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 passing of the Sunday Closing Act 1881, which closed public houses on a Sunday, led to an increase in the number of licensed private clubs in Cardiff from 31 to 141 within just five years, with the reault that Sunday drinkers still had to manage themselves and their door-keys. — David Skilton

This lady is anxious that something should be invented for redness of nose. Can no one make a suggestion?

ATHER a wide subject, this, sir, isn't it? Perhaps I didn't tell you what caused me to take it up. Well, in years gone by I knew a very clever inventor, who had been a school-fellow of mine. He would sometimes draw large sums for an invention, and then, whilst other people were literally coining money out of his ingenuity, he would go out and paint the town red until his money was exhausted, and he had to begin inventing something else. I met I him the other day, sir, and I ventured to remark to him that about the only clever thing he was never capable of inventing was something to keep himself sober, and 'pon my word, sir, that is one of the inventions that is badly wanted by a lot of men. I am one of those persons who distinctly hold that the world is getting more sober every day (though I do not for one moment think that rabid teetotal lecturers and pamphleteers have done much towards this good end; I rather attribute it to the spread of education and to a higher level of intelligence amongst the people generally), and I cherish the belief that to give the coup de grace to excessive drinking (except in isolated cases), all that is now required is a good, sound, non-intoxicating beverage that is, at the same time, comforting and pleasing to the palate, and that does [not] make the drinker feel like a gasometer in full working order or a balloon just about to seek the ether. That is one of the greatest social regenerators yet to be discovered, and till it is invented we must go on ‘putting down’ drink as usual. I only mention it because no article on inventions that are badly wanted would be complete without some reference to it.

Something certainly ought to be invented to supersede this specimen.

And I should like some genius to invent a pair of tongs in the slightest degree calculated to act as they are intended – some tongs that could even compete with fingers, in fact. Who has not, when he has been visiting a lady and made show of putting a lump of coal on the fire, grossly muddled the whole business? Grasp the lump of coal as you will with the tongs in vogue, it is sure to slip down out of these butter-fingered contrivances, and then there is a big crash on the hearth, and bits of coal go merrily sailing all over you, your hostess, and the hearthrug. Nothing like fingers in such a case as that. It is in these common and simple things that the greatness of invention comes in. Who has ever succeeded in preventing a man’s trousers bagging at the knee? I have tried all sorts of devices myself, and I never found one yet that fully answered – my knees still ‘get the bulge’ on [advantage over] me somehow. Perhaps that may arise from the fact that my knees are of an unusually obtrusive and forward disposition. I have an un-kneesy feeling that such is the case.

. Now how nice this swell would look if his trousers would not bag out at the knees!

Could anyone – now I ask you – invent an improvement on this?

I know a man, sir, who has spent years and an infinity of money in trying to invent something to keep down a ‘toppin’ of hair that will stick up in a fretful-porcupine sort of way from the back part of his scalp; but, alas for his prospects as a beau of the first water, he has never succeeded yet, though he has tried to glue the toppin down, has endeavoured to wax it down, has literally hammered it down with a brush, has stuck it down with transparent isinglass, has had it cut off and allowed it to grow again – the more he does at it, the more stuck up does it get, and the less amenable to proper control. He says that it has ruined his social prospects, for when he the other day fell upon his knees before the girl of his heart (who has not a few shekels in her own right) and poured forth his tale of love, he saw her waver, saw that she distinctly entertained his offer, and then her eyes fell upon his countenance– no,’toppin’ – an instant revulsion of feeling ensued and all was over; she could not stand that toppin. And look at the generality of so-called self-cleansing pipes, sir – do they answer the purpose for which they are sold? Certainly not. I have had many that were said to be absolutely infallible, and I have swallowed gallons of nicotine with trusting to them. A good honest, short clay has been worth a hundred of them. And those awful frauds, the innumerable cigarette-making machine[s]? Well, regarding these, your cigarette, when you have made it, generally comes ungummed, or it is like a hedge-stake, or a thorn stick, all ‘nobbles,’ and carrying the cumbrous machine about with you suggests to your mind the idea that you are a machine broker bearing his stock about with him. Good old fingers; they have the pull here again. And to leave the tobacco branch, sir, cannot someone invent a really useful glove-fastener that on the one hand is not always coming off (like a button) and that on the other does not suggest a complicated machine – like the clasps often used?

Lady Audley’s Secret. The hair apparent. Can no one invent a wig that is not absurdly palpable?.

As for greater inventions, calculated to regenerate mankind, there is a wide field for the ingenious. A patent shaving, washing, and dressing machine that a man could step into first thing in a morning when he was late for business with absolute certainty of coming out fully washed, dressed, and shaved would, I feel confident, make the fortune of the inventor. And a magnetic latch-key – a latch-key that would at once travel of the hole of the lock without any long search on the part of the wielder of the key (and without any expenditure of matches on this part) would be an immense boon to such members of clubs as are used to returning home in the small hours of the morning. I mentioned matches just now, sir. How about a wax match that could be guaranteed to strike without burning the striker’s forefinger about once in ten times? Oh, sir, what have I not suffered in the way of imperfect wax matches! And in the familiar flask containing a small drop of something comforting which many men carry about with them – is it not a failure? Ought it not to be superseded? Undoubtedly! It is fearfully bulky and weighty when you really want to carry a good ‘nip’ with you and then you have to go through quite an elaborate process in the way of unscrewing the top, being all the while exposed to the gaze of the mob. But how about a hollow walking cane as a refreshment flask? Two turns of the top, adjusted on the screw system, a dude-like affection of sucking the top of one’s cane – and a good stiff draught, eh! No need then for one to leave the stalls of the theatre, causing spiteful people to say, ‘Do you see Blank, there! He’s off out to wet his whistle, as usual.’

Last modified 15 February 2022