This is a transcript of the original work by Sir William Hope

Especially to Fencing-masters
And such who being very curious, are resolved by their own industry, and the assistance of a comrade, to improve themselves in the most useful art of defence; by this New Method of Fencing.

It is not to be doubted, by the great alteration that is designed to be made by me, in the art of the sword, by this new method of fencing, will startle a great many people, as well masters and professors of the art, as others; the attempt being no less great and bold, than new. For to endeavour at one dash, wholly to alter and renverse an old, tho bad and pernicious practice, is no easy matter.

I very well know, that it is one of the easiest things in the world to pretend faults, where there are but few or none, and a very common thing, to cry down, or discommend books, without ever going further than the title page, or but taking at most, a cursory view of some of the titles of the chapters. A most discommendable and unreasonable, as well as ungentlemanly custom; (tho daily practis'd by many, who pretend to be no mean judges in matter of books,) because, before a man either approve of a book as good, or condemn and reject it as bad and useless, he ought in reason before he pass his verdict upon it, not only to read it thorow attentively, and without prejudice; but if he intend to play the critick, reflect seriously upon the design of the author, and arguments he brings for what he would advance; and all this without the least pique or prejudice against him.

Therefore I expect this justice from all, especially from fencing-masters, that before the disapprove and reject this new method, they will take the trouble to thorowly peruse it; not only with regard to the advantages a man may have by it, against any of the ordinary guards belonging to the small-sword, and which will still more and more appear, and be better discovered, the more frequently this new method is made use of, and put in practice against them; but chiefly with respect to all the other great benefits which a man will reap by the constant practice of it. Such as, that it will not only prove a sufficient guard and defence, against all the thrusts of the small-sword, and blows of the sheering, or back-sword in a single combat; but also against the thrusts and blows of all other pointed or edged weapons whatsoever, and that not only a-foot, but on horse-back, as well as in a battel as in a single combat.

I say, if my readers, especially those who make profession of communicating their art to others, consider it seriously under this general view; and not out of a cavilling temper, pick out, and insist upon, some particular and trifling imperfections in it, from which no guard whatsoever is free; because it is impossible for any one particular guard or parade, to answer exactly and equally all circumstances. I make no doubt, but it will answer sufficiently fir it self, and give them such an intire conviction of the unsufficiency of their former common-method, for a sure and general defence against all weapons, that they will hereafter wholly reject that, and take themselves to this new one, which I am perswaded, will be attended with such good consequences, as will make it hereafter prevail, not only in the fencing-schools of these islands, but over all, where it shall have the good fortune to be made known.

A dextrous small-sword man, how adroit soever he may be at the handling of his rapier in a duel after the common school-method, will, when he comes to engage at closs fight in a field battel either with foot or horse, find himself extremely put to it, and almost as much to seek, as if he had no art at all, if he be master of no better defence, than the ordinary school parades of quarte and tierce, which belong only to the small-sword or rapier; & whereof the unsuccessful practice, (even in duels, laying aside their insufficiency in a crowd, or field battel) hath no doubt made many people value less the art of the sword, than otherwise they would have done; judging thereby, that there could be no better nor securer defence drawn from it: For in such a juncture, I mean in a crowd or battel, a man hath neither time nor bounds, nicely to ward off his adversary's blows or thrusts, nor to break his measure, as he would have, were he engaged only in a duel. Here he is a little more at large and freedom; but there, perhaps surrounded by two or three stout and vigorous single soldiers, or troopers, who are with all fury sabring, and discharging blows upon him.

I say in such a case, this hanging guard with the cross parade from it, is the only one in the world he can rely upon; and if he be agile and vigorous, and can perform it nimbly and dextrously, it will certainly, if any art can, and as much as human nature is capable of, (for no man is infallible) save him from many a wound, altho not from all, for that, without being armed cap a pee, in a manner impossible, where there are perhaps, two or three against one; but certainly, the dextrous use of this guard and cross parade from it, will save him from a great many, he would have otherwise received, had he been ignorant of it, and necessitate to make use of his imperfect, or rather school-play parades (for at such a juncture they deserve no better name) of quarte and tierce.

So that all this being duly considered, I am fully perswaded, (if there be any such thing in nature, as that a true, sure, and general defence may be drawn from any single weapon) that I have hit right on it; and that this cross parade I so much recommend is it; at least, the very best that art can furnish a man with, against all kind of edged and pointed weapons whatsoever; a thing so very useful, yet so much wanting amongst our British youth: and therefore, if there be any failure hereafter in their defence, it will be found to ly, not in the insufficiency of this new method, but either in the want of a sufficient strength or vigour, or in the bad execution of its rules; which last, I beg such masters will take special care to prevent, who shall be so just to me, and kind to their scholars, as henceforth to communicate it to them; for the security and preservation of whose honour and lives, it was chiefly made publick.

To which end they are entreated, not to mix and jumble the two methods together; particularly the parades or defensive part; that is, teach their scholars sometimes the one manner of parieing, and sometimes the other; for that is the ready way to render them dextrous at neither. But if they will obstinately keep to their old method, let them wholly reject this; and if they are pleased to make trial of this, then let them make a true and thorow proof of it, especially with respect to the defensive part or parade, (wherein the great advantage of this new method consists) without so much as letting their scholars practise any part of the parades, nay, nor even the pursuits belonging to the other, except in so far, as both methods shall jump together in the offensive part; because in it, that nicety needs not to be so much regarded, as in the defensive, which from this hanging guard is indeed most admirable, by reason of the great cross it forms upon the adversary's sword in opposing and defending it.

