed his attention to Africa as a most promising land of exciting adventures, and with that aim in view he took passage in a brig, which, to his dismay, he discovered when out at sea to be engaged in the slave trade. This proved an adventure that he had not calculated upon, and unwilling to risk the hazard of being surprised as a particeps criminis in that nefarious traffic, he determined to abbreviate his expected voyage, and prevailed upon the captain to set him ashore on the first land that was sighted. Preferring to place his trust in savage clemency rather than to abide the prospect of meeting an ignominious end at the halter, he disembarked Mozambique and the Portuguese settlement of Killimoro, which lay several hundred miles apart in opposite directions. With a stout heart that brooked no trembling fear, yet beat not without serious apprehensions for the future, the solitary wanderer proceeded slowly to explore the interior of the dark Continent, until he encountered a native tribe, by whose chief he was received with unexpected manifestations of friendship, and entertained with aboriginal hospitalities for several months. After various experiences and hardships he again turned towards the coast, and reached a settlement from which he was enabled to take passage on board a vessel bound for France, and after a long and an eventful absence he again sought the tranquil scenes of his early years. The siren song of the ocean's tumult, however, soon allured him from the placid vale, and he made two subsequent voyages to the East Indies, and finally terminated his travels in New York, where he ultimately became the proprietor of two large and flourishing hotels. A life so nomadic, and spurred by a will so persevering in the pursuit of its one predominant passion, had found little time or inclination for sedentary amusements, and it was not until he had become established as the genial host of the Julien Hotel, in Washington Place, in 1845, that he discovered in the game of chess a talisman that could hold his restless spirit in subjection. He acquired, by degrees, considerable force as a player, but his constitutional impetuosity disdained the trammels of the calm and calculating strategist, and he preferred to rush to a brilliant defeat rather than warily to pick his way to victory. Yet a natural aptitude, and the potent charm which the game exercised over him, compensated largely for his lack of analytical steadiness, and rendered necessary the presence of an adversary of more than ordinary strength to escape his subtle snares. He imbibed an ardent love for the fabrication of those poetic fancies of the chess-board, termed Problems, and was one of the earliest and most frequent contributors to America's matutinal chess columns; and achieved the distinction of winning the Albion prize in the first problem competition held in this country. In 1852 Mr. Julien opened the St. Denis Hotel, on Broadway and Eleventh Street, and attested his strong devotion to the game by appropriately fitting up and reserving an ample apartment for the accommodation and entertainment of his chess-loving friends. Here the New York Chess Club found a generous welcome during its houseless periods, and here the most enjoyable event of the First American Chess Congress received its eclat through the painstaking and zealous efforts of Mr. Julien. With a tall, erect and active frame, upon which the adipose of idleness had not been permitted to accumulate, Mr. Julien combined a quiet, gentle and unobtrusive disposition, which seemed to have been infused with an excessof shyness; yet in his genial, generous heart there was a magnetic warmth that attached and endeared him to all he came in contact with. The rugged and restless course of his early life had prematurely marked him with the furrows of age, and, while yet in the prime of his years, the heavy burden of overstrained energies warned him to seek relaxation and rest from business cares, and in the Fall of 1858 he retired from the management of the St. Denis Hotel. For some time thereafter he occasionally visited the haunts of his old chess friends, and enjoyed the tumult of the fray with his accustomed zest; but these visits gradually became more rare, and in the Spring of 1868 he passed forever from the bustling world of toil and chess, to that peaceful repose which was here denied to him.
A genealogical book tracing the ancestry of the Cantine Family (by Alice Cantine Huntington), gives the name "Joseph Francois Baptistan St. Denis Julien," as born 1794 Lourmarin France coming to American about 1833 and later owning the St. Denis Hotel in New York City.