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 admits that when young, he was guilty of the trouble and annoyance he now castigates in boys. His explains many of their street games and practical jokes, except for ‘tip-cat’, which is played with two pieces of wood, one to be struck at and sharpened at either end, and the other a stick with which to strike it. See also ‘Samuel’s Sentiments’ for 21 May 1887. In his article of 12 May 1888, he explains that a ‘masher’ is ‘the sort of young man who fancies that he can overcome and overawe everybody by the potency of his attractions’. — David Skilton

As a result of contemplating from the window the destructive efforts of a juvenile tip-cat fiend, I have, my dear sir, been led to revive certain memories of my own by no means sweet youth. I have come to this conclusion, sir, that whatever I may be as a man, I must certainly have been a most disagreeable boy – a boy who displayed a fatal and almost demoniacal ingenuity in the invention of means and machines whereby and wherewith to torture innocent persons, more especially if they were very youthful or exceedingly elderly ones, and therefore incapable of resenting, vi et armis, by [my?] baleful efforts. As I look back to the period I name, I can only see, stretching out in gruesome disorder, a long series of punishable offences — offences which, though petty and trifling when taken as single events, present indeed a portentous and damning front when aggregated together and set forth in battalions. I have arrived at the conclusion, sir, that at one period of my life ‘I couldn't be good if I tried,[’] as a certain classical composition says. Innocence and ingenuousness, instead of exciting my admiration, rather stimulated me to acts of violence and oppression; helplessness, that should have excited my commiseration and procured my assistance, only served to spur me on to deeds of cruel import – I was a bad lot. Not even worthy tradespeople, peaceably plying their several and respective avocations, escaped my unwelcome attentions.

For instance, how did I use to act in the case of purveyors of gray peas — a most harmless and appetising dainty? What was there wrong in a man selling ‘gray peas, all 'ot,’ as he would pertinently remark? Nothing, as I now think. But what did I do then? Why, I plucked fresh sods, and I hid them under my youthful jacket, and I went to the pea merchant, standing at the entrance of his own restaurant — in the fair ground, and I asked him for a ‘hawporth,’ and when he opened the lid of his copper, wherein the peas were merrily boiling about and playing at leap-frog with each other, I dropped one of those sods into the copper, and then I mingled with the crowd, along with other evil boys. I had no personal enmity so far as the pea merchant was concerned, though it must be honestly confessed that, as a result of eating his wares to excess, I had suffered from that common juvenile complaint broadly summed up as ‘stomach-ache,’ and had been compelled, as a consequence, to take frequent doses of castor oil, Gregory's powder (which was usually known to myself and fellows as ‘jiggery powder’), and other, nauseating remedies, which not even a spoonful of jam promptly taken could render palatable.

It was the same with the respectable elderly female who sold from her stall a piece of toffee and a glass of a coloured liquid for the sum of one halfpenny. Here, I couldn't let her cry out in a fine gin-and-water contralto, ‘Now, my honeys, a lump and a glar-ss for a ha'p'ny’ but I must go on with a lot of other abandoned boys (no doubt because we had not the wherewithal to patronise the old dame) and stand opposite to her stall (and at some distance from it, for I was nothing if not discreet) with my nose reddened with ochre. And then I must make believe to drink out of a bottle, and then point to her. And I must with the others (as aforesaid) point to her wines also, and then affect to be taken bad internally. And I did this, sir, and writhed about and groaned in order to convey to that respectable woman, firstly, that she was fond of stimulants; and, secondly, that the effects of her wares were decidedly insanitary. And she, at last losing her temper, as she well might do under the circumstances, one day made a grab at me, and lost her balance and knocked the stall completely over together with the ‘lumps’ and the ‘glar-ses.’ And did we penitently assist her in the time of tribulation, brought about by our own flagrant misdeeds? No, we retreated to a respectful distance, and, as we watched the old woman ruefully extracting portions of the damaged stock from the gutter, we added insult to injury by setting up a combined yell of ‘Now['] my honeys, a lump and a glar-ss for a h'a'pny.’

We (I generally had partners in my guilt) blew peas, too, at the poor strollers parading outside their booth, and we killed favourite cats and canaries with catapults, and we broke squares innumberable with the same, and were solemnly anathematised by everyone except the glaziers. When we saw a respectable, elderly gentleman with a shiny hat and a ditto face, we got behind a wall and we peppered him right merrily with small shot – with leaden pellets — to the elderly one's inconceivable annoyance and astonishment, for he could not tell whence came the pain- creating missiles, though they rattled about his nose and his box hat like hailstones might have done.

I have no hesitation, sir, in saying that I treated street hawkers abominably. There was a greasy man who sold a remedy, which outwardly greatly resembled sealing wax, for corns, as he had a perfect right to do if he could find customers. He informed all whom it might concern that both ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ corns might be eradicated, and then, just as he was proceeding to melt his [24 img 3 left] sealing-waxy substance in the flame of a thick candle he had before him, out went the said candle, and there was bad language, I can tell you. That is the only thing I blame that persecuted chiropodist for just as l now chide myself for having squirted water on his candle. And we laid deliberate traps, sir, for another ‘Professor,’ whose line of business was the removal of grease stains, however much pronounced. His custom was, in order to show the efficacy of his eradicator, to seize upon me greasy cap of a small boy, a by-stander, and to rub this said head covering with great vigour – and with his preparations also— until the grime was removed. The fell design we carried out in relation to him, sir, was sending to him a boy with his cap all bedaubed, in a thin fluke, with gas-tar. The Professor could not very well refuse, in the face of a large assemblage, to try his skill upon the cap, but the result was a most gloomy fiasco, as far as he was concerned.

As for tying kite tails to the back buttons of my excellent preceptor's coat and watching him go forth amongst his fellow-men in the streets; as for chalking ‘To Let,’ ‘Poison,’ ‘Let Out,’ ‘Given away with a Pound of Tea,’ and ‘This Side Up’ on the backs of boys and mashers; as for placing tintacks (the ‘business’ end upwards) where amiable people were likely to sit down; as for tying door knockers to the front railings with stolen clothes' ropes and then knocking at the said doors, which couldn't be opened; as for stuffing hot potatoes up the night tubes of medical practitioners; as for all these, sir, I gained an unenviable notoriety at once, and is was confidently prophesied that I should ‘come to a bad end.’ Perhaps I may even yet; but I wish to delay the event as long as possible. If sincere contrition for my past offences will procure me pardon, perhaps my ultimate fate may not be the bad end predicted. Anyhow, as one prone to ‘larkses’ in his youth, I am able to point out to thoughtless youths how evil is its habit of tormenting mankind. I am able to say, though I did not so regard it some years ago, that to deliberately make slides near to corners in steep streets is an offence of the first magnitude, seeing how serious the results most frequently are. I am able to contend that to play what is called the ‘parcel trick’ shows an eminently mean and depraved disposition. Perhaps, sir, you do not know what the parce[l] trick consists of. Well, sir, it means wrapping up a neat parcel (which contains nothing but orange peel, or rubbish of any kind) and planting it, with a string attached, in some thoroughfare which is usually in semi-darkness. The youthfuI operator conceals himself in some place of ambush near, and holds in his hand one end of the string. An unsuspicious old lady, say, comes along she sees the parcel. she picks it up, she feels at it, and turns it round, she endeavours to read the label – whiz, out of her hand the whole package flies, and the old lady stands there wrapped in astonishment and alarm. As one who has played at ‘tiddly-bump’ (a trick which consists in frightening nervous people out of their senses by attach[in]g a swinging button, which can be worked by a string, to one of the window frames); as one who has promenaded quiet side roads wrapped in a white sheet and with his hands and face bedaubed with brimstone; as one who has groaned deeply and sepulchrally, when so made up, in order to give timid servant girls fits; as one who has broken innumerable squares which have never yet been squared for; as one who has screwed up doorways and then rung violently at the bell; as one who has thrown the hats and caps of little boys (who were unable to resent the affront) into the shop doorways of particularly irate tradespeople; as one who has sent ingen[u]ous and unsuspicious youths to chemists' shops for pennyworths of ‘strap-oil;’ as one who has put crackers into private letter-boxes – as one who has committed all these, and more, juvenile iniquities, I am able to place on record my opinion that all the sins of one's youth multiply, at compound interest in after life (if they be not repented of, as in my case), and I would conjure all bad boys who may have this sermon placed in their hands, to put all their money in a “thrift box” (and to see that an elder brother does not sneak the contents), to read no literature save the hymns of that excellent man, Dr. Watts – and to always take care that they are never found out when they do what they didn't oughter.

Last modified 6 December 2021