Book 1: The Diary of a Nobody

The Random Number Generator has spoken, and the first book I’m reading for this project is The Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith.

I’m not so sure how I want to do these little beginning-of-book blogs yet. I’m sure it’ll develop and I get better at it as I go along. I’m sorry that this one kind of sucks. Hm. How do I write about a book I haven’t started reading? Especially when it’s a book I’d never heard of until a few weeks ago?

The Diary of a Nobody was published in 1892. According to Goodreads, it details the life of one Charles Pooter. His diary captures his daily routine in his “small minded but essentially decent suburban world.” I’ve read that this book is very funny and full of puns. This should be interesting.

I don’t know a lot about late-19th-century suburban England, but the summary promises that I will find the narrative “hilarious and painfully familiar.” Let me use my English degree to see if I can figure out something semi-intelligent to say about this.

So. The late 1800s were a time of crazy upheaval in England. With the Industrial Revolution well underway, so by the time this book was written, the move to urban, factory-fueled cities was probably pretty well established. People were moving to the cities and the new working class was starting to emerge. This was the era of long workdays, lung disease, and sickness running rampant in overcrowded cities. The impoverished masses were all gathered in one place. Men, women, and children worked long hours in factories and coal mines, and once-small towns turned into urban centers with the factories sucking in people and belching out smoke.

However, at the same time that all this was happening, something was happening to the stratification of English society. The line between the upper classes and lower classes was blurring. A middle class was starting to emerge. People who did not come from “old money” (yes, that term wasn’t really used until later, but bear with me) were starting to mix and socialize with families who had been rich for generations. The landed gentry were not as exclusive a club as they used to be. This, naturally, was cause for anxiety. The social order was in upheaval. The Victorian Age was starting its slow death.

Elements of tensions created by the new factory system, the emerging middle class, and the shifting social classes are evident in all kinds of English literature. Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, the Brontë sisters, and so many others addressed these concerns in their work. I am sure that some of this tension will be evident in this book by Mr. and Mr. Grossmith.


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