Captain John Godfrey's A TREATISE Upon the Useful Science of Defence.
Published: 1747, London, UK
Transcribed by Jonathan Pellett
Use of this work is freely granted subject to the conditions of this Creative Commons Licence.
A TREATISE Upon the Useful Science of Defence,
Connecting the SMALL and BACK-SWORD,
And showing the Affinity between them
Endeavouring to weed the Art of those superfluous, unmeaning Practices which overrun it, and choke the true Principles, by reducing it to a narrow Compass, and and supporting it with Mathematical Proofs.
An Examination into the Performances of the most Noted Masters of the Back-Sword, who have fought upon the Stage, pointing out their Faults, and allowing their Abilities.
Some Observations upon Boxing, and the Characters of the most able Boxers within the Author's Time.
By Capt. JOHN GODFREY
Printed for the Author, by T. Gardner, at Cowley's Head opposite St. Clement's Church in the Strand.
TO HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS THE DUKE
I BEG Leave, with the profoundest Humility, to lay the following Essay at your Royal Highness' Feet. That part of it, which treats of the Back-Sword, I have proved (I flatter myself) to be of singular Advantage in the Army; upon which account I would willingly presume, it may not be altogether unacceptable to a Prince of Your Royal Highness' military Genius. The other Exercises I have descanted upon must be confessed to be of inferior Consequence; but the meanest of them in my poor Opinion, greatly contributes to inure the common People to Bravery; and to encourage that truly British Spirit, which was the Glory of our Ancestors, and is surprisingly reviving under the Influence of Your Royal Highness' heroic and gallant Behaviour. Few Generals have appeared Conspicuous so early. You have, Great Sir, begun gloriously; You cannot fail of imitating the Illustrious House from whence you are descended, and going on successfully to Perfection. That intrepid Valour; That admirably wise Conduct, which have distinguished your Royal Highness against His Majesty's Enemies at Home, will one Day become formidable to those Abroad, and check the Indolence of the grand Disturber of the Peace and Liberties of Europe.
I am, SIR,
With the highest Admiration, and the warmest Zeal,
Your ROYAL HIGHNESS'
Most Obedient and Most Devoted Servant,
For several Years I have been advised, and even importuned by my Friends, to publish something upon the SWORD; but have from Time to Time declined it, from a Diffidence of my Abilities to put my Thoughts, however just they may be in respect to the SWORD, into a Dress fit for public Appearance. The Strength of Self-Love, and that Vanity, which hardly any Man is entirely free from, has at length got the better of my Temerity, and prevailed upon me to put Pen to Paper.
I think I have had some of the Theory and Practice of the Sword: The following Reasons may be some Excuse for my Conceit. If I am mistaken, no man living has been more abominably abused by Flattery; for I have for many years been fed with that Notion from the Town, and have been told that I could execute what I knew, and give better reasons for what I did in the Sword, than most Men, by Men of Rank so far above me, that it is scarce to be supposed, that they would ever debase themselves by idly flattering one so insignificant. I believe it will be further acknowledged, that I have a considerable Time supported this Opinion of myself by proving it upon all, who were willing to dispute it with me. I have purchased my Knowledge in the Back-Sword with many a broken Head, and Bruise in every Part of me. I chose to mostly go to FIG, and exercise with him; partly, as I knew him to be the ablest Master, and partly, as he was of a rugged Temper, and would spare no Man, high or low, who took up a Stick with him. I bore his rough Treatment with determined Patience, and followed him so long, that Fig, at least, finding he could not have the beating of me at so cheap a Rate as usual, did not show such Fondness for my Company. This is well known by Gentlemen of distinguished Rank, who used to be pleased in setting us together.
I have tried with all the eminent Masters since Fig's Time, and I believe, made them sensible of what I could do; and it has been so publicly proved, that I cannot think that anyone will deny the Fact.
I have followed chiefly the Practice of the Back-Sword, because Conceit cannot so readily be cured with the Foil in the Small, as with the Stick in that: for the Argumentum bastinandi is very strong and convincing; and though a Man may dispute the full Hit of a Foil, yet if he is knocked down with a Stick, he will hardly get up again and say, it just brushed him. This has been my reason for preferring the Back-Sword; but still I think I am tolerably well versed in the Exercise of the other; and indeed they are so closely connected, that what will answer in the former, will rarely disappoint in the latter.
* I have been informed, since the finishing of this Preface, that there are Pirates watching at the Harbour's Mouth, to snap up this poor Prize as soon as she comes out. In December last a Friend of mine happened to be at the Bull and Gate in Holbourn, when there came in a Printer elevated with Liquor; and as Men in those Circumstances are pretty forward, he immediately began to prattle, not suspecting the Gentleman had any Acquaintance with me; and told him that he was just come from dining with a certain Fencing-master, who had a Treatise upon the Sword ready for the Press; but they waited only for the Publication of my Book, to pick out of it what they liked, and force the Sale against mine, by considerably underselling me. This Fencing-Master has a Partner, who, I hope, has no Hand in it; nay also hope, that it may be but a Story worked up in the fermenting Brain of a drunken Man. But in case he has such Design, That Master, when he looks into my CHARACTERS, if he has one Grain of Honesty in him, must be struck with Shame and Detestation of himself.
N.B. The Printer was coming into the Bull and Gate, as I was going out; and his seeing me was, I presume, the Cause of his falling so directly upon this Subject.
THE THEORY OF THE SWORD
Lay down, in the first place, this Postulate, which I dare say will hold good throughout; that the Knowledge of the Sword, Small and Back, consists in Time and Measure, or Time and Distance; and unless a Man makes that his principal Observation, he never can succeed in his Designs but by chance, which, through a poor Dependence, is all that most Swordsmen go upon.
I will endeavour to explain what I mean by Time and Measure. Time, relative to the Sword, I call an instantaneous Agreement between your Eye and your Adversary's Point, when to act. I cannot imagine, what they could mean, who recommended the watching of your Adversary's Eye, which is so apt to deceive you, while you are trusting to it. I believe that Practice to be so much out of the Question now, among Men who are any Kind of Judges, that I look upon a Refutation of it as unnecessary. There is more to be said for the Wrist or Arm, and even Leg, than for the Eye; None of these will, or can deceive you, if you are a nice and just Observer of the Point; but must vary their Positions according to that. The Reason why I am an Advocate for the Point, is because, as it is so much nearer to your Eye, every minute Motion of it is more perceptible; and as the Arm and Wrist are the mechanical Causes of it, they must answer to the Effect, and that Effects is nearer to your Ken, than the Cause. This I take to be a mathematical Proof.
Secondly, As I lay the whole Stress upon Time, (and I believe all who in the Practice have succeeded, must confess this to be right,) I assert, that the Exactness of Time appears by the Point, whose minute Motion and Variation, gives you more Advantages of Time, from the unavoidable and insensible Tremor of it, caused by the Extension of the Arm. For your Time may be so nicely divided, that every Tremor of the point will give you a fair invitation to your Opposer's Body. It is therefore called the Feeble, and certainly the Part you ought to attack. That it is weaker according to its Extension, we need not go about to prove: But let us observe, that according to its Extension, it must produce a proportionable Tremor; which, as it has a physical Cause, can never be overcome or disguised by the purest Constitution: and that Time, from the watchful Observation of the trembling Point, will (to be humorously disposed, though not much in the Humour to play with Words) carry the Point. As I said before, you need not look at anything but the Point; this, in course, carries you along the Line to the Wrist, which must move and change with the Sword, as it is the Cause of the Point's Variation.
The next Consideration is Measure, or Distance.
Measure, in respect of the Sword, is in the mutual Distance between your Adversary and you, and a just Mensuration of that Distance, without which you will always be liable to be deceived by your Adversary's Sword, and miscarry with your own. This Measure, which we cannot enlarge upon without stepping into the Practice, will always be a sure Guide to you, both in the offensive and defensive Part, as we shall evidently prove in the practical Part, which we therefore enter upon immediately; for in our Opinion, by dwelling longer upon the Theory, we should only render ourselves more obscure and unintelligible.
