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.

Savage satisfactions

In this essay with examples of what Sigmund Freud called schadenfreude — pleasure in the discomfort or pain of others — Pre-Freudian Samuel uses the words ’savage satisfaction’ for this kind of human emotion. The expression 'savage satisfactions' was often used in the singular, but the origin has not been traced. It occurs, for example, by A.F.T. Woodhouselee, in the introduction to his translation of Friedrich Schiller’s The Robbers. A Tragedy (London: 1792), p. xviii: 'Believing himself an instrument of vengeance in the hand of the Almighty for the punishment of the crimes of others, he feels a species of savage satisfaction in thus accomplishing the dreadful destiny that is prescribed for him.' It is also found in the 1854 English translation of La Tulipe noire, by Alexandre Dumas (père), entitled Rosa, or, the Black Tulip, 1854.

Winged words

'[W]e do not all accept the "winged words" of the poet laureate's – or of anyone else – as fixed truths': 'Winged words' is a Homeric locution for a spoken message. It highlights not only the speaking and the hearing but the transmission of the words to the receiver. It may be uttered by a god, with the bias or partiality that entails in Homer . In a monotheistic cosmogony, on the other hand, it can be understood as the word of the one God, transmitted to mortal ears, and thus gaining, if adequately understood, an authority lacking in its Homeric originals. In a sublunary setting, it often signifies the (inspired) words of a poet. Later Samuel uses actual, frequently quoted words by Tennyson: 'That a sorrow’s crown of sorrows, is remembering happier things,' ‘Locksley Hall’ (l. 76).

Shakespearean allusions

True to the hint given in 'winged words', this article is laced with Shakespearean allusions:


During the Victorian era and earlier guests went in to dinner in the order of their social standing, the host taking in the most highly placed lady (whose position may depend upon her being married to the senior man present). The incident in which 'the vulgar rich woman … is "taken in" to dinner by her host in preference to the lady of an ancient family', when the latter has undoubted precedence, is an unforgivably shocking faux pas, revealing that the host vulgarly defers to wealth rather than breeding. Precedence is the subject of Punch cartoons. [See class]


A 'gibus' was a spring-loaded, collapsible top hat or 'opera hat', named for its inventor, Antoine Gibus, and designed to fit under a theatre seat during the performance. — David Skilton

Ye matron – see 'copy' – or other wise: just as ye please.

LEASE, sir, life has a lot of strange compensations: that which may seem to us at 19 to be an evil and a bane, a[t] 29 comes in the guise of a blessing — and very much vice versâ; this no doubt is a reversal of the poet laureate's idea, but we do not all accept the 'winged words' of the poet laureate's – or of anyone else – as fixed truths. Time's revenges are sweet, but we, do not always believe in them, nor are we at all times willing to welcome them as acts of poetic justice. Savage satisfactions! how bitter they are even to those who experience, and deem themselves gratified, in experiencing the satisfaction! In what equal proportions are the pain and the pleasure mingled! Does the man fed unalloyed satisfaction, who sees his Juliet of yore — the maid to whose eyebrows he indited rapturous sonnets, whom he loved, and was rejected by (happily) — in the now staid matron of 40 — an adipose woman, selfish, fond of good dinners and babes, but a happy wife withal. Are not the poet's words 'That a sorrow’s crown of sorrows, is remembering happier things,' thoroughly applicable, and would such a man be human if he did not feel the pangs of bitterness, when he sees that someone has wooed and won his youthful ideal, the old love, around whose image floated in bygone days, such tender memories 'of hope and love'?

The immaculate hat – after the man has sat on it in Church.

All savage satisfactions, like other revenges, carry with them as much sting to the man who is supposed to be satisfied as to the wretched (sic) being, who acts as the victim. It is a case of the vengor and the vengee. As a rule the former is either a crusty bachelor, with a scared [scarred?] and miserable heart, or a husband who has married out of pique, and the attributes of the fat woman (quoted) — so showmen, I believe, describe unnaturally plethoric females – appeal to him still, for first 'Love's mighty lord,' and this accounts (or so many men marrying the object of their youthful affections, in the early loves widowhood. Nobody, of course, believes nowadays in such an absurdity as early love, and such things are only meant to form materials for a good novel. This is an unbelieving and a blas[é] age, but still I think most people will agree with me when I say that the man who derives a 'savage satisfaction' from the contemplation of 'the passion of his heart in youth,' is far more the victim than the victor. I have unwittingly been serious on his subject. Perhaps I have been jilted, and perhaps I felt the fact – well, she married the other fellow, and he is more prosperous than I am.

The hired suit – savage satisfaction.

It is quite extraordinary how the survival of uncivilisation and the remnants of Druidism and Vandalism are apt at times even in the 19th century to protrude in the acts of mankind. This is especially noticeable in dealing with the subject of this article – 'savage satisfactions.' We all, without a single exception, take a sincere delight. in seeing humanity 'sat upon' to use a vulgarism. The benevolent old gentleman with his beaming eyes looking out through a pair of gold- rimmed spectacles, upon mankind, feels a cannibalistic joy awakened in him, when he sees the temporary downfall of a fellow-creature no less than the young 'blood' fresh from 'Varsity and trial eights. 'Odious comparisons' spring up almost unconsciously in the minds of both men, and a sense of superiority for a time reigns supreme. There is, for example, what is termed in the 'vulgar tongue' 'the clever man,' one who knows everything, to whom the drama, with its glittering surroundings, a mere farce, and politics, with perhaps an equally gaudy display, an open book. The man who socially can amuse the 'deah girls,' can play upon biscuits – the admiration of the imitate of the youngsters – can imitate popular actors (to the unbounded (!) satisfaction of those who have never seen them), who can do conjuring tricks in drawing-rooms ('indifferent well, Horatio') and who can tell you impossible stories about equally impossible people — giving 'to airy nothing, a local habitation and a name.' Who has not felt a fiendish satisfaction, when such a creature meets real talent in a drawing-room, and has to betake himself metaphorically to a place 'where shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth?' [Matthew 13:42].

We go to church -- at least I hope some of us do – on Sunday morning, and behold! a man enters with an exceeding!y glossy and well ironed silk hat, calculated to throw all the young ladies of the congregation into ecstatic raptures. This 'topper' is the recipient of its owner’s first prayers, which doubtless find an exit through the ventilator at the top, and ascend gloriously to 'high heaven!' Will there be, think you, a single member of that devout congregation that will not rejoice, with something of the joy of a Pacific Islander, on seeing that complacent individual subsequently 'flop' with delightful abruptness down upon his gleaming chapeau[x] converting it quite unwittingly into a 'Gibus,' or opera hat, or a species of concertina? Why the sight of a half-suppressed swear- word upon his lips is sufficient to inspire one with pleasure for a lifetime! Dire is the confusion of the man, and savage is the satisfaction of every human being that views the mishap, and mark[s] how the prayer to high heaven is suppressed almost immediately after the offering! There is another incident which is wont to occur in church, which never fails to cause endless diversion to everyone – except, it need hardly be said, the wretched victims.

One of the churchwardens or deacons, or whatever the 'pillars of the church' are called, happens (not unfrequently) to be a particularly offensive man – a person, we will say, who talks loudly and senselessly at vestry meetings; the 'piece of earth' is deputed to carry round the collection box during the service, and which he does in a lordly and punctil[l]ious manner, when suddenly the plate or bag is dropped. A stray wasp — being no respect[e]r of persons — has stung the superior individual upon the tip of his proboscis, causing the catastrophe. Out roll all the coins, buttons, and the miscellaneous articles which make up the contents of a collection-box, making a loud clatter upon the aisle, while down comes the pride of Mr Churchwarden. It would be useless to attempt to describe the feelings of the neighbours; we can only exclaim, Oh! glorious satisfaction! It is a far cry from a church to a theatre, but human nature is equally at home, listening to the drowning voice of a soporific parson and to the lively 'gag' of a comedian, or the ranting sentences of a 'heavy man.' You and your wife go to the theatre, in the stalls of which you have booked two seats, and on entering see Mr and Mrs B. seated comfortably in your seats. It should be mentioned, by the way, that Mrs B. is your wife’s peculiar detestation. With what a glow of inward satisfaction you advance forward, bow graciously to your 'dear friends,' apologise for causing them so much trouble, and sit down with a half deprecating gesture, while your wife performs those wonderful evolutions with the train of her dress, which women are in the habit of making when they consider themselves insulted, just as the peacock raises its feathers! Again, you arrive at the theatre very late, and you have to pass along a lengthy row before reaching your seat. What a base satisfaction you feel in treading upon the toes of all your neighbours as you walk along; the chance is all the more delightful when you can single out from the 'nobbly' state of the boots those who are tormented with corns and bunions! It would seem that the curses heaped upon your head on such an occasion would be sufficient to consign you to everlasting punishment, without reckoning your natural sins.

Awful satisfaction – one's rival has a pimple on his nose on the evening of the party.

You are a literary man, or at least aspire to be such, and your moments of inspiration are often rudely disturbed by the visits of a Reverend Hezekiah Lauk, who pesters you with tracts and lectures concerning a certain portion of your anatomy. Well, the day of reckoning comes speedily. John, your faithful servant, who pilfers everything he can lay hands upon, has been troubled lately with runaway-knocks, and is at present on the look out for an offender. The rev. gentleman makes one of his usual kind calls, and John who has been waiting patiently behind the door for a mischievous urchin, rushes out blindly, and with a strong arm knocks the unfortunate man down the steps, beating a hasty retreat the moment he sees his mistake. Of course a complaint is lodged[,] apologies are offered, and you administer to your retainer a severe rebuke, but you thrust at the finish into his hand a piece of money, which says eloquently enough, 'If it can be done discreetly, perform the service for me again?' There are numberless other kinds of satisfaction — in fact their name is legion [Mark 8-9] Cleopatra experienced a bitter delight in poisoning herself with the asp, greatly to the chagrin of Caesar. All Romans indeed rejoiced mightily in scoring off their would-be murderers by committing suicide[.] Feminine amenities are only types of this foible, of human nature. Observe the sardonic smile on the face of the vulgar rich woman who is 'taken in' to dinner by her host in preference to the lady of an ancient family. The same diabolical feelings stir up the base passions of the cabman who pushes forward his broken-down 'growler' [four-wheeled cab] before a handsome carriage drawn by a couple of prancing steeds. There are, too, the petty satisfactions of small minds, such as delight at seeing a man's braces come down at a large picnic in the eyes of everyone present, and seeing another pull out — not his watch, but a tombstone from Lombardy – the sign of the Pawnee Chief [pawnbroker's ticket].

Last modified 1 April 2022