The History of Mr. Polly has three parts. The first part (chapters 1–6) tells of his life up to age 20, when he marries his cousin and sets up a shop. The second part (chapters 7–8) tells of his suicide attempt, after which he abandons his shop and his wife. The third part (chapters 9–10) and an epilogue sees him becoming a happy and settled assistant innkeeper.
Arthur Linfoot wrote that he had read some of The History of Mr Polly on 9 August 1918, while stationed at Choques, midway between Lillers and Béthune in Northern France.