THE LIFE AND CHESS OF PAUL MORPHY                                                                                                                                                                                  Letters to Henry Harrisse

 

  

The Harrisse Correspondence

Philip W. Sergeant's Morphy Gleanings, page 85

 

    " The letters which follow are not, except in one case, Morphy's, but they all intimately relate to Morphy and his chess-play, and therefore seem to me worthy of inclusion in this book.
     They came to light in a curious way.  Years ago my friend Lewis C. Ingram picked up an old copy of the German "Handbuch,"  which had once belonged to Ernest Falkbeer, the Hungarian master, and found in a pocket in the binding some letters, of which all but one were addressed to Henry Harrisse, an American born in Paris in 1830, and author of biographical and geographical works on the discovery of America.  Harrisse was interested in chess, and was Louis Paulsen's manager at his blindfold exhibitions in Chicago in 1858-60
     In "The British Chess Magazine" for June, 1928, I published these letters, but not quite fully. Below they will be found almost in full, the omissions being only of such matter as is not concerned with Morphy.
     The bulk of the correspondence may be summed up as a history of Paulsen's attempt to get Morphy to play him a match on level terms and of Morphy's refusal to play Paulsen except at odds of Pawn and move. Apart from this there are interesting comments by Paulsen on Morphy's play against some of his match opponents."

 

From Louis Paulsen of Dubuque, Iowa to Henry Harrisse:

 

November 7, 1858

I have seen in the London News Morphy's likeness and my own. Morphy has grown much stouter in Europe.  The Morphy and Harrwitz match has not generated games of such interest as has been anticipated.  This, however, is solely owing to Harrwitz's pertinacity in removing all the beauty from Chess.  Being fully aware of Morphy's brilliancy and strength in combinations, he constantly tried to exchange all the pieces on the board early in the game.  Morphy, feeling a dislike for such play, declined in the second game to the exchange of Queens, by which he lost several moves, and was finally beaten  But in the succeeding games, seeing that Harrwitz did not change his tactics, he not [sic] more declined the exchange of pieces and proved in a masterly style that even in Pawn play he is much superior to Harrwitz.  Although believing that Morphy will beat Anderssen more speedily, yet I trust their match will create games of the highest interest, and be still more brilliant than the games contested between Mc Donnell and de la Bourdonnais.

April 29, 1859

. . . next December, when I intend to visit Morphy at New Orleans, provided he agree to play me a match on even terms. If I should beat Morphy I will write a complete work on openings.

 June 11, 1859

I don't think it necessary myself to have a tourney with Morphy soon, as other folks are trying very hard to bring it about. Whether they will succeed or not is a question which time will determine.  My intention has always been not to encounter Morphy too soon.  The club at St. Louis has already invited me three weeks ago to visit their city for the purpose of meeting Paul Morphy, and offered to pay all my expenses arising from such a trip.  The time when Morphy is expected and how long he will stay at St, Louis is not yet fixed.  You must not suppose that it is only my intention to make a good show against the Champion, but to beat him in a long, fair trial of skill . . .
    
Morphy will probably not accept Kennicott's invitation

P.S.   How delighted would Morphy be by taking a ride to K's farm on a milk wagon.

August 11, 1859

     I hope to be ready for a chess-match with Paul Morphy next month, and in consequence of this, I shall probably go to New York after four or five weeks from now, provided M. does not leave N. Y. . . .
 
   I read to-day that Morphy beat Lichtenhein at odds of QKt six games to four which, however, in my opinion, rather proves L.'s weakness than M.'s strength.

October 2, 1859

     As soon as I received your letter I commenced analyzing the pawn and move game. I have not yet finished my work.  Should the result prove that in the pawn and move game the advantage is really on the side of the player who receives the odds, I will play a match with Morphy at these odds; and should I beat him he will be obliged to play a match on even terms . . .
     When you write to me again I would be much pleased to receive some particulars of your conversation with Morphy.

July 4, 1860

     As you are doubtless aware, by this time, that Mr. Morphy is already on his way to Paris, which he intends to make his future home (he was expected in New York last week), I think it is needless to discuss the 'Pawn and move question,' since I should hardly be able to go to Paris even if I intended to do so . . .
     My brother [Wilfried] in Germany writes to me that both Anderssen and Kolisch intend to defeat Morphy soon after his arrival in Europe.  Morphy has promised to visit Germany also. Be assured the most interesting chess match will take place in the course of another year.

 

August 25, 1860

     Provided Morphy does not leave New York, I shall start from here on the 14th of September.  To my great surprise I see that there is no chess-column n the last number of the N. Y. Ledger.  I therefore imagine that Bonner has dispensed with Morphy's services as chess editor. This would be a matter of regret since it might induce Morphy to return at once to New Orleans.

 

Louis Paulsen to Paul Morphy - New York:

 

October 3, 1860

Dear Sir:--In the hope of promoting the cause of chess, permit me to invite you to a friendly contest over the board on the following terms:

     A match even, consisting only of open games, or, to make it more definite, a match of six Evans Gambits, each player to conduct three times the attack and three times the defence; and of twelve Gambits on the kings side, attack and defence to be played alternately by each player throughout the match.  I am aware that you have declined playing with our most prominent chess players, except at odds of pawn and move. Allow me to reply to express the opinion that the odds of the pawn and the move are a doubtful advantage, while it invariably and necessarily results in a kind of mongrel game, never advancing the cause of Chess and rarely proving interesting to the great majority of amateurs.
     If your high and justly acquired reputation as a Chess-player makes it a matter of necessity on your part never to meet an adversary without imposing the condition of receiving odds, I beg leave to suggest an advantage which, without marring the beauties of our noble game, may still prove acceptable to you, viz.:
     I shall receive as many games out of the match as in your opinion would make the chances of winning the match perfectly even, or yield your opponent an advantage equal to pawn and move.
     In sincere hope that you will accept my invitation and favor me with a reply,
                                                         I remain,
                                                           Very respectfully yours,
                                                                   LOUIS PAULSEN

 

October 6, 1860

David Lawson added to what Philip Sergeant began (p.260, Lawson)

 

Soon thereafter Morphy received the following letter from Harrisse pertaining to the above:

 

51 Exchange Place, October 6, 1860

Paul Morphy, Esq.,Dear Sir

At the request of Mr. Paulsen, I tried to see you twice on Friday and Wednesday last, at your residence, and not being able to find you left with the clerk a letter from Mr. Paulsen to be handed to you.

The object of this note is to ascertain whether the above communication duly came into your hands.

In the hope of a reply, I remain, Dear Sir,

Your Admirer,

      Henry Harrisse

    Morphy replied to Harrisse as follows:

New York, Oct. 6th 1860

H. Harrisse, Esq.

       I have received Paulsenís letter, and am quite astonished that he should ask me to play a match with him on even terms, after my repeated declarations that I had not come North to play chess, and would only encounter him, if at all, at odds, and in an occasional game or two at the club.  I am getting heartedly tired of the subject, and would request you, should you see him before I do (I went to the club yesterday but did not meet him there) to inform him of the resolution I have taken.

Regretting that I was not at the Fifth Avenue Hotel when you called, I remain, Truly yours,

                                      Paul Morphy

As it happened, Morphy and Paulsen never encountered each other during this time (nor ever again), although both visited the New York

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