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George Silver, Gentleman, as he styled himself, was an Englishman and curmudgeon probably born in the 1560s and still alive in 1622 when the Crown confirmed his lineage and attendant rank; we have precious few other sure dates for his life, but may perhaps assume that he did not survive until the present day.

As is the case for so many, even though he was a man of physicality and action his memory is kept alive in our day by his book. Entitled Paradoxes of Defence, it was published in 1599 — one of those few sure dates — and is most obviously fascinating because it is a polemic against the rapier. Partially this is because he is a clear partisan of what he calls »the noble, ancient, victorious, valiant, and most brave nation of Englishmen«, but he also takes serious issue with what he claims are real, functional deficiencies of the weapon. He laments that it offers such poor protection for the wielder, and often causes both participants in a fight to be wounded or even killed — which latter point is an incontrovertible fact backed by a wealth of data; he complains that people are taught to think of themselves as skilful fighters even though they cannot reliably avoid being harmed. In place of the rapier he recommends the short sword, which may both cut and thrust; if one must use a rapier he prefers the Spanish style of fencing.

Silver is one of those writers you read and chuckle at for his odd views; then you're even more amused when you can't actually think up any good rebuttals, and in the end you have a weird feeling that the only reason you didn't change your opinion is sheer mulishness. I won't name names, but you know what I mean.


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