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Sabre, Singlestick, Sabre and Bayonet - Waite - 1880

PostPosted: 17 Apr 2009 18:44
by admin
John Musgrave Waite - Lessons in Sabre, Singlestick, Sabre and Bayonet. London, Weldon & Co. 1880.

Does anyone here have it? If so, could I have it please?

Lessons in Sabre, Singlestick, Sabre and Bayonet - Waite - 1

PostPosted: 27 Nov 2010 12:45
by admin
It is with great pleasure that I annouce the first free public release of this fantastic and important sabre treatise by the outstanding Mr John Musgrave Waite: ... e-1880.pdf

Full credit must go to Phil Melhop for buying the original book and making copies available to me. Credit also to Robert Wilkinson-Latham for sending me documents to help with the writing of the prologue, which I have attached at the front of the pdf above and hope will add some context and appreciation to the work.

John Musgrave Waite was in his own time a very respected sabre fencer, once described as the 'greatest swordsman in the army'. He fenced and performed cutting feats in front of royalty and military top brass in the 1860's and after retiring from the army he established a popular and successful fencing school in London's Soho. The renowned boxer Ned Donnelly also ran classes at Waite's Rooms and his treatise (written with Waite's help) can be found here:

Having studied various sabre treatises over the years I am so taken with Waite's work that I have made it the core source for Schola Gladiatoria's sabre classes in London, and we now hold classes on this method every other week (alternating with our Fiore studies).

I hope that you enjoy the pdf and that Waite's fame and reputation will grow accordingly.

Re: Sabre, Singlestick, Sabre and Bayonet - Waite - 1880

PostPosted: 27 Nov 2010 14:01
by Colin F.

Re: Sabre, Singlestick, Sabre and Bayonet - Waite - 1880

PostPosted: 14 Jan 2011 18:01
by admin
I have come across an interesting contemporary article (1868) mentioning J M Waite, which I am posting here in its entirity. I would have included this in my article above, had I been aware of it previously. Note the many very interesting subjects and opinions mentioned in this article, from the artist Ryland's sad fate to Waite's relative skills at foil as opposed to singlestick and sabre.

From The Saturday Review. FENCING.

Amid the general and increasing popularity of athletic sports in England it is remarkable that one branch of them, which was formerly the most esteemed of all, has shown the faintest symptoms of vitality. La science du tres-bel, tres-noble, tres-honorable et puissant exercice ties amies, as it is styled in one of the earliest treatises on the subject, has fallen on evil days, and the display of any enthusiasm for an art which our great-grandfathers considered as one of the highest accomplishments of a gentleman would probably be now considered, at least in a civilian, to betoken an eccentricity of character, or possibly a somewhat vulgar taste. Yet fencing is one of the most useful bodily exercises that ever were devised, and it is a mental exercise besides. To fence well requires ingenuity in devising and concealing plans of attack, close watchfulness of an adversary's play, and skill and readiness in penetrating and defeating his plans, and taking advantage of every false movement. The terms of the fencing-school are still used to describe purely mental conflicts, even by writers who hardly understand them. Fencing is moreover an essentially gentlemanly amusement. Indeed it is in some sort a method of instruction in politeness, for many relics of the formal courtesy of bygone times still linger in the fencing-school. The grave and elaborate movements of the salute which precedes a fencing "assault" area quaint reminiscence of the days when the art of making a bow was taught "in five motions, for the use of persons of qualitv only."

In the French army the art of fencing has always been diligently cultivated, and our own military authorities have of late rather awkwardly encouraged it. In 1864 they set forth a small pamphlet for the use of Instructors in the army. Two publications intended for the same purpose had previously appeared. One was a complete and elaborate exposition of the art by Mr. George Chapman, the Honorary Secretary of the London Fencing Club, and one of the most skilful amateurs in Europe. The other was a small pamphlet by M. Pierre Provost, a distinguished French professor of fencing, who has been for a long time settled in England. The Horse Guards, however, thought fit to entrust the preparation of the official work to a gentleman of high reputation as a teacher of gymnastics proper, but unknown in the fencing world. The work, when it appeared, certainly possessed the quality of novelty, but the theories of Bishop Colenso himself did not produce a greater commotion among the orthodox than one or two of the instructions contained in this system of fencing awakened among the votaries of that art.

