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|Feb-17-15|| ||Oliveira: <Fusilli> Precisely. After the stroke La Bourdonnais's health fell in a very fragile state coupled with the dire financial situation he found himselft in the last years of his life. Now, however likely, I must admit I've never read about his becoming disabled; in fact <jnpope>'s example is proof that he still was a respectable player.|
|Feb-18-15|| ||jnpope: Here is a lengthy account written by Walker shortly after La Bourdonnais' death:|
<To The Editor of Bell's Life in London.
Dear Sir—When one of note is taken from among us, all are interested in the minutest particulars of the translation. I have just returned from following the remains of De La Bourdonnais to the grave, and the feelings of the moment compel me to trace my thoughts on paper. A star has fallen, a great light has gone out. The first chess player of the age has been reverentially laid in his last narrow house some two or three hours since. France sent this great man here, but a fortnight back, to die. France demands an account of her son's last moments at our hands.
To give a memoir of De La Bourdonnais' life is not here my aim, I write of death alone—on a day devoted exclusively to the grave.
De La Bourdonnais came here towards the close of November to fulfil a chess engagement, to play in a public room, for which he was to receive a weekly payment. I had made him an offer last spring to visit us and play a few months in the Saint George's Club, tendering him my personal guarantee that he should clear his expenses and return to Paris with £50. The foolish interference of certain Parisian meddlers led to this proffer being declined, unless backed by a twenty pound note sent in advance; to this I could not accede, and so the matter dropped, to the hearty regret, subsequently, of De La Bourdonnais. We were here quite aware of his declining state of health, but medical men were of opinion he might yet live years, and certain it was that his chess faculty shone undiminished, as proved by his daily play at the Cafe de la Regence. De La Bourdonnais bore the journey tolerably well, supported by the untiring devotion of his attached wife. He played in public the first two days, but then broke down, and was carried to his lodging in a pitiable state of suffering. His disease was ascites, accompanied by scrotal hernia. He had been tapped 21 times in Paris during the last year and a half. His words now were, "I cannot play in public, death seems there to stare me in the face—I want to have my wife ever with me. Come three or four of you to me in private, and let us see if I have my wonted force, if I find my genius flagging I abandon chess forever and return to Paris." I played my first game with him, I believe the next day, receiving a pawn, and lost; the game appearing in Bell's Life a fortnight back. He made one splendid dash, sacrificing a rook for a knight, and we all agreed his play could not be finer. With two or three of our best players he subsequently played a few games. "The old lion," quoth he, "hath yet his claws and teeth."
The pecuniary circumstances of De La Bourdonnais now began to excite our attention, though his sensitiveness on the subject precluded us yet all positive interference. He removed from the parlour to the garret of No. 1, Salisbury street, and the reason was unexplained to our satisfaction. Alas when alone with his wife in this miserable attic, his first remark was "well, nothing is above us now but heaven. I have come to a garret at last;" and he burst into tears, and wept like a child. Madame vie La Bourdonnais, pressed home upon the point, was brought with difficulty to confess that they had not half-a-crown in the world—that they were utterly destitute of the commonest wearing apparel and necessaries of life—and were without the means of paying the week's rent of their humble abode. Half an hour after this distressing avowal our committee was formed to raise a public subscription. The first medical attendance (honour to the noble in heart!) proffered its services gratuitously; good rooms were taken at No. 4, Beaufort-buildings, where the invalid, after a necessary delay, occasioned by the necessity of surgical operation, found himself on Saturday, the 5th instant, surrounded with every comfort money could purchase. Thanks to British feeling, we got up a hundred pounds immediately!>
|Feb-18-15|| ||jnpope: <I must here remark upon a sapient question asked by a Paris friend in a letter about this time, as to why De La Bourdonnais should venture to take such a journey in so inclement a season? That it is all very well to tender advice, but how was he to live in Paris? The last green leaf was there eaten up, and positive starvation stared him in the face. The words of Madame De La Bourdonnais are conclusive up the point. True, Thiers, during his short ministry, had got La B. upon the pension list for 1,200 francs as "un homme des lettres," but not a shilling of this was available till next summer, and in the meantime there were mouths to feed and backs to clothe. Be it hoped the French government will vest at least a portion of this pension in the widow. La B. lived, then, solely on what he would win at the Regence, sometimes carrying home two, three, or four francs, and frequently nothing. "It takes a long while," he said to me last week, "to win five francs there. If you win two games running, at a franc, giving rook, the loser then demands rook and knight." Hapless genius was it come to this? After toiling thus morning long at the Regence to take home a trifle to buy a meal, La B. has been two hours mounting the staircase fainting with pain. Moveables had been parted with—chess books thrown overboard—wearing apparel sold—hope long since withered and fled. O Parisian chess players, never ask us why La Bourdonnais came here! For three months last winter poor La B. could not play at all, and we must acknowledge the collection made then by French amateur's; but it only reached two or three hundred francs. A claim was made upon the government, La B.'s aunt having lent citizen Egalite, Louis Philippe's father, a hundred thousand francs. This claim could not be recognized, but the King of the French kindly presented La B. with 300 francs. Still all this was but temporary. Five pounds were sent over from London to pay the journey, but small sums debts were to be paid before leaving Paris, and it was only by means of a kind advance of 60 francs from a friend there, that La Bourdonnais was enabled to start.|
