THE LIFE AND CHESS OF PAUL MORPHY                                                                                                                                       Paul Morphy Seen Through a Lady's Eye Glass

 

Paul Morphy Seen Through A Lady's Eye Glass

     Although Morphy and Schulten played twenty-four games during the last two days of November and into December [1857], Schulten being in New York those few days for the express purpose of meeting Morphy. Morphy won twenty-three games, and undoubtedly, the monotony induced by so many wins accounts for his lapse of a single loss. This lost game speaks for itself  and hardly merits discussion (see Game 4 in Sergeant's Morphy Gleanings.)
     In reporting on one of these games for the Clipper (Game CLXIX in Sergeant's game collection), Marache quotes Schulten as saying, "It is a real delight to lose such a game as that. Beautiful. Beautiful."
     Later, a lady present at one of those Schulten sittings described the scene in the Philadelphia Item of May 1859 - [Lawson, pp.80-81]

   Everybody is talking about Paul Morphy and is coming ovation [May 25, 1859], and are we, ladies, to hold out peace? when all the rest of the world is expressing so decided an opinion, too? Certainly not. It's what we never did and never could - a course of conduct so utterly at variance will all our feminine instincts; and, therefore, if our readers will go back a year or so with us we will take them into the rooms of the New York Chess Club, and give them a peep at the illustrious American who has created such a furor among the devotees of Ca´ssa abroad.
     Our abode is a dense atmosphere of blue cigar smoke, wreathing and curling about the room. Chess players seem to derive immense satisfaction from smoking; but, by degrees, as our eyes become accustomed to the misty illusion, we distinguish, perhaps, a dozen groups, scattered about over as many chess boards. A solemn  silence prevails, unbroken, save by whispers. As we enter, people glance indifferently up, and then down again. If Queen Victoria herself [she was fond of chess] was to stand on the threshold of the New York Chess Club, nobody would be astonished, and "checkmate" would be the only observation elicited. In the adjoining room, however, a crowd is collected, all striving to catch a glimpse at some object of engrossing interest in the center. Here our bonnets and ribbons stand us in good account, and we are courteously, accomodated [sic] with a chair beside the chess board.
     Paul Morphy himself, a slender, boyish looking youth, with smooth cheek, long chestnut hair, thrown back from his broad white forehead, and a truly American fragility of figure; if you met him on the street you would take him for a boy of fifteen. The large violet eyes, however, are the most noticeable feature in his face, with the long black lashes, and luminous iris, that seem to dilate, and grow larger and larger with every second. How his white, slender fore-finger hovers over the pieces - how the quick eye, charged with electric fire, detects every advantage - how the faint flush stains his cheek, as the game becomes complicated!
     There - his veteran adversary has compassed a coup d'Útat that would seem fatal to any eyes but those of Paul Morphy. He leans back in his chair, surveying the board with a gaze that has all the intense abstraction of the clairvoyant. The other players leave their half-fought battles and cluster eagerly around the young Napoleon. You might hear the fall of a pin, so breathless is the hush. In an instant he resumes the game, with a brilliant series of daring and hazardous moves, throwing away is strongest pieces with a recklessness and audacity which call a gleam of triumph to the brow of his antagonist. The white-haired veteran is just about to overwhelm young Morphy, when his plans are stopped short by a softly spoken checkmate, scarcely above a whisper, from the lips of the boy.
     The spectators, unable to suppress their excitement, burst into enthusiastic plaudits, but the youthful conqueror only smiles quietly and in silence, as if rather annoyed than otherwise by praises. The defeated player eagerly pleads for "yet another battle," saying, with admiring frankness, "It is a pleasure to be vanquished by you." And the lists are once more entered afresh. There is no shadow of weariness on the smooth young brow. No - Paul Morphy could play on all night.

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