From left to right: Howard Staunton, Paul Morphy, Frederick M. Edge
A detailed overview of many issues in the late 1850s concerning Howard Staunton, Paul Morphy and Frederick M. Edge is in our feature article Edge, Morphy and Staunton. See too Supplement to ‘A Debate on Staunton, Morphy and Edge’ and Edge Letters to Fiske.
Firstly, the present article reproduces from the 1980s, when Chess Notes was a bimonthly magazine, the full published exchanges in a debate involving many chess historians: C.N.s 840, 881, 943, 957, 1012, 1031, 1124, 1149, 1172, 1228, 1269, 1270, 1358, 1416, 1417, 1439, 1440, 1480, 1499, 1569, 1570, 1633, 1642, 1643, 1669, 1700, 1722, 1757, 1758, 1818 and 1932. Our own remarks are in italics.
The following unpublished Edge letter has kindly been supplied by James J. Barrett (Buffalo, NY, USA):
‘This letter was commenced a fortnight back.59 Great Peter Street, Westminster
London Apr. 3 – 1859
My Dear Fiske:
Having nothing better to do (excuse this flattering commencement) I sit down to take up my pen for the purpose of beginning a lengthy epistle. As Paul Morphy will very shortly be back again in the United States receiving the slobberifications of his countrymen, this communication may be looked upon as an introductory act of transfer, instruction of consignment, etc. etc. Do you remember giving Paul Morphy a note for me when he was leaving New York, together with documents for Preti and others? Well, when we were both in Paris in the month of October last, he asked me to look in his portmanteau for some thick underlinen, as the weather was becoming cool. I searched as directed, and what should I find but these identical notes; and had it not been for my discovery, they would not now have been delivered. I mention the circumstances because I wish you to understand that it was simply and purely de mon propre avis that I stuck to him from the moment of his arrival. Several reasons impelled me to this. Firstly, revenge against the American players who had not recognized my exertions at the Congress. There was only one way in which I would have received any mark of recognition from them; that was by a vote of thanks of which I should have been proud as long as I lived. I don’t care about my duties during the Meeting, altho you are well aware, Fiske, the other secretaries did little or nothing: what I mean is – the publicity which my articles in the Tribune, Frank Leslie’s, etc. gave to the proceedings. Secondly, pride. The English players laughed at me when I told them about Morphy, and the St George’s in particular made merry at me, although I did not allow my enthusiasm to get the better of my judgement. When Paul Morphy arrived he, at first, was distant towards me; he thought, no doubt, I was desirous of being his second and deriving éclat from his feats. I soon set that thought to rest. But the greatest incentive of all was the determination that he should beat Staunton. In the presence of the London Chess Club, Mr Mongredien said to our hero – “You must be very careful, Mr Morphy, what you say and do with regard to Staunton: he is a wily customer and will find means to back out of this match and throw the onus upon you”. I immediately answered right out – “Mr Morphy, Sir, has come to Europe to beat Mr Staunton and he will beat him with whatever weapons that gentleman may choose”. – I have never acted with so much judgement and energy as in seconding Paul Morphy, and in future years I shall always reflect upon this period of my life with pride. Staunton has lorded it over the English chess world for many long years with the utmost tyranny and where is he now? “Not one soul to do him reverence.” He does not go to the St George’s, and all the members of that club are heart and soul for Morphy. Lord Lyttelton’s letter has damned him in history and write or say what he will, he can never resume his position in the teeth of that epistle. Would you think it possible, Fiske, that Morphy objected to have that letter published, and that I was subsequently obliged to send it off to the papers on my own responsibility, without his knowledge? Ah, I have had a bitter, hard battle to fight with him all through. He objected for a long, long time to having the letter sent to Staunton which commenced the public correspondence between them. When S. sought to entrap him by sending his private reply, Morphy preferred listening to anybody but me, and was about answering also privately. But, singly and alone, I managed to carry the day at last, by dint of argument, entreaty and almost tears. And when Staunton published M.’s letter, suppressing that important paragraph, I said that the latter must now address the British Chess Association and claim justice. Morphy laughed in my face, and replied “the matter need go no further”. What would you have thought of him and me if the affair had so rested? I immediately sat down, boiling with rage, and penned the letter to Lord Lyttelton. I took it right away and submitted it to Mr Bryant (Staunton’s old Second) who returned to the hotel with me and induced Morphy to sign it. Nor is this all. When Lord L. sent his capital reply, P.M. declared that it should not be published. – Seeing it was vain to hope for his consent, I waited until he was out of the way and then sent it to the London papers. Ask Morphy if all this is not true, and then say, Fiske, if I did not act as the very best of friends. Still further, am I not the sole cause of his remaining in Europe and beating Anderssen, without which he would have returned to America uncrowned and unacknowledged?
You have, by this time, read my book. Have I sought my own glory or avenged myself for any supposed wrong? Private feelings have nothing to do with my admiration for his genius; and besides, there is a sweet satisfaction in working heart and soul for a man who is unjust and ungrateful to you. Fiske, how Christian-like one feels when his motives are misjudged and his disinterested acts supposed to cover an arrière pensée, and this is just my position. Through chess in New York and working for your Congress, I lost a good situation on the Herald. Through Morphy I lost an autumnal tour in Russia, the confidence of my father, the affection of my family; nearly broke my poor wife’s heart by forsaking her for him, and to cap the climax am now hated and maligned by himself. And now, how stands the case? I see him safely out of Europe with the greatest reputation that ever chessplayer possessed, and I write a work which will live as long as the game lives and will make him more famous than anything he has ever done. And all for what? To be treated as Alexander served Parmenio.
The main reason for Morphy’s treatment is this: You know that any laborer in the South is regarded as a slave: he has come so to think of me. I made the proposition to him to accompany him to Paris as his secretary, etc., if he would pay my expenses, which I would pay at some future day. He ultimately got to think me a nigger, actually telling me one day, “you will write, you must write, you are paid to write”. No other man but myself would have forgiven him that. I did for he had not yet beaten Anderssen and I was resolved he should. And now that he is at home, I shall still guard his fame here in Europe and woe be to him who dares say aught against Paul Morphy.
In anything I do for Morphy, I am admirably seconded by Löwenthal who downright worships him. I am writing to you Fiske, purely confidentially, and will therefore tell you a secret, which for Heaven’s sake keep to yourself. Staunton has got himself into such bad odour with his countrymen that there is but one club throughout the length and breadth of the kingdom which is favorable to him – viz, the Cambridge University C.C. S. wants to right himself. He cannot get any games for the Ill. Lon. News except those he copies second hand from other papers, and he does not show himself anywhere in chess circles. Besides, he knows that the British Association must, at its next meeting, take action upon Morphy’s appeal to its President, and he is now working to get the meeting held at Cambridge. Löwenthal and I are watching him and we have discovered that he is endeavouring to induce the Worcester Club to give up its claims until next year and it is probable they will. We shall then get the meeting in London and Staunton will be outvoted 20 to 1. Löwenthal is very popular with all the London clubs, and I have now some influence with the leading members and shall have much more when my book is published. Besides, Walker, Boden and Falkbeer are under obligations to me and I can use their columns when I wish. Depend upon it, Staunton won’t make anything by Morphy’s departure, and wherever the association may meet, I shall be present and face to face with the portly Howard. He has been no match for me in diplomacy and correspondence and he will be still less in speechifying.
April 15th 1859 –
Morphy leaves for Liverpool today on his way to New York. Before you receive this, you will have seen him and no doubt will have heard his reasons for so acting towards me. Now Fiske, I ask you, what reasons have I, or had I, for sticking to him? I was no chessplayer or American. I could hope to gain nothing by friendship for him. I do not wish to prejudice you against Morphy: if one must suffer, let it be me, for he is your countryman, your co-editor and your friend. All I ask of you is – do not wrong me also. I have done him nought but good, I have served him as a Christian should his God. Judge me by my conduct since his arrival in New York in ’57 – and as I love and esteem you Fiske, show me some generosity – which I have not received from your countrymen. Morphy is gone. I must now devote my years to business. My father’s affairs call me constantly into the different great cities of Europe. I shall make a point of visiting the chess clubs in my journeyings and you may rely upon receiving occasional readable articles from me for the Monthly.
Hoping you are well and that you will receive Morphy as he really ought to be received for the glory he has cast upon his country.
I remain, my dear Fiske,
Most Sincerely Yours
P.S. – You ought to have the announcement of Morphy’s being on board in the Extras. I wrote to the Captain of the steamer to ask him to do so.’
Below we quote from Mr Barrett’s commentary on this letter:
‘The text shows Edge to be a complicated man. His pushiness is well illustrated in the interchange with Mongredien. Although the latter speaks directly to Morphy, Edge did not let him answer. There are valuable glimpses of Morphy at a very personal level. The relating of his attitude towards Edge as a slave, at least in Edge’s mind, is an electrifying revelation (or opinion).
My own assessment of the Edge/Morphy interlude is that Morphy’s whole trip would have been without half the troubles it encountered had Edge been out of the picture. Edge’s almost paranoid hate of Staunton resulted in his enmeshing Morphy deeper and deeper into a controversy that would not have dragged on the way it did if Morphy had been in control.
Without Edge, Morphy would have played at Birmingham and his results no doubt would have been spectacular. Staunton’s Shakespeare texts were well-known at the time. Morphy has been criticized for not sufficiently appreciating this, but who better than Edge – a writing man himself and “in the know” – should have appreciated it? Yet he continued with his “so much judgement and energy” to press and connive and complicate until he backed both Staunton and Morphy into a corner. And all this took time. Morphy probably would have thrown up his hands and moved on to Paris much earlier than he did, otherwise. This would have condensed his itinerary and left him time and energy for proceeding into Germany, Austria and – who knows – Russia (for Petroff, Jaenisch et al.). Furthermore, this might well have been a jump ahead of Sybrandt, the ubiquitous brother-in-law. As it was, the delay over Staunton, and the rancor in the press reports, allowed the “nervous Nellies” in the Morphy family time to make up their minds and despatch this kill-joy emissary of the family’s “good name” in time to quash all further travels by Paul Morphy. And chess lost much.’
We add two brief comments:
a) Students of this fascinating relationship will need to be familiar with ‘The Morphy-Edge Liaison’ by G.H. Diggle (BCM, September 1964, pages 261-265).
b) The Oxford Companion to Chess quotes from a letter from Edge to Morphy (March 1859): ‘I have been a lover, a brother, a mother to you; I have made you an idol, a god ...’
The question is whether ‘lover’ is to be taken literally. If indeed Morphy were a homosexual, this may well have been one more burden on his ultra-sensitive nature, giving rise to feelings of guilt and accentuating his secretiveness. On the other hand, Edge’s use of the word ‘lover’ may be more casual, with no sexual connotation. In the Fiske letter he writes, ‘... I love and esteem you Fiske ...’
From G.H. Diggle (Hove, England):
‘The Edge letter is a great “find”, and I think it justifies my estimate of him in the 1964 BCM, with which it seems Mr Barrett largely agrees, though I was wrong in saying that Edge and Morphy did not separate till April 1859 – the rift came three months earlier. It is curious that David Lawson did not publish the whole, which sheds so much more light on his relations with Morphy. (Of course, the letter tells against Lawson’s rather favourable estimate of Edge.)’
Bob Meadley (Narromine, NSW, Australia) writes:
‘That certainly was an eye-popping letter of Edge’s to Fiske, and to some extent it is a pity David Lawson did not publish it in its entirety in his fine book Paul Morphy The Pride and Sorrow of Chess. As you know, the extract he did publish on page 148 of that book contains none of the startling material in the letter, and one can assume from that that he wished to gloss over some of the traits of Morphy by not including them.
It is to be hoped that other letters will be published in Chess Notes to give us a fuller picture of this relationship between Edge and Morphy as it is a fascinating one.
The publication of Edge’s letter in C.N. shows up a difference of opinion between the late Mr Lawson and Mr Barrett on the behaviour of Edge. On page 115 Mr Lawson wrote, “Edge always played a subordinate role in Morphy’s affairs”, whereas Mr Barrett feels that there wouldn’t have been half the trouble had Edge been out of the picture. I’m inclined to agree that there would also have been only half the chess had Edge been out of the picture.
One thing that has sadly always seemed to place historians into one camp or another depended on their view of whether they favoured Staunton’s actions with Morphy. Another matter is Morphy’s love life. David Lawson’s book suffers here and only on page 204 does he say, “What little is known of the women in Morphy’s life, he seems to have had some attraction for them”. Yet Frances Parkinson Keyes says on page 534 of The Chess Players (1961), “I believe I know who the object of his affection was; at all events, I know the family, in which she may have been one of several sisters or cousins, descendants of whom are still living. I could see no useful purpose in violating Creole reserve by making factual use of this episode ...” What an amazing statement, and one might well ask how anyone could be offended 100 years after the event. No-one is responsible for the sins or omissions of ancestors.
There is still a lot to know on Paul Morphy. For example, the only photo in Lawson’s book in which Morphy has anything resembling a smile on his face seems to be in that portrait on page 333 in which he is playing chess against a woman of older years. I would commend to everyone a close examination of this photograph. He was very interested in women if his actions in later life can be believed. Therein lies some of the mystery behind the man. What about all his late nights out in Paris?
Another thing worth knowing would be what P.W. Sergeant told David Hooper “in later years” such that Sergeant felt Edge lied. (See BCM, page 34, 1978.)
I hope Mr Barrett’s letter of F.M. Edge leads to a veritable rash of such publications in Chess Notes. It can only help get closer to the truth.’
For the record, J.J. Barrett informs us that he received the original Edge letter from David Lawson for inspection. Our correspondent xeroxed it and returned it to D.L. We personally believe that Mr Lawson’s decision not to quote the real ‘meat’ of the Edge communication in what aimed to be a definitive biography of Morphy was a grave misjudgement.
From Ken Whyld (Caistor, England):
‘Diggle’s article in the 1964 BCM was what first alerted me to Edge’s duplicity (that is, when I read it in 1964. What a good writer Diggle is). Later I checked Goulding Brown in the 1916 BCM (key section enclosed).’
This reads (page 192):
‘“The campaign of depreciation” by Staunton in the Illustrated London News from the time Morphy left England till the match with Harrwitz began to turn in his favour (Sergeant, page 16) is mythical. The whole story of Staunton’s depreciation of Morphy (before the rupture and Morphy’s appeal to Lord Lyttelton) is simply an impudent invention of Edge’s, and fully justifies Staunton’s denunciation of Edge’s book in the Praxis as “a contemptible publication”. With unparalleled effrontery Edge asked his readers not to take his word for granted, but to turn up the file of the Illustrated to see for themselves. I have done so, and I find him a liar. And I could wish that Mr Sergeant had done the same, before he penned his tremendous indictment of the greatest personality in English chess, and the central figure of the chess world from 1843-1851.’
Frank Skoff (Chicago, IL, USA) writes:
‘Re your C.N. 943 and Edge. From Edge’s book, page 94: “Let him take up the files of the Illustrated London News from the time of Morphy’s arrival in England to his match with Harrwitz; let him examine the analysis of the games, the notes to the moves in that paper, and he will invariably perceive that the American’s antagonists could or might have won, the necessary inference being ‘There’s nothing so extraordinary about Morphy’s play, after all’. A change appeared in the criticism on the eight blindfold games at Birmingham, but, then, Morphy stood alone, and interfered with no-one’s pretensions.”
Morphy arrived in London on 21 June 1858. I therefore checked all the columns in the ILN from 26 June through to 28 August, the issue after that being the one dealing with the blindfold display at Birmingham. What Edge wrote is correct, however unamiably he may have phrased it.
Sergeant apparently erred in stating that the depreciation covered the period “from the time Morphy left England till the match with Harrwitz began ...” It should have read, if he is citing Edge for his assertion, “from the time Morphy arrived in England”.
I also read the 1916 BCM article by Goulding Brown and found it nonsensical, some of it also being refuted by Lawson in his book.
I see someone in BCM has already classed Morphy as a homosexual, though he offers no evidence. Even if it were true, it would not change chess history essentially. Edge’s remark was made in 1859, over 125 years ago; and did someone check the language to see the meaning of the word “lover” in 1859?’
(Here we exercise our right to intervene, as the ‘someone’ referred to. On page 24 of the 1985 BCM, in reviewing the Companion, we wrote: ‘Hidden away on page 217 is what appears to be the first publication of a claim by F.M. Edge that he was Morphy’s lover.’ The words ‘appears’ and ‘claim’ are surely sufficient in themselves to refute any charge of categorical classing. Moreover, we were also suitably cautious on page 111 of last year’s C.N. (final paragraph of C.N. 840), making an identical point to Mr Skoff’s concerning interpretations of the word love/lover.)
‘As for Goulding Brown, I must add that the evidence he produces to call Edge a “liar” would never pass a court test, or any other rational proof. What he does is select the brief quotes that are favorable to his case, ignoring those that are not. In judging what was termed a “campaign of depreciation”, you must look at the whole picture, the Gestalt, if you wish, before you can come to any reasonable judgement. You cannot be selective, choosing only those items that sustain your case, if you think them such. Brown, to elucidate further, apparently is a 100% purist; Staunton either praised or lambasted Morphy or Löwenthal, etc., and thus if you find one quotation, for example, of praise, then the whole case collapses. Brown forgot that Staunton was no fool; he was careful to throw in a bit of praise now and then while he is lambasting his poor victim, thus giving the appearance of objectivity. (I might add that I have read Staunton’s volumes from 1840 to 1852 and all his columns in the Illustrated London News – I am not writing without some basis or evidence,)
Interpretations of what Staunton wrote in the period in question may differ; however, just because Edge’s interpretation does not meet with Brown’s does not mean that Edge is a “liar”. For example, there appears to be quite a discussion in Chess Notes regarding Alekhine’s return match with Capa. Suppose X and Y were on opposite sides of the matter? Would it justify X calling Y a “liar”? Of course not. But that is what Brown does.
One minor point: Brown makes the foolish statement (one of many) at the close of his article re Morphy playing Staunton: “(4) If Morphy only desired a trial of skill (a) Why not at Birmingham? (b) Why not privately at Staunton’s house?” It was a true match that Morphy desired (didn’t Brown ever read about Morphy’s formal challenge?), not a private meeting wherein the results would not count. (There is some rumor that the two did play some private games, but only on Staunton’s proviso that the results should not be made public). Can you imagine such an attitude, say, in Steinitz’s time (which overlaps Staunton’s), when Steinitz was challenged by Chigorin, and Steinitz would only allow the latter to play him privately? What nonsense!
Brown cleverly uses Morphy’s words about “a trial of skill” as though Morphy did not want an official, public match, as he had with Löwenthal, etc. More nonsense.
Now to Diggle’s “The Morphy-Edge Liaison” (BCM 1964, pages 261-265). Here we have an amazing display by the author who, more than a hundred years after the event, knows the motives of Edge, the evil ones of a journalist. This is very clever on his part, the usual argumentum ad hominem approach to avoid facts. By discrediting Edge in this way, he can simply dismiss anything the man wrote. He calls Edge’s book “venomous and untrustworthy”, but he gives no facts other than his subjective reaction to the volume: “malignant participant”, “smear technique”, etc.
When Diggle discusses Harrwitz, he finds Edge trustworthy. Isn’t that odd? Edge lies about Staunton but is truthful about Harrwitz. “Here there was no need for him to stir up trouble or fabricate evidence.” First, what is really meant by “stirring up trouble”? Isn’t that what Diggle himself is doing? (Also, isn’t he a member of that evil clan, the journalist?) What does that term mean factually? Your guess is as good as mine. Secondly, what evidence did Edge “fabricate”? Diggle gives none.
Diggle may not like the flamboyant style of Edge, but that is a different matter compared to factual content. I wish he had made a list of lies by Edge with evidence to back up his assertions. Or did he find it unnecessary since Edge was a member of that evil profession, journalism? I am not impressed by emotional terms used to describe Edge’s conduct and writing, nor do I believe that Staunton, because he often wore flashy clothes and occasionally was as flamboyant as Edge in his writing style, was therefore another version of Edge.
Technically, I can only admire the subtle slanderings of Diggle, e.g.: “Edge was admirably fitted for the position into which he had wormed himself”, “the adroit Edge”, and other bits of fictional twaddle like that. Such writing serves well in literary fiction, but it is out of place in biographical exposition, which requires a firm, factual foundation.
Now, someone might say regarding some things I have written here: Where is your evidence? Strange, is it not, when I write something I must give evidence; but when Brown writes, he gives very little; and when Diggle writes, he gives the least of all. Yet nobody asked for evidence then.
I am being a bit sarcastic, of course, but it illustrates my point. Finally, just to repeat, if anybody wants to discredit Edge by saying he is a liar, a fabricator of evidence, then have him list both the lies and the evidence for them. Secondly, indicate what effect those lies, if any, had on the events in question. And, please, no words derived from fiction writers, and no talk about evil journalists. (Are Diggle and Brown evil? Is Winter evil? Am I evil? Are the BCM journalists evil?)’
Addition on 8 December 2020:
On 18 April 1985 Ken Whyld wrote to us:
‘I haven’t the time to deal with the Edge business, and no doubt Diggle will do it more ably than I could. However, I agree with Skoff that the word “lover”, in 1859 – perhaps even in 1939 – did not necessarily imply anything carnal. (Just as “having intercourse” meant simply holding a conversation.) There is not the slightest doubt that Edge manipulated Morphy. He withheld messages from him and wrote letters purporting to be from Morphy which P.M. had never seen – and this by Edge’s own admission – even boast.’
G.H. Diggle writes:
‘Mr Frank Skoff’s vigorous contribution and his generous defence of Edge give a new turn to a famous controversy which has now ebbed and flowed over 125 years. When I wrote “The Morphy-Edge Liaison” in 1964 I was a “fiery youth” of only 61, a lifelong admirer of Staunton who for four decades had witnessed my hero denigrated in potboiler after potboiler not only as the “cowardly evader of Morphy” but a producer of “devilish bad games”. As I considered that the main source of all this was Edge, I launched forth my “counterblast” in an attempt to redress the balance. If I have now lived to be myself “counterblasted” out of my “wheelchair”, I must accept this as one of the hazards of indiscreet longevity.
I have re-read my “thunder” and note Mr Skoff’s “objections” to my phraseology.
Mr Skoff says that I call Edge’s book “venomous and untrustworthy”. Not the whole book, nor do I altogether “dislike his flamboyant style”: “The book bubbles with joie-de-vivre and abounds in racy anecdotes – the smallest incident is presented vividly and effectively ... Quite apart from this, as Edge himself says in the Preface, he was an eyewitness of so much that ‘if I did not chronicle the history of Paul Morphy’s travels in Europe, nobody else could’ and subsequent chroniclers would indeed find it difficult to get on without him. Unhappily, however, Edge is all too often more of a menace to a later historian than a help. For the book, with all its merits, is in certain parts one of the most venomous and untrustworthy in the whole of chess literature.”
“Malignant participant”. I do not think this is unfair, especially after Staunton (whose own conduct in many respects cannot be excused) had finally broken off the match. Morphy knew that public sympathy both in London and Paris was on his side, and wanted to close down the whole affair quietly. He was twice frustrated by Edge, who drafted a letter to Lord Lyttelton and pestered Morphy into signing it – when the reply came Morphy was content and did not want it published – “seeing it was in vain to hope for his consent I waited till he was out of the way and sent it to the London papers”. It could be argued that though this was treacherous, it was not “malignant” – “he only wanted to clear Morphy’s name”. In view of Edge’s animosity to Staunton, I “leave it with the jury”.
“Smear Technique”. I quote in support a passage from Edge (Chapter 4) re Staunton’s attack of pneumonia in October 1844 which prevented the third match with St Amant. It was well known in Paris at the time, and accepted by all authorities afterwards, that it was “a very serious illness”, that “for some days his life was in danger” and that he was left with a permanent weakness of the heart (H.J.R. Murray, BCM, 1908). Edge, however, writes: “Stakes were deposited for the third and deciding match, but Mr Staunton was taken ill, and it was never played. It is unfortunate for Mr Staunton’s reputation that the plea of bad health was so frequently used by him when opponents appeared. And it is more than ever unfortunate in this instance, because the French players declared that, judging from the later games of the previous match, it was obvious that Mr Staunton would have succumbed to their champion if the third and deciding heat had not been prevented by the Englishman’s indisposition. And many of them even affirm that Mr S. felt this and acted in consequence.” Edge’s “technique” here was to put his “smear” into the mouths of others.
“Stirring up trouble”. See “Malignant Participant” earlier. But it must be allowed that Staunton’s fatal Illustrated London News paragraph of 28 August 1858 was a contributory factor, and gave Edge some good ammunition.
“Fabricating evidence”. I was of course referring to Edge’s story of Staunton’s depreciation of Morphy’s play, denounced by B. Goulding Brown, who had checked the ILN column himself, as “an impudent invention”. Goulding Brown was well-known in our chess circles as a strong player, a scholar, and a gentleman, and without hesitation I took his word rather than that of Edge, who was on his own statement “no chessplayer” and therefore incompetent to express an opinion on the fairness or otherwise of Staunton’s notes. But Mr Skoff has now examined the ILN himself, and suggests that Goulding Brown was taken in by the praise of Morphy which he found – it was only put in by Staunton to give an air of impartiality. While giving full weight to the opinion of a critic of Mr Skoff’s standing, I can assure him that if Staunton was “no fool”, “B.G.B.” was no fool either.
“The adroit Edge”. I see no harm in this. “Adroit” is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as “dexterous and skilful”. Edge was both – an agile-minded and able man.
“The position into which he had wormed himself”. Objection sustained. Though the evidence is circumstantial, it is I think enough to confirm that Edge angled for the position and got it. But this was a legitimate ambition and not a sinister one. “Wormed himself” is too strong and the “Right Honourable Gentleman” withdraws the expression.
To sum up. The difficulty in assuaging Mr Skoff’s thirst for “factual content” is that in Edge’s case there is (or was in 1964) practically nothing to go on outside his own book – his contemporaries give us no help as regards the man himself. As we do not know what other people said about him, he can be judged only by what he said about other people. My impression of this was sometimes far from favourable – I did not pull my punches and one or two were arguably “below the belt”. But, as Mr Skoff observes in another connection, “you must look at the whole picture”. So I will end by quoting the opinion of the man who knew more about Morphy than all of us put together – the late David Lawson. We were in frequent correspondence in the seventies while he was preparing his great work. His first letter (20 June 1973) opens: “It is almost a decade since I read your interesting article on Morphy and Edge in BCM. With most of it I am in agreement – to some of it I would take exception. But you cover their relations very well.”’
(End of G.H.D.’s contribution.) In reply to a point raised in C.N. 881, David Hooper (Bridport, England) informs us:
‘From time to time and over many years from the early 1930s I met Sergeant at the Guildford Chess Club. I was honoured to meet the great authority on Morphy, whom we both idolized. I accepted what Sergeant wrote. Doubts came years later, about 1946 I believe, after König had enlightened me about Staunton’s contribution to chess strategy, a contribution I also discussed with R.N. Coles and which may first have been noted in modern times by Golombek. I then became interested in Staunton in a general way and came to see that he was not as black as Sergeant painted him. I was neither alone nor the first to understand this and, of course, these views became known to Sergeant. Naturally we discussed this. I don’t think he ever changed his interpretation of events in Morphy’s time but he expressed some doubts as to whether he should have accepted so much uncorroborated evidence from Edge.’
A lengthy four-part review of the Oxford Companion to Chess appears in the February, March, April and May-June issues of the APCT News Bulletin (P.O. Box 305, Western Springs, Illinois 60558, USA). The writer, Frank Skoff, deals mainly with the Morphy/Staunton/Edge affair, and the concluding part offers the most vigorous and detailed defence of Edge we have seen.
Mr Skoff’s central thesis is that the Companion is too harsh on Morphy and indulgent to Staunton, and he criticizes B. Goulding Brown, G.H. Diggle and R.N. Coles on the same grounds. Support for this, in no uncertain terms, comes from Dale Brandreth in a letter published in the July number: ‘... the fact is that the British have always had their “thing” about Morphy. They just can’t seem to accept that Staunton was an unmitigated bastard in his treatment of Morphy because he knew damned well he could never have made any decent showing against him in a match.’
We regret the polarization of views, but it is all gripping and essential reading.
From Dale Brandreth (Yorklyn, DE, USA):
‘Re. the Staunton affair: I have never doubted Staunton’s importance either world-wide or to chess in Britain. As an organizer and promoter his place is secure in chess history, as is also his place as a player (even Fischer agrees there!). His treatment of Morphy was perhaps no worse than his treatment of others, except that in many ways Morphy had the naïveté of a child, and that made Staunton’s behavior even more reprehensible. What Skoff objects to in the Whyld-Hooper treatment in the Companion – and I am forced to agree – is their subjective evaluations such as his “weakness of character”. What was that? Did he steal, lie, cheat, chase women, smoke strong cigars, drink to excess ...?? Not all of the above would be regarded as character defects by many, but to state such things without saying what his faults were and without supporting evidence is the very thing that I think is reckless and unjustified. Staunton certainly did have at least one real weakness of character: his constant verbal abuse of, and sly innuendo towards, those he disagreed with or whom he wished others to see in an unfavorable light. Hooper and Whyld are both my friends and so I do not want to make more of this than it deserves, but I think their opinions have been subtly distorted by over a century of smearing Morphy by those contemporaries who could not stand the fact that this tiny young fellow was their total master on the chessboard. I have always sensed a tinge of arrogance in Morphy that undoubtedly and understandably raises the hackles of many who may have sensed the same in him, genius or not. I think Capa had much the same condescending air at times, and there too it served him poorly. For example, had he really wanted a match with Em. Lasker early in his career, a humble approach might have secured him the contest, but his rather haughty approach only brought out the worst in Lasker, and the latter naturally found many excuses for not playing the one he knew to be truly dangerous in the period 1910-14. Overall, I think Lasker erred there because he may well have won a 20-game match vs Capa earlier on, whereas after 1913 I think it was at best a 50:50 proposition. I would have favored Capa by at least 6:4 by 1914, though Lasker surely would have been no push-over.’
Ken Whyld writes:
‘Hooper and I spent some effort in writing the Companion to avoid words that have a different meaning across the Atlantic. It appears from Skoff and Brandreth that over there “character” means “morals”, which was not what we were discussing. The Marquis de Sade had a strong character but that did not make his morals praiseworthy. It should be remembered that this remark about “weakness of character” was made as one explanation of Morphy’s utter failure to build a legal practice. What is Skoff and Brandreth’s explanation? Is there any achievement of Morphy’s which we failed to praise, and that fully?’
Frank Skoff writes:
‘I owe an apology to Mr Diggle for being so late in my reply to his critique (C.N. 1012), but since we are discussing the eternal truths of journalism, perhaps time is not of the essence. I concede that Mr Diggle used “adroit” fairly to describe Edge. Nonetheless, under the circumstances my error may be understandable; Mr Diggle hurled so many verbal brick-bats at him that it was practically impossible for me to notice one of them was actually a rose, the solitary missile of mercy amidst the furious fusillade.
Ascribing causation (or motivation) to human actions is often extremely difficult. Some would ascribe the collapse of the Morphy-Staunton match to Staunton, some to Edge, some to mere accident, some to an Act of God under very suspicious circumstances; others would find the cause in socio-economic factors, or in the effects of climate (Parisian air and water pollution) upon character and subsequent inevitable action, or in the genetic code which, step by step, worked its way inevitably to the final dénouement. Others believe the whole matter ended tragically because of the poor relationships of the individuals involved with their respective parents; still others would ascribe the tragedy to some sexual origin as compared to those who found the fatal flaws in the liver, the kidneys, the gall-bladder, the pineal gland, tangled neurons, weak synapses, etc. Despite the difficulties in biographical interpretation, one must look at all the evidence and interpret it as best one can, taking care to avoid dubious speculation or silly idolatry.
I cannot find in my analysis of Brown and Edge in the APCT News Bulletin where I suggested “that Goulding Brown was taken in by the praise of Morphy which he found – it was only put in by Staunton to give an air of impartiality”. I hope I didn’t put on the mantle of omniscience as to Staunton’s motivation; if I did so, it was wrong. Perhaps Mr Diggle can clarify the reference for me. In any case, to settle the point definitively, I conceived a brilliant idea: why not arrange a seance to contact Staunton’s ghost in the other world? Upon being contacted he was most vehement in his protestations, employing some awful language, like “puerile imbecilities” and other outrageous phraseologies too violent and abusive for me to repeat here. I positively will not invite that ghost to any of my future seances! Since then, however, some scientific authorities, probably envious of my innovative approach to historical research, told me bluntly that “information” gleaned in that way is worthless because a seance does not meet the rigorous requirements of the scientific method. What rotten luck¨! For a while I thought I had something.
But I must become serious before someone accuses me of trifling with a sacred subject. My thesis still remains solid: Edge told no lies. The cause of all the argument and confusion must ultimately rest upon the shoulders of Sergeant, who read Edge’s statement that Staunton’s annotations underwent a “change” of “tone” or “tactics” during a certain time frame (the period between Morphy’s arrival in England up to the time of the Harrwitz match). In that period the annotations went from having “scarcely a word of commendation for Morphy” to the high praises of the Harrwitz match, a rather obvious fact, though its cause may be arguable. For his Morphy book, Sergeant created his own phrasing for what Edge had called a “change” of “tactics” or “tone” (a); he called it Staunton’s “campaign of depreciation” (e), a highly inaccurate summation of Edge. (Incidentally, a “campaign” implies an organized structure whose conscious aim is to carry out its purpose of “depreciation”. Edge, however, never used either term.)
The clearest road to understanding is to read Edge first, carefully noting his criterion in the aforesaid “change” (a). Then as one reads Brown, one will soon see that he is completely unaware of it, understandable enough because he has just reviewed Sergeant – not Edge – and is bent on disproving the “campaign of depreciation” (e). Since initially both writers have vastly different criteria to start with, they can hardly show the same results in their analyses; having different targets, their paths will not cross except by chance.
However, this inevitable, huge disparity in results is increased even further by the differences in the limits or restrictions under each criterion. Edge restricts his criterion by three limits: (b) the time frame; (c) the excluded simuls; (d) the restriction to annotations only. Brown, on the other hand, has only the one limit given him by Sergeant – (b) the time frame – and naturally follows it; unfortunately for him, Sergeant did not mention that Edge excluded the simuls (c) and restricted his view to annotations (d) only. All this led Brown simply to look for any praise anywhere in the columns to refute the “campaign” charge (an easy task when using the (e) criterion instead of the (a) and being unaware of two of the three limits in Edge), after which he called Edge “a liar”. There is nothing really complex or intricate about the preceding explication of Brown and Edge; in fact it possesses all the crude subtlety of the obvious. (Brown’s failure to check Edge was not due to any malice or defect of character; upset by Sergeant’s phrasing, he just made a simple mistake, something which could happen to anyone.)
A look at the circumstances or context involving the Edge statement may be useful. At the Birmingham 1858 meeting Staunton had agreed to the match except for the “exact date” (see Morphy’s letter, 6 October 1858 in Lawson, page 140). A few days later, on 28 August, Staunton published his shocking “Anti-Book” statement, declaring that: “In matches of importance it is the inevitable practice in this country, before anything is settled, for each party to be provided with representatives to arrange the terms and money for the stakes. Mr Morphy has come here unfurnished in both respects; and, although both will no doubt be forthcoming in due time, it is clearly impossible, until they are, that any determinate arrangement can be made”. He also added that the wealthy Morphy wanted the stakes reduced from £1,000 to £500. (My comment on this secondary issue: First, if Staunton had any complaints about any phase of the match, why didn’t he mention them at Birmingham? Second, why didn’t he simply write Morphy as to the obstacles, easily taken care of, which would be the formally correct way? Instead, he resorts to his public column. Finally, isn’t Staunton saying in effect that he will play the match once these two obstacles are removed? And there is no mention of any literary contract.)
Edge’s position: “Shortly after that” (the Anti-Book statement) Staunton changed his “tactics” or “tone”, between the time of that statement (after 28 August) to the time of the praises of the Harrwitz match (5 September, etc.) “when Mr Staunton’s tone was suddenly altered”. It is quite obvious that Staunton had gone from sparse praise to laudation; the question as to the accuracy of any annotations is patently beside the point. (Note again that Edge never said anything about any “campaign of depreciation” but wrote of a change in tactics or tone, from sparse praise to laudation, hardly an earth-shaking finding. Brown, on the other hand, demolished Sergeant’s “campaign of depreciation” by simply recounting the praises he found anywhere. There you have the whole comedic mix-up in a nutshell.)
The Staunton-Morphy negotiations at this moment must have been tense enough to cause the Morphy side to be wary of Staunton. After all, Morphy had come to play Staunton, arriving on 20 June 1858. Sometime in late June the match was accepted with the proviso that Staunton be allowed a month to brush up on his openings and endings. About two months went by, but still no match. Now the Anti-Book barrage was certainly unsettling enough to both Edge and Morphy, the latter being in favor of letting Staunton write as he wished; eventually he would overreach himself. Edge was suspicious of the “change”. Morphy did not reveal his feelings on the various delays by Staunton of the match, but having waited all this time for some final results, he certainly could not have been pleased with Staunton, especially after the 28 August blast, which produced his vigorous denial. To say that the Staunton-Morphy relations at this point were cordial or excellent is untenable. After the breakdown of the match, Staunton made some very insulting (malignant?) remarks about Morphy (see his columns, also Sergeant)
“Fabricating evidence”: To me that phrase meant the falsification of any evidence presented to a court in a legal case; for example, it could be the altering of a murder weapon or a document, the forging of a document or letter, etc. That meaning could not apply to Edge since he took his evidence from the same columns Brown did. Since both men used the same source, I was baffled as to how it could be “fabricated”. Mr Diggle clarified matters by explaining that he referred to the so-called “campaign of depreciation”, which I have just re-analyzed and refuted.
Edge’s book: “... with all its merits, is in certain parts one of the most venomous and untrustworthy in the whole of chess literature”.
“Smear technique”: Edge is quoted re the possible third Staunton-St Amant match in 1844: ‘“It is unfortunate for Mr Staunton’s reputation that the plea of bad health was so frequently used by him when opponents appeared. And it is more than ever unfortunate ...” Edge’s technique here was to put his smear into the mouths of others.’ How does Mr Diggle know that this is true? Now he has donned the mantle of omniscience. Isn’t it also likely that Edge was merely reflecting the biased views of the French, who are mentioned in the brief history Edge was setting forth and which encompassed this statement? In any case, let’s assume Mr Diggle’s view is accurate; Edge’s statement then becomes a harsh and unkind remark, but it does not necessarily follow that everything Edge wrote was therefore unreliable and unworthy of trust in other areas. Staunton himself made similar remarks – see my review – and must therefore be classed as “venomous and untrustworthy” in certain areas as Edge. Now that both Staunton and Edge are disposed of as unreliable, where does it leave matters?
As to dishonesty, one must not overlook Staunton’s excision of the Anti-Book statement quoted in a Morphy letter before publishing it in his column. Also, Staunton, in another letter (15 November 1858), stated he had written to an anonymous friend living with Morphy in Paris, explaining the excised letter; when Morphy denied knowing such a person, Staunton had his chance to crush Morphy completely by identifying the party, which he was certainly obligated to do under the circumstances. Instead, he remained silent, as silent as he did when Edge’s book was published except for a few general words. In practically all his other disputes in his lifetime, Staunton replied; this is the only one in which he was at a loss for words in defending himself. A jury will have to decide that one too.
Re Mr Diggle’s complaint that Edge was the “main source” of Staunton being denigrated “not only as the ‘cowardly evader of Morphy’ but a producer of ‘devilish bad games’”: As to the games, the original quotation is ‘some devilish bad games’ (my emphasis), from lines Morphy had written in a copy of a chess book when he could not have been more than 16 years old, lines not intended for publication and hardly sensational since all masters have played badly on occasion. As to the denigration, it would seem that the rational course to pursue would be to garner all the facts about the matter, then weigh the evidence for and against Staunton to discover the errors which caused a miscarriage of justice. Instead, Mr Diggle, in the main, attacks Edge personally, showing what a repulsive person he was, a procedure which does not add much substance to the matter.
When the Morphy match negotiations broke down after three months or so, not a single chess organization or player of any prominence came out in favor of Staunton (not even his Cambridge CC, which only seemingly did so). Why? Public opinion – and here I can only interpret the foregoing evidence – could only see that Staunton, not Morphy, had finally declined the match and so ascribed its failure, rightly or wrongly, to Staunton. The public was not much interested in any justification.
Had the match been delayed for a short time, after which Staunton said his literary contract made it impossible, nothing more would have been said. But he accepted the challenge and then kept delaying it month after month for one reason or another. Morphy, a visitor to Britain, was kept waiting by Staunton for three months, certainly a most discourteous act, to say the least. Naturally Staunton’s reputation in his homeland suffered afterwards to a large extent, despite a lifetime of toil for the cause of chess, because he failed to meet Morphy.
Nonetheless, the wheel has come to a full circle, and now Staunton is pictured as a saint without fault, Morphy as an introverted and incompetent wimp, and Edge, in some unexplained way, as the villain of the whole affair (see the Oxford Companion to Chess), a point of view more founded on fiction than on fact. Edge’s idolization of Morphy, sometimes hard to take, is at least understandable since he (Edge) knew little of chess. The Staunton biography mentioned, however, beats him hollow in that respect, yet its creators were much more knowledgeable than he and had access to more data. Of course, idolatry is not unknown in chess biographies since the earliest days of chess history.
“Malignant participant”: Morphy, as Mr Diggle says, wanted to end the affair quietly. “He was twice frustrated by Edge, who drafted a letter to Lord Lyttelton and pestered Morphy into signing it – when the reply came Morphy was content and did not want it published – ‘seeing it was in vain to hope for his consent I waited till he was out of the way and sent it to the London papers’. It could be argued that though this was treacherous, it was not ‘malignant’ – ‘he only wanted to clear Morphy’s name’. In view of Edge’s animosity to Staunton, I ‘leave it with the jury’”.
Edge’s publication of the Lyttelton letter was “treacherous” or insubordinate, but it was so to Morphy – not to Staunton – and no doubt was one reason why Morphy fired him. Again, Mr Diggle has donned the mantle of omniscience in knowing that Edge did it only because he hated Staunton. Perhaps, but that is not very helpful in assessing matters, no more than discussing the various people Staunton disliked or hated would be. Assuming for the moment that Edge had not acted as he did and the letter only surfaced last year, how would the case against Staunton be changed? The facts in the letter are still facts, whether published immediately or not, whether published against Morphy’s wishes or not.
The major difference between Mr Diggle and me is that he was interested in presenting an adroit portrait of Edge because he had treated Staunton badly, whereas my objective was to amass whatever facts one could in the Brown-Edge-Morphy-Staunton relationship. I have no real quarrel as to the repulsive portrait Mr Diggle draws of Edge; my only aim was uncovering facts so as to analyze Brown’s charge of “liar”, which simply is untrue. (If anyone has hard evidence to the contrary, I should like to know; and if my analysis of Edge and Brown is not factually based, or is erroneous in some way, I should like to be shown exactly where I went wrong.) Consequently, David Lawson and Mr Diggle may agree on Edge’s unpleasant personality, but that has no relevance to my analysis and does not affect it; the same applies to Hooper’s account of his discussions with Sergeant. Specific facts can help any analysis; discussing personal traits, repulsive or fascinating, rarely does. Perhaps Mr Diggle and I can agree that Edge was a repulsive journalist who gathered gossip, facts, insults, and the like, but to my knowledge he never altered any facts or documents which came into his hands, though like other journalists throughout history, he did publish a letter without permission.’
From G.H. Diggle:
‘Mr Skoff kindly sent me an advance copy of his reply (C.N. 1172) to ensure that I would, like Antonio, be “armed and well prepared”. I do not, however, propose to deal with all his points in detail, for two reasons. First, because he covers a very wide field, and introduces matters outside the scope of my 1964 article, which dealt only with the “Morphy-Edge Liaison” and not the whole Morphy-Staunton controversy. Secondly, because I doubt whether there is as much disagreement between us as would appear on the surface, and we may be in danger of quarrelling about words, emphasis – and epithets. For example, Mr Skoff complains that we British chess pundits treat Staunton as “a saint” and Edge as the root of all evil. This is of course an exaggeration – but we all know what he is getting at. While it is agreed on all sides that both Staunton and Edge committed excesses in print, Mr Skoff espies an unwritten British law that what is allowable in Staunton is not allowable in Edge. If Edge makes an outrageous statement it is typical of the fellow – if Staunton makes one to a fake correspondent it is treated rather as the unfortunate eccentricity of a great man, and we whisper confidentially to our readers, “There are people who refuse to credit the existence of these correspondents” (Murray, BCM 1908). But even Staunton’s enemies admitted that he had great qualities; moreover, though a very bad controversialist, he was less “greasy” and insidious than Edge. Staunton in one of his moods would indulge in a glaring mis-statement which could hardly be called false, so remote was the chance of anyone believing it. Edge was cleverer and more plausible – his methods are illustrated by his unctuous remark (mentioned by Mr Skoff in C.N. 1172, page 76): “It is unfortunate for Mr Staunton’s reputation that the plea of bad health was so frequently used by him when opponents appeared.” Edge writes as though this was common knowledge, yet it is quite untrue. “When opponents appeared” suggests that he pleaded bad health to avoid playing them – what he did was to play them and plead bad health afterwards if he lost!
There is one important point, however, which (though it does involve a dispute about words) it would be discourteous to ignore, as I know Mr Skoff feels strongly about it and defends Edge with meticulous detail, even introducing a “little algebra”. This concerns Edge’s “impudent invention” (Goulding Brown’s words quoted by me with some relish in 1964) of Staunton’s “campaign of depreciation” (Sergeant’s words, not Edge’s, as Mr Skoff points out). What Edge wrote was: “Shortly after that Mr Staunton changed his tactics ... Let the reader take up the files of the Illustrated London News from the time of Morphy’s arrival in England to his match with Harrwitz – let him examine and analyse the games, the notes to the moves in that paper, and he will invariably perceive that the American’s antagonists could or might have won, the necessary inference being ‘there’s nothing so extraordinary in Morphy’s play after all’ ... When, however, the match with Harrwitz came off, Mr Staunton’s tone was suddenly altered, and this gentleman, who previously had scarcely a word of commendation for Morphy, now talked of combinations which would have excited the admiration of La Bourdonnais.”
Three questions arise:
(1) Does this amount to an accusation that Staunton at first systematically disparaged Morphy and suddenly changed to praise as a matter of tactics?
My own opinion is “Yes”. More important, both Sergeant and Brown, though one was attacking Staunton and the other defending him, clearly thought so too. “The reader will invariably perceive ...”, wrote Edge. Sergeant’s “campaign of depreciation” may have been an ebullient translation, but scarcely a distortion of his meaning. Nor do I believe that B.G.B. was so mesmerized by Sergeant’s expression that he failed to check what Edge had said. It must be conceded, however, that he did, quite unnecessarily, over-egg the pudding by dragging in additional ILN items praising Morphy which, as Mr Skoff’s “algebra” demonstrates, were outside Edge’s “equation”.
(2) Was the accusation true? In my own opinion, “No”. Edge was wrong in saying that Staunton had “scarcely a word of commendation” for Morphy’s earlier games – in two cases he praises M. twice in the same game. But he did praise the Morphy-Harrwitz games more than the previous ones. Goulding Brown solves Edge’s “mystery” in four words. “They were better games.” This is confirmed by Steinitz, who spoke of “a marked improvement” in Morphy’s play as compared with his games against Löwenthal. The “change” Edge talks of was in Morphy’s play, not Staunton’s tactics.
(3) Even if not true, did Edge honestly think it was? This is, of course, the “thousand dollar” question – but who is to answer it? As I have been told not to go looking into Edge’s mind (especially if I happen to have donned “the mantle of omniscience” – a favourite vestment of mine, in the opinion of Mr Skoff), I will resort to my other vexatious habit of “leaving it with the jury”. They should pay every attention to Mr Skoff’s argument that Edge was not so much attacking Staunton as beginning to worry about what he was up to – first “anti-Book” – still no date fixed – then “sudden praise” etc. On the other hand, in assessing Edge’s attitude and reliability, they are entitled to take into account any earlier remarks he had made about Staunton’s ILN column. On 6 August, writing to Fiske, he alluded to “those mean, sneaking notes which have constituted Staunton the Chess Pariah of the London World”. Earlier still, writing to Maurian on 24 July, he reported: “Morphy’s scores with the leading players in offhand games stand as follows ...” Then follows the curious allegation: “Staunton will not publish them” [i.e. the figures ] “they being too much in Morphy’s favour”. Both the allusion and the allegation were made weeks before any trouble between Staunton and Morphy had arisen.
As regards my general treatment of Edge, Mr Skoff feels unable to award me very high marks for “factual foundation”. There is indeed a sort of “no man’s land” between fact and fiction into which I sometimes strayed, playing Edge by ear rather than from the music. But at that time I had practically no music in front of me except Edge’s own book. There is no more finality in chess historical research than in analysis of the Chess Openings. On the evidence then before me I portrayed Edge as an able, pushing, thick-skinned and sometimes unscrupulous journalist. But thanks to David Lawson and to Chess Notes much more about him has now come to light. His letters to Fiske and Maurian in Lawson’s book and his extraordinary letter to Fiske published for the first time in C.N. 840 suggest deeper waters. While they scarcely show Edge in any pleasanter light, he can no longer be dismissed solely as a journalist who thought he was on to a good thing. He is revealed (strangely enough for a man of his undoubted ability) as an almost adolescent Morphy-worshipper – a sort of vicarious bully where Morphy’s play was concerned who regarded any suggestion that M.’s opponents “could or might have done better” as a malevolent insult to the young master. And when Morphy finally discarded him, his tone verged almost on the hysterical. Everyone, from the officials of the American Congress in 1857 to Morphy himself in 1859, had treated him shamefully. Mr Barrett perhaps says the last word when he describes Edge as “a complicated man”.
One minor point. In reply to Mr Skoff’s enquiry in his third paragraph, his suggestion that “Goulding Brown was taken in, etc.” was not made in the APCT News Bulletin, but in C.N. 957.’
A letter from Ken Whyld runs:
‘Skoff has performed a valuable service in segregating Edge’s opinions from Sergeant’s. However, Edge talks of a change of “tactics” in Staunton’s annotations, from “scarcely a word of commendation” to “high praise”. The word “tactics” implies that the change was not connected with the merit of the games themselves. Does anyone doubt that the games against Harrwitz were much superior to those played by Morphy when he first arrived in England? Edge, being less than a patzer, said, “There are more flies caught with honey than with vinegar” without explaining how the gad-fly was to be caught.
What the Morphy-worshippers have not explained is why they attach importance to the non-match. Nobody has ever, as far as I recall, maintained that Staunton was the better player, or that he would have won the match.
I believe that Skoff makes an error of interpretation when he says that Staunton’s 15 November 1858 letter refers to “an anonymous friend living with Morphy in Paris”. Staunton said “a friend in Paris with whom, through my introduction, Mr M. was living upon intimate terms”. This need not be the same as co-habiting.
If Skoff thinks that the Companion pictured Staunton as a saint without fault then he cannot have read the entry. And did Morphy ever employ Edge in a formal sense?’
Addition on 8 December 2020:
Further to the penultimate point above, on 6 September 1986 Mr Whyld wrote to us:
‘My point is that if you say “Smith lives at peace with God” you mean he has a tranquil life, but if you say “Smith lives with God, at peace” you imply that he is dead. To live upon intimate terms with someone is not the same as to live with someone on intimate terms. The second implies cohabitation, but Staunton used the first. It simply means that they would call upon each other without appointments and without presenting cards.’
James J. Barrett writes:
‘Ruminate about this statement of Edge’s: “... and I write a work which will live as long as the game lives and will make him more famous than anything he has ever done [my emphasis]. This is possibly the most remarkable insight into Edge’s state of mind at that time in the whole letter. An honorable mention might go to the masochistic/martyr-complex implications of the passage beginning “... and besides, there is a sweet satisfaction ... etc.”. Psychoanalyst Fine would have a field day.’
We offer one research idea on Edge, related to his many books, booklets and open letters on British and American history and current affairs. Is there a historian who could examine these works and offer a judgement on their reliability?
Also from James J. Barrett:
‘Much more light needs to be cast on the “Edge to Morphy” letter quoted in the Oxford Companion to Chess and referred to in C.N.s 840 (page 111) and 957 (page 55) – “I have been a lover, a brother ...” etc. Nothing less than the quoting of the full text will satisfy the needs of accurate chess history. If this letter was ever delivered to Paul Morphy does it make sense that both he and his family would have preserved it if it in any way compromises the man?’
Additions on 9 December 2020:
A letter to us from Frank Skoff dated 17 January 1987:
‘Trying to assess the Edge-Morphy matter by citing, as the Companion did, only a few words from Edge’s letter of March 1859 is silly and amateurish (as well as dangerous) and would be rejected by any first-class university faculty whose students or scholars might accidentally attempt such an unethical procedure. The letter itself runs over 100 lines, of which only about 1½ are quoted! Since this minuscule quote contains a number of metaphors – as you once pointed out – and the vast context in which it appears is missing, readers so inclined can let their imagination flow freely among the metaphors and the unknown context. Under such circumstances, one’s imagination can run riot with all sorts of speculation, revealing perhaps more of the speculator than anyone else; however, it is truth we are after, not imagination.
I have obtained a copy of the Edge letter of March 1859 and believe Chess Notes would be the most appropriate place for it. Would you print it in full if I sent it to you?’
On 28 January 1987 we hastened to agree to publish the Edge letter in full and congratulated Frank Skoff on his find, also asking him whether any information could be added about the whereabouts of the original. He sent us a transcript of the letter on 4 February 1987.
In reply to other points in that letter of ours, Frank Skoff wrote on 18 February 1987:
‘As to “speculation about the brief line quoted in the Companion” getting “out of hand”, it was to be expected since so little material is presented, without context, that many readers will be tempted to unscrew the inscrutable, a situation lending itself to flights of the imagination, since there is so little factual material to form any rational exegesis. The “brief line” is really a verbal Rohrschach Test, a blob of words into which the reader gazes and tells his analyst what forms he discerns, which in turn can reveal any deeply-hidden drives or conflicts. Since a blob by its very nature has no rational appearance or structure to begin with, there can be no consistent agreement about the various forms discerned and hence no rational results about them. If such results could occur, the Test would be useless for its purpose.
My insistence on documentation is the same that impels you to insist on it for contributions to C.N. Without it, we do not progress but simply stay on square one. By documenting the Capa book, you will increase the chances of other journalists following suit, as they may get the idea that such documentation is the way they must go. It might even become chic.
As to Whyld and Hooper giving a general account of the sources of their information, I frankly think it would be a waste of space. The errors in the Staunton and Morphy biographies is [sic] not due to any lack of documentation; one can do that and still turn out questionable work. What is too often wrong is that facts which do not fit their conception of the masters in question are simply ignored, glossed over, or cunningly distorted to fit the aforesaid conception. When I pointed out some of these to Whyld sometime ago, his replies simply omitted any attempt at refutation or even comment on them, which of course convinced me I was on the right path, especially when I had already garnered enough facts to sink a battleship. (I have corresponded with Whyld off and on for over 30 years, and this is our first serious disagreement. My high opinion of him has dropped considerably.)
Actually I think I could get a publisher for full documentation of the Companion. Whyld has the documentation; all he has to do is type it with a good black ribbon, after which photocopying takes over. He may even have the material in that form already.
... Facts have never bothered me since one must face them sooner or later. If Morphy were positively proven to be homosexual, it would not bother me because it would then be a fact. However, what has been presented so far are pseudo-facts, quasi-facts, the pitifully inadequate lines of the Edge letter, in which it is impossible to discern any solid fact; it has all the earmarks of a smear. ... Now that the full letter will be in C.N., the air will be cleared, though the error will live on forever under the banner of the Oxford U. Press in the Companion. So much for justice ...
I never intended to get into the Morphy-Staunton-Edge question, but I have, to the neglect of my own researches into Chicago chess history ...
Perhaps some further explication of the question of dates ... : Whyld did give me the day involved (“25) but would go no further, which puzzled me a bit. After all, if you make a list of the dated letters in Lawson, you will be able to make a good guess as to the date in question. I quite understand the use of years only in giving birth and death dates of individuals, but this does not apply to quoted letters as a rule. Innumerable volumes of letters of famous men in the arts and sciences have been published the last century, always with the complete dating unless it was unknown.
Before I forget: the owner of the Edge letter prefers to remain anonymous, but, unlike Whyld’s counterpart, allows the full text to be printed.’
On 3 March 1987 Mr Skoff explained why the text sent to us was only a transcript:
‘After a long and occasionally bitter discussion, the owner of the letter would not allow a full copy of it to be sent to you, apparently due to the fear that its commercial value might drop too much, etc. Anyway, I managed to be persuasive enough to get you the crucial page, the last one, containing the Edge-Fiske passage.’
Another extract from a letter from Frank Skoff (dated 11 March 1987):
‘As to “the impression that Edge was writing to Morphy”, many people I talked with on the matter have expressed the same point, but that is only one specific result of suppressing the pertinent context for the quote. Once that gross and unprofessional error was made, I didn’t want to waste my time analyzing incomplete evidence. From suppression of context, all kinds of evil flow.’
On 19 April 1987 Mr Skoff wrote to us:
‘[There is] a general law: Whenever you make a case – whatever K.W. intended that excerpt to mean – you are violating both the laws of logic and of ethics: Logic, because evidence is missing or incomplete; ethics, because evidence is suppressed or not revealed. Don’t be fooled into thinking that because K.W. doesn’t bother explaining whatever he means, that [sic] he is not making “a case at all.” He knows full well some of the implications that readers will see in the isolani – unless of course you assume K.W. is an incompetent writer and mentally retarded to boot.
The “case” (whatever the fragmented isolani means by itself) is whatever the reader can make of it; it certainly does not possess much clarity, yet people will try to figure out some meaning. (Even you and I fell into that blind-alley trap.) Such a “case” is of course a grossly unfair trick – I could use blunter language – that can only lead to misreadings, untruths, exaggerations, deceptions, delusions, distortions, arguments, animosities, etc., many of which K.W. was surely quite aware of and, possibly, desired. Now he is trying to play the innocent (see the 3 March 1987 letter) and says in effect: I didn’t mean any of those things; all I meant was to show how “dangerous and unbalanced” Edge was!!! And so it’s your own fault if you saw other things in the quote, to which the answer is: by suppressing the context of the isolani, you never gave any reader a chance to get whatever meaning you intended, and you are therefore responsible for all the misinterpretations and falsities which resulted, including the smear of Morphy and Edge. After all, it was your job to explain exactly what you meant. And why was it necessary to omit the day of the letter and the party to whom it was addressed? And since when is secrecy and suppression a method of explication? Finally, why didn’t you simply say Edge was “dangerous and unbalanced” and present your evidence? Then at least the reader would have had your contention before him, unproven though it would be. To sum up, the whole affair is disgusting, loathsome, and subtly vicious.
... If you look at the Staunton entry in the Companion, you will see that “a small squabble” is hardly described therein. In fact, Whyld there is trying to soften or ignore the fact that Staunton waited until the last minute – of 90 days of delay – to suddenly discover he had a literary contract, ignoring the fact that such prolonged delay is hardly praiseworthy ... and besides, it’s all that fellow Edge’s fault anyway.
My references, in various letters ... to the unethical conduct of printing excerpts out of context were never answered by K.W.. Other points were also ignored, a few were answered. His omissions reveal a great deal:
F.S. to K.W., 25 February 1985: “I note that somebody in BCM has already dubbed Morphy a homosexual because of the quote in the Companion, which itself never made that inference. But you can’t help what people will say sometimes.” (I had hoped, with that last sentence, to draw K.W. into some discussion of the matter, without success, until 3 March 1987.)
K.W. to F.S., 24 April 1985: “Regarding the Edge letter, we had permission only to quote it in part and not to reveal who has possession of it. I could, no doubt, send you a photocopy of the part quoted in the book if you would like to be satisfied that it is in Edge’s handwriting.”
F.S. to K.W., 8 May 1985: “I do not doubt that the portion of the Edge letter in question is in his hand, but any excerpt from anything is within a certain context and that context is important in evaluating the whole. ... I don’t know what else to say under the circumstances except that in a court of law such partial quotation would not be permissible. I mention this, not in anger but to make my main point: unless something can be documented, why even bother with it?”
K.W. to F.S., 3 August 1985: “By the way, I am puzzled that, in your letter to Diggle, you assume that he wrote the Staunton and Morphy biographies. Every word of the book was written by Hooper or myself.”
F.S. to K.W., 16 December 1985: “As to the promise to you, I hate to point out that if you could not publish in full, you should not have published at all. If you don’t believe me, ask any scholar at Oxford University about the customary practice in citing material without context, etc.” (Never touched on in his reply.)
F.S. to K.W., 24 April-12 June 1986: “It is not very ethical to print only part of a letter and that with elisions too.” (Never touched on in his reply.)
F.S. to K.W., 22 February 1987: “Finally, I cannot understand why you allowed yourself to insert that brief 1859 quote from Edge-Fiske, obviously to imply that Morphy was homosexual. The fact that the owner of the letter wouldn’t let you quote more doesn’t excuse you since you had the same responsibility regarding excerpted quotations that he had. I found the whole business a bit of a shock since you are generally very careful to buttress your assertions with hard facts. Nevertheless it will all come out in the open when the full text of the letter is published ... One major difference between us is that you are over-influenced by elements other than facts. You do not, for example, take what you have written about anybody or anything and say to yourself: could I prove this in a court of law? Are there facts which gainsay it? If you did, you would never have written half the stuff you did in the bios, especially the Edge quote, which is a smear of the rankest odor.”
K.W. to F.S., 3 March 1987: “The quotation we gave shows what a dangerous and unbalanced person he was, which is why we gave it. He clearly regarded Morphy as his creation. You appear to be the only one who has read a suggestion of homosexuality in the quote. You know that the word ‘lover’ had a different colour in the mid-nineteenth century, and you ought to know that Edge was speaking metaphorically and did not mean that he was literally Morphy’s mother, etc. If you get around to reading Edge’s other works you will find confirmation of his unreliability.” (Amazing nonsense filled with non sequiturs!)
F.S. to K.W., 2 April 1987: “I am not the only one who read the quote ... as hinting at homosexuality; other people here who have talked about it had that same immediate reaction. (You might look at Winter’s review of the Companion in BCM too.) What is more astonishing is that you thought nothing of simply citing those few words, even though you had only a tiny part of a large whole, thus smearing Morphy – unintentionally or intentionally, it matters not. Would you have printed those lines had they apparently referred to Staunton? You also knew that most modern readers would not know of the Victorian usage of ‘lover’, but you printed the passage without any attempt to clarify the matter as you are now doing.” (Reply to letter not received as yet.)
F.S. to G.H. Diggle, 23 September 1986: “I have been asking Whyld without success for the few lines cited from an Edge letter in the Companion, but he says the owner of the letter would not allow him to quote more than was given. In that case I replied you should never have cited it at all since to quote material without its context is not a just procedure as any scholar at Oxford or at any other university would be quick to tell you. In fact, it is reprehensible to act that way. Whyld never replied to that obvious fact.” (No reply received.)’
The Morphy entry in the Oxford Companion to Chess (page 217) caused a considerable stir by quoting from an unpublished Edge letter: ‘I have been a lover, a brother, a mother to you; I have made you an idol, a god ...’ For a long time it proved impossible for us to secure a copy of the letter but now, thanks to Frank Skoff (who obtained it from a source insisting upon anonymity), the complete text can be made public here. The first thing to note is that, contrary to the impression given by the Companion, the letter is not addressed to Morphy himself, but to Fiske.
‘59 Great Peter Street, Westminster
March 25th 1859
My Dear Fiske,
Many thanks to you for your kindness in forwarding me the “Tribune Almanacs” with such promptitude, and I must, at the same time, assure you that I shall find out some means of proving my gratitude to you for the regularity with which the “Monthly” has arrived, though unasked by me. You must put down my name as a paying subscriber, since the commencement of this year, and I will take an early opportunity of handing you the subscription, postage included.
Now, about my “Morphy Book”. Appleton has made arrangements with me to publish it, and I am now writing the last two chapters. Next Saturday’s mail carries the manuscript to him. He has given orders here to his agent, to let me have my own ideas carried out with respect to illustrations; and the first Engraver in England, Dalziel, has, for some weeks past, been engaged on plates for the book. No. 1 is Morphy, No. 2, a group – Staunton, Boden & Löwenthal. No. 3, Lewis, Walker & Mongredien. No. 4, Anderssen, Harrwitz & Saint Amant. I have obtained Photographs of all these men, and you may rely upon seeing true likenesses, as Dalziel is not limited to expenses.
I am going to make a request to Appleton, that he engage you to revise the proof-sheets, in order that there may be no mistakes in the spelling of proper names. He will, of course, remunerate you for the time so expended, and I think you will not object to the labor, inasmuch as you will have the first sight of the book. But I ask you “as you love me” not to alter any of the matter, or cut out anything: What I have written, I have written and wish to remain – at all events until the second edition. –– The book contains between 200 and 250 Pages, the size of Bohn’s Handbook (Staunton’s) and will be dedicated to the American Chess Association; and I feel confident will put Morphy on such a pinnacle of fame, as he himself never dreamed of. Löwenthal has roared over the different chapters I have read to him, and says that all the chess tales he ever read are nonsense to it; and I believe you will think so too. This is a synopsis of the contents.Paul Morphy’s
Travels and Triumph
1. Morphy becomes acquainted with his Parents and Countrymen.
2. The First Am. Chess Congress.
3. Morphy prepares to start for Europe.
4. Chess in England from the Year One
5. Morphy in England.
6 How the great English Champion,
7 Howard Staunton, very much
wanted to play Paul Morphy, and
wouldn’t after all.
7 Morphy in France.
8. 9. 10. 11. Morphy & Harrwitz. – all of
the Amateurs of the Régence. – Morphy in Society. – Morphy and
Anderssen, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.
In the 4th chapter, I give matter never before published, derived viva voce from George Walker, Lewis, Medley etc. on the old Philidor Club, Parsloe’s, the Divan, Westminster, St George’s, London, etc. The chap. is about 40 pages long, and will be interesting to the chess community at large. – I give all the correspondence, anonymous and otherwise, about Staunton, and particulars only known to Morphy and myself; and the work is chock full of anecdotes throughout, and, as I have already told you, written for everybody, not for mere chess players. –– I write in the first person but will not affix my name, because I wish Morphy alone to have the glory of his own acts. This has been a rule with me since his arrival in Europe, and though fiercely pressed even by ladies to sit for a photograph with him, I have always refused for I will not have it said that I had any personal motive in sticking by him. My real motives are these: I was deeply hurt at the Congress at not having my services recognized. You know how I worked, in the rooms and in the papers; why I know not, and I certainly did look for a vote of thanks. Well, when Morphy came to England, I said – “Now I’ll be avenged, but I’ll stick by this fellow-countryman of theirs, and I’ll make Americans blush for their slights”. – Now, Fiske, I can from the depths of my soul declare, looking God in the face, that had it not been for me, you wouldn’t have seen 20 of Morphy’s games – the correspondence with Staunton wouldn’t have been written, and Morphy would have gone back humbugged and a laughing stock. I made him stay and play Anderssen, and I have stood invariably between him and his enemies; and conspiracies have been dangerous in Paris, I assure you – in the salons – by Morphy’s own fault. I can say, never did man more devotedly serve another. I neglected my wife for him, accompanied him to Paris and left her till broken-hearted she came to fetch me back. I put a coldness between myself and all my family which only years will heal, and I don’t, even now, know why. I am not a chessplayer, I am not an American, I have nothing to hope for from Morphy, and I would not say what I have herein written, to anybody but you, and you will be guilty of an infamous act if you let anyone see this letter.
I shall watch over Morphy until he leaves Europe, and when he leaves I can say – “What you are outside of chess, I have made you. Your tremendous laziness, but for me, would have obliterated all your acts. I have taken your hundreds of letters out of your pockets even, and answered them, because you would have made every man your enemy by not replying. I made you stay and play Anderssen, when you wanted to leave. I nursed you when ill, carrying you in my arms like a child. I have been a lover, a brother, a mother to you; I have made you an idol, a god – and now that you are gone, I never –– but I will not finish. I say this to you, Fiske, but I have said nothing of it in my book; there Morphy is all in all, the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end; all that is great, magnanimous, true, noble and sublime, and Morphy will not open its pages without a blush, or close them without a sigh. – Burn this letter, Fiske, and forget the contents.– Yrs. very truly
Fred’k Edge –
P.S. I shall be happy if you announce my book in the Monthly, and, when published, give me a critique. It will be well advertised, and I hope Ripley will give me a good notice in the Tribune. Can’t you get him to? Bring the Enclycopedia to bear.’
We have tried to follow Edge’s exact spelling and punctuation (which includes ‘Enclycopedia’ and the two 7s in the list in paragraph 3). In the final paragraph before the signature, Edge does not close the quotation marks (which should presumably be done after ‘I never ––’).
On page 116 of his book Lawson quoted three sentences from the letter (‘I can say ... – ... only years will heal’).
In neither the New York nor the London edition of Edge’s book is there an acknowledgement to Fiske for proof-reading.
Addition on 8 December 2020: In response to the above C.N. item Ken Whyld wrote to us on 14 March 1987:
‘What a delight that Frank Skoff has managed to get permission to publish the letter! He wrote to me a week or two ago but did not mention that he had succeeded. It seems that Skoff had interpreted the quotation in the Companion as some sort of claim to a homosexual relationship. This was astonishing to me. Obviously the whole quote was metaphorical in that he was not saying he really was a brother or mother or that Morphy was a god. And as he well knows, in Victorian times the word “lover” did not imply a physical relationship. As I said to Skoff when I wrote to him on 3 March, our quotation showed that Edge had an unbalanced view of Morphy and the conclusion should be that any evidence from him that has no independent support should be treated cautiously. I find it hard to understand Skoff’s admiration for Edge.’
Frank Skoff’s reply to C.N. 1228:
‘I believe Mr Diggle has been making questionable or even illegal moves upon the chessboard of research and analysis, not always doing the research required or considering the whole of any matter, including the circumstances which produced it. For example, the circumstances which generated the Edge passage, to be given shortly, are these: In his 28 August 1858 chess column Staunton made two points:
(a) Paul Morphy “has come here” without “representatives to arrange the terms and money for the stakes”;
(b) P.M., not Staunton, wanted the stakes reduced from £1,000 to £500. Edge was jolted by the column and asked P.M. “to demand an immediate retraction of the unblushing statements” printed therein, but the latter demurred: “When a man resorts to such means as these, he will not stop until he has committed himself irremediably. Let him go on.”
Now follows the crucial passage Mr Diggle persists in misreading; I have capitalized some key words: “Shortly after that Mr Staunton changed his TACTICS. Let not the reader suppose I am about to represent things otherwise than as they appear on the record. Let him take up the files of the Illustrated London News from the time of Morphy’s arrival in England to his match with Harrwitz; let him examine the analysis of the games, the notes to the moves in that paper, and he will invariably perceive that the American’s antagonists could or might have won, the inference being – ‘There’s nothing so extraordinary about Morphy’s play after all’. A CHANGE appeared in the criticism on the eight blindfold games at Birmingham, but, then, Morphy stood alone, and interfered with no-one’s pretensions. When, however, the match with Harrwitz came off, Mr Staunton’s TONE was suddenly altered, and this gentleman, who, previously, had scarcely a word of commendation for Morphy, now talked of ‘combinations which would have excited the admiration of Labourdonnais’. ... Mr Morphy judged from this unexpected change of TONE that Mr Staunton either believed that these contests with continental players would take up so much of his time in Europe, that he would have to leave without playing him; or that Mr S. was experimenting with the maxim – ‘There are more flies caught with honey than with vinegar’.” (Ultimately Morphy “therefore” wrote his letter of 6 October 1858 from Paris, published in numerous papers of the day, defending himself regarding the match.)
(I) Edge in two separate letters wrote he was not a chess player; consequently, he could not have analyzed the games in question even if he tried. All he could do was look for praise or censure in the notes or commentary. Since the censure obviously exceeded the praise, the question is, what does that disparity mean? To Edge, the Morphy-worshipper, it was unfair to have the censure exceed the praise (Mr Diggle feels the same way about Staunton). One might add too that had Staunton been inclined to be friendly, that feeling would have shown up in his notes for the period cited in the passage, but it did not.
(II) The entire passage, not just focussing on the word TACTICS, must be considered as a whole before a true comprehension can be gained. Why then are the other key words – CHANGE, TONE, and TONE again – not also considered, since they would modify the meaning of TACTICS?
(III) In any case, Morphy had been kept waiting over 60 days, during which time Staunton kept bringing up different reasons for delaying the match, claiming once, as we have seen, that Morphy wanted to reduce the stakes (Staunton never offered proof on this point when Morphy indignantly denied it), etc. Under all these circumstances, is it so overwhelmingly unfair that Edge should call the sudden outburst of praise for Morphy’s games against Harrwitz a change of TACTICS? Very rarely have match negotiations between top players been free of them, yet Mr Diggle seems very upset at the word in spite of the circumstances which surely justified it.
(IV) Finally, what is so thunderously wrong about the word in its full context or circumstance? After all, since late June Staunton had been switching from one excuse to another for not playing the match, while bestowing in his column faint praise and much criticism, the latter bordering on contempt at times. All of a sudden, copious praises fill his column. Edge – and P.M. – could hardly be blamed, under the circumstances, for being somewhat suspicious, for wondering about the CHANGE in TACTICS or TONE, which I might express in words: “What on earth is Staunton up to?” (I covered the Edge passage inch by inch, including much the same facts given here, in my 12-page review of the Oxford Companion to Chess in four issues of the 1985 APCT News Bulletin, but Mr Diggle, who received them, ignores it all in favor of “playing Edge by ear”.)
Regarding Mr Diggle’s (1): Claiming what Goulding Brown or Sergeant thought Edge wrote as preferable to what Edge actually wrote is an illegal move, a gross injustice, valid only in a kangaroo court: the heart of the matter rests in what Edge himself said, not in what others said he said. Sergeant at least knew what Edge’s limits or conditions were in the quoted passage; also his summary of Edge as Staunton’s “campaign of depreciation” is not equal to the word TACTICS, no matter how many ears Mr Diggle uses in playing that bit of prose. As to B.G.B., there are only two possibilities: (a) He did read Edge but so badly he never noticed the limits, or (b) he never read him at all. (If he really read him, as Mr Diggle claims, then why didn’t he notice the conditions or limits set forth? B.G.B. was not an illiterate.) In either case, calling upon him as an authority is out of the question. I realize Mr Diggle likes to play things “by ear”, not by mind, but that process is more trouble than it’s worth (especially if I decided to use it also) and only adds more problems to those already existing; I somehow get the feeling that Mr Diggle formed his opinions long ago and doesn’t want to be disturbed by unexpected facts. (By the way, he should not refer to my listing of Edge’s limits as “algebra”, implying that there was something so esoteric about using letters to indicate them that they should therefore be ignored. Mr Diggle knows full well that using letters in such fashion is a common practice.)
It is obvious from the Edge passage that he set two conditions or limits: blindfold exhibitions were excluded, and the games were limited to those before the Harrwitz match. B.G.B. never adhered to those limits (whether he read or didn’t read them is beside the point), so his critique belongs in the waste basket. Furthermore, “scarcely a word of commendation” means “few” or “very few”; yet Mr Diggle mentions two bits of praise in one game as though that constituted a refutation. And he persists in dragging in the excluded Harrwitz games: Mr Diggle’s (2) requires little further comment (see my analysis above); he blindly goes on arguing about the validity of the notes to the games, whether one was better than another, etc., totally irrelevant since Edge wouldn’t know a good game from a bad one.
As usual, Mr Diggle continues to quote remarks by Edge as though they were necessarily untrue by simply being quoted. He forgets perhaps that the burden of proof is on him to prove their falsity, requiring that he himself go through all the chess media of the period to check them out, a time-consuming chore, his task, not mine. One example will suffice to illustrate: the reference to “those mean, sneaking notes which have constituted Staunton the Chess Pariah of the London World”. Has Mr Diggle researched all the Staunton material to see if it contained any such notes? And were there any events which might indicate a loss of prestige or popularity to justify the metaphorical “Pariah”? No, but his ear, not research, tells him that the quote cannot be true.
There is no way of measuring to show that Staunton “was less ‘greasy’ and insidious than Edge”. Furthermore, it is absurd to say that “Staunton in one of his moods would indulge in a glaring mis-statement which could hardly be called false, so remote was the chance of anyone believing it”; again Mr Diggle offers no proof, merely assertion. Since Mr Diggle had read my lengthy review, which contains numerous quotes from Staunton’s insulting journalism, none of which justifies the assertion, it astonishes me that he now dismisses them in so airy and offhand a fashion. Since few C.N. readers will have seen them, let me quote two, one of which is newly found, and Mr Diggle can then point out how the people concerned were unaffected by them. The first excoriates the “evils” caused by professional players in England in 1865: “The evils ... which we have deprecated are no mere fancies, and it is high time that steps were taken to rid the game of the feculent excrescences that have attached themselves to it” (the Chess World, I, 1865-66, page 323). Here’s the other: “To what purpose does our bantering correspondent wish us to devote the four sheets of blackguard excerpts, which he has been at the pains of culling from the Notes on Chess, in a Sporting Sunday’s Newspaper? – He cannot imagine we shall debase our pages and insult our readers by reprinting the scum and froth of his ‘fat-headed Boetian’.” (Chess Player’s Chronicle, II, page 317).
As a player and promoter of chess, Staunton’s fame is secure; the same cannot be said of his conduct on various occasions. Excellence at chess does not necessarily extend to conduct, and Staunton is not the only famous master of whom this could be said. As to the “darker waters”, will Mr Diggle please express himself directly in clear English instead of throwing out mysterious and murky hints? I am tired of the innuendos that seem to be the rage in certain quarters of British journalism (see C.N. 1358).
Mr Diggle is a Staunton-worshipper, Mr Edge is a Morphy-worshipper, and I am stuck in the middle, between one who “plays it by ear” and the other who can no longer speak.
I am baffled by Whyld’s reference re the importance of the non-match; after all, he himself presented his picture of it in the Companion in the Staunton entry, after which it came into discussion because of its distortions. As to Whyld’s comment re Staunton and sainthood, perhaps I should have written “practically without fault”. In any case, there is only Potter’s quote about Staunton’s “‘gross unfairness towards those whom he disliked ...’”, but this is immediately counteracted by “‘there was nothing weak about him and he had a backbone that was never curved with fear of anyone’”. Outside of that, all is praise. As to Morphy employing Edge in the formal sense, I know no more than Whyld does; since both formal and informal employment were common at the time, I do not see its potential significance, if any. I welcome Whyld’s correction to my misinterpretation of the 15 November 1858 letter. As to his comment on TACTICS, this is answered in my reply to Mr Diggle above.’
Also from Mr Skoff:
‘Before presenting my analysis, with its essential but obvious thesis, let me say that the Oxford Companion to Chess (late 1984) is an excellent work, the best of its kind; unfortunately, its biography of Morphy (and Staunton), written by Ken Whyld, is biased and distorted, a view I expressed to him several years ago. The infinitesimal excerpt from the Edge letter is a prime example: “Edge found it profitable to report these [Morphy triumphs], and when they ceased (Jan. 1859) Edge’s ‘friendship’ also ceased. In March 1859 he wrote, in an unpublished letter: ‘I have been a lover, a brother, a mother to you; I have made you an idol, a god ...’.”
If one reads this excerpt carefully several things strike the eye sooner or later. (1) The day of the letter is missing. (2) The recipient of the letter is not given, so that it seems Edge is writing directly to Morphy. (3) Furthermore, the word “‘friendship’” is not too far away from “lover”, a word that is bound to catch the attention of the reader by itself, hinting at homosexuality since the quote in excerpt appears to be written to Morphy. At the same time everything is further complicated by the fact that the reader is unsure of whether to take much of the material literally or metaphorically; after all, he has so little in front of him to make a thorough, rational judgement or analysis. Any ambiguity should have been cleared up before publication.
Eventually (a letter from K.W. to me dated 3 August 1985) the day (1) was revealed to be 25 [March], but nothing else was clarified. I managed to get a copy of the entire letter in early 1987, and it was printed in C.N. 1358, thereby clearing up (2). As you pointed out significantly in C.N. 1358, “contrary to the impression given by the Companion, the letter is not addressed to Morphy himself, but to Fiske”. (Friends of mine in conversation also made the same point. See also C.N. 1270, where Mr Barrett follows the implication of the Companion and is misled thereby into thinking the quote was addressed to Morphy himself.) (3) The word “‘friendship’” does not appear at all in the letter. Be it noted too that Edge was Morphy’s secretary approximately for the brief period July 1858 to January 1859, about seven months or so. Finally – until the quote – Morphy’s name had always been linked romantically with women (see Lawson), a fact surely known to the Companion.
The quote (one and a half lines) is from a four-page letter (111 lines), and at best an infinitesimal quote can only produce an infinitesimal amount of uncertain data or gossip, whose reliability can only be highly questionable, especially since one is misled into thinking Morphy was the recipient of the letter. Other consequences flow from the same cause, the lack of context: the reader does not know the nature of the letter, whether it dealt with personal matters only or with business or with both, nor whether it touched on one topic or more, nor if its tone was angry, bitter, pleading, querulous, spiteful, defensive, and so on ad infinitum. Making a case hinge on such an infinitesimal part of a whole is a serious violation of literary ethics on K.W.’s part as it involves the suppression of relevant evidence; the fact that the anonymous letter-owner would not allow more to be quoted does not release a user of it from full responsibility. K.W.’s letters to me suggest he himself selected the quote and so created the suppression, probably without consulting the letter-owner. Go to any responsible scholar at Oxford or Cambridge and ask him about the proper procedure for such cases, or ask a British judge for the legal view. I could take Whyld’s own correspondence and, by selecting bits of it here and there, make him appear to be almost anything he was not.
Naturally some readers of the Companion, after its publication, speculated in conversation with their friends or in print about the meaning of the infinitesimal quote, much along the lines suggested in my second paragraph above. Such speculation involved the futile task of trying to unscrew the inscrutable. I even tried it briefly myself, but it was too much like staring at a small pile of rubble and trying to reconstruct from it the entire building. Besides, what difference could it make after the biography had been printed and distributed throughout the chess world? The deed was done and could not be retracted. Now only an autopsy can be performed.
Also, was there any attempt made to check Edge’s use of “lover” and its offshoot “love”, “friendship”, and other pertinent words in other Edge writing? Let’s look at a few excerpts for whatever value they may possess on these matters:
In the suppressed letter to Fiske (C.N. 1358, page 33), note Edge’s line “But I ask you ‘as you love me’ not to alter any of the matter ...” [What is the origin of the inside quote? See also the reference below to pages 109-110 re “love”. ] Page 34: “I put a coldness between myself and all my family which only years will heal, and I don’t even now, know why. I am not a chess-player, I am not an American. I have nothing to hope from Morphy ...” [See below, reference to pages 109-110, for some repetition of his thought.] Page 34: “I nursed you when ill, carrying you in my arms like a child. I have been a lover, a brother, a mother to you ...”
Edge to Fiske, 3 April 1859 (C.N. 840, page 107): “I mention the circumstances [notes undelivered by Morphy] because I wish you to understand that it was simply and purely de mon propre avis that I stuck to him from the moment of his arrival” [in England]. Ibid., page 108: “You have, by this time, read my book. Have I sought my own glory, or avenged myself for any supposed wrong? Private feelings have nothing to do with my admiration for his genius; and besides, there is a sweet satisfaction in working heart and soul for a man who is unjust and ungrateful to you. Fiske, how Christian-like one feels when his motives are misjudged and his disinterested acts supposed to cover an arrière pensée, and this is just my position.”
Edge to Fiske, 15 April 1859 (C.N. 840, pages 109-110): “Now Fiske, I ask you, what reasons have I, or had I, for sticking to him? I was no chessplayer or American. I could hope to gain nothing by friendship for him. I do not wish to prejudice you against Morphy; if one must suffer, let it be me, for he is your countryman, your co-editor and your friend. All I ask of you is – do not wrong me also. I have done him nought but good, I have served him as a Christian should his God. Judge me by my conduct since his arrival in New York in ’57 – and as I love and esteem you Fiske, show me some generosity – which I have not received from your countrymen.”
Now that the full context of the infinitesimal quote has appeared in C.N., the air will be cleared (I hope). Nevertheless, though I hate to sound cynical or pessimistic, the smear of Morphy will live on forever in print under the prestigious banner of the Oxford University Press in the Companion; it has already spread to so many places in the chess world that its eradication will be impracticable. So much for justice.
In my lifetime I have read many papers by recognized authorities in many fields, from American and British literature to anthropology, but I never ran across anything remotely resembling what the Companion did so brazenly and unethically. Such unfair treatment is common enough in politics, but I always thought that chess journalism was relatively free of such aberrations.
Though I had pestered Mr Whyld many times regarding the infamous quote since its publication, it was not until his letter to me of 3 March 1987 that he tried some explication: “The quotation we gave shows what a dangerous and unbalanced person he [Edge] was, which is why we gave it. [No explanation of “why” appears in the Companion. Nor was there any hint of Edge being “unbalanced and dangerous”. Nor did the entire letter, C.N. 1358, reveal him as such.] He clearly regarded Morphy as his creation. You appear to be the only one who has read a suggestion of homosexuality in the quote. You know that the word ‘lover’ had a different colour in the mid-nineteenth century, [I really was not that knowledgeable; also, K.W. was not writing for Victorian readers.] and you ought to know that Edge was speaking metaphorically and did not mean that he was literally Morphy’s mother [Why didn’t K.W. try “lover” here instead of “mother”?] etc. If you get around to reading Edge’s other works you will find confirmation of his unreliability.”
This attempt at explanation and justification is flabby, insubstantial and fundamentally untenable. I am not the only person who noticed the implied homosexuality, but K.W. is the only person I know of who never sensed it. Surely he must have seen Mr Barrett being misled by the quote in C.N. 1270, noted above, and you similarly in BCM. Furthermore, Edge is unreliable, he says; but he nevertheless quotes him as the guarantor of his case: He does not cover my points (2) or (3) either, here or in other letters. How can he possibly justify suppressing so much vital evidence – particularly so much of the relevant evidence in the letter as well as (2), Fiske’s name? I replied to his words on 2 April as follows: “I am not the only one who read the quote ... as hinting at homosexuality; other people here who have talked about it had the same immediate reaction. (You might look at Winter’s review of the Companion in BCM too.) What is more astonishing is that you thought nothing of simply citing those few words, even though you had only a tiny part of a large whole, thus smearing Morphy – unintentionally or intentionally, it matters not. ... You also know that most modern readers would not know of the Victorian usage of ‘lover’, but you printed the passage without any attempt to clarify the matter as you are now doing.” No reply received as yet from K.W., but I trust he will reply in C.N. He has much to answer for.’
Addition on 10 December 2020:
Below are some extracts from a personal letter which Frank Skoff sent us on 7 June 1987:
‘I’m not sure how many owners there are. Whether any owner gave permission to K.W. is irrelevant; no matter how you analyze the matter, K.W. committed the crime by himself – he was not innocent of smearing Morphy and Edge merely because he borrowed the hatchet from his neighbor to do so. As to “the new owner” problem, I have no data; nonetheless, it does not excuse K.W.
