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Mysterious Female
March 2007
David Lawson wrote:

"While little is known of the women in Morphy’s life, he seems to have had an attraction to them. Articles in New York papers by women asked why they should not share more of his time and the New York Evening Post of May 31 [1859] had this item:"

The Mysterious Chess Player:-- In a notice of Morphy, the great chess player, a queer incident occurred to him soon after his arrival in New York. A carriage drove up to the St. Nicholas, in which was seated a splendidly dressed lady. She sent up her card, and requested an interview with the champion. The interview was granted, when the fair visitor demanded the privilege of playing a game with Mr. Morphy. Mr. Morphy looked at the magnificent eyes of the stranger, and said "Yes, certainly." The chess table was brought to the window and Mr. Morphy placed the men. The lady, of course, was permitted the first move. Half a dozen moves on each side and Morphy found himself interested -- his visitor promised to prove the most formidable antagonist he had for a long time. Being absorbed in the game, Morphy directed the servant to admit no one else until it was completed. The game lasted two hours and was drawn. The lady was then satisfied, and blushingly took her leave, Morphy himself accompanying her to her carriage. The moment she had gone, Morphy and his friends set at work to ascertain the identity of the beautiful visitor, not doubting that the name on the card could be found in the directory. This however proved to be a mistake, and though every endeavor was made to ascertain precisely who was the visitor, the gentlemen are as much in the dark as ever. Whoever she may be, she played the best game in which Morphy was ever a contestant, and she probably adopted these means of matching herself with Morphy in order to assure herself of her own skill.

Lawrence Totaro sent me a digitalized copy of the Friday, June 24, 1859 issue of the Berkshire County Eagle, a newspaper published in Pittsfield, Mass. which contained this intriguing follow up article:

The mysterious female chess player, who challenged Paul Morphy to a private game of chess, which she played with such wonderful spirit and perseverance, is now, says the New York Leader, discovered to be the wife of a very celebrated financier and philanthropist doing business in the vicinity of the Merchant's Exchange. The husband is said to be very angry about it.


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