The Diary of a Nobody
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 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

November 3.—Good news at last.  Mr. Perkupp has got an appointment for Lupin, and he is to go and see about it on Monday.  Oh, how my mind is relieved!  I went to Lupin’s room to take the good news to him, but he was in bed, very seedy, so I resolved to keep it over till the evening.

He said he had last night been elected a member of an Amateur Dramatic Club, called the “Holloway Comedians”; and, though it was a pleasant evening, he had sat in a draught, and got neuralgia in the head.  He declined to have any breakfast, so I left him.  In the evening I had up a special bottle of port, and, Lupin being in for a wonder, we filled our glasses, and I said: “Lupin my boy, I have some good and unexpected news for you.  Mr. Perkupp has procured you an appointment!”  Lupin said: “Good biz!” and we drained our glasses.

Lupin then said: “Fill up the glasses again, for I have some good and unexpected news for you.”

I had some slight misgivings, and so evidently had Carrie, for she said: “I hope we shall think it good news.”

Lupin said: “Oh, it’s all right!  I’m engaged to be married!”

Charles Pooter

November 8.—I ordered some of our cards at Black’s, the stationers.  I ordered twenty-five of each, which will last us for a good long time.  In the evening, Lupin brought in Harry Mutlar, Miss Mutlar’s brother.  He was rather a gawky youth, and Lupin said he was the most popular and best amateur in the club, referring to the “Holloway Comedians.”  Lupin whispered to us that if we could only “draw out” Harry a bit, he would make us roar with laughter.

At supper, young Mutlar did several amusing things.  He took up a knife, and with the flat part of it played a tune on his cheek in a wonderful manner.  He also gave an imitation of an old man with no teeth, smoking a big cigar.  The way he kept dropping the cigar sent Carrie into fits.

In the course of conversation, Daisy’s name cropped up, and young Mutlar said he would bring his sister round to us one evening—his parents being rather old-fashioned, and not going out much.  Carrie said we would get up a little special party.  As young Mutlar showed no inclination to go, and it was approaching eleven o’clock, as a hint I reminded Lupin that he had to be up early to-morrow.  Instead of taking the hint, Mutlar began a series of comic imitations.  He went on for an hour without cessation.  Poor Carrie could scarcely keep her eyes open.  At last she made an excuse, and said “Good-night.”

Mutlar then left, and I heard him and Lupin whispering in the hall something about the “Holloway Comedians,” and to my disgust, although it was past midnight, Lupin put on his hat and coat, and went out with his new companion.

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 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.

Charles Pooter

November 15.—A red-letter day.  Our first important party since we have been in this house.  I got home early from the City.  Lupin insisted on having a hired waiter, and stood a half-dozen of champagne.  I think this an unnecessary expense, but Lupin said he had had a piece of luck, having made three pounds out a private deal in the City.  I hope he won’t gamble in his new situation.  The supper-room looked so nice, and Carrie truly said: “We need not be ashamed of its being seen by Mr. Perkupp, should he honour us by coming.”

I dressed early in case people should arrive punctually at eight o’clock, and was much vexed to find my new dress-trousers much too short.

Lupin, who is getting beyond his position, found fault with my wearing ordinary boots instead of dress-boots.

I replied satirically: “My dear son, I have lived to be above that sort of thing.”

Lupin burst out laughing, and said: “A man generally was above his boots.”

This may be funny, or it may not; but I was gratified to find he had not discovered the coral had come off one of my studs.  Carrie looked a picture, wearing the dress she wore at the Mansion House.  The arrangement of the drawing-room was excellent.  Carrie had hung muslin curtains over the folding-doors, and also over one of the entrances, for we had removed the door from its hinges.

Mr. Peters, the waiter, arrived in good time, and I gave him strict orders not to open another bottle of champagne until the previous one was empty.  Carrie arranged for some sherry and port wine to be placed on the drawing-room sideboard, with some glasses.  By-the-by, our new enlarged and tinted photographs look very nice on the walls, especially as Carrie has arranged some Liberty silk bows on the four corners of them.

The first arrival was Gowing, who, with his usual taste, greeted me with: “Hulloh, Pooter, why your trousers are too short!”

I simply said: “Very likely, and you will find my temper ‘short’ also.”

He said: “That won’t make your trousers longer, Juggins.  You should get your missus to put a flounce on them.”

I wonder I waste my time entering his insulting observations in my diary.

The next arrivals were Mr. and Mrs. Cummings.  The former said: “As you didn’t say anything about dress, I have come ‘half dress.’”  He had on a black frock-coat and white tie.  The James’, Mr. Merton, and Mr. Stillbrook arrived, but Lupin was restless and unbearable till his Daisy Mutlar and Frank arrived.

Carrie and I were rather startled at Daisy’s appearance.  She had a bright-crimson dress on, cut very low in the neck.  I do not think such a style modest.  She ought to have taken a lesson from Carrie, and covered her shoulders with a little lace.  Mr. Nackles, Mr. Sprice-Hogg and his four daughters came; so did Franching, and one or two of Lupin’s new friends, members of the “Holloway Comedians.”  Some of these seemed rather theatrical in their manner, especially one, who was posing all the evening, and leant on our little round table and cracked it.  Lupin called him “our Henry,” and said he was “our lead at the H.C.’s,” and was quite as good in that department as Harry Mutlar was as the low-comedy merchant.  All this is Greek to me.

We had some music, and Lupin, who never left Daisy’s side for a moment, raved over her singing of a song, called “Some Day.”  It seemed a pretty song, but she made such grimaces, and sang, to my mind, so out of tune, I would not have asked her to sing again; but Lupin made her sing four songs right off, one after the other.

At ten o’clock we went down to supper, and from the way Gowing and Cummings ate you would have thought they had not had a meal for a month.  I told Carrie to keep something back in case Mr. Perkupp should come by mere chance.  Gowing annoyed me very much by filling a large tumbler of champagne, and drinking it straight off.  He repeated this action, and made me fear our half-dozen of champagne would not last out.  I tried to keep a bottle back, but Lupin got hold of it, and took it to the side-table with Daisy and Frank Mutlar.

We went upstairs, and the young fellows began skylarking.  Carrie put a stop to that at once.  Stillbrook amused us with a song, “What have you done with your Cousin John?”  I did not notice that Lupin and Frank had disappeared.  I asked Mr. Watson, one of the Holloways, where they were, and he said: “It’s a case of ‘Oh, what a surprise!’”

We were directed to form a circle—which we did.  Watson then said: “I have much pleasure in introducing the celebrated Blondin Donkey.”  Frank and Lupin then bounded into the room.  Lupin had whitened his face like a clown, and Frank had tied round his waist a large hearthrug.  He was supposed to be the donkey, and he looked it.  They indulged in a very noisy pantomime, and we were all shrieking with laughter.

I turned round suddenly, and then I saw Mr Perkupp standing half-way in the door, he having arrived without our knowing it.  I beckoned to Carrie, and we went up to him at once.  He would not come right into the room.  I apologised for the foolery, but Mr. Perkupp said: “Oh, it seems amusing.”  I could see he was not a bit amused.

Carrie and I took him downstairs, but the table was a wreck.  There was not a glass of champagne left—not even a sandwich.  Mr. Perkupp said he required nothing, but would like a glass of seltzer or soda water.  The last syphon was empty.  Carrie said: “We have plenty of port wine left.”  Mr. Perkupp said, with a smile: “No, thank you.  I really require nothing, but I am most pleased to see you and your husband in your own home.  Good-night, Mrs. Pooter—you will excuse my very short stay, I know.”  I went with him to his carriage, and he said: “Don’t trouble to come to the office till twelve to-morrow.”

I felt despondent as I went back to the house, and I told Carrie I thought the party was a failure.  Carrie said it was a great success, and I was only tired, and insisted on my having some port myself.  I drank two glasses, and felt much better, and we went into the drawing-room, where they had commenced dancing.  Carrie and I had a little dance, which I said reminded me of old days.  She said I was a spooney old thing.

Charles Pooter

November 18.—Woke up quite fresh after a good night’s rest, and feel quite myself again.  I am satisfied a life of going-out and Society is not a life for me; we therefore declined the invitation which we received this morning to Miss Bird’s wedding.  We only met her twice at Mrs. James’, and it means a present.  Lupin said: “I am with you for once.  To my mind a wedding’s a very poor play.  There are only two parts in it—the bride and bridegroom.  The best man is only a walking gentleman.  With the exception of a crying father and a snivelling mother, the rest are supers who have to dress well and have to pay for their insignificant parts in the shape of costly presents.”  I did not care for the theatrical slang, but thought it clever, though disrespectful.

I told Sarah not to bring up the blanc-mange again for breakfast.  It seems to have been placed on our table at every meal since Wednesday.  Cummings came round in the evening, and congratulated us on the success of our party.  He said it was the best party he had been to for many a year; but he wished we had let him know it was full dress, as he would have turned up in his swallow-tails.  We sat down to a quiet game of dominoes, and were interrupted by the noisy entrance of Lupin and Frank Mutlar.  Cummings and I asked them to join us.  Lupin said he did not care for dominoes, and suggested a game of “Spoof.”  On my asking if it required counters, Frank and Lupin in measured time said: “One, two, three; go!  Have you an estate in Greenland?”  It was simply Greek to me, but it appears it is one of the customs of the “Holloway Comedians” to do this when a member displays ignorance.

In spite of my instructions, that blanc-mange was brought up again for supper.  To make matters worse, there had been an attempt to disguise it, by placing it in a glass dish with jam round it.  Carrie asked Lupin if he would have some, and he replied: “No second-hand goods for me, thank you.”  I told Carrie, when we were alone, if that blanc-mange were placed on the table again I should walk out of the house.

Charles Pooter

November 19, Sunday.—A delightfully quiet day.  In the afternoon Lupin was off to spend the rest of the day with the Mutlars.  He departed in the best of spirits, and Carrie said: “Well, one advantage of Lupin’s engagement with Daisy is that the boy seems happy all day long.  That quite reconciles me to what I must confess seems an imprudent engagement.”

Carrie and I talked the matter over during the evening, and agreed that it did not always follow that an early engagement meant an unhappy marriage.  Dear Carrie reminded me that we married early, and, with the exception of a few trivial misunderstandings, we had never had a really serious word.  I could not help thinking (as I told her) that half the pleasures of life were derived from the little struggles and small privations that one had to endure at the beginning of one’s married life.  Such struggles were generally occasioned by want of means, and often helped to make loving couples stand together all the firmer.

Carrie said I had expressed myself wonderfully well, and that I was quite a philosopher.

We are all vain at times, and I must confess I felt flattered by Carrie’s little compliment.  I don’t pretend to be able to express myself in fine language, but I feel I have the power of expressing my thoughts with simplicity and lucidness.  About nine o’clock, to our surprise.  Lupin entered, with a wild, reckless look, and in a hollow voice, which I must say seemed rather theatrical, said: “Have you any brandy?”  I said: “No; but here is some whisky.”  Lupin drank off nearly a wineglassful without water, to my horror.

We all three sat reading in silence till ten, when Carrie and I rose to go to bed.  Carrie said to Lupin: “I hope Daisy is well?”

Lupin, with a forced careless air that he must have picked up from the “Holloway Comedians,” replied: “Oh, Daisy?  You mean Miss Mutlar.  I don’t know whether she is well or not, but please never to mention her name again in my presence.”

Charles Pooter

November 22.—Gowing and Cummings dropped in during the evening.  Lupin also came in, bringing his friend, Mr. Burwin-Fosselton—one of the “Holloway Comedians”—who was at our party the other night, and who cracked our little round table.  Happy to say Daisy Mutlar was never referred to.  The conversation was almost entirely monopolised by the young fellow Fosselton, who not only looked rather like Mr. Irving, but seemed to imagine that he was the celebrated actor.  I must say he gave some capital imitations of him.  As he showed no signs of moving at supper time, I said: “If you like to stay, Mr. Fosselton, for our usual crust—pray do.”  He replied: “Oh! thanks; but please call me Burwin-Fosselton.  It is a double name.  There are lots of Fosseltons, but please call me Burwin-Fosselton.”

He began doing the Irving business all through supper.  He sank so low down in his chair that his chin was almost on a level with the table, and twice he kicked Carrie under the table, upset his wine, and flashed a knife uncomfortably near Gowing’s face.  After supper he kept stretching out his legs on the fender, indulging in scraps of quotations from plays which were Greek to me, and more than once knocked over the fire-irons, making a hideous row—poor Carrie already having a bad head-ache.

When he went, he said, to our surprise: “I will come to-morrow and bring my Irving make-up.”  Gowing and Cummings said they would like to see it and would come too.  I could not help thinking they might as well give a party at my house while they are about it.  However, as Carrie sensibly said: “Do anything, dear, to make Lupin forget the Daisy Mutlar business.”

Charles Pooter

April 16.—The night of the East Acton Volunteer Ball.  On my advice, Carrie put on the same dress that she looked so beautiful in at the Mansion House, for it had occurred to me, being a military ball, that Mr. Perkupp, who, I believe, is an officer in the Honorary Artillery Company, would in all probability be present.  Lupin, in his usual incomprehensible language, remarked that he had heard it was a “bounders’ ball.”  I didn’t ask him what he meant though I didn’t understand.  Where he gets these expressions from I don’t know; he certainly doesn’t learn them at home.

The invitation was for half-past eight, so I concluded if we arrived an hour later we should be in good time, without being “unfashionable,” as Mrs. James says.  It was very difficult to find—the cabman having to get down several times to inquire at different public-houses where the Drill Hall was.  I wonder at people living in such out-of-the-way places.  No one seemed to know it.  However, after going up and down a good many badly-lighted streets we arrived at our destination.  I had no idea it was so far from Holloway.  I gave the cabman five shillings, who only grumbled, saying it was dirt cheap at half-a-sovereign, and was impertinent enough to advise me the next time I went to a ball to take a ’bus.

Captain Welcut received us, saying we were rather late, but that it was better late than never.  He seemed a very good-looking gentleman though, as Carrie remarked, “rather short for an officer.”  He begged to be excused for leaving us, as he was engaged for a dance, and hoped we should make ourselves at home.  Carrie took my arm and we walked round the rooms two or three times and watched the people dancing.  I couldn’t find a single person I knew, but attributed it to most of them being in uniform.  As we were entering the supper-room I received a slap on the shoulder, followed by a welcome shake of the hand.  I said: “Mr. Padge, I believe;” he replied, “That’s right.”

I gave Carrie a chair, and seated by her was a lady who made herself at home with Carrie at once.

There was a very liberal repast on the tables, plenty of champagne, claret, etc., and, in fact, everything seemed to be done regardless of expense.  Mr. Padge is a man that, I admit, I have no particular liking for, but I felt so glad to come across someone I knew, that I asked him to sit at our table, and I must say that for a short fat man he looked well in uniform, although I think his tunic was rather baggy in the back.  It was the only supper-room that I have been in that was not over-crowded; in fact we were the only people there, everybody being so busy dancing.

I assisted Carrie and her newly-formed acquaintance, who said her name was Lupkin, to some champagne; also myself, and handed the bottle to Mr. Padge to do likewise, saying: “You must look after yourself.”  He replied: “That’s right,” and poured out half a tumbler and drank Carrie’s health, coupled, as he said, “with her worthy lord and master.”  We all had some splendid pigeon pie, and ices to follow.

The waiters were very attentive, and asked if we would like some more wine.  I assisted Carrie and her friend and Mr. Padge, also some people who had just come from the dancing-room, who were very civil.  It occurred to me at the time that perhaps some of the gentlemen knew me in the City, as they were so polite.  I made myself useful, and assisted several ladies to ices, remembering an old saying that “There is nothing lost by civility.”

