Weedon Grossmith, best known as the co-author of The Diary of a Nobody (1892) died 100 years ago today. His collaborator was his brother George Grossmith who died in 1912. They were both also successful stage performers and wrote scripts as well as music for the theatre, but Diary was their masterpiece. Weedon also created the illustrations for later editions of the book. William Cook has written an article in the current issue of The Oldie commemorating Weedon’s death and career:
…suburbia has inspired some of our greatest comic works of art – and the first, and finest, is George and Weedon Grossmith’s The Diary of a Nobody. It’s the diary of Charles Pooter, a middle-aged clerk in an obscure City firm and the proud inhabitant (with his wife Carrie and their wayward son, Lupin) of The Laurels, Brickfield Terrace, Holloway, London N19.
Waugh once described the Diary in a 1930 Daily Mail article as the “funniest book in the world” and explained:
If only people would really keep journals like that. Nobody wants to read other people’s reflections on life and religion and politics, but the routine of their day, properly recorded, is always interesting, and will become more so as conditions change with the years.
Waugh’s article (“One Way to Immortality”) is collected in EAR, p. 84 and CWEW, v. 26, p. 287.
According to an article in a 2005 issue of Evelyn Waugh Newsletter & Studies by Peter Morton, Waugh found several similarities between the middle class suburban lives of the Pooter family described in the Diary and his own (“‘The Funniest Book in the World’ : Waugh and ‘The Diary of a Nobody'”, EWNS No. 36.1, Spring 2005, p. 1). His brother Alec saw many features of Lupin Pooter (hapless son of the fictional diarist) and Evelyn. Morton also describes how Waugh was cheered up in the rather depressing atmosphere of Christmas 1946 by receiving a present of the book from his mother. He went off with the book and made a concordance of his edition with the shorter version of the story as it had originally been serialized in Punch. That 1946 gift copy with Waugh’s marginal notations remains in his surviving library at the Harry Ransom Center in the University of Texas–one of the relatively few marked-up books in the collection.