THE LIFE AND CHESS OF PAUL MORPHY                                                                                                                                             Dr. Meredith's observations on Morphy


 Dr. L. P. Meredith's Letter in the Cincinnati Commercial

New Orleans April 16, 1879.

During my visit to the South, after seeing the sights of the crescent City,
I was seized by the desire to inform myself in regard to its chess affairs - to see or meet
Morphy, or learn the particulars about him. Having satisfied my curiosity in these
respects, I have thought that the relation of what I have learned may be interesting
to others and sufficiently respond to your suggestions in reference to a letter about
My anxiety to learn all I could about Paul Morphy led me to examine the Direc-
tory and wander to the place designated as his residence, No. 89 Royal Street, a plain
house of the old style, with a broad double door, without step or vestibule, opening
right to the sidewalk. The establishment of a jeweler takes up all of the lower front
except the entrance-door. I made some preliminary inquiries of a neighbor, who told
me that Mr. Morphy was at home, in good health and able to see people, he had been
afflicted mentally but was better; he walked out a good deal. In answer to a ring at
the bell, a negro female appeared, who told me about the same things, and added
that he was in, and that I could see him. She went away to announce me, leaving
me to observe the broad hall with cemented floor and walls, and look through the
archway at the end into a flowering court beyond. The colored damsel returned say-
ing that she was mistaken; that Mr. Morphy had gone out with his mother, but that
I could see him at another time. I have since came to regard it as very a fortunate
circumstance that I failed to see him while misunderstanding the true nature of affairs.
I learned from undeniable authority that he utterly repudiates chess; that when ad-
dressed on the subject he either flies into a passion or denies that he knows or ever
did know anything of the game. Occasionally, I hear, he admits that he used to play
chess some, but not enough to justify persons in attaching notoriety to him. He pro-
fesses to be a lawyer of prominence, and, although he has no office, no clients, and
spends hours promenading Canal St. daily, he imagines himself so pressed with busi-
ness that he can not release himself for the briefest time. The great case that absorbs
nearly all his attention in an imaginary one against parties who had charge of an
estate left y his father. He demands a detailed, explicit account of everything con-
nected with their administration for a number of years, and they pay no attention
to his demands and repeated suits, because it is supposed, of the trouble, and because
everybody else interested is satisfied and knows there is nothing coming to him,
as already having expended more than his expectancy.
At certain hours every day Paul Morphy is as sure to be waling on Canal Street
as Canal Street is sure to be there to walk on. People shun him for the reason that
the least encouragement will result in being compelled to listen for hours to the
same old story that everyone knows by heart -- that relating to his father's estate.
He talks of nothing else, and apparently thinks of nothing else.
His personal appearance is not all that striking and were it not for his singularity
manner, he would rarely be noticed in a thorough-fare. He is of less than medium
height and thin in body; his face is yellow and careworn, showing every day of his
forty-two years of age; and destitute of a beard except an effort at a moustache on a
thick upper lip; his eyes are dark gray, large and intelligent. He is always, while on
the street, either moving his lips in soliloquy, removing and replacing his eye-glasses,
and smiling or bowing in response to imaginary salutations. His scrupulously neat dress
xxxxx him a much more agreeable object of curiosity than he would be if he were
indigent in his attire.
Physicians regard him as a very peculiar case, amenable to treatment, possibly,
if placed under their care; but no opportunity is afforded, as he regards himself as
sane as any man, is harmless to society, and is well cared for by willing relatives.
Medical experts who have made mental phenomena a study, also say his chess
strength is probably not at all impaired, possibly increased from a long rest, and that
if he were so inclined he could astonish the world with his wonderful powers more
than ever. Judging, however, from his long retirement from the chess arena, and from
his persistent devotion to his insane idea, it is only a reasonable inference that Paul
Morphy is forever lost to the chess world, and that he will continue to keep buried
those talents that would benefit the world and gain honor for himself, together with
the wealth he wants and needs, and which he is striving for so energetically in a way
that is visionary and hopeless.
On the street in New Orleans, last month, I frequently saw Mr. Morphy but I
was longer in his presence, and had a better opportunity of studying him at the old
parish Cathedral on Easter Sunday than elsewhere. He paid devout attention to the
services, and appeared thoroughly familiar with all the ceremonies, always assum-
ing the kneeling posture, and moving his head and lips responsively at the right
time, without apparently taking a cue from any of the worshipping throng. At
one time an untidy person brushed his back, and he seemed distressed for
some moments with the idea that his coat had been soiled, endeavoring to brush it
with his handkerchief. I caught an inquiring look from his eye, and my glance must
have satisfied him that his coat presented a proper appearance, as he immediately
composed himself and resumed his attentive air, even spreading his handkerchief
on the aisle and kneeling on it.
I have spoken of his imagined salutations, and his pleasant bow and smile, and
xxxful wave of the hand, in response. This must have occurred twenty or thirty
times as he stood behind a massive column