Competition no. 236: results

Margaret A. Macalister, a very occasional competitor (she came second in 122A in The Week-end Review – the Frank Sidgwick competition that asked for numerical references in literature to make a sum), but a well-connected Cambridge resident (her brother-in-law had been Chancellor of Glasgow University, and her father Cambridge’s professor of Anatomy) sets a competition that already feels like a throwback – she wants a selection of ten books suitable for each of the following:

a) a fraudulent company promoter’s prison cell

b) a youth hostel

c) an off-duty librarian and

d) a dyspeptic lighthouse keeper.

As she remarks, the entries are always mixed in quality – and she then finds that there is not enough space to print the four lists of each winner (the winners are Allan M. Laing and Peter Hadley), just one list each, so we have to take it on trust that they are the best two.

A scattering of other suggestions is provided – for the banker, The Wages Of Sin, Crime and Punishment, Goodbye to all that, and Songs of Innocence, for instance. He is also given Eden Philpotts’ Dartmoor Stories (geddit?).


Youth hostels, she argues, need quick books. William Bliss suggests sets of an omnibus Wodehouse. Classicist Edmund Casson is sterner, offering Kant, Hegel, Marx, Mill, Hobbes, Locke. A better suggestion is Cold Comfort Farm. The librarian causes problems (it is alleged): he is supposed by many to want ‘censored literature’. (I suspect Macalister has this the wrong way round – doesn’t she mean ‘uncensored’?) The lighthouse keeper gives competitors a headache but I rather liked A Room of One’s Own and Shrimps For Tea. (The latter was a very popular collection of short stories, written by Josephine Blumenfeld and published in 1930.)


The near-winner Hugh Shearman was in later life known for books about the occult.



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