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The Incident of a late _Prize_ fought at one of our Theatres, has given me some Occasion to amuse myself with the Rise, and Antiquity of _Duelling_; and to enquire what Considerations have given it such Credit, as to make it practicable as well in all Countries, as in all Times.

Religion and Civil Policy have ever declar'd against the Custom of receiving _Challenges_, and deny that any Man has a Right, by a Tryal at _Sharps_, to destroy his Fellow-Creature. History, 'tis true; both sacred and prophane, is full of Instances of these sort of Combats: but very few are recorded to have happen'd between Friends, none on the light and idle Misconstruction of Words, which has set most of our modern _Tilters_ at Work. The _Athenians_ made it penal by a Law so much as to call a Man a _Murtherer_: and the Detestation of Antiquity is so plain to this inhuman Kind of Proceeding, that when _Eteocles_ and _Polynices_ had kill'd each other upon the important Quarrel of disputed Empire, the Government order'd the Challenger's Body to be thrown out as a Prey to the Dogs and Birds, and made it Death for any one to sprinkle Dust over it, or give it the least honorary Marks of Interment.

The _Duelling_ so much in Fashion for a few late Centuries is so scandalous to _Christianity_ and _common Understanding_, and grounded upon none of those specious Occasions which at first made it warrantable, that it is high Time the Wisdom of Commonwealths should interpose to discountenance and abrogate a pernicious Liberty, whose Source springs alone from Folly and Intemperance. Sir _Walter Raleigh_ has very wisely observ'd in his _History_ of the _World_, that _the acting of a private Combat, for a private Respect, and most commonly a frivolous One, is not an Action of Virtue, because it is contrary to the Law of God, and of all Christian Kings: neither is it difficult, because even and equal in Persons and Arms: neither for a publick Good, but tending to the contrary, because the Loss or Mutilation of an able Man, is also a Loss to the Commonweal_.

Yet vile and immoral as this Custom is, it has so far prevail'd as to make way for a _Science_, and is pretended, like Dancing, to be taught By _Rule_ and _Book_. The Advertisements, which are of great Instruction to curious Readers, inform us, that a late Baronet had employ'd his Pen in laying down the _solid_ Art of _Fighting_ both on _Foot_ and _Horseback_: by reading of which Treatise any Person might in a short time attain to the Practice of it, either for the Defence of Life upon a just Occasion, or Preservation of Honour, in any accidental Scuffle or Quarrel. That is, if I may have Permission, without being challeng'd, to divest the Title of its Pomp, this solid Art would soon put one in a Capacity of killing one's Man, and standing a fair Chance of bequeathing one's Cloaths and Neck to the Hangman. It is observable, that Mr. _Bysshe_, in his Collection of agreeable and sublime Thoughts, for the Imitation of future Poets, when he comes to the Topick of _Honour_, ingeniously refers his Readers to the Word _Butcher_; tacitly implying that the Thoughts upon both Heads have a _Coherence_, as the Terms themselves are _synonomous_. In short, your Practitioners in Duelling are so barbarous in their Nature; that their whole Study is picking up Occasions to be engaged in a Quarrel. They are a sort of _Quixots_, whose heads are so full of mischievous Chivalry, that they will mistake the _Sails_ of a _Wind-mill_ for the _Arms_ of a _Gyant_; and it is fifty to one, if the most innocent Motions, Looks, or Smiles, are not, by their Prepossessions, construed Airs of Defiance, Offence, or Ridicule. There is a Passage in _Hamlet_, which never fails of raising Laughter in the Audience; 'tis where the Clowns are preparing a Grave for _Ophelia_, and descanting on the Unreasonableness of her being buried in Christian Burial, _who willfully sought her own Salvation. Will you ha' the Truth or on't?_ says one of them wisely, _if this had not been a Gentlewoman, she should have been buried out of_ Christian Burial. _Why there though say'st it_; replies his Fellow, _and the more is the Pity that great Folk should have Countenance in this World to drown, or hang themselves more than us poor Folk_. The Application is so easy, that I shall leave it for everyone to make it for himself.

Next to my first Wish, that _Duelling_ were totally restrain'd, methinks, I could be glad that our young hot _Bravo's_ would not be altogether _brutal_, but quarrel mathematically, and with some Discretion. I would recommend the Caution, which _Shakespear_ has prescrib'd by an Example, of offering and accepting a Challenge. In one of his Plays, there is an hereditary Quarrel betwixt two Families, and the Servants on each Side are so zealous in their Masters Cause, that they never meet without a Desire of fighting, yet are shy of giving the Occasion of Combat. The transcribing a short Passage will give the best Idea of their Conduct.

Samp. _I will bite my Thumb at them, which is a Disgrace to them if they bear it._

Abra. _Do you bite your Thumb at Us, Sir?_

Samp. _I do bite my Thumb, Sir._

Abra. _Do you bite your Thumb at Us, Sir?_

Samp. _Is the Law on our Side, if I say, Ay?_

Greg. _No._

Samp. _No, Sir; I do not bite my Thumb at you, Sir; but I bite my Thumb, Sir._

The most beneficial Things to a Commonwealth will have some of its Members who will think them a Grievance. I have just now receiv'd the following Letter from a _Fencing-Master_, who is very apprehensive of Business falling off, if the _Act_ against _Duelling_ should take place.


"As you are both a Knight and a Gentleman (which now-a-days don't always meet in one Man) I will make bold to Expostulate with you upon a Bill depending in the House of Commons, I mean that against _Duelling_. Every good Subject has a right of dissenting to any Bill propos'd, either by petition, or Pamphlet, before it passes into a Law; and this concerns the Honour of all Orders of Men from the Prince to the private Gentleman. I make free to tell you in a Word, if this passes, there's an End of _good Manhood_ in the King's Dominions. How must all the Important Quarrels, which happen in Life, among men of Honour, be decided? Must a heedless sawcy Coxcomb frown, or tread upon a Gentleman's Toes with Impunity? No, I suppose, the great Cause of Honour must be determined by the womanish Revenge of Scolding; and when two Peers or Gentlemen have had some manly Difference, they must chuse their _Seconds_ from _Billingsgate_ or the _Bar_--Consider, Sir, how many brave Gentleman have comfortably kept good Company, and had their Reckoning always paid, only by shewing a _broad Blade_, and cherishing a fierce Pair of _Whiskers_. Good Manners must certainly die with Chivalry; for what keeps all the pert Puppies about Town in Awe, but the Fear of being call'd to Account? Don't you know that there are a Set of impertinent Wretches, who are always disturbing publick Assemblies with Riots and Quarrels, only upon a presumption of being hinder'd from fighting, by the Crowd? There will be no end of such Grievances, if this Law takes Place. Besides, Sir, I hope it will be consider'd, what will become of us Brothers of the Blade; the Art we profess will grow of no Use to Mankind; and, of Consequence, we shall be expos'd to Poverty and Disgrace. Consider, Sir, how many bright Qualifications must go to the finishing one of us; we require Parts as elegant, generous, and manly, as any Profession whatsoever; therefore, I hope, that some publick Spirit in the House of Commons, who is a Lover of his Country, and a Friend to Arts and Sciences, will start up and distinguish himself against this Bill. You know that our Profession is justly call'd the Noble _Science_ of _Defence_, and makes a considerable Branch of the _Mathematicks_; if the Ignorant should gain this Point against us, they won't stop here; no doubt, their Design is to attack all Arts and Sciences, and beat them one by one quite out of the Nation; the _Assault_, 'tis true, seems only made against us; but wise Men foresee that all Learning is in Danger. Our Adversaries are upon the _Longe_ with their Swords just at our Breasts, I desire therefore your Advice and Assistance, in what _Guard_ we must stand to _parry_ this fatal _Thrust_. Yours,


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Printed for W. BOREHAM, at the _Angel_ in _Pater-Noster-Row_, where Advertisements and Letters from Correspondents are taken in.