Starting out

In this blog, I’ll explain what I’m doing, where I’ve got to, and any news of progress or otherwise I have to impart. This is the section to which I hope you’ll respond with advice and assistance. In particular, I could do with some help with pseudonyms (you’ll see that in March 2014, I have managed to get behind the moniker ‘Pibwob’, and in June behind ‘Little Billee’ and in August behind H.C.M.)  … If you or a member of previous generations are or were competition entrants, I’d be glad to hear from you. I would be interested in photographs and biographies – the idea is that the wrangling that goes on in the blog will eventually be set in shale in the relevant pages. If you have suggestions for further sections of the web-site, they’ll also be welcome. When you first look at the web-site, there won’t be much on it. Watch the space …

Here are a couple of mysteries. Why does Elizabeth Bibesco say that it is unusual for ‘Gordon Daviot’ (the alternative pseudonym of ‘Josephine Tey’) to miss a competition, implying ‘he’ i.e. Tey is a regular, in 1933, when ‘he’ only appears once, in 1930 (does anyone know if Tey had other pseudonyms)? Who was Dorothy Avery, the judge in early 1933 (I’m completely stumped)? Why does Seacape seem to vanish and reappear as Black Gnat?

The 1932 and 1933 honours boards are now complete.

One new feature contains extracts from The Saturday Review before and after Gerald Barry left it to found The Week-end Review.There is also an article on the takeover. You can find them under History.

Another new feature: I have managed to obtain about half the copies of the WR at a knockdown price (they turn out to be the former property of the WR’s business correspondent), and this makes it much easier to use some invaluable source material. Many competitors wrote to the WR (not just about competitions); I therefore know (for instance) that Mariamne was a librarian. In due course I will try to beef up the more accessible individual biographies. One that I am starting to expand is that of William Bliss, who was competing right up to his accidental death in his 80s.

To search for an individual competition, type the digit and A i.e. 1A into any tag search: so Competition no. 1 (actually they used Roman numerals for the first two years) will come up when you search on 1A. (It doesn’t seem to like 0001, but I’m working on the tagging.) The blog gives the results. Early competitions are listed on The Competitions page. You can link back and forth, although I have left completing this task for later at the moment.

As with all blogs, the entries will be the most recent, first. However, I’m going to make this one a ‘sticky’, so that it stays at the top. Remember that this is a work in progress!

4 thoughts on “Starting out

  1. Hello,
    I’ve really enjoyed looking around your blog. One question- what is the “This England” competition, and what are readers supposed to submit to it?

    • Hi

      This England still exists as a feature in New Statesman. Readers are asked to submit items of news that are characteristically bizarre examples of the English character. (Very occasionally there are variants e.g. This Scotland.) Or, as Kingsley Martin puts it in ‘Editor’ ‘peculiar Anglo-Saxon attitudes’. He chooses this example from 1937:

      “Speaking as a total abstainer, Lady Montgomery-Massingberd said it would help a great deal if people who did not care for alcoholic drinks would ‘take the pledge’. “Those of you who go to sherry and cocktail parties,” she added, “finish what is in your glasses. Do not let it go away to be drunk in the pantry by someone who, perhaps, has not taken it before, or has not acquired the taste.”

      It’s that ‘in the pantry’ which is the weird note. Here is one from 2014, submitted by Michael Meadowcroft. It’s from a notice in The Metro: ‘Thank you to the girl whose kind words comforted me after she ran over my cat.’

      This England used to be printed in a prominent place, after the Diary, by Martin. In later years, it has usually been coupled with the competition. It has persisted, and the only editor who has ever cancelled it (the incumbent) restored it after a couple of months.

  2. This is wonderful stuff. What a pity that it seems to have ground to a halt. One hopes that the author is still in good shape and planning to resume it. The New Statesman competitions were a fantastic outpouring of whimsy which could often compete with that from any professional humorist.

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