The Diary Of A Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith
Evelyn Waugh made the bold claim that The Diary Of A Nobody was "The Funniest Book In The World". It made its first appearance in 1888 as a series of instalments in Punch magazine, was expanded into a book in 1892 - George wrote the words and Weedon did the drawings - and has never been out of print since.
About the book
Our hero, Mr Charles Pooter, is a clerk who at the opening of the book has just moved into a house in Holloway, and has decided to keep a diary. Day by day we follow his unremarkable life with his wife Carrie, his friends Cummings and Gowing ("doesn't it seem odd that Gowing's always coming and Cummings always going?"), and the mundanities of ordinary life in the suburbs come deliciously, if embarrassingly, to life.
Scrapes with tradesmen, misunderstandings with friends, impolite guests, self-inflicted idiocies ("...painted the bath red, and was delighted with the result...") and generational conflict with son Lupin and his "set" are contained in a book that has the power to make us laugh and squirm even though the whole 20th century lies between us and the Pooters.
Even some quite modern reviewers seem to find funny the mere fact that a lower-middle-class clerk should have aspirations 'above his station' and consider that his hilarious misfortunes come about as a result of his pretensions. If that is what George Grossmith intended then I have misjudged him. Pooter is a man of habit and of high moral standards: if he seems a little pompous, well, so he is, and a little snobbish too for modern tastes, but he is a good man who deserves the little bit of good fortune that comes his way. "Pooterish" is a byword, but for what it is a byword depends on where you stand, or think you stand, in the British class structure almost as much today as 130 years ago. But don't let us get too tied up in this, THE DIARY OF A NOBODY really is a very funny book that will always be read with pleasure, and it is short enough that the pleasure can be repeated many times.
Also recommended is Keith Waterhouse's splendid spoof, or continuation, from the point of view of Carrie Pooter, "Mrs Pooter's Diary", which I think is still in print, or at least easily obtainable.
People have been talking about this Guide Entry. Here are the most recent Conversations: