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.
A moralistic piece, in keeping with the very active campaigns against alcohol in the period. Samuel runs through examples of brilliant and famous men who had a serious weakness, and that is in every case excessive alcoholic consumption. He starts by proposing to deal with any form of self-destructive behaviour, but when it comes to examples, he can only think of alcoholism, which was now proclaimed by the churches, the medical professions and social philosophers as the greatest scourge of the day. Samuel ends his argument with the well-worn Victorian warning that young women should not commit themselves to heavy drinkers, and that therefore men who drank to excess could not expect to find good wives – warnings that historically have not had the success their proposers hoped for. This article, when placed alongside many of Samuel’s earlier pieces, shows how social norms had shifted. Gone is the earlier, Dickensian celebration of a freer lifestyle, to be replaced by sobriety and domesticity, required for time-keeping, tending machinery and keeping financial records. The Grand Theatre which readers may know is possibly the Swansea Grand, since the newly founded Cardiff Grand Theatre was not yet licensed for drama. —— David Skilton
Some of man's enemies.
E man who is his own worst enemy,' to use the conventional phrase, is perhaps the worst enemy to those near and dear to him that could possibly exist. An openly bad man may not succeed in winning the confidence of those about him – therefore no one is deceived, but how about the man who is his own worst enemy? He is generally a good-natured fellow enough, an amusing companion, and a sympathetic sort of person in his dealings with men and women, and he consequently draws to himself an amount of affection that afterwards causes bitter trouble to those who entertain it. I verily believe, sir, in the consideration of men who are said to be their own worst enemies, that some men who have good qualities both of head and heart are born with a so-to-speak 'cranky bone in their skins' – they are persons who couldn't be good if they tried. It may be some hereditary moral lesion. I say this because there are many great families in this country which are standing examples, from generation to generation, of moral weakness. Of course it may be the result of deficient training that a man is the worst enemy to himself. Anyhow, that man, however clever he may be, is a fool, and a dangerous fool, to those who are dependent upon him. And the worst of it is that such a man generally knows himself that he is a fool, and that, do what he would, he would not escape from the meshes of his own foolish creating.
Think of the great philosophers and the splendid writers who have had this weakness of disposition. Grand writers, profound philosophers, admirable talkers capable of plumbing to the very depths of human weakness and folly, in their consideration of their fellow men, have in themselves and in their lives shown how lamentably small great men may be, how dreadfully weak men of the highest mental attributes can become. Think of Sheridan as an example. There is one letter of his in existence which is full of the most magnificent self-reproach; a letter which shows that there were occasions even when the whole world was, so to speak, at his feet, and when great men and fair women thought everything of him – that there were occasions of which he loathed himself and the evil forces in his character which kept him in perpetual debt and difficulty. Would any man dare to say that this man, the author of the finest comedy in our language and the utterer of one of the grandest speeches ever recorded, did not know full well that all the time he was a fool – an arrant ass, a man with a fearful flaw m his mental and moral constitution? Then how about the author of that other great comedy of our language,
The way a man's 'Friends' pass him by when he is an enemy to himself.
In the whole realm of fools to themselves and an enemy to others in an indirect way, a finer example could not be found than the great poet Burns. I presume that many of your readers, sir, will have read his epitaph on himself. If they have they will see expressed in a few lines a profound exposition of the man who is the fool and yet knows it – and cannot stop!! And in the latter phase is the rub. Burns knew that he was an arrant fool well enough – he was too great a genius and had too big a heart not to know that. But he never stopped being a fool through the whole gamut of his life. He got on one track and went morally toboganning down it till he came to grief. Then remember Edgar Allan Poe – but why should I multiply examples. Some men, as I said before, couldn't be good if they tried. They go through life committing acts of folly and wicked desperation, acts which cause dire misery to others and shake the belief of human nature [in human nature], and yet the world simply dubs them 'fools to themselves. '
A man who is a fool to himself is always, despite any good qualities otherwise that he may have, a selfish man to an extent. If he were not selfish he would not indulge his passions and his weaknesses, the outcome of which is, someone must always suffer. To such a man, who is indeed a fool to himself when his sufferings are reckoned up, life is always a species of fever. Such a man is always at the apex of exuberance or he is sunk deep, deep in the hell of depression. He is either in the very act of making a fool of himself, trying to seek oblivion and attempting to forget that he is a fool, or he is whipping himself with the lashes of bitter self-reproach, and heaping upon his head a pile of miseries and torments that his bitterest enemy could never hope to cast upon him. I believe, sir, most firmly that all real torment and mischief comes from within – it springs from its lurking-place within a man’s inner consciousness, and does not arise from outward contumely or worldly opposition, and of all torments self-torment[s] is surely the worst. I once knew a very clever man and one of the most delightful and enthralling companions that ever chopped words with one (a man who has since written a delightful play that has amused thousands), and he said to me in a way I shall not easily forget, 'I to-day feel that I have made myself bankrupt indeed – in mind, in body, and in estate, ' and the world of self-reproach implied in that sentence told me only too eloquently what a full and complete knowledge that wise fool had of his own folly. But he couldn't help himself, and that's the truth of it, and ever since he wrote the delightful piece that I spoke of, and that has amused scores of your readers at the Grand Theatre [Swansea ?], he has either been in a state of drink or sunk in the very slough of depression. 'Blest with stores of wit – and wants as much again to manage it' is the motto I would suggest for his crest[.] It was the same as in the case of the late John F. McArdle, as kind-hearted a man as ever stepped, and a brilliant writer in his best days. Poor ‘Jack;’ with all his fancy and all his funniosity, he was a fool to himself, and would often to those whom he knew and trusted curse his own folly and weakness.
One form of the enemy to himself.
Let no girl in the world ever cherish a regard for a man who is a fool to himself – her life will be a long misery, made all the more miserable by the thought that she cannot quite hate and despise the man who causes be such bitter grief. Let her stifle the faintest spark of affection for such a man, for in his tender and better moods he will only be raising for her an edifice of unhappiness and delight that will crumble like a house of cards when the ever-recurrent and ever irresistible period of folly comes upon him.
Links to Related Material on Temperance, Teetotalism, and Addiction in the Nineteenth Century
- Alcohol and Alcoholism in Victorian England
- Addiction in the Nineteenth Century
- Temperance, Teetotalism, and Addiction in the Nineteenth Century
- The Medical "Discovery" of Addiction in the Nineteenth Century
Last modified 18 March 2022