The young naturalist W. N. P. Barbellion described this remarkably candid record of living with multiple sclerosis as 'a study in the nude'. It begins as an ambitious teenager's notes on the natural world, and then, following his diagnosis at the age of twenty-six, transforms into a deeply moving account of battling the disease. His prose is full of humour and fierce intelligence, and combines a passion for life with clear-sighted reflections on the nature of death.
Barbellion selected and edited this manuscript himself in 1917, adding a fictional editor's note announcing his own demise. This Penguin Classics edition includes 'The Last Diary', which covers the period between submission of the manuscript and Barbellion's actual death in 1919.
W. N. P. Barbellion was the pseudonym of Bruce Frederick Cummings (1889-1919), an entomologist at the Natural History Museum in London. He selected W. N. P. as the initials of three of 'the most wretched figures in history': Kaiser Wilhelm, Emperor Nero and Pontius Pilate. Barbellion was the name of his favourite pastry-shop on Gloucester Road.