The band struck up for the dance, and they all went into the ball-room.  The ladies (Carrie and Mrs. Lupkin) were anxious to see the dancing, and as I had not quite finished my supper, Mr. Padge offered his arms to them and escorted them to the ball-room, telling me to follow.  I said to Mr. Padge: “It is quite a West End affair,” to which remark Mr. Padge replied: “That’s right.”

When I had quite finished my supper, and was leaving, the waiter who had been attending on us arrested my attention by tapping me on the shoulder.  I thought it unusual for a waiter at a private ball to expect a tip, but nevertheless gave a shilling, as he had been very attentive.  He smilingly replied: “I beg your pardon, sir, this is no good,” alluding to the shilling.  “Your party’s had four suppers at 5s. a head, five ices at 1s., three bottles of champagne at 11s. 6d., a glass of claret, and a sixpenny cigar for the stout gentleman—in all £3 0s. 6d.!”

I don’t think I was ever so surprised in my life, and had only sufficient breath to inform him that I had received a private invitation, to which he answered that he was perfectly well aware of that; but that the invitation didn’t include eatables and drinkables.  A gentleman who was standing at the bar corroborated the waiter’s statement, and assured me it was quite correct.

The waiter said he was extremely sorry if I had been under any misapprehension; but it was not his fault.  Of course there was nothing to be done but to pay.  So, after turning out my pockets, I just managed to scrape up sufficient, all but nine shillings; but the manager, on my giving my card to him, said: “That’s all right.”

I don’t think I ever felt more humiliated in my life, and I determined to keep this misfortune from Carrie, for it would entirely destroy the pleasant evening she was enjoying.  I felt there was no more enjoyment for me that evening, and it being late, I sought Carrie and Mrs. Lupkin.  Carrie said she was quite ready to go, and Mrs. Lupkin, as we were wishing her “Good-night,” asked Carrie and myself if we ever paid a visit to Southend?  On my replying that I hadn’t been there for many years, she very kindly said: “Well, why don’t you come down and stay at our place?”  As her invitation was so pressing, and observing that Carrie wished to go, we promised we would visit her the next Saturday week, and stay till Monday.  Mrs. Lupkin said she would write to us to-morrow, giving us the address and particulars of trains, etc.

When we got outside the Drill Hall it was raining so hard that the roads resembled canals, and I need hardly say we had great difficulty in getting a cabman to take us to Holloway.  After waiting a bit, a man said he would drive us, anyhow, as far as “The Angel,” at Islington, and we could easily get another cab from there.  It was a tedious journey; the rain was beating against the windows and trickling down the inside of the cab.

When we arrived at “The Angel” the horse seemed tired out.  Carrie got out and ran into a doorway, and when I came to pay, to my absolute horror I remembered I had no money, nor had Carrie.  I explained to the cabman how we were situated.  Never in my life have I ever been so insulted; the cabman, who was a rough bully and to my thinking not sober, called me every name he could lay his tongue to, and positively seized me by the beard, which he pulled till the tears came into my eyes.  I took the number of a policeman (who witnessed the assault) for not taking the man in charge.  The policeman said he couldn’t interfere, that he had seen no assault, and that people should not ride in cabs without money.

We had to walk home in the pouring rain, nearly two miles, and when I got in I put down the conversation I had with the cabman, word for word, as I intend writing to the Telegraph for the purpose of proposing that cabs should be driven only by men under Government control, to prevent civilians being subjected to the disgraceful insult and outrage that I had had to endure.

Charles Pooter

May 10.—Received a letter from Mr. Franching, of Peckham, asking us to dine with him to-night, at seven o’clock, to meet Mr. Hardfur Huttle, a very clever writer for the American papers.  Franching apologised for the short notice; but said he had at the last moment been disappointed of two of his guests and regarded us as old friends who would not mind filling up the gap.  Carrie rather demurred at the invitation; but I explained to her that Franching was very well off and influential, and we could not afford to offend him.  “And we are sure to get a good dinner and a good glass of champagne.”  “Which never agrees with you!” Carrie replied, sharply.  I regarded Carrie’s observation as unsaid.  Mr. Franching asked us to wire a reply.  As he had said nothing about dress in the letter, I wired back: “With pleasure.  Is it full dress?” and by leaving out our name, just got the message within the sixpence.

