‘And so you read Pragmatism,’ he mused, ‘while the fate of the Empire stands in the balance.’
‘Yes,’ said I, ‘and the Paris Academy of Sciences were discussing the functions of θ and the Polymorphism of Antarctic diatoms last September when the Germans stood almost at the gates of Paris.’ (1948, p.199)
Armed with the flippancy and intellectual conceit which were second to none, W. N. P. Barbellion recorded a future ceaselessly spurned by sickness and circumstance. Born in 1889 in Barnstaple, he aspired to be a naturalist and began keeping a diary at the age of thirteen. His lust for life antagonised by his social class and ill health stationed him at a uniquely tragic standpoint from which he witnessed fin de siècle.
The Journal of a Disappointed Man vividly highlights the universality of human suffering during one of the greatest and most devastating turning points in history. By pitting his own ambition against an increasingly industrialised world, Barbellion’s diary poignantly portrays the economical, sociological and political climates of the years leading up to the First World War.