The Diary of a Nobody
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Charles Pooter

My dear wife Carrie and I have just been a week in our new house, “The Laurels,” Brickfield Terrace, Holloway—a nice six-roomed residence, not counting basement, with a front breakfast-parlour.  We have a little front garden; and there is a flight of ten steps up to the front door, which, by-the-by, we keep locked with the chain up.  Cummings, Gowing, and our other intimate friends always come to the little side entrance, which saves the servant the trouble of going up to the front door, thereby taking her from her work.  We have a nice little back garden which runs down to the railway.  We were rather afraid of the noise of the trains at first, but the landlord said we should not notice them after a bit, and took £2 off the rent.  He was certainly right; and beyond the cracking of the garden wall at the bottom, we have suffered no inconvenience.

After my work in the City, I like to be at home.  What’s the good of a home, if you are never in it?  “Home, Sweet Home,” that’s my motto.  I am always in of an evening.  Our old friend Gowing may drop in without ceremony; so may Cummings, who lives opposite.  My dear wife Caroline and I are pleased to see them, if they like to drop in on us.  But Carrie and I can manage to pass our evenings together without friends.  There is always something to be done: a tin-tack here, a Venetian blind to put straight, a fan to nail up, or part of a carpet to nail down—all of which I can do with my pipe in my mouth; while Carrie is not above putting a button on a shirt, mending a pillow-case, or practising the “Sylvia Gavotte” on our new cottage piano (on the three years’ system), manufactured by W. Bilkson (in small letters), from Collard and Collard (in very large letters).  It is also a great comfort to us to know that our boy Willie is getting on so well in the Bank at Oldham.  We should like to see more of him.  Now for my diary:-

April 3.—Tradesmen called for custom, and I promised Farmerson, the ironmonger, to give him a turn if I wanted any nails or tools.  By-the-by, that reminds me there is no key to our bedroom door, and the bells must be seen to.  The parlour bell is broken, and the front door rings up in the servant’s bedroom, which is ridiculous.  Dear friend Gowing dropped in, but wouldn’t stay, saying there was an infernal smell of paint.

Charles Pooter

April 4.  Tradesmen still calling; Carrie being out, I arranged to deal with Horwin, who seemed a civil butcher with a nice clean shop.  Ordered a shoulder of mutton for to-morrow, to give him a trial.  Carrie arranged with Borset, the butterman, and ordered a pound of fresh butter, and a pound and a half of salt ditto for kitchen, and a shilling’s worth of eggs.  In the evening, Cummings unexpectedly dropped in to show me a meerschaum pipe he had won in a raffle in the City, and told me to handle it carefully, as it would spoil the colouring if the hand was moist.  He said he wouldn’t stay, as he didn’t care much for the smell of the paint, and fell over the scraper as he went out.  Must get the scraper removed, or else I shall get into a scrape.  I don’t often make jokes.

Charles Pooter

April 11.—Mustard-and-cress and radishes not come up yet.  To-day was a day of annoyances.  I missed the quarter-to-nine ’bus to the City, through having words with the grocer’s boy, who for the second time had the impertinence to bring his basket to the hall-door, and had left the marks of his dirty boots on the fresh-cleaned door-steps.  He said he had knocked at the side door with his knuckles for a quarter of an hour.  I knew Sarah, our servant, could not hear this, as she was upstairs doing the bedrooms, so asked the boy why he did not ring the bell?  He replied that he did pull the bell, but the handle came off in his hand.

I was half-an-hour late at the office, a thing that has never happened to me before.  There has recently been much irregularity in the attendance of the clerks, and Mr. Perkupp, our principal, unfortunately choose this very morning to pounce down upon us early.  Someone had given the tip to the others.  The result was that I was the only one late of the lot.  Buckling, one of the senior clerks, was a brick, and I was saved by his intervention.  As I passed by Pitt’s desk, I heard him remark to his neighbour: “How disgracefully late some of the head clerks arrive!”  This was, of course, meant for me.  I treated the observation with silence, simply giving him a look, which unfortunately had the effect of making both of the clerks laugh.  Thought afterwards it would have been more dignified if I had pretended not to have heard him at all.  Cummings called in the evening, and we played dominoes.

Charles Pooter

April 15, Sunday.—At three o’clock Cummings and Gowing called for a good long walk over Hampstead and Finchley, and brought with them a friend named Stillbrook.  We walked and chatted together, except Stillbrook, who was always a few yards behind us staring at the ground and cutting at the grass with his stick.

