Author: Anthony Burgess
Original language: English
Inside Mr Enderby is a the first volume in the four-book Enderby series of comic novels by the British author Anthony Burgess.
The book was first published in 1963 in London by William Heinemann under the pseudonym Joseph Kell. The series began in 1963 with the publication of this book, and concluded in 1984 with Enderby’s Dark Lady, or No End to Enderby (after a ten year break following the publication of the third novel in the series, The Clockwork Testament, or Enderby’s End).
The story opens on a note of pure fantasy, showing schoolchildren from the future taking a field trip through time to see the dyspeptic poet Francis Xavier Enderby while he is asleep. Enderby, a lapsed Catholic in his mid-40’s, lives alone in Brighton as a ‘professional’ poet – his income being interest from investments left to him by his stepmother.
Enderby composes his poetry whilst seated on the toilet. His bathtub, which serves as a filing cabinet, is almost full of the mingled paper and food scraps that represent his efforts. Although he is recognised as a minor poet with several published works (and is even awarded a small prize, the ‘Goodby Gold Medal’, which he refuses), he has yet to be anthologised.
He is persuaded to leave his lonely but poetically fruitful bachelor life by the editor of a woman’s magazine, Vesta Bainbridge, after he accidentally sends her a love poem instead of a complaint about a recipe in her magazine. The marriage, which soon ends, costs Enderby dearly, alienating him from his muse and depriving him of his financial independence.
Months pass, and Enderby is able to write only one more poem. After spending what remains of his capital, he attempts suicide with an overdose of aspirin, experiencing disgusting (and rather funny) visions of his stepmother as he nears death. His cries of horror bring help, and he regains consciousness in a mental institution, where the doctors persuade him to renounce his old, “immature” poetry-writing self. Rechristened “Piggy Hogg”, he looks forward contentedly to a new career as a bartender.