Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0009018, Thu, 11 Dec 2003 12:55:22 -0800

Fw: Brief History of Dueling (fwd) OR hANDY iNFORMATION FOR THE
----- Original Message -----
From: "Galya Diment" <galya@u.washington.edu>
To: <chtodel@cox.net>
Sent: Thursday, December 11, 2003 11:20 AM
Subject: Brief History of Dueling (fwd)

> Don, I just taught a course on Pushkin. I am forwarding 2 messages I sent
> to my students about dueling. Pick and choose if you think any of that is
> interest to the list. I also used Reyfman's book which is very good. Galya
> ---------- Forwarded message ---------
> Date: Sun, 19 Oct 2003 19:33:24 -0700 (PDT)
> From: Galya Diment <galya@u.washington.edu>
> Reply-To: russ430a_au03@u.washington.edu
> To: Class Discussion List <russ430a_au03@u.washington.edu>
> Subject: Brief History of Dueling
> From: http://www.fencingonline.com/academy/reginald_magee.htm
> A Duel was possible only where there had been an insult, of which there
> were three categories. The first or slight insult was some impoliteness or
> inconsiderate behaviour. The second was cursing or the attribution of
> shameful qualities such as calling someone a jackass or an imbecile. The
> third was the greatest. It included a slap or touching, some violation of
> physical integrity, a threatened blow, seduction or lewd touching of a
> wife, daughter or sister. Women often sparked the controversies that
> resulted in the issue of a challenge, and the duel was looked as the most
> effective device by which a womans honour could be redeemed. Some women
> prided themselves on being fought over, and Bosquett in his book The Young
> Man of Honours Vade Mecum (a treatise on duelling), warned men against
> being lured into duels by artful, dangerous and vicious females and
> inflammatory mistresses.
> The challenge could be delivered on the spot by the principals exchanging
> names and addresses or by swapping calling cards. Otherwise, trustees of
> honour were notified and they would become seconds, whereby their first
> duty was to act as pages to deliver up the complaint of their client and
> his demand for satisfaction. After the provocation the offended person had
> 24 hours to make the challenge, and the duel would then take place within
> the next 48 hours. This gave the participants time to put their affairs in
> order and to write letters. Another duty of the seconds was to try to
> achieve reconciliation if possible but, if unsuccessful, they would
> arrange where the duel was to take place and inspect the weapons and carry
> out their duties according to the code duello.
> A doctor would also be in attendance. His role was to extract balls if
> they were not too deeply embedded; stitch up sabre wounds and to be
> consulted as to whether a bout should continue. If the doctor stopped the
> duel prematurely, the injured party would be justified in demanding
> satisfaction from him.
> The ritual of the pistol duel possessed a certain atmosphere. The seconds
> would choose a suitable site where sunlight, shadow and wind were evenly
> apportioned with a clear horizon behind the duellists to provide a sharp
> silhouette at which to aim. The participants would arrive in carriages
> with their seconds, and punctuality was essential. The opponents would be
> checked for watches, coins and letters or objects capable of deflecting
> pistol balls. There would then be the formal opening of the pistol case
> which was carried by the seconds of the insulted party, the key to the
> case being held by the opposition. Then following the ominous loading
> process by the seconds.
> The type of duel, distance and the number of shots to be exchanged would
> have been determined beforehand. When there was to be more than one
> exchange, the drama would be heightened by each act of reloading. Lord
> Byron captured something of the atmosphere in the statement:
> "it has a strange, quick jar upon the ear, that cocking the pistol, when
> you know a moment more will bring the sight to bear your person, 12 yards
> off or so..."
> In early duels (16th century), wheel-lock pistols were used, and in the
> 18th century they were replaced by the flintlock. English duelling pistols
> were usually smoothbore and the calibre was approximately 0.5"inches.
> Pistols with rifled barrels were denounced by the codes of duelling, but
> some had blind rifling which stopped a few inches short of the muzzle and
> gave the impression of a smoothbore. French duellers were usually rifled.
> The duelling pistol reached its height of perfection between 1770 and
> 1810. They were superb examples of the artistry of the gun makers of the
> time, many of whom were in London and other parts of the country. A
> well-made weapon was designed so that it could be used quickly and
> accurately. It would point almost automatically and be right on target
> when brought up to the shooting position. For example, one English
> smoothbore pistol made in ca 1790 was found to be capable of hitting a
> man-sized target at 85 yards, three out of four times. Expert shots could
> cut the ace out of a card, shatter the stem of a wine glass at 20 paces or
> kill a swallow on the wing with a single ball, but most of the pistols
> used were accurate to 3 inches at 15 paces.
> The most common duel stance in all countries was the face-to-face meeting
> at a given distance. This could be between 10 and 30 paces. The trained
> duellist would show only his right side to his opponent, keep his stomach
> drawn in and his right arm shielding as much of his chest a possible (a
> beefy arm could stop a ball), thus presenting the smallest target and
> protecting his vital areas in the best manner. Most of the bullets struck
> in the region of the kidneys or the posterior rib cage.
> The duellist would then shoot immediately on taking aim, moving only the
> forefinger so that his aim would not be deflected. If hit, the intent
> would be to remain calm and treat the matter coolly so as not to appear
> alarmed or confused, but if mortally wounded, go off with as good a grace
> as possible. In English duels deliberate aiming was not considered good
> form.