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.
This article is an example of Samuel’s humorous, down-to-earth intolerance of what he sees as eccentricity or as other people’s intolerance, here, vegetarianism. The tone is less boisterous than in previous articles. — David Skilton
any a time and oft, sir, over innumerable pipes of what is usually known as the ‘soothing weed,’ give myself over to the contemplation of society as it is. I start, sir, always with the truism that society is in a far greater degree composed of persons whom it is undesirable to meet than of individuals who ought to be cultivated; and I have, for the guidance of the more youthful of your readers, been jotting down my ideas as regards persons I don't care to meet. Let me begin, sir, with an individual who has frequently made his appearance in the newspapers of late — don't make any deprecatory gestures, sir, I don't mean the Divorce-court nuisance. The man I refer to, sir, is he who, on recovering £500 in gold, say, which he has lost, very magnanimously and generously rewards the poor man who has found it with some such handsome sum as sixpence, thus encouraging honesty and making the hearts of [the] virtuous glad with exceeding gladness. I often think, sir, what a fine, sympathetic, generous heart must beat beneath the waistcoat of a man of this kind. He probably is a man of the world (a very wor[l]dly man indeed), and, having missed his gold, he gives it up for lost. He probably, in doing so, feels that if he himself found it, he would stick to it and hold his tongue. But a newspaper boy, or a cabman, or an artizan [sic] with ten small children finds it, and seeks him out to restore it. Does he want to show the finder that he thinks the latter has done it for any vulgar reward? Not a bit of it; he would insult the finder by entertaining any such idea, so he gives the latter sixpence, just as a memento of the occasion, pockets his £500, and no doubt feels happy — or thinks what a fool the finder must be. Now, sir, if a vessel be abandoned at sea, and another vessel finds it and tugs it to port, the latter vessel claims a very handsome reward by law. Why shouldn't the same law apply to articles which are lost on land? Despite the argument I have adduced in his favour, I don't like the man who tenders the sixpence reward, for I have mentally reckoned him up in all other relations of life. I have arrived at the conclusion that he is the man who will dole out pennies to his wife for pottery mould; who will ‘collar’ all the half-crowns presented to his children by jovial and kindly visitors; who will count the new potatoes which he hands to his landlady; who will wear reversible neckties and clean his paper collars with india rubber; who will try to travel without a ticket; who will, though quite able to pay, endeavour to beg passes for theatres; who will, without mentioning the matter, take excess change from a shop-girl, who will have to make it good, and who would, if he got the chance, even be buried in someone else's vault rather than pay for a nice little space for himself. He is a man to be avoided, sir[!] And is not the veget[a]rian a man to be avoided, sir[?] You may dissent from me in this opinion, but I can't help that; it is my opinion.
An Empty Void – A Void Very Much to be Avoided
Perhaps you never went, quite unwittingly, to stop with a vegetarian for a day or two. Well, I did once. He was an old school fellow, and had only recently adopted the vegetarian ‘fad.’ Prior to that he had been in turn a member of the Plymouth Brethren; an anti-vaccinationist; a spiritualist; a shaker; a mesmerist; and a lot of other things ‘too noomerous to mention,’ as the showmen say - but he had turned on the vegetarian stop when I went to stay with him. Oh, sir, how can I describe my sufferings? I was told at dinner the first day that in deference to my cannibalistic craving, my meat-eating tendencies, a steak would be prepared for me. That steak, sir, was literally microscopic — it was indeed but a sort of sample of a complete steak, and a moment or two enabled me to comfortabl[y] surround it. Then I had my choice of all manner of culinary abominations, such as turnip steaks, carrot chops, lentil soup, and stewed rhubarb — which always sets my teeth on edge like sulphuric acid. I felt horribly hungry, so I decided to make a manful attempt upon these by no means tempting dishes, and I did, though I felt like a child taking castor oil. So hollow was I that every morsel of food went down my throat with a flop, the process seeming to resemble dropping a stone into an empty barrel. My host was a very cadaverous-looking man, but he ate hugely of his vegetables. After dinner I thought he would produce the cigars and the port wine, but alas - for human hopes! - it was not to be. Nothing in the nature of a smoke presented itself save in the region of the chimney. We had a glass of cowslip wine and some ginger nuts. I can never forget the two hours which