The Practice of the SMALL and BACK-SWORD
We must distinguish them and treat of them separately, or else we shall not be able to point out their proximate Causes and Effects. We begin with the Small-Sword, which we must allow to be the nearest Inlet to the relative Arts, and when we are upon the Back-Sword, their near Affinity will appear still more clearly. I must again bring in my Time and Measure, and lay them down as the first Stones in the Building. This Principle is the Basis and Foundation of the Whole, without which it cannot be supported; but upon the Justness of that, you may carry your Works as high as you please. But then I would have no Carving or Wrought-work, which, wherever it is found, always weakens the Structure. The plainest Work may be laid down to be the strongest, and though Fashions are titillating for a Time, even to Sense, yet in the End Nature's taste will prove triumphant. This is a Kind of Digression, the Admission of which we crave for the present, and in due Course, shall further explain Matters. To proceed gradually in the Practice, after having laid down the Foundation to the whole Superstructure, we must now mention the Body, the Position of which is certainly most essential. We need not explain what we mean by that, since it is obvious, that the common Posture with the Sword, deprives you of a great deal more of the Body's Measure, than the natural Posture without the Sword. But then this Measure given you by the undesigning Body, how much may it not be diminished by an artful Posture. The Body, the more it is contracted, (or, if I may say, absorbed into the Line) gives your Adversary the less Object to offend, and also you the more advancing Power over him. The smaller his Mark is, the harder it is for him to hit; and what is the trifling Difference between the Nearness of your Body to him by this Position, to the Comparison of the Advantage you give him in your whole-breasted Body? Then if the Position brings your right Breast nearer to him, it also brings your Point nearer to him, (supposing you make a proper Use of your Arm); and in proportion to that, he must be obliged to alter his Distance. We will suppose the human Body (one with another) to be about twelve Inches over; that Mark I will engage, by a proper Posture, to reduce to four Inches. What difference then must not that Reduction to a third Part, make towards my Safety? At the same Time, the more I bring my Body to this Position, the more direct the Line of my Arm and Sword must be; consequently my Cover must the closer, and therefore my Adversary's Designs frustrated and rendered abortive. So much for the Body, upon which your Safety greatly depends.
The Position of your Sword-Arm, is also a very essential Point. Doubtless, the straighter that it is, the securer your Line is; but you cannot so readily come to Action, get upon your Parade, or execute your Thrust, from an Arm quite straight, as when a little contracted. But then you must take great Care of bending it too much; for certainly the more the Arm is bent, the more the Line is broken, and consequently the more your Body is exposed to your Adversary's Designs. The left Arm, which I have found insignificant in most Fencers, I take to contribute not a little for you. The Extension of that is a very great Balance to your Body, and we shall find it, upon trying, as difficult to Fence with the left Arm down, as a Man, who uses not a Pole, would to dance upon a Rope without extending his Arms. But then that Arm I would have extended backwards, and not (as I oftener see on the contrary) raised forward. I think the Beauty of the Posture is strangely disfigured by it; and I dare say a Painter would not be tempted with its Attitude; and that all Fencers would allow that they cannot help being pleased with a symmetrical Posture, and growing partial to the Performance from a fine Attitude. This raising of the Arm and bringing it forward, as to the Sight, has an unpleasing, crippled and distorted Look; and when I see a Man's Arm in such a Posture, I cannot help charitably wishing him in Chelsea College. As to use - certainly, the more your left Arm is brought forward, the more that Part of the Body you have, by your proper Line, hid from your Opposer, is brought back for his Sword, and I can conceive no Advantage in it, except it be a Design to make use of it in a Parry. That Practice I am utterly against, and though all the while I write, I write and think with due Submission to my Readers, and Deference to superior Judgements, I own I am so confident of its being manifestly bad, that I think it needless to advance any Reasons against it.
Let us now treat of the Legs.
If your Feet do not form a right Line, your Body proportionably must be turned out of the Line. But this I shall not enlarge upon; for I do not design this Treatise, to form a Swords-Man out of a Man quite ignorant of it, but as an Offer and Recommendation to those who are Judges: Nor do I design it for scholastic methodical Rules to learn by, such as a Teacher is advised to advance to his Pupils; but an expatiating upon the Art, with an Endeavour to weed it of its formal Mistakes, and supply it with such Practices, as I think will hold good with all Trials. Others may differ as much as they please about the Weight and Stress put upon either Leg more than the other. I am of Opinion, that the Distribution of the Duty laid upon each Leg ought to be equal; and the more equally they share in the Weight, I will venture to say the Body will be so much the more supported. This is a kind of mathematical Theory. But let us examine into the consequential Practice, by the Disadvantage of laying a greater Stress upon one Leg than the other, or the Advantage to be expected from the Strength accruing from the proper Weight given to both. If too great a Stress lie upon the left Leg, your Retreat must obviously be the more unready, and weaker; if upon the Right you are crimped of (if I may use the Word) and checked in your advancing. If the greater Share of Weight lie upon the Right, the left Leg must take that Share off, before you can advance; and so, vice versa, the Right must act for the Left in the Retreat. But then this is the Loss of your Time, upon which everything depends; whereas by the equilibrial Weight upon the Legs, that Time is saved. Here your Body will be equally supported, and therefore stronger and steadier; but by the recovering and shifting in the other Way, the Motion of the Body must be so much greater, that your Arm is more likely to be thrown out of the Line.
Thus much as to the Swords-Man's Position.
Let us now enter upon the executive Parts. The Parade is one of the most material Points in Action; without being Master of which, you will never be safe from a well-timed Thrust, or come readily to the Return, if you happen to parry it. The true Parade is the Office of the Wrist, and the less that it is helped by the Arm, the more faithful it is; but if the Arm decoys away the Wrist, they will both conspire against you. Upon a narrow Parade, from the frugal Turn of the Wrist, depends most of your Advantage; but if your Arm makes it profuse, you will be liable to the grossest Feints of your Adversary; and you will not only never be able to hit him safely, but lose your Time, and, like a Traveller, who is got into the wrong Road, be obliged to come back into the true, before you can get to the desired Place.
The Thrust, in itself considered, ought to be as faithful to the Line as possible. This is so obvious, that I think it needless to dwell upon it. As I said before, I never proposed to go on gradually, as a Teacher, but to write to Swords-Men, to offer what I think is necessary, to lop off what is unnecessary, and explode what is destructive to the Art. I can allow but of three Thrusts; whatever else is done, is only an Emanation from those Sources. That Thrust called the Flanconade, I pronounce an Anathema upon, as being easily proved to be the most lewd and vile Debaucher of the Art, the Dignity of which consists chiefly in its generous Allowance of a proportionable Chance to the weak Man. The other Thrusts depend upon a timely Swiftness mostly: Though to say, that equal Knowledge with more Strength has not the Advantage, would be preposterous, as certainly the greater the Velocity is, the greater the giving Strength must be. But there is a kind of Suppleness in the Joints, and Spring in the Wrist, partly natural in Mankind, and partly acquired by Use and Exercise. This you do not always find in proportion to Man's Strength; and it is what some Men, with all their Practice, will never attain to. I have seen some, and doubt not, but it has been observed by several others, who with a Body and Arm almost strong enough to fling another over a Wall, with a Stick in the Hand could not hit a Blow half so hard and smart, as another could with half their Strength; they always striking down like a Woman with a straight Arm, without raising or jerking the Wrist. Now I say, that a weak Man, either by Nature or more Practice than a strong Man, may be swifter, and in course stronger in his Thrusts, and his Parades, by that natural Suppleness, or acquired Spring. He therefore may set up for a Candidate in the Art, and make a proportionable Interest in it. But he stands a wretched Chance in attempting the Flanconade upon a stronger Man, and runs little risk, if superior Strength dares it upon him. That Thrust can never be compassed, but by main Force upon the most feeble, and at the same Time the most ignorant Patient. Nothing less is required, to give any Hope of Success in it, but the Strength of a Giant against a Pygmy. And even that vast Superiority of Strength must fail, if the weak Man is industrious in his Parade; for I will venture to say, that there is not the tenth Part of the Strength required in the Parade, that there is in the Thrust; and if the Parade be duly timed (upon which everything of the Sword depends, and yet distinct from Strength) no Strength will carry it, and the very Parry, is a certain unsought-for Thrust, which must go surer into your Adversary's Body, than any other Thrust you can make, and never can deceive you, because his sword colleagues against him, and by the twisted Lock his binding File has formed, carries you unerringly in.
The Art we had from the French; no Flanconade was thought of for some Time; but upon finding us very apt Scholars, and being willing to be our distinguished Masters, they brought in the Flanconade and many tawdry Embroideries, which they are as famous for inventing, as, I am sorry to say, we are degenerate enough to imitate, and even mimic. Pity! that we should be so fond of imitating a Nation, who have always been deceiving us. Rouse then, thou noble British Spirit! (for sure no Time more calling than the present) lift up thy brave fronted Head above these dandling Actions, and become thy wonted self! Love thy King, love thy Country; stay thy Heart in these, and thou art safe.
Thus I take my hearty farewell of the Flanconade.
The three Thrusts are Inside, Outside, and Seconde. By the two former I shall be easily understood, and would choose to avoid the Pain of being in the Fashion to parrot Words and ape Actions. The latter I will retain between the Trouble of finding out a Word that will go down with Prepossession, and the Fear of being condemned for coining Words, and will call it yet Seconde.
The common Practice of the Inside I have no Objections against; but would recommend great Care not to turn the Wrist that way too much (as it is too often practiced) for fear of losing your Line. The general Practice of the Outside I object against, which is the turning of your Wrist to the Left, and so, in course bring the Back of your Hand upward, which must throw your Point (that is most in a Line with your Thumb) to the Left, while it is designed for the Right; but turning your Wrist to the Right, and bringing your Palm upwards, reversely carries your Point into the Body.
The Seconde is an excellent Thrust, and I am of Opinion, that if it be proportionably well made with the others, it will often execute; because you will not be apt to slip out of your Line with this as in the other two, which often happens in too much Eagerness to be home with your Thrust. But in this, your Adversary's Sword, which differs more in the Parade than the others, proves a better Guide and supports you in your Passage. In this Thrust I would recommend the Point to be well elevated, that you may allow for its Fall: For as the Arm describes a Kind of Curve when you make it, it is very apt to light below the Body for want of a due raised Point. In the other Thrusts it is dangerous to raise it too much, because they being so much higher may easily pass over the Body. But the Seconde being so much lower, and in its passing upwards backed and supported by your Adversary's Blade, threatens you with very little Danger that way.
I have done with the Thrusts, and I presume, I have laid down the true Principles of the Art.
The rest are mostly Excrescencies or diseased Eruptions. Such as I fear your Disarms, Vaults, Batters, &c. are; in the which I think anybody that duly observes it, will find you oftener to miscarry than succeed. Your Vaults I have always found to be most dangerous, and we need only give this Reason, that the Body, which certainly must move proportionably with the left Leg, differing widely from the Body's Motion, attending the right Leg with a Lunge in the straight Line, and which is so much the greater Weight than the Arm, cannot be moved within the same Time with that which is lighter. The Disarms, by stepping in upon the Parry, or Bind, may be sometimes practised, but never but with great Advantage of Skill and Strength. But the Lord have Mercy upon the battering, twisting Disarmer, falling foul upon the cunning wary Slipper. To conclude, I would make this, I think, necessary Observation, that the same Awe ought to be paid to the Foil, as to the Sword, whose Representative it surely is. Nothing ought to be attempted with the one, that would be feared with the other; and if we think those petulant Familiarities, which are used with the Foil, dare not be with the Sword, we may lop and prune the Art of many noxious Branches.
I cannot help taking notice, that the left-handed Man has the Advantage over the right-handed, upon an equal Footing; because as there are more right-handed, than left-handed, the latter must be more used to the former, than the former to the latter. For my Part I own, that in both Small and Back-Sword, I would rather contend with the right-handed Man with more Judgement, than the other with less. I dare say nobody would choose to be left-handed, and therefore would propose a Way to put a stop to that undesired Race, and submit to the Public whether it bears the Face of Reason. The Nurse carries the Child in the left Arm; the consequence of that is, its right Arm is confined and the left at liberty to play and exercise; and I believe it will be allowed that the Child, in its Infancy, is most of the Day in the Nurse's Arms. If accustomed to that Habit, so long as till it can go alone, no wonder of its continuing to use the left Arm; and I am confident most would be left-handed, if they were not by the Parent's Care broke of that Habit after they are parted from the Nurse. But let the Child be carried in the right Arm, I engage he will scarcely turn left-handed; for that the Arm next to the Nurse's Body is certainly in a great Measure confined and rendered inactive. But to return to our Purpose.
I have sometimes found the hanging Guard of the Back-Sword answer very well in the Small. I would not recommend it to be used against a regular Fencer; but there are a great many Men, who by their Awkwardness will puzzle a good Fencer. A Gentleman of my Acquaintance exercises very much in the Small and Back. I have been more hit by his busy, bustling, irregular Way, than by the best Fencers. I have been so often hit by him in an unaccountable Manner, that I took it in my Head at last to try that Guard. I succeeded so well with it, that I puzzled him afterwards as much as he did me, and hit him much safer with my Thrusts.
But then whenever we have recourse to the Hanging Guard, I would recommend great Care that your Adversary feels not your Feeble, because it must be weaker in that Guard, from the twisting and straining of the Muscles, caused by the irregular Curve your Arm describes.
I have now done with the Small-Sword, and shall only do Justice to the Merits of two or three Masters.
I have very great Opinion of the Abilities of Mr. Brent, Partner with Mr. Barney Hill. Sure no two in Conjunction could support and strengthen the Art more than these two Gentlemen.
The one's solid Way of Teaching, which his Age does not interfere with, and the other's Prime of Strength, Activity, and true Judgement in assaulting, certainly must bring forth excellent Swords-Men.
One of the finest Matches I ever saw, was between Mr. Brent and Mr. Dubois. The beautiful Designs I observed between them gave me extreme Delight. This Dubois is one of the most charming Figures upon the Floor I ever beheld. His genteel neat Motions, and Mr. Brent's firm Foot, majestic Body, and graceful Arm were opposite Electrics to my Fancy. If the different Excellencies of these two were united, they would make on inimitable Swords-Man.
Let us not omit to do Justice to that long-standing able Master, Mr. Martin, Senior. He must be allowed to be a consummate Teacher, and nobody has done his Scholars more Justice than Mr. Martin. His Son is a delightful Fencer, and his Merit is the more extraordinary, because he maintains it, by Dint of Judgement, through all the Disadvantages of a weak Constitution.
Let it not be said that I think there are not any more Masters, because I make no further mention of them. Doubtless there are many more deserving ones in Town; but I have not happened upon the Opportunities of observing them so much as these.
I now proceed to the Back-Sword.
As this is founded upon the same Principles with the other, I shall directly enter upon the Practice. Here everything will hold good that has been said of the Body in the Small-Sword, which may be contracted into this Postulatum; That the more of your Body you hide from your Adversary by an artful Posture, the more you deprive him of his Mark; and, for the same Reason I gave in the Small-Sword, the more you are in Line, the safer you are.
The true posture of the Small-Sword is a safe one in the Back-Sword; and if I were to form a thorough Back-Swords Man, I would have him learn first the Small-Sword: From that he steps into the other so easily and readily, with the true guiding Principle he has acquired, that the double Doctrine I can hardly think a round-about Way. The sparing Turn of the Wrist in Parries, the close Cover and the narrow Stops will save you that Time, which is squandered away in the commonly taught Parades of the Back-Sword Masters. It will curtail your teaching, and introduce you to the Art a much shorter Way. What has been said of the Arms and Legs in the other, will equally hold good in this. There is a common Objection against this Assertion, in respect to the Legs. They say, you lay more Weight on your left leg, that you may the more readily slip your Right from your Adversary's Cut. But I abide by the Doctrine of an equal Distribution of Weight (or as near as you can give it) to both Legs. I have always found it to answer, and upon my laying too great a Stress upon my left Leg, in order to slip my right, it has been so weak that I have been ready to fall backwards upon lifting up my right, and by that struggle to recover, have lost my Time, on which all my Expectations depend, and by its due observance, all my Designs must be executed.
Here are four Guards, viz. Inside, Outside, Medium, and Hanging. This is the common Acceptation; but I think mistakingly. For I do not see why there should be any more understood by a Guard, than one true covering Posture in the Line.
The Medium is the Small-Sword Posture, and that alone may properly be called a Guard; which I define to be an absolute defensive Position, independent of your Adversary's Motions; but the other are occasional Motions produced by your Adversary's Designs.
The Inside and Outside are proper postures to pitch to, according to your executive Intentions; but then they are acting Parts of the Sword, and improperly called Guards, whereby should be something passively fixed, and altered only into Action, as Occasion offers. The Hanging may with more Truth be called a Guard than the other two. But then it is (if I may say) a Guard too passive, because you cannot so readily get from it into Action, as from the other.
The Beauty of the Small-Sword Posture is, that it is a true Guard or Cover from your Enemy, and a Readiness to attack and offend him. But a Guard without a Power of offending, is shutting yourself up in a Castle from your Adversary, or running away from him.
The Hanging Guard is a very good Guard to pitch to, when you are gathered upon, and pressed by your Adversary. But then it is owing to your want of the proper Guard, that you are reduced to this shift, and no better than a Retreat, when your Lines are broken. I always pity the Man, when I see him upon that Guard, and am apt to step up to his Adversary and intercede for Mercy. But whenever I see a fine, easy, composed, confidently looking Point, I put extraordinary Faith in it.
