The Diary of a Nobody (1892)

by George and Weedon Grossmith

An appreciation of British humor might help to fully savor The Diary of a Nobody, but a reader would have to entirely lack a sense of humor to not chuckle many a time. Besides, the Grosssmith brothers' classic has more than amusement to recommend it: It leaves readers feeling tenderly toward diary writer Charles Pooter even while poking fun at him, a rare and hard-to-pull-off accomplishment.

The Diary of a Nobody was first serialized in the British magazine Punch in 1888–89 and released as a book in 1892. Pooter says that if Pepys and Johnson can write diaries, why shouldn't he? "I fail to see — because I do not happen to be a 'Somebody' — why my diary should not be interesting," he explains at the outset.

There follow 15 months of entries detailing a Nobody's life: a clerk's job in the city, a home in a lower-middle-class suburb, a staid but stable marriage, a 20-year-old son he doesn't understand, friends who come over for dominoes. Always, Pooter is concerned about appearances, but so sincere is he that he grows likable. Despite his foibles, anxieties, and self-importance, he is a decent man.

More than a century after its publication, The Diary of a Nobody is no longer relevant about the details of everyday life, but it still hits the mark in portraying the status consciousness that characterizes suburbia.


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