... In such a manner, under the guise of fairly discussing a seeming truth (a factoid), the smear of Morphy and Edge goes on wherever the Companion has spread its subtle venom. You and I – as well as others of course – have fallen into the old politician’s ploy and analyzed the Edge factoid in all sorts of ways, adding more fuel to the unnecessary fire. So we have discussed certain aspects: was it metaphorical or literal? (Why didn’t K.W. clarify this when I first questioned him on the excerpt? He offered the data after more than two years of intermittent questioning on my part, after the full letter was printed. His timing is thought-provoking, isn’t it?) Was it sexual? (He knew the sexual insinuendo was being discussed.)
... I wrote of this aspect to Hugh Myers, who bluntly stated the excerpt declared Morphy a homosexual (see the anonymous quote in my letter of 7 April 1985 [and, subsequently, in C.N. 1499]). Thus, with all the various discussions that have occurred in the chess world, K.W. has succeeded with his tiny insinuendo and its suppressed context, causing untold confusion and untruth, intentional or not, which will take decades to eradicate. By keeping the insinuendo in print for over three years, he has fixed certain wrong ideas in his readers, the most successful ploy ever perpetrated upon the chess public.
What is almost as astonishing is that, upon the publication of the Companion in late 1984, nobody questioned publicly the obvious violation of ethics committed by Whyld in his suppression of the context of his insinuendo! It just amazes me no end. Had Edge written in that manner, all sorts of moral diatribes would have filled the air. One conclusion is certain: Edge was more honest than Whyld.
... One topic discussed in recent issues of C.N. is Edge as a chess journalist; however, what he wrote about the American Civil War, etc. is irrelevant. The crux of the matter is his account of chess activity in his writing. So far, no-one has found a single serious error in him, neither K.W. nor Diggle, though both have hinted darkly at his character, a classic example of attacking the man when you cannot refute him otherwise. Why are they allowed to hint vaguely at dark things without being asked to present their evidence at the same time? I have put the question to Diggle – and indirectly to K.W. – in my C.N. contribution sent you recently, but I anticipate more evasiveness.
... Now to the case against the culprit K.W., the nonpareil calumniator and hatchet man of the Companion. The only thing that remains to unearth is the depth of his guilt, precisely how the factoid was concocted, and if he had any accomplices. (You won’t get much information about the letter and its mysterious owner, but you should try anyway.) Below are some questions he should answer, along with some theorizing by myself. (Remember he has not offered any explanations, though asked, a silence which only makes his guilt doubly certain. When K.W. avoids an answer, I know he has done so because he has none.)
1. What is the point and origin of the “‘friendship’” quote next to the infamous insinuendo?
2. Why is no recipient named for the letter, a situation obviously requiring some explanation, but there is none, thus misleading readers into thinking it was Morphy?
3. Since the omission was obvious, why didn’t K.W. try to eliminate any misunderstanding by adding some explanatory material, at least in the paperback edition?
4. The ethics of suppressing the context of the excerpt, which can only give readers a wrong impression.
5. The letter puzzle, one possible scenario: before the Companion appeared, K.W. had in his possession an unknown number of Edge letters, of which he was allowed to quote only unspecified parts, much like the restriction placed upon book reviewers, as the owner wanted to protect their commercial value. It is possible that K.W. used this limitation to concoct his excuse that he could not quote any more than he did? The question must be asked of K.W.: did you or the owner or both decide on the amount of quotation to be allowed?
6. Furthermore, when was the first time K.W. saw the entire letter? Had K.W. seen it before he published his excerpt? I believe he did. He therefore could have corrected the sexuality insinuendo at least in the paperback edition since he already knew of my references to that point in my correspondence with him.’
G.H. Diggle writes:
‘On reading Mr Skoff’s “latest” (C.N. 1416) I first had doubts (like Sonny Liston on a well-known occasion) about “coming out for another round”, but find (if the Editor will allow me a further “two-minute totter” in the ring) that “honour pricks me on”.
(1) “Algebra”. I must assure Mr Skoff that my reference to his “algebra” was not (as Edge would have put it) a “mean and sneaking” swipe at his meticulous methods of research, for which I have a profound respect. Indeed, later on I conceded that his “algebra” effectively proved one of his points.
(2) “Claiming what Goulding Brown or Sergeant thought Edge wrote as preferable to what Edge actually wrote is an illegal move, a gross injustice, valid only in a kangaroo court.” It might have been had I failed to quote what Edge had actually written, but I was most careful to do this before indulging in any “ear-playing” interpretations of my own. C.N. readers were free to dispense with my services and to judge Edge for themselves.
(3) “Mr Diggle ignores it all in favour of playing Edge by ear.” But I did write (after somewhat pompously assuming the role of “Kangaroo” Lord Chief Justice): “The jury will pay every attention to Mr Skoff’s argument that Edge was not so much attacking Staunton as beginning to wonder what he was up to – first ‘Anti-Book’ – still no date fixed – then ‘sudden praise’ etc.”
(4) “As to (Edge’s) ‘darker waters’, will Mr Diggle please express himself directly in clear English instead of throwing out mysterious and murky hints?” I wrote “deeper waters”, not “darker” ones. I then specified, in what I hoped was “clear English”, what the “deeper waters” (as revealed in Edge’s letter published in C.N.) were: “He (Edge) can no longer be dismissed solely as a journalist who thought he was on to a good thing. He is revealed (strangely enough for a man of his undoubted ability) as an almost adolescent Morphy-worshipper ...”
(5) “Mean, sneaking notes.” “Has Mr Diggle researched all the Staunton material to see if it contained any such notes?” Of course I have, and broken my shins on them. But that is not the point, which is: “Can these epithets be applied, as Edge, ‘no chess player’, took it upon himself to apply them, to the annotations by a great master of Morphy’s earlier games?” Mr Skoff has skilfully presented a good case that Edge may have honestly believed what he wrote. There remains the question (once put by James Mason concerning another chess “critic”): “Can aggressive ignorance be thoroughly honest?”’
Ken Whyld writes:
‘When Edge published his Exploits and Triumphs in Europe of Paul Morphy it was against Morphy’s wishes. “Mr Morphy expressly disclaims any connection with it in any way or manner” (Chess Monthly, July 1859). Lawson, in his Morphy book (page 189), thought this probably because Morphy disliked “its treatment of the Staunton affair”. W.H. Kent was quoted there: “No gentleman could have written it.”
Frank Skoff made a 12-page review (in the APCT News Bulletin) of the Companion, mostly of no direct relevance to our book. For example, about four pages were devoted to the Edge-Goulding Brown topic, an issue not mentioned in the Companion. The Edge text was given in C.N. 1416 except for the suppression, which for charity’s sake we may suppose to be accidental, of the important word “necessary” before “inference”.
No chessplayer could read that text without believing Edge to be claiming that Staunton’s annotations were biased against Morphy. Goulding Brown checked, and decided that Edge was a liar. Subsequently I, and many others, have checked and reached the same conclusion.
In the review mentioned above Skoff gave every one of Staunton’s notes, in the quoted period, to Morphy games. At first glance it might seem pointless to examine the annotations without the game scores (rather like judging a menu when being allowed to see only the prices), but Skoff had an interesting point to make, and one worth pondering. Edge “wouldn’t know a good game from a bad one”. Therefore he had no way of knowing if the annotations were unfair. All he could judge was whether Morphy appeared to be receiving more censure than praise.
Even on that basis, a reading of the notes shows them to be even-handed. But now we have Edge’s trump card. To show how Morphy might have played better was clearly an insult, but to show how his opponent might have played better was also an insult to Morphy!, “the necessary inference being – ‘There’s nothing so extraordinary about Morphy’s play, after all’.”
“Lying is the assertion of what you know to be untrue, with the intention to deceive” wrote Skoff in his review, asking how it could be proved that Edge intended to deceive anyone. Edge might have been writing from a position of ignorance. If so, he was not a liar, but a fool.
I assert that Staunton’s annotations for the period were not biased against Morphy 1) by chess standards, (which Skoff does not dispute), nor 2) by ordinary language standards. The only bias is by the perverted Edge school of logic which says that to criticize the loser is to criticize the winner.
If Skoff were to read the Era or Bell’s Life for the same period he would find the “tone” of those columns echoing that of Staunton’s. Big-hearted Walker excused the disappointing standard of Morphy’s early play by suggesting travel fatigue.
As Goulding Brown said, “There is a very simple reason why Staunton praised the Morphy v Harrwitz games more than those that had already appeared in Illustrated London News. They were better games”.
Skoff should not accuse of carelessness those reaching conclusions other than his own, nor should he imagine that they have done less work.’
Also from Mr Whyld:
‘For more than 30 years I have enjoyed a correspondence with Frank Skoff (we have never met). I have valued his views and information. Now something in the Companion has triggered a reaction and he hurtles around firing a blunderbuss in all directions, making it hard to know quite what his target is. If he could calm down enough to take a rifle we would know his aim and then he might not need to accuse his readers of missing the point so often.
As it is, I can only guess at the focus of his attention. Couple this with his gift of taking two, guessing another two, and making five, and I have difficulty in helping him. Can we safely say that the problem zone is the Staunton and Morphy biographies? For some unfathomable reason Skoff assumed these to have been written by G.H. Diggle. Alas, they were not. As I told him, every word of the book is by Hooper and/or me. (To put the record absolutely straight, the Magyar glossary, substantially by Árpád Földeák, was the one exception.) Now he says, again on some mystical basis, that these two entries were written by me. Wrong again. They were written jointly, as were nearly all of the 2,000 entries.
Could it be that the target within the zone is the extract from an Edge letter, quoted in C.N. 1417? Of that, Skoff wrote to me on 25 February 1985: “I note that somebody in BCM has already dubbed Morphy a homosexual because of what you quote in the Companion, which itself never made that inference. But you can’t help what people will say sometimes.” Nevertheless, that quotation seems to have ignited a slow fuse under Skoff which sent him rocketing away with little chance of getting his feet on the ground again.
In C.N. 1417 Skoff makes three points – 1) the day of the letter is missing, but “eventually” he got it from me, 2) the recipient of the letter is not given, so that it seems Edge is writing directly to Morphy, 3) the word “friendship” did not appear in the letter. I take these in turn.
1) Skoff has never asked me for the day of the letter. It was a Friday. In case I am told that I ought to know by now that I should guess what Skoff means, I will add that he never asked me for the date either. He doesn’t say that he asked me for it, but the “eventually” would deceive the reader into thinking so. On 3 June 1985 Skoff wrote to you asking, “Does anybody know why the day of the month is omitted in citing the letter?” Skoff made a copy for me but forgot to post it until a week or so later. When I received it I sent him the date shortly afterwards. The date was omitted because we thought the month sufficient.
2) We were conscious of this and discussed it with the editorial staff of the Oxford University Press. We felt that nobody who knew much about Morphy would be misled, because the date of March was after Morphy and Edge had broken all contact, but the average reader would most likely take it as being addressed to Morphy. The quotation was the epitome of Edge’s attitude to Morphy and after careful consideration was judged to be appropriate.
3) We never said it was part of the letter. The reference to “friendship” is before we dealt with the extract, and was in quotes because it was in our view a sham friendship.
Even the major point of the three (number 2) does not seem to merit the head of steam generated within Skoff, so once again we have to guess. Could it be the hint of homosexuality – a hint dismissed by Skoff two years ago? The quotation is very clearly metaphorical and not a statement of homosexuality, but possibly it might put the thought into the reader’s mind for the first time. I cannot see the benefit of examining Morphy’s sexual proclivities. Skoff says his name was “always linked romantically with women”. Presumably he refers to the alleged fetish for women’s shoes, noted by, among others, psycho-analyst and Grandmaster Reuben Fine, who also detected symptoms of voyeurism. Then there is the well-known story of a non-link with a woman who spurned him as a mere chessplayer.
It is, I believe, quite obvious what the letter reveals. Edge, far from being Morphy’s Boswell, as had been generally thought, saw himself as Morphy’s Svengali. The intelligent reader, who is not emotionally involved, will see that readily. David Hooper and I had the benefit of seeing the two letters that have appeared in Chess Notes, and others, and saw that Edge was not a balanced person. Further, I read Edge’s non-chess publications and found my views reinforced. When I urged Skoff to do the same he declined – “The only value of non-chess Edge material lies in getting a more complete picture of the man”. Precisely. Your readers can look at C.N. 840 and C.N. 1358 and form their own opinions. Add Morphy’s and Fiske’s condemnation of Edge and he looks a poor foundation for Skoff to build on.
If Edge is to be treated cautiously, as we believe, then the whole Morphy-Staunton saga needs looking at again, with no uncorroborated claim by Edge being allowed to pass without careful examination. We did so and concluded that the “non-match” was much less of a storm than had been thought. Without Edge it could even have been nothing. Morphy must have known by the summer of 1858 that the European players regarded Staunton as a spent force, and by then Staunton must have known that he would have been heavily defeated in a match. What incentive did he have to jeopardize his important work on Shakespeare? His churlish evasion would have been passed over, and the whole matter forgotten.
Frank Skoff will doubtless take me to task for guessing at the thoughts of Staunton and Morphy. Skoff said in his APCT review that Staunton called Edge’s book “a contemptible publication”, and said nothing else. When I replied that he probably considered quite sufficient the two pages of small print, written by Max Lange, in Staunton’s Chess Praxis (pages 500-501), Skoff said, “How do you know that? How could it be ‘sufficient’ if it failed to deal with that breakdown?”
In a letter to me dated 11 May 1987 Skoff notes that Staunton refused to play Morphy a friendly or skittles game. If he reads Staunton’s letter of 9 October 1858 he will “newly find” (like his “newly found” item in C.N. 1416) that Staunton specifically invited Morphy to his home for that purpose.
The views I have given are shared by my co-author. As Skoff says we have been brazen and unethical, perhaps he would like to say when and where. He is quite wrong in asserting that it is improper, in a work like this, to quote one and a half lines of a letter 111 lines long. Readers can judge for themselves if it makes Edge “appear to be almost anything he was not”.’
From Bob Meadley:
‘Again Chess Notes has astounded the chess history lovers of the world with the revelations in Edge’s letter to Fiske, provided by Frank Skoff in C.N. 1358. To go into the meanings of “lover” as understood in 1859 is, I think, to conclude that there is no homosexuality in the word. Edge drops “love” fairly regularly in this letter; he even loves Fiske “as you love me”. I think it is a term of deep affection between two men who became close during the 1857 American Tourney.
I was surprised to read in C.N. 276 that you are a member of the anti-Edge school, or at least were then. I think that as I suggested in C.N. 881 and as is confirmed in the latest Edge letter, his work in bringing about the Anderssen match takes precedence over the Staunton affair and, to a lesser extent, the Birmingham faux pas. Morphy played and defeated the unofficial world champion.
Edge made a great effort to get “the lazy Creole” to the board, and he was right: Morphy would not have played much chess but for him. If he was so despicable, why didn’t Morphy just tell him to go? The truth is that Morphy had Fiske’s opinion of Edge and used him.
The book by Edge was reviewed by Fiske in the Chess Monthly, 1859, page 207, and is as curious as Fiske makes the book out to be. He at least had Edge’s letters on the book and no doubt Edge knew that Morphy would soon have Fiske’s ear. Your query in C.N. 630 (why did Morphy and Edge fall out?) is easily answered. Page 173 of the book quotes Morphy as being a “lazy Creole”. The book is just too personal for Morphy’s tastes and there would have been too many names dropped by Edge for Morphy’s liking. “You will write, you must write, you are paid to write”, was how Morphy addressed Edge, and so write he did. I am sure that whilst paying tribute to Morphy for his play, Edge decided to drop a few home truths on the chess world to indicate what the real Morphy was like. It is clear that Morphy was a bad correspondent, extremely lazy, suspect with women and a very bad employer. I am certain that Edge was hard to bear also, but if ever there was a saving clause it is in Edge’s 3 April letter to Fiske: “I do not wish to prejudice you against Morphy: if one must suffer, let it be me.”
Fiske presumably had a fine line to tread with Morphy, his co-editor in the Chess Monthly. Of course, his loyalties must be with Morphy, but his admiration for Edge’s book comes through when, after suggesting that passages might well have been omitted or rewritten, he finishes off by describing it as “a good deal of gossipy, anecdotal matter in the volume, thrown together in a rollicking, Bohemian manner, which will afford the reader a half-hour’s entertainment”. It’s a terrific book which includes a unique chapter on the history of English Chess as well as the boring Staunton affair. But it has great style, bubbling along with good stories. A chess classic.
The critical relationship in my view is that between Edge, Fiske and Morphy. Are there any of Fiske’s letters to Edge? (H.S. White’s biography of Fiske?) On page 276 of Lawson’s book is a letter (ca 1863) from Fiske to Professor Allen in which he writes of Morphy’s laziness. Is it possible that Fiske used Edge to keep Morphy at the board? I think the break-up between Edge and Morphy was around January 1859. Morphy needed him for the Anderssen match. And perhaps the publication of Lyttelton’s letter was a catalyst which ended in the split when Morphy had his first look at Edge’s book manuscript. This is what David Lawson thought, and it fits the bill as I see it also. It would be interesting to know why Morphy lingered in Paris in the early months of 1859. And, finally, why did Sybrandt have to come and fetch him? Maybe we shall never know.
Surely the newly published Edge letters have pushed you back into the middle ground now. I can just imagine your reply if someone wrote about you that you “were just paid to write”.’
We thank Bob Meadley for his interesting analysis, but shall shamelessly avoid giving our own views for the time being, until our readers’ debate is rounded off.
Addition on 10 December 2020:
With regard to Sybrandt, in a letter to us dated 2 January 1988 Frank Skoff outlined the political context of the time:
‘It must be remembered that the question as to whether any American state had the right to secede from the Union had been brewing in the South for some years, ultimately culminating in the secession of the first Southern state in December 1860. Louisiana, among others, was in political and social turmoil over the question, especially so during 1860, resulting in its formal secession in January 1861. The war began in April 1961, and a year later New Orleans fell. The rest of the state fought until it was forced to capitulate in June 1865. The social structure of both was smashed forever.’
Frank Skoff writes:
‘My reply to Ken Whyld (C.N. 1440) will concentrate mainly on the infamous quote and its consequences, and I trust that he will answer all the points or questions I raise instead of avoiding them as he has done so often in the past. Herein I will use his name in a generic sense, including him as well as any other person who had a hand in selecting the quote and composing its surrounding matter. It is beyond the bounds of rational probability that he and his co-author simultaneously thought of the “arrangement” and wrote it down, especially when one notices that the quote is only a small part of a much larger sentence, a thought-provoking fact in itself (why not quote more than was given?); but, secretive as usual, Whyld maintains that both authors did it all. It really doesn’t matter how many people were involved, but a complete and thorough explanation, based on facts, is necessary and long overdue.
Whyld’s 3): As to the “friendship” item, he says, “we never said it was part of the letter”. It is equally true they never said it wasn’t. The point is that it is the writer’s job to catch such so-called “unintended meanings” and eliminate them. Mr Whyld doesn’t say if he was ever aware of such a “meaning”.
In addition, his lines on my dismissing “the hint of homosexuality” (page 87; see also C.N. 957) two years ago overlook my situation at the time: two years ago I could not say anything because I had no evidence and could only hope for some clarification from him. Also, if you read my quoted words carefully, I did not dismiss the “hint”; I referred only to the “inference” not being made, but the “hint” or implication was still there. Since K.W. was careful in his other writings to have the necessary facts to back up any assertion, I half-believed he might have them in this instance. Under the circumstances I expected him to clarify matters, at least for the benefit of the public, if not for me, after he read that letter; but he did not. Because of the obvious suppression of customary and pertinent data (contrary to the accepted university rules of research), I knew immediately something was rotten somewhere; but since I didn’t have any hard evidence to justify my reaction, I could say nothing. After all, it was possible Whyld had in reserve the concrete facts needed to back him up. It was only after I got my hands on the full letter that I knew what the truth was.
During 1985 I wrote K.W. often (letters dated 2 March, 31 May, 16 August and 16 December), trying hard to get access to the letter owner, but without result as Whyld persisted in his suppression of any relevant data and would not allow any contact by me with the owner. How could Whyld possibly object to my writing him a letter to be forwarded to the anonymous owner? How can he do so now?
Letter owners often fear the loss of the commercial value of any single letter if too much of its contents is published. Consequently, in my afore-mentioned missive of 16 December (and again in my letter of 12 June 1986) I offered to buy the 1859 letter. Whyld’s adamant stance, however, remained unchanged.
I had certainly hit a stonewall; scientific research is open, and the researcher, when he has finished a topic, reveals his data for all to see how he arrived at his conclusions. However, for the first time in my long acquaintance with him, Whyld persisted in secrecy. After I was fortunate enough around January 1987 to secure a copy of the complete text of the letter from another source I was astonished to discover it had no sexual material at all; it was not addressed to Morphy as the insinuendo implied. At last the insinuendo was revealed as a gross error in construction, a cunning deception, a phantasm, a hoax, a fabrication, a humbug, a flim-flam, a disgrace – take your choice.
In his letter of 3 March 1987 Whyld made an astounding assertion (also given in C.N. 1417): “You appear to be the only one who has read a suggestion of homosexuality in the quote.” Yet he must have known that this assertion was untrue because it was touched on in various media read by him: 1) C.N. 840 2) C.N. 957 and 3) C.N. 1270; also once in the BCM (January 1985). Knowing of these instances, he was under obligation to clarify the matter, but he chose to remain silent, thereby sealing his guilt. (He also missed a chance to clarify matters in his recent revision of the Companion.) To these instances I can add the names of individuals who spoke to me of the insinuendo. For example, when I asked an American master around March 1985 if he had read the Morphy biography, he replied: “Yes, I did. They say Morphy’s a homosexual.” More examples could be added from similar sources, but the above is sufficient for the present. Perhaps C.N. readers may want to send in their own reaction at the time they read the biography.
My letter of 22 February 1987 to K.W.: “Finally, I cannot understand why you allowed yourself to insert that brief 1859 quote from Edge-Fiske, obviously to imply that Morphy was homosexual. The fact that the owner of the letter wouldn’t let you quote more doesn’t excuse you since you then had the same responsibility regarding excerpted quotations as he had. I found the whole business a bit of a shock since you generally are very careful to buttress your assertions with hard facts. Nevertheless, it will all come out in the open when the full text of the letter is published.”
Whyld in his reply (3 March 1987) artfully dodged the point of my words and gave nothing in reply except a character sketch of Edge: To him the quote showed Edge as “dangerous and unbalanced”, “untrustworthy”; and his other (non-chess) works revealed “confirmation of his unreliability”. A perfect example of pure evasion. A man charged with an action cannot be convicted merely on the grounds that his character is not good, as any court will attest.
Would Mr Whyld please reveal the mental continuity, inch by inch and point by point, a reader would follow so as finally to agree with the quoted remarks just given about Edge through perusing the brief lines in the Companion? Clearly, it is impossible because there Whyld gave no clues or word signals as guidance. Had he written instead, for example, “This brief quote indicates how dangerous, unbalanced, unreliable, and untrustworthy Edge was”, the reader would at least know what he was trying to say though the quote would not justify the assertion.
K.W., who is unqualified as a psychoanalyst, nonetheless dons the mantle of Freud-Jung-Adler and declares Edge an “unbalanced person”, which merely means Edge did and said things Whyld disliked or disapproved of.
So far, Whyld has been a hard-liner on the quote, not conceding an iota. However, now (C.N. 1440) he has softened a tiny bit: “The quotation is very clearly metaphorical and not a statement of homosexuality, but possibly it might put the thought into the reader’s mind for the first time.” If it appeared in the “reader’s mind for the first time”, why should it then disappear? To many of us it did not, for the simple reason that it was the first thing that struck us when we read the biography (see examples above). To clarify matters, will Mr Whyld now answer the most important question of all: when did he first become aware of the “hint”, either by himself or through someone else pointing it out? A rough approximation as to time would be sufficient.
What is “brazen and unethical” is the secrecy, including omission of vital data, already presented in C.N. 1417. Mr Whyld obviously disregarded customary research procedures; nor did he even attempt to summarize whatever pertinent parts were omitted in the letter to assist the reader in getting the correct impression. I might add too that he had read the entire Edge letter, knew to whom it was addressed, and then set forth to create the false impression he wished to convey. Are other explanations possible? He cannot plead incompetence as a writer, and surely temporary insanity as an unbalanced person cannot be a plea. He has admitted no errors. So what is left? A simple smear, a libel.
Whyld in his Point 2: “The quotation was the epitome of Edge’s attitude to Morphy and after careful consideration was judged to be appropriate” [“appropriate” for what purpose? The insinuendo?].
I cannot pass by Whyld’s unsubstantiated comment in C.N. 1439 on my 12-page review of the Companion as “mostly of no direct relevance to our book”; it is flatly and positively untrue.
Re my omission of “necessary”, Whyld knows it was a typing error; it could hardly be called a “suppression” since I had given the passage correctly in C.N. 957 as well as in my review, sent to him about the time it appeared. Also it would hardly make sense for me deliberately to omit a word to weaken my case, would it? As to his reference to the “suppression, which for charity’s sake we may suppose to be accidental”, I like that touch: it reminds me so much of Edge.
I have written sharply in many places in this essay, but the reader must remember that I had spent two years in getting a copy of the letter denied me by K.W.’s secrecy.
Some points I have not covered (including C.N. 1439) will be treated in a later C.N.
Mr Whyld: Please cut out the secrecy and evasion by giving a full genesis of the infamous quote as well as by answering the other questions mentioned herein.’
Ken Whyld writes:
‘I see no point in continually covering the same ground in the debate with Frank Skoff (C.N. 1399 etc.), particularly now that the supporting evidence is available to your readers, who can form their own opinions. Therefore I simply summarize the main issue and then deal only with the more offensive untruths in Skoff’s latest contribution.
When Hooper and I were writing the Oxford Companion to Chess we were fortunate enough to be allowed access to a number of letters written by Edge (two of which have subsequently appeared in Chess Notes, C.N.s 840 and 1358). The traditional view of Edge as a neutral (or even biased) observer was revealed as incorrect. He saw himself as a major participant in the events surrounding Morphy – even as being Morphy’s puppet-master. The short extract chosen and quoted by us makes that clear. Nobody could read that and continue to trust Edge’s testimony unless it were supported by other evidence. The whole Morphy history thus needs a re-appraisal. We are pleased that our work has led to this becoming abundantly obvious, and also to the publication of Edge’s letter in full.
Bob Meadley has made thoughtful use of the new evidence and offered an interesting view in C.N. 1480. Unfortunately Skoff has taken a less rational line. At any hint of homosexuality his mind switches off and emotion takes over. The Companion does not say that Morphy was homosexual, whatever Skoff’s superficial friends think. From Edge onwards, writers have noted Morphy’s effeminate appearance and manner, and obviously the possibility of homosexuality must have been pondered for more than a century. Our quotation may have caused some readers to ask this question. That is nothing new.
If I had to make a choice, I would guess that Morphy was celibate. That is hardly likely to please Skoff, because he will probably know that psychoanalysts regard voluntary celibacy as a greater perversion than homosexuality. Skoff says (a safe gamble) that I am “unqualified as a psychoanalyst”. If I were so qualified, I might be able to explain his response to the whole topic. As it is, I state that I have never used any psychoanalysis, and the only person who has done so is Skoff, who tells me that I am nursing, unbeknown, a deep-seated hatred of Morphy.
Skoff writes that he asked for access to the letter owner in letters to me dated 2 March, 31 May, 16 August and 16 December 1985. He fails to admit that what he actually asked for was the name of the owner, and that I replied to the first request (and most of the subsequent ones) telling him that it was a condition of our using the letter that “we quote it in part only and do not reveal who has possession of it”. Despite this, our “ethics teacher” persisted in demanding to know the owner’s identity. “How could Whyld possibly object to my writing him a letter to be forwarded to the anonymous owner?”, writes Skoff, in a superb piece of Edgemanship. Would any C.N. reader guess from this that not once has Skoff made such a request? What I did do, and so informed Skoff, was to pass on his wishes to the person who owned the letter at the time we wrote the book (not necessarily the current owner). Presumably this led to Skoff’s acquisition of the letter.
I said that Skoff’s lengthy review in the APCT News Bulletin was “mostly of no direct relevance to our book”. Skoff insists that my remark is “flatly and positively untrue”. This smacks of Edge’s notorious challenge of “see for yourself”. Anybody who wades through Skoff’s review will soon see how true my claim is. Most of the review is devoted to topics not discussed in the Companion, topics such as Staunton’s annotations in the Illustrated London News, or aspects of the Coles and Keene book on Staunton, which Skoff, foolishly or maliciously, stated, in a bold headline, to be the sole source of our information on Staunton. He even half-complained that there are errors in the Coles and Keene book which we did not repeat.
My final point is trivial, but again worth making because readers can examine the evidence for themselves. Skoff writes in C.N. 1499 that I knew (How?) he made a typing error in omitting “necessary”, and adds “it would hardly make sense for me deliberately to omit a word to weaken my case, would it?” But it doesn’t weaken his case. Exactly the opposite. The omission is the only way to make even half a case. From the premiss that Morphy’s opponents could or might have won had they not made mistakes, it is possible, if not very intelligent, to infer that “There’s nothing so extraordinary about Morphy’s play, after all”. However, Edge said that it was a necessary, not just a possible, inference.
There is no secrecy other than the name of the letter’s owner ten years ago, nor any evasion. What I do find difficult is to know just what F.S. is asking. When he invents a word like “insinuendo” his meaning is clearer than when he sticks to the dictionary.’
Additions on 8 December 2020:
Regarding his sixth paragraph above, Ken Whyld had written to us on 7 August 1987:
‘I do not mind, indeed quite enjoy, a difference of opinion about these historical topics. What I find hurtful in my dealings with Skoff is that he cannot see how defamatory was his headline “Staunton’s life from only one book!” Anyone seeing that would judge that we wrote carelessly, even for major entries. Had such a remark been made by one who is not a friend, or in an important publication, it would have led to legal action. He said that Goulding Brown, who taught history for 60 years at Cambridge University, deserved a failing grade at history because he did not arrive at the same conclusion as Skoff regarding Edge. Skoff clearly has “the power of conviction which is the characteristic of youth” to quote C.N. 1429.’
On 28 March 1987 Mr Whyld wrote to us:
‘On a personal note, I have to confess that I would think no worse, or better, of Morphy had he been homosexual, and it may be that I cannot picture the horror that such a prospect causes Skoff. If I had to hazard a guess it would be that Morphy never had a sex life at all. To which, so what?’
Addition on 9 December 2020:
When submitting his contribution to C.N. 1569, Mr Whyld commented to us:
‘I feel no obligation to defend ourselves and the editors of the Oxford University Press from the charge of not knowing “accepted university rules of research”. Nor do I feel obliged to spell out why I suggested the interpretation of Edge’s statement that I did in a private letter to Skoff. Other people can, and should, make their own judgements.
If Skoff thinks I am ignorant of mid-nineteenth-century English usage, I wonder how he read Q&Q 4189, August 1982. I quoted the official papers on the Stanley scandal, when the US President told the Senate and House of Representatives that “I have ceased to hold intercourse with the envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of Her Majesty the Queen of the United Kingdom” (29 May 1856).
Skoff wants to make Morphy the whitest of the white, and yet he tries to hold up Edge as trustworthy man. He can’t have it both ways. I am afraid that, as with Lawson who saw the Edge letters, Skoff has a fixed idea of Morphy and accepts only what conforms to that idea, rejecting all else. So Edge is right when it comes to praising Morphy but can be ignored for other less favourable remarks. Is Skoff ready to concede that we should think not of Morphy’s Edge, but Edge’s Morphy?’
From David Hooper:
‘Regarding Skoff’s lengthy tirades about the Morphy letter, he appears to believe that loyalty to “accepted university rules” is more important than loyalty to a friend. I am glad Kenneth Whyld thinks differently, as I do, and am proud to number such a trustworthy person among my friends.’
Frank Skoff replies to G.H. Diggle (C.N. 1439):
‘Before Mr Diggle and I continue meandering further into so many more byways that we become lost in the forest, one fundamental error must be avoided in any further debate: that all statements are either true or false, forgetting they also may be neither. They may or may not be true, hence “Not proven”. To make the process clearer, one might imagine, with the aid of science-fiction, a truth-detecting balance scale, with the left side reacting to the “evidence” placed on the right. If the “evidence” is insufficient, worthless or irrelevant, the scale will be unaffected and the needle or pointer of truth will remain motionless, at zero so to speak: not proven. (There are modern computers whose programmes replicate the rules of logic, as they do those of chess, but my imaginary device will serve my expository purpose well enough. Those who use the computer will get the same results I did anyway.) Argumentum ad hominem arguments, very popular and so ancient they have a Latin name, are discussed in basic university courses in logic, whose textbooks describe them as fallacious and unsound because they lack the necessary evidence; in other words, when placed on the scale, the needle of truth still remains unconvinced and unmoved at zero because the evidence for the argument is weightless, so to speak. Here is a typical example of the fallacy, culled from a textbook: “Schopenhauer’s arguments as to the value of self-denial are wholly without merit. Just read his biography: he was nothing but a vain, selfish, self-seeking, neurotic little man.” In court a man is convicted by the evidence of relevant acts, not by Diggle-like epithets.
Mr Diggle’s basic case against Edge is a type of ancient ad hominem argument since he frankly admits to playing things by ear and to “the difficulty of assuaging Mr Skoff’s thirst for ‘factual content’” (C.N. 1012, page 90), an admission which reflects in essence his typical and eternal position on the matter. He then of course produces no such “‘content’’’ but merely substitutes the opinions of others, which cast no “‘factual’” light on actions which would justify all the epithets with which Edge is painted. His version of the argument tersely runs like this: Edge, being venomous, dishonest, pushy (add all the repulsive adjectives from Mr Diggle’s arsenal), disliked Staunton; therefore it follows logically that he told untruths about Staunton. Not proven. Finally, such arguments can be turned against their users: Mr Diggle, being the person he is, disliked Edge; therefore he wrote untruths about him. Again, the needle points to zero: not proven. Q.E.D.
Edge’s views on the Morphy-Staunton affair did not arise in a vacuum or in the rootless air; they were derived from the situation (context) in which they occurred, just as Staunton’s or Morphy’s were. As the chess history of the past 150 years or so reveals, top players involved in any possible match had to use the press or some chess journal or both to present their match conditions and defend them against any criticisms from an opponent or anyone else; otherwise the public might or would develop wrong ideas from them about their proponents. So each side carefully watched the other and the media. At times both sides might complain of the arrogant or unfair or insulting “tone” (attitude) reflected in a statement made by the opposition, or accuse each other of indulging in some unfair “tactics” to gain some possible end, at times seeing dark and devious motives behind such statements.
Staunton had his column available whenever he wished; on the other hand, Morphy, disliking publicity, did not have one and undoubtedly would have declined such a post if it had been offered him. He was idealistic and naive in respect to the need for press coverage, thinking that since he and his opponent were both gentlemen, no problems could arise, at least none that gentlemen could not solve readily, a viewpoint which had worked smoothly for him in the past. Despite his being upset by the distortions of Staunton’s 28 August column, he followed his aristocratic code and ignored answering at once in public print. This is evident from his reaction at the time: “When a man resorts to such means as these, he will not stop until he has committed himself irremediably. Let him go on.” (Edge, page 94). Unlike Morphy, Edge was a realist in such matters and knew the public had to be kept informed about negotiations, etc., or otherwise the views of one side would create a one-sided public opinion. Edge was restrained by Morphy from going to the press at this stage and had to remain quiet, at least for the time being.
As with other matches in history, difficulties developed when negotiations were not running smoothly; this was true of Morphy-Staunton during the period noted by Edge. After two months or so had passed in the summer of 1858 without productive results, the strained relations boiled to the surface on the very same day, 28 August, on both sides, neither of which was then aware of what the other had done at the time:
(a) Staunton blasted Morphy in his column for the lack of seconds and his desire to change the stakes;
(b) Edge, at Morphy’s request, wrote Fiske as follows: “Morphy desires me to say that “‘You must not on any account accept anything from the Illustrated London News referring to him, as Staunton is --- (what you know [ ) ]. Do not copy games from that sheet, as S. only publishes what he thinks will be to Morphy’s detriment’”. [The rest of the letter also does not mention Staunton’s column of 28 August.]
Edge set down his findings in his book, discussed previously (C.N.s 1172, 1228 and 1416), and more or less reiterated them briefly a few pages later (page 98): [a] “His games [Morphy’s] had been annotated in an inferentially depreciatory manner, [b, c] his victories accounted for, and [c] his antagonists excused.” Now Staunton’s moves dealing with the value of certain debuts or possible game continuations may have been objective – only analysis by a grandmaster with a profound and extensive knowledge of the history of openings could assess that, if it is even possible. However, often the words which accompanied the moves were certainly not objective in their “tone” (Edge’s term, see C.N.s 1172, 1228 and 1416), which includes the “inferentially depreciatory manner”, and so the notes do back Edge’s claim to finding such a pattern. Using my bracketed letters from the quote just given, two samples will suffice to illustrate such a general “tone” pattern in Staunton’s style, on some Löwenthal-Morphy match games:
[a, b] “The third game, a very unmeritable affair, and, like the above, thrown away by the Hungarian at the moment when victory appeared almost certain. We have not been favoured with the moves.”
[b, c] “Nothing could have been more obliging to [Morphy] than this move, which enables him at once to advance his KP, and open an irresistible bombardment upon the adverse King’s defence.”
Morphy too felt the offensive, hostile “tone”; hence his request to Fiske (see above). [Space precludes giving more examples so the pattern might be further observed; however, I would be glad to send a set of all the notes involved in the matter, from my long review in the APCT News Bulletin of 1985, to any C.N. reader who requests it (Box 214, 3952 N. Southport, Chicago, IL 60613, USA).]
Unquestionably the tonal “pattern” exists. On the other hand, Edge had earlier (pages 94-95; C.N.s 1172, 1228 and 1416) contrasted the sparse praise, tone, etc. before the Harrwitz match with the high and numerous praises bestowed by Staunton after its games, interpreting the sudden and unexpected change as a form of “tactics” (Edge, page 94, C.N. 1172 etc.), as a suspicious turnabout with questionable motives, which he averred were shared in some sense by Morphy: “Mr Morphy judged from this unexpected change of tone that Staunton either believed that these contests with continental players would take up so much of his time in Europe, that he would have to leave without playing him; or that Mr S. was experimenting on the maxim ‘There are more flies caught with honey than with vinegar’” (Edge, pages 94-95).
This interpretation, which questions the motives of Staunton, is plausible [even more plausible than Mr Diggle’s questioning the motives of Edge because the latter was a witness to at least most of the negotiations whereas Mr Diggle was observing things about a century later when there was practically nothing for him to see]; but Edge (along with Morphy) fails to prove its implicit assumption that he knew the motives behind the sudden “change” were not quite honorable, reflecting “tactics” to gain some future end. When Edge’s interpretation is placed on the scale, the needle of truth stays at zero.
Is it therefore a lie? Of course not – no more than Mr Diggle’s charges are of Edge’s motives – since Staunton, the only source of the true motives, had not revealed them, a gap which led me to suggest humorously a seance to disclose the secret (C.N. 1172).
The picture at this stage is clear enough. Edge, upset at what he felt was Staunton’s unfairness to his idol (Morphy), jumped up indignantly, asserting that the change was not charitably or honorably motivated but deliberate and intentional “tactics” to secure some future advantage. Whatever the truth may be, Edge was playing the matter by ear, like Mr Diggle, but within a tense and strained atmosphere, which makes his assertions understandable but nonetheless does not make them proven.
Similarly, Mr Diggle, upset in his turn at the disparagement by numerous writers, especially Edge, of his idol (Staunton), reacted in much the same fashion, jumping up with equal indignation and asserting that such disparagement was untrue and unfair, that it was uncharitably and dishonorably motivated by Edge’s dislike, dishonesty, etc. Under the circumstances his charges are also understandable but equally not proven.
Charges based on unexpressed motives behind any activity are in themselves no proof whatsoever. Rampant among politicians for centuries, they are not excluded from chess history, as some journalists seem to imply when they appear, with incredible naïveté, astounded and aghast that such monstrous and incredible charges should have been expressed during the Morphy-Staunton negotiations: If these individuals had ever read the negotiations for Steinitz-Zukertort, Lasker-Capablanca and, during the past few years, K-K, they would have seen too many similarities to be so absurdly upset.
For Mr Diggle’s (2) and (5), see the preceding analysis; (5) only leads to more ad hominem fallacies as we vainly try to assess the unknown “ignorance” and the unexpressed motives of the persons involved. (4): In Morphy’s heyday many people of ability (besides Edge) were “adolescent Morphy-worshippers”; such a sentence proves nothing and could equally be used to describe Mr Diggle’s worship: “He is revealed (strangely enough for a man of his undoubted ability) as an almost adolescent Staunton-worshipper.” Again it proves nothing. Consequently it hardly qualifies as an indication of “deeper waters”, whatever that phrase means. In fact, it only stirs them up, giving the illusion they are “deeper”’.
From G.H. Diggle:
‘Having studied Mr Skoff’s C.N. 1633, I feel that for a layman to cross swords or even “needles of truth” with a fully-trained logician would be to court disaster. Yet in writing about the departed, where there are gaps in the evidence and neither the deceased nor their contemporaries can be brought back to life and put in the witness-box to give further testimony, a certain amount of “ear-playing” (i.e. conjecture) is inevitable. He who keeps his pen perpetually poised in mid-air while nervously looking round to see if Mr Skoff’s “needle” has moved from zero will end up with zero down on paper.
I think Mr Skoff’s estimate of Morphy as a naive idealist with an intense dislike of publicity is a shrewd one. He points out that while in 1858 Staunton had his column available whenever he wished, Morphy not only had none, but would have shrunk from the idea of possessing or “using” one. But matters were not entirely one-sided. Though Staunton’s Illustrated London News column was still a power in the land, and a great one, he had by 1858 (often through his own fault) made influential enemies in the rest of the London Chess Press. He was on bad terms with Walker, Löwenthal and Brien (though Brien ran no actual column at that time, I recognize his style in at least one of the anonymous anti-Staunton letters reproduced in Edge’s book). All these men could, and in the event did, give Morphy more than a fair hearing when trouble arose. Whether Morphy would have been better off without Edge thrown in as well has been aptly summed up by Mr Barrett: “Without Edge there wouldn’t have been half the trouble” and by Bob Meadley: “Without Edge there wouldn’t have been half the chess!”
“After two months had passed in the Summer of 1858 without productive results”, observes Mr Skoff, “the strained relations (between M. and S.) boiled to the surface on the very same day (28 August)”. But though David Lawson also takes this view, I firmly believe that (in spite of club gossip and Edge) relations between the two men were excellent right up to 21 August. On that date Morphy wrote a most friendly letter (even allowing for tact and diplomacy) apologizing for not answering some previous letter of Staunton’s (not the one asking for a few more weeks, but an earlier one – contents unknown) and gently prodding him to fix a date. Lawson writes: “Mr Staunton left London for Birmingham without deigning to reply.” What he overlooked was that Staunton was due to travel to Birmingham on Monday, 23 August, so with no Sunday delivery Morphy’s letter would only reach him on the very day of his departure. Unhappily on the intervening Sunday Staunton’s old enemy Walker had written in Bell’s Life (a Sunday paper): “Unless the day and hour for beginning the match are fixed, the whole is smoke, and the Chess Circle must draw its own conclusions. Morphy cannot afford to wait for an adversary until the days of grace 1860.” Infuriated by this veiled attack and further irritated by Morphy’s letter arriving on top of it next morning, Staunton promptly fired off the “outrageous Anti-Book”. B. Goulding Brown, whom I once met in 1928, told me (after I had congratulated him with youthful fervour on his BCM “exposure” of the villainous Edge): “Don’t run away with the idea that Staunton comes out well. ‘Anti-Book’ in itself was not too bad, but his attempt to suppress Morphy’s protest sank him. Of course, he never should have said he would play at all.’
