Victorian insight: Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith

Although I enjoyed this book very much, I feel that I don’t have a lot to say about it. The Grossmith brothers have put together a very fine piece of satire on the Victorian middle class and for that I commend them. The diary is written in clean, simple prose, refreshingly distant from the style of some of the so-called great Victorian writers. Yet the book reveals a great deal about Victorian character. Through Mr Pooter’s experiences, the reader learns an awful lot about Victorian etiquette, ambitions, financial pressures, class systems, humour, employment – not to mention DIY. In this way it is an incredibly useful history book, more entertaining than a textbook and more accessible than a Dickens social epic.

Charles Pooter is indeed a vivid character of comedy and one whom I would love to encounter in a public house near Holborn or off the Strand. He takes himself so seriously – except when making one of his typically naff jokes. In this way, Pooter is expertly brought to life. In addition, Weedon’s illustrations help you picture him and his peers as they trot around London. What great companions they would make for an evening in the boozer.

My criticisms are expected but fair nonetheless. I wanted desperately to hear more from Pooter’s longsuffering wife Carrie. The scaffolding for some of the humour seemed too obviously constructed and not subtle enough to produce the level of humour that it should have. And finally, towards the beginning the diary entries are so obviously written for a magazine column that they don’t lend well to the book form. However, after a while the reader is firmly in Pooter’s world and enjoying the ride.

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