Competitions 31A and 31B: the results

A new judge, and the first woman judge so far – not to mention the individual whose name will be most recognisable eighty years later – is Vita Sackville-West. She asks competitors to imagine Dr. Johnson returning to contemporary Britain for an aeroplane flight to Paris with Boswell, or Bozzy, as she calls him, and with the chance to include Mrs.Thrale. She is quite sniffy about the entries, but awards prizes to W.G. and K. Heanley– who won Competition no. 1B, but has not been glimpsed since.

DrJohnson

Here is W.G’s effort, followed by Heanley’s

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The choice of subject for 31B is quite surprising: 12-20 lines in the style of Pope, satirising Bloomsbury, of which Sackville-West must have been one of the most obvious targets. She was closely associated with all of the principals, had only comparatively recently ceased her affair with Virginia Woolf, and was between the publication of her two most well-known novels – The Edwardians and All Passion Spent. In the event, VSW gamely notes that competitors fell into three classes – those who wrote about the place, those who wrote about ‘a certain so-called clique’, and those who tried to do both. She gives the guinea to Yury, and the half-guinea to J.H.A.S.

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It’s interesting to note that our modern perception of the Bloomsbury Group probably wouldn’t extend to T.S.Eliot, who is taking the fullest force of J.H.A.S.’s stick here. The reference to King’s College, Cambridge refers perhaps in particular to Desmond MacCarthy and E.M.Forster. Mr. R–d is the pro-Eliot critic, Herbert Read (not to be mistaken – and they were frequently confused – with Henry Reed). At about the same time as this competition was set, the poet Roy Campbell was preparing a vicious satire on the Bloomsbury Group called The Georgiad (1931), which starts

Now Spring, sweet laxative of Georgian trains,
Quickens the ink in literary veins,
The Stately Homes of England ope their doors
To piping nancy-boys and crashing Bores,
Where for week-ends the scavengers of letters
Convene to chew the fat about their betters….
Hither flock all the crowd whom love has wrecked
Of intellectuals without intellect
And sexless folk whose sexes intersect….
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