Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-cjp7w Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-06-18T19:34:14.336Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false


Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 May 2011

Clare Hutton*
Loughborough University


In January 1886 Sir John Lubbock, a Liberal MP and scientist, addressed the members of the London Working Men's College on “Books and Reading,” and recommended a list of a “hundred good books.” The Pall Mall Gazette decided to publicise the list, as “the hundred best books,” a small but significant revision which has as its ultimate reference Matthew Arnold's idea that culture can make the “best that has been known and thought in the world current everywhere” (Arnold 113). Though Arnold himself declined to comment on Lubbock's list, the ensuing column on “The Best Hundred Books by the Best Judges” proved to be enduringly popular. It ran for four weeks, and the responses to Lubbock – which ranged greatly in tone, manner and content – were reprinted in a Pall Mall Gazette “Extra” which appeared on 10 March 1886 and sold more than forty thousand copies within the next three weeks. Obviously this debate took place in a context of growing anxiety amongst the intelligentsia about the seemingly endless proliferation of mass produced cheaper books, especially in the area of fiction. In the face of such abundance, it was generally felt that it was important for the “Best Judges” to instruct the newly literate classes on what to read. Indeed, as N. N. Feltes has shown in Literary Capital and the Late Victorian Novel, the response to Lubbock's original list may be read as index of late Victorian ideologies of literary value.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2011

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)



Adams, J. R. R.The Printed Word and the Common Man: Popular Culture in Ulster 1700–1900. Belfast: Institute of Irish Studies, 1987. Print.Google Scholar
Arnold, Matthew. “Culture and Anarchy with Friendship's Garland and Some Literary Essays.” Vol. 5 of The Complete Prose Works of Matthew Arnold. Ed. Super, R. H.. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1965. Print.Google Scholar
“The Best Hundred Books by the Best Judges.” Pall Mall Gazette “Extra” [London] 1886, no. 24. Print.Google Scholar
Casteleyn, Mary. A History of Literacy and Libraries in Ireland. Aldershot: Gower, 1984. Print.Google Scholar
Cunningham, Bernadette, and Kennedy, Máire, eds. The Experience of Reading: Irish Historical Perspectives. Dublin: Rare Books Group of the Library Association of Ireland, 1999. Print.Google Scholar
Daly, Mary, and Dickson, David, eds. The Origins of Popular Literacy in Ireland, Language Change and Educational Development 1700–1900. Dublin: Dept. of Modern History, Trinity College, and Dept. of Modern Irish History, University College, 1990. Print.Google Scholar
Feltes, N. N.Literary Capital and the Late Victorian Novel. Wisconsin: U of Wisconsin P, 1993. Print.Google Scholar
Foster, R. F.W. B. Yeats, A Life: Volume 1, The Apprentice Mage, 1865–1914. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1997. Print.Google Scholar
Gladstone, William Ewart. “Irish Home Rule Speech.” House of Commons, Westminster. 7 June 1886. Web. 8 July 2009. <>..>Google Scholar
Hutton, Clare. “Reading The Love Songs of Connacht: Douglas Hyde and the Exigencies of Publication.” Library 2 (2001): 364–93. Print.Google Scholar
Hutton, Clare, ed. “Francis Fahy's ‘Ireland in London: Reminiscences.’Yeats Annual 15 (2002): 221–69. Print.Google Scholar
Hyde, Douglas. “The Necessity for De-Anglicizing Ireland.” The Revival of Irish Literature. Ed. Duffy, Charles Gavan. London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1894. 118–61. Print.Google Scholar
Kelly, John. “The Fall of Parnell and the Rise of Irish Literature: An Investigation.” Anglo-Irish Studies 2 (1976): 123. Print.Google Scholar
Legg, Marie-Louise. Newspapers and Nationalism: The Irish Provincial Press, 1850–1892. Dublin: Four Courts, 1999. Print.Google Scholar
O'Brien, Richard Barry. [Historicus]. “The Best Hundred Irish Books.” Freeman's Pamphlets [Dublin] 1886, 7. Print.Google Scholar
O'Brien, Richard Barry. Fifty Years of Concessions to Ireland, 1831–1881. 2 vols. London: Sampson and Low, 1883, 1885. Print.Google Scholar
O'Brien, Richard Barry. The Home-Ruler's Manual. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner, 1890. Print.Google Scholar
O'Brien, Richard Barry. A Hundred Years of Irish History. London: Isbister, 1902. Print.Google Scholar
O'Brien, Richard Barry. The Irish Land Question and English Public Opinion, with a Supplement on Griffith's Valuation. London: Sampson and Low, 1881. Print.Google Scholar
O'Brien, Richard Barry. Irish Memories. London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1904. Print.Google Scholar
O'Brien, Richard Barry. Irish Wrongs and English Remedies, with other Essays. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, 1887. Print.Google Scholar
O'Brien, Richard Barry. John Bright. London: Smith, Elder, 1910. Print.Google Scholar
O'Brien, Richard Barry. The Life of Lord Russell of Killowen. London: Smith, Elder, 1901. Print.Google Scholar
O'Brien, Richard Barry. The Parliamentary History of the Irish Land Question. London: Sampson and Low, 1880. Print.Google Scholar
O'Brien, Richard Barry. Thomas Drummond, under-secretary in Ireland 1835–1840, Life and Letters. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, 1889. Print.Google Scholar
O'Brien, Richard Barry, ed. The Autobiography of Wolfe Tone. 2 vols. London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1893. Print.Google Scholar
O'Brien, Richard Barry, ed. The Irish Nuns at Ypres, an Episode of the War. London: Smith, Elder, 1915. Print.Google Scholar
O'Brien, Richard Barry, ed. John Redmond: Home Rule Speeches. London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1910. Print.Google Scholar
O'Ciosáin, Niall. Print and Popular Culture in Ireland 1750–1850. London: Macmillan, 1997. Print.Google Scholar
O'Gráda, Cormac. Ireland: A New Economic History 1780–1939. Oxford: Clarendon, 1994. Print.Google Scholar
O'Leary, Philip. The Prose Literature of the Gaelic Revival, 1881–1921: Ideology and Innovation. University Park: Pennsylvania State UP, 1994. Print.Google Scholar
Sheehy, Ian D. “Irish Journalists and Litterateurs in Late Victorian London c. 1870–1910.” DPhil Thesis. Oxford University, 2003. Print.Google Scholar
Shorter, Clement. “Lord Acton's Hundred Best Books.” Pall Mall Magazine July 1905, 36: 310. Print.Google Scholar
Van De Kamp, Peter. “Whose Revival? Yeats and the Southwark Irish Literary Club.” Tumult of Images: Essay on W. B. Yeats and Politics. Ed. Liebregts, Peter and Van De Kamp, Peter. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1995. 154–81. Print.Google Scholar
Yeats, W. B.Autobiographies. London: Macmillan, 1955. Print.Google Scholar
Yeats, W. B.. The Collected Letters of W. B. Yeats. Ed. Kelly, John. 4 vols. Oxford: Clarendon, 1986. Print.Google Scholar
Yeats, W. B.. Samhain: An Occasional Review. Dublin: Sealy Bryers and Walker; London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1902. Print.Google Scholar