With Mothers’ Day fast approaching, I would imagine I’m not the only one looking for gift ideas.

Mums do so much for us that its important to honour them at least once a year (you should probably do it on her birthday, too). Whether you make her breakfast-in-bed, buy her flowers, or make her a card, I’m sure all mums would appreciate feeling special. This year, it’s the 3rd of April here in the UK!

I wandered around the Oxfam shop this morning, and thought of the brilliant idea of getting a nostalgic book for my mum. What a present idea! Not to toot my own horn, but what mum wouldn’t want to be reminded of the wonderful times she sat and read to her kids when they were young? There are some pretty fabulous old classics on the shelves here; what a wealth of choice! Agatha Christie, a book about Dragons, children’s novels and more adult-interested books, there are tons to choose from. It would be brilliant to find an old copy of that story your mum read to you, or a novel she particularly loves in a vintage edition!  Spot on for my mum.

Now, you’re probably wondering why this post is entitled “The Art of the Duel.” Well, while I was browsing the nostalgia section for wonderful mothers’ day ideas I came across a two-volume set of books called The Romance of Duelling in All Times & Countries. Intriguing.

This little 19th century find seems to cover a long time period, and indeed the entire world! I mean, no wonder it needs two volumes. Humans have always fought, in groups or by themselves, and duelling is just a more regulated extension of this impulse. But just about everyone finds it interesting. How could we not? Two men fighting to the death? Or maybe just first blood. Whichever, though, it’s that same morbid curiosity that leads us to wonder about murder and death. Whether it’s with pistols or swords, duelling seems a pretty elegant and honourable way to go.

The romantic knights doing battle over the fair maiden, the cowboy and  the sherif counting off until the draw, or the stuffy Frenchmen drinking coffee before their fencing contest – all are interesting, and all have captured the imaginations of readers and movie-goers everywhere. Well, maybe not the Frenchmen.

The author of these volumes has also done such famous works as The History of the Jesuits and the amazing sounding Military Gymnastics of the French. Perhaps those Frenchmen would be more interesting than the fencing coffee drinkers. It certainly sounds like they fight using leaps and flips and maybe some tight-rope walking. Or the double bars? It could be difficult to set up before a battle, though. Cumbersome.

Anyhow, back to the duelling. There is a subset of the fourth chapter called “The Chances of Being Killed in a Duel.” Somehow, I would have thought that would be more the top of the list in terms of importance. I would certainly like to know before I embarked on my first duel. Oh well, I guess if it’s a case of honour you can’t really afford to back down and say “wait, wait. I might DIE.” Other subsets like “The Awful Moment” and “The Closing Scene” are also intriguing…

So which would you choose? Swords? Pistols? Klingon detaching swords? Apparently they are all options. Although I don’t know how much this book talks about the Klingons. I don’t think they were invented yet back in 1868.

Well, other than the knights in their sword fights, which I have to say are my favorite type of duel since I studied Medieval History for so so many years, I would have to say upon first notions that the quintessential cowboy duel in the streets of the Old West is the most amazing. Do kids in the Uk play Cowboys and Indians here? Or is it something terribly politically incorrect like English and Welshmen? Either way, the tumbleweeds rolling and the crowds watching from the wooden walkways while the sherif and some cowboy ruffian square off and quickly draw their pistols and shoot on 3 has a definite romance.

Basically, you should get your mum a book on duelling for Mothers’ Day. Obviously its just what she wants (or you could get it for yourself and find her another, more mum-like book here at Oxfam).