After my previous post someone kindly drew my attention to a lengthy analysis of the incident by Edward Winter. Wilhelm Steinitz’s depiction of the incident (in the November 1889 International Chess Magazine) is quite detailed and likely to be kind of accurate. But the pre-punch conversation is not included in any detail. ‘Dreckseele, by the way, is the famous though clueless chess writer, Leopold Hoffer:
Allow me to tell you, Dreckseele, that you lie again deliberately with your usual Long Champs lying insolence, when you talk of Blackburne having merely smacked my right, “both here at Purssell’s and during the Paris Tournament at the hotel”. Here is my version, Dreckseele. Blackburne suffered some 22 or respectively 11 years ago even more frequently from fits of blackguardism on the J.Y. Dreck principle, which you and all your Dreck chums worship, than he does now. And on one occasion at Purssell’s about 1867, in a dispute between us, he struck with his full fist into my eye, which he blackened and might have knocked out. And though he is a powerful man of very nearly twice my size, who might have killed me with a few such strokes, I am proud to say that I had the courage of attempting to spit into his face, and only wish I had succeeded, Dreckseele. And on the second occasion, in Paris, we occupied adjoining rooms at the same hotel, and I was already in bed undressed when he came home drunk and began to quarrel, and after a few words he pounced upon me and hammered at my face and eyes with fullest force about a dozen blows, until the bedcloth and my nightshirt were covered with blood. But at last I had the good fortune to release myself from his drunken grip, and I broke the window pane with his head, which sobered him down a little. And you know well enough too, Dreckseele, if any confirmation of anything I say were needed, that the same heroic Blackburne performed a similar act of bravery on a sickly young man, Mr Israel, who died some years afterward, and whom he publicly gave a black eye at Purssell’s during his first match with Gunsberg. And you also know, Dreckseele, that this gallant Blackburne struck in a similar manner, publicly, in the City of London Chess Club, the secretary, Mr Walker, as nice a little gentleman as I ever met, who was even a head and shoulder shorter in stature than myself, and who has also, I am sorry to learn, died since. And I may tell you, moreover, Dreckseele, that this brave Blackburne, whose blackguardly fisticuff performances you want to glorify at my expense, has never to my knowledge struck a man of his own size, unless it were in the case of an assault on board ship, during his journey to Australia, for which he was fined £10 at the police court, on his landing in Melbourne. And if your valiant Blackburne, Dreckseele, is not thoroughly ashamed of such performances by this time, he would deserve to be spat upon by any gentleman, just as I spit upon you now, Dreckseele … And in my opinion, Dreckseele, poor Blackburne cannot redeem himself otherwise than by giving you a sound thrashing, Dreckseele, for having without his authority, I assume, dragged his name and a falsified account of his conduct toward myself into the controversy, thus compelling me to give my version of his performances, most reluctantly, I must say, for I am thoroughly ashamed of it on behalf of chess in general, but in no way, Dreckseele, on my own account personally.
It seems that Joseph Henry Blackburne was not a man to be trifled with, though one does wonder why he should have picked on Steinitz. Here anyway is a Steinitz brilliancy: