Publishers have some inscrutable habits. Among the easiest to understand, though, is their traditional turn to "humorous books" around December. The TLS's NB column reports every season on how the till-side piles of such publications can lead to a bad bout of the "Christmas giftbook blues" – Aunt Sally won't thank you for that side-splitting copy of Is It Just Me or Is Everything Shit?, you know.
The family had more innocent options in 1936. You could have lightened the low, dishonest mood with Dear Sir, Unless . . ., written by Nathaniel Gubbins and illustrated by William M. Hendy – a "Guide to Dodging Income Tax", hovering "a little uncertainly", according to the TLS review of the time, "between leg-pulling and semi-serious counsel". Or could the authors of 1066 and All That have raised a laugh with their Garden Rubbish? Not likely: "unrelieved nonsense", said the Lit Supp.
I'm quoting here from a round-up of eight humorous books by an unknown reviewer, who noted that only one of them named its illustrator on the cover, How To Live in a Flat, written by K. R. G. Browne and illustrated by a cartoonist whose work has just been, in the well-worn phrase, "saved for the nation": William Heath Robinson. . . .