Ben Miller

“Irish Swordsmanship: Fencing and Dueling in Eighteenth Century Ireland”

In Colonial (American) Period, Dueling, Georgian Era, Martial Arts, Military, Pirates, Rogues, and Gangs, Weapons and Armor on October 16, 2017 at 2:56 pm

Announcing the release of the book, Irish Swordsmanship: Fencing and Dueling in Eighteenth Century Ireland, available in October 2017.

The product of more than ten years of research, the first part of this book tells the story of eighteenth century Ireland’s most renowned duelists, gladiators, and fencing masters, as well as that of Ireland’s most celebrated fencing society, the Knights of Tara—whose lavish fencing exhibitions won fame and glory for Ireland, and whose member’s innovative writings on bayonet fencing found their way into the hands of George Washington.

Notably, this book also includes extracts from several Irish texts on the martial arts (written or published between 1780 and 1860) which have previously not been noticed by scholars, and contains the complete text of A Few Mathematical and Critical Remarks on the Sword (1781)—an almost completely overlooked Irish fencing treatise, now published again for the first time in more than 230 years. The Irish pike exercise has also been included among the book’s many appendices.

If you are interested in dueling, the small-sword, the bayonet, the pike, Irish martial history, or the eighteenth century in general, this book has much to interest you.

Following is the book’s complete online description:

Above: 1775 illustration of a fencer in front of the gates of Trinity College, Dublin. In the background, duelists exchange pistol shots.

During the eighteenth century, Ireland was Europe’s wild west, where the sword was the constant companion of every gentleman, soldier, and rogue. Here, in the dimly lit rooms of Dublin’s popular coffee and chocolate houses, among its public parks and cloistered back yards, fearsome duelists such as George Robert “Fighting” Fitzgerald, Alexander “Buck” English, and Captain David “Tyger” Roche fought for life and honor with the sword and pistol. Here, countless swordsmen—colorfully dressed in ruffled silk—stained the ground of St Stephen’s Green with blood, and celebrated their survival over glasses of cherry brandy.

This is the story of eighteenth century Ireland’s sword culture—of its renowned fencing schools, its famed swordsmen, its female gladiators, and its notorious armed gangs such as the Bucks, Cherokees, and Pinking Dindies, who terrorized the people of Dublin with the small-sword, knife, falchion, and shillelagh, and engaged in vicious battles with members of the city’s Night Watch.

Here, also, is the story of Ireland’s most celebrated fencing society, the Knights of Tara—whose grand fencing exhibitions won fame and glory for Ireland, whose writings on bayonet fencing found their way into the hands of America’s founding father, George Washington, and whose leading member would go on to have a indelible impact upon the history of fencing in the British Isles.

PART TWO of this book contains “A Few Mathematical and Critical Remarks on the Sword”—an almost completely overlooked fencing treatise, now published again for the first time in more than 230 years, that is currently the only known original treatment of swordsmanship by an Irish author published in Ireland during the eighteenth century. Though anonymously authored, research suggests that this mysterious text—the publication of which directly led to the formation of the Knights of Tara—may be the work of Cornelius Kelly, Ireland’s most renowned fencing master. Compiled throughout the 1770s and published in Dublin in 1781, this treatise is by no means a beginner’s manual, but is an extensive discussion and elucidation on the technique, form, philosophy, psychology, morality, and strategy of swordsmanship. Although founded upon the French school of small-sword fencing, it exhibits many peculiarities, and the author’s method of explaining fencing is unusual for the era. The text contains applications of geometrical and mathematical principles to swordsmanship, how to utilize one’s own shadow as a training device, and defenses against assassins and so-called “dirty tricks.” In the words of its author,

“Almost every Gentleman who applies himself to the Sword, [and] has had a liberal education…consequently will be pleased at an attempt at grafting this art upon the most elevated of the sciences, i.e. the mathematical; and perhaps it may be something novel, to have proved this art, in many instances, to be so closely connected with the common precepts of philosophy.”

Irish Swordsmanship contains extensive footnotes, more than sixty drawings, paintings, and engravings from the period, a comprehensive glossary of terms, and seven appendices.

CONTENTS

Preface

PART I: History

I. Dueling in Eighteenth Century Ireland
II. Noted Irish Duelists
i. Captain Peter Drake
ii. Richard Buidhe Kirwan
iii. David “Tyger” Roche
iv. George Robert Fitzgerald
v. Alexander “Buck” English
vi. Richard Brinsley Sheridan
III. Irish Amazons and Stage Gladiators
IV. Eighteenth Century Dublin: Europe’s Wild West
V. Fencing Schools and Masters in Eighteenth Century Ireland
VI. The Knights of Tara
VII. Anthony Gordon, the Last Knight of Tara

PART II: The Treatise

Introduction: Essay on Authorship
Topical Guide to Contents
Note to the Reader

A Few Mathematical and Critical Remarks on the Sword

Glossary of Technical Terms

APPENDICES

I. The Irish Dueling Code of 1777
II. Works on Fencing and Dueling by Irish Authors
III. First Resolutions of the Knights of Tara
IV. Second Resolutions of the Knights of Tara
V. List of the Knights of Tara
VI. Rules of the Cherokee Club
VII. The Irish Pike Exercise

Bibliography
Index
About the Author

FURTHER READING:

Irish Swordsmanship is available in both paperback and hardcover editions from Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Europe, Barnes & Noble, and other national and international retailers.

You can also read extracts, view images, and read articles pertaining to the book and its subject by visiting the book’s Facebook page.

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