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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January 21.—I am very much concerned at Lupin having started a pony-trap. I said: “Lupin, are you justified in this outrageous extravagance?” Lupin replied: “Well, one must get to the City somehow. I’ve only hired it, and can give it up any time I like.” I repeated my question: “Are you justified in this extravagance?” He replied: “Look here, Guv., excuse me saying so, but you’re a bit out of date. It does not pay nowadays, fiddling about over small things. I don’t mean anything personal, Guv’nor. My boss says if I take his tip, and stick to big things, I can make big money!” I said I thought the very idea of speculation most horrifying. Lupin said “It is not speculation, it’s a dead cert.” I advised him, at all events, not to continue the pony and cart; but he replied: “I made £200 in one day; now suppose I only make £200 in a month, or put it at £100 a month, which is ridiculously low—why, that is £1,250 a year. What’s a few pounds a week for a trap?”
I did not pursue the subject further, beyond saying that I should feel glad when the autumn came, and Lupin would be of age and responsible for his own debts. He answered: “My dear Guv., I promise you faithfully that I will never speculate with what I have not got. I shall only go on Job Cleanands’ tips, and as he is in the ‘know’ it is pretty safe sailing.” I felt somewhat relieved. Gowing called in the evening and, to my surprise, informed me that, as he had made £10 by one of Lupin’s tips, he intended asking us and the Cummings round next Saturday. Carrie and I said we should be delighted.
January 5.—I can scarcely write the news. Mr. Perkupp told me my salary would be raised £100! I stood gaping for a moment unable to realise it. I annually get £10 rise, and I thought it might be £15 or even £20; but £100 surpasses all belief. Carrie and I both rejoiced over our good fortune. Lupin came home in the evening in the utmost good spirits. I sent Sarah quietly round to the grocer’s for a bottle of champagne, the same as we had before, “Jackson Frères.” It was opened at supper, and I said to Lupin: “This is to celebrate some good news I have received to-day.” Lupin replied: “Hooray, Guv.! And I have some good news, also; a double event, eh?” I said: “My boy, as a result of twenty-one years’ industry and strict attention to the interests of my superiors in office, I have been rewarded with promotion and a rise in salary of £100.”
Lupin gave three cheers, and we rapped the table furiously, which brought in Sarah to see what the matter was. Lupin ordered us to “fill up” again, and addressing us upstanding, said: “Having been in the firm of Job Cleanands, stock and share-brokers, a few weeks, and not having paid particular attention to the interests of my superiors in office, my Guv’nor, as a reward to me, allotted me £5 worth of shares in a really good thing. The result is, to-day I have made £200.” I said: “Lupin, you are joking.” “No, Guv., it’s the good old truth; Job Cleanands put me on to Chlorates.”
January 4.—Mr. Perkupp sent for me and told me that my position would be that of one of the senior clerks. I was more than overjoyed. Mr. Perkupp added, he would let me know to-morrow what the salary would be. This means another day’s anxiety; I don’t mind, for it is anxiety of the right sort. That reminded me that I had forgotten to speak to Lupin about the letter I received from Mr. Mutlar, senr. I broached the subject to Lupin in the evening, having first consulted Carrie. Lupin was riveted to the Financial News, as if he had been a born capitalist, and I said: “Pardon me a moment, Lupin, how is it you have not been to the Mutlars’ any day this week?”
Lupin answered: “I told you! I cannot stand old Mutlar.”
I said: “Mr. Mutlar writes to me to say pretty plainly that he cannot stand you!”
Lupin said: “Well, I like his cheek in writing to you. I’ll find out if his father is still alive, and I will write him a note complaining of his son, and I’ll state pretty clearly that his son is a blithering idiot!”
I said: “Lupin, please moderate your expressions in the presence of your mother.”
Lupin said: “I’m very sorry, but there is no other expression one can apply to him. However, I’m determined not to enter his place again.”
I said: “You know, Lupin, he has forbidden you the house.”
Lupin replied: “Well, we won’t split straws—it’s all the same. Daisy is a trump, and will wait for me ten years, if necessary.”
January 3.—Still in a state of anxiety and excitement, which was not alleviated by ascertaining that Mr. Perkupp sent word he should not be at the office to-day. In the evening, Lupin, who was busily engaged with a paper, said suddenly to me: “Do you know anything about chalk pits, Guv.?” I said: “No, my boy, not that I’m aware of.” Lupin said: “Well, I give you the tip; chalk pits are as safe as Consols, and pay six per cent. at par.” I said a rather neat thing, viz.: “They may be six per cent. at par, but your pa has no money to invest.” Carrie and I both roared with laughter. Lupin did not take the slightest notice of the joke, although I purposely repeated it for him; but continued: “I give you the tip, that’s all—chalk pits!” I said another funny thing: “Mind you don’t fall into them!” Lupin put on a supercilious smile, and said: “Bravo! Joe Miller.”
January 2.—I was in a great state of suspense all day at the office. I did not like to worry Mr. Perkupp; but as he did not send for me, and mentioned yesterday that he would see me again to-day, I thought it better, perhaps, to go to him. I knocked at his door, and on entering, Mr. Perkupp said: “Oh! it’s you, Mr. Pooter; do you want to see me?” I said: “No, sir, I thought you wanted to see me!” “Oh!” he replied, “I remember. Well, I am very busy to-day; I will see you to-morrow.”
January 1.—I had intended concluding my diary last week; but a most important event has happened, so I shall continue for a little while longer on the fly-leaves attached to the end of my last year’s diary. It had just struck half-past one, and I was on the point of leaving the office to have my dinner, when I received a message that Mr. Perkupp desired to see me at once. I must confess that my heart commenced to beat and I had most serious misgivings.
Mr. Perkupp was in his room writing, and he said: “Take a seat, Mr. Pooter, I shall not be moment.”
I replied: “No, thank you, sir; I’ll stand.”
I watched the clock on the mantelpiece, and I was waiting quite twenty minutes; but it seemed hours. Mr. Perkupp at last got up himself.
I said: “I hope there is nothing wrong, sir?”
He replied: “Oh dear, no! quite the reverse, I hope.” What a weight off my mind! My breath seemed to come back again in an instant.
Mr. Perkupp said: “Mr. Buckling is going to retire, and there will be some slight changes in the office. You have been with us nearly twenty-one years, and, in consequence of your conduct during that period, we intend making a special promotion in your favour. We have not quite decided how you will be placed; but in any case there will be a considerable increase in your salary, which, it is quite unnecessary for me to say, you fully deserve. I have an appointment at two; but you shall hear more to-morrow.”
He then left the room quickly, and I was not even allowed time or thought to express a single word of grateful thanks to him. I need not say how dear Carrie received this joyful news. With perfect simplicity she said: “At last we shall be able to have a chimney-glass for the back drawing-room, which we always wanted.” I added: “Yes, and at last you shall have that little costume which you saw at Peter Robinson’s so cheap.”
December 31.—The last day of the Old Year. I received an extraordinary letter from Mr. Mutlar, senior. He writes: “Dear Sir,—For a long time past I have had considerable difficulty deciding the important question, ‘Who is the master of my own house? Myself, or your son Lupin?’ Believe me, I have no prejudice one way or the other; but I have been most reluctantly compelled to give judgment to the effect that I am the master of it. Under the circumstances, it has become my duty to forbid your son to enter my house again. I am sorry, because it deprives me of the society of one of the most modest, unassuming, and gentlemanly persons I have ever had the honour of being acquainted with.”
I did not desire the last day to wind up disagreeably, so I said nothing to either Carrie or Lupin about the letter.
A most terrible fog came on, and Lupin would go out in it, but promised to be back to drink out the Old Year—a custom we have always observed. At a quarter to twelve Lupin had not returned, and the fog was fearful. As time was drawing close, I got out the spirits. Carrie and I deciding on whisky, I opened a fresh bottle; but Carrie said it smelt like brandy. As I knew it to be whisky, I said there was nothing to discuss. Carrie, evidently vexed that Lupin had not come in, did discuss it all the same, and wanted me to have a small wager with her to decide by the smell. I said I could decide it by the taste in a moment. A silly and unnecessary argument followed, the result of which was we suddenly saw it was a quarter-past twelve, and, for the first time in our married life, we missed welcoming in the New Year. Lupin got home at a quarter-past two, having got lost in the fog—so he said.
December 30, Sunday.—Lupin spent the whole day with the Mutlars. He seemed rather cheerful in the evening, so I said: “I’m glad to see you so happy, Lupin.” He answered: “Well, Daisy is a splendid girl, but I was obliged to take her old fool of a father down a peg. What with his meanness over his cigars, his stinginess over his drinks, his farthing economy in turning down the gas if you only quit the room for a second, writing to one on half-sheets of note-paper, sticking the remnant of the last cake of soap on to the new cake, putting two bricks on each side of the fireplace, and his general ‘outside-halfpenny-‘bus-ness,’ I was compelled to let him have a bit of my mind.” I said: “Lupin, you are not much more than a boy; I hope you won’t repent it.”
December 29.—I had a most vivid dream last night. I woke up, and on falling asleep, dreamed the same dream over again precisely. I dreamt I heard Frank Mutlar telling his sister that he had not only sent me the insulting Christmas card, but admitted that he was the one who punched my head last night in the dark. As fate would have it, Lupin, at breakfast, was reading extracts from a letter he had just received from Frank.
I asked him to pass the envelope, that I might compare the writing. He did so, and I examined it by the side of the envelope containing the Christmas card. I detected a similarity in the writing, in spite of the attempted disguise. I passed them on to Carrie, who began to laugh. I asked her what she was laughing at, and she said the card was never directed to me at all. It was “L. Pooter,” not “C. Pooter.” Lupin asked to look at the direction and the card, and exclaimed, with a laugh: “Oh yes, Guv., it’s meant for me.”
I said: “Are you in the habit of receiving insulting Christmas cards?” He replied: “Oh yes, and of sending them, too.”
In the evening Gowing called, and said he enjoyed himself very much last night. I took the opportunity to confide in him, as an old friend, about the vicious punch last night. He burst out laughing, and said: “Oh, it was your head, was it? I know I accidentally hit something, but I thought it was a brick wall.” I told him I felt hurt, in both senses of the expression.
December 28—Lupin, on coming down to breakfast, said to his mother: “I have not put off Daisy and Frank, and should like them to join Gowing and Cummings this evening.” I felt very pleased with the boy for this. Carrie said, in reply: “I am glad you let me know in time, as I can turn over the cold leg of mutton, dress it with a little parsley, and no one will know it has been cut.” She further said she would make a few custards, and stew some pippins, so that they would be cold by the evening.
Finding Lupin in good spirits, I asked him quietly if he really had any personal objection to either Gowing or Cummings. He replied: “Not in the least. I think Cummings looks rather an ass, but that is partly due to his patronising ‘the three-and-six-one-price hat company,’ and wearing a reach-me-down frock-coat. As for that perpetual brown velveteen jacket of Gowing’s—why, he resembles an itinerant photographer.”
I said it was not the coat that made the gentleman; whereupon Lupin, with a laugh, replied: “No, and it wasn’t much of a gentleman who made their coats.”
We were rather jolly at supper, and Daisy made herself very agreeable, especially in the earlier part of the evening, when she sang. At supper, however, she said: “Can you make tee-to-tums with bread?” and she commenced rolling up pieces of bread, and twisting them round on the table. I felt this to be bad manners, but of course said nothing. Presently Daisy and Lupin, to my disgust, began throwing bread-pills at each other. Frank followed suit, and so did Cummings and Gowing, to my astonishment. They then commenced throwing hard pieces of crust, one piece catching me on the forehead, and making me blink. I said: “Steady, please; steady!” Frank jumped up and said: “Tum, tum; then the band played.”
I did not know what this meant, but they all roared, and continued the bread-battle. Gowing suddenly seized all the parsley off the cold mutton, and threw it full in my face. I looked daggers at Gowing, who replied: “I say, it’s no good trying to look indignant, with your hair full of parsley.” I rose from the table, and insisted that a stop should be put to this foolery at once. Frank Mutlar shouted: “Time, gentlemen, please! time!” and turned out the gas, leaving us in absolute darkness.
I was feeling my way out of the room, when I suddenly received a hard intentional punch at the back of my head. I said loudly: “Who did that?” There was no answer; so I repeated the question, with the same result. I struck a match, and lighted the gas. They were all talking and laughing, so I kept my own counsel; but, after they had gone, I said to Carrie; “The person who sent me that insulting post-card at Christmas was here to-night.”