But how can my “excellent relations (between Morphy and Staunton)” fit in with Edge’s letter to Fiske, warning him, apparently at Morphy’s request, against Staunton’s “detrimental” Illustrated London News column? In the first place, on reading “Morphy desires me to say” we must remember that Edge had almost unconsciously come to regard himself as Morphy’s mouthpiece and Morphy’s “think-tank” (see for example C.N. 820, page 108). Edge’s own views on the ILN notes and comments we know already. But were Morphy’s views the same?
In Edge’s case, as Mr Skoff rightly claims, only the “tone” is relevant. In Morphy’s, both “tone” and content must be taken into account. I have gone through the notes (originally received through the courtesy of Mr Skoff) and compared them with those of P.W. Sergeant, one of Morphy’s greatest admirers. According to my reckoning, the identical nine games covered by the period show: Notes praising Morphy – S. 7 P.W.S. 7. Notes blaming Morphy – S. 2 P.W.S. 4. “Morphy’s opponents might have done better”: S. 19 P.W.S. 27 (including nine ?s). Though Edge would of course have discovered 19 + 2 = 21 “insults”, Morphy could scarcely have found anything to complain of here.
Coming to the “tone”, three factors must be taken into account, of all of which Morphy would have been aware: (1) At the time the earlier notes were written, Morphy had not yet made his name in Europe, but had only a New World tournament victory to his credit; (2) His own play for some time after his arrival in England, and particularly in the opening games v Löwenthal, had been “shaky” (Sergeant); (3) Staunton was notorious for “getting at” Löwenthal.
The first game of all (a curious selection of Staunton’s if he was out to “down” Morphy in print) is a consultation game which he himself (with Owen) lost to the young American and Barnes, whose play is commended in two instances, though S. attributes the loss to trying to win a drawn game. Then the Löwenthal match starts. The first game (drawn) is given without notes. The second (M.1 L.0), “which presents even fewer points of interest than the first” (Staunton), is generally regarded by the critics as one of Morphy’s poorest, his opponent (says Sergeant) “committing at least three blunders after getting a winning position”. One would have thought that here was Staunton’s ideal chance to “have a go”. Instead, he actually extenuates (at poor Löwenthal’s expense) two reckless and unsound moves of Morphy’s: “Against most players this would have been accounted too hazardous, but Mr Morphy knew his opponent” and again “Here again Mr Morphy plays in a way we apprehend he would never dare to risk against an antagonist of ordinary nerve”. Then comes the comment on the third game quoted by Mr Skoff: “A very unmeritable affair, thrown away by the Hungarian” – which indeed it was – “full of sins of omission” (Maróczy); Mr Skoff very fairly quotes this also. This is followed by his other “illustrative quote” – game four, L.’s 16th move: “Nothing could be more obliging to Mr Morphy than this move” – but immediately after this we have (re M.’s 19th): “Mr Morphy’s play in the present game is vastly superior to any he has exhibited in the previous three games”, followed by a pat on the back for his “well conceived” 20th move. Then, as Morphy recovers his form, more sunshine emerges – he wins “an elegant little game” against Barnes by his “highly ingenious” 15th move. Then comes “an interesting partie” (v Boden) which was drawn but not recorded after move 41, at which point Sergeant awards Boden a clear win while Staunton would merely “take Mr Boden’s game for choice”. Sergeant stated that Boden played – “a very fine game most of the way” but that Morphy’s play was “not up to his usual standard”. Again Morphy’s “inferential disparager” misses his chance: “This portion of the game is very well played on both sides.”
Such were the comments with which, Edge informs us (New Edition, page 138), “Mr Staunton was using the columns of an influential journal to crush a dangerous opponent and ... he well knew that Paul Morphy resented from the first such unfairness”. But all we know for certain is that Morphy later “resented”, and disowned, Edge’s book. Parts of it deserved a better fate, for, as I admitted in 1964, “Edge never wrote a dull sentence or bungled a good story”.’
Ken Whyld points out that in the Edge letter given in C.N. 1358 (middle of page 34) the phrase “I certainly did not look for a vote of thanks” should read “I certainly did look for a vote of thanks”. K.W. comments: ‘This is not a trivial point, because throughout his letters Edge shows that he was bitterly disappointed at not receiving acknowledgement.”
We must add that the (subconscious) addition of the word “not” was our mistake, not Frank Skoff’s.
Addition on 9 December 1988:
On 11 August 1988 Mr Whyld forwarded us this excerpt from a letter which he sent Frank Skoff on 8 August 1988:
‘I am not replying to you through C.N., except to reject your cunning smear that I did not mean what I wrote. Unless you have new evidence, or ideas, there is little point in restating the same views from both sides. You just get further entrenched in an untenable scenario.
The great strength of your position is that you never say what you believe to be wrong, nor what your own views are. You know that I interpret the Edge quotation as showing that Edge saw himself as a player in the game, not an observer. As far as I can judge, you interpret it as a claim to a homosexual relationship with Morphy. As I said, nobody else has reached that conclusion, although the nineteenth-century wording does cause the idea to be considered. I do not share your interest in Morphy’s sexual behaviour (or lack of)
You use the phrase ad hominem a good deal, as though the mere use of it makes you right. The phrase has two meanings. At first it meant using the opponent’s own arguments to defeat him, which is not necessarily faulty in logic. Now it is sometimes used to mean “argument against the man”, which has a partner, “argument from authority” viz. the argument must be right/wrong because its proponent is good/bad. Unless you have been a good deal less careful than I imagine you cannot have formed that view from anything I (or Diggle for that matter) have written. My sole evidence is Edge’s argument, which leads to my forming an opinion about the man – and not the other way round. And in the Companion we gave no opinion, but enough evidence for a thoughtful reader to form his own.
I have never refused to forward a letter from you to the owner of the Edge letter, but I suppose you to be the current owner unless you sent a copy to Winter under false pretences. I do not regard a question in C.N. as the same as having the same sincerity as one made to me, but just part of your rhetoric, and strongly resent your remark that I have ignored your request to contact the letter owner. You have still never made such a request to me, but if you did I would certainly agree to forward a letter to the one who owned it ten years ago.
As you know, I did not see the APCT News Bulletin withdrawing your headline, nor did I ever receive from them the final part of your review. For a postal chess body they seem inept at using the postal services.’
From Frank Skoff:
‘My reply to Mr Whyld’s C.N. 1569:
Para 1: I know of no “untruths”.
Para 2: More dogmatic utterances (not proven) by Mr Whyld, more ad hominem arguments. I suggest he read my reply to Mr Diggle (C.N. 1633) and quit this fallacious form of reasoning, evident throughout his present answer (K.W.’s inaccurate statements in C.N. 1439 regarding Staunton’s language are also countered in my reply.)
Has K.W. slipped a bit when he stated that the view of Edge as a “biased observer” is “incorrect”? I don’t think he really meant to say that.
“The traditional view of Edge” was not “revealed as incorrect”; K.W. merely asserted it.“The short extract” (insinuendo) does not make K.W.’s point “clear” at all, as most readers of the Companion would immediately realize, because K.W.’s present attempts at explication make no sense and are not implied or given therein (as pointed out in my C.N. 1499, page 128, para 3).
“Nobody could read that and continue to trust Edge’s testimony unless it were supported by other evidence”: I have read it, as have other readers, and did not find the remotest connection with K.W.’s assertion, a dogmatic non sequitur, with no proof whatsoever. It is not “abundantly obvious” – quite the contrary – and does not become so simply because K.W. asserted it. Furthermore, if Edge is biased, then so is the “extract” upon which K.W. is trying to build his wobbly case. May I imitate K.W.’s non-evidence style? “Nobody could read my C.N. replies to K.W. and others and continue to trust K.W.’s replies unless these were supported by other evidence.” Again, that rhetorical sentence gives no real evidence and so proves nothing.
To digress a moment: in C.N. 1439 K.W. cites Morphy and Kent on Edge’s book, in C.N. 1440, page 87, Staunton and Lange. In neither case does he indicate the significance of his citations, thus making it impossible to discern what point he was making.
A paragraph later in C.N. 1440: I was referring to a friendly game in public, not in private.
Para 3: K.W.’s “quotation” without context did cause “readers to ask this question. That is nothing new.” Yet in his letter of 3 March 1987 (C.N. 1499, page 127) K.W. stated I appeared “to be the only one who has read a suggestion of homosexuality in the quote’; in C.N. 1440 (page 87) it is “very clearly metaphorical, but possibly it might put the thought into the reader’s mind for the first time”; and now he says it is “nothing new” and that the “possibility ... must have been pondered for more than a century”. (Why “must”? Because K.W. has no evidence.) It is hard for me to hit a moving target. He does not stick to points for which he has hard evidence but prefers unproven insinuendos and dogmas.
Para 4: More ad hominem arguments, more dogmas. Perhaps I should modify my reference to K.W.’s “hatred” of Morphy to mere dislike, but it is most clear in his less than admirable bio of the American, accentuated further by his recent satiric treatment of Morphy and women, especially in his reference (C.N. 1440) to the women’s shoes story, which he knew was unsubstantiated (C.N. 1271).
Para 5: I accept K.W.’s correction, but though he knew I was seeking the letter, he offered no help. He also ignored my recent request (C.N. 1499) to allow me then to send him a letter to forward to the owner. I now repeat my request. K.W. had nothing to do with my “acquisition of the letter”.
Para 6: K.W. fails to note that I acknowledged in the APCT News Bulletin the “headline” error he rightly objected to and that he even answered my “review” – his word – in the January 1986 issue of that magazine. So I stand by my original statement.
Para 7: I don’t understand K.W. His last sentence is precisely the point I was making.
Para 8: “Insinuendo” is in Webster’s Third (unabridged) and other lesser works.
K.W. omitted using 99% of the Edge letter, including the context and the addressee; he ignored my recent request to contact the letter owner; and now he blandly states there was “no secrecy”. Amazing!’
Addition on 9 December 2020:
On 20 August 1988 Frank Skoff wrote to us:
‘The entire fiasco as to the insinuendo could (and should) never have happened if Whyld had been able to control his emotional prejudices; all that he has accomplished so far has been a continually-increasing amount of animosity in the US, totally unnecessary. So much time and energy wasted! So much tension and animosity built up! For what? So he could lambaste Morphy and Edge to protect the saintly Staunton (as Whyld sees him).’
From Ken Whyld, in response to C.N. 1669:
‘Skoff asks “Has K.W. slipped a bit when he stated that the view of Edge as a ‘biased observer’ is ‘incorrect’?” No. As usual F.S. has slipped a bit by reading carelessly. He also (mis)quotes out of context.’
Addition on 8 December 2020:
The above paragraph was the only reply that Mr Whyld wished to make in C.N., but in that letter (22 July 1988) he also wrote to us:
‘I find it difficult to know how to answer Skoff when he does not say what is bothering him. It took thousands of words before it became clear that his main complaint was that he had read the Edge extract as a statement of homosexuality. He then expects me to defend his own conclusions, which he resents. One of his techniques is to question what is intended by a piece of evidence unless its significance is indicated, but if it is indicated he dismisses it as a “mere assertion”. The fact that he cannot recognize an untruth explains much.’
Addition on 9 December 2020:
On 29 July 1988 Mr Whyld commented to us:
‘Skoff only goes into further unnatural distortions in order to avoid having to modify his views.
A topic you might like to ponder is this. Until Edge’s nature emerged it was something of a puzzle how Morphy, who was the perfect exemplar of courtesy and consideration, could have been so hostile, finally, to one who appeared to have been vastly helpful to him.’
Frank Skoff replies to C.N. 1642:
‘Para 1: With disarming frankness as to his past C.N. contributions, Mr Diggle admits he has been filling in the blank spaces (where no evidence exists) in Edge, Morphy, Staunton, etc. with his conjectures as to what really happened there. He has written and published so much in this manner during his writing career without stating his assertions regarding those spaces were merely conjectures and therefore not to be taken as true. Hence his readers are often misled into thinking that what they read was the indisputable truth. Perhaps his greatest influence here has unfortunately been on Mr Whyld, who finds him a valuable source re the facts about Edge (see C.N. 943).
Even more amazing is his assertion that “he who keeps” his pen perpetually poised in mid-air ... to see if Mr Skoff’s ‘needle’ has moved from zero will end up with zero down on paper”. With that statement Mr Diggle reveals his writing credo: if a writer cannot find evidence on a point he is therefore free to write any conjectures he pleases, no matter how inaccurate, how offensive, etc., because if he did not, he would have nothing on his paper. Such a credo may easily lead to actions for libel. A better rule would be: when you don’t know, don’t write; and, above all, please don’t take your conjectural pen in hand and write as if you were presenting complete truth and reality.
Para 2: Staunton, with a column, had the first move journalistically speaking, an advantage over Morphy, who was busy playing chess and could hardly spare the time. A more important point, which I forgot, is that Staunton’s change of negotiations from private letters and meetings to public print was unwarranted, a violation of protocol. As to his leaving Birmingham without replying, I wish Mr D. would document his assertion with the proof required.
As to his conjecture that Staunton was “infuriated”, another conjecture is equally plausible: he wrote his reply in cold anger; but whether Staunton was hot or cold is irrelevant to what issued from his pen.
Para 3: “I firmly believe [conjecture is the right word] that (in spite of club gossip and Edge) relations between the two men were excellent right up to 21 August” on the incredibly shaky ground that “Morphy wrote a most friendly letter [I wish Mr D. had identified the document so it could be consulted] ... apologizing for not answering some previous letter of Staunton’s ... and gently prodding him to fix a date”. Evidently Mr D. believes that Morphy, if displeased, would have written Staunton to complain about the annotations, or that he was getting tired of the delays, etc.; if he had done so, the match would have been torpedoed at once. Since it was not written, Mr D. conjectures that Morphy was therefore satisfied and happy with the situation.
Mr D. forgets that Morphy had been waiting for about two months – two or three weeks should have been sufficient – for Staunton to make up his mind, a length of time hardly conducive to kind thoughts about the Englishman’s delays and excuses. Strained relations must have been developing before the inevitable explosion. To assume, as Mr D. does, that Morphy waited for Staunton to move after almost two months (of delays and excuses) with an angelic patience and forbearance bordering on sainthood, never being irritated or upset at developments, is fantastic and unrealistic, even as a conjecture.
Also, of these two months, Mr D. takes one day and builds his case on it, hardly sufficient to say the least, forgetting what was going on during the “blank spaces” of the other days, some of them mentioned above and covered comprehensively in Lawson’s account of the negotiations and elsewhere. Nor does Mr D.’s airy dismissal of “club gossip and Edge” without proof strengthen his case since such “gossip” has a way of getting into print in one form or another. What Walker wrote re Staunton was not merely his peculiar view of the matter.
Walker’s “veiled attack” was no such thing. He merely expressed what many in the chess public, anxious for the match, were talking about (including “club gossip”); it cannot be called either “veiled” (it is quite clear) or an “attack”: it was about time Staunton made up his mind about the match, and Walker bluntly said so.
Para 4: Mr D. questions the validity of “Morphy’s request” (but gives no proof) and then conjectures wildly that “Edge had almost unconsciously come to regard himself as Morphy’s mouthpiece and Morphy’s ‘think-tank’” on the evidence in C.N. 820 [840 is meant], which merely turns out to be the incident wherein Edge fails to convince Morphy to go public with the Lyttelton letter, an incident which contradicts Mr D.’s conjecture: isn’t Morphy’s “mouthpiece” and “think-tank” supposed to agree with him? Furthermore, why would any agreement between any two people make one the “mouthpiece” and “think-tank” of the other, whatever those words, undefined by their user, mean? Again, a type of the ad hominem approach of politicians occurs: when you don’t have facts, call your opponent names. (By the way, the “almost” in Mr D.’s sentence also wrecks his case, if he had one.)
How such a single incident justifies Mr D.’s conjecture and how it disproves the letter is beyond comprehension. Of course “Morphy’s views were the same” – it was Morphy’s quoted request that Edge was forwarding to Fiske in the letter. (How many Morphy games annotated or described by Staunton were given in Fiske’s 1858 Chess Monthly? None.)
To handle Paras 5, 6, 7 and 8 easily, the details of Edge’s complaint re the treatment of Morphy are on pages 94-95 and 98 of his book, quoted in my C.N.s 1172, 1416 and 1633. There Edge’s time limit as to notes is given (before the Harrwitz match) re the depreciatory tone, etc. Mr D.’s remaining paragraphs: such limit and tone are ignored and no dating is given.
Para 5: Mr D. agrees that with Edge’s complaint “only the ‘tone’ is relevant”. In the very next sentence he suddenly switches and states (wrongly of course) that with Morphy “both ‘tone’ and content must be taken into account”. Why? Perhaps because he tried a similar approach unsuccessfully in C.N. 1228. In any case, he doesn’t explain. However, we are discussing Edge’s complaint, which mentions the change of tone in Staunton with the Harrwitz match, “who previously had scarcely a word of commendation for Morphy”. (My emphasis; in C.N. 1228 Mr D. wrongly says that “scarcely” cannot means two notes. But he does not explain how or why.) Mr D. doesn’t indicate any time frame whatsoever, nor does he stick to tone. His statistics on the notes must therefore be considered wide of the mark and hence irrelevant.
Para 6: “Three factors”: Mr D. does not state what their significance is, a situation which makes it almost impossible to discern the unspecified point he is evidently trying to make. In any case, they do not justify or excuse Staunton’s “tone”.
Para 7: Mr D. continues to avoid considering tone, stubbornly sticking to content, whether or not the moves were lauded. For example, he quotes the note containing the words “a very unmeritable affair” as though it were a gentlemanly annotation and not a sneering one. Nor does he see anything depreciatory in describing Morphy as deliberately playing bad or hazardous moves, nor to “Nothing could be more obliging to Mr Morphy than this move”, etc. etc. (All the other notes are given in full by me in the APCT News Bulletin of 1985, which Mr D. received at the time.)
Para 8: “Such were the comments”: during what time period? Also they are not all, only a sampling. Furthermore, Edge, after having given his complaint in detail, later (page 138) pens a very general statement on the same matter, not wanting to repeat himself. Mr D. seizes upon the word “unfairness” in it (apparently his excuse for concentrating mainly on content, not recognizing that the word would also include tone, etc.) and goes on giving bits of Stauntonian praise as though he were disproving something. However, Edge never said [nor did I] there were no praises.
I wonder why Mr D. failed to cite the words preceding his own quote, Edge’s italicized statement: “[Staunton] knew full well that, after the first fortnight or three weeks, Mr Morphy never gave him a single partie, being hurt at the ungentlemanlike treatment evinced towards him in the notes.”
As to Morphy disowning Edge’s book, that proves nothing to help Mr D.; in fact, he gives it without trying to draw any conclusions from it, apparently in the hope that the naive reader will see it as overwhelming proof of something. He should clearly indicate to the reader what conclusion he (Mr D.) is drawing, but he does not, probably because nothing pertinent can be drawn.
To sum up, Mr D. does not attempt to refute Edge’s complaint (pages 94-95, 98) but sidesteps its limits by going to page 138 for a general statement from which he extracts the word “unfairness”, a word which even all the philosophers from Plato onward are unable to agree upon; so complex and diffuse are its meanings that it can be used to refer to almost anything that Mr D.’s conjectural heart desires, especially when it enables him to ignore tone, time frame, etc., thus avoiding the complaint almost completely and concentrating mainly on the non-issue of content, much as he did in his C.N. 1228.
(Mr Diggle: the opinion alone of Lawson, Whyld, myself, you or anyone else, offers nothing evidential since it is the facts behind such opinions that count. Also, let’s agree not to use any more “leave it to the jury” references and the like, for it is a writer’s job to garner enough facts to prove his point, not merely to express his opinion. Finally, a real jury is given only facts to decide a case, not conjectures, as these are outlawed.)’
Frank Skoff replies to C.N. 1700 and some other items:
‘Whyld’s reply is quite meager, no doubt caused by his inability to provide the evidence requested. Until he does so, there seems little point to continuing this discussion. Furthermore, his brief and cryptic comment, typical of his recent style, merely makes a statement without explication and evidence for whatever he is trying to say. If he is charging me with something, he must explain precisely what it is, not leave me to guess his meaning, as he did when he wrote of me: “He ... (mis)quotes out of context.” Whyld does not elucidate the quote, leaving it to the reader to guess what he is talking about. Furthermore, I do not see how asking him a question constitutes “misquotation”. (Still, I am glad he recognizes the importance of “context”.)
Nonetheless, I did not misread Edge, Whyld did. When a journalist (or a plaintiff in court) builds up his case, it is crucial for him that any inference he draws from his evidence must be necessary (that is, logically forced). Edge maintained that any reader of Staunton’s annotations prior to the Harrwitz match “will invariably perceive that the American’s antagonists could or might have won, the necessary inference being – ‘There’s nothing so extraordinary about Morphy’s play, after all’.” If that inference is not forced or necessary, Edge’s case collapses because then his inference becomes only one of several possibilities. Under the tense circumstances of the match (see C.N. 1633), Edge’s inference is logical, justifiable and not unreasonable, as touched on in my APCT Bulletin review of 1985 and elaborated fully in various issues of C.N. As to “how” (C.N. 1569) K.W. would know it was a typing error, he had seen this quote at least three times before (in my C.N.s 957 and 1228 plus my APCT Bulletin review) and therefore should have recognized it as a slip of my typing, perhaps caused by the boredom of having to do it so often. He could hardly be misled in any case.
In C.N. 1569 K.W. states: “The traditional view of Edge as a neutral (or even biased) observer was revealed as incorrect.” The words in parenthesis cause the sentence to become ambiguous and contradictory, at least in one aspect of its intended import, whatever that may be. The sentence can be easily read as saying that “the traditional view of Edge as a ... (... biased) observer” is “incorrect”. So it is Whyld, not I, who is misreading his own carelessly-composed sentence.
My review: while writing it, I had the Companion at my side. Of course K.W. can always say that any part of it is “mostly of no direct relevance to our book” (C.N. 1569, page 28); I do not intend to waste my time arguing about what is of “direct” or “indirect” relevance.
A few loose ends: in C.N. 1569 K.W. stoutly asserts, “There is no secrecy other than the name of the letter’s owner ten years ago”, a statement that takes one’s breath away [Noted before in my C.N. 1669 but ignored], as it ignores the obvious fact that the contents of the letter itself were kept secret from the scrutiny of the public, misleading it into thinking that Edge was writing to Morphy and thus backing up the desired insinuendo. The secrecy and the insinuendo would have remained so had I not discovered the letter and published it in C.N.
C.N. 1440, page 86, “sham friendship” of Morphy-Edge: Edge was Morphy’s secretary, their relation being that of master to servant (in Victorian terms). Edge was never a friend (as Maurian was) and never claimed he was. But lack of facts or evidence did not deter Whyld, so he aided the construction of his insinuendo through the cunning and inaccurate usage of the word “‘friendship’”, emphasizing the point further by enclosing it in quotes. Such verbal tricks assisted him in foisting his insinuendo upon the chess world, dispensing with the laborious effort of delving for hard evidence, which he has been asked for repeatedly but never delivered, probably because it doesn’t exist. (See C.N.s 1417, 1439, 1440, 1499, 1569, 1633, 1669.)
Whyld in C.N. 1439: the insulting “tone” of Walker does not excuse the same in Staunton and vice versa. The “tone” did upset Morphy (see C.N. 1633), which is the issue; it did not upset Whyld, which is not the issue.’
From G.H. Diggle, in reply to C.N. 1722:
‘(1) Mr Skoff clearly feels that, when writing about chess history, I am, like Sir John Falstaff, “an abominable misleader of youth” (personified, it seems, by Mr Whyld) and a dealer in conjecture masquerading as fact. In his critique of my “Morphy-Edge Liaison” article (published in the 1964 BCM) he has examined my propensities in this respect – but he will remember that I myself described my final paragraph as partly conjecture and warned my readers that I might be “out-Edgeing Edge”, which drew from Mr Skoff the riposte that I ought to have said “out-Browning Brown”.
(2) “As to his leaving Birmingham without replying, I wish Mr D. would document his assertion with the proof required.” What assertion? I merely narrated that Staunton was due to leave for Birmingham on 23 August and did so without replying to Morphy’s letter of 21 August. Is this in dispute?
(3) “I wish Mr D. had identified the document so it could be consulted.” It is given in Lawson’s Pride and Sorrow (page 114), Edge (New Edition) (page 121), Morphy Gleanings by Sergeant (page 89) and Paul Morphy by Max Lange (page 352). Lawson alone gives the date (21 August 1858).
“Almost two months of delays and excuses?” This sounds as if there were a whole series of them, keeping Morphy in continual suspense. There was, in fact, virtually one delay only, albeit a long one. It was not the case (and I am not implying that Mr Skoff ever said it was) that Staunton first asked for a month to “brush up his openings” and then, when the month was up, sprung upon a dumbfounded Morphy a second postponement until after the Birmingham meeting. The two postponements, if the first can be called one unless Staunton was expected to start play on the very day Morphy arrived, overlapped and were arranged very quickly on top of one another, Morphy agreeing to “after Birmingham” on a date unknown to us, but within a fortnight of his first meeting Staunton – 6 July at the latest (Lawson, page 106). For the next seven weeks, therefore, the situation was static – no-one expected any match till September, and Morphy settled down to play Barnes, Boden, Löwenthal and (as he related long afterwards – Lawson, page 155) had frequent occasion to meet Staunton socially and enjoy his “brilliant conversational powers”. It was not until the eve of the Birmingham meeting, when Staunton introduced the ominous “few more weeks”, that things began to go wrong. No doubt all this time the anti-Stauntonians were (to mix metaphors) indulging in a two-month field day of speculation, but we are concerned with the two principals, engaged in chess and Shakespeare respectively, and not the soothsayers.
(4) Edge as Morphy’s mouthpiece and think-tank. I was, of course, referring not to the argument about the Lyttelton letter quoted by Mr Skoff, but to the conversation with Mongredien (C.N. 840, top of page 108), where Edge butted in and took the reply out of Morphy’s mouth. But I ought to have been more accurate and specific in quoting the “ref”. Incidentally, it is no reflection on Mr Skoff’s erudition that the word “think-tank” stumped him. It is a “colloquial English” noun, meaning “a person or group of people regarded as a source of ideas or solution to problems”. (Lest I should seem to be airing my own “erudition”, I tried six dictionaries in vain, and only at the seventh attempt did “the Walls of Jericho fall down”.)
“Mr D. questions the validity of ‘Morphy’s request’” (i.e. suggests he may not have made it) “but gives no proof”. I cannot prove a negative.
“How many Morphy games annotated or described by Staunton were given in Fiske’s 1858 Chess Monthly? None.” This is no evidence either way. Fiske undoubtedly received Edge’s letter and may have observed the request, but what we are discussing is from whom the request itself really came.
(5) Staunton’s notes. “Mr D. states (wrongly of course) that with Morphy both tone and content must be taken into account. Why?” Because in assessing the tone Morphy (but not Edge) would know if he had played “unmeritable” chess. “A very unmeritable affair”, as compared with, say, “a typically unmeritable affair” where tone at once enters in, was by no means strong or sneering language, especially for that period. (Walker once annotated a game: “Watergruel were brandy compared with such catlap as this.”) Still, Morphy may possibly have been ruffled, but it is just as possible that, as a true artist, he accepted the criticism and told Edge to stop whining.
(6) This I think is covered by my (5) and (7).
(7) I still see nothing deprecatory of Morphy in Staunton’s notes on his two “hazardous” moves against Löwenthal; they were deprecatory of Löwenthal only. Had S. implied that Morphy couldn’t play any better than that, M. could indeed complain of the tone. What he did imply was that as Morphy was only playing poor old Löwenthal (who got his own back on Staunton at Birmingham a month later) he could afford to take risks.
(8) “Such were the comments: during what time period?” 17 July to 28 August 1858 – before what Edge calls the “change of tactics”. It cannot by any stretch be said that he included the much later period after the final rupture, when Staunton undoubtedly did treat Morphy’s games with bias.
“Staunton knew full well that, after the first fortnight or three weeks, Mr Morphy never gave him a single partie, being hurt at the ungentlemanlike treatment evinced towards him in the notes.” (Edge – passage “omitted” by Mr D.)
Not a very convincing tale. Mr Skoff himself rightly observes that had Morphy been displeased, and written Staunton to complain of the annotations, the match would have been torpedoed at once. What, then, would have happened if Morphy, as Edge puts it, had let Staunton “know full well” what he thought by pointedly “applying sanctions” and sending games to the other Editors and not to him?
“As to Morphy disowning Edge’s book, this proves nothing to help Mr D.” Fair comment, and point conceded. There are certain accusations against Staunton in Edge’s book which Morphy alone would know to be true or not (for example Staunton’s telling Morphy that he was not going to compete at Birmingham and promptly competing). But whether Morphy objected to Edge’s treatment of Staunton, or his reference to “lazy Creoles”, or to other matters, will never be known.
“Mr D. extracts the word ‘unfairness’.” He “extracts” a great deal more than that – “Mr Staunton was using the columns of an influential journal to crush a dangerous opponent” (Edge, page 138). This is a much more damaging statement than “Mr Staunton changed his tactics” (Edge, page 94). Mr Skoff explains that “Edge did not want to repeat himself”.
(Peroration) “No more ‘leave it to the jury’ references ... a real jury is given only facts to decide a case, not conjectures.” If Mr Skoff will re-read my “references”, he will find that in both cases where I “left it to the jury” I did precisely that. On the fact of Edge’s sending the Lyttelton letter to the Press behind Morphy’s back, I left them to decide whether he did it out of malice towards Stuanton, or out of desire to clear Morphy’s name. And on the fact of Edge’s writing the words quoted in C.N. 1228, I left them to decide whether he honestly believed what he wrote or not. Mr Skoff himself “left it to the jury” when he made his offer to supply all interested persons with Staunton’s notes in full. It must be allowed that he did a remarkable job in assembling them with such clarity and I hope he has had many “takers”.
As this is my fifth (and lengthiest) intrusion on this topic into the pages of C.N., and as Christmas approaches, I will end with “tidings of comfort and joy” to all readers. I now propose to retire from the scene and leave my redoubtable opponent, should he wish and the Editor concur, to “wind up the debate”.’
From Ken Whyld:
‘Frank Skoff complains (C.N. 1757) that my replies are meagre (or meager in US usage). There are three good reasons for that.
First, Skoff’s slowness of grasp. In C.N. 1569 (March-April 1988) I wrote, “The traditional view of Edge as a neutral (or even biased) observer has been revealed as incorrect. He saw himself as a major participant in the events surrounding Morphy – even as being Morphy’s puppet-master.” F.S. declares in C.N. 1757 (November-December 1988) that he now understands the first sentence. Convinced that he and I could never take the same meaning from a phrase, Skoff then makes the assertion (to use one of his pet phrases) that I must have meant something else. He doesn’t say what, and I cannot guess. He adds “So it is Whyld, not I, who is misreading his own carelessly-composed sentence”. In due time no doubt Skoff will tackle the second sentence, which others will have read in conjunction with the first.
Second, Skoff makes woolly remarks, claims that there are questions buried therein, and then changes his ground when the conjectured questions are answered. In C.N. 1757 F.S. lists in his penultimate paragraph seven C.N. numbers, implying that these are full of unanswered questions from him. In fact three are from him addressed to me, three are replies from me, and the other is from F.S. aimed at my fellow-sufferer, Mr Diggle.
Third, Skoff’s lack of understanding of historical writing. He continually drags in pseudo-legal jargon, seemingly under the impression that someone is being accused of a crime. This Perry Mason-like procedure is quite unsuited to the historical process. The job of a historian is to build up as good a picture as possible from the evidence available. Inevitably this demands conjecture where there are gaps, and of course rival theories are made. These in turn generate the arguments that are the very stuff of history, and are often resolved only when new evidence emerges or a primary source is discredited (as in the case of Edge’s writing).
I do not wish to devote more time to this structureless debate unless a reader can detect and phrase, pithily and precisely, questions from F.S. to me that are unanswered.’
Mr Whyld sent an advance copy of the above to Mr Skoff, who replies as follows:
‘Mr Whyld again evades my request for explication of the sentence by offensive remarks, which cast no light on the matter, though they no doubt relieved his feelings without engaging his mind. Secondly, I knew of Mr Whyld’s dogmatic assertion that Edge is a “villain”, a “liar” (via Goulding Brown), “puppet-master”, “Svengali”, etc., but we were discussing only the clarity of a sentence, a very minor point.
K.W.’s “First” and “Second”: my critiques have been specific and backed by evidence, costing years to amass; but K.W. continues his vague, rhetorical style as though it constituted a refutation. I again defy him (or Diggle) to show me, with solid evidence (no conjectures, please), where I erred on any essential point, including Edge. In the past I have shown the discrediting of Edge (via Brown, Diggle and K.W.) as unwarranted, yet K.W. writes as if I had done nothing. I am still awaiting his proofs of the “lies”, etc. to justify discreditation, but he just keeps repeating his charges, perhaps hoping that repetition will eventually cause its acceptance as fact. He thinks he discredited Edge by calling him names: If I tried to refute K.W.’s views in the same way, would he consider that a refutation?
K.W.’s “Third”: it was a shock to find myself agreeing with his statement “The job of a historian is to build up as good a picture as possible from the evidence available”. Then why didn’t K.W. follow his own precept?
Furthermore, K.W. continues: “Inevitably this demands conjecture where there are gaps, and of course rival theories [presumably based on the aforesaid conjecture, itself a kind of theory] are made.” Untrue. “Gaps” demand evidence, not conjecture. If the gaps cannot be filled with facts, then obviously out of nothing you get nothing. The cat is finally out of the bag: “Gaps” have been replaced with conjectures and theories: (K.W. should read my reply to Mr Diggle on the dangers of conjecturitis.) No wonder K.W. presented so little evidence to refute my critiques of his Companion biographies. Digging for facts is hard work, often without results; it is much easier to conjure a conjecture out of thin air for the needed “evidence” – history in such hands becomes dangerous since it can result in smearing people (Morphy and Edge) after they are dead (doing so with living persons could generate libel suits).
Continuing again: “These in turn generate the arguments that are the very stuff of history, and are often resolved only when new evidence emerges or a primary source is discredited (as in the case of Edge’s writing).” (1) Edge’s writing has not been discredited, no matter if K.W. dogmatically writes it a thousand times with a thousand conjectures in every publication he has access to, and Mr Diggle accompanies him with a brass band, a fanfare of trumpets, and a thousand conjectures of his own. (2) Historians get into arguments over what sound deductions can be made from available evidence, not from mere conjectures. Any historians indulging in such conjecture gambits would soon be set straight by fellow historians, after which the offenders could turn to certain types of chess journalism where such imaginings are believed to picture reality. Also it would be impossible for two historians, arguing about their respective conjectures, to arrive at any real result, for from nothing you get nothing. (3) Historians are careful to describe their conjectures as conjectures. K.W. does not do so, leaving the reader to swallow what he thinks is a fact but which K.W. (and Diggle) admit is only a conjecture.
K.W.’s demeaning and monumentally inadequate biography of Morphy has set back US-British chess relations over two centuries – to 1776, to be precise. (1) He says nothing of Morphy’s strategical genius, ignoring the assessments by Steinitz, Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine and Réti, to mention only the most prominent. (2) The omission of the recipient of Edge’s letter: K.W. did not ascribe it to a momentary lapse in his writing skill, simple forgetfulness, or just a slip of the pen (he had the Edge letter in his possession); hence it must have been a deliberate omission with intent to mislead and create a smear. What else could it be? (I refuse to accept an insanity plea; on second thought, I might be persuaded to do so. One must not be too harsh in such matters.)
K.W. and I have reached an impasse. There is no point to his drawing more conclusions from insufficient or irrelevant evidence, nor in using vague generalities to answer specific objections, nor in producing more piles of conjectures (theories) to fill in the “gaps”, nor in name calling, all of which waste my time and energy as well as valuable space in C.N. His current plea of an inability to comprehend my so-called “structureless” critiques is something over which I have no control; readers here tell me they have no such difficulty. Perhaps the cause lies in his living too long in the world of conjectures. But this is only my conjecture.’
Mr Skoff also responds to G.H. Diggle (C.N. 1758):
‘I thank Mr Diggle for giving me in his (2) and (3) the sources of certain statements.
His (1): identifying the “final paragraph as partly conjecture” is insufficient. Why didn’t Mr D. identify it precisely in the text so that both fact and conjecture would be clear? Better yet, as requested before, Mr D. should omit conjectures completely. It’s troublesome enough trying to establish and handle facts without having the whole subject bemuddled and befuddled with conjectures, both hidden and visible (see my reply to K.W. above, which answers Mr D. equally well).
“Delays and excuses” (page 130): Lawson gives two delays (see pages 101, 106, 114, 118, 121 and 141). Much more important is the total time consumed for negotiations: 23-24 June until October (over three months) when Staunton said it was impossible. One could hardly expect things were going smoothly throughout, as Mr D. tries to establish. Morphy was a polite person, and his letters reflect that; nor would he be impolite to Staunton on a social occasion. The only sources we have would be other persons who heard Morphy complaining about Staunton, of which Edge would be the closest witness, a fact which I know upsets Mr D. unbearably.
(4) Edge the “mouthpiece” and “think-tank”: (a) The single incident cited proves nothing (a flea trying to carry an elephant) since there are too many possible explanations or interpretations: impetuosity caused by Edge’s defensive attitude re Morphy, bad manners (but then you must credit Edge for giving an honest picture of himself), an upset by something prior to the event, too much drink, etc. Its bumbling logic can be summed up like this: Edge once interrupted a conversation by speaking ahead of Morphy, therefore he was Morphy’s mouthpiece and think-tank and controller, a villain, a Svengali (to borrow the last two items from Whyld), especially so when it is a foundation for discrediting Edge! What madness! (I interrupted a friend last week. Am I now a Svengali, a think-tank, and a dealer in untruth?)
I knew the general meaning of the words but didn’t know exactly how Mr D. was using them. As secretary, Edge would be expected to announce or state what Morphy wished him to. In that sense, every secretary is a mouthpiece or a spokesman, a non-pejorative term. Besides these senses, my collegiate dictionary classes mouthpiece as “slang”, defining it as “a criminal lawyer”, hardly appropriate.
Proving a “negative” (page 130): if Mr D. “cannot prove a negative”, then why did he make the unprovable statement? Also I gave positive evidence, which can be refuted or modified by other evidence. Nor is it always true that negatives cannot be proven. For example, let’s imagine a detective-story murder of a chess journalist (the most likely recipient of such acts), committed between 7 and 8 p.m. Someone states: “Prove that the defendant was not there during that hour.” It so happened that hospital records for the particular period indicated he was a patient suffering from the results of a severe case of conjecturitis: he had walked across a highway intersection under the strong belief the approaching traffic was purely conjectural. At the hospital he said he had been attacked from behind by a band of muggers with metal clubs and knives, after which he was placed in the psychiatric ward. Later on, after his eventual release, he was taken to court by the government, which disagreed with the conjectures in his income tax report. He argued that the aesthetic elegance and brilliance of his mathematical conjectures were far superior to the crude, coarse, and vulgar accuracy of the government prosecutor. He lost his case, but fearlessly continued his precarious existence as before. Rumor says he then took up chess journalism, where his peculiarities naturally went unnoticed.
Obviously the request for non-publication of the games came from Morphy through his secretary; I imagine K.W. has a copy he can send Mr D. Page 113 of Lawson’s book has another such letter (partly quoted) making the same point. “This is no evidence either way”: false. Proof: the Edge letter (now two) and the lack of any Morphy games by Staunton in Fiske’s magazine indicate strongly Morphy’s orders were followed. To this can also be added the same point in Edge (page 138 and C.N. 1722 page 114), which he would hardly risk in public print if he were the liar implied by Mr D. and K.W. “... What we are discussing is from whom the request really came”: absolutely not. I told Mr D. precisely from whom it came.
(5) misses the point (see my C.N. 1416 for another): what is Mr D. trying to do? He suddenly blurted out that “both tone and content must be taken into account” (true if the content of the annotations is meant, not the moves of the game) and that Morphy only, not Edge, would know the tone. (Why? An offensive tone or content is usually easy to spot.) We were discussing Edge’s words (Edge, pages 94-95, 98; C.N.s 1633, 1416, etc.), and again the issue is what Edge said of Staunton’s columns (Sergeant was not involved), not what anyone else said. I have gone over the same material a number of times in past C.N.s.
(5) “A very unmeritable affair”: answered in C.N. 1722, page 114, but I try again. Mr D. simply refuses to see the phrase as offensive or impolite. To him the truth is never so, but he knows better. For example, does he really believe it polite to say in conversing with the writer of a bad novel: “I read your novel, it’s a very unmeritable affair”?
In addition, bringing up Walker’s style is pointless: we are discussing Staunton’s style, not Walker’s; and an insulting quote from Walker does not excuse the same in Staunton. Press reports in the Victorian era on the sports activities of foreigners are rarely impolite. He misinterprets also the impolite “like the above [game], thrown away by the Hungarian at the moment when victory appeared almost certain”. Mr D. overlooks that Morphy’s victory is accounted for (Edge’s words, page 98) by Löwenthal’s “obliging” move, not by M.’s skill (see C.N. 1633, page 63). At this point Mr D.’s conjecturitis starts up again: “possibly” Morphy may “have been ruffled ...”: I will ignore the conjectures.
Again, as I’ve said before, Edge was involved in a tense affair, the Morphy-Staunton negotiations, and could hardly be expected to react in dull, leaden prose. Not long after, or possibly during, those circumstances he examined Staunton’s notes and saw a pattern or two, discussed in C.N. on various occasions since 1985 in varying degrees. The patterns are there, but their interpretation is another matter (see C.N. 1633). Nevertheless he has the right to express his opinions without being called a liar, a villain, a Svengali or any other epithets Mr D. or K.W. desire. Just because not every item can be substantiated from other sources does not mean they are untruths, no more than the inability of Mr D. to prove his conjectures puts them in the same category. Yet Edge is allowed no opinions, no conjectures, no honest mistakes, these being reserved apparently exclusively for Mr D., K.W. and similar such journalists. (Someday no doubt the British government will break up this monopoly.)
Mr D.’s (7) is fully answered above in (5). Mr D.’s (6) is also fully answered above.
Mr D.’s (8): Staunton often used his column against those he disagreed with, so why should Mr D. be surprised and see Edge’s statements as totally untenable or untrue? Why doesn’t he or K.W. offer evidence to disprove them? Staunton’s behavior in the Morphy affair is no better than it was in previous matches or negotiations, but he does not get the treatment Edge did. There was little reason for Edge to concoct untruths; all he had to do was take his notebook and travel about the various chess clubs to collect all the gossip and news he could, as journalists are wont to do. Since Staunton was such a controversial figure, he could amass a great deal of material, and in so doing I do not mean anything he collected was necessarily true or false.
My offer of my review to C.N. readers: it was done so they could see the evidence – not conjectures – I had collected, and not for them to act as a jury. Mr D. could have tried refuting my analysis by taking the same notes and giving his refutation of all of them, but he never did. He also brought up the possibility of Morphy telling Staunton of the “sanction” against the games from his column, but he doesn’t say what point he is trying to make with his conjecture.
[Mr Diggle: thank you for letting me have the last word in our debate, which has been a most stimulating one. I have learned much from your contribution. My best wishes go with you.]’
Addition on 9 December 2020:
Extract from a letter to us from Ken Whyld dated 16 March 1989 which he also copied to Frank Skoff:
‘There is little point in going on. F.S. has given the evidence that Edge was not truthful, but suggests that it was due to ignorance or stupidity and not, as others believe, to duplicity. Why does the omission of the recipient of Edge’s letter create a smear? Does Skoff dispute that the extract quoted reveals Edge’s feelings about his relationship with Morphy? At no point have we belittled Morphy, whatever the Chicago Ayatollah says! I find it irritating to be pressed for conjectures (not given in the Companion) by someone incapable of forming his own, and then being attacked for offering them.
