A GALA NIGHT AT THE FENCERS.
Brilliant Gathering to See Vauthier and Jacoby Fence.
The Fencers Club held a housewarming last night, and at the same time did honor to the new master at arms, Prof. L. Vauthier of the Cercle d'Escrime de la Madeleine, in Paris. It is the first reception the club has given in the new quarters, 37 West Twenty-second Street, since it took possession last Spring.
The meeting was the most brilliant event which has ever taken place in the annals of fencing in the United States. Never before have masters of the force of MM. Vauthier and Jacoby engaged together. There was much good fencing on the part of amateurs and of other professionals, but the "clou" of the evening was this classic combat.
The fencing was in charge of the President and Secretary of the club, Messrs. Charles de Kay and W. Scott O'Connor. The bouts began with a fine set-to between Messrs. Tatham and Hammond, with foils, followed by Messrs. Claiborne and J. W. Gerard, and these in turn by Messrs. W. Scott O'Connor of the Fencers and Charles Bothner of the New-York Athletic. The last was a hotly-applauded struggle, in which O'Connor showed the finer form and seemed to have, on the whole, the better.
The President introduced M. Vauthier to the assemblage, which filled all the seats of the large hall and crowded the rear with standing figures. M. Vauthier began with an assault at arms with M. Gouspy, the master of the Racquet Club, in which he showed himself easily the superior. Prevot Capdevielle of the Fencers then took the stage and engaged young M. Louis Senac, son of the well-known master of that name. Their styles were very different, and if at first the older man had the advantage, M. Senac won several hits which were loudly acclaimed.
Dueling swords were now in order, and Mr. James W. Gerard and Samuel Shaw acquitted themselves well, followed by Messrs. Hammond and Bothner of the New York Athletic Club, using the broadsword with great lightness and skill. After a contest with the dueling sword between Mr. A. Van Zo Post and Prevot Capdevielle, the bouts ended with a side-splitting scrimmage with Japanese singlesticks between Mr. Charles Tatham and the samurai Shilo Sacaze of Nagasaki. This epic combat showed the samurai extremely quick and clever with the peculiar bamboo stick of his native land. His odd movements and loud shouts delighted the audience with screams of laughter and applause when the samurai closed with Mr. Tatham and began to wrestle with him on the stage.
In the Vauthier-Jacoby contest both masters tried to show what light and classic fencing could be, neither striving for points, but, when a good opening occurred, placing their points highly and firmly on each other. It was impossible to say which had the better, although the last touch went to the guest and former instructor of the club, M. Jacoby.
The new hall has a floor 65 by 24 feet in area and a dado of matting round the walls, against which are ranged the swords, foils, and masks. The upper walls are hung with portraits of the founders of the club and instructors, with oils, engravings, and water colors, many of which refer to various arts of the sword. The oils, water colors, and drawings are by artist members. The dressing room adjacent to the hall is fitted with larger lockers and better baths. The hall and dressing room have been arranged so as to secure perfect ventilation in Summer and in Winter.
Last night the floor was crowded with representative amateurs of the graceful sport and many of the professors of fencing. Signore Pini, Greco, and Pessina, the wandering swordsmen from Italy, who go about the world astonishing fencers by their vigorous sword play, were present; also the elder and younger Senac and M. Gouspy, from the Racquet Club, as well as Signor Castaldo, Mr. Malchien, and other teachers.
M. Vauthier is a slim, handsomely put-up man of about thirty, with small hands and feet, small head, frank expression, and manners most courteous. His position on the fencing platform was admired, and his lunge was sufficiently extended and swift to extort no little praise. He comes to New York with a good record made at the fencing school of the army near Paris, where he wore the stripes of a Sergeant, and later at the civilian fencing school of M. Ayat, whose assistant we was for several years.
M. Vauthier is said to have had many distinguished pupils for so young a man. His fencing at the benefit performances in the Grand Hotel marked him out some years ago as a master with a future. Vauthier's style is very classic, and as far as possible from the styles which are purely old Italian, like the methods of certain Neapolitans or past modern French, like that of Masaniello Parise of Rome, or acrobatic, like that of Chevalier Pini. He regards sword play for the duel as one thing, fencing as another. Sword play is the business; foil work is the game. For amateurs who want an absorbing sport which gives them the more equable exercise, he holds there is nothing like fencing. This view is not very novel. But as an instructor he does not seek notoriety by trying to found a style of his own. All he expects to do is to teach the classical method with the latest fine touches.
One of these fine touches appears as soon as he falls into position on guard. His sword hand is not held with the nails upward. This economizes time in certain parries, and when the button touches the opponent the foil bends up, not to one side. Delicate shades like this were observed last night by those who devote time to the sport, and sensibly aided the spectators in forming a good opinion of the new master.
Many lights of the literary, artistic, and legal world were present. Mark Twain,
Alexander Black, Brisben Walker, James Creelman, represented journalism and
letters; Alexander Harrison, Robert Reid, Carroll Beckwith, Willard Metcalf,
W. Sergeant Kendall represented the fine arts. The legal profession was there
in the person of Mr. Frederic R. Coudert. Of fencing amateurs there were Messrs.
Haubold, Blandey, Echeverria, Lawson, Bloodgood, and Eugene Higgins.
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