THE LIFE AND CHESS OF PAUL MORPHY                                                                                                                                                                                                           Pawn-and-Two


The "Pawn and Two" Letter in the London Field
--November 13, 1858

Mr. Staunton and Mr. Morphy

     Sir, -- I am desirous, with your permission of saying a few words upon the relative position now occupied by Messrs, Staunton and Morphy, whose proposed encounter has been brought to such an unfortunate, though not unforeseen, termination. Now I am well acquainted with Mr. Staunton. I have been concerned on his behalf in the arrangement of one of his (proposed) matches, with a player who has never ceased to vituperate that period when I endeavored so strenuously to bring them together. I have fought Mr. Staunton's battles for him by pen and by word of mouth on sundry occasions. I wish, indeed, I could do so now; for, as a chess player, and as a laborer n the field of chess literature, I place him on the very highest pinnacle. Since the time of M'Donnell, I believe that no player in this country - not to say Europe -has ever reached so high a standard as was attained by out English champion when he did battle with St. Amant. Since that time he has been the rather concerned with editorial duties, and in intimating t real or imaginary correspondents in the Chess Players' Chronicle (now defunct) and in the Illustrated London News, (full of vitality,) what he could do on the chequered field, if those who dreamed of approaching him could but muster sufficient money to meet his terms, or what other and peculiar restrictions (owing to delicate health and "nervous irritability") he should impose upon any adversary with whom he engaged himself.
     From what I have seen of Mr. Staunton, I should think the term "delicate" thoroughly inapplicable to his condition, but that he is highly irritable, no one who knows him can for a moment doubt.

How easy 'tis, when destiny proves kind,
With full-spread sails to run before the wind.

So sings the poet. Destiny did prove kind to Mr. Staunton when he played his match with St. Amant. The Englishman made the most of it, and achieved a splendid triumph. At the great Chess Tournament in 1851 destiny was not quite so obliging. The champion from whom we expected so much had a head-wind against him, and he was beaten. I saw much of Mr. Staunton at that time. I believe - in all justice let it be said - that he was thoroughly unnerved, that he was utterly unequal to the arduous contest, and that his great merits ought not to be gauged by his play upon the occasion alluded to. He deserved (he did not receive, for he never had given the same to others) every sympathy under circumstances which were intensely mortifying to himself personally, and to us nationally.
     Since 1851 it has been pretty generally understood that Mr. Staunton's irritability has not diminished, and that his literary responsibilities have the rather multiplied. Consequently, we had no right to expect, nationally, that he would again be our champion, and contend with the young American, whose reputation ran before him to Europe, and has accompanied him ever since his arrival from the United States. We had no right, I say, to expect this, but for one reason. That reason is to be found in the chess department of the Illustrated London News, of which Mr. Staunton is the  acknowledged editor. It has been constantly implied - nay, it has been over and over again unequivocally stated - during the last eight years, that the vanquisher of St. Amant is still the English champion; that as such he has the right to dictate his own terms, and that if anyone is prepared to accede to those terms, he (Mr. Staunton) is prepared for the encounter. It matters not whether the correspondents to whom these implications are made are real or (as is generally supposed) imaginary. It is sufficient that certain statements are made with the intention of conveying a false impression to the public as regards Mr. Staunton's desire to play and capacity of playing. This is where he is so greatly to blame; this is the point on
which he has alienated from himself during the last few year so many of his warmest friends. No one blames Mr. Staunton for not playing Mr. Morphy; but every one has a right to blame Mr. Staunton if, week after week, he implies in his own organ that there is a chance of a match, if all that time he knows there is no chance of a match whatsoever. This, I affirm deliberately, and with great pain, is what Mr. Staunton has done. It has been done times out of number, and this in ways that have been hardly noticed. If the editor of the chess department of the Illustrated London News merely states as a piece of news that Mr. Morphy is coming to England from America to arrange a match at chess with Mr. Staunton, and Mr. Staunton (being that editor himself, and being burdened with literary responsibilities which he knows to be so great as to prevent his playing an arduous contest) fails to append to such statement another, to the effect that he has given up public
chess and has no intention of again renewing it, he is not acting in a straightforward and honorable manner. But much more than this has been effected. So solicitous has Mr. Staunton been to trade as long as possible upon his past reputation, that it has been written in the Illustrated London News since Mr. Morphy's arrival in this country that he (Mr. M.) is not prepared with necessary stakes for an encounter with Mr. Staunton. What truth there was in such averment may be gathered from the admirable letter in your impression of last Sunday from the young American to Lord Lyttleton. Why is not Mr. Staunton content to say (what those who like him best would be glad to be authorized to say for him): "I have done much for the cause of chess, but I am not equal to what I once was; and I am hampered by engagements which do not admit of my playing matches now. I cannot risk my reputation under such manifest disadvantages as would surround in a contest with Mr. Morphy." The public at large would then respect Mr. Staunton's candor, and have a larger appreciation than they now have of his great merits. It is true that Mr. Staunton has said this at last; but he has been forced to say it with bad grace what ought long ago to have been said voluntarily with a good one.
    These unpleasant (not to use a harsher term) circumstances are the more to be deplored at present because of the frank courteous and unassuming conduct of Mr. Morphy upon every occasion since he set foot in Europe. I have seen him play in London and Paris; and I have noticed those obliging and unobtrusive manners which secure him the good-will of everybody, and surround him by troops of friends likewise? Is he not a scholar and a gentleman? Has he not many qualifications for the distinguished literary position he now fills? Undoubtedly he has. But he has never been able to merge the personal in the general - to regard his own individuality as other than the first consideration. Brought into contact many years ago with players who were not refined gentlemen, an antagonism was immediately established between the two parties. Unhappily for the chess world, literary opportunities were afforded in the columns of rival newspapers for the indulgences of malevolent feelings on both sides. To this warfare there has never been a cessation. So notorious is the fact of its existence that it is impossible to rely, in one paper, upon any statement having reference to the London Chess Club; it is equally impossible to rely, in the other, upon any statement having reference to the St. George's Club. Ladies who are devoted to "Caïssa," and write to the Illustrated London News, are not aware of these things. Imaginary correspondents, of course, are utterly ignorant of them. But we who live in and about London, who have been behind the scenes at both theatres, know how much reliance is to be placed upon a certain kind of chess intelligence with which two rival journals regale their correspondents and the general public every week. Look even at the Illustrated London News of last Sunday and you will see a letter professing to come from Birmingham, (I think it is a misprint for Billingsgate,) which is absolutely disgraceful. Why should Mr. Staunton try to bolster up his reputation (which is European) with sentiments and language of a purely (I mean impurely) local character? Why is one player always to be cried up at the expense of another? Why are ungenerous and ungentlemanly insinuations to be made against a youth whose conduct has been characterized by so much unobtrusiveness and so much good feeling as that of Mr. Morphy? Why is Mr. Harrwitz always to be run down in the Illustrated London News? Why are Mr. Löwenthal and Mr. Brien, quondam editorial protégés, now never spoken of but in terms of disparagement? Why should Mr. Staunton call upon the cercle at Paris to insist upon Mr. Harrwitz progressing with his match with Mr. Morphy, at a more rapid pace, when the German had pleaded ill health as the cause of the delay? Who has drawn so largely upon the patience of the British public, on the score of ill health and "palpitations of the heart," et hoc genus omne, as the generous and sympathetic writer who thus stabs a rival player when he is down? It is time, sire, that these things should cease. We are all weary of them. What better opportunity for crying a truce to these mean and petty warfares of the pen than the one which now presents itself? Mr. Staunton is our champion no longer. We must turn to some one else to uphold the national flag upon that field where Labourdonnais and M'Donnell fought and struggled. So anxious am I that good feeling be restored, and that we should be united as I see chess players united in in other countries, that I have put together hurriedly these reflections, which, however imperfect they may be, are true and just. And because I have observed that the chess department of The Field, which you so ably credit, is peculiarly free from personalities and remarkably authentic in its information, I ask you to help me in the good cause by giving publicity to this letter. I am not ashamed of what I have written, nor do I desire to shrink from the responsibility of revealing my name, if it is necessary. I enclose my card, as a guarantee, and prefer, if it meets your views, to appear only under the name of -