Thanks to Loretta, we've explored many excerpts from early 19th c. ladies' magazines. Men had their own reading material, too. The Gentleman's Magazine was founded in 1731 and ran uninterrupted for nearly two more centuries, until 1922.
The contents of the 18th c. editions clearly catered to the tastes of a Georgian gentleman, including military, judicial, & political news, scientific observations, indignant letters, poetry in Latin, and round-ups of births, deaths, marriages, and executions.
But in light of Loretta's post yesterday outlining the classes & orders of English society, I found this excerpt from the May, 1750 issue particularly interesting. What begins as a general tirade against dueling quickly morphs into a tale of the just deserts served to duelists "of the lower class of officers." To this author, there was a world of difference between honorable, well-bred officers who had served abroad and those described as "pests of human society" – all of whom meet their well-deserved (and most convenient) fates by the end of the paragraph.
From OLD ENGLAND, May 12 Of Duelling...
The detestable practice of dueling calls aloud for restriction. It has been observed to prevail generally after a bad peace: immediately after that of Utrech, some of the lower class of officers, call'd Derby Captains*, (McManus, McNeal, Hardiman, Scroggs, and Marriot) were the pests of human society, and obtruded themselves into company merely to quarrel; insomuch, that their brother officers took all opportunities of shunning them.
Mr. McManus was sent to the West Indies as lieutenant of a company, where he continued his pestiferous quarrels, to the great annoyance of the plantation, 'till a stout planter, after the greatest provocation, gave him such a drubbing as put an end to his iniquity and his life together. McNeal, taking an opportunity to salute a gentleman in the road, finished his travels at the gallows. Hardiman, after making a havock among the Irish, of whom he had killed no less than five in duels, and not very fairly, died, to the surprize of all, in his bed. Scroggs and Marriot fortunately quarrelled together, and were artfully, and I think wisely, spirited up against one another, for the good of mankind, into a duel, and dy'd very gallantly by their own swords....
* Derby Captain: "There was a house in Covent Garden for many years remarkable for selling Derbyshire ale, which was cheap, and much drank at that time by the neighbours, and others who frequented the house. The long calm which succeeded the Peace of Utrecht, reduced a great number of officers who had been in the Duke of Marlborough's wars; and, as they had but a scanty provision to live on, those who settled in London...found great convenience in frequenting this house; which they did in time to the amount of such numbers, that they were called, by way of cant name, 'the Derby Captains.'" - Memoirs of Charles Macklin, 1804
Above: French Smallsword Duelists, c. 1740. I have no idea exactly why the two hot-tempered combatants in this illustration are being handed their swords by a motley-clad fool – though having a clown stand between duelists does seem appropriate.
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.