Competitions nos. 64A and 64B: results

Gerald Bullett produces an A competition that is not too dissimilar from Squire’s request in the previous week: another Ode, although this one involves translation. The model is Sainte-Beuve, whose poem is the source of the subject, ‘Ode To Rhyme’. You can read the original here. As almost always, T.E. Casson is the first to be commended (perhaps he had started by now to wonder if it would take a year for his turn to come round again). Marion Peacock and Guy Innes come close, but it is the old warhorse, Seacape, who snaffles the top prize, and, as I’ve remarked before, when he wins, it’s often the case that Pibwob is in the frame as well. He gets the runner-up’s half-guinea. Seacape is always praised for his elegance. See what you think.



These two poems very clearly illustrate the traditionalism of the judges, and, I suspect, many of the readers.

The B competition asks – yet again – for epigrams. There had been some rumblings against the League of Nations, especially in the Daily Express (Beaverbrook still pushing his Empire Crusade). The first two winners (who split their guinea) are Mariamne and Prudence (her first win at last), but the third name is that of (Edward) Jerrard Tickell, who gains the second prize. Tickell (1905-1966), who was Irish,  was to become a highly successful novelist and writer, and to have two particular successes with his memoir of Odette, the special agent, and with a novel in 1951 called Appointment With Venus, which was turned into a film starring David Niven. His wife was a well-known spiritualist, Renee Haynes. There is a good bibliography of his work here.

Jerrard Tickell

Here are the three squibs:


Competitions nos. 63A and 63B: results

J.C.Squire firstly requests an ode in May dealing with May’s weather conditions. The model given to use is Sir William Watson’s Ode, which can be read here. A good-sized entry is cut down for not following Watson’s original (Watson was still living at the time, although in parlous conditions in comparison to his earlier life. He had been unlucky to be passed over on the death of Tennyson for the post of Laureate – he’d had a breakdown. His own ode on the coronation of Edward VII received much more praise than the – admittedly awful – Alfred Austin’s. When Austin died, he was once again passed over, probably because of the savage political character of some of his poems, and probably also because he had written a very slighting poetic reference to Asquith’s wife).

Commendations to T.E.Casson, Pibwob, Seacape, L.V.Upward, Gertrude Pitt, Lester Ralph and some other familiar names, to which we can add B.A.Ohlson, who was later a naval officer in the Ceylon R.N.V.R, and whose full name was Basil Amyas Ohlson (1913 – so still 18 at this point! – 1990). ‘Prudence’ would have won had she not departed every seventh line from the given form, and therefore has to suffer the indignity of seeing the whole entry published for no reward.

The winners, W.Hodgson Burnet and Dungrombe ( a new winner) have the two and a half guineas split between them.

WR Comp 63_0001



63B is the kind of competition Squire loves. The aim is to find twelve couples of English proverbs that flatly contradict one another. Or as he puts it,’ a superfoetation of apophthegmatical wisdom leaves me dizzy.’ A lot of ‘He who hesitates is lost/ Look before you leap’ is sent in, but after commending in jovial style about twenty competitors for excellence, he picks Miss C. Harvey for the guinea, and Besta for the half:




Competitions nos. 62A and 62B: results

Martin Armstrong – and ready yourself, this is a red-letter day in one hitherto unhappy household – sets two competitions. 62A  points out that Sir J.C. Bose, the Indian scientist, has shown that vegetables are affected by stimulants, poisons, shocks and other ‘ills and good that man and beast are heir to”. It asks for a lyric (max 18 lines) rebuking the vegetarian for cruelty to vegetables.


Sir J.C.Bose

There are many commendations, mostly the regulars (Chauve-Souris, Seacape, Issachar, Gertrude Pitt, W. Hodgson Burnet, H.C.M. – and also an M.J.Dickson who is probably the literary scholar who contributed to English Studies in 1931). In the end, Armstrong actually draws lots, and the top prize goes to a new name, Nosnikrap (i.e. Parkinson spelled backwards), while L.V.Upward takes the half-guinea:

WR Comp 62

62B quotes Pope: ‘For what I have published, I can only hope to be pardoned; for what I have burned, I deserve to be praised’ – in the preface to his Poetical Works


Alexander Pope – caught out

Armstrong wants this statement rendered into epigrammatic verse. While he is judging it, however, it occurs to him that Pope has trapped himself into something of a solecism – ‘he did not mean that he deserved to be praised for the verses he had burned, but because he had burned them, a very different matter’. Always nice to catch the top dogs out. He says he hasn’t penalised anyone who has committed a similar lapse. Five make the winners’ enclosure, and after discarding Guy Innes, Mariamne and John A. Bellchambers – the latter is John Archer Bellchambers (1866-1945), a lawyer’s clerk in 1911 in Islington – he arrives at two winners. Firstly, Ciel. She is joined by, after over 55 attempts, T.E.Casson, who finally gets more than honorary mentions and nods and even rewardless entries being printed. He gets his half-guinea at last!

Armstrong prints Innes and Bellchambers as well, as the proxime accessits – something being done slightly more frequently now.

WR Comp 62a

T.E. Casson is Thomas Edmund Casson (1883-1960) who was born (and died) in the Ulverston area. He can be found contributing to scholarly literary magazines from 1909 onwards, and in 1914, he had a collection of poems (Masques and Poems) published. He had a further collection of poems published in 1930 (Lord Derwentwater’s fate and other poems), a collection in 1938, simply called Poems, and George Fox, a poem in twelve books in 1947. All four appeared under the name Edmund Casson. Under the name Thomas Edmund Casson, he had published, in 1927, A Century of Roundels, on the centenary of the Oxford-Cambridge cricket match (he seems to have been an Oxford graduate, given the journals in which he is published). However, he does also publish his poems (e.g. in Poetry Review) as T.E.Casson, and he also publishes a book on Thomas of Kendal under this name in 1935. All his books are published in Kendal.

Competitions nos. 61A and 61B: results

Clennell Wilkinson returns with two chatty news items, and receives a huge response. ‘I suppose,’ he writes ‘that it is possible to set too easy a competition   … accustomed to rack their brains over literary problems of such difficulty that the very men who set them would, in most cases, be lucky to win a consolation prize, they find it hard to take you seriously when you offer them a couple of clippings from the daily press.’

For the A competition, he has picked a story about a crate full of live poultry being sent from Blackpool to London by air. A short poem, in any form (not excluding free verse) is asked for, condoling with the alleged birds upon their humiliating situation. The judge’s report is quite short, apart from noting that many competitors had the idea that pullets might be air-sick, and that many also went for the over-obvious joke about ‘foul play’. The prizes go to J.W.A.Hunt and E.W.Fordham. There was in fact a comic poet called E.W.Fordham, and it’s tempting to speculate that this is a relative (the poet died in 1925), but this E(dward).W(ilfred).Fordham is a barrister aged 57, who lived in Hampstead, and wrote a book in 1950 called Notable Cross-Examinations. Shortly before that he’d joined in a debate on instances of ‘literally’ in a running correspondence (April 1949) in The Times: Sir,Perhaps the most picturesque use of ‘literally’ was that of a writer who asserted that ‘for five years Mr Gladstone was literally glued to the Treasury Bench.’Yours faithfully, E.W. Fordham. The next letter in sequence is from Gerald Barry!

J.W.A.Hunt is Joseph Wray Angus Hunt (1898-1976), known as ‘Wray Hunt’, and a writer of academic books (Medieval Studies in 1931), a co-writer with his wife Molly of children’s books (two in the late 1930s, Fairy Corner and The Toby Inn) and also a novelist. JWAHunt

Whether the two novels below, one from 1931 and one from 1970 are both his work I am very unsure – but it seems likely!

Wray Huntwrayhuntsatanschild

Here are the winners:WR Comp 61

The B competition refers to the early morning of Sunday May 3 1931, when an earthquake had been felt on the outskirts of Manchester, centring on Eccles. Various chimney pots had been dislodged, book-cases had fallen over, and The Guardian reported (very much in the tradition of underwhelming tales) that a golfer, out early, had missed his shot. Curiously enough, and the subject of the competition (epigram wanted), was a Times report of another golfer, at Chorlton, who had seen his ball shaken by the earthquake into the hole. Mind you, perhaps there was a season for earthquakes. Only a fortnight later there was a much larger earthquake across the country:


Sylvia Lynd wrote an article about this larger earthquake for the WR.

Wilkinson can’t make his mind up between four, so he prints two unrewarded runners-up as well, Yury and One-Up taking the money.

