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. Where necessary paragraph breaks have been introduced for easier reading.

Samuel comically portrays his domestic incompetence. Children, the servant and tradesmen make working at home impossible. The Victorian belief in the separate domains of men and women is under strain in lower middle-class households. He ends his dramatization with a quotation in which a Shakespearean character address the audience directly in Part Two of Henry IV. — David Skilton

The child that said , ‘shan’t.’

The contemplation of matrimony, sir, may be very sweet and pleasant to the young innocents who gaze at it from afar, but the reality, as most of your married readers will doubtless be painfully aware, is very widely different -- the couleur de rose, in fact, is apt to turn to a bi[li]ous and envious green. A man endowed with Job-like patience, a saint indeed, is the man who can, in the face of all the petty annoyances that matrimony entails, preserve an equable temper and refrain from using that species of language which is often defined very properly as ‘unfit for publication.’ Let me place — metaphorically, of course —some of your ba[t]chelor friends in a position which is occupied by no means seldom by many of their benedict brothers. The young lady who condescends, for a weekly wage, to do the rougher housework is having her day out, we will say; or probably you are temporarily without such a help, the last one having left because she was not asked to sit down at table with you, or because ‘missis’ was always ‘a nagging and a-natterin' at her.’ Your wife has certain shopping to do, and she requests you as a favour — she will not be away ‘more than half-an-hour, at the very most’ -- to mind the house, which also means minding Master Johnny, aged six; Miss Mabel, aged three, and an I[] infant of a month or two old, the said infant being, at the time the request is made, in what appears to be a deep slumber. You comply with the best grace possible, and the wife of your bosom departs. Suddenly Miss Mabel discovers her mamma's absence, and there is a wild yell of ‘Where's my mammy? I want to go with her boo—hoo—boo.’ You pacify the maiden with a half- penny, and Master Jack puts in a plea for another, and then they both set forth to buy what their choice may dictate at the shop just round the corner. In a minute or two you hear a wild yell at the front door, and Master Jack rushes in shouting, ‘There's Billy Binks stolen my ha'p'ny boo—hoo—boo!’ Then the baby wakes and yells dismally and persistently, till you begin to consider that existence is a burden and that babies are an evil that is absolutely unmixed and unmitigated. Meanwhile, whilst you are attempting to pacify the baby, Master John and Miss Mabe[l] are carrying on what is known as a ‘pretty racket.’ They amuse themselves by falling down the cellar gate, by spilling the ink on the new carpet, by carrying the best fireirons and the family album out into the street to play with, by inditing hieroglyphics on the drawing-room wall with a blue pencil, by leaving one of the taps on, by assaulting and annoying each, other, and by throwing a clothes-peg through the next door neighbour's back window. And all the time the wretched infant squalls till it is black in the face, and then it kicks and splutters till you think that it is in a fit, and you wring your hands and tear your hair in an agony of apprehension. When your wife returns after about two hours' absence, and says ‘Have I been long?’ you call her an aggravating woman, and feel inclined to arrange the terms of a mutual separation.

Drat that child: what will settle it?’

Talk about petty annoyances, why matrimony is replete with them. If ever your wife goes out for the evening anywhere with an elderly female friend, and you set yourself down for a good long, quiet read, it is sure to begin to rain hard, and then you have to turn out with wraps and umbrellas. If you happen to be wakeful, restless, and nervous, your wife sleeps like the seven sleepers, and very likely snores withal, but if you happen to be particularly inclined for a good long ‘snooze,’ she is sure to have the toothache, or the spasms, or the something or other, and what is more she doesn't keep her pangs and griefs to herself, but pours them into your drowsy ear. Perchance you drop off into an uneasy slumber in the midst of the melancholy recital, and then you are re-awakened by a pretty forcible dig, and are informed, and that very sharply too, that you are an ‘unfeeling wretch,’ and dead to everything in the nature of human suffering, save and except that which may actually attach to your own person.

‘I didn’t go for to do it, missus!’

