On November 11, 1859, Frederick Edge wrote what seems to have been
his last letter to Willard Fiske.
document repository on my Morphy site contains 5 letters from Edge to Fisk.
This seems like a goodly amount of letters considering Fiske never, that I'm
aware of, replied (though he did send Edge copies of the Monthly and
other literature). However, these six are just the published letters from
Edge to Fiske. Edge in fact wrote about twice that many.
last letter to Fiske,
I have just received my copy of the "Book of the Congress"
and desire to thank you for the reference you make to me in the Preface.
The notice of my book on page 500 is "altogether curious." You seem
conscience-pricked for the damning critique in the
Monthly, and, taking the book out of hell, put it in purgatory.
Your dough is now mixed with a little less of the "leaven of
unrighteousness," but, still, this "little leaven leaveneth the whole
complaining of Fiske's - first damning, then
mediocre - review of Edge's now very important book. Edge continued in
that letter with:
I shall at some future time through my own
individual exertions reflect glory upon Morphy, and what I say will be received
as authoritative. It will not always be "Edge, Morphy's friend," but "Morphy,
Edge's." Voltaire was enthroned by Frederick of Prussia; he was Voltaire
nevertheless, but Frederick crowned him. Mark my words, Fiske! If not a Virgil
in chess, I shall one day be its Macaenas. This only requires these
qualifications - energy, wealth, power. The first you know I possess, and
the others will be shortly mine. Then, all of you will come and make your
peace with me.
It seems what Edge wanted more than anything was recognition for his work and
accomplishments. This is apparent in his last letter, just as it is apparent in
his very first, though previously unpublished, letter to Fiske dated
April 12, 1858.
In The Pride and Sorrow of Chess, Lawson handpicked which letters to
reveal. It's understood that he purposely suppressed the controversial March 25,
1859 letter due to the following passage:
I shall watch over Morphy until he leaves Europe, and when he leaves I can
say - "What you are outside of chess, I have made you. Your tremendous
laziness, but for me, would have obliterated all your acts. I have taken your
hundreds of letters out of your pockets even, and answered them, because you
would have made every man your enemy by not replying. I made you stay and play
Anderssen, when you wanted to leave. I nursed you when ill, carrying you in my
arms like a child. I have been a lover, a brother, a mother to you; I have
made you an idol, a god . . .
In that same letter Edge wrote:
My real motives are these: I was deeply hurt at the Congress at not having
my services recognized. You know how I worked, in the rooms and in the papers;
why I know not, and I certainly did look for a vote of thanks. Well, when
Morphy came to England, I said - "Now I'll be avenged, but I'll stick by this
fellow-countryman of theirs, and I'll make Americans blush for their slights".
Some letters were left out because they really contributed nothing new or of
However, Edge's first letter to Fiske is quite fascinating and its omission
seems quite odd and inexplicable. In this letter we learn first that Edge's
duties at the Chess Congress seem to have been recording all the happenings for
use in the upcoming tournament book. Edge mentioned that of the four
"secretary-assistants of the Congress," he did most the work, and, if that's
true, he was owed a special recognition for a remarkable job. Second, we
also learn that Edge had been in contact with Morphy before Morphy left of
England. Third, we get to see Edge complaining of the lack of recognition for
his work at the Congress, a theme that would come full circle in his final
letter. Last, we get to see a curious letter-within-a-letter that Edge wrote to
none other than Matthew Brady, the famous chronicler of the American Civil War,
who operated a photography studio in New York City as well as in Washington,
Note: My dearest friend and I typed this letter from a scan of
the original. Edge's scrawl is sometimes quite illegible. Some words has to be
guessed and one left me guess-less. I think the overall result is highly
accurate. In the "letter" to Brady, I capitalized and underline phases that Edge
seemed to have vehemently double-underlined.
39 Vincent Sq., Westminster
London; April 12th. 1858.
