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.
Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: Matthew 23:39.
battue: the driving of game from cover; wholesale slaughter.
Baron Munchausen: a fictional German nobleman created by the German writer Rudolf Erich Raspe n his 1785 book Baron Munchausen's Narrative of his Marvellous Travels and Campaigns in Russia, which presents numerous incredible wonders.
the 'Maiden's Prayer': " A Maiden's Prayer " (original Polish title: 'Modlitwa dziewicy', in French: 'La prière d'une vièrge') is a piano composition of Polish composer Tekla Bądarzewska-Baranowska (1834–1861), which was published in 1856 in Warsaw, and then as a supplement to the Revue et gazette musicale de Paris in 1859, and thereafter widely known in Britain.
A plague on all their houses: compare Mercutio's dying words in Romeo and Juliet III.i.106: 'A plague o’ both your houses'.
written this article 'to aggravate the neighbours,’ as the song says: the song has not identified. —— David Skilton
My Neighbour Who Has 'Them' Again
HAVE had a lot of queer neighbours in my time, sir, and all monitions to the contrary notwithstanding, I emphatically have not loved them as myself. I have rather cherished an inhuman and fiendish desire to set dogs at them, to give them vermin killer, to administer the stomach pump to them, and to have their gore. I mortally detest neighbours, and the more [a]ffectedly hospitable they are, the more do I abominate them. Especially do I loathe near neighbours (they are often very like ‘near’ relations — near even to greediness) and next door neighbours. I have, in regard to the latter, sir, often wished them next door to a gentleman who is partial to a sultry climate, and who name is understood not to be Samuel. I don't mean to imply by all this that I should care to live a la Diogenes, in a tub; I could bear ill (perhaps I mean ‘barrell;’ I don't know: I'll just look around and see if I haven't mislaid my brains) such a fate. Tubs and barrels are all very well in their place — in the cellar, and full of nut brown, with a good head on it, but I ‘shouldn't care for one as a substitute for a desirable villa residence. But I was talking about neighbours (what a pity it is that they don't spell that word ‘naybers,’ in the phonetic style, and have done with it) and the trouble I have with them.
Shall I never forget that neighbour who was, as the phrase goes, given to drink (it strikes me that too much drink was given to him, for be never seemed to have the money to pay for much) and who, as a consequence, used to have trifling disagreements with the wife of his bosom on his return home in the small hours of the morning[?] During these playful disputes it was the habit of this imaginative gentleman to indulge in revolver practice — to the accompaniment of hideous shrieks on the part of his wife — the objects aimed at, according to his own account, being yellow and blue monkeys that indulged in gymnastics up the bed curtains, dogs dressed as clowns that sat on the edge of the washhand basin fishing for green lizards, and rattlesnakes that made the wardrobe their abiding place. I should not at all have minded these private battues for the park [party?] wall was thick enough to be bullet proof, had not the wife of the principal performer thought fit to constitute me her protector in chief on such occasions — the being who was to subdue the mad sharp-shoot[i]st in his own bedroom fastnesses. With this object in view the lady agreed with Mrs Samuel as to an elaborate code of signals to be produced by rapping the division wall with a broom handle whenever danger threatened. One rap was to signify that the ‘master’ (who was designated in the conversations which took place anent him) was strapping his razor with a view to murder or suicide, or both combined; two raps were to signify that he had received a supernatural visitor or two in blue livery, and so on, and I was to take my measures accordingly. Talk about taking measures — the aforesaid ‘master’ soon took my measure on the only occasion on which I ever dared to personally interview him, and he took it on the carpet, too, whilst be endeavoured to scalp me with a portion of a broken square of glass. We ultimately got rid of that neighbour, and I have reason to believe that he has for some time resided in a large mansion provided by the county authorities [the county lunatic asylum], where his existence is rendered endurable to him by the pleasing thought that he is the veritable monarch of these realms.
Shall I ever forget living next door to old Mrs Gadfly — a lady with thin lips, a sharp snipe nose, a pinched forehead, a cold, shifty grey eye, snake-like corkscrew curls that seemed almost typical of her own inquisitive, pumping nature, and a set, steely, chill smile, that might fitly have adorned a septuagenarian ballet girl ogling the baldheads in the first row of the stalls? Mrs Gadfly was a decidedly elderly lady; indeed, had any man assured me that she had been dug up about the year 3, A.D., I should most implicitly have. believed him. Her husband, Gadfly, had, I was assured, died young — and I don't wonder at it when I remember what Mrs Gadfly was like. Oh, that dreadful woman! From early morning to dewy eve she seemed to be hovering, like a species of human crow waiting for victims, somewhere about her front garden, or, if she wasn't there, a faintly perceptible motion of her front parlour window-curtains amply proved that she was 'on the spy,' as the servant at No. 2 had it. Bless your life, she knew precisely what all the people on the row had had for dinner, and whether it had agreed with them, and she could tell you exactly which house had cockroaches, and at what hour the erratic man at No 8 came home every evening. She had counted the patches in every garment hung out in every back garden, and, by means of interviewing postmen, milkmen, servant girls, and hangers on generally of the other tenants, she had managed to acquaint herself with the personal affairs of everyone In her neighbourhood. She actually tried to pump me, sir, and I think, as a consequence, that she heard some of the most astounding tarradiddles that [that] ever emanated from anyone save Baron Munchausen and the writers of American snake stories.
