The Diary of a Nobody
"Why should I not publish my diary? I have often seen reminiscences of people I have never even heard of, and I fail to see — because I do not happen to be a 'Somebody' — why my diary should not be interesting. My only regret is that I did not commence it when I was a youth."
This is a daily weblog version of The Diary of a Nobody, written by George Grossmith and originally serialised in Punch magazine in 1888 and 1889. Bringing Charles Pooter into the 21st century, his diary is now available as a selection of weblog-style RSS feeds which you can subscribe to, via a feed aggregator, or through certain browsers. The diary restarts on April 3 each year.
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February 20.—The first thing that caught my eye on opening the Standard was—“Great Failure of Stock and Share Dealers! Mr. Job Cleanands absconded!” I handed it to Carrie, and she replied: “Oh! perhaps it’s for Lupin’s good. I never did think it a suitable situation for him.” I thought the whole affair very shocking.
Lupin came down to breakfast, and seeing he looked painfully distressed, I said: “We know the news, my dear boy, and feel very sorry for you.” Lupin said: “How did you know? who told you?” I handed him the Standard. He threw the paper down, and said: “Oh I don’t care a button for that! I expected that, but I did not expect this.” He then read a letter from Frank Mutlar, announcing, in a cool manner, that Daisy Mutlar is to be married next month to Murray Posh. I exclaimed, “Murray Posh! Is not that the very man Frank had the impudence to bring here last Tuesday week?” Lupin said: “Yes; the ‘Posh’s-three-shilling-hats’ chap.”
We all then ate our breakfast in dead silence.
In fact, I could eat nothing. I was not only too worried, but I cannot and will not eat cushion of bacon. If I cannot get streaky bacon, I will do without anything.
When Lupin rose to go I noticed a malicious smile creep over his face. I asked him what it meant. He replied: “Oh! only a little consolation—still it is a consolation. I have just remembered that, by my advice, Mr. Murray Posh has invested £600 in Parachikka Chlorates!”
February 19.—Lupin, before going to town, said: “I am very sorry about those Parachikka Chlorates; it would not have happened if the boss, Job Cleanands, had been in town. Between ourselves, you must not be surprised if something goes wrong at our office. Job Cleanands has not been seen the last few days, and it strikes me several people do want to see him very particularly.”
In the evening Lupin was just on the point of going out to avoid a collision with Gowing and Cummings, when the former entered the room, without knocking, but with his usual trick of saying, “May I come in?”
He entered, and to the surprise of Lupin and myself, seemed to be in the very best of spirits. Neither Lupin nor I broached the subject to him, but he did so of his own accord. He said: “I say, those Parachikka Chlorates have gone an awful smash! You’re a nice one, Master Lupin. How much do you lose?” Lupin, to my utter astonishment, said: “Oh! I had nothing in them. There was some informality in my application—I forgot to enclose the cheque or something, and I didn’t get any. The Guv. loses £18.” I said: “I quite understood you were in it, or nothing would have induced me to speculate.” Lupin replied: “Well, it can’t be helped; you must go double on the next tip.” Before I could reply, Gowing said: “Well, I lose nothing, fortunately. From what I heard, I did not quite believe in them, so I persuaded Cummings to take my £15 worth, as he had more faith in them than I had.”
Lupin burst out laughing, and, in the most unseemly manner, said: “Alas, poor Cummings. He’ll lose £35.” At that moment there was a ring at the bell. Lupin said: “I don’t want to meet Cummings.” If he had gone out of the door he would have met him in the passage, so as quickly as possible Lupin opened the parlour window and got out. Gowing jumped up suddenly, exclaiming: “I don’t want to see him either!” and, before I could say a word, he followed Lupin out of the window.
For my own part, I was horrified to think my own son and one of my most intimate friends should depart from the house like a couple of interrupted burglars. Poor Cummings was very upset, and of course was naturally very angry both with Lupin and Gowing. I pressed him to have a little whisky, and he replied that he had given up whisky; but would like a little “Unsweetened,” as he was advised it was the most healthy spirit. I had none in the house, but sent Sarah round to Lockwood’s for some.
February 18.—Carrie has several times recently called attention to the thinness of my hair at the top of my head, and recommended me to get it seen to. I was this morning trying to look at it by the aid of a small hand-glass, when somehow my elbow caught against the edge of the chest of drawers and knocked the glass out of my hand and smashed it. Carrie was in an awful way about it, as she is rather absurdly superstitious. To make matters worse, my large photograph in the drawing-room fell during the night, and the glass cracked.
Carrie said: “Mark my words, Charles, some misfortune is about to happen.”
I said: “Nonsense, dear.”
In the evening Lupin arrived home early, and seemed a little agitated. I said: “What’s up, my boy?” He hesitated a good deal, and then said: “You know those Parachikka Chlorates I advised you to invest £20 in? I replied: “Yes, they are all right, I trust?” He replied: “Well, no! To the surprise of everybody, they have utterly collapsed.”
