Morphy Quadrupled


from BMC 1892  pp.258-60

From the New Orleans Times-Democrat, of May 1st, we take the following extract from an interesting article on the Morphy Family :—
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 zjth, 1837, and he died here on the loth 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 1860, 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 pbyed frequently blindfold and often, even when blindfolded, against four, and as many as eight strong pl.iyers, 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 citi/ens. With a light walking cane in his hand, Paul Morphy, for seven or eight years before his death, which occurred July loth, 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 Notes and Queries, A Medium of Communication for Literary Men, General Readers, Etc.  Oct. 28, 1882.

Paul Morphy (6th S. vi. 207).—In reply to C. M. I., the following quotation is from Paul Morphy, von D. Max Lange, second edition, Leipzig, 1881. It breathes a melancholy tone, and the words, coming from the pen of a chess master second to none but Morphy, cannot fail to be interesting:

"The account published a year ago in the American journals respecting the mental state of Paul Morphy leaves but slight hope of any outlook for amendment. He lives with his mother in comfortable circumstances, at 89, Royul Street, New Orleans." An extract from the Hartford Times says :—

"He is at present (1873) doing nothing. Once in a while the solitary athlete can be induced to show that his power is only in abeyance. I saw him at a private seance beat simultaneously, in three hours, sixteen of the most accomplished amateurs in New Orleans. His strength has never been full; tested, and will probably never be fully developed."

He failed as a lawyer, but how far that circumstance unhinged his intellect it is difficult to say. I should doubt if he were immeasurably superior to Anderssen (the late) or Steinitz, though he vanquished every master whom he encountered in 1858 ; but some of Anderssen's best games do not date before 1873, and Steinitz never met Morphy. The latter player was a model of exactness and often very brilliant, but was not an inventor to any great extent.                          H. F. Wooletch.  Oare Vicarage


from A present to youths & young men   by Edmund Shorthouse, 1908

     Mr. Avery received at his house the Wonderful, youthful, American Player, Paul Morphy, the then World's Champion. Mr. Avery often told the Writer (who was his favourite opponent for years), how, one day busy in his Manufactory—(Weighing Machines, &c.), a clerk announced that "a young Man"—a "Mr. Murphy,"—wished to speak to him. Taking it to be an Irish youth, seeking employment,  Mr. A. said, "Tell him that 1 am very busy, and that we really have no opening for a clerk,"  when suddenly he thought, " Murphy?" It may be the Great "Paul Morphy?"  Mr. A. said he ran downstairs faster than ever before, calling "Charles, Charles!"  just in time to stop the fatal "gaucherie" ; and to warmly welcome the gallant, and wonderful, Paul Morphy.
     It was always a blow to English Clubs,—and fair play,—that Staunton—as soon as he heard Paul had beaten the Germany "Master," Herr Anderson.—retired to Scotland, and meet the Youth he would not, in spite of all expostulations ! Mr. Avery often played Staunton, receiving odds.
     The latter had been the acknowledged champion in England so long, he could not bear the thought of a defeat.
     Spectators describe the mild, quiet, youthful, American Paul, and the formidable, huge, Herr Anderson, who usually planted a heavy stick before him for rest,—and perhaps inspiration,—and how the latter's fearful "attacks" were met, with quiet. unerring, accuracy, and the great Master [was] completely, at the last, outplayed, and vanquished by the youth.
     It is sorrowful, indeed, to all English Players, to recall the sad end of both the two remarkably gifted American Players,—Paul Morphy,—and Mr. Pilsbury (sic),—whose feats at simultaneous "Blindfold Chess Play,"—"Card Play,"—and "feats of Memory," all conducted successfully,—at one time,—have never been equalled, and probably never will be, again !

see also Paul Morphy - Thomas Avery


from  Double Dealer    November 1921.


. . . Returning to La Maison Morphy. Within its hallowed precincts dwelt for a time and died one Paul Morphy, King of the king of games, chess champion extraordinary. Always a strange lad, fey from the first, he early displayed that peculiarly uncanny brilliance which ordinarily spells madness or a premature end to its possessor. So, this old building which was originally the home of the Banque de la Louisiane, the first bank in the Mississippi Valley, constructed twelve decades ago, has been carefully and ingeniously rehabilitated and dedicated to the memory of this Morphy, whose father's residence it became during the forties and fifties.

Herein are assembled four separate businesses, videlicet—The Patio Royal, a tea room; Chic Parisien, a distinctive French establishment (lingerie, etc.) ; the Paul Morphy Book Shop, and Gallup, Inc., interior decorators. Of the quartet, I find the book shop most to my taste. Your pardon, Mesdames and Messieurs, but my knowledge of lingerie, cuisine and decorative values is, I confess, quite restricted. May all success attend your ventures and judging from the brave array of pulchritude exhibited on your premises the gay Sieur du Success will not be long in finding his way to our doors.

But the book shop! One sees or seems to see in such a shop the commencement of a new regime in lettered Nouvelle Orleans. The place has all the charm of an artist's rendezvous with perhaps the one pleasant failing of freshness and femininity. However, by this very token, it achieves an atmosphere -which might be found lacking in a more perfunctory, less feminine establishment. Books there are here and about, bidding you peep behind their gaudy jackets. In time, of course, there will be a larger array, rarer and more diversified—first editions, association items, Americana, incunabula, preciosa, etc.—but all in time. Here, in any event, is a valiant beginning and one that deserves all the encouragement we shamefully diffident Southerners (when it comes to things literary) can give it.