Let us now come to the Cuts and Stops. There is one essential Thing, I think I should have brought in before, and which, necessary as it is, is much neglected and overlooked, and that is the Manner of holding the Sword. I may be excused for omitting it, because, as I said, I do not propose to breed up a Swords-Man, but write to Swords-Men. But this Mistake is so common, even among good Swords-Men, that it calls for due Correction; and whether that Correction, or any past, or to come, be just, I submissively offer to my judicious Readers. If they are demonstrative, they will be clear to all Judgements; if not, I fall by them. If they be mathematical Proofs, they will be evincing to the Man of Sense, though he be not a Swords-Man; and if they appear so to Sense, I shall never trouble my Head, whether they are accepted by the Obstinate and Tenacious.
The common Way of holding the Sword is with a kind of globular Hand, that is, all the Fingers and the Thumb making a Circle round the Sword. The Consequence of which is, that when you come to make your Cut, your Grip moves and slips round your Palm, and you lose your directing Edge. But let the Sword be held with your Thumb, raised upon the Surface and extended in a straight Line, you will never fail to carry an Edge. For the Want of this Observation, where I have seen one Blow judiciously given in Time, upon the Adversary's Open, execute the Design, I have seen ten lost by falling on the Flat. The Inside and Outside Throws are both very safe. I give the Preference to the Inside; because it goes with a surer Edge, and may be made with more Strength and Velocity.
This is very observable in Battles fought upon the Stage, where you will find all the Inside Cuts to be much deeper and severer than the Outside. It must be allowed also, that they are more likely to hit the Face, which being so much more tender than the Head, will sooner carry the Battle. Indeed, the Outside Throw I would recommend for the Head and Face, when your Adversary makes to your Leg; it keeps clearer of his Blade, and if well timed, seldom meets with Interruption; but especially if it be made slanting, with a kind of back Sweep, which, if your Antagonist be not very wary and quick in his Recover, must hit him in the Face, and this sweeping Turn carries a direct Edge. But in the whole, I should choose to be most familiar with the Inside, as I take it to be more faithful to the Line, and you certainly can recover quicker and more readily from it. Nature seems to have made it more a Friend to Time: For I believe it will be allowed, that a Man naturally can make an Inside Blow quicker and easier than an Outside, and certainly oftener, before the Wrist is fatigued, as the Turn of it that way is not so great a Strain upon the Muscles, as the other; and I dare say a Man's Arm will be sooner strained and weakened by strong Blows to the Outside, than to the Inside, because in the Inside Blow the Muscles act in a true Line of Direction, but in the other are contorted or twisted, and their Power thereby weakened; for it is well known by every Anatomist skilled in muscular Motion, that the two extreme Parts of a Muscle must answer a true Line of Direction, before the Muscle can act with Power.
This all belongs to the offensive Part; but then in the defensive Part, the Inside Stops are readier, safer, and snugger under the Cover. Doubtless, when a Man makes an Outside Blow at you, you must stop it from the Outside, or the Hanging, which is a kind of Outside; but then the Inside Stop, which is mostly practiced for the Cover of the Inside of the Arm or Wrist, and the Inside of the Face, will also if it be well timed, stop a Blow made full down to the Head, as safe as the St. George's and Hanging Guard, which are generally used in stopping full Throws at the Head. Besides, as I have recommended fighting from the Inside, which is nearest to the Medium, notwithstanding the Medium has its Name from a Notion of its being in the Middle between them, I assert that you are more in the Line with it, your Stops are more just, under better Cover, and allow of a readier and narrower Return.
I have tried them all; I always found myself safer upon the Inside, when pressed upon (for the Hanging Guard I always despised) and to succeed better in my Attempts upon my Adversary.
The most dangerous Cut in the Sword to your Opposer (and which generally carries the keenest Edge) is the Inside Blow at the Wrist. This is far readier, and nearer to it, and when hit, more effectual than the Outside, and certainly the Cut answers your Ends more than any other, because your Enemy is disabled at once. Any other Cut he may bear for a while, and have a Chance of hitting you, if he continues to fight a little longer; but the instant you hit him in the Inside of the Wrist, your Victory is secure. Another substantial,. and I think mathematical Reason for espousing it, is, because the Wrist of your Adversary is that Part of him, which, while it is the most dangerous to him if wounded, in respect to the Battle, is also the nearest to you, and consequently the safest for you to attack; because, hit, or miss, on account of your Distance from him, you are safer from his Return. Nothing can be safer in the Back-Sword, than lying firm to a low Inside, and waiting for the other's moving; the Moment he raises his Wrist is your Opportunity to go to it, and if you act according to that due Observation of Time, you cannot fail of meeting his Wrist. You may pitch your Inside Posture so wide to the Outside, as to hide all the Outside, and leave him nothing but an Inside Mark; and yet, though your Inside is more open by it, you are in less Danger, because you are sure your Outside is lost to him, and you have nothing to watch but your Inside; while you lie to that with a ready raised Wrist, your Blade will always be Time enough to meet his Wrist, which must execute prodigiously, because there is the conjunctive Force of his Throw and yours meeting together.
There is one thing I would advance, which I judge highly necessary, and ought to be treated of as a most useful Point in the Sword; and that is, what we call breaking Measure. This breaking Measure is certainly very material; but then the Man who practices it, ought to be an exact Judge of Time. It will succeed greatly in the Sword, both Back and Small, but in this Attempt of meeting your Adversary's Wrist, it is most significant: For by that little Contraction of your Body, which perhaps does not make an Inch Difference in Measure, you will secure yourself from your Adversary's Blade, which by his Strength in the Throw, or your not so exactly timing it, as you ought, might bend over to your Face, though you meet him in the Wrist. Here (if I would ever encourage it) I would advise moving a little, but very little, out of the Line. It is a Kind of Vault, I own; but far unlike the others I mutinied against in the Small-Sword. The others are designed to put the Body out of your Adversary's Line, which certainly takes up too much Time to avoid an active Arm; but in this the Body moves little or nothing, and it depends chiefly on throwing your Head back behind your Hilt, to allow for the bending over of his Sword, which certainly it must do in some Measure, because you meet his soft unresisting Wrist, and not his hard reverberating Blade; and even if you meet his Blade towards his Hilt, it must proportionably bend over, more than if you stop him towards the Point. This Throw at the Inside of the Wrist I pronounce to be the safest, and most effectual in the whole Sword. As it will fit this Place best, I will anticipate my Characters of the MASTERS, by bringing in one Perkins an Irishman. The Man certainly was a true Swords-Man, but his Age made him so stiff and slow in his Action, that he could not execute all that his Judgement put him upon; yet, by Dint of that, he made up for his Inactivity. he always, at first setting out, pitched to this Posture, lying, as I aid before, low to the Inside, so wide as to hide all the Outside, with his Wrist so ready raised, that nobody knew what to do with him. I have seen FIG, in Battles with him, stand in a kind of Confusion, not knowing which way to move: For as FIG offered to move, the old Man would also move so warily upon his Catch, that he would disappoint him in most of his Designs. Whatever Attempts are made upon a Man in this Posture, ought to be made below his Wrist, and for my part, in this Case I should go with a straight drawing Drop upon his Thigh, neither to the Inside nor Outside of it, but directly down in a Line from the Medium; because, first, there is that Time saved, which is required in the Turn of your Wrist; and secondly, your Adversary, who has been only waiting for it, is disappointed in his Design, and can do nothing, but attempt to drop down and follow your Arm; but in order to do that, he must lose his Time in shifting his Wrist. Many a Time when I have been engaged with the Stick, an Opponent who was so very ready with the Slip of his Leg and the Throw a my Head, (which is done in one and the same Motion) I have found myself in so much Danger, that I durst not go down to the Outside of his Leg; but in going down with a drawing Blade in a straight Line, from the Medium, I have deceived him, and hit him a smart Blow upon the Foot about the Toes. This Method will save me from my Antagonist, though the other will not, both from lessening the Time (which is apparent in the Motion) and likewise, from shortening the Measure, as much as his Foot is more within the Measure of your straight Line, than the Outside of his Leg, which makes a surprising Difference in both Time and Measure. This brings us to treat of the going down to the Leg.
It is done receiving, or moving. As I write to those who understand something of the Sword, these Sword Terms will be well understood: Receiving is the stopping our Adversary's Blow first, and then going to his Leg; Moving, is going down without receiving, but taking care before you go down, to move his Sword out of the Line.
