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Duel Personalities

James Stuart versus Alexander Boswell

by John Chalmers

Published by Newbattle Publishing

Paperback and E-book

185 pages. Size 155 x 235 mm.

Date published: April 2014

Author website:

ISBN: 978-0-9928676-0-7

Paperback £8.00     E-book £5.99

John Chalmers

Duel Personalities

James Stuart versus Alexander Boswell

At 10.30am on 26th March 1822, a duel took place in Fife between two prominent citizens - James Stuart and Sir Alexander Boswell - in which Boswell, the elder son of James Boswell, the biographer of Samuel Johnson, received a fatal wound. This duel, the third last to be held in Scotland, was the consequence of a political dispute at a time of intense political unrest. The Tories, with recent memories of the awful consequences of the French Revolution, were vehemently opposed to the popular demand for Parliamentary reform by the burgeoning Whig party. The views of each party were expressed in strongest terms by the polarised newspapers and journals of the day. Stuart, a dedicated Whig, had been the victim of a series of anonymous libels in the Tory press and by devious means discovered that the author was his distant relative, Sir Alexander Boswell. A duel was inevitable. The events leading up to the duel and the drama of the duel itself, which was conducted under circumstances of extreme urgency, are described. Stuart's subsequent trial and acquittal, his bankruptcy, and his dubious handling of the Widow's Fund of the WS Society, of which he was treasurer, are detailed. The duel aroused intense public interest and had unexpected consequences. In two parliamentary debates, the involvement of eminent Scottish lawyers in the affair was hotly debated. The Tory party suffered a setback and some considered that the events surrounding the duel may have contributed towards the passing of the Reform Act of 1832. Illustrated with 16 pages of colour and mono plates.

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