The Diary of a Nobody
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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.

Charles Pooter

June 2.—“Consequences” again this evening.  Not quite so successful as last night; Gowing having several times overstepped the limits of good taste.

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

August 27.—Carrie and Mrs. James went off shopping, and had not returned when I came back from the office.  Judging from the subsequent conversation, I am afraid Mrs. James is filling Carrie’s head with a lot of nonsense about dress.  I walked over to Gowing’s and asked him to drop in to supper, and make things pleasant.

Carrie prepared a little extemporised supper, consisting of the remainder of the cold joint, a small piece of salmon (which I was to refuse, in case there was not enough to go round), and a blanc-mange and custards.  There was also a decanter of port and some jam puffs on the sideboard.  Mrs. James made us play rather a good game of cards, called “Muggings.”  To my surprise, in fact disgust, Lupin got up in the middle, and, in a most sarcastic tone, said: “Pardon me, this sort of thing is too fast for me, I shall go and enjoy a quiet game of marbles in the back-garden.”

Things might have become rather disagreeable but for Gowing (who seems to have taken to Lupin) suggesting they should invent games.  Lupin said: “Let’s play ‘monkeys.’”  He then led Gowing all round the room, and brought him in front of the looking-glass.  I must confess I laughed heartily at this.  I was a little vexed at everybody subsequently laughing at some joke which they did not explain, and it was only on going to bed I discovered I must have been walking about all the evening with an antimacassar on one button of my coat-tails.

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 10.—Lupin seems to like his new berth—that’s a comfort.  Daisy Mutlar the sole topic of conversation during tea.  Carrie almost as full of it as LupinLupin informs me, to my disgust, that he has been persuaded to take part in the forthcoming performance of the “Holloway Comedians.”  He says he is to play Bob Britches in the farce, Gone to my Uncle’s; Frank Mutlar is going to play old Musty.  I told Lupin pretty plainly I was not in the least degree interested in the matter, and totally disapproved of amateur theatricals.  Gowing came in the evening.

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.

Charles Pooter

November 14.—Everybody so far has accepted for our quite grand little party for to-morrow.  Mr. Perkupp, in a nice letter which I shall keep, wrote that he was dining in Kensington, but if he could get away, he would come up to Holloway for an hour.  Carrie was busy all day, making little cakes and open jam puffs and jellies.  She said she felt quite nervous about her responsibilities to-morrow evening.  We decided to have some light things on the table, such as sandwiches, cold chicken and ham, and some sweets, and on the sideboard a nice piece of cold beef and a Paysandu tongue—for the more hungry ones to peg into if they liked.

Gowing called to know if he was to put on “swallow-tails” to-morrow.  Carrie said he had better dress, especially as Mr. Franching was coming, and there was a possibility of Mr. Perkupp also putting in an appearance.

Gowing said: “Oh, I only wanted to know, for I have not worn my dress-coat for some time, and I must send it to have the creases pressed out.”

After Gowing left, Lupin came in, and in his anxiety to please Daisy Mutlar, carped at and criticised the arrangements, and, in fact, disapproved of everything, including our having asked our old friend Cummings, who, he said, would look in evening-dress like a green-grocer engaged to wait, and who must not be surprised if Daisy took him for one.

I fairly lost my temper, and said: “Lupin, allow me to tell you Miss Daisy Mutlar is not the Queen of England.  I gave you credit for more wisdom than to allow yourself to be inveigled into an engagement with a woman considerably older than yourself.  I advise you to think of earning your living before entangling yourself with a wife whom you will have to support, and, in all probability, her brother also, who appeared to be nothing but a loafer.”

Instead of receiving this advice in a sensible manner, Lupin jumped up and said: “If you insult the lady I am engaged to, you insult me.  I will leave the house and never darken your doors again.”

He went out of the house, slamming the hall-door.  But it was all right.  He came back to supper, and we played Bézique till nearly twelve o’clock.

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).