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.

Cough dubious

This passage is based on Touchstone’s account of the seven degrees of the lie in As You Like It V.iv. 89-101: the first is called 'the Retort Courteous', the second, 'the Quip Modest', the third, the 'Reply Churlish', the fourth, 'the Reproof Valiant', the fifth, 'the Countercheque Quarrelsome', the sixth, 'the Lie with Circumstantial', and the seventh, 'the Lie Direct'.

Tom Hood's 'Cork-leg' man

This is probably a conflation of two popular texts, Thomas Hood (1799-1845). In the first, ‘Miss Kilmansegg and her Precious Leg. A Golden Legend’ (18.70) the wealthy Miss Kilmansegg has a golden leg made, which goes 'clump, clump, clump, / Like the ghost in Don Giovanno' [sic]. Her husband eventually beats her to death with it to clear his debts. The second text , which fits the context better, is a popular song called 'The Cork-Leg', performed by Sam Cowell (1820-1864), in which a merchant in Rotterdam commissions a cork leg, which turns out to be a nightmare of the industrial age:

Each joint was as strong as an iron beam,
The works a compound of clockwork and steam,
Each step he took with a bound and a hop,
Till he found his leg he couldn't stop…
To ease his weary bones he fain,
Did throw himself down but all in vain,
The leg got up, and was off again…
He walked for days and nights a score,
Of Europe he had made a tour,
He died, but though he was no more,
The leg walked on the same as before…
In Holland sometimes he comes in sight A skeleton on a cork leg tight …,
[He] never was buried, though dead , ye see,
And I've been singing his L.E.G. [elegy]

The swinging of the leg was 'enough to irritate a bronze statue': this is a reference to the statue (not the 'ghost') of the Commendatore in Mozart’s Don Giovanni. —— David Skilton

WHAT a lot of social blister, if I may use the term, there are -- people who somehow seem to jar on one's nerves wherever or whenever we may meet them, though between us there is at least some semblance of civility. Of course some people are more easily irritated than others, and I, perchance, may be of that number, so that, your readers may not always agree with me as to each particular one of the specimens I am about to stir up. Let me begin with the man (a very common variety of irritant) who has an exasperating laugh or chuckle, and always exercises it just at the wrong time. You make some remark to him, a remark which is rather intended to be of a serious than a jovial nature and he then chuckles, chuckles, chuckles, as though he had swallowed a miniature watchman's rattle or if something had gone wrong with his works. This he does ad infinitum, and always in the wrong place, though his face shows no sign of joyousness whatever. Perhaps he is not quite as exasperating a fellow creature as the man with a short, sharp cough that is, when you are conversing with him, used to express quite an elaborate variety of emotions and phrases. There is the cough dubious; the cough of exclamation, so to speak; the cough signifying nothing in particular, which is quite as useful in its way at saying nothing; the cough of surprise, and the cough of goodness knows what. Wonderfully irritating is that cough, inasmuch as it absolutely commits the person indulging in it to nothing whatever. A very irritating man is he who exclaims in tones of perpetual surprise, 'Dear me,' in regard to every observation grave or gay that you may offer.

The 'dear me' man is one of that sort that seems to suffer from eternal surprise, as though everything in nature came as a shock to him. He is perhaps not quite as irritating as the 'Well, you do surprise me' person, who is always astounded at everything that everybody says, even if he is told by a lady that she prefers her steak 'well done,' or something equally trivial. A very irritating person is he who all the time he is sitting opposite to you conversing swings one leg over the other and keeps that leg a-going something like Tom Hood's 'Cork-leg' man. The swing, swing, swing of that leg is enough to irritate a bronze statue. He has a compeer [who] is the man who twiddles his thumbs, and who happily for humanity, is much more rare than he used to be. The person who at his own fireside is eternally poking the fire is another unmitigated nuisance. He generally pokes away according to the emotion of the moment, as though the poker were his safety-valve. Be he angry; he pokes viciously and irately, and makes the sparks and particles of coal fly; be he pathetic in his utterances, he gently ruffles the cinders, and lets the poker swing slowly in his grasp.

An intensely irritating personage is he who always tells one that he doesn't think one looks well -- 'something wrong with your liver, eh?' Oh, that man, how I have longed to wipe the street with him. Generally he, apart from the supposedly sympathetic utterance recorded above ([w]hich is certainly infinitely cheering) winks in a knowing and jocund sort of way and says, 'Been the jamberee, old un, eh? Now don't tell ma,' generally you feel no inclination whatever to tell him. Oh, how irritating he is.

Have you ever met the intensely aggravating, funny man, the person who, when you address some exceedingly simple query to him, says' I'll get to know for you?' This he repeats thousands of times a week, and chuckles each time. I wish I could multiply kicks on his person as readily as I could his chuckles, given so many I'll-get-to-know-for-you's' a day. Another social irritant of the most determined character who affects to know what horse will win a given race, and when you express a wish to have a 'bit on,' says 'Nostrils! Good morning.' I would not like to meet that man op a dark night with only ourselves for it, and the writer with a good stout bludgeon to the good — I'd give him Nostrils with a vengeance. Dreadfully irritating are the people who ask if you have 'found salvation,' a most impertinent query; the persons never smile when you tell them what you regard as the latest screamer; the women whose false teeth wag and quiver ominously as you converse with them; the women who tell you with a giggle that you are a 'wicked man;' the people who, in carving a rabbit or hare, ask you 'whether you will have a leg or a wing;' the women who are always edging up opposite the pier glass and arranging their back skirts; the persons who tell you that 'you are not looking as young as you used;' the other terrific nuisances who opine that 'things are coming to a dreadful pass now-a-days' -- but why continue the list, it puts one in a howling rage to go through It, when one remembers all that one has suffered.

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Last modified 2 April 2022