In 1835 Charles Random de Berenger—owner of the Stadium Rifle Club outside of London—publishes the first self-protection book. Written in the manner of a series of letters from Lt. Col. Baron De Berenger to his son Augustus, letters III, VI, IX & XI treat the subject of crime.
Avoid scrapes generally …
Helps and Hints
Protect Life and Property:
Rifle and Pistol Shooting, &c.
CONTINUATION OF LETTER IX.—SHOWING THE BEST MODES OF SELF-DEFENCE WHEN ATTACKED.
HOW TO CARRY AND USE PISTOLS may certainly be taught, but, after all, much must be left to your judgment as to adopting either of the modes that may be so suggested, or as to altering any, just as peculiar circumstances may make a change advisable. Let me, however, recommend the following as GENERAL PRECAUTIONS.
Load your pistols YOURSELF! and examine, as carefully as frequently, the state they are in, and that of your priming, be it of whatever kind.
NEVER allow others to handle your pistols, but keep them either in your own possession, or in a case with a good patent lock; be particular in the observance of this at inns, and on the road especially. Whilst changing horses, either remain with your pistols in the carriage, or take them with you if you enter an inn.
Draw the charge and re-load about two or three times per month; their getting wet, however, will make their immediate discharge, cleaning, and reloading, necessary. In a COACH, CHARIOT, or POST-CHAISE, when arriving at any dangerous or suspicious part, or during twilight, or when approached by persons to be mistrusted, remove your pistols from the case into those pockets of the carriage which are most within your reach, not forgetting to unbolt their locks, and seeing that the caps are on, and properly.
FOOTPADS, UPON STOPPING A CARRIAGE, generally open one of the doors, one of their party remaining about the heads of the horses: the moment they do so, coolly and steadily fire at THE man whose pistol seems most to be directed towards you; present sloping downwards, and rather below than at or above his chest; if you hit him, he will be disabled, although his life may be spared; and as the pistol may “throw up,” (as the rising of the muzzle at the time of firing is called,) you have a better chance by this present, for with a higher aim your ball may pass over one of his shoulders, and he may shoot you. If he fires at and misses you, drop, as if wounded, into the bottom of the carriage, and, before he or they have recovered from their guilty surprise, you may, whilst lying at the bottom, shoot one or two of the footpads near the door, and the horses, perhaps startled by the firing, or urged by the driver, may knock down those near their heads; if so your carriage should start off, remain at the bottom of it, for, if any of the gang fire at the back of the carriage, (as was done by the noted J. Abershaw, who killed some gentlemen that way,) you are less likely to be hit than if you place yourself on the seat.
NEVER OPEN THE DOOR YOURSELF when stopped, for, with your hands thus occupied, you are at the mercy of robbers; if they urge you to open the door, seem confused, and show them a purse with one hand, whilst your other is prepared for resistance.
WITH AN OPEN CARRIAGE these modes are more difficult, being more liable to observation; still the same course is recommended, or nearly so.
IN A TWO-WHEELED CARRIAGE it is more difficult still; but, if you are driving EITHER of these carriages YOURSELF, and know how to “handle” your horses, so that you can depend upon them, the better way is, to try to drive over any fellow that seeks to stop you; and if you have a friend, or a shrewd and trusty servant on the box with you, let him have the pistols, not to fire however, (not only to throw a charge but also an awful chance away,) but to reserve his fire for any particular emergency, that thereupon he may make sure of hitting.
STRATAGEMS should be called into aid when taken at a disadvantage; such as taking out your purse with a remark something like,—“I’ll give you my purse, but those men coming down the hill, or round that point, &c., will be upon you presently to take it from you again;”—or, “Why stop me when you could have had so much more from that carriage and four close at hand?” and always without saying WHERE. This will make them look fearfully in ALL directions; in which case you must do your best to profit by a momentary opportunity;—decision is indispensable in such a case, and cool execution ought to second decision!
