Naomi Royde-Smith (her own rules as ever, with three guineas for A, and two guineas for B) first sets ‘A Song in June’ (max 21 lines, and a host of competitors stroll into the trap of rhyming ‘June’ and ‘bloom’, ‘birds’ and ‘words’; and also the trap of whingeing about rain. W. Hodgson Burnet is commended as having been amusing, but ruled out because of the plethora of serious poems (that doesn’t sound a very good reason). One by one the top twenty entrants are winnowed. Seacape: Swinburnian echo, does not fulfil promise; Anthony Cowdray: great start to sonnet, but stops at line 12 and forgets to mention June. Hilda Newman (a winner on the previous occasion Royde-Smith was in charge, and perhaps the Hilda Newman here), Yeonhala, Cherryblossom, Miss M.M. Scott and Margaret Monroe are commended for various forms of prettiness and delicacy. Now we get to the final three, ‘as remarkable as any that have ever been sent in for an open competition’, which can’t quite be true, as the first (‘Loo’) is admonished for a dreadful line, before two victors share the spoils: Valimus (one guinea) and Marion Peacock (two guineas):
Marion Peacock is good at this kind of poem – not stolidly Georgian, but quite fluent, even Imagist.
The B competition was for ‘an essay on hairpins’. Yes, an essay on hairpins. The winner is ‘F.J.B.‘ but Naomi Royde-Smith, perhaps unthinkingly, reveals her to be Freda Jane Bromhead – who was born the second daughter of a London art-dealer in 1903, and who lived, unmarried, in London for most of her life, dying in Bristol in 1993. There is a selection of her unpublished novels in a King’s College London archive, and there are traces here and there that she had poems published: but she did have one novel published in 1962, called The Flower On The Path.