« IndietroContinua »
Able to young learners; owing to the intricate manner they have made choice of in defcribing the feveral movements, parades, and thrufts, which should be rendered as fimple and easy as the nature of the art would admit; fo that young learners might acquire a perfect knowledge of the theory of fencing, and be enabled to execute, or put the fame in practice, with little or no inftructions from masters.'
The Author likewife guards against an objection often made to the art of fencing, that it hath a tendency to promote the abfurd and deftructive cuftom of challenging to duels.
Mr. M'Arthur obferves, that,
In England, the art is now held in greater repute than ever, and is univerfally introduced as a neceffary branch of military education. Some people, indeed, from false prejudices, object against the cultivation of this art, as tending to infpire the poffeffor with an improper share of confidence, animation, and falfe courage, leading him into broils and quarrels, generally terminated by the custom of duelling. But the fe objections are foon obviated, when it is confidered, that very few of the many who devote themselves to the practice of duelling, understand a fingle movement of fencing: for pistols are the decifive weapons generally made ufe of, on occafions of this nature. It must therefore be afcribed to the quarrelfome difpofition, and perhaps too ftrict notions of honour imbibed by duellifts, and not to any knowledge they might derive from the acquifition of this art.'
To what Mr. M'Arthur has urged in defence of his favourite art, may be added, that the difperfion of any kind of knowledge that fets mankind on a par with each other, cannot do the least harm: on the contrary, it is a known paradoxical truth, that every contrivance and improvement in the art of war, calculated to facilitate the deftruction of the human fpecies, happily counteracts its purpose, and operates to fpare them. The advantage reaped, is by the party firft in poffeffion of any new kind of this knowledge, and only while the partial poffeffion of it is retained. An inftance in point occurs in the following paffage, where the Author gives a good hint to his brother officers in the navy:
It is to be regretted, that a method is not adopted in our royal navy, of exercising the flip's company of frigates, and fuch fmall veffels of war as are liable to be boarded, with fimple fencing, in the file of broad-fword play *, commonly called cudgelling; as it would be of the utmost utility in the offenfive and defentive attacks of boarding. This might eafily be accomplished, by making it a branch of the duties of a master at arms, qualified to exercise the crew, or fuch of them as might be allotted for boarding, in the rudiments of the art and from the spirit of emulation prevailing among them, they would foon make themfelves proficients, by a little practice.
Where commanders have introduced and encouraged this exeramong their ship's company, fingular advantages have enfued in • The guards and cuts used in broad fword play, are the fame to be used with a cutlass, hanger, &c.’
the action of boarding fword in hand, both with respect to the fafety of their men, and capture of the enemy; a particular inftance of which we have had this war, in the action of one of his Majesty's armed cutters, with two French privateers, both of fuperior force; when, after having met with powerful refiftance in boarding and capturing one of them, after the other had ftruck, not a man was flain, though feveral of the enemy fhared that fate.'
This work is divided into three Parts.
I. Of the guards, and fimple parades, and thrusts in general. II. On the various counter-parades, counter-difengagements, feints, glizades, &c.
III. Of affaults and attacks in general.
The leffons under each of the two former heads are delivered in a plain eafy manner, according to the Author's profeffed intention, illuftrated with fuitable (and well defigned) engravings; but these lessons being all of a technical nature, would not be relished by the general Reader. From the third part, indeed, which confifts of the application of the previous leffons, a paffage or two may be felected as fpecimens of the performance.
After fome academical rules for engaging in affault, the Author proceeds in the following manner:
Notwithflanding all the variations that the art of fencing is fufceptible of, yet it is confined to very few in the real execution of it in ferious affairs. Every one killed in the art, always adopts fome favourite parades, feints, and movements, which he naturally adheres to, and has a natural bias to put in execution upon any emergency. And though the cuftom of deciding points of honour by the fword, is not fo frequent in this country, as in most foreign parts; yet noblemen, men of fashion, foldiers, and travellers of whatever degree or denomination, find manifold advantages from the cultivation and acquifition of this art, particularly in foreign countries, where the horrid practices of affaffinations are frequently committed. Under a predicament of this nature, you must, in felf-defence, have recourse to the fenfibility or feeling of your hand in all your movements, as being the only fafeguard in the dark.
