Competitions nos. 71A and 71B: results

Charles Riddell firstly sets a three-stanza song on the subject of ‘sherry’, the drink havingmade something of a comeback, after a period of being eclipsed by the cocktail. Entrants are upbraided (as they still are) for sending in poems that cannot be sung. Riddell had hoped for something ‘rollicking’ and crying out for a music-hall tune, but no such luck. Guy Innes, Gertrude Pitt and Seacape are among the commended, T.E.Casson is noted as having gone to the trouble of producing an effort about Sherry being the nickname of the playwright Sheridan. Casson spent so long in getting to his first prize, one despairs of his reaching the second. Riddell gives the first prize to William Bliss (while excoriating his use of ‘post-prandial’ as ‘obnoxious’); the second goes to D.B.




1930s sherry advertisement

The B competition originates with an idea proposed by Osbert Sitwell that there be a society recommending the worst book to be published each month. Riddell wants an extract from a prospectus setting out such a society’s name, aims, advantages, and five nominees for the selection committee (and why they are qualified to fill these positions). This had the air to me of a competition that was going to fall over its feet. And so it proved. Almost everyone proposed either Sitwell himself or (more often) the Dean of St. Paul’s (or, a bit predictably, five WR staff members). The Dean of St. Paul’s was Dean Inge (rhymes with twinge), colloquially known as the gloomy dean, because of his repeated pessimism (he was anxious about the intelligence, or lack of it, of the masses, and was an advocate of eugenics. Born in 1860, he lived to be 94).

Dean Inge

Dean W.R.Inge

In the event, only one prize is awarded, and it goes to Jocelyn C. Lea – last seen as ‘Mrs. G.P. Lea’, winning the very first competition.


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