My breath was so completely taken away, I could say nothing. Carrie looked at me, and said: “What did I tell you?” Lupin, after a while, said: “However, you are specially fortunate. I received an early tip, and sold out yours immediately, and was fortunate to get £2 for them. So you get something after all.”
I gave a sigh of relief. I said: “I was not so sanguine as to suppose, as you predicted, that I should get six or eight times the amount of my investment; still a profit of £2 is a good percentage for such a short time.” Lupin said, quite irritably: “You don’t understand. I sold your £20 shares for £2; you therefore lose £18 on the transaction, whereby Cummings and Gowing will lose the whole of theirs.”
February 12.—In the evening I spoke to Lupin about his engagement with Daisy Mutlar. I asked if he had heard from her. He replied: “No; she promised that old windbag of a father of hers that she would not communicate with me. I see Frank Mutlar, of course; in fact, he said he might call again this evening.” Frank called, but said he could not stop, as he had a friend waiting outside for him, named Murray Posh, adding he was quite a swell. Carrie asked Frank to bring him in.
He was brought in, Gowing entering at the same time. Mr. Murray Posh was a tall, fat young man, and was evidently of a very nervous disposition, as he subsequently confessed he would never go in a hansom cab, nor would he enter a four-wheeler until the driver had first got on the box with his reins in his hands.
On being introduced, Gowing, with his usual want of tact, said: “Any relation to ‘Posh’s three-shilling hats’?” Mr. Posh replied: “Yes; but please understand I don’t try on hats myself. I take no active part in the business.” I replied: “I wish I had a business like it.” Mr. Posh seemed pleased, and gave a long but most interesting history of the extraordinary difficulties in the manufacture of cheap hats.
Murray Posh evidently knew Daisy Mutlar very intimately from the way he was talking of her; and Frank said to Lupin once, laughingly: “If you don’t look out, Posh will cut you out!” When they had all gone, I referred to this flippant conversation; and Lupin said, sarcastically: “A man who is jealous has no respect for himself. A man who would be jealous of an elephant like Murray Posh could only have a contempt for himself. I know Daisy. She would wait ten years for me, as I said before; in fact, if necessary, she would wait twenty years for me.”
February 11.—Feeling a little concerned about Lupin, I mustered up courage to speak to Mr. Perkupp about him. Mr. Perkupp has always been most kind to me, so I told him everything, including yesterday’s adventure. Mr. Perkupp kindly replied: “There is no necessity for you to be anxious, Mr. Pooter. It would be impossible for a son of such good parents to turn out erroneously. Remember he is young, and will soon get older. I wish we could find room for him in this firm.” The advice of this good man takes loads off my mind. In the evening Lupin came in.
After our little supper, he said: “My dear parents, I have some news, which I fear will affect you considerably.” I felt a qualm come over me, and said nothing. Lupin then said: “It may distress you—in fact, I’m sure it will—but this afternoon I have given up my pony and trap for ever.” It may seem absurd, but I was so pleased, I immediately opened a bottle of port. Gowing dropped in just in time, bringing with him a large sheet, with a print of a tailless donkey, which he fastened against the wall. He then produced several separate tails, and we spent the remainder of the evening trying blindfolded to pin a tail on in the proper place. My sides positively ached with laughter when I went to bed.
February 10, Sunday.—Contrary to my wishes, Carrie allowed Lupin to persuade her to take her for a drive in the afternoon in his trap. I quite disapprove of driving on a Sunday, but I did not like to trust Carrie alone with Lupin, so I offered to go too. Lupin said: “Now, that is nice of you, Guv., but you won’t mind sitting on the back-seat of the cart?”
Lupin proceeded to put on a bright-blue coat that seemed miles too large for him. Carrie said it wanted taking in considerably at the back. Lupin said: “Haven’t you seen a box-coat before? You can’t drive in anything else.”
He may wear what he likes in the future, for I shall never drive with him again. His conduct was shocking. When we passed Highgate Archway, he tried to pass everything and everybody. He shouted to respectable people who were walking quietly in the road to get out of the way; he flicked at the horse of an old man who was riding, causing it to rear; and, as I had to ride backwards, I was compelled to face a gang of roughs in a donkey-cart, whom Lupin had chaffed, and who turned and followed us for nearly a mile, bellowing, indulging in coarse jokes and laughter, to say nothing of occasionally pelting us with orange-peel.
Lupin’s excuse—that the Prince of Wales would have to put up with the same sort of thing if he drove to the Derby—was of little consolation to either Carrie or myself. Frank Mutlar called in the evening, and Lupin went out with him.
February 9.—Exactly a fortnight has passed, and I have neither seen nor heard from Gowing respecting his extraordinary conduct in asking us round to his house, and then being out. In the evening Carrie was engaged marking a half-dozen new collars I had purchased. I’ll back Carrie’s marking against anybody’s. While I was drying them at the fire, and Carrie was rebuking me for scorching them, Cummings came in.
