In turn-of-the-century France, many insults were settled by duels. From politicians, to theater critics, everyone basically settled insults with their Épée (French for sword). One of the most famous duels happened today in 1912.
On October 14, 1912, Léon Blum (later to become prime minister of France) fought a duel with theater critic Pierre Weber. It was a battle to be forever immortalized by journalist and a cameraman was present to capture the footage. The film shows Blum, aggressively attacking his adversary with sword thrusts, a few pauses, and continuing the battle. At the time, the journalists on the scene all agreed on the intensity of the duel.
According to L’Aurore:
“M. Pierre Weber received a penetrating thrust to his right side, ending the fight. The wound was less serious than it seemed at first. The tip of the epee had been halted by [Weber’s] rib, but had it been a centimeter higher, it might have been fatal, because it would have touched the liver. The adversaries did not reconcile.”
Similarly, for L’Intransigeant, a newspaper that was hostile to the values (political views and stance) that Blum represented:
“the combat was intense…. This was a serious duel that at several points came close to ending tragically…. M. Blum, a tall man with a fiery gaze behind his glasses…. wore a black shirt, a black hat, and gray tennis shoes.”
The description in Le Temps was even more detailed:
Owing to the manner of M. Blum’s attack, a certain anxiety gripped the spectators…. After a seconde parry and a sixte parry M. Blum made a powerful charge…. During the pause, M. Blum walked with M. Porto Riche. M. Weber sat. After two minutes, the duel resumed more vigorously than before. And suddenly, a moment of anxiety… M. Blum’s epee grazed M. Weber’s face. Another pause and another resumption. This time the adversaries seemed calmer and eyed each other warily. M. Blum tried to catch his opponent off-balance. At one point, the adversaries picked up the pace. M. Blum took the epee to the left hand, and blood flowed. Then came the denoument: suddenly M. Blum was able to catch his adversary’s blade… a direct thrust followed. M. Weber fell backward. The witnesses rushed forward, opened his shirt … a centimeter lower and the liver would have been hit. The wounded man was carried off. “A clean thrust ended a brawl,” the master of ceremonies commented.
The front page of L’Ouest-Eclair called it:
“a ferocious duel…. M. Blum, who aimed at M. Weber’s body, succeeded in hitting his sternum. A centimeter either way and the would would have been fatal.”
The amazing part is that the duel was captured on camera and we can view it.