Pictorial capital Samuel on the Making — and the Breaking of Appointments

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.

Explanatory Notes

‘The Marsden Monument’ is a memorial statue in Woodhouse Moor, Leeds, to H. R Marsden (1823-1876), philanthropist and Member of Parliament.

The story ‘"Ten Minutes” Late; a tale without a Moral’ appeared in the New York Times on 13th April, 1873. —— David Skilton

PPOINTMENTS are fearfully fragile things, sir, to some people; nothing is easier than to break them. The man, sir, who would invent and manufacture unbreakable, toughened appointments (a la the same sort of glass) that would stand the test of wear and tear would be a benefactor to his species. I am not saying this with any particular degree of feeling so far as I personally am concerned, because I never am the victim of the appointment breaker. I never give him a chance for the good reason that I never keep an appointment myself. If I ever, sir, make an appointment with a man who knows me well, an appointment to meet him at a given spot at a certain hour, say, you may bet that he looks for me everywhere but at the spot selected. I only remember having kept one appointment in my life – and that was when I went to get married, and I'm not quite sure whether I haven't regretted that ever since. Sticking to an appointment like that means the appointment sticking to you, and pretty closely, too. I really myself don't see the use of keeping appointments – appointments will certainly not keep you.

Nice Sort of a Night for an Appointment

Why should a man mortgage his time beforehand, draw drafts on the future as it were? It is a positive sin to do so, in my judgment. The PRESENT is all that a man can call his own, and when he goes and says what he will do two hours or two days hence, he is guilty of a piece of irreligious presumption – especially if the appointment is made with a creditor. But of course it may be said by that simple few, the over-conscientious, that if a man once does make an appointment, he ought to keep it. I don't see that a bit. Some appointments are made diplomatically and in the same spirit of white lying which dictates that one should leave word that he is not at home when he really is. It is well for one to make future appointments sometimes – I simply say ‘make,’ mind you. Personally I find it very well indeed, for instance, to make an appointment for a future date with the man who insists on telling me funny stories for publication (Oh, how I do hate that man, and in what a superior degree am I his victim), the person who wants to borrow ‘a [‘]trifle’ till the following Saturday, the man who wants to insure one's life, the individual who wishes to relate the particulars of his own real (or fancied) ailments, and the man who has a grievance. It is well to make appointments with all these persons.

There is an implied compliment paid to a man with whom you make an appointment – even though you don't keep it. Suppose you are a man with whom he would be acquainted, and he is introduced to you and you make an appointment with him for a future meeting; he takes the interest in him implied by this act as a compliment, and even when you do not turn up his vanity will not allow him to imagine for one moment that you never intended to do so. Thus, in making such an appointment you gratify him and don't hurt yourself. I generally can tell when a man doesn't intend to keep an appointment, sir, and I know other men who possess the same faculty. In the first place, there is a suspicious alacrity in falling in with your wishes as to a future meeting about the man who doesn't know ‘what it is to be there.’ He may even go through the solemn and wholly unnecessary farce of booking the time and place of meeting in a pretentious-looking book, and this, too, with a good deal of show and circumstance and hunting up of his piece of blunt lead pencil and other ‘business,’ as they say on the stage. When you leave him he very impressively conjures you to ‘mind and be there,’ and generally endeavours to impress you with the belief that he, above all persons else, is most punctilious in the matter of appointments. And in order to hide the nakedness of his pretensions, he is always the first to affect to think that the man who always[s], does actually keep bis appointments is unreliable.

The Irate 'Pa'

The excuses of the wholly inveterate appointment breaker seldom take any form such as illness, unexpected calamity, etc.; on the contrary, he generally affects to have been at the place of meeting and to believe that you were not. When you get indignant at this sort of treatment, he says in a resigned sort of way, ‘Well, of course, I must take your word for it; I suppose we must have missed each other,’ and then be goes on to some apocryphal anecdote regarding two persons who arranged to meet near the Marsden Monument, and who stood at opposite sides of the pedestal waiting for each other and each never knowing that the other was there. This is always his game. He affects to be beyond suspicion regarding the fulfilment of his engagements; if you arrange to meet him at such and such a railway station in order that you may both proceed to some given spot he affects to be quite positive that he never left the vicinity of the booking-office except for ‘just one moment,’ during which he must of course have missed you. The next time you meet him he quite takes the wind out of your sails ere you can reproach him by saying, ‘You're a pretty fellow, you are,’ and so on.

I have sometimes found it well, sir, to enjoy such a reputation as I do – namely, that of being a persistent appointment breaker. It saves me a lot of trouble and other people a considerable amount of irritation and annoyance. I feel under no sort of moral and haunting (for appointments are haunting, after all) and uncomfortable obligation to turn up, and if I should chance to put in an appearance I pay those with whom I appoint the meeting a superior sort of compliment. Having such a reputation as I have saves me no end of reproaches and contumely. I never affect to keep appointments, and I am therefore at no pains to invent lies to account for the breaking of them. I have known two of the artful persistent appointment breakers I have spoken of, sir, make an appointment with each other; neither of them has kept it, and yet each has pretended that he did -- there are a lot of humbugs in this world.

Nice Fine Night. Swellhead Goes to Meet his Gal.

There are many, many victims of appointments, sir, foolishly scrupulous people who turn up to their own sorrow and undoing. The man who gets on keeping appointments with a girl keeps one once too often at the finish – and gets booked, poor miserable. Then, again, think, and pitifully think, of the young men who stand waiting for a girl till they get wet through, whilst she all the time has gone off to a concert with another fellow. I have known lots of young men who have kept appointments to their grievous sorrow. I say ‘young men’ because when a man gets a bit older he doesn't think quite so conscientiously about the fulfilment of his engagements as he did when he was young – that is, unless he is a born fool. I remember one young lunatic who courted a girl whose father did not approve of him. He waited for the girl to put in an appearance; but her father came instead, and the young man felt sudden pains in the region of his coat tails. I well remember, sir, that in my extrema youth there used to be an exceedingly moral tale placed in my hands dealing with a youth who was always ‘ten minutes late’ (that was the title of the story, I believe)[i] and who consequently (consequently, that is according to the author) came to a bad end, and had to fulfil an appointment with the hangman at the finish in which he was obliged to toe up to time, for the hangman never allows much rope in a matter like that. He has his train to catch, you know, and doesn't care about purposeless delays when probably there are more customers to be served. But, sir, of a truth there are quite as many men who have reason to be thankful that they never are up to time in the matter of appointments as there are men who come to grief through being persistently late. Ask the man who misses the steamboat and afterwards hears with profound complacency that it has been wrecked.

Last modified 17 May 2022