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A generous gathering of parody, British style, in which poems, letters, songs, jesters' joke books, official documents, odd ephemera, and literary detritus of centuries recount the story of an extraordinarily commonplace clan from well before recorded history until the present peak of civilization. Surely no Oxbridge historian could have evolved such a comprehensive Weltanshauung, or Briton's view of things, as is provided by the ubiquitious Dogsbody family. Their story, presented here for the first time, runs like a scarlet flaw through the warp and weft of history, riding high through the descent of English civilization. The Dogsbodys (or their ancestors, the Caniscorpores and Somakunoses, and their cousins, the Corps de Chiens and Hhundekorpers) were there to undermine every great historical event and to inspire each second-rate effort by a Crown's laureate. They were there for the discovery of woad (""I fancy blue men. They are sexier""), for gossip on the fall of Lear (in the style of an ur-Nancy Mitford) or as Clerk of Works for the new campanile at Pisa (""And there should be no trouble in getting it classified as a listed building. . .""). There was a Dogsbody serving as batman to Henry Percy Hotspur (he forgot the sword), playing a supporting role in the fast performance of Macbeth (the author demanded Method acting), and selling fireinsurance company shares to Samuel Pepys (the day before the Great Fire). There were nubile Dogsbodys to muddle the thoughts of Keats and Wordsworth, Dogsbodys to cause the charge of the Light Brigade and to do all manner of unhelpful things. No wonder the family name has come to mean whatever it does. But, it seems, there'll always be an England, no matter how they try. Much of the wit, of course, will be lost on readers who lack a basic knowledge of British history and literature. This sort of delicious japery is founded not on pop ""cultural literacy,"" but on fundamental literate culture. Parody is always tricky stuff. Parrott and W.F.N. Watson, his witty illustrator and contributor, have pulled it off. With a jug of wine and anything else in the wilderness, this book is parody enow.

Pub Date: March 3rd, 1989
Publisher: Viking