« ForrigeFortsett »
wife, are somewhat apt to grow peevish and quarrelsome.
In the first place, I will make one general observation, that, at this busy time, when our country has need of men, lives are of more value to the community than at other periods. In time of peace, so many regiments are reduced, and the duties of an officer so easily performed, that if one fall, and another be hanged for killing him, there will speedily be found two proper young men ready to mount guard, and shew a good leg on the parade, in their
But, at present, from the great increase of the establishment, there is rather a scarcity in proportion to the demand of men of military talents, and military figure, especially when we consider that the war is now to be carried against so genteel a people as the French, to whom it will be necessary to shew officers of the most soldier-like appearance and address.
This patriotic consideration will tend to relax the etiquette formerly established, for every officer to fight a duel within a few weeks of the date of his commission, and that, too, without the purpose
of resenting any affront, or vindicating his honour from any aspersion, but merely to shew that he could fight. Now, this practice, being unnecessary at present, as preferment goes on briskly enough by the fall of officers in the course of their duty, may very properly, and without disparagement to the valour of the British army, be dispensed with ; so, it is to be agreed and understood, that every officer in the new-raised regiments, whose commission bears date on or posterior to the first of January 1778, is, ipso facto, to be held and deemed of unquestionable courage and immaculate honour.
As to the measure of affront which may justify a challenge, it is to be remembered, that the officers of the above-mentioned corps have been obliged, in levying their respective quotas, to engage in scenes of a very particular kind; at markets, fairs, countryweddings, and city-brawls, amongst a set of men and women, not remarkable for delicacy of language, or politeness of behaviour. We are not, therefore, to wonder, if the smooth enamel of the gentleman has received some little injury from the collision of such coarse materials; and a certain time may fairly be allowed for unlearning the blunt manners and rough phraseology which an officer in such situations was forced to assume. Therefore the identical words which, a campaign or two hence, are to be held expiable only by blood, may, at present, be done away by an explanation ; and those which an officer must then explain and account for at the peril of a challenge, are now to be considered as mere colloquial expletives acquired by associating with such company as frequent the places above described.
As, notwithstanding all these allowances, some duels may be expected to take place, it is proper to mention certain regulations for the conduct of the parties, in the construction of which I have paid infinitely more regard to their honour than to their safety.
In fighting with the sword, a blow, or the lie direct, can scarcely be expiated but by a thrust through the body; but any lesser affront may he wiped off by a wound in the sword arm; or, if the injury be very slight, any wound will be sufficient. In all this it is to be noted, that the receiving of such a wound by either party constitutes a reparation for the affront; as it is a rule of justice peculiar to the code of duelling, that the blood of the injured atones for the of. fence he has received, as well as that of the injurer for the offence he has given.
In affairs decided with pistols, the distance is, in like manner, to be regulated by the nature of the injury. For those of an atrocious sort, a distance of only twenty feet, and pistols of nine, nine and a half, or ten-inch barrels are requisite ; for slighter ones the
distance may be doubled, and a six or even fiveinch barrel will serve. Regard, moreover, is to be had to the size of the persons engaged ; for every stone above eleven, the party of such weight may, with perfect honour, retire three feet.
I read, some time ago, certain addresses to the Jockey Club, by two gentlemen who had been engaged in an affair of honour; from which it appeared, that one of them had systematized the art of duelling to a wonderfnl degree. Among other things, he had brought his aim with a pistol to so much certainty, and made such improvements on the weapon, that he could lay a hundred guineas to ten on hitting at a considerable distance, any part of his adversary's body. These arts, however, i by no means approve: they resemble, methinks, a loaded die, or a packed deal ; and I am inclined to be of opinion, that a gentleman is no more obliged to fight against the first, than to play against the latter. They may, in the mildest construction, be compared to the sure play of a man who can take every ball at billiards; and therefore if it shall be judged that an ordinary marksman must fight with the person possessed of them, he is, at least, entitled to odds, and must be allowed three shots to one of his antagonist.
I have thus, with some labour, and I hope strict honour, settled certain articles in the matter of duelling, for such of my readers as may have occasion for them. It is but candid, however, to own, that there have been now and then brilliant things done quite without the line of my directions, to wit, by not
fighting at all. The Abbé
with whom I was disputing at Paris on this subject, concluded his arguments against duelling with a story, which, though I did not think it much to the purpose, was a tolerable story notwithstanding. I shall give it in the very words of the Abbé.
A countryman of yours, a Captain Douglas, was playing at Trictrac with a very intimate friend, here in this very coffee-house, amidst a circle of French officers who were looking on. Some dispute arising about a cast of the dice, Douglas said, in a gay thoughtless manner, “Oh! what a story!” A murmur arose among the by-standers; and his antagonist feeling the affront, as if the lie had been given him, in the violence of his passion, snatched up the tables and hit Douglas a blow on the head. The instant he had done it, the idea of his imprudence, and its probable consequences to himself and his friend, rushed upon his mind: he sat, stupified with shame and remorse, his eyes rivetted on the ground, regardless of what the other's resentment might prompt him to act. Douglas, after a short pause, turned round to the spectators : “ You think,” said he,
“ that I am now ready to cut the throat of that unfortunate young man ; but I know that, at this moment he feels anguish a thousand times more keen than any my sword could inflict.-I will embrace him—thus-and try to reconcile him to himself ;but I will cut the throat of that man among you who shall dare to breathe a syllable against my honour.” “ Bravo! Bravo !” cried an old Chevalier de St. Louis, who stood immediately behind him.-The sentiment of France overcame its habit, and Bravo! Bravo! echoed from every corner of the room. Who would not have cried Bravo! Would not you, Sir ?- Doubtless.'-_ On other occasions, then, be governed by the same principle.'- Why, to be sure, it were often better not to fight—if one had but the courage not to fight.'
No 12. SATURDAY, MARCH 6, 1779.
" TO THE AUTHOR OF THE MIRROR.
"I am a plain country-gentleman with a small fortune and a large family. My boys, all except the youngest, I have contrived to set out into the world in tolerably promising situations. My two eldest girls are married; one to a clergyman, with a very comfortable living, and a respectable character ; the other to a neighbour of my own, who farms most of his own estate, and is supposed to know countrybusiness as well as any man in this part of the kingdom. I have four other girls at home, whom I wish to make fit wives for men of equal rank with their brothers-in-law.
• About three months ago, a lady in our neighbourhood (at least as neighbourhood is reckoned in our quarter) happened to meet the two eldest of my unmarried daughters at the house of a gentleman, a distant relation of mine, and, as well as myself, a freeholder in our county. The girls are tolerably handsome, and I have endeavoured to make them understand the common rules of good-breeding. My Lady ran out to my kinsman, who happens to have no children of his own, in praise of their beauty and politeness, and, at parting, gave them a most pressing invitation to come and spend a week with her during the approaching Christmas