I’ll see you at dawn: Dueling, scandals and romance
We just don’t duel like we used to. Sigh. In A Tale Of Two Lovers, after reading some outrageously salacious and completely damaging gossip about himself in The London Weekly, Lord Roxbury does what any gentleman would do to protect his name: he challenged the editor of the paper, Mr. Derek Knightly, to a duel. Naturally.
This was inspired by true-life events, related in a gem of a book called Gentlemen’s Blood: A History of Dueling by Barbara Holland. The book is highly entertaining, informative and inspiring (for authors only, I hope).
It used to be common practice to challenge an editor to a duel if he said something unfavorable about you. And editors frequently did write horrible, rude, insulting things about others. Why? Holland writes, “It was prime editorial duty to start a fight. Nothing boosted readership like violent libel.” Or as Knightly is fond of saying, “Scandal equals sales.” There were a lot of meetings at dawn.
Abe Lincoln (!) nearly fought a duel for calling James Shields a liar and “bad-smelling to boot” in an article condemning his tax policies. Two brothers, editors of the Richmond Examiner, both died in duels. Another fought for calling someone a COWARD in print. Edgar Allen Poe challenged one editor, John Daniel, but the editor showed up too drunk to shoot straight. Oops.
Roxbury and Knightly’s feud is based on a rumor much, much more incendiary reasons–“coward” and “badsmelling” pale in comparison to what Julianna writes (and Knightly) publishes. Their duel, too, is not thwarted by intoxication levels, or sudden agreement. I will say this: shots are fired!
Because of this habit of shooting instead of suing, “Editors buckled on their pistols when they dressed in the morning and often kept a rifle propped up beside the desk. One editor in San Francisco, pressed for time, posted a notice on his door: “Subscriptions received from 9 to 4, challenges from 11 to 12 only.”
Look for a note like that nailed to Knightly’s door in subsequent Writing Girl books!