If masters punctually observe this, I dare promise to their scholars, not only a great and sudden, but even surprising success in the true art of defence, of which it may be most justly asserted, that hitherto we have only professed the name, not its good and salutary effects, towards the redressing of which, 'tis hoped that the publication of this new and secure method of fencing, will not a little contribute, especially if duly encouraged and put into practice by such, as have the instruction of our youth in this most gentlemanly and useful art intrusted to them, I mean the adroit and judicious fencing masters, as well back-sword as small-sword-men of these islands.

For here both their arts, which have been of a long time most unreasonably, as well as unluckily separate, and in a manner rent asunder, are by the improvement of the following guard, and parade naturally flowing from it, join'd and reunited; so that hereafter gentlemen shall no more need to enquire after this master to instruct them in the art of the back-sword, and such another to render them dextrous at the small, but only see for one who is really master of this new method, that is, who is thorowly master of the true art of defence; and this master, nay when such an one cannot be had, this very piece alone, if duly considered, and its rules exactly put in practice with an assiduous application, assisted by the help of a judicious comrade, will in a very short time make them such masters of it, as is for the most part needful for the defence of any who intend not to make the art their profession, by gaining wholly their livelyhood by it.

And that they may attain to this with more ease, I advise all master, who shall undertake the teaching of this new method, with success, that they order their scholars, to provide themselves with fleurets having hilts, with several neat bars, both lengthways and a cross upon them, resembling somewhat the closs-hilts of back-swords, for the better preservation and defence of their sword hand and fingers, when they shall be obliged to ward the blows made against them; because to teach this new method methodically, and with all its advantages, the blow must be taught at the same time with the thrust, that the scholar may be rendered alike dextrous at both; so that altho a scholar, after some practice, may come to defend his adversary's blows very safely, and with a kind of assurance and certainly, upon the blade of his fleuret; yet at first teaching, and also in common assaults for diversion, such barr'd hilts as I am recommending, will be found most convenient and useful, as well for the preservation of the sword hand from irregular blows, as to render the scholar more lively and brisk in his assaults, as he knows that his sword hand is pretty well secured, against his adversary's irregular blows, should he himself at first assaulting, fail to receive them upon the blade of his fleuret, which with a little practice, he will not fail for the most part to do. neither will such hilts, after he is once used to them, at all hinder or retard the swiftness of his thrusts; because he is to hold his fleuret in his hand after the same manner with them, as he does the small-sword; and consequently will by practice, thrust as swiftly with a sheering-sword, kept in his hand after this manner, as he could do with a small-sword or rapier.

Now after all, it will perhaps be objected by some, that this essay does not exactly answer, or correspond with its title, because in the title, the art of the sword is said to be therein not only rectified, but also compendized, and yet this exact compend consist of near 36 sheets of print: A very brief and short compend indeed!

To which, for the objector's greater satisfaction, who, I must say, is a little more nice upon this head than is needful; I will easily answer, and make it appear, that I have made good the title to a nicety: because, altho this essay swells to near 36 sheets of print, to which I was obliged by reason of the exact explications I resolved to give to most of the terms of art belonging to fencing; besides the addition of a whole chapter of principles, whereupon I found the true art of defence with both back-sword and small, which hath never been done heretofore by any: As also, the nice theory I all along intersperse, with the excellent rules and explications, which likewise is not to be found in any other book of this kind: Yet the whole of the art, as well back-sword as small, is really contained in about seven sheets, that is, in the first, fifth and sixth chapters: So that notwithstanding of my prolixness upon other heads, especially with respect to the explication of the terms of art, and consequently the rectifying of a great many material escapes, in the common method of teaching and practice, for which this essay will be also very useful, tho no so particularly compil'd for it, as for the illustration of this new method: The title page is therein made good, because of the substance of the whole art of fencing, as well from the common guards as this new one, being in effect contained within the three above mentioned chapters.

As to that other objection, of this new method's not being my own invention, because founded upon a very common and old guard; I think I have sufficiently removed it in my answer to the sixth objection against this new method. and shall therefore only add here, that how easy soever the discovery, or rather improvement of this hanging guard in seconde, may appear to some, who are perhaps no well wishers either to me, or the art I improve by it; yet it is somewhat like the famous COLUMBUS, his desiring of some of his conceited company, (who slighted his discovery of America, as a thing of small moment, and what another might have done as well as he) to make an egg stand along upon its little end; which when they had tried, and were not able to perform, he took the egg, and gently bruising the little end of it, made it perfectly to stand upon it, saying to the company, There, now I suppose you can do this too, now that you have seen it done. The application I leave to the reader; but with this difference, That Columbus's discovery was indeed of a new world, wheras mine is only of a new method of fencing.

This much I judg'd fit to premise by way of advertisement, as well to masters, as others, who have an itch to object and criticise; as also for other ingenious persons, who would gladly improve themselves in the true art of defence, but cannot conveniently have the benefit of such masters; for the supplying of such inconveniency and want, let them have recourse to the directions set down to them for that purpose in chap. 5. where I have been as plain as possible.

I have likewise for the reader's greater ease, caused engrave in a print, (which is placed at the end of the book) the most necessary postures of defence and pursuit, flowing from this new guard, which will make my directions be understood a great deal better, and with more ease, than if the book had been altogether without them; for let a direction in writing, especially for any practical art, such as fencing, be never so plain, yet a well draw figure adds life to it, and makes it not only more intelligible, but also more readily retain'd by the reader, for whose ease as well as benefit, and security in an occasion with sharps this piece is chiefly designed; neither do I doubt, but (as Horace De Arte Poet.) Quo propius stet, eum capiet magis.

Back to Index. Utmost thanks to J. Miller.