THE LIFE AND CHESS OF PAUL MORPHY                                                                                                                                           Charles A. Maurian's Letter to Jean Prèti


Charles A. Maurian's Letter to Jean Prèti

January 15, 1876         

My dear Mr. Prèti:

     In a letter I received from you some days ago, you beg me to inform you if it is true that certain rumours about Paul Morphy are true that he may not be right mentally.
I am sorry to have to reply to you that these rumours are only too well founded. I must hasten to add, however, that some of the American papers have greatly exaggerated the facts, especially when they represent his case as absolutely beyond help. Mr. Morphy thinks himself the object of the animosity of certain persons who, he claims, are trying to injure him and render his life intolerable to him by a regular system of calumnies and petty persecutions. There is no way of persuading him on this point, but on any other subject he is quite reasonable.
     The fixed idea which possesses him has led him on certain occasions to conduct himself in a somewhat extravagant manner, Thus, about two months ago he strove hard to provoke to a duel a gentleman whom he imagined to be one of his persecutors. Since then he seems more tranquil. and it has not been considered necessary to put him into an asylum, as some papers have said.
All his friends hope that in time, with care and above all with a change in his mode of life, he will completely recover.
     As for the causes which have produced in Mr. Morphy this derangement of his faculties, it is difficult to assign them, and I do not know what the doctors think. I have reason to believe, however, that in their opinion chess has nothing to do with it.; for one of them, I am told, has recommended chess as a means of distraction and a change of thoughts. You know, that for ten or twelve years Mr. Morphy had completely abandoned chess, and that he never indulged in the game to excess.
For my part, without wishing to hazard an opinion on a question which is beyond me, I cannot help thinking that the sedentary life, devoid of distractions and amusements, which Mr. Morphy has led for some years, must have had a bad influence on his whole system.

                                                                             Agreez etc.
                                                                              Ch. A. Maurian

(translation from La Stratégie, February 15, 1876)