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Sir Ch. He was the only son of a noble Venetian family, who had great expectations from him. He was a youth of genius. Another noble family at Urbino, to which he was to be allied in marriage, had also an interest in his welfare. We had made a friendship together at Padua. I was at Venice by his invitation, and stood well with all his family. He took offence against me, at the instigation of a designing relation of his; to own the truth, a lady, as you suppose, Mr Bagenhall, his sister. He would not allow me to defend my innocence to the face of the accuser; nor yet to appeal to his father, who was a person of temper as well as sense. On the contrary, he upbraided me in a manner that I could hardly bear. I was resolved to quit Venice; and took leave of his whole family, the lady excepted, who would not be seen by me. The father and mother parted with me with regret. The young gentleman had so managed, that I could not with honour appeal to them; and, at taking leave of him in their presence, under pretence of a recommendatory letter, he gave into my hand a challenge. The answer I returned, after protesting my innocence, was to this effect: "I am setting out for Verona in a few hours. You know my principles; and I hope will better consider of the matter. I never, while I am master of my temper, will give myself so much cause of repentance to the last hour of my life, as I should have, were I to draw my sword, to the irreparable injury of any man's family; or to run the same risk of injuring my own, and of incurring the final perdition of us both!"
Mr Mer. This answer rather provoked than satisfied, I suppose?
Sir Ch. Provocation was not my intention. I designed only to remind him of the obligations we were both under to our respective families, and to throw in a hint of a still superior consideration. It was likely to have more force in that Roman Catholic country than, I am sorry to say it, it would in this Protestant one.
Sir Har. How, how, Sir Charles, did it end? Sir Ch. I went to Verona. He followed me thither; and endeavoured to provoke me to draw. Why should I draw? said I. Will the decision by the sword be certainly that of justice? You are in a passion. You have no reason to doubt either my skill, or my courage: [On such an occasion, gentlemen, and with such a view, a man may perhaps be allowed to give himself a little consequence:] and solemnly once more do I avow my innocence, and desire to be brought face to face with my accusers.
He raved the more for my calmness. I turned from him, with intent to leave him. He thought fit to offer me a personal insult I now, methinks, blush to tell it-He gave me a box on the ear, to provoke me to draw
Mr Mer. And did you draw, sir?
Sir Ch. I put him into possession of the lodgings I had taken for myself, and into proper and safe hands. He was, indeed, unable, for a day or two, to direct for himself. I sent for his friends. His servant did me justice as to the provocation. Then it was that I was obliged, in a letter, to acquaint the father of a discovery I had made, which the son had refused to hear; which, with the lady's confession, convinced them all of my innocence. His father acknowledged my moderation; as the young gentleman himself did, desiring a renewal of friendship; but as I thought the affair had gone too far for a cordial reconciliation, and knew that he would not want instigators to urge him to resent an indignity, which he had, however, brought upon himself, by a greater offered to me, I took leave of him and his friends, and revisited some of the German courts; that of Vienna in particular; where I resided some time.
In the meanwhile the young gentleman married. His lady, of the Altieri family, is an excellent woman. He had a great fortune with her. Soon after his nuptials, he let me know, that, as he doubted not, if I had drawn my sword, I should, from his violence at the time, have had his life in my power, he could not but acknowledge that he owed all his acquisitions, and the best of wives, as well as the happiness of both families, with that life, to me.
I apply not this instance: but, Sir Hargrave, as I hope to see you married, and happy, though it can never be, I think, to Miss Byron, such generous acknowledgments as misbecome not an Italian, I shall then hope for from an Englishman.
Sir Har. And had your Italian any marks left him, sir?-Depend upon it, I shall never look into a glass, but I shall curse you to the very pit!
Sir Ch. Well, Sir Hargrave: this only I will add; that, be as sensible as you will, and as I am, of the happy issue of this untoward affair, I will never expect a compliment from you, that shall tend to your abasement.
Mr Jor. Your hand, Sir Hargrave, to Sir Charles
Sir Har. What! without terms?-Curse me, if I do!-But let him bring Miss Byron in his hand to me, (that is the least he can do:) then may I thank him for my wife.
Sir Charles made some smiling answer; but the writer heard it not.
Sir Charles would then have taken leave; but all the gentlemen, Sir Hargrave among the rest, were earnest with him to stay a little longer.
Mr Jor. My conversion must be perfected, Sir Charles. This is a subject that concerns us all. We shall remember every tittle of the conversation; and think of it when we do not see you. Let me beg of you to acquaint me, how you came to differ from all other men of honour in your practice, as well as in your notions, upon this subject?
Sir Ch. I will answer your question, Mr Jordan, as briefly as I can.
