Posted by: Lizzie Ross | April 25, 2010

Commenced the morning badly

The Diary of a Nobody, George and Weedon Grossmith (1892), Penguin Classics, 210 pp.

When I first discovered this book, I was living in circumstances similar to those of the hero, Mr. Charles Pooter, clerk in London and proud suburban terraced house owner. I noticed the book on a stand in the North Harrow library and added it to my stack, to take home to my semi-detached suburban pebble-dash house. As it turned out, I had picked up one of the funniest books ever written.

The very Victorian Charles Pooter and his wife Carrie move into The Laurels and are quite proud of their new home. Pooter, like a rooster who must crow, decides to keep a diary, and we are soon entertained with his DIY efforts around the house, the “servant problem”, his son’s broken engagement, a badly painted bathtub, the comings and goings of friends named Gowing and Cummings, and all the indignities that a man full of self-value must face as part of his daily routine. There is a lot of anguish over the bell pull and boot scraper.

Poor Pooter, so imposed upon, so unappreciated, so pompous and hapless. When his wife seems too quiet, he decides “to cheer her up by reading some extracts” from his diary only to learn that she wasn’t even listening to him. While heading to his office, he instructs a workman to move the tiresome boot scraper, and comes home to find his gas pipe has been punctured during the process.

Jim Holt, in 2000, worried that Grossmith’s book was becoming a “Forgotten Masterpiece.” He should be relieved to learn that this classic has been turned into blog (both original and modernized versions) and tweet, and that Pooter has a facebook page (with just a few fans right now, but that could change). I almost hate seeing this book go modern, but it’s reassuring to know there are other fans out there, wishing to advertise our pleasure in this truly silly satire.


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