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🏆 Staunton - Morphy Match (1858)

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  scutigera: It is disheartening to see a page whose discussion doesn't match its topic, but given what's happened to the pages of actual chessplayers like Ken Rogoff and Wesley So, to say nothing of I Hatem and all players whose names sound like a risqué word or phrase in English, I would say we're well down the slippery slope already, well-muddied and gathering speed. We might as well have more of them: the more non-chess-minded kibitzers they attract, the greater the chance that some future So or Rogoff TN, blunder, or unexpected win/loss will receive comment and discussion that isn't immediately diluted to death by irrelevantalia.
Dec-20-21  Cibator: I'd still like to know why that piker Deschapelles hasn't had more of a ticking-off for having steered clear of LaBourdonnais.
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  MissScarlett: The <Standard> of January 27th, 1865, p.4, has a notice calling forth the creditors of the estate of Thomas Edge, Jnr (Fred's older brother), who died on December 14th 1864. Thomas is described as a gas engineer of< 39, Vincent-square in the city of Westerham [sic]>. That casts a somewhat different shade on events.
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  MissScarlett: From Lawson's <Paul Morphy: The Pride and Sorrow of Chess (2010, Kindle 2e)>:

<<Extracts of two letters of a London publisher, Charles N. Skeet, probably to Fiske, are also of interest:

July 6, 1858, London

Dear Sir...

Your American Chess Champion Mr. Morphy called upon me last week and we conversed on the subject of his contemplated match with Mr. Staunton. I find that funds to any amount will be supplied to back him and therefore the thousand pounds which was mentioned by Mr. Staunton as his mark will be no obstacle to the match. Morphy is a wonder for his age but the old fox will be too much for him.

Truly yours

Chas. N. Skeet>

The intent of Morphy's visit and Skeet's remark that "I find that funds to any amount will be supplied" are unknown. It should also be noted that Skeet must have confused the £1,000 offer of Staunton's with the New Orleans Chess Club's offer of that amount to Staunton.

After witnessing Staunton's ultimate treatment of Morphy four months later, Skeet had this to say:

November 9, 1858, London

Dear Sir...

Mr. Morphy has won golden opinions here for his chivalrous conduct and Mr. Staunton has terribly sank in our estimation for the manner he has adopted. When Mr. Morphy first landed he must have been off his play to some extent which must account for the opinion I passed on him in relation to Staunton. Now it is considered that nobody can approach him in excellence.

Truly yours

Chas. N Skeet>

This <Charles N Skeet> must, in fact, surely be the <Charles J Skeet> whose publishing office was located at <10 King William St., Charing Cross>, which is off the Strand.

The only chess connection I can find is that he published Harrwitz's <British Chess Review> during its short life in 1853-1854. See:

Around this period, it appears Harrwitz was based at the hotel owned by Edward Lowe in Surrey St. More than once in the <Review> he gives his address as 14 Surrey St.

If anyone has access to Lawson's first edition, or even the second edition in paperback, could they check that <Charles N. Skeet> is indeed given. It could possibly be a transcription error in the Kindle version.

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  jnpope: "Chas. N. Skeet" on pages 122 and 123 of my 1976 hard cover edition.
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  MissScarlett: Perhaps it's as simple as a squiggly signature. The lack of information Lawson gives about the letters - well, his sources, in general - is frustrating. It's hard to believe that the full text of the letters wouldn't provide greater context as to the reason for Morphy's visit, or why Skeet would be writing to Fiske (assuming Lawson is correct). Could the rest of the text have been illegible?

Morphy stayed at Lowe's hotel after his arrival in London, so it's possible that Lowe guided him in Skeet's direction. Perhaps Fiske/Morphy were interested in a potential English publisher/distributor for <The Chess Monthly> or Morphy might have already wanted to contact Harrwitz in Paris, whose address Skeet could have known.

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: <The only chess connection I can find is that he published Harrwitz's <British Chess Review> during its short life in 1853-1854.>

Two others - in 1850, he was the publisher of George Walker's <Chess & Chess-Players> (his address was then #27, not 10), and in 1859, Boden, in the <Field> recommended him as a seller of chess books. This raises the possibility that Fiske and Skeet were already known to one another.