On the evening of the 5th I played a second game with De La Bourdonnais, receiving pawn, and drew it; a long dull game, not worthy of much note. On Tuesday the 8th, I played two interesting games with him, winning one and drawing the other; and there were the last games our friend played on earth, except a solitary game on the 9th, giving the rook, to a stranger, a gentleman, who wished to try his force.>
|Feb-18-15|| ||jnpope: <During the 9th, 10th, and 11th, De La Bourdonnais was visibly getting worse in health, and on Friday week was again operated upon by Mr. Babington, the eminent surgeon. I visited the sick man of course daily, and had much interesting conversation with him, relating chiefly to chess. At times he would brighten up, but was mostly in a desponding state. The silver cord was fast loosening, and the bowl was breaking at the fountain of life. He frequently read his bible, and expressed himself as finding therein much consolation. "There are hopes of the future in me," said he, "which, though of no form of faith or creed, our French philosophers have never destroyed in my mind." Kindly and constantly did his friends come to him, and deep gratitude was his for their attention. "But on care have I," remarked he frequently, "as to things of earth. My wife, cette femme vertueuse, who for two years has hardly lain down upon a bed; who lived on bread in Paris that I might fight my disorder with wine and meat—I leave my wife to beggary," A fourteen years' marriage had so consolidated the first ties. Painful contrast! The first half of that period saw the La Bourdonnais living at S. Maloe in a chateau, with five servants and two carriages, while the latter half!—O world! how dost thou reward genius!|
On Saturday, the 12th, an extraordinary impulse came over poor De La Bourdonnais; he insisted upon having a cabriolet procured by seven o'clock in the morning, and going out with his wife for a ride. With difficulty he got into the carriage, and he chose to be driven in the direction of Hackney. Jammed in opposite Shoreditch Church, with a crowd of conflicting vehicles, Madame de la Bourdonnais called his attention to the edifice: "That is the church we were married in," said the poor lady; such being the fact. La B. wrung her hands in silence; he presently desired to be conveyed home. It was his last day with her on earth. A remark made several times during these, his latter days, struck forcibly upon our attention. Said La Bourdonnais to M. Barthes and myself more than once, "Dimanche je saurai mon sort"—Sunday was at hand.>
|Feb-18-15|| ||jnpope: <I had been with him in the afternoon of Saturday, and returned in the evening just as he awoke from a deep but short sleep. He knew me, and said he was better, but became presently unconscious, and I felt an internal conviction that he was sinking. Madame De La Bourdonnais was not permitted to be this night without assistance. Just before I left (his last visitor) he pressed my hand—"Bon soir, mon ami." murmured his pinched-up lips; and after I was gone he continued to whisper, as if bidding adieu to all around—"bon soir, bon soir." Between five and six on Sunday morning he expired with a slight convulsion. His coffin is inscribed—"Louis Charles De La Bourdonnais, died Dec. 13, 1840, aged 43." He was found the common bourne of us all, and we have lost the first chess player in the world. One consolation was his in death—that kind and generous sympathy of the British circle of chess amateurs which placed every temporal comfort at the disposal of his friends, and smoothed down some of the deepest wrinkles of his death pillow, by conveying to his heart the comforting assurance that the beloved wife of his bosom was not left wanting him or bread. Be it the task of us chess players to strain every effort to augment the balance of the subscription fund, so as to place at this distressed lady's disposal a small capital with which she may combat the world's wants successively. Let us remember that madame is our countrywoman—an English lady—estranged by a fourteen years' residence from connections here as might otherwise have superseded the necessity of making this appeal.|
Yes, to-day we have fulfilled the mournful duty of attending the funeral of our chess king. The heavy snow-fall, across which he was borne from the hearse, struck drearily upon the mournful group. The trees and shrubs presented a mass of white to the eye, and all was coldly desolate. The snow sealed up everything with that air of profound tranquillity which seemed indeed to say, "Here the weary rest, and the wicked troubleth not; but all around is peace." In arranging the obsequies, the committee's chief care was to unite economy with the respect due to one so loved for talent by many countries. we were compelled to restrict the number of the invited—the first coach containing personal friends of Madame, the latter ourselves, the committee. De La Bourdonnais is interred at the Cemetery, Kensall-green, the same spot which, by unsought-for coincidence, contains the mortal remains of our own chess hero, M'Donnell—the one take from us at 43, the other snatched away at 37. Verily, there be things should make men think!