Masters mostly recommend the receiving first, as the safest way. I am a Friend to the other, which, whether it be thought as safe or not, I am sure is more likely to catch the other's Leg, because it is done in less Time. And besides, in point of safety, I always found it answer full as well as the other; and in my Opinion, a Man that has moved his Adversary truly, before he goes down to his Leg, is less likely to be hit above in going down, because there is less Notice and Intelligence given of your Design, and it requires a much nicer Judgement in your Opponent, to distinguish here, than it is for him to be apprised of your going down, after you have stopped him above. The Action is so common after receiving, that when a Man makes a full Blow at your Head, he, even undesignedly, shifts his Leg back to avoid your Return at it. But it is a difficult Matter for him to provide and guard against your little or no notice-giving Movings and going down. Without taking up unnecessary Time in examining the different Ways in going to the Leg, I pronounce it best from the Inside, by which you can easier get under your Adversary's Blade, and the Turn of your Wrist from the Inside to the Outside is a nearer Way, and carries your Blade more in, than from any of the Outsides (for the Hanging and St. George are properly Outsides) in going down which your Elbow is to the Right, and in course your Blade to the Left, and so much further from the Leg. In the Attempt from the Inside your Elbow is the opposite Way, and your Blade goes in towards the Leg, and when it hits, gives a much more dangerous Cut, on account of the drawing Stroke, which certainly is palpably more so, than from the Outside. Here the breaking Measure is of excellent Use, and more wanted than anywhere else; because your Head and whole Body is brought so much nearer to your Adversary's Sword; therefore your Arm and your Head should, if possible, have one opposite Motion, to which by Practice you may soon bring yourself. What I mean is this: when your Arm approaches your Adversary, your Head should turn from him, and you ought to fall instantaneously back to the Left, with your other Parts out of the Line of his Sword.
This breaking Measure is most useful and safe in both Small and Back-Sword, because, Measure is one of the ground Stones laid down for the Art, and the breaking it is a nice Division of that Measure, and certainly must answer more, the more you can divide it. Upon the whole, it is of prodigious Advantage in both Swords. I have often broke a Head, or hit my Opponent in other Parts, by judging the proper Distance, and breaking a trifling Measure; that is, by a small drawing back of my Head and Contraction of my Body, I have escaped his Blow, and gone directly to his Head or Face without a Parry: Here it is, in a manner, one Motion, and wants no Comparison of Time to the stopping of your Opponent's Blow first, and then making yours. So, in the Small-Sword, it is of proportionable Use; and in both, by being an exact Judge of your Distance, you gain your Time; by which you will be able to execute anything you attempt. I believe there have been few Hints given but will hold good in either Sword, and sufficiently evince their near relation. I will yet mention one thing more, which is relative to both, and must recommend it for a Point as profitable as any I have yet proposed in the Art; and this is the stepping forwards in your Parry. Let me be rightly understood - The common Practice in Small and Back, is to retire in the one, from your Adversary's Thrust while you parry it, and then advance with your own; in the other, to step back (which is much the same) in stopping his Blow, and then come forward with your own. here is your manifest loss of Time, by which you are to compass everything, and without which you will not know how, and why you do anything. Alas! this giving way in your Parade, is no more nor less than Fear of your Adversary's Arm and Distrust of your own, which, till you can put a thorough Confidence in, you will never be a Master of your Sword. But if you dare trust to your Parade, and so boldly rely upon it, as to step in with it, in Small or Back, I will engage that, if you parry your Man, he will never get away from your Return. O! what a saving of Time and shortening of Measure here is! for by your Lunge gained before hand in your Parade, instead of your Sword, you may lay your Finger upon his Body. Let others recommend retiring as much as they will, I am for advancing, or at least keeping your Ground; but if you are weak in the Practice, it is then necessary to retire for shelter. If you give ground to your Adversary, he will be very forward to pour in his Thrusts, or Blows upon you; but if, upon his offering to advance, you stand firm with your Foot and Arm in the Line, I will warrant he will be more shy of approaching you. But then how much Danger must he be in, if you step with your right Leg and extend your Arm; by this you will deprive him of his Measure, and have Opportunities of timing him in his advancing. This Doctrine will hold good in both Small and Back-Sword, and though they may differ in some trivial Points, yet in the other fundamental Principles, essential to the Science, they mutually answer and coincide.
Before I enter upon the Characters of the most eminent Masters, who have come within my Observation, I must take notice of the superiority the Back-Sword has over the Small, in point of Use. Indeed as we cannot put a Stop to the natural Passions of Mankind, which, according to their Constitution and Temperament, more or less excite them to Mischief, if not proportionably checked by Reason; we must endeavour at the readiest Means of putting it out of their Power to do us that Mischief their Passions prompt them to. It is therefore requisite to learn the Small-Sword, in order to guard against the Attempts of that Man, with whose brutal Ferocity no Reason will prevail: But then that Necessity is productive of Pain and Misery, though it ends to the Preservation of your Life. Killing a Man, when you are forced upon the Defensive, clears you in human Laws; but how far you are justified in Christianity, the Gospel best can tell you. There is a Consciousness attends all Actions, which is the strongest Monitor; and that Consciousness will not leave a Man undisturbed after his Fellow-Creature is laid bleeding at his Feet, though from the highest Provocation, and in his necessary self-defence. But Laws divine as well as human justify and protect you in your Country's Cause. Sure the wide Difference between killing Numbers of your Enemy in Battle, and one Man in a Quarrel, ever so much in your own Defence, every calm thinking Man cannot but allow.
It is therefore that the Small-Sword, in point of true Reason, is not necessary; it is only a subservient Instrument to our Passions. This is viewing it in the tenderest Light; but I fear it oftener proves, proportionably to its Practice, an Incentive and Encouragement to Mischief.
But the Back-Sword, sure, must be distinguished from the other, because it is as necessary in the Army, as the other is mischievous in Quarrels, and deadly in Duels. The Small-Sword is the Call of Honour, the Back-Sword the Call of Duty. I wish Honour had more acquaintance with Honesty than it generally has. There is a Kind of Honour which will carry a Man behind Mountague House with another, when it will not pay his Debts, though he has the wherewithal to do so. True Honour must be very intimate with Honesty, and I will venture to affirm that, where the latter is not, the former has but a mean Existence. It need not be said I here discourage the Small-Sword, I only oppose its Abuse; I own, I have preached a little, but I think what U have advanced is true Doctrine: But as few of us can arrive to that prodigious Meekness, it is necessary to be Masters of our Sword, to guard against those Passions we cannot put a Stop to. I am not that Saint to advise a Man to let another put him by the Nose; but then I would have him to be the brave User of his Sword, and not the quarrelsome. Quarrelsomeness and Bravery I take to be Strangers, and the more bravery I have found in a Man, I have always observed in him the more Unwillingness to quarrel. I yet highly recommend the Small-Sword teaching, if it were only (as I have before hinted) to introduce you better, and establish you stronger in the Back-Sword. The Back-Sword must be allowed essentially necessary among the Horse; and I could wish it were more practiced, than I find it is. Sure it ought to be Part of a Trooper's Duty to learn the Back-Sword, as much as of the Foot to learn the common Exercise; and the Exercise of the former's Sword ought to be urged, as much as that of the latter's Firelock. If a Troop of FIGS were engaged with a Troop of Men, ignorant of the Back-Sword, I would ask, which has the better Chance? I believe it will be granted, that a considerable superior Strength in the latter would not be an equivalent Advantage to the Skill and Judgement of the former.
We are allowed to be more expert in the Back-Sword than any other Nation, and it would be a pity, if we were not to continue so. In FIG's Time, the Spirit of it was greatly kept up; but I have been often sorry to find it dwindle, and in a Manner, die away with him. It must be allowed that those amphitheatrical Practices were productive of some ill, as they gave some Encouragement to Idleness and Extravagance among the Vulgar. But there is hardly any good useful Thing, but what leaves an Opening for Mischief, and which is not liable to Abuse. Those Practices are certainly highly necessary, and the Encouragement of Back-Sword Fighting, and Boxing, I think commendable; the former for the Uses which have been mentioned; the latter, and both, to feed and keep up the British Spirit. Courage I allow to be chiefly natural, probably owing to the Complexion and Constitution of our Bodies, and flowing in the different Texture of the Blood and Juices; but sure it is, in a great measure, acquired by Use, and Familiarity with Danger. Emulation and the Love of Glory are great Breeders of it. To what Pitch of daring do we not see them carry in Men? And how observable it is in Miniature among the Boys, who, almost as soon as they can go alone, get into their Postures, and bear their little bloody Noses, rather than be stigmatized for Cowards?
CHARACTERS of the MASTERS
TIMOTHY BUCK was a most solid Master, it was apparent in his Performances, even when grown decrepit, and his old Age could not hide his uncommon Judgement. He was the Pillar of the Art, and all his Followers, who excelled built upon him.
