This article has been transcribed from a copy of the Cardiff Times in the online collection of scanned Welsh newspapers 1804-1919 in the National Library of Wales, with grateful recognition of the free access accorded to all readers. Paragraph breaks have been introduced for easier reading.
This article is not of the quality of most of ‘Samuel’s’ pieces, the treatment being pedestrian, with unconvincing attempts at benevolence and moral seriousness. There are no illustrations, and this lack-lustre production shows other signs of being a stop-gap, perhaps commissioned while the regular writers of ‘Samuel’ were unavailable. None of the characters or incidents are brought to life, and it is a sad piece of work. The writer seems to run out of material, and struggles again and again to revive the production, making a fleeting attempt at one point to locate the subject in Cardiff. Unfortunately the article shows little understanding of the life or thought of the subject, of the kind that Charles Dickens and his imitators always possessed. Credibility is further compromised when the usage is loose, and the driver of four-wheeler or ‘growler' is called a ‘cabby’. The use of the name ‘Jehu’ for a driver was a commonplace, and derives from 2 Kings 9:20: ‘the driving is like the driving of Jehu the son of Nimshi; for he driveth furiously’. —— David Skilton
Well-wearied, hard working fellow that he is, there is usually a degree of flippancy and light- heartedess about the cabman that seems to imply that he at least does not take his occupation very seriously. It is said that (on the dead donkey principle) no man ever saw a cabman with spectacles – most certain it is that no one ever knew a ‘cabby’ who had not in a greater or lesser degree a taste for repartee and an exceedingly ready tongue even under circumstances not usually tending to provoke explosions of wit. But he mixes much with the world does ‘Cabby;’ he sees a good deal of the game of life from his box seat and he is well used to watching varieties of character, and to acting upon his knowledge. Cabby knows his fare in nine cases out of 10 long before the latter has come to the settling-up points, and he knows fairly well how much he is going to receive for himself and how much for his master. And in regard to his fares, Cabby knows pretty well the business of at least one half of those who hire him are engaged upon at the time when they charter him. As the police find to their great advantage, Jehu has a sort of instinct in g[au]ging the sort of people he has to drive. He knows the ardent lover eager to keep an appointment, and promising all sorts of benefits if he will only ‘drive like mad;’ he knows the two shake-hands-with-everybody gentlemen who with hats on one side and a generally rollicking demeanour tell him to drive to some theatre or bar and to wait there till they come out just one shade more rollicking than before; he knows that with fares like the latter a little drop of comfort for himself is almost a part of the contract. And well does he recognise the man who wants to know, don't you know, before he will venture to step into the cab – the man who must have precise ideas as to distance and price; and just as well does he recognise the flinty man who does not ask any questions, but who, in the process of paying up, exhibits the fact that he knows to a fraction what legal obligations be is under.
And what sad partings and tender greetings the cabman sees in the course of his daily experiences. Departing lovers and husbands; young men and women going out into the world and leaving the parental roof-tree for the first time mayhap; friends sundered who may not meet for years. With all his apparent impassiveness, the Cabby, who is very often a bit of a philosopher, cannot fail to note many a scene which appeals to human feelings and deals with episodes that are common to all humanity. The sights are by no means all grave that come beneath his view. The lad ret[u]rned from sea, the ardent lover home once again to his betrothed; the friend restored to friends – all these Cabby is used to seeing, and his amusement when he takes home from the Blue Pig a husband and father gloriously inanimate in the botom of the cab must be intense, for does he not see the ‘boosy’ man's wife blackly frowning, prepared to vindicate her authority? And it must be exceedingly amusing to him to watch the airs and graces of the Misses Snobby and their mamma, when he drives them out to an evening party, or for an outing to St. Mellon's, St. Fagan's, or one of the dozen pleasant trips around Cardiff, and they try to iook as though his four-wheeler were their own brougham. And what love episodes must he get an inkling of? But in respect of lovers, Cabby is rather a complaisant person, for when he drives a couple of the spoony sort he usually feels comfortable in his mind as regards the fare, and the little trifle beyond it.
He is not, as I have said, a bad reader of character, and he has averted not a few tragedies in his time. He has many a time spotted an intending suicide, as newspapers amply prove, and has nipped the tragedy in the bud, not so much perhaps through humanitarian considerations as from the practical thought that suicides are apt to make a mess of the cab as well as of themselves. The detective and the ruined embezzler who still clings to respectability in such a degree that he implores that he may not be dragged through the streets in the gaze of all men, these are familiar personages to him. He has probably (though, whether he has known it or not is another matter) aided in more than one elopement; and he has driven irate, yet alarmed, wives round in search of runaway husbands.
I am sorry to have to say that as a class the general and the unthinking public do not regard the honesty of the Cabby in too favourable a light. There are abroad too many facetious (and I have no doubt exaggerated) stories regarding his defective powers or calculation when distance and time have to be reckoned; we have heard too much of his habit, so far as London is concerned, of driving the guileless strangers three or four miles round to some given place within a minute or two's walk of the station in order that a proportionate fee may be extracted; we have heard too much of the Cabby's exorbitancy and rapacity to thoroughly do him credit so far as honesty is concerned – but weighed against all this we ought to take the fact that Cabby restores thousands of pounds' worth of property annually and that there are, comparatively, few of the class who get into ‘trouble’ in the police sense of the term. And as to Cabby's charges – well, it is not too paying a game in life, his, at the best of it, and times are often hard with him. He has not much time for comfort and for the cultivation of the domestic virtues; indeed, he sees about as little of his wife and children as most men. His sole opportunities of enjoying the pleasures of friendship and intimate communion with his fellow-man are those when he is on the rank conversing with a brother Jehu or a passing betting-man. The only wonder is that the bachelor Jehu ever gets any time for courting. But in this regard he seems to go rapidly to work, and he is not long in falling in with a pretty servant-girl at one of the houses outside which he is told to wait.
The sobriety of ‘Cabby’ greatly depends on his constitution. If he can (after a gradual ‘seasoning’ process) swallow the quantity he is expected to take and still keep sober – well and good. If he can't: he is not driving a cab for very long. He seldom refuses the offer of a drink, and don't you forget it, and if a cigar on a cold night be added to his share, it is surprising how happy he makes himself on his box under the circumstances. Well, his work is hard, his pay is not great, and if he can ever feel himself truly at ease with himself and all mankind, so much the better.
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Last modified 13 March 2022