My dear Fiske,
You must accept my heartfelt apology for not wishing you goodbye before
leaving the U.S. I was so [run?] upon by men with patents, [illegible] &c.
till within five minutes of the Europa's being in the middle of the Bay,
that I could not do otherwise. However, I will make amends by keeping up
with an interesting correspondence with you, and as I am now writing
Morphy, I enclose the letter for you to send. Be good enough, immediately
after perusing it to stamp it and send it off by post, and I shall be much
obliged if you will not allow anyone to see it in N.Y. but yourself. Join
your entreaties with mine to induce Morphy to come on here for I have
lighted up such a flame of interest in reference to him that his presence
will be the signal for a universal jubilee. Nothing in my letter to him is
for publication, and I trust you will not allow any press men (as for
instance, your late tow-headed associate of the Clipper) to use it. The
Secretary of the St. George's Club showed me the following very beautiful
problem which you may not have seen. (I have enclosed it.) As it is a
puzzler, I have also enclosed the solution: you can of course do what you
like with it.
Some old gentleman, whose name I am ignorant of, has asked me where in
N.Y. to address a communication on chess, and I told him to Col. Mead, as
being the President of the Chess Assoc. I forgot who was appointed
Secretary, but I suppose the Col. will not object to receiving the
Epistle. The N.Y. Chess Club may rely upon me that everything which can
interest them shall be immediately forwarded by me, as soon as it occurs
or is made known in the London clubs. By the bye, Fiske, I had again
reason to greatly regret that I could produce no recognition of my poor
services. as one of the secretary-assistants of the Congress. Without vain
glory, I do not think I have been as much the cause as any man in the U.S.
of the immense strides chess has there taken since the Congress. Achilles
is considerably indebted to old Homer, and Don Quixotte
[sic] would probably rotted into obscurity but for the embalming
ink of Cervantes, and though others might have infinitely better
accomplished what I attempted to perform, yet [I] am the de facto
historian of that first of American Tourneys -- however inartistic,
inefficient and unexciting the relation may have been. An American would
have had reason for sorrow in such want of recognition - a stranger in the
land has a right to complain/ But, "let bygones be bygones," and I am now
going to see whether I cannot write up American Chess in Europe as I have
done in America. So Fiske, do all you can to induce Morphy to leave for
the Birmingham meeting of June 22nd, so that, operating with a stylus, I
may from myself let out that inflammatory matter boiling with the rage of
the cacoethes scribendi ["cacoethes scribendi" is an
"incurable itch to write," SBC] to write
which courses my veins.
Would you, when down town, have the goodness to call upon Brady and show
him this paragraph? (or Mr. Evans)
Mr. Brady; Dear Sir, -- Six months ago, you promised me a photograph of
Morphy and Paulsen. Far be it from me to remind you of your promise, or to
basely insinuate that any such work of art is my due, for various remarks
made gratuitously by me, laudatory of your productions, whilst connected
with the N.Y. Press. But you are too good a man of business not to
understand that this
hundred times promised picture when published in the
Illustrated London News, with somewhat lengthy mention of your
establishment, will be far better advertisement than anyone could pay for.
In sober seriousness, I have been talking to the St. Georges Chess Club
here about the photograph,
I am expecting daily to receive, and they are as anxious about
it as myself. Having thus appealed to your interest as well as your
principle, I await the arrival of the picture to the following address.
Mr. Frederick Edge
59 Great Peter Street
Per steamer to Liverpool through
European Express Company:
I am Sir, Yours truly
Hoping to hear from you soon, and with kindest regards and well wishes to
the Chess Club,
I remain, my dear Fiske,
Most truly yours,
letter courtesy of
Archives by Title
The Life and Chess of Paul Morphy
Mark Week's History on the Web
Chess Journalists of America
Chess History Newsgroup
Chess Tourn. & Match History
Super Tournaments of the Past
La grande storia degli scacchi
Bill Wall's Chess Pages