Saturday, September 22, 2007

Not a happy early modern bunny?

My image here is a composite from part of the title page, the final page, and a portion of the recto of signature H2 (rotated) from the rapier and dagger manual, Vincentio Saviolo his practice, of 1594-5. I thought to look back at it, remembering its images of duellists, and thinking about my post about the challenge to a display of arms at the Red Bull theatre between Mr Gravener and Mr Blunne.

What caught my eye instead was the annotations made by the 17th century owner of the EEBO copy, one Henry Chaytor (possibly 'Chayton'). He puts his name into the book, 'Henry Chaytor his booke' on the title page. Inside the back cover, he writes a list of names: 'Thomas Thorpe, An Killinghall, Henry Chaytor, An Chaytor'. I don't know how Thomas Thorpe gets in, perhaps it's just a name that crops up in contexts of bibliographic enigma, but I surmise that 'Ann Killinghall' was in Henry's mind for alteration by marriage into 'Ann Chaytor'. Amid the usual pen-testings and doodles, he tries out the new name she will have, to see how it looks.

But in the middle of the book, running down the right hand margin, 'M An burke was wed the thirtieth day of april 1657' - the bad news that Mistress Ann Burke was wed the thirtieth day of April 1657. Now, if this were not an annotation in a rapier and dagger manual, I'd think this was a different Ann, but I suspect from the context that young Miss Killinghall opted to become Mistress Burke rather than Mistress Chaytor. And Henry is thinking of taking his honorable revenge on the over-felicitous Mr Burke...

Saviolo is still good reading if you can skip the technical details of imbroccatas, mandritas, stoccatas, punta reversas and stramazones. (I assume that the modern reader would take a merely scholarly interest, rather than be revising for tips on improving the lethality of your caricado.) He seems to know what he is talking about, and his advice can only be described as to the point. Keep striking at the face, is his basic line, as you have to intimidate your opponent, and if you can succeed in striking there, good, for 'every little blow in the face staieth the furie of a man more than anie other place of his body, for being through the bodie, it happeneth often times that the same man killeth his enemie notwithstanding in the furie of his resolution: but the blood that runneth about the face, dismaieth a man'. What do you do if the rapier twists or slips from the hand of your opponent? Kill him while you have the chance, whatever you do, don't give it back! Suppose you find yourself fighting an old friend after a quarrel, and you end up with him at your mercy, what should you do? Spare him for old time's sake? No, kill him while you can, for you never know what's in a man's mind, don't give him the opportunity to make you regret being merciful.

He has several interesting pages about giving the lie - it's like Touchstone, but deadly serious, and a marvellously addled assertion that if you are out to kill someone, you have to do this as the instrument of God's wrath, rather than for private reasons. Just take revenge in the right frame of mind, with suitable piety of purpose, and that's OK.

I doubt Mr Chaytor called out his man: he looks a bit of a dreamer to me, and the book he was swotting up on technique in is enough to unnerve anyone.

No comments: