Competitions 20A and 20B: results

Robert Lynd now sets a sonnet in the style of Milton to be addressed to someone who has run off with the Speaker’s mace in the House of Commons. In our own time – okay, nearly four decades ago – this was a breach of parliamentary niceties most notoriously committed by Michael Heseltine. In 1976, as an opposition MP,  he seized the mace and waved it at a Red-Flag-singing group of Labour members who were celebrating victory on a vote relating to the nationalisation of aerospace and shipbuilding.

However, the mace was also in the news in 1930. Gateshead’s Labour MP, John Beckett, who had been in 1924 the youngest MP in parliament, objected to the suspension of the disputatious Fenner Brockway (then MP for Leyton East, and to live to be a centenarian). Beckett seized the mace and attempted to take it from the chamber, and was duly suspended himself (Beckett lost his seat in 1931, joined Mosley’s fascist party, and was imprisoned during World War II).

John Beckett

John Beckett


Fenner Brockway

Michael Heseltine

Michael Heseltine

Lynd is his usual playful self in his report: ‘It would be going too far to say that many of the sonnets which have been submitted to this Competition might have been written by Milton. It would be going too far, perhaps, to say that even one of them might have been written by Milton.’  One thing’s for sure: the competitors are not impressed by Beckett. A.D.M., Biddy, Gerald Leonard, W.B., Halcyon – all of them attempt to express some Miltonic fury. ‘Defiling the high symbol of our state/ With grin and caper like a clod-wit clown’ – which sounds a lot more like Shakespeare than Milton to me.

The winner is an entirely new name: J.W.Pepper. Here’s his effort – better for trying less hard to be serious:


The second prize goes to another newbie: Miss C.M. Bowen, who gets ticked off for her comparatively weak last line:


20B is an odd competition – to create a contents list of an imaginary ‘Post-Everything’ periodical, to be called ‘The Dustbin’. Lynd writes that most of the entrants, few in number, did not get the idea. But the winner did – that it was a spoof on experimental Gertrude-Stein-style writing. The winner was A.T. Chenhalls. What is extraordinary is that Chenhalls (his first name was Alfred) is another entrant who has a bit-part in a celebrated and disastrous incident which has never properly been solved. He was an accountant who worked for a number of actors, including Leslie Howard, the film star who readily signed up for anti-Nazi propaganda. He accompanied Howard (as his business manager) on a flight to Lisbon in June 1943, and was on board during the return. At the same time, Churchill had flown to North Africa, and there is a theory that Chenhalls was mistaken by spies for Churchill, to whom he was said to be similar (as Howard was also similar to Churchill’s assistant). The plane – Flight 777, handy for conspiracy theorists – was heavily targeted by eight Junkers aircraft and shot down, killing everyone on board. Churchill himself believed that the Germans had believed Chenhalls to be Churchill. A photo of Alfred Tregear Chenhalls survives from shortly before the flight:

Alfred T. Chenhalls

Alfred T. Chenhalls

Runner up to Chenhalls was the classicist Gilbert Highet, a winner in a competition (16B) a month earlier. Here are their entries:



It would certainly seem that the readers of The Week-end Review, like the judges Wolfe, Squire, Lynd and Welby, amongst others, were firmly dismissive of all modernists – Joyce being a particular target, but Eliot (for ‘Dustbin’ read ‘Waste Land’) and Marinetti and Stein being further fodder for baiting.

There’s a 1956 Australian article, with pictures of Howard and Chenhalls, here, and another, with a longer description of Chenhalls, from a Tasmanian newspaper here.

Competitions 19A and 19B: results

Competition 19 sees Humbert Wolfe back in the judge’s chair, citing Edward Fitzgerald’s suggestion that the nightingale cries ‘Wine, wine, wine’ to incarnadine the yellow cheek of the rose, and wanting poems (up to 20 lines) to illlustrate the process. (“And David’s Lips are lock’t; but in divine/ High piping Pehlevi, with “Wine! Wine! Wine!/ “Red Wine!” — the Nightingale cries to the Rose/That yellow Cheek of hers to incarnadine” – The Rubaiyat.)

This the second week running for grudging judging. Wolfe thinks the standard is low, and splits the prize money between a newbie, B. Kenneth Wesander, and H.C.M. – described as the best of a choice between fair and fair-to-middling. B. Kenneth Wesander must be the twenty-year-old Bjorn Kenneth Wesander of Hampstead, the son of a Finnish father and an Aberdonian mother. Rather confusingly, Wolfe also suggests a prize for third entrant, P.D. Foster. Here is Wesander’s poem:


Wesander is commended for having used good eighteenth century models. H.C.M. is commended for a modest verse that has sense and feeling. Here is his:


And here is the rogue Extra Prize entry from P.D.Foster:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

19B is an altogether different matter. To understand it, you have to have an idea of a string of facetious correspondence that had been taking place in The Week-end Review. On July 27, after a new contributor, Gerald Heard, was added to the WR roster, Gerald Bullet wrote a joky letter to his editor, which was duly published:


Rather as in the modern Guardian, this provoked a little flurry of responses. First we have T. Earle Welby:


Elsie W.S. Bourne of Purley, describing herself as a prizeless crossword entrant sends in a poem asking about ‘something amissing’ … ‘A miss is the something/ O where is the fair Geraldine?’ There are two more poems printed, one an acrostic (signed ‘A Lady’); and there is an outbreak of more collective nouns from the earlier lot following Squire’s comp (‘a Review of Geralds’, ‘a superfluity of Geralds’, ‘an eruditeness of Geralds’). Barry adds a note that he has had twenty Gerald poems, and there is a laconic note that ‘Many letters were held over’. Wolfe’s competition asking for an essay on the prevalence of Geralds, which is what 19B asks for, is just playing the game.

But in his (far too facetious) report Humbert Wolfe is forced to admit that competitors ‘rambled, piped, lectured, yawned’. Once again, there are no prizes, not even dishonourable mentions. Wolfe doesn’t blame himself; he blames the weather, or ‘Don Quixote Bradman’, or ‘the earthquake’. Bradman, on his first cricket tour to England, had scored  a century in the first Test, which England had won, but had just levelled the series with 254 in the second Test, an innings he himself rated his best. The earthquake must be the Irpinia earthquake in Italy, at 6.6 on the Richter scale, and the cause of the loss of over a thousand lives (known as the ‘Vulture’ earthquake – fifty years later there was another Irpinia earthquake).


Bradman in action

Vulture Earthquake

Headlines about the Vulture Earthquake

Competitions 18A and 18B: results

For 18A, T.Earle Welby has come up with the idea of an English equivalent to Flaubert’s idea of a ‘Dictionnaire des Idees recues’. So he wants six ‘ ‘not necessarily consecutive’, and I like that ‘not necessarily’ – definitions, to be concerned with the sort of idea characteristic in 1930 (‘at least in the view of the Popular Press’).

For once everyone lets the side down, even Pibwob, who comes close. No-one is awarded a prize, and the whole mass of entrants is condemned for being either ‘straightforwardly abusive’ or offering ‘comment as a substitute’. Because there aren’t any examples given, it remains a bit hard to work out what Welby really wanted, and he duly blames himself. Ah well. No-one can say they didn’t have standards.

When it comes to 18B, epigrams are requested (in not more than eight lines of rhymed verse) for ‘liking Dr. Fell or any of his spiritual descendants’. Doctor Fell was John Fell, a seventeenth century churchman (Anglican Bishop of Oxford) who was a by-word for discipline, and was an obsessive martinet. He is commemorated in the rhyme that begins ‘I do not like thee, Doctor Fell’, allegedly composed by one Tom Brown as a translation of a Martial epigram, the translation being a punishment.


John Fell

Fell makes it as a bogeyman into the early chapters of ‘Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’, just after Jekyll’s friend Utterson first has a conversation with Hyde: 

Mr. Hyde was pale and dwarfish, he gave an impression of deformity without any nameable malformation, he had a displeasing smile, he had borne himself to the lawyer with a sort of murderous mixture of timidity and boldness, and he spoke with a husky, whispering and somewhat broken voice; all these were points against him, but not all of these together could explain the hitherto unknown disgust, loathing and fear with which Mr. Utterson regarded him.  “There must be something else,”  said the perplexed gentleman.  “There is something more, if I could find a name for it.  God bless me, the man seems hardly human!  Something troglodytic, shall we say? or can it be the old story of Dr. Fell? or is it the mere radiance of a foul soul that thus transpires through, and transfigures, its clay continent?  

Among the candidates chosen were Dean Inge, the Anglican churchman (1860-1954) whose view of the Anglican church was that it was the bulwark of the state, and who had a view that the poorer classes should accept poorer pay; Lord Rothermere (the kind of target perhaps anticipated by Welby); and the Bishop of Bath and Wells, then Rt. Rev. St John Basil Wynne Willson, and about whom I can find nothing perverse at all, other than that – !! – I’m actually connected to him via several marriages (I wasn’t expecting that!).

The winning entry (‘the best of a not very bright batch’, so Welby must have been particularly glum), is by Marion Peacock, who picks out William Arbuthnot Lane, a notable surgeon, who resigned from the BMA to be able to speak freely. To take just four ways in which he was ahead of his time, rightly or wromgly, he was an exponent of homeopathy; the most successful surgeon in curing cleft palate and hare-lip; an advocate of the removal of the colon; and also one of the first to suggest that nutrition was the key to the growing Western disease of cancer.  He was born in 1856 and died in 1943 aged 87 – but not of ill health. He was run over outside the Athenaeum Club during a blackout.

William Arbuthnot Lane

William Arbuthnot Lane

Here is Marion Peacock’s epigram:

I like you well, Arbuthnot Lane,
You take the trouble to explain
In English words, without pretence,
How to keep well by common sense.
Just common sense, you rub it in,
Aided by liquid paraffin,
No lane are you, but one we bless,
The great by-pass to happiness.

This is Marion Peacock’s third victory. I don’t know anything firm about her, but I suspect she is the same Marion Peacock whose poems appeared in editions of Argosy in the late 1940s (one of them a re-publication from New Statesman). Gerald Barry’s correspondence includes letters from her. She may also be the author of two collections of poems – ‘Poems and Songs’ in 1923 and ‘Quiet Ladies’ in 1926.  That said, this really isn’t a great poem, and the final pun is a little feeble …

Second prize goes to ‘N.B.’, and he or she simply goes for the Dr. Fell option.

No work of reference doth tell
A fact about thee, Doctor Fell.
‘Who Was Who’ and the D.N.B.
Reticent are regarding thee.
A modest silence doth enshrine
Thee and all others of thy Line.
Good luck, my friend – I wish them well
That did descend from thee – or fell!

Another dicey pun. As for Doctor Fell, his name is incidentally also appropriated by Hannibal Lecter.