Got back early to give time to dress, which we received a telegram instructing us to do.  I wanted Carrie to meet me at Franching’s house; but she would not do so, so I had to go home to fetch her.  What a long journey it is from Holloway to Peckham!  Why do people live such a long way off?  Having to change ’buses, I allowed plenty of time—in fact, too much; for we arrived at twenty minutes to seven, and Franching, so the servant said, had only just gone up to dress.  However, he was down as the clock struck seven; he must have dressed very quickly.

I must say it was quite a distinguished party, and although we did not know anybody personally, they all seemed to be quite swells.  Franching had got a professional waiter, and evidently spared no expense.  There were flowers on the table round some fairy-lamps and the effect, I must say, was exquisite.  The wine was good and there was plenty of champagne, concerning which Franching said he himself, never wished to taste better.  We were ten in number, and a menû card to each.  One lady said she always preserved the menû and got the guests to write their names on the back.

We all of us followed her example, except Mr. Huttle, who was of course the important guest.

The dinner-party consisted of Mr. Franching, Mr. Hardfur Huttle, Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Hillbutter, Mrs. Field, Mr. and Mrs. Purdick, Mr. Pratt, Mr. R. Kent, and, last but not least, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Pooter.  Franching said he was sorry he had no lady for me to take in to dinner.  I replied that I preferred it, which I afterwards thought was a very uncomplimentary observation to make.

I sat next to Mrs. Field at dinner.  She seemed a well-informed lady, but was very deaf.  It did not much matter, for Mr. Hardfur Huttle did all the talking.  He is a marvellously intellectual man and says things which from other people would seem quite alarming.  How I wish I could remember even a quarter of his brilliant conversation.  I made a few little reminding notes on the menû card.

One observation struck me as being absolutely powerful—though not to my way of thinking of course.  Mrs. Purdick happened to say “You are certainly unorthodox, Mr. Huttle.”  Mr. Huttle, with a peculiar expression (I can see it now) said in a slow rich voice: “Mrs. Purdick, ‘orthodox’ is a grandiloquent word implying sticking-in-the-mud.  If Columbus and Stephenson had been orthodox, there would neither have been the discovery of America nor the steam-engine.”  There was quite a silence.  It appeared to me that such teaching was absolutely dangerous, and yet I felt—in fact we must all have felt—there was no answer to the argument.  A little later on, Mrs. Purdick, who is Franching’s sister and also acted as hostess, rose from the table, and Mr. Huttle said: “Why, ladies, do you deprive us of your company so soon?  Why not wait while we have our cigars?”

The effect was electrical.  The ladies (including Carrie) were in no way inclined to be deprived of Mr. Huttle’s fascinating society, and immediately resumed their seats, amid much laughter and a little chaff.  Mr. Huttle said: “Well, that’s a real good sign; you shall not be insulted by being called orthodox any longer.”  Mrs. Purdick, who seemed to be a bright and rather sharp woman, said: “Mr. Huttle, we will meet you half-way—that is, till you get half-way through your cigar.  That, at all events, will be the happy medium.”

I shall never forget the effect the words, “happy medium,” had upon him.  He was brilliant and most daring in his interpretation of the words.  He positively alarmed me.  He said something like the following: “Happy medium, indeed.  Do you know ‘happy medium’ are two words which mean ‘miserable mediocrity’?  I say, go first class or third; marry a duchess or her kitchenmaid.  The happy medium means respectability, and respectability means insipidness.  Does it not, Mr. Pooter?”

I was so taken aback by being personally appealed to, that I could only bow apologetically, and say I feared I was not competent to offer an opinion.  Carrie was about to say something; but she was interrupted, for which I was rather pleased, for she is not clever at argument, and one has to be extra clever to discuss a subject with a man like Mr. Huttle.

