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

Where some Objections are Answered, that may be Stated against the Usefulness of this Hanging Guard.

MAN is Naturally so selfish and invidious a Temper, that except what flows from himself, he can suffer almost nothing to pass, without either playing the Critick upon it, or starting Objections, altho' never so frivolous, against it: And this, certainly hath its rise from a selfish Pride; because upon no other Ground, for the most part, do People Criticise and Censure, but only out of, I may say, an ungenerous Concern, that another person should receive the Commendation and applause, which they would unjustly claim a Right to themselves; so that it Galls them to the very Soul, to think, that others are taken Notice of , while they are overlookt and neglected.

FOR, did not this Ungentlemanly, as well as Unchristian Temper, flow from such an Impure and Diabolical Fountain, as this of Self-interest and Pride, we should, in place of Condemning and Criticising other Peoples Works, which perhaps we can scarcely ourselves parallel, far less out-strip; be rather daily encouraging and exciteing each other to discover and improve the talent Nature hath bestowed upon us; so that in place of the Clamorous Noise, of Critical and Antichristian censuring, which resounds over all; we should hear nothing , but the still and gentle voice of Unity and Concord, and be so far from rediculing, and exposing the Failings of others, that we would use our outmost endeavours to conceal, or at least, to allevat them; especially when it is to be supposed, that their Design is really good, whatever may be their performance.

FOR, besides that it is one of the easiest Things in the World, to Censure and Criticise, many Peoples Talent lying this way, who are otherwise but of a very ordinary Reach and Capacity; so I still find, for the most part, that it is a Tocken of some Smartness and Mettal, in the Person's Work, who is this taken to Task and Canvassed: For as mean and contemptible things, are commonly overlookt, while those of more Value are taken notice of, so Men generally Censuring, more out of a private and selfish Envy and Pique, than out of any good Design for the Publick Interest; it is a shrewd Tocken, that Pride and Passion, prevail more with such Persons, and have a greater Ascendent over them, than the most convincing Rhetorick and Solid Reason: And seeing, most part of Persons and Books, are liable to this Misfortune, and that we never want a Sett, of such Froathy and Cavilling Sparks among us, I cannot let myself escape: Therefore concluding, that Objections will be made against it, I have thought fir to draw together, such as I judge to be most Material; and which, if sufficiently solved, will render all others ineffectual and of no Force.

NOW, the Objections of any weight, that can be started against it, (particularly with respect to this New Guard) may be reduced to these Six following.

Objection I.

First say they, the Posture of this Guard is constrained and weak, and so a man can neithr continue for so long upon it, nor pursue so vigorously from it, as he can do from the Ordinary Guards, with the Point either level or a little elevate.

To which I Answer, that no Posture can be constarin'd and weak, to which most People Naturally take themselves for their defence; but most men who have never been instructed in the Art of the Sword, do Naturally, (as it hath been already proved in Advantage 7th) take themselves to this Posture for their Defence; therefore it can be no such weak and uneasie Posture, as some would pretend: Besides, People in a Rencounter, stand not so long dallying, to Advise what they are to do, but on a sudden Engage briskly; so that for the most part, before half a Score or Dozen of Thrusts or Blows, are vigorously discharged, the Business is in a manner decided; and in so very short a time, a man scarcely loses his Wind, far less the Strength of his Arm or Sword-Hand.

BUT grant, that this Guard were indeed somewhat constrained and weak, as it is not, it being, as hath already been told in Advantage 7th. the Natural Guard and Defence of all unskillful Persons, when necessitate to Fight: And sure Nature would never prompt them, to that which is unnatural and constrained; but I say, grant it were a little so, can that be of such force and weight, to any consdiering man, as to prevail with him to undervalue, and negelect a Posture, which may be of such use and Benefit to him, for the Defence of his Life and Honour, as this Guard is, which is made most evident by the preceeding Advantages? No certainly; for let it be never so uneasie and weak, yet a little Custome and Practice, will render it, as it does most things else, natural and easie to him; and he will Parie as firmly, and Pursue or Thrust from the Risposte, as smartly or swiftly from this Posture or Guard, as from the most easie Guard in the common Method.

