Isidore's Reviews > The Duelling Handbook, 1829

The Duelling Handbook, 1829 by Joseph Hamilton
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's review
Sep 02, 09

bookshelves: non-fiction, 19th-century
Read in September, 2009

The title of this book, both its original and the more concise given it by Dover Books, is misleading. It is not a handbook on nor a guide to dueling; it is a collection of examples and anecdotes by Joseph Hamilton to further his opinion of how ludicrous the institution was. By showing the reader everything from men shooting each other over a dispute regarding the game of leap frog to brothers running one another through with swords he hoped to induce potential duelists to submit themselves to a court of his devising in order to adjudicate matters of honor and thus avoid bloodshed. His ideas do not seem to have caught on.

Dueling as described by the author seemed to have been a social mechanism whereby especially unintelligent and hotheaded individuals could have a fair chance of removing themselves from further damaging wider society. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't. Dueling saved the United States from a Hamilton (of no claimed relation to the author), but unfortunately permitted a Jackson Administration.

The funniest thing found in this book is the fact that dueling knew no professional limits; lawyers, politicians, doctors, and even clergymen engaged in firing pistols at one another at point blank range. If they could have only benefited from today's modern firearm technology there would not have been so many unfortunate misses.

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Quotes Isidore Liked

“The man who is too captious, walks in the shadow of death, and on the verge of his sepulchre.”
Joseph Hamilton, The Duelling Handbook, 1829

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