He continued, with an amazing eloquence that made his unwelcome opinions positively convincing: “The happy medium is nothing more or less than a vulgar half-measure.  A man who loves champagne and, finding a pint too little, fears to face a whole bottle and has recourse to an imperial pint, will never build a Brooklyn Bridge or an Eiffel Tower.  No, he is half-hearted, he is a half-measure—respectable—in fact, a happy medium, and will spend the rest of his days in a suburban villa with a stucco-column portico, resembling a four-post bedstead.”

We all laughed.

“That sort of thing,” continued Mr. Huttle, “belongs to a soft man, with a soft beard with a soft head, with a made tie that hooks on.”

This seemed rather personal and twice I caught myself looking in the glass of the cheffonière; for I had on a tie that hooked on—and why not?  If these remarks were not personal they were rather careless, and so were some of his subsequent observations, which must have made both Mr. Franching and his guests rather uncomfortable.  I don’t think Mr. Huttle meant to be personal, for he added; “We don’t know that class here in this country: but we do in America, and I’ve no use for them.”

Franching several times suggested that the wine should be passed round the table, which Mr. Huttle did not heed; but continued as if he were giving a lecture:

“What we want in America is your homes.  We live on wheels.  Your simple, quiet life and home, Mr. Franching, are charming.  No display, no pretension!  You make no difference in your dinner, I dare say, when you sit down by yourself and when you invite us.  You have your own personal attendant—no hired waiter to breathe on the back of your head.”

I saw Franching palpably wince at this.

Mr. Huttle continued: “Just a small dinner with a few good things, such as you have this evening.  You don’t insult your guests by sending to the grocer for champagne at six shillings a bottle.”

I could not help thinking of “Jackson Frères” at three-and-six!

“In fact,” said Mr. Huttle, “a man is little less than a murderer who does.  That is the province of the milksop, who wastes his evening at home playing dominoes with his wife.  I’ve heard of these people.  We don’t want them at this table.  Our party is well selected.  We’ve no use for deaf old women, who cannot follow intellectual conversation.”

All our eyes were turned to Mrs. Field, who fortunately, being deaf, did not hear his remarks; but continued smiling approval.

“We have no representative at Mr. Franching’s table,” said Mr. Huttle, “of the unenlightened frivolous matron, who goes to a second class dance at Bayswater and fancies she is in Society.  Society does not know her; it has no use for her.”

Mr. Huttle paused for a moment and the opportunity was afforded for the ladies to rise.  I asked Mr. Franching quietly to excuse me, as I did not wish to miss the last train, which we very nearly did, by-the-by, through Carrie having mislaid the little cloth cricket-cap which she wears when we go out.

It was very late when Carrie and I got home; but on entering the sitting-room I said: “Carrie, what do you think of Mr. Hardfur Huttle?”  She simply answered: “How like Lupin!”  The same idea occurred to me in the train.  The comparison kept me awake half the night.  Mr. Huttle was, of course, an older and more influential man; but he was like Lupin, and it made me think how dangerous Lupin would be if he were older and more influential.  I feel proud to think Lupin does resemble Mr. Huttle in some ways.  Lupin, like Mr. Huttle, has original and sometimes wonderful ideas; but it is those ideas that are so dangerous.  They make men extremely rich or extremely poor.  They make or break men.  I always feel people are happier who live a simple unsophisticated life.  I believe I am happy because I am not ambitious.  Somehow I feel that Lupin, since he has been with Mr. Perkupp, has become content to settle down and follow the footsteps of his father.  This is a comfort.

Charles Pooter

June 3.—The laundress called, and said she was very sorry about the handkerchiefs, and returned ninepence.  I said, as the colour was completely washed out and the handkerchiefs quite spoiled, ninepence was not enough.  Carrie replied that the two handkerchiefs originally only cost sixpence, for she remembered bring them at a sale at the Holloway Bon Marché.  In that case, I insisted that threepence buying should be returned to the laundress.  Lupin has gone to stay with the Poshs for a few days.  I must say I feel very uncomfortable about it.  Carrie said I was ridiculous to worry about it.  Mr. Posh was very fond of Lupin, who, after all, was only a mere boy.

