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Book Title: The Journal of a Disappointed Man|
The author of the book: W.N.P. Barbellion
Edition: Sutton Publishing
Date of issue: June 1st 1996
ISBN 13: 9780862990985
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 37.65 MB
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Reader ratings: 5.3
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Begun when its author was 13 years old, the Journal at first catalogues Barbellion's misadventures in the Devon countryside - collecting birds' eggs, spying girls through binoculars - but evolves into a deeply moving account of his struggle with poverty, his lack of formal education, his flailing attempts at love, and most harrowing of all his slow death from multiple sclerosis.
Yet, for all its excruciating honesty, W.N.P. Barbellion has an extraordinary lust for life. As Zeppelins loomed above the streets of South Kensington, the humour and beauty he found in the world around him - in music, friendship, nature and love - deepens not just the tragedy of his own life, but the millions of lives lost during the First World War.
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Read information about the authorWilhelm Nero Pilate Barbellion was the nom-de-plume of Bruce Frederick Cummings, an English diarist who was responsible for The Journal of a Disappointed Man. Ronald Blythe called it "among the most moving diaries ever created"
Cummings was born in Barnstaple in 1889. He was a naturalist at heart and ended up working at the British Museum's department of Natural History in London. Having begun his journal at the age of thirteen, Cummings continued to record his observations there - gradually moving from dry scientific notes to a more personal, literary style. His literary ambitions changed course in 1914 upon reading the journal of the Russian painter Marie Bashkirtseff, in whom he recognised a kindred spirit (see the 14 October 1914 entry of his Journal); in his 15 January 1915 entry he indicated that he intended to prepare his Journal for publication: "Then all in God’s good time I intend getting a volume ready for publication."
Cummings' life changed forever when he was called to enlist in the British Army to fight in World War I in November 1915. He had consulted his doctor before taking the regulation medical prior to enlisting, and his doctor had given him a sealed, confidential letter to present to the medical officer at the recruitment centre. Cummings did not know what was contained in the letter, but in the event it was not needed; the medical officer rejected Cummings as unfit for active duty after the most cursory of medical examinations. Hurt, Cummings decided to open the letter on his way back home to see what had been inside, and was staggered to learn that his doctor had diagnosed him as suffering from the disease now known as multiple sclerosis, and that he almost certainly had less than five years to live.
The news changed Cummings profoundly, and his journal became much more intense and personal as a result. He had married shortly before discovering his illness, and had a daughter, Penelope, in October 1916, but was later moved to discover that his prospective wife, Eleanor, had been informed of his condition long before he himself knew his fate, and his efforts to spare the feelings of his family had been in vain since they had known his condition even before he had.
His diaries up to the winter of 1917, which he revised and corrected prior to publication, were eventually published in March 1919 under the title The Journal of a Disappointed Man. He chose the pseudonym "W.N.P. Barbellion" to protect the identities of his family and friends; he chose the forenames "Wilhelm", "Nero" and "Pilate" as his examples of the most wretched men ever to have lived. The first edition bore a preface by H.G. Wells, which led some reviewers to believe the journal was a work of fiction by Wells himself; Wells publicly denied this but the true identity of "Barbellion" was not known by the public until after Cummings' death.
The Journal of a Disappointed Man, filled with frank and keen observation, unique philosophy and personal resignation, was described by its author as "a study in the nude". The book received both adulatory and scathing reviews; having originally been optioned by Collins, they eventually rejected the book because they feared the "lack of morals" shown by Barbellion would damage their reputation. An editor's note at the very end of the book claims Barbellion died on 31 December 1917, but Cummings in fact lived for nearly two more years. He died in October 1919, having recently approved the proofs of a second short volume of memoirs, Enjoying Life and Other Literary Remains; a third brief volume of his very last entries, A Last Diary, appeared in 1920. His identity was made public through his obituaries in various newspapers, at which point his brother Henry R. Cummings gave a newspaper interview providing details of the life of "Barbellion".
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