The story opens on a note of pure fantasy, showing school children 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.