The Diary of Samuel Marchbanks. Revised Edition (1966) by Robertson Davies

Friday: To the theatre tonight and sat behind a man who had hives, or St. Vitus’ dance, or some other restless complaint. A few weeks ago it was my task to read a small child a book by a writer named Enid Blyton, whose work I had not previously known, and whose other books I feel no urge to seek; this one was about a restless, bouncing little creature called the Fairy Bobabout. I had never expected to sit behind the Fairy Bobabout in a theatre, but there I was, and there was F.B., right ahead. I heard people behind me muttering, and such scraps of conversation reached me as “I wish he’d keep still,” “Do you think we could change our seats” and more to the same effect. Thinking that they too were annoyed with F.B. I turned and grinned my agreement at them, to be greeted with stony glares and sniffs. And then the horrible truth dawned upon me that as Bobabout jumped to the right, I had jumped to the left, and vice versa, to avoid him, and thus, to the people behind me I was no better than he. I was BOB-ABOUT. This so unnerved me that for the rest of the evening I sat crunched up in one arthritic posture, tense with shame.

Saturday: The last day of the year, and I passed part of the evening in melancholy reflection upon the waste of time which has always been my greatest sin. If only I could drive myself to do physical jerks for an hour a day, read improving books for an hour a day, practise on the piano for an hour a day, philosophize and ponder on life for an hour a day, eat less, drink less, sleep less, work harder, eat wholemeal bread, drink eight gallons of water a day, stop smoking, and overcome my ribald disdain for nice simple people who, whatever their short-comings, Mean Well — if only I could do all these things, what a wonderful fellow I should be! This line of thought made me so discontented with myself that I had not the heart to toast the New Year, and midnight found me crouching by a dying fire, glumly eating a bowl of breakfast food and wondering if suicide might not be best for me and for my fellow-men. Roused myself at last to make a final entry in this diary, which I leave with something of the feeling experienced by Gibbon when he completed the Decline and Fall. . . To the reader who has read thus far, Adieu.

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Categories: Davies, Robertson