Sunday, 11 July 2010

Excerpt from Book III

Here is an excerpt from Book III, which is still being written. I ought just to mention that the blog's heading and the first post in it talk of dressing but, I hope that, by now, it might be realized that the scope is much wider than just clothes!! Naked Apes smoke, eat, drink, socialize, travel, collect things, indulge in travel and sport and so on. As Jeffrey Archer once famously mentioned: they do not just sit on the beach drinking pina coladas.

"A side-note on duelling pistols
Any wound sufficient to agitate the nerves and make the hand shake must end the business for that day.

Commandment Twenty One of the Twenty Six Commandments of the (Irish) Code Duello of 1777.

As a matter of interest, the first recorded pistol duel was fought on Tothill Fields in 1711 and, as swordsmanship declined, gradually, pistols became the weapon of choice and, although even taking proper aim was frowned upon as not being insouçiant enough, some makers introduced unsportsmanlike hair triggers and rifled barrels. Manton produced heavier pistols, weighted at the muzzle, to counteract the recoil. Duelling had been tolerated as the recognized manner of settling points of honour between gentlemen and even Prime Ministers in office, had fought duels. In 1798 William Pitt The Younger, annoyed by an Irish MP over Naval quotas, challenged his loyalty to the Crown and, at 3 pm on 27th May 1798, they met at twelve paces on Putney Heath and both fired and both missed. The 1st Duke of Wellington, as Tory Prime Minister, forced the issue of Roman Catholic ‘Emancipation’, pushing through legislation to enable Roman Catholics to hold certain public offices (from which they had previously been barred); probably to quell Irish unrest. The Earl of Winchilsea criticized him heavily and they faced each other on Battersea Fields on 21st March 1829. Winchilsea fired into the air and Wellington shot wide, accepting a written apology, instead of blood. Meanwhile a more widely criticized affair had been the duel between Lord Castlereagh (then Secretary of State for War) and George Canning (then Foreign Secretary). Castlereagh accused Canning of extreme political intrigue and they both resigned office and met on Putney Heath on 21st September 1809. Canning missed and Castlereagh wounded Canning in the leg. Canning went on to become, briefly, Prime Minister in 1827, while the extremely unpopular Castlereagh killed himself in 1822.

Duelling between civilians (as well as trial by battle) was specifically banned in Britain in 1819 and duelling between officers in the army was banned in 1844. Despite this, the reported last duel in England took place, in 1852, at Priest Hill, Surrey, between two Frenchmen, called Cournet and Bartlemey. Cournet took his shot and missed; Bartlemey's pistol misfired twice and Cournet lent him his own weapon (maybe expecting the gallantry to be repaid by delopement: discharge of the gun in the air) but, instead, Bartlemey mortally wounded Courney with it! In the event, they both died, as Bartlemey was later hanged for murder.

Boxed pairs of fine duelling pieces are eminently collectable and they are sometimes offered at auction by houses such as Christie’s and Holt’s. A pair by Durs Egg, sold by Christie’s is shown in the illustration."


  1. I certainly look forward to Books II and III. Read the teaser to Book II on London Lounge, and now this very entertaining and informative bit on dueling. Let me also say I enjoyed The History of Mens Fashion and What the Well Dressed Man is wearing. HGB