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|May-27-13|| ||thomastonk: From "The Times", December 14, 1840 (one day after his death):|
"TO CHESS PLAYERS. -- M. de la Bourdonnais, the celebrated French player, is at the moment in London, and suffering from illness of a grave and complicated character, which prevents his fulfilling the professional engagement for which he left Paris, and leaves him entirely destitute of support. Under these circumstances, a Committee has been formed to raise a SUBSCRIPTION, and chess amateurs will doubtless readily contribute to this fund, in testimony of their respect for de la Bourdonnais, the acknowledged Philidor of the past 10 years."
Treasurer of the fund was George Walker.
|Aug-02-13|| ||Oliveira: <Egoch: I am desesperatly looking for the author of this portrait of La Bourdonnais. And by the way, in which circonstances was it drawn?>|
My reply comes rather late, but the fact is: it is stated in the Palamède in 1842 that this portrait of La Bourdonnais, the only existing of him, was drawn from a mold taken from his corpse (this one, I suppose: http://www.chesshistory.com/winter/...) and from author Jean Henry Marlet's
recollection of his features.
|Aug-02-13|| ||Oliveira: Oliveira: <offramp (Oct-25-04): From Chess magazine:
"Bowsing through the Latest Wills section of the Times the other day we came across details of the estate of one Rachel Ursula Isolde De Mahée de la Bourdonnais, commonly known as Princesse de Mahée, the wife of Prince John de Mahé, of Ascot Berkshire. We presume that Prince J de M is a kinsman of the immortal Louis Charles Mahé de Labourdonnais (who died in London), but would welcome confirmation from any genealogical experts out there." >|
"Prince John Bryant Digby de Mahé is the son of Prince Charles Digby Mahé de Chenal de la Bourbonnais. He married Rachel Ursula Isolde Guinness, daughter of Henry Seymour Guinness and Mary Middleton Bainbridge, on 26 November 1931. He had two daughters."
Further information at http://www.mundia.com/us/Person/424...
|Aug-02-13|| ||Oliveira: A biography of Louis-Charles Mahé de La Bourdonnais: http://www.geocities.com/siliconval...|
|Aug-05-13|| ||Oliveira: Now that's something!
I believe very few people are aware of this head cast of La Bourdonnais (on which his portrait is based) since most material out there about him depict his infamous portrait. Don't get me wrong. I find the picture very funny, but something has obviously gone wrong since its purpose was to fill in the void left by there being no image of the late master in life. Nobody could possibly buy that's what he looked like unless he was a troll come out of a fairy tale!
|Mar-16-14|| ||RedShield: He looks like Peter Lorre on steroids. It seems that Staunton was an early critic of the portrait:|
<“We must, however, protest against the insertion of such lugubrious twaddle as ‘The last moments of Labourdonnais’, from – Bell’s Life in London! and the lithographic enormity, from the same classic source we presume, presented as the portrait of that distinguished chessplayer.”’>
|May-14-14|| ||Oliveira: "The Last Moments of Labourdonnais" (or "lugubrious twaddle", according to Staunton) translated to French in Le Palamède, 1842:|
|Nov-14-14|| ||jnpope: An interesting tidbit:
<The following is the last game of chess ever played by M. de la Bourdonnais. It was played on Wednesday, Dec. 9, at his lodgings, No. 4, Braufort-buildings, against an amateur a very promising player as to talent. De la Bourdonnais gave Queen's Rook. He began a second game, but could only play a few moves, severe indisposition coming on. He died the Sunday following as we have stated :- The chess board on which this game was played, and on which De la Bourdonnais played exclusively during the last days of his life belongs to Mr. George Walker, the chess men being the property of Mr. Ries. It would seem that poor De la Bourdonnais had an internal conviction that he played on Wednesday for the last time. His words in the evening to Madame de la Bourdonnais were "Put away that chess board carefully, I shall never need it again." The two games played on the 8th with Mr. George Walker will appear in our columns in due season. In the specimen before us, De la Bourdonnais has white, and gives Queen's Rook. «source: Bell's Life in London, 1840.12.27»>
[Event "Offhand Game: Odds of Queen's Rook"]
[Site "GBR London"]
[White "de la Bourdonnais, L.C.M."]
1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Bc4 Qh4+ 4.Kf1 g5 5.Nc3 Bg7 6.d4 d6 7.Nf3 Qh5 8.Nd5 Kd8 9.h4 c6 10.Nc3 h6 11.Kf2 Bg4 12.hxg5 Bxf3 13.gxf3 Qxg5 14.Ne2 Nd7 15.Bxf4 Qf6 16.Be3 Ne7 17.f4 Kc7 18.Ng3 Rad8 19.Nh5 Qg6 20.Rg1 Qxe4 21.Rxg7 Nf5 22.Rg3 Nxg3 23.Nxg3 Qe7 24.d5 Rde8 25.Nf5 Qe4 26.dxc6 bxc6 27.Qxd6+ Kd8 28.Bd3 Qh1 29.Qb4 Rhg8 30.Qa5+ Nb6 31.Bxb6+ axb6 32.Qxb6+ Kd7 33.Qb7+ Kd8 34.Qb8+ Kd7 35.Qd6+ Kc8 36.Ba6# 1-0 «source: Bell's Life in London, 1840.12.27»
|Jan-28-15|| ||Fusilli: Bio: <In 1838 he became ill with a stroke...>.|
A stroke is not an illness but an event. I suppose he had a stroke and it left him somehow disabled...? Does anyone know?
<RedShield: He looks like Peter Lorre...> My thought exactly!
|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!
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