If any person, who had never lifted a bowl, nor handled a racket, should attempt to play, either a sett at tennice, or a match at bowls, he would certainly, at first, acquit himself but very weakly at either; and yet, with what a genteel ease and dexterity, do persons, who are accustomed to those divertisements, perform them? With such a surprising address, I may say, that it would seem, they had been brought into the world, with a bowl in one had, and a racket in the other.

Nay, this irresistible power of practice, does not only master and overcome, the unflexibleness of our bodily members, but also affects, and prevails very much, even over our more dull and ignorant judgements; for so great and universal an influence, hath custome and habite upon the faculties of mankind, that I scarce know any thing, whether art or science, that he is master of, but what, in a great measure, he owes to it; for I may say, that without it, he could neither walk, speak, read nor write distinctly: Nay I may further venture to affirm, that he is beholden to it, for much of his understanding and judgement; for whatever some people may talk of innate ideas, and whether we have any such or not; (that I leave to be determined by the wise) yet we certainly know by experience, that our understandings are improved, by reflecting and meditating; and by the use of these, as are much practised, as either or tongues or hands are, by speaking and writing, or our limbs by crawling about and walking: And did not people daily see the surprising tricks of legerdemain, and feats of activity, performed by jugglers, rope-dancers, and tumblers, they could never believe, that it were possible in nature, for men to perform, with any assurance, such astonishing tricks and postures, as they do; and which it is very well known, they only attain to, by an assiduous and daily practice. I shall give a few very singular instances, some of which, I was an eyewitness to myself.

I remember, Montaigne in his essays, I believe towards the end of his first volume, where he is discoursing of manag'd horses, and the firmness and dexterity of some horsemen; hath the following passages, which I shall give in his own words:

I have seen, says he, a man ride with both feet upon the saddle, take off his saddle, and at his return take it up again, refit, and remount it, riding all the while full speed; having gallop't over a bonnet, make at it very good shoots, backwards with his bow; take up any thing from the ground, setting one foot down, and the other in the stirrup.

There has been seen in my time, at Constantinople, two men upon one horse, who in the heighth of his speed, would throw themselves off, and into the saddle again by turns: And one who bridled and saddled his horse, with nothing but his teeth.

Another, who, betwixt two horses, one foot upon one saddle, and another upon the other, carrying another upon his shoulders; would ride full carreer, the other standing bolt upright above him, making very good shots with his bow. Thus far Montaigne.

The fourth is of a rope dancer, whom I did see myself in a tennice-court in Paris; first walk up a stretch't sloping-rope, to the top of a pole 5 or 6 yards high, upon the top of which, was fixed a level circular board, betwixt two and three foot diameter; when he came near to the board, quitting his pole, he pitch'd himself a-top on't, upon his head, by the help of his two hands; then with a spring he recovered himself to his feet, and standing bolt upright, with a sudden jerk threw his heels over his head, and stood upright again upon his feet; to the surprize and amazement of most who were present.

But why need I go abroad, for singular instances of ease and agility, acquired by meer custom and practice, when we have had lately in this kingdom, the famous posture performer Higens, by far, the most adroit and dextrous, that ever my eyes beheld; being, I do verily believe, the most expert, and agile, in that manner of way, of any man now alive; for not only I, but most persons of quality in this nation, have been witnesses to his performing such postures, as were not only surprising and astonishing, but in a manner miraculous, to be performed by any, who had either a bone or an articulate joint in their whole body; for he said, (taking hold of a piece of his shirt, and plying it backwards and forwards with his two hands) that he had as much command of his joints, as he had of that piece of cloth, and that it was as easie for him, to perform most of his postures, as it was for any present to walk about the room.

Many such incidences may be given, of the prevalency of custom and practice, but these few being very odd and surprising, I made choice of them, as examples, to show what degree of ease and dexterity, an assiduous and daily practice will bring men: Nil tam difficile, is an old but true saying; and indeed what will not a constant habite bring a man to?

