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Sunday, January 15, 2006

UNRIVALED PERFORMANCES BY PAUL MORPHY (PART III)


After felicitously describing Mr. Morphy's position to be like one laying aside his weapons, and sighing, with Alexander, that there were no more worlds to conquer, Mr. Van Buren closed by saying: "Mr. Morphy--Your readiness to engage at all times, and with all comers, in chess contests--your refusal to make the condition of your health an excuse or a reason for declining--your utter rejection of all advantages that might be your due in a contest, and the intrepid spirit you manifested at Paris, induced Mons. St. Arnaut, one of the ablest and frankest of your adversaries, to name you "the chivalrous Bayard of Chess." But it is not for your qualities or conduct only as a chess player, that I have united in this proceeding. Your intercourse with your friends here, the accounts we have from New Orleans, the uniform representations from abroad, all concur in showing that in high-bred courtesy, true generosity and courage, innate modesty and strict integrity, you have illustrated at home and abroad the character of an American gentleman; and it is, therefore, with unaffected pride, that I have become the medium of conveying to you the sentiments that I have expressed, and that I again offer for your acceptance this appropriate token of the regard of your countrymen and of their recognition of your services." The orator concluded by asking the vast audience to unite with him "in welcoming, with all the honors, Paul Morphy, the Chess Champion of the World," and sat down amidst the wildest applause.

Mr. Morphy, on rising to respond, gracefully accepted the gift, and, in the course of his remarks, spoke of chess, "the kingly pastime," as a game that "never has been and never can be aught but a recreation. It should not be indulged in to the detriment of other and more serious avocations--should not absorb the mind or engross the thoughts of those who worship at its shrine; but should be kept in the background and restrained within its province. As a mere game, a relaxation from the severer pursuits of life, it is deserving of high commendation. It is not only the most delightful and scientific, but the most moral of amusements. Unlike other games, in which lucre is the end and aim of the contestants, it recommends itself to the wise, by the fact that its mimic battles are fought for no prize but honor. It is eminently and emphatically the philosopher's game. Let the chess-board supersede the card-table, and a great improvement will be visible in the morals of the community." Mr. Morphy's manner and matter won upon all hearts, and his pleasant speech was followed by deafening cheers.

Another grand ovation awaited Mr. Morphy at Boston, to which city he proceeded soon after the close of the elegant hospitalities extended him in New York. On arriving in Boston, Mr. Morphy gave a public reception, under the auspices of the Boston Chess Club, whose guest he was. A brilliant company of friends and admirers assembled at an early hour, and, on Mr. Morphy making his appearance, he was ushered into a reception room, where a large number of gentlemen crowded around him, eager to see and greet the youthful hero of numberless chess battles. After having been introduced to several of the most distinguished persons present, Mr. Morphy was conducted into a large and magnificent apartment of the club and seated himself at a chess table, which was surrounded by ladies of beauty and fashion.

Mr. Morphy quietly proceeded to arrange the chess-men, seemingly unconscious of the fact that he was the conspicuous mark of multitudes of bright and beautiful eyes. Mr. W. R. Broughton, who was considered one of the best players in the city, was selected as Mr. Morphy's opponent. In order to lessen the crowd, which was very large, arrangements were made to announce the moves in the opposite room, and the various tables therein were speedily surrounded by those interested in the game. The game and comments commenced simultaneously, Mr. Morphy giving his opponent the odds of the Queen's Knight. President Sparks, Professor Longfellow, Professor Pierce, R. H. Dana, Jr., Hon. Josiah Quincy, Jr., Mayor Lincoln, Professor Huntington, and other eminent men, were present, and exhibited deep interest in the progress of the game, at every successive step.

Mr. Morphy's moves were sudden--generally made on the instant. Mr. Broughton moved only after the most careful study. "Do you understand the game?" inquired one venerable and distinguished gentleman of another. "No; but I am deeply interested in Morphy; he seems so modest and self-possessed." "That's true; there is something extraordinary in his appearance, but I can't really make out what it is." People generally conversed in whispers, during the exciting joust, pronouncing his moves "fertile," "brilliant," "dashing," and one young gentleman declared in a low tone of voice, that the youthful champion was a "perfect stunner." Gentlemen of advanced years asserted, when the game was half-finished, that Mr. Broughton "didn't stand any sort of a chance." The game lasted until ten o'clock, when Mr. Broughton acknowledged that he was vanquished, and Mr. Morphy was then introduced to a large number of admirers, both ladies and gentlemen, the great majority of whom had remained standing during the entire evening, so great was their interest in the game.

For several successive days, Mr. Morphy was the recipient of the most flattering attentions in Boston,--feted in all sorts of ways, and waited upon by many of the most eminent men of the city and state,--in all of which he maintained the same modest and unassuming demeanor with which fame had so long stamped him. He won golden opinions from all who observed or came in contact with him.

But the most notable event in Mr. Morphy's reception at Boston, was the grand banquet given in his honor at the Revere House, May 31st, by the Boston Chess Club. All the arrangements for the evening were of the most superb and costly description, the tables were covered with the choicest viands, and the finest of music enlivened the occasion. Among the distinguished persons at the tables were Chief Justice Shaw, Professors Agassiz, Pierce, Huntington, and Sparks, Judge Parker, President Walker, of Harvard College, J. R. Lowell, E. P. Whipple, James T. Fields, Judge Thomas, Dr. O. W. Holmes, Hon. Josiah Quincy, Mayor Lincoln, Senator Wilson, and many others.

Dr. O. W. Holmes presented, and made a felicitous address of welcome to the guest of the evening, who, he declared, had honored all who glory in the name of Americans, as the hero of a long series of bloodless battles, won for the common country. Dr. Holmes concluded by giving, as a sentiment, "The health of Paul Morphy, the world's chess champion: His peaceful battles have helped to achieve a new revolution; his youthful triumphs have added a new clause to the Declaration of Independence." On rising to respond, Mr. Morphy was received with nine tumultuous cheers. He spoke of the unaffected diffidence with which he stood in the presence of such an intellectual audience, gracefully tendered his thanks for the cordial welcome extended him, and remarked upon chess as the best relaxation amidst the more serious pursuits of life, and, as such, afforded an excellent discipline for the mind. Mr. Morphy's appearance was exceedingly pre-possessing, and all hearts were united in his favor.
Read part I
Read part II
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About the Author

Original Title - UNRIVALED PERFORMANCES BY PAUL MORPHY, THE AMERICAN CHESS CHAMPION--1858. This is from the book, OUR FIRST CENTURY, by R.M. Devens (1876), which is in the public domain.

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