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      Morphy - 1875


August  2005

Paul Morphy's biographer, David Lawson, wrote:

It was in 1875 that Maurian first began to notice some strange talk by Morphy as mentioned in his letter below. Soon after, Morphy's imbalance reached a climax when he suspected a barber of being in collusion with one of his friends, Mr. Binder, whom he attacked, actually trying to provoke a duel (Maurian said he was a good swordsman), believing the friend had wronged him. This raised the question of mental competence. As a consequence of the attack, thinking it might be the prelude to further violence against himself or others, his family considered putting him in an institution for care and treatment, the "Louisiana Retreat," run by an order of the Catholic Church. So one day all the family took a ride, and he was brought in. Upon realizing the situation, Morphy so expounded the law applying to his case that the nuns refused to accept him, and his mother and the others realized he needed no such constraint.

Paul Morphy's niece, Regina Morphy-Voitier wrote, in her pamphlet the Life of Paul Morphy in the Vieux Carré of New Orleans and Abroad:

For quite a while he was under the impression that someone was trying to poison him, and in consequence refused to eat anything unless the cooking had previously been supervised by either his mother or his sister.

She explains how his brother Edward, his cousin Edgar Hinks and Charles Maurian took Paul to the Louisiana Retreat with the idea of admitting him. Paul, understanding his predicament, argued with such logic and legal facility that the Sisters refused to admit him, both convinced of his sanity and fearful of reprisals.


The Louisiana Retreat was located on on Henry Clay Avenue - between Coliseum St. and Chestnut St.

The Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent De Paul started caring for the mentally ill in 1841  at Charity Hospital ( a 300 bed facility) and in 1863  the Sister's established a sanitarium specifically for that purpose at the hospital.

In 1876 they acquired their own facility (shown on left).

This is where Morphy was taken.

The Louisiana Retreat for the Feeble Minded, as it would be called in 1896, eventually became DePaul Hospital located at 1040 Calhoun Street, New Orleans. The original building still exists as part of the hospital.

Obviously, Lawson miscalculated slightly. Since the Louisiana Retreat didn't exist until 1876, Morphy couldn't have been taken there in 1875.

The Bishop Berkley sent me this unique newspaper clipping:

Also from 1875 is an letter from a correspondent in Paris about Morphy (who was in Paris in 1858, 1863 and 1867)





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