In the evening we had another séance, which, in some respects, was very remarkable, although the first part of it was a little doubtful.  Gowing called, as well as Cummings, and begged to be allowed to join the circle.  I wanted to object, but Mrs. James, who appears a good Medium (that is, if there is anything in it at all), thought there might be a little more spirit power if Gowing joined; so the five of us sat down.

The moment I turned out the gas, and almost before I could get my hands on the table, it rocked violently and tilted, and began moving quickly across the room.  Gowing shouted out: “Way oh! steady, lad, steady!”  I told Gowing if he could not behave himself I should light the gas, and put an end to the séance.

To tell the truth, I thought Gowing was playing tricks, and I hinted as much; but Mrs. James said she had often seen the table go right off the ground.  The spirit Lina came again, and said, “WARN” three or four times, and declined to explain.  Mrs. James said “Lina” was stubborn sometimes.  She often behaved like that, and the best thing to do was to send her away.

She then hit the table sharply, and said: “Go away, Lina; you are disagreeable.  Go away!”  I should think we sat nearly three-quarters of an hour with nothing happening.  My hands felt quite cold, and I suggested we should stop the séance.  Carrie and Mrs. James, as well as Cummings, would not agree to it.  In about ten minutes’ time there was some tilting towards me.  I gave the alphabet, and it spelled out S P O O F.  As I have heard both Gowing and Lupin use the word, and as I could hear Gowing silently laughing, I directly accused him of pushing the table.  He denied it; but, I regret to say, I did not believe him.

Gowing said: “Perhaps it means ‘Spook,’ a ghost.”

I said: “You know it doesn’t mean anything of the sort.”

Gowing said: “Oh! very well—I’m sorry I ‘spook,’” and he rose from the table.

No one took any notice of the stupid joke, and Mrs. James suggested he should sit out for a while.  Gowing consented and sat in the arm-chair.

The table began to move again, and we might have had a wonderful séance but for Gowing’s stupid interruptions.  In answer to the alphabet from Carrie the table spelt “NIPUL,” then the “WARN” three times.  We could not think what it meant till Cummings pointed out that “NIPUL” was Lupin spelled backwards.  This was quite exciting.  Carrie was particularly excited, and said she hoped nothing horrible was going to happen.

Mrs. James asked if “Lina” was the spirit.  The table replied firmly, “No,” and the spirit would not give his or her name.  We then had the message, “NIPUL will be very rich.”

Carrie said she felt quite relieved, but the word “WARN” was again spelt out.  The table then began to oscillate violently, and in reply to Mrs. James, who spoke very softly to the table, the spirit began to spell its name.  It first spelled “DRINK.”

Gowing here said: “Ah! that’s more in my line.”

I asked him to be quiet as the name might not be completed.

The table then spelt “WATER.”

Gowing here interrupted again, and said: “Ah! that’s not in my line.  Outside if you like, but not inside.”

Carrie appealed to him to be quiet.

The table then spelt “CAPTAIN,” and Mrs. James startled us by crying out, “Captain Drinkwater, a very old friend of my father’s, who has been dead some years.”

This was more interesting, and I could not help thinking that after all there must be something in Spiritualism.

Mrs. James asked the spirit to interpret the meaning of the word “Warn” as applied to “NIPUL.”  The alphabet was given again, and we got the word “BOSH.”

Gowing here muttered: “So it is.”

Mrs. James said she did not think the spirit meant that, as Captain Drinkwater was a perfect gentleman, and would never have used the word in answer to a lady’s question.  Accordingly the alphabet was given again.

This time the table spelled distinctly “POSH.”  We all thought of Mrs. Murray Posh and LupinCarrie was getting a little distressed, and as it was getting late we broke up the circle.

We arranged to have one more to-morrow, as it will be Mrs. James’ last night in town.  We also determined not to have Gowing present.

Cummings, before leaving, said it was certainly interesting, but he wished the spirits would say something about him.

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).