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 copy in the National Library of Wales is damaged and is partly illegible at the end, although one can deduce from his spelling and pronunciation that Samuel is becoming increasingly inebriated. ‘Tommy, make room for your uncle’ was a popular song by T. S. Lonsdale, sung by W.B. Fair. ‘Nigger’ mistrelising was singing with blacked up faces. A T-light was a type of gas lighting-device utilizing a pipe in the shape of a letter T, and giving a far dimmer, yellow light than the later, brighter, whiter gas-mantles. A ‘serious’s family was one given to excessive religious observation. ‘Pickles’ meant ‘nonsense’, and could also be a jeering and insulting exclamation. A ‘goak’ was a practical joke, the word being coined by Artemus Ward (pseudonym of the American humourist Charles Farrar Browne, 1834-1867). Concert pitch was an agreed pitch for orchestral instruments and hence a state of readiness. A blue-pill contained a compound of mercury, and was used in the treatment of syphilis and disorders of the liver, and as a purgative. —David Skilton
The sort of girl Samuel likes to take down to dinner. Very tasty.
HAVE spent some very peculiar Christmas Days in my time, sir. I have spent them variously – in bed, in frantic jubilation, in ‘nigger’ minstrelising, in impecuniosity, in – well, in a state of very artificial hilarity, and I have spent them in a becoming, not to say religious spirit. I once spent one, sir, in rehearsing a pantomime of which I was the unhappy author: well, when I say ‘author,’ I mean ‘nailer- together.’ The manager had driven things late – he afterwards, by the way, drove the payment of my cheque very late indeed – and he insisted upon calling a rehearsal on Christmas Day, just to ‘pull things’ together, as he said. Instead of feasting on turkey and plum pudding, I had to sit under a dismal T light on a dingy stage, cutting out all my best lines, and writing in for the villain such couplets as
‘Courage. Courage -- just you pass the bottle.
'Twill give me nerve to go and cut his throttle.’
The head of ‘The Serious Family.’ A nice cheerful host – I don’t think.
No festive champagne for me that day, sir – I had to content myself with sharing at a small bottle of old Scotch with the low comedy ‘merchant’ – and, oh, he had such a swallow! – whilst a few seedy men and very curl-papery women went over the same lines over and over again, and the stage-damager (manager, I mean) swore lustily at intervals. But I felt quite happy, sir, after all, when the lessee of that temple of the drama very testily told me that he thought the whole thing would be a ‘frost.’ You can nearly always bet your bottom dollar that a piece of any kind will be a conspicuous success when the manager who is producing it gets gloomy about it.
I once spent another Christmas Day without a proper dinner, sir. Some scoundrel of a fellow wrote me a letter, in the name of a friend of mine, particularly inviting me to dine with him on Christmas Day, and I went about eight miles to a lonely place, only to find that the thing was all a hoax, that the letter was a forgery, and that my friend had gone south to visit relations of his. It was what is called a ‘put up do,’ sir; some fellow had been base enough (and at Christmas time, too, the mean hound) to ‘have me for the mug,’ as he no doubt would say. I had to content myself that day with cold beef and pickles, and I would most assuredly have shared my pickles with the author of that ‘goak’ had I been able to ascertain his honoured name – he would, indeed, have had a hot dinner, with shoe leather for dessert. But I could even tolerate this kind of a Christmas Day in comparison with one I once on a tim[e] had to spend with what I may call a ‘serious’ family. You may judge when I tell you that this cheerful family's idea of spending the festive season consisted in singing hymns, offering up extempore prayers, and attending three services at a neighbouring conventicle, where a very thin man with a raspy voice preached at inordinate length. At the Christmas dinner all intoxicants were eschewed, as I had foreseen would be the case from a motto which adorned the mantelpiece, and which ran to the effect that ‘water is best.’ I am by no means sure that water (by itself) is best on a Christmas Day; at any rate, I hadn't regarded the matter in that light before – or since. ‘I am sure that Mr Samuel,’ said the host, ‘will willingly accord with the rules of the house in regard to intoxicants.’ I stammered out that I would, and actually accepted a glass of ginger wine as a sort of compromise. I wonder that I am alive to tell the story. The eldest daughter, who looked as though she had been brought up in an ice house, asked me ‘what my favourite hymn was.’ In a moment of abstraction I believe that I replied, ‘Tommy, make room: for your uncle’ – at any rate, I must have said something inappropriate, as I was immediately asked whether I was ill. But I gave them the slip during the evening, sir, and made up for lost time at the ‘Dog and Compasses,’ and only re-appeared at that happy homestead when the last hymn was being offered up.
The sort of host that Samuel likes. Chorus: ‘Come along, come along, have another.’
When I say that I have spent several Christmas Days in bed, I ought to add that this has generally been the result of my having somewhat anticipated Christmas in the way of festivity – I have begun about a week before-hand, in fact, just to get myself up to concert pitch, as it were, for the all-joyous time. I am sorry to say that on these occasions I have had no appetite on Christmas Day, but have breakfasted on soda-water, dined on a little beef-tea highly seasoned, and supped on blue-pill. In this way I have managed to husband my strength for the New Year junketing.
Final bite of small boy at Christmas dinner. After that the doctor.
I once went skating on Christmas Day, sir, and the ice seemed to say that it couldn't bear me. It let me in, and I was hauled out by means of a very sharp hook, which left a wound that I can feel in frosty weather even now. But I did make merry even on that day. The friends I had about me assured me that hot grog was the best preventive medicine that I could take in order to avoid cold. I followed their advice, for once, and I have been informed and believe that my feelings so overcame me that I was put to bed vowing that there was ‘nothin’ like skatin', speshly when one got through th' i-i-ishe.’ I once spent a portion of a delightful Christmas Day, too, in the work-house – watching the inmates feed, and helping to dispense the tobacco to the men. I am bound to say that I have enjoyed myself far less at more pretentious gatherings. I wonder how many virtual paupers in broadcloth and satin there are who sit down to dinner every Christmas Day that comes round? I warrant me that the tradesmen who supply the feed could tell you something about that. The inmates of that workhouse only experienced one little dish of bitterness in their Christmas cup of pleasure, and that was when I sang them a ‘comic’ song. However, I did it with the best intentions.
The sort of man who will be very much in evidence at Christmas.
Of roystering, rollicking Chritmases [sic] I have had not a few, good my lord. I have, greatly daring, dined heavily yet judiciously, and I have felt at evens with all humanity. I have expressed myself to that effect in speech; I have complimented the host, and referred to him as a man I regarded as dearer even than brother; I have proposed the toast of the ‘Laniesh, God blesh i 'em;’ I have even felt inclined to hug the waiting-maids and to shake hands with the waiter; I have kissed antediluvian old maids, under the mistletoe, and I have slapped stiff [and?] starchy old gentlemen on the back. [Page of original damaged.] T ……. sort of Chrismas I should like to spend [ ……… ] all, my patient readers, for I have k[….] a long time now. If any of you […] strangers to me care to invite me […….] you on Christmas Day, I will cer[….] I like to spend my Christmas[ …] usual social groove. I may [….] paragraph is smuggled in ud[…..] the editor won't see it) that all [….] anxious to know my address i[…] may remember me in the way[….] and such like vittles can wri[…] office — but let's have no fowl[…] hampers full of bricks — of [… bows to you, he metaphor[…] health; he wishes you […] and a cellar full of beer […]penn to rite these fue li[…] well as this leeves him a […].
Last modified 22 February 2022