Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith – May 1, 2015

The First Edition of 1892 by Arrowsmith Press

Forced to go off-base as a result of uncertainty we availed of Thommo's hospitality at his home where nine of us and a guest fitted snugly. As a bonus KumKum provided the readers with zesty salmon sandwiches; Pamela brought us Carmelo chocolates and Geetha served nimbu pani.

CJ, Gopa, Priya

The refreshments were necessary to accompany the readings which are full of references to Kinahan, port, champagne, and whiskey, moderately consumed throughout the Cummings and Gowings in the brief novel.

KumKum, Preeti, Pamela

Our anticipation of enjoying the humour was well rewarded. We did not merely 'roar' with laughter at the droll narrations in the book, but enhanced the situations by describing some of our own, supplied by Sunil and Priya in response to the episode of the obstreperous spoiled child, Master Percy.

Thommo, Sunil

It is a wonder, as Thommo pointed out, that a century and a quarter after publication the book remains in print, and its humour about late-Victorian middle-class London is still accessible to us in Kochi (barring some topical references). One reason may be that the archetypes in the novel continue to exist in a different form in modern India. 

The group at the end (Preeti had to leave early):

(standing) Thommo, Sunil, Joe, CJ 
(seated) Priya, Pamela, KumKum, Gopa

The Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith
Full Record and Account of the Reading on May 1, 2015

We met at Thommo's palce, pending a decision on the charge the Yacht Club proposes to levy per session when we hold it at the Library of the CYC. That charge has now been agreed as Rs 250/- per session by Priya talking to Mr Ramesh Tharakan, the current President. To pay that charge an annual subscription of Rs 300/- per member will be instituted, to be collected at the next reading (of Poetry) on June 26. Please pay by cash, or cheque in favour of 'Kochi Reading Group', to Thommo on that day.

The attendance at this session, kindly hosted by Thommo at his place was moderate:
Present: Sunil, Thommo, Priya, CJ, Gopa, Pamela, Preeti, KumKum, Joe
Absent: Ankush (not heard from), Kavita (family obligations), Zakia (mil in hospital), Govind Sethunath (down with viral fever), Vijay (year-end closing of accounts)
Guest: Computer Science faculty member from Amrita University

Introduction to the Book
CJ said Evelyn Waugh was initially contemptuous of the book, but grew to admire it, to the extent of writing in his 1930 essay One Way to Immortality that it was "the funniest book in the world." He added: "Nobody wants to read other people's reflections on life and religion and politics, but the routine of their day, properly recorded, is always interesting, and will become more so as conditions change with the years." In his 1945 novel, Brideshead Revisited, Waugh has Lady Marchmain comforting her family by reading aloud from the Diary "with her beautiful voice and great humour of expression." One of the work's attractions to Waugh was his personal identification with Lupin, and the way in which the disapproved son (as Waugh saw himself) repeatedly manages to turn adverse circumstances to his ultimate advantage. See

As P.G. Wodehouse derived his humour from sending up the aristocracy, so the Grossmith brothers mined the travails and absurdities of the middle-class to raise genteel laughter. Readers mentioned the case of the name of Pooter being omitted from The Blackfriars Bi-weekly News in the list of attendees of the Mansion House Ball (May 9 diary entry), and after two vain tries by Pooter to correct the omission, it is reported in the May 16 entry as follows: "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."

The wikipedia entry has many appreciations. The writer and humourist Hilaire Belloc hailed the Diary as "one of the half-dozen immortal achievements of our time ... a glory for us all." The Bookman‍ '​ s critic wrote of Charles Pooter: "You laugh at him—at his small absurdities, his droll mishaps, his well-meaning fussiness; but he wins upon you and obtains your affection, and even your admiration, he is so transparently honest, so delightfully and ridiculously human." J.B. Priestley asserted that Jerome K. Jerome never wrote anything as good. Wyndham Lewis summarised the Pooters as "warm, living, breathing, futile, half-baked, incredibly alive and endearing boneheads."

Pamela found some of the names hilarious, such as, Mr. Hardfur Huttle in Chapter XX. How could fur be hard, she asked? In the same vein Sunil mentioned the reference to the book on Spiritualism, called There is no Birth, by Florence Singleyet. Thommo found it remarkable that we in Kerala, so far removed in time and space from the London mores of 1892 can still appreciate the humour, though we may miss some of the topical references.

Sunil referred to the office bureaucracy in India where the head-clerk thinks he is more important than the Managing Director. Thommo seconded this observation and observed how in the Calcutta office of Macneill and Magor, where he worked, the head clerk would sit in dominion over all the clerks in the main office in an open area with teak desks and keep his eye over them. The manager only talked to the head-clerk. If the head-clerk was from Naihati, then all the clerks were also from Naihati, and in this way the control ran from office to home. All would troop in together and if the local train was late, they were all late:

The Pooters of Holloway – Charles, his wife Carrie and their devil-may-care son Lupin – are the core of the book and they surround themselves with friends and acquaintances, each possessed of some oddity, and they provide the droll situations for the under-stated humour. The limited imagination and ambition of Charles Pooter gives rise to the fraught experiences of the couple. He nevertheless enjoys a ‘spooney’ relationship with his wife (November 15 diary entry). Lupin meanwhile is determined not to work, but hopes to find his way to money and success by connections with stock tipsters and the rich and famous. He is the stylish youngster who marks a sharp break in tradition from his pater, Charles, who is content to live a modest life that finds sufficient joys in a bottle of well-husbanded champagne or port, with some blancmange on the side (which keeps reappearing).

The fictional Pooter has given his name to the language, in the form of a noun, 'Pooter', and adjective, ‘pooterish’. The OED lists

Pooter n. A person resembling or reminiscent of the character Charles Pooter, esp. in displaying parochial self-importance, over-fastidiousness, or lack of imagination.

pooterish adj. Resembling, characteristic of, or suggestive of the fictional character Charles Pooter

The editor of Punch, devised the title of the series which appeared in the humour magazine. His footnote to the first episode was:
As everybody who is anybody is publishing Reminiscences, Diaries, Notes, Autobiographies, and Recollections, we are sincerely grateful to “A Nobody” for permitting us to add to the historic collection.
The Diary has never been out of print since 1892. What a record!

George Grossmith was an entertainer and piano virtuoso

The Grossmiths were a family of actors and entertainers over several generations. George Grossmith worked as a police-court reporter but his talent was as an entertainer, giving “recitals.” These were one-man shows made up of comic sketches and songs, jokes, parodies, and imitations, all of his own invention, performed to a piano accompaniment. Grossmith was a virtuoso on the piano. His first provincial tour as a solo piano entertainer is said to have netted him £10,000 in the first seven months – probably more than a clerk like Pooter earned in his entire working life. His American tours, five in all, were very popular and even more remunerative. He left a legacy of songs which have been recorded and are available on CDs:

Though Weedon Grossmith, his brother, never attained as high a level of opulence, once he moved from art to the theatre his acting and playwriting proved lucrative. He authored many plays and acted in them.

Book Reviews:

Sunil tried to find references to Parachikka Chlorates as a stock, but nothing turned up on the Web. It's a made-up name, therefore. Sounds like chocolates. Other names too like Job Cleanands seem suspicious, and sounds like a stockbroker who cleans up and leaves all ends up. Lupin whose wrong investment advice got all of them into trouble, seems quite nonchalant and unapologetic about it, even after causing his pater, Pooter, to lose money.


Pooter tries out this strained wit on his friends: “doesn't it seem odd that Gowing's always coming and Cummings' always going?” He and his wife, Carrie, break out into fits of laughter, but Gowing finds punning on a name in bad taste. A little further on we have Pooter in the red-painted bathtub looking like Marat in his bath. This illustration in colour forms the cover of the Penguin Classics edition of the book.

Here's a painting of Marat murdered in his bath, by David:

For some history of the French Revolution, see

Priya chose the passage describing the antics of the spoilt brat, Master Percy James. It makes hilarious reading and of course, the reader is imagining how to visit condign punishment on this unruly boy. Priya hails from Patna which she says is a rough place and once a child was puling in the cinema and someone cried out: “Don't hit the child, kill him,” which in the local lingo is ah,ah,ah...usko mariye math, nareti pakad ke cheep dijiye. (please, please, don't hit him, just throttle his wind pipe) cheep = squeeze. The tone of the gentleman was sedate and steady and pooterish, said Priya.

Sunil immediately recalled an occasion in Menaka theatre in Ernakulam when a child was crying and disturbing the viewers. One fellow shouted to the mother, “Why don't you give your breast to the child?” To which the father of the boy took exception and loudly remonstrated. The fellow whispered in the darkness, “Lady, your husband needs the other breast!”

There was a great deal of laughter in the narration of the kissing and the tee-to-tums game, another of those Victorian amusements. Does one come across such simple games today? CJ observed how quickly letters were transmitted by post in those days. Same day delivery in the city was normal, and a wire was almost as fast as e-mail today and people used it, as Joe recalled from reading Sherlock Holmes stories. Of course, sending a 'wire' or telegram was faster (within an hour or two) but as Pooter admonishes Lupin, 'a letter would reach soon enough,' without the extravagance.

All in all, communication has advanced in speed only a little, but a lot in convenience.

Gopa pitched in with the tale of the theatre tickets that never were. The humiliation of Mr Merton's theatre tickets being no good, was compounded by Pooter losing his bow-tie and clip when they fell to the lower more expensive seats and were kicked away. He has to keep his chin down the rest of the evening like an old man with a crick in his neck – to hide his bare tie-less neck.

Later Gopa read the passage on the Game of Cutlets. Whether this is an invention of the Grossmiths or a real parlour game played in Victorian times, we do not know. There is need for an annotated Diary of a Nobody.

