The Diary of a Nobody
by George and Weedon Grossmith
Public Domain Books
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, and twice he kicked Carrie under the table, upset his wine, and flashed a knife uncomfortably near Gowing’s face. After supper he kept stretching out his legs on the fender, indulging in scraps of quotations from plays which were Greek to me, and more than once knocked over the fire-irons, making a hideous row - poor Carrie already having a bad head-ache.
When he went, he said, to our surprise: “I will come to-morrow and bring my Irving make-up.” Gowing and Cummings said they would like to see it and would come too. I could not help thinking they might as well give a party at my house while they are about it. However, as Carrie sensibly said: “Do anything, dear, to make Lupin forget the Daisy Mutlar business.”
November 23. - In the evening, Cummings came early. Gowing came a little later and brought, without asking permission, a fat and, I think, very vulgar-looking man named Padge, who appeared to be all moustache. Gowing never attempted any apology to either of us, but said Padge wanted to see the Irving business, to which Padge said: “That’s right,” and that is about all he DID say during the entire evening. Lupin came in and seemed in much better spirits. He had prepared a bit of a surprise. Mr. Burwin-Fosselton had come in with him, but had gone upstairs to get ready. In half-an-hour Lupin retired from the parlour, and returning in a few minutes, announced “Mr. Henry Irving.”
I must say we were all astounded. I never saw such a resemblance. It was astonishing. The only person who did not appear interested was the man Padge, who had got the best arm-chair, and was puffing away at a foul pipe into the fireplace. After some little time I said; “Why do actors always wear their hair so long?” Carrie in a moment said, “Mr. Hare doesn’t wear long HAIR.” How we laughed except Mr. Fosselton, who said, in a rather patronising kind of way, “The joke, Mrs. Pooter, is extremely appropriate, if not altogether new.” Thinking this rather a snub, I said: “Mr. Fosselton, I fancy - “ He interrupted me by saying: “Mr. BURWIN- Fosselton, if you please,” which made me quite forget what I was going to say to him. During the supper Mr. Burwin-Fosselton again monopolised the conversation with his Irving talk, and both Carrie and I came to the conclusion one can have even too much imitation of Irving. After supper, Mr. Burwin-Fosselton got a little too boisterous over his Irving imitation, and suddenly seizing Gowing by the collar of his coat, dug his thumb-nail, accidentally of course, into Gowing’s neck and took a piece of flesh out. Gowing was rightly annoyed, but that man Padge, who having declined our modest supper in order that he should not lose his comfortable chair, burst into an uncontrollable fit of laughter at the little misadventure. I was so annoyed at the conduct of Padge, I said: “I suppose you would have laughed if he had poked Mr. Gowing’s eye out?” to which Padge replied: “That’s right,” and laughed more than ever. I think perhaps the greatest surprise was when we broke up, for Mr. Burwin-Fosselton said: “Good-night, Mr. Pooter. I’m glad you like the imitation, I’ll bring THE OTHER MAKE-UP TO-MORROW NIGHT.”
November 24. - I went to town without a pocket-handkerchief. This is the second time I have done this during the last week. I must be losing my memory. Had it not been for this Daisy Mutlar business, I would have written to Mr. Burwin-Fosselton and told him I should be out this evening, but I fancy he is the sort of young man who would come all the same.
Dear old Cummings came in the evening; but Gowing sent round a little note saying he hoped I would excuse his not turning up, which rather amused me. He added that his neck was still painful. Of course, Burwin-Fosselton came, but Lupin never turned up, and imagine my utter disgust when that man Padge actually came again, and not even accompanied by Gowing. I was exasperated, and said: “Mr. Padge, this is a SURPRISE.” Dear Carrie, fearing unpleasantness, said: “Oh! I suppose Mr. Padge has only come to see the other Irving make-up.” Mr. Padge said: “That’s right," and took the best chair again, from which he never moved the whole evening.
My only consolation is, he takes no supper, so he is not an expensive guest, but I shall speak to Gowing about the matter. The Irving imitations and conversations occupied the whole evening, till I was sick of it. Once we had a rather heated discussion, which was commenced by Cummings saying that it appeared to him that Mr. Burwin-Fosselton was not only LIKE Mr. Irving, but was in his judgment every way as GOOD or even BETTER. I ventured to remark that after all it was but an imitation of an original.
Cummings said surely some imitations were better than the originals. I made what I considered a very clever remark: “Without an original there can be no imitation.” Mr. Burwin- Fosselton said quite impertinently: “Don’t discuss me in my presence, if you please; and, Mr. Pooter, I should advise you to talk about what you understand;” to which that cad Padge replied: “That’s right.” Dear Carrie saved the whole thing by suddenly saying: “I’ll be Ellen Terry.” Dear Carrie’s imitation wasn’t a bit liked, but she was so spontaneous and so funny that the disagreeable discussion passed off. When they left, I very pointedly said to Mr. Burwin-Fosselton and Mr. Padge that we should be engaged to-morrow evening.
November 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. 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 e 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 chacun e son gout.
“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!
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.”