There is one aspect that you might want to give in C.N. if F.S. agrees. F.S. pressed me for the identity of the owner (called hereafter TO) of the letter, although he knew I was honour-bound not to reveal it. As I said, TO was instantly and regularly informed of Skoff’s wish, and when F.S. ultimately obtained the letter I naturally supposed this to be because of my efforts. I was therefore astonished when, in your pages, F.S. said this was not so. Now, although I might believe F.S. to be rational only 99% of the time, I have always found him 100% truthful, so I wrote to TO for an explanation. I quote extracts (sorry Frank, only selected extracts!) of a letter from TO dated 2 August 1988. “When all this started I did not realize that it was about a letter I owned!! ... Skoff must have pieced together that I was the most likely owner ... When he asked me directly ... I realized that possibly I had the document in question! ... When I checked ... I was stunned to find that I did in fact have the letter ... so I told him ... but he should not tell people.”’
After we replied (23 March 1989) that we found the letter-ownership matter rather unclear, Mr Whyld informed us on 1 April 1989:
‘I wrote a number of times, mentioning e.p. Skoff’s request. I did not expect, or get, any comment, but supposed that if the letter had gone elsewhere then Skoff’s request would be forwarded. When I wrote “the owner of ten years ago” I had no idea who was, at the time, in possession of the letter, and it was only when I had the explanation quoted in my last letter that I knew that the letter had not changed hands. Indeed I was surprised when Skoff gave the letter in full and still demanded to know who TO was, because I supposed that F.S. himself had become the owner. As it is, I am still puzzled because F.S. must 1) have known who TO was, and, 2) known the promise of secrecy I had made.’
Addition on 12 December 2020:
On the general Staunton-Morphy issue, Mr Whyld wrote to us on 20 November 1988:
‘Does it follow that if Staunton was not as black as some have painted him, then Morphy must be less perfect? I am quite unsure. We wanted to make it clear that Morphy’s chess was much better than that of any of his contemporaries. Also, any claim for Staunton to be the best player in the world could only be justified in the 1840s. We did want to remove some of the idolatry surrounding Morphy. You know all of that. The question I am asking now is simply, “Are the reputations of M. & S. inversely proportional?”
From Louis Blair (Pittsburgh, PA, USA):
‘In C.N. 1818, Ken Whyld suggested that some reader indicate what questions from Frank Skoff remained unanswered in the great Morphy-Edge-Staunton debate. I do not want to speak for Frank Skoff, but I do have some comments of my own on the treatment of Morphy in the Oxford Companion to Chess.
Before beginning, I should state the principles which I believe should govern historical writing: 1) Human communication is imprecise and any reader, as a matter of routine, makes natural assumptions to fill in the gaps in a narrative. It is thus possible to lead a reader to a false conclusion with sentences that are true when taken individually. This is why witnesses in a trial are sworn to tell the whole truth, and the historian should behave similarly. Sometimes the wrong impression is created unintentionally. Ken Whyld was kind enough to point out an example of this in my own Lasker v Schlechter article, and I will see to it that this is corrected if my article is ever reprinted. 2) Neutral language should be used unless there is evidence to justify some other attitude. A good example of the violation of this principle is G.H. Diggle’s use of the word “wormed” in his Edge article. (See C.N.s 957 and 1012.) 3) Speculation should be clearly identified. Hooper and Whyld followed this principle while discussing their theories about the Lasker v Schlechter match, and this is a good model to follow.
Writings about Morphy have certainly had a tendency toward exaggeration over the years (“without him chess as we know it would be unthinkable”, etc.) and it is certainly no surprise if a certain amount of anti-Morphy sentiment has been generated. This, of course, does not justify violating the principles mentioned above, and I hope that the examples listed below will convince Hooper and Whyld that their treatment of Morphy (and Edge) needs revision in order to bring it up to the excellent standards set by the rest of the book.
A. “His family indulged him and from the age of 8 he played hundreds of games ...” Why “indulged”? This gives the impression that Morphy was some sort of spoiled child demanding to play chess while his family reluctantly gave in. We know that in later years Morphy’s family did try to discourage Morphy’s chess activities, but at this early stage it seems far more likely that his family encouraged him. How else could he have been able to play games with Eugene Rousseau, Johann Löwenthal, etc.?
B. “For a time he applied himself to his studies ...” Why is there no mention of Morphy’s exemplary academic performance? I suspect that this is because it would interfere with the “lazy” image of Morphy that Hooper and Whyld are trying to create. Morphy was often described as lazy by those who wanted him to spend more time playing chess. It does not follow that he was lazy about non-chess activities.
C. “... the editor found Morphy ‘incorrigibly lazy’.” Why not mention that Morphy, at this point, was rapidly losing his enthusiasm for chess?
D. “He seemed incapable of work ...” An unfair conclusion, in view of his academic performance. Why not stick to the facts and let the reader decide whether or not such a statement is justified?
E. “... his weakness of character ...” This certainly does not belong in the book if Hooper and Whyld have no more evidence than that given in C.N. 1149 (i.e. none at all). There are plenty of alternative explanations for Morphy’s failure to establish himself as a lawyer. Why include sheer speculation in a list that is otherwise based on facts? (Some day I think it will be interesting to hear what Michael Wilder has to say on this subject. He too is a US champion wanting to give up chess in order to pursue a career as a lawyer.)
F. “Morphy did not give up chess because of disenchantment with the conduct of some European players ... before he went abroad he had decided to give up the game upon his return.” I don’t see how anyone can be sure of Morphy’s motives. While abroad Morphy demonstrated that he was quite capable of going against his family’s wishes. In addition, Morphy’s chess activities did not completely stop upon his return.
G. “... he was not capable of doing anything else.” Again, an unfair conclusion. Establishing a law practice is not easy, and circumstances were far from optimal.
H. “His addiction to chess ...” Was Morphy more addicted to chess than other famous players? Why call Morphy’s enthusiasm for chess an “addiction”? Also, it is clear that Morphy’s attitude toward chess changed with time. If he was addicted at one time, it does not follow that he was always addicted.
I. “... ‘chess fever’ (his own phrase)”. Morphy used this phrase to describe his returning eagerness to play as the time for his match with Anderssen approached. Morphy’s enthusiasm for chess had been dropping for a while and, after the match, his enthusiasm resumed its descent. Quoting this phrase out of context gives the wrong impression.
J. “... he would not visit the chess haunts, fearing to demean himself by meeting professional players.” I cannot imagine how this conclusion was produced. The evidence seems to me to be against it. He had visited chess haunts on many occasions. If he stopped doing so, it was probably because he had lost much of his enthusiasm for chess and was tired of people nagging him to play.
K. “Anderssen, in a letter to Lasa ... refers to Morphy’s need to prove himself at chess.” The Anderssen quote only shows that Morphy took chess games seriously. The same is true of any great player. Did Steinitz have a need to prove himself? Lasker? Capablanca? Alekhine? Why pick on Morphy? Why not give the Anderssen quote and let the reader decide what it means?
L. “When Morphy gave up chess he pined.” Another conclusion that seems to come from nowhere. Most reports indicate that Morphy’s interest in chess went down more and more as time passed.
M. “Morphy could have passed for a woman.” I know that some authors said this, but I have never seen a Morphy picture that justified this statement. Since a Morphy picture is included in the Companion, why not let the reader come to his own conclusions? It’s tempting to suspect that this statement was subconsciously included to reinforce the homosexual angle.
N. “... he fell into the hands of ... Edge.” This is just like Diggle’s “worm”. Why not say that Morphy became associated with Edge?
O. “Negotiations for matches with Staunton and Anderssen reveal a deviousness so uncharacteristic of Morphy that Edge’s influence must be suspected.” I see nothing devious in Morphy’s behavior while negotiating with either person.
P. “Edge ... obtained a medical certificate ... so that Morphy should prolong his stay in Europe and gather fresh triumphs.” It sounds as though Hooper and Whyld are hinting that Morphy was not really sick. However, I would say that, in view of medical practices at the time, Morphy was almost certainly sick after the doctors were done with him.
Q. “Edge found it profitable to report these, and when they ceased (Jan. 1859) Edge’s ‘friendship’ also ceased.” This gives the impression that Edge was motivated by money. There is no way to be sure of this, and as G.H. Diggle says in C.N. 1228, the Fiske letters suggest different motivations. It appears that Edge genuinely believed that he was acting in Morphy’s best interests and thus there is no justification for casting doubt on the Edge-Morphy friendship. The sentence above is also bad because it gives the impression that Edge terminated their friendship, when, in fact, it appears that this was Morphy’s decision. Finally, the above sentence is simply false as Morphy’s chess-playing did not stop in January 1859.
R. “... lover ...” This quote, as presented, is clearly misleading, and there really is no excuse for failing to mention that it was part of a letter to Fiske. The date is not sufficient to rule out the possibility that the quote was part of a letter to Morphy. No reason for the quote, other than to suggest homosexuality, is apparent to the reader. I find it somewhat disquieting that Whyld thinks that the quote proves Edge’s untrustworthiness (C.N. 1569), as it really only shows that Edge had a rather extravagant writing style. That Whyld should think otherwise makes me wish that he would provide some examples from Edge’s other writings rather than expect us to accept his judgement that they support Whyld’s view of Edge (C.N. 1440).
S. “The Chess Players.” It is rather absurd to suggest this novel to readers while failing to list the Edge book. After all, Keyes relied on the Edge book herself when she wrote about Morphy’s first trip to Europe. Whyld’s assessment of the Edge book as “discredited” does not seem justified to me. Yes, Edge was a participant in the events surrounding Morphy, but so what? This does not make him a liar. The case against Edge rests primarily on his interpretation of Staunton’s annotations. Edge’s conclusions may not have been correct but they were certainly understandable. He may well have wondered how Löwenthal could have won the Birmingham tournament if he was so prone to making moves that were “obliging” to his opponent. Whyld may consider it to be “perverted ... logic” to equate criticism of the loser with criticism of the winner (C.N. 1439), but such “logic” has been commonly used throughout chess history. People said that Lasker defeated Tarrasch only because Tarrasch was out of practice, that Euwe defeated Alekhine only because Alekhine was drinking too much, etc. Indeed, this is essentially the only way that one can criticize the winner of a chess contest. It also should be remembered that Edge was writing at a time when it was not generally perceived that a chess game can only be won when the opponent makes mistakes.
Diggle makes a better point in C.N. 1228 when he calls attention to the way Edge led his readers to believe that Staunton often avoided matches by claiming to be sick. Staunton may not have done it often, but he certainly did it more than once. Staunton himself mentions ill-health in connection with his failure to play a match with Anderssen after the 1851 tournament. In addition to this and the cancelled Staunton v St Amant match, there may have been other examples. In his book about Staunton, Levy mentions a match with Kieseritzky that never took place. Perhaps ill-health was involved here as well.
In any event, I cannot agree with Diggle’s judgment that Edge was more “greasy” than Staunton. What could be more “greasy” than Staunton’s famous “Anti-Book” statement, a clear attempt by Staunton to lead the public to believe that Morphy was delaying the match? If Edge is to be discredited on this sort of basis, we must certainly discredit Staunton as well. It also should be noted that Staunton was “greasy” first.
Edge’s book is certainly biased, but this is apparent to anyone who reads it with care. There were many witnesses to most of the events that Edge described and, given Edge’s clear determination to vindicate Morphy (as revealed in the letters to Fiske), it seems most likely that Edge wrote what he actually believed to be true.
T. “Staunton ... was unable to accept a challenge from Morphy in 1858.” It should be mentioned that he at least appeared to accept the challenge on more than one occasion. An example is the item in the 10 July issue of the Illustrated London News:
“Mr Morphy has proffered to play Mr Staunton a match of 21 games for a stake of £500 a side, and the latter has accepted the challenge conditionally that the terms of play are such as he can agree to without infraction of his present literary engagements. As there appears every disposition on the part of his opponent to meet his wishes in this respect the match will probably take place in London shortly after the Birmingham Chess Meeting.”
This is clearly an attempt by Staunton to convey to the public the impression that the match would fail to take place only if Morphy was not sufficiently cooperative.
U. “Edge (1830-82), a journalist seeking copy”. As mentioned in Q. above, it is far from clear that this was Edge’s primary motivation. I’m inclined to think he wanted vindication after his tales of Morphy’s American performance were met with skepticism.
V. “Edge ... stirred up a quarrel.” This seems like an unfair judgment, as it was Staunton who started the hostilities with his famous Anti-Book statement, a clear attempt to lead the public to believe that it was Morphy who was delaying the match. Nothing Morphy or Edge had done up to that point could justify what Staunton did. One could blame Edge for prolonging the quarrel, but not for starting it.
W. “Staunton ... was once driven to make a true but impolitely worded comment about Morphy.” If this sentence refers to Anti-Book then it should mention that the statement was grossly misleading. Also, I see no justification for saying that Edge drove Staunton to write Anti-Book. If this sentence does not refer to Anti-Book then the authors are neglecting to mention a clear example of Staunton’s dishonorable behavior.
X. “Edge’s insinuations unfairly blackened Staunton’s reputation.” Many people took Morphy’s side in the controversy. It can’t all be blamed on Edge.
Y. “His conduct during the match (he took more than one of his usual "vacations") and the ill grace with which he faced defeat combined with the excessive adulation accorded to Morphy lost Harrwitz the sympathy of the public and cost him his job.” In what ways was the adulation received by Morphy excessive and how did it do harm to Harrwitz?
Z. “In Feb. 1863 Kolisch gave up his employment and went from London to Paris. There he met Morphy, who broke his promise to play a match.” Mention should be made of the fact that, at the time, the promise was two years old. Furthermore, Kolisch made no attempt to reconfirm Morphy’s willingness to play before leaving London.
This is the end of the alphabet but not the end of the list of examples that could be produced to demonstrate that the authors of the Oxford Companion have an understandable but nevertheless improper anti-Morphy bias. I hope that Hooper and Whyld will not take offense at my criticism. Both gentlemen have been very helpful to me in the past.
I like to imagine that somewhere up in the clouds Morphy and Staunton now delight Edge by alternating between playing chess and performing scenes from The Merchant of Venice. Perhaps occasionally they pause to look down and note with sorrow that their ancient dispute is still being fought with such acrimony.’
Ken Whyld’s reply:
‘Louis Blair has stated three principles which he believes should govern historical writing. I add a fourth. It is the duty of the historian to make an analysis of the assembled facts. Without such analysis, all that has been achieved is the collection of material, useful though that may be. For the short entries in the Companion no analysis is possible; even for the major figures space limits its scope. The Morphy entry represents less than 0.3 per cent of the book.
There are two special problems that need airing in connection with this Morphy discussion. The first is that of different meanings attached to the same word by the English-speaking communities on either side of the Atlantic. Most writers are conscious of, and avoid, words liable to totally varied interpretations. However, there can be different shades of meaning that become evident only when examples are quoted.
Such is Blair’s case A. The first sentence quotes the Companion. Sentences four and five give his interpretation of the same topic, which coincides with what we said. Yet sentences two and three imply something else.
The second special problem is more serious. Morphy has a unique place in chess history as the only player seen, by all of his contemporaries and posterity alike, as unquestionably the best player of his time. (Fischer, his nearest rival so far, only achieved that status after his retirement.) It has been said that Morphy was the first American to be supreme throughout the world in any activity. Understandably, he has been idolized. Unfortunately, logic and idolatry do not go hand in hand. Steinitz opened his International Chess Magazine with a careful analysis of Morphy’s chess. Although he was full of praise for Morphy, he was, nevertheless, roundly attacked with illogical arguments. This special problem is illustrated well by Blair’s case R., perhaps the cause of the usually cheerful and courteous Skoff “spitting nails”.
The quotation needs seeing in full. Edge wrote, “I have been a lover, a brother, a mother to you; I have made you an idol, a god ...” Is it rational to read this as saying, “I have been, only in the figurative sense of course, your brother and mother, but I have been literally your lover, and what’s more, in the mid-twentieth century meaning of the word and not that of the mid-nineteenth century”? Such a perverse interpretation should be too foolish to merit contemplation, and certainly does not deserve detailed discussion. When hero-worship takes over, common sense seems to fly out of the window and the eyes mist over, preventing the sentence from being read in full.
The import of the quotation, which is consonant with Edge’s other published and unpublished letters, is fully clear to Hooper and myself, and we are quite satisfied that it represents Edge’s opinion. Further, we believe that the quotation demands a reappraisal of the Morphy-Edge relationship, and that in its turn leads to a new view of the Morphy-Staunton relationship. Edge did not see himself, as had been supposed, as the dutiful servant in the background, but rather as Morphy’s promoter. “It will not always be ‘Edge, Morphy’s friend’, but ‘Morphy, Edge’s’”, he wrote to Fiske (7 November 1859). Most likely Morphy had never been Edge’s friend, but he was certainly his enemy by then.
There does not need to be “an excuse for failing to mention that it was part of a letter to Fiske”, since it was written with reference to Morphy and there is no suggestion that it does not truly represent Edge’s attitude. The fact that Blair can see nothing in the quote except a non-existent suggestion of homosexuality illustrates well the special problem number two.
I take the other points in Blair’s sequence.
B. We said he “applied himself” and graduated in 1857. Does that fit Blair’s suspicions? He perhaps needed to work less hard than most, with his phenomenal memory for the printed word and natural gifts, but that is no reason to belittle his achievements.
C. There may be excuses. We simply gave the facts.
D. His incapacity for work at that stage of his life is a “fact”. No doubt excuses could be proposed.
E. My long term acquaintance, the late Jack Spence also tried to establish himself as a lawyer, but he did not sit around doing nothing and expect it to fall from the sky.
F. Morphy made a promise to his family before he sailed to Europe. Psychoanalysts have said that he gave up because of the so-called Staunton affair.
G. Again Blair does not dispute the facts but offers excuses.
H. & I. So? What is the implication?
J. The conclusion is supported by Löwenthal in the Era. Morphy’s aversion to being considered professional had grown between his first visit to Europe and later ones.
K. A fair point, although I see nothing derogatory in our comment.
L. Surely this is a statement of fact? Perhaps it could be read as an assertion of cause and effect, and that might not have been the case.
M. Many authors have noted this point. We thought that the most obvious implication was a degree of physical immaturity. My personal opinion is that homosexuality is extremely unlikely. Morphy had a rigid Creole upbringing, and in any case seems to have been far too lazy.
N. Does anyone seriously believe that Morphy sought out Edge, or even formally engaged him? The most that can be surmised is that Morphy might have paid Edge’s expenses.
O. Morphy appears to have been completely straightforward and honest, if somewhat secretive. He entered the Birmingham tournament before he left the USA, and the organizers put back the date to be sure that he would have arrived in time. Staunton came out of retirement and entered specifically to meet Morphy there. Morphy defaulted. Does that sound like Morphy’s way?
P. Morphy’s family had to send his brother-in-law to bring him back. Morphy did not seek the medical certificate.
Q. Life has more profits than solely pecuniary ones. What triumphs did Morphy have after January 1859? He played no first-class chess after the Anderssen match.
S. Keyes cited about 80 sources, and she used them a great deal more intelligently than has any chess biographer of Morphy. It is ridiculous to say she relied on Edge. As for Staunton’s annotations of Morphy’s games, no good chess player would find them unfair. That makes Edge’s opinion useless on the subject. “The case against Edge rests primarily on his interpretation of Staunton’s annotations.” This is a travesty. We did not mention them at all. They were dragged in by Skoff in an ill-judged attempt to make a case against Edge’s critics.
Edge makes no bones about having taken letters from Morphy’s pocket and dealing with them as he saw fit, or waiting until Morphy was out of the way and then writing a letter that Morphy had expressly forbidden him to write. Now we know that Edge was motivated not by a desire to serve Morphy, but by the urge to “promote” him, his book has to be seen as a piece of special pleading. Did any contemporary master (including Morphy) have a kind word to say for Edge or his book?
U. He certainly wanted vindication.
V. The “Anti-Book statement” was true at the time it was written, but possibly intended by Staunton as a delaying manoeuvre.
W. On 15 November 1858 Staunton wrote that he had been told “... that Mr Morphy was about to write to me in an amicable spirit, I, of course, supposed there was an end to the matter, and I should be permitted to pursue my work, and this young gentleman his play, without further misunderstanding”. “Neglecting”, Mr Blair? That’s coming on a bit strong, isn’t it? We can hardly quote everything. Was it a dishonourable letter? It was certainly to the point. The only dishonourable behaviour on either side came from Edge.
X. Of course many, if not most, took Morphy’s side, but can Blair name a single person who took Edge’s?
Y. Morphy was (is) idolized. Naturally the fans would not regard this as excessive. Harrwitz became unpopular and lost his job.
Z. This refers to the Kolisch entry. On 5 May 1861, Morphy promised to play a match against Kolisch, without odds, on his next visit to Europe. He would put aside two weeks, or more if necessary.
We are not anti-Morphy, but we do see him as a human being, with human strengths and failings. We believe we have put the spotlight on Edge and revealed him as being as dishonourable as Staunton, Morphy and Fiske found him. We have urged that nobody should accept Edge’s account except where it is corroborated.’
Louis Blair’s response:
‘Mr Whyld adds a fourth principle to my list. I am glad that he apparently agrees with my first three, and I agree with his fourth.
A. If I understand K.W. correctly, he is saying that the sentence “[Morphy’s] family indulged him” is equivalent to saying “[Morphy’s] family encouraged him” and that the Companion was not trying to suggest anything negative about Morphy at this point. I am surprised that K.W. thinks that talk of indulging a child has no negative connotations, but he certainly has more knowledge of English usage on his side of the Atlantic than I do. I wonder if Mr Whyld would trust my judgment that such talk certainly has negative connotations on my side of the Atlantic, and that under the circumstances the word “encouraged” would have been a better choice. Of course, I could understand if Mr Whyld agrees with my suggestion but nevertheless feels that it is not worth the expense to make the change. For the record, I hope he will indicate whether or not using the word “encouraged” would be an improvement.
B. Saying that Morphy applied himself to his studies is not quite the same thing as saying that he graduated with honor. My suspicion remains that K.W. and D.H. do not mention this because it would conflict with the image of Morphy as lazy.
C. Yes, what is said is factual, but when such facts are given while leaving out things like “graduation with honor”, it gives a lop-sided picture.
D. If I wrote about someone who spent his life on a tropical island, wouldn’t it be a little ridiculous to say that he seemed incapable of shoveling snow? When someone says “[Morphy] seemed incapable of work” it gives the impression that it was entirely his fault that he didn’t work. As has been noted before, circumstances were far from optimal for Morphy to get a law practice started.
E. I have never heard it said that Morphy “[sat] around doing nothing”. My understanding has been that Morphy made two sincere attempts to establish himself as a lawyer. If K.W. has some information that shows that “his weakness of character” was a factor in his failure to get a law practice started, I would appreciate it if he would present it.
F. It appears to me that K.W. has not answered my question at all. Again, how does he know Morphy’s motives? I agree that it is unreasonable to assume that Morphy gave up chess because of the conduct of some European players. On the other hand, I don’t see how we can positively rule that out. As I have said before, Morphy demonstrated that he was willing to go against his parents’ wishes. Incidentally, I cannot remember seeing anything about the kind of promise mentioned in the Companion. I hope K.W. will be kind enough to provide me with the source of this information.
G. This is really the same point as D. The only additional thing I want to say here is that it does seem odd that, in a book of limited size, essentially the same statement is repeated. Why not remove the repetition and use the space to mention "graduation with honor" or make any of the other changes suggested here?
H. Saying Morphy was addicted to chess sounds rather negative on this side of the Atlantic. Again, was Morphy any more addicted than any other famous player? If anything, the evidence suggests that he was less addicted to chess than most famous players, as he essentially gave up chess after a very short period of serious play. Yet K.W. and D.H. single out Morphy as being addicted while making no such statement about Steinitz, Alekhine, etc. Does this make sense?
I. In the complete “chess fever” quote, Morphy talked about his enthusiasm for chess returning as the time for his match with Anderssen approached. Doesn’t this make it clear that Morphy was not addicted to chess throughout his life? Am I correct in saying that D.H. and K.W. are trying to give the impression that Morphy was always addicted to chess? If so, I feel that they are doing something improper by leaving out the context of the quote which does not fit in with their conclusion. Incidentally, is there any source for the “chess fever” quote other than Edge?
J. I would be very grateful if K.W. would provide the Löwenthal quote that confirms the statement that Morphy did not visit chess haunts because he felt it was demeaning to meet professional players. It proves nothing that Morphy did not want people to think of him as a professional player. Incidentally, I think K.W. is wrong when he says that Morphy’s desire to avoid being considered a professional changed with time. It seems to me that he always wanted to avoid the image of a professional.
K. I’m glad that K.W. agrees that I have a fair point. I am somewhat astounded that he sees nothing negative about saying that someone has a need to prove himself. How would K.W. feel if someone said that he has a need to prove himself? Anyway, derogatory or not, as the conclusion is not justified by the given quote, I hope he will agree with me that it would be better to leave the conclusion out.
L. I ask how it was concluded that Morphy pined when he gave up chess, and K.W. says that it is a fact. I’m afraid that that is not very helpful.
M. If K.W. and D.H. meant that Morphy was physically immature, they could have said that. I wonder if K.W. has ever seen any pictures that justified the conclusion that Morphy could have passed for a woman. The fact that many authors said this proves nothing. As has been shown many times in C.N., mistakes are often copied from one book to the next.
N. I did not say anything about Morphy seeking out Edge. I merely claim that the stuff about Morphy falling into the hands of Edge is another violation of principle two: neutral language should be used unless there is evidence to justify some other attitude. Diggle has been kind enough to agree that his use of the word “wormed” in his Edge article was unfair (C.N. 1012). I had rather hoped that K.W. would see that the phrasing in the Companion is analogously unfair.
O. K.W.’s response here is most puzzling. I ask what was devious about Morphy’s negotiations for a match with Staunton and instead, he talks about Morphy’s behavior with respect to the Birmingham tournament. I hope K.W. will take up the topic of Morphy’s deviousness in his match negotiations. In the meantime, as K.W. raises the Birmingham subject, I will ask how K.W. learned that it was delayed because of Morphy. I had never heard this before. Also, can we be sure about Staunton’s motives for playing? It does seem that he wasn’t always the most honest person in the world.
P. It does seem to me that the Companion gives the impression that Morphy was not really sick. Does K.W. agree with me on this point? I cannot tell. If so, does he think that it is reasonable to give this impression? I do not think it is reasonable to do this.
Q. I believe that (1) the Companion gives the impression that money was Edge’s primary motivation; (2) this is unfair; (3) Edge genuinely believed he was acting in Morphy’s best interests, and it is therefore unfair to indicate that their friendship was not genuine; (4) the Companion gives the impression that it was Edge who terminated their friendship; (5) Morphy was the one who terminated their friendship; (6) the Companion gives the impression that their friendship ended because Morphy’s chess triumphs ceased; (7) this is also unfair. I wonder if K.W. disputes any of these points. As for Morphy’s triumphs after January 1859, didn’t he play a simul against several very strong players when he passed through England on his way home?
R. If I understand K.W. correctly, he is accusing me of hero-worship. I would ask him either to give a single example of hero-worship in my writings or admit clearly that he can find none. In fact, my writings show clearly the absence of hero-worship. I quote myself: “Writings about Morphy have certainly had a tendency toward exaggeration over the years ... and it is certainly understandable if a certain amount of anti-Morphy sentiment has been generated.” There is no need for name-calling in this discussion.
K.W. also writes that I “can see nothing in the quote except a non-existent suggestion of homosexuality”. This is categorically false. I remind K.W. that I wrote that the quote “shows that Edge had a rather extravagant writing style”. This is, however, a rather obvious point, and many more familiar quotes could have been used to demonstrate this. This is why I concluded that “No reason for the quote, other than to suggest homosexuality, is apparent to the reader”. K.W. may heap abuse upon anyone who would see homosexuality in the quote, but the fact is that if the quote had been written in a private letter to Morphy (an impression falsely given by the Companion) it would be quite natural to interpret Edge’s statement as saying that he had behaved like a lover, brother, mother, etc., and many who have read the Companion without having the benefit of the additional information in C.N. have thought that this is what was intended. If K.W. genuinely wants to avoid suggesting homosexuality, some sort of a change must be made.
I continue to be completely unable to see how K.W. and D.H. can deduce Edge’s untrustworthiness from the quote. K.W. has called Edge a participant in the events and now calls him a promoter of Morphy. Both of these things are apparent to anyone who reads his book with care and neither proves he was a liar. I also note that K.W. chooses not to provide even a single example from Edge’s other writings to demonstrate that they also support his assessment of Edge.
S. K.W. says that it is ridiculous to say that Keyes relied on Edge. I don’t know how to respond to that except by suggesting that he read (as I did) Edge’s and Keyes’s description of Morphy’s trip to Europe, one right after the other. He will discover that, with the exception of the love interest added by Keyes, the two accounts parallel each other quite closely. I believe that I saw a few places where Keyes used Edge’s exact words. Where else could she have gotten the details of Morphy’s chess travels? I am somewhat astounded that K.W. seems to think her novel is better than other chess biographies. Does he actually put her book above Lawson’s? I can’t believe that. At any rate, I hope that K.W. will be a little bit more careful about describing what I say. I said that “Keyes relied on the Edge book herself when she wrote about Morphy’s first trip to Europe”, and I stand by that statement.
K.W. again makes the now familiar point that Edge’s assessment of Staunton’s annotations was useless, while ignoring the point that Edge’s mistake was quite understandable and hence proves nothing about the reliability of most of his book, which does not involve special knowledge of chess.
K.W. calls it a “travesty” when I say “the case against Edge rests primarily on his interpretation of Staunton’s annotations”, and adds that they were dragged in by Skoff. This is, of course, untrue. They were “dragged in” by G.H. Diggle some 25 years ago, and K.W. has indicated that his opinion of Edge was strongly influenced by Diggle’s article. I had momentarily forgotten that K.W. apparently believes that Edge’s untrustworthiness can be deduced from the fact that he was a participant, promoter, etc. Since I don’t understand how that reasoning goes at all, I tend to forget about it. I hereby apologize, if I have given a false impression of K.W.’s views.
K.W. talks of Edge taking letters from Morphy’s pocket and dealing with them as he saw fit, in addition to waiting until Morphy was out of the way and then writing a letter that Morphy had expressly forbidden him to write. I really think that K.W. is getting things a bit confused here. There was an incident in which Edge found an undelivered letter in Morphy’s luggage, but it could well have been the case that he was going into Morphy’s luggage because Morphy had asked him to fetch something. There is no justification for assuming that this was a clandestine activity. Nor is there any reason to suppose that Morphy did not readily agree that the letter should be delivered once it had been found. Edge did write a letter to some prominent chess official (his name escapes me at the moment), but he did succeed in convincing Morphy to sign it. This again was not some clandestine activity. The one and only thing that we know that Edge did do behind Morphy’s back was that he submitted the official’s response for publication. It is all too clear that his motive was Morphy’s vindication, a recurring theme in all his writing. Again, there is nothing in all this to show that Edge was a liar.
K.W. challenges me to name a master who had a kind word for Edge’s book. As nearly all of the book does not involve specialized chess knowledge, I fail to see why only the opinions of masters are to be considered. In any event, how many masters talked about Edge’s book at all? Morphy, Staunton, some German fellow, I think (the name again escapes me at the moment), and who else? I rather suspect that Walker must have liked Edge’s book, although I must readily admit that I cannot document this, and anyway he wasn’t exactly unbiased. But then, neither was Staunton. Amidst all this master criticism of Edge’s book, is there any huge list of falsehoods to be found therein? I have never seen it. The conclusion that Edge is discredited remains unproven as far as I am concerned.
T. K.W. responds to this point by removing the one word “conditionally” from its surrounding context. The only condition given was that Morphy had to be sufficiently cooperative. “As there appears every disposition on the part of [Morphy] to meet [Staunton’s] wishes in this respect the match will probably take place in London shortly after the Birmingham Chess Meeting.” I stand by my original observation that Staunton did indeed try to give the appearance that he would play a match with Morphy and that merely to say that Staunton “was unable to accept the challenge” is to give a very false impression of what happened. Staunton did not clearly retract his willingness to play a match with Morphy until after the Morphy-Harrwitz match. Did he really need all those months to discover that his Shakespeare work prevented him from playing a match? It is very tempting to suspect that Staunton was delaying in the hope that someone would defeat Morphy and get Staunton off the hook.
U. Again, K.W. has nothing to say in defense of the distorted picture of Edge’s motivations as given in the Companion.
V. K.W. ignores the main point. He does not deny that the Anti-Book statement was clearly intended to lead the public to believe that Morphy was delaying the match. The statement was grossly misleading. We must not forget that, at the time it was written, Morphy had requested that Staunton specify a time for the meeting of the seconds and Staunton had chosen not to do this. It was therefore scandalous for Staunton to write publicly that no definite arrangements could be made until Morphy’s seconds were forthcoming. It was Staunton who was holding up the meeting of the seconds. This treachery was a major element in the quarrel that ensued. One might, as Diggle argues, say that it was Walker who stirred up the quarrel (although I personally see nothing wrong with Walker’s contribution), or one might blame the quarrel on those anonymous letter writers, but to say it was Edge who “stirred up” the quarrel is a genuine distortion of history.
W. I am astounded that K.W. denies that Anti-Book was dishonorable. (See V. above.) I am sorry if it sounds like I am coming on strong, but I do indeed believe it is a case of unjustifiable neglect to fail to mention what has always been considered to be the central point of the case against Staunton. His impoliteness in the later article is simply a lesser offense, and it should not take precedence over Anti-Book.
X. K.W. challenges me to name someone who took Edge’s side. Is he actually claiming that Edge did not get any favorable reviews? At any rate, K.W. is again ignoring the main point. Many people publicly disapproved of Staunton’s behavior. It is yet another distortion of history merely to say that Edge blackened Staunton’s reputation. In the eyes of many, if not most contemporaries, Staunton blackened his own reputation.
Y. It seems to me that once again K.W. is ignoring the point. I would readily agree that, in the years since Morphy played, he certainly was excessively adulated. I said so myself in my opening remarks. (Repeated in R., above.) But that is not the point here. I see nothing excessive about the adulation that Morphy received at the time when he was playing serious chess. I think K.W. should produce a specific example of adulation that was excessive or admit that he knows of no such example. Giving some vague general statement such as “Morphy was idolized” is not in my view adequate. In any event, Harrwitz lost his job because he behaved in a dishonorable way. I don’t see how the adulation given to Morphy (excessive or not) could be blamed.
Z. K.W. again ignores the main point. Doesn’t Morphy have a right to change his mind after two years? Wouldn’t it have been sensible for Kolisch to check with Morphy first before making the trip to Paris? Don’t these details (left out by the Companion) cast the whole event in a different light?
I am sorry if my words seem harsh. I feel that I must be clear and firm when I think that my opinions have been distorted or my arguments have been evaded rather than answered. I must emphasize that I believe that K.W.’s mistakes have been honest ones and not conscious attempts at deception. Although it now seems less likely, I still have hope that K.W. will realize that he has made some mistakes in what is really only a small portion of an excellent book. I again want to express publicly my gratitude for the many kind favors that I have received from K.W. and I hope that he will understand that I write what I write because I believe that truth (admittedly as I see it) must take precedence over other considerations.’
The following ‘Addendum’ from Mr Blair reached us almost immediately after the above:
‘I wrote my response to Whyld’s comments in a bit of a rush and, after mailing it, I have had a chance to notice a few mistakes and points that needed clarifying.
(1) I see that Mr Whyld is not quite as confused as I, at first, thought when he writes of Edge’s activities. In one of Edge’s letters he does say, “I have taken [Morphy’s] hundreds of letters out of [Morphy’s] pockets even, and answered them, because [Morphy] would have made every man [his] enemy by not replying”. This is what inspires K.W. to write, “Edge makes no bones about having taken letters from Morphy’s pocket and dealing with them as he saw fit.” I get the impression that K.W. is assuming the worst without justification. It is quite common for a celebrity who gets hundreds of letters to expect his secretary to deal with the mail. Does K.W. actually imagine that Edge could have taken hundreds of letters from Morphy without Morphy ever noticing? Certainly there is no reason to suppose that Edge was doing anything other than what he was expected to do by Morphy.
I still cannot find any mention of Edge “waiting until Morphy was out of the way and then writing a letter that Morphy had expressly forbidden him to write”. The closest thing to this that I can find is: “I said that [Morphy] must now address the British Chess Association and claim justice. Morphy laughed in my face, and replied ‘the matter need go no further’. ... I immediately sat down, boiling with rage, and penned the letter to Lord Lyttelton ... and induced Morphy to sign it.” Assuming I have the right incident, K.W.’s unwarranted embellishments are obvious. I stand by my statement that “the one and only thing that we know that Edge did do behind Morphy’s back was that he submitted [Lord Lyttelton’s] response for publication.” And, of course, I still claim that “there is nothing in all this to show that Edge was a liar”.
(2) The name of the prominent chess official was Lord Lyttelton.
(3) The name of the other reviewer of Edge’s book was Max Lange.
(4) I believe that I have located the source for Mr Whyld’s statement that the organizers put back the date of the Birmingham tournament to be sure that Morphy would have arrived in time. The Illustrated London News did report that “no official intimation as to the postponement of the Birmingham Meeting has been given, the committee being unable to take any step until a reply to their invitation to Mr Morphy has been secured”. I guess that means what K.W. says it means. I have to admit that I am not really sure. At any rate, it seems clear that Morphy never requested any delay. I still await K.W.’s defense of the Companion’s statements about Morphy’s devious match negotiations.
(5) With regard to K.W.’s claim that Staunton’s annotations “were dragged in by Skoff”, I think it is worth noting that the earliest reference to those annotations that I can find in C.N. is C.N. 943, a K.W. contribution.
(6) K.W. commented that a literal interpretation of the word “lover” “should be too foolish to merit contemplation”. I wonder if he would hold to this opinion after being reminded that such an interpretation was certainly at least contemplated by Edward Winter (C.N.s 840 and 957) and by James J. Barrett (C.N. 1270). Granted, both men expressed doubts, but they certainly at least contemplated the possibility. Does K.W. see these gentlemen as misty-eyed hero-worshippers?
(7) K.W. says that Morphy and Fiske found Edge to be dishonorable. The only quote I can find is this: “There are many passages which might well have been omitted; there are many more which might well have been rewritten”. Does K.W. consider this to be a declaration that Edge was dishonorable, or does he have some other quote in mind?
(8) I wonder if there is any record of what Löwenthal thought of Edge’s book.
(9) In view of K.W.’s belief that the only dishonorable behaviour came from Edge, I wonder what K.W. would have to say about C.N. 1012, where G.H. Diggle comments that “[Staunton’s] conduct in many respects cannot be excused” and allows “that Staunton’s fatal Illustrated London News paragraph of 28 August 1858 was a contributory factor [to stirring up trouble]”.’
From Ken Whyld:
‘Work pressure precludes me from responding at length, but I am confident that sufficient information is to be found in the pages of C.N. for readers to form their own opinions. I recommend, to anyone who wants to go further into the subject, a study of Löwenthal’s column in the Era, not just for the time of Morphy’s visit, but for a few years afterwards. Löwenthal liked Morphy and disliked Staunton. He was also a scrupulously fair writer. Finally, I state my belief that Staunton did not behave dishonourably towards Morphy. He did make mistakes and may have been too haughty to admit them, but there is no real (viz. non-Edge) evidence that Morphy was distressed by them.’
A brief intervention by the C.N. Editor. Having been mentioned by Mr Blair in item (6) above, we wish to point out that our earliest knowledge of an alleged homosexual relationship between Morphy and Edge was about 18 months before the Companion was published. On 25 November 1982 Mr Whyld wrote to us: ‘I have a great deal about Edge, some of which I have doubts about making available for publication (such as his claim to have been Morphy’s lover).’
Addition on 10 December 2020:
When submitting his above-quoted paragraph beginning ‘Work pressure precludes me ...’ on 6 October 1989, Ken Whyld added the following as a comment to us:
‘Yesterday I received Blair’s “addendum” and today the main letter arrived. He appears to be trying to widen the discussion beyond the treatment of Morphy by the Companion (e.g. page 4 para. 3). I have no time even to keep going over the same ground, and I find some points quite pointless, so to speak. Look at Z. This refers to an item on page 170, which we wrote in non-judgmental terms. Of course Morphy could change his mind, just as Staunton did. And why did Kolisch need Morphy’s permission to go to Paris? It seems to me that Blair jumped to the conclusion that we said that Kolisch gave up his job and went to Paris because he was to play a match with Morphy, and that he was therefore stranded when the match did not materialize. Readers can see for themselves what we wrote.’
G.H. Diggle writes:
‘Mr Blair makes some pertinent comments on the Companion’s portrayal of Morphy and my own portrayal of Edge (1964). I will not tackle his entire “alphabet”, as many of his points in Edge’s favour are similar to those already debated by Mr Skoff and myself in our late “15 Round Contest”, and it would be unfair to sneak back into the ring after the bell has gone and “serve out a few more bursters” on Morphy’s bellicose biographer.
Concerning the Companion’s rendering of Morphy, I write purely as an ordinary reader. I agree with Mr Blair that, after a whole Century of “Rhapsodies in Blue”, sooner or later we would be regaled with a mezzo-forte performance of “Morphy in ‘E’ Minor”. Yet if the Companion is to be criticized, I would do so not for any subtly planned disparagement which Mr Blair’s eagle eye espies in his dissection of sundry verbs and adjectives, but for certain omissions (this is always a safe card for a critic to play). For example, Morphy’s then “unparalleled” blindfold displays are unnoticed. And although, alongside his “weakness of character”, his difficulties (including the sheer bad luck of the Civil War coming when it did) are duly mentioned, the authors might have added the “people think I am nothing but a chessplayer” albatross of which Morphy complained to Steinitz in his very last recorded utterance. His “laziness” is, I am afraid, attested by three separate sources – the Editor of the New York Ledger, his brother-in-law Sybrandt (Lawson, page 276) and Edge (though ill-natured persons will say that I only believe Edge when it suits me). But Morphy, like other geniuses, may have been lazy in humdrum matters only, and (as Anderssen put it) “earnest and conscientious” academically and at the chessboard, in both of which fields he excelled. I see more charm than harm in the “passing for a woman” reference – one contemporary described Morphy, in contrast with earlier champions, as disposing of his opponents “with an almost womanly ease and grace”. Finally, too much has been made of the “homosexual innuendo”. The expression “lover” came in the first place from Edge and was not “got up” by the Companion; and if the word does convey an innuendo to readers, other than that Edge had, as Mr Blair remarks, an extravagant style of writing, it does so whether Edge was actually writing to Morphy himself or addressing him in the second person in a letter written to Fiske.
Mr Blair’s “S” raises interesting points. When I wrote that Edge was more “greasy” than Staunton, I was alluding merely to their different styles of writing rather than to their behaviour. Where Staunton says, “Mr Morphy has come here unfurnished with stakes or seconds”, Edge would have “wrapped it up”: “Dear! Dear! How unfortunate it is for Mr Morphy’s reputation that, etc., etc.”
Did Staunton ever “avoid matches by claiming to be sick?” Mr Blair cites three possible examples – the third match with St Amant, and two proposed matches with Kieseritzky and Anderssen. There is no dispute that Staunton, on arriving in Paris in October 1844, caught pneumonia and only just survived – St Amant himself (Le Palamède, 1845, page 50) mentions three weeks in bed. After convalescing for two months at the house of that well-known American T.J. Bryan, a Good Samaritan indeed, he was compelled to return to England early in January, after challenging St Amant to come to London for the “decider” in the Spring. St Amant, however, found that “he had a business and a family to look after”, so his chief Paris rival Kieseritzky announced that he would fill the gap and come to London instead. But then for some unknown reason the challenge vanished into thin air. As Staunton by the Spring of 1845 had recovered sufficiently to start his famous Illustrated London News column in February, and to play in the celebrated “Match by Telegraph” in April, it is much more likely that Kieseritzky failed to raise the stake money than that Staunton (after announcing the match with a flourish in the Chess Player’s Chronicle) suddenly pleaded ill-health to avoid meeting a far less tough opponent than St Amant. As regards Anderssen, at the conclusion of the 1851 Tournament Staunton challenged him to a match to be played after a short interval at the St George’s Club. He did indeed (as usual) complain in his challenging letter that “serious indisposition” had caused his Tournament defeat, but the reason no match took place was that Anderssen’s holiday was far advanced and he had to get back to Breslau.
Mr Blair’s “X” is well worthy of discussion: “Many people took (he might have added “and have since taken”) Morphy’s side. It (i.e. damage to Staunton’s reputation) can’t all be blamed on Edge.” Of course, Edge has never been blamed solely for “taking Morphy’s side”. Yet Mr Blair’s point has raised in my mind a question whether Edge’s book did Staunton as much harm in the nineteenth century as what Goulding Brown called P.W. Sergeant’s “tremendous indictment” did to his memory in the twentieth. Edge’s book came out after the whole “Staunton Affair” had been chewed over by the Chess Press – interest was evaporating and faded away over the years. Indeed, when Staunton died in 1874 and Morphy followed ten years later, the respective obituaries scarcely mentioned their abortive match, apart from a brief unfavourable reference to Staunton’s conduct in the City of London Chess Magazine by W.N. Potter. But in 1915, with Edge half a century out of print, Sergeant revived the matter in his great classic which remained the standard work on Morphy for the next 60 years. In his findings he leant heavily on Edge, and he also recounted with some gusto Morphy’s juvenile joke about Staunton’s “devilish bad games”, a jest which so appealed to him that he repeated it both in Morphy Gleanings and in A Century of British Chess. The result was that for several decades “prolific” chess writers (not having time for too much research) took their cue from Sergeant, and depicted Staunton not only as a “craven” (Reinfeld) best known as the man who avoided Morphy, but so weak that “it is just too incredible that ... he could have achieved such success and exerted such influence for so long” (Horowitz). But at last a very great voice spoke and turned the tide. To the amazement of the “prolifics”, Bobby Fischer in a famous article included Staunton as one of the ten greatest masters of all time. Ray Keene and R.N. Coles followed ten years later with Howard Staunton, the English World Chess Champion, where his brilliant combinative powers were belatedly recognized. Since then Staunton’s fortunes have fluctuated; in David Lawson’s massive work (1976) he sinks somewhat, in the Companion (1984) he rises again, and in Chess Notes, stimulated by fresh discoveries, the Staunton-Morphy-Edge battle has raged ever since. But now that C.N., to whose pages the belligerents owe so much for their new material, is alas! coming to an end, will they agree to a “draw by repetition” or resume the fight elsewhere? Time alone will tell.’
From Louis Blair:
‘What a relief it was to read G.H.D.’s comments. It’s nice to have a discussion with someone who does not quote me out of context, call me names, or attribute to me opinions that I have never held. Wit and intelligence are two qualities that one can always expect in his writings. I therefore feel a little bit like Scrooge when I resolve to reply to one of G.H.D.’s remarks (something that was almost certainly intended as nothing more than a witticism). Alas, perhaps like Edge himself, I sometimes feel a compulsion to respond to anything that might be considered a criticism, and I must therefore object to his characterization of my comments as a “dissection of sundry verbs and adjectives”. In fact, only two of my 26 points deal with objectionable word choice (A and N). Seven of my points deal with omissions (B, C, I, S, T, W and Z). Thirteen deal with unjustified conclusions (D, E, F, G, H, J, K, L, M, 0, V, X and Y). Finally, four of my points deal with places where the Companion is misleading (P, Q, R and U).
I certainly agree with G.H.D. that the Companion should mention Morphy’s blindfold performances. In my opinion, another serious omission is the failure of the Companion to mention the occasion when Morphy played against Barnes, Boden, De Rivière, Löwenthal and Bird simultaneously. (Of course, mentioning this in the Companion would be embarrassing for its authors as it took place after the date, January 1859, given by the Companion as the time when Morphy’s chess triumphs ceased.) The blindfold and simultaneous exhibitions are of far greater interest than all the woman, Narcissus and lover stuff that waste space in the Companion. I also agree with G.H.D. that it would be worthwhile to mention that Morphy believed that his chess reputation interfered with his career.
C. G.H.D. adds two more people to the list of those who said Morphy was lazy: Edge and Sybrandt. Edge, of course, wanted Morphy to spend more time playing chess, and as Sybrandt’s comment was made at a time when Morphy was in Paris, it seems quite likely that his motivations were similar. (Surely he wasn’t expecting Morphy to start a law practice in France. Nor does it seem likely that he expected Morphy to return to New Orleans and start a law practice in the midst of the Civil War.) As I said in my original criticism of the Companion, “Morphy was often described as lazy by those who wanted him to spend more time playing chess. It does not follow that he was lazy about non-chess activities.” Contrary to the absurd claims made in the Companion (pining, etc.) Morphy rapidly lost interest in chess. In an 1863 letter to Fiske, Morphy wrote, “You will remember that as far back as two years ago I stated to you in New York my firm determination to abandon chess altogether. I am more strongly confirmed than ever in the belief that the time devoted to chess is literally frittered away. ... I have, for my own part, resolved not to be moved from my purpose of not engaging in chess hereafter. The few games that I have played here have been altogether private and sans façon”. (Pining, indeed!) This resistance to further involvement with chess was interpreted as laziness by some, but clearly this was an unfair judgment. Indeed, one might well ask if Morphy ever was a chess addict. It took no small amount of persuading to get Morphy to play in the 1857 New York tournament, and it wasn’t exactly easy to get him to make his first trip to Europe. It would be difficult to think of a famous chess player less deserving of the description “chess addict”.
Even if Morphy was lazy in one respect, as G.H.D. is perceptive enough to point out, it does not follow that he was lazy in other respects. How I wish some others were as perceptive!
M. I must disagree with G.H.D. on the “charm” of saying that “Morphy could have passed for a woman”. As K.W. admitted in a recent letter to me, it is far from clear what this is supposed to mean. Why bother with it, if there are readily available pictures of Morphy? The space in the Companion could surely be put to better use by taking care of one of the omissions mentioned by G.H.D. or me. The quote found by G.H.D. appears to me to be a reference to the way Morphy moved his pieces. Evidently he didn’t bang them down on the board as so many players do.
R. I am puzzled that G.H.D. feels it is necessary to tell us that the lover expression was not got up by the Companion. I cannot remember anyone making such an accusation.
I have to disagree with G.H.D.’s claim that “if the word does convey any innuendo to readers ... it does so whether Edge was actually writing to Morphy himself or addressing him in the second person in a letter written to Fiske”. If the quote had been part of a letter to Morphy, it could be interpreted as a reminder, given by Edge to Morphy, of a secret between the two men. Such an interpretation is not possible if the letter was written to a third party. Given the commonly held negative attitude toward homosexuality, it seems most unlikely that Edge would hint at a homosexual relationship to a third party if there really were such a relationship. Thus when one knows the true nature of the quote, it makes homosexuality seem less likely instead of more likely.
The whole rationale for the lover quote needs to be examined carefully. As far as I can tell, these are the steps in K.W.’s reasoning: 1 Edge wrote the lover quote. 2 Therefore, Edge is unbalanced. 3 Therefore, Edge’s testimony must not be trusted unless supported by other evidence. But now something very strange happens. There is a lot of talk of re-appraising this and that, and suddenly we get to the conclusion: n without Edge there would have been no storm about the non-match, Staunton’s churlish evasion would have been passed over, and the whole matter forgotten. Now, how exactly do we get from 3 to n? One would expect that after 3 the next step would be something like this: 4 Edge was probably lying when he said ... But K.W. never says anything like that. Well, he does tell us that Edge is wrong about Staunton’s annotations, but we have K.W.’s assurance that it is a travesty to consider that to be the primary point, and, in any event, steps 1, 2 and 3 are not needed to make a point about Staunton’s annotations. We have K.W.’s word that an examination of the annotations themselves is sufficient to establish that Edge was wrong. So what is step 4 and how do we get to step n? This has actually bothered me for quite a while. K.W. frequently reminds us that Edge is discredited, but he doesn’t seem at all interested in compiling a list of falsehoods to be found in Edge’s book. Perhaps things will be clearer if we try to work backwards and decide what step n-1 might be. Well, the idea seems to be that Edge was always pestering Morphy to do this or that: write a letter to Lyttelton, publish it, etc. Without Edge around, Morphy would have dropped the subject. This is clear enough. Now, what might step n-2 be? The letters from Edge to Fiske, of course. These are what enabled us to understand Edge’s role in the controversy. Now we come to an astonishing conclusion. Steps n-1 and n are justified only if we decide to believe Edge. Steps 1, 2 and 3 do not support n-1 and n. They actually undermine K.W.’s conclusion. If we genuinely believe that we cannot trust Edge’s word, then we have to consider the possibility that Edge exaggerated his role in the letters to Fiske. Only by believing Edge do we get the conclusion that K.W. wants. So what is the purpose of steps 1, 2 and 3? They seem to be a staircase to nowhere. To make points n-2, n-1 and n, K.W. needed nothing more than the portion of the Edge-Fiske letter quoted on page 148 of Lawson’s book some 13 years ago. So what is the purpose of the lover quote in the Companion? Consider the chronology. 1982: K.W. writes to Edward Winter, mentioning that Edge claimed to have been Morphy’s lover. 1984: the Companion is published. In one paragraph, there is the claim that Morphy could have passed for a woman, an Edge quote comparing Morphy to Narcissus, and another Edge quote talking about being Morphy’s lover. No explanation for the quotes is given, although the authors do find they have the space to give an (unjustified) interpretation of an Anderssen quote. 1985, 1986: A considerable stir is caused by the lover quote. K.W. has nothing to say on the subject. For example, he does not tell us that the quote was part of a letter to a third party, not Morphy. 1987: The year that the complete letter is published. Many feel that knowledge of the intended recipient of the Edge letter completely changes the conclusions that might be drawn from the quote. K.W. rushes to tell everyone that it was never the intention of K.W. and D.H. to suggest homosexuality. K.W. tells us how we could have deduced that the letter was not written to Morphy. (A fallacious argument as the quote sounds like just the sort of thing that might have been written by Edge to Morphy after the break-up.) K.W. tells us how we could have deduced that Edge was not using the word lover in a literal sense. (Another fallacious argument as it is clear that Edge is talking about his behavior towards Morphy when he uses the words mother, brother and lover.) K.W. tells us that the purpose of the lover quote was to justify conclusion n, when, in fact, the quote has no connection with conclusion n, except perhaps to undermine it. Why is the lover quote in the Companion? I leave the answer to the jury.
S. G.H.D. corrects me on my interpretation of his use of the word “greasy”. From C.N. 1228, I had the impression that G.H.D. was saying that Edge was more greasy because his deceptions were more plausible. After all, G.H.D. did write, “Staunton in one of his moods would indulge in a glaring mis-statement which could hardly be called false, so remote was the chance of anyone believing it. Edge was cleverer and more plausible ...” Evidently, I was mistaken and, as far as I can tell, G.H.D. used the term “greasy” to refer to a certain gratuitous nastiness that was present in Edge’s writing from time to time. Here again, I think that Staunton could have been a strong contender for first place in the greasiness competition. Consider the way he responded to the invitation of the New Orleans Chess Club. He could have simply said, “I’m sorry, I cannot make a trip to America at this time”. Instead, he said, “We must confess our astonishment that the intelligent gentlemen who drew up the conditions did not themselves discover ... Could it possibly escape their penetration that ...” In my view, that is as greasy as it is possible to be.
With some embarrassment, I must admit that in my original argument S, I violated one of my own principles when I said that Staunton avoided matches by claiming to be sick more than once. I did not wish to give the impression that I thought Staunton was only pretending to be sick. I have no way of knowing that, and, in the case of the third St Amant match, I think that G.H.D. was very convincing in C.N. 1228 when he argued that Staunton really had been seriously ill. I should have said that on more than one occasion Staunton gave illness as his reason for not playing a match, and I still believe this to be true.
G.H.D. is again convincing when he argues that the illness excuse was probably not used to cancel the Kieseritzky match. However, I am not yet ready to concede in the case of the proposed 1851 Anderssen match. Staunton’s health definitely was reported to be a factor by Staunton himself. He did not challenge Anderssen to play immediately. Instead, Staunton asked Anderssen to wait at least a month before the match could be started. In the meantime, Staunton’s health was not bad enough to prevent him from playing a match with Williams, a player well known for his habit of exhausting his opponent by taking a large amount of time to think about every move. Also, Anderssen’s need to return to Breslau was not great enough to prevent him from entering and winning another London tournament. It seems quite likely to me that the Staunton-Anderssen match could have taken place if Staunton’s health had not been “too much impaired to admit of his entering the arena against a powerful opponent” (quote from page lxxii of Staunton’s tournament book).
Levy’s biography of Staunton (page 101) gives a third example where Staunton’s health interfered with a match. In 1854, Staunton gave Brien pawn and two move odds in a match, but after three losses, one draw and only one victory, Staunton found himself too ill to continue.
At any rate, I would agree with G.H.D. that Edge’s discussion of Staunton’s health problems was misleading but at least there was some truth to the impression that he gave to his readers, while Staunton, on the other hand, attempted to get his readers to believe something that was completely untrue; that is, he tried to get everyone to believe that it was Morphy, not Staunton, who was delaying the meeting of the seconds.
X. There seems to be some confusion here. When the Companion said that Edge unfairly blackened Staunton’s reputation, I assumed that the book was referring to Staunton’s reputation at the time, in which case it is certainly unfair to give Edge all the blame. Many people at the time said that Staunton’s behavior had been improper. However, if the Companion is talking about Staunton’s reputation in the history books more than a hundred years later, then I suppose it is plausible to argue that, by preserving a record of what happened in a book, Edge is, in some sense, responsible for the negative view of Staunton in many books today. If the Companion is talking about Staunton’s reputation today, then this should be made clear and the reason for assigning the blame to Edge should also be made clear. To repeat: at the time, Staunton’s reputation suffered in the eyes of many. Edge had no hypnotic power to warp everyone’s thinking. The blackening occurred because many disapproved of Staunton’s behavior.
It does not pertain directly to the validity of any of my 26 points, but I would like to discuss K.W.’s conclusion in C.N. that without Edge there would have been no storm about the non-match. Morphy challenged Staunton to a match very shortly after arriving in England and it seems most unlikely that this was due to Edge’s influence. Staunton accepted the challenge with the only condition being that Morphy had to wait while Staunton prepared himself. For the next two and a half months, Morphy did only what would have been very natural for him to do under the circumstances. He occupied the time with matches against various players, and since he hoped to visit Europe and return to America by the end of 1858, he asked Staunton to set a date for the match on several occasions. Up to 6 October, I see no way in which Edge could have had a significant effect on the course of history. The only question, in my view, is whether or not Morphy would have sent his public 6 October letter if Edge had not been around. As the Anti-Book statement cannot in any sense be blamed on Edge, I think there is good reason to believe that Morphy would have sent his public letter without any influence from Edge. The Morphy-Deacon controversy makes it clear that Morphy was capable of speaking up for himself publicly without prodding from Edge. Thus, even without Edge, I think there would have been at least some public argument. (The Fair Play and M.A. letters, etc.) We can only blame Edge for prolonging the public debate with his determination to answer all critics.
Since I decided to enter the great Morphy-Edge-Staunton debate, I have more than once been accused of merely rehashing old subjects that had already been discussed thoroughly. I must mention that points A, B, C, D, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, O, P, T, W, X, Y and Z all deal with questions that had not been previously raised in C.N. In those cases where I have talked about already familiar subjects, I feel that I have nevertheless contributed some new insights. For example, I feel that I have completely refuted K.W.’s metaphorical argument about the lover quote.
With respect to point L, I have one more observation. Since K.W. has so much respect for the Keyes novel, I wonder if he would care to comment on the fact that F.P.K. does not, in any sense, depict Morphy as pining. In fact, if K.W. would read the Keyes novel again, I think that he would discover that the book agrees with me on many points.
I see that while refusing to discuss the subject further, K.W. does continue to insist that Staunton did not behave dishonorably towards Morphy. I wish K.W. would answer four simple yes or no questions. 1. Did Staunton publicly state that no definite arrangements for a match could be made until Morphy’s seconds were forthcoming? 2. Does this give the impression that it was Morphy who was delaying the match arrangements? 3. In reality, was it Staunton who was delaying the meeting of the seconds? 4. Does this amount to dishonorable behavior on the part of Staunton? I have no trouble with these questions. My answers are: yes, yes, yes and yes. By refusing to discuss the subject further, K.W. leaves quite a large number of such questions unanswered. K.W. may like to believe that Morphy was not bothered by Staunton’s conduct, but I see no evidence for this. It should be remembered that Morphy did sign the letter to Lord Lyttelton. He also signed some complaint about an introduction Staunton claimed to have made on Morphy’s behalf. (I wish some industrious historian could sort out what that was all about. The public statements on this subject from both Staunton and Morphy seem rather vague to me.)
It is regrettable that K.W. has chosen to neither defend nor retract his public accusation that I am a Morphy-worshipper. Perhaps he believes that this is not a negative thing to say on his side of the Atlantic.
To conclude this debate on a positive note, I would like to suggest some changes in the Companion.
1. Completely drop the reference to adulation of Morphy from the Harrwitz entry.
2. Drop the reference to a broken promise from the Kolisch entry or provide the additional relevant information that a) Kolisch was trying to hold Morphy to a promise that was two years old; b) in the intervening time Kolisch’s chess performance had not shown him to be significantly better than all other active chess players; and c) Kolisch made no attempt to reconfirm Morphy’s willingness to play before leaving London.
3. In the Staunton entry, change the paragraph dealing with Morphy so that it reads as follows:
“When challenged by Morphy to a match in 1858, Staunton tried publicly to give the impression that he was willing to play, while privately he asked for one delay after another for a period of close to four months. At one point during this time, Staunton issued an extremely misleading statement that gave the impression that Morphy was responsible for the delay. Nevertheless, the whole controversy would probably have blown over very quickly, had it not been for Frederick Milnes Edge (1830-82), a journalist acquaintance of Morphy, who tried to refute every public criticism of Morphy. The match never took place, since Staunton eventually announced that he could not spare the time that would be taken away from his Shakespeare studies. Staunton’s continued protests that he was not afraid of Morphy and his hints that Morphy was afraid of Staunton caused Staunton’s reputation to suffer in the eyes of many.”
4. Replace the first three paragraphs of the Morphy entry with the following:
“Morphy, Paul Charles (1837-84), American player who defeated three of Europe’s leading masters in 1858 and then retired from the game. Born in New Orleans of Creole descent, Morphy developed exceptional talent at an early age. His family encouraged him and from the age of 8 he played hundreds of games against the best players of New Orleans. At 13 he could beat them all, and was already one of the best players in the USA. He graduated with honour from St Joseph’s College and at the age of 20 he received the degree of LLB. Too young to legally practise law, he entered and won a national tournament in New York. He went to Europe in 1858 and startled the chess world by beating Löwenthal (+9 =2 -3), Harrwitz (+5 =1 -2) and Anderssen (+7 =2 -2) within the space of six months, proving that he was the best player in the world. He returned to the USA, and for a year wrote a chess column in the New York Ledger, for which he received $3,000. His enthusiasm for chess was apparently already greatly diminished as both his assistant and the editor thought he was ‘incorrigibly lazy’. He made two unsuccessful attempts to set up a law practice. His unpopular decision not to side with the Confederacy during the Civil War and the shattered economy of the South were both serious obstacles. Morphy also came to believe that his reputation as a chess player was a liability. Increasingly withdrawn from society, he suffered in his last years from delusions of persecution. He was looked after by his mother and younger sister until he died of a stroke while taking a bath.
Morphy shared with Staunton and other contemporaries the belief that chess was no fit occupation for a grown man. Nevertheless, he kept in touch with chess affairs during his long retirement. During his visits to Paris in 1863 and 1867 he played occasional private games and met Kolisch, Petroff and other players; but he would not visit the chess haunts because he had become convinced that chess was a waste of time. Anderssen, in a letter to Lasa (31 Dec. 1859), described Morphy at the chess board: ‘Morphy ... treats chess with the earnestness and conscientiousness of an artist. With us, the exertion that a game requires is only a matter of distraction, and lasts only as long as the game gives us pleasure; with him, it is a sacred duty. Never is a game of chess a mere pastime for him, but always a problem worthy of his steel, always a work of vocation, always as if an act by which he fulfils part of his mission.’
Short of stature and slight of frame, Morphy had a pale unbearded face, delicate white hands, and feet ‘preternaturally small’. His dress was immaculate, his manners impeccable, his nature uncommunicative and introverted. His memory was exceptional: he could recite verbatim most of the Civil Code of Louisiana, and he could recall innumerable games of chess. In Europe in 1858 he became associated with a journalist, Frederick Milnes Edge (1830-82), who on more than one occasion became over-enthusiastic in his praise of Morphy and his attempts to refute Morphy’s critics. Edge convinced Morphy to sign a letter that prolonged a quarrel with Staunton. If left to himself, Morphy would undoubtably have been happy to forget about the dispute. Edge was also responsible for convincing Morphy to prolong his stay in Europe and play a match with Anderssen. Eventually, Morphy became dissatisfied with Edge and terminated their association. Edge went on to write a book about Morphy that was not always fair to Morphy’s opponents. Edge’s lack of chess knowledge sometimes led him to make erroneous conclusions.”
5. Edge’s book should be added to the suggested reading list, and it should be described as “a biased and, in some cases, misleading account of Morphy’s first trip to Europe”.
6. If space permits, Morphy’s simul against Barnes, Boden, De Rivière, Löwenthal and Bird should be mentioned.
Like everyone else, I have grown tired of this debate. It would be a most positive way for this debate to conclude if we could all agree on one even-handed account of Morphy.
The Morphy-Edge-Staunton debate has been strange in many respects and, in the heat of battle, it has become all too common for all participants to make assumptions which calm reflection reveal to be unjustified. An interesting example arises from K.W.’s statement that there is no non-Edge evidence that Morphy was distressed by Staunton’s behavior. One might assume from this that Edge had depicted Morphy as outraged by Staunton’s conduct. The truth turns out to be embarrassing for both sides of the debate. Publicly (page 94 of Edge’s book) and privately (C.N. 840) Edge described Morphy as willing to dismiss without comment the public statements of Staunton and his defenders (M.A. and Fair Play). I rather suspect that K.W. (who has repeatedly told us not to trust uncorroborated testimony from Edge) will in this case make an exception to his own rules. (As he also appears to have done in the case of the “chess fever” quote. See argument I.) It does indeed appear that Morphy was inclined to turn the other cheek, although at times he was at least willing to sign public statements written by Edge (Lawson, pages 148 and 151) and on another occasion (Lawson, page 245) Morphy, without any prompting from Edge, was willing to speak out publicly in response to statements by Staunton. My guess is that Morphy’s reaction to Staunton varied between irritation and shrugging his shoulders, depending on his mood.
Some of Morphy’s later writings (e.g. the “sans façon” quote in point C of my response to G.H.D.) sound very much like imitations of Staunton, and I think there is good reason to suspect that Morphy’s attitude toward chess may have been influenced by Staunton. Whatever Morphy’s reaction to Staunton may have been, it does not change the fact that Staunton’s conduct was, as G.H.D. has put it, in many respects inexcusable. K.W. may prefer to say that Staunton behaved honorably, but K.W. sounds a lot like Nixon defending his Watergate activities when he depicts Staunton’s conduct as “mistakes”. In my proposed revision of the Companion I have tried to stay away from judgments about honorability and emphasize instead specific actions and their likely consequences. For example, I propose to leave it to the reader to decide whether or not Staunton’s Anti-Book statement was honorable, mentioning only that it was misleading, something that K.W. does not deny.
Since it is far from clear what specific actions of Edge justify K.W.’s dishonorable judgment, I have tried to include what I think is K.W.’s main point, i.e. that Edge had an adverse effect on public relations between Staunton and Morphy. In place of the female appearance stuff and other things of questionable interest, I propose to give more details about Morphy’s chess career. In C.N. 1149, K.W. asked if there was any achievement of Morphy that the Companion failed to praise. Since the Companion does not mention Morphy’s graduation with honor from St Joseph’s College, his simul against five strong players, and other things, the answer has to be “yes”. I have tried to show how K.W. and D.H. could come closer to being able to say truthfully that the answer is “no”. If necessary, I would say that the Anderssen quote should be trimmed or dropped completely in order to make room for proper coverage of some of Morphy’s accomplishments currently left unmentioned by the Companion.
Some selections from the “scrupulously fair” writings of Löwenthal might also have been of greater interest than the Anderssen quote and other space-wasting portions of the current version of the Morphy entry in the Companion. I again hope that all parties will give some reaction to my proposed Companion revisions.’
A final contribution from G.H. Diggle:
‘I have read Mr Blair’s further contribution and thank him for his kind comments on my own.
- “Dissection of sundry verbs and adjectives”
I plead guilty to a Falstaffian utterance here – I find that “sundry” (like the 11 rogues in buckram) dwindle down to two.
- “Morphy’s ‘simul’ against five masters”
I agree that this took place after Morphy and Edge parted, and can be ranked as a major triumph (his last). But as K.W. remarks of another “omission” – “We can hardly quote everything”.
The “greasy” dispute
After Mr Blair’s delightful quotation of Staunton’s “confession of astonishment” that the “intelligent gentlemen” should allow anything so obvious to “escape their penetration”, I feel I must award him the round. If I searched Edge for anything “wrapped up” better than this, I am sure I should never find it.
- Did Staunton avoid Anderssen?
Staunton’s challenge to Anderssen to play a match in a month’s time was made on 12 July 1851, the same day that Anderssen won the final against Marmaduke Wyvill. The reason for the month’s delay was that though the first prize was decided, other matches for the lesser prizes (including undoubtedly Staunton v Williams) were still going on. Then the London Chess Club hastily arranged an American Tournament (probably the first of its kind) for foreign players who had either finished play in the Grand Tournament or had not taken part in it at all. This started on 26 July, and Anderssen had just sufficient time left to play in it and again win the first (or rather the only) prize. This Tournament ended on 8 August and Anderssen left for home on the following day (see H.J. Murray in the August 1934 BCM). However, Mr Blair is certainly right to this extent – Staunton’s challenge was postponed rather than cancelled – he did indeed write of recovering his health before playing Anderssen a match in Germany, and as late as 1853, as von der Lasa writes: “He came to see me at Brussels with the object as it appeared to me, not only of playing some games, but also obtaining, from what I would say about Anderssen’s play, such information as would serve him to fix his determination on the eventual challenge.” (See City of London Magazine, Vol. 2, page 12). But he never made the challenge. Of course, not renewing one’s own challenge is not quite the same as avoiding a challenge from someone else.
- Staunton’s mysterious Paris friend
In his letter (Illustrated London News, 15 November 1858) Staunton says: “I had already written to a friend in Paris with whom, through my introduction, Mr Morphy was living upon intimate terms, an explanation” (i.e. about Anti-Book) “and from my friend’s reply, which indicated that Mr Morphy was about to write to me in an amicable spirit, I supposed there was an end of the matter ...” On 27 November The Field published a denial from Morphy (which I shall quote later) both of the introduction and of any explanation. This mystery has long baffled me, but I feel more complacent now that it has also baffled such an acute researcher as Mr Blair. In view of Staunton’s propensity to invent fictitious correspondents, one easy solution is (in the famous words with which Betsy Prig crushed Mrs Gamp): “I don’t believe there’s no sich person!” But would Staunton perpetrate such an elaborate concoction as this, knowing that (with Edge still watching his every move) it would probably recoil on his own head? Still, if there was “sich a person”, who was he? My own guess is Rivière. He was resident in Paris – he had been a friend and correspondent of Staunton’s since 1855 – and Morphy had never met him before going to Paris. Staunton may (during his friendly period with Morphy at the beginning) have written to Rivière that Paul intended visiting Paris during his European tour, and added “I have told him to look you up” or words to that effect, which Staunton later magnified into an “introduction”. But after the Anti-Book faux pas, Staunton, unwilling to retract publicly, or to write Morphy privately knowing that Edge was in the background, may have attempted to patch things up by enlisting Rivière’s aid – Rivière may have seen Morphy, found him prepared to write Staunton in an “amicable spirit”, and reported back to Staunton accordingly. But Morphy either never got down to it, or had second thoughts: “I don’t want another row with Edge!” Morphy, who it must always be remembered had partaken of Staunton’s hospitality had from the very first wanted to deal with Anti-Book privately, and held out “for a long, long time” before he would sign even the first public letter (C.N. 840).
Now we come to Morphy’s denial published on 27 November. This was not a letter signed “Paul Morphy” but a statement in the third person: “Mr Morphy begs to state that he had no introduction whatever from Mr Staunton to any friend of his and is totally ignorant that Mr Staunton ever made any explanation.” Now during the last week in November, Morphy was “laid up with a severe illness” (Edge, new edition, page 186). Edge was in complete charge of all correspondence, and probably wrote to The Field off his own bat. But he was not necessarily dishonest in doing so, as he had probably been kept in ignorance of any intended “amicable move” on Morphy’s part.
With this final outburst of “conjecturitis” I now abandon the field, and hand over the torch of further research to the younger generation, so ably represented by Mr Blair.’
This brings the debate in C.N. to a conclusion. Final deadlines were set for participants’ contributions in the interests of fairness to all. On 28 November, a week before C.N. 46’s press date, we received, too late for publication, a letter of over 15 pages (some 12 or 13 thousand words) from Frank Skoff, who was unfortunately unable to write earlier owing to ill-health. We shall be glad to send a photocopy of this material to interested readers.
In closing, we offer warm thanks to all participants for their contributions to the debate over the past few years.
Subsequently (see C.N. 11801) we placed on-line a PDF file of Frank Skoff’s 15-page letter (dated 17 November 1989), as well as a one-page letter (20 November 1989) in which he also commented on various points in the debate. Those two documents are shown below.
From Frank Skoff:
‘Re the commentary of Mr Louis Blair [C.N. 1932] on Ken Whyld’s treatment of the triad of Morphy, Edge and Staunton: I agree almost 100% with his perceptive analysis but would like to add a few comments of my own, including some on K.W.’s letter of 16 March. (For ease of reference to readers, past C.N. items on the triad, covering four years (1985-89), are 840, 943, 957, 1012, 1030-32, 1124, 1149, 1172, 1228, 1269-71, 1292, 1305, 1358, 1416-17, 1439-40, , 1499, 1569-70, 1633, 1642-43, 1669, 1700, 1722, 1757-58 and 1818.)
In general the difficulties in debating topics with K.W. are too often such that little or no progress can be made since he sees research as a combative endeavor, not a cooperative one. The flaws in his thinking procedures fall into certain types, to which I will often refer the reader by their underlined letters in my analysis below: (a) He makes statements without proof (conjectures, often abetted by pejorative verbiage) and then wants me to refute them, ignoring that the burden of proof is on him; often he does not realize that the mighty mumblings of his conjectural mind lack lucidity as well as proof (I can only conclude that he is incorrigibly lazy as a researcher because he did not persevere in his determination to fashion a fully-researched bio, missing much data and thus evincing a deplorable weakness of character); (b) After some research, a number of bits of evidence are usually garnered about each important topic, but he will often select only one (perhaps two) and ignore the existence of those which would contradict or modify his stance (Again, more of his laziness etc. as before); (c) On occasion he ignores giving answers to my questions, giving me the feeling he has no counter-evidence and hopes no-one will notice his omission; (d) He thinks calling people names (including myself) somehow is proof by itself; though asked many times the past four years to furnish the proof against Edge, he indignantly continues the name-calling.
“E.” The so-called “weakness of character” (an old British expression) was never defined by K.W. when requested to do so. First defined by Dale Brandreth, it means “drive” or “determination” and, unlike its US meaning, does not refer to any ethical traits. It is also difficult to measure precisely so that it can be readily used against anyone not completing some task or ambition, as readers of this essay have no doubt already noticed.
Though it is not man’s greatest quality, K.W. apparently values it highly. The word “weakness” makes it sound demeaning and damaging, hence K.W.’s usage? (What reason is there for selecting such an old-fashioned phrase whose import is not the same outside of England?) The Rev. G.A. MacDonnell, who met and observed Morphy in England, described him in an 1880 column (also in Sergeant) as having “considerable strength of character”; but Whyld ignores that witness completely. Nonetheless Morphy did go to Europe with the “determination” or “drive” to test his powers against the best players of the day, but K.W. ignores that in his usual fashion as it would force him to modify his myopic notions. [b]
Blair’s quote re Morphy in his preliminary para 3 is not as extreme as it first appears; it only means that since Morphy’s games had revealed for the first time the strategy of playing open positions, “chess as we know it [today] would be unthinkable”. The quote could also be said of Steinitz as well as others.
The origins of the “anti-Morphy sentiment” lie in the recent emergence of a new pro-Staunton party, based upon B. Goulding Brown’s grossly erroneous analysis of 1916 and led by K.W., who blames Edge (without proof) for all the troubles of the Staunton-Morphy negotiations, as though he were responsible for the Anti-Book statement errors, the literary contract, Staunton’s excision of an important paragraph in a Morphy letter, the 90-day delay in the aborted match, etc. It is not surprising therefore that K.W.’s evaluation of Morphy in chess history, though not 100% bad, is mean-spirited or biased, vague or shallow, and not quite accurate or complete.
Since the science of chess was generally developed through one generation building on the results of the preceding one(s), the great masters of the past should be judged by what they accomplished during their lifetime and not detrimentally contrasted with their successors in any particular phase of the game. Naturally the successors to Morphy, standing on his shoulders, could and should create opening novelties, midgame combinations, or endgame subtleties he had not uncovered. Steinitz understood this when he wrote that “Morphy’s genius ... is no more affected by acknowledging the progress since his time than it would diminish the glory of Columbus to state that millions of people know more about America nowadays than its first discoverer” (ICM 1885 page 99); and again, in 1886: “It is not the least reproach to Morphy and Anderssen that they did not know what was discovered after their time, no more than to assert that Sir Isaac Newton, if he became alive now, would not be fit for a Professor of mathematics at a high class school without some further study” (C.N. 1113). Nor, I might add, is the luster of Archimedes’ genius dimmed by that of Newton, nor Newton’s by that of Bohr and Einstein; nor would one criticize Archimedes or Newton for not discovering the theory of relativity, nor Morphy for not discovering the King’s Indian.
The Companion: [I] “Morphy came to Europe well versed in openings knowledge, to which he added no significant innovations; when outside the bounds of his knowledge he played the opening no better than others. [II] In both tactical skill and technique, however, he outdistanced all rivals.” [I] implies Morphy was just a “book” player, finding his moves by plodding laboriously through his arduously-compiled arsenal of memorized debuts; but it fails to explain why the plodder (Morphy), meeting another plodder with a good memory, usually won. Re [II]: The source or basis of such “skill and technique” is not given, but it would have to be strategical to account for Morphy’s feats (plus his genius of course). Omitting strategy, however, it follows logically enough that since practically all master games are ultimately decided by such “skill and technique”, [II] becomes redundant and hence superficial, saying in effect that by playing better chess, Morphy “outdistanced all rivals”. K.W. is unaware of the strategy underlying such superiority, as explicated in varying degrees by Steinitz, Lasker, Capa, Alekhine, Réti, Fischer, etc. Furthermore, he omits mentioning that Morphy achieved his European feats at the age of 21, a mark of his “youthful genius” (Steinitz). Yet it is to K.W.’s credit that he manages to see three Harrwitz games as “foreshadowing the Position Play of a later age”. [b]
Re [I]: Steinitz (probably K.W.’s source), in stressing the higher importance of openings in his time, agreed that Morphy did not introduce “a single novelty” but added that “Morphy possessed the most profound book knowledge of any master of his time” (C.N. 1113 page 17), a strong contrast to K.W.’s belittling words, damning with faint praise. Since the few books and magazines in Morphy’s time did not always agree on the best opening lines, selecting them was not the simple process of going through one’s memory index. Finally, what about any strategy, especially in open games then in favor? (By the way, Morphy is not mentioned under “Schools of Chess” in the Companion.)
Assessments by some world champions (and others) offer much more illumination than K.W. did, particularly on the points made previously in my analysis:
Steinitz in his ICM 1885: “... we can only express our profound admiration for the youthful genius, who, in important trials, with a fortitude and self-control much beyond his years, could thus hold the reins tightly over his proclivities for dashing combinations and brilliant sacrifices, which are so strongly manifested in his lighter sort of games. But moreover, there are clear indications in his match style of that steady pressure and studious regard for the balance of position, which requires an almost instinctive judgment in its application, and which has been cultivated and treated to a much higher degree since the Morphy period. There is strong evidence in his play of that strategical generalship and circumspection, which has been developed in the modern system, and his formation of wings, as well as his maneuvering, foreshadows more than that of any master of his day, the improvements of our time. It appears therefore that Morphy, as far as his match play is concerned, has received credit and praise for faults which he never possessed, while his really admirable qualities have been almost ignored” (pages 7-8).
Steinitz on Morphy, from an interview (BCM 1894 pages 365-366 via the St Louis Globe, undated:
“‘Beyond question Morphy was a wonderful man. The source of his strength lay, I think, in his memory and imagination. His memory was prodigious. It seems as though he knew and could recall every game of note that had ever been played. With this he united singular imaginative powers and here lay the secret of his then extraordinary feats. You remember he dazzled Europe by playing, blindfold, as many as eight games simultaneously. At the time such a thing had never been heard of, and Morphy was regarded as a wizard ...
But Morphy was unquestionably a great chess player, one of the greatest that ever lived. A very foolish controversy has arisen as to whether or not he was the greatest. That no-one can tell. What he could do now, were he living, no-one can say. There is only this to be said: that in the past 25 years chess has undergone a wonderful development, and the feats with which Morphy astounded the world are simply impossible now. I mean that to such an almost mathematical exactness has the game been reduced in late years that to yield a pawn is to lose the game. So that were Morphy to come back and give away pawns, knights, bishops, and all sorts of things, as he once did, any well-trained player could defeat him.’”
“But when Dr Tarrasch denies the genius of Morphy on the ground that the great master did not create anything new in the opening or in the general conduct of the game I must, in common justice, strongly express my dissent from such a conclusion. In my opinion any player of the first rank must possess a certain amount of genius at least, including that of some originality, for no learning will be sufficient for mastering the complications of the middle game. Any extraordinary performance, whether it be the result of the excess of one excellent quality or of a rare combination of fine qualities, may be taken as an absolute sign of genius, and in the case of Morphy his youth cannot be ignored in estimating his standard of eminence” (Steinitz, ICM 1891 page 82).
Steinitz on Morphy and the “modern school” (1888, cited in C.N. 1113):
“We all may learn from Morphy and Anderssen how to conduct a king’s side attack and perhaps I myself may have not learnt enough. But if you want to learn how to avoid such an attack, how to keep the balance of the position on the whole board, or how to expose the king apparently and invite a complicated attack which can not be sustained in the long run, you must go to the modern school for information.”
Steinitz says the Morphy of 1863 could have given the Steinitz of 1863 pawn and move “For actually in the first match in which I came across one of Morphy’s opponents, I beat his (Morphy’s) record, in winning a straight love match [7-0-0 in 1863] against Mongredien, who drew his first game against Morphy [who won 7-0-1 in 1859]. But in order to console the New York Times critic, I beg to assure him that I do not attach the least importance to such cross-scores for myself, and with all due deference to his superior authority on such subjects, I freely own that in spite of my better cross-score on that occasion, Morphy, in my opinion, could at that time have given me the odds of pawn and move. Moreover, I have frequently expressed my doubts whether I was really stronger than Anderssen (the only other player with whom both Morphy and I crossed swords in a match) when I defeated him, it is true, by the small majority of two games only, and I have often thought and still think that probably the German professor who stood no chance against Morphy, could at the time have beaten me in a longer match” (ICM 1888 page 207).
J. Mieses on the origin of the Morphy myth (Deutsche Schachzeitung 1920 page 143):
“In the history of the great players Morphy takes a wholly unique place. The elegiac line, ‘What should immortally live in song, must be lost in life’, is in him confirmed. His meteoric rise, his sudden emergence as a blinding, radiant star and his disappearance shortly thereafter, called forth and left behind a very fascinating impression. With other chess greats, like Steinitz, Lasker, or reaching farther back, Philidor, one rightly marvels at their having remained a whole generation undefeated. They obtained their position in the chess world with audacity and defiance and held it fast with iron persistence. Morphy’s chess life actually encompassed only the years 1857-59. Is not standing for three decades at the peak, undefeated, a much more significant achievement than only three years? Certainly, and in every other case this would be true, but not with Morphy. He accomplished in the short space of a few years a piece of magic that forced upon his world and posterity the conviction: ‘This man will never be beaten’.” (A 1988 translation by James A. Rowe.)
Capa, in his article “The Ideal Style of the Masters” (C.N. 1053):
“In the opening he [Morphy] aimed to develop all his pieces rapidly. Developing them and quickly bringing them into action was his idea. In this sense, from the point of view of style, he was completely correct. In his time the question of position was not properly understood, except by himself. This brought him enormous advantages, and he deserves nothing but praise. It could be said of him that he was the forerunner of developments in this extremely important part of the game. He made a special study of the openings, with such success that in many games his opponents had an inferior position after six moves. This is also praiseworthy since in those days he had little to guide him. Players of the time thought that violent attacks against the king and other combinations of this kind were the only things worthy of consideration. It may be said that they began by making combinations from the first move, without paying sufficient attention to the question of development, about which Morphy was extremely careful. His games show that he had an outstanding playing style. It was simple and direct, without affectation; he did not seek complications but nor did he avoid them, which is the real way to play ...
But Morphy was not only doubtless the strongest player of his period; he was also a creator in chess and the prototype of what could be called the perfect style. ... Contrary to the general belief, which is the result of ignorance, Morphy’s main strength was not his combinative power but his positional play and his general style. The truth is that combinations can be made only when the position permits it. The majority of the games in these two matches [Anderssen, Harrwitz] were won by Morphy in direct and simple fashion and it is this simple and logical procedure which is the basis of true beauty in chess, from the point of view of the great masters.
Concerning an oft-repeated declaration by a large number of admirers, who believe that Morphy would beat all today’s players, as we have already said, this has no foundation. On the other hand, if Morphy were resurrected and were to play immediately with the knowledge of his time, he would most certainly be defeated by many present day masters. Nevertheless, it is logical to suppose that he would soon be at the necessary level to compete against the best, and there is no way of knowing exactly how successful he would be.”
Euwe: Alekhine “is the greatest attacking player of all time. Morphy has usually been given this title, but his task was much easier; in his time, about 80 years ago, people had naive ideas about opening strategy. Morphy was the first great positional player; none of his opponents could approach him in this respect” (Meet the Masters, 1940, page 2). [Morphy beat the best of his day; more than that is impossible: F.S.]
William Lewis in a 31 December 1859 letter to George Allen (from the S. D. Ennis collection):
“I much regret that Mr Morphy did not offer the Pawn and move to some of our best players, I urged him to do it and would myself have gone to London purposely to see him play. I would have ventured a few pounds in backing him, I am tolerably certain that I should have won. He is in my judgment far superior to any player in England.”
William Lewis in a 2 July 1863 letter to D. W. Fiske (from the same collection as before):
“When Mr Morphy was in England I saw him play several games, he is certainly an extraordinary player of his age and certainly the best I have met with since La Bourdonnais was in his prime.”
