Competitions nos. 105A and 105B: results

A new judge, Edward Shanks, sets a Wellsian competition – entrants are to imagine a World State, one hundred and fifty years in the future, looking back after its first fifty years at the earlier years. Shanks had in fact written a post-apocalyptic novel in 1920, so Wells would have interested him. He’s imagined a scholarly piece that covers history from the French Revolution to the foundation of the World State (so that’s 1789-2032), but specifically wants comments on Wells’s influence. The phrasing of the instruction does your head in a little,

As it did the entrants then: Shanks admits that he wanted one or both of a) irony and b) a serious assessment of Wells. ‘I have been disappointed,’ he says’ in both directions.’ He’s been handed a lot of doom and gloom – that things will get worse before they get better. He also gets rather tetchy over some of the opinions of Wells (‘a clerk turned revolutionary’; ‘a friend of international bankers’).

His choice of winners is odd. He tells us (no surprise!) that there is money going begging from the B competition, so there is half-a-guinea to add, and he awards this third prize to an entrant called E. Miller, whom he judges to be young and who deserves to be encouraged. But he suggests not printing Miller’s piece! That seems a text-book way of discouraging a young writer.

The winners are the old lag, Non Omnia, and, wait for it, wait for it, T.E. Casson, who has thus secured his second half-guinea, and is commended for having had fun with the piece. (Oddly enough, both Shanks and Casson had had a poem set to music by Ivor Gurney.)





The B competition asks for a ‘Sicilian octave’ (eight lines, rhyming alternately) on a living actor or actress. Oh dear. Entrants send in two quatrains, and alter the rhyme-scheme. This whittles the field down to one winner, J.H., who has picked the most popular subject, Charlie Chaplin (the second most popular was Edith Evans).


For what it’s worth, I don’t think that’s a Sicilian octave, as it ought to rhyme abababab.  So I think even Shanks is in a state of confusion. Still …Chaplin Sunset

Competitions nos. 104A and 104B: results

George Blake returns, with a demand for a song (or fragment of it) against Sussex. Perhaps the best known is by William Ward-Higgs (1909), the first verse of which runs

Now is the time for marching,
Now let your hearts be gay,
Hark to the merry bugles
Sounding along our way.
So let your voices ring, my boys,
And take the time from me,
And I’ll sing you a song as we march along,
Of Sussex by the Sea!

(You can hear the tune and see all the lyrics here). Here’s Ward-Higgs:


As the site mentioned above notes, Rudyard Kipling had also contributed a long poem in 1902 to the genre, and you can read that here.

Rudyard Kipling

And then there is Hilaire Belloc, who was born in Sussex (Kipling was born in Bombay but moved to Sussex in 1897, and loved it instantly). You can read Belloc’s encomium here.


Hilaire Belloc

But, as has happened during my days of entry ( I can think of a good example from 1980), and has happened in any case before in the WR, the entrants don’t come up with a rousing song, but a poem approximating the same. Can it be, muses Blake, that there are no Sussex-haters out there. He commends the brutality of Dermot Spence (‘There are fifty other counties that I would rather see/ And Sussex-under-Ocean is quite all right by me’), even if he pauses to note that there aren’t fifty other counties. But no sustained ‘blast of scorn’ (not even from those entrants who live in the North).  After briefly exculpating Seacape, Non Omnia and E.W. Fordham amongst a select few, he gives the first prize to Little Billee, and the second to William Bliss (who mentions Belloc):



When it comes to 104B, Blake follows (as he notes) in the footsteps of other judges who have noted the predilection of entrants for poems. He has asked for six sayings of the week from a) Mr. Justice McCardie, b) Robert Lynd, c) the president of the Royal Academy [at that date, Sir (Samuel Henry) William Llewellyn, a portrait and landscape painter whose work you can see here, d) Judge Cluer, e) Hugh Walpole, and f) Bishop Welldon.

Okay, here goes. Sir Henry Alfred McCardie was a controversial and outspoken judge (especially on the subject of divorce, and, notoriously, on the side of Dyer at Amritsar) and thought the law should move with the times. He was a surprising advocate of the legalisation of abortion, and he frequently quarrelled in public with other judges. You can read more here. Ironically, McCardie was on the verge of a depression that was to lead within a year to his suicide (after which he was disclosed to have been a heavy gambler, and probably the victim of blackmail).

Justice McCardie

Justice McCardie

Robert Lynd is of course a WR/ New Statesman insider and his page is here. Sir William Llewellyn (1858-1941) (see his NPG photograph here) seems to have been a blameless individual, but he did provoke extreme irritation in The Spectator in 1935 when he said that the selection of paintings should ‘provide for people of unsophisticated taste’ and not simply on the grounds of greatness per se.  Judge Albert Rowland Cluer (1852-1941), the twelfth of fifteen children, was in charge of the Shoreditch court, and known for his waspish retorts, which included telling a woman that it was a pity she didn’t know how not to have children, In 1931, when a woman complained to him about another woman allowing her child to cry, he offered the opinion that it was good to let babies cry, as it tauught them to sing. Like many eccentric legal men, he had two sides. He is said to have learned Hebrew to help his Jewish clients. He was also a specialist in the works of Livy, much respected as a translator (and Frank Harris claims in his ‘autobiography’ that Cluer suggested, after meeting him on a train, that he get work with The Spectator, and that he duly did, by bribing a clerk!) Hugh Walpole (1884-1941, the third in a row to die in 1941!) was a prolific novelist with a high reputation that vanished in the second half of the century, or even before his death. His most popular novels were the historical Rogue Herries novels, set in Cumbria, that he was writing at the time of this competition – the third of four was published in 1932; but the success of Somerset Maugham’s Cakes And Ale (1930), which based its least likeable character on Walpole, was one nail in a coffin (Maugham denied it, but Walpole was mortified, and Maugham later admitted he’d lied), to which his Times obituary in 1941 added several more, calling him ‘a sentimental egotist’. He was certainly sentimental: he wrote the screenplay for Little Lord Fauntleroy – which starred the effable Freddie Bartholomew, as well as the young Mickey Rooney. It was available at the time of writing here. It seems possible that Walpole was attacked not only because he was popular, but because he was also a romantic gay.

Hugh Walpole

Hugh Walpole

Finally, Bishop Welldon – James Edward Cowell Welldon (1854-1837), who had been Bishop of Calcutta, but was in 1932 the Dean at Durham. He too was known for speaking out. He wrote to the Times, accusing Labour MPs of ‘vulgar profanity’ and asking if there was an ‘adequate means of preventing or punishing it’, and this drew a riposte in poetic form from, of all people, E.M.Forster:

MY brethren, nothing on earth is finer
Than a truly refined inarticulate miner
(Or may we say ` under the earth,’ for there
Is a miner’s place, not up in the air ?) ;
But he must be refined, he must be meek,
Expert at his job, yet unable to speak,
He must not complain or use swear words or spit ;
Much is expected of men in the pit.

It is different for me. I have earned the right,
Through position and birth to be impolite.
I have always been used to the best of things,
I was nourished at Eton and crowned at King’s,
I pushed to the front in religion and play,
I shoved all competitors out of the way ;
I ruled at Harrow, I went to Calcutta,
I buttered my bread and jammed my butter,
And returned as a bishop, enormous of port,
Who stood in a pulpit and said what he thought.
Yes, I said what I thought and thought what I said,
They hadn’t got butter, they hadn’t got bread,
They hadn’t got jam or tobacco or tea,
They hadn’t a friend, but they always had me.
And I’m different to them. I needn’t be meek,
Because I have learned the proper technique;
Because I’m a scholar, a don, and a dean,
It’s all in good taste when I’m vulgar or mean.

I can bully or patronize, just which I please ;
I am different to them. . . . But those Labour M.P.’s,
How dare they be rude ? They ought to have waited
Until they were properly educated.
They must be punished, they’ve got to be stopped,
Parliamentary privilege ought to be dropped.
They shall be scourged and buried alive
If they trespass on My prerogative.

May I most clearly state, ere I lay down my pen,
That rudeness is only for gentlemen ?
As it was in the beginning, it shall be … Amen !

Welldon was also the bane of Roman Catholics, and made a notorious speech in 1911, which he followed up with various replies to complaints in The Tablet, to the effect that it was Catholic doctrine that to be Protestant was to be damned.


Bishop Welldon, Dean of Durham

In other words, Blake has provided the entrants with six individuals, Llewellyn perhaps excepted, who ought to be good for a monumental quotation. But (and after all this!), Blake decides that ‘there is not one good entry among the lot’, barring one or two individual attributions. He witholds the guinea prize, and (not without suggesting he has Lynd wrong) awards the second prize of half a guinea, and no more, to James Hall. (It’s the right decision – only the Walpole is remotely admirable.)


Competitions nos. 103A and 103B: results

A new judge, Philip Jordan (later better known as a war correspondent) sets a competition for American style tabloid headlines (he wonders what will happen ‘if tabloid newspapers ever reach this country’ and suggests that there is headline-making talent aplenty, although the commended and winning entries seem quite long-winded to a modern eye). The competitors had to come up with headlines for any two of the following historical events: the landing of the Ark on Ararat; Drake’s game of bowls; the death of the Earl of Chatham [Pitt the elder]; Queen Victoria being ‘not amused’; the execution of Katherine Howard. Let’s leave aside the fact that the first two didn’t happen, and the fourth is thought to be an invention. Pitt the elder’s death is variously reported as containing different anti-American epithets.

The flood is the most popular subject, and Jordan likes what he sees:  YID ZOO HITS HIGH SPOT (Lester Ralph) and ARARATTA BOY! (W.G.Fraser) But he also commends the very long SHOWBOAT CHEATS PROHIBITION FAN (Seacape). Drake (not so successful says Jordan) includes BIG SHOTS QUIZ HIJACKER FOR SLANT ON ARMADA RACKET (C.G.M.) and – ‘more of a tabloid length’, which shows you how times have changed, DRAKE RAZZES DAGO FLEET AT PLYMOUTH WHOOPEE PARTY: “SIT IN THE GAME, THEM SAPS CAN WAIT”, SEZ FRANKY (M. Pigott). Almost nobody tries Pitt (perhaps, like me, they couldn’t recall his last words).  Queen Victoria becomes VICKY and ENGLAND’S HEAD GIRL and he commends David Waycher’s QUEEN VIC RASPBERRIES COURT SAP (better, says Jordan, if he’d left out QUEEN or VIC). Howard’s death gives us ROYAL BLUEBEARD EUCHRES NAP-HAND GIRL FRIEND (Ophelia).

