A Real Duel Told In The Newspaper (1809)


This is a newspaper from “Saturday, October 28, 1809” and still makes for a thrilling read today. This was a present from my Dad who found it on eBay late last year. This copy of “The Traveller” from Portico, Manchester, is in great condition for its age and the print is almost entirely legible.


Graphically, this newspaper is really interesting, from the two stamps in the top left and right hand corners of the front page to the letterpress printed type and paperstock. The layout is also really interesting as there were no headlines in newspapers at this point in time, they only started to appear in the late 1800s.

I’m going to focus however on the reverse side of the broadsheet, under a section called “Duels”. That’s right. “Duels”. Printed in the local paper like it was simply a weekly weather forecast. The first, and most entertaining of these stories, goes like this…


“Duels – Yesterday a duel was fought in a field near Bayswater, between the Hon. Mr. H. and S. L. Esq. – in consequence of a dispute which originated on the preceding day, respecting a public appointment. They met at eight o’clock in the morning, accompanied by Lieutenant Colonel L. and Sir J. S. and after exchanging each a shot, in which they were both slightly wounded, the one in his right and the other in his left arm, their seconds then interfering, they left the ground, and retired to a Coffee-house in Oxford-street, where the misunderstanding was amicably settled.”


“Boys!” – As the great Hermione Granger one said.

Choosing to settle their small dispute with a full-on challenge to the death seems like such a classic masculine overaction. Then, after they both casually wound each other, they get bored, head to the nearest café instead and settle it over a cup of coffee! It’s quality reading material compared to what we get today.


The last duel to the death in England happened in 1852, but it’s incredible that they were still common place and regularly happening in the early 1800s. It wasn’t exactly a primitive time as the first battery had just been invented and we’d already had the flushing toilets and carbonated water for about 50 years. It’s a great little, historical event hidden in this newspaper and luckily it’s made it safely to the 21st century. It was wonderful and amazing to read about this ridiculous quarrel over 200 years after the event.


For those who don’t know and are wondering what the strange “f” symbol in the text is, it’s called a ‘long-s’ and it’s an archaic alternative of writing the letter ‘s’. Thankfully, over the years it’s been phased out of the English language.


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