from British Chess Magazine, Vol. VI, 1886


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(Reprnted from the "Programme" of the Steinitz-Zukertort
Match, New York, January, 1886)
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Dear Mr. Frere,
   When you asked me "to write something for the Programme," and would not tell me what you
wished me to write about, you left me in a sea of doubt as to what should be my subject. At dinner a
man can fall back comfortably upon the toast to which he asked to respond. A clergyman can always
have something to say about his text. Chess itself is a theme so vast and illimitable that it cannot be
written abut abstractly and impersonally in a newspaper article to do it any justice. The personnel of
men who have attained distinction in any walk of life is always interesting. Hence, even at the risk of
being charged with egotism, I will indulge in a few reminiscences of MORPHY, which will not be found
in any of his biographies. When I first joined the New York Chess Club in 1853, its meetings were held
in the house of Mr. Perrin, in 12th Street. Its leading players were Perrin, Marache, Thompson, Mead,
Roberts, Stanley, Fiske, with visitations by Hammond of Boston, and Montgomery of Philadelphia.
These were all considered good players, and they were all Chess enthusiasts. Limburger's saloon,
corner of Fulton and Nassau Streets, was also their daily resort for Chess, lunch and lager. I was one
of the editors of Frank Leslie's paper, and no branch of my editorial work gave me so much trouble and
so much pleasure as its Chess column which you succeeded in me editing. Any one desirous of learning
the biography and characteristics of the leading American Chess-players of that day can find them
consulting the files of that paper for the first two years of its publication. By editorial and personal
correspondence by Daniel Willard Fiske and others, the first American Chess Congress was held in
New York, in October, 1857. It's history, admirably written by Mr. Fiske, will be found in every good
Chess library.
   Morphy was then 21 years of age. His personal appearance did not indicate genius. He was small of
stature, of light build, with a dark black eye, pleasing manner, great urbanity, and a perfect Frenchman in politeness. He was well educated, having graduated from college and the study of the law, but his
intellect was not of a very high order. Poeta nascitur non fit. So it was with Morphy. He was born a
Chess-player. He was not made one by study and practice. Deschapelles was the only Chess-player in
history who was like Morphy in this respect. He was incomparably the greatest genius for games of skill
that ever lived. Both he and Morphy played by intuition - rather than by analysis. Chess, like every
other science, is progressive. Had either of these players crossed lances with Zukertort or Steinitz, the
world would doubtless have seen better Chess play than has been recorded. When genius combats
genius, when intellect is rubbed against intellect, the result is like burnished gold, the harder it is rubbed
the brighter it shines. Steinitz confirmed me in my opinion that Morphy played some of his best moves
by intuition, as it was impossible that human brain could have thoroughly analyzed the result. Take, by
way of illustration, the 30th move in his 4th game of the match with Harrwitz, where the simple advance
of a Pawn was followed up with such ingenuity and accuracy: or the game in his match with Paulsen -- I
have not the book before me -- where he gave up his Queen for a Bishop. Just before this game
Morphy went down to the restaurant with me and took a glass of sherry and a biscuit. His patience was
wore out by the great length of time Paulsen took for each move. His usually equable temper was so
disturbed, that he clenched his fist and said, "Paulsen shall never win a game of me while he lives" -- and
he never did.
   When he made the move referred to, we all thought that he had made a mistake; especially as he had
taken so little time for the move. Paulsen, with his usual caution, deliberated long -- over an hour --
before he took the Queen. He doubtless thought of Virgil's line "Timeo Danaos, et dona ferentes."
Meanwhile the rest of us had set up the position, and our joint analysis failed to discover Morphy's
subsequent moves.
   Morphy's triumphal career in Europe is a matter of history. His public reception in New York was
graced and honoured by such an audience as I have never seen before or since. The intellect, culture,
wealth, fashion and beauty of the city were there. Charles O'Conor presided, John Van Buren made the
address upon the presentation to him by his admirers of the gold and silver Chess-board and men, and
the address upon the presentation to him by the N. Y. Chess Club of perhaps the finest Waltham watch
ever made by the Am. Watch Co., was made by myself. Morphy lost all his property and was obliged
to sell or pledge these trophies. What became of the Chess-board and men I do not know; but I saw
the watch last summer in the Cafe de la Régence, in Paris, where it was shown to me by Monsieur
Arnous de Rivière, who had loaned Morphy a large sum of money upon it. The pledge never was
redeemed, although this gentleman wrote to Morphy's family offering to return it. I understand he is
willing to let any club or Chess enthusiast have the watch upon repayment of the loan. M. de Rivière is
perhaps the best player in France, and is engaged in writing a treatise on the game of Chess., which
promises to be very valuable for its analyses. He is a distinguished litterateur, and well known by
reputation to all Chess-players, and personally to all habitués of this historical cafe.
