The Diary of a Nobody by George Grossmith

“WHY should I not publish my diary? I have often seen reminiscences of people I have never even heard of, and I fail to see – because I do not happen to be a ‘Somebody’-why my diary should not be interesting.”

And publish it he does. The Diary of a Nobody chronicles the daily life of a certain Mr. Charles Pooter, covering nearly a fifteen months time period. Written by George Grossmith and illustrated by his brother Weedon Grossmith, this is a classic humorous novel.

The Diary of a Nobody first appeared in Punch magazine from 1888 – 89. It was published in book form in 1892.

The diary of Mr. Pooter feels real. The mundane details of his drab, suburban life are presented without much pretension.

Mr. Pooter is a simple middle aged city clerk. Living in the imagined Brickfield Terrace in Upper Holloway, he is the archetypal lower middle class man from the Victorian era. He is very class conscious and constantly tries to impress his social superiors. He frequently fancies himself being insulted by others. To be fair, others do often make fun of him, quite openly, so the being insulted part is to some extent true.

Mr. Pooter’s wife Carrie is obviously smarter than him and has a mind of her own. I like the way they disagree on so many things and yet their mutual love remains intact.

The character of Lupin, Mr. Pooter’s 20 year old son, I found really irritating. Lupin is pompous, ungrateful and thinks his parents are beneath him. His flippant attitude and gross lack of respect for everyone is, I guess, meant to be funny but I found it annoying. He is the one character that bothered me from beginning to end.

Mr. Cummings and Mr. Gowing are dull and kind of weird. Nevertheless, they are somehow rather apt best friends for Mr. Pooter to have.

I found several parts of the book quite funny. Like Lupin recklessly driving a pony-trap and causing general havoc in the streets while Mr. Pooter being seated at the back has to bear the wrath of  ‘a gang of roughs in a donkey-cart’. Or Mr. Cummings becoming ill and being angry at his friends for not reading about his illness in The Bicycle News. And Mr. Pooter getting annoyed after having to eat the same blanc-mange repeatedly.

I liked the short summaries at the beginning of each chapter. For example, the Chapter XIII summary, “I receive an insulting Christmas card. We spend a pleasant Christmas at Carrie’s mother’s. A Mr. Moss is rather too free. A boisterous evening, during which I am struck in the dark. I receive an extraordinary letter from Mr. Mutlar, senior, respecting Lupin. We miss drinking out the Old Year.”

The writing is lucid. Many have called it dated. I didn’t find it so.

This is a very easy to read book. I managed to finish it in just a day.

The cover of my Penguin Essential edition is simply awful! I hate this cover! It is just so weird looking.

I know this is supposed to be a satire on the snobbery and the dullness of the middle class folks but I felt rather sorry for Mr. Pooter. Sure, he is boring and old-fashioned but he is a good, honourable man who is just trying to do the best he can. My sympathy certainly lies with him.

I found The Diary of a Nobody to be overall an enjoyable read. But if the purpose of the book was to ridicule Mr. Pooter, that purpose has been defeated. I liked him and felt sorry for him.

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