THE IDLE THOUGHTS OF AN IDLE FELLOW.
JEROME K. JEROME.
IN ONE VOLUME.
By the same Author,
DIARY OF A PILGRIMAGE, ETC i vol.
NOVEL NOTES i vol.
SKETCHES IN LAVENDER, BLUE AND GREEN . i vol.
THE SECOND THOUGHTS OF AN IDLE FELLOW . i vol.
THREE MEN ON THE BUMMEL i vol.
AN IDLE FELLOW
A BOOK FOR
AN IDLE HOLIDAY
JEROME K, JEROME.
From the one hundred and thirty - second London Edit ion.
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THE VERY DEAR AND WELL-BELOVED
OF MY PROSPEROUS AND EVIL DAYS —
TO THE FRIEND
WHO, THOUGH, IN THE EARLY STAGES OF OUR ACQUAINTANCESHIP,
DID OFTTIMES DISAGREE WITH ME, HAS SINCE BECOME
TO BE MY VERY WARMEST COMRADE —
TO THE FRLEND
WHO, HOWEVER OFTEN I MAY PUT HIM OUT, NEVER (NOW)
UPSETS ME IN REVENGE —
TO THE FRLEND
WHO, TREATED WITH MARKED COLDNESS BY ALL THE FEMALE
MEMBERS OF MY HOUSEHOLD, AND REGARDED WITH SUSPICION
BY MY VERY DOG, NEVERTHELESS, SEEMS DAY BY DAY
TO BE MORE DRAWN BY ME, AND, IN RETURN, TO
MORE AND MORE IMPREGNATE ME WITH THE
ODOUR OF HIS FRLENDSHIP —
TO THE FRIEND
WHO NEVER TELLS ME OF MY FAULTS, NEVER WANTS TO BORROW
MONEY, AND NEVER TALKS ABOUT HIMSELF —
TO THE COMPANION OF MY IDLE HOURS,
THE SOOTHER OF MY SORROWS,
TILE CONFIDANT OF MY JOYS AND HOPES—
MY OLDEST AND STRONGEST
THIS LITTLE VOLUME
GRATEFULLY AND AFFECTIONATELY
One or two friends to whom I showed these
papers in MS. having observed that they were
not half bad; and some of my relations having
promised to buy the book, if it ever came out, I
feel I have no right to longer delay its issue. But
for this, as one may say, public demand, I, per-
haps, should not have ventured to offer these mere
"idle thoughts" of mine as mental food for the
English-speaking peoples of the earth. What
readers ask now-a-days in a book is that it should
improve, instruct, and elevate. This book wouldn't
elevate a cow. I cannot conscientiously recom-
mend it for any useful purposes whatever. All I
can suggest is, that when you get tired of reading
"the best hundred books," you may take this up
for half an hour. It will be a change.
On being Hard Up 13
On being in the Blues 27
On Vanity and Vanities 37
On Getting on in the World 53
On being Idle 67
On being in Love 81
On the AVeather 97
On Cats and Dogs 117
On being Shy 143
On Babies 16 r
On Eating and Drinking 177
On Furnished Apartments 193
On Dress and Deportment 213
On Memory 229
ON BEING HARD UP.
AN IDLE FELLOW.
ON BEING HARD UP.
It is a most remarkable thing. I sat down
with the full intention of writing something clever
and original; but for the life of me I can't think
of anything clever and original — at least, not at
this moment. The only thing I can think about
now is being hard up. I suppose having my
hands in my pockets has made me think about
this. I always do sit with my hands in my
pockets, except when I am in the company of
my sisters, my cousins, or my aunts; and they
kick up such a shindy — I should say expostulate
so eloquently upon the subject — that I have to
14 ON BEING HARD UP.
give in and take them out — my hands I mean.
The chorus to their objections is that it is not
gentlemanly. I am hanged if I can see why. I
could understand its not being considered gentle-
manly to put your hands in other people's pockets
(especially by the other people), but how, O ye
sticklers for what looks this and what looks that,
can putting his hands in his own pockets make a
man less gentle! Perhaps you are right, though.
Now I come to think of it, I have heard some
people grumble most savagely when doing it. But
they were mostly old gentlemen. We young fel-
lows, as a rule, are never quite at ease unless we
have our hands in our pockets. We are awkward
and shifty. We are like what a music hall Lion
Comique would be without his opera hat, if such
a thing can be imagined. But let us put our
hands in our trousers' pockets, and let there be
some small change in the right hand one and a
bunch of keys in the left, and we will face a
female post-office clerk.
It is a little difficult to know what to do with
your hands, even in your pockets, when there is
nothing else there. Years ago, when my whole
capital would occasionally come down to "what in
ON BEING HARD UP. I 5
town the people call a bob," I would recklessly
spend a penny of it, merely for the sake of hav-
ing the change, all in coppers, to jingle. You
don't feel nearly so hard up with elevenpence in
your pocket as you do with a shilling. Had I
been "La-di-da," that impecunious youth about
whom we superior folk are so sarcastic, I would
have changed my penny for two ha'pennies.
I can speak with authority on the subject of
being hard up. I have been a provincial actor.
If further evidence be required, which I do not
think likely, I can add that I have been a "gentle-
man connected with the press." 1 have lived on
fifteen shillings a week. I have lived a week on
ten, owing the other five; and I have lived for a
fortnight on a great-coat.
It is wonderful what an insight into domestic
economy being really hard up gives one. If you
want to find out the value of money, live on fif-
teen shillings a week, and see how much you can
put by for clothes and recreation. You will find
out that it is worth while to wait for the farthing
change, that it is worth while to walk a mile to
save a penny, that a glass of beer is a luxury to
I 6 ON BEING HARD UP.
be indulged in only at rare intervals, and that a
collar can be worn for four days.
Try it just before you get married. It will be
excellent practice. Let your son and heir try it
before sending him to college. He won't grumble
at a hundred a year pocket money then. There
are some people to whom it would do a world of
good. There is that delicate blossom, who can't
drink any claret under ninety-four, and who would
as soon think of dining off cats' meat as off plain
roast mutton. You do come across these poor
wretches now and then, though, to the credit of
humanity, they are principally confined to that
fearful and wonderful society known only to lady
novelists. I never hear of one of these creatures
discussing a menu card, but I feel a mad desire
to drag him off to the bar of some common east-
end public-house, and cram a sixpenny dinner
down his throat — beefsteak pudding, fourpence;
potatoes, a penny, half a pint of porter, a penny.
The recollection of it (and the mingled fragrance
of beer, tobacco, and roast pork generally leaves a
vivid impression) might induce him to turn up his
nose a little less frequently in the future at every-
thing that is put before him. Then, there is that
ON BEING HARD UP. I 7
generous party, the cadger's delight, who is so
free with his small change, but who never thinks
of paying his debts. It might teach even him a
little common sense. "I always give the waiter a
shilling. One can't give the fellow less, you know,"
explained a young Government clerk with whom
I was lunching the other day in Regent Street.
I agreed with him as to the utter impossibility of
making it elevenpence ha'penny; but, at the same
time, I resolved to one day decoy him to an
eating-house I remembered near Covent Garden,
where the waiter, for the better discharge of his
duties, goes about in his shirt-sleeves — and very
dirty sleeves they are too, when it gets near the
end of the month. I know that waiter. If my
friend gives him anything beyond a penny, the
man will insist on shaking hands with him then
and there, as a mark of his esteem: of that I feel
There have been a good many funny things
said and written about hardupishness, but the
reality is not funny, for all that. It is not funny
to have to haggle over pennies. It isn't funny to
be thought mean and stingy. It isn't funny to
be shabby, and to be ashamed of your address.
Idle Thoughts. 2
1 8 ON BEING HARD UP.
No, there is nothing at all funny in poverty — to
the poor. It is hell upon earth to a sensitive
man; and many a brave gentleman, who would
have faced the labours of Hercules, has had his
heart broken by its: petty miseries.
It is not the actual discomforts themselves
that are hard to bear. Who would mind rough-
ing it a bit, if that were all it meant? What
cared Robinson Crusoe for a patch on his
trousers? — Did he wear trousers? I forget; or
did he go about like he does in the pantomimes?
What did it matter to him if his toes did stick
out of his boots? and what if his umbrella was a
cotton one, so long as it kept the rain off. His
shabbiness did not trouble him: there were none
of his friends round about to sneer at him.
Being poor is a mere trifle. It is being known
to be poor that is the sting. It is not cold that
makes a man without a greatcoat hurry along so
quickly. It is not all shame at telling lies — which
he knows will not be believed — that makes him
turn so red when he informs you that he con-
siders greatcoats unhealthy, and never carries an
umbrella on principle. It is easy enough to say
that poverty is no crime. No; if it were, men
ON BEING HARD UP. IQ
wouldn't be ashamed of it. It is a blunder though,
and is punished as such. A poor man is
despised the whole world over; despised as much
by a Christian as by a lord, as much by a
demagogue as by a footman, and not all the copy-
book maxims ever set for ink-stained youth will
make him respected. Appearances are everything,
so far as human opinion goes, and the man who
will walk down Piccadilly arm in arm with the
most notorious scamp in London, provided he is
a well-dressed one, will slink up a back street to
say a couple of words to a seedy-looking gentle-
man. And the seedy-looking gentleman knows
this — no one better — and will go a mile round to
avoid meeting an acquaintance. Those that knew
him in his prosperity need never trouble them-
selves to look the other way. He is a thousand
times more anxious that they should not see him
than they can be; and as to their assistance,
there is nothing he dreads more than the offer of
it. All he wants is to be forgotten; and in this
respect he is generally fortunate enough to get
what he wants.
One becomes used to being hard up, like one
becomes used to everything else, by the help of
20 ON BEING HARD UP.
that wonderful old homoeopathic doctor, Time.
You can tell at a glance the difference between
the old hand and the novice; between the case-
hardened man who has been used to shift and
struggle for years, and the poor devil of a be-
ginner, striving to hide his misery, and in a con-
stant agony of fear lest he should be found out.
Nothing shows this difference more clearly than
the way in which each will pawn his watch. As
the poet says somewhere: "True ease in pawning
comes from art, not chance." The one goes into
his "Uncle's" with as much composure as he
would into his tailor's — very likely with more.
The assistant is even civil and attends to him at
once, to the great indignation of the lady in the
next box, who, however, sarcastically observes
that she don't mind being kept waiting "if it is
a reg'lar customer." Why, from the pleasant and
business-like manner in which the transaction is
carried out, it might be a large purchase in the
Three per Cents. Yet what a piece of work a
man makes of his first "pop." A boy popping
his first question is confidence itself compared
with him. He hangs about outside the shop,
until he has succeeded in attracting the attention
ON BEING HARD UP. 2 1
of all the loafers in the neighbourhood, and has
aroused strong suspicions in the mind of the
policeman on the beat. At last, after a careful
examination of the contents of the windows, made
for the purpose of impressing the by-standers
with the notion that he is going in to purchase a
diamond bracelet or some such trifle, he enters,
trying to do so with a careless swagger, and giv-
ing himself really the air of a member of the
swell mob. When inside, he speaks in so low a
voice as to be perfectly inaudible, and has to say
it all over again. When, in the course of his
rambling conversation about a "friend" of his,
the word "lend" is reached, he is promptly told
to go up the court on the right, and take the
first door round the corner. He comes out of
the shop with a face that you could easily light
a cigarette at, and firmly under the impression
that the whole population of the district is watch-
ing him. When he does get to the right place he
has forgotten his name and address, and is in a
general condition of hopeless imbecility. Asked
in a severe tone how he came by "this," he
stammers and contradicts himself, and it is only
a miracle if he does not confess to having stolen
2 2 ON BEING HARD UP.
it that very day. He is thereupon informed that
they don't want anything to do with his sort, and
that he had better get out of this as quickly as
possible, which he does, recollecting nothing more
until he finds himself three miles off, without the
slightest knowledge how he got there.
By the way, how awkward it is, though, hav-
ing to depend on public-houses and churches for
the time. The former are generally too fast, and
the latter too slow. Besides which, your efforts
to get a glimpse of the public-house clock from
the outside, are attended with great difficulties.
If you gently push the swing door ajar and peer
in, you draw upon yourself the contemptuous
looks of the barmaid, who at once puts you down
in the same category with area sneaks and
cadgers. You also create a certain amount of
agitation among the married portion of the cus-
tomers. You don't see the clock, because it is
behind the door; and, in trying to withdraw
quietly, you jamb your head. The only other
method is to jump up and down outside the win-
dow. After this latter proceeding, however, if you
do not bring out a banjo and commence to sing,
the youthful inhabitants of the neighbourhood,
ON BEING HARD UP. 2$
who have gathered round in expectation, become
I should like to know, too, by what mysterious
law of nature it is that, before you have left
your watch "to be repaired" half-an-hour, some
one is sure to stop you in the street and con-
spicuously ask you the time. Nobody even feels
the slightest curiosity on the subject when you've
got it on.
Dear old ladies and gentlemen, who know no-
thing about being hard up — and may they never,
bless their grey old heads — look upon the pawn-
shop as the last stage of degradation; but those
who know it better (and my readers have, no
doubt, noticed this themselves) are often sur-
prised, like the little boy who dreamed he went
to Heaven, at meeting so many people there that
they never expected to see. For my part, I
think it a much more independent course than
borrowing from friends, and I always try to im-
press this upon those of my acquaintance who
incline towards "wanting a couple of pounds till
the day after to-morrow." But they won't all see it.
One of them once remarked that he objected to
the principle of the thing. I fancy if he had
2\ ON BEING HARD UP.
said it was the interest that he objected to he
would have been nearer the truth: twenty-five per
cent, certainly does come heavy.
There are degrees in being hard up. We are
all hard up, more or less — most of us more.
Some are hard up for a thousand pounds; some
for a shilling. Just at this moment I am hard
up myself for a fiver. I only want it for a day
or two. I should be certain of paying it back
within a week at the outside, and if any lady or
gentleman among my readers would kindly lend
it me, I should be very much obliged indeed.
They could send it to me, under cover to Messrs.
Field and Tuer, only, in such case, please let the
envelope be carefully sealed. I would give you
my I.O.U. as security.
ON BEING IN THE BLUES.
ON BEING IN THE BLUES.
I can enjoy feeling melancholy, and there is
a good deal of satisfaction about being thoroughly
miserable; but nobody likes a fit of the blues.
Nevertheless, everybody has them ; notwithstanding
which, nobody can tell why. There is no ac-
counting for them. You are just as likely to have
one on the day after you have come into a large
fortune, as on the day after you have left your
new silk umbrella in the train. Its effect upon
you is somewhat similar to what would probably
be produced by a combined attack of tooth-ache,
indigestion, and cold in the head. You become
stupid, restless, and irritable; rude to strangers,
and dangerous towards your friends; clumsy,
maudlin, and quarrelsome; a nuisance to yourself,
and everybody about you.
While it is on, you can do nothing and think
of nothing, though feeling at the time bound to
28 ON BEING IN THE BLUES.
do something. You can't sit still, so put on your
hat and go for a walk: but before you get to the
corner of the street you wish you hadn't come
out, and you turn back. You open a book and
try to read, but you find Shakespeare trite and
commonplace, Dickens is dull and prosy, Thackeray
a bore, and Carlyle too sentimental. You throw
the book aside, and call the author names. Then
you "shoo" the cat out of the room, and kick the
door to after her. You think you will write your
letters, but after sticking at "Dearest Auntie, — /
find I have five minutes to spare, and so hasten to
write to you/' for a quarter of an hour, without
being able to think of another sentence, you
tumble the paper into the desk, fling the wet pen
down upon the table-cloth, and start up with the
resolution of going to see the Thompsons. While
pulling on your gloves, however, it occurs to you
that the Thompsons are idiots; that they never
have supper; and that you will be expected to
jump the baby. You curse the Thompsons, and
decide not to go.
By this time you feel completely crushed. You
bury your face in your hands, and think you would
like to die and go to heaven. You picture to
ON BEING IN THE BLUES. 20,
yourself your own sick bed, with all your friends
and relations standing round you weeping. You
bless them all, especially the young and pretty
ones. They will value you when you are gone,
so you say to yourself, and learn too late what
they have lost; and you bitterly contrast their
presumed regard for you then with their decided
want of veneration now.
These reflections make you feel a little more
cheerful, but only for a brief period; for the next
moment you think what a fool you must be to
imagine for an instant that anybody would be
sorry at anything that might happen to you. Who
would care two straws (whatever precise amount
of care two straws may represent) whether you
were blown up, or hung up, or married, or
drowned. Nobody cares for you. You never
have been properly appreciated, never met with
your due deserts in any one particular. You re-
view the whole of your past life, and it is pain-
fully apparent that you have been ill-used from
Half an hour's indulgence in these considera-
tions works you up into a state of savage fury
against everybody and everything, especially your-