Classics Club spin lands on Grossmith


Cover of first edition of The Diary of a Nobody. Creative Commons License, Wikipedia

The latest Classic Club roulette wheel has spun and landed on number 12 which for me is The Diary of a Nobody  by George Grossmith. It had to happen sometime – this poor book has been on the list for five previous spins and missed out every time. 

But now its day in the spotlight has arrived, what kind of book will I be reading?

First thing I can tell you is that it’s a comic novel, the sole output of  two brothers George and Weedon Grossmith. Both were stage entertainers – George often played the comic figure in Gilbert and Sullivan operas. Weedon was also an artist and it was his work that illustrated early copies of the text. 

The Diary of a Nobody records the daily events in the lives of a London clerk, Charles Pooter, his wife Carrie, his son Lupin, and numerous friends and acquaintances over a period of 15 months. They are a fairly ordinary family of lower middle-class status but have significant social aspirations. A lot of the humour apparently comes from Charles’ deluded sense of his own importance which is undercut by his propensity to make mistakes, many of which prove socially embarrassing.

Initially Charles’ exploits saw the light of day in a serial which appeared periodically in Punch magazine in between 1888 and 89. It was intended as a spoof that mocked the proliferation of diaries and memoirs at the time; the brothers taking the view that if Anybody could publish a diary then why couldn’t a Nobody? It wasn’t published in book form until 1892. The book had a lukewarm reception from the reading public and critics with The Athenaeum, declaring that “the book has no merit to compensate for its hopeless vulgarity, not even that of being amusing”. But by the time of the third issue in 1910 it was recognised as a classic work of humour – J B Priestley described it as “true humour…with its mixture of absurdity, irony and affection” while Evelyn Waugh considered it “the funniest book in the world”. Its tone and format have been emulated in many subsequent ‘diary’ novels from Sue Townshend’s Diary of Adrian Mole to Bridget Jones’ Diary. 

Why is the Diary of a Nobody  on my Classics Club list you might wonder? It’s certainly an unusual choice since I don’t tend to enjoy comic novels. But I happened to come across a copy, at the back of the bookcase, that seems to have been purchased sometime in the early 1990s and thought maybe it was time it got read….





About BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

Posted on March 12, 2017, in Authors from...., British authors, Classics, Classics Club and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 23 Comments.

  1. Great blog! Do you have any recommendations for aspiring writers?

    I’m hoping to start my own site soon but I’m a little lost on everything.
    Would you recommend starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many options out there that I’m totally confused
    .. Any suggestions? Thanks a lot!

  2. I love this book. And my son has been known as “Lupin” for a long time.

  3. Sorry, but I think it is spin no 15 and the number is 12. But I guess it does not really matter, the main thing is to read a book from the list. I got Sweet Bird of Youth by Tennesse Williams and have already read it. It does not happen every time there is a spin.

    • I had a panic there Lisbeth -then I realised I had identified the right book (its number 12 in my list) but had put the wrong figure in the text. what a relief.

  4. Enjoy reading your blog…keep it up

  5. I’ve never heard of this book before but now I am intrigued by all the positive comments.

  6. Curious to know what you think about this one, to see if I should add it to my list

  7. This one is a favourite of one of my Dickens-loving reading friends, so I’ve looked forward to it for a long time. Actually, I could use something funny in my stack just now. Maybe I”ll see if I can put my hands on it….

  8. Oh, I’m very fond of this book, a light, funny read and lots of detail about living in that era. Enjoy!

  9. When I read it, it really did remind me of an Edwardian Adrian Mole—I hope you enjoy!

  10. You’ll finish this in a day, two at most. Lightweight harmless stuff but obviously very dated. Will be interest ed in your review.

  11. I hope you’ll like it, happy reading this comic novel!

  12. It’s strange but I was just reading Susan Hill’s dismissive comments of this book in her ‘Howard’s End’ book. I don’t see how anyone can not like it. Mr Pooter is a likeable prat.

  13. I read this decades ago and remember laughing a lot – more than that I cannot tell you. Good luck!

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