   Morphy flashed upon the Chess world like a meteor and disappeared almost as suddenly as he
came. His sad fate and untimely end were due to other causes than Chess, as all his friends know.
After his return from Europe he was the lion of the day, and people vied with each other to do him
honour, and to get him to play at fashionable parties. I played more games with him than any other man.
The reason he preferred to play with me at these parties was, because I knew I should be beaten as a
matter of course, and I was not afraid to play an open game, so that he might exhibit his great brilliancy.
Mr. Perrin, Mr. Fiske, and myself, in consultation, won one game of him on even terms. We shall live
longer in that one game than in any other way. How well I remember that Sunday, in Eugene B. Cook's
room! Perrin's face so beamed with satisfaction and delight, especially as Morphy said that he
suggested the winning course of play, and had to fight hard to bring the other two to his way of thinking.
ROBERT BONNER, at that time, was in the first flush of success with his N. Y. Ledger. He paid
the highest prices for the best work - ten thousand dollars to Edward Everett for one column a week for
a year - some fabulous sum to Charles Dickens for an original story, etc, etc. With his keenness, wide
awake to everything that was on the topmost wave of popular favour and universally known, and with
his intention to have the est that money sould secure for his paper in every department, he thought he
saw an advantage, at least in the way of advertising, in having a Chess column for the Ledger, edited by
   Accordingly he engaged Morphy to edit his Chess column for a year. The negotiation was made
through me. Mr. Bonner paid him in advance, with his usual unparalleled liberality, and for one year the
Ledger had a Chess column. Morphy was incorrigibly lazy, and Mr. Bonner would not continue his
services at any price for another year. Moreover his readers were not particularly interested in Chess.
They cared more for Sylvanus Cobb's stories, like "The Gun-Maker of Moscow," than they would for
Shakespeare's Hamlet. There were some things connected with this Chess column that were curious,
and would greatly interest Chess-players, but it would be contrary to the lex plume to reveal them
without Mr. Bonner's consent. It is more than a quarter of a century since I used to see Mr. Bonner on
the top floor of the building corner of Ann and Nassau Streets, where I wrote for the Mirror, and he
published the Merchants' Ledger. The absorbing labours of a busy profession have kept us apart.
People run grooves in large cities, and our paths have been divergent as the poles. Friends are like
garden plants and should be cultivated, but I hope Mr. Bonner feels as kindly to me as I do to him. His
liberality to me was astounding. I shall never forget it. At that time a check for a thousand dollars
looked as big as a cathedral. But my paper is used up, and I fear that the patience of your readers will
be exhausted if I continue. To see the match between Steinitz and Zukertort will, in the language of the
Scriptures, make me "renew my youth like the eagles." What exactly was meant by this expression, I do
not know. Perhaps some clerical friend will kindly inform me. Vale! W. J. A. Fuller


Rev. W. Wayte, editor of BMC, goes on to write:


     AT the time of Morphy's death regrets were expressed, in more than one quarter but we believe only on this side of the Atlantic, that so powerful an intellect had been wasted on such a pursuit. Something like this had been said also in his life-time. When he was leading a retired and, as was known, a somewhat useless and depressed life, people said that his career had been ruined by his early triumphs over the Chess-board. He was a lawyer : therefore, it was argued, a great judge or a great advocate had been spoilt. We never shared this opinion, having always held a different view of the relation between genius, especially genius for an art, and the union of intellect and character which commands success in the affairs of life. We never believed that Morphy, because he had chosen the law, a profession in which, more than in most, " the many fail, the one succeeds," and because he possessed a unique genius for Chess, must needs have had in him the making of a Story or a Benjamin. No more do we see proof that, if he had gone into business, he could have made a fortune equal to that of Baron Kolisch ; that, if he had been a journalist, he could have written leaders with the masterly ease and skill of John Wisker ; that, if he had adopted a literary career, he could have achieved the brilliant though transitory success of Henry Thomas Buckle. Americans are excellent judges of practical ability. They have insisted, with a loyal devotion to Morphy's fame, on the phenomenal character of his genius. They have resented all attempts to magnify his rare blunders, or to depreciate him in comparison with a more recent school which trusts less to intuition and more to "principles"; they have repeated what Boden said of him, as George Walker had already said of Labourdonnais, that he had never played his best; that "the possibilities of his genius had never been half revealed," because no opponent had ever been strong enough to draw them out to their fullest extent. But his own countrymen have never maintained that he was one of those men whose energy, even more than their abilities, mark them out as bound to succeed. Such men, we see, sooner or later take the just measure of their own powers ; they may make experiments before they find out what they are fit for ; at last they discover their true vocation. The evidence for Morphy's force of character is even more wanting than for his intellectual preeminence. Mr. Moncure Conway, a thinker respected both in England and in America, declared that " he could not make a career other than that which was written in his marvellous brain." (B. G. M. IV. 304.) The press of his native city, writing at the moment of his loss and asserting his immeasurable superiority to all other Chess-players in power, elegance, and spontaneity, adds the qualification "whatever else he may have failed in " (ib. p. 305).