ON HORSEBACK I advise the use of these stratagems particularly, for, since you cannot ride so well with a pistol always in hand, if a man should have possessed himself of your horse’s bridle, your pulling a pistol out of your pocket, whilst the eyes of several, or even one only, are upon you, will become a signal to be fired at; but when their attention by a ruse, is directed to something else, then you may either pull out a pistol, or you may fire it in and through your pocket, or you may level one or two fellows with a heavy butt of a whip, or ride over some before they can recover their original tact. When ON FOOT, have your pistols so placed about your person as to be EASILY brought forth and FIT for action. At night, and moving along dangerous parts, place one pistol in the breast part of your coat, and carry the other openly in your hand; and IFz you are steady enough to carry it ready cocked, I mean in suspicious places, so much the better.
A PISTOL, ALTHOUGH DISCHARGED, is still a formidable weapon of defence, provided it is not a toy, but a fair sized pistol; for you may strike a robber over the head with it, when at close quarters, after his pistols have missed fire, (an event more than likely;) or you may poke the muzzle into his face, to make sad havoc among his teeth; or if you and he both carry sticks, you may parry his blows with your pistol and attack him with your stick at the same time. Remember always to give point at the face and stomach whenever you can; also, to make feints at the head, but to cut principally at the leg; a good blow there is worth six elsewhere, not only is it very sickening to him whose shin is so saluted,—so much so, that you may rattle his head about before he can recover himself,—but it will disable him from running away from you, and prevent him from pursuing you should your valour or strength have evaporated so much as to make you prefer a rapid retreat to continued combat. If you make a feint at the head, and he protects himself elsewhere, because he knows it to be a feint, immediately change your feint into reality, and vigorously attack his head.
A GOOD CUT may also be made at the inside of the thigh, or at the wrist, but they are both more difficult to execute than the cut at the leg, and which latter should be made with a firm lunge, to be followed by a quick recover.
You may take one, and why not two prisoners,—and it may puzzle you how to convey them to some place of security, since they may either run away in different directions, or they may attack you! The Prussian corporals, when they march a large number of deserters, meet this dilemma in a droll way, that is worth recollecting.
They either make the men themselves, (and a pistol pointed at a footpad would make him do it,) or the corporals, cut off all the buttons from the waistband of the prisoners’ small clothes, and they slit the waistband down the hind part besides, taking away the braces also. This compels the fellows, in marching, to hold up their small clothes with both their hands: an attitude which precludes their attacking, and impedes their running away.
I will now instruct you in
DEFENSIVE GYMNASTICS, or how to resist attacks by mere muscular power, judiciously applied and supported by firmness; thus to extend the proofs of the general utility of the Gymnastic Exercises.
Having cautioned you against allowing swell mobs to hustle you, or ladies of the pavé, or duffers and others, to arrest your unguarded attention by artful representations, aiming at concealed imposition or robbery; having advised you to avoid crowds, or to be upon your guard against the attempts of pick-pockets, when unavoidably you find yourself in fashionable or unfashionable mobs, since the staircases of ladies “at home,” as also the pit at the opera, and “fop’s alley” especially, nay, even the anti-chambers of St. James’s Palace, are the spheres of operation of fashionably dressed pick-pockets, as also knowing ones, who will endeavour to ingratiate themselves with you by all manner of artful ways, in order to lead you into snares of some kind or other; I will now caution you against a gang of WRETCHES LIVING BY EXTORTION: these may be met with in the garb of gentlemen, tradesmen, soldiers, and even labourers; their plan is, either to place themselves by your side if standing before some shop-window, &c, thereupon to intrude their observations, or to stare pointedly at you as you walk along; if you stare in return, and which may be done from curiosity or displeasure, or to endeavour to recognize who it is that thus intrudes himself to your notice, they will follow you wherever you go, to importune you with conversation, that generally ends with demands for money by way of loan, &c.; if you refuse them, or endeavour to rid yourself of them by gentle means, they, with inconceivable effrontery, will menace you with accusations of the worst character; and if you are so weak as to give them money from a species of “mauvaise honte,” I mean a weak-minded dislike to have your name made public, although conscious of your spotless innocence, you will heap coals upon your own head, however pure your conduct may be, for they will persecute you incessantly with demands for more money, and every time for larger sums: since you ultimately must have recourse to proceedings against them, to put a stop to all this, is it not preferable to do so at first? because, instead of avoiding notoriety, you will have to submit to it at last, and not only with the loss of the sums which, from want of fact, you have given to such wretches; but smarting, as unquestionably you will, under more or less prejudice, which, by such a compliance, you will have raised against yourself with many, who may doubt your innocence on grounds of your not having spurned them immediately, instead of submitting some time, and quietly, and, therefore pusillanimously at any rate, to even repeated extortion!!!
