Jerome K. (Jerome Klapka) Jerome.

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Second Thoughts of an
Idle Fellow

Second Thoughts of an
Idle Fellow



Author of " Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow," etc.




Copyright, 1898, by Dodd, Mead and Company,
for the United States of America.



On the Art of Making up One's Mind i

On the Disadvantage of not Getting

WHAT One Wants 26

On THE Exceptional Merit Attaching

to THE Things we Meant to Do . 48
On the Preparation and Employment

OF Love Philtres 84

On the Delights and Benefits of

Slavery no

On the Care and Management of

Women 138

On the AdiNDiNG OF Other People's

Business 162

On the Time Wasted in Looking

Before One Leaps •*..«. 198

A *> /> '^. .'^ ■'>

VI Contents


On the Nobility of Ourselves . , , 226

On the Motherliness of Man . , . 250
On the Inadvisabilitv of Following

Advice 278

On the Playing of Marches at the

Funerals of Marionettes .... 309

The Second Thoughts of
an Idle Fellow


" TVyOW, which would you advise, dear ?

X Al You see, with the red I sha'n't be
able to wear my magenta hat."

" Well, then, why not have the grey ? "

"Yes, yes, I think the grey will be more

" It 's a good material,"

" Yes, and it 's a pretty grey. You know
what I mean, dear ; not a common grey.
Of course grey is always an uninteresting

" It 's quiet."

" And then again, what I feel about the
red is that it is so warm-looking. Red
makes you feel warm even when you 're not
warm. You know what I mean, dear."

" Well, then, why not have the red ? It
suits you — red,"

"2"""'' •'Oif'the Art of

" No ; do you really think so ? **
" Well, when you 've got a colour, I mean,
of course."

" Yes, that is the drawback to red. No,
I think, on the whole, the grey is safer^
" Then you will take the grey, madam."
" Yes, I think I 'd better ; don't you,

"I like it myself very much."
"And it is good wearing stuff. I shall
have it trimmed with — Oh ! you have n't
cut it off, have you ? "

" I was just about to, madam."
" Well, don't for a moment. Just let me
have another look at the red. You see,
dear, it has just occurred to me — that chin-
chilla would look so well on the red."
" So it would, dear."
"And, you see, I 'vq got the chinchi'la."
" Then have the red. Why not ? "
" Well, there is the hat I 'm thinking of"
" You have n't anything else you could
wear with that."

" Nothing at all, and it would go so beau-
tifully with the grey. — Yes, I think I 'li
have the grey. It *s always a safe colour, —

Making up One's Mind 3

" Fourteen yards I think you said,
madam ? "

" Yes, fourteen yards will be enough ;
because I shall mix it with — one minute.
You see, dear, if I take the grey I shall have
nothing to wear with my black jacket."

" Won't it go with grey ? "

" Not well — not so well as with red."

" I should have the red, then. You evi-
dently fancy it yourself"

" No, personally I prefer the grey. But
then one must think o^ everything^ and —
Good gracious ! that 's surely not the right
time ? "

" No, madam, it 's ten minutes slow. We
always keep our clocks a little slow."

" And we were to have been at Madame
Jannavvay's at a quarter past twelve. How
long shopping does take ! Why, whatever
time did we start ? "

" About eleven, was n't it ? "

" Half-past ten. I remember now ; be-
cause, you know, we said we 'd start at
half-past nine. We 've been two hours
already ! "

"And we don't seem to have done much,
do we } "

4 On the Art of

" Done literally nothing, and I meant to
have done so much. I must go to Madame
Jannaway's. Have you got my purse, dear ?
Oh, it's all right, I Ve got it."

" Well, now you have n't decided whether
you 're going to have the grey or the red."

" I 'm sure I don't know what I do want
now. I had made up my mind a minute
ago, and now it 's all gone again — oh, yes,
I remember, the red. Yes, I '11 have the
red. No, I don't mean the red ; I mean the

"You were talking about the red last
time, if you remember, dear."

" Oh, so I was ; you 're quite right. That 's
the worst of shopping. Do you know, I get
quite confused sometimes."

" Then you will decide on the red,
madam ? "

"Yes, yes, I sha'n't do any better, shall
I, dear? What do you think? You have n't
got any other shades of red, have you ?
This is such an ugly red."

The shopman reminds her that she has
seen all the other reds, and that this is the
particular shade she selected and admired.

" Oh, very well," she replied, with the a.'r

Making up One's Mind 5

of one from whom all earthly cares are fall-
ing, " I must take that, then, I suppose. I
can't be worried about it any longer. 1 've
wasted half the morning already."

Outside she recollects three insuperable
objections to the red, and four unanswerable
arguments why she should have selected the
grey. She wonders would they change it,
if she went back and asked to see the shop-
walker ? Her friend, who wants her lunch,
thinks not.

" That is what I hate about shopping,"
she says. " One never has time to really

She says she sha'n't go to that shop again.

We laugh at her, but are we so very much
better? Come, my superior male friend,
have you never stood amid your wardrobe,
undecided whether, in her eyes, you would
appear more imposing clad in the rough
tweed suit that so admirably displays your
broad shoulders ; or in the orthodox black
frock, that, after all, is perhaps more suitable
to the figure of a man approaching — let
us say, the nine-and-twenties, or, better still,
why not riding costume ? Did we not
hear her say how well Jones looked In his

6 On the Art of

top-boots and breeches, and, " hang it all,**
we have a better leg than Jones. What a
pity riding-breeches are made so baggy now-
adays. Why is it that male fashions tend
more and more to hide the male leg ? As
women have become less and less ashamed
of theirs, we have become more and more
reticent of ours. Why are the silken hose,
the tight-fitting pantaloons, the neat knee-
breeches of our forefathers impossible to-
day ? Are we grown more modest — or has
there come about a falling off, rendering
concealment advisable ?

I can never understand, myself, why wo-
men love us. It must be our honest worth,
our sterling merit, that attracts them, — cer-
tainly not our appearance, in a pair of tweed
" dittos," black angora coat and vest, stand-
up collar, and chimney-pot hat ! No, it
must be our sheer force of character that
compels their admiration.

What a good time our ancestors must
have had was borne in upon me when, on
one occasion, I appeared in character at a
fancy-dress ball. What I represented I am
unable to say, and I don't particularly care.
I only know it was something military. I

Making up One's Mind 7

also remember that the costume was two
sizes too small for me in the chest, and
thereabouts ; and three sizes too large for
me in the hat. I padded the hat, and dined
in the middle of the day off a chop and half
a glass of soda-water. I have gained prizes
as a boy for mathematics, also for scripture
history, — not often, but I have done it. A
literary critic, now dead, once praised a book
of mine. I know there have been occasions
when my conduct has won the approbation
of good men ; but never — never in my
whole life — have I felt more proud, more
satisfied with myself, than on that evening
when, the last hook fastened, I gazed at my
full-length Self in the cheval glass. I was a
dream. I say it who should not ; but I am
not the only one who said it. I was a glit-
tering dream. The groundwork was red,
trimmed with gold braid wherever there was^
room for gold braid ; and where there was
no more possible room for gold braid there
hung gold cords and tassels and straps.
Gold buttons and buckles fastened me, gold
embroidered belts and sashes caressed me,
white horse-hair plumes waved o'er me. I
am not sure that everything was in its proper

8 On the Art of

place, but I managed to get everything on
somehow, and I looked well. It suited me.
My success was a revelation to me of female
human nature. Girls who had hitherto been
cold and distant gathered round me, timidly
solicitous of notice. Girls on whom I smiled
lost their heads and gave themselves airs.
Girls who were not introduced to me sulked
and were rude to girls that had been. For
one poor child, with whom I sat out two
dances (at least she sat, while I stood grace-
fully beside her — I had been advised, by
the costumier, not to sit), I was sorry. He
was a worthy young fellow, the son of a cot-
ton broker, and he would have made her a
good husband, I feel sure. But he was fool-
ish to come as a beer bottle.

Perhaps, after all, it is as well those old
fashions have gone out. A week in that
suit might have impaired my natural

One wonders that fancy-dress balls are not
more popular in this grey age of ours. The
childish instinct to " dress up," to " make
believe," is with us all. We grow so tired
of being always ourselves. A tea-table dis-
cussion, at which I once assisted, fell into

Making up One's Mind 9

this: Would any one of us, when it came
to the point, change with anybody else, the
poor man with the millionaire, the governess
with the princess, — change not only outward
circumstances and surroundings, but health
and temperament, heart, brain, and soul, so
that not one mental or physical particle of
one's original self one would retain, save only
memory. The general opinion was that we
would not, but one lady maintained the

" Oh, no, you would n't really, dear,"
argued a friend ; " you think you would."

" Yes, I would," persisted the first lady ;
" I am tired of myself. I 'd even be you,
for a change."

In my youth the question chiefly impor-
tant to me was. What sort of man should
I decide to be ? At nineteen one asks one-
self this question ; at thirty-nine we say, " I
wish Fate had n't made me this sort of man.**

In those days I was a reader of much well-
meant advice to young men, and I gathered
that, whether I should become a Sir Lance-
lot, a Herr Teufelsdrockh, or an lago was a
matter for my own individual choice.
Whether I should go through life gaily or

lO On the Art of

gravely was a question the pros and cons of
which I carefully considered. For patterns
I turned to books. Byron was then still
popular, and many of us made up our minds
to be gloomy, saturnine young men, weary
with the world and prone to soliloquy. I
determined to join them.

For a month I rarely smiled, or, when I
did, it was with a weary, bitter smile, con-
cealing a broken heart, — at least that was
the intention. Shallow-minded observers

" I know exactly how it feels," they would
say, looking at me sympathetically, '*' 1 often
have it myself It 's the sudden change in
the weather, I think ; " and they would
press neat brandy upon me, and suggest

Again, it is distressing to the young man,
busy burying his secret sorrow under a
mound of silence, to be slapped on the back
by commonplace people and asked, " Well,
how 's ' the hump ' this morning ? " and
to hear his mood of dignified melancholy
referred to, by those who should know
better, as " the sulks."

There are practical difficulties also in the

Making up One's Mind II

way of him who would play the Byronic
young gentleman. He must be super-
natural! y wicked — or rather, must have been ;
only, alas ! in the unliterary grammar of life,
where the future tense stands first, and the
past is formed, not from the indefinite, but
from the present indicative, " to have been "
is " to be ; " and to be wicked on a small in-
come is impossible. The ruin of even the
simplest of maidens costs money. In the
Courts of Love one cannot sue in forma
pauperis ; nor would it be the Byronic method.

" To drown remembrance in the cup "
sounds well, but then the " cup " to be fit-
ting should be of some expensive brand.
To drink deep of old Tokay or Asti is poet-
ical ; but when one's purse necessitates that the
draught, if it is to be deep enough to drown
anything, should be of thin beer at five-and-
nine the four and a half gallon cask, or some-
thing similar in price, sin is robbed of its

Possibly also — let me think it — the con-
viction may have been within me that Vice,
even at its daintiest, is but an ugly, sordid
thing, repulsive in the sunlight, that though
— as rags and dirt to art — it may afford

12 On the Art of

picturesque material to Literature, it is an
evil-smelling garment to the wearer, one
that a good man, by reason of poverty of
will, may come down to, but one to be
avoided with all one's effort, discarded with
returning mental prosperity.

Be this as it may, I grew weary of training
for a saturnine young man ; and in the
midst of my doubt I chanced upon a book
the hero of which was a debonair young
buck, own cousin to Tom and Jerry. He
attended fights, both of cocks and men,
flirted with actresses, wrenched off door-
knockers, extinguished street lamps, played
many a merry jest upon many an unappre-
ciative night watchman. For all the which he
was much beloved by the women of the book.
Why should not I flirt with actresses, put out
street lamps, play pranks on policemen, and
be beloved ? London life was changed since
the days of my hero, but much remained,
and the heart of woman is eternal. If no
longer prize-fighting was to be had, at least
there were boxing competitions, so-called, in
dingy back parlours out Whitechapel way.
Though cock-fighting was a lost sport, were
there not damp cellars near the river where

Making up One's Mind 13

for twopence a gentleman might back mon-
grel terriers to kill rats against time, and feel
himself Indeed a sportsman ? True, the atmos-
phere of reckless gaiety, always surround-
ing my hero, I missed myself from these
scenes, finding in its place an atmosphere
more suggestive of gin, stale tobacco, and
nervous apprehension of the police; but the
essentials must have been -the same, and the
next morning I could exclaim, in the very
words of my prototype, " Odds crickets,
but I feel as though the devil himself were
in my head. Peste take me for a fool ! "

But in this direction likewise my fatal
lack of means opposed me. (It affords
much food to the philosophic mind, this
influence of income upon character.) Even
fifth-rate " boxing competitions," organised
by " friendly leads," and ratting contests in
Rotherhithe slums, become expensive when
you happen to be the only gentleman present
possessed of a collar, and are expected to do
the honours of your class in dogs-nose.
True, climbing lamp-posts and putting out
the gas is fairly cheap, providing always you
are not caught in the act, but as a recreation
it lacks variety. Nor is the modern Lou-

14 On the Art of

don lamp-post adapted to sport. Anything
more difficult to grip — anything with less
"give" in it — I have rarely clasped. The
disgraceful amount of dirt allowed to accu-
mulate upon it is another drawback from
the climber's point of view. By the time
you have swarmed up your third post a
positive distaste for "gaiety" steals over
you. Your desire is towards arnica and
a bath.

Nor in jokes at the expense of policemen
is the fun entirely on your side. Maybe I
did not proceed with judgment. It occurs
to me now, looking back, that the neigh-
bourhoods of Covent Garden and Great
Marlborough Street were ill chosen for
sport of this nature. To bonnet a fat
policeman is excellent fooling. While he
is struggling with his helmet you can ask
him comic questions, and by the time he
has got his head free you are out of sight.
But the game should be played in a district
where there is not an average of three con-
stables to every dozen square yards. When
two other policemen, who have had their
eye on you for the past ten minutes, are
watching the proceedings from just round

Making up One's Mind 1 5

the next corner, you have little or no lei-
sure for due enjoyment of the situation. By
the time you have run the whole length of
Great Tichfield Street and twice round Ox-
ford Market, you are of opinion that a joke
should never be prolonged beyond the point
at which there is danger of its becoming
wearisome, and that the time has now ar-
rived for home and friends. ■ The " Law,"
on the other hand, now raised by reinforce-
ments to a strength of six or seven men, is
just beginning to enjoy the chase. You
picture to yourself, while doing Hanover
Square, the scene in Court the next morn-
ing. You will be accused of being drunk
and disorderly. It will be idle for you to
explain to the magistrate (or to your rela-
tions afterwards) that you were only trying
to live up to a man who did this sort of
thing in a book and was admired for it.
You will be fined the usual forty shillings ;
and on the next occasion of your calling at
the Mayfields' the girls will be out, and
Mrs. Mayfield, an excellent lady, who has
always taken a motherly interest in you, will
talk seriously to you and urge you to sign
the pledge.

1 6 On the Art of

Thanks to your youth and constitution
you shake off the pursuit at Notting Hill ;
and, to avoid any chance of unpleasant con-
tretemps on the return journey, walk home
to Bloomsbury by way of Camden Town
and Islington.

I abandoned sportive tendencies as the
result of a vow made by myself to Provi-
dence, during the early hours of a certain
Sunday morning, while clinging to the
waterspout of an unpretentious house situ-
ate in a side street off Soho. I put it to
Providence as man to man. " Let me only
get out of this," I think were the muttered
words I used, " and no more ^ sport ' foi
me." Providence closed on the offer, and
did let me get out of it. True, it was a
complicated " get out," involving a broken
skylight and three gas globes, two hours in
a coal cellar, and a sovereign to a potman for
the loan of an ulster ; and when at last, se-
cure in my chamber, I took stock of myself,
— what was left of me, — I could not but
reflect that Providence might have done the
job neater. Yet I experienced no desire to
escape the terms of the covenant ; my in-
clining for the future was towards a life o/

Making up One's Mind 17

Accordingly, I cast about for a new char-
acter, and found one to suit me. The Ger-
man Professor was becoming popular as a
hero about this period. He wore his hair
long and was otherwise untidy, but he had
" a heart of steel," occasionally of gold.
The majority of folks in the book, judging
him from his exterior, together with his
conversation, — in broken English, dealing
chiefly with his dead mother and his little
sister Lisa, — dubbed him uninteresting,
but then they did not know about the heart.
His chief possession was a lame dog which
he had rescued from a brutal mob ; and
when he was not talking broken English
he was nursing this dog.

But his speciality was stopping runaway
horses, thereby saving the heroine's life.
This, combined with the broken English
and the dog, rendered him irresistible.

He seemed a peaceful, amiable sort of
creature, and I decided to try him. I could
not of course be a German professor, but I
could and did wear my hair long in spite
of much public advice to the contrary, voiced
chiefly by small boys. I endeavoured to
obtain possession of a lame dog, but failed-

1 8 On the Art of

A one-eyed dealer in Seven Dials, to whom,
as a last resource, I applied, offered to lame
one for me for an extra live shillings, but
this suggestion I declined. I came across
an uncanny-looking mongrel late one night.
He was not lame, but he seemed pretty
sick ; and, feeling I was not robbing any-
body of anything very valuable, I lured him
home and nursed him. I fancy I must have
over-nursed him. He got so healthy in the
end, there was no doing anything with him.
He was an ill-conditioned cur, and he was
too old to be taught. He became the curse
of the neighbourhood. His idea of sport
was killing chickens and sneaking rabbits
from outside poulterers' shops. For recre-
ation he killed cats and frightened small
children by yelping round their legs. There
were times when I could have lamed him
myself, if only I could have got hold of
him. I made nothing by running that dog,
— nothing whatever. People, instead of
admiring me for nursing him back to life,
called me a fool, and said that if I did n't
drown the brute, they would. He spoilt
my character utterly — I mean my charac-
ter at this period. It is difficult to pose as

Making up One's Mind I9

a young man with a heart of gold, when dis-
covered in the middle of the road throwing
stones at your own dog ; and stones were
the only things that would reach and influ-
ence him.

I was also hampered by a scarcity in run-
away horses. The horse of our suburb was
not that type of horse. Once, and only
once did an opportunity offer itself for
practice. It was a good opportunity, inas-
much as he was not running away very
greatly. Indeed, I doubt if he knew him-
self that he was running away. It tran-
spired afterwards that it was a habit of his,
after waiting for his driver outside the Rose
and Crown for what he considered to be a
reasonable period, to trot home on his own
account. He passed me going about seven
miles an hour, with the reins dragging con-
veniently beside him. He was the very
thing for a beginner, and I prepared myself.
At the critical moment, however, a couple
of officious policemen pushed me aside and
did it themselves.

There was nothing for me to regret, as
the matter turned out. I should only have
rescued a bald-headed commercial traveller,

;20 On the Art of

very drunk, who swore horribly and pelted
the crowd with empty collar-boxes.

From the window of a very high flat I
once watched three men resolved to stop a
runaway horse. Each man marched delib-
erately into the middle of the road and took
up his stand. My window was too far away
for me to see their faces, but their attitude
suggested heroism unto death. The first
man, as the horse came charging towards
him, faced it with his arms spread out. He
never flinched until the horse was within
about twenty yards of him. Then, as the
animal was evidently determined to continue
its wild career, there was nothing left for him
to do but to retire again to the kerb, where
he stood looking after it with evident sorrow,
as though saying to himself, " Oh, well, if
you are going to be headstrong I have done
with you."

The second man, on, the catastrophe being
thus left clear for him, without a moment's
hesitation, walked up a bye-street and disap-
peared. The third man stood his ground,
and as the horse passed him yelled at it. I
could not hear what he said. I have not
the slightest doubt it was excellent advice,

Making up One's Mind 21

but the animal was apparently too excited
even to listen. The first and the third man
met afterwards and discussed the matter
sympathetically. I judged they were re-
gretting the pig-headedness of runaway
horses in general, and hoping that nobody
had been hurt.

I forget the other characters I assumed
about this period. One I know that got
me into a good deal of trouble was that of a
downright, honest, hearty, outspoken young
man who always said what he meant.

I never knew but one man who made a
real success of speaking his mind. I have
heard him slap the table with his open hand
and exclaim, —

" You want me to flatter you, to stuff
you up with a pack of lies. That 's not me,
that 's not Jim Compton. But if you care
for my honest opinion, all I can say is, that
child is the most marvellous performer on
the piano I Ve ever heard. I don't say she
is a genius, but I have heard Liszt and
Metzler and all the crack players, and I
prefer her. That 's my opinion. I speak
my mind, and I can't help it if you 're

2 2 On the Art of

" How refreshing," the parents would say,
" to come across a man who is not afraid to
say what he really thinks ! Why are we not
all outspoken ? "

The last character I attempted I thought
would be easy to assume. It was that of a
much admired and beloved young man, whose
great charm lay in the fact that he was always
just — himself. Other people posed and
acted. He never made any effort to be any-
thing but his own natural, simple self

I thought I also would be my own natural,

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

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