As it was getting on for five, we four held a consultation, and Gowing suggested that we should make for “The Cow and Hedge” and get some tea.  Stillbrook said: “A brandy-and-soda was good enough for him.”  I reminded them that all public-houses were closed till six o’clock.  Stillbrook said, “That’s all right—bona-fide travellers.”

We arrived; and as I was trying to pass, the man in charge of the gate said: “Where from?”  I replied: “Holloway.”  He immediately put up his arm, and declined to let me pass.  I turned back for a moment, when I saw Stillbrook, closely followed by Cummings and Gowing, make for the entrance.  I watched them, and thought I would have a good laugh at their expense, I heard the porter say: “Where from?”  When, to my surprise, in fact disgust, Stillbrook replied: “Blackheath,” and the three were immediately admitted.

Gowing called to me across the gate, and said: “We shan’t be a minute.”  I waited for them the best part of an hour.  When they appeared they were all in most excellent spirits, and the only one who made an effort to apologise was Mr. Stillbrook, who said to me: “It was very rough on you to be kept waiting, but we had another spin for S. and B.’s.”  I walked home in silence; I couldn’t speak to them.  I felt very dull all the evening, but deemed it advisable not to say anything to Carrie about the matter.

Charles Pooter

April 16.—After business, set to work in the garden.  When it got dark I wrote to Cummings and Gowing (who neither called, for a wonder; perhaps they were ashamed of themselves) about yesterday’s adventure at “The Cow and Hedge.”  Afterwards made up my mind not to write yet.

Charles Pooter

April 17.—Thought I would write a kind little note to Gowing and Cummings about last Sunday, and warning them against Mr. Stillbrook.  Afterwards, thinking the matter over, tore up the letters and determined not to write at all, but to speak quietly to them.  Dumfounded at receiving a sharp letter from Cummings, saying that both he and Gowing had been waiting for an explanation of my (mind you, MY) extraordinary conduct coming home on Sunday.  At last I wrote: “I thought I was the aggrieved party; but as I freely forgive you, you—feeling yourself aggrieved—should bestow forgiveness on me.”  I have copied this verbatim in the diary, because I think it is one of the most perfect and thoughtful sentences I have ever written.  I posted the letter, but in my own heart I felt I was actually apologising for having been insulted.

Charles Pooter

April 18.—Am in for a cold.  Spent the whole day at the office sneezing.  In the evening, the cold being intolerable, sent Sarah out for a bottle of Kinahan.  Fell asleep in the arm-chair, and woke with the shivers.  Was startled by a loud knock at the front door.  Carrie awfully flurried.  Sarah still out, so went up, opened the door, and found it was only Cummings.  Remembered the grocer’s boy had again broken the side-bell.  Cummings squeezed my hand, and said: “I’ve just seen Gowing.  All right.  Say no more about it.”  There is no doubt they are both under the impression I have apologised.

While playing dominoes with Cummings in the parlour, he said: “By-the-by, do you want any wine or spirits?  My cousin Merton has just set up in the trade, and has a splendid whisky, four years in bottle, at thirty-eight shillings.  It is worth your while laying down a few dozen of it.”  I told him my cellars, which were very small, were full up.  To my horror, at that very moment, Sarah entered the room, and putting a bottle of whisky, wrapped in a dirty piece of newspaper, on the table in front of us, said: “Please, sir, the grocer says he ain’t got no more Kinahan, but you’ll find this very good at two-and-six, with twopence returned on the bottle; and, please, did you want any more sherry? as he has some at one-and-three, as dry as a nut!”

Charles Pooter

April 19.—Cummings called, bringing with him his friend Merton, who is in the wine trade.  Gowing also called.  Mr. Merton made himself at home at once, and Carrie and I were both struck with him immediately, and thoroughly approved of his sentiments.

He leaned back in his chair and said: “You must take me as I am;” and I replied: “Yes—and you must take us as we are.  We’re homely people, we are not swells.”

He answered: “No, I can see that,” and Gowing roared with laughter; but Merton in a most gentlemanly manner said to Gowing: “I don’t think you quite understand me.  I intended to convey that our charming host and hostess were superior to the follies of fashion, and preferred leading a simple and wholesome life to gadding about to twopenny-halfpenny tea-drinking afternoons, and living above their incomes.”

