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Win an autographed copy of “The Management Secrets of T. John Dick”

16 Sep
Claude and Millicent

– Good Heavens, Claude! Is this a genuine signed Augustus Gump?
– That’s right, Millicent. Now, are you sure you still want to marry Gerald?

Impress the opposite sex* with your sophistication and be the envy of your friends with this handsome paper and glue bound, prestige paperback volume sitting on the mahogany shelves of your study.

Smile benignly over your pipe as visitors gasp in admiration as they pull the book from the shelf, open its crisp pages and are greeted by an elegant full color, blue or black ink signature.But don’t let them keep their grubby hands on it for too long. Treat it with care. It is an investment, or at least it would be if any investing was required, beyond a few seconds of your time.

To enter, just click here.

The link will take you to the contest on the Management Secrets of T. John Dick Facebook page.

3d Cover TJ1 No Refl You’ll be asked to like the page, unless you’ve already liked it, of course and, if you want to increase your chances still further, you’ll be offered an extra entry just for following this blog. You can do that over to the right of this page, unless you already follow it if course, in which case, congratulations on your exquisite taste. You are just the kind of person we need to win the contest and keep this extraordinary objet d’art out of the hands of the kind of riff-raff that might otherwise win it.

* – Or the same sex, of course. Augustus Gump is quite comfortable with being an idol of that section of the gay community that spends money on books.

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Are you a T. John Dick?

11 Aug
TJpic2Which character in the T. John Dick books do you most resemble?

Take our fun quiz and find out if you have what it takes to be a top executive who thinks outside the box and focuses on the big picture. Or are you merely mediocre middle management  material? Or a complete loser, fit only for a position in Human Resources? You won’t know until you …

take the quiz

The Diary of a Nobody – Episode 11

6 Jun

Well, the illustrations are back with a vengeance. Three of them in today’s chapter, plus an extra bonus illustration in the footnotes. Fans of footnotes are also in for a treat. Ten of them in this episode.

CHAPTER XI.

We have a dose of Irving imitations. Make the acquaintance of a Mr. Padge. Don’t care for him. Mr. Burwin-Fosselton becomes a nuisance.

November 20. – Have seen nothing of Lupin the whole day. Bought a cheap address-book. I spent the evening copying in the names and addresses of my friends and acquaintances. Left out the Mutlars of course.

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.

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 [1] , 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.

Mr. Burwin-Fossleton at SupperMr. Burwin-Fosselton at supper.

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 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.”

Mr. Henry Irving

Lupin announces Mr. Henry Irving.

I must say we were all astounded. I never saw such a resemblance. [2] 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.” [3] 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.”

Mr. PadgeMr. Padge

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.” [4] 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 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 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:

“Dear Mr. Pooter, – Although your junior by perhaps some twenty or thirty years – which is sufficient reason that you ought to have a longer record of the things and ways in this miniature of a planet – I feel it is just within the bounds of possibility that the wheels of your life don’t travel so quickly round as those of the humble writer of these lines. The dandy horse of past days has been known to overtake the SLOW COACH.

“Do I make myself understood?

“Very well, then! Permit me, Mr. Pooter, to advise you to accept the VERB. SAP. [5] Acknowledge your defeat, and take your whipping gracefully; for remember you threw down the glove, and I cannot claim to be either mentally or physically a COWARD!

“REVENONS A NOS MOUTONS. [6]

“Our lives run in different grooves. I live for MY ART – THE STAGE. Your life is devoted to commercial pursuits – ‘A life among Ledgers.’ My books are of different metal. Your life in the City is honourable, I admit. BUT HOW DIFFERENT! Cannot even you see the ocean between us? A channel that prevents the meeting of our brains in harmonious accord. Ah! But CHACUN A SON GOUT. [7]

“I have registered a vow to mount the steps of fame. I may crawl, I may slip, I may even falter (we are all weak), but REACH THE TOP RUNG OF THE LADDER I WILL!!! When there, my voice shall be heard, for I will shout to the multitudes below: ‘VICI!’ [8] For the present I am only an amateur, and my work is unknown, forsooth, save to a party of friends, with here and there an enemy.

“But, Mr. Pooter, let me ask you, ‘What is the difference between the amateur and the professional?’

“None!!!

“Stay! Yes, there is a difference. One is PAID for doing what the other does as skilfully for NOTHING!

“But I will be PAID, too! For I, contrary to the wishes of my family and friends, have at last elected to adopt the stage as MY profession. And when the FARCE craze is over – and, MARK YOU, THAT WILL BE SOON – I will make my power known; for I feel – pardon my apparent conceit – that there is no living man who can play the hump-backed Richard as I FEEL and KNOW I can. [9]

“And YOU will be the first to come round and bend your head in submission. There are many matters you may understand, but knowledge of the fine art of acting is to you an UNKNOWN QUANTITY.

“Pray let this discussion cease with this letter. VALE! [10]

Yours truly,

“Burwin-Fosselton.”

I was disgusted. When Lupin came in, I handed him this impertinent letter, and said: “My boy, in that letter you can see the true character of your friend.”

Lupin, to my surprise, said: “Oh yes. He showed me the letter before he sent it. I think he is right, and you ought to apologise.”


FOOTNOTES
1. Henry IrvingHenry Irving was the most famous actor of the age. Burwin-Fossleton would seem to be aping his performance as Mathias in “The Bells.” Photographs of this performance show him slouched over a table. “The Bells,” a powerful melodrama in which Irving played a remorseful murderer, was the play that firmly established Irving’s reputation and Mathias was a role he returned to many times. Irving’s ultra-dramatic acting style was easily imitated. Both George and Weedon Grossmith did so on stage to comic effect.

2. Readers with keen powers of observation will notice that Burwin-Fossleton is dressed in similar garb to that worn by Irving in “The Bells.”

3. John Hare was a famous comic actor at the time.

4. Ellen Terry was the most Shakespearean actress of the age and reputedly the mistress of Irving, opposite whom she appeared in many productions.

5. Abbreviation of the Latin phrase verbum sapientī sat est – a word to the wise is sufficient.

6. The French expression revenons à nos moutons is from the medieval French play La Farce de Maître Pathelin, in which the protagonist deliberately misleads a judge by bringing two cases before him – one relating to sheep and the other to sheets. The judge is very confused and attempts to get back to the case about sheep by repeatedly saying “mais revenons à nos moutons.” Since then, (mais) revenons à nos moutons has meant “let’s get back on topic.”

Students of great literature will recall that this expression occurs in The Rise and Fall of T. John Dick in the unlikely mouth of Greg, Grace’s Australian “friend.” I didn’t get the idea from Diary of  a Nobody. It was a favourite expression of my father’s.

7. French for “everyone to his taste.” Burwin Fossleton certainly likes his French clichés.

8. Burwin-Fossleton also likes his Latin clichés. This one may be unfamiliar to younger readers, who, unwisely I believe, neglect to study Julius Caesar’s victory in his short war against Pharnaces II of Pontus. In a letter to his pals in the Senate back in Rome, Caesar wrote the famous words “Veni, vidi, vici,” I came, I saw, I conquered. Burwin-Fossleton believes that he has “conquered” Mr. Pooter.

9. Irving’s portrayals of Shakespeare’s Richard III were considered the finest available at the time.

10. Burwin-Fossleton is at it again with the Latin. Vale = Farewell.

The Diary of a Nobody – Episode 10

5 May

No illustrations again, I’m afraid, for episode 10 of our continuing serialization of this classic novel. It seems that Weedon Grossmith either was uninspired by his brother’s writing at this point in the book or had other things to do.

CHAPTER X.

Reflections. I make another Good Joke. Am annoyed at the constant serving-up of the “Blanc-Mange.” Lupin expresses his opinion of Weddings. Lupin falls out with Daisy Mutlar.

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.” [1] 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 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 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?” [2] 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 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.”

FOOTNOTES
1. The reference is to Thomas Baldwin, an American showman who would jump from a hot air balloon wielding an umbrella-like parachute.
2. The implication is that Pooter Senior is “green” or naive and clueless. Where else would such a person live but Greenland?

Book Review – The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman

20 Apr

As a writer of humorous fiction, I had long intended to read The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne. Written between 1759 and 1767, it is in some ways the granddaddy of English humorous literature and contains within its gentle, meandering, conversational style many of the elements that make comic writing from that country unique, in spite of Sterne’s admiration of authors such as Rabelais and Cervantes.

There is much to admire in the book, or rather series of books – there are nine of them – provided that you make allowances for the fact that it was a pioneering work (though not entirely without precedent). Its loose structure, which smacks of sheer laziness, would not stand up to today’s standards, but some of the comedic incidents and the characterization of the narrator’s father, his Unlce Toby and the latter’s servant Trim are ahead of their time. The satire of learned people, though a little hard to decipher for the modern reader, is also amusing. Perhaps the work’s most prominent virtues are its warmth and generosity, particularly apparent in the discussions involving the narrator’s father and his Uncle Toby – even when engaged in satire, Sterne is kind – and its engaging voice. Sterne is good company.

And he has to be, because much of what he writes is codswallop, and not all of it is funny. He takes us in huge digressions and even digressions within digressions. The whole of Book VII consists of a travelogue recounting a journey to France, which, while interesting in the insights it gives into the modes of travel and accommodation of the time, has nothing to do with any of the other books. You get the feeling that he just got up and wrote what he felt like writing, regardless of what preceded it, before popping out for a couple of beers. He seems to admit as much in the second chapter of Book VIII:

“The thing is this. That of all the several ways of beginning a book which are now in practice throughout the known world, I am confident that my own way of doing it is best – I’m sure it is the most religious – for I begin with writing the first sentence – and trusting to Almighty God for the second…

…I wish you saw me half-starting out of my chair, with what confidence, as I grasp the elbow of it, I look up – catching the idea, even sometimes before it half-way reaches me –

I believe in my conscience I intercept many a thought which heaven intended for another man.”

It is a tribute to Sterne’s engaging style that you keep reading it, especially as it also includes chaotic sentence structure and punctuation and the occasional chapter towards the end of the book that consists of nothing at all! You forgive all this because you somehow like him. You don’t even mind that the books, with all their “progressive digressions” do not really have a plot, as such. You certainly never learn much about the life of Tristram Shandy, who doesn’t even enter the world until three volumes have passed, and as for the opinions – they are undisguisedly those of Sterne himself. This is a very strange work, and it somehow seems fitting that it should end strangely and very suddenly. In fact, it doesn’t really have a conclusion. It just stops.

And so will I.

The Diary of a Nobody – Episode 9

15 Apr

Apologies for the long gap between episodes and for the lack of illustrations in this chapter, although that can be explained by the simple fact that there are none in the original book either. Attentive readers might notice that the font has changed from previous chapters. This is because WordPress has changed the paste function to strip out all formatting by default and I can’t figure out how to put it back in without an inordinate amount of work.

Whence, I hear you ask, cometh the text that is being copied and pasted. Well, the thrilling news is that it comes from the ebook, which will be published at the conclusion of this series to great acclaim, arising from the fact that it is free.

 

CHAPTER IX.

 

Our first important Party. Old Friends and New Friends. Gowing is a little annoying; but his friend, Mr. Stillbrook, turns out to be quite amusing. Inopportune arrival of Mr. Perkupp, but he is most kind and complimentary. Party a great success.

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.

 

The Diary of a Nobody – Episode 8

18 Mar

Chapter 8 contains an intriguing riddle. We see Mr. Pooter attending a fireworks party, which takes place on the 6th of November, instead of the customary 5th. Without further investigation, which I will undertake at the first opportunity, I can think of no other reason for this than that someone made a mistake – author, editor, printer or gremlin.

 

CHAPTER VIII.

Daisy Mutlar sole topic of conversation. Lupin’s new berth. Fireworks at the Cummings’. The “Holloway Comedians.” Sarah quarrels with the charwoman. Lupin’s uncalled-for interference. Am introduced to Daisy Mutlar. We decide to give a party in her honour.

November 5, Sunday. – Carrie and I troubled about that mere boy Lupin getting engaged to be married without consulting us or anything. After dinner he told us all about it. He said the lady’s name was Daisy Mutlar, and she was the nicest, prettiest, and most accomplished girl he ever met. He loved her the moment he saw her, and if he had to wait fifty years he would wait, and he knew she would wait for him.

Lupin further said, with much warmth, that the world was a different world to him now, – it was a world worth living in. He lived with an object now, and that was to make Daisy Mutlar – Daisy Pooter, and he would guarantee she would not disgrace the family of the Pooters. Carrie here burst out crying, and threw her arms round his neck, and in doing so, upset the glass of port he held in his hand all over his new light trousers.

I said I had no doubt we should like Miss Mutlar when we saw her, but Carrie said she loved her already. I thought this rather premature, but held my tongue. Daisy Mutlar was the sole topic of conversation for the remainder of the day. I asked Lupin who her people were, and he replied: “Oh, you know Mutlar, Williams and Watts.” I did not know, but refrained from asking any further questions at present, for fear of irritating Lupin.

November 6. – Lupin went with me to the office, and had a long conversation with Mr. Perkupp, our principal, the result of which was that he accepted a clerkship in the firm of Job Cleanands and Co., Stock and Share Brokers. Lupin told me, privately, it was an advertising firm, and he did not think much of it. [1] I replied: “Beggars should not be choosers;” and I will do Lupin the justice to say, he looked rather ashamed of himself.

In the evening we went round to the Cummings’, to have a few fireworks. It began to rain, and I thought it rather dull. One of my squibs would not go off, and Gowing said: “Hit it on your boot, boy; it will go off then.” I gave it a few knocks on the end of my boot, and it went off with one loud explosion, and burnt my fingers rather badly. I gave the rest of the squibs to the little Cummings’ boy to let off.

Another unfortunate thing happened, which brought a heap of abuse on my head. Cummings fastened a large wheel set-piece on a stake in the ground by way of a grand finale. He made a great fuss about it; said it cost seven shillings. There was a little difficulty in getting it alight. At last it went off; but after a couple of slow revolutions it stopped. I had my stick with me, so I gave it a tap to send it round, and, unfortunately, it fell off the stake on to the grass. Anybody would have thought I had set the house on fire from the way in which they stormed at me. I will never join in any more firework parties. It is a ridiculous waste of time and money.

November 7. – Lupin asked Carrie to call on Mrs. Mutlar, but Carrie said she thought Mrs. Mutlar ought to call on her first. I agreed with Carrie, and this led to an argument. However, the matter was settled by Carrie saying she could not find any visiting cards, and we must get some more printed, and when they were finished would be quite time enough to discuss the etiquette of calling.

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.

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.

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 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 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.

Daisy Mutlar

Daisy Mutlar.

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 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 Bezique till nearly twelve o’clock.

FOOTNOTE:
1. A stockbroker firm that advertises for business – a practice to which the more established and highly regarded firms would not stoop.

The Diary of a Nobody – Episode 7

15 Mar

My humble apologies to the legions of fans of our continuing serial, “The Diary of a Nobody.” It has been a week since I posted the previous chapter. This is because the business of being a literary giant has been extremely hectic this last little while. It’s not all slagging off Hemingway in fashionable cafes and accepting the accolades of an adoring public. Well, alright, that is actually mostly what I do, but there’s some other stuff too, and there’s been a lot of it. Sorry.

CHAPTER VII.

Home again. Mrs. James’ influence on Carrie. Can get nothing for Lupin. Next-door neighbours are a little troublesome. Some one tampers with my diary. Got a place for Lupin. Lupin startles us with an announcement.

August 22. – Home sweet Home again! Carrie bought some pretty blue-wool mats to stand vases on. Fripps, Janus and Co. write to say they are sorry they have no vacancy among their staff of clerks for Lupin.

August 23. – I bought a pair of stags’ heads made of plaster-of-Paris and coloured brown. They will look just the thing for our little hall, and give it style; the heads are excellent imitations. Poolers and Smith are sorry they have nothing to offer Lupin.

A stag's head

I hung up a stag’s head made of plaster-of-Paris.

August 24. – Simply to please Lupin, and make things cheerful for him, as he is a little down, Carrie invited Mrs. James to come up from Sutton and spend two or three days with us. We have not said a word to Lupin, but mean to keep it as a surprise.

August 25. – Mrs. James, of Sutton, arrived in the afternoon, bringing with her an enormous bunch of wild flowers. The more I see of Mrs James the nicer I think she is, and she is devoted to Carrie. She went into Carrie’s room to take off her bonnet, and remained there nearly an hour talking about dress. Lupin said he was not a bit surprised at Mrs. James’ VISIT, but was surprised at HER.

August 26, Sunday. – Nearly late for church, Mrs. James having talked considerably about what to wear all the morning. Lupin does not seem to get on very well with Mrs. James. I am afraid we shall have some trouble with our next-door neighbours who came in last Wednesday. Several of their friends, who drive up in dog-carts, have already made themselves objectionable.

An evening or two ago I had put on a white waistcoat for coolness, and while walking past with my thumbs in my waistcoat pockets (a habit I have), one man, seated in the cart, and looking like an American, commenced singing some vulgar nonsense about “I HAD THIRTEEN DOLLARS IN MY WAISTCOAT POCKET.” I fancied it was meant for me, and my suspicions were confirmed; for while walking round the garden in my tall hat this afternoon, a “throw-down” cracker was deliberately aimed at my hat, and exploded on it like a percussion cap. I turned sharply, and am positive I saw the man who was in the cart retreating from one of the bedroom windows.

August 27. – Carrie and Mrs. James went off shopping, and had not returned when I came back from the office. Judging from the subsequent conversation, I am afraid Mrs. James is filling Carrie’s head with a lot of nonsense about dress. I walked over to Gowing’s and asked him to drop in to supper, and make things pleasant.

Carrie prepared a little extemporised supper, consisting of the remainder of the cold joint, a small piece of salmon (which I was to refuse, in case there was not enough to go round), and a blanc-mange and custards. There was also a decanter of port and some jam puffs on the sideboard. Mrs. James made us play rather a good game of cards, called “Muggings.” [1] To my surprise, in fact disgust, Lupin got up in the middle, and, in a most sarcastic tone, said: “Pardon me, this sort of thing is too fast for me, I shall go and enjoy a quiet game of marbles in the back-garden.”

Things might have become rather disagreeable but for Gowing (who seems to have taken to Lupin) suggesting they should invent games. Lupin said: “Let’s play ‘monkeys.'” He then led Gowing all round the room, and brought him in front of the looking-glass. I must confess I laughed heartily at this. I was a little vexed at everybody subsequently laughing at some joke which they did not explain, and it was only on going to bed I discovered I must have been walking about all the evening with an antimacassar on one button of my coat-tails. [2]

August 28. – Found a large brick in the middle bed of geraniums, evidently come from next door. Pattles and Pattles can’t find a place for Lupin.

August 29. – Mrs. James is making a positive fool of Carrie. Carrie appeared in a new dress like a smock-frock. She said “smocking” was all the rage. I replied it put me in a rage. She also had on a hat as big as a kitchen coal-scuttle, and the same shape. Mrs. James went home, and both Lupin and I were somewhat pleased – the first time we have agreed on a single subject since his return. Merkins and Son write they have no vacancy for Lupin.

October 30. – I should very much like to know who has wilfully torn the last five or six weeks out of my diary. It is perfectly monstrous! Mine is a large scribbling diary, with plenty of space for the record of my everyday events, and in keeping up that record I take (with much pride) a great deal of pains.

I asked Carrie if she knew anything about it. She replied it was my own fault for leaving the diary about with a charwoman cleaning and the sweeps in the house. I said that was not an answer to my question. This retort of mine, which I thought extremely smart, would have been more effective had I not jogged my elbow against a vase on a table temporarily placed in the passage, knocked it over, and smashed it.

Carrie was dreadfully upset at this disaster, for it was one of a pair of vases which cannot be matched, given to us on our wedding-day by Mrs. Burtsett, an old friend of Carrie’s cousins, the Pommertons, late of Dalston. I called to Sarah, and asked her about the diary. She said she had not been in the sitting-room at all; after the sweep had left, Mrs. Birrell (the charwoman) had cleaned the room and lighted the fire herself. Finding a burnt piece of paper in the grate, I examined it, and found it was a piece of my diary. So it was evident some one had torn my diary to light the fire. I requested Mrs. Birrell to be sent to me to-morrow.

October 31. – Received a letter from our principal, Mr. Perkupp, saying that he thinks he knows of a place at last for our dear boy Lupin. This, in a measure, consoles me for the loss of a portion of my diary; for I am bound to confess the last few weeks have been devoted to the record of disappointing answers received from people to whom I have applied for appointments for Lupin. Mrs. Birrell called, and, in reply to me, said: “She never SEE no book, much less take such a liberty as TOUCH it.”

I said I was determined to find out who did it, whereupon she said she would do her best to help me; but she remembered the sweep lighting the fire with a bit of the ECHO. I requested the sweep to be sent to me to-morrow. I wish Carrie had not given Lupin a latch-key; we never seem to see anything of him. I sat up till past one for him, and then retired tired.

Mr. Perkupp

Mr. Perkupp.

November 1. – My entry yesterday about “retired tired,” which I did not notice at the time, is rather funny. If I were not so worried just now, I might have had a little joke about it. The sweep called, but had the audacity to come up to the hall-door and lean his dirty bag of soot on the door-step. He, however, was so polite, I could not rebuke him. He said Sarah lighted the fire. Unfortunately, Sarah heard this, for she was dusting the banisters, and she ran down, and flew into a temper with the sweep, causing a row on the front door-steps, which I would not have had happen for anything. I ordered her about her business, and told the sweep I was sorry to have troubled him; and so I was, for the door-steps were covered with soot in consequence of his visit. I would willingly give ten shillings to find out who tore my diary.

November 2. – I spent the evening quietly with Carrie, of whose company I never tire. We had a most pleasant chat about the letters on “Is Marriage a Failure?” It has been no failure in our case. In talking over our own happy experiences, we never noticed that it was past midnight. We were startled by hearing the door slam violently. Lupin had come in. He made no attempt to turn down the gas in the passage, or even to look into the room where we were, but went straight up to bed, making a terrible noise. I asked him to come down for a moment, and he begged to be excused, as he was “dead beat,” an observation that was scarcely consistent with the fact that, for a quarter of an hour afterwards, he was positively dancing in his room, and shouting out, “See me dance the polka!” or some such nonsense. [3]

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!”

Lupin engaged

Lupin said: “I’m engaged to be married.”

FOOTNOTES
1. Muggings was a children’s card game, rather like snap. When two players turned over matching cards, the first one to shout “Muggings” would take both piles of cards.
2. An antimacassar was a lace cover placed on the back of an armchair to protect it against hair oil. Although the threat posed by hair oil has receded since the Grossmiths’ day, you might still spot antimacassars in your Granny’s sitting room.
3. George Grossmith is having a joke at his own expense. See Me Dance the Polka was a hit song of his in 1886.

The Diary of a Nobody – Episode 6

8 Mar

The sixth installment introduces Mr. Pooter’s son, Lupin. I intend to check in about a year’s time to ascertain whether the runaway success of my blog, and this feature in particular, has resulted in a sudden surge in the popularity of Lupin as a boy’s name.

I also intend to persuade my friends to join me in a game of Cutlets at the next social occasion I attend and describe the resulting hilarity. Please be patient for this report, as I am not popular and don’t get asked to many social occasions. If the game results in any injuries, I will, of course, feel no sympathy for those who would have known what was going to happen if they had taken the time to read my blog.

CHAPTER VI.

The Unexpected Arrival Home of our Son, Willie Lupin Pooter.

August 4. – The first post brought a nice letter from our dear son Willie, acknowledging a trifling present which Carrie sent him, the day before yesterday being his twentieth birthday. To our utter amazement he turned up himself in the afternoon, having journeyed all the way from Oldham. He said he had got leave from the bank, and as Monday was a holiday he thought he would give us a little surprise.

August 5, Sunday. – We have not seen Willie since last Christmas, and are pleased to notice what a fine young man he has grown. One would scarcely believe he was Carrie’s son. He looks more like a younger brother. I rather disapprove of his wearing a check suit on a Sunday, and I think he ought to have gone to church this morning; but he said he was tired after yesterday’s journey, so I refrained from any remark on the subject. We had a bottle of port for dinner, and drank dear Willie’s health.

He said: “Oh, by-the-by, did I tell you I’ve cut my first name, ‘William,’ and taken the second name ‘Lupin’? In fact, I’m only known at Oldham as ‘Lupin Pooter.’ If you were to ‘Willie’ me there, they wouldn’t know what you meant.”

Of course, Lupin being a purely family name, Carrie was delighted, and began by giving a long history of the Lupins. I ventured to say that I thought William a nice simple name, and reminded him he was christened after his Uncle William, who was much respected in the City. Willie, in a manner which I did not much care for, said sneeringly: “Oh, I know all about that – Good old Bill!” and helped himself to a third glass of port.

Carrie objected strongly to my saying “Good old,” but she made no remark when Willie used the double adjective. I said nothing, but looked at her, which meant more. I said: “My dear Willie, I hope you are happy with your colleagues at the Bank.” He replied: “Lupin, if you please; and with respect to the Bank, there’s not a clerk who is a gentleman, and the ‘boss’ is a cad.” I felt so shocked, I could say nothing, and my instinct told me there was something wrong.

Lupin

Lupin.

August 6, Bank Holiday. – As there was no sign of Lupin moving at nine o’clock, I knocked at his door, and said we usually breakfasted at half-past eight, and asked how long would he be? Lupin replied that he had had a lively time of it, first with the train shaking the house all night, and then with the sun streaming in through the window in his eyes, and giving him a cracking headache. Carrie came up and asked if he would like some breakfast sent up, and he said he could do with a cup of tea, and didn’t want anything to eat.

Lupin not having come down, I went up again at half-past one, and said we dined at two; he said he “would be there.” He never came down till a quarter to three. I said: “We have not seen much of you, and you will have to return by the 5.30 train; therefore you will have to leave in an hour, unless you go by the midnight mail.” He said: “Look here, Guv’nor, it’s no use beating about the bush. I’ve tendered my resignation at the Bank.”

For a moment I could not speak. When my speech came again, I said: “How dare you, sir? How dare you take such a serious step without consulting me? Don’t answer me, sir! – you will sit down immediately, and write a note at my dictation, withdrawing your resignation and amply apologising for your thoughtlessness.”

Imagine my dismay when he replied with a loud guffaw: “It’s no use. If you want the good old truth, I’ve got the chuck!”

August 7. – Mr. Perkupp has given me leave to postpone my holiday a week, as we could not get the room. This will give us an opportunity of trying to find an appointment for Willie before we go. The ambition of my life would be to get him into Mr. Perkupp’s firm.

August 11. – Although it is a serious matter having our boy Lupin on our hands, still it is satisfactory to know he was asked to resign from the Bank simply because “he took no interest in his work, and always arrived an hour (sometimes two hours) late.” We can all start off on Monday to Broadstairs with a light heart. This will take my mind off the worry of the last few days, which have been wasted over a useless correspondence with the manager of the Bank at Oldham.

August 13. – Hurrah! at Broadstairs. Very nice apartments near the station. On the cliffs they would have been double the price. The landlady had a nice five o’clock dinner and tea ready, which we all enjoyed, though Lupin seemed fastidious because there happened to be a fly in the butter. It was very wet in the evening, for which I was thankful, as it was a good excuse for going to bed early. Lupin said he would sit up and read a bit.

August 14. – I was a little annoyed to find Lupin, instead of reading last night, had gone to a common sort of entertainment, given at the Assembly Rooms. I expressed my opinion that such performances were unworthy of respectable patronage; but he replied: “Oh, it was only ‘for one night only.’ I had a fit of the blues come on, and thought I would go to see Polly Presswell, England’s Particular Spark.” [1] I told him I was proud to say I had never heard of her. Carrie said: “Do let the boy alone. He’s quite old enough to take care of himself, and won’t forget he’s a gentleman. Remember, you were young once yourself.” Rained all day hard, but Lupin would go out.

August 15. – Cleared up a bit, so we all took the train to Margate, and the first person we met on the jetty was Gowing. I said: “Hulloh! I thought you had gone to Barmouth with your Birmingham friends?” He said: “Yes, but young Peter Lawrence was so ill, they postponed their visit, so I came down here. You know the Cummings’ are here too?” Carrie said: “Oh, that will be delightful! We must have some evenings together and have games.”

I introduced Lupin, saying: “You will be pleased to find we have our dear boy at home!” Gowing said: “How’s that? You don’t mean to say he’s left the Bank?”

I changed the subject quickly, and thereby avoided any of those awkward questions which Gowing always has a knack of asking.

August 16. – Lupin positively refused to walk down the Parade with me because I was wearing my new straw helmet with my frock-coat. I don’t know what the boy is coming to.Lupin positively refused

“Lupin positively refused to walk down the Parade with me because I was wearing my new straw helmet with my frock-coat.”

August 17. – Lupin not falling in with our views, Carrie and I went for a sail. It was a relief to be with her alone; for when Lupin irritates me, she always sides with him. On our return, he said: “Oh, you’ve been on the ‘Shilling Emetic,’ have you? You’ll come to six-pennorth on the ‘Liver Jerker’ next.” I presume he meant a tricycle, but I affected not to understand him.

August 18. – Gowing and Cummings walked over to arrange an evening at Margate. It being wet, Gowing asked Cummings to accompany him to the hotel and have a game of billiards, knowing I never play, and in fact disapprove of the game. Cummings said he must hasten back to Margate; whereupon Lupin, to my horror, said: “I’ll give you a game, Gowing – a hundred up. A walk round I the cloth will give me an appetite for dinner.” I said: “Perhaps Mister Gowing does not care to play with boys.” Gowing surprised me by saying: “Oh yes, I do, if they play well,” and they walked off together.

August 19, Sunday. – I was about to read Lupin a sermon on smoking (which he indulges in violently) and billiards, but he put on his hat and walked out. Carrie then read ME a long sermon on the palpable inadvisability of treating Lupin as if he were a mere child. I felt she was somewhat right, so in the evening I offered him a cigar. He seemed pleased, but, after a few whiffs, said: “This is a good old tup’ny – try one of mine,” and he handed me a cigar as long as it was strong, which is saying a good deal.

August 20. – I am glad our last day at the seaside was fine, though clouded overhead. We went over to Cummings’ (at Margate) in the evening, and as it was cold, we stayed in and played games; Gowing, as usual, overstepping the mark. He suggested we should play “Cutlets,” a game we never heard of. He sat on a chair, and asked Carrie to sit on his lap, an invitation which dear Carrie rightly declined.

After some species of wrangling, I sat on Gowing’s knees and Carrie sat on the edge of mine. Lupin sat on the edge of Carrie’s lap, then Cummings on Lupin’s, and Mrs. Cummings on her husband’s. We looked very ridiculous, and laughed a good deal.

Gowing then said: “Are you a believer in the Great Mogul?” We had to answer all together: “Yes – oh, yes!” (three times). Gowing said: “So am I,” and suddenly got up. The result of this stupid joke was that we all fell on the ground, and poor Carrie banged her head against the corner of the fender. Mrs. Cummings put some vinegar on; but through this we missed the last train, and had to drive back to Broadstairs, which cost me seven-and-sixpence. [2]

Game of Cutlets

We play the game of Cutlets. “When we had all sat on each other’s laps, Gowing said Are you a believer in the Great Mogul.”

Gowing said So am I

“Gowing said So am I, and suddenly got up.”

FOOTNOTES

1. A play on the nickname of a popular music hall entertainer at the time, Jenny Hill, who was known as “The Vital Spark.” I have not been able to find out if she was the inspiration for the fictional Clyde puffer of that name, but it gives me an excuse for a Youtube clip (see below).
2. Looks like poor old Mr. Pooter is being cheated again. That would have been an exorbitant amount for this journey.

The Diary of a Nobody – Episode 5

4 Mar

The story continues. If you are reading this in your email, because you showed the good taste to follow this blog, you might want to click through to the web version in order to enjoy the illustrations, which might not show up in the email version.

CHAPTER V.

After the Mansion House Ball. Carrie offended. Gowing also offended. A pleasant party at the Cummings’. Mr. Franching, of Peckham, visits us.

May 8. – I woke up with a most terrible head-ache. I could scarcely see, and the back of my neck was as if I had given it a crick. I thought first of sending for a doctor; but I did not think it necessary. When up, I felt faint, and went to Brownish’s, the chemist, who gave me a draught. So bad at the office, had to get leave to come home. Went to another chemist in the City, and I got a draught. Brownish’s dose seems to have made me worse; have eaten nothing all day. To make matters worse, Carrie, every time I spoke to her, answered me sharply – that is, when she answered at all.

In the evening I felt very much worse again and said to her: “I do believe I’ve been poisoned by the lobster mayonnaise at the Mansion House last night;” she simply replied, without taking her eyes from her sewing: “Champagne never did agree with you.” I felt irritated, and said: “What nonsense you talk; I only had a glass and a half, and you know as well as I do – ” Before I could complete the sentence she bounced out of the room. I sat over an hour waiting for her to return; but as she did not, I determined I would go to bed. I discovered Carrie had gone to bed without even saying “good-night”; leaving me to bar the scullery door and feed the cat. I shall certainly speak to her about this in the morning.

May 9. – Still a little shaky, with black specks. The BLACKFRIARS BI-WEEKLY NEWS contains a long list of the guests at the Mansion House Ball. Disappointed to find our names omitted, though Farmerson’s is in plainly enough with M.L.L. after it, whatever that may mean. More than vexed, because we had ordered a dozen copies to send to our friends. Wrote to the BLACKFRIARS BI-WEEKLY NEWS, pointing out their omission.

Carrie had commenced her breakfast when I entered the parlour. I helped myself to a cup of tea, and I said, perfectly calmly and quietly: “Carrie, I wish a little explanation of your conduct last night.”

She replied, “Indeed! and I desire something more than a little explanation of your conduct the night before.”

I said, coolly: “Really, I don’t understand you.”

Carrie said sneeringly: “Probably not; you were scarcely in a condition to understand anything.”

I was astounded at this insinuation and simply ejaculated: “Caroline!”

