Blackburne Book Review

Joseph Henry Blackburne. A Chess Biography. Author: Tim Harding. 588 Pages. 1186 Games. Hardback. Published by McFarland and Company. Price varies according to supplier.


Joseph Henry Blackburne was born into a lower middleclass family on 10th December 1841. His father, Joseph Blackburn, is believed to have come from Leeds, working initially as a bookkeeper before making a living as a phrenologist. His mother, originally Ann Pritchard, was from Manchester. Blackburne was the second child of his parents. His elder brother, Frederic, died of scarlet fever on 11th October 1847, aged eight. Younger sister, Clara, was born on 4th November 1847. She died in Belfast on 2nd June 1909.


Early Years.

Blackburne grew up in a fast expanding Lancashire city where the vast majority of people were very poor. In later life he maintained that an interest in draughts predated his knowledge of chess. Publicity concerning Paul Morphy’s exploits in Europe in 1858 and 1859 prompted the change. His earliest recorded games were against the Manchester club champion, Russian born Eduard D. Pinder, a player of considerable ability, who had won some games against Falkbeer several weeks earlier when visiting London. Having joined Manchester Chess Club in the autumn of 1861, Blackburne gave up his job – stated in the 1861 census as ‘warehouseman (hosiery)’ – in 1863 to concentrate on chess. He moved to London in late 1863 or early 1864 and by late 1864 or early 1865 had joined the City of London Chess Club.




First wife – Eleanor Driscoll.

Blackburne married Eleanor Driscoll on 10th December 1865 – his 24th birthday – in the parish church of St. John the Evangelist, Westminster. A son, Joseph, was born to the couple in 1867 or 1868 but died of paraplegia on 24th December 1875. There is no record of them having another child but the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography maintains they had a daughter. Eleanor died on 4th April 1874 of ‘phthio pulmonalis 2 years’ which suggests she had probably been suffering from tuberculosis for a considerable time.


Second wife – Beatrice Lapham.

Beatrice Lapham became the second Mrs. Blackburne on 3rd October 1876 at the Register Office in the Strand. She gave birth to a son, Julius, on 8th February 1877. Beatrice died on 7th January 1880, aged 26, following an ‘apoplectic fit’, full details emerging at the inquest and being reported in the local press. Evidence suggests that in the weeks prior to her death she had given birth to a child but the baby was never registered and the child’s fate is not known.


Third wife – Mary Jane Goodway.

Blackburne married his former landlady, Mary Jane Goodway, on 16th December 1880 at the local registry office in Bermondsey. The widow of Henry Goodway and mother of six children, she was almost certainly the landlady who gave evidence at the inquest into the death of the second Mrs. Blackburne, being named incorrectly in the local press as Mary Ann Goodway. Mary gave birth to Frederick William Blackburne on 21st May 1881 at 16, Lucey Road, Bermondsey. He was to be their only child. The couple remained together until 16th January 1922 when Mary died at home. The death certificate states 1. Cholecystitis 2. Peritonitis. (continue)