An escape from the modern world, The Diary of a Nobody by George & Weedon Grossmith may have been published in the 1890s but it still made me chuckle out loud. Especially the parent-child irritations and misunderstandings. First published in Punch magazine, it is written by the brothers with illustrations by Weedon.
Mr Charles Pooter is a clerk at a prestigious London bank where he has been overlooked for promotion. Just like Bridget Jones, he decides to write a diary of his life. What follows is a record of the ordinary life of an ordinary man who aspires to be more than he is. Pooter’s frequent attempts to be recognised as higher-class lead to embarrassments and misunderstandings, his jokes awful though he thinks they are hilarious. Pooter’s daily meanderings through life, his need to keep on good terms with his boss, his confusion at his son’s modern language and interests, are all familiar today. His pomposity and sometimes stupid things he does – the incident with the black enamel paint come to mind – are identifiable today. Particularly funny are the discrepancies between Pooter and his son Lupin, who doesn’t know what he wants to do, struggles to hold down a regular job and brings home his fiancé, a rather unsuitable young woman. Pooter’s wife Carrie remains serene through it all, patient with his absurdities, smoothing ruffled feathers. My favourite scene is the séance.
This is an easy, funny read, the diary format making it easy to read a day or a week at a time. And I’ve heard good things about the audio book version, read by Arthur Lowe. If you are looking for something refreshing that will take you away from the 21st century and make you smile, try this.
I love the illustration on the cover of the current Vintage edition, above. The references to dress coats, bow ties, gloves, hats and canes will make sense once you read the story. My own fragile secondhand copy is an old Penguin Modern Classics edition [below] featuring some of Weedon’s illustrations.
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