Paul Morphy: The Pride and Sorrow of Chess

Paul Morphy: The Pride and Sorrow of Chess

David Lawson

Language: English

Pages: 319

ISBN: B012HU152M

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Paul Morphy: The Pride and Sorrow of Chess is the only full-length biography of Paul Morphy, the antebellum chess prodigy who launched United States participation in international chess and is still generally acknowledged as the greatest American chess player of all time. But Morphy was more than a player. He was a shy, retiring lawyer who had been taught that such games were no way to make a living. The strain of his fame and the pull of his domineering family led Morphy to set another precedent: chess madness. Morphy's mental descent after retiring from chess became a part of his lore, made all the more magnanimous by a spate of twentieth-century examples. The Pride and Sorrow of Chess tells the full known story of the life of Paul Morphy, from his privileged upbringing in New Orleans to his dominance of the chess world, to the later tragedy of his demise.

This new edition of David Lawson's seminal work, still the principal source for all Morphy biographical presentations, also includes new biographical material about the biographer himself, telling the story of the author, his opus, and the previously unknown life that brought him to the research.

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The London Lancet in 1823 had been the first to have a chess column. C. H. Stanley had started the first one in the United States in the New York Spirit of the Times in 1845, and now Morphy’s column in the New York Ledger was anxiously awaited. And so during July, Morphy was engaged in preparing his weekly series of articles for the Ledger so that he might have a few weeks’ vacation away from New York before returning to New Orleans. As the Chess Monthly of August 1859 states, his Ledger column

of his sense of the hardship inflicted upon him by the condition, and also, of a quiet exultation over the anticipated success of a plan he had formed, he accepted the terms; chess-board and men were produced in an inner office, and Morphy played his latest game of chess. With a disdainful curl of the lip, and a manifest repugnance, Morphy moved in such a way that his friend mated him in a very few moves, whereupon Morphy exclaimed, “There! I have done what you require: but the next time I play

powers his play was marked by a boldness and even audacity.” S. S. Boden seemed to agree, for he said from firsthand knowledge ( Chess Life-Pictures by G. A.MacDonnell) that Morphy had a truly gigantic capacity for chess that was never fully called forth, and that his play “was rather over hazardous.” Calling on Freud in this same article, Dr. Jones goes on to ask, was Morphy one of “those wrecked by success,” his meaning being best expressed by a line that he quotes from Browning’s “Pictor

the backs of those who had abused it. This lesson, as we said, had to be repeated, and we trust that costly way of teaching will never have to be tried again with our sturdy old parent. And thus the great and beneficent era of competition in the arts of peace was at last inaugurated. Now it is not fair to ask everything at once of a young and growing civilization. When our back-woodsmen have just made a clearing, we do not expect them to begin rearing Grecian temples; but was not and is not the

questioner’s gratitude.) Karen Kukil of the Smith College Special Collections library was fundamentally helpful in the development of Lawson’s biographical material, as was noted Lola Ridge scholar Elaine Sproat. Both of them volunteered invaluable advice and information. Finally, Jennifer Ritter provided interest, advice, and support when the editor needed it most. EDITOR’S INTRODUCTION In 1846, Paul Morphy became a legitimate child prodigy. In 1857, he became the United States chess

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