Staunton “pronounced Labourdonnais, Morphy and Anderssen to be the greatest players that ever lived” (Rev. G.A. MacDonnell’s 21 June 1879 column; also echoed in his 23 August 1879 column).
Those farthest away in time have the best chance at analyzing accurately the contributions of the great nineteenth-century masters. Perhaps that is why Reinfeld and Soltis’s Morphy Chess Masterpieces (1974) presents the most lucid picture, especially regarding the major points in my preceding analysis:
“Morphy was the first scientific player, wrote Richard Réti, a half-century away in time and a light-year away in chess from Morphy. Morphy appreciated that chess had an underlying logic, that it was not a series of random moves made up of threats and responses that often magically allowed brilliant decisions. There was a reason why a chess game was won. Morphy saw the games of the European masters and concluded that certain qualities made brilliancy possible. Inside the chaos of chess there was a hidden order, and Morphy was the first to discover a part of it.”
“Morphy’s expertise was clearest in open positions. Clear a few pairs of pawns away from the center of the board and Morphy was unbeatable in his day. He was the first to understand the relative nature of the balance between time and material. The more time advantage you have, the less important material is. Given equal time components, superior material should win. Translated into games this meant that in an open position, the key to the success of one player was development. If White could use his time advantage of the first move to bring his pieces out faster and create threats to the opposing side, it didn’t matter whether he had sacrificed a pawn or two to get to that position. We see this over and over in Morphy’s games. It is the underlying principle of the Evans Gambit, the King’s Gambit, and indeed all gambits ...”
“In subsequent years other masters learned the openings and the fruits of development. Wilhelm Steinitz succeeded in outperforming his rivals because he carried Morphy’s scientific approach a step further. Steinitz did for closed games what Morphy did for open games. Morphy avoided closed positions like the plague, while Steinitz revelled in them. He loved to play the Ruy López with P-Q3 while Morphy always strove for P-Q4” (pages 15-17).
The “subtle strategic concept” of exploiting the K-side pawn majority in the Ruy López, used almost 50 years before Emanuel Lasker did (page 24).
“... distinguished end-game play – very much in the twentieth-century manner” (page 35).
Morphy’s “ability to maneuver against static weaknesses” (page 46).
“What confused many of Morphy’s contemporaries is that when they sacrificed gambit pawns the way Morphy did, they lost the initiative before long and lost the game in the long run. What they didn’t understand is that aggressive gambits require aggressive moves ... [they seemed] oblivious to the principles of development ...” (page 46).
“To the student, Morphy’s merciless play against the weak color complex is more impressive than many of his most brilliant combinations” (page 61).
“They [Morphy’s contemporaries] admired such games as the following one, but how many of them understood that play on the weak white squares was the key to victory?” (page 213).
“The best part of this game is Morphy’s 23 NxB!!, a move which sacrifices several positional advantages to set up the winning breakthrough 24 P-K5! Some of Morphy’s contemporaries and successors would never consider such a sequence because it runs against so many of the prevailing positional ideas – correcting Black’s pawn structure, giving up a good piece for a bad one, etc.” (page 109).
“A Morphy game which looks like a Steinitz game is a rarity! Significantly enough, this is one of Morphy’s best games, and suggests that if he had continued active play, Morphy’s style would have evolved into one approximating that of the moderns. He starts out on the defensive, carefully wards off the hostile one-move threats, maneuvers deftly and patiently in a cramped position, and posts his pieces on their best squares” (page 171).
“The natural response of the old masters was that Morphy had just out-brilliancied his opponent again. But this fails to appreciate how Black nurtured a complex, cramped position into a virulent attacking one. Few people in 1863 appreciated the origin of a Morphy attack” (pages 175-176).
“During the first decade of this century the Steinitz Defense to the Ruy López was much in evidence in the big tournaments and matches. This popularity reached its height in the St Petersburg tournament of 1909. Picture the astonishment of modern players on being informed that this relatively modern line had occurred in several Morphy games” (page 177, Morphy v Rivière 1863 is given).
“Réti, among others, thought there was no finer example of masterly play in open positions” (page 193).
“The reader who is familiar with modern chess cannot fail to note that many of Morphy’s combinations are of the most rudimentary character. The fault was not Morphy’s, but that of his opponents. Of the final combination, Steinitz remarked that it was one of the finest in chess history. But history did not stop in 1858. Among the moderns, such elementary combinations would never attain the dignity of more than a footnote” (page 205). [The progress of chess always goes on: F.S.]
“Morphy has never received enough credit for his achievements as a blindfold player. ... But Morphy’s skill in this field was qualitative as well as quantitative. The vigor and accuracy of his moves under such difficult circumstances are among the most convincing proofs of his genius” (page 209).
“In Morphy’s day, however, the strategic value of the center was the exclusive property of a chosen few” (page 222).
“While the modern is thoroughly at home in closed positions, he generally feels uneasy in the open game” (page 42).
“It is always interesting to see how Morphy revamped openings that were thought inferior by his colleagues. All he had to do was add the missing element – usually development – and a dead old variation suddenly bloomed with life. In a way, by using development to refute unsound attacks and strengthening the defense, Morphy was a forerunner of Steinitz. Yet we consider Morphy and Steinitz as the opposite poles of the development of chess science of the nineteenth century” (page 73).
Fine in his article on Morphy in the 1937 Chess Review (pages 380-382) evaluates from both perspectives: Morphy during his own lifetime and in comparison with modern players:
“He beat his major rivals because he had a clearer grasp of the essentials of position play. In fact, Morphy is the first who really appreciated the logical basis of chess. He could combine as well as anybody, but he also knew under what circumstances combinations were possible – and in that respect he was 20 years ahead of his time.
“Anderssen could attack brilliantly, but had an inadequate understanding of its positional basis. Morphy knew not only how to attack, but also when – and that is why he won.”
“It is frankly hard to find good Morphy games, comparable to those of, say Alekhine, or Lasker. The difficulty, as we have indicated, is that his opponents made such bad blunders [usually positional: F.S.]. The following game, one of his most famous, is typical.” [Now followed the famous Paulsen-Morphy New York 1857 game.]
At move 8 in that game Morphy could have won by attacking before full development: “The move is a natural for an Anderssen, or any other master whose main concern is the attack. But Morphy rarely begins an offensive until he has completed his development, a sufficient indication of the fact that he was a generation ahead of his contemporaries.”
“But the present situation is peculiar because it is an exception to the general rule ...”
“How does it happen that Morphy overlooks a forced win at such an early stage? The principle of development was such an enormous advantage on the prevailing theory or, more correctly, lack of theory, that its mechanical application was enough to give him a significant advantage.”
From a Lasker lecture reported in the 26 November 1898 column of the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News of London: “He recognizes in Morphy the greatest chess genius that ever lived ...” [Lasker must have evaluated in terms of what Morphy did during his lifetime, as he also did in his Manual of Chess about 30 years later.]
“Lasker attributes Morphy’s success to the scientific application of logical principles and his victories not to subtle combinations or natural intuition, but to a gradual development of forces which crushed his opponent with cumulative effect. ... This rather controverts the popular belief that Morphy was a genius and owed his success solely to superior natural gifts and powers of intuition.” To Lasker Morphy is “the rational player’” (As quoted in Sergeant, page 36).
Lasker again: “Paul Morphy fought; on good days and on bad days, he loved the contest, the hard, sharp, just struggle, which despises petted favourites and breeds heroes. “But then the Civil War broke out in the United States and broke the heart and mind of Morphy” (Lasker’s Manual of Chess, 1947 page 186).
Fischer’s high opinion of Staunton’s play is quoted by K.W. but not his praise of Morphy, so here it is:
“A popularly held theory about Paul Morphy is that if he returned to the chess world today and played our best contemporary players, he would come out the loser. Nothing is further from the truth. In a set match, Morphy would beat anybody alive today.
“He was the best-read player of his time, and is known to have been familiar with such books as Bilguer’s Handbook ... and Staunton’s The Chess Hand-Book, among others. These books are better than modern ones; there has been no significant improvement since then in King Pawn openings, and Morphy’s natural talents would be more than sufficient for him to vanquish the best twentieth-century players.”
“Morphy was perhaps the most accurate chess player who ever lived” (Chessworld January-February 1964).
Steinitz’s view has some similarity to Fischer’s (compare that of Capa above):
“Morphy’s career marks a grand epoch in the history of our pastime, and a careful study of his games will always be essential for the purpose of acquiring a complete knowledge of the direct attack against the king, which forms a most important element in mastering our science. ... If Morphy were alive and were to be the leading spirit of our days, as he was the superior of his own, he would of necessity cultivate and extend the system which has been developed since his time. He would probably have been the very first to make improvements or to perceive and acknowledge them in the practice of others, instead of reverting to the methods of the old school, as maintained by some critics.” (Quoted in Sergeant, page 35.)
On the same page Sergeant has a footnote on the passage above:
“It is interesting to note, in this connexion, the verdict of the Régence players, as reported by Edge, that Morphy was not brilliant like La Bourdonnais, but ‘solide, close, and analytical.’”
The contributions of Morphy are platitudes today, but because of them his record during his brief career revealed an enormous superiority over his fellow masters, as well as the lesser lights, a superiority larger than that achieved by any of his successors among the world champions. The impact of his continuous triumphs on the general public and on his fellow masters was therefore tremendous. Consequently it is at least understandable that the mythic mantle of invincibility should be placed on his shoulders not only by that public but also by his fellow masters. What is surprising is that even nowadays (see the quotes above) writers, perhaps still under the influence of the Morphy myth, find it necessary to show that his invincibility did not extend much beyond his own era. Had he stayed in the arena, he eventually would have been beaten, as all champions eventually are, by some new star (Steinitz, Lasker).
However, the modern era, with all its science and technology, still has its myth-makers, for now I am told – not by the general public – but by some of the chess intelligentsia that Kasparov is “the strongest chessplayer of all time” (Warriors of the Mind, quoted in C.N. 1853 page 38). That startling statement is not backed up by any claim of Kasparov’s large superiority over his fellow GMs (as Morphy’s was), nor would they believe it if it were made. The statistical myth regarding Kasparov may only exemplify the hidden need for mythology in any group, though here it most likely stems from the workings of a public relations staff (rudimentary 150 years ago but nowadays a professional specialty).
“R.” K.W.’s letter asks irrelevantly if I dispute that the quote in question “reveals Edge’s feelings about his relationship with Morphy” (already handled in my C.N. 1499 page 128). As the accuracy of the tiny quote was never disputed, I can only conclude that K.W. is trying to show he has been speaking the truth, but unfortunately the literal “accuracy” of the quote is only a minor bit of it, showing quite clearly why courts insist on having the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I can create an example similar to that quote, crude though it be: “Mr Jones was sober today.” That sentence is true but it is not the whole truth because the insinuendo implied by it is untrue and would provoke immediate reaction from Jones. Here’s another example: “Whyld did not rob a bank last week”. Thus contrary to K.W.’s assumption, it is often possible not only to quote accurately but also present a fact and still create an untruth via insinuendo.
In a similar manner – but much more subtly and cunningly – K.W. wove bits of truth (but not the whole truth) into his words and sentences around the quote so as to create an insinuendo for which he had no truth (evidence); if he had had the evidence, he would not have manufactured the insinuendo. Of equal importance is the fact that K.W. himself chose the quote, not anyone else; he was not restricted to it alone by the letter-owner, as he maintains. He could have quoted more, given the recipient’s name, and indicated the general nature of the letter so as to avoid misunderstanding; but if he had, the insinuendo would have vanished. By acting otherwise, he secured the maximum plausibility for it. Truly K.W. is an IM (Insinuendo Master or Manufacturer). [c]
I must point out too if he had been honest and given the recipient’s name (Fiske), which the letter owner would have permitted, the insinuendo would then have been transferred to him (Fiske) but would have made no sense in the context of the insinuendo paragraph; besides that, Fiske was not his target. Thus by not giving the whole truth (see C.N. 1417) and by placing only Morphy’s name before the quote, K.W. slyly and cunningly – K.W. wove bits of truth (but not the whole truth) into his words and sentences around the quote so as to create an insinuendo for which he had no truth (evidence); if he had had the evidence, he would not have manufactured the insinuendo. Of equal importance is the fact that K.W. himself chose the quote, not anyone else; he was not restricted to it alone by the letter-owner, as he maintains. He could have quoted more, given the recipient’s name, and indicated the general nature of the letter so as to avoid misunderstanding; but if he had, the insinuendo would have vanished. By acting otherwise, he secured the maximum plausibility for it. Truly K.W. is an IM (Insinuendo Master or Manufacturer). [c]
I must point out too if he had been honest and given the recipient’s name (Fiske), which the letter owner would have permitted, the insinuendo would then have been transferred to him (Fiske) but would have made no sense in the context of the insinuendo paragraph; besides that, Fiske was not his target. Thus by not giving the whole truth (see C.N. 1417) and by placing only Morphy’s name before the quote, K.W. slyly and cunningly shifted the smearing insinuendo on the back of Morphy And when readers fell into the trap by referring to the letter as being from Edge to Morphy (see C.N. 840 November-December 1984, C.N. 957 and C.N. 1270), K.W. did not correct their mistake, as he was obliged to do, but let it take hold and grow inside the mind of the general public, the basic aim of all smearers, until the spring of 1987 (C.N. 1358) when the full letter was printed and revealed the truth to C.N. readers for the first time. How Machiavellian!
[It will be noted that there is much overlap in Frank Skoff’s two preceding paragraphs.]
Before K.W. says anything more, contrary to his desperate supposition, researchers are trained to quote letters with the recipient’s name and full date, if available, so as to assist the reader into a proper comprehension of it, the whole truth (context).
Though he says he answered all my questions (C.N.s 1757 and 1818), K.W. has still not answered my request in C.N. 1499 for the genesis of the paragraph containing the insinuendo. He must have constructed it sometime in the few years before its appearance in the 1984 Companion and no doubt he discussed it with others. Consequently why didn’t he expunge it before going to press? If he claims he never noticed it until afterwards, then he should have publicly retracted his error, but now that is too late. Now let’s hear the whole truth and nothing but the truth. [c]
“M.” Obviously some young men of 21 or less can have a feminine appearance, as a glance at some of the pictures of young masters given in major chess publications the last decade or so will attest; but K.W. does not seize his chance to publish a similar comment about them because he might have a lawsuit on his hands. If the parties are dead, however, he can insinuate to his heart’s content.
However, saying Morphy “could have passed for a woman” is inaccurate if not worse; “woman” to my knowledge was never used. As usual K.W. cites no sources of evidence. However, the exact quote from Edge (page 68) does not back up K.W.: “This boy of 21, five feet four inches in height, of slim figure, and face like a young girl in her teens, positively appalled the chess warriors of the old world – Narcissus defying the Titans.” To K.W. (who once said his insinuendo quote was “metaphorical”) now takes the simile, the “girl” comparison, and turns it into truth and reality, altering it unjustifiably to “woman” in the process, no doubt on the assumption that she had aged during the century. (Narcissus, by the way, was a handsome youth, not a female.) To K.W. the sentence “Jones fought like a lion” means Jones was actually a lion from the jungle.
K.W. in C.N. 1569: “From Edge onwards, writers have noted Morphy’s effeminate appearance and manner, and obviously the possibility of homosexuality must have been pondered for more than a century. Our quotation may have caused some readers to ask this question. That is nothing new.” Nearly the whole quote is untrue (again K.W. gives no evidence). Notice how he blandly stretches “appearance” by adding “manner” to it, a totally unethical act. Secondly, pointing to “possibilities” is not evidence; one could just as easily apply that possibility to K.W. or to anyone else. Finally, having said the quote was metaphorical, K.W. now contradicts himself and asserts it is not! Throw this into the garbage can. [a]
Note too how K.W. tries to stretch the reference from Edge into a “century” of data when in truth it is only a single comment of 1859; and people did not “ponder” over it “more than a century” since they had more important things to do except perhaps for K.W., who just loves to ponder such matters to the point of insinuendo and call the result definitive biography. Just how does a lone comment about Morphy’s “appearance” suddenly became reality and truth? No similar comment by anyone else who knew Morphy is cited; none exist to my knowledge. Finally, why didn’t K.W. give us a list of all references by those who knew Morphy and count how many of them followed his conjecture and how many did not, although that would prove nothing anyway. [a]
Falkbeer, who met Morphy in London in 1858, contradicts K.W. by describing Morphy thus in part: “... with fresh and youthful features delicately shaded by the first dawn of an incipient moustache ... One would certainly have taken him for a schoolboy on his vacation than for a chess adept ...” (Sergeant, page 33). Of course K.W. never bothers with evidence which contradicts his conjectural imagination.
The above analysis merely reveals another example of K.W.’s building his case on one item and that just a flimsy simile, with some improper alteration, and failing to do a complete job of research on the matter (such laziness only increases his weakness of character). [a, b]
As I said a few paragraphs ago, K.W. often changes his mind on the insinuendo quote, pointed out in C.N. 1669 pages 83-84; added comments of mine are in brackets: “Para 3: K.W.’s “quotation” without context did cause “readers to ask this question. That is nothing new.” Yet in his letter of 3 March 1987 (C.N. 1499 page 127) K.W. stated I appeared “to be the only one who has read a suggestion of homosexuality in the quote” [an absolute untruth! See C.N.s 840 page 111, 957 and 1270: FS]; in C.N. 1440 (page 87) it is “very clearly metaphorical, but possibly it might put the thought into the reader’s mind for the first time”; and now [bringing in the “feminine appearance” ploy: F.S.] he says it is “nothing new” and that the “possibility ... must have been pondered for more than a century”. (Why “must”? Because K.W. has no evidence.) [a]
Why does he keep changing his “truth” on his insinuendo? Which one is he asserting now? Why doesn’t he cite his “evidence”?
Besides evidence (which he does not always use in his bios), K.W. mistakenly believes that possibilities or conjectures are one of the essentials of biography (C.N. 1818). Of course if K.W. had real evidence, he would not be forced to use conjectures. No one will seriously object if the matter is trivial, such as speculating on the color of someone’s eyes, but there can be no conjectures on important matters such as sexuality, religion, politics, character, reputation and the like. For these matters, the courts do not allow the libel laws to be flouted by conjectures about any living person. Now I could follow the K.W. credo and style and, after observing his picture in his Records book, conjecture, in a simile, that his “appearance” was like that of an old, depraved woman of highly scarlet reputation. After the passage of enough time, someone could write that my conjecture “must have been pondered for more than a century”, and my simile would now be reality. According to K.W.’s credo that simile/conjecture would be perfectly true and proper, which is utter nonsense.
“A.” The use of “indulged” is typical of K.W.’s rhetorical, pejorative style. Selecting words with pejorative associations (without proof) runs through all of the triad of biographies noted here. Similar examples are given in Blair’s “H.”, “L.”, “O.”, “Q.”, “R.”, “U.”, “V.” and “X.”. [a, d]
“X.” Staunton’s reputation was blackened not so much by Edge as by Staunton’s own conduct during the Morphy match negotiations and by the numerous disputes he had with many players over the years, long before he had ever met Edge. No British chess club or chess column exonerated Staunton re the Morphy match after it was declined, a clear enough indication of the opinion of the British chess world at the time. Edge, a witness to much of the match negotiations, merely held up a mirror to Staunton’s activities, and I know of no untrue “insinuations” (he was usually blunt, not insinuative) by him, though his language, in the heat generated by the negotiations (a common phenomenon in such doings), may therefore have been as scorching on occasion as Staunton’s was. K.W. has never documented all the high crimes and other evil acts he says or implies about Edge and shown specifically how they affected the major topics we have been debating. I have waited four years for evidence on this without success (C.N. 1818 is inaccurate on this); all I get is repeated conjectures (the 16 March letter is full of them), pejorative rhetoric, and personal attacks on myself. [a, d]
“G.” One might add that the Civil War (1861-65) and its aftermath did not make a legal career easy for Morphy, or for anyone else. Under such circumstances there was hardly any civilized law in existence, hardly any civilized society, and so hardly anything favorable for any aspiring lawyer. Nor did the signs of his “breakdown” (call it what you will) make entrance to the law easier. But, as K.W. evidently believes, if you possess strength of character, you brush aside a mere war in which many thousands are being killed and go blithely onwards to higher achievement; and if you have a breakdown, it just proves you had no strength of character in the first place.
“K.” Since it is a truism that anything a person does of his own free will was obviously done to fill a “need”, why did K.W. find it necessary to cite Anderssen, who was an authority on chess and mathematics, not psychology? He did so to favor his unsubstantiated notion that Morphy was a mere chessplayer and nothing else. One could just as easily speak of Morphy’s “need” to learn and practice law, or K.W.’s “need” to smear him and Edge without the necessary proof.
Furthermore, many of Morphy’s contemporaries wrote of him, but only Anderssen is cited, while the others who did not mention the “need” were ignored; thus the weight of opinion is against Anderssen and K.W., not that this particular truism is of any real significance. [b]
“S.”: Morphy did not disown (Diggle in C.N. 1642) nor discredit (K.W.) the Edge book but disclaimed “any connection” with it (meaning he had no hand in its composition), adding “there are many passages which might well have been omitted; there are many more which might well have been rewritten” (Lawson page 189). Not much help here because he says nothing specific. However, Morphy did not say anything in it was false and could not have completely disapproved because he presented a copy of it as a gift, inscribing it as follows : “Presented to J. L. Graham Jr by Paul Morphy” [undated]. (I thank its owner, Samuel D. Ennis of Wisconsin, for bringing it to my attention.) Graham, whose book bears his personal bookplate, was a member of the welcoming committee of the NY CC which greeted Morphy when he arrived there on 11 May 1859 and afterwards accompanied him on his trip to Boston (See Lawson page 202 etc.). [b]
As to Edge’s charge that Staunton used illness as an excuse to avoid matches, Mr Blair has conceded too quickly, before the evidence is in: This matter needs investigation to see if and when such instances occurred (I believe I discussed this with Mr Diggle sometime ago). No-one has yet done the boring research to find out, that burden being on the asserter, no-one else, who must garner the instances, which may turn up some complexity: The French did not believe Staunton’s illness (which had happened) was true when he went to France to arrange another match with St Amant. If Edge picks up this item, is he therefore lying? The only other instance I can recall is the Brien match of 1854, mentioned below. Furthermore, this aspect of Edge is irrelevant to the topics we have been discussing for four years. So far as I can tell from K.W.’s unclear charges, he is trying to say that a man who picks up questionable gossip therefore lies about everything else, a nonsensical conclusion. [a]
Edge was a partisan of Morphy as Whyld is of Staunton, a fact which does not of itself necessarily make any of the parties mentioned a “liar” or a “villain”.
In his 16 March letter K.W. utters a falsehood: “It is the opposite of the truth to insist, as you have done, that Morphy’s status depends upon Edge’s integrity.” I never “insisted” or claimed such an absurdity, nor does K.W. cite any evidence. Morphy’s integrity depends on his own actions, not on anyone else’s.
“T.” In his column of 21 August 1858 Staunton told a reader: “The match is to be altogether independent of the Birmingham meeting”, an item which escaped the attention of every major Morphy biographer. The “match” can only refer to that with Morphy. Note that Staunton sets no conditions, as he did before. If the match were impossible because of his literary contract, then why did he want to play Morphy a match by cable a few months earlier, circa June 1858? And why, if the contract were the cause, didn’t he call off the match immediately instead of giving the impression that it was not an unsurmountable obstacle? A few months later he suddenly found the same contract made it impossible. None of this appears in K.W.’s Staunton bio. Perhaps more research will unearth the contract itself. [b]
“Z.”: Mr Blair is right. In 1861 Morphy was willing to play a match as “a special exception” (Morphy’s underlining) to his rule of no future matches, but his equally adamant insistence on no stakes would have made it difficult for Kolisch and his backers. At any rate nothing was heard from the challenger, and so the matter ended until it was revived in 1863 when Morphy, now in Paris, declined for various reasons. Lawson covers the affair thoroughly, with full citations from primary sources, a procedure repugnant to K.W.’s conjectural approach to biography; besides he doesn’t use Lawson for research. The Civil War was now going on in full strength (New Orleans had fallen in April 1862), but to K.W. a mere war is no reason for not playing a match; besides, K.W. wants to depict Morphy as a breaker of solemn promises despite [the lack of] any evidence to the contrary, so he rewrites history as he did elsewhere.
Here’s another example, from 1859: Under the Anderssen bio appears: “Morphy broke his promise to play a return match in which, under less adverse circumstances, Anderssen might well have given a better account of himself”. The fact that Morphy had so long overstayed his leave in Europe that a relative had to go to Paris to bring him back, that his aversion to professional chess was becoming more pronounced, and that the ominous shadows of the coming Civil War were darkening the Southern sky, made no difference to K.W.
Anderssen’s “adverse circumstances”, from Lange’s account as summed up by Staunton in his Chess Praxis (1860 page 502), were these: “... unaccustomed noises in the hotel where he resided, occasioned him sleepless nights, which by no means contributed to strengthen him for the exhausting labours of the match. As to the lookers-on, those nearest the table, as the proper witnesses and honorary seconds, behaved irreproachably; amongst the other spectators, however, there were unmistakeable, and sometimes very annoying exhibitions of sympathy for his opponent; signs of impatience were chiefly shown when the German took time for reflection, especially conspicuous in this respect was a certain bald-headed Italian, who usually contrived to place himself close to the American. To such influences may be attributed the turn in the sixth game of the match at move 28.”
On the other hand, Anderssen himself contradicts this in his letter of 31 December 1859 to von der Lasa:
“The onlookers were forced to abstain even from the slightest whispering – something unusual which was to me all the stranger as I am not aware of having been ever disturbed, during a game, by those surrounding me by any act of conversation (except barking of dogs and crying of children)” [Lawson page 179]. K.W. was aware of this letter because he quoted part of it in his bio of M., another example of his ignoring relevant evidence.
Whatever the truth may be, Morphy’s “circumstances” were surely worse as he had to get off his sickbed to play Anderssen (thereby displaying considerable strength of character!).
From the same bio: As to defeating Morphy in a return match, neither Steinitz, Zukertort, nor Alekhine believed it possible. As to Anderssen’s being rusty and unprepared for the match, Lawson has disposed of that error easily in his book (page 177+).
Finally, K.W. reveals his bias by spending so much space on excusing Anderssen and demeaning Morphy, a contrast to his bios of Tarrasch, Lasker, Capa, and Steinitz, which mention nothing of their excuses in losing their title matches; only Morphy is singled out for the Whyld treatment. Losers of matches often do make excuses, which do not count in the score and whose validity is practically impossible to validate or assess, thus ending up as idle chatter, inappropriate for a work which aims to be factually solid and hence authoritative. [a, b]
For more examples of bias, inadequacy, inaccuracy, or distortion, see below.
Besides his love of conjecture, a certain obstinacy too often appears in K.W.’s writings, a refusal to face facts or to garner them or to modify facts he has garnered when differing evidence appears, along with his usual anti-Morphy bias, not to overlook his weakness of character in not carrying his research to a sound conclusion:
(1) He refuses to call Lawson’s monumental work on Morphy a biography, describing it instead as “an extensive collection of biographical data [about whom?] from nineteenth-century sources”, as though it were merely an anthology. It is absolutely astounding to note that K.W. made no use whatsoever of the tremendous amount of first-hand data in Lawson (as shown by the indexes to the sources of the Companion, published separately). Lawson’s work would have been helpful, but not when you prefer conjecture to reason and evidence. Sergeant was also treated in the same fashion, as were Löwenthal, Lange, Falkbeer, Maróczy or any other individual who wrote a book on Morphy, all of them valuable. K.W.’s failure to use them is just another instance of his weakness of character in failing to do thorough research.
(2) Consider too the unsubstantiated Cambridge-Bedlam game to which K.W. had been seeking an answer for some years (see his BCM 1985 column, page 173). Since he had no evidence for or against its existence, he should have simply stated “I don’t know the answer”. Instead, he dogmatically described it as “an amusing and obviously spurious story”. He also could not help conjecturing and made a “guess”: A game between “Cambridge-Town (?)” and “Bedford (?)”. Now Jack O’Keefe in C.N. 1891 located the hitherto unsubstantiated game in The Field of 10 May 1884, proving again it doesn’t pay to waste space on dogmatism and conjecture.
(3) On no evidence other than his own dogmatic assertion, K.W. declared Staunton retired from chess in 1853, despite the many facts contradicting it (given in my review of the Companion in 1985): Staunton afterwards tried unsuccessfully to get a match with Anderssen; in May 1853 he issued an open challenge to the world for a match! In August 1853 he played von der Lasa a match; in October 1854 he played at Caistor, Lincolnshire; and at the end of that year he played Brien a match at pawn and two, given up by Staunton (he was losing 3-1-1) because of illness (Levy page 101); and in mid-1858 he suggested a match with Morphy by cable.
(4) In his column in BCM 1985 page 560: R.D. Yates, the checker genius, “had parallels with Morphy (but he said ‘Checkers is for tramps’).” The complete quote from Call’s bio of Yates, page 14, casts a different light on this apparent discourtesy by Morphy: “On another occasion, half in jest, half in earnest, the great chess master said to a New York player, ‘Checkers is for tramps’.” K.W.’s deliberate omission of the two “half” phrases makes a world of difference, but he sees no humor at all, especially when by doing so he can belittle Morphy a bit. Also the anecdote is second-hand, not a primary source, thus hardly definitive but it so delights K.W.’s heart, he just can’t resist misusing it. (I have been unable to trace the anecdote to its origin; Morphy is not associated with checkers in any of the biographies by Lawson, Sergeant, Lange, etc. Perhaps others may be able to cast some light on this matter.)
(5) From K.W.’s Chess The Records: “Taking bad advice Morphy dodged playing in a tournament at Birmingham where Staunton had gone specifically to meet him, and in turn Staunton dodged Morphy for ever” (page 36). Morphy avoided rather than “dodged” playing in the event for reasons given in Lawson; with the second “dodged” I do not disagree. The whole truth is more complex than K.W.’s simple sentences. K.W. does not attempt to summarize the evidence pro and con in some manner to give a truer, balanced picture; instead he presents only his biased conjecture as to what happened. The “bad advice” (he means Edge) is just K.W.’s opinion without any substantiation; the evidence (covered in previous C.N.s of mine) shows that the Morphy-Staunton situation had long deteriorated and Morphy, upset at the Briton’s depreciating annotations to his games, was too suspicious of Staunton’s motives, especially when the latter, instead of following protocol and writing Morphy privately re the Anti-Book statement, went public and used his column for his unjustified criticisms; finally, Morphy had come to play Staunton a match, not a few tourney games whose results might be employed as an excuse to avoid the match (Lawson covers the matter).
From K.W.’s letter: “I find it irritating to be pressed for conjectures (not given in the Companion) by someone incapable of forming his own, and then being attacked for offering them.” Hogwash! I never asked him for any conjectures; on the contrary, for four years I have asked him to present the evidence which would justify his innumerable, unsubstantiated statements (also called conjectures, judgements, opinions, interpretations) about Edge, Morphy, etc., evident even in the samples in Mr Blair’s commentary. Why didn’t he indicate in the Companion that his bios were conjectural (theoretical), not to be taken as fact? [a]
If, as it appears, K.W. claims conjectures (theories) are the soul of biography and justify his assertions without evidence, then the conjectures of other persons are equally valid, which causes one to ask the question: Why are only K.W.’s allowed to be authoritative conjectures (theories) for the Companion? [a]
K.W. must stop the same repetitive, conjectural twaddle that has been his trademark. In the future any attempted answer by him to anything in this essay must follow this pattern: Such and such a statement is true because of such and such evidence (both pro and con), with their sources cited; and the preponderance of evidence must prove the statement. The whole truth and nothing but the truth. Nothing else is acceptable or relevant. I also hope he will answer my questions re the insinuendo. He is honor-bound to give full answers. [a]
Postscript: I received a copy from Mr Blair of K.W.’s 21 September reply to him, after I composed the above material except for some minor revisions. I now quote from point S. in that letter (I have divided it into parts, indicated by the bracketed letters, for ease of reference and discussion): [A] “Edge makes no bones about having taken letters from Morphy’s pocket [only one?] and dealing with them as he saw fit, or [B] waiting until Morphy was out of the way and then writing a letter that Morphy had expressly forbidden him to write. [C] Now we know that Edge was activated not by a desire to serve Morphy, but by the urge to promote him, his book has to be seen as a piece of special pleading. [D] Did any contemporary master (including Morphy) have a kind word to say for Edge or his book?”
Item [A]: Why is K.W. so murky and obscure? Why does he fail to give the circumstances surrounding the letters (context), as he failed to do with his Morphy insinuendo? (Because another insinuendo is in the making.) Is he claiming Edge was a pickpocket? Does “taken” mean “stolen”? Does “dealing with them as he saw fit” mean he sold them for money or gave them away or had no authority to act as he did, or acted improperly in some other way, or what? K.W. doesn’t give the context of his assertion so that the reader is misled into thinking Edge was really acting criminally or very improperly. For the first time in four years K.W. attempts to give evidence against Edge but does so without indicating the crime allegedly committed, though as usual his words carry with them the pejorative overtones of something evil, whatever it was. Nonetheless if you read these two passages from Edge-to-Fiske letters (especially the first, K.W.’s source), you realize, as Mr Blair has indicated, Edge was merely performing his duties:
“I shall watch over Morphy until he leaves Europe, and when he leaves I can say – ‘What you are outside of chess, I have made you. Your tremendous laziness, but for me, would have obliterated all your acts. I have taken your hundreds of letters out of your pockets even, and answered them, because you would have made every man your enemy by not replying.’” (25 March 1859 in C.N. 1358.)
“Do you remember giving Paul Morphy a note for me when he was leaving New York, together with documents for Preti and others? Well, when we were both in Paris in the month of October last, he asked me to look in his portmanteau for some thick underlinen, as the weather was becoming cool. I searched as directed, and what should I find but these identical notes; and had it not been for my discovery, they would not now have been delivered.” (3 April 1859 in C.N. 840.)
If Morphy was wearing the clothes containing the letters, then he would have been aware Edge removed them; if the clothing had been worn and was now soiled and needed cleaning, you could not expect the aristocratic Morphy to handle that chore himself. Edge would have to get it done by making arrangements with the hotel staff. Where is the criminality or impropriety and why would he confess it to Fiske, who was then in constant contact with Morphy? [a, b]
Item [B]: To say that Edge wrote “a letter that Morphy had expressly forbidden him to write” is an alteration of the evidence (from publicizing a letter to writing it) per Edge’s letter (in C.N. 840):
“Ah, I have had a bitter, hard battle to fight with him all through. He objected for a long, long time to having the letter sent to Staunton which commenced the public correspondence between them. When S. sought to entrap him by sending his private reply, Morphy preferred listening to anybody but me, and was about answering him also privately. But, singly and alone, I managed to carry the day at last, by dint of argument, entreaty and almost tears. And when Staunton published M’s letter, suppressing that important paragraph, I said that the letter must now address the British Chess Association and claim justice. Morphy laughed in my face, and replied ‘the matter need go no further’. What would you have thought of him and me if the affair had so rested? I immediately sat down, boiling with rage, and penned the letter to Lord Lyttelton. I took it right away and submitted it to Mr Bryan (Staunton’s old Second) who returned to the hotel with me and induced Morphy to sign it. Nor is this all. When Lord L. sent his capital reply, P.M. declared that it should not be published. – Seeing that it was vain to hope for his consent, I waited until he was out of the way and then sent it to the London papers. Ask Morphy if all this is not true ...”
By signing the letter, Morphy approved publication (Bryan evidently also felt the same way). The quote shows Morphy objecting to the publication of the letter, not to its accuracy. The second letter (from Lord. L.) was published without Morphy’s approval. Can K.W. explain how this act altered the truths in it? Why does he want them suppressed? [a, b]
Item [C]: A vague conjecture unwarranted, especially when accompanied by no evidence. Since [B] was untrue, then any inference drawn from it is also flawed, and it is therefore untrue to say “we know that Edge was activated not by a desire to serve Morphy” etc. Even if we assume K.W. is correct re Edge’s motives, how does this change the facts Edge presents? The issue is not what motives someone may have had in performing an action since it is practically impossible to prove such motivation from a single instance; the issue is what events or actions actually occurred. There is also no reason why “‘promoting’” Morphy is opposed to “serving” him (Again, K.W. merely asserts it without proof). In addition, there is nothing wrong with “special pleading” (undefined by him) in the customary sense of that phrase, since K.W. himself has been doing the same for four years at least. Is he trying to say that such “pleading” is all lies? (He tries to imply that without saying it.) If so, then his own writings are also condemned. And how does K.W. know that it was such “pleading”? Again, he asserts without proof. (More of K.W.’s weakness of character in not getting all the facts?) Finally, once Staunton had gone public with the match negotiations, Morphy had to do the same, reluctant as he was regarding publicity. Thus Edge performed a valuable service for him; otherwise, the truth would have been hidden from the public. [a, c]
It is at last becoming clear that K.W. and I disagree as to what constitutes a fact (evidence). Since 1985 I have tried to suggest criteria to him: The rules of civilized court procedure, those of the scientific community, or those of university research, but he would accept none of them. K.W., knowing that certain facts will prove difficult to overcome, hit upon a most lazy device, the conjectural procedure of blackening the motives of individuals, thereby destroying those facts (so K.W. thinks) and saving himself the hard labor of seeking evidence to overcome them. All that is required in K.W.’s world is to question the motives of people presenting any facts, then imply these are faulted by impure motives and thus must be thrown aside as completely refuted (The underlying assumption that people with pure motives, whatever that means, are never inaccurate is clearly false). The “purity” of such motives can only be judged with a high degree of subjectivity because they are not easily visible or apprehendable by the senses, unless K.W. claims he possesses extra-sensory perception and can read people’s minds. And who does the judging? K.W. of course. [d]
If a murder had been committed in which three persons were known to have possible motives to commit the act, neither the courts, the scientific community, nor university researchers would accept any such possibility as proof of guilt; witnesses to the act itself would usually be required. In K.W.’s world, however, all three would be condemned only on the basis of their possible motives. Or would Judge Whyld, the zealous watchdog of purity and creator of false insinuendo, decide the case by his conjecture as to who had the least impure motives? Or would he condemn all three so that people with possibly impure motives in the future would learn a lesson? Sheer madness. (Also, judging from all my previous analysis here, K.W.’s motives are not entirely “pure”.)
Such absurdity is not all. K.W. discourses foolishly in C.N. 1818: “He [Skoff] continually drags in pseudo-legal jargon, seemingly under the impression that someone is being accused of a crime. This Perry Mason-like procedure is quite unsuited to the historical process” [Flat nonsense, though uttered with an authoritative air, as I know from a lifetime of literary research, including history]. “The job of historian is to build up as good a picture as possible from the evidence available” [Not if the “evidence available” is insufficient to justify the “picture”! And certainly not if one depends on “appearances”, similes, metaphors, or insinuendos, which are not evidence at all.]
Now comes the howler, the elimination of the need for sufficient evidence: “Inevitably this demands conjecture where there are gaps, and of course rival theories are made. These in turn generate the arguments that are the very stuff of history, and are often resolved only when new evidence emerges or a primary source is discredited (as in the case of Edge’s writing)”. [A flat untruth re Edge! I have already shown K.W.’s research as lazy and inadequate in the Morphy/Edge/Staunton bios as well as elsewhere. Furthermore, K.W.’s “conjectures” unwarrantably switch to “theories”, but the words are not identical in meaning, and theories are not founded on conjectures. Finally and most damaging, the conjectures or theories are not identified as such in the Companion, and so are presented to the reader as if they were true, not theoretical or conjectural. By presenting such items, which include the “appearance” via simile, the metaphor, the insinuendo, etc. as true, K.W. creates false pictures and so stands condemned.]
Item [D]: It is K.W.’s job to do the needed research to answer this question, not to cleverly throw the burden of proof on Mr Blair, another instance of K.W.’s laziness. I have seen two reviews, not unfavorable, of the Edge book, neither of which denied or criticized its materials. But K.W. must do his own research, not try to force others to do it for him.
Why must only such a master comment on the Edge book? (Does he want to resuscitate Brown’s untrue thesis?)
Morphy himself never said anything in it was false. Also once Staunton violated protocol by changing negotiations from private letters to public announcements with his fallacious 28 August Anti-Book attack, Edge appraised the situation accurately and argued with Morphy to do the same since otherwise the public would never know the whole truth. K.W. takes the contradictory position that it is proper for Staunton to go public, but not Edge (and Morphy). If Edge’s actions weren’t “service”, then the word is meaningless. Finally, as I noted in previous C.N.s, if the Morphy letters had not been made public but had survived for future biographers, the evidence still would have been the same. Thus Edge, by going public with the letter against the wish of his employer (Morphy was not his friend), did not alter the truth though his action must have upset Morphy. It is astonishing how little value K.W. places on truth: He prefers its suppression at any cost. Why?
Sumup: If K.W. means that if someone handles letters as Edge did or who published a letter his employer wanted to remain private, then whatever book he writes is completely false and unreliable, he should say so – but he doesn’t, probably for the simple reason it would make him sound idiotic and foolish and unconsciously humorous. Yet that is what he is trying to do, and though I have been trying hard to save him from that fate, I am sure he will not be grateful for my efforts on his behalf. [a, b]
K.W.’s T: Perhaps he can explain why in midsummer Staunton wanted a cable match with Morphy with no conditions (See my “T” above).
K.W.’s L: He gives no evidence for accurately using the word “pined”, one of those emotional words difficult to substantiate; also no evidence is cited for how long Morphy played chess. Like so many of his dogmatic and unsubstantiated utterances, it should be thrown into the waste basket until he can come up with the required proof.
K.W.’s M: Again more dogmatic twaddle without evidence. The “many authors” he writes of are never identified, so again we have more material that belongs in the waste basket. I have covered this in my comment on Blair’s corresponding item, which K.W. should read.
K.W.’s N: More twaddle without proof. K.W.’s first sentence, a question, is pointless because no one made assertions in that regard. Edge himself relates how he became employed by Morphy. “Fell into the hands of Edge” is just more of K.W.’s pejorative twaddle about which he conjectures without evidence, hence not proven, hence another case for the garbage can.
K.W.’s O: The same is true of the quote from him given by Blair, with whom I agree: No evidence cited, hence not proven, hence another case for the waste basket.
As to the Birmingham question, K.W. asks: “Does that sound like Morphy’s way?” I found it perfectly rational under the circumstances. “Sound” is one of those impossible words to define precisely (and K.W. doesn’t define it), which could mean just about anything one could wish it to. Also why must Morphy act according to some preconceived notions (not given and not proven) of K.W.? K.W. is supposed to supply authoritative evidence and information, not to ask a question to which he gives no answer and at the same time throws the burden on the Blair to supply. No evidence, more conjectural stuff for the garbage can again.
K.W.’s Q and Blair’s: Morphy and Edge were not friends but master and servant, employer and employee (See C.N. 1756). K.W.’s untruthfully calls their relationship “friendship”, merely a part of his concocted insinuendo. (See C.N. 1757.) Again, no evidence, no proof, another case for the waste basket. I might add that Blair is right about Morphy’s chess playing: He continued to play chess for many years afterwards, but now K.W. modifies his original idea to matches with top masters after Anderssen – why didn’t he say that originally?
K.W.’s S: “As for Staunton’s annotations of Morphy’s games, no good chess player would find them unfair. That makes Edge’s opinions useless on the subject.” Absolute nonsense, as I showed in many past C.N.s (including those to Mr Diggle) on the matter; neither he nor K.W. accepted my challenge to refute my analysis. Again, more statements by K.W. with no evidence, no proof, so throw them in the garbage can as they are therefore absolutely “useless on the subject”.
K.W. now disagrees that “‘the case against Edge rests primarily on his interpretation of Staunton’s annotations’”: Yet that is what both Brown and Diggle, the Edge critics admired by K.W., had censured Edge for. Also why didn’t K.W. relate what his case dealt with “primarily”? Why so secretive?
