The Diary of a Nobody
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Charles Pooter

May 1.—Carrie said: “I should like to send mother the invitation to look at.”  I consented, as soon as I had answered it.  I told Mr. Perkupp, at the office, with a feeling of pride, that we had received an invitation to the Mansion House; and he said, to my astonishment, that he himself gave in my name to the Lord Mayor’s secretary.  I felt this rather discounted the value of the invitation, but I thanked him; and in reply to me, he described how I was to answer it.  I felt the reply was too simple; but of course Mr. Perkupp knows best.

Charles Pooter

May 3.—Carrie went to Mrs. James, at Sutton, to consult about her dress for next Monday.  While speaking incidentally to Spotch, one of our head clerks, about the Mansion House, he said: “Oh, I’m asked, but don’t think I shall go.”  When a vulgar man like Spotch is asked, I feel my invitation is considerably discounted.  In the evening, while I was out, the little tailor brought round my coat and trousers, and because Sarah had not a shilling to pay for the pressing, he took them away again.

Charles Pooter

May 4.—Carrie’s mother returned the Lord Mayor’s invitation, which was sent to her to look at, with apologies for having upset a glass of port over it.  I was too angry to say anything.

Charles Pooter

May 7.—A big red-letter day; viz., the Lord Mayor’s reception.  The whole house upset.  I had to get dressed at half-past six, as Carrie wanted the room to herself.  Mrs. James had come up from Sutton to help Carrie; so I could not help thinking it unreasonable that she should require the entire attention of Sarah, the servant, as well.  Sarah kept running out of the house to fetch “something for missis,” and several times I had, in my full evening-dress, to answer the back-door.

The last time it was the greengrocer’s boy, who, not seeing it was me, for Sarah had not lighted the gas, pushed into my hands two cabbages and half-a-dozen coal-blocks.  I indignantly threw them on the ground, and felt so annoyed that I so far forgot myself as to box the boy’s ears.  He went away crying, and said he should summons me, a thing I would not have happen for the world.  In the dark, I stepped on a piece of the cabbage, which brought me down on the flags all of a heap.  For a moment I was stunned, but when I recovered I crawled upstairs into the drawing-room and on looking into the chimney-glass discovered that my chin was bleeding, my shirt smeared with the coal-blocks, and my left trouser torn at the knee.

However, Mrs. James brought me down another shirt, which I changed in the drawing-room.  I put a piece of court-plaster on my chin, and Sarah very neatly sewed up the tear at the knee.  At nine o’clock Carrie swept into the room, looking like a queen.  Never have I seen her look so lovely, or so distinguished.  She was wearing a satin dress of sky-blue—my favourite colour—and a piece of lace, which Mrs. James lent her, round the shoulders, to give a finish.  I thought perhaps the dress was a little too long behind, and decidedly too short in front, but Mrs. James said it was à la mode.  Mrs. James was most kind, and lent Carrie a fan of ivory with red feathers, the value of which, she said, was priceless, as the feathers belonged to the Kachu eagle—a bird now extinct.  I preferred the little white fan which Carrie bought for three-and-six at Shoolbred’s, but both ladies sat on me at once.

We arrived at the Mansion House too early, which was rather fortunate, for I had an opportunity of speaking to his lordship, who graciously condescended to talk with me some minutes; but I must say I was disappointed to find he did not even know Mr. Perkupp, our principal.

I felt as if we had been invited to the Mansion House by one who did not know the Lord Mayor himself.  Crowds arrived, and I shall never forget the grand sight.  My humble pen can never describe it.  I was a little annoyed with Carrie, who kept saying: “Isn’t it a pity we don’t know anybody?”

Once she quite lost her head.  I saw someone who looked like Franching, from Peckham, and was moving towards him when she seized me by the coat-tails, and said quite loudly: “Don’t leave me,” which caused an elderly gentleman, in a court-suit, and a chain round him, and two ladies, to burst out laughing.  There was an immense crowd in the supper-room, and, my stars! it was a splendid supper—any amount of champagne.

Carrie made a most hearty supper, for which I was pleased; for I sometimes think she is not strong.  There was scarcely a dish she did not taste.  I was so thirsty, I could not eat much.  Receiving a sharp slap on the shoulder, I turned, and, to my amazement, saw Farmerson, our ironmonger.  He said, in the most familiar way: “This is better than Brickfield Terrace, eh?”  I simply looked at him, and said coolly: “I never expected to see you here.”  He said, with a loud, coarse laugh: “I like that—if you, why not me?”  I replied: “Certainly,” I wish I could have thought of something better to say.  He said: “Can I get your good lady anything?”  Carrie said: “No, I thank you,” for which I was pleased.  I said, by way of reproof to him: “You never sent to-day to paint the bath, as I requested.”  Farmerson said: “Pardon me, Mr. Pooter, no shop when we’re in company, please.”