My father was a man of spirit. He had high notions of honour, and he inspired me early with the same. I had not passed my twelfth year, when he gave me a master to teach me, what is called, the science of defence. I was fond of the practice, and soon obtained such a skill in the weapons, as pleased both my father and master. I had strength of body beyond my years; the exercise added to it. I had agility; it added to my agility; and the praises given me by my father and master, so heightened my courage, that I was almost inclined to wish for a subject to exercise it upon. My mother was an excellent woman; she had instilled into my earliest youth, almost from infancy, notions of moral rectitude, and the first principles of Christianity; now rather ridiculed than inculcated in our youth of condition. She was ready sometimes to tremble at the consequences, which she thought might follow from the attention which I paid (thus encouraged and applauded) to this practice; and was continually reading lectures to me upon true magnanimity, and upon the law of kindness, benevolence, and forgiveness of injuries. Had I not lost her so soon as I did, I should have been a more perfect scholar than I am in these noble doctrines. As she knew me to be naturally hasty, and very sensible of affronts; and as she had observed, as she told me, that, even in the delight she had brought me to take in doing good, I shewed an over readiness, even to rashness, which she thought might lead me into errors, that would more than over-balance the good I aimed to do; she redoubled her efforts to keep me right; and on this particular acquirement of a skill in the management of the weapons, she frequently enforced upon me an observation of Mr Locke; "That young men, in their warm blood, are often forward to think they have in vain learned to fence, if they never shew their skill in a duel."
This observation, insisted upon, and inculcated, as she knew how, was very seasonable at that time of danger. And she never forgot to
urge upon me, that the science I was learning, was a science properly called of defence, and not of offence; at the same time endeavouring to caution me against the low company into which a dexterity at my weapons might lead me, as well as against the diversions themselves exhibited at the infamous places where those brutal people resorted: infamous even by name,* as well as in the nature of them.
From her instructions, I had an early notion, that it was much more noble to forgive an injury than to resent it; and to give a life, than to take it. My father (I honour his memory!) was a man of gaiety, of munificence. He had great qualities. But my mother was my oracle. And he was always so just to her merit, as to command me to consider her as such; and the rather, he used to say, as she distinguished well between the false glory and the true; and would not have her boy a coward.
Mr Mer. A good beginning, by my life! Mr Jor. Pray, proceed, Sir Charles. I am all attention.
Sir Har. Ay, ay, we all listen.
Mr Bag. Curse him that speaks next, to interrupt you.
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 proposed 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 continued 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 inexpressible 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 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 empower 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
Hockley in the Hole, Bear Garden, &c.
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, though 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 community,) made me think the English service, though 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 becaine a maxim with me, not to engage, even in a national cause, without examining the justice of it, it will be the less wondered 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 volunteer, notwithstanding what I have said. I was then in the midst of marching armies, and could not tell how to abate the ardour those martial movements had 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 Jor. 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 natural 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 human; 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.
Again Sir Charles took out his watch. They were clamorous for him to proceed.
When I found, continued he, that this unchristian custom owed its rise to the barbarous northern nations, who had, however, some plea to make in excuse, which we have not, as they were governed by particular lords, and were
not united under one head or government, to which, as to a last resort, persons supposing themselves aggrieved, might appeal for legal redress; and that these barbarous nations were truly barbarous, and enemies to all politeness; my reasoning on this occasion added new force to prejudices so well founded.
The gentlemen seemed afraid, that Sir Charles had done speaking. They begged he would go
I then had recourse, proceeded he, to the histories of nations famous for their courage. That of the Romans, who, by that quality, obtained the empire of the world, was my first subject. I found not any traces in their history, which could countenance the savage custom. When a dispute happened, the challenge from both parties generally was, "That each should appear at the head of the army the next engagement, and give proofs of his intrepidity against the common foe." The instance of the Horatii and Curiatii, which was a public, a national combat, as I may call it, affords not an exception to my observation. And yet even that, in the early ages of Rome, stands condemned by a better example. For we read, that Tullus challenged Albanus, general of the Albans, to put the cause of the two nations upon the valour of each captain's arm, for the sake of sparing a greater effusion of blood. But what was the answer of Albanus, though the inducement to the challenge was so plausible? "That the cause was a public, not a private one; and the decision lay upon the two cities of Alba and Rome."
Many ages afterwards, Augustus received a challenge from Mark Antony. Who, gentlemen, thought of branding as a coward that prince, on his answering, "That if Antony were weary of his life, he might find many other ways to end it than by his sword?"
Metellus, before that, challenged by Sertorius, answered with his pen, not his sword, "That it was not for a captain to die the death of a common soldier."
The very Turks know nothing of this savage custom and they are a nation that raised themselves, by their bravery, from the most obscure beginnings, into one of the greatest empires on the globe, as at this day. They take occasion to exalt themselves above Christians, in this very instance; and think it a scandal upon Mussulmans to quarrel, and endeavour to wreak their private vengeance on one another.
All the Christian doctrines, as I have hinted, are point against it. But it is dreadful to reflect, that the man who would endeavour to support his arguments against this infamous practice of duelling, by the laws of Christianity, though the most excellent of all laws, [excuse me, Mr Merceda, your own are included in them, would subject himself to the ridicule of persons who call themselves Christians. I have mentioned therefore Heathens and Maho
metans; though in this company, perhaps But I hope I need not, however, remind anybody here, that that one doctrine of returning good for evil, is a nobler and more heroic doctrine than either of those people, or your own, Mr Merceda, ever knew.
Mr Jor. You have shewn it, Sir Charles, by example, by practice, to be so. I never saw a hero till now.
Sir Ch. One modern instance, however, of a challenge refused, I recollect, and which may be given, by way of inference, at least, to the advantage of my argument. The army of the famous Mareschal Turenne, in revenge for injuries more than hostile, as was pretended, had committed terrible depredations in the palatinate. The elector, incensed at the unsoldierly destruction, challenged the mareschal to a single combat. The mareschal's answer was to this effect: "That if the trust which the king his master had reposed in him, would permit him to accept of his challenge, he would not refuse it; but, on the contrary, would deem it an honour to measure his arms with those of so illustrious a prince: but that, for the sake of his master's service, he must be excused."
Now, though I think the mareschal might have returned a still better answer, (though this was not a bad one for a military man,) yet where we can, as Christians and as men, plead the divine laws, and have not, when we meet, as private subjects, the mareschal's, nor even the Goth's excuse, I think the example worthy consideration.
And if, gentlemen, I have argued before now, or should hereafter argue, as follows, to a challenger, shall I deserve either to be branded or insulted?
Of what use are the laws of society, if magistracy may be thus defied? Were I to accept of your challenge, and were you to prevail against me, who is to challenge you? and if you fall, who him by whose sword you perish? Where, in short, is the evil to stop? But I will not meet you. My system is self-defence, and self-defence only. Put me upon that, and I question not but you will have cause to repent it. A premeditated revenge is that which I will not meet you to gratify. I will not dare to risk the rushing into my Maker's presence from the consequences of an act, which cannot, in the man that falls, admit of repentance, and leaves for the survivor's portion nothing but bitter remorse. I fear not any more the reproaches of men, than your insults on this occasion. Be the latter offered to me at your peril. It is perhaps as happy for you as for myself, that I have a fear of an higher nature. Be the event what it will, the test you would provoke me to, can decide nothing as to the justice of the cause on either side. Already you will find me disposed to do you the justice you pretend to seek. For your own sake, therefore, consider better of the
matter; since it is not impossible, but, were we to meet, and both survive, you may exchange, what you will think a real disgrace for an imaginary one.
And thus, gentlemen, have I almost syllogistically argued with myself on this subject :— Courage is a virtue ;
Inordinate passion is a vice:
Such passion, therefore, cannot be courage. Does it not then behove every man of true honour, to shew that reason has a greater share than resentment in the boldness of his resolves?
And what, by any degree, is so reasonable as a regard to our duty?
You called upon me, gentlemen, to communicate my notions on this important subject. I have the more willingly obeyed you, as I hope Sir Hargrave, on the occasion that brought us to this not unhappy breakfasting, will be the better satisfied that it has so ended; and as, if you are so good as to adopt them, they may be of service to others of your friends, in case of debates among them. Indeed, for my own sake, I have always been ready to communicate my notions on this head, in hopes sometimes to be spared provocation; for, as I have owned, I am passionate; I have pride; I am often afraid of myself; and the more, because I am not naturally, I will presume to say, a timid man.
Mr Bag. Fore God, Sir Hargrave, somebody has escaped a scouring, as the saying is. Mr Mer. Ay, by my life, Sir Hargrave, you had like to have caught a Tartar.
Sir Ch. The race is not always to the swift, gentlemen. Sir Hargrave's passion would, doubtless, have laid him under disadvantage: defence is guarded; offence exposes itself.
Mr Bag. But, Sir Charles, you despise no man, I am sure, for differing from you in opinion. I am a Catholic
Sir Ch. A Roman Catholic-No religion teaches a man evil. I honour every man who lives up to what he professes.
Mr Bag. But that is not the case with me, I doubt.
Mr Mer. That is out of doubt, Bagenhall. Mr Jor. The truth is, Mr Bagenhall has found his conveniences in changing. He was brought up a Protestant. These dispensations, Mr Bagenhall!
Mr Mer. Ay, and they were often an argument in Bagenhall's mouth, for making me his proselyte.
Sir Ch. Mr Bagenhall, I perceive, is rather of the religion of the court, than of that of the church, of Rome.