He continues: “This is a travesty. We did not mention them at all. They were dragged in by Skoff in an ill-judged attempt to make a case against Edge’s critics”: Absolutely untrue, and the last sentence is a damnable lie and an unwarranted attack upon my integrity since it implies I analyzed the notes so as to create falsity. That “ill-judged” phrase is K.W.’s lazy, non-documented, non-researched, grossly deceitful way of avoiding going over my lengthy analysis and showing precisely where I went wrong. Again, no evidence, no proof, throw this into the garbage can too.
Nor did I “drag in” the Staunton annotations irrelevantly (see C.N.s 1172, 1228, 1439, 1499, 1632, 1722, 1757-8). In C.N. 942 K.W. declares Diggle’s 1964 BCM article (wherein Goulding Brown calls Edge’s account of the annotations an “impudent invention”) “first alerted me to Edge’s duplicity”. Then in C.N. 943 K.W. quotes the paragraph of conclusion by Brown (which I have shown is absolute garbage) containing the aforesaid “invention” and the charge that Edge is “a liar”. Here are some obvious sources of charging Edge with all sorts of pejorative remarks, none proven, more nonsense for the garbage can.
Furthermore, in C.N. 957 I mentioned my detailed analysis of every Staunton annotation (from my lengthy review in the APCT NB, received by K.W.) showed clearly that, considering the tensions engendered by the long match negotiations, Edge’s claim that Staunton’s annotations (the words, not the moves) were pejorative, offensive, depreciatory, etc. (I debated this matter in other C.N.s, mostly with Mr Diggle, and my analysis was not refuted; K.W. also commented in C.N. 1228, refuting my findings by ignoring them.) Months before Edge’s book was printed, the newspapers of the day also referred to Staunton’s “contemptuous criticism”, evident in this excerpt from the Chicago Press and Tribune of 1 November 1858 via the Evening Post (probably of NY), which partly quotes the 6 October 1858 letter by Morphy from the London Era and then comments:
“The letter referred to above is not printed in the latest News, Mr Staunton excusing its absence on account of a want of room. It is to be feared that Mr Staunton will avoid the match. If the so-called King of Chess does meet the American boy, we shall see chess played as well as it can be. It will then be for Mr Staunton to justify his contemptuous criticism of Mr Morphy’s games, and Mr Morphy will, for the first time, have an inducement to play as well as he knows how.”
Finally in two letters Edge forwarded Morphy’s instructions that none of his games from Staunton’s column be printed by Fiske in his Chess Monthly, and the instructions were followed (See C.N.s 1633, 1722 and Edge page 138). Q.E.D.
K.W.’s U: More conjectural garbage (no proof), so it goes into the garbage can also. For most of his life K.W. has been, like Edge, “a journalist seeking copy” (Already covered in my 1985 review in the APCT News Bulletin), who therefore must be equally guilty of all the censure heaped on Edge.
K.W.’s V: The Anti-Book statement was “true at the time it was written”: 1) My first reaction is why should it be true only at that time? Did it fade into untruth as more time passed? 2) No evidence is cited by K.W. as proof. 3) Does K.W. really think Staunton was right in saying Morphy should have brought his seconds with him when he left the US? No such mention occurs prior to the statement. 4) Staunton had full charge of any question of stakes or seconds. If he had any difficulties, protocol demanded he should write Morphy a private letter about them; by going public instead, Staunton was likely to stir up a quarrel; but K.W. blames Edge for it! All of this is amazing nonsense, which I have also handled elsewhere. Without proof it too belongs in the garbage can. (See also Lawson pages 121-127.)
K.W.’s Z: I have already answered this above; K.W. is in error.
I have found Edge more reliable than Staunton: Edge did not cut out any crucial paragraph in any letter, as Staunton did, nor explode inaccurately in an Anti-Book statement, nor unfairly abuse his opponents, etc. K.W.’s attempt to insist on corroboration of Edge’s writing elsewhere is nonsense. Edge was a witness and had no need to fabricate matters, especially regarding Staunton, who was a bull in a china shop throughout his career and would have given, by his own actions, any note-taker plenty of ammunition. K.W. wants to eliminate him as a witness (first-hand information); and since there were no other witnesses as close to Morphy, then K.W. does not have to seek evidence to refute him (Edge), another instance of laziness by K.W., with disastrous results on his writings and character.
As given in this essay, I have found K.W. unreliable on certain points, but the only valid conclusion that can be drawn from that is that he was unreliable on those points, not on practically everything he wrote. However, K.W. sees “errors” in Edge and therefore concludes illogically that he is totally unreliable, a sophistry whose reasoning could be used to eliminate K.W.’s work also! Here’s more stuff for the garbage can.
Morphy and Fiske did not find him “dishonorable”, this is only K.W.’s conjecture, with no proof whatsoever. Again into the garbage can it goes (It is also irrelevant to the topics of our debate).
K.W.’s 21 September letter, page 1, para 5: Contrary to K.W.’s undocumented assertion, “the mid-twentieth meaning of the word” is not essentially different from “that of the mid-nineteenth”. (I find it ironically amusing that K.W. should write about “the sentence being read in full” when the “sentence” he cited was only a small part of a much larger one, which he never cited or summarized! Not to overlook the fact that readers were misled into thinking Edge was writing to Morphy, not Fiske!) Also it is his job to eliminate any unintended meaning, which he failed to do (my detailed analysis in C.N. 1417 was never refuted by him).
K.W. (para 6) “most likely Morphy had never been Edge’s friend ...”; then why did K.W. use “friendship” to describe their relationship? (To back up his insinuendo of course).
K.W., same para: I see nothing wrong in Edge being a “promoter” of Morphy, and K.W. gives no reason why this should be an evil word; after all, he himself is a promoter of his own journalistic efforts. This has nothing to do with the topics under discussion.
K.W., same para: K.W. believes “the quotation demands a reappraisal of the Morphy-Edge relationship, and that in its turn leads to a new view of the Morphy-Staunton relationship”: What K.W., or anyone else, “believes” is irrelevant; what is relevant is the proof needed to substantiate such beliefs, which otherwise become meaningless hot air, written under the illusion perhaps that truths are created by prefacing them with the word “believes”. Without proof no connection exists between his “belief” and the quote. Into the garbage can it goes.
K.W. here is simply glossing over what he had written in the insinuendo paragraph: The only reply he could make would be to explicate his own paragraph and show, beyond a reasonable doubt, that there was no insinuendo (as I did on the opposite side of the matter in C.N. 1417). This he never did – because he would have failed in the attempt.
K.W. (para 7): Flatly untrue and refuted since C.N. 1417. K.W. insists that his deliberate omission of the recipient’s name was normal research procedure, which is flatly untrue; and he forgets that if he inserts Fiske’s name in his insinuendo paragraph, the result is a meaningless hodge-podge. With his left hand K.W. says he favors openness and truth, with his right hand he suppresses crucial evidence (Analyzed before in this essay, under “R.”; also in C.N. 1417 but ignored there as usual by K.W.).
K.W.’s W: A half-truth he knew was such since my C.N. 1172 (page 76) to Diggle revealed it: Staunton excised the Anti-Book statement quoted in a Morphy letter before printing it in his column; and in another letter said he had written to an anonymous friend of Morphy in Paris, explaining the excision. “... when Morphy denied knowing such a person, Staunton had his chance to crush Morphy completely by identifying the party, which he was certainly obligated to do. Instead, he remained silent. ... In practically all his other disputes in his lifetime, Staunton replied; this is the only one in which he was at a loss for words in defending himself.” I would also add that it is hardly proper or sensible to negotiate a match through conversation (instead of writing), especially when it involves making some remark about it to a presumed and unidentified third party who would relay the words to Morphy.’
Letter to us from Frank Skoff dated 20 November 1989:
Through the courtesy of Mr Blair I have received the page containing your startling information on Item 6 of his contribution to C.N., dealing with the 1982 claim by Whyld that Edge was “Morphy’s lover”. Aided by this new information, a bird’s-eye view of the elements will provide C.N. readers with sufficient perspective of the matter:
1) It is the expository writer’s job to write clear and lucid prose, including clarification of words with multiple meanings and the removal of any ambiguities caused by the emotional use of metaphors, similes, or other figurative language; he must also cite evidence to justify such meanings.
2) A reading of the entire Edge-Fiske letter does not justify K.W.’s “lover” claim, or insinuendo: He had a copy of the letter and knew it did not; nor did his paragraph in the Companion. However, his eye was caught by these words: “I have been a lover, a brother, a mother to you; I have made you an idol, a god ...” Nothing much in these emotional metaphors except for “lover”, whose multiple meanings and consequent ambiguity afford the opportunity for obfuscation and insinuendo should a writer wish to act under the cover of darkness, not in the light of needed evidence.
3) Edge in his letter, upset over his lack of recognition by the chess world, naturally used emotional language, often metaphorical, which in his quote K.W. treats as though it were literal and matter-of-fact prose by deliberately not making his exposition lucid; even metaphors may need explication, especially ambiguous ones, but K.W. was careful not to give any; also no evidence was ever set forth as justification.
4) After the word “lover” in his quote, K.W. could have inserted a short explanation in brackets (e.g., “friend” or “companion” etc.) and made things clear, but he deliberately avoided clarity of any sort. He also stated the opinion that Morphy “could have passed for a woman”, a neat way of backing up his insinuendo. In our debate K.W. never cited proof for it – because there is none. Merely because someone may have thought so does not make it true, particularly when the overwhelming majority of the opinions on Morphy disagree with K.W.. To sum up, by purely verbal trickery K.W. achieved his insinuendo or smear.
5) Your data completely contradict K.W.’s public pose that the quote was metaphorical.
5a) Furthermore, the same data enables one to deduce, in general terms, what must have gone through K.W.’s mind prior to publication. Having said in 1982 that Edge was Morphy’s lover, K.W. found himself lacking proof (otherwise he would have bluntly stated his smear as a fact). Under the circumstances, the only avenue available to him was to exploit the multiple meanings of “lover”, feeling sure the reader would not interpret it metaphorically; and his feeling turned out to be accurate, as attested by the reaction of many C.N. readers. Thus the word turned out to be ideal for creating the insinuendo maliciously and cunningly concocted for the Companion. (I say “maliciously” because he always publicly insisted the sentence was only metaphorical, though numerous readers read it as literal; and he himself, we now know, privately held the same literal view.)
5b) One more obfuscation was needed, the impression that Edge was writing to Morphy, not to Fiske, which he achieved by simply omitting Fiske’s name. Again, clarity was necessary but not provided.
5c) Morphy and Edge were not “friends”, so there was no “‘friendship’”, the word used by K.W. and also helpful for creating the insinuendo.
5d) K.W. had a perfect defense, so he thought: Readers would interpret “lover” sexually, K.W. would maintain it was metaphorical and that he was not responsible for misinterpretations. However, he was responsible for clarity as well as proof, neither of which he provided.
5e) K.W. was not restricted, as he has maintained, to the tiny quote etc. as given in my detailed analysis of Nov. 17; he also could have given Fiske’s name (Evidence: Contact with the anonymous letter-owner).
6) Despite his lack of evidence and clarity, K.W. still remains the winner: He has had four years of public discussion of his smear of Morphy and Edge; and no matter how things turn out now, there will always be those who will remember only the smear; others will say “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire”. That is the great advantage of putting forth smears and discussing them under the guise of a debate presumably aiming at the truth.
In his contribution Diggle merely parrots K.W. and therefore needs no reply from me.’
Response from Ken Whyld [3 December 2020]
On 24 November 1989 Mr Whyld wrote to us:
‘I have recently received lengthy documents from Louis Blair and Frank Skoff, but will have no time to read them until well after your deadline. However, I see that Skoff refers to me “calling people names”. That is not my way, for I find it both unedifying and unrewarding, but if I am insulted and abused then the writer must expect to be treated in like kind. If your readers look back through C.N. and the review in APCT it will be clear from where the confrontational style originated.
If you wish to quote the above paragraph in your final issue, please do so. I shall acknowledge receipt of F.J.S.’s letter and tell him that I have sent the paragraph to you for possible inclusion.’
As we mentioned earlier, the closure of the magazine Chess Notes at that time meant that Frank Skoff’s letters of 17 November and 20 November 1989 were not published. Nor, consequently, were Mr Whyld’s above comments.
Also on 24 November 1989 Mr Whyld sent the following letter to Frank Skoff:
Thanks for your missives. I am pleased to see that you have coped with your illness. No doubt Mr Winter’s readers have been amused by our knockabout act, but now that is ended I hope you will be able to keep in touch with me in a more dignified manner. You will not expect me to read or answer your item of 17 November. I have glanced at odd sentences which I find full of lies and distortions, no doubt to entertain the gallery. You cannot be proud of your flagrant dishonesty, even if it is some kind of schoolboy prank. And don’t you understand that you have proved Brown correct? Meanwhile, I have sent the following paragraph to E.W.:
“I have recently received lengthy documents from Louis Blair and Frank Skoff, but will have no time to read them until well after your deadline. However, I see that Skoff refers to me ‘calling people names’. That is not my way, for I find it both unedifying and unrewarding, but if I am insulted and abused then the writer must expect to be treated in like kind. If your readers look back through C.N. and the review in APCT it will be clear from where the confrontational style originated.”
I have looked only at odd bits of your article. Take the first paragraph on page 2. You quote the Companion and then give the reverse of the interpretation one would expect from a rational reader. Quite clearly we are saying that although Morphy had a profound book knowledge it was not that, but his vastly superior ability, that brought him success. And you could have been more honest in your Steinitz quotation. He said that Morphy “shows greater knowledge of the openings than any of his opponents, but it is still more curious that he did not introduce a single innovation in the early part of the game”. How different is that from what you warp into being my “belittling words”?
Of course, if you have any serious points for discussion I would be pleased to hear from you, but do stop playing at lawyers. You do understand that law courts are not there to establish truth don’t you? I am not referring to any cynical belief about corruption of [sic] anything like that, but about their theoretical purpose. They do not set out, for example, to prove someone guilty or not guilty of libel, but to find them guilty or to fail to find them guilty, in which case the defendent [sic] is found “not guilty”. It is not the same thing. You would do better to find another analogy.
You look like having a worthy successor in Louis Blair, when he has done a lot more studying. Keep well. Happy Christmas.
The above letter from K. Whyld to F. Skoff was forwarded to us by the latter on 15 December 1989. Mr Skoff wrote to us on that occasion:
‘As to not being able to print my lengthy contribution because of its length and the deadline, that is perfectly OK. Since I have sent a copies [sic] to Whyld and Diggle, my essay has reached its target, particularly K.W. I was much disappointed in Diggle’s reply since he is a skilful enough writer to know what verbal legerdemain K.W. employed to create his insinuendo but nevertheless backed him up. (Of course my essay could be cut considerably by omitting all the early Morphy material, though it would still be long.)
For your files, I am enclosing a copy of K.W.’s letter of 24 November to me, presenting his small reaction to my long letter, quite understandable since he cannot answer it with evidence. To me it is equivalent to resignation. I may answer it after the New Year.
Thanks very much for your revelation as to K.W.’s first enunciation of his insinuendo. My aim in my essay was not only to establish K.W.’s verbal chicanery but also to reveal a certain stain of dishonesty in his writings, some of them not in the Companion, a stain deep enough to make all his biographical writings highly suspect. I am looking forward to your account of your recent correspondence with him on other matters.
Whyld’s problem with Morphy/Edge cannot be an inability to perceive rational proof since he has shown that clearly enough in some of his work; hence it is not logical but psychological.’
Morphy and Edge [4 December 2020]
Wanted: information on the grounds for statements that the break-up between Morphy and Edge occurred in January 1859.
In his letter to Fiske dated 25 March 1859 Edge wrote:
‘I shall watch over Morphy until he leaves Europe ...’
As shown above, in C.N. 1480 Bob Meadley referred to the following comments of ours in C.N. 276 (November-December 1982 edition):
One reader issues us a gentle rebuke for writing elsewhere (BCM, October 1981) that F.M. Edge was ‘Morphy’s biographer and spaniel’. It may be noted that a few decades ago historians relied very heavily on Edge, but today the consensus is far more against him. Whether the anti-Edge school (to which we would by and large subscribe) is in fact an exaggerated counter-reaction against decades of Staunton being unfairly dragged through the mud, that is too early to say. At present the danger is that Morphy’s reputation will suffer unduly by association. Gone are the days when Morphy was over-praised and Staunton over-ridiculed, and rightly gone, too. But today’s balance is tomorrow’s distortion. What will be the position in 50 years’ time? We can hardly wait.
The BCM reference concerns this sentence in our review of Chess is My Life by A. Karpov and A. Roshal (Oxford, 1980):
A big book with a twee title, it amounts to one prolonged standing ovation for the great Soviet player, with Roshal clearly out to prove himself a reincarnation of Morphy’s biographer and spaniel F.M. Edge.
The on-line presentation of our review ends with a recent Afterword:
In view of all the information that has come to light since 1981 ... ‘spaniel’ can no longer be considered an appropriate word to describe Edge vis-à-vis Morphy.
The Edge, Morphy and Staunton feature article also has this remark by us:
Time and again, in C.N. and elsewhere, commentators have returned to the question of Edge’s truthfulness. The word ‘liar’ has been applied to him by a small number of (English, notably) authors, but what is the precise basis? That he was anti-Staunton is incontestable, but was being anti-Staunton a sign of mendacity, prejudice or, for that matter, clear-sightedness? Nor can it be denied that Edge’s prose was racy and anecdotal, yet that does not necessarily entail dishonesty. Edge unquestionably made factual mistakes and misjudgements, but if that sufficed to prove him a liar the queue in the chess world to cast the first stone would be short indeed. Can four or five thumping examples, absolutely clear-cut, of Edge’s alleged mendacity be set out on a single page of paper or screen (as they so easily could be regarding many other chess players and writers, past and present)? [This question was asked in 2000. The requested examples have not yet been forthcoming.]
On the other hand, in the past decade a substantial amount of biographical information about Edge has been discovered by our correspondents (see C.N.s 7038, 7483, 7514, 7545, 7546, 7905, 7963, 8285, 9133 and 9790), and little of it shows him in a good light.
As also reported in the ‘Edge, Morphy and Staunton’ feature article, on 30 January 2004 Dale Brandreth wrote to us:
‘As an aside on the Edge letters, I know that in one of your Chess Notes Whyld was quoted as calling Edge an outright liar for his comments on Staunton. My considered view is that at least Whyld, and possibly Hooper too, very deliberately started the Morphy homosexual rumor to besmirch Morphy. If you read all of Edge’s letters, I think you, or anyone else, would have to agree that there is no suggestion that they had any kind of homosexual relationship. That doesn’t prove that Morphy was not a homosexual, but why even ever bring it up unless there exists some evidence to support such a theory? Despite all the hoohaw about how great a student of the game’s history Whyld was, I still think he was extremely devious and I greatly distrust his judgments on many matters having to do with chess.
He often ill-concealed his bias.’
On 1 February 2004 Dale Brandreth added:
‘Whyld repeatedly, in my experience, sought refuge in evasion and distortion when called upon to prove some of his assertions.’
The co-authors of the Oxford Companion to Chess believed that the pendulum had swung too far in favour of Morphy and against Staunton, as was made clear by David Hooper in a number of letters to us which have been quoted in our feature article on him. For example, when we queried the term ‘small squabble’ for the Morphy-Staunton dispute on page 217 of the Companion, Mr Hooper replied on 24 September 1984:
‘Only one Staunton “adverse” comment is to be found, and this occurred after considerable harassment by Edge, who pressed his claims even when Staunton was engaged in tournament play. Entirely a press affair engineered by Edge – of course Staunton had so many enemies that players wanted to believe in a major row. Morphy realized that S. was past his prime and accepted this. S. clearly implied that he would have lost. M. had decided to return to USA and give up chess BEFORE he came to Europe NOT because of lack of Staunton match. We like to correct myths.’
On 29 October 1984 he wrote to us:
‘Do you think the Morphy myth is finally laid to rest? I think so, and about time. Löwenthal, his keenest defender, eventually got fed up with Morphy adulation. In the later 1860s, after the umpteenth letter from a correspondent asking for yet more Morphy to be republished, he makes a “short” remark – unfortunately I didn’t make a note of this; it is in the Era column. Staunton, of course, never ceased to praise Morphy’s play, and I think he and Morphy remained on good terms – actually both come out of the affair well … Poor Lawson – I discussed the Morphy book at length before publication or completion of manuscript, and tried to offer many pieces of advice (in the form of suggestions) but he was quite resolute to produce the book exactly in the way he had projected 20 or even more years earlier – this was to be his life’s work.’
The following is in a March 1988 letter from David Hooper:
‘… whatever faults Morphy had, he nevertheless had good manners. He would not himself have so importuned Staunton, we feel sure. For example, how would a leading player have reacted during the stress of a tournament (e.g. Birmingham, 1858) if approached by an agent urging a decision about a match proposal? I doubt whether Morphy saw the lack of a match as a matter of moment. It was common gossip, especially in Paris, that Staunton was a back number (he was 48), not to be taken seriously as a player. Morphy will have heard this. (Of course, Staunton would have been hopelessly outclassed; I think it rather sporting of him, after years of non-serious play, to try and recover his form at the Birmingham T.) I could add a lot more, but I think this old quarrel is lacking in interest now. In fact, I don’t think there was a quarrel between M. and S., merely a manufactured “drama” by a journalist [Edge].’
Finally, on 29 November 1989 David Hooper wrote to us:
‘Morphy, of course, was a “wimp”, to use American slang. He was easily the best player of his time and, as we said, his manners were impeccable; but a wimp nevertheless. Why do idolaters defend Edge? They do not realize that by so doing they insult Morphy, who himself would never have been so bad-mannered as to pester Staunton in the middle of a tournament, to discommode Anderssen in his short holiday break, etc. Would anyone but a wimp have done nothing but sit on his backside to be looked after by his mum for more than half his life?’
He added this footnote:
‘“Wimp” a feeble, ineffective person – Collins. A fair description of M. for all of his life, except when at the chessboard, where, naturally, he needed to prove himself, as Anderssen observed.’
The above were among the Hooper quotes given in C.N. 3227. In C.N. 3235 Louis Blair responded:
‘David Hooper’s comments about Morphy, Staunton and Edge should not go unchallenged.
(A) How can one sensibly believe that only one “adverse” comment by Staunton on Morphy is to be found? Below are some statements by Staunton in his Illustrated London News column:
28 August 1858: Staunton publicly portrayed himself as waiting for Morphy to be “forthcoming” with “representatives to arrange the terms and money for the stakes”, while privately he was telling Morphy that he was not ready to make specific arrangements.
13 November 1858: Staunton attempted to persuade the public that he “had shown more disposition to meet [Morphy] than the latter to meet” Staunton.
20 November 1858: Staunton publicly indicated that Morphy “is under the influence of very ill advisors, or ... his idea of what is honourable and honest is very different from what I had hoped and believed it to be”.
4 December 1858: Staunton claimed that Morphy’s actions “plainly [showed] that ‘reputation’ is not ‘the only incentive’ he recognizes”. Since this was contradicting Morphy’s own public statements about his motives, Staunton was, in effect, publicly calling Morphy a liar.
31 March 1860: Staunton publicly accused Morphy of “offensive” behavior and “remarkable ... surpassing vanity”.
(B) David Hooper’s notion that “Edge ... pressed his claims even when Staunton was engaged in tournament play” appears to be a complete fantasy. Edge himself described the discussion as initiated by Staunton and taking place on 27 August 1858, a day that was used for Morphy’s blindfold demonstration and a “soirée”. Five games of the third round of the Birmingham tournament had been played, and Staunton had already been eliminated from the tournament in the second round.
If there was concrete evidence that Edge lied in his description of what happened and when, it seems odd that David Hooper apparently had no great eagerness to produce it. I also had correspondence with him in which he tried to get me to believe this mid-tournament pestering story. When I pointed out the absence of evidence for it, I received nothing more substantive than insults in response.
Moreover, David Hooper has not kept his story straight on this matter, claiming (on page 34 of the January 1978 BCM) that Morphy “(with Edge at his elbow) importuned Staunton on the eve of the tournament”, when, in fact, Staunton himself had confirmed that Morphy was not present at the beginning of the event. Subsequently, as the quotes in C.N. 3227 indicate, David Hooper revised the timing of the importuning and the identity of the person doing the importuning.
It is perhaps noteworthy that the Edge entry in Hooper and Whyld’s Oxford Companion makes no reference to this supposed pestering incident.
(C) As for the row being supposedly “engineered by Edge”, where is the documentation of specific actions by Edge that supposedly accomplished this? How can Edge be blamed for Staunton leading everyone to believe that a match would take place if Morphy was willing to “meet [Staunton’s] wishes” about “the terms of play”? How can Edge be blamed for Staunton privately putting off the specification of those “terms of play” while publicly trying to get people to believe that Morphy was holding up the match? How can Edge be blamed for Staunton deciding that he would not play a match and choosing to put off telling the public or Morphy? These are the things that led to the row.
(D) Perhaps Morphy did not see “the lack of a match as a matter of moment”, but who would doubt that he thought it was of considerable moment that Staunton privately postponed the match, publicly portrayed Morphy as the person holding things up, and, for more than a month, gave his readers no other explanation for the state of affairs?
(E) It may, in some sense, be claimed that Staunton “implied that he would have lost” the match, but this was only after Morphy publicly complained about Staunton misleading the public and the row was under way. Also, it must be remembered that Staunton subsequently insisted that the match would not have been “a fair trial of skill” and argued that he had shown “more disposition” than Morphy to meet over the board.
(F) Both Hooper and Whyld were challenged on their claim that Morphy had decided to give up chess before his 1858 trip to Europe, and neither produced anything specific to back it up.
(G) David Hooper’s assertion that Staunton “never ceased to praise Morphy’s play” is quite misleading. The section on Morphy in Staunton’s Chess Praxis contained no overall assessment of Morphy’s ability. It is true that occasional remarks, such as “masterly manoeuvre”, appeared in the annotations, but Staunton also suggested that Morphy’s results might have been different if his opponents “had more frequently taken him out of the books”, hinted that Anderssen lost because of lack of practice, and declared that Morphy’s games at odds were “of very inferior quality”. See pages 477, 479, 493, 502, 582 and 616 of Chess Praxis; below are some of Staunton’s words from page 616:
“I cannot but think, indeed, that in estimating these [games at odds], as well as many of those Mr Morphy has won upon even terms, his admirers are guided less by the evidence of the games themselves than by the reputation of the players against whom he contested them. Now this is a most fallacious test. If Mr Morphy had given the pawn and move triumphantly to Philidor, and Philidor offered no more resistance than a third-class player, Mr Morphy in beating him has only vanquished a third-rate player.”
(H) David Hooper may “think” that Staunton and Morphy “remained on good terms”, but where is the evidence?
(I) David Hooper apparently wanted others to blame Edge because Anderssen was “[discommoded] ... in his short holiday break, etc.”, but, again, where is there a scrap of evidence that Edge had anything to do with Morphy’s decision to drop his plans to visit Germany? Anderssen decided of his own free will to go to Paris to play Morphy, and, even after losing the match with Morphy, Anderssen wrote that he was “not sorry about” his trip to Paris (a trip for which Morphy had helped to defray the cost).
If David Hooper was “a truly great chess writer”, his writings about Morphy, Staunton and Edge must be among his very worst. I do not see any reason for his claims to receive any more respect than such things as the Morphy-and-women’s-shoes story (see C.N. 2913).
Except where I have specified other sources, the quotes given above can be found in David Lawson’s book Paul Morphy The Pride and Sorrow of Chess. See pages 106, 120-121, 142, 150, 153, 179 and 395.’
On 4 December 2020 we added to our feature article on David Hooper a letter from him dated 22 February 1978 in which he wrote to us about Morphy and commented:
‘I think Lawson’s book is lousy. ... The trouble with Morphy is getting some sort of objectivity. People are either Morphy-maniacs or, like myself, too disinterested to want to write about him. ... He was, of course, the greatest player of his time, but, after all, this reputation depends just upon three matches all played in five months of 1858. This is hardly proof of anything!’
Addition on 8 December 2020:
On 8 August 1985 Ken Whyld wrote to us regarding coverage of Morphy in the Companion:
‘A problem is that his career was so brief. We were unkind to Edge, but then he was Morphy’s enemy finally, and his book was despised by Morphy and Fiske just as much as by Staunton.’
On 8 October 2008 Dale Brandreth wrote to us:
‘David Hooper was my friend and always treated me with kindness, and I have a great respect for his quickness of comprehension in chess. He told me, though, that when writing the endgame book with Euwe [that] he could not begin to keep up with Euwe’s analysis of endgames when they discussed some of the endings in their book, even though he himself had studied the endgame very thoroughly. However, when it came to the question of Morphy having possibly been gay, he at least insinuated that Morphy’s physical size made it likely that he was gay. He said Morphy had the hands of a child, as if this was a characteristic of gay men. Both he and Whyld evidently started this idea, which I think is rather silly in view of the lack of any credible evidence to support that idea beyond a highly questionable stereotype.
My point here is only that I think both he and Whyld sometimes extrapolated things beyond what the facts may have only hinted at.’
A few further comments that we received from Mr Skoff:
13 May 1989:
‘... I’m sure C.N. readers are getting bored with the repetitiousness of the debate and K.W.’s avoidance of the basic issues as well as his lack of documentation for crucial assertions by him.
His claim that he helped me find the Edge letter is sheer nonsense, so I would naturally object to any such mention in C.N.’
16 August 1989:
‘On major points K.W. has never amassed sufficient evidence (sometimes none whatsoever); all he does is assert his right to his own “interpretation” or “judgement”, without giving sufficient (or any) evidence for either.’
9 November 1989:
‘I have about 15-20 pages on K.W., etc. and need only a handful or so of paragraphs to end it. That amount is probably excessive, but I can’t help it – I don’t want Whyld to have the chance to say I didn’t answer such and such of his commentary. No matter how long I write (or short), I doubt it will change him – he is basically dishonest & dishonorable, or I would not have been forced to repeat myself so much the past four years in Chess Notes.’
Ken Whyld on the Staunton-Morphy affair [6 December 2020]
On 7 January 1989 Mr Whyld wrote to us:
‘Our view of the Staunton v Morphy dispute is that its dimension has been distorted, largely due to Edge. Neither S. nor M. seemed to have a large amount to say about it. My view (perhaps shared by D.V.H.) is that it is not an important matter but has been made to seem so by the conjecture of the psychoanalyst, Ernest Jones, that Morphy had a thwarted obsession to play Staunton that led to his insanity. Jones’s “evidence” included many incorrect facts, as can readily be verified. Is it not to Staunton’s credit that he even considered playing Morphy in his spare time, when he was under considerable pressure to meet professional obligations related to the fever generated by Shakespeare’s tricentenary?’
Addition on 9 December 2020:
We replied to Mr Whyld on 15 January 1989:
‘I’m surprised by your reference to “fever generated by Shakespeare’s tricentenary”. Was anyone feverish about an event which was six years away?’
From Ken Whyld to us (letter dated 16 March 1989):
‘Regarding the Shakespeare tricentenary, is it not likely that publishers were preparing for that event? It would have been useless to commission a major new edition after the fever had begun.’
Our response on 23 March 1989:
‘To my mind, your letter of 7 January suggested that there was fever in 1858 already.’
A few weeks after Chess Notes closed, Ken Whyld sent Louis Blair a three-page letter dated 25 December 1989, copying it to us, as well as to G.H. Diggle. On 28 February 1990 Louis Blair sent us a copy of his point-by-point reply to Mr Whyld and stated:
‘I just send it to you in case you were wondering about any of the vicious distortions of my writings that he has presented.’
K.W. to E.W.: 25 November 1982:
‘I have a great deal about Edge, some of which I have doubts about making available for publication (such as his claim to have been Morphy’s lover).’
E.W. to K.W.: 26 February 1983:
‘As you know, I take an interest in F.M. Edge. A few letters ago you mentioned a claim he made that he had been Morphy’s lover. I wonder if you would be prepared to give me further details of this, not necessarily for publication.’
K.W. to E.W.: 5 March 1983:
‘About Edge, I can say no more at the moment. I was given sight of some letters to help in writing the Companion, but I undertook not to publish anything or reveal their whereabouts. In the next few months, when I am up to date with much that has been neglected because of “the book” I will re-open the topic and see if I can get permission to release anything I find.’
K.W. to E.W.: 18 April 1985:
‘... I agree with Skoff that the word “lover”, in 1859 – perhaps even in 1939 – did not necessarily imply anything carnal. (Just as “having intercourse” meant simply holding a conversation.)’
K.W. to E.W.: 14 March 1987:
‘It seems that Skoff had interpreted the quotation in the Companion as some sort of claim to a homosexual relationship. This was astonishing to me. Obviously the whole quote was metaphorical in that he was not saying he really was a brother or mother or that Morphy was a god. And as he well knows, in Victorian times the word “lover” did not imply a physical relationship. As I said to Skoff when I wrote to him 3 iii, our quotation showed that Edge had an unbalanced view of Morphy and the conclusion should be that any evidence from him that has no independent support should be treated cautiously.’
E.W. to K.W.: 23 March 1987:
‘I am surprised by your comment that “obviously the whole quote was metaphorical”. Your letter of 25 November 1982 referred to Edge’s “claim to have been Morphy’s lover”. Was that based on something other than the Edge-Fiske letter?’ (No reply to this question.)
E.W. to K.W.: 5 July 1987 (pre-publication discussion of a submission by K.W. to C.N. 1440):
‘Your point 2). Unless I am misreading your words, aren’t you on dangerous ground here? You seem to be saying that you knew in advance that the average reader would misunderstand the letter quote, but you didn’t consider it necessary to avoid that misunderstanding.’ (No reply.)
E.W. to K.W.: 13 August 1987:
‘Although I have not yet mentioned it in C.N., there is still the outstanding question (top of page 2 of my letter to you of 23 March) on the “lover” matter. Yours of 28 March did not answer it.’
K.W. to E.W.: 27 August 1987:
‘I cannot remember what was in my mind when I wrote to you on 25 xi 1982, but I doubt very much if I implied anything other than that Edge had made astonishing claims.’
E.W. to K.W.: 6 September 1987:
‘Edge: here you’ve rather lost me; I am puzzled as to what you could have had in mind in 1982 other than the now-published Edge letter.’ (No reply.)
E.W. to K.W.: 14 October 1989 (on preparations for the final issue of C.N.):
‘On one point in Mr Blair’s latest submission, I shall give a mise au point of my own, explaining that I was first alerted to the possible homosexuality angle by you in 1982.’
K.W. to E.W.: 20 October 1989 (in response to debate material for C.N. 1932, in which we revealed publicly for the first time what K.W. had written to us on 25 November 1982):
‘I regret that you have “moreaued” a light-hearted remark not intended for publication into a part of a serious discussion, although it does make clear why you had the inclination to consider the “homosexual” suggestion in the first instance. I have not checked, but did you respond to my letter of 25 November in any way that led to a fuller and more considered treatment of the Edge letter?’
(By ‘moreaued’, a private allusion, K.W. meant: taking an obvious joke and treating it seriously.)
E.W. to K.W.: 25 October 1989:
‘Your Edge question: it must be as easy for you to verify our correspondence as it is for me. If you do so, you will find that I alerted you to the possibility of my publishing your 1982 comment.’
K.W. to E.W.: 24 November 1989:
‘My 1982 comment to you was the first mention of the Edge letter to any other party and was really intended to arouse your curiosity. I feel it will sit ill in more serious discussion.’
E.W. to K.W.: 27 November 1989:
‘I considered myself obliged to publish your 1982 words. Naturally I made my intervention in the debate early enough to offer you every opportunity to reply.’ (No reply.)
A new supplementary feature article reproduces verbatim, and with permission, a thread entitled ‘Morphy & Edge’ which appeared at the Bulletin Board of the Chess Café in June-August 2000. Corrections and discussion points will be posted here, and not in the supplementary article.
Item 212-10 in the Bulletin Board thread gave a number of references to relevant material published in CHESS between October 1997 and June 2000. It mainly concerned Staunton’s work on Shakespeare, and issues related to the Birmingham, 1858 tournament (in which Staunton participated but Morphy did not). Below are some specifics:
October 1997, page 47: article ‘In Praise of Staunton’ by G. Williams;
May 1998, page 48: letter from L. Blair;
December 1998, pages 32-34: article ‘A Case of “Legal Bondage”’ by C.P. Ravilious;
May 1999, pages 23-24: letter from L. Blair; letter from C.P. Ravilious;
June 1999, page 37 (page incorrectly identified as ‘April 1999’ in the magazine): letter from K. Whyld;August 1999, page 41: letter from L. Blair;
June 2000, page 48: letter from L. Blair.
In the Bulletin Board item 212-30, K. Whyld raised the subject of a remark by L. Blair a decade previously (see too item 212-33):
‘Unfortunately for Mr Blair, I have retained the correspondence and can tell readers what really happened ...
... I also objected to him calling me “dishonourable” in Chess Notes. Blair replied 26 February 1990, 21 pages. In it he said, “I never once used the word ‘dishonorable’ or anything remotely equivalent to it in connection with you”. My final letter to him, 1 page, 6 March 1990 pointed him to Chess Notes page 127 where he referred to “K.W.’s dishonorable judgment”. I asked him, “Do you really think that the letter ‘u’ makes it not ‘remotely equivalent’? Or that my judgment can be dishonourable while I am not?”’
It is thus implied that the matter ended there, whereas, in fact, on 12 March 1990 Louis Blair replied to Mr Whyld’s 6 March letter, explaining that his phrase ‘K.W.’s dishonorable judgment’ was simply shorthand for ‘K.W.’s judgment that Edge was dishonorable’. Nonetheless, he not only wrote Mr Whyld a fulsome statement of apology for any unintended impression given by his phrase but also unconditionally authorized Mr Whyld to make the statement public if he so wished.
We cannot explain why none of that was mentioned by Mr Whyld to Bulletin Board readers.
Below is the sequence of relevant sentences which appeared in C.N. 1932, towards the end of the debate on how Staunton, Morphy and Edge had conducted themselves:
K.W.: ‘The only dishonourable behaviour on either side came from Edge.’
K.W.: ‘We believe we have put the spotlight on Edge and revealed him as being as dishonourable as Staunton, Morphy and Fiske found him.’
L.B.: ‘Since it is far from clear what specific actions of Edge justify K.W.’s dishonorable judgment, I have tried to include what I think is K.W.’s main point, i.e. that Edge had an adverse effect on public relations between Staunton and Morphy.’
Addition on 14 December 2020:
On 14 December 1989 Mr Whyld wrote to us:
‘The final Chess Notes arrived a day or two ago, but I have not yet had time to read it. I have been told that Blair calls me dishonourable somewhere in his contribution.’
On 25 December 1989 Mr Whyld wrote to Mr Blair (in the three-page letter referred to above):
‘I have not yet been able to read Chess Notes (where, I am told, you call me dishonourable) ...’
Addition on 27 December 2020:
After Mr Blair sent us a copy of his above-mentioned letter of 26 February 1990 to Mr Whyld, we informed him (letter dated 6 March 1990):
‘The allegation that you described him as dishonourable: I can only imagine that K.W. is thinking of C.N. 1932 (page 127, 19 lines from the bottom), where you wrote “K.W.’s dishonourable judgment” as an obvious shorthand way of saying “K.W.’s judgment that Edge was dishonorable”.’
A rare negative remark about Morphy by David Lawson is on page 126 of his 1976 biography:
‘Morphy was inclined to be secretive and at times even devious.’
A feature article, G.H. Diggle, the Chess Badmaster posted on 19 December 2020 includes, in addition to various Staunton/Morphy references, his three-page letter (9 June 1977) to David Lawson about the latter’s book Paul Morphy The Pride and Sorrow of Chess.
Below are some extracts from letters to us from Mr Diggle:
19 January 1984:
‘You mention P.W. Sergeant. I met him only twice but corresponded with him several times in the 30s when he brought out A Century of British Chess. He was a quiet, reserved character. As a historian, he was excellent, except when dealing with the Staunton-Morphy controversy, where he leant too heavily on Edge.’
4 January 1986 (concerning The Kings of Chess by William Hartston):
‘He does not, in the Staunton-Morphy affair, pay sufficient attention to the fact that Staunton was working under a deadline, and it may well be that, faced in the end with the alternative of letting Morphy or his publishers down, he was finally compelled to do the former. But Goulding Brown once said to me: “He ought never to have said he would play at all.”’
4 March 1987 (on the Edge-Fiske letter later published in C.N. 1358):
‘Thank you for so kindly sending me a preview of Edge’s “lover” letter. He seems to have been a strange mixture of an able business man and an uncontrollable “hyperbolic” where Morphy was concerned. I am sure his use of the word “lover” meant nothing but pure melodrama. ... But we do owe Edge two great debts: (1) the match with Anderssen; (2) Chapter 4 of his book “Chess in England since Philidor”. But his claim that but for him Morphy would have gone back home “humbugged and a laughing stock” and that he (Edge) “stood invariably between him and his enemies” – not named but who it seems were conspiring against him in the Paris salons – shows his typical love of trouble, real and imaginary.’
6 May 1987:
‘What I would like to know is who owns the various Edge letters that keep “leaking out in bits” at intervals. I once criticized Lawson for publishing in his book extracts from one letter instead of the whole, but I did not realize then that he may have been allowed to look at the letter if he promised to use only part of it.’
23 July 1987:
‘I always visualize Edge as a short, pulsating man, always pushing himself forward. I have often wondered whether he ever had any direct conversation with Staunton. I can imagine him bouncing up to the great man with “Now, Mr Staunton, we are all looking forward to this Match – what’s the date going to be?” and S. surveying the profane upstart through his eyeglass and turning away without a word, incurring Edge’s animosity from that day forward.’
As shown above, when Ken Whyld submitted a contribution to C.N. 1569 of the debate, he wrote to us:
‘Is Skoff ready to concede that we should think not of Morphy’s Edge, but Edge’s Morphy?’
In C.N. 1932 Mr Whyld wrote:
‘Edge did not see himself, as had been supposed, as the dutiful servant in the background, but rather as Morphy’s promoter. “It will not always be ‘Edge, Morphy’s friend’, but ‘Morphy, Edge’s’”, he wrote to Fiske (7 November 1859). Most likely Morphy had never been Edge’s friend, but he was certainly his enemy by then.’
On the Bulletin Board (212-2) Mr Whyld stated:
‘[Edge] said that future generations would talk not of Morphy’s Edge, but Edge’s Morphy.’
The only relevant text of which we are aware is the letter from Edge to Fiske dated 7 November 1859 which was quoted in full in C.N. 3396. Its exact wording and context need to be considered carefully:
‘History neither lies nor forgets. Nobody could chronicle Paul Morphy’s feats in future ages without giving me my due. All French and English players know this, and the Germans, too, through Anderssen and Mayet. Besides, I shall at some future time through my own individual exertions reflect glory upon Morphy, and what I say will be received as authoritative. It will not always be “Edge, Morphy’s friend”, but “Morphy, Edge’s”. Voltaire was enthroned by Frederick of Prussia; he was Voltaire nevertheless, but Frederick crowned him. Mark my words, Fiske! If not a Virgil in chess, I shall one day be its Maecenas. This only requires these qualifications – energy, wealth, power. The first you know I possess, and the others will be shortly mine. Then, all of you will come and make your peace with me.’
The quartet of feature articles Edge, Morphy and Staunton, A Debate on Staunton, Morphy and Edge, Supplement to ‘A Debate on Staunton, Morphy and Edge’ and Edge Letters to Fiske has expanded so much that certain sections have inevitably become amorphous.
Is it nonetheless possible at this stage to draw further conclusions in some of the discussion strands, such as F.M. Edge’s dependability as a chronicler?
In C.N. 11855 John Townsend wrote an assessment of Edge’s dependability as a person.
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