Correspondence

KIESERITZKY AND VON HEYDEBRAND

Among a very rich collection of Tassilo von Heydebrands correspondence, we find 14 letters written by Lionel Kieseritzky. The first letter is dated from 3 December 1840 and the last is 11 August 1852. All of these, therefore, are connected with the Parisian period of the Livonian player’s life. The letters were written on very thin paper, on both sides of an A4 sheet, folded in half.
Except for the date and signature, these letters are written in old German (i.e., Gothic) type. Therefore, they are quite difficult - even for native speakers. A well-known chess journalist, Gerald Schendel, helped by Ilsabe Geib from Kandern and Lily Zon from Iusingen, have succeeded in deciphering three letters, two of which I quote below in my own translation.
Frankly, these thin pieces of paper do not hold enormous quantities of information. Then again, finding a new memorabilia of the master from Dorpat will make a great impression on admirers of "The Immortal Loser," as Lionel Kieseritzky is sometimes poetically called (including the author of the present article!).
Kieseritzky’s last letter, dated August 1852, is undoubtedly the most interesting. He had just received from von Heydebrand a copy of the second edition of the famous “Handbuch des Schachspiels”, and he promptly sent words of gratitude. After eight years of efforts and correspondence with the German author, he admits that he is not able to prepare a French translation of "Handbuch" for financial reasons. In France it is not possible to find more than 250 potential buyers, the minimum number necessary to cover the cost of printing the book. (As you can see, 150 years ago publishing chess books was as financially unrewarding as it is today!)
The rest of the letter confirms that 1852 was the year of crisis in French chess. Kieseritzky mentions the fall of "La Régence" monthly which he had been publishing for 3 years. The atmosphere in the Chess Club can’t have been good either, as Kieseritzky was looking forward to its dissolution. The real concern is however expressed in his words when he is writing about pulling down his "workplace" e. g. Café de la Régence which was connected with substantial changes of Paris architecture.
Lionel Kieseritzky died in hospital "La Charite" on 19 May 1853, only 9 months after sending the last letter to von Heydebrand. He was then deprived of his income as a journalist, while Café de la Régence, where he used to earn money with giving lessons and playing chess for a stake (5 francs a game?) nearly every day, didn’t exist any more. I would give a lot to find out what his life during those last months looked like and what the real cause of his premature death was.
 
(LETTER ONE)
 
Paris, 13/25 September 1844
 
Honourable von Heydebrand
 
I beg to inform you that I received your letter of the 3rd of this month and I am very glad to be able to send you the latest news about the forthcoming arrival of Mr. Staunton. According to his letter he will arrive on 10 October, accompanied by captain Evans and many other famous Englishmen.
What I am most pleased about is the fact that you also were so kind to fulfill our expectations by spending a few days in Paris. I will therefore have the opportunity to introduce my famous fellow citizen to the Parisians in Paris.
Now we have the pleasure of translating your work. I almost lost hope that it might be feasible but I will do it with the help of my friend who is busy working on something else at present. I promise to inform you in greater detail about it.
Will be able to inform me when you are going to visit Paris? I would be very happy if I could make your stay here as interesting as possible.
The post hastens so I only have time to write my signature.
 
With greatest respect
Your obedient servant
 
LKieseritzky
 
(LETTER TWO)
 
Paris, 11th August 1852
 
Honourable Mr Chamberlain
 
I beg to express my most sincere thanks for your kindness in sending me a copy of your excellent work. Publishing the second edition is certainly joyful proof of the increasing interest in chess in Germany. It was greeted very well here by the elite, but there has been some complaint that a text written in a foreign language might not be properly evaluated.
We hear often the wish that a French translation could be prepared. I would do it with all my heart - and all the more so because most of the first edition has already been translated; unfortunately the cost would be extremely high, hence nothing will probably come out of it. An estimated 3000 franks would be needed for the paper, printing etc., therefore it would be necessary to print 250 copies to cover the costs, keeping the original price. In France there are not that many chess players; in fact, no effort has been made to keep our only chess magazine either. This year again we are unable to consider continuation of this project, but next year the things perhaps will change.
If the present Chess Circle would be dissolved (as appears to be desired), another association - based on better elements and principles - could rise.
Far more important is the coming suppression of Café de la Régence as a result of an expected any time now decree, according to which the square in front of Palais Royal should be provided with arcades. In such case the building number 243 where the Café is situated would be pulled down. We don’t know yet where we will move then. Recently the Café suffered a painful loss: the death of Mr. Des Guis, one of our strongest players.
 
With greatest respect
I have the honour to be your obedient servant
 
LKieseritzky
 

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