WR Comp 61a

Competitions nos 60A and 60B: results

Anthony Bertram firstly gives us a poem in the shape of a triangle or pyramid, which he ascribes to Drummond. There is more than one poet called Drummond, but I am going to hazard that this is a slightly modernised version of a poem by Shakespeare’s contemporary, William Drummond of Hawthornden. There is an article (as much about his being a bibliophile as a poet) about him here. Please let me know if you think I’m wrong. There is a nineteenth century Drummond who writes almost exclusively in dialect. There is a Brazilian concrete poet (the term ‘concrete poetry’ did not get used till the 1950s, although Apollinaire’s experiments with calligrammes  in1915 were well-known – however, this poem, rather like George Herbert’s efforts, rhymes), but the Brazilian’s first collection did not appear until 1935. So I think it must be the earlier one. ‘Only the form need be imitated,’ says Bertram.

WR Comp 60

Since we already know that W. Hodgson Burnet likes anything that allows him to be visual, it’s no surprise that he’s the first honourable mention (ruled out regretfully because his entry did not rhyme) as well as Seacape, R. Mal (not a winner yet, but increasingly mentioned as a runner-up), H.C.M, Myra Verney, R.W.MacGoun, Henry Sharp – and, of course, running ‘close to prizewinners with the Pyramid of Cestius as his subject’ is T.E. Casson. Myra Verney, whose portrait can be seen here, was a well-known soprano, who died in the early 1990s, and whose life and career are commemorated by a recital prize. Her sister, Harriet Cohen, is famous not only as a singer, but as the mistress of Sir Arnold Bax, and also of Ramsay Macdonald; and as someone who put a huge effort into rescuing Jewish friends from Nazi Germany. R.W.Macgoun may be the reverend from Morningside, Edinburgh, whose daughter was a painter (but is more probably a son of his).

The winners were Guy Innes and Chauve-Souris, and Bertram can’t decide between them, so splits the two-and-half-guineas equally between them:

WR Comp 60b

60B (where is the idea for this coming from?) asks for a four-line verse supposed written by (A.E.) Housman in a condemned murderer’s autograph book. Do condemned murderers have autograph books? Odd. Bertram also drops into the slightly schoolmasterly finger-wagging that a couple of other judges are prone to: ‘I did not ask for parody, but lines supposedly written by Mr. Housman. I think that we may therefore presume that he would not have employed whole lines out of his other poems, as many competitors do. I am afraid that some people do not know their Housman as well as they should …’ He’d like to give the prize to Guy Innes, but the rules forbid winning both contests, so he gives the prizes to two newcomers, Cumbrian and Mariamne (and not Marianne, as spelt):

WR Comp 60d

Competitions nos 59A and 59B: results

The commanding figure of Naomi Royde-Smith returns to the judge’s eyrie. She always gets her own special rules, so it’s three guineas for one entry in 59A and two guineas for one entry in 59B. (In fact she winds up dividing this into two equal prizes). She therefore costs Gerald Barry’s employers an extra guinea, and guarantees herself, if this is not being unkind, a lot more space.

59A is a testing challenge: to produce a new and original Title Page and a list of no more than ten chapters, each with a title, for a new and original novel. (the moment you see ‘Title Page’, you know that W. Hodgson Burnet has his pen ready for something a little bit artistic. And so it proves, although it is pronounced, with reason, unproducible, along with three others.) The report records (rather enthusiastically) a very soppy letter from a nameless competitor who had hoped to be offered the chance to write a Spring-song, but is running out Spring. As for the novels, perhaps unsurprisingly, almost every entry is a detective story. Since Royde-Smith reproduces all of both L.V.Upward’s entry as well as all of Jas. J. Nevin’s, it seems only fair to do the same, although the winner of the three guineas is Hilda Newman (a new name). She also commends James Hall, Sir Horace Mann, S. Barrington McClean, J.C.Skinner, P.R. Laird, Guy Innes (the closest to snatching the prize), and an entrant who sketched out the novel that Sir Walter Scott never got round to. It was about ‘Thomas The Rhymer’. See here for Scott and his subject. The unlucky and ambitious entrant was T.E.Casson …

Here are successively, the failed attempts by Upward and Nevin, and the winning piece by Hilda Newman:

WR Comp 59aa

WR Comp 59a

WR Comp 59b

I’m a little confused, I admit, by the task in 59B. Royde-Smith wants the following ‘dialogue’ reduced to an epigram in English (four lines max). It apparently relates to the Sorbonne’a abolition as a theological college in the latter part of the eighteenth century, and, by implication, previous English translations have transferred it to Oxford (rather than Cambridge, why I don’t know):

WR Comp 59bstart

Royde-Smith is fairly uncompromising about  almost everyone (‘No-one achieved a high degree of polish’), and only Halcyon gets a nod other than the two winners of a guinea each, C.D.B.E. and Dorset:

WR Comp 59c


The Sorbonne, shut down in 1792, but re-opened in 1808. Make of that what you will.

Competitions nos 58A and 58B: results

Another new judge: Gordon Phillips, the diarist and satirical poet of the Manchester Guardian, who wrote under the pen-name Lucio. Presumably this is the in-joke behind his 58A competition, in which he asks us to imagine that a Bright Young Person called Leuconoe (or Lucy) is showing signs of taking seriously to table-rapping, and similar, a development viwed with apprehension by her Boy Friend (sic) Horace, who urges her to stand fast in her older intention of Having A Good Time. His advice in verse, please, in 12-24 lines. And if you haven’t picked up the classical reference yet, ‘The results, though modernised, should obviously bear some relation to Q.Horatius Flaccus in Book 1, Ode XI.’ That’s Horace to you and me.

Here is A.S.Kline’s translation (2003):

BkI:XI Carpe Diem

Leuconoë, don’t ask, we never know, what fate the gods grant us,
whether your fate or mine, don’t waste your time on Babylonian,
futile, calculations. How much better to suffer what happens,
whether Jupiter gives us more winters or this is the last one,
one debilitating the Tyrrhenian Sea on opposing cliffs.
Be wise, and mix the wine, since time is short: limit that far-reaching hope.
The envious moment is flying now, now, while we’re speaking:
Seize the day, place in the hours that come as little faith as you can.

Phillips is a complimentary judge, particularly about Gertrude Pitt, L.V.Upward, T.E.Casson (in case you thought he’d packed it in), Chauve-Souris, R. Mal, and the ‘dignified’ Seacape. He opts for A.J.Perman (with some strictures about the scansion of the 10th line, which he doesn’t think Horace would have liked) as the winner and W.R.Y as runner-up.

WR Comp 58

WR Comp 58a

It’s easier, says Phillips for 58B, to stand forth as a knowing fellow by exalting the French hotel while damning the English inn. In the hope that some readers have struck it lucky over Easter (it is now May), he asks for five reasons for the superiority of The Bull’s Head over the Tete Boeuf. He specifies 150 words, but the winner is a poem by Lob (a new name), and the runner-up another new name, John Stevenson, who says he’s just had a good Easter. The others praise the tea and the breakfasts, but not the frequency of the veal in France, which puzzles Phillips; and he is surprisingly taken aback by the many paeans to Beer. The Billiard Table and English coffee (that’s a surprise) also get the thumbs up.

WR Comp 58b

WR Comp 58c

Competitions nos 57A and 57B: results

Ivor Brown asks for a sonnet which opens

       I fain would be a poet but I lack
       A private income …

More miserabilia from the judges. ‘The number of sonnets (and also of poems that were not sonnets) was very large and the quality rather “sad”, as they say of baked dishes.’ Heavy plodding is mentioned. Alice Herbert, H.C.M and Non Omnia are among a small band who receive compliments, but the winners are the stalwarts Valimus and Gertrude Pitt. (He was asking for it with the word ‘fain’, in my view.) Valimus sends the competition up more than a little, and that’s welcome.

WR Comp 57

For 57B we are directed to Longfellow:

                  Lives of great men all remind us
                     We can make our lives sublime
                 And departing, leave behind us
                    Footprints on the sans of time

The extract (and isn’t it banal?) comes from ‘The Psalm of Life’. Brown suggests that modern biographies tend to reveal that the lives of great men are humdrum, and that a ‘quotation’ i.e. a new verse of four lines needs to be added. Several regulars (W. Hodgson Burnett, Little Billee, H.C.M., Majolica, Hutch, are commended but the prizes go to Evan John and Baldwin S. Harvey, neither of whose names have appeared in these columns before.

WR Comp 57b

Baldwin S(ydney) Harvey (1873-1945) was a banker who took over from his father Alfred Spalding Harvey at the bank Glyn, Mills, Currie and co. in 1905, as you can see here. He edited a collection of his father’s financial and economic articles. But he also seems to have published, some time in the 1920s, a children’s book (not in the BL) called The Magic Dragon (although I don’t think he had any children).Harvey

Competitions nos 56A and 56B: results

A new judge, Sylvester Gates, responding to a suggestion of an increase in Death Duties in the Philip Snowden’s 1931 Budget, proposes an adaptation of Wordsworth’s sonnet to Milton, starting instead ‘Croesus, thou shouldst be dying at this hour’ (the point being that Death Duties were said to be rescuing the Budget). In the event, Death Duties (known as ‘Estate Duties’ – ‘Inheritance Tax’ is a phrase dating from 1986) were not raised (this competition’s results came out before the Budget), although a ‘Land Value Tax’ was proposed (which never came to fruition after the political upheavals at the end of the year), but income tax was raised, and the pay of civil servants, including teachers, was cut.

Gates moves swiftly through some also-rans (E.Sefi, James Hall, Majolica) and awards first prize to the competition’s eminence grise, Seacape, whose ‘elegance of execution’, he comments, in always in evidence. The second prize goes to Olric.

WR Comp 56

56B asks for some appropriate last words for any person living or dead. 75% of the entries (and a large entry) selected either Beaverbrook, Rothermere, Snowden, MacDonald, Baldwin, Charlie Chaplin and Bernard Shaw.

Two of the best  (and the eventual winner) came from Passepartout, the first being Al Capone: Ut puto, reus fio. Capone had just been arrested on charges of tax evasion (of which he was found guilty later in the year). Sorry to labour explaining the joke. The Emperor Vespasian is reputed to have said Ut puto, deus fio (‘I think I am becoming a god’). By switching one letter, Capone is being made to say ‘I think I am becoming the accused’. Two competitors sent in the BBC Announcer’s ‘Good night, everybody – goodnight!’

But here’s the winner: Marie Stopes – ‘Let joy be unconfined’.

Majolica is second with Mr. Pelman: ‘All I ask of you is remembrance’.

I suspect this second one needs a bit of annotation for some. In 1903, Charles Ennever promoted a system of memory training called ‘Pelmanism’ (a term still in use in the 1950s, as my aunt taught me it). Some suspicions existed that there was never any such person as a Mr. Pelman, although Ennever’s organisation operated from the Pelman Institute. There is a good article on it here, and I’ll leave you to see what you think.


Ut puto, reus fio

Competitions nos 55A and 55B: results

Humbert Wolfe admits dropping himself in it with the first of these (the judges have been indulging a great deal of mea culpa of late). Having asked for a rhymed poem of not more than 20 lines, beginning ”You too at midnight suddenly awaking’, he has unleashed upon himself ‘ecstasies of sentimentality … if all the broken hearts among Week-end Review competitors were placed in a row, the last Trumpet would be instantly blown’. One competitor, Isabel Radcliffe, is told she nearly won but was ‘a little too Talbot Baines Reed’ (Reed was a Boys’ Own Paper writer, whose output included The Fifth Form At St. Dominic’s). Another competitor writes ‘with vigour’ of ‘Mary Stuart to Darnley’ (sic), but is not chosen. He is T.E.Casson.

The winners are Issachar and S.:

WR Comp 55

With all due respect to 1930s competitors, contemporary equivalents could have done 55B in their sleep. A short story of 300 – yes, 300! and the point is that that’s a lot! – words is asked for, which has to include the words solipsism, ludo, sundials, morticians, and ectoplasm. That’s five words. A modern version would ask for ten specified words in a total of 150 , or else within 16 lines. The winners are G.M.Gloag and H.C.M., the latter having had the ‘notion of working it in by crosswords’. Competitors looking back will recognise this as verging on cheating …

WR Comp 55a

WR Comp 55b

It is with a mixture of regret and a certain sense of inevitability that I report that one competitor alleged to have written a ‘neat’ story but of having made it ‘too easy’ by choosing a conversation with a philosophy tutor, is T.E.Casson.