Pamela's piece has Mr Hardfur Huttle holding forth in commanding fashion over a dinner gathering of people, much like a Mark Twain, with oratory and high-flown thoughts. Pooter is impressed and comes away with the notion that his own dear Lupin has a strong resemblance in manners and speech to Hardfur Huttle. Pooter and Carrie carry visions of future attainment for their son. Pamela thinks that Hardfur Huttle is modeled after an actual American writer who traveled and spoke in Britain in those times.

Preeti read the withering letter written by the aspiring stage actor who keeps imitating the great actor of those times, Irving. The middle-class Pooter has no appreciation of stage acting and Burwin-Fosselton is forced to give Pooter a double-barrel blast of scorn. He's having his last word, and for once preventing the meticulous Pooter from having a come back. A few words of explication of the French expressions are in order. Revenons à nos moutons means to get back to the subject. The literary origin is explained here:

Chaçun a son goût means to each, his taste, in French. Vici! is Latin for 'I have conquered,' the third in the triad of Julius Caesar's boast: Veni, vidi, vici – I came, I saw, I conquered:

Vale is Latin for 'Farewell.'

This is the passage in which Carrie shows herself willing to indulge Lupin and give him his head, even though as parents they do not understand him; by contrast, Pooter finds himself at a loss understanding his son and heir. KumKum was in a similar position with her son, Reuben, at a certain age when he was experimenting.

Joe referred to the tenderness between Carrie (Caroline) and Pooter. Here it's expressed at the end of Chapter IX:
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.

Joe had his two longer readings appropriated by others and therefore chose three short passages, all of which are distinguished by the favourite verb of Pooter when a joke is cracked, namely, 'we roared' – with laughter. Punning is a favourite source of fun for him.

Lupin is flipping girls; when Daisy Mutlar gives him the slip, he takes to Lillie. All of them according to Lupin would wait 'twenty years' for him. As the novel ends he is engaged to Lillie Posh, whom he chooses to call 'Lillie Girl.' Thommo observed that his name reversed would be Nipul, a fairly acceptable Indian name. At one of the séances, “the table spelt 'NIPUL,' then the word 'WARN' three times. We could not think what it meant till Cummings pointed out that 'NIPUL' was Lupin spelled backwards. This was quite exciting. Carrie was particularly excited, and said she hoped nothing horrible was going to happen..” (diary entry of June 3).

The Readings

Chapter XVI Several people lose money over Lupin's investment advice.
February 18.—Carrie has several times recently called attention to the thinness of my hair at the top of my head, and recommended me to get it seen to. I was this morning trying to look at it by the aid of a small hand-glass, when somehow my elbow caught against the edge of the chest of drawers and knocked the glass out of my hand and smashed it. Carrie was in an awful way about it, as she is rather absurdly superstitious. To make matters worse, my large photograph in the drawingroom fell during the night, and the glass cracked.
Carrie said: "Mark my words, Charles, some misfortune is about to happen."
I said: "Nonsense, dear."
In the evening Lupin arrived home early, and seemed a little agitated. I said: "What's up, my boy?" He hesitated a good deal, and then said: "You know those Parachikka Chlorates I advised you to invest £20 in?" I replied: "Yes, they are all right, I trust?" He replied: "Well, no! To the surprise of everybody, they have utterly collapsed."
My breath was so completely taken away, I could say nothing. Carrie looked at me, and said: "What did I tell you?" Lupin, after a while, said: "However, you are specially fortunate. I received an early tip, and sold out yours immediately, and was fortunate to get £2 for them. So you get something after all."
I gave a sigh of relief. I said: "I was not so sanguine as to suppose, as you predicted, that I should get six or eight times the amount of my investment; still a profit of £2 is a good percentage for such a short time." Lupin said, quite irritably: "You don't understand. I sold your £20 shares for £2; you therefore lose £18 on the transaction, whereby Cummings and Gowing will lose the whole of theirs."

February 19.—Lupin, before going to town, said: "I am very sorry about those Parachikka Chlorates; it would not have happened if the boss, Job Cleanands, had been in town. Between ourselves, you must not be surprised if something goes wrong at our office. Job Cleanands has not been seen the last few days, and it strikes me several people do want to see him very particularly."
In the evening Lupin was just on the point of going out to avoid a collision with Gowing and Cummings, when the former entered the room, without knocking, but with his usual trick of saying, "May I come in?"
He entered, and to the surprise of Lupin and myself, seemed to be in the very best of spirits. Neither Lupin nor I broached the subject to him, but he did so of his own accord. He said: 'I say, those Parachikka Chlorates have gone an awful smash! You're a nice one, Master Lupin. How much do you lose?" Lupin, to my utter astonishment, said: "Oh! I had nothing in them. There was some informality in my application—I forgot to enclose the cheque or something, and I didn't get any. The Guv. loses £18." I said: "I quite understood you were in it, or nothing would have induced me to speculate." Lupin replied: "Well, it can't be helped; you must go double on the next tip." Before I could reply, Gowing said: "Well, I lose nothing, fortunately. From what I heard, I did not quite believe in them, so I persuaded Cummings to take my £15 worth, as he had more faith in them than I had."
Lupin burst out laughing, and, in the most unseemly manner, said: "Alas, poor Cummings! He'll lose £35." At that moment there was a ring at the bell. Lupin said: "I don't want to meet Cummings." If he had gone out of the door he would have met him in the passage, so as quickly as possible Lupin opened the parlour window and got out. Gowing jumped up suddenly, exclaiming: "I don't want to see him either!" and, before I could say a word, he followed Lupin out of the window.
For my own part, I was horrified to think my own son and one of my most intimate friends should depart from the house like a couple of interrupted burglars. Poor Cummings was very upset, and of course was naturally very angry both with Lupin and Gowing. I pressed him to have a little whisky, and he replied that he had given up whisky; but would like a little "Unsweetened," as he was advised it was the most healthy spirit. I had none in the house, but sent Sarah round to Lockwood's for some.

February 20.—The first thing that caught my eye on opening the Standard was—"Great Failure of Stock and Share Dealers! Mr. Job Cleanand Absconded!" I handed it to Carrie and she replied: "Oh! perhaps it 'so for Lupin's good. I never did think it a suitable situation for him." I thought the whole affair vary shocking.
Lupin came down to breakfast, and seeing he looked painfully distressed, I said: "We know the news, my dear boy, and feel very sorry for you." Lupin said: "How did you know? who told you?" I handed him the Standard. He threw the paper down, and said: "Oh I don't care a button for that! I expected that, but I did not expect this." He then read a letter from Frank Mutlar, announcing, in a cool manner, that Daisy Mutlar is to be married next month to Murray Posh. I exclaimed, "Murray Posh! Is not that the very man Frank had the impudence to bring here last Tuesday week?" Lupin said: "Yes; the 'Posh's-three-shilling-hats' chap."
We all then ate our breakfast in dead silence.
In fact, I could eat nothing. I was not only too worried, but I cannot and will not eat cushion of bacon. If I cannot get streaky bacon, I will do without anything.
When Lupin rose to go I noticed a malicious smile creep over his face. I asked him what it meant. He replied: "Oh! only a little consolation—still it is a consolation. I have just remembered that, by my advice, Mr. Murray Posh has invested £600 in Parachikka Chlorates!"

Chapter III – Painting with red enamel, and Gowing finds punning on a name wanting in good taste
April 24.—Could scarcely sleep a wink through thinking of having brought up Mr. and Mrs. James from the country to go to the theatre last night, and his having paid for a private box because our order was not honoured; and such a poor play too. I wrote a very satirical letter to Merton, the wine merchant, who gave us the pass, and said, "Considering we had to pay for our seats, we did our best to appreciate the performance." I thought this line rather cutting, and I asked Carrie how many p's there were in appreciate, and she said, "One." After I sent off the letter I looked at the dictionary and found there were two. Awfully vexed at this.
Decided not to worry myself any more about the James's; for, as Carrie wisely said, "We'll make it all right with them by asking them up from Sutton one evening next week to play at Bézique."

April 25.—In consequence of Brickwell telling me his wife was working wonders with the new Pinkford's enamel paint, I determined to try it. I bought two tins of red on my way home. I hastened through tea, went into the garden and painted some flower-pots. I called out Carrie, who said: "You've always got some new-fangled craze;" but she was obliged to admit that the flower-pots looked remarkably well. Went upstairs into the servant's bedroom and painted her washstand, towel-horse, and chest of drawers. To my mind it was an extraordinary improvement, but as an example of the ignorance of the lower classes in the matter of taste, our servant, Sarah, on seeing them, evinced no sign of pleasure, but merely said "she thought they looked very well as they was before."

April 26.—Got some more red enamel paint (red, to my mind, being the best colour), and painted the coal-scuttle, and the backs of our Shakspeare, the binding of which had almost worn out.

I painted the washstand in the servant's bedroom.

