"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.
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|Recommended reading: Diary of a Nobody retold for the 21st century.|
December 20.—Went to Smirksons’, the drapers, in the Strand, who this year have turned out everything in the shop and devoted the whole place to the sale of Christmas cards. Shop crowded with people, who seemed to take up the cards rather roughly, and, after a hurried glance at them, throw them down again. I remarked to one of the young persons serving, that carelessness appeared to be a disease with some purchasers. The observation was scarcely out of my mouth, when my thick coat-sleeve caught against a large pile of expensive cards in boxes one on top of the other, and threw them down. The manager came forward, looking very much annoyed, and picking up several cards from the ground, said to one of the assistants, with a palpable side-glance at me: “Put these amongst the sixpenny goods; they can’t be sold for a shilling now.” The result was, I felt it my duty to buy some of these damaged cards.
I had to buy more and pay more than intended. Unfortunately I did not examine them all, and when I got home I discovered a vulgar card with a picture of a fat nurse with two babies, one black and the other white, and the words: “We wish Pa a Merry Christmas.” I tore up the card and threw it away. Carrie said the great disadvantage of going out in Society and increasing the number of our friends was, that we should have to send out nearly two dozen cards this year.
December 19.—The annual invitation came to spend Christmas with Carrie’s mother—the usual family festive gathering to which we always look forward. Lupin declined to go. I was astounded, and expressed my surprise and disgust. Lupin then obliged us with the following Radical speech: “I hate a family gathering at Christmas. What does it mean? Why someone says: ‘Ah! we miss poor Uncle James, who was here last year,’ and we all begin to snivel. Someone else says: ‘It’s two years since poor Aunt Liz used to sit in that corner.’ Then we all begin to snivel again. Then another gloomy relation says ‘Ah! I wonder whose turn it will be next?’ Then we all snivel again, and proceed to eat and drink too much; and they don’t discover until I get up that we have been seated thirteen at dinner.”
December 18.—Yesterday I was in a retrospective vein—to-day it is prospective. I see nothing but clouds, clouds, clouds. Lupin is perfectly intolerable over the Daisy Mutlar business. He won’t say what is the cause of the breach. He is evidently condemning her conduct, and yet, if we venture to agree with him, says he won’t hear a word against her. So what is one to do? Another thing which is disappointing to me is, that Carrie and Lupin take no interest whatever in my diary.
I broached the subject at the breakfast-table to-day. I said: “I was in hopes that, if anything ever happened to me, the diary would be an endless source of pleasure to you both; to say nothing of the chance of the remuneration which may accrue from its being published.”
Both Carrie and Lupin burst out laughing. Carrie was sorry for this, I could see, for she said: “I did not mean to be rude, dear Charlie; but truly I do not think your diary would sufficiently interest the public to be taken up by a publisher.”
I replied: “I am sure it would prove quite as interesting as some of the ridiculous reminiscences that have been published lately. Besides, it’s the diary that makes the man. Where would Evelyn and Pepys have been if it had not been for their diaries?”
Carrie said I was quite a philosopher; but Lupin, in a jeering tone, said: “If it had been written on larger paper, Guv., we might get a fair price from a butterman for it.”
As I am in the prospective vein, I vow the end of this year will see the end of my diary.
December 17.—As I open my scribbling diary I find the words “Oxford Michaelmas Term ends.” Why this should induce me to indulge in retrospective I don’t know, but it does. The last few weeks of my diary are of minimum interest. The breaking off of the engagement between Lupin and Daisy Mutlar has made him a different being, and Carrie a rather depressing companion. She was a little dull last Saturday, and I thought to cheer her up by reading some extracts from my diary; but she walked out of the room in the middle of the reading, without a word. On her return, I said: “Did my diary bore you, darling?”
She replied, to my surprise: “I really wasn’t listening, dear. I was obliged to leave to give instructions to the laundress. In consequence of some stuff she puts in the water, two more of Lupin’s coloured shirts have run and he says he won’t wear them.”
I said: “Everything is Lupin. It’s all Lupin, Lupin, Lupin. There was not a single button on my shirt yesterday, but I made no complaint.”
Carrie simply replied: “You should do as all other men do, and wear studs. In fact, I never saw anyone but you wear buttons on the shirt-fronts.”
I said: “I certainly wore none yesterday, for there were none on.”
Another thought that strikes me is that Gowing seldom calls in the evening, and Cummings never does. I fear they don’t get on well with Lupin.
November 26, Sunday.—The curate preached a very good sermon to-day—very good indeed. His appearance is never so impressive as our dear old vicar’s, but I am bound to say his sermons are much more impressive. A rather annoying incident occurred, of which I must make mention. Mrs. Fernlosse, who is quite a grand lady, living in one of those large houses in the Camden Road, stopped to speak to me after church, when we were all coming out. I must say I felt flattered, for she is thought a good deal of. I suppose she knew me through seeing me so often take round the plate, especially as she always occupies the corner seat of the pew. She is a very influential lady, and may have had something of the utmost importance to say, but unfortunately, as she commenced to speak a strong gust of wind came and blew my hat off into the middle of the road.
I had to run after it, and had the greatest difficulty in recovering it. When I had succeeded in doing so, I found Mrs. Fernlosse had walked on with some swell friends, and I felt I could not well approach her now, especially as my hat was smothered with mud. I cannot say how disappointed I felt.
In the evening (Sunday evening of all others) I found an impertinent note from Mr. Burwin-Fosselton, which ran as follows:
November 25.—Had a long letter from Mr. Fosselton respecting last night’s Irving discussion. I was very angry, and I wrote and said I knew little or nothing about stage matters, was not in the least interested in them and positively declined to be drawn into a discussion on the subject, even at the risk of its leading to a breach of friendship. I never wrote a more determined letter.
On returning home at the usual hour on Saturday afternoon I met near the Archway Daisy Mutlar. My heart gave a leap. I bowed rather stiffly, but she affected not to have seen me. Very much annoyed in the evening by the laundress sending home an odd sock. Sarah said she sent two pairs, and the laundress declared only a pair and a half were sent. I spoke to Carrie about it, but she rather testily replied: “I am tired of speaking to her; you had better go and speak to her yourself. She is outside.” I did so, but the laundress declared that only an odd sock was sent.
Gowing passed into the passage at this time and was rude enough to listen to the conversation, and interrupting, said: “Don’t waste the odd sock, old man; do an act of charity and give it to some poor mar with only one leg.” The laundress giggled like an idiot. I was disgusted and walked upstairs for the purpose of pinning down my collar, as the button had come off the back of my shirt.
When I returned to the parlour, Gowing was retailing his idiotic joke about the odd sock, and Carrie was roaring with laughter. I suppose I am losing my sense of humour. I spoke my mind pretty freely about Padge. Gowing said he had met him only once before that evening. He had been introduced by a friend, and as he (Padge) had “stood” a good dinner, Gowing wished to show him some little return. Upon my word, Gowing’s coolness surpasses all belief. Lupin came in before I could reply, and Gowing unfortunately inquired after Daisy Mutlar. Lupin shouted: “Mind your own business, sir!” and bounced out of the room, slamming the door. The remainder of the night was Daisy Mutlar—Daisy Mutlar—Daisy Mutlar. Oh dear!
November 24.—I went to town without a pocket-handkerchief. This is the second time I have done this during the last week. I must be losing my memory. Had it not been for this Daisy Mutlar business, I would have written to Mr. Burwin-Fosselton and told him I should be out this evening, but I fancy he is the sort of young man who would come all the same.
Dear old Cummings came in the evening; but Gowing sent round a little note saying he hoped I would excuse his not turning up, which rather amused me. He added that his neck was still painful. Of course, Burwin-Fosselton came, but Lupin never turned up, and imagine my utter disgust when that man Padge actually came again, and not even accompanied by Gowing. I was exasperated, and said: “Mr. Padge, this is a surprise.” Dear Carrie, fearing unpleasantness, said: “Oh! I suppose Mr. Padge has only come to see the other Irving make-up.” Mr. Padge said: “That’s right,” and took the best chair again, from which he never moved the whole evening.
My only consolation is, he takes no supper, so he is not an expensive guest, but I shall speak to Gowing about the matter. The Irving imitations and conversations occupied the whole evening, till I was sick of it. Once we had a rather heated discussion, which was commenced by Cummings saying that it appeared to him that Mr. Burwin-Fosselton was not only like Mr. Irving, but was in his judgment every way as good or even better. I ventured to remark that after all it was but an imitation of an original.
Cummings said surely some imitations were better than the originals. I made what I considered a very clever remark: “Without an original there can be no imitation.” Mr. Burwin-Fosselton said quite impertinently: “Don’t discuss me in my presence, if you please; and, Mr. Pooter, I should advise you to talk about what you understand;” to which that cad Padge replied: “That’s right.” Dear Carrie saved the whole thing by suddenly saying: “I’ll be Ellen Terry.” Dear Carrie’s imitation wasn’t a bit liked, but she was so spontaneous and so funny that the disagreeable discussion passed off. When they left, I very pointedly said to Mr. Burwin-Fosselton and Mr. Padge that we should be engaged to-morrow evening.
November 23.—In the evening, Cummings came early. Gowing came a little later and brought, without asking permission, a fat and, I think, very vulgar-looking man named Padge, who appeared to be all moustache. Gowing never attempted any apology to either of us, but said Padge wanted to see the Irving business, to which Padge said: “That’s right,” and that is about all he did say during the entire evening. Lupin came in and seemed in much better spirits. He had prepared a bit of a surprise. Mr. Burwin-Fosselton had come in with him, but had gone upstairs to get ready. In half-an-hour Lupin retired from the parlour, and returning in a few minutes, announced “Mr. Henry Irving.”
I must say we were all astounded. I never saw such a resemblance. It was astonishing. The only person who did not appear interested was the man Padge, who had got the best arm-chair, and was puffing away at a foul pipe into the fireplace. After some little time I said; “Why do actors always wear their hair so long?” Carrie in a moment said, “Mr. Hare doesn’t wear long hair.” How we laughed except Mr. Fosselton, who said, in a rather patronising kind of way, “The joke, Mrs. Pooter, is extremely appropriate, if not altogether new.” Thinking this rather a snub, I said: “Mr. Fosselton, I fancy—” He interrupted me by saying: “Mr. Burwin-Fosselton, if you please,” which made me quite forget what I was going to say to him. During the supper Mr. Burwin-Fosselton again monopolised the conversation with his Irving talk, and both Carrie and I came to the conclusion one can have even too much imitation of Irving. After supper, Mr. Burwin-Fosselton got a little too boisterous over his Irving imitation, and suddenly seizing Gowing by the collar of his coat, dug his thumb-nail, accidentally of course, into Gowing’s neck and took a piece of flesh out. Gowing was rightly annoyed, but that man Padge, who having declined our modest supper in order that he should not lose his comfortable chair, burst into an uncontrollable fit of laughter at the little misadventure. I was so annoyed at the conduct of Padge, I said: “I suppose you would have laughed if he had poked Mr. Gowing’s eye out?” to which Padge replied: “That’s right,” and laughed more than ever. I think perhaps the greatest surprise was when we broke up, for Mr. Burwin-Fosselton said: “Good-night, Mr. Pooter. I’m glad you like the imitation, I’ll bring the other make-up to-morrow night.”
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.”
November 21.—Lupin turned up for a few minutes in the evening. He asked for a drop of brandy with a sort of careless look, which to my mind was theatrical and quite ineffective. I said: “My boy, I have none, and I don’t think I should give it you if I had.” Lupin said: “I’ll go where I can get some,” and walked out of the house. Carrie took the boy’s part, and the rest of the evening was spent in a disagreeable discussion, in which the words “Daisy” and “Mutlar” must have occurred a thousand times.