Great care then, ought all young people to take, what first ply or bent, they give to their more tender or yielding inclinations; and good is it, and thrice happy for them, when they make choice of, or accidentally fall into any of the paths of virtue; whereas upon the contrary, most misfortunate they are, and very much to be regrated, who either themselves make choice of, or by the bad examples of others, are led aside, or decoy'd, into the crooked and by-lanes of immorality and vice; for in this case, quo semel est imbuta, very rarely fails.

But to return to our subject, and to give one single instance, wherein fencing is only concerned; I affirm, that to the knowledge of many young gentlemen in this kingdom, and particularly, my own experience; I have known the sinking very low upon the ordinary quart-guard, which, at best, is but a constrained and uneasie posture, to become as familiar and easie to many, by a little practice, as any the most unconstrained and natural guard, they could have stood to: let never then the pretended constrainedness, and weakness, of this most useful guard, be longer urged against it, as any imperfection; when, first, it is much to be doubted, if it be so to most part of men, particularly, to such as wanting art, make commonly use of it for a natural defence. Secondly, when, tho' really it were so, yet it is evident, by the abovementioned instances, that a man by a little practice, may very quickly strengthen and confirm himself in it, and that as well for the pursuit against his adversary, as for his own defence, against any single handed weapon whatsoever.

I have not only begun with this objection, but have also insisted the longer upon the answer to it, because I find, it is that which occurs to, and startles many persons, which may perhaps retard, their more frank acquiescing to, and approving of the great benefit and advantage arising to people from this guard: Therefore, if notwithstanding of the foregoing most pregnant instances, of the prevalency of custome, to render not only the posture of this guard (if it were really very constrained) easie, but also any other man shall resolve to ply, and take himself to; some persons will still insist, upon the strength of this objection, and maintain that it is not sufficiently removed; I must be so free and plain to tell them, that it argues one of two; either an extraordinary obstinate, and opinionative temper, or a very weak and shallow judgement, so in God's name e'en let them enjoy their opinion; for to endeavour to convince such unreasonable persons, by the strength of reasoning, is but just so much time spent, but to no purpose under the cope of heaven; but for such, as will give ear, and yield to reason and experience, I am perswaded, my arguments will not prevail with them: As for others, they are not to be valued nor regarded, so not with any man's while to trouble himself, or be concerned about them.

Objection II.

Secondly, the pursuit from this guard is very slow, which altho' and advantage to the defender, is a very great disadvantage to the pursuer.

It is indeed somewhat strange, that the advantages which naturally flow from a guard, should be made some of the chief objections against it; as appears by this, and the two following objections: For one of the greatest advantages I pretend this hanging guard hath over most others, is the rendering of the pursuit slow, and consequently the defence more easie and certaine; and as it cannot be denied, but this is one of the most considerable advantages this guard yields, as I think I have most sufficiently proved in the second advantage; so altho' the assertion, as to the first and second part of this objection, holds good, and be acknowledged, yet it is denied as to the last; for it is certainly a great deal more advantage to a man, when engaged for his life, that his parade or defence, be rendered the more certain, by the slowness of his adversary's pursuit, than it can be a disadvantage to him, that his own pursuit is a little slow against his adversary; for by the first, he hath a very fair opportunity given him, to defend both his honour and life; and by the second he only runs the hazard, by his adversary's saving of himself, of being free from manslaughter. A very great blessing in my opinion, as well as an advantage. For assure yourself, no man in a duel or rencounter, ever killed another, but after a little serious reflection, would with all his heart, have given a good deal of what he was worth, to have had him alive again; so pitiful and false a foundation, are the common points of honour, whereupon to build a just resentment; and fro which, a man shall not afterwards have a check in his mind. therefore a man ought to consider well, and have very just grounds, and provocation to it, before he draw his sword in good earnest.

So that I still affirm, that instead of any disadvantage, a man can have by his pursuit being rendered slow, he reaps ten to one a greater benefit by it, in having a fair opportunity, both as a man of honour, of defending himself, and as a good Christian of saving his adversary (honour, as well as religion, obliging him to both) and by means of a not too subtile, and quick pursuit against his adversary, which would in all probability, tend to the inevitable ruine and destruction of both, but which is easily prevented, by the use of this most excellent guard: And therefore the slowness of the pursuit from it, is so far from being an objection against it, that is one of the greatest, and truest advantages that naturally flows from it; and for which it ought to be, by all truly good and honourable persons, most esteemed.