April 27. Painted the bath red, and was delighted with the result. Sorry to say Carrie was not, in fact we had a few words about it. She said I ought to have consulted her, and she had never heard of such a thing as a bath being painted red. I replied: "It's merely a matter of taste."
Fortunately, further argument on the subject was stopped by a voice saying, "May I come in?" It was only Cummings, who said, "Your maid opened the door, and asked me to excuse her showing me in, as she was wringing out some socks." I was delighted to see him, and suggested we should have a game of whist with a dummy, and by way of merriment said: "You can be the dummy." Cummings (I thought rather ill-naturedly) replied: "Funny as usual." He said he couldn't stop, he only called to leave me the Bicycle News, as he had done with it.
Another ring at the bell; it was Gowing, who said he "must apologise for coming so often, and that one of these days we must come round to him." I said: "A very extraordinary thing has struck me." "Something funny, as usual," said Cummings. "Yes," I replied; "I think even you will say so this time. It 's concerning you both; for doesn't it seem odd that Gowing's always coming and Cummings' always going?" Carrie, who had evidently quite forgotten about the bath, went into fits of laughter, and as for myself, I fairly doubled up in my chair, till it cracked beneath me. I think this was one of the best jokes I have ever made.
Then imagine my astonishment on perceiving both Cummings and Gowing perfectly silent, and without a smile on their faces. After rather an unpleasant pause, Cummings, who had opened a cigar-case, closed it up again and said: "Yes—I think, after that, I shall be going, and I am sorry I fail to see the fun of your jokes." Gowing said he didn't mind a joke when it wasn't rude, but a pun on a name, to his thinking, was certainly a little wanting in good taste. Cummings followed it up by saying, if it had been said by anyone else but myself, he shouldn't have entered the house again. This rather unpleasantly terminated what might have been a cheerful evening. However, it was as well they went, for the charwoman had finished up the remains of the cold pork.

Chapter XXII – Coping with the brat Master Percy
May 26, Sunday.—We went to Sutton after dinner to have meat-tea with Mr. and Mrs. James. I had no appetite, having dined well at two, and the entire evening was spoiled by little Percy—their only son—who seems to me to be an utterly spoiled child.
Two or three times he came up to me and deliberately kicked my shins. He hurt me once so much that the tears came into my eyes. I gently remonstrated with him, and Mrs. James said: "Please don't scold him; I do not believe in being too severe with young children. You spoil their character."
Little Percy set up a deafening yell here, and when Carrie tried to pacify him, he slapped her face.
I was so annoyed, I said: "That is not my idea of bringing up children, Mrs. James."
Mrs. James said: "People have different ideas of bringing up children even your son Lupin is not the standard of perfection."
A Mr. Mezzini (an Italian, I fancy) here took Percy in his lap. The child wriggled and kicked and broke away from Mr. Mezzini, saying: "I don't like you you've got a dirty face."

Master Percy Edgar Smith James.

A very nice gentleman, Mr. Birks Spooner, took the child by the wrist and said: "Come here, dear, and listen to this."
He detached his chronometer from the chain and made his watch strike six.
To our horror, the child snatched it from his hand and bounced it down upon the ground like one would a ball.
Mr. Birks Spooner was most amiable, and said he could easily get a new glass put in, and did not suppose the works were damaged.
To show you how people's opinions differ, Carrie said the child was bad-tempered, but it made up for that defect by its looks, for it was—in her mind—an unquestionably beautiful child.
I may be wrong, but I do not think I have seen a much uglier child myself. That is my opinion.

Chapter XIII – Kissing and making tee-to-tums with bread
Christmas Day.—We caught the 10.20 train at Paddington, and spent a pleasant day at Carrie's mother's. The country was quite nice and pleasant, although the roads were sloppy. We dined in the middle of the day, just ten of us, and talked over old times. If everybody had a nice, uninterfering mother-in-law, such as I have, what a deal of happiness there would be in the world. Being all in good spirits, I proposed her health; and I made, I think, a very good speech.
I concluded, rather neatly, by saying: "On an occasion like this—whether relatives, friends, or acquaintances,—we are all inspired with good feelings towards each other. We are of one mind, and think only of love and friendship. Those who have quarrelled with absent friends should kiss and make it up. Those who happily have not fallen out, can kiss all the same."
I saw the tears in the eyes of both Carrie and her mother, and must say I felt very flattered by the compliment. That dear old Reverend John Panzy Smith, who married us, made a most cheerful and amusing speech, and said he should act on my suggestion respecting the kissing. He then walked round the table and kissed all the ladies, including Carrie. Of course one did not object to this; but I was more than staggered when a young fellow named Moss, who was a stranger to me, and who had scarcely spoken a word through dinner, jumped up suddenly with a sprig of mistletoe, and exclaimed: "Hulloh! I don't see why I shouldn't be on in this scene." Before one could realise what he was about to do, he kissed Carrie and the rest of the ladies.
Fortunately, the matter was treated as a joke, and we all laughed; but it was a dangerous experiment, and I felt very uneasy for a moment as to the result. I subsequently referred to the matter to Carrie, but she said: "Oh, he's not much more than a boy." I said that he had a very large moustache for a boy. Carrie replied: "I didn't say he was not a nice boy."

December 26.—I did not sleep very well last night; I never do in a strange bed. I feel a little indigestion, which one must expect at this time of the year. Carrie and I returned to Town in the evening. Lupin came in late. He said he enjoyed his Christmas, and added: "I feel as fit as a Lowther Arcade fiddle, and only require a little more 'oof' to feel as fit as a £500 Stradivarius." I have long since given up trying to understand Lupin's slang, or asking him to explain it.