Whenever such reptiles accost you, do not seem to hear them, but turn and walk away from them; you cannot prevent their following you in silence, but, to assure yourself of their intention, cross from one side to the other of the same street several times, in your progress, and if they adopt the same course, stop the first policeman you meet, and acquaint him with all that has annoyed you; next, (and in the presence of the policeman,) peremptorily demand of the fellow thus pursuing you, what his object is, for so doing; that is, if he gives you the chance, for it is more than likely that he will make off the moment you accost a policeman: if he should not do so, you will thus secure evidence to be produced in case of need ; wherefore, you should take the policeman’s number, and the letter of his division. In the event of your being threatened with any accusation, or if money has been demanded of you under such a menace, immediately give such a fellow in charge, if a policeman or other constable is at hand, or secure him yourself, till one can be brought to the spot to receive him into his custody: never hesitate one moment in doing either!
If he runs away, pursue him, even to call out “Stop thief,” to draw the attention of every passenger to his seeking to escape, and which will make his assertions worthless, for when he is stopped, it is next to certain that he will pretend to have a charge against you; to defeat which, you need but prove his running away, and that you pursued him till, by the cry of Stop thief, you caused his being arrested; I hardly need add, that you should take the names and addresses of persons who can give evidence to this effect.
Let me caution you against giving way to your natural indignation, or rather against its spontaneous display, by your knocking down such wretches the moment any may provoke your just anger by similar endeavours at extortion, because they may turn it to your prejudice, by pretending that you had thus forcibly, and from a consciousness of your guilt, resisted THEIR endeavours to apprehend YOU! The same advice is suitable in cases where you are overmatched; nay, in any where you are not sure of having an honest witness to what takes place, for although there may be some one present, when you may have to rely most upon his support, it is very probable that he will prove a confederate; for is it likely that such villains will accost you before strangers?
The best way by far is, in reply to these extorting observations, warmly to declare your being incapable of such actions, at the same time to PUT ON an appearance of being horror-struck and alarmed; thereupon, and under declarations of being without money, or change, to ask such a fellow to follow you where you can procure either; and, when you have drawn him thus to some place where you can depend both upon honest evidence and assistance, immediately to give him into the custody of persons you can rely upon, and moreover, to follow up his apprehension by manfully preferring your charge against him,—a charge which, supported by firmness, founded in innocence, and backed by your character generally, and for manliness especially, may tend to rid the public, and therefore entitle you to its warm thanks, of a viper whose sting is so highly cankering, that, even those who have disproved such accusations, can hardly ever subdue its festering consequences; for such reasons, and although greatly loathing so disgusting a subject, I have thought it my duty to arm you against the poisonous sting of such worse than robbers, indeed worse than murderers, &c., with the only antidote; for rely upon my assurance, that no other will prove efficacious against the venomous breath of such reptiles!
AVOID SCRAPES GENERALLY, and in the following ways:
To the insults of the vulgar and to any kind of insolence in the streets, turn a deaf ear as long as you can, for such characters will be gratified by your being annoyed, whilst contempt, and indeed with all ranks, is the severest of all resentments: the Indians say truly, “the dart of contempt will even pierce the shell of the tortoise!” besides, in a wrangle with your inferiors, what can you gain? they must have the best of it, since you cannot stoop to the resorting to those means by which, and unblushingly, they ever will try to secure an advantage over you: altercations of that kind prove the truth that “never pot boils, but the scum is cast uppermost;” to which I add, let it alone, and when the fire is out, the scum will fall to the bottom again, as its proper sphere! On the other hand, if your forbearance should cause any of these intruders to assault you, so far from recommending submission, I urge immediate and the most decisive chastisement, for it not only is a mean-spirited act to allow any one to degrade you by a blow, but as no one can foresee what may follow such a beginning, the quickest must ever be the best way of putting a stop to it; for such reasons do I advise your inflicting a very determined, a very severe blow, for it will be received as a sample of your strength and skill to dishearten even a ruffian, since, from a gentleman, he may have expected but a feeble resistance; at any rate, powerful retaliation, where least looked for, becomes a damper to most, and to brutal aggressors more especially; wherefore, and alluding to PUGILISTIC DEFENCE, be careful NEVER TO THROW A BLOW AWAY, that is, to make SURE of hitting WHEN you strike.
