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The Journal of a Disappointed Man

W. N. P. Barbellion

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The Journal of a Disappointed Man by English naturalist and diarist Bruce Frederick Cummings (writing under the name W. N. P. Barbellion) was first published in 1919. With an introduction by H. G. Wells, it was first believed to have been a work of fiction by Wells himself. It was in fact, as the author described it; 'a study in the nude'. Despite being rejected by HarperCollins at the time, for displaying a 'lack or morals' which they felt might reflect on them, the book has been described as a work of genius. Cummings suffered from multiple sclerosis, and the book has also been praised by other sufferers of the disease, as giving an eloquent portrayal of the struggles they go through. An editor's note at the very end of the book claims Barbellion died on 31 December 1917, but Cummings actually lived for nearly two more years.

This book has 194 pages in the PDF version, and was originally published in 1919.

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Excerpt from The Journal of a Disappointed Man

January 3.

Am writing an essay on the life-history of insects and have abandoned the idea of writing on "How Cats Spend their Time."

January 17.

Went with L—— out catapult shooting. While walking down the main road saw a Goldfinch, but very indistinctly—it might not have been one. Had some wonderful shots at a tree creeper in the hedge about a foot away from me. While near a stream, L—— spotted what he thought to be some Wild Duck and brought one down, hitting it right in the head. He is a splendid shot. We discovered on examining it that it was not Wild Duck at all but an ordinary tame Wild Duck—a hen. We ran away, and to-night L—— tells me he saw the Farmer enter the poulterer's shop with the bird in his hand.

January 19.

Went to A—— Wood with S—— and L——. Saw a Barn Owl (Strix flammea) flying in broad daylight. At A—— Woods, be it known, there is a steep cliff where we were all out climbing to inspect and find all the likely places for birds to build in, next spring. S-and I got along all right, but L——, being a bit too careless, let go his hold on a tree and fell headlong down. He turned over and over and seemed to us to pitch on the back of his neck. However, he got up as cheerfully as ever, saying, "I don't like that—a bit of a nasty knock."

February 8.

Joe became the mother of one kitten to-day. It was born at 1.20. It is a tiny little thing. One would almost call it deformed. It is gray.

March 18.

Our Goldfinch roosts at 5.30. Joe's kitten is a very small one. "Magpie" is its name.

March 28.

Went our usual ramble. But we were unfortunate from the very beginning. First, when we reached the "Nightjar Field," we found there were two men at the bottom of it cutting the hedge, so we decided not to venture on, as Gimbo and Bounce were with us, and it would look like poaching. Later on, we came to a splendid wood, but had to withdraw hastily from it, an old farmer giving us a severe chase. There were innumerable rabbits in the wood, so, of course, the dogs barked hard. I gave them a sound beating when we got back out of danger, The old farmer is known as "Bale the Bell-hanger."

April 2.

I was glad yesterday to see the egg season so well in. I shall have to get blow-pipes and egg drills. Spring has really arrived and even the grasshoppers are beginning to stridulate, yet Burke describes these little creatures as being "loud and troublesome" and the chirp unpleasant. Like Samuel Johnson, he must have preferred brick walls to green hedges. Many people go for a walk and yet are unable to admire Nature simply because their power of observation is untrained. Of course some are not suited to the study at all and do not trouble themselves about it. In that case they should not talk of what they do not understand.... I might have noticed that I have used the term "Study of Nature." But it cannot be called a study. It is a pastime of sheer delight, with naught but beautiful dreams and lovely thoughts, where we are urged forward by the fact that we are in God's world which He made for us to be our comfort in time of trouble.... Language cannot express the joy and happy forgetfulness during a ramble in the country. I do not mean that all the ins and outs and exact knowledge of a naturalist are necessary to produce such delight, but merely the common objects—Sun, Thrush, Grasshopper, Primrose, and Dew.

April 21.

S—— and I have made a little hut in the woods out of a large natural hole in the ground by a big tree. We have pulled down branches all around it and stuck in upright sticks as a paling. We are training ivy to grow over the sticks. We smoke "Pioneer" cigarettes here and hide the packets in a hole under the roots of the tree. It's like a sort of cupboard.

August 6.

In the evening, S—— and I cycled to S——, and when it was dark we went down on the rocks and lit a fire which crackled and burnt in the dusk of the evening.... Intend to do a bit to Beetles these hols. Rev. J. Wood in the B.O.P. has incited me to take them up, and it is really time, for at present I am as ignorant as I can hang together of the Coleoptera.

December 24.

Went out with L—— to try to see the squirrels again. We could not find one and were just wondering if we should draw blank when L—— noticed one clinging to the bark of a tree with a nut in its mouth. We gave it a good chase, but it escaped into the thickest part of the fir tree, still carrying the nut, and we gave up firing at it. Later on, L—— got foolishly mischievous—owing, I suppose, to our lack of sport—and unhinged a gate which he carried two yards into a copse, and threw it on the ground. Just then, he saw the Squirrel again and jumped over the hedge into the copse, chasing it from tree to tree with his catty. Having lost it, he climbed a fir tree into a Squirrel's drey at the top and sat there on the three top, and I, below, was just going to lift the gate back when I looked up and saw a farmer watching me, menacing and silent. I promptly dropped the gate and fled. L—— from his Squirrel's drey, not knowing what had happened, called out to me about the nest—that there was nothing in it. The man looked up and asked him who he was and who I was. L—— would not say and would not come down. The farmer said he would come up. L—— answered that if he did he would "gob" [i.e. spit] on him. Eventually L—— climbed down and asked the farmer for a glass of cider. The latter gave him his boot and L—— ran away.

End of excerpt.

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