Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Diary of a Nobody - by George and Weedon Grossmith

Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith is a comic novel from 1892.  It was previously serialized in the satiric magazine, “Punch.”   (US Edition) (UK Edition) OOPS, I made an error in the link to the UK edition and it is now fixed.

Why should I not publish my diary? I have often seen reminiscences of people I have never even heard of, and I fail to see—because I do not happen to be a ‘Somebody’—why my diary should not be interesting. My only regret is that I did not commence it when I was a youth.

Charles Pooter
The Laurels,
Brickfield Terrace

I read one negative review on Amazon that said reading this was like reading “The Office.”  I can understand wearying of “The Office,” perhaps – but not liking it?

However the diary has a lot less to do with Mr. Pooter’s days at the office than with his home life and his social life.

When I had quite finished my supper, and was leaving, the waiter who had been attending on us arrested my attention by tapping me on the shoulder. I thought it unusual for a waiter at a private ball to expect a tip, but nevertheless gave a shilling, as he had been very attentive. He smilingly replied: “I beg your pardon, sir, this is no good,” alluding to the shilling. “Your party’s had four suppers at 5s. a head, five ices at 1s., three bottles of champagne at 11s. 6d., a glass of claret, and a sixpenny cigar for the stout gentleman—in all £3 0s. 6d.!”

I don’t think I was ever so surprised in my life, and had only sufficient breath to inform him that I had received a private invitation, to which he answered that he was perfectly well aware of that; but that the invitation didn’t include eatables and drinkables. A gentleman who was standing at the bar corroborated the waiter’s statement, and assured me it was quite correct.

 [As a consequence of having to pay, Mr. Pooter is completely out of money and leaves still owing a little on the bill.]
When we got outside the Drill Hall it was raining so hard that the roads resembled canals, and I need hardly say we had great difficulty in getting a cabman to take us to Holloway. After waiting a bit, a man said he would drive us, anyhow, as far as “The Angel,” at Islington, and we could easily get another cab from there. It was a tedious journey; the rain was beating against the windows and trickling down the inside of the cab.

When we arrived at “The Angel” the horse seemed tired out. Carrie got out and ran into a doorway, and when I came to pay, to my absolute horror I remembered I had no money, nor had Carrie. I explained to the cabman how we were situated. Never in my life have I ever been so insulted; the cabman, who was a rough bully and to my thinking not sober, called me every name he could lay his tongue to, and positively seized me by the beard, which he pulled till the tears came into my eyes. I took the number of a policeman (who witnessed the assault) for not taking the man in charge. The policeman said he couldn’t interfere, that he had seen no assault, and that people should not ride in cabs without money.
Maybe this is just the sort of laugh we need.  There were several other places I laughed out loud.

Changing topics . . . my two favorite cities are London and Chicago.  The riots in England are horrifying, but the England I know and love is the one where people are getting up early each morning to sweep up after the looters. I hope this scourge ends soon and I hope the States don’t find themselves in the same predicament.  But if we do, I hope we carry it off as well as they did in Vancouver and as they are in the U.K.  For me the indelible image will be those people shoulder to shoulder with brooms.

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