From the Kentish Gazette, 5 February 1850:

“A famous duellist challenged an Irish barrister, for some remark made by the barrister when the duellist was giving his testimony on the stand in an important case. The barrister knew precisely as much about fighting as a fancy boxer knows about Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost.’ His friends told him, however, that there was no way to avoid the scrape, and it was certainly up to him either to fight or to apologise. This settled the point [and] so the two duellists, with their seconds etc. were soon upon the battle ground.

The challenger was notorious as a great pistol shot, and had fought half a dozen duels before, in one of which he was so wounded as to be left a cripple for life. When the preliminaries were arranged, he requested, through his second, one favour from his adversary, which was permission to stand up against a milestone that was on the chosen ground… being too lame to stand without support.

His request was granted, and just as the word was about to be given, the lawyer issued his mandate to stay proceedings, as he had also a request to make. In the gravest manner in the world, he solicited permission to lean against the next milestone, and the joke was so good that the challenger took his revenge out in hearty roar of laughter, withdrawing his deadly defiance, and declaring that he could never shoot a man with such excellent humour.

The ability to successfully de-escalate is an important and underrated legal skill. Humour is a great way to do so and the historic Irish Bar had a superb sense of humour.

Does anybody remember laughter?

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