Bluffer's Guide to Funny Books; UNDER THE HAMMER

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Byline: PETER WATSON

UNDER THE HAMMER

THE late Frank Muir contrived to convert a stutter, a lisp and an improbably floppy bow tie into an engaging ensemble that epitomised the quieter pleasures of the box when he was team captain on Call My Bluff.

Next month his collection of 18thcentury humorous books will be sold at Christie's, South Kensington. The books are exactly what you would expect of an educated, urbane, sophisticated and witty man, who also knew more than a thing or two about literary history.

Some of the great humorous books of English literature are to be found among them - including Tobias Smollett ' s The Expedition of Humphrey Clinker, Henry Fielding's The History of Tom Jones and Boswell's Life of Johnson.

Almost none of these first editions goes above [pounds sterling]3,000, so the prices are as modest as the man. Muir also had early books on birds, painting and proverbs and, perhaps unsurprisingly from such a seasoned raconteur, a copy of Samuel Johnson's The Rambler.

But the most intriguing title of all is surely Jonathan Swift's 1931 volume, A Complete Collection of Genteel and Ingenious Conversation. Is this, perhaps, where the idea of Call My Bluff came from?

Positions Vacant

LOOKING for a job in the art world? A new channel has opened up in the form of 26-year-old Sophie MacPherson. Once a mere assistant to a West End dealer, MacPherson now has her own agency (in All Saints Road, W11) specialising in art world personnel.

The plum positions yet to be filled include two senior people for the London opening of Edinburgh-based auction house Lyon and Turnbull, as well as an executive for the international dealers Opera, who are also opening in London, and someone who knows the London scene intimately to join what she calls a household-name Manhattan gallery. …

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