William Fletcher, Jr. was an ordinary man who lived from 1840 – 1863 in Dalrymple’s town in England. In New English Review the good doctor recounts Fletcher’s diary, published in 2009, which is fascinating in its depiction of daily life in Victorian England: the formality of his letters courting a young lady, his religiosity, and the dignity with which he handled his developing tuberculosis.
No one would call the diary a literary masterpiece, and yet its immediacy, its recording of day-to-day life, its sometimes painful honesty, and its record of the developing disease that would soon kill the writer at a tragically early age, are deeply moving.
He was not extraordinary in any way and made no claims for himself. It is his decent ordinariness, in fact, that draws me back to his grave or rather to his tombstone, for his actual place of burial is unknown. Let us praise famous men, certainly, but let us not altogether forget the ordinary ones.