Before I could think of a reply, one of the sheriffs, in full Court costume, slapped Farmerson on the back and hailed him as an old friend, and asked him to dine with him at his lodge.  I was astonished.  For full five minutes they stood roaring with laughter, and stood digging each other in the ribs.  They kept telling each other they didn’t look a day older.  They began embracing each other and drinking champagne.

To think that a man who mends our scraper should know any member of our aristocracy!  I was just moving with Carrie, when Farmerson seized me rather roughly by the collar, and addressing the sheriff, said: “Let me introduce my neighbour, Pooter.”  He did not even say “Mister.”  The sheriff handed me a glass of champagne.  I felt, after all, it was a great honour to drink a glass of wine with him, and I told him so.  We stood chatting for some time, and at last I said: “You must excuse me now if I join Mrs. Pooter.”  When I approached her, she said: “Don’t let me take you away from friends.  I am quite happy standing here alone in a crowd, knowing nobody!”

As it takes two to make a quarrel, and as it was neither the time nor the place for it, I gave my arm to Carrie, and said: “I hope my darling little wife will dance with me, if only for the sake of saying we had danced at the Mansion House as guests of the Lord Mayor.”  Finding the dancing after supper was less formal, and knowing how much Carrie used to admire my dancing in the days gone by, I put my arm round her waist and we commenced a waltz.

A most unfortunate accident occurred.  I had got on a new pair of boots.  Foolishly, I had omitted to take Carrie’s advice; namely, to scratch the soles of them with the points of the scissors or to put a little wet on them.  I had scarcely started when, like lightning, my left foot slipped away and I came down, the side of my head striking the floor with such violence that for a second or two I did not know what had happened.  I needly hardly say that Carrie fell with me with equal violence, breaking the comb in her hair and grazing her elbow.

There was a roar of laughter, which was immediately checked when people found that we had really hurt ourselves.  A gentleman assisted Carrie to a seat, and I expressed myself pretty strongly on the danger of having a plain polished floor with no carpet or drugget to prevent people slipping.  The gentleman, who said his name was Darwitts, insisted on escorting Carrie to have a glass of wine, an invitation which I was pleased to allow Carrie to accept.

I followed, and met Farmerson, who immediately said, in his loud voice “Oh, are you the one who went down?”

I answered with an indignant look.

With execrable taste, he said: “Look here, old man, we are too old for this game.  We must leave these capers to the youngsters.  Come and have another glass, that is more in our line.”

Although I felt I was buying his silence by accepting, we followed the others into the supper-room.

Neither Carrie nor I, after our unfortunate mishap, felt inclined to stay longer.  As we were departing, Farmerson said: “Are you going? if so, you might give me a lift.”

I thought it better to consent, but wish I had first consulted Carrie.

Charles Pooter

May 8.—I woke up with a most terrible head-ache.  I could scarcely see, and the back of my neck was as if I had given it a crick.  I thought first of sending for a doctor; but I did not think it necessary.  When up, I felt faint, and went to Brownish’s, the chemist, who gave me a draught.  So bad at the office, had to get leave to come home.  Went to another chemist in the City, and I got a draught.  Brownish’s dose seems to have made me worse; have eaten nothing all day.  To make matters worse, Carrie, every time I spoke to her, answered me sharply—that is, when she answered at all.

In the evening I felt very much worse again and said to her: “I do believe I’ve been poisoned by the lobster mayonnaise at the Mansion House last night;” she simply replied, without taking her eyes from her sewing: “Champagne never did agree with you.”  I felt irritated, and said: “What nonsense you talk; I only had a glass and a half, and you know as well as I do—”  Before I could complete the sentence she bounced out of the room.  I sat over an hour waiting for her to return; but as she did not, I determined I would go to bed.  I discovered Carrie had gone to bed without even saying “good-night”; leaving me to bar the scullery door and feed the cat.  I shall certainly speak to her about this in the morning.

Charles Pooter

May 9.—Still a little shaky, with black specks.  The Blackfriars Bi-weekly News contains a long list of the guests at the Mansion House Ball.  Disappointed to find our names omitted, though Farmerson’s is in plainly enough with M.L.L. after it, whatever that may mean.  More than vexed, because we had ordered a dozen copies to send to our friends.  Wrote to the Blackfriars Bi-weekly News, pointing out their omission.