Talk about domestic annoyances, what about washing day, when every room in the house suggests a vapour bath? What about the vagaries of the last servant girl the partner of your bosom has engaged — the young woman who stops out till 12 o’clock, or has a penchant for the beer barrel when no one is looking, or breaks pots on purpose, and then says it was the cat? I have been a veritable martyr to servants. I have found the sharer of my joys and sorrows in bitter tears, and have learnt on inquiry that the cause of this thusness has been the fact that there was a mutiny in the kitchen, which I was expected to quell. I have found that Liza, of the kitchen department, has averred to the servant next door that her mistress is a ‘sneaking old cat,’ and when I have mildly advised my wife not to believe such tale-bearers as the amiable young ‘pusson’ next door, I have been told that ‘it is always my way; I always take everybody's part but my own wife's.’ Talk about, annoyance, I repeat, how about being told that I was to be home punctually at 5 to dinner, and then having to wait till 7.30 when I was so hungry that I had to chew blotting paper to satisfy the horrible cravings I felt. 'Pon my soul, I have felt like a shipwrecked mariner, with nothing to eat but the soles of his boots, on such occasions.

Our dog; drawn by Samuel, junior.

Is not the periodical visit of the sweep a crying domestic annoyance? Certainly it is! Possibly I have been engaged till two o'clock in the morning on the new novel, entitled ‘Gorgonzola the Gory; or, the Cabman's Curse,’ which I am writing for the Tombstone Times, and, after retiring to rest, I am at six in the morning awakened by the most unearthly sounds proceeding from the direction of the wall. I turn over and think it is all a dream. But no; there is a mysterious clattering going on. My wife is gone. In a perspiration I hastily don my clothes and rush down stairs. ‘What in the name of the prophet is the matter?’ ‘Oh, nothing, only the sweep!’ Only the sweep, indeed, why he looks like a veritable demon in the early morning light. But even the sweep is scarcely as bad as that fearful domestic nuisance the inevitable plumber. This latter is the man who comes at nine in the morning, say, to stop up a most obvious leak in a water pipe. He surveys the spot where the leakage exists; walks round it two or three times; looks unutterably wise; says it will have to be ‘looked to;’ has what he calls his ‘ 'lowance;’ says that he has not got all his tools with him, but will fetch them; departs for that purpose; is seen to enter the Trap and Trotters Tavern round the corner at 11:30; is seen coming out, at 1.40; comes back with his tools at 2.14; has more 'lowance; says ‘By grom; but ah've forgotten the solder’; goes for it at 3.10; comes back at 4.20 with an apprentice boy; has another look at the leak, and walks round it again; then says it is time to break off, but will ‘fettle’ the thing in the morning—and so on. And when the bill comes in you find that you have to pay for ‘one man and apprentice—two days.’

And are there not other annoyances? What about imaginary burglars in the house; neighbours who say that your little boy has bashed their ‘Willie;’ neighbours who say that you have injured their favourite dog; accidents to the kitchen boiler; pipes bursting; alarms as to your eldest child having scarlet fever, because he has a slight rash on him; assertions that you winked most unmistakably at the girl opposite; disputed bills with the milkman, who naturally ‘chalks’ everything up (includin[g] his milk); calls made by intrusive old maids attached to the church (or attached to the clergymen thereof) just near; bread that is sad [unrisen] (but not half so sad as you are when you have partaken thereof) and that you daren't complain about lest you should be told that you are ‘growing dainty all at once, and that it is the vitiated state of your stomach from drinking that nasty whisky that makes you complain?’ Let your bachelor readers ask themselves if these are not domestic annoyances with a vengeance. Does not the grocer who sends pepper that is half sawdust, and who then refuses to change it, cause you annoyance? Of course he does — he makes your wife peppery indeed, and then she makes it particularly warm for you. But, sir, this is a tender subject. Your Samuel, sir, is sick at heart when he thinks of it. But he means to bear the yoke patiently -- in fact, he is obliged to. But I must hurry up to a conclusion, lest Mrs Samuel should see what I have said, for if she should see what I have said, for if she did -- well, vulgarly speaking, she would ‘play steam;’ there would be ‘ructions.’ But hus-s-s sh, I hear her step; I must dissemble!

A domestic accident

Last modified 10 December 2021