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.
(Published in the Hartford Times, December 1875)