Carrie had commenced her breakfast when I entered the parlour.  I helped myself to a cup of tea, and I said, perfectly calmly and quietly: “Carrie, I wish a little explanation of your conduct last night.”

She replied, “Indeed! and I desire something more than a little explanation of your conduct the night before.”

I said, coolly: “Really, I don’t understand you.”

Carrie said sneeringly: “Probably not; you were scarcely in a condition to understand anything.”

I was astounded at this insinuation and simply ejaculated: “Caroline!”

She said: “Don’t be theatrical, it has no effect on me.  Reserve that tone for your new friend, Mister Farmerson, the ironmonger.”

I was about to speak, when Carrie, in a temper such as I have never seen her in before, told me to hold my tongue.  She said: “Now I’m going to say something!  After professing to snub Mr. Farmerson, you permit him to snub you, in my presence, and then accept his invitation to take a glass of champagne with you, and you don’t limit yourself to one glass.  You then offer this vulgar man, who made a bungle of repairing our scraper, a seat in our cab on the way home.  I say nothing about his tearing my dress in getting in the cab, nor of treading on Mrs. James’s expensive fan, which you knocked out of my hand, and for which he never even apologised; but you smoked all the way home without having the decency to ask my permission.  That is not all!  At the end of the journey, although he did not offer you a farthing towards his share of the cab, you asked him in.  Fortunately, he was sober enough to detect, from my manner, that his company was not desirable.”

Goodness knows I felt humiliated enough at this; but, to make matters worse, Gowing entered the room, without knocking, with two hats on his head and holding the garden-rake in his hand, with Carrie’s fur tippet (which he had taken off the downstairs hall-peg) round his neck, and announced himself in a loud, coarse voice: “His Royal Highness, the Lord Mayor!”  He marched twice round the room like a buffoon, and finding we took no notice, said: “Hulloh! what’s up?  Lovers’ quarrel, eh?”

There was a silence for a moment, so I said quietly: “My dear Gowing, I’m not very well, and not quite in the humour for joking; especially when you enter the room without knocking, an act which I fail to see the fun of.”

Gowing said: “I’m very sorry, but I called for my stick, which I thought you would have sent round.”  I handed him his stick, which I remembered I had painted black with the enamel paint, thinking to improve it.  He looked at it for a minute with a dazed expression and said: “Who did this?”

I said: “Eh, did what?”

He said: “Did what?  Why, destroyed my stick!  It belonged to my poor uncle, and I value it more than anything I have in the world!  I’ll know who did it.”

I said: “I’m very sorry.  I dare say it will come off.  I did it for the best.”

Gowing said: “Then all I can say is, it’s a confounded liberty; and I would add, you’re a bigger fool than you look, only that’s absolutely impossible.”

Charles Pooter

May 21.—The last week or ten days terribly dull, Carrie being away at Mrs. James’s, at Sutton.  Cummings also away.  Gowing, I presume, is still offended with me for black enamelling his stick without asking him.

Charles Pooter

May 22.—Purchased a new stick mounted with silver, which cost seven-and-sixpence (shall tell Carrie five shillings), and sent it round with nice note to Gowing.

Charles Pooter

May 24.—Carrie back.  Hoorah!  She looks wonderfully well, except that the sun has caught her nose.

Charles Pooter

May 25.—Carrie brought down some of my shirts and advised me to take them to Trillip’s round the corner.  She said: “The fronts and cuffs are much frayed.”  I said without a moment’s hesitation: “I’m ’frayed they are.”  Lor! how we roared.  I thought we should never stop laughing.  As I happened to be sitting next the driver going to town on the ’bus, I told him my joke about the “frayed” shirts.  I thought he would have rolled off his seat.  They laughed at the office a good bit too over it.

Charles Pooter

June 1.—The last week has been like old times, Carrie being back, and Gowing and Cummings calling every evening nearly.  Twice we sat out in the garden quite late.  This evening we were like a pack of children, and played “consequences.”  It is a good game.

