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. The landlady’s broken ‘Delf’ was not antique Delftware, but a nineteenth-century, mass-produced, English, imitation of the valuable, early Delftware. The omission of the ‘t’ may indicate both the landlady’s pronunciation and her misattribution.

An attack on the dishonesty of seaside landladies. Despite Samuel’s article on 3rd August, 1888 was one of coldest summers in the late nineteenth century. The earlier article may have been written in advance, in the expectation of hot weather. — David Skilton

‘It’s nothing but extortion, that’s what it is! Actually charged soap as an extra!’

EFORE I proceed I any further, let me say that I haven't tried any seaside lodgings this year, sir; there has been rather too much weather turned on for my fancy, so I have remained at home, and felt how virtuous and economical I was to consent to such a sacrifice. But I have tried seaside lodgings (oh, I really beg your pardon, I mean ‘apartments’) jn former years, and very much they have tried me. I think, sir, that I must have encountered nearly every species of seaside landlady, from the fat and assumedly motherly kind — who charged you a figure in proportion to her own ample one for her little attentions to you – to the thin, faded person of apparently meek manners who would be worth thousands to-day if her ‘Pa’ had not unfortunately sold his title deeds as old parchment to be made up into banjos. This is the tearful person who so impresses you with the degradation of her servitude that you feel a sort of pang of remorse whenever you have occasion to touch the bell – despite the fact that your mildewed and melancholy landlady, or her grimy-faced satellite, invariably forgets the cruet, or the bread, or some necessary table item or other. I have made special reference to seaside landladies in contradistinction to seaside landlords. Truth to speak, I have caught such very fleeting glances of the male seaside letter of lodgings that I am almost unable to describe him. So far as I have discovered, he is usually a very mouldy man indeed, who but seldom emerges from the dim recesses of the kitchen, unless it be to clean the windows or to adjourn round the comer for two-penny worth of liquid refreshment. I believe that the usual occupation of this gentlemen is a sort of cross between that of an errand boy and a maid of all work. Lighting the fires and cleaning the boots are the preliminary duties of the day, the final one is fetching the lodgers' supper beer, and the intermediate period is filled in by such harassing yet manly tasks as shelling peas, chopping firewood, washing up, smoking shag, talking to the butcher round the corner, and nursing the last baby (if any).

This is not a literary lady. It is a sea-side landlady exercising her imagination in the making up of the bill.

The first matter always to be looked to in the matter of seaside lodgings is naturally the charge upon which you take them. The terms named in a round sum seem fairly reasonable, but it is in the matter of the mysterious items called ‘extras’ that the swindle comes in. And you will find pleasing little items creep into the bill, be you never so wary. The blacking of boots and the cruet are of course, ‘exteriors,’ and if you haven't to pay for ink at a penny a dip you may think yourself lucky, I'll back a sea-side landlady any time to come in first in the great Summer Extortion Stakes.

The serious landlady who always expects you the ‘put up’ with cold meat on a Sunday so that she can attend ‘meeting’.

Take my advice, sir; always be wary when lodgings are advertised as possessing ‘a splendid view’ or ‘a glorious prospect.’ You'll have to pay a big price for every look out of the window, and you’ll generally find that the ‘view’ would be magnificent if it were not shut in by a forest of chimney-pots, a large block of buildings opposite, or a dead wall. But beware of suggesting any of these drawbacks to the landlady. She will regard you with pained surprise if you do, and will in an injured tone venture to assure you that ‘Mr Daub, a Londing artis' , and Mr Mick McMethusaleh, of Glasgow,’ both thought the ‘prospeck’ most ‘pictureskive’ — and they ‘oughter’ know. And oh, sir, how cautious the temporary occupant of sea-side lodgings ought to be not to break anything in the shape of a rickety, clumsy [ornament] or a cracked teapot. If he does so, he will find that what appeared to him to be the common [?] and most vulgar of delf has been in the landlady's family for years, and that it is a valuable and unique specimen of its kind, one, in fact, that the lady has refused to part with even for bewilderingly large sums of money, tendered by enraptured collectors. If the lodger, sir, should break anything, let him pick up the fragments carefully rather than compensate the snivelling proprietress of the establishment with a monetary solatium, offer at once to submit the earthenware specimen to a competent authority, and to replace the same by a like article. The indignant lady may ask if you are inclined to ‘doubt’ her if you follow this course; well, if she do, the only plan is to reply that you doubt everyone, but that you especially doubt the value of her crockery more than you do the bona fide of its owner. I have found this a most effective course of proceeding.

The wary lodger ho keeps a strict account of the number of peas he sends down to the mitchen, and who measures all the cold joints.

It is generally during the last few days of your stay that the cloven hoof begins to appear. Possibly if your children are with you, and in the occupation of a small stuffy cupboard dignified by the name of a bedroom, you may be asked if you would for the last two nights of your stay mind lending this apology for a sleeping place to a couple ‘as is expecting to stop for a fortnight,’ although your compliance would entail the removal of your family into your own room. Take my hint, and do not comply. Having taken your rooms, stick to them, and let the coming couple sleep in the bath, or on the saw-backed sofa, or on the kitchen hearthrug among the ‘beedles’ – or let them go somewhere else where there is more accommodation. Touching this matter of fellow-lodgers, it is as well to exercise some care, if you have any opportunity of doing so, or it may happen that you find the adjoining rooms occupied by a man who groans or moans all the night; a couple who throw the tea-things at each other; a man who wanders about in the night time, and who affects to be a somnambulist; a larky pair of young men who go in for practical joking; a being who takes too much sea air and sings comic songs during the night; or a man who collects marine specimens and makes the house smell like a fish market on a hot day.

Yes, ma’am, considering that I have paid for the drawing-room and the first bedroom I do object to sleeping in the wash-house.

Beware of lodging at a place where you are expected to be in at all meals at a given hour, and have to pay extra to get anything to eat at all if you happen to be ten minutes late. Beware of lodging with a ‘serious’ or nervous woman who turns off the gas at the meter every night at eleven. Beware of ‘highly genteel’ lodgings where there are unmarried daughters; beware of ‘tackling’ a landlady whom your hear ‘talking at’ you in the kitchen to the male drudge; mind and count all the new potatoes, undignified though it may seem, and try and form an estimate of how many peas the pods you have purchased at famine prices will yield; mind and ascertain that they do not keep a cat on the premises – mind and stop at home (this ‘summer’ at least) if you are a wise man and want to be a comfortable one.

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Last modified 10 February 2022