The Diary of a Nobody
| Next 10 results for Gowing
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 5.—Two shoulders of mutton arrived, Carrie having arranged with another butcher without consulting me.  Gowing called, and fell over scraper coming in.  Must get that scraper removed.

Charles Pooter

April 6.—Eggs for breakfast simply shocking; sent them back to Borset with my compliments, and he needn’t call any more for orders.  Couldn’t find umbrella, and though it was pouring with rain, had to go without it.  Sarah said Mr. Gowing must have took it by mistake last night, as there was a stick in the ‘all that didn’t belong to nobody.  In the evening, hearing someone talking in a loud voice to the servant in the downstairs hall, I went out to see who it was, and was surprised to find it was Borset, the butterman, who was both drunk and offensive.  Borset, on seeing me, said he would be hanged if he would ever serve City clerks any more—the game wasn’t worth the candle.  I restrained my feelings, and quietly remarked that I thought it was possible for a city clerk to be a gentleman.  He replied he was very glad to hear it, and wanted to know whether I had ever come across one, for he hadn’t.  He left the house, slamming the door after him, which nearly broke the fanlight; and I heard him fall over the scraper, which made me feel glad I hadn’t removed it.  When he had gone, I thought of a splendid answer I ought to have given him.  However, I will keep it for another occasion.

Charles Pooter

April 10.—Farmerson came round to attend to the scraper himself.  He seems a very civil fellow.  He says he does not usually conduct such small jobs personally, but for me he would do so.  I thanked him, and went to town.  It is disgraceful how late some of the young clerks are at arriving.  I told three of them that if Mr. Perkupp, the principal, heard of it, they might be discharged.

Pitt, a monkey of seventeen, who has only been with us six weeks, told me “to keep my hair on!”  I informed him I had had the honour of being in the firm twenty years, to which he insolently replied that I “looked it.”  I gave him an indignant look, and said: “I demand from you some respect, sir.”  He replied: “All right, go on demanding.”  I would not argue with him any further.  You cannot argue with people like that.  In the evening Gowing called, and repeated his complaint about the smell of paint.  Gowing is sometimes very tedious with his remarks, and not always cautious; and Carrie once very properly reminded him that she was present.

Charles Pooter

April 12.—Mustard-and-cress and radishes not come up yet.  Left Farmerson repairing the scraper, but when I came home found three men working.  I asked the meaning of it, and Farmerson said that in making a fresh hole he had penetrated the gas-pipe.  He said it was a most ridiculous place to put the gas-pipe, and the man who did it evidently knew nothing about his business.  I felt his excuse was no consolation for the expense I shall be put to.

In the evening, after tea, Gowing dropped in, and we had a smoke together in the breakfast-parlour.  Carrie joined us later, but did not stay long, saying the smoke was too much for her.  It was also rather too much for me, for Gowing had given me what he called a green cigar, one that his friend Shoemach had just brought over from America.  The cigar didn’t look green, but I fancy I must have done so; for when I had smoked a little more than half I was obliged to retire on the pretext of telling Sarah to bring in the glasses.

I took a walk round the garden three or four times, feeling the need of fresh air.  On returning Gowing noticed I was not smoking: offered me another cigar, which I politely declined.  Gowing began his usual sniffing, so, anticipating him, I said: “You’re not going to complain of the smell of paint again?”  He said: “No, not this time; but I’ll tell you what, I distinctly smell dry rot.”  I don’t often make jokes, but I replied: “You’re talking a lot of dry rot yourself.”  I could not help roaring at this, and Carrie said her sides quite ached with laughter.  I never was so immensely tickled by anything I have ever said before.  I actually woke up twice during the night, and laughed till the bed shook.

Charles Pooter

April 14.—Spent the whole of the afternoon in the garden, having this morning picked up at a bookstall for fivepence a capital little book, in good condition, on Gardening.  I procured and sowed some half-hardy annuals in what I fancy will be a warm, sunny border.  I thought of a joke, and called out CarrieCarrie came out rather testy, I thought.  I said: “I have just discovered we have got a lodging-house.”  She replied: “How do you mean?”  I said: “Look at the boarders.”  Carrie said: “Is that all you wanted me for?”  I said: “Any other time you would have laughed at my little pleasantry.”  Carrie said: “Certainly—at any other time, but not when I am busy in the house.”  The stairs looked very nice.  Gowing called, and said the stairs looked all right, but it made the banisters look all wrong, and suggested a coat of paint on them also, which Carrie quite agreed with.  I walked round to Putley, and fortunately he was out, so I had a good excuse to let the banisters slide.  By-the-by, that is rather funny.

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 28.—At the office, the new and very young clerk Pitt, who was very impudent to me a week or so ago, was late again.  I told him it would be my duty to inform Mr. Perkupp, the principal.  To my surprise, Pitt apologised most humbly and in a most gentlemanly fashion.  I was unfeignedly pleased to notice this improvement in his manner towards me, and told him I would look over his unpunctuality.  Passing down the room an hour later.  I received a smart smack in the face from a rolled-up ball of hard foolscap.  I turned round sharply, but all the clerks were apparently riveted to their work.  I am not a rich man, but I would give half-a-sovereign to know whether that was thrown by accident or design.  Went home early and bought some more enamel paint—black this time—and spent the evening touching up the fender, picture-frames, and an old pair of boots, making them look as good as new.  Also painted Gowing’s walking-stick, which he left behind, and made it look like ebony.

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 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 23.—Received strange note from Gowing; he said: “Offended? not a bit, my boy—I thought you were offended with me for losing my temper.  Besides, I found after all, it was not my poor old uncle’s stick you painted.  It was only a shilling thing I bought at a tobacconist’s.  However, I am much obliged to you for your handsome present all same.”

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.

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).