A Day in the Life of Augustus Carp, Esq.

Augustus Carp, Esq.Required, like my father, who was still fortunately able to pursue his secular avocations, to be present at my place of employment by nine o’clock in the morning, my mother would call me at a quarter past seven, bringing a cup of tea to my bedside. This I would permit to cool for three or four minutes while I ate one of the biscuits with which it was accompanied; and then, sitting up in bed with my dressing-gown over my shoulders, I would drink the upper half of it before again eating. I would then eat the second of my two biscuits, and having drunk the remainder of the tea, would ring for my mother, who would then bring my hot water prior to the removal of the tea-things.

I was now ready to dress, and pushing down the bed-clothes, would begin by leaning forward and reaching the trousers which, the night before, I had hung over the end of the bed, with this very purpose in view. Containing my pants, to the lower extremities of which my socks would be still adherent, I was thus enabled, without removing my nightgown, to clothe my lower limbs before actually rising; and it was only then that I would finally leave the bed and cross the room towards the wash-hand stand. I would then fill the basin, leaving sufficient hot water for the purposes of subsequent shaving, and having locked the door and drawn the blinds would remove my nightgown preparatory to washing.

It would now be half-past seven, and if it were at all cold, I would don my vest before bending over the basin, never failing, however, in even the severest weather, to roll up my sleeves as far as my elbows. Then having dried and put on my shirt, I would shave before putting on my shirt-front, always brushing my hair before I put on my coat,but not before putting on my waistcoat. I would then select a clean handkerchief from my top right-hand drawer, and having pulled up my trousers a little to prevent them from becoming baggy, would kneel by my bedside at seven forty-five, assuming an erect position again at five minutes to eight. I would then pull up the blinds, open the windows, fold up my nightgown and put it in my nightgown bag, and by eight o’clock would be sitting at the harmonium in readiness to burst into the morning hymn.

Thus begun, and breakfast having been concluded, the day would next behold me inside an omnibus, unless the weather were warm enough to permit of my sitting upon the top for the purpose of rebuking adjacent smokers; and punctually at nine o’clock, I would enter the show-room and divest myself of my hat, scarf and overcoat. I would then exchange a courteous word or two with Miss Botterill and the youth who had succeeded me as show-room assistant, and immediately apply myself to the various duties that as show-room manager devolved upon my shoulders. Comprising the arrangement of books upon the shelves and counters, as well as of an attractive display in the street window, these would include, of course, my personal attendance upon the more important of our retail customers, the booking of orders, the checking of the show-room takings, and the maintenance of discipline amongst my two subordinates. And I had long ago proved the necessity, in view of such diverse demands, of paying the utmost attention to my physical upkeep.

At eleven o’clock, therefore, I would despatch Miss Botterill to a neighbouring branch of the Aerated Bread Company for a glass of hot milk and a substantial slice of a cake appropriately known as lunch cake. I would then, at twelve-thirty, repair in person to the same branch of this valuable company, where I would generally order from one of the quieter waitresses a double portion of sausages and mashed potatoes, accompanied by a cup of coffee, and followed by an apple dumpling or a segment of baked jam roll. This was the more necessary because the hour from one to two was usually the busiest of the working day, while from two to three, when, my subordinates lunched in turn, I had, of course, only one of them to assist me.

By three o’clock, however, they had both returned, and I would take the opportunity, five minutes later, of again sending Miss Botterill to the Aerated Bread Company for my mid-afternoon cup of tea. This I would drink, unthickened by food, but at half-past four I would send her out for another cup, and with this I would eat a roll and butter, a small dish of honey, and perhaps a single doughnut. Thus fortified I would then continue at work until six o’clock, when the show-room closed, and at half-past six I was sitting down at home to the chief meal of the evening. Taken somewhat earlier than had been my father’s custom in the days of my boyhood and adolescence, I had found myself obliged to insist on the alteration in view of the many demands upon my evening hours. Most of my active work, for example, at the doors of public-houses, required an attendance from seven to nine, while few of the local prayer meetings began at a later hour than half-past seven or eight.

Early as was this meal, however, it was none the less welcome, consisting as it usually did of a joint and two vegetables followed by a wholesome pudding, tea, bread and jam, and perhaps a slice or two of home-made cake. Then after evening prayers, I would embrace my father, who was now always in bed by a quarter to nine, and leave the house upon some such holy errand as I have described in the previous paragraph. I did not fail, however, on returning home to drink a bowl of arrowroot and eat some digestive biscuits, and whenever possible, in the interests of my health, I would retire to my bedroom at ten fifteen.

Here I would find my windows closed for the night, the blinds drawn for the sake of decency, a jug of hot water standing in my basin, while a hot-water bottle would be within the bed. All would be in readiness, therefore, for my quick disrobing, a process that I would begin as soon as I had locked the door; and within five minutes, I would be bending over the basin clad as I have described myself some fifteen hours earlier. I would then brush my teeth, using some mild disinfectant, open my nightgown bag and extract my nightgown, and having taken off my vest, would slip on my nightgown prior to the removal of my lower garments. These I would then detach from myself with a single downward movement, subsequently hanging them over the end of the bed, after which I would put on my dressing-gown and bedroom slippers and utter a brief but fervent supplication. I would then pull up the blinds so that the stars could shine upon my bed, swallow a tablespoon of the Adult Gripe Water, unlock the door, extinguish the light, and by ten thirty-five be composed for slumber.

Such was a typical day of this period of my life, during which, as I have said, I increased in weight, and in which, as I am glad to believe, my moral stature also expanded and became consolidated. This was, at any rate, the conviction of my friend Simeon Whey, who took the opportunity of my twenty-sixth birthday to describe me in his diary as `now in the full flower of his southern Metropolitan Xtian manhood’. Indeed, the whole passage is well worth transcribing, written as it was on the eve of his ordination, and following a happy hour together discussing the price-lists of various clerical tailors.

`By a moving coincidence,’ he wrote, `the eve of my ordination has coincided with the twenty-sixth birthday of my old and dear friend Augustus Carp of Angela Gardens. And yet perhaps old is scarcely the right word, for mature as he is, he is now in the full flower of his southern Metropolitan Xtian manhood. Nor have I ever seen him looking so large as when he came to see me at 2.35 to receive the hand-painted toothbrush, with which I had promised to present him, and to give me his benediction for the morrow. Fully a stone heavier than this time last year, his moustache has become noticeably more abundant, and his every movement possesses the weight and gravity of a man twenty years his senior. Admirable as was his diction, too, even as a boy, it has now attained a level of sonorous grandeur, from which it never lapses in even the most trivial pronouncements imposed upon him by necessary human intercourse. Is it surprising, therefore, that I daily thank P, for so noble and inspiring an example?’

– from Augustus Carp, Esq. by Himself, Being the Autobiography of a Really Good Man. See my review here.

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