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Imprints Literary Supplement

The Best Books You've Never Read

1066 and All That

By Miles Anderson | Posted 10/13/1999

1066 and All That

W. C. Sellar and R. J. Yeatman

Reprinted by Sutton in 1997

Why read British humor? For the warming glow of superiority it gives to its readers. Chris Rock makes you laugh, but he doesn't make you feel better about yourself, much less better than everyone else. No, for that you need a P.G. Wodehouse, an E.F. Benson, even the mordantly hysterical (and hysterically mordant) Martin Amis. Why, even a slim volume like 1066 and All That will have a Viagra-like effect on your self-esteem.

First published in 1931 and written by W.C. Sellar and R.J. Yeatman, the book's elaborate subtitle describes it nicely: "A Memorable History of England, Comprising All the Parts You Can Remember, Including One Hundred and Three Good Things, Five Bad Kings, and Two Genuine Dates." In other words, it's history, but only the parts that Sellar and Yeatman remember. Teeming with footnotes and whimsical illustrations, 1066 makes quick work of such knotty subjects as Henry's various wives: "Curiously enough Henry had all the time had an idea about a new wife for himself called Anne, who, he thought, looked as if she would be sure to have a son. So when the Divorce was all over (or nearly) he married her; but he was wrong about Anne, because she had a girl, too, in a way (see Elizabeth)." Less than half an inch from cover to cover, it is in every way a most memorable read.

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