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.

Explanatory Notes

The title, which does not map closely on to the content of the column, strongly suggests that a subject was agreed with the editor, and intended to be topical. In the event the second part of the title is redundant. Once again we can detect some minor problems in the commissioning and delivery of the Samuel articles. The quality of the writing has also dropped, and the supply of relevant illustrations has been very weak.

'[L]ove in a cottage' was a common cliché throughout the Victorian period for a marriage based on affection and understanding but modest financial means. Anthony Trollope several times light-heartedly names the lower-middle-class version, 'love in a cottage with a leg of mutton'.

Hamlet … the philosophy of his friend Horatio … all the things in earth or heaven:

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in [y]our philosophy (Hamlet I.v.168-9.

The traditional reading 'your' suggests that Hamlet, as a king's son, has knowledge superior to that of Horatio, and this reading might appeal to those who are willing to defer on all questions to their social 'superiors'. The more recent reading, 'our', suggests that all human knowledge is limited, and that intelligence is more widely spread throughout the community.

Bardell-versus-Pickwick: In Dickens’s novel, Pickwick Papers Mrs Bardell is persuaded by unscrupulous lawyers to take an action for breach of promise against Mr Pickwick, on the assumption that he will pay damages rather than prolong a discreditable court case. See 'Some Men who Live without Working' 18 February 1888) —— David Skilton

The individual, sir, who described marriage as woman's triumph over man might with equal truth have given the same definition to an action for breach of promise, for even if a woman fails to get the substantial damages she invariably sues for, it is a triumph for her to feel that she has avenged herself on her treacherous lover, and shown the world generally, and the jury in particular, what nonsense some men can write when under the influence of the god of love. Now, sir, actions for breach of promise arise from various causes, but generally with but one object — cash. It may, I think, sir, be taken as correct that no woman who has any respect for herself or real affection for her lover ever figures in a court of law as a wronged and jilted maiden. No, sir, the woman who, metaphorically, lays bare her bosom and places her lacerated heart on view is not of a nature to feel much affection of any kind, and as for the pure and honest love that brings sunshine into the cottage, it is a thing totally unknown to her.

Actress plaintiff.

One of the reasons why women reduce their affection to the level of pounds, shillings, and pence is that they desire to 'take it out' of the man who has, in their opinion and that of their friends, fooled them. As a matter of fact, sir, they look upon the affair as a matter of wasted time, which they think should be paid for at the highest possible rate of value. It is one of the peculiar weaknesses of a woman's nature that she does not take her reverses (if one can call the loss of a fickle lover a reverse, sir) rationally.

Titled defendant.

Women always go to extremes, sir, and a woman who has [had] her affections [. . .] either [. . .] They [. . .] one of the worst [. . .] the lady who is desci[. . .] as 'a designing woman.' [. . .] female bird of prey, sir, and lives on [. . .] may make mankind feel to the full the [. . .] are necessary evils, and that some of the[. . .] more evil than necessary. This woman h[as] her powers of fascination under her finger a[nd] thumb, and can turn on her charm to order. She has studied men and their ways, and knows how to draw them into her net, and how to keep them there (if they are desirable) when she gets them. She is a proof that humanity can be moulded to the will, and the passions of nature, be they so dwarfed and strangled that they almost cease to be actualities. She is a society hawk, and is ever on the look out for victims to swoop down upon and devour. When she gets her victim into her toils he has to pay dearly before he can escape, and when she brings her action for breach of promise she lays her damages on thick, and it is a case of thousands or nothing. In court she uses her regulated charms to the full, and not unfrequently has more influence on the jury than the eminent Q. C. who is engaged to point out to the Court and the world that his client is a badly-used and wronged woman. This lady invariably wins her case, and frequently it is only question of the amount she is to receive for having lured a male on to do something foolish under the influence of an amorous intoxication.

Country plaintiff.

Another kind of plaintiff, sir, is the girl who is persuaded by her friends that she ought to make her lover pay for jilting her. She is usually from the country, and has been 'keeping company' with one of the desirable lights of the country-side, who, probably finding the charms of some town lady more to his taste, leaves Phyllis to her fate, which personally she would most likely not feel much hurt at (they seem to have a philosophical way of looking at things in the country, sir), but her friends feel it is their duty to see that she avenges her wrongs and so an action is brought by the jilted but not-hurt damsel, who simpers in the witness box and feels very uncomfortable all through the trial. At the conclusion of the case she gets small damages and makes an enemy of a man who respected her and would (when she marries someone else) have stood as godfather to her children, and been a friend to both her husband and herself for life.

Country defendant.

Then, sir, there is the actress plaintiff (who has been much to the fore of late years with success), who sues her refractory admirer with the full knowledge that if she does not get all she desires, pecun[n]iarily, out of him, she is obtaining a magnificent advertisement and that her salary is pretty certain to increase soon afterwards. Why, sir, I have known a lady rise from the position of chorus-girl to that of leading lady in a provincial company for no other reason than that she had been jilted by a sprig of the nobility. Hamlet was right, sir, and the philosophy of his friend Horatio was a long way from including all the things in earth or heaven. I vow he never thought of such a transformation as I have just named resulting from a breach of promise action.

Middle-aged defendant

From the defendant's point of view the law is decidedly objectionable. It virtually means, that a man may not change his mind on a vital question without the risk of having to pay dearly for it. Many a man, sir, has married a woman he did not care for rather than parade his error before the world and have his correspondence made fun of by a barrister who, in the exercise of his profession, has no heart and no respect for the feelings of others. Custom has made it the rule for men not to sue for breach of promise when a woman throws them over, yet a woman who, taking advantage of an opportunity and a man's weakness, lures him on to an offer he regrets directly afterwards, can sue him for breach of promise if he decides to rectify his folly and to save both the woman and himself from being wrecked on the troubled sea of matrimony. If a man does take the law into his own hands, and try to equalise things by suing the false fair one who has changed her mind, he generally succeeds in getting the smallest amount possible, and is chaffed and laughed at by his friends and acquaintances. Yet, sir, if a woman is allowed to sue for breach of promise (and, I own[?], they are quite as fickle as men, sir, why in the name of fortune should it be considered mean for a man to do it? Are not our affections as valuable as a woman's, sir? Yes, verily, sir, they are.

One of the amusing sort of defendants is the middle-aged or slightly decaying gentleman who has placed his hand and heart at the disposal of the lady whose charms — to put it mildly -- are on the wane, and who feels that she is not likely to have many more chances of becoming the loving spouse of husband past his youth and with a comfortable income. There is a Bardell-versus-Pickwick sort of air about these once-amorous fogies which makes one feel that they ought to make it up and settle down into middle-class domesticity. The defendant with means usually admits the case against him and engages expensive counsel to try and convince the jury that the damsel who is suing him (often the actress plaintiff) has not suffered to any appreciable extent. This defendant's affection is of the mercurial order, for he invariably marries some one else within a short time of his case being settled.

Middle-aged plaintiff.

Breach of promise actions appear to be part of the wild oats of titled youths with a leaning towards the stage and its beauties – of the female species. The most entertaining part of a breach of promise action invariably arises from the reading of letters — fatal evidence in these cases. These epistles, sir, are interesting as showing the number of adjectives it is possible to get into one latter, and not unfrequently they form a sermon on the way in which the passion of love fades and dies under given conditions. They are wise in their generation, sir, who pen them not. Whether a lady who sues a man for breach of promise deserves our pity is a much debated question, as is the question whether the law on the point, should be altered. The moral of the whole thing, sir, is simple. Do not make an offer if you don't mean to keep it, but if you break it square things out of court.

Last modified 4 April 2022