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.

One of Samuel’s liveliest narratives arising from the doctrine of separate spheres, which stated that men and women were different and hence should fill distinct roles in the world, men being physically and intellectually strong, and women designed for childrearing and domesticity. Here Samuel spells out some comic consequences of this theory. He never manages domestic tasks, and in this case fails to understand spring cleaning, which appears to him to arise from a female conspiracy. He poses as an innocent in a hard world, whose injuries suggest a bout of heavyweight boxing, and whose only defence against his wife’s indoor tyranny is to quote Poe’s ‘Raven’, and appeal to fellow husbands for understanding. — David Skilton

A nice state I am in. Look at me, sir, and weep. Do you see two black eyes; my nose bound up with plaister; a cold in the head, too, and my arm in a sling; paint on my coat also[;] oh, yes, the catalogue is quite correct. I have made no mistake in the inventory of damages. Have I been playing football, sir? No. Have I been fighting a few rounds with J. L. Sullivan? No, sir, certainly not. Have I been on the – Sir, a truce to jesting; this is a serious business; let me tell you at once that I may strike a sympathetic chord in your bosom – my wife is cleaning down, or cleaning up, or putting things to rights – and me into my coffin for the spring, and my house now, sir, is a dreary, howling wilderness. I forget what began it now. It was either the window panes – I know what window panes I have had through the windows being open – or the presence of a cobweb or two. Mrs Samuel got up remarkably early one morning – at five o'clock perhaps – and my attempts to slumber thereafter were rudely broken in upon by the noise of many voices, the shuffling of feet, the evident removal of heavy articles of furniture, the banging of doors, and the grunts begotten of attempts to open windows which had stuck. At length, sir, I abandoned all attempts to slumber, for I heard several ominous crashes, and my nerves became painfully unstrung.

I dressed, therefore, prior to descending to the regions below, where, said I, I shall at least be safe in my own particular den from the incursions of the enemy who has palpably taken possession here. My first view of the situation from the landing, sir, was an ominous one. The stair carpets had been taken up, and upon the stairs themselves were ranged a miscellaneous assortment of chimney ornaments, albums, fireirons, manuscripts (oh, horror!) of my own, small tables, buffets, pictures, pails, scrubbing brushes, and glass gas-globes. In order that the stairs might still afford a foothold, there was a passage about six inches broad left all the way down. The expert individuals who dance hornpipes amongst eggs laid on the floor never surely trod more gingerly than I did going down that staircase. I should have got safely to the bottom, sir, but my wife's brainless aider and abettor, the servant girl, Araminta Elizabeth, had left a large dab of soft soap on a piece of brown paper – 'pon my word, it looked like a plaster ­– about the eighth step from the bottom. I unwittingly trod upon this, sir, and I would never have believed that any individual not actually shot from a cannon could have descended the steps with the velocity that I did. Bang, bang, bang, I went to the bottom, where possibly I might have been all right had it not been for a pail of whitewash. As it was, sir, I turned a little pail – you'd have said that I looked very pale indeed if you'd seen me after I got my head out of the whitewash. I lost my front tooth, sir, by the contact with the pail. It was a false one, I admit, but it was a tooth all the same. I hurt my fore-arm too; I wish I had been forewarned and forearmed about it.

Of course everybody rushed from other parts of the house to see what was the matter. I found that, in addition to our own family circle, there was an Irish lady, who, although she does ‘charing’ in this world, will certainly never do ‘charring’ in the next, if frequently calling on the saints to aid her has anything to do with it. There were also present three gentlemen, who were described respectively as two white-washers and a painter. They wiped me down with a duster, and, stupid jackasses, used one that was black with ancient dust. My appearance was something remarkable. It suggested a baker who had had a go-in at fisticuffs with a sweep in all his war paint. I feebly asked for some breakfast. ‘Breakfast is in the kitchen this morning,’ said Mrs Samuel. I made my way there with difficulty through piles of furniture, and without any further accident too, save that I bumped one of my shins against a coal scuttle. The kitchen was in a fearful state, sir. The window was open; there seemed to have been a conspiracy to remove all the chairs, and on the table, mingling with the breakfast things, were candlesticks, a parlour clock, drawing-room nick-nacks of various kinds, and a bottle of scouring liquor. ‘Before you have breakfast, Samuel,’ said my wife, ‘there are one or two extra articles for which I require money. You will see by this list that I require whitening, furniture polish, soft soap, – fine soap, scented soap, dry soap, extract of soap, four new scrubbing brushes, two washleathers, a new zinc pail, a kneeling mat, a new pair of wooden steps, two broom handles, some turpentine, some pumice stone, some new glass globes, two stair rails, four – ‘Oh, take your beak from out my heart, and take your form from off my door,’ said I, poetically and despairingly, ‘and let me have breakfast.’ The servant maid seemed to be somewhat confused, sir. She nearly poured me out the scouring liquor instead of tea, and when I had got the latter I went and put furniture polish into it instead of cream, and washing soda instead of sugar. It's a wonder I wasn't poisoned. I found that every room in the house was disturbed, except the coal cellar and the garret, between which I had a choice. These were the only two oases in a wilderness. I chose the garret accommodation, because, although coals are very nice things in their way, they are neither comfortable nor cleanly to sit down on. As for the garret, although it was dusty and cold, and one of those room attics which are altogether suggestive of rheumatics, it was at least a place of refuge from the chaos below.

I might have been comparatively comfortable there had I not heard for several days one series of crashes and smashes below. Whenever I went downstairs, I was splashed with white wash by men whose capability seemed to be whitening about a square yard in an hour and I got against the new paint, and then they rubbed me down with turpentine, and I was so – well, mal de mer was not in it with what I suffered. As for the draughts – why, there are not more in the Bank of England than there were in that house. By some singular mischance the paper-hanger who was called in seemed to mistake me for a wall, for I got a liberal dose of paste one day. I thought after the third day I would console myself with a glass or two of beer, so I sought the barrel. I might also say that I sought the beer. The barrel was an eighteen gallon one, and we had only had it a fortnight. It seemed to have run out suddenly. I asked an explanation, and Mrs Samuel replied that the poor men must have their 'lowance. The painter seemed to have been following his craft by painting his nose at my expense, for it was rubicund enough, and he most certainly must have had his 'Iowance, for I found him one day fast asleep, or dead drunk, on the front bedroom floor. He must have thought he was smoking, for he was sucking the end of one of his brushes. I decorated his features, sir, with his own pigments, and left him. I wish I hadn't, for when he woke he went down stairs and nearly frightened my youngest boy, who had been reading thrilling stories of the noble redskin, clean out of his wits.

On the fourth day when I was in a terrible condition, what with the general discomfort, a swollen face, my damaged wrist, and hunger and cold, Mrs Samuel came up, and asked me if I would mind hanging up one or two pictures for her. I complied, sir, from sheer physical inability to resist. I got up a high ladder with a brass-headed nail in one hand and a hammer in the other. I never could hammer a nail straight, but I do not know what on earth made me, on the occasion in question, mistake my thumb for the head of the nail I was driving in. I hammered hard, sir, and I hammered my thumb. I gave a kick and dropped the hammer, which was a heavy one. It fell plump on such parting – parting seems to be such sweet sorrow to her – as exists in the hair of Araminta Elizabeth aforesaid, and she set up a howl. This induced a start on my part, and down went the ladder, taking me with it. Crash we went right on the top of William James Aristophanes, my son, and Araminta. It was a fearful scene. My heels went through a valuable oil painting, for which I had a short time before given seven and sixpence (frame included), and which is supposed to be a genuine Leighton – a very late 'un. Araminta fell upon the stock-in-trade of a glazier who was mending one of the windows, and it is said that there is enough glass in her now to mend two windows. William James Aristophanes bumped his head right between my eyes, hence the two variegated optics you now behold.

Oh, sir, sir, why should I continue the painful recital? I will not harrow you. I see that you grow pale as I continue. It is evident that your wife has not yet cleaned down. Beware, sir, bewa-r-r-re: fly to any distant clime – climb anywhere you like – but elude, an you regard me, the avenging cleaning-down fiend. The demon charwoman is, I can discern by the agony expressed in your features, on your track; the wicked whitewasher awaits you; again, I say, fly ­– that is if you're fly.

Last modified 29 January 2022