She said: “Don’t be theatrical, it has no effect on me. Reserve that tone for your new friend, Mister Farmerson, the ironmonger.”

I was about to speak, when Carrie, in a temper such as I have never seen her in before, told me to hold my tongue. She said: “Now I’M going to say something! After professing to snub Mr. Farmerson, you permit him to snub YOU, in my presence, and then accept his invitation to take a glass of champagne with you, and you don’t limit yourself to one glass. You then offer this vulgar man, who made a bungle of repairing our scraper, a seat in our cab on the way home. I say nothing about his tearing my dress in getting in the cab, nor of treading on Mrs. James’s expensive fan, which you knocked out of my hand, and for which he never even apologised; but you smoked all the way home without having the decency to ask my permission. That is not all! At the end of the journey, although he did not offer you a farthing towards his share of the cab, you asked him in. Fortunately, he was sober enough to detect, from my manner, that his company was not desirable.”

Farmerson smokes

Mr. Farmerson smokes all the way home in the cab.

Goodness knows I felt humiliated enough at this; but, to make matters worse, Gowing entered the room, without knocking, with two hats on his head and holding the garden-rake in his hand, with Carrie’s fur tippet (which he had taken off the downstairs hall-peg) round his neck, and announced himself in a loud, coarse voice: “His Royal Highness, the Lord Mayor!” He marched twice round the room like a buffoon, and finding we took no notice, said: “Hulloh! what’s up? Lovers’ quarrel, eh?”

There was a silence for a moment, so I said quietly: “My dear Gowing, I’m not very well, and not quite in the humour for joking; especially when you enter the room without knocking, an act which I fail to see the fun of.”

Gowing said: “I’m very sorry, but I called for my stick, which I thought you would have sent round.” I handed him his stick, which I remembered I had painted black with the enamel paint, thinking to improve it. He looked at it for a minute with a dazed expression and said: “Who did this?”

I said: “Eh, did what?”

He said: “Did what? Why, destroyed my stick! It belonged to my poor uncle, and I value it more than anything I have in the world! I’ll know who did it.”

I said: “I’m very sorry. I dare say it will come off. I did it for the best.”

Gowing said: “Then all I can say is, it’s a confounded liberty; and I WOULD add, you’re a bigger fool than you look, only THAT’S absolutely impossible.”

May 12. – Got a single copy of the BLACKFRIARS BI-WEEKLY NEWS. There was a short list of several names they had omitted; but the stupid people had mentioned our names as “Mr. and Mrs. C. Porter.” Most annoying! Wrote again and I took particular care to write our name in capital letters, POOTER, so that there should be no possible mistake this time.

May 16. – Absolutely disgusted on opening the BLACKFRIARS BI-WEEKLY NEWS of to-day, to find the following paragraph: “We have received two letters from Mr. and Mrs. Charles Pewter, requesting us to announce the important fact that they were at the Mansion House Ball.” I tore up the paper and threw it in the waste-paper basket. My time is far too valuable to bother about such trifles.

May 21. – The last week or ten days terribly dull, Carrie being away at Mrs. James’s, at Sutton. Cummings also away. Gowing, I presume, is still offended with me for black enamelling his stick without asking him.

May 22. – Purchased a new stick mounted with silver, which cost seven-and-sixpence (shall tell Carrie five shillings), and sent it round with nice note to Gowing.

May 23. – Received strange note from Gowing; he said: “Offended? not a bit, my boy – I thought you were offended with me for losing my temper. Besides, I found after all, it was not my poor old uncle’s stick you painted. It was only a shilling thing I bought at a tobacconist’s. However, I am much obliged to you for your handsome present all same.”

May 24. – Carrie back. Hoorah! She looks wonderfully well, except that the sun has caught her nose.

May 25. – Carrie brought down some of my shirts and advised me to take them to Trillip’s round the corner. She said: “The fronts and cuffs are much frayed.” I said without a moment’s hesitation: “I’m ‘FRAYED they are.” Lor! how we roared. I thought we should never stop laughing. As I happened to be sitting next the driver going to town on the ‘bus, I told him my joke about the “frayed” shirts. I thought he would have rolled off his seat. They laughed at the office a good bit too over it.

May 26. – Left the shirts to be repaired at Trillip’s. I said to him: “I’m ‘FRAID they are FRAYED.” He said, without a smile: “They’re bound to do that, sir.” Some people seem to be quite destitute of a sense of humour.

June 1. – The last week has been like old times, Carrie being back, and Gowing and Cummings calling every evening nearly. Twice we sat out in the garden quite late. This evening we were like a pack of children, and played “consequences.” It is a good game.

June 2. – “Consequences” again this evening. Not quite so successful as last night; Gowing having several times overstepped the limits of good taste.

June 4. – In the evening Carrie and I went round to Mr. and Mrs. Cummings’ to spend a quiet evening with them. Gowing was there, also Mr. Stillbrook. It was quiet but pleasant. Mrs. Cummings sang five or six songs, “No, Sir,” and “The Garden of Sleep,” being best in my humble judgment; but what pleased me most was the duet she sang with Carrie – classical duet, too. I think it is called, “I would that my love!” It was beautiful. If Carrie had been in better voice, I don’t think professionals could have sung it better. After supper we made them sing it again. I never liked Mr. Stillbrook since the walk that Sunday to the “Cow and Hedge,” but I must say he sings comic-songs well. His song: “We don’t Want the old men now,” made us shriek with laughter, especially the verse referring to Mr. Gladstone; but there was one verse I think he might have omitted, and I said so, but Gowing thought it was the best of the lot.

June 6. – Trillip brought round the shirts and, to my disgust, his charge for repairing was more than I gave for them when new. I told him so, and he impertinently replied: “Well, they are better now than when they were new.” I paid him, and said it was a robbery. He said: “If you wanted your shirt-fronts made out of pauper-linen, such as is used for packing and bookbinding, why didn’t you say so?”

June 7. – A dreadful annoyance. Met Mr. Franching, who lives at Peckham, and who is a great swell in his way. I ventured to ask him to come home to meat-tea, and take pot-luck. I did not think he would accept such a humble invitation; but he did, saying, in a most friendly way, he would rather “peck” with us than by himself. I said: “We had better get into this blue ‘bus.” [1] He replied: “No blue-bussing for me. I have had enough of the blues lately. I lost a cool ‘thou’ over the Copper Scare. Step in here.”

Mr. Franching

Mr. Franching, of Peckham.

We drove up home in style, in a hansom-cab, and I knocked three times at the front door without getting an answer. I saw Carrie, through the panels of ground-glass (with stars), rushing upstairs. I told Mr. Franching to wait at the door while I went round to the side. There I saw the grocer’s boy actually picking off the paint on the door, which had formed into blisters. No time to reprove him; so went round and effected an entrance through the kitchen window. I let in Mr. Franching, and showed him into the drawing-room. I went upstairs to Carrie, who was changing her dress, and told her I had persuaded Mr. Franching to come home. She replied: “How can you do such a thing? You know it’s Sarah’s holiday, and there’s not a thing in the house, the cold mutton having turned with the hot weather.”

Eventually Carrie, like a good creature as she is, slipped down, washed up the teacups, and laid the cloth, and I gave Franching our views of Japan to look at while I ran round to the butcher’s to get three chops.

The grocer boy

“The grocer boy was actually picking off the paint on the side door, which had formed into blisters.”

July 30. – The miserable cold weather is either upsetting me or Carrie, or both. We seem to break out into an argument about absolutely nothing, and this unpleasant state of things usually occurs at meal-times.

This morning, for some unaccountable reason, we were talking about balloons, and we were as merry as possible; but the conversation drifted into family matters, during which Carrie, without the slightest reason, referred in the most uncomplimentary manner to my poor father’s pecuniary trouble. I retorted by saying that “Pa, at all events, was a gentleman,” whereupon Carrie burst out crying. I positively could not eat any breakfast.

At the office I was sent for by Mr. Perkupp, who said he was very sorry, but I should have to take my annual holidays from next Saturday. Franching called at office and asked me to dine at his club, “The Constitutional.” Fearing disagreeables at home after the “tiff” this morning, I sent a telegram to Carrie, telling her I was going out to dine and she was not to sit up. Bought a little silver bangle for Carrie.

July 31. – Carrie was very pleased with the bangle, which I left with an affectionate note on her dressing-table last night before going to bed. I told Carrie we should have to start for our holiday next Saturday. She replied quite happily that she did not mind, except that the weather was so bad, and she feared that Miss Jibbons would not be able to get her a seaside dress in time. I told Carrie that I thought the drab one with pink bows looked quite good enough; [2] and Carrie said she should not think of wearing it. I was about to discuss the matter, when, remembering the argument yesterday, resolved to hold my tongue.

I said to Carrie: “I don’t think we can do better than ‘Good old Broadstairs.'” Carrie not only, to my astonishment, raised an objection to Broadstairs, for the first time; but begged me not to use the expression, “Good old,” but to leave it to Mr. Stillbrook and other GENTLEMEN of his type. Hearing my ‘bus pass the window, I was obliged to rush out of the house without kissing Carrie as usual; and I shouted to her: “I leave it to you to decide.” On returning in the evening, Carrie said she thought as the time was so short she had decided on Broadstairs, and had written to Mrs. Beck, Harbour View Terrace, for apartments.

August 1. – Ordered a new pair of trousers at Edwards’s, and told them not to cut them so loose over the boot; the last pair being so loose and also tight at the knee, looked like a sailor’s, and I heard Pitt, that objectionable youth at the office, call out “Hornpipe” as I passed his desk. Carrie has ordered of Miss Jibbons a pink Garibaldi [3] and blue-serge skirt, which I always think looks so pretty at the seaside. In the evening she trimmed herself a little sailor-hat, while I read to her the EXCHANGE AND MART. We had a good laugh over my trying on the hat when she had finished it; Carrie saying it looked so funny with my beard, and how the people would have roared if I went on the stage like it.

Hornpipe

“Young Pitt called out Hornpipe as I passed his desk.”

August 2. – Mrs. Beck wrote to say we could have our usual rooms at Broadstairs. That’s off our mind. Bought a coloured shirt and a pair of tan-coloured boots, which I see many of the swell clerks wearing in the City, and hear are all the “go.”

August 3. – A beautiful day. Looking forward to to-morrow. Carrie bought a parasol about five feet long. I told her it was ridiculous. She said: “Mrs. James, of Sutton, has one twice as long so;” the matter dropped. I bought a capital hat for hot weather at the seaside. I don’t know what it is called, but it is the shape of the helmet worn in India, only made of straw. Got three new ties, two coloured handkerchiefs, and a pair of navy-blue socks at Pope Brothers. Spent the evening packing. Carrie told me not to forget to borrow Mr. Higgsworth’s telescope, which he always lends me, knowing I know how to take care of it. Sent Sarah out for it. While everything was seeming so bright, the last post brought us a letter from Mrs. Beck, saying: “I have just let all my house to one party, and am sorry I must take back my words, and am sorry you must find other apartments; but Mrs. Womming, next door, will be pleased to accommodate you, but she cannot take you before Monday, as her rooms are engaged Bank Holiday week.”

FOOTNOTES

1. In Mr. Pooter’s day, the horse-drawn buses were not numbered like their modern mechanical descendants. Their route was designated by their colour. The blue bus went to Holloway. Hansom cabs would have been a much more expensive way to make the same journey.

2. Drab refers to a brown woollen cloth material. It would not necessarily have been “drab” in the modern sense, though presumably a bit warm for a summer holiday.

3. A red blouse, named for the red shirts worn by Garibaldi’s Italian revolutionaries.

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