MR. MILLAR was the palpable Gentleman through the Prize-Fighter. He was a most beautiful Picture on the Stage, taking in all his Attitudes, and vastly engaging in his Demeanor. There was such an easy Action in him, unconcerned Behaviour and agreeable Smile in the midst of Fighting, that one could not help being prejudiced in his Favour.
FIG was the Atlas of the Sword, and may he remain the gladiating Statue! In him, Strength, Resolution, and unparalleled Judgement conspired to form a matchless Master. There was a Majesty shone in his Countenance, and blazed in all his Actions, beyond all I ever saw. His right Leg bold and firm, and his left which could hardly ever be disturbed, gave him the surprising Advantage already proved, and struck his Adversary with Despair and Panic. He had that peculiar way of stepping in, I spoke of, in a Parry; he knew his Arm and its just time of moving, put a firm Faith in that, and never let his Adversary escape his Parry. He was just as much a greater MASTER, than any other I ever saw, as he was the greater Judge of Time and Measure.
WILLIAM GILL was a Swords-Man formed by FIG's own Hand, and by his Example turned out a complete Piece of Work. I never beheld anybody better for the Leg than GILL. His Excellence lay in doing it from the Inside; and I hardly ever knew him attempt it from the Outside. From the narrow Way he had of going down (which was mostly without receiving) he oftener hit the Leg than anyone; and from the drawing Stroke, caused by that sweeping Turn of the Wrist, and his proper way of holding his Sword, his Cuts were remarkably more severe and deep. I never was an Eye-Witness to such a Cut in the Leg, as he gave one BUTLER, an Irishman, a bold resolute Man, but an awkward Swords-Man. His Leg was laid quite open, his Calf falling down to his Ankle. It was soon stitched up; but from the Ignorance of a Surgeon adapted to his mean Circumstances, it mortified; Mr. Cheselden was applied to for Amputation, but too late for his true Judgement to interfere in. He immediately perceived the Mortification to forbid his Skill; and refused to be concerned in what he knew to be beyond his Power. But another noted one was applied to, who, through less Judgement, or Value for his Character, cut off his Leg above the Knee, but the Mortification had got the Start of his Instruments, and BUTLER soon expired.
JOHN PARKS of Coventry was a thorough Swords-Man, and an excellent Judge of all its Parts. He was a convincing Proof of what I advanced about the natural Suppleness in some Men's Joints. No Man bid fairer for an acquired Spring than he; but notwithstanding the cast Exercise, through such Numbers of Battles fought for twenty Years, he never could arrive to it. He still remained heavy, slow, and inactive, and had no Friend to help him, but his staunch Judgement.
SUTTON was a Contrast to the other. As PARKS had a clear Head upon a clumsy Body and stiff Joints; so SUTTON had a nimble Body and very agile Joints under a heavy Head. He was a resolute, pushing, awkward Swords-Man; but by his busy intruding Arm, and scrambling Legs, there were few Judgements, but what were disordered and disconcerted. FIG managed him the best of any, by his charming Distinction of TIme and Measure, in which he far excelled all, and sufficiently proved these to be the Sword's true Foundation.
Mr. JOHNSON is a staunch Swords-Man. I do not know anyone now who has so great a Share of Skill and undaunted Resolution, mixed together. He is a thorough MASTER of the true Principles of the Back-Sword; but I must take the Liberty to say, that his Joints are stiff and slow in Action; while I allow that his Judgement surprisingly makes up that Defect. JOHNSON fights most from the Hanging, and executes more from it, than any I ever saw from that unready Guard. I have often thought it a great Pity a Man of his sound Knowledge of the Sword, should have so much recourse to the Hanging. I own the Word Recourse fits not JOHNSON, because, as I said before, it is a kind of sheltering Guard, and in others mostly used to shift from Danger. I am sure that Fear pitches not his Hanging; and he has as little occasion for a Shelter from his Adversary, as any Man I have known. He fully proves it, as he differs from all the rest in using that Guard. The others use it in a Retreat, he advances with it, and maintains it through the whole Battle with unshaken Firmness.
Mr. SHERLOCK must be pronounced an elegant Swords-Man, with uncommon merit. His Designs are true and just, encouraged by an active Wrist and great Agility of Body. He pitches to the Small-Sword Posture, the Recommendation of which I here repeat. I know there are great Demures against it, but I will venture to justify him in it. He is certainly right ot use that Guard, most properly called a Guard, which best stops the too near Approach of his Adversary, and at the same Time supplies him with more readiness to Action. But though I am willing to give every Man his due Merit, I cannot step into the Filth of Flattery; therefore must confess, Mr. SHERLOCK is not faultless. I will point out one Defect, and leave it to Judges whether I am right in my Observation. It is his Subjection and Proneness to starting, by which he may evidently put himself in the Power of a Man of much inferior Judgement. I have often see Mr. SHERLOCK engaged with a Man of far less Abilities of himself, when upon a bare Stamp with the other's Foot, and Movement of his Sword, he has hurried back with Precipitation. Sure Mr. SHERLOCK must own he hereby gives his Opposer great Advantage; however, I leave him with this Acknowledgement, that if he had Mr. JOHNSON's firm stable Resolution, he would rival any I have mentioned.
I conclude with JOHN DELFORCE, and though he never fought with the Sword, I think it would be unpardonable not to give him a Place among the best of them; for sure none more fit, more able to bring up the Train. he is a very proper Case, or Cover to the whole Picture, and may stand the guarding Sentinel of the Art. I venture to proclaim him the only Rival to FIG's Memory. He is so well known for a Cudgeller on the Stage, that I need not lose any Time in reviving him to Thought. He is an incontested Pattern among Spectators, and has made everybody sorely sensible of his Abilities with the Stick, who dared dispute it with him. My Head, my Arm, and Leg are strong Witness of his convincing Arm. As I said before, I have tried with them all, and must confess my Flesh, my Bones remember him the best. He strongly evinces with the Stick, what he would execute with the Sword. JOHN DELFORCE has every Ingredient to compound a perfect Swords-Man, proper Strength, unerring Judgement, and sufficient Experience. He has a Spring in his Wrist more ready and powerful than any I have seen, and FIG seems to have bequeathed to him Insight into Time and Measure.
BOXING is a Combat, depending more on Strength than the Sword; But Art will yet bear down the Beam against it. A less Degree of Art will tell for more than a considerably greater Strength. Strength is certainly what the Boxer ought to set out with, but without Art he will succeed but poorly. The Deficiency of Strength may be greatly supplied by Art; but the want of Art will have but heavy and unwieldy succor from Strength.
Here it may not be amiss to make some little anatomical Enquiry into the advantageous Disposition of the Muscles by the just Posture of the Body, and the acting Arm. I will venture to dabble a little in it; but cry mercy all the while. If I make a Piece of Botch-Work of it, forgive the poor Anatomist through the Swords-Man.
The Strength of Man chiefly consists on the Power of his Muscles, and that Power is greatly to be increased by Art. The Muscles are as Springs and Levers, which execute the different Motions of our Body; but by Art a Man may give additional Force to them.
The nearer a Man brings his Body to the Center of Gravity, the truer the Line of Direction will his Muscle act in, and consequently with more resisting Force. If a Man designs to strike a hard Blow, let him shut his fist as firm as possible; the Power of his Arm will then be considerably greater, than if but slightly closed, and the Velocity of his Blow vastly augmented by it. The Muscles which give this additional Force to the Arm, in shutting the Fist, are the Flexors of the Fingers, and the Extensors are the opposite Muscles, as they open or expand the same; yet in striking, or using any violent Efforts with your Hand, these different Orders of the Muscles contribute to the same Action. Thus it will appear, when you close the Fist of your left Arm, and clap the right Hand upon that Arm, you will plainly feel all the Muscles of it to have a reciprocal Swelling. From hence it follows, that the Muscles by Nature designed for different Offices, mutually depend on each other in great Efforts. This Consideration will be of much Advantage in that artificial Force in Fighting, which beats much superior Strength, where Art is wanting.
