THE LIFE AND CHESS OF PAUL MORPHY                                                                                                                                                           Letter to J. E. Orchard from "D"


Letter to J. E. Orchard from "D"


Mr. J. E. Orchard
Columbia S. C.

New Orleans, December 5, 1875

Dear sir -- Your letter asking for information as to the mental condition of Mr. Morphy is just at hand. I am sorry to say that reports concerning him have some foundation in fact, but they have been grossly exaggerated in the newspapers. He is not in any sense a lunatic though his mind is affected somewhat. The statement that he is hopelessly insane is far from the truth, for we all have confidence that in time he will be alright again. The fact that his mind was not right was observed by his intimate friends some months ago when he was labouring under the delusion that unknown persons were circulating calumnies about him, and imagined that he was the victim of petty persecutions, the aim of which was to drive him from the country. This idea constantly haunted him and drove him at last to the point where he publicly accused several individuals with being concerned with persecuting him. The thing grew upon him until finally he challenged the supposed authors of the imaginary calumnies to mortal combat with deadly weapons. After this, of course, the whole matter was made public. This is all there was to it.
     On all other subjects his mind is apparently sound, and when in company with persons of his liking he converses as rationally as anyone. He is not in a lunatic asylum, but walks the streets of our city without restraint and his behavior is as gentlemanly there as it is everywhere else.
It is true that his relatives tried to prevail on him to enter an asylum for the insane, for treatment; and it is also true that he did visit such an institution with some friends, but as he positively objected to staying there and coolly expounded the law governing his case to the Nuns who conduct the institution and so clearly demonstrated that they had no right to deprive him his liberty without going through certain legal formalities, which he detailed, that his mother intervened, and he was permitted to depart.
     On his return from Europe in 1868, and for a long time previous, he had abandoned chess, and rather disliked to converse about it, as he had been bored to death on the subject by indiscreet persons who acted on the supposition that he knew nothing but chess, and wanted to talk of nothing but chess. But notwithstanding the constant boring to which he was subjected, we never found him loath to chat about a game at the proper time and under proper circumstances. If he attended an opera and somebody should be continually dinging chess into his ears, we presume he might show his dislike to talk on the subject and that is about all there is to it. The last games he ever played, so far as the writer knows, was with the well known chess player of this city, C. A. Maurian, Esq. to whom Morphy gave odds of Knight (not Springer), in the latter part of December, 1866. The story about his being a drunkard is absurd, as he has never taken liquor in his life. His habits and conduct are eminently refined and gentlemanly, and his bearing and ideas rather border on the aristocratic. We believe the foregoing covers the entire ground, and you may rely upon its being strictly true.

Mr. D                                             

(Published in the Hartford Times, December 1875)