The Diary of a Nobody
Author: George Grossmith, Weedon Grossmith
Publisher: J. W. Arrowsmith Ltd London
Publishing Date: June 1892
Genre: Comic Fiction
Cost: Rs 185 (Paperback)
The Diary of a Nobody is a comic novel that was first published as an intermitted serial in a magazine from 1888-89. The immense popularity of the piece encouraged the authors to add illustrations and publish them in the form of a book a couple of years later.
The book begins with a detailed introduction where the readers are introduced to the protagonist Charles Pooter, a clerk in a business farm. Beginning on the 3rd of April (the year is not mentioned), the book talks about Mr. Pooter, his wife Carrie, their friends Cummings, Jameses, and Gowing. As the reader familiarizes himself with the Pooter’s daily life, the book speaks about William, their 20-year-old son.
As the book progresses, minute vexations from the protagonist’s life are recounted in a subtly humorous way. The journey of a father trying to accept his son refusing to be called by anything but his last name, losing his job and the father’s struggle in trying to land his son an alternate career is touching. The book walks the reader through many such mundane happenings in the Pooters’ lives for 15 months. Practically, if you look at it, there is nothing extraordinary about the events. However, while reading, you will be engrossed in the piece and enjoy yourself thoroughly.
The book is one of the turning points in English literature and has established a genre in comic fiction that centers around the lower-middle-class way of life. Over the next century, several books were written in this genre.
When one sits down to pen the review of the book, they would realize that it is near-impossible to pin-point what this book is all about. Throughout the book, the reader would encounter many unimportant characters and their everyday happenings. There is no hilarious denouncement or complex comic plot. It is a simple comic book that is targeted at urban life. It is not a modern stand-up comic, loud nook. And yet, you will be amused by it and find yourself chuckling at many parts of the read.
Victorian middle-class values are the highlight of the book and the author does a fabulous job at pointing out satire at it. Some of the things that the writer pokes fun at is a part of the modern-day society as well. It is beautiful how the author manages to bring out the cringe-worthy elements of the society in such comic guises.
The book delves into individual stereotypes and talks about the different elements of general social attitude. Some of the awkward moments discussed in the book still find contemporary resonance among today’s e-book reading generation.
On the downside, not everything discussed in the book is not at an immediate reference point. At some point, the modern reader may not enjoy the book as much as an average 19th-century reader. However, it is still an amusing read and records a considerable amount of sales every year.
It will not be an exaggeration to say that the book is a window to the Victorian world seen through a middle-class lens. The Victorian Age was one of enormous inner conflict. On the one hand, society was keen to upgrade to an industrialized and modern self. On the other, there was a fear that engulfed the uncertainty of an unseen future.
The above conflict has been narrated very beautifully in the book. When Lupin shows similarity to Mr. Huttle, his father, Pooter is in a dilemma. There is a father’s pride over the fact that his son is taking the progressive road. Also, there is a fear that arises from the father looking out for his son. Mr. Pooter feels that these new ideas are dangerous and that can make or break his son. He is afraid that the happiness which he experiences from his simple, unsophisticated life may never be experienced by Lupin. Progressive ideas make a man too happy or too sad and Mr. Pooter does not know what to make of it.
Although the book is essentially a comedy, at multiple places it will give you food for thought. This is what sets the book apart from other books in this genre and makes it a classic.
About the Authors:
The book is a collaborative piece by George Grossmith and Weedon Grossmith. The elder of the two brothers, George was a court reported by profession. His hobbies included working as a stage entertainer. He has 600 songs and piano pieces to his credit. Other than ‘The Diary Of Nobody’, the multi-talented individual had penned two other novels. These include the ‘Handbook of Ball Room Dancing’ and ‘A Society Crown’.
The younger brother, Weedon Grossmitth was an artist whose works were often exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery and the Royal Academy. His illustrations made their way to notable magazines of that period, which included Art Journal and Punch. The illustrations for ‘The Diary of a Nobody’ were also done by Weedon Grossmith. His other notable literary works include ‘A Commission’, ‘A Woman with A History’, ‘From Studio To Stage’, among others.