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.
Samuel utters the usual nonsense about women which was in general currency, at the time, but he becomes amusing when he turns his attention to men and their wishful thinking about their appeal to women. A ‘seeming glass’ is a looking-glass in which one sees mythical or imaginary things and things distant in time or space. A ’masher’, Samuel explains elsewhere, is ‘the sort of young man who fancies that he can overcome and overawe everybody by the potency of his attractions’ (column of 12th May 1888). His mockery eventually reflects back on Samuel himself, for ‘[w]e are a vain lot, we men’. The ulster that is so useful in concealing inadequacies in the leg department is strictly speaking a day-time overcoat with a built-in cloak reaching to the elbows. In the illustration of the ulster, however, the feature emphasised is the neat, tailored waist. ‘A 1’ is the highest rating of a ship for insurance purposes. Diamond cut diamond is a situation in which two equally devious people interact. —David Skilton
The gentleman who fancies that it is his ‘fetching’ smile which ‘mashes’ the ladies.
AM firmly of opinion, sir, that men are every bit as vain of their persons as women are, and without as much excuse for being so. Outward graces and a fair seeming are about the sole thing upon which a woman has to depend for the promotion of any schemes in life she may desire to compass, and there is no wonder, therefore, that she should by every means in her power – natural and artificial – seek to make herself attractive in the sight of a man. But it is different in the case of a man. Given that he is decently neat and tidy, his outward adornment will not influence his career one jot, save amongst a class of people whose good opinion is scarcely worth having. But does the average man take less care of his person than the generality of women? – not a bit of it; but if the results in his case are not as satisfactory as they are in the case of women it is because he is an altogether uglier animal that is almost past mending. Doesn't he give the most minute directions to his tailor, and send back the clothes again and again if he finds a wrinkle in them? Isn't be always fiddling about his moustache when he has one, and is be not always endeavouring to pull one out by means of the two or three hairs on each side of his upper lip when he hasn't got one? Of course he is! And isn't he in a howling rage if he has a pimple on his nose, or if his ‘toppin’ won't lie down flat with his other locks, or if the barber happens to have cut his hair too close, or to have encroached too much on his whiskers whilst shaving? Doesn't he, when at his office, invariably keep a ‘seeming’ glass and a pocket comb handy – and doesn't his cravat seem to cost endless adjustment whenever he happens to stand in the vicinity of a mirror, or a convenient shop window? Doesn't he take his watch out when no mirror is near, open the back thereof and then gaze at his reflection in the bright side of the case? Of course be does! And doesn't he – but there, what is the use of multiplying examples! Every man knows perfectly well that his fellow-man is an egregiously vain animal.
‘E’m; widow with £10,000 wants a husband. Think that’ll just suit a nice-looking fellow like myself.’
This brings me, sir, to the consideration of those vainest specimens of the male animal – lady killers. Would-be, and would-be-thought, lady killers, sir, are more numerous than most people think; indeed, I should hold that they are the rule amongst male beings and not the exception. If you can't quite believe this, just address yourself to about the plainest and least attractive man you are intimate with (never mind his age – the older the better) and say to him, ‘Well, you're a nice man, you are, I didn't think that you were a masher. You've made a pretty impression on Miss Blank, you have. Why, anybody can see that she is fairly “gone” on you.’ And then see that man (I don't care how usually wise or learned or business like he may be, or how cynical be may pretend to be) relax his face, and snigger and pull down his waistcoat, and assume an air of conscious triumph, and look at you knowingly, as much as to say, ‘So you've guessed it, have you? I'm a bit of a dog, I am, when I do try to make an impression.’ Just try it, sir. Were you to be-butter the said man with fulsome flattery proceeding entirely from yourself, it is pretty well on the cards that he would regard you with suspicion and think that you wanted to ask some favour of him; but strike at his vanity through the womankind, and you have him, unless he is a very impervious man indeed.
The gentleman has such a good figure – when he has his ulster on.
Yes, sir, nearly all men are either lady killers, or they like to pose as such, or they aspire to be thought such. A clever woman can, without saying a single word that might not be addressed to the merest acquaintance, or doing anything which could bring upon her the censure of Mrs Grundy, persuade at the same time quite a dozen men that she was particularly struck by them, and that simply because they are the victims of their own self-admiration. Any actress or barmaid could tell you this. Think of the vast army of noodles who, if a girl even glances at them from the stage, think that she has fallen in love with them, and who instantly seek to make her acquaintance, to the great detriment of their monetary resources in about nine cases out of ten. I have known chorus girls who have daily written as many letters as a Prime Minister to ‘mashers’ in different towns, each one of these letters being of the most common-place order. But the recipient of each of those letters no doubt thought all the time he was A 1 at Lloyd's in the affections of the sender. The great generality of man, sir, depend upon it, fall in love with girls (or marry these girls without loving them with any particular amount of passion) because they think that the said girls are in love with them -– and would die of an ‘all-devouring passion — ha, ha, ha!’ Poor little girl," they argue, “she's tremendously in love with me; I mustn’t blight her affections; no telling what she might do to herself – I'd better propose.’ I was speaking about what barmaids see of the lady killing propensities of mankind – and they do see a lot. There are unspeakable idiots who have dawdled the best years of their lives away (as far as their leisure is concerned, at least) in whispering soft nothings into the ears of successive generations of barmaids, and each of these bifurcated noodles has imagined that he and he alone, was the chosen one in his adorable one's affections, even after it dawned upon him that he was getting no ‘forrarder’ in his courting.
These are the legs of the lady killer depicted above – when he has not got hi ulster on.
A common class of lady killer is the aged one – the hale and hearty gentleman who darkly hints, with many suggestive chuckles, what havoc he played amongst the girls when he was a bit younger, and who, as he says, knows how to mash them whenever he ‘lays himself open,’ etc., to do no. This is the gentleman who winks and tells you that an old bird is at any time worth two young ones so far as knowledge of the tactics to be pursued goes in the way of courting. And when any young lady takes it into her head to flirt with him just for the fun of the thing, and of course in doing so goes to greater lengths with a man old enough to be her grandfather than she would with a young man, no one on earth could persuade that lively old gentleman that he has not completely enchanted that girl.
This the sort of gentleman the office boy likes to read about.
As for the young men, sir, they nearly all fancy that every girl who makes herself decently agreeable to them is in love with them, and they say to their most intimate acquaintances, ‘If I were only a marrying man, I am certain that I should “make up” to so-and-so. I expect she'll marry Tom Suchaone out of chagrin.’ Well, well, he little knows who is the man.
We are a vain lot, we men, and the reason so many of us get caught so inextricably in the matrimonial toils is that we don't give the opposite sex credit for being about as clever as we are -– or a little bit cleverer – in the game of diamond cut diamond.
Last modified 21 February 2022