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.
A rather lumbering attempt at witty irony. Samuel never truly gets ‘to his muttons’, that is his subject. This is one of numerous articles mentioning the ‘dress-improver’ or bustle, which might be thought one of the obsessions of men of the day/ — David Skilton
It is said, sir, that manners make the man, and I should also suppose that men very often make their manners. There is a great deal in manners, sir, a very great deal. If a man who came to your house kissed the waiting-maid, called you ‘Old Cocky,’ and then fell with his head in the soup-tureen, you'd say so. How nice it is to meet a man of good manners – a man who asks you if a loan would be of any service to you. A man who inquires what your particular poison is, a man who says that he is let out for the day and that you shall accompany him at his expense – that man, sir, is a man of manners, as good manners as are made. Manners, sir, are like the measles: they can be acquired. You can train yourself to the exhibition of good manners. The basis of them, good sir, is good feeling. Show consideration for others that's the way. For instance, if you meet a man who has nothing, don't hurt his feelings by letting him know that you have plenty – that would be bad manners. If a poor relation in a coat that seems to have been made out of a cast-off billiard table cloth calls on you when you have company, don't let him mix with the gay throng and witness their happiness; it would be unfeeling and an insult to do so. Good manners are especially charming in women. The woman you meet at a dinner party who laughs at all your jokes, seems to take an interest in all that you say, and generally seems gone on you, is essentially a woman of good manners – and good taste, too, eh? The two always go hand in hand. I have generally found that the best mannered women are those that a thoughtless world might call ugly. A woman who is decidedly not gifted with ‘fatal beauty’can generally lay claim, according to her friends, to having good manners – it would be a bad job for her if she hadn't. I would passingly observe, sir, if you would pardon this digression (I don't care whether you pardon it or not, in reality, but I'm just ‘foxing’ to be polite), that there is another advantage which ladies not too greatly blessed in the matter of outward charms possess, and that is that after you have married them you can leave them about with the absolute certainty that no one will be mad and wicked enough to run off with 'em. Good business, eh? But ‘to my muttons.’ Some people are blessed with intuitive good manners, and there is a great deal of difference between such manners and mere tact. Perhaps you don't follow me – perhaps you'd better not. I said that there was a difference between good manners and tact. Tact might induce a man to pocket your silver forks when no one was looking, but, on considering the matter carefully, I scarcely think it would be good manners. Of course, if you differ from me I am quite open to conviction, and so would the man who took the forks be. No, there is a difference. If a man asked you to have a refresher it would be good manners to ask him to have one in return, but it would not be tact from a commercial point of view. Intuitive good manners would lead a man to call the attention of an acquaintance to the fact that the latter was on fire through the matches in his pocket having caught on, and a person of attractive manners would, although a stranger to you, tell you that you bad a boil on the end of your nose, thinking of course that you might be unaware of the fact. Such a person would also, if he in the street observed a lady whose dress improver had slipped down, at once inform her of the fact, and direct her to the nearest quiet passage where she might adjust it. But, referring again to intuitive good manners and tact, the same man on seeing the lady drop a coil of false hair would scarcely try to convince her that it was her's after she had denied that it was. There's nothing like good manners, sir. A well mannered man who would say to a young lady, ‘Oh, Miss St. Squintine, which is your glass eye – the right or the left?’ is a pattern to society, for he possesses both good manners and tact.
I believe that were mature thought given to the subject, a few simple rules as to good manners might easily be laid down and acquired by all who care to study them. Of course the rules would require consideration, but a few simple and obvious ones at once occur to the reflective mind. The avoidance of personalities is one of these. If a woman is decidedly pretty, it is bad manners to let her know it, for it puts all the other people present at a disadvantage. But if a young man is emphatically ugly, if his mouth seems to have a tendency towards extending to the back of his neck, if the motto of his nose is excelsior [upwards], the man or good manners might fitly refer to him as a guy, because that would not injure the feelings of the other people present. The young man being in a miserable minority, it doesn't matter about him. Besides, he would look at it as a mark of distinction that you had singled him out from the crowd. Etiquette and good manners run closely together in some particulars, but there are many divergencies, and a strict attention to etiquette is often most irksome, and even a sign of bad breeding in the man who devotes himself to it too assiduously. It is, of course, the best eighteen carat, hall-marked etiquette for a man to use his fork at a dinner party as a toothpick, but it is not quite good manners. Taking a pinch of salt out of the cellar with one's fingers I should hold to be a delicate sign of good manners, because it shows that you wish to indicate to your host that he has done you a superfluity of justice in the way of hospitality when he provided you with a salt-spoon. It is good manners when you call at a man’s house, and the servant says that he is not at home, to wink at her and say,’It's all right, Jane Jemima: I heard the boss tell you in the passage to say that he wasn't in.’ It is most assuredly good manners to take out your new false teeth in the presence of company and to hand them round to see how they like them. It is little acts like these which proclaim the man of refined manners.
Differences in stature make, I may say, sir, a tremendous lot of difference in the popular appreciation of manners – I mean to say that one set of manners accord with a certain set of men which would not do at all in the case of another set. Were a nobleman or a millionaire to eat peas with his knife, use the tablecloth for a napkin, make coarse jokes before the ladies, rudely contradict anyone, his conduct would be set down to eccentricity, but were he of meaner social stature or means be would be called a ‘low cad’ and a beast. When one accustomed to the purple is guilty of brutal frankness in the case of everybody about him, his bearish disregard for the feelings of others is euphemistically referred to as brusquerie Yet, my dear sir, manners which in one station are considered as simply brutal are in another regarded in quite a playful way. I daresay you remember that story about the man who was asked to write something as to the ‘Manners and Customs of Patagonians,’ and put on record the fact that the said race had no manners and that their customs were beastly. Well, my dear sir, there are lots of men who have no manners. Men who open other people's letters have no manners – but they should have ‘a month hard,’ if I had to deal with them. Even that wouldn't reform their manners, you see, because they never had any to reform. Now, sir, the men who borrow your books and send them home again with the leaves all covered with grease splotches – the men who have used the back-bones of herrings as book-markers; the men who having made money attempt to offer you two fingers only in the hand shaking process; the men who only invite you to their houses when they have male company, all these are men of manners – rather! But I'd better ‘dry up,’ as Yankees say, or people will be having something to say about, my manners in thus button-holing them.
Last modified 8 February 2022