Charles Pooter

June 4.—In the evening Carrie and I went round to Mr. and Mrs. Cummings’ to spend a quiet evening with them.  Gowing was there, also Mr. Stillbrook.  It was quiet but pleasant.  Mrs. Cummings sang five or six songs, “No, Sir,” and “The Garden of Sleep,” being best in my humble judgment; but what pleased me most was the duet she sang with Carrie—classical duet, too.  I think it is called, “I would that my love!”  It was beautiful.  If Carrie had been in better voice, I don’t think professionals could have sung it better.  After supper we made them sing it again.  I never liked Mr. Stillbrook since the walk that Sunday to the “Cow and Hedge,” but I must say he sings comic-songs well.  His song: “We don’t Want the old men now,” made us shriek with laughter, especially the verse referring to Mr. Gladstone; but there was one verse I think he might have omitted, and I said so, but Gowing thought it was the best of the lot.

Charles Pooter

June 7.—A dreadful annoyance.  Met Mr. Franching, who lives at Peckham, and who is a great swell in his way.  I ventured to ask him to come home to meat-tea, and take pot-luck.  I did not think he would accept such a humble invitation; but he did, saying, in a most friendly way, he would rather “peck” with us than by himself.  I said: “We had better get into this blue ’bus.”  He replied: “No blue-bussing for me.  I have had enough of the blues lately.  I lost a cool ‘thou’ over the Copper Scare.  Step in here.”

We drove up home in style, in a hansom-cab, and I knocked three times at the front door without getting an answer.  I saw Carrie, through the panels of ground-glass (with stars), rushing upstairs.  I told Mr. Franching to wait at the door while I went round to the side.  There I saw the grocer’s boy actually picking off the paint on the door, which had formed into blisters.  No time to reprove him; so went round and effected an entrance through the kitchen window.  I let in Mr. Franching, and showed him into the drawing-room.  I went upstairs to Carrie, who was changing her dress, and told her I had persuaded Mr. Franching to come home.  She replied: “How can you do such a thing?  You know it’s Sarah’s holiday, and there’s not a thing in the house, the cold mutton having turned with the hot weather.”

Eventually Carrie, like a good creature as she is, slipped down, washed up the teacups, and laid the cloth, and I gave Franching our views of Japan to look at while I ran round to the butcher’s to get three chops.

Charles Pooter

July 30.—The miserable cold weather is either upsetting me or Carrie, or both.  We seem to break out into an argument about absolutely nothing, and this unpleasant state of things usually occurs at meal-times.

This morning, for some unaccountable reason, we were talking about balloons, and we were as merry as possible; but the conversation drifted into family matters, during which Carrie, without the slightest reason, referred in the most uncomplimentary manner to my poor father’s pecuniary trouble.  I retorted by saying that “Pa, at all events, was a gentleman,” whereupon Carrie burst out crying.  I positively could not eat any breakfast.

At the office I was sent for by Mr. Perkupp, who said he was very sorry, but I should have to take my annual holidays from next Saturday.  Franching called at office and asked me to dine at his club, “The Constitutional.”  Fearing disagreeables at home after the “tiff” this morning, I sent a telegram to Carrie, telling her I was going out to dine and she was not to sit up.  Bought a little silver bangle for Carrie.

Charles Pooter

July 31.—Carrie was very pleased with the bangle, which I left with an affectionate note on her dressing-table last night before going to bed.  I told Carrie we should have to start for our holiday next Saturday.  She replied quite happily that she did not mind, except that the weather was so bad, and she feared that Miss Jibbons would not be able to get her a seaside dress in time.  I told Carrie that I thought the drab one with pink bows looked quite good enough; and Carrie said she should not think of wearing it.  I was about to discuss the matter, when, remembering the argument yesterday, resolved to hold my tongue.

I said to Carrie: “I don’t think we can do better than ‘Good old Broadstairs.’”  Carrie not only, to my astonishment, raised an objection to Broadstairs, for the first time; but begged me not to use the expression, “Good old,” but to leave it to Mr. Stillbrook and other gentlemen of his type.  Hearing my ’bus pass the window, I was obliged to rush out of the house without kissing Carrie as usual; and I shouted to her: “I leave it to you to decide.”  On returning in the evening, Carrie said she thought as the time was so short she had decided on Broadstairs, and had written to Mrs. Beck, Harbour View Terrace, for apartments.

Charles Pooter

August 1.—Ordered a new pair of trousers at Edwards’s, and told them not to cut them so loose over the boot; the last pair being so loose and also tight at the knee, looked like a sailor’s, and I heard Pitt, that objectionable youth at the office, call out “Hornpipe” as I passed his desk.  Carrie has ordered of Miss Jibbons a pink Garibaldi and blue-serge skirt, which I always think looks so pretty at the seaside.  In the evening she trimmed herself a little sailor-hat, while I read to her the Exchange and Mart.  We had a good laugh over my trying on the hat when she had finished it; Carrie saying it looked so funny with my beard, and how the people would have roared if I went on the stage like it.

