28. Augustus Carp, by ‘Himself’ (Henry Howarth Bashford) (1924)

An obscure gem if ever there was one. I first came across Augustus Carp in the late 70s when Kenneth Williams read it on the radio – wonder if there’s a recording of that anywhere? Finally I tracked it down in a second-hand bookshop, and I’ve probably read it once a year since then. It’s in one of my favourite sub-genres, the satirical bogus autobiography (see also Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Little Me and my own stab at it, I Must Confess). Augustus is by his own account ‘a really good man’ whose chief interests in life are eating himself to obesity, campaigning against immorality and blackmailing his employers. It’s largely set in south London, which is always a bonus. Many of the lines in Augustus Carp are in daily use in our house (‘In the full flower of his Metropolitan Xtian manhood’) and I laugh like a drain every time I open the book. First published anonymously, the book turned out to be the work of the King’s physician Henry Howarth Bashford, which is curiously gratifying given the novel’s preoccupation with unpleasant bodily ills.

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