Journal of Non-lethal Combatives, March 2000

The Sentiment of the Sword: A Country-House Dialogue,

by Sir Richard Francis Burton, edited, with Notes, by A. Forbes Sieveking (London: Horace Cox, 1911)


As a book, Burton's The Sentiment of the Sword is comparatively rare. For example, it was not listed in Fawn Brodie's bibliography of Burton's works and the Library of Congress does not list it in its online catalogue. Therefore it has been reprinted here almost in its entirety. (Exceptions included the omission of an index irrelevant to an online document and a preface by Theodore A. Cook that had little to say.)

Structurally, The Sentiment of the Sword is not an easy book to read, as the prose is Victorian, there are no illustrations, and the author assumed readers were fluent in French and conversant in Latin. Nonetheless, Chapters 6 and 7 in particular contain much of interest to the modern swordsman while Chapter 2 provides a good introductory history of French and Italian schools of fence. And of course gems of insight sparkle throughout.

Please include attribution to whenever citing this text, unless of course you have a copy of the original book or its manuscripts. The text used here was provided by Paul Nurse, Ph.D., and keyboarded by Joseph R. Svinth. Linkage to these sites is authorized, but copying the text to your site without the permission of the editor will be viewed with considerable disfavor.

The Code of Honour, Harpers Weekly, January 9, 1875



Foreword by Editor (A. Forbes Sieveking)

  1. Introduction
  2. Point and edge amongst Ancients and Primitive Peoples
  3. History and Development of Sword
  4. Early Fencing Treatises and Technicalities -- Simplification -- Italian school and Names of Parries -- Natural Parries -- Lines and Attack and Defense
  5. How to Teach Fencing
  1. The Audience
  2. Fencing for Women
  3. English Dilettantism
  4. Treatises -- The Alphabet and Language of the Sword
  5. Fencing in the XVth and XVIth Centuries -- Early Italian, French, and German Writers
  6. Spanish School
  7. Early Neapolitan and Italian Schools
  8. Giuoco Misto of Modern Italians
  9. Bologna City and Fencing
  10. Blasco Florio on Spanish, Neapolitan, and Sicilian Schools
  11. Ariosto and Tasso on Duels -- French System
  12. Aspects of French Fencing
  13. Locke on Fencing -- Utilitarianism
  14. Bazancourt on the Strength of a Swordsman
  15. The Natural and Artificial Systems
  1. Bayonet Exercise
  2. Attacks and Parries, Simple and Compound
  3. Same Elucidate
  4. Ditto
  5. Cardinal Virtues of Sword
  6. Practical Demonstration of Lesson
  7. Ditto
  8. Axioms of the Science
  1. Prelude
  2. Method of Instruction
  3. Disadvantages and Delays of Old Systems
  4. Buffon and Style -- in Fencing
  5. Ditto
  6. Heresy
  7. Platron-work
  8. Ditto
  1. The Assault: Its Axioms and Faculties
  2. Upper and Lower Lines
  3. Ditto
  4. Girard Thibaust and Face Thrusts
  5. The Retreat
  6. Ditto
  7. The Universal Parry -- Individuality in the Parry
  8. The Ripost and Remise
  9. Summing-up
  1. Le Sentiment du Fer
  2. "Giving the Sword."
  3. Ditto
  4. Le Sentiment du Regard: Thibaust
  5. Combination of Both Sentiments
  6. The Pressio, Flanconnade, Battement, and Croisé
  7. The Academic v. The Natural Fencer
  8. Grace and Inspiration
  9. Origin of the Foil; the Plastron and Mask; Jacket, Shoe, and Glove; Leather Armour
  10. Feints
  1. Frenchman v. Neapolitan
  2. Attacks
  3. A Fatal Habit -- Remaining on Guard -- Bayonet Exercise
  4. The Stop-Thrust and Time-Thrust
  5. Bottes Secrêtes and Coup de Jarnac
  6. Misjudging an Enemy -- Cowardice and Nervousness
  7. The Unbuttoned Weapon
  8. The Gaucher, or Left-handed Fencer
  9. Self-consciousness and Savoir faire
  1. Prelude
  2. The Relative Merits of Sword and Pistol
  3. English Feeling about the Duel
  4. Fencing and Personal Utility
  5. Duties of a Second
  6. Parrying with the Left Hand, and other Irregular Parries
  7. Responsibilities of a Second
  8. The Corps-à-Corps -- Fair Play
  9. The Right to Rest in the Duel -- The "Point of Honour"
  10. A Succession of Duels
  1. Means of Attack and Defence -- Youth and Age
  2. Length of Arm
  3. Degrees of Proficiency in Arms
  4. Neophyte's Preparation for Duel -- The Instinctive Position: Beauty on Guard
  5. Phrenology and Character -- "Defend and Threaten," i.e., Retreat and Extend Sword
  6. Lunge to the Rear
  7. Advice to Pupil of Moderate Skill in Arms
  8. Analysis of Process -- Mastering Opponent's Sword
  9. The Man of Sanguine Temperament
  10. Where Both Combatants Equally Skilled -- Distrust Your Adversary -- The Foil that "Buttons," and the Point that Kills
  11. Conclusion

JNC Mar 2000