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BENNEY, Mark, pseud. of Henry Ernest Degras.

Low Company.

Describing the evolution of a burglar.

London: Peter Davies, 1936 Stock Code: 142121
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First edition of this fascinating memoir of a British burglar turned University of Chicago sociologist. Coming from London's underclass Benney chronicles his desperate childhood and his experiences in the Soho underworld between the wars, as he built his reputation as "The man who committed a hundred burglaries". Scarce in jacket.

Degras (1910-1973) had a curious career, rising from the streets of London to American academe via a research post at the LSE, and the present book, commissioned by Peter Davies on the basis of an article that Degras had contributed to the Spectator entitled "The Burglar's Urge", played a key role in these developments. "While it would be an exaggeration to claim that the book became a literary sensation when it was published, it was reviewed widely and, for the most part, positively. The novelist Rebecca West contributed a long, shrewd, and positive review in The Sunday Times. Respected critics like James Agate, Derek Verschoyle, and Raymond Mortimer all commended the book... Following publication, publicity engagements, including literary lunches with luminaries such as H. G. Wells, soon followed. In addition, Benney was taken up for a time by the Bloomsbury literary hostess Lady Ottoline Morrell (then nearing the end of her life). Benney (who enjoyed name-dropping) seems to have taken considerable pride in the fact that he now moved in such exalted circles" (Lee, pp. 411-2). A skilful manipulator of circumstance Degras used this minor notoriety as an entrée as a novelist, a self-described criminologist, and eventually as a sociologist. An excellent copy of this intelligent and engaging lowlife autobiography.

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Octavo. Original green cloth, title gilt to spine. With the typographical dust jacket.


Spine lettering a touch oxidized, mild sunning at the head of the spine, else a very good copy indeed in a similarly well-preserved jacket, a few very minor marks, chips and splits, a couple of archival tape repairs verso, neat contemporary bookseller's label of Robertson & Mullen's Ltd., Melbourne to the spine.


Raymond Lee, "The Man Who Committed a Hundred Burglaries": Mark Benney's Strange and Eventful Sociological Career, Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, Vol. 51, Issue 4 (2015), pp. 409-433; Julia Jones, The Adventures of Margery Allingham,


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