The Diary of a Nobody
"Why should I not publish my diary? I have often seen reminiscences of people I have never even heard of, and I fail to see — because I do not happen to be a 'Somebody' — why my diary should not be interesting. My only regret is that I did not commence it when I was a youth."
This is a daily weblog version of The Diary of a Nobody, written by George Grossmith and originally serialised in Punch magazine in 1888 and 1889. Bringing Charles Pooter into the 21st century, his diary is now available as a selection of weblog-style RSS feeds which you can subscribe to, via a feed aggregator, or through certain browsers. The diary restarts on April 3 each year.
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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.
November 17.—Still feel tired and headachy! In the evening Gowing called, and was full of praise about our party last Wednesday. He said everything was done beautifully, and he enjoyed himself enormously. Gowing can be a very nice fellow when he likes, but you never know how long it will last. For instance, he stopped to supper, and seeing some blanc-mange on the table, shouted out, while the servant was in the room: “Hulloh! The remains of Wednesday?”
November 16.—Woke about twenty times during the night, with terrible thirst. Finished off all the water in the bottle, as well as half that in the jug. Kept dreaming also, that last night’s party was a failure, and that a lot of low people came without invitation, and kept chaffing and throwing things at Mr. Perkupp, till at last I was obliged to hide him in the box-room (which we had just discovered), with a bath-towel over him. It seems absurd now, but it was painfully real in the dream. I had the same dream about a dozen times.
Carrie annoyed me by saying: “You know champagne never agrees with you.” I told her I had only a couple of glasses of it, having kept myself entirely to port. I added that good champagne hurt nobody, and Lupin told me he had only got it from a traveller as a favour, as that particular brand had been entirely bought up by a West-End club.
I think I ate too heartily of the “side dishes,” as the waiter called them. I said to Carrie: “I wish I had put those ‘side dishes’ aside.” I repeated this, but Carrie was busy, packing up the teaspoons we had borrowed of Mrs. Cummings for the party. It was just half-past eleven, and I was starting for the office, when Lupin appeared, with a yellow complexion, and said: “Hulloh! Guv., what priced head have you this morning?” I told him he might just as well speak to me in Dutch. He added: “When I woke this morning, my head was as big as Baldwin’s balloon.” On the spur of the moment I said the cleverest thing I think I have ever said; viz.: “Perhaps that accounts for the parashooting pains.” We roared.
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.
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.
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 Peckham. Carrie 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.
November 12, Sunday.—Coming home from church Carrie and I met Lupin, Daisy Mutlar, and her brother. Daisy was introduced to us, and we walked home together, Carrie walking on with Miss Mutlar. We asked them in for a few minutes, and I had a good look at my future daughter-in-law. My heart quite sank. She is a big young woman, and I should think at least eight years older than Lupin. I did not even think her good-looking. Carrie asked her if she could come in on Wednesday next with her brother to meet a few friends. She replied that she would only be too pleased.
November 11.—Returned home to find the house in a most disgraceful uproar, Carrie, who appeared very frightened, was standing outside her bedroom, while Sarah was excited and crying. Mrs. Birrell (the charwoman), who had evidently been drinking, was shouting at the top of her voice that she was “no thief, that she was a respectable woman, who had to work hard for her living, and she would smack anyone’s face who put lies into her mouth.” Lupin, whose back was towards me, did not hear me come in. He was standing between the two women, and, I regret to say, in his endeavour to act as peacemaker, he made use of rather strong language in the presence of his mother; and I was just in time to hear him say: “And all this fuss about the loss of a few pages from a rotten diary that wouldn’t fetch three-halfpence a pound!” I said, quietly: “Pardon me, Lupin, that is a matter of opinion; and as I am master of this house, perhaps you will allow me to take the reins.”
I ascertained that the cause of the row was, that Sarah had accused Mrs. Birrell of tearing the pages out of my diary to wrap up some kitchen fat and leavings which she had taken out of the house last week. Mrs. Birrell had slapped Sarah’s face, and said she had taken nothing out of the place, as there was “never no leavings to take.” I ordered Sarah back to her work, and requested Mrs. Birrell to go home. When I entered the parlour Lupin was kicking his legs in the air, and roaring with laughter.
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 Lupin. Lupin 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.
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.