He seemed quite well again, and chaffed us about marking the collars. I asked him if he had heard from Gowing, and he replied that he had not. I said I should not have believed that Gowing could have acted in such an ungentlemanly manner. Cummings said: “You are mild in your description of him; I think he has acted like a cad.”
The words were scarcely out of his mouth when the door opened, and Gowing, putting in his head, said: “May I come in?” I said: “Certainly.” Carrie said very pointedly: “Well, you are a stranger.” Gowing said: “Yes, I’ve been on and off to Croydon during the last fortnight.” I could see Cummings was boiling over, and eventually he tackled Gowing very strongly respecting his conduct last Saturday week. Gowing appeared surprised, and said: “Why, I posted a letter to you in the morning announcing that the party was ‘off, very much off.’” I said: “I never got it.” Gowing, turning to Carrie, said: “I suppose letters sometimes miscarry, don’t they, Mrs. Carrie?” Cummings sharply said: “This is not a time for joking. I had no notice of the party being put off.” Gowing replied: “I told Pooter in my note to tell you, as I was in a hurry. However, I’ll inquire at the post-office, and we must meet again at my place.” I added that I hoped he would be present at the next meeting. Carrie roared at this, and even Cummings could not help laughing.
February 8.—It does seem hard I cannot get good sausages for breakfast. They are either full of bread or spice, or are as red as beef. Still anxious about the £20 I invested last week by Lupin’s advice. However, Cummings has done the same.
January 26.—An extraordinary thing happened. Carrie and I went round to Gowing’s, as arranged, at half-past seven. We knocked and rang several times without getting an answer. At last the latch was drawn and the door opened a little way, the chain still being up. A man in shirt-sleeves put his head through and said: “Who is it? What do you want?” I said: “Mr. Gowing, he is expecting us.” The man said (as well as I could hear, owing to the yapping of a little dog): “I don’t think he is. Mr. Gowing is not at home.” I said: “He will be in directly.”
With that observation he slammed the door, leaving Carrie and me standing on the steps with a cutting wind blowing round the corner.
Carrie advised me to knock again. I did so, and then discovered for the first time that the knocker had been newly painted, and the paint had come off on my gloves—which were, in consequence, completely spoiled.
I knocked at the door with my stick two or three times.
The man opened the door, taking the chain off this time, and began abusing me. He said: “What do you mean by scratching the paint with your stick like that, spoiling the varnish? You ought to be ashamed of yourself.”
I said: “Pardon me, Mr. Gowing invited—”
He interrupted and said: “I don’t care for Mr. Gowing, or any of his friends. This is my door, not Mr. Gowing’s. There are people here besides Mr. Gowing.”
The impertinence of this man was nothing. I scarcely noticed it, it was so trivial in comparison with the scandalous conduct of Gowing.
At this moment Cummings and his wife arrived. Cummings was very lame and leaning on a stick; but got up the steps and asked what the matter was.
The man said: “Mr. Gowing said nothing about expecting anyone. All he said was he had just received an invitation to Croydon, and he should not be back till Monday evening. He took his bag with him.”
With that he slammed the door again. I was too indignant with Gowing’s conduct to say anything. Cummings looked white with rage, and as he descended the steps struck his stick violently on the ground and said: “Scoundrel!”
January 25.—We had just finished our tea, when who should come in but Cummings, who has not been here for over three weeks. I noticed that he looked anything but well, so I said: “Well, Cummings, how are you? You look a little blue.” He replied: “Yes! and I feel blue too.” I said: “Why, what’s the matter?” He said: “Oh, nothing, except that I have been on my back for a couple of weeks, that’s all. At one time my doctor nearly gave me up, yet not a soul has come near me. No one has even taken the trouble to inquire whether I was alive or dead.”
I said: “This is the first I have heard of it. I have passed your house several nights, and presumed you had company, as the rooms were so brilliantly lighted.”
Cummings replied: “No! The only company I have had was my wife, the doctor, and the landlady—the last-named having turned out a perfect trump. I wonder you did not see it in the paper. I know it was mentioned in the Bicycle News.”
I thought to cheer him up, and said: “Well, you are all right now?”
He replied: “That’s not the question. The question is whether an illness does not enable you to discover who are your true friends.”
I said such an observation was unworthy of him. To make matters worse, in came Gowing, who gave Cummings a violent slap on the back, and said: “Hulloh! Have you seen a ghost? You look scared to death, like Irving in Macbeth.” I said: “Gently, Gowing, the poor fellow has been very ill.” Gowing roared with laughter and said: “Yes, and you look it, too.” Cummings quietly said: “Yes, and I feel it too—not that I suppose you care.”
An awkward silence followed. Gowing said: “Never mind, Cummings, you and the missis come round to my place to-morrow, and it will cheer you up a bit; for we’ll open a bottle of wine.”