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  MissScarlett: <7545. The Edge libel case (C.N. 7483)

From John Townsend (Wokingham, England):

‘Further to my short account of the libel case which F.M. Edge brought against Clayton in 1867 (see Notes on the life of Howard Staunton, pages 119-120), I have learned a little of the background to the case. Although Edge had been released from the debtors’ prison about March 1866 (see C.N. 7483), his financial position continued to cast dark shadows over his life and was the cause of his departure from his job at the Reform League, which involved collecting money and retaining a percentage for himself, and the consequent libel action.

A fairly detailed account of the case appeared in the Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser of 7 August 1867, page 4. [...]>

An excerpt from the <Courier>:

<Mr James said the plaintiff was a gentleman who had for some years been engaged in literary pursuits, having written a variety of essays and contributed considerably to the periodical and journalistic literature of the country. He had been several years in the United States, and during the unfortunate troubles in America, he ably discharged the duties of correspondent from the camp of the Northern army to the <Morning Star>. He returned to England in 1865, and, conjunction with Mr. Beales, took an active part in embodying the Reform League in London. He believed it was owing to his efforts that that body was established. He was a friend and intimate acquaintance of the late Mr. Cobden, and it was through the interposition or recommendation of Mr. Cobden that he was appointed secretary to the National Reform League. The plaintiff did not feel it in accordance with his views to accept that situation. It seemed to him and others that a branch of that League should be formed in Manchester, and in July, 1866, he came to Manchester for that purpose, and succeeded, in October last, in forming a branch of the league in this city. Up to that time the plaintiff had resided in London, and was in receipt of about £300 for his literary labours. He was promised that if he would leave London and come to Manchester, he would be able to establish himself in an equally satisfactory position, and that he should be appointed secretary to the branch League in this city. This induced him to come to Manchester, and early in December he was appointed secretary to the League in this city.>

Understandably, in a case revolving on Edge's reputation for trustworthiness, his counsel failed to mention his time in a debtors' prison, but how plausible is the proferred timeline:

(Early) 1865: Edge returns to England, having been in America since mid-1861;

April 2 1865: Death of his friend Richard Cobden:

May 1865 - ~Mar 1866: Debtors' prison in London;

July 1866: Moves to Manchester;

October 1866: Forms Manchester branch of League;

December 1866- Apppointed secretary of same;

January 1867 - Resigns as secretary.

Two questions present themselves:

i) When did Edge have time to take an <active part in embodying the Reform League in London>? Before May 1865 or during April - June 1866?

ii) Did Edge have time to incur a sufficient debt and be jailed for it between returning early 1865 and May 1865? If not, when did he return to England, or had the debt been incurred before his visiting America in 1861?

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  MissScarlett: <Name: Edge Frederick Milnes

Date of Imprisonment: 23 May 1865

Creditor: George Best, Rochester Terrace, Westminster

Nature and Amount of Debt: Ca Sa. £30 6s.


The creditor, George Best, of 5 Rochester Terrace, Westminster, was listed as an auctioneer and upholsterer in the Post Office London Directory for 1865 (page 852). It is not known how Edge came to owe him money.>

Rochester Terrace was in close proximity to the Edge home in Vincent Square, and it seems that Best was neither a patient man nor one to be trifled with.

A report in the <Devizes and Wiltshire Gazette> of December 13th 1860 states Best was one of two men charged with riot, after they arrived mob-handed <with 7 seedy looking bombailiffs> and tried to forcibly effect entry to the Rectory in North Wraxall, a village in Wiltshire. Best is described as a <London money lender (to whom the Rector had given a bill of sale upon his furniture)>. It's not clear if Best was interested in getting his money back (a figure of £700 is mentioned) or the furniture.

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: (Glasgow) Morning Journal, January 4th 1865, p.3:

<A Mr Frederick Milnes Edge has written to the <Daily News> to suggest that the L. 17,000 realised by the Liverpool bazaar should be confided for distribution to the United States Sanitary Commission. He puts in his claim on the ground that by so doing the intentions of the donors of the money, which are asserted to be in no sense political, will be equally well carried out, and Northern and Southern prisoners alike relieved.>

I had trouble finding it, because the poor print quality eluded the search engine, but Edge's letter appears on page 3 the January 2nd edition. The <Daily News> was a liberal paper and overtly pro-Union. More on the <Liverpool bazaar>:

But for our purpose, the letter places Edge to <London, Dec. 31.> How long had he been home?

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  MissScarlett: <scutigera: It is disheartening to see a page whose discussion doesn't match its topic..>

What you want to discuss? The

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  MissScarlett: No posts in a year? Disappointing!

<Charles Joseph Skeet>:

Born May 19th 1812 (baptismal record)

Died January 22nd 1892 (probate calendar)

Never married, just him and his books.

Premium Chessgames Member
  steinitzfan: So how long until computers give us a set of virtual games that these players could have plausibly played at this time of their lives? Along with similar non-matches?

Or am I the only person who would find such a thing interesting?

Feb-02-23  Dionysius1: No, me too.

For me it goes along with wondering if computers will ever take into account things like form, mood and style to predict the result of games or even whole matches between humans.

A few steps up from evaluating positions!

Premium Chessgames Member
  jnpope: <So how long before computers...>

Seven years ago I came very close:
jnpope chessforum (kibitz #121)

It didn't produce a move-list for each game at the time but I don't see why it couldn't. I probably still have the source code archived somewhere. I abandoned the project because it was a huge time-suck and I needed to finish some other projects.

Premium Chessgames Member
  jnpope: At the time my approach would be like using a time machine and snatching the player before each game. There is no mechanism for gauging the players capacity to learn from a mistake in a prior game.

With current self-reinforcing learning algorithms I'm sure someone could use a player's entire match and tournament output to produce a player-engine that could emulate the strength and style of play for a particular player at any point in their career.

My approach seems very archaic at this point.

Feb-03-23  Dionysius1: Wow - that sounds really impressive!

If it got to the extent of being able to include mood, form and style I'm not sure there'd be a point in GMs playing: computer preparation wouldn't leave much for spontaneous response across the board!

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  MissScarlett: <<Frederick Milnes Edge

Born - 29th May 1830 (baptised, 19th July 1830, St Martin in Fields, London)

Parents - Thomas (b.1792/93) & Eleanor (nee Milnes); married 1829

Siblings - Thomas Jnr. (b.1818); Mary Ann (b.1823/24); Emily (b.1831/32); Alfred (b.1832/33); Elizabeth (b.1835/36)> Staunton - Morphy Match (1858) (kibitz #29)

Regarding Fred's mother, <Eleanor Edge's> dates are c.1804-1837. Her burial record for St. Margaret's Church, Westminster, on February 9th gives her age as 33. This is definitely our lady, because the address is given as Vincent Square.

Adjoining records for Emily Jersey and Elizabeth Jemima in the baptismal register of the Wesleyan/Methodist Westminster Chapel in London show that whilst both were presented in the chapel on July 4th 1837, they had been baptised earlier.

Emily's birth date is July 1831, but the day itself is obscured. Her baptism took place in St. Heliers, Jersey, on July 28th 1831. I suppose this to have been in the Church of England/Anglican tradition, because the baptisms of Fred in 1830 and Alfred in 1833 took place that way..

Elizabeth's birth date is May (?) 24th 1834. Her baptism took place in private by a Rev. George Cubitt (who I confirmed to be a Methodist minister), but at what point between 1834 and 1837 is unclear.

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  MissScarlett: <11 April 1856:

‘I, by the assistance of little Edge, hunted up Carroll, and got particulars of Med. Student matters for book. Also I’ve visited a Chinese Boarding House – in Cherry Street. Book grows apace. Correspondence kept up, as wont.

Little Edge is a character whom a page or two would be well bestowed upon had I the time to write ’em. He and little cockney cub Watson spent some two months or so sleeping in timber yards, desperately hard up, and Watson almost despairing. Little Edge told me lots of stories anent it, how they fished, caught an eel, and bartered it at cook-shop for grub, how he pawned his coat, how they held arguments on all sorts of things, with much more. He is the slimmest, frailest, weakest little spectacled creature you ever saw. He lives with a French modiste à la Paris.’

7 March 1857:

‘To Bellew’s in the morning and returned to Bleecker Street with him. Kelly and, afterwards, little Edge called in the afternoon, the latter telling me how he had been in the basement, where the fellows (Eytinge and Cahill) had drunk up a quart of gin that morning and Sol was perfectly insensible. Little Edge has got married to his Alsacian-milliner-mistress and talks of nothing but his position on the Herald and what he is going to be.’

22 March 1858:

‘Edge has returned to England, I hear. He owes money to Haney, and actually has borrowed from the boy who waits at Haney’s tavern without repaying him! An odd, little, weak, frail-looking creature, with spectacles and such a general feebleness of aspect that nobody would suspect him of the capacity to contain any vices. He is of good family, I believe, his father being quite wealthy. Edge behaved like a young ass, squandered money, went to races, betted [?] and then ran off to Paris. There he experienced some hard-up-ness, used to frequent theatres, going in free with the claque, When he came to New York it was with a considerable sum of money in his pocket, all of which he gambled away at Pat Hearne’s and other halls, Then he consorted with Watson, the low little cockney. I used to see them for the first time in the Pic Office, Watson being a hanger on of Thad Glover’s and little Edge an admirer and friend of Watson’s. The two did some starving together.’


‘I think I have recorded Edge’s antecedents heretofore; how he lived in Paris, visiting the theatres as one of the claque; how he starved about the timber yards of New York in company with Watson, in consequence of his receiving no remittance from home; how Levison helped him; how he married a little Alsatian prostitute of whom he has, now, the very highest opinion, to whom he duly remits a portion of his Star salary, and plenty of New York illustrated newspapers. Haney used to visit the pair during the Levison period and reported favorably of Mrs Edge. I saw her portrait at Amity Street the other night, coarsish but not unpleasing features and a profusion of hair. She lives in Alsace, whither Edge escorted her previous to his present American campaign. His parents recognize her, though an objectionable brother of his, whom I have some indistinct recollection of, as appearing in New York, went back home and told them what “Fred” had married!>

Which brother? One would think more likely Alfred, being closer in age, with the older half-brother, Thomas Jnr., more involved with running the family business.

I found a record of an <Alfred Edge> arriving in New York aboard the <RMS Persia> ( on or about December 26th 1857. He's listed as a merchant and his age is 26 - we don't have our Alfred's exact DOB but he was baptised on February 7th 1833, so his age would likely be 24, almost 25. England is stated to be the country he intends to inhabit, which indicates that he's a visitor, not a migrant. It all seems to fit nicely.

The <Cheltenham Chronicle> of October 5th 1865 recorded the death on <Sept. 21, at Liverpool, aged 32, Alfred John Edge, youngest son of Mr. Thomas Edge, late of Vincent square, Westminster.>

In September 1865, Fred was confined in the Debtor's Prison in London.

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  MissScarlett: <Bon Ton Gazette>, January 11th 1840, p.7: <Mrs. Thomas Edge, Vincent square, Westminster.>

The name appears in the midst of an entire column of women's names, under the header: <Look After Your Husbands & Sons.>

An opposing column on the same page - sample entry, <Donald Aird, Lower Clapton, school-master> - is titled: <Look After Your Wives & Daughters!>

What can it all mean?

<We’re going to start our survey of our new titles of the week by looking at the Crim. Con. Gazette, which later became known as the Bon Ton Gazette. First published on 25 August 1838 by George Hucklebridge, this eight page, two pence newspaper was established ‘to arrest as much as possible the progress of aristocratic vice and debauchery.’ With its full title of the Crim. Con. Gazette and Journal of the Haut Ton, the newspaper had a particular focus on criminal conversation, known as ‘crim con’ in the slang of its day, or adultery, with pages devoted to ‘crim con’ cases in the courts.

Indeed, the newspaper declared how ‘conjugal infidelity’ had ‘arrived at a dreadful height,’ especially amongst the upper classes. It threatened how its pages would as a consequence ‘spare neither age, sex, rank, nor power,’ and furthermore, ‘where the life is vicious the pen will be galling.’ Dedicated therefore to targeting the moral profligacy of the upper classes, the Crim. Con. Gazette contained scathing ‘portraits of personalities,’ including one of ‘box-lobby lounger’ Mr. Cornelius Rivers, who was described as a ‘lump of senseless clay – the leavings of a soul.’ The Crim. Con. Gazette featured, meanwhile, a look at ‘Sunday in London’ and the ‘Diary of a Syren.’

The Crim. Con. Gazette was edited by John Mitford, and during his time at the newspaper it was said that he had to be kept in a kind of cellar, with a candle and bottle of gin for company. The gin bottle had to be kept replenished, for Mitford was not adverse to creeping out at night to get more, unless his shoes were taken away. On 11 January 1840 the Crim. Con. Gazette was renamed to the Bon Ton Gazette.>


It's hard to believe that even a scandal sheet would dare print recognisable names simply on the basis of gossip, so I must suppose that the list of names were involved in actual legal proceedings.

But who is this <Mrs. Thomas Edge>? The wife of Thomas, Snr., born c.1794, or the eldest son, Thomas, Jnr., born 1818?

As noted above, Eleanor, the wife of Thomas Edge, Snr., died in 1837, leaving him with six children to look after. I should note here that Eleanor was his second wife, whom he married in 1829. I put aside the details of his first wife, except to note that she would've been the mother to Thomas, Jnr. and Mary Ann.

The 1851 and 1861 census returns for the Edge household in Vincent Square were readily accessible. In both, Thomas, Snr., is recorded as a widower, which suggests that he never remarried. The 1841 census presented more of a challenge, but eventually I found it. Thomas, Snr., is listed first, aged 45 (46-47 was correct) but next comes <Mary Edge>, aged 32. Is this the new Mrs. Thomas Edge? The answer is almost certainly not, because in the 1861 census (which, unlike the 1841 edition, recorded the relationships between members of a household and its head) there's a 53 year-old Mary, who's the sister of Thomas, Snr. She's absent from the 1851 census, but it's almost certainly the same woman. It would be unremarkable at that time for an unmarried sister to help with the raising of her brother's children.

What then of Thomas, Jnr? Is there any record of his being married before 1840? Nothing definite, albeit the name <Thomas Edge> was hardly uncommon, so a firm identification, especially without the wife's Christian name, is problematical. The 1841 census lists him as a 22 year-old, the eldest child, but there's no wife by his side, only his three sisters (Fred and Alfred were away at boarding school in Jersey). The clincher, however, is surely that the 1851 and 1861 census (which now recorded marital status) have him marked an unmarried. Divorce was a difficult and uncommon practice in Victorian England, but not impossible. Would a divorcee revert to being recorded as unmarried?

So where are we? The 1841 census gives no grounds to suggest either father or son was married at the time. But what might have changed between January 1840 and June 1841? Could an errant wife have disappeared on the grounds of infidelity?

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  HeMateMe: AI produced a hypothetical win by Rocky Marciano over Muhammed Ali.

I would predict a virtual win by Morphy over Staunton.

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  fredthebear: Rocky Marciano seems comparable to Joe Frazier. I'd bet on Mohammed Ali. Cassius Clay was the best ever.


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  HeMateMe: Ali was so gifted when a young man, mostly unhittable. The left jab that connected at 0.3 seconds. I think he would have danced all night and won a decision.
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  MissScarlett: Arriving in New York aboard the <American Congress> (!) on or about July 12th (?) 1853 is <Frederick Edge>, age 23, from England, occupation <Gentleman> and intending to settle in America.

So our man was in America earlier than I expected. Which, in turn, narrows down the time he reputedly spent profligating in Paris.

<One other note in the records: Edge did not return his locker key until 31 December 1853, and thereby forfeited his 5/- deposit. It was not usual for keys to be returned after a student had gone down, but to return one so long afterwards is perhaps a little out of the ordinary.> ( C.N. 1012)

The only reasonable inference is that was returned by a family member. It was probably found under his bed.

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: Clerkenwell News, December 19, 1864, p.2:

<Deaths [...]

On the 14th inst., at 39, Vincent square, Westminster, Mr. Thomas Edge, jun., aged 46.>

If his brother was sick, could this have been a reason why Fred returned? It may have been a combination of factors, of course. We don't know exactly when he arrived back. The <Courier> article above mentioned 1865, so late 1864 seems the most probable.

In December 1864, Thomas dies; January 1865, the family home in Vincent Square is vacated; April, 'friend' Richard Cobden dies; May, committed to debtors' prison; September, Alfred dies.

Annus horribilis!

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