Duelling (1753)

Richardson, Samuel
Duel between Lord Hervey and the Honble William Pultney (1731). Published by Thomas Kitchin. British Museum 1865,0114.385


"My concern for my Father, on whom I was an hourly attendant throughout the whole time of his confinement; and my being by that means a witness of what both he and my mother suffered; completed [p. 57] my abhorrence of the vile practice of duelling."


Sir Ch. But what indelibly impressed upon my heart my Mother's lessons, was an occurrence, which, and the consequences of it, I shall ever deplore. My Father, having taken leave of my Mother, on a pro|posed absence of a few days, was, in an hour after, brought home, as it was thought mortally wounded in a duel. My Mother's surprise on this occasion threw her into fits, from which she never after was wholly free. And these, and the dangerous way he conti|nued in for some time, brought her into an ill state of health; broke, in short, her constitution; so that, in less than a twelvemonth, my Father, to his inexpres|sible anguish of mind (continually reproaching himself on the occasion) lost the best of Wives, and my Sisters and I the best of Mothers and Instructors.

My concern for my Father, on whom I was an hourly attendant throughout the whole time of his confinement; and my being by that means a witness of what both he and my mother suffered; completed [p. 57] my abhorrence of the vile practice of duelling. I went on, however, in endeavouring to make myself a master of the science, as it is called; and, among the other weapons, of the staff; the better to enable me to avoid drawing my sword, and to impower me, if called to the occasion, to give, and not take, a life; and the rather, as the custom was so general, that a young man of spirit and fortune, at one time or other, could hardly expect to escape a provocation of this sort.

My Father once had a view, at the persuasion of my Mother's Brother, who was a general of note and interest in the Imperial service, and who was very fond of a military life, and of me, to make a soldier of me, tho' an only son; and I wanted not when a boy, a turn that way: But the disgust I had conceived on the above occasion, against duelling, and the consideration of the absurd alternative which the gentlemen of our army are under, either to accept a challenge, contrary to laws divine and human, or to be broke, if they do not (though a soldier is the least master of himself, or of his own life, of any man in the com|munity) made me think the English service, tho' that of my country, the least eligible of all services. And for a man, who was born to so considerable a stake in it, to devote himself to another, as my Uncle had done, from principles which I approved not, I could not but hesitate on the proposal, young as I was. As it soon became a maxim with me, not to engage, even in a national cause, without examining the justice of it, it will be the less wonder'd at, that I could not think of any foreign service.

Mr. Bag. Then you have never seen service, Sir Charles?

Sir Ch. Yes, I made one campaign as a volun|teer, notwithstanding what I have said. I was then in the midst of marching armies, and could not tell how to abate the ardor those martial movements had [p. 58] raised in my breast. But, unless my country were to be unjustly invaded by a foreign enemy, I think I would not, on any consideration, be drawn into the field again.

Mr. Jord. But you lead from the point, Mr. Bagenhall: Sir Charles was going to say somewhat more on the subject of duelling.

Sir Ch. When I was thus unhappily deprived of my Mother, my Father, in order to abate my grief [I was very much grieved] was pleased to consent to my going abroad, in order to make the Grand Tour, as it is called; having first visited all the British dominions in Europe, Gibraltar and Minorca excepted. I then supposing I might fall into circumstances that might affect the principles my mother had been so careful to instil into me, and to which my father's danger, and her death, had added force, it was na|tural for me to look into history, for the rise and progress of a custom so much and so justly my aversion; and which was so contrary to all laws divine and hu|man, and particularly to that true heroism which Christianity enjoins, when it recommends meekness, moderation, and humility, as the glory of the human nature. But I am running into length.


Samuel Richardson, The History of Sir Charles Grandison: In a series of letters published from the originals, by the editor of Pamela and Clarissa. In seven volumes. ... London, printed by S. Richardson, and Dublin, re-printed and sold by the booksellers, 1753, p. 56-58. Full text from ECCO TCP.