followed. The hollow feeling from which I had suffered became intensified; then it changed to a persistent gnawing, and then I began to imagine myself a fasting man, and a shipwrecked mariner who hadn't had a snack for eight days, and I felt a wild, hideous craving to become a sheep-stealer. Finally I pleaded a previously forgotten appointment of the most pressing kind and rushed madly out. My stars be thanked, I found a restaurant which advertised that it would dine you ad libitum - for two shillings paid down at the counter. I fell to work, and plateful after plateful of tempting dishes did I demolish, quite heedless of the fact that I was being regarded attentively by the whole staff of waiters and waitresses, and that audible comments, such as ‘What a twist!’ ‘Can’t he lift it?’ and ‘It’s Rip Van Winkle, and he hasn't dined for twenty years,’ were being made about me. When the closing time of the establishment came I was still at work, and the proprietor of the place came and offered me half my money back if I'd go out. ‘All right; fetch me a cab,’ said I. ‘A cab?’ said he; ‘a wagon, you mean[:] a cab might carry you, but it wouldn't carry a restaurant as well.[‘] I have avoided veget[a]rians since then, sir.
A fly customer
Amongst my numerous list of other persons to be avoided I must include people who stick pins through insects, and carry nausea[a]ting crawling things about with them in pill-boxes; people who desire you to write poetry in their albums; the postage stamp collectors, who call about every other day to ask you if you have heard from your cousin in Peru lately and the nuisances who wait upon you to ask you to sign petitions about something or other that you don't in the least understand — and don’t want to understand. Another man to be studiously avoided is the broken-down friend who has come into the life assurance agency line of business. If you have a cold he endeavours to re-assure you by telling you that he always thought you were consumptive, and, in order that your poor wife and children may be protected, he should advise you to insure your life with him in the Bustup Life Assurance Corporation. He gives you to understand that he will, for old times' sake, endeavour to get the society's doctor to pass you, despite your parlous state. If you have a slight rash upon you, he assures you that it is blood-poisoning; and if you say your head aches he acts as a Job's comforter by telling you that it is softening of the brain. The only way to get rid of him straight off is to go and insure your life with someone else.
I would countenance all your readers, sir, to avoid the man who has written a five-act play in blank verse, and insists upon reading it aloud; the man who wants to borrow your lawn mower; the man who drops in about dinner time twice a week; the man who wants all the talk to himself; the young female person who calls to solicit subscriptions; the man who calls and plants himself in your arm chair and refuses to take hints as to his departure when you are busy; the man who borrows your dress suit; the man who only calls when he knows that you have got a fresh stock of spirits in; and the man who is always wanting you to pay an execution for him. If the reader be a bachelor or a widower, I should advise him to avoid all interesting widows who tell him that he reminds them of late dear husbands; all spinsters that say that they know they shall never, never marry, and all young women who sigh and affect to be overcome with confusion when you look at them. Amongst the sterner sex particularly to be avoided are amateur comic singers; men who go in for magic lanterns and give entertainments whereat all the slides slide upside down or go wrong somehow; men who have been engaged in some small campaign, and insist on telling you over and over again all about it; men who will make you their confidante [sic] in regard to their domestic difficulties; men who wear long hair and spectacles and prate about the ‘equality of man,’ and all men of morbid turn who anticipate calamities and affect to have presentiments. I have been the victim of many of these passions, sir, as I have also of the people who object to smoking; folks who like to have all their windows and door open; persons who ring alarming breakfast bells at unnatural hours when you stop with them; men who turn the gas off at a given hour every night, and make you think that you are stopping in a penitentiary; men who compel you to feel the weight of all their progeny; men who show you their biceps and calves - and their want of brains at the same time; men who are always looking at their tongues in the glass and assuring you that there is ‘something wrong, sir, emphatically wrong!’ [;] men who cry when they have drunk not wisely but too much; men who say grace at inordinate length whilst their guests are starving; men who — but there, I'll stop. Dear, dear, sir, what a lot of nuisances there are in this world.
Last modified 21 October 2021