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 subject of this article is topical, given the growing interest in psychology and complex interactions of learned behaviours. This is the year in which William James’s The Principles of Psychology was published, and five years after Herbert Spencer The Principles of Psychology. (It is worth noting the pseudo-scientific phrasing of the caption to the illustrated capital: 'The lady (a common variety) whose impulses invariably lead her to feeling in her husband's pockets.

The Pelican Club, which opened in Gerard Street, Soho in 1887, was notorious for excessive drinking and gambling, and soon began to host boxing matches. '[S]itting down on a tintack' might be an oblique reference to the Victorian joke (thought improper in some circles), 'Blessed is he that sitteth on a tintack, for he shall surely rise again.'

Samuel confirms that he is writing from the West Riding of Yorkshire (probably Bradford) by his phonetic spelling 'fooil'. (See Arnold Kellett, The Yorkshire Dictionary of Dialect, Tradition and Folklore (2nd edn 2002), p.xxviii). —— David Skilton

The lady (a common variety) whose impulses invariably lead her to feeling in her husband's pockets.

LENGTHY chapter might be written, my dear sir, on wholly unaccountable impulses alone; on the all but irresistible promptings that impel one to given acts that are always repeating themselves. Now what on earth is the sort of influence that impels one invariably to pick a bit of fluff or a stray hair of the coat of the man with whom one is talking? Goodness knows. ln reality one doesn't care two straws whether the fellow carries a hair about with him on his Melton [overcoat] or not; his wife may be interested in the hair if it be a long one and not the colour of her own; but it is nothing to any one else but the man himself. Yet do I know but few men who can resist a hair. Then as to unaccountable impulses, what in the name of goodness prompts many a man always to cross the road at the same place in his daily journeys to and from the town, and, in the case of a person of nervous temperament, to feel uncomfortable when he crosses anywhere else? Truly, there are more things in this world than are dreamt of in our philosophy Hamlet I.v.168-9]. Some men, sir, simply live by the rule of impulse; they hardly pause beforehand to consider the why or the wherefore of anything. Some subtle influence within them says, 'Go and do so and so,' and they go and do it. They marry on impulse, and they often bolt afterwards on impulse. They sit down on the impulse of the moment, which is much better than sitting down on a tintack, eh?


I could never, speaking personally, account for a good many things that I have done -- and nobody else ever could, I may mention. I could never comprehend what impulse it was that prompted me to make a wild run of it when anyone shouted 'Fire.' I take no interest in 'fires' (except such as blaze in the hearth in a customary and well-regulated manner); in fact, I hate to see one, perhaps because it suggests a possible future state in my case. But directly I hear the wild yell I set off to run, despite the fact that I am somewhat scant of breath. It is precisely the same when I happen to see a man gazing fixedly upon the heavens at nothing in particular; of course I am bound to look up and so is nearly every other man. If you want to see how far this sort of thing will go, just cast your eyes down on the pavement some day as though you were in search of some missing article — the stone out of a diamond ring, say — and you will see what an impulse there is on the part of any passer-by to gaze in the same direction. If you want to [see] utter disgust exhibited in the human countenance, pick up a common or garden hair-pin that you have previously thrown down, and say with a sigh of relief, 'Hurrah, I've found what I wanted at last.' There will go up a simultaneous growl of 'Yah, yer fooil!'

The impulses that prompt one to do unaccountable things are of a verity most mysterious. Have you never, in a moment of utter absent mindedness, sir, picked up another man's change to your dire confusion the next moment! Have you never, too, found yourself, when in the office of a friend, quite unconsciously taking up an open letter lying on the table, and glancing at the contents in a vacant sort of way? You may not take the faintest interest in the private affairs either of the writer or the recipient: but you take up that letter because somehow you can't help it. If your friend be of a rusty, crusty sort, the chances are that the situation is just a bit awkward. Is it habit or is it impulse that makes one so I frequently reply, 'Quite well, thank you,' when anyone asks how you are, and when you are in reality feeling very bad indeed? I once heard a man in the dock, who looked very swell-headed indeed, explain to an unbelieving J.P. that he had got drunk on impulse – and whiskey, no doubt. The magistrate, who was evidently no believer in misdirected impulses, allied with whiskey, harshly observed, 'Five-shillings-and- costs-or-14-days-stand-down-call-the-next-case.' That J.P. was evidently not of a philosophical and speculative order — J.P.'s seldom are.

Have you never, my good sir, felt all impulse to kick a man — a man who was outwardly civil to you, but who yet seemed to excite a strange itching and desire in the region of your right shoe toe?

[Certainly we have: we have felt this yearning in the case of Samuel himself — especially when he has turned up his "copy” a day late, and then had the outstanding effrontery to ask for the loan till Friday — always till Friday -- of half-a- sovereign.—Ed. Cardiff Times.]

When I meet a man with a top-hat and short coat, or a man who asks me whether it is warm enough for me when it is freezing like 10,000 polar icebergs, I always feel this impulse strong upon me. I know an artist who always felt this same longing whenever he saw a hawker of pots with a basketful of crockeryware. That artist's impulses though were to kick the basket, not the hawker. Pot-hawkers are often men of splenetic disposition and much muscular power, I believe; so, on the whole, it is not quite safe to kick them. My artiste [sic] friend one day found the impulse so overwhelming that there was fearful destruction done amongst the mugs, and the jugs and the fearful and wonderful china (?) chimney ornaments comprising the stock. The price of the destruction amounted, I remember, to the sum of 7s 10d, paid down, and a pint of fourpenny, promptly swilled down by the pot-merchant.

There are certain impulses, frightfully strong in the case of some men, which are much to be reprehended, however irresistible they may seem to be. Of such the impulse to change hats and umbrellas for other (and better) articles of the same kind may be cited as an example. Then, too, the impulse which prompts some semi-lunatics to destroy the hats of their less stalwart and better-hatted friends by bonneting the latter [pulling the hat over his eyes] is a form of prompting which can only be effectually checked by what our friends of the Pelican Club might term a 'punch on the nose.' But this bonnetting impulse is, say what one may, a mightily strong one in some men, otherwise very decent fellows. Another impulse that I must, as a Briton capable of a Briton's reserve, declare to be in the fullest sense objectionable, is that of the man in the railway carriage sitting opposite to the man who manifests an almost fatherly interest in the matter of one's destination, business in life, habits, and means. Yet I have known many a good fellow who could not resist endeavouring to pump all his fellow-travellers. I once knew a man, and a portly and jovial gentleman he was, who suffered a species of martyrdom in his endeavours to restrain the impulse he always felt to wink at any pretty woman he met in his walks abroad. He once, but there – what's that you say? Time to feel an impulse to dry up? Oh, all right; no offence to me, I'm sure.

Last modified 26 March 2022