I was immensely pleased with these sensible remarks of Merton’s, and concluded that subject by saying: “No, candidly, Mr. Merton, we don’t go into Society, because we do not care for it; and what with the expense of cabs here and cabs there, and white gloves and white ties, etc., it doesn’t seem worth the money.”

Merton said in reference to friends: “My motto is ‘Few and True;’ and, by the way, I also apply that to wine, ‘Little and Good.’”  Gowing said: “Yes, and sometimes ‘cheap and tasty,’ eh, old man?”  Merton, still continuing, said he should treat me as a friend, and put me down for a dozen of his “Lockanbar” whisky, and as I was an old friend of Gowing, I should have it for 36s., which was considerably under what he paid for it.

He booked his own order, and further said that at any time I wanted any passes for the theatre I was to let him know, as his name stood good for any theatre in London.

Charles Pooter

April 27.—Painted the bath red, and was delighted with the result.  Sorry to say Carrie was not, in fact we had a few words about it.  She said I ought to have consulted her, and she had never heard of such a thing as a bath being painted red.  I replied: “It’s merely a matter of taste.”

Fortunately, further argument on the subject was stopped by a voice saying, “May I come in?”  It was only Cummings, who said, “Your maid opened the door, and asked me to excuse her showing me in, as she was wringing out some socks.”  I was delighted to see him, and suggested we should have a game of whist with a dummy, and by way of merriment said: “You can be the dummy.”  Cummings (I thought rather ill-naturedly) replied: “Funny as usual.”  He said he couldn’t stop, he only called to leave me the Bicycle News, as he had done with it.

Another ring at the bell; it was Gowing, who said he “must apologise for coming so often, and that one of these days we must come round to him.”  I said: “A very extraordinary thing has struck me.”  “Something funny, as usual,” said Cummings.  “Yes,” I replied; “I think even you will say so this time.  It’s concerning you both; for doesn’t it seem odd that Gowing’s always coming and Cummings’ always going?”  Carrie, who had evidently quite forgotten about the bath, went into fits of laughter, and as for myself, I fairly doubled up in my chair, till it cracked beneath me.  I think this was one of the best jokes I have ever made.

Then imagine my astonishment on perceiving both Cummings and Gowing perfectly silent, and without a smile on their faces.  After rather an unpleasant pause, Cummings, who had opened a cigar-case, closed it up again and said: “Yes—I think, after that, I shall be going, and I am sorry I fail to see the fun of your jokes.”  Gowing said he didn’t mind a joke when it wasn’t rude, but a pun on a name, to his thinking, was certainly a little wanting in good taste.  Cummings followed it up by saying, if it had been said by anyone else but myself, he shouldn’t have entered the house again.  This rather unpleasantly terminated what might have been a cheerful evening.  However, it was as well they went, for the charwoman had finished up the remains of the cold pork.

Charles Pooter

April 30.—Perfectly astounded at receiving an invitation for Carrie and myself from the Lord and Lady Mayoress to the Mansion House, to “meet the Representatives of Trades and Commerce.”  My heart beat like that of a schoolboy’s.  Carrie and I read the invitation over two or three times.  I could scarcely eat my breakfast.  I said—and I felt it from the bottom of my heart,—“Carrie darling, I was a proud man when I led you down the aisle of the church on our wedding-day; that pride will be equalled, if not surpassed, when I lead my dear, pretty wife up to the Lord and Lady Mayoress at the Mansion House.”  I saw the tears in Carrie’s eyes, and she said: “Charlie dear, it is I who have to be proud of you.  And I am very, very proud of you.  You have called me pretty; and as long as I am pretty in your eyes, I am happy.  You, dear old Charlie, are not handsome, but you are good, which is far more noble.”  I gave her a kiss, and she said: “I wonder if there will be any dancing?  I have not danced with you for years.”

I cannot tell what induced me to do it, but I seized her round the waist, and we were silly enough to be executing a wild kind of polka when Sarah entered, grinning, and said: “There is a man, mum, at the door who wants to know if you want any good coals.”  Most annoyed at this.  Spent the evening in answering, and tearing up again, the reply to the Mansion House, having left word with Sarah if Gowing or Cummings called we were not at home.  Must consult Mr. Perkupp how to answer the Lord Mayor’s invitation.

Charles Pooter

May 2.—Sent my dress-coat and trousers to the little tailor’s round the corner, to have the creases taken out.  Told Gowing not to call next Monday, as we were going to the Mansion House.  Sent similar note to Cummings.

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

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

August 15.—Cleared up a bit, so we all took the train to Margate, and the first person we met on the jetty was Gowing.  I said: “Hulloh!  I thought you had gone to Barmouth with your Birmingham friends?”  He said: “Yes, but young Peter Lawrence was so ill, they postponed their visit, so I came down here.  You know the Cummings’ are here too?”  Carrie said: “Oh, that will be delightful!  We must have some evenings together and have games.”

I introduced Lupin, saying: “You will be pleased to find we have our dear boy at home!”  Gowing said: “How’s that?  You don’t mean to say he’s left the Bank?”

I changed the subject quickly, and thereby avoided any of those awkward questions which Gowing always has a knack of asking.

Charles Pooter

August 18.—Gowing and Cummings walked over to arrange an evening at Margate.  It being wet, Gowing asked Cummings to accompany him to the hotel and have a game of billiards, knowing I never play, and in fact disapprove of the game.  Cummings said he must hasten back to Margate; whereupon Lupin, to my horror, said: “I’ll give you a game, Gowing—a hundred up.  A walk round I the cloth will give me an appetite for dinner.”  I said: “Perhaps Mister Gowing does not care to play with boys.”  Gowing surprised me by saying: “Oh yes, I do, if they play well,” and they walked off together.

Charles Pooter

August 20.—I am glad our last day at the seaside was fine, though clouded overhead.  We went over to Cummings’ (at Margate) in the evening, and as it was cold, we stayed in and played games; Gowing, as usual, overstepping the mark.  He suggested we should play “Cutlets,” a game we never heard of.  He sat on a chair, and asked Carrie to sit on his lap, an invitation which dear Carrie rightly declined.

After some species of wrangling, I sat on Gowing’s knees and Carrie sat on the edge of mine.  Lupin sat on the edge of Carrie’s lap, then Cummings on Lupin’s, and Mrs. Cummings on her husband’s.  We looked very ridiculous, and laughed a good deal.

Gowing then said: “Are you a believer in the Great Mogul?”  We had to answer all together: “Yes—oh, yes!” (three times).  Gowing said: “So am I,” and suddenly got up.  The result of this stupid joke was that we all fell on the ground, and poor Carrie banged her head against the corner of the fender.  Mrs. Cummings put some vinegar on; but through this we missed the last train, and had to drive back to Broadstairs, which cost me seven-and-sixpence.

Charles Pooter

November 6.—Lupin went with me to the office, and had a long conversation with Mr. Perkupp, our principal, the result of which was that he accepted a clerkship in the firm of Job Cleanands and Co., Stock and Share Brokers.  Lupin told me, privately, it was an advertising firm, and he did not think much of it.  I replied: “Beggars should not be choosers;” and I will do Lupin the justice to say, he looked rather ashamed of himself.

In the evening we went round to the Cummings’, to have a few fireworks.  It began to rain, and I thought it rather dull.  One of my squibs would not go off, and Gowing said: “Hit it on your boot, boy; it will go off then.”  I gave it a few knocks on the end of my boot, and it went off with one loud explosion, and burnt my fingers rather badly.  I gave the rest of the squibs to the little Cummings’ boy to let off.

Another unfortunate thing happened, which brought a heap of abuse on my head.  Cummings fastened a large wheel set-piece on a stake in the ground by way of a grand finale.  He made a great fuss about it; said it cost seven shillings.  There was a little difficulty in getting it alight.  At last it went off; but after a couple of slow revolutions it stopped.  I had my stick with me, so I gave it a tap to send it round, and, unfortunately, it fell off the stake on to the grass.  Anybody would have thought I had set the house on fire from the way in which they stormed at me.  I will never join in any more firework parties.  It is a ridiculous waste of time and money.

Charles Pooter

November 9.—My endeavours to discover who tore the sheets out of my diary still fruitless.  Lupin has Daisy Mutlar on the brain, so we see little of him, except that he invariably turns up at meal times.  Cummings dropped in.

Charles Pooter

November 13.—Carrie sent out invitations to Gowing, the Cummings, to Mr. and Mrs. James (of Sutton), and Mr. Stillbrook.  I wrote a note to Mr. Franching, of PeckhamCarrie said we may as well make it a nice affair, and why not ask our principal, Mr. Perkupp?  I said I feared we were not quite grand enough for him.  Carrie said there was “no offence in asking him.”  I said: “Certainly not,” and I wrote him a letter.  Carrie confessed she was a little disappointed with Daisy Mutlar’s appearance, but thought she seemed a nice girl.

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).