I fhall therefore mention a few of the most material rules and obfervations that have occurred to me on this subject, either when asfaulted in a clandeftine manner at night, or when engaged in fingle combat with any adverfary. In fupport of thefe obfervations, I have at different times confuled the opinion of matters and foreigners fkilled in the art; who have had their knowledge and judgment on thefe points, founded on long experience, often put to the teft.
• First then, when you are affaulted in the dark, and have time to draw your fword in defence; throw yourself on a wide guard, having your point well directed to your adverfary's breaft, By affuming a fierce and wide guard, he will think you are quite close upon him; and endeavour to feel his weapon that you may engage it in carte or tierce. Having felt his blade, never quit it; but keep conftantly following any feints or difengagements he may attempt, by forming your counter parade of carte and tierce, femi-circle, and octave, alternately using them, according to the fide engaged upon,
For example; if you feel his blade in carte, gently prefs upon it, that your hand may be the more fufceptible of his motions to difengage; and the inftant you feel the motion, follow him by the counter parade of carte. If you do not feel his blade with that rade, it must be prefumed that he has dropped his point under your arm. Therefore in order to be aware of his thrusting low; after you have formed the counter parade of carte, inftantly form the fimple or counter parades of octave; and by bringing your hand with a circular movement to guard, you will always bring his blade to its former pofition. Thefe two counter parades will baffle every feint and defign that he may attempt to execute against you on this engagement. They should be executed with that dexterity, fo as to feem a continuation of one parade; indeed the courfes of the circles formed by each, are the fame, only with this difference, the point is dropped and wrift bended, in forming the counter parade of octave.
If you fhould feel the adverfary's blade on the engagement of tierce, the rules to be observed in felf-defence are nearly fimilar to thofe on the other engagement. For example; prefs gently on his blade in tierce, and when you feel the motion of his difengagement, quickly form your counter parade of tierce and parade of femicircle, or circle, if neceffary, bringing his blade always round to the original pofition. If you happen to feel the blade with the counter parade of tierce only, it is very apt to caufe a difarm, by the abrupt continuation of the two parades. Thefe, if quickly executed, will alfo defend you from every feint or thrust that he may attempt agains you on this engagement.
In executing thefe parades, the body fhould be well thrown back, and poised upon your left leg. If there is a fpace of ground to retreat, so much the better; but beware of the ruggedness of the ground, by raising your feet higher than common in retreating. If the fcene of action fhould be confined, and your adverfary prefs vigorously upon you, with your back forced up to a wall, or any other corner, I would recommend you to make ufe of your fimple parades of Seconde and prime alternately; and when you have parried any of his thrufts forcibly with either of thefe parades, plunge one in return toward his flank or belly, with the extenfion of the arm, making the oppofition correfpond with your parade.
For the more speedy attaining that degree of feeling neceffary in the execution of the above uleful parades; I would recommend fuch learners as have made fufficient progrefs in fencing, to exercise frequently thefe parades blindfolded in the field, or on any other rugged piece of ground, while another fcholar takes his proper diftance, and ufes every feint and ftratagem to deceive him.'
When fo many of our countrymen are tempted, either by bufinefs, or, more efpecially, by pleasure, to vifit, occafionally, thofe places where affaffination is a profeffion; the foregoing in. ftructions may be deemed an important part of this performance. Nor are those that follow, unworthy the attention of fwordsmen in general.
The fmall fword in the hand of a skilful fencer, has upon trial been found to prevail over an adversary armed with a broad sword,
cutlafs, or cimeter, &c. For while he is raifing his hand to make a cut or blow at you, he is that moment liable to be run through the body by a quick ftraight time thruft. In like manner you may always prevail over an adverfary armed with a loaded pittol, provided it is prefented to you at fword's length, and the opportunity offers of joining your blade thereto. For if he offers to fhift fides to level his aim, you can always prevent him with a counter parade; fo that by keeping your blade joined to his piftol, and feeling his movements, you are covered fecurely from his fire. But if he should retreat, with a view to disengage his pistol from your blade, you must advance quickly toward him, endeavouring to keep the feel of his piftol, and deliver him a quick time thrust home. This is a hazardous attack for both parties; but the chance is as two to one in your favour.'
Before we difmifs this work we shall cite another paffage, to fhew how inconfiderable a fhare the fmall fword has in duels, by the little dependance that can be had on it when opposed against itself, either in equal or in unequal hands:
Should neceffity, or the punctilios of honour, urge you to the field, to meet another in fingle combat, and that fmall fword fhould be the decifive weapons made choice of; you will find perhaps more difficulties than you are at first aware of. For though your judgment and kill in fencing may be confeffedly fuperior in every respect to an adverfary, when engaged with foils on the plaftroon, yet the erroneous habits he may imbibe or fall into, by an over eagerness in serious affairs, such as delivering thrufts with a crooked arm, forcibly beating down your guards, and frequently delivering random thrufts without being covered; may be the very caufe of his prevailing over you hence arife many fatal mistakes to skilful fencers in ferious affairs, who, too confident of their fuperiority over an adversary, and not aware of the thrufts of chance he may deliver, often fall a victim to inferior skill. Many inftances of this nature are daily exhibited on the continent, where duelling in this manner fo much prevails,'
Hence it is evident that small sword play in the academy, is quite another thing from fmall fword work in ferious affairs! And hence also it appears, that when calls of honour urge men to the field, how far more genteel the good English custom is than the Gothic practice on the continent: namely, to decide the conteft with a pair of neat pocket piftols; to walk twelve paces diftant, to compliment each other with the offer of the firft fire, until one of them accepts it, and if that is received without a broken jaw, or a bullet in the groin (the odds against which are known to any fquire's groom on the turf), then to return the fire vertically in the air. Full fatisfaction being thus given and received, for the injury or affront, be it what it may, the fequel is as much matter of courfe, and naturally follows; viz. all refentment being blown away by the powder, inftantly to fling afide the piftols, to embrace with mutual acknowledgments of both being men of ftrict honour, and to adjourn
adjourn to a social breakfast, with the utmoft cordiality, and profeffions of regard for each other!
Enough has been produced from this work to enable the Reader to form his own ideas of its merit; we only hint in conclufion, that as every technical work ought to be complete in itself, and as it may engage the attention of young gentlemen, where no mafter is at hand; a previous gloffary of the terms, would be no improper addition when the opportunity of improvement offers.
ART. III. Hiftorical Remarks and Anecdotes on the Caftle of the Baftille. Tranflated from the French published in 1774. 8vo. I s. 6d. Cadell. 1780.
HE pamphlet of which this is a tranflation has excited much curiofity abroad. It gave fuch offence to the court of France, that the fale of it was prohibited under the feverest penalties and it was not without fome difficulty and hazard that the editor of this tranflation (Mr. Howard) procured a copy of it, and brought it into England. The tranflation, which appears to be well executed, will doubtless be very acceptable to the Public, both as it contains authentic memorials of a place which is at once an object of general curiofity and univerfal horror, and as it affords an interefting and inftructive comparifon between the dreadful effects of defpotic power, and the mild and wife adminiftration of equal laws in a free state.
From the anecdotes here given refpecting eminent perfons, who have been confined in this prifon, we shall select the following:
In 1674, the baggage of Louis chevalier de Rohan, Grand Huntsman of France, having been taken and rummaged in a fkirmish, fome letters were found which caufed a fufpicion that he had treated with the English for the furrender of Havre-de-Grace. He was arrested and put into the Baftille. The Sieur de la Tuanderie, his agent, concealed himself. The proof was not fufficient. A com. miffion was named to proceed against the accufed for treafon, La Tuanderie was discovered at Rouen: an attempt was made to arrest him, but he fired on the affailants, and obliged them to kill him on the pot. Perfons attached to the chevalier de Rohan went every evening round the Baftille, crying through a speaking trumpet, La Tuanderie is dead, and has said nothing; but the chevalier did not hear them. The commiffioners, not being able to get any thing from him, told him, "that the King knew all; that they had proofs, but only wished for his own confeffion; and that they were authorised to promife him pardon if he would declare the truth." The chevalier, too credulous, confeffed the whole. Then the perfidious commiffioners changed their language. They faid, "that with refpe&t to the pardon, they could not anfwer for it, but that they had hopes of obtaining it, and would go and folicit it." This they troubled them.