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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April 23.—Mr. and Mrs. James (Miss Fullers that was) came to meat tea, and we left directly after for the Tank Theatre. We got a ’bus that took us to King’s Cross, and then changed into one that took us to the “Angel.” Mr. James each time insisted on paying for all, saying that I had paid for the tickets and that was quite enough.
We arrived at theatre, where, curiously enough, all our ’bus-load except an old woman with a basket seemed to be going in. I walked ahead and presented the tickets. The man looked at them, and called out: “Mr. Willowly! do you know anything about these?” holding up my tickets. The gentleman called to, came up and examined my tickets, and said: “Who gave you these?” I said, rather indignantly: “Mr. Merton, of course.” He said: “Merton? Who’s he?” I answered, rather sharply: “You ought to know, his name’s good at any theatre in London.” He replied: “Oh! is it? Well, it ain’t no good here. These tickets, which are not dated, were issued under Mr. Swinstead’s management, which has since changed hands.” While I was having some very unpleasant words with the man, James, who had gone upstairs with the ladies, called out: “Come on!” I went up after them, and a very civil attendant said: “This way, please, box H.” I said to James: “Why, how on earth did you manage it?” and to my horror he replied: “Why, paid for it of course.”
This was humiliating enough, and I could scarcely follow the play, but I was doomed to still further humiliation. I was leaning out of the box, when my tie—a little black bow which fastened on to the stud by means of a new patent—fell into the pit below. A clumsy man not noticing it, had his foot on it for ever so long before he discovered it. He then picked it up and eventually flung it under the next seat in disgust. What with the box incident and the tie, I felt quite miserable. Mr. James, of Sutton, was very good. He said: “Don’t worry—no one will notice it with your beard. That is the only advantage of growing one that I can see.” There was no occasion for that remark, for Carrie is very proud of my beard.
To hide the absence of the tie I had to keep my chin down the rest of the evening, which caused a pain at the back of my neck.
April 21.—Got a reply from Merton, saying he was very busy, and just at present couldn’t manage passes for the Italian Opera, Haymarket, Savoy, or Lyceum, but the best thing going on in London was the Brown Bushes, at the Tank Theatre, Islington, and enclosed seats for four; also bill for whisky.
April 20.—Carrie reminded me that as her old school friend, Annie Fullers (now Mrs. James), and her husband had come up from Sutton for a few days, it would look kind to take them to the theatre, and would I drop a line to Mr. Merton asking him for passes for four, either for the Italian Opera, Haymarket, Savoy, or Lyceum. I wrote Merton to that effect.
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.
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!”
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.
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.
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.
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 Carrie. Carrie 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.
April 13.—An extraordinary coincidence: Carrie had called in a woman to make some chintz covers for our drawing-room chairs and sofa to prevent the sun fading the green rep of the furniture. I saw the woman, and recognised her as a woman who used to work years ago for my old aunt at Clapham. It only shows how small the world is.