The entertainment which is now designated by the translated title of "Assault of Arms" was introduced into England about the middle of the last century. Our forefathers were content with the humbler title of a "fencing-match", but this is hardly comprehensive enough to include the displays of boxing, bayonet, dumb-bell, and sword feats, which are now generally included. The art of fencing in England was at a very low ebb when, rather more than a century ago, a gentleman of Leghorn, Signor Dominico Angelo Malevolti Tremamondo, arrived in England from Paris, whither he had been sent by his lather to see the world before entering upon a commercial life. A skilful swordsman, an expert horseman, and of singularly graceful and handsome presence, what befell him may be easily surmised. He was shortly married to an English lady, and, establishing himself in London as a Professor of Fencing and Equitation, he founded the school of arms known as Angelo's, which still exists in St. James's Street, and which he raised to a rivalry in reputation with the first schools on the Continent. Fencing matches became frequent and fashionable entertainments. Foreigners of distinction in the art were invited to these displays, and as many of them settled in England, and monopolized the Court patronage, the grumbling among the English brethren of the sword was, as may be supposed, considerable. The founder of Angelo's school was also the author of an elaborate troatise upon the art of fencing, copiously illustrated. The figures of this book are still referred to as a standard of grace wherever that quality is considered valuable in fencing; and if the plate which exhibits "la position pour la garde en quarto ct le coup de quarto " be compared with the position of the "longe," as given at page 11 of the authorized book of instruction now used in the British army, it will be seen that there is a right way and a wrong way of making a longe in fencing, as well as of doing most other things. The old treatises on fencing deserve perusal for the quaint solemnity of their precepts and the endless minuteness of tlieir rules. One of the most curious passages of the book before us may be described as important to gentlemen about to proceed to Italy. It explains how to deal with an assailant who comes upon one at night, according to the custom of the country, with a dark lanthorn and a sword. The beautiful series of plates, showing positions infinitely various, and all elegant, were for the most part the work of an engraver named Ryland, who afterwards applied his singular talent for his art to a less worthy purpose. Either this series-of engravings or some other was finished by Ryland while under sentence of death for forgery, being respited for this purpose in order that he might leave some provision for his family.

The founder of Angelo's school of arms died in 1802, in the eighty-seventh year of his age. He retained his bodily and mental powers so fully to the last that he continued to give lessons in fencing till a few days before his death. His son and grandson successively almost equalled him in length of days. Another proof that the master of the sword can defend himself against the scythe of Time is furnished by M. Leon Gillemand, who has been long known as one of the most accomplished maitre d'armes in London, and who served in the French army in the battle of Waterloo. It may be inferred from this fact that M. Gillemand is older than the present century, but those persons who saw him for the first time at an assault of arms given by himself at Willis's Rooms, last week, would infer that he was a dozen years younger. M. Gillemand may boast that he has seen both the sublime and the ridiculous in war; for he has shared the ruin of the First French Empire, and he shared also the first abortive attempt at establishing the Second. He followed the eagle of one Napoleon at Waterloo, and he would have followed the eagle of another Napoleon at Boulogne, but, unfortunately, that noble bird winged its unerring flight in the direction of a sausage-shop. The story goes that M. Gillemand, having joined the present Emperor when he made his burlesque expedition from this country to France, was offered by the grateful Prince the post of a commissioned officer, but chose that of sergeant. In humility he found safety, for when the Prince's followers became prisoners all below the rank of officers were discharged, after a few days' detention. From that time M. Gillemand has engaged only in the mimic warfare of the fencing-room. The assault of arms at Willis's Rooms was arranged for the last public appearance of M. Gillemand, and the first of M. Simon, one of the most expert fencers of the modern school, who will occupy the post which was long held by M. Gillemand at the London Fencing Club. M. Simon is a soldier of the Crimea. Having waited till he was tired for promotion in the French army, he quitted it and turned fencing-master. The principal performers were assisted by other masters of fencing, by non-commissioned officers of the household cavalry, and by Mr. Harrison, who delights to call himself "professor" and ''the strongest man in the world". The programme comprised assaults with rapiers, foils, sabres, sticks, and sabre against bayonet, boxing, and the usual feats with the sword. The reputation of M. Simon raised great expectations of his assault with Mr. Waite, which should have been one of the most interesting encounters of the afternoon. M. Simon had the advantage of youth and agility, to which the superior strength and reach of his opponent might be considered as equivalent. Unfortunately, the fencing was spoiled by over-anxiety on the part of each performer to get the better of the other. Each combatant was too wary to risk any but the simplest movements of attack and defence, which soon became monotonous from repetition. The play, though often wonderfully close and good, as frequently degenerated into a mere scramble for hits, and an interchange of thrusts which would have been fatal to both in a real encounter. The grand maxim of the art, which Moliere has formularized in the words dormer et ne pasrecevoir, was entirely disregarded. The match with rapiers between M. Gillemand and Mr. Shury was close, rapid, and graceful, and showed in strong contrast the superiority of the older style of fencing in elegance of movement and position. To those who remember the fencing of these masters a score of years since, their recent display may have lacked something of former vigour, but it was still a most interesting and varied illustration of the resources of the art. The weapons used were the triangular duelling swords generally, but incorrectly, termed "rapiers" in England. The light, rigid Biscayan blade or small sword is of later date than the rapier, which was a cutting as well as a thrusting weapon; and the whole scheme of modern smallsword play is based upon the use of the triangular blade, although in practice quadrangular foil blades are used, on account of their greater facility of manufacture and consequent cheapness. But the increased neatness and accuracy of the play with the actual sword-blade is so remarkable as to strike the most inexperienced spectators, and these weapons are very commonly used in the fencing-schools of Paris. If a serious occasion should arise, the buttons are broken off and the points are sharpened, when all is ready for the duel — at least as far as the necessary tools are concerned. A lecon de duel is given by the professor, who takes a sharp weapon, while the aspirant is provided with a buttoned one. The experience gained in thus facing an unbated point is supposed to produce a greater degree of coolness and steadiness in the pupil — when he gets used to it. The contest of sabre against bayonet between Mr. Shury and Private Otterway of the 2nd Life Guards was less satisfactory. Otterway, whose stick-play and boxing were excellent, is deficient in the science of attack with the bayonet, and failed, to bring out the real power of the weapon in his contest with so skilful a swordsman as Shury. But his defence was good and quick, and a cavalry soldier can hardly be expected to be quite at home with the peculiar weapon of the infantry. Those who remember. the terrific force of the bayonet attack when it is wielded by a thorough master of the weapon will acaeknowledge that, with equal skill in the combatants, the chances are fearfully against the swordsman. If we wished to see the power of this weapon properly displayed, we should place it in hands which had grown familiar with the use of it in the Foot Guards. The play of bayonet against bayonet is highly interesting, but it is very seldom exhibited at public assaults.

Of the feats with the sword little need be said, except that they were of the usual kind. The sheep was divided at a blow, being suspended for the purpose from a neat, and we had almost said a tasteful, gallows, by Corporal-Major Cornish, of the First Life Guards, whose nonchalance and absence of parade contrasted strongly with the elaboration which the great professor of strength, Harrison, bestowed upon the feats with the apple and handkerchief. The bar of lead was well and cleanly cut by the same hand, Cornish's. These tricks have very little to do with swordsmanship; but if the principles which they illustrate could be concisely explained, they would possess a much greater interest for the public, who, as it is, are simply spectators of a wanton destruction of property without the least idea of what is intended to be shown by it. Each feat ought to exhibit a different method of using the weapon. For instance, the cutting an apple upon the naked hand without injuring the flesh depends for its success upon the cut being given without the slightest drawing or oblique motion of the blade. It is possible, by direct pressure, to indent the skin considerably with the edge of a sharp razor without cutting tho flesh, but this is a branch of study which the inexperienced public is strongly enjoined to avoid. The portion of these entertainments most attractive to spectators is, undoubtedly, the boxing and single-stick, in which, whatever be our appreciation of the skill displayed, the result is at least unmistakeable. The thin lines of steel used in foil play have a motion too rapid for the unpractised eye to follow. The hits are too slight and sharp to be easily noticed, and even the slower movements of a contest with sabres give the effect rather of a juggler's dexterity than of the nearest imitation which can be safely attempted of a deadly combat. But the impression produced by the fracture of a stout ash stick on the palpitating ribs of a Life Guardsman is conclusive, at least as to the reality of the conflict; and the most indifferent spectator, when he hears the thud which accompanies the blow, or dodges to avoid the flying fragments of the stick, will be stirred with the spirit of the lines in Hudibras: —

For when he stabs or beats out's brains,
The devil's in it if he feigns.

Still more of enthusiasm is excited by the contest with nature's own weapons, however encased with horsehair and leather. Is there an Englishman who can witness a boxing match without being conscious of the existence of an undeveloped' faculty in his fists, which he has unaccountably neglected to improve? And when, after a vigorous counter-hit or sharply-contested rally, the face of the foe emerges from the scuffle, what words can picture its expression? The determined stereotyped smile which is demanded by the etiquette of the Ring remains, although wofully disarranged. The owner's efforts to preserve the amiable expression of his features unchanged causes them to assume a ghastly grin: —

As who would smile, and smile in such a sort,
As if he mocked himself to smile at anything.

But the skilful and good-tempered bout with the gloves between Mr. Blake and Private Otterway was far from any unpleasant disturbance, temporary or permanent, of countenance, and well deserved the applause which it received, especially from the ladies. The stick play by Waite and Cornish was particularly good. Waite in handling stick or sabre loses the stiffness of manner which clings to his foil-play, and it is no disparagement to him to say that his performances savour rather of the Life Guardsman which he was than of the fencing-master which he is. For style in fencing we should rather look to M. Gillemand, and for force and quickness to M. Simon. The chief honours of the assault belonged to these soldiers of Waterloo and the Crimea, the old glory and young glory of the fencing-schools.

Littell's living age, Volume 98. Edited by Eliakim Littell, Robert S. Littell. 1868.

Re: Sabre, Singlestick, Sabre and Bayonet - Waite - 1880

PostPosted: 17 Jan 2011 18:09
by Dithyrambus
Very nice! :)

I am inspired to add a bit of sabre to my training.

Re: Sabre, Singlestick, Sabre and Bayonet - Waite - 1880

PostPosted: 20 Jan 2011 13:20
by admin
I have been doing a bit more research on Waite and now have his army records.
He was born in Farnley, Leeds, West Yorkshire in 1822 (or possibly 1820, according to church records..). His father was listed as a 'clothier' (probably cloth maker). He enlisted in the 2nd Life Guards at Hyde Park barracks in 1840 and served until April 1866, retiring as a Corporal-Major (equivalent of a Sergeant-Major in the infantry). He was commended several times for 'good conduct' (and got a medal for it!), but as far as I can tell he never saw active service (the Life Guards had last seen active service at Waterloo). Upon retiring he moved to an address in Knightsbridge (very nice!).
Waite was exactly 6 foot tall with light brown hair and blue eyes. :)

PostPosted: 23 Jan 2013 07:59
by Ulrich von L...n
The grand maxim of the art, which Moliere has formularized in the words dormer et ne pasrecevoir, was entirely disregarded

Rather "donner et ne pas recevoir", because if you dormer during a fencing bout, it is rather funny.

"L'art des armes consiste en deux choses: donner et ne pas recevoir" - said the fencing master of Monsieur Jourdain.

Re: Sabre, Singlestick, Sabre and Bayonet - Waite - 1880

PostPosted: 30 Nov 2015 01:17
by Phil C
Of the feats with the sword little need be said, except that they were of the usual kind. The sheep was divided at a blow, being suspended for the purpose from a neat, and we had almost said a tasteful, gallows, by Corporal-Major Cornish, of the First Life Guards, whose nonchalance and absence of parade contrasted strongly with the elaboration which the great professor of strength, Harrison, bestowed upon the feats with the apple and handkerchief.

Professor Harrison's feats are detailed in his book here- viewtopic.php?f=22&t=21576