     And now Mr. Fuller, whose admirable letter has been rescued by the Editor from the fleeting pages of the Programme of the Steinitz-Zukertort match, and who knew Morphy intimately, tells us that " his intellect was not of a very high order." He must no doubt have had abilities well above the average. He had a great memory and much facility of acquirement, qualities which bring a man to the front in University rewards and other competitive examinations much more than in after life. Knowing little of American Universities, we make no doubt that Morphy, if he had the instincts of a " reading man," could have taken an excellent degree at Oxford or Cambridge. But the value of such distinctions is easily exaggerated, especially by those who judge without observation of subsequent careers.
     Mr. Fuller has rightly insisted that Morphy's gift for Chess was a thing apart, not the outcome of large general powers. Still less was it the indication of character. Of this truth there are abundant illustrations in the history of the Fine Arts, among which Chess, in our opinion, holds a minor place. Painters, sculptors, musicians, imaginative prose writers, even poets (though of these hardly the highest) have been commonplace or insignificant men plus genius ; others again have been of commanding personality apart from their works. As great artists who were also great men, we may instance Leonardo da Vinci, Michael
Angelo, Milton, Goethe, Scott, Byron : there is no need to make the list exhaustive or to mention names on the other side. That artistic genius too often fails to command the most ordinary worldly success ; that the artist is frequently a dreamer ; that the inspired singer mostly fails to keep in his pocket the few dollars
which find their way there ; all this is notorious. And Chess, surely a lesser art than any of those named, is like the rest in this respect, "only more so." It has its men of back-bone, like Staunton who was called a " grand old man " before that phrase had assumed a political meaning : it has likewise its invertebrates, among whom, we grieve to say, Morphy must be reckoned. The mention of the late J. P. Benjamin, as a type of the men who succeed, suggests a closer parallel. Both men were ruined, at least for the time, by the American Civil War. It is stated that Morphy lost all his property ; but we have always understood that his family retained or recovered enough to support him without hard work ; we have even read that he was a bit of a dandy in later years, a taste which cannot be gratified upon nothing. Benjamin was far more deeply compromised in the rebellion of the South ; he not only lost his property, but had almost to fly for his life ; and at the age of fifty-five he had to begin again at the beginning. In a few years he was the leader of an important branch of the English bar ; he was offered a judgeship ; and a splendid compliment was paid him on his retirement. He was happy as well as successful, and had always shown great powers
of enjoyment. Morphy was but twenty-eight when the crash came ; he was in no personal danger ; his Chess triumphs had made him popular as well as famous, the reward of his amiability ; the entrance into any career he showed a taste for would have been smoothed by his many admirers. Unfortunately he had not the spirit or elasticity to recover from a single knock-down blow ; he sank into apathy and listlessness, the " sad fate " referred to by his friend. Mr. Fuller further tells us that he was "incorrigibly
lazy " in what might have been thought the congenial employment of editing a Chess column. Want of physical stamina had doubtless much to do with this constitutional indolence. A resolute will has often asserted itself in spite of a feeble body ; when neither is strong, it is idle to maintain that the elements of greatness exist. In denying any connection between Chess genius and practical ability we do not disparage Chess ; we merely argue that Chess genius is in this respect not more fortunate than genius in
general. Still lese are we disparaging Morphy ; for we have said nothing of him which had not been said (or broadly hinted) by his own countrymen. Lives which might have been useful have been thrown away upon Chess, the more's the pity : but that really supreme abilities have thus gone to waste we are not prepared to believe. Intellect and character combined do not fail ; and the failure is itself a proof that one of the two was wanting. W. W.