December 27.—I told Lupin I was expecting Gowing and Cummings to drop in to-morrow evening for a quiet game. I was in hope the boy would volunteer to stay in, and help to amuse them. Instead of which, he said: "Oh, you had better put them off, as I have asked Daisy and Frank Mutlar to come." I said I could not think of doing such a thing. Lupin said: "Then I will send a wire, and put off Daisy." I suggested that a post-card or letter would reach her quite soon enough, and would not be so extravagant.
Carrie, who had listened to the above conversation with apparent annoyance, directed a well-aimed shaft at Lupin. She said: "Lupin, why do you object to Daisy meeting your father's friends? Is it because they are not good enough for her, or (which is equally possible) she is not good enough for them?" Lupin was dumbfounded, and could make no reply. When he left the room, I gave Carrie a kiss of approval.

December 28—Lupin, on coming down to breakfast, said to his mother: "I have not put off Daisy and Frank, and should like them to join Gowing and Cummings this evening." I felt very pleased with the boy for this. Carrie said, in reply: "I am glad you let me know in time, as I can turn over the cold leg of mutton, dress it with a little parsley, and no one will know it has been cut." She further said she would make a few custards, and stew some pippins, so that they would be cold by the evening.
Finding Lupin in good spirits, I asked him quietly if he really had any personal objection to either Gowing or Cummings. He replied: "Not in the least. I think Cummings looks rather an ass, but that is partly due to his patronising 'the three-and-six-one-price hat company,' and wearing a reach-me-down frockcoat. As for that perpetual brown velveteen jacket of Gowing's why, he resembles an itinerant photographer."
I said it was not the coat that made the gentleman; whereupon Lupin, with a laugh, replied: "No, and it wasn't much of a gentleman who made their coats."
We were rather jolly at supper, and Daisy made herself very agreeable, especially in the earlier part of the evening, when she sang. At supper, however, she said: "Can you make tee-to-tums with bread?" and she commenced rolling up pieces of bread, and twisting them round on the table. I felt this to be bad manners, but of course said nothing. Presently Daisy and Lupin, to my disgust, began throwing bread-pills at each other. Frank followed suit, and so did Cummings and Gowing, to my astonishment. They then commenced throwing hard pieces of crust, one piece catching me on the forehead, and making me blink. I said: "Steady, please; steady!" Frank jumped up and said: "Tum, tum; then the band played."
I did not know what this meant, but they all roared, and continued the bread-battle. Gowing suddenly seized all the parsley off the cold mutton, and threw it full in my face. I looked daggers at Gowing, who replied: "I say, it's no good trying to look indignant, with your hair full of parsley." I rose from the table, and insisted that a stop should be put to this foolery at once. Frank Mutlar shouted: "Time, gentlemen, please! time!" and turned out the gas, leaving us in absolute darkness.
I was feeling my way out of the room, when I suddenly received a hard intentional punch at the back of my head. I said loudly: "Who did that?" There was no answer; so I repeated the question, with the same result. I struck a match, and lighted the gas. They were all talking and laughing, so I kept my own counsel; but, after they had gone, I said to Carrie: "The person who sent me that insulting post-card at Christmas was here to-night."

Chapter III – Humiliated at the Tank theatre
April 19.—Cummings called, bringing with him his friend Merton, who is in the wine trade. Gowing also called. Mr. Merton made himself at home at once, and Carrie and I were both struck with him immediately, and thoroughly approved of his sentiments.
He leaned back in his chair and said: "You must take me as I am;" and I replied: "Yes—and you must take us as we are. We're homely people, we are not swells."
He answered: "No, I can see that," and Gowing roared with laughter; but Merton in a most gentlemanly manner said to Gowing: "I don't think you quite understand me. I intended to convey that our charming host and hostess were superior to the follies of fashion, and preferred leading a simple and wholesome life to gadding about to twopenny-halfpenny tea-drinking afternoons, and living above their incomes."
I was immensely pleased with these sensible remarks of Merton's, and concluded that subject by saying: "No, candidly, Mr. Merton, we don't go into Society, because we do not care for it; and what with the expense of cabs here and cabs there, and white gloves and white ties, etc., it doesn't seem worth the money."
Merton said in reference to friends: "My motto is 'Few and True;' and, by the way, I also apply that to wine, 'Little and Good.'" Gowing said: "Yes, and sometimes 'cheap and tasty,' eh, old man?" Merton, still continuing, said he should treat me as a friend, and put me down for a dozen of his "Lockanbar" whisky, and as I was an old friend of Gowing, I should have it for 36s., which was considerably under what he paid for it.
He booked his own order, and further said that at any time I wanted any passes for the theatre I was to let him know, as his name stood good for any theatre in London.