Mr Bag. But what I mean, by telling you I am a Catholic, is this: I have read the opinion of some of our famous casuists, that, in some cases, a private man may become his own avenger, and challenge an enemy into the field. Sir Ch, Bannes and Cajetan, you mean-one
a Spaniard, the other an Italian. But the highest authority of your church is full against them in this point. The Council of Trent treats the combatants who fall, as self-murderers, and denies them Christian burial. It brands them, and all those who by their presence countenance and abet this shocking and unchristian practice, with perpetual infamy, and condemns them to the loss of goods and estates. And furthermore, it deprives, ipso jure, all those sovereign princes, who suffer such acts of violence to be perpetrated with impunity in the lands and cities which they hold of the church, of all the territories so held. I need not add to this, that Louis the XIVth's edict against duelling was the greatest glory of his reign. And permit me to conclude with observing, that the base arts of poisoning, by the means of treacherous agents, and the cowardly practice of assassination by bravoes hired on purpose to wreak a private revenge, so frequent in Italy, are natural branches of this old Gothic tree. And yet (as I have before hinted) the barbarous northern nations had pleas to make in behalf of duelling, from their polity, which we have not from ours; Christianity out of the question.
The gentlemen said, they would very seriously reflect upon all that had passed in this un
Sir Har. Well, but, Sir Charles, I must recur to my old note-Miss Byron-She must be mine. And I hope you will not stand in my
Sir Ch. The lady is her own mistress. I shall be glad to see any and all of you, gentlemen, at St James's Square.
Mr Bag. One thing I believe it is proper to mention to Sir Charles Grandison. You know, sir, that I brought a young man to your house, to take minutes of the conversation that passed between you and me there, in apprehension of consequences. In like apprehensions, I prevailed upon Sir Hargrave
Sir Har. And now, Bagenhall, I could curse you for it. The affair-confound it!—that I meant to be recorded for my justification, has turned out to his honour. Now am I down in black and white, for a tame-fool.-Is it not so? Mr Jor. By no means. If you think so, Sir Hargrave, you have but ill profited by Sir Charles's noble sentiments.
Sir Ch. How is this, Mr Bagenhall?
Mr Bag. I prevailed upon Sir Hargrave to have the same young man, who is honest, discreet, and one of the swiftest short-hand writers of the age, to take a faithful account of everything that has passed; and he is in that closet. Sir Ch. I must say, this is very extraordinary -But as I always speak what I think, if I am not afraid of my own recollection, I need not of any man's minutes.
Mr Bag. You need not in this case, Sir
Charles. Nothing has passed, as Sir Hargrave observes, but what makes for your honour. We that set him to work, have more need to be afraid than you. We bid him be honest, and not spare any of us. We little thought matters would have ended so amicably.
Mr Jor. Thank God they have!
Mr Mer. A very happy ending, I think! Sir Har. Not except Miss Byron consents to wipe out these marks.
Mr Bag. Mr Cotes, your task is over. Pray step in with what you have done.
The writer obeyed. Mr Bagenhall asked, if the minutes should be read? Sir Hargrave swore No; except, as he said, he had made a better figure in the debate. Sir Charles told them, he could not stay to hear them; but that, as they were written, and as he had been allowed before a copy of what passed between him and Mr Bagenhall, he should be glad to have one now; and the rather, as Sir Hargrave should have an instance, after he had perused it, of his readiness to condemn himself, if he found he had been wanting either to his own character, or to that of any man present. They consented that I should send Sir Charles the first fair copy. Sir Charles then took his leave.
The gentlemen all stood silent for several minutes, when they returned from attending him to the door, looking upon one another as if each expected the other to speak; but when they spoke, it was all in praise of Sir Charles, as the most modest, the most polite, the bravest, and noblest of men. Yet his maxims, they said, were confoundedly strange; impossible for such sorry dogs as them (that was their phrase) to practise.
But Sir Hargrave seemed greatly disturbed and dejected. He could not, he said, support himself under the consciousness of his own inferiority. But what could I do? said he. The devil could not have made him fight. Plague take him! he beat me out of my play. And yet, said Mr Merceda, a tilting-bout seems no more to him than a game at pushpin. You would have thought so, said Sir Hargrave, had you observed with what a sleight, and with what unconcernedness, he pushed down my drawn sword with his hand, (though he would grant me nothing,) and took me under the arm, and led me in to you, as though he had taken me prisoner. The devil has long, continued he, owed me a shame; but who would have thought he had so much power over Sir Charles Grandison, as to get him to pay it to me? But, however, I never will be easy till Miss Byron is Lady Pollexfen.
I take leave, honoured sir, to observe, that a few things are noted in this copy, which, to avoid giving offence, will not be in that I shall write