The point of it all

Linda Colley

  • The Duel in European History: Honour and the Reign of Aristocracy by V.G. Kiernan
    Oxford, 360 pp, £25.00, March 1988, ISBN 0 19 822566 0
  • History, Classes and Nation-States: Selected Writings of Victor Kiernan edited by Harvey Kaye
    Blackwell, 284 pp, £27.50, June 1988, ISBN 0 7456 0424 2

In 1759 the future Viscount Townshend challenged the Earl of Leicester to a duel. But Leicester refused to fight. He was, he claimed, too old and too ill; he could not hit a barn door with a pistol, and had not handled a sword for twenty years. What does this incident tell us about patrician values? And who was more conscious of his rank: the brash challenger or the man confident enough to ignore him?

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