April 20.—Carrie reminded me that as her old school friend, Annie Fullers (now Mrs. James), and her husband had come up from Sutton for a few days, it would look kind to take them to the theatre, and would I drop a line to Mr. Merton asking him for passes for four, either for the Italian Opera, Haymarket, Savoy, or Lyceum. I wrote Merton to that effect.

April 21.—Got a reply from Merton, saying he was very busy, and just at present couldn't manage passes for the Italian Opera, Haymarket, Savoy, or Lyceum, but the best thing going on in London was the Brown Bushes, at the Tank Theatre, Islington, and enclosed seats for four; also bill for whisky.

April 23.—Mr. and Mrs. James (Miss Fullers that was) came to meat-tea, and we left directly after for the Tank Theatre. We got a 'bus that took us to King's Cross, and then changed into one that took us to the "Angel." Mr. James each time insisted on paying for all, saying that I had paid for the tickets and that was quite enough.
We arrived at theatre, where, curiously enough, all our 'bus-load except an old woman with a basket seemed to be going in. I walked ahead and presented the tickets. The man looked at them, and called out: "Mr. Willowly! do you know anything about these?" holding up my tickets. The gentleman called to came up and examined my tickets, and said: "Who gave you these?" I said, rather indignantly: "Mr. Merton, of course." He said: "Merton? Who's he?" I answered, rather sharply: "You ought to know, his name's good at any theatre in London." He replied: "Oh! is it? Well, it ain't no good here. These tickets, which are not dated, were issued under Mr. Swinstead's management, which has since changed hands." While I was having some very unpleasant words with the man, James, who had gone upstairs with the ladies, called out: "Come on!" I went up after them, and a very civil attendant said: "This way, please, box H." I said to James: "Why, how on earth did you manage it?" and to my horror he replied: "Why, paid for it of course."
This was humiliating enough, and I could scarcely follow the play, but I was doomed to still further humiliation. I was leaning out of the box, when my tie—a little black bow which fastened on to the stud by means of a new patent—fell into the pit below. A clumsy man not noticing it, had his foot on it for ever so long before he discovered it. He then picked it up and eventually flung it under the next seat in disgust. What with the box incident and the tie, I felt quite miserable. Mr. James, of Sutton, was very good. He said: "Don't worry—no one will notice it with your beard. That is the only advantage of growing one that I can see." There was no occasion for that remark, for Carrie is very proud of my beard.
To hide the absence of the tie I had to keep my chin down the rest of the evening, which caused a pain at the back of my neck.

[toward the end of the session Gopa wished to read the entry of August 20 on the Game of Cutlets:
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; Cowing, 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.

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," and suddenly got up.

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.

Chapter XX – Dinner at Franching's to meet Mr. Hardfur Huttle.
May 10.—Received a letter from Mr. Franching, of Peckham, asking us to dine with him tonight, at seven o'clock, to meet Mr. Hardfur Huttle, a very clever writer for the American papers. Franching apologised for the short notice; but said he had at the last moment been disappointed of two of his guests and regarded us as old friends who would not mind filling up the gap. Carrie rather demurred at the invitation; but I explained to her that Franching was very well off and influential, and we could not afford to offend him. "And we are sure to get a good dinner and a good glass of champagne." "Which never agrees with you!" Carrie replied, sharply. I regarded Carrie's observation as unsaid. Mr. Franching asked us to wire a reply. As he had said nothing about dress in the letter, I wired back: "With pleasure. Is it full dress?" and by leaving out our name, just got the message within the sixpence.
Got back early to give time to dress, which we received a telegram instructing us to do. I wanted Carrie to meet me at Franching's house; but she would not do so, so I had to go home to fetch her. What a long journey it is from Holloway to Peckham! Why do people live such a long way off? Having to change 'buses, I allowed plenty of time—in fact, too much; for we arrived at twenty minutes to seven, and Franching, so the servant said, had only just gone up to dress. However, he was down as the clock struck seven; he must have dressed very quickly.
I must say it was quite a distinguished party, and although we did not know anybody personally, they all seemed to be quite swells. Franching had got a professional waiter, and evidently spared no expense. There were flowers on the table round some fairy-lamps and the effect, I must say, was exquisite. The wine was good and there was plenty of champagne, concerning which Franching said he himself, never wished to taste better. We were ten in number, and a menû card to each. One lady said she always preserved the menû and got the guests to write their names on the back.
We all of us followed her example, except Mr. Huttle, who was of course the important guest.
The dinner-party consisted of Mr. Franching, Mr. Hardfur Huttle, Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Hillbutter, Mrs. Field, Mr. and Mrs. Purdick, Mr. Pratt, Mr. R. Kent, and, last but not least, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Pooter. Franching said he was sorry he had no lady for me to take in to dinner. I replied that I preferred it, which I afterwards thought was a very uncomplimentary observation to make.
I sat next to Mrs. Field at dinner. She seemed a well-informed lady, but was very deaf. It did not much matter, for Mr. Hardfur Huttle did all the talking. He is a marvellously intellectual man and says things which from other people would seem quite alarming. How I wish I could remember even a quarter of his brilliant conversation. I made a few little reminding notes on the menû card.
One observation struck me as being absolutely powerful—though not to my way of thinking of course. Mrs. Purdick happened to say: "You are certainly unorthodox, Mr. Huttle." Mr. Huttle, with a peculiar expression (I can see it now) said in a slow rich voice: "Mrs. Purdick, 'orthodox' is a grandiloquent word implying sticking-in-the-mud. If Columbus and Stephenson had been orthodox, there would neither have been the discovery of America nor the steam-engine." There was quite a silence.
Diary of a Nobody P208.jpg
"'Orthodox' is a grandiloquent word."

It appeared to me that such teaching was absolutely dangerous, and yet I felt—in fact we must all have felt—there was no answer to the argument. A little later on, Mrs. Purdick, who is Franching's sister and also acted as hostess, rose from the table, and Mr. Huttle said: "Why, ladies, do you deprive us of your company so soon? Why not wait while we have our cigars?"
The effect was electrical. The ladies (including Carrie) were in no way inclined to be deprived of Mr. Huttle's fascinating society, and immediately resumed their seats, amid much laughter and a little chaff. Mr. Huttle said: "Well, that's a real good sign; you shall not be insulted by being called orthodox any longer." Mrs. Purdick, who seemed to be a bright and rather sharp woman, said: "Mr. Huttle, we will meet you half-way—that is, till you get half-way through your cigar. That, at all events, will be the happy medium."
I shall never forget the effect the words, "happy medium," had upon him. He was brilliant and most daring in his interpretation of the words. He positively alarmed me. He said something like the following: "Happy medium, indeed. Do you know 'happy medium' are two words which mean 'miserable mediocrity'? I say, go first class or third; marry a duchess or her kitchenmaid. The happy medium means respectability, and respectability means insipidness. Does it not, Mr. Pooter?"
I was so taken aback by being personally appealed to, that I could only bow apologetically, and say I feared I was not competent to offer an opinion. Carrie was about to say something; but she was interrupted, for which I was rather pleased, for she is not clever at argument, and one has to be extra clever to discuss a subject with a man like Mr. Huttle.
It was very late when Carrie and I got home; but on entering the sitting-room I said: "Carrie, what do you think of Mr. Hardfur Huttle?" She simply answered: "How like Lupin!" The same idea occurred to me in the train. The comparison kept me awake half the night. Mr. Huttle was, of course, an older and more influential man; but he was like Lupin, and it made me think how dangerous Lupin would be if he were older and more influential. I feel proud to think Lupin does resemble Mr. Huttle in some ways. Lupin, like Mr. Huttle, has original and sometimes wonderful ideas; but it is those ideas that are so dangerous. They make men extremely rich or extremely poor. They make or break men. I always feel people are happier who live a simple unsophisticated life. I believe I am happy because I am not ambitious. Somehow I feel that Lupin, since he has been with Mr. Perkupp, has become content to settle down and follow the footsteps of his father. This is a comfort.

Chapter XI – Burwin-Fosselton's letter on acting puts Pooter in his place
November 26, Sunday.
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. 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 à nos moutons.
"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 chaçun a son goût.
"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!' 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?'
"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.
"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!
"Yours truly, 

Chapter VI – Pooter finds Lupin difficult to understand, but Carrie wants him to be left alone.
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 dealth.
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.
Diary of a Nobody P079.jpg

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." 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 frockcoat. I don't know what the boy is coming to.

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.

Miscellaneous laughter
1. Chapter V – 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.
2. Chapter X – Nov 16 (middle). It was just half-past eleven, and I was starting for the office, when Lupin appeared, with a yellow complexion, and said: "Hulloh! Guv., what priced head have you this morning?" I told him he might just as well speak to me in Dutch. He added: "When I woke this morning, my head was as big as Baldwin's balloon." On the spur of the moment I said the cleverest thing I think I have ever said; viz.: "Perhaps that accounts for the parashooting pains." We all three roared.
3. Chapter XIV – January 3.—Still in a state of anxiety and excitement, which was not alleviated by ascertaining that Mr. Perkupp sent word he should not be at the office to-day. In the evening, Lupin, who was busily engaged with a paper, said suddenly to me: "Do you know anything about chalk pits, Guv.?" I said: "No, my boy, not that I 'm aware of." Lupin said: "Well, I give you the tip; chalk pits are as safe as Consols, and pay six per cent, at par." I said a rather neat thing, viz.: "They may be six per cent, at par, but your pa has no money to invest." Carrie and I both roared with laughter. Lupin did not take the slightest notice of the joke, although I purposely repeated it for him; but continued: "I give you the tip, that's all—chalk pits!" I said another funny thing: "Mind you don't fall into them!" Lupin put on a supercilious smile, and said: "Bravo! Joe Miller."

No comments: