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. Here we see Samuel’s comic method very clearly, as he looks simultaneously at the past and at the rapidly changing present. His self-conscious style incorporates conversation with the Editor and with the reader, and Shandean regrets at the dangerous consequences of learning to read and write, without which, or course, this article would never have come into existence. The Swiftian absurdity of the scheme to extract port wine from cucumbers must derive from Book Three of Gulliver’s Travels. As so often we have to try to ignore the blatant misogyny of the age. The text is not edited to remove offensive language and attitudes that were widespread at the time. Paragraph breaks have been introduced for easier reading. — David Skilton

'Please, I don't want to learn to read.'

Decorated initial O

f course, sir, we all make mistakes in our lives indeed, with some of us the mistakes are the rule rather than the exception, the whole lives of some of us, in fact, a blunder from beginning to end, and as we look back and regard the long melancholy catalogue of our errors we think bitterly, enviously, and fruitlessly of the things that might have been, but are not. I know, sir, that when I am myself in the philosophical vein — when, in fact, I have several rate summonses in the house to add to the sweet domestic calm produced by Mrs Samuel being in a bad temper; by the latest charwoman having absconde[d] with two sheets, a bed quilt and Mrs Samuel's best boots; by my son Dionysius Peter having broken two squares of glass belonging to the choleric butcher round the corner, with the option either of mending the said squares himself or chartering a rapacious glazier; by a whole litter of kittens having been boiled by mistake with the washing in the kitchen boiler — when, sir, I repeat, I am in the philosophical vein produced by these inspiriting circumstances, then do I reflect on the many mistakes of my career. To begin with, I have definitely resolved that the very biggest mistake of my own life was ever coming into the world at all, and the next to that is that of my having consented to stop in it — I ought to have insisted upon dying when I was teething, for I am sure that I should have received every assistance towards the gratification of my desire from the family doctor and the hired nurse.

'Why, oh why, did I back that bill?'

Again, sir, as a child, I strenuously objected to be dressed. I even went so far as to lie on my back on the hearthrug howling dismally and kicking furiously when any attempts were made to induce me to wear clothes, but here again superstition and blind prejudice stepped in, and I was obliged to wear quite a heap of garments, and since then my tailor has been most frequently the bane of my existence. I cannot but regard my having gone to school as an error -- I thought it an error at the time, I remember, and frequently absented myself by way of protest, but my scruples were overcome by a number of solid arguments, the renewed force of which I always felt. Had I never learnt, to read and write, sir, I should never have entered into the literary profession, and therein should I have been happy. Had I never made the mistake of placing myself beneath the tutelage of the Rev. Armstrong Weals I should not now frequently wander about, distraught of aspect, and unkempt of hair in search of subjects upon which to exercise my well-known facetiousness, while the caitiff, lily-livered boy whom you send with your maddening messages waits without, whistling, with many variations, the latest airs derived in the '"Alls of 'Armony."

Then, were I unable to read, I should not lie under a sort of moral obligation to read the newspapers, and no doubt I should be, morally speaking, very much better for the abstention. Besides, I notice that when a man cannot read somebody undertakes to read for him, and this entails, so far as he is concerned, a saving of brain power. I'm not the only man, by a good many, who has wished that he had never learnt to write. Ask the man who has backed somebody else’s bills; ask who gentleman who is sued for breach of promise by the proverbial "young person of considerable personal attraction” — ask the gentleman in the dock who has written someone else’s name in a moment of temporary forgetfulness. Having locked the door [?????] this stage, and being fully [????] that Mrs Samuel is drinking tea [with?] Mrs Battye, at No. 22 in the Row, I take the opportunity of saying that I made a mistake matrimonially. I was engaged to several young ladies, young and beautiful — and otherwise (generally otherwise) before meeting Mrs Samuel. The beneficent laws of this country not permitting me to marry all of them (but only allowing me to lay myself open to the torture in minute doses) I am still alive to place on record the fact that I made a matrimonial mistake. But mistakes of this kind cannot be rectified after leaving the counter — I should say, the altar -- so I bear my chains and the family bills and ills with fortitude. Everyone said that I ought to have married Miss Goggin. I believe I ought — she has been dead some years now. Miss Goggin was the daughter of a retired ham and bacon factor, who had saved his bacon, or its worth, with a vengeance, and who was by no means a small factor in the sum of my consideration for his daughter.

The Sort of Girl Samuel Likes.

I should have taken to my bosom the proud daughter of the house of Goggin had it not been that a meddlesome, though doubtless well-intentioned, old woman said that we were so admirably matched in every way. Now Gloriana Gorgonzola (that is to say, Miss Goggin) was anything but lovely in the ordinary acceptation of the term, and your Samuel, sir, then in all the pride of his youth and beauty, did not care to think that he was in any degree a match for one who could not boast the most distinguished charms — his proper pride was hurt. The great drawback about Miss Goggin was that she had two moveable false front teeth, which twitched nervously in her mouth whenever she was the prey of emotion, and, in addition she had a most unfortunate impediment in her speech. All her “n’s” were “l's”; and all her “m’s" were “b's.” I couldn’t stand her saying "Gool borlil" and "Gool evelil" to me. Our parting was a sad one. "Subuiel, Sabuiel,"she said, the ribs of her stays heaving with emotion, and every moment threatening to burst the encompassing bonds of the exquisite bluish-pottery-mould coloured costume she was wearing at the time, “Sabuiel, bebory, wil bake thee paraboult id this bosob for ail tibe -- for all eterlity." Lie still, my fluttering heart; must I remember such a scene. I first met the lady who is now Mrs Samuel at a railway station, sir. She was standing near the booking-office in great distress of mind. She had unfortunately left all her money at home. Think me not sordid when I say that she did precisely the same thing on our wedding day.

Wh-a-a-a-t, Sir, Make fun of Me!

I have made many mistakes since my matrimonial one, sir. Quarrelling with my wife's uncle Nathaniel, a gentleman who boasts that he owns at least four streets of houses, was one of these, but he should not have flaunted his extraordinary opinions in my face in the way he did. He dabbles a little in chemistry, sir, and [he]is always suspected of having unwittingly poisoned his late wife. He has a theory that he can make port wine out of crushed cucumbers. I wrote a funny article about it in which I described Uncle Nat as the god of wine, surrounded by cucumbers. Will you believe it that he has never spoken to me or to any member of my family since. He says that he will never encumber — cucumber, perhaps he means — me with any of his riches. But it was a fatal mistake was that article. Professionally, sir, I made a great mistake when I was offered the editorship of that celebrated comic journal, the Weekly Screamer. I had an interview with the proprietors, one of whom was an undertaker. The office, I might say, formed part of the mourning warehouse. The undertaker asked me to kindly show their something funny. I told them all that I had left my sample-case in a handcart outside, and with a light porter, as do travellers in the soup and tea line, but I drew them a rapid sketch of a coffin, and wrote on it “Perfect Fit Guaranteed." That coffin fell like a "shell” amongst them. The undertaker said that I'd insulted him; yes, even after I'd assured him that I never rehearsed the joke. But I made a mistake all the same. We are all of us full of error, sir, full of error.

Last modified 20 October 2021