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Eliza’s Husband
by [?]

“Suppose,” I said to one of the junior clerks at our office the other day, “you were asked to describe yourself in a few words, could you do it?”

His answer that he could describe me in two was no answer at all. Also the two words were not a description, and were so offensive that I did not continue the conversation.

I believe there are but few people who could give you an accurate description of themselves. Often in the train to and from the city, or while walking in the street, I think over myself–what I have been, what I am, what I might be if, financially speaking, it would run to it. I imagine how I should act under different circumstances–on the receipt of a large legacy, or if for some specially clever action I were taken into partnership, or if a mad bull came down the street. I may say that I make a regular study of myself. I have from time to time recorded on paper some of the more important incidents of our married life, affecting Eliza and myself, and I present them to you, gentle reader, in this little volume. I think they show how with a very limited income–and but for occasional assistance from Eliza’s mother I do not know how we should have got along–a man may to a great extent preserve respectability, show taste and judgment, and manage his wife and home.

The more I think about myself, the more–I say it in all modesty–the subject seems to grow. I should call myself many-sided, and in many respects unlike ordinary men. Take, for instance, the question of taste. Some people would hardly think it worth while to mention a little thing like taste; but I do. I am not rich, but what I have I like to have ornamental, though not loud. Only the other day the question of glass-cloths for the kitchen turned up, and though those with the red border were threepence a dozen dearer than the plain, I ordered them without hesitation. Eliza changed them next day, contrary to my wishes, and we had a few words about it, but that is not the point. The real point is that if your taste comes out in a matter of glass-cloths for the kitchen, it will also come out in antimacassars for the drawing-room and higher things.

Again, ordinary men–men that might possibly call themselves my equals–are not careful enough about respectability. Everywhere around me I see betting on horse-races, check trousers on Sunday, the wash hung out in the front garden, whiskey and soda, front steps not properly whitened, and the door-handle not up to the mark. I could point to houses where late hours on Sunday are so much the rule that the lady of the house comes down in her dressing-gown to take in the milk–which, I am sure, Eliza would sooner die than do. There are families–in my own neighbourhood, I am sorry to say–where the chimneys are not swept regularly, beer is fetched in broad daylight, and attendance at a place of worship on Sunday is rather the exception than the rule. Then, again, language is an important point; to my mind nothing marks a respectable man more than the use of genteel language. There may have been occasions when excessive provocation has led me to the use of regrettable expressions, but they have been few. As a rule I avoid not only what is profane, but also anything that is slangy. I fail to understand this habit which the present generation has formed of picking up some meaningless phrase and using it in season and out of season. For some weeks I have been greatly annoyed by the way some of the clerks use the phrase “What, ho, she bumps!” If you ask them who bumps, or how, or why, they have no answer but fits of silly laughter. Probably, before these words appear in print that phrase will have been forgotten and another equally ridiculous will have taken its place. It is not sensible; what is worse, it is not to my mind respectable. Do not imagine that I object to humour in conversation. That is a very different thing. I have made humourous remarks myself before now, mostly of rather a cynical and sarcastic kind.