The Position of the Body is of the greatest Consequence in Fighting. The Center of Gravity ought to be well considered, for by that the Weight of the Body being justly suspended, and the true Equilibrium thereby preserved, the Body stands much the firmer against opposing Force. This depends upon the proper Distance between the Legs, which is the first Regard a Boxer ought to have, or all his manly Attempts will prove abortive. In order to form the true Position, the left Leg must be presented some reasonable Distance before the Right, which brings the left Side toward the Adversary; this the right-handed Man ought to do, that, after having stopped the Blow with his left Arm, which is a Kind of Buckler to him, he may have the more Readiness and greater Power of stepping in with his right Hand's returning Blow. In this Posture he ought to reserve an easy Flexion in the left Knee, that his Advances and Retreats may be the quicker. By this proper Flexion, his Body is brought so far forward, as to have a just inclination over the left thigh, insomuch that his Face makes a perpendicular or straight Line with the left Knee; whilst the right Leg and Thigh in a slanting Line, strongly prop up the whole Body, as does a large Beam an old Wall. The Body is by this means supported against all violent Efforts, and the additional Strength acquired by this Equilibrium, is greatly to the Purpose. How much greater Weight must not your Adversary stand in need of, to beat you back from this forward inclining of the Body, than the so much less resisting Reclination of it? By this disposed Attitude you find the whole Body gently inclining forward with a slanting Direction, so that you shall find from the Outside of the right Ankle all the way to the Shoulder, a straight Line of Direction, somewhat inclining, or slanting upward, which Inclination is the strongest Position a Man can contrive; and is such as we generally use in forcing Doors, resisting Strength, or pushing forward any Weight with Violence: For the Muscles of the left Side, which bend the Body gently forward, bring over the left Thigh the gravitating Part, which by the Contrivance augments the Force; whereas, if it was held erect or upright, an indifferent Blow on the Head, or Breast, would overset it. The Body by this Position has the Muscles of the right Side partly relaxed, and partly contracted, whilst those of the left are altogether in a State of Contraction; but the Reserve made in the Muscles of the right Side, is as Springs and Levers to let fall the Body at Discretion.
By delivering up the Power to the Muscles of the left Side, which, in a very strong Contraction, bring the Body forward, the Motion which is communicated, is then so strong, that, if the Hand at that Time be firmly shut, the Blow at that Instant pushed forward, with the contracting Muscles, in a straight Line with the moving Body, the Shock given from the Stroke will be able to overcome a Force, not thus artfully contrived, twenty times as great.
From this is is evident, how much it is in our Power to give an additional Force and Strength to our Bodies, whereby we may make ourselves far superior to Men of more Strength, not seconded by Art.
Let us now examine the most hurtful Blows, and such as contribute most to the Battle. Though very few of those who fight know why a Blow on such a Part has such Effects, yet by Experience they know it has; and by these evident Effects, they are directed to the proper Parts; as for instance hitting under the Ear, between the Eyebrows, and about the Stomach. I look upon the Blow under the Ear to be as dangerous as any, that is, if it light between the Angle of the lower Jaw and the Neck; because in this Part there are two Kinds of Blood Vessels considerably large; the one brings the Blood immediately from the Heart to the Head, whilst the other carries it immediately back. If a Man receive a Blow upon these Vessels, the Blood proceeding from the Heart to the Head, is partly forced back, whilst the other Part is pushed forward vehemently to the Head: The same happens in the Blood returning from the Head to the Heart, for part of it is precipitately forced into the latter, whilst the other Part tumultuously rushes to the Head: whereby the Blood Vessels are immediately overcharged, and the Sinuses of the Brain so overloaded and compressed, that the Man at once loses all Sensation, and the Blood often runs from his Ears, Mouth, and Nose, altogether owing its Quantity forced with such Impetuosity into the smaller Vessels, the Coats whereof being to tender to resist so great a Charge, instantly break, and cause the Effusion of Blood through these different Parts.
This is not the only Consequence, but the Heart being overcharged with a Regurgitation of Blood (as I may say with respect to that forced back on the succeeding Blood coming from its left Ventricle) stops its Progress, whilst that Part of the Blood coming from the Head, is violently pushed into its right Auricle; so that as the Heart labours under a violent Surcharge of Blood, there soon follows a Cardiaca or Suffocation, but which goes off as the Parts recover themselves and push the Blood forward. The Blows given between the Eyebrows contribute greatly to the Victory: For this Part being contused between two hard Bodies, viz The Fist, and Os frontale, there ensues a violent Ecchymosis, or Extravasation of Blood, which falls immediately into the Eyelids; and they being of a lax Texture incapable of resisting this Influx of Blood, swell almost instantaneously; which violent Intumescence soon obstructs the Sight. The Man thus indecently treated, and artfully hoodwinked, is beat about at his Adversary's Discretion.
The Blows on the Stomach are also very hurtful, as the Diaphragm and Lungs share in the Injury. The Vomitations produced by them I might account for, but I should run my anatomical Impertinences too far.
I would here recommend to those who Box, that on the Day of Combat they charge not their Stomachs with much Aliment; for by observing this Precaution, they will find great Service. It will help them to avoid that extraordinary Compression on the Aorta Descendens, and in great measure preserve their Stomachs from the Blows, which they must be the more exposed to, when distended with Aliments. The Consequence of which may be attended with a Vomiting of Blood, caused by the Eruptions of some Blood Vessels, from the overcharging of the Stomach: Whereas the empty Stomach, yielding to the Blow, is as much less affected by it, as it is more by its Resistance, when expanded with Food. Therefore I advise a Man to take a little Cordial Water upon an empty Stomach, which, I think, would be of great Service, by its astringing the Fibres, and attracting it into a smaller Compass.
The Injury the Diaphragm is subject to from Blows, which light just below the Breast-bone, is very considerable; because the Diaphragm is brought into a strong convulsive State, which produces great Pain, and lessens the Cavity of the Thorax, whereby the Lungs are in a great Measure deprived of their Liberty, and the Quantity of Air retained in them, from the Contraction of the Thorax through the convulsive State of the Diaphragm, is so forcibly pushed from them, that it causes a great Difficulty of Respiration, which cannot be overcome till the convulsive Motion of the Diaphragm ceases.
The artful Boxer may, in some Degree, render the Blows less hurtful on this Part, by drawing in the Belly, holding his Breath and bending his Thorax over his Navel, when the Stroke is coming.
I have mentioned Strength and Art as the two Ingredients of a Boxer. but there is another, which is vastly necessary; that is, what we call a Bottom. We need not explain what it is, as being a Term well understood. There are two Things required to make this Bottom, that is, Wind and Spirit, or Heart, or wherever you can fix the Residence of Courage. Wind may be greatly brought about by Exercise and Diet; but the Spirit is the first Equipment of a Boxer. Without this substantial Thing, both Art and Strength will avail a Man but little. This, with several other Points, will appear more fully in the Characters of the Boxers.
CHARACTERS of the BOXERS
ADVANCE, brave BROUGHTON! Thee I pronounce Captain of the Boxers. As far as I can look back, I think, I ought to open the Characters with him: I know none so fit, so able to lead up the Van. This is giving him the living Preference to the rest; but, I hope, I have not given any Cause to say, that there has appeared, in any of my Characters, a partial Tincture. I have throughout consulted nothing, but my unbiased Mind, and my Heart has known no Call but Merit. Wherever I have praised, I have no Desire of pleasing; wherever decried, no Fear of offending. BROUGHTON, by his manly Merit, has bid the highest, therefore has my Heart. I really think that all will poll with me, who poll with the same Principle. Sure there is some standing Reason for this Preference. What can be stronger than to say, that for seventeen or eighteen Years, he has fought every able Boxer that appeared against him, and has never yet been beat? But not to build alone on this, let us examine further into his Merits. What is it that he wants? Has he not all that the others want, and all the best can have? Strength equal to what is human, Skill and Judgement equal to what can be acquired, undebauched Wind, and a bottom Spirit, never to pronounce the Word ENOUGH. He fights the Stick as well as most Men, and understands a good deal of the Small-Sword. This Practice has given him the Distinction of Time and Measure beyond the rest. He stops as regularly as the Swords-Man, and carries his Blows truly in the Line; he steps not back, distrusting of himself to stop a Blow, and piddle in the Return, with an Arm unaided by his Body, producing but a kind of flyflap Blows; such as the Pastry-Cooks use to beat those Insects from their Tarts and Cheesecakes. No - BROUGHTON steps bold and firmly in, bids a Welcome to the coming Blow; receives it with his guarding Arm; then with a general Summons of his swelling Muscles, and his firm Body, seconding his Arm, and supplying it with all its Weight, pours the Pile-driving Force upon his Man.
That I may not be thought particular in dwelling too long upon Broughton, I leave him with this Assertion, that as he, I believe, will scarce trust a Battle to a waning Age, I never shall think he is to be beaten, till I see him beat.
About the Time I first observed this promising Hero upon the Stage, his chief Competitors were PIPES and GRETTING. He beat them both (and I thought with Ease) as often as he fought them.
PIPES was the neatest Boxer I remember. He put in his Blows about the Face (which he fought at most) with surprising Time and Judgement. He maintained his Battles for many Years by his extraordinary Skill, against Men of far superior Strength. PIPES was but weakly made; his Appearance bespoke Activity, but his Hand, Arm, and Body were but small. Though by that acquired Spring of his Arm he hit prodigious Blows; and I really think, that at the last, when he was beat out of his Championship, it was more owing to his Debauchery than the Merit of those who beat him.
