February 13th 2013 | Comments

How to duel like a gentleman

As any gentleman knows, the art of duelling is one of the most important skills one can possess.

Any thug can get into a mill outside a pub, arms and feet flailing as he dukes it out over what little honour the young lady holding his pint might have. Real gentlemen do not get into mere brawls over matters of honour. If he must get into a punch-up, it should be a Fair Fight in which certain rules are obeyed and nobody gets banged over the head with a horseshoe when his back is turned.

Sadly, the Fair Fight has gone to the dogs these days, as has the old-fashioned duel, which we would be keen to revive, were it not for all the hideous gunshot wounds, blood, and running away from the law.

Contrary to what you might think, duelling was never really that widespread in England. Of course, men fought for honour all the time, but not nearly as much as their European counterparts, who hacked their way through generations of continental manhood, usually for no more than being looked at in a funny way.

A German gentleman was not considered a gentleman unless he had fencing scars on his face. These days, we have no need for German gentlemen with facial scars at all, as they can know be played by Alan Rickman.

alan rickman

alan rickman

But consider if you were trapped in the1850s, and some cad had slandered your good lady’s reputation. It would be your duty to call out the cur, or you would be considered a coward in the eyes of everybody you know.

It is up to the challenged to arrange the venue and weapons, so if you have found yourself in this predicament, we would recommend fifty pound sledgehammers in a darkened basement.

However, as the challenger, you should be prepared for swordplay or the traditional pistols at dawn. You should name a second, and the wise man also engages a doctor (there are plenty of quacks with less morals than you think at the right price), and a priest (ditto). Try not to get into anything involving swords. It’s harder than you think, and – unless you’ve agreed to cease hostilities on first or second blood – it’s going to hurt like hell.

There’s none of this ten paces, turn and shoot business, but there is a final chance to accept an apology from the other party. A rarity, as the stakes are so high, no man wants to be seen to show a streak of cowardice. Just raise pistols, aim, and shoot. Most probably you will both miss, and honour will be satisfied on both sides. Then you can go to breakfast and laugh it all off.

However, we do have this advice: Try not to get shot. Anaesthetic and Dettol are still decades away, and you will most certainly die, if not from the wound but from some infection later on. Your best hope lies in the fact that your opponent is as incompetent with 19th Century weapons as you are. We repeat: Don’t get shot.

Also, kicking the opposition in the cobblers while he’s trying to reload is right out as well.

Also also, no gentleman would do this:

Typical American. No class.