Objection III.

Thirdly, there is but little variety of play, either from or against this guard, which takes quite away, or at least, lessens a great deal the pleasure of assaulting in schools.

There is a vast difference, betwixt assaulting in a school with blunts, for a man's diversion, and engaging in the fields with blunts, for a man's life; and whatever latitude a man may take in the one, to show his address and dexterity, yet h ought to go a little more warily, and securely to work, when he is concerned in the other: For in assaulting with fleurets, a man may venture upon many difficult and nice lessons, wherein if he fail, he runs no great risque, and if they take not at one time, they may succeed at another: But with sharps, the more plain and simple his lessons of pursuit are, the more secure is his person; whereas, by venturing upon a variety of difficult lessons, he very much exposes himself, even to the hazarding of his life, by his adversary's taking of time, and endeavouring to contretemps, which are not so easily effectuate against a plain and secure pursuit.

For it is at sharps, as in the art of war; non licet bello bis delinquere; a man may indeed in school-play, recover a mistimed thrust, but here, a great escape being once made, is irrecoverable; there is no retrieving of it; and therefore, a man had need to be very cautious, as in his parade or defence, so particularly in his attacking and method of pursuit; so let us guard never so much against precipitancy, and too much forwardness, (yet when once engaged) we are so much mastered by our passions, notwithstanding our strongest resolutions to the contrary, that our blood will boil up, and force us to extravagancies, for which, we cannot in cold blood, but mightily condemn ourselves.

Therefore, altho, as I have elsewhere said, the most part of lessons, may be play'd both from, and against this guard; yet the small number of lessons which naturally flow from it, is rather to be lookt upon as an advantage, peculiar to this guard, than any objection against it; and that because, and altho' variety and diversion, be our great aim in school play, yet plainness and security ought to be our chief design, when in an occasion with sharps.

Objection IV.

Fourthly, this guard gives frequent opportunities , of either commanding or enclosing, which also abates a great deal of satisfaction, which people have, when they play from the ordinary tierce, or quart-guards.

This objection being much of the nature of the former, the preceding answer, takes away, I think, sufficiently the later part of it; but as to the first part, I am so far, from looking upon the opportunity this guard gives of enclosing, to be a disadvantage, that, upon the contrary, I take it to be one of the chief advantages, for which it is to be recommended and made use of: For, can thereby a greater satisfaction to a good man, (who to save his honour, is necessitat, perhaps contrary to his inclination, to go to the field) I say, can there be anything more acceptable to such a person, than a fair opportunity, not only to save his reputation, and honour, but also to defend his life, with that of his adversary's? when, it may be, nothing brought them to the place appointed, but a trifle, or some pitiful drunken scuffle, which 'tis like, both of them are ashamed of, and yet neither of them dares pass it over, without showing a king of resentment, lest it should reflect upon their honours.

Now, by making use, of this guard, and the great conveniency from it of enclosing, a man is rendered secure, not only as to his honour, which is saved, by his keeping the appointment, and appearing with sword in hand; but also in a manner, as to both his own, and his adversary's life, but the fair and frequent opportunities, offered to both for enclosing, and which is occasioned by the great crosses, made by their weapons upon this guard; so that, if by using this guard, they lose a little pleasure of variety in school play, they rap it by the advantage, of having a fair opportunity, when in an occasion, to save both their honours and lives; a very extraordinary benefit in my opinion, and an advantage only peculiar to this guard; for which it ought to be so much more esteemed; as enclosing and saving, is to be preferred to estocading and killing.

Objection V.

Fifthly, whatever disadvantage a man may put his adversary to, by keeping of this guard, he is liable to the same disadvantage himself; and consequently, he can reap no benefit by his taking himself to it.

This objection, is so much the more easily answered, as it is of less weight than any of the preceeding, seeing as it may be levelled against all the other guards, as well as against this; for I would gladly know, what guard or posture, it is possible for any man to make use of, but his adversary, if he be equal in skill, may take himself to the same; and there being an equality supposed in the persons, both as to courage and dexterity, it is impossible for any of them, to have the least advantage by any guard, over the other, but what that other person may have over his adversary; so that this objection reaching all kind of guards, or postures whatsoever, ought not in the least to be regarded.

