Just finished re-reading Barbara Holland's fine book "Gentlemen's Blood: A History of Dueling from Swords at Dawn to Pistols at Dusk.
Some reviewers have pointed out that the book has some flaws and errors, including the fact that there are no footnotes to back up some of the anecdotal stories, but it is a wonderful book, and a fascinating read none the less.
I think Barbara Holland would have been a fabulous neighbor. I woulds have loved to listen to her talk about life and the universe over a cup of tea ... or perhaps a few shots of whiskey.
Her wit is razor sharp, her humor as cutting as the duels she writes about. Her sense of irony is pitch perfect and lord knows I would not have wanted to be on the receiving end of her insults, sometimes so off hand and subtle you would not have felt the wound until you had bled out.
Here is a excerpt from the end of the book:
"Unfortunately, like the impersonal pistol replacing the personal sword, the weapons involved have moved a long way from the human hand. ......
"Battle now is not only too mechanized, it's also too big. Thousands of people can be killed at a clip, in the blink of an eye. Since Hiroshima, the idea of making elaborate arrangements to try to kill a single man seem ludicrous; surely one enemy's death is hardly worth the trouble of unsheathing a sword.
Or perhaps it is."