I regret to trespass at such length, and in so hurried a manner, upon these columns, but hope I shall stand excused. The chief of the games poor De La Bourdonnais played here will doubtless appear in Bell. It were out of place now to speak of the skill of the departed as a chess-player. A minister of Napoleon once, in drawing up a state paper, inserted the phrase as to the insisting upon the recognized existence of the French republic, "Strike all that out," commanded Napoleon, "the existence of the French republic, like the shining of the sun, may speak for itself." So be it with chess fame of M. De La Bourdonnais.
I remain, dear sir, truly yours,
17, Soho-square, London; Thursday, Dec. 17, 1800 [sic]. >
source: Bell's Life in London, 1840.12.20, p4
|Feb-18-15|| ||Oliveira: What a writer George Walker was! After reading such an earnest account,
I couldn't help but shedding a tear and falling pensive of what a drama must be for a man to confront his own ever-nearing ending.|
Thank you, <jnpope> for sharing this treasure with us.
|Feb-18-15|| ||Oliveira: Yet for an insensitive Staunton it was all but "lugubrious twaddle".|
|Feb-18-15|| ||perfidious: Thanks indeed are due <jnpope> for this treasure trove of an account posted here.|
|Feb-18-15|| ||jnpope: In the second to last paragraph it should be "the one taken from us at 43" (I dropped an N somewhere along the way).|
|Feb-20-15|| ||Fusilli: <jnpope> I just read the letter from G. Walker to the Bell. What a treasure, thank you for posting it.|
If L.B. was 43 at death, the birth year in the bio above must be wrong.
<His disease was ascites, accompanied by scrotal hernia. He had been tapped 21 times in Paris during the last year and a half.> Does this refer to bloodletting? Googling the meaning of "being tapped" was not helpful to me. I ran into some vulgar slang, actually.
Incidentally, notice how having the top floor in a building, at that time, was often an indicator of poverty (just like the fully broke, main characters of La Boheme rent an attic as well). Elevators didn't exist yet, at least safe ones, so that the top floor was the hardest to access. Elisha Otis came up with the safety mechanism for elevators in 1854. Today the opposite is true. The top floor in any tall building, especially in places like Paris or London, are for the well-to-do. Plus buildings are a lot taller too.
|Feb-20-15|| ||Oliveira: <Fusilli> <tap(2)>|
tr. v. tapped, tap·ping, taps
4.(Medicine) To withdraw fluid from (a body cavity).
[The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2014 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company]
<tap in Medicine>
The removal of fluid from a body cavity.
v. tapped , tap·ping , taps
1.To withdraw fluid from a body cavity, as with a trocar and cannula, hollow needle, or catheter.
[The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company]
And there you have some suggestions of good online resources:
|Feb-20-15|| ||Oliveira: <Fusilli: Incidentally, notice how having the top floor in a building, at that time, was often an indicator of poverty (just like the fully broke, main characters of La Boheme rent an attic as well). Elevators didn't exist yet, at least safe ones, so that the top floor was the hardest to access>|
Handy bit of information. Hence La Bourdonnais's lament: <well, nothing is above us now but heaven. I have come to a garret at last>. The poor wretch!
|Feb-20-15|| ||Fusilli: <Oliveira> Awesome, thanks!|
Here's a short clip on the invention of the safe elevator:
Elevators were not the only thing that made high rises possible. In the 19th century, buildings were at most four or five stories tall. Tall buildings required enormously thick lower walls, increasing costs. The solution came late in the 19th century and early in the 20th: the load-bearing steel skeleton, based on the same principles used to build balloon-frame houses. Edward Glaeser has a nice account of this and the birth of the skyscraper (and everything else concerning our modern cities, by the way) in this book:
... which I highly recommend!
|Feb-20-15|| ||Oliveira: Gracias <Fusilli>. It's amazing how apparenlty minor, simple inventions pave the way for unthought-of technological advancements|
|Feb-20-15|| ||MissScarlett: Technological advancements giving way to more technological advancements. Who would have thought it?|
|Feb-20-15|| ||Oliveira: <Fusilli: If L.B. was 43 at death, the birth year in the bio above must be wrong.> I suppose the confusion is probably due to an 1842 issue of Le Palamède that stated that La Bourdonnais died at age 45, and the obituary written by Saint Amant to the French newspapers, published two months after La Bourdonnais's death, where he gives 1795 as the master's birth year, "the very same year of Phillidor's death".
