Page images
PDF
EPUB

honour), should ride the wooden horse in the Tiltyard for such first offence; for the second stand in the pillory; and for the third, be prisoner in Bedlam for life.

Col. Plume. I remember that a rencounter, or duel, was so far from being fashion among

the officers that served in a parliament-army, that on the contrary it was as disreputable, and as great an impediment to advancement in the service, as being bashful in time of action.

Sir Mark. Yet I have been informed by some old cavaliers, of famous reputation for brave and gallant men, that they were much more in mode among their party than they have been during this last war.

Col. Plume. That is true too, Sir.

Mr. Sage. By what you say, gentlemen, one should think that our present military officers are compounded of an equal proportion of both those tempers; since duels are neither quite discoun-1 tenanced, nor much in vogue.

Sir Mark. That difference of temper in regard to duels, which appears to have been between the court and the parliament-men of the sword, was not (I conceive) for want of courage in the latter, nor of a liberal education, because there were some of the best families in England engaged in that party; but gallantry and mode, which glitter agreeably to the imagination, were encouraged by the court, as promoting its splendour; and it was as natural that the contrary party (who were to recommend themselves to the public for men of serious and solid parts) should deviate from every thing chimerical.

Mr. Sage. I have never read of a duel among the Romans, and yet their nobility used more liberty with their tongues than one may do now without being challenged.

Sir Mark. Perhaps the Romans were of opinion, that ill language and brutal manners reflected only

on those who were guilty of them: and that a man's reputation was not at all cleared by cutting the person's throat who had reflected upon it: but the custom of those times had fixed the scandal in the action; whereas now it lies in the reproach.

Mr. Sage. And yet the only sort of duel that one can conceive to have been fought upon motives truly honourable and allowable, was that between the Horatii and Curatii.

Sir Mark. Colonel Plume, pray, what was the method of single combat in your

time
among

the cavaliers ? I suppose, that as the use of clothes continues, though the fashion of them has been mutable; so duels, though still in use, have had in all times their particular modes of performance.

Col. Plume. We had no constant rule, but generally conducted our dispute and tilt according to the last that had happened between persons of reputation, among the very top follows for bravery and gallantry.

Sir Mark. If the fashion of quarrelling and tilting was so often changing in your time, Colonel Plume, a man might fight, yet lose his credit for want of understanding the fashion.

Colonel Plume. Why, Sir Mark, in the beginning of July a man would have been censured for want of courage, or being thought indigent of the true notions of honour, if he had put up words, which in the end of September following, one could not resent without passing for a brutal and quarrelsome fellow.

Sir Mark. But, Colonel, were duels or rencounters most in fashion in those days ?

Col. Plume. Your men of nice honour, Sir, were for avoiding all censure of advantage which they supposed might be taken in a rencounter; therefore they used seconds, who were to see that all was upon the square, and make a faithful report of the whole combat; but in a little time it became a

which your

fashion for the seconds to fight, and I will tell you how it happened.

Mr. Sage. Pray do, Colonel Plume, and the method of a duel at that time; and give us some notion of the punctos upon

nice men quarrelled in those days.

Col. Plume. I was going to tell you, Mr. Sage, that one Cornet Modish had desired his friend Captain Smart's opinion in some affair, but did not follow it; upon which Captain Smart sent Major Adroit (a very topping fellow of those times) to the person that had slighted his advice. The Major never inquired into the quarrel because it was not the manner then among the very topping fellows; but got two swords of an equal length, and then waited upon Cornet Modish, desiring him to choose his sword, and meet his friend Captain Smart. Cornet Modish came with his friend to the place of combat; there the principals put on their pumps, and stripped to their shirts, to show, that they had nothing but what men of honour carry about them, and then engaged.

Sir Mark. And did the seconds stand by, Sir ?

Col. Plume. It was a received custom until that time; but the swords of those days being pretty long, and the principals acting on both sides upon the defensive, and the morning being frosty, Major Adroit desired that the other second, who was also a very topping fellow, would try a thrust or two, only to keep them warm, until the principals had decided the matter, which was agreed to by Modish's second, who presently whipped Adroit through the body, disarmed him, and then parted the principals, who had received no harm at all.

Mr. Sage. But was not Adroit laughed at?

Col. Plume. On the contrary, the very topping fellows were ever after of opinion, that no man, who deserved that character, could serve as a second, without fighting; and the Smarts and Modishes, finding their account in it, the humour took without opposition.

Mr. Sage. Pray, Colonel, how long did that fashion continue ?

Col. Plume. Not long neither, Mr. Sage; for, as soon as it became a fashion, the very topping fellows thought their honour reflected upon, if they did not proffer themselves as seconds when any of their friends had a quarrel, so that sometimes there were a dozen of a side.

Sir Mark. Bless me! if that custom had continued, we should have been at a loss now for our very pretty fellows; for they seem to be the proper men to officer, animate, and keep up an army. But, pray, Sir, how did that sociable manner of tilting grow out of mode ?

Col. Plume. Why, Sir, I will tell you : it was a law among the combatants, that the party which happened to have the first man disarmed or killed, should yield as vanquished: which some people thought might encourage the Modishes and Smarts in quarrelling to the destruction, of only the very topping fellows; and as soon as this reflection was started, the very topping fellows thought it an incumbrance upon their honour to fight at all themselves. Since that time the Modishes and Smarts, throughout all Europe, have extolled the French king's edict.

Sir Mark. Our very pretty fellows, whom I take to be the successors of the very topping fellows, think a quarrel so little fashionable, that they will not be exposed to it by any other man's vanity, or want of sense.

Mr. Sage. But, Colonel, I have observed in your account of duels, that there was a great exactness in avoiding all advantage that might possibly be between the combatants.

the

Col. Plume. That is true, Sir; for the weapons were always equal.

Mr. Sage. Yes, Sir ; but suppose an active, adroit, strong man had insulted an awkward, or a feeble, or an unpractised sword's-man?

Col. Plume. Then, Sir, they fought with pistols. Mr. Sage. But, Sir, there might be a certain advantage that way; for a good marksman will be sure to hit his man'at twenty yards distance; and a man whose hand shakes (which is common to men that debauch in pleasures, or have not used pistols out of their holsters) will not venture to fire, unless he touches the person he shoots at. Now, Sir, I am of opinion, that one can get no honour in killing a man, if one has it all rug, as the gamesters say, when they have a trick to make the game secure, though they seem to play upon square.

Sir Mark. In truth, Mr. Sage, I think such a fact must be murder in a man's own private conscience, whatever it may appear to the world.

Col. Plume. I have known some men so nice, that they would not fight but upon a cloak with pistols.

Mr. Sage. I believe a custom well established would outdo the grand Monarch's edict.

Sir Mark. 'And bullies would then leave off their long swords. But I do not find that a very pretty fellow can stay to change his sword when he is insulted by a bully with a long Diego; though his own at the same time be no longer than a penknife; which will certainly be the case if such little swords are in mode. Pray, Colonel, how was it between the hectors of your time, and the very topping fellows?

Col. Plume. Sir, long swords happened to be generally worn in those times.

Mr. Sage. In answer to what you were saying, Sir Mark, give me leave to inform you, that your

« PreviousContinue »