LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Duel between Captain Stackpoole and Lieut. Cecil.
Literary Chronicle  No. 288  (20 November 1824)  743-44.
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And Weekly Review;
Forming an Analysis and General Repository of Literature, Philosophy, Science, Arts, History, Biography, Antiquities, Morals, Manners, the Drama, and Amusements.

No. 288. LONDON, SATURDAY,  NOVEMBER  20,  1824. Price 6d.


To the Editor of the Literary Chronicle.

Sir,—Although I have not read Mr. Medwin’s Conversations of Lord Byron, and derive my only knowledge of the work from the extracts given in your well-conducted journal, yet I am able to correct one most material misstatement which that gentleman makes, and which I hope he will add to the very numerous errata which the work appears to call for, if I may judge by the various refuted and disputed assertions he has made. I allude to Mr. Medwin’s account of one of his conversations with Lord Byron respecting the duel between Lieutenant Cecil and Captain Stackpoole, of the navy, which I thus find recorded in your Chronicle of the 2nd inst:—

Medwin, Conversations of Lord Byron

‘I have been concerned,’ said Lord Byron, ‘in many duels as second, but only in two as principal: one was with Hobhouse, before I became intimate with him. The best marksmen at the target are not the surest in the field. Cecil’s and Stackpoole’s affair proved this. They fought after a quarrel of three years, during which they were practising daily. Stackpoole was so good a shot that he used to cut off the heads of the fowls for dinner, as they drank out of the coops about. He had every wish to kill his antagonist, but he received his death-blow from Cecil, who fired rather fine, or, rather,
was the quickest shot, of the two. All he said when falling, was, ‘D—n it, have I missed him?’

The whole of this statement, so far as relates to the duel, I can positively contradict, as no person is better acquainted with the circumstances than myself. Lieutenant, afterwards Capt. Cecil, was my intimate friend, with whom I have been for months together in daily intercourse. He was for some weeks a guest in my house, previously to his going out on promotion to the West Indies. In the various conversations I have had with him on the subject of duelling, he has invariably deprecated the system, and I have often heard him say, that he had never fired a pistol at a target in his whole life, and that such a practice was abhorrent to his feelings; so much, then, for the assertion that my friend practised daily for three years; and as to Cecil being a quick shot and firing first, they both fired together by signal.

With regard to the other passage, which ascribes to his antagonist, Capt. Stackpoole, the most vindictive and relentless expression that ever was uttered from the lips of a dying man:—what will your readers say, when informed, that not a syllable escaped Capt. S.’s lips after the exchange of shots; but that, in place of uttering a word, when Cecil, after both had fired, called out to him, ‘all’s right, sir,’ (implying that he, Cecil, was not wounded) the captain’s arm gradually fell to his side, and he was propped up from falling by his own friend, assisted by Lieut. Cecil and his friend: he then shook hands with Lieut. Cecil, and died while they were carrying him to his boat, which was in waiting on the beach near to the spot of the fatal rencontre.

I owe this to Capt. Stackpoole’s friends, although it is but due to truth to say, that an expression did pass from Capt. S.’s lips previously to the signal being given for firing; but which was certainly not of that character ascribed to it.

The expression used by Capt. Stackpoole, though coarse, might, however, have been suggested by humane, or at least honourable, motives; and, at all events, it proves Lieut. Cecil’s entire ignorance of the usages of duelling. When both had taken the ground, and immediately before the signal was given for firing by the seconds, Lieut. Cecil presented his front, on which Capt. Stackpoole called out, ‘Turn your side to me, sir, or I shall shoot you through the heart,’ Had Lieut. Cecil studied duelling daily for a week, instead of three years, as asserted by Mr. Medwin, he could not have been so ignorant of one of the most essential points, as he proved himself to be.

Lieut. Cecil was considered by every one upon the station, both on shore and afloat, to have acted so honourably on the occasion above adverted to, that he was, within a very short time, promoted to the rank of captain by the admiral, and died within a few months (as his friend related to me, in whose arms he expired) of a broken heart, in consequence of, as he used frequently to repeat in his illness, having been the death of a fellow-creature.

The trivial expression which provoked the challenge from Capt. Stackpoole to Lieut. Cecil was, that ‘Capt. Stackpoole drew a long bow;’ this expression was made use of some years before the fatal catastrophe occurred, and to the indiscretion of a third person alone, who repeated this casual observation, the lamentable result of the affair is alone to be ascribed.

It was, indeed, so long before the duel, that my friend Lieut. Cecil had altogether forgotten that he had ever used the expression ascribed to him, and only admitted the probability of his having used it, as an officer who communicated the circumstance to Capt. Stackpoole said he did, and, therefore, he, Cecil, was bound to believe that the words were uttered by him. Under these circumstances, Cecil said, that a written apology should have been sent to any other person than S.; but, in his case, such a proceeding would have been construed into cowardice, as Capt. Stackpoole was well known to be an excellent shot.

Further, I consider it but due to state, that Capt. Cecil was one of the most kind-hearted, humane, well-informed, and interesting young officers I have ever known in the naval service.

H. ——.