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.
Toothache gives Samuel an admirable opportunity for hyperbole. In a saw-pit, the top-sawyer was in control from above, while the bottom-sawyer was paid less, and had a lower life-expectancy because he breathed in sawdust falling from above. Here Samuel's use is ironic, as he claims to be subject to an superior quality of bad luck. This tale of misfortune and suffering also contains an early description of the phenomenon known as 'dentist's doorbell'.
Scotch Whisky and Irish Wiskey
The spelling of 'whisky' is unstable throughout 'Samuel's Sentiments'. Scotch is correctly 'whisky' and Irish is 'whiskey'. Although Samuel expresses a preference for Scotch, the drink is more frequently spelt in the Irish than the Scottish manner in 'Samuel's Sentiments'. This may be the preferred spelling of the compositor. It is only in very few articles that any care is taken over the spelling. One example is no. 82, 'Samuel on Sleep, Slumberers, and Sluggards' (6 April 1889): 'My earnest advice in regard to sleep to all men and women is similar to that of the Scotchman about the whisky, "Take it whenever you can, and as much of it as you can get."' Here 'whisky' is clearly the appropriate spelling. In the present article, Samuel has Scotch whisky while the Irishman drinks Irish whiskey. When Samuel says that he has 'wasted good whisky' on his toothache, he is distinguishing his drink from that of the stereotyped Irishman, whose spirit, Samuel assumes, is less good. This is probably observation as well as prejudice, in that the Irishman is assumed to be an economic migrant in a low-paid job, such as navvying. Pubs providing for Irish navvies would have stocked a cheap Irish whiskey which was arguably of a lower quality than the Scotch whisky which they kept for their other customers. (Good Irish whiskeys are nowadays in stock everywhere. The spelling 'whiskey' is very unlikely to denote American whiskey at this date, since it was not widely available until American servicemen were stationed in the United Kingdom in the 1940s.)
Balm of Gilead was a rare perfume used medicinally and named for the region of Gilead, where it was produced. In the present instance it is something which relieves Samuel's feelings. The significance of any particular allusion to it may be obscure, but must derive from Jeremiah 8:19-22: 'Behold the voice of the cry of the daughter of my people because of them that dwell in a far country: Is not the Lord in Zion? is not her king in her? Why have they provoked me to anger with their graven images, and with strange vanities? The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved. … Is there no balm in Gilead: is there no physician there? why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?”
'Slavin' is Frank Patrick Slavin (1862–1929), also known as 'Paddy' Slavin, who was a pioneer of prize-fighting in Australia and world heavyweight champion in 1890.
'It's a hollow tooth that's what it is. Put a penorth [pennyworth] o' blasting powder [industrial explosive] in it and blow it out, me boy.'
Well, of all the unlucky sorts, I think that I'm about the top-sawyer. Here for years I have never gone to bed at night (little bachelor party and club-nights excepted) without thoroughly brushing my teeth before and behind – I've raked 'em fore and aft, to use a nautical phrase, – and this, this is my reward. Look at me. On the right side I've got more cheek even than seven music-hall ladies and a book traveller. And look at my right eye – that is to say, where my right eye ought to be, bunged up, you will see; as much bunged up as though I'd had a couple of rounds with Slavin. Perhaps you notice, sir, that my mouth is all up one side, as though one side had got disgusted with the company of the other. This cheek, you will notice, is red and inflamed – I should think it was; it's really raw, and it makes me roar when I touch it. I've been bathing that cheek – I've had it moistened with a good few things – scalding water, poppy head, laudanum, cold water, vitriol, eau-de-Cologne, and, would you believe it, I've actually wasted good whisky on it. I might, for any good the outward application did me, have just as well followed the plan of the Irishman and drunk the whiskey and rubbed my cheek with the bottle.
I'm a regular swell you see. No. 1 represents 'All Jaw' state of swelldom. No. 2 gives a good idea of the 'Too-Much Lip 'stage.
This toothache began in the night time; I'm told that it generally does. It began with a slight jumping in my case, as though some clockwork had lost its way and got into my jaw. I put my cheek upon the pillow, and almost thought of asking what time it was. Then there was a sudden and most agonising jump, as though one of my back teeth was going in for a hurdle race. And then – well, my whole jaw seemed to be in a state of revolution, and determined to ruck upon [attack] the constituted authorities. The sensations in that tooth varied between a sort of a nagging and a wild leap-frog sort of game. I first groaned, then I began to wish that this world of tribulation had never sampled me, and then I got up an indignant feeling, and well, pious Mr Editor, forgive me, I swore long and loudly and in good set terms. I got up – got up a good counterfeit of a raving lunatic and swore horribly, yet impotently. Greatest mistake in the world to imagine that swearing acts as a vent to one's feelings. AIways the contrary. The more one swears, the more one wants to swear. I 'cussed' much and long and severely, and then I wished for some stimulant to warm up my aching jaw. I tried whiskey, raw. I bathed the tooth in the (usually) gratefuI fluid and skinned myself nearly, but the tooth went on nagging and jumping and playing Hamlet generally.
So soon as breakfast time arrived I went out into the daylight and surveyed my happy fellow men. I asked one of them if he had had any experience of toothache. 'A lot,' said he, 'let me have a look at this.' He took me by the noise and chin and 'prized' [prised] open my unwilling jaws. 'Which of 'em is it?' he inquired. I gurgled out some sort of a response. My jaws ached abominably and I nearly choked as he held me. I almost wished that he would insert a wedge between my Upper and Lower Head Rows in order to disclose the cavern effectually. 'It's a hollow tooth,' said he, 'you must have it stopped.' 'That's just what I want,' says I. He placed a large and bony fore-finger, with a suggestion of 'bacca' about it, on the tooth, which latter he pressed. Oee willikins! Furies! Curses on ye all! how I jumped. I speak with satisfaction and complacency when I say that my jaws snapped upon his finger with all the forceful energy of the cheery alligator upon a dusky native baby. He howled, and that howl was as balm of Gilead to my troubled feelings.
No use stopping in bed. Get up and light the fire and have a cup or tea.
I sought the emporium of a chemist. That gentleman earnestly recommended 'Jawker's Tooth Teaser,' at thirteen-pence half-penny and two-and-nine the bottle [0.056 and 0.142 pound sterling]. He said that the two-and-ninepenny bottles were much cheaper than the others. I didn't see the economy of this, inasmuch as one dose of Jawker's Teaser was said to cure instantly. I bought one of the cheaper bottles. I was requested to place a portion of the Teaser upon a wad of cotton wool, afterwards inserting the same into the hollow of the tooth with a needle or a skewer, or something else of the same pointed kind. I essayed to do this. I swallowed the first wad in an abortive attempt; and I can bear witness to Jawker's preparation being as warm as any dram, taken internally, that I ever tasted. After many efforts, I got the wad into my tooth. I'm glad our ceilings are not low ones. Had they been so, I should have gone slap through the roof. I jumped like a delirious high-kicker. No relief — not even swearing; I was too much depressed to 'cuss.' I went off again and consulted my friends. I learnt from sundry of them that putting a red-hot skewer it the tooth bathing it in salt and water; opening my mouth and toasting myself near the ribs of a hot fire, and divers other things were sovereign remedies. I tried them all, and thought that I was at the inquisition of old and being racked for my crimes.
First effects of Jawker's Tooth Teaser (at 1s 1½D and 2s 9 D the bottle; of all respectable chemists).
Someone then suggested that I should have the offender out. I set out to get it done. I met a friend of bibulous habits, who ventured to assure me that the best remedy known was a 'high old drunk' as he called it. I waved him off – l rushed for the dentist – Mr Screwsky. I paused at the door in a meditative sort of way, for somehow, that tooth did not seem to ache quite as much as it had done. Perhaps as I approached the dentist's sign that tooth had a premonition of danger; didn't want to part with me, so to speak, I respected its scruples and turned me away. I walked half a mile in blissful satisfaction. Horror, it began again. Once more to my doom; once more to the dentist's. I'll tell you next week (if my over-strained feelings will permit me to do so) what I next endured.
Last modified 28 March 2022