Charles Pooter

August 3.—A beautiful day.  Looking forward to to-morrow.  Carrie bought a parasol about five feet long.  I told her it was ridiculous.  She said: “Mrs. James, of Sutton, has one twice as long so;” the matter dropped.  I bought a capital hat for hot weather at the seaside.  I don’t know what it is called, but it is the shape of the helmet worn in India, only made of straw.  Got three new ties, two coloured handkerchiefs, and a pair of navy-blue socks at Pope Brothers.  Spent the evening packing.  Carrie told me not to forget to borrow Mr. Higgsworth’s telescope, which he always lends me, knowing I know how to take care of it.  Sent Sarah out for it.  While everything was seeming so bright, the last post brought us a letter from Mrs. Beck, saying: “I have just let all my house to one party, and am sorry I must take back my words, and am sorry you must find other apartments; but Mrs. Womming, next door, will be pleased to accommodate you, but she cannot take you before Monday, as her rooms are engaged Bank Holiday week.”

Charles Pooter

August 4.—The first post brought a nice letter from our dear son Willie, acknowledging a trifling present which Carrie sent him, the day before yesterday being his twentieth birthday.  To our utter amazement he turned up himself in the afternoon, having journeyed all the way from Oldham.  He said he had got leave from the bank, and as Monday was a holiday he thought he would give us a little surprise.

Charles Pooter

August 5, Sunday.—We have not seen Willie since last Christmas, and are pleased to notice what a fine young man he has grown.  One would scarcely believe he was Carrie’s son.  He looks more like a younger brother.  I rather disapprove of his wearing a check suit on a Sunday, and I think he ought to have gone to church this morning; but he said he was tired after yesterday’s journey, so I refrained from any remark on the subject.  We had a bottle of port for dinner, and drank dear Willie’s health.

He said: “Oh, by-the-by, did I tell you I’ve cut my first name, ‘William,’ and taken the second name ‘Lupin’?  In fact, I’m only known at Oldham as ‘Lupin Pooter.’  If you were to ‘Willie’ me there, they wouldn’t know what you meant.”

Of course, Lupin being a purely family name, Carrie was delighted, and began by giving a long history of the Lupins.  I ventured to say that I thought William a nice simple name, and reminded him he was christened after his Uncle William, who was much respected in the City.  Willie, in a manner which I did not much care for, said sneeringly: “Oh, I know all about that—Good old Bill!” and helped himself to a third glass of port.

Carrie objected strongly to my saying “Good old,” but she made no remark when Willie used the double adjective.  I said nothing, but looked at her, which meant more.  I said: “My dear Willie, I hope you are happy with your colleagues at the Bank.”  He replied: “Lupin, if you please; and with respect to the Bank, there’s not a clerk who is a gentleman, and the ‘boss’ is a cad.”  I felt so shocked, I could say nothing, and my instinct told me there was something wrong.

Charles Pooter

August 6, Bank Holiday.—As there was no sign of Lupin moving at nine o’clock, I knocked at his door, and said we usually breakfasted at half-past eight, and asked how long would he be?  Lupin replied that he had had a lively time of it, first with the train shaking the house all night, and then with the sun streaming in through the window in his eyes, and giving him a cracking headache.  Carrie came up and asked if he would like some breakfast sent up, and he said he could do with a cup of tea, and didn’t want anything to eat.

Lupin not having come down, I went up again at half-past one, and said we dined at two; he said he “would be there.”  He never came down till a quarter to three.  I said: “We have not seen much of you, and you will have to return by the 5.30 train; therefore you will have to leave in an hour, unless you go by the midnight mail.”  He said: “Look here, Guv’nor, it’s no use beating about the bush.  I’ve tendered my resignation at the Bank.”

For a moment I could not speak.  When my speech came again, I said: “How dare you, sir?  How dare you take such a serious step without consulting me?  Don’t answer me, sir!—you will sit down immediately, and write a note at my dictation, withdrawing your resignation and amply apologising for your thoughtlessness.”

Imagine my dismay when he replied with a loud guffaw: “It’s no use.  If you want the good old truth, I’ve got the chuck!”


The Diary of a Nobody is the fictitious diary of Charles Pooter, written by George Grossmith and originally serialised in Punch magazine in 1888 and 1889.
The text of this version is taken from the Gutenberg etext, and the weblog format was engineered by Kevan Davis (initially a straight weblog in 2004, then rewritten as an auto RSS generator in April 2007).