HIT IN A PLACE WHERE IT PUNISHES MOST; and
THROW ALL YOUR WEIGHT WITH, OR RATHER INTO, THAT BLOW.
JUDGE WELL OF THE LENGTH, for the greatest force of a blow is derived from a sharp sort of whip-like nip, one which, with great rapidity and conveying the weight of your shoulder and chest, not only plants the blow with a full extent of the arm, but also brings the fist with equal velocity away from the part struck; thus, not only recovering the power and opportunity of stopping and parrying, but also punishing more severely than by a blow, that, although it falls severely and hammerlike, is deficient of that recoil which marks the severest collisions. A man of light weight, by such a mode of hitting, may inflict a blow much more severe than that which a heavier man can hope to give who strikes without that nip, wherefore it often has surprised me that, in the pugilistic directions, (at least those which I have seen,) it strangely has been overlooked. Daniel Mendoza not only practised this mode, but also a chopping blow, and which he generally resorted to after blows made at his head; having first stopped them with his elbow, or with the part of the arm contiguous to it, he almost invariably returned such blows with a tremendous chopper, inflicted with his knuckles (saw like) down his antagonist’s face; and, by a wonderfully rapid sweep, for which he was peculiar, and produced by the sudden drop of his elbow, by which he gave to his fist a circular motion towards, and down, his antagonist’s face, mostly to split his nose, in defiance of the most skilful guards, for these he generally cut through, or impelled downwards, by the extraordinary force which he knew how to impart to such a chopping blow, and although he was himself but of light weight.
The sooner you convey this chopping sample of your intended favors to an assailant’s face, the sooner may you reckon upon his respectful endeavours to “back out” of what thereupon he will begin to view as “a great mistake;” and, if even he should persevere, the sooner will he be hors de combat; for, besides plenty of “claret” from his proboscis, and snivelling in abundance, his eyes, if not actually closed up, will soon become of little use to him, after a good application between them of this sort.
This is one of the modes of “punishing most;” and, although blows under the ear, or at the pit of the stomach, are equally severe, they ought to be avoided, since much too often they prove fatal; whilst those which I recommend are quite as disabling, yet devoid of the risk of depriving your assailant of life; the very fear of doing which not only being distressing to all humane combatants, but also proving a considerable impediment to the employ of their utmost vigour.
Another SETTLING BLOW is that which, with the inside of your wrist turned towards your chest, you forcibly strike upwards, although at the bottom of your assailant’s chin; if stopped by the latter, it will not only spoil his masticating for some time, but you may expect his heels to fly up, thus to cause his head to salute the ground: if you should miss his chin, it is very likely that you will hit his nostrils instead, whereupon the great probability is, that it will produce the same sort of fall, and under the most sickening pain, on account of the great tenderness of that organ; and which, if the blow is well-directed, it not only will wrinckle up, but will often tear partially away from the face.—When I recommend the use of these two blows to you, I feel quite confident that you will do me justice in believing that I have NO OTHER aim but that of enabling you to put a speedy termination to unavoidable and disgusting encounters only; and I am equally certain that you will never employ them, or indeed any other pugilistic skill, but to avert ill-treatment in such situations, and therefore in reality COMPULSIVELY!
If a fellow THROWS HIS HEAD INTO YOUR STOMACH, do not stoop or bend forward on any account; for he may seek to provoke your doing so, that, by his catching you by the thighs or knees, he may hurl you over his head and back by raising himself at the same time, thus to give you a most tremendous fall, (a trick you may practise yourself in dangerous situations). When any one “BUCKS” you thus with the head, keep yourself upright, stepping back a little, at the same time throwing your knee upwards with great force, and into his face, and which salute you may follow up with straight-forward blows, right and left.
Another EXTRAORDINARY FALL may be given thus: seize a person suddenly, and with both hands, by the collar or lapels of his coat, dropping at the same time, and quickly, on your breech to the ground, with your back well rounded, roll over on it with your knees raised at the same time, that thus you may throw the person you all the while have kept tight hold of, not only over, but also far beyond you: the whole being performed with rapidity, decision, and force; and by expertly blending all the actions into one; if done properly, you may be on your legs again before the person so handled can comprehend how all this has happened. But this should only be practised to relieve yourself from imminent danger; since by this fall, and by his turning a somerset, (because mostly pitching on his head,) a wight so resisted may break his neck!
Should a person RUSH VIOLENTLY AT YOU, as is common in pugilistic combats, where, in the absence of skill, ignorant violence is resorted to, coolly stand as if ready to receive the shock, but, in reality, prepared nimbly to step on one side for the purpose of planting a weighty blow at your antagonist’s head, As he rushes past you, immediately to follow and to attack him vigorously whilst he remains stunned and impaired in his wind.
TO TURN A PERSON OUT OF A ROOM at times may become necessary: I shall state several ways of doing it, wherefore you can employ either, just as circumstances favor any particular mode. For example: if you perceive a favorable opportunity to seize the right hand of a troublesome person with your own right, do so, and, quickly lifting it, pass your left hand and arm under his right, to seize him by the collar with your left, fixing your antagonist’s right elbow on your left arm at the same time. Now, by having placed the end of your own thumb upon the back of his right hand, you will have the power of twisting his hand outwards, and of pressing it downwards at the same time, your left arm becoming the fulcrum to his elbow, which, giving him extraordinary pain, will raise him on his toes, and thus you can move him out of a room before you, so long as you keep his arms straight, and which you should not omit on any account. Or, seize a person by the collar of his coat, at the back of his neck, with one hand, and with the other lay hold of that part of his small-clothes, and just under his waistband, where they are roomy instead of tight; hoist him up by the latter hold, so as to bring him nearly on tiptoe, and, with a firm hold of his collar, push him forward, and off his balance, at the same time: to prevent himself from falling, he must move forward, and thus, by means of pushing and hoisting, you can easily steer him out of the room, or whichever way you please; you may, if he is of great weight, or you are afraid of his turning round to hit you, lay your own weight against his back, pushing him thus, as well as driving him on by the modes just stated.
ANOTHER MODE is suddenly to seize a person’s left hand with your right, (or his right with your left,) the end of your thumb pressing hard upon the back of his hand, (wherefore his left is preferable,) and so as to keep it flat in your own; or you may seize the wrist, but ONLY when you CANNOT secure a HAND; for the latter, not only, and by far, is the BETTER lever, but will serve also as a regulating wrench, that subdues completely every resistance; wherefore the opportunity should not be neglected, but, taking advantage of it instantly, you should, and at the same time, move one of your legs a little forward, and placing yourself in a stooping attitude, that is, the left if you have seized with the right hand, and vice versa, blending with it something like a butt with your head at your antagonist’s stomach: although all this will cause him to lean forward considerably, you must force him still more to such a position, by pulling his arm over your shoulder, twisting his hand at the same time: the pain of such an application in reality is so great, that it will put him off his guard, which you should take advantage of, by hooking your other arm round the leg or knee, and from the inner side of his right knee if you hold his right arm, and reversed if you hold his left; now pulling his arm (twisting the hand every time he offers resistance,) over your shoulder, and raising him off his legs by the knee, and, with your other hand, you should raise yourself also, either to carry him out of the room to wherever you like, for the least resistance on his part you can subdue most completely, and merely by twisting his hand; or, if in your own defence against a brutal assailant, you may throw him a severe fall over your back. Although this description gives a variety of moves, they should all follow each other as rapidly as to appear like one only.*
* This correspondence originally contained several other powerful modes of resistance, and also some most destructive ways of defeating ferocious assailants; but, as these instructions, and, in reality, master-tricks, might be used in furtherance of felonious attacks, the author of these Letters thought it his duty to suppress THEIR publication, rather than to endanger the Public; yet he is perfectly willing to impart them to the pupils of the Stadium, trusting that they will not allow them to transpire, so as to reach improper characters.
[ ☞ Return to LETTER III ]