GRETTING was a strong Antagonist to PIPES. They contended hard together for some Time, and were almost alternate Victors. GRETTING had the nearest Way of going to the Stomach (which is what they call the Mark) of any Man I knew. He was a most artful Boxer, stronger than PIPES, and dealt the straightest Blows: But what made PIPES a Match for him, was his rare Bottom Spirit, which would bear a deal of Beating, but this, in my Mind, GRETTING was not sufficiently furnished with; for after he was beat twice together by PIPES, Hammersmith JACK, a mere Sloven of a Boxer, and everybody that fought him afterwards, beat him. I must, notwithstanding, do that Justice to GRETTING's Memory, as to own that his Debauchery very much contributed to spoil a great Boxer; but yet I think he had not the Bottom of the other.
Much about this Time, there was one WHITAKER, who fought the Venetian GONDOLIER. He was a very strong Fellow, but a clumsy Boxer. He had two Qualifications, very much contributing to help him out. He was very extraordinary for his throwing, and contriving to pitch his weighty Body on the fallen Man. The other was, that he was a hardy Fellow, and would bear a deal of Beating. This was the Man pitched upon to fight the Venetian. I was at Slaughter's Coffee-House when the Match was made, by a Gentleman of an advanced Station; he sent for FIG to procure a proper Man for him; he told him to take care of his Man, because it was for a large Sum; and the Venetian was a man of extraordinary Strength, and famous for breaking the Jaw-bone in Boxing. FIG replied, in his rough Manner, I do not know, Master, but he may break one of his own Countrymen's Jaw-bones with his Fist; but, I will bring him a Man, and he shall not break his Jaw-bone with a Sledge Hammer in his Hand.
The Battle was fought at FIG's Amphitheatre, before a splendid Company, the politest House of that kind I ever saw. While the GONDOLIER was stripping, my Heart yearned for my Countryman. His Arm took up all Observation; it was surprisingly large, long, and muscular. He pitched himself forward with his right Leg, and his Arm full extended, and, as WHITAKER approached, gave him a Blow on the Side of the Head, that knocked him quite off the Stage, which was remarkable for its Height. WHITAKER's Misfortune in his Fall was then the Grandeur of the Company, on which account they suffered no common People in, that usually sit on the Ground and line the Stage round. It was then all clear, and WHITAKER had nothing to stop him but the bottom. There was a general foreign Huzza on the Side of the Venetian, pronouncing our Countryman's Downfall; but WHITAKER took no more Time than was required to get up again, when finding his Fault in standing out to the Length of the other's Arm, he, with a little Stoop, ran boldly in beyond the heavy Mallet, and with one English Peg in the Stomach (quite a new Thing to Foreigners) brought him on his Breech. The Blow carried too much of the English Rudeness for him to bear, and finding himself so unmannerly used, he scorned to have any more doings with his slovenly Fist.
So fine a House was too engaging to FIG, not to court another. He therefore stepped up, and told the Gentlemen that they might think he had picked out the best Man in London on this Occasion: But to convince them to the contrary, he said, that if they would come that Day se'ennight, he would bring a Man who should beat this WHITAKER in ten Minutes, by fair hitting. This brought very near as great and fine a Company as the Week before. The Man was NATHANIEL PEARTREE, who knowing the other's Bottom, and his deadly way of Flinging, took a most judicious Method to beat him. - Let his Character come in here - He was a most admirable Boxer, and I do not know one he was not a Match for, before he lost his Finger. He was famous, like PIPES, for fighting at the Face, but stronger in his Blows. He knew WHITAKER's Hardiness, and doubting of his being able to give him Beating enough, cunningly determined to fight at his Eyes. His Judgement carried in his Arm so well, that in about six Minutes both WHITAKER's Eyes were shut up; when groping about a while for his Man, and finding him not, he wisely gave out, with these odd Words - Damme - I am not beat, but what signifies my fighting when I cannot see my Man?
We will now come to Times a little fresher, and of later Date.
GEORGE TAYLOR, known by the Name of GEORGE the BARBER, sprang up surprisingly. He has beat all the chief Boxers, but BROUGHTON. He, I think, injudiciously fought him one of the first, and was obliged very soon to give out. Doubtless it was a wrong Step in him to commence a Boxer, by fighting the standing Champion: For GEORGE was not then twenty, and BROUGHTON was in the Zenith of his Age and Art. Since that he has greatly distinguished himself with others; but has never engaged BROUGHTON more. He is a strong able Boxer, who with a Skill extraordinary, aided by his Knowledge of Small and Back-Sword, and a remarkable Judgement in the Cross-Buttock-Fall, may contest with any. But please or displease, I am resolved to be ingenuous in my Characters. Therefore I am of the Opinion, that he is not over-stocked with that necessary Ingredient of a Boxer, called a Bottom; and I am apt to suspect, that Blows of equal Strength with his, too much affect him and disconcert his Conduct.
Before I leave him, let me do him this Justice to say, that if he were unquestionable in his Bottom, he would be a Match for any Man.
It will not be improper, after GEORGE the BARBER, to introduce one BOSWELL, a Man, who wants nothing but Courage to qualify him for a complete Boxer. He has a particular Blow with his left Hand at the Jaw, which comes almost as hard as a little Horse kicks. Praise be to his Power of Fighting, his excellent Choice of Time and Measure, his superior Judgement, dispatching forth his executing Arm! But fie upon his dastard Heart, that mars it all! As I knew that Fellow's Abilities, and his worm-dread Soul, I never saw him beat, but I wished him to be beaten. Though I am charmed with the Idea of his Power and Manner of Fighting, I am sick at the Thought of his Nurse-wanting Courage. Farewell to him, with this fair Acknowledgement, that, if he had a true English Bottom (the best fitting Epithet for a Man of Spirit) he would carry all before him, and be a Match for even BROUGHTON himself.
I will name two Men together, whom I take to be the best Bottom Men of the modern Boxers: And they are SMALLWOOD, and GEORGE STEVENSON, the Coachman. I saw the latter fight BROUGHTON, for forty Minutes. BROUGHTON I knew to be ill at that Time; besides it was a hasty made Match, and he had not that Regard for his Preparation, as he afterwards found he should have. But here his true Bottom was proved, and his Conduct shone. They fought in one of the Fair-Booths at Tottenham Court, railed at the End toward the Pit. After about thirty-five Minutes, being both against the Rails, and scrambling for a Fall, BROUGHTON got such a Lock upon him as no Mathematician could have devised a better. There he held him by this artificial Lock, depriving him of all Power of Rising or Falling, till resting his Head for about three or four Minutes on his Back, he found himself recovering. Then loosed the Hold, and on setting to again, he hit the Coachman as hard a Blow as any he had given him in the whole Battle; that he could no longer stand, and his brave contending Heart, though with Reluctance, was forced to yield. The Coachman is a most beautiful Hitter; he put in his Blows faster than BROUGHTON, but then one of the latter's told for three of the former's. Pity - so much Spirit should not inhabit a stronger Body!
SMALLWOOD is thorough game, with Judgement equal to any, and superior to most. I know nothing SMALLWOOD wants but Weight, to stand against any Man; and I never knew him beaten since his fighting DIMMOCK (which was in his Infancy of Boxing, and when he was a perfect Stripling in Years) but by Force so superior, that to have resisted longer would not have been Courage but Madness. If I were to choose a Boxer for my Money, and could but purchase him Strength equal to his Resolution, SMALLWOOD should be the Man.
JAMES I proclaim a most charming Boxer. He is delicate in his Blows, and has a Wrist as delightful to those who see him fight, as it is sickly to those who fight against him. I acknowledge him to have the best Spring of the Arm of all the modern Boxers; he is a complete Master of the Art, and, as I do not know he wants a Bottom, I think it a great Pity he should be beat for want of Strength to stand his Man.
I have now gone through the Characters of the most noted Boxers, and finished my whole Work. As I could not praise all in every Article, I must offend some; but if I do not go to Bed till everybody is pleased, my Head will ache as bad as Sir Roger's. I declare that I have not had the least Thought of offending throughout the whole Treatise, and therefore this Declaration shall be my quiet Draught.
Let me conclude with a general Call to the true British Spirit, which, like purest Gold, has no Alloy. How readily would I encourage it, through the most threatening Dangers, or severest Pains, or Pledge of Life itself! Let us imitate the glorious Example we enjoy, in the saving Offspring of our King, and blessed Guardian of our Country. Him let us follow with our keen Swords, and warm glowing Hearts, in Defence of our just Cause, and Preservation of Britain's Honour.