Sunday, November 13, 2005

The Diary of a Nobody

The Diary of a Nobody (1892) was written by George Grossmith the illustrations were originally drawn by his brother Weedon, who was a cartoonist. George was an actor and journalist.

This is the fictional diary of a nobody. The 'Nobody' in question is Charles Pooter, a clerk living in Holloway, of prison fame. He worked in a office in the city. He is married to Carrie, and has a son, Lupin. Lupin Pooter sounds like the medical name for a heavy drinkers boko to me. Although I have looked it up in Grays and of course it isn't there but on page....... I will come back to Lupin later.

Charles is vain, self-important, gullible, at the constant mercy of insolent tradesmen and impudent junior clerks at work who are obviously much more clever than he is. Even worse, he gets sent insulting Christmas cards. Above all, he has a deplorable taste in excruciating jokes and puns. At a party, he says he hopes it won't be long before he meets Mr Short. His more tiresome acquaintances and neighbours include a Mr Gowing, who always seems to be coming, and a Mr Cumming - who is always going. Gowing not only comes, but is also a hooligan given to chucking food around at the supper table. Mr Pooter tries to remonstrate with him, only to be told that it's no good his trying to look indignant, with his hair full of parsley.

He gets to hear about how good enamel paint is, and buys a tin of red, and paints their flower pots, coal scuttle (for those young 'uns out there, it's where posh people kept their coal.) and the backs of their set of Shakespeare, as the bindings have almost worn out. Then he paints the bath (where my family kept the coal). Some days later he feels unwell, and decides the answer is to have a hot bath. After soaking himself for some time, he takes his hand out of the water and finds his hand bleeding badly. Has he ruptured an artery, and is he about to meet his maker? Nope the bloomin paint ain't dried!

Lupin (what a blooming silly name, blooming? Get it?) hates being seen with his old man who wears strange suits. Dad buys his clobber in the evening, when he can only choose his suiting by gaslight, and discovers the next day how terrible they suddenly look. Lupin seems always to be making the wrong choices with women. He is also out of work a lot.

Somebody wrote If you can remember that far back, or have caught the occasional recent repeat on TV, you might draw parallels between Charles Pooter and Eric Sykes. The latter used to star in as well as write the scripts for a late 60s and early 70s sitcom, as an amiable, slightly accident-prone fool continually worsted by his
more clever twin sister Hattie Jacques and supercilious neighbour Charles Brown (Richard Wattis). Maybe Eric modelled himself in part on the oh-so-ordinary but likeable Charles Pooter.

I have had about three copies of this gently humorous book due to non-returns. I heartily recommend it.


Blogger Charlesdawson said...

Pete's right, this book is a little beauty. Poor Mr Pooter's great gift is that he takes himself absolutely seriously; also, he has a nice way with words, I treasure his description of the day after a hangover: "still a little shaky, with black specks." You will love to quote Lupin's tirade at the typical ghastly Family Christmas.

7:52 PM  
Blogger The Goldfish said...

Thanks Pete for your excellent review! :-)

Another one for the reading list...

9:59 PM  
Blogger marmiteboy said...

I have read this too and agree with Pete. It is a lovely gentle little book. I once borrowed a 'talking book' version from tke library too. It was read by the late great Arthur Lowe who was just perfect as Pooter. He gave the reading the right aire of pomposity something he was the king of conveying

10:15 AM  

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