AUGUST 20.— ‘I am glad our last day at the seaside was fine, though clouded overhead. We went over to Cummings’ (at Margate) in the evening, and as it was cold, we stayed in and played games; Gowing, as usual, overstepping the mark. He suggested we should play “Cutlets,” a game we never heard of. He sat on a chair, and asked Carrie to sit on his lap, an invitation which dear Carrie rightly declined.’ The Diary of a Nobody (1892).
George Grossmith was an actor and theatrical manager, producer and director. But his lasting contribution to literature is the comic Diary of a Nobody, written with his brother Weedon Grossmith. The book was first published in volume form and with illustrations, in 1892. But the original version was serialised in Punch between 1888 and 1889 under the editorship of F. C. Burnand, making it a direct rival to Jerome K. Jerome’s 1889 Three Men in a Boat. The Grossmiths’ comic creation Charles Pooter (the eponymous ‘nobody’) lives in the London suburbs, but gives a typically methodical account of his holiday in Broadstairs with his wife Caroline and their son the self-named Lupin.
He begins enthusiastically enough, noting that he has secured ‘Very nice apartments near the station. On the cliffs they would have been double the price. The landlady had a nice five o’clock dinner and tea ready, which we all enjoyed, though Lupin seemed fastidious because there happened to be a fly in the butter.’
But the hapless Pooter is aghast to find that his son is frequenting the Assembly Rooms, where he sees ‘Polly Presswell, England’s Particular Spark’. Pooter replies testily that ’I was proud to say I had never heard of her.’ But things get worse when the family go over to nearby Margate (interestingly there is no commentary on Ramsgate, where Francis Burnand lived) to visit their friends Cummings and Gowing.1
When George Grossmith retired in 1909 he moved to Folkestone, where H. G. Wells would have been a near neighbour, and died at 32 Manor Road on 1 March 1912.
But like fellow authors W. M. Thackeray and Wilkie Collins he is buried in London, at Kensal Green Cemetery.
Grossmith, George and Weedon. The Diary of a Nobody.
Joseph, Tony. ‘Grossmith, George (1847-1912).’ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 3 January 2008.
Oulton, Carolyn W. de la L. Oulton. Down from London: Seaside Reading in the Railway Age. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2022.