Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Silver, George

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SILVER, GEORGE (fl. 1599), writer on fencing, describes himself on the title-page of his treatise on fencing as a ‘gentleman,’ and states that he was an adept at fencing with the short sword, which he claimed to be the Englishman's national weapon. The favour accorded by Englishmen of rank to Italian fencing-masters who taught the use of the long rapier angered him, and he was especially contemptuous of the popularity achieved by the ‘Practice’ (1595) of Vincentio Saviolo [q. v.], the chief Italian teacher in London, who denied the ‘cunning’ of the English fencers. Silver and his brother Toby tried in vain to arrange a public meeting with Saviolo and his fellow-countryman, Jeronimo. They placarded London, Southwark, and Westminster with their challenges, but, although they had a chance scrimmage with some Italian fencers and their friends in a house of entertainment, no formal fight came off. To prove his contention Silver ultimately published in 1599 (with two illustrations) his ‘Paradoxes of Defence, wherein is proved the true grounds of fight to be in the short auncient weapons, and that the short sword hath aduantage of the long sword or long rapier. And the weaknesse and imperfection of the rapier fights displayed. Together with an admonition to … Englishmen to beware of false teachers of defence’ (London, for Edward Blount). The work was dedicated to Robert Devereux, second earl of Essex, the patron of Saviolo. There is appended ‘A Briefe note of three Italian teachers of offence, Sigñor Rocko, Ieronimo, that was Sigñor Rocko his boy, and Vincentio [Saviolo].’ A copy of Silver's treatise is at the British Museum. His manuscript was sold at Sir Samuel Rush Meyrick's sale in 1870.

George Silver, ‘gent.,’ married Mary Heydon at St. Clement Danes on 24 March 1579–80 (Chester, Marriage Licenses, col. 1226).

[Silver's Paradoxes; C. A. Thimms's Complete Bibliography of Fencing; see art. Saviolo, Vincentio.]

S. L.