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.

In its engaging, personal style, this article is reminiscent of great essayists of the past, such and Hazlitt or Thackeray, and requires no further commentary. —David Skilton

A very superior person indeed.

here is something gallingly offensive to me, personally, sir, in your spick and span ‘superior’ persons – the men and women who affect to look at everything from such a lofty standpoint, and who never by any chance violate (in public at least) any of the smaller proprieties of life. From the very superior polish on their most superior toes to the aggravatingly neat arrangement of their hair, they are offensive to me, and I often feel disposed to wonder whether they are flesh and blood people, with human impulses and human passions at all. Your average superior person of the male sex is a man who smiles pityingly whilst you are enunciating any given opinion, but who yet wraps himself up in the mantle of his own superior wisdom, and never ventures to adduce any argument to controvert what you have said; he is the sort of man who strongly condemns smoking in the streets lest some of his superior friends might see him; he would never think of having his boots blacked in the streets; he would shun anything like the exchange of civility with a stranger in an omnibus; he would never think of speaking even to his most intimate friend of his wife as anything but ‘Mrs So-and-so;’ he would never think of shaking hands in a public place with any man who had happened recently to ‘come a cropper’ of some kind; he would never think, even though he only went to the theatre once a year (and then with an ‘order’) of going in anything but a dress suit; he only attends such hotels, when he wishes to unbend just a little, as are likely to bring him into contact with persons as are hereafter likely to be socially or commercially valuable to him. If he do but dine off a bloater he has it served up in an eminently stylish manner, and he always knows how to make servants ‘keep their place.’ He has a tantalisingly cool, not to say fishlike, aspect in summer, and he generally reminds one of a sleek tom-cat in the winter. He would never think of choosing a jolly companion; in fact, he rather mistrusts all jovial and facetious men, they are too apt to see through his little meanness and his shallow pretensions.

73b ‘Superior’ paterfamilias:– ‘Drat your parties. Looking like a swell costs a bit too much for me.’

Of course, dress is everything with the superior person, but anything like unconventionality in the way of garments he regards with pious horror. He must have the same sort of frock coat, tall hat, gloves, and umbrella as are sported by those other superior beings of his acquaintance, Jinks, Binks, Minx, and Pinks. And he would never dream of walking down the street (except it were a very obscure street indeed) with a shabby or seedy man – unless he happened to know full well that the seedy man had a ‘goodly banking account’ and he would condone anything on the score of his ‘friends[’]’ ‘eccentricity.’ The superior man never unbends or comes down from his lofty altitude except you happen to know from what an obscure lot he comes, and then, perchance, he condescends to be affable and familiar with you even though you do happen to be something of a Bohemian, and to smoke a briar-root pipe in the streets, and to be amiable, free, and happy.

A highly superior’ girl.

And he may even, when he does not expect any of his superior friends, invite you to his house and, if he should happen to be a little bit substantial, he will show you in what style he does the thing by the display of his plate and his wine. In his house you will find that everything is done in quite a superior manner. All the furniture will be as superior and as stiff (though perhaps a little more polished) as the proprietor thereof, and you will find that he has christened all his children by eminently superior names, though he does not, as you possibly know, happen to belong by right of birth to any of the great families whose names are scattered about amongst his offspring. His own name possibly is Peter, and that of his superior wife Jane Ann, but you will soon learn that in his family he has an Edgar Fiizwiiliam, George Grosvenor, Carnegie Vilders John de Beauregard, a Florence Eva Edgithaa Cecilia Somers Cecil, and that possibly, his eldest boy (a most superior boy who calls a club a ‘clab,’ and a basket a ‘bars- ket’), is known as Augustus Vyner-Vyner (Smith). All his nice little daughters chop up their words in such a superior fashion, and the young gentlemen (Master Vyner-Vyner, ‘Master’ – the servants are specially instructed about this – Master Carnegie Villiers, etc.), are such mincing, self-repressed, odious little prigs.

Nice ‘superior’ young man for a tea party.

And the female superior person (who probably has been the mistress of a small school, or a ladies’ maid in her time), speaks so precisely, and she talks so loftily about ‘our set,’ and also does so impress the tradespeople, and she receives the parson and the other visitors in such a graciously dignified way, and she wouldn’t think of having anybody at her table who didn’t happen to be as egregious a human doll and as ‘snobbess’ as herself. If you venture a small witticism upon any matter of passing interest (about which you really don’t care two straws) when you are at her table, she looks rather sad than otherwise; says gravely, ‘do you think so,’ and then for a moment relapses into a sort of dreamy state, as though she were pondering on the depth of your folly. And she never even affects to be sentimental, or given to the promptings of human sympathy, except when she happens to have a tenth-rate novelist or a teacup and saucer actor (who is losing his small patrimony by appearing as the star of his own touring company) at her table. And then how sublimely meaning are her adjectives of praise bestowed upon the beautiful and the true.

The very superior child wants shaking.

It may be said that the unnatural self-restraint which the superior person may be supposed to place upon himself renders his life somewhat of a burden to him – but this is not so. It is not self-restraint at all which he exercises. He is by nature quite bereft of the faculty of enjoyment. His characteristics are more those of the fish than of warmer-blooded creatures. The only gratification of his life is to say, like the Pharisee [Luke 18:10-14], ‘I am not as other men are.[‘]

Last modified 24 February 2022