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.
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.