Despite a growing sense of apathy towards the Radaelli debate among military circles (as seen in the remark from Italia Militare's editor in the previous article in this series) to see an end to the Radaellian question, it seems that there were still those who wished to ensure that Radaelli's school received its full due of criticism. This sentiment is fully visible in the letter translated below, published in the Florentine newspaper La Nazione on the 16 April 1878, and was written by Alfonso Urciuoli.1 At the time of this letter's publication, Urciuoli was an infantry lieutenant stationed at the Brescia recruiting office, and although his signoff states that he was a fencing master, nothing is yet known of his career or involvement within this profession.2
In his short letter, Urciuoli summarises the Radaelli debate so far (although being very dismissive of the pro-Radaelli camp), citing the articles we have already seen and heard mention of such as those by Angelini, Masiello, and Forte, but also mentioning articles by the famous Neapolitan master Giacomo Massei, one Count A. G., and 'several others', which are yet to be uncovered.
Urciuoli's rallying cry for the anti-Radaellian movement culminates in directly calling on the renowned fencing master Giuseppe Perez to give a critique of Radaelli's sword method, a topic which was only briefly touched on in Luigi Forte's articles. As we will see in the next chapter of this series, Urciuoli was not the only person to request Perez's contribution in the debate, nor would his call for aid go unanswered.
Dear Mr. Editor,
Among enthusiasts of the art of fencing an event of some importance has recently occurred, onto which for my part I, thanks to courteous hospitality in the columns of your trustworthy newspaper, would like to draw the public's attention.
The well-known booklet by General Angelini on sabre fencing in refutation of the Radaelli system was welcomed with enthusiasm by all lovers of fencing as a work dictated with rare clarity and supported with very convincing mathematical and physiological arguments. There was a moment when it was hoped that such a valuable work would be worth giving rise to a healthy debate, which would have made way for the intelligent people of fencing to make themselves known; at the same time indicating progress of the noble art which for a long time has been stationary in Southern Italy and degenerated in some northern regions, as General Angelini makes clear in his aforementioned booklet.
As soon as the authoritative work appeared, a great number of letters were sent to this author and many articles were published, all in support of the irrefutable arguments contained in this booklet. Energetic works were compiled by very competent and authoritative people such as Prof. Cav. Massei, Captain Forte, Count A. G. and several others. Unfortunately, however, the accountable opposing side has not shown up. A single article in defence of the Radaelli system appeared written by Mr. Ferdinando Masiello, in issue 9 of the journal Italia Militare,3 but the writer limited himself to speaking at length about himself and to assure the public that the Radaelli system was, in his view, the best among those known so far. With that columnist and master having been invited to support in writing—but with indisputable scientific rules—the veracity of his assertion, as well as to refute just some of the very many criticisms expressed by the distinguished General, he sincerely confessed that he was not able to, with a second article appearing in Italia Militare on the 9 March.4
Therefore in this state of affairs, the long-awaited debate died as soon as it was born. But if in the end this means a complete triumph for General Angelini, it is no less true that it does immense harm to the progress of the noble art, which has among us passionate and zealous enthusiasts. This is why I am urged to make a final attempt by asking scientists in the matter of fencing to resume the charge, but on different terrain, since the first one was fatally exhausted. With the intention of restarting a fight which could promise effective artistic and scientific results, I will mention the opportunity to bring the discussion to the sword fencing invented by Mr. Radaelli.
In order to better achieve the aim I propose, such that it will be necessary to find supporters in those who love the art which I am fond of, I ask my colleague, the eminent Prof. Giuseppe Perez, to take the lead in the critique I briefly mentioned. The reason why I turn to Perez over many other distinguished people is because, aside from being highly reputed among reputable fencing masters, it is he who is designated by the public opinion of our colleagues as the one who could best lead a reasoned debate, strengthened by the excellence of his pen and the factual demonstrations of his skilful sword.
As a good gentleman, Mr. Perez, you who are perhaps the only one in your sphere who has not given your opinion on the matter of the sabre, unfortunately too exhausted, at least this time make your authoritative voice heard, and you will have the approval of all those who sincerely love the true progress of fencing.
In thanking the editor for wanting to give authority to these lines of mine by welcoming it in your rightly directed newspaper, I am grateful of the honour to declare myself
*******1 Alfonso Urciuoli, 'Comunicazioni del Pubblico', La Nazione, 16 April 1878, 3.↩
2 Annuario Militare del Regno d'Italia 1878 (Rome: Carlo Voghera, 1878), 414, 473.↩
3 Translated here in part 2, 'Masiello on Defence'.↩
4 Translated here in part 4, 'Masiello's Final Word'.↩