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Punch, or the London Charivari, Volume 100, February 14, 1891   By:

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VOL. 100.

February 14, 1891.




It is customary for the self righteous moralists who puff themselves into a state of Jingo complacency over the failings of foreign nations, to declare with considerable unction that the domestic hearth, which every Frenchman habitually tramples upon, is maintained in unviolated purity in every British household. The rude shocks which Mr. Justice BUTT occasionally administers to the national conscience are readily forgotten, and the chorus of patriotic adulation is stimulated by the visits which the British censor finds it necessary to pay (in mufti) to the courts of wickedness in continental capitals. It may be that among our unimaginative race the lack of virtue is not presented in the gaudy trappings that delight our neighbours. Our wickedness is coarser and less attractive. It gutters like a cheap candle when contrasted with the steady brilliancy of the Parisian article. Public opinion, too, holds amongst us a more formidable lash, and wields it with a sterner and more frequent severity. But it is impossible to deny that our society, however strict its professed code may be, can and does produce examples of those lapses from propriety which the superficial public deems to be typically and exclusively continental. Not only are they produced, but their production and their continuance are tolerated by a certain class, possibly limited, but certainly influential.


Amongst these examples, both of lapse and of toleration, the Tolerated Husband holds a foremost place. Certain conditions are necessary for his proper production. He must be not only easy going, but unprincipled, unprincipled, that is, rather in the sense of having no particular principles of any kind than in that of possessing and practising notoriously bad ones. He must have a fine contempt for steady respectability, and an irresistible inclination to that glittering style of untrammelled life which is believed by those who live it to be the true Bohemianism. He should be weak in character, he may be pleasant in manner and appearance, and he must be both poor and extravagant. If to these qualities be added, first a wife, young, good looking, and in most respects similar to her husband, though of a stronger will, and secondly a friend, rich, determined, strictly unprincipled, and thoroughly unscrupulous, the conditions which produce the Tolerated Husband may be said to be complete.

The Tolerated Husband may have been at one time an officer in a good regiment. Having married, he finds that his pay, combined with a moderate private income, and a generous allowance of indebtedness, due to the gratification of expensive tastes, is insufficient to maintain him in that position of comfort to which he conceives himself to be entitled. He therefore abandons the career of arms, and becomes one of those who attempt spasmodically to redeem commercial professions from the taint of mere commercialism by becoming commercial themselves. It is certain that the gilded society which turns up a moderately aristocratic nose at trade and tradesmen, looks with complete indulgence upon an ex officer who dabbles in wine, or associates himself with a new scheme for the easy manufacture of working men's boots. An agency to a Fire and Life Assurance Society is, of course, above reproach, and the Stock Exchange, an institution which, in the imagination of reckless fools, provides as large a cover as charity, is positively enviable a reputation which it owes to the fancied ease with which half a crown is converted into one hundred thousand pounds by the mere stroke of an office pen.

The Tolerated Husband tries all these methods, one after another, with a painful monotony of failure in each. Yet, somehow or other, he still keeps up appearances, and manages to live in a certain style not far removed from luxury. He entertains his friends at elaborate dinners, both at home and at expensive restaurants; he is a frequent visitor at theatres, where he often pays for the stalls of many others as well as for his own... Continue reading book >>

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