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Edge Full Circle
March 2007


On November 11, 1859, Frederick Edge wrote what seems to have been his last letter to Willard Fiske.

The 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.

In his last letter to Fiske, Edge wrote:

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 lump."

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 This is apparent in his last letter, just as it is apparent in his very first, though previously unpublished, letter to Fiske dated April 12, 1858.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 interest.

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, D.C.

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, which 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
                                                   Westminster London
Per steamer to Liverpool through
European Express Company:
                                                                                               I am Sir, Yours truly
                                                                                                      Fred Edge
     Mr. Brady
     Mr. Evans

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,
                                                                        Fred Edge


letter courtesy of WilhelmThe2nd              


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