The Death and Burial of Paul Morphy

The Death and Burial of Paul Morphy


Yesterday afternoon, at 2:30 o’clock, Paul Morphy, the great chess player, died suddenly at the residence of his mother, on Royal street, between Conti and St. Louis. As shortly before his demise he had been met on the street, apparently in good health, the news startled those who knew him. Inquiries as to the cause of his death were made, and it was ascertained that he had died of congestion of the brain.

In the forenoon, as was his custom, he took his morning walk, but remained out somewhat later than usual. When he returned home he was very warm, and to cool himself immediately went to the bathroom. He was very fond of his bath, which he habitually took at 1 o’clock, and usually remained quite long in the water.

Yesterday, Mrs. Morphy, his aged mother, who was constantly watchful of his comfort and surrounded him with all the attention of a devoted mother, seeing that he remained in his bath uncommonly long, knocked at the door to call him out. Receiving no answer, she opened the door, which fortunately was unfastened, and found her son unconscious, clinging with both hands to the sides of the bath tub, and his head resting on the side of the tub. She immediately called for assistance. Dr. Meux, who happened to be passing the house at the time, was summoned in, and made every effort to recall him to consciousness, but in vain. Life was extinct, death having been caused by congestion of the brain, no doubt brought about by the cold water, which he entered while very warm after his walk. (The Times-Democrat, July 11, 1884)


The obsequies of Paul Morphy were very simple and very quiet. His relations and his devoted friends were around him. The news of his death had been as sudden as his demise, and the notice of his funeral so short that his admirers could not prepare the elegant tribute they would have done. But it was neither the wish of Morphy nor his family that the ceremonies should have been grander than they were. He had adjured the chess world long ago and he desired no recognition as the famed champion of the world, after he had surrendered the title unchallenged by his retirement. Morphy desired to be known only as a man and a christian, and those with whom he was intimate knew that even in his years of eccentricity he was still a knight of courtesy and a man of heart. It was the funeral of the man and not the great chess player.

Father Mignot officiated at the house and at the grave. The body was exposed at Morphy’s modest residence, No. 89 Royal street. Numerous floral offerings betokened the affection in which he was held. At 5 o’clock the coffin was carried down by Edward Morphy, Edmond Morphy, Leonce Percy, Henry Percy, Edgar Hincks and Charles Maurian, his life long companion and former adversary over the chess board. The hearse, followed by a few carriages, drove to the old St. Louis Cemetery. The tomb of Morphy’s was opened and Paul’s body placed beside that of his father, a well known figure in the history of Louisiana. (The Times-Picayune, July 12, 1884)

The Morphy family’s tomb. (Foto by dsb nola)

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