I shall only add, that according to this supposition, of a perfect equality, as to the art, betwixt two persons engaging, none of them can ever have the least advantage over other; but as this exact equality in art, is a chimerical supposition, so one man's judgement or agility, exceeding or overpowering another's, gives alwise a fair opportunity, to such a person, upon any guard, to catch, or force an advantage over his adversary, altho' upon the same guard, and yet that the one, shall not reap the same advantage by it, that the other shall do, which I think is a very full and sufficient answer to this objection.

Objection VI.

Sixthly, and lastly, this, say they, can never be called a new method of fencing, because it is founded upon a very common and old guard, to wit, the common hanging-guard of the back-sword.

Altho' I am far from pretending, to attribute to my own invention the posture of this guard; yet I will be so vain as to assert, that I am the first person, who has ever found out, and improved, the many great and singular advantages, which naturally flow from it, for a sure and general defence, against all single weapons; so that albeit, it may not perhaps be allowed, that I am the first inventor of this guard, yet it must be at least granted, that I am the first improver of it: And altho' facile est inventis addere be a true proverb, yet I have not so very small an opinion of my addition and improvement, but that I think that art is considerably beholding to me for it.

For altho' strictly speaking, improving cannot be called inventing; yet, where for lack of canvassing and improving a guard, the benefits which might arise from it, are buried in oblivion, and in a manner quite lost: He who endeavours to bring such advantages to light, may be said I think, in some measure, to discover such a guard; then I being so fortunate as to find out, and bring to light again, the many and singular advantages, which a man may reap, by rightly using of this guard, and which might have continued, for ever undiscovered, if the great liking I have for the art, had not prompted me to turn my thoughts that way; I think in this case, that I may very justly lay claim to the invention of, this new method of fencing in general, tho' not to the particular posture of the guard from whence it is derived; for altho' many masters mention this guard, particularly Monsieur de Liancour , who calls it a German guard, yet they all say so very little of it, particularly himself, (who in his time, was one of the most celebrated masters in France) that it is a clear demonstration they did not know the singular advantages of it: Upon which account it is, that some have but just in a manner names it, and the rest quite pass it over: Therefore I think I may very justly, as I said, pretend, if not to the invention of the posture or guard, yet at least, to the improvement of the benefits or advantages, flowing from the right use of it, and so consequently to the discovery of this new method of fencing, which is founded upon it.

And altho' some people, may look upon all I have said upon this head, as not deserving the pretensions i would justly claim, yet I must let such persons know, that whatever may be in the invention, yet the improvement is of such consequence, that I will be bold to say,it is the most useful, and consequently the greatest, and most considerable, that ever happened to the art of defence: nay, if i should go a greater length, and positively affirm, that no greater improvement ever will, or can possibly be made in the art, especially as to the defensive part, than what may be drawn from this new method; yet however confident and paradoxical this assertion may appear, I am fully perswaded, and it is also a demonstration that it is true; because the defence I draw from it, runs all upon the forming of a good cross, and no cross can be better nor greater, than that which forms a right angle; but the defence from this guard goes that length; therefore it is impossible, for any other defence whatsoever, to exceed it in security and safety.

But however, this may not prove at first view, so obvious to many persons, who are already preposessed, of the benefit arising from the ordinary method of defence, yet I am perfectly perswaded, that in a little time, they shall not only approve of this new one, but discover daily, more and more of its security and use, especially for a true and general defence, for which I chiefly admire and recommend it. So for a full and satisfactory answer to this objection, provided this improvement answer my expectation, as to the security and preservation of people's persons, when in an occasion, I shall upon the matter be very little concerned, whether I be allowed the honour, of being called the inventor, or only the improver of this guard and the defence flowing from it; my country-mens safety, and not my own applause, being what I chiefly aimed at, in my search and enquiry after this new method. This is the last objection, wherewithal I shall trouble my reader, any other being so weak and frivolous, that they are not worth mentioning, far less the trouble of refuting.

Back to Index.Utmost thanks to J. Miller.