But the winners are Jocelyn C. Lea and Rowley Mile (a pseudonym: it’s a course at Newmarket):


The next task is to write a joint obituary notice in the style of Hannen Swaffer and James Douglas, after (oh the perpetual fantasy of the WR journalists) Rothermere and Beaverbrook have been killed in a car accident. One of the winners professes not to know much about Swaffer (although Swaffer has already featured in 34B and 39A as the butt of jokes – he was the Daily Express gossip columnist); James Douglas had been the Sunday Express’s editor until a year before this. The winner is ‘Anonymous’ (who is asked to supply an address, which wouldn’t be enough, I suspect). Jordan speculates that it may be Douglas himself, the style being ‘exactly as though one had read it all before while sitting in a hot bath sipping warm creme-de-menthe out of a teacup’, a long epithet I very much admire. Douglas can be seen here, head in hand, so probably thinking about the censorship of The Well of Loneliness, one of his obsessions. Here is Swaffer:


And here is Anonymous (some of the text is corrupted so I’ll complete the entry):


templating it. Caught in the fine steel meshes of a materialism they sought to avoid, their death is a tragedy that cannot be paralleled even in literature: a tragedy that ascends to the highest heights and descends to the deepest depths. The malevolence of circumstance bewilders one. Faith reels beneath such a blow. Yet one’s reason absolves God from guilt. Materialistic machinery is the malignant machination of morbid man, not the work of his Creator. These men, prophets, imperialists were martyrs at the stake of American unspirituality and speech. Fate mocks …


The runner up is H.A. L. Cockerell:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACockerell – Hugh Anthony Lewis Cockerell – was the most prolific and populist expert on insurance in the twentieth century, incidentally. All the guide books, from the professional manuals to Teach Yourself Insurance (1958) were his work. He was born in 1909, and married in 1939. He was the son of a managing director of a bedstead-making firm, was born in Fulham, and died in Brent in 1997. With his wife Fanny, he was a leading light in anti-censorship campaigns. Their son Michael is the BBC political documetary-maker.

Competitions nos. 102A and 102B: results

Martin Armstrong returns with a poem by Pietro Mastri for translation into strict sonnet form (type not specified) or using the original:


Mastri, who was born in 1868, had died on 20 February 1932 – that is, just as Armstrong was due to set a competition. His real name was Pirro Masetti – i.e. his poetic name was an anagram. I can’t find any record of his having been translated into English.


The winners are A.W., and Barbara Barclay Carter. It’s not surprising that the latter was in the running, even if Armstrong berates the entry as tame, since she had learned Italian in the last year of university, and she was the translator of  the writings of a prominent Italian anti-Fascist exile, Luigi Sturzo, the leader of the Italian Popular Party, with whom she shared a house. Born in 1900 (she died in 1951), she was half Anglo-Irish and half American, but grew up in England.  She converted to Catholicism in 1921. She also wrote a novel woven around the figure of Dante, which was published in 1929. Her later work included scholarly studies of Italian writers, and all her work has Italy as its focus. She wrote for the Manchester Guardian, and had been the only English journalist at the Savona trial in 1927 – which was a political trial against Italian democratic socialists (there is reference here in a short biography of Pertini).


Barbara Barclay Carter

Here are the winners:


The rather essay-like instruction for 102B runs “‘A bird in the bush is worth two in the hand’ shows a much noble and more adventurous attitude to life than ‘A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’. You have to write an epigram ’embodying this statement’. Hmm. Not much fun. The adjudication offers advice on the epigram, and goes on to add that the competition clearly asked for direct reference to the proverb (which it didn’t). The winners are W. Snow and Alice Herbert:


However, that’s not all in this issue. Ciel, a reasonably regular winner and entrant (one prize already in 1932) has died, and below the competition, an epitaph is printed by a fellow-competitor, with a note: here it is –


Competitions nos. 101A and 101B: results

It’s February 27 1932, and the competition starts on its second hundred. Ironically, in that very issue, former New Statesman editor Clifford Sharp’s article ‘The Press And Contempt Of Court’ is published, the one that is to lead to a libel case that will bring the Week-end Review down within two years, and move it into the New Statesman fold, competition, ‘This England’ and all.


However, back to the competitions. Ernest Betts asks first for ‘a Song Before Breakfast by an Advertising Man’ (30 lines limit, any form). Commending the usual crew (Casson, Upward, Little Billee inter alia), he nevertheless notes that no-one produced a roaring song. But by putting ‘any form’, he has rather lost the power to discipline the competitors. He splits the total prize money of two and a half guineas between John Carter and Pibwob, each of whom have provided odes (which he can’t imagine advertising men breaking into, especially before breakfast). So, £1.6