The obituary was reproduced in the abovementioned issue of Le Palamède:|
However, the year 1797 strike us as more likely, since his wife should have known better than anyone!
|Sep-05-16|| ||offramp: I'd love to have the middle name Mahé but I don't really feel entitled to it.|
|May-15-17|| ||offramp: <offramp: I'd love to have the middle name Mahé but I don't really feel entitled to it.>|
Suddenly, like a bolt of lightning, it occurred to me! "Bourdonnais" tells you where his family originated!
There could only be one place, I reasoned. Was there a town in France called Bourdonne?
Fevershly I tapped the letters into my computer. the internet groaned and creaked. The printer chattered out its incredible message.
TOWN NAMED BOURDONNÉ IN YVELINES DEPARTMENT OF NORTH-WEST FRANCE
The mystery had been solved!
Bourdonné has one of the smallest entries I have ever seen on Wikipedia. DO NOT look it up - take my word for it, you will be wasting your time. I have already told you everything that Wikipedia has to say.
|May-15-17|| ||Poulsen: No doubt La Bourdonnais and his mathes against McDonnell are very important to chess. It was these matches, that prepared the ground for international tournaments and matches, thus transforming the gentlemans game into a true sport.|
If there is anyone among the old master I would like to play he is the one!
|May-15-17|| ||morfishine: <offramp> You forgot to add that Bourdonne' is officially a commune with 1 official government building situated approximately 360 ft above sea level supporting a population of 477, who one would think would be left-leaning politically due to the 'commune' status, but are in fact, close to the breast, conservatives|
|May-29-17|| ||MissScarlett: The Era, December 6th 1840, p.10:
<FOR CHESS PLAYERS. - M. De la Bourdonnais, the first chess-player in Europe, is once more amongst us, playing daily in the Strand, a locale selected by the French hero as central, and as presenting a large arena for spectators. We regret to see the dreadful state of health under which De la Bourdonnais continues to suffer: dropsy and fever have changed his frame so much since his last visit to England, seven years back, we could hardly at first recognise him. De la Bourdonnais is to chess what Paganini was to the violin, a phenomenon, a wonder, a miracle of art. He will give, and can give, pawn and move to any other player in Europe; aye, even at the present moment, brought down as he is to the grave's verge by a complication of disease and suffering. He made his debut on Wednesday, playing a couple of games against one of our very finest players, yielding the odds to our countryman of pawn and move, and yet winning both games! Country players should hasten up to have a look at the great master, who is only here for two or three months, and whose health will not allow him to visit any provincial club. We hope arrangements will be made liberally to pay Monsieur for his time by British amateurs; one suggestion strikes us as good, that those who play with him should pay on losing, but should receive nothing on winning; his stake being half a crown. De la Bourdonnais challenges every player in England to come up now to the scratch and take pawn and move.>
Three days later, he was dead.
|Jul-20-17|| ||MissScarlett: Bell's Life in London and Sporting Chronicle, March 13th 1842, p.4:|
<CHESS AND MATE.— We have the pleasure to announce that on Wednesday last, at Bethnal Green Church, was married Madame de la Bourdonnais, the widow of the eminent chess professor, Louis Charles Mahe de la Bourdonnais to James Budge, Esq., the well known wealthy cloth merchant of Cromartin, near Truro in Cornwall. The happy pair after a dejeuner a la fourchette with a select circle of friends started the same day on a tour to the Westmoreland Lakes and Northern Counties. Thus, although England could not mate poor De la Bourdonnais, we have succeeded in mating his interesting widow.>
|Jul-20-17|| ||offramp: <MissScarlett> You never mention any of my important archeophenomenological research.|
|Jul-20-17|| ||morfishine: <offramp> Of course, Dear Sir,
you must realize that <MissScarlett> doesn't participate in any advanced research projects, mainly due his/her highest education level reached of 7th - 8th grade, depending...|
|Aug-12-17|| ||KnightVBishop: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4-...
Rex mentions him
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