George and Weedon Grossmith - The funniest book about a certain type of Englishness. This fictitious diary details fifteen months in the life of Mr. Charles Pooter, a middle aged city clerk of lower middle-class status but significant social aspirations, living in the fictional ‘Brickfield Terrace’ in London


George and Weedon Grossmith, Diary of a Nobody. 1892.

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This fictitious diary details fifteen months in the life of Mr. Charles Pooter, a middle aged city clerk of lower middle-class status but significant social aspirations, living in the fictional ‘Brickfield Terrace’ in London. The diary was written by George Grossmith and his brother Weedon Grossmith who also contributed the illustrations. It first appeared in Punch magazine through the years 1888 – 89, and was first printed in book form in 1892. Due to much of the humour deriving from Mr. Pooter’s comical tendency toward self-importance, the book has spawned the word “Pooterish” to describe the taking of oneself excessively seriously.

Weedon Grossmith's 1892 book presents the details of English suburban life through the anxious and accident-prone character of Charles Porter. Porter's diary chronicles his daily routine, which includes small parties, minor embarrassments, home improvements, and his relationship with a troublesome son. The small minded but essentially decent suburban world he inhabits is both hilarious and painfully familiar. This edition features Weedon Grossmith's illustrations and an introduction which discusses the story's social context.

More than a century old, Diary still succeeds because its fictional creator, Charles Pooter, is permanently modern in his precise status anxiety, the trivia he chooses to immortalize, and the misconception that he tells good jokes: “November 1: My entry yesterday about ‘retired tired,’ which I did not notice at the time, is rather funny. If I were not so worried just now, I might have had a little joke about it.”  - Ed Park

"There's a universality about Pooter that touches everybody... fits into the tradition of absurd humour that the British do well, which started with Jonathan Swift and runs through Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear to Monty Python" - Jasper Fforde

"The funniest book in the world" -- Evelyn Waugh

"Pooter himself is as gentle as you could wish, a wonderful character, genuinely lovable. The book is beautifully constructed" -- Andrew Davies

"One of those rare books that nails a cultural archetype and has won the affection of successive generations" The Times

"The funniest book about a certain type of Englishness... there is a whole line of these comic characters like Captain Mainwaring in Dad's Army, or Basil Fawlty" - Hugh Bonneville

Poor Charles Pooter. The Victorian clerk with a touchingly overdeveloped sense of his own importance appears to have been entirely stripped of his dignity and his Pooterishness in this larky, ill-conceived adaptationthat resembles an extended student skit. Like the Royal and Derngate’s 2011 production, it’s cast entirely with male actors.
The pleasure of George and Weedon Grossmith’s sublime comic creation, originally serialised in Punch between 1888 and 1889, is that it’s so exquisitely understated. It’s played completely straight as Charles makes a doomed bid to be the Samuel Pepys of the Victorian era by means of a diary that offers, in tragic detail, the dullness of his daily existence – including problems with local tradesmen and dealings with his wastrel son, who finally comes up roses even as Charles is waiting for his mustard and cress to sprout.
Nothing is played straight in a production that, in its determination to deliver non-stop laughs, takes a sledgehammer to the Grossmiths’ unassuming but rewarding little nut. There are some nice touches, in particular the black and white cardboard cut-out-style design that offers a nod to the original illustrations. But the relentless comic business featuring doors and human lampshades slow the action and lead to perfunctory performances: it’s caricature, not character, that’s delivered here. The production too often loses sight of its source material and seems to be straining towards The Play That Goes Wrong.
Totally missing is the original’s tenderness and affection for Charles. Despite every humiliation, Charles never sees himself as others see him: he has no inkling that he might be considered a figure of fun, and that’s why you feel a fondness for him and his long-suffering wife, Carrie. Here, he’s just a joke, but while they may clean up at the box office, the joke is on the company for getting it so wrong. -