THE LIFE AND CHESS OF PAUL MORPHY                                                                                                                                                                denouement - La Mort de Morphy

Paul Morphy: The Endgame

  " On July 10, 1884, on an unusually hot and oppressive day, after his return from his daily promenade on Canal street, without waiting to cool off from the effort of exercise, he immediately indulged in a cold bath."
Regina Morphy-Voitier,   Life of Paul Morphy in the Vieux Carré of New-Orleans and Abroad

His mother grew alarmed when he stayed over an hour taking his bath. Since he didn't respond to her and since the door was locked, she called on a neighbor, Monsieur Mollo to force his way inside. They called a doctor who pronounced Paul Morphy dead from "congestion of the brain."

"On the table, not far from the bed, lies the family chess-board upon which many chess-men stand: a contest never to be decided. The bureau is strewn with the books read last; there are some references and notes on the margins, one incomplete, never to be ended. The whole atmosphere is impregnated with his spirit's ultimate exhalation. And the dolorous symphony of sobs and groans fills the air, rousing the echoes of the vast and empty rooms."

First and Last Days of Paul Morphy  -  Léona Queyrouze     


His funeral was held the next day - July 11, 1884. Charles A. de Maurian, his brother Edward and his cousins  Edgar Oliver Hincks, E. A. Morphy, Leonce J. Percy, Henry F. Percy  served as pall bearers. Paul was buried in the family crypt  in the St. Louis cemetery.


Morphy's Obituary

New Orleans Times-Democrat - July 10, 1884
(a fragment reproduced from of The Chess Player's Chronicle,  August 20, 1884)

Reminiscences of Morphy
by Charles A. Maurian

His actual retirement from all serious play may be said to date from 1860 at least- many long years before the melancholy mental affliction that clouded and darkened his later days fell upon him. And it is but just to the noble game whose history and whose lore he so enriched and adorned during his brief career as a player, to say here that it was in no wise responsible for the disaster that befell its afflicted monarch. Sorrows, misfortunes and trials of other character, and such as might have destroyed the balance in a far less delicate organization than his, were the potent agents that wrought the ruin of which Caïssa is so generally and so unjustly accused. The frailty of his physique was evident at a glance and the very manner of his death demonstrated it more clearly. A cold bath on a summer's day brought on a congestion of the brain that proved almost immediately fatal.

And here, before we close, speaking as knowing whereof we speak, we deem it best to correct two generally received impressions as to the departed master. First, then, Paul Morphy was never so passionately fond, so inordinately devoted to Chess as is generally believed. An intimate acquaintance and long observation enable us to state this positively. His only devotion to the game, if it may be so termed, lay in his ambition to meet and to defeat the best players and great masters of this country and of Europe. He felt his enormous strength, and never, for a moment, doubted the outcome.

Indeed, before his first departure for Europe he privately and modestly, yet with perfect confidence, predicted to us his certain success, and when he returned he expressed the conviction that he had played poorly, rashly ; that none of his opponents should have done so well as they did against him. But, this one ambition satisfied, he appeared to have lost nearly all interest in the game. He kept in some degree, the run of its general news, even up to the date of Mr. Steinitz's visit to this city last year, but he could rarely be induced to discuss chess, and nothing more annoyed him, even years ago, than to be designated as "Morphy, the chess player."

In the second place, Morphy was a thoroughly educated and cultivated man, and there is not the shadow of a doubt that but for the misfortunes of his times, and the melancholy affliction of his later years, he would have been capable of great results in lofty spheres of human action. There is no graver error than to suppose he was capable of nothing but playing chess. He was, moreover, in every sense, a gentleman of high delicacy, culture and refinement, both innate and acquired; and even clouded as his mind was in the latter years of his life, these qualities were marked. There was much of the true Hidalgo about him.


Born out of great sorrow and necessity, St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is the oldest remaining cemetery in New Orleans.





Most of the tombs are the single-family crypts preferred by the Creoles. The casket is placed in the crypt. and after a given time the family removes a casket, burns it and places the remains in a crypt beneath the chambers. This way the tomb can serve for generations. A slab of marble covering the opening lists the names of the departed. Often the first names are worn away by time.


Morphy's tomb amid the general disrepair of St. Louis Cemetery  #1

A closer look at Morphy's tomb

Paul Morphy was interred at #366 - shown in the map below.


A photograph of St. Louis Cemetery #1 around 1910




an inside view of the "oven" feature of a typical tomb.





  Paul Morphy's funeral was held in the Saint Louis Cathedral..
   The Saint Louis Cathedral is the oldest church in Louisiana as well as one of the oldest in the United States. The original building was destroyed in 1722 by a hurricane. It was rebuilt in 1727 and subsequently destroyed by a fire in 1788. The building that exists today was erected in 1794 though without many of the details that make it so unique. The center spire was added and between 1845-51, the wings with the smaller spires were built.
   The Saint Louis Cathedral was dedicated to King Louis IX of France. The architect-engineer, Adrien De Pauger, who designed the 1727 version, died in 1726. He asked to be buried within the yet-unfinished structure.

The rebuilding of this French cathedral after the Good Friday Fire of 1788 was, oddly enough, financed by Don Andres Almonester y Roxas, a wealthy Spaniard originally from Andalusia.
While the old church burned on Good Friday, 1788, the new cathedral re-opened on Christmas Eve, 1794.

As the Vieux Carré was notable for its caste system, the St. Louis Cathedral was remarkable for its openness to all Catholics regardless of race or social status.  It saw the baptisms, weddings and funerals of the greatest leaders and the lowliest slaves.

The first independent cemetery in Vieux Carré was located in the St. Louis churchyard on the west side of St. Peter Street between Burgundy and Rampart Streets. This was called the St. Peter's Cemetery. Only the wealthy and prominent could be buried at St. Peter's but, even so, with its below ground burials, it soon filled to capacity. St. Louis Cemetery #1 was built to replace St. Peter's. This was in 1788 after the Good Friday Fire. This fire, which burned down the church, also destroyed 80% of the city. A few months later, New Orleans was ravaged by a hurricane. In the midst of such destruction, an epidemic broke out. In an effort to separate the burial grounds from the population, St. Louis #1 was built outside of Vieux Carré proper. Unlike St. Peter's, the new cemetery was open to all, even Protestants. It is owned and maintained by the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

New Orleans has always been prone to epidemics such as yellow fever and cholera. Over the years many remedies had been tried. In 1821 the recently formed Board of Health ensured the passage of an ordinance forbidding the open viewing of a body and banning  funeral processions through the streets during the time between from the first day of July through December. In order to circumvent the funeral procession from the church to the cemetery, a chapel was erected at the cemetery itself. It was called the Mortuary Chapel of St. Anthony. It still stands today under the name, Our Lady of Guadalupe Church.


  There are more than 30 above-ground cemeteries in New Orleans. Most are in various states of disrepair. The St. Louis Cemetery #1 became listed on National Register of Historic Places in 1975 and in 2004 funds became available for a major restoration. It's only fitting. The Creole writer, Grace King, referring to the St. Louis Cemetery #1 in 1895, wrote it "is the mother cemetery ... the Vieux Carré of the dead; as confused and closely packed a quarter as the living metropolis...