A Set of Six
nothing but a serious and even earnest attempt at a bit of historical fiction. I had heard in
my boyhood a good deal of the great Napoleonic legend. I had a genuine feeling that I
would find myself at home in it, and The Duel is the result of that feeling, or, if the reader
prefers, of that presumption. Personally I have no qualms of conscience about this piece
of work. The story might have been better told of course. All one's work might have been
better done; but this is the sort of reflection a worker must put aside courageously if he
doesn't mean every one of his conceptions to remain for ever a private vision, an
evanescent reverie. How many of those visions have I seen vanish in my time! This one,
however, has remained, a testimony, if you like, to my courage or a proof of my rashness.
What I care to remember best is the testimony of some French readers who volunteered
the opinion that in those hundred pages or so I had managed to render "wonderfully" the
spirit of the whole epoch. Exaggeration of kindness no doubt; but even so I hug it still to
my breast, because in truth that is exactly what I was trying to capture in my small net:
the Spirit of the Epoch--never purely militarist in the long clash of arms, youthful, almost
childlike in its exaltation of sentiment--naively heroic in its faith.
1920. J. C.