17 May 2019

Paul Morphy, Annotator

In a recent post on this blog, Paul Morphy, Editor, I looked at the first two volumes of 'Chess Monthly' and wondered whether Morphy wrote the notes to the games. Here's a summary of the post:-

The bottom entry (1858) lists four Morphy games starting on p.15. [...] The first game, Paulsen - Morphy (p.15), is the famous game where Morphy sacrificed his Queen for a Bishop. It has a page and a half of notes. The other three Morphy games have a half-page of notes. [...; Fiske:] "The Book of the [1st American Chess] Congress will hardly be ready before Spring. ... The notes to the games will be chiefly by Mr. Morphy." [...] Were the notes to the Morphy games taken from the draft of the book? [...] Next stop: The Book of the 1st American Chess Congress.

I already had a copy of the book, downloaded from the Open Library when I was working on the post Fiske's 'Chess in Iceland' (July 2018). That copy turned out to be problematic when I was using it in my Kindle. The pages were dark yellow and slow to load, so I located a better copy in Google Books. The title page was preceded by a colored chess problem, as shown in the following image.

Title: 'The Book of the First American Chess Congress' Author: Daniel Willard Fiske, MA; Published: New York, Rudd & Carlton, 1859. The subtitle says,

Containing the proceedings of that celebrated assemblage, held in New York, in the year 1857, with the papers read in its sessions, the games played in the grand tournament, and the stratagems entered in the problem tournay; together with sketches of the history of chess in the old and new worlds.

The book's dedication says,

To Paul Morphy, the hero of that American tournament whose story is here told, and the conqueror upon the traditionary battle fields of Europe, I dedicate this book with every sentiment of esteem and friendship.

The book's preface mentions,

To my kind and distinguished friend, Mr. PAUL MORPHY, the reader is under obligations for comments to several of the games in the Grand Tournament.

Long story short: Morphy wrote the notes to 'several' of the games in the book. While I was working on this, I also learned more about the games in 'Chess Monthly'. The following is from another of Fiske's chess books, 'Chess Tales & Chess Miscellanies' (1912), as a long note to the chapter titled 'Paul Morphy'. The note was titled 'Morphy as a Chess Editor' and attributed to the Times Democrat, New Orleans, March 10, 1901, p. 15:-

From some unknown cause, but undoubtedly as a fact, there seems to have obtained a fairly general belief among the chess fraternity, and especially the editorial section thereof, that Paul Morphy merely lent the use of his name, without substantial editorial work, to the two chess periodicals with which he was connected during his career; namely, the American Chess Monthly during 1858, 1859, and 1860, and the column in the New York Ledger appearing in 1859-1860. In part refutation, at least, of this current idea, we think the following excerpt from a letter written under date of February 5, 1901, from Prof. Daniel Willard Fiske, then at Florence, Italy, to Mr. Will H. Lyons, the well-known chess bibliopole of Newport, Ky., will prove interesting to our readers. It will be recollected that Professor Fiske was Morphy's associate in the editorship of the Chess Monthly. He observes:

"I was very much interested in Mr. Buck's account of Paul Morphy. He errs, however, when he states that Mr. Morphy contributed very little to the Chess Monthly while his name was upon the title-page. During the course of the second, third, and fourth volumes, a large part, possibly the greater part, of the games were selected and annotated by him. His annotations, for their clearness, their firmness, their gentlemanliness, and their terse, accurate English, have not, I think, ever been equalled. They well deserve republication. Unfortunately the indexes do not enable anyone to ascertain with which games Mr. Morphy had to do. My own copy has his initials attached to the games he annotated.

If possible, I will endeavor to have sent you from Paris three large photographs (front view, three-quarters view, side view) of the bust of Mr. Morphy in the Café de la Régence. They are not very satisfactory, partly because the light under which they were taken was so placed as to give a gray appearance to the hair. On the whole, the bust of Morphy constitutes the best likeness obtainable -- all those appearing in books are caricatures."

We confess that we ourselves were not aware that so large a proportion of the games and annotations that enrich the specially splendid 1858, 1859, and 1860 volumes of the Chess Monthly were due to Paul Morphy, but there can be no questioning the accuracy and reliability of Professor Fiske's statements in the matter. It would surely be a boon to possessors of that already valuable periodical, and a marked increase in its chess value to all lovers of the game, if he would furnish for publication, from his set of the Chess Monthly, the data indicating the games selected and annotated by the King of Chess-Kings. We should be only too pleased to give the matter place in our column.

It may be remarked in this connection that, as far as concerns the chess department in the New York Ledger of 1859-1860, aside from the fact that the entire series of at least the earlier half of the games and annotations bear unmistakable marks of Morphy's handiwork, we have personal knowledge that he expended much labor on that particular portion of the column. But the clouds of a mighty oncoming conflict on the bloody fields of the Civil War were already sweeping over the sons of the North and South alike, and small wonder that Morphy was compelled to commit the latter part of the volume to the capable hands of his friend, Fuller, of New York. This is a his- torical fact too well known to need repetition or discussion.

[Paul Morphy died at New Orleans, July 10, 1884.]

In that passage there is much for further research. For this post, I'll stop here.

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