I have had musical neighbours of course, sir — quite a variety of them, in fact, from young persons practising the 'Maiden's Prayer' to florid men who nearly blew themselves inside out by struggling with trombones and bombardons. Remonstrances having proved in vain in their case, I have had actually to resort to acts of personal violence, and a reference to my diary shows me that the pecuniary penalties I have been mulcted in as a consequence would, had they been judiciously hoarded up, have provided me with a decent competence in my old age. As for amateur gardeners, sir, I have had quite a host of them next door to me from time to time. These are the men who are perpetually lodging complaints about one’s dog or one’s cat or one's hens having invaded their domains, and who go to the expense of a shot gun, and threaten that if one doesn't restrain one’s domestic animals, serious consequences to one's own person may ensue. I have come to the deliberate conclusion, sir, that the only benefit and satisfaction there is about having a neighbour with a garden immediately adjoining is that one can throw slugs, worms, weeds stones and caterpillars out of one's own domain into his, and if he happen to be in his garden at the time and a shower of lively lob worms perchance should fall upon his unprotected head, what's the odds so long as one is happy? It is a peculiarity of human nature, sir (and one that you may very likely have noticed), that the owner of a garden always throws his debris into the territory of his immediate neighbour.
I was speaking about domestic pets a minute or two ago. I have suffered much from the owners of such, sir. I well remember a parrot next door to me. When I was working, it usually was swearing, for it was a parrot of decidedly lax habits, and its stock of expletives was something to strike envy even into the bosom of the average betting man. When it was not impotently and hoarsely blaspheming, it was indulging in a singularly faithful imitation of the creaking of the railway waggons at a shunting station on the line just near. I was utterly unable to cope with this parrot; it was more than a match for me on all points. I am afraid that I used bad language towards it, sir, but under such circumstances it refrained from replying to me in kind — it, in fact, became for the nonce a bird that accorded rigidly with the proprieties — and contented itself by sadly ejaculating at intervals, 'For shame, for shame!' The only thing that ever ridded me of its undesirable presence was a shower of rain, the beginning of which was always the signal for it to scream loudly and plaintively, 'Hannah, Hannah,' that being the name of a trusted domestic who was expected to bear it indoors when this cry arose.
Of course, sir, I have lived near litigious neighbours, choleric persons who laboured under a perpetual grievance regarding the line of demarcation between my garden and theirs — splenetic men who threatened to have the law of me because my chimney smoked, or I had driven a tin tack into their wall, or because my youngest boy's ball had been dashed against their clean sheets hung out to dry, or I had coughed or sneezed without permission, and thus undermined the foundations of their jerry-built villa, or done something or other to encroach upon what they conceived were their undoubted rights and privileges. I have generally bottled them up, sir, by assuring them that I fairly revel in law — that nobody, in short, stirs my pulse like a good old 'law do.' I have offered to accept service of as many writs as ever they could issue against me.
Oh, sir, and haven't I had some borrowing neighbours? Rather! I have generally found that the peculiar idiosyncrasy of the borrowing neighbour is astonishing for the loan of baking tins or mustard — and I have given them mustard with a vengeance sometimes. Of course it doesn't matter that they returned the battered remnants of the baking tins; one must be neighbourly, you know. Of course it is only just and proper that they should return your best dinner service eight pieces short; that they should nearly strip your house of all the hardware, and that when you lend them a cup—full of prime something at three-and-six the pound, they should respond by sending you in a thimble-full of sweepings at one-and-nine (with a jack-in-the- box for the children given in) — it is quite neighbourly, don't you see?
I have had neighbours who conceived it their duty to make complimentary calls — about dinner time; neighbours who disappeared abruptly — with half the books in one's library; neighbours who walked backwards and forwards in front of one's domicile during whole Sundays at a stretch, mentally taking stock, as the phrase goes; young men neighbours of the jackanapes order, who threw kisses at my daughters as they sat by the window; neighbours, who — oh, bother neighbours, 'a plague to all their houses.' I have only written this article 'to aggravate the neighbours,' as the song says.
Last modified 13 May 2022