I recommend the Betting Books which All Souls [College, Oxford] has privately published now and then, and which enable one almost to sniff the cigar smoke and savour the port of many a pleasurable, if intellectually demanding, evening. The stakes are seldom high, but the subjects are all-embracing. … Asquith bets Malcolm 1s. that twice around Malcolm’s stomach is less than the combined perimeter of Malcolm’s stomach and head, and Steel-Maitland bets Edgeworth that with three exceptions no monument exists within a radius of five miles from the centre of Rome, built between 100 B.C. and A. D. 300, possessing an arch with a lateral thrust. Hardinge once unaccountably bets Doyle 1s. that Admiral Benbow was a black man, Curzon bets Talbot 1s. that the man who stuck a pen-knife through a roll in the Old Testament was not named Jehudi. There was once a bet to the effect that “Home, Sweet Home” was written by a divorced German Jew, and between the wars Corbett succeeded in proving that he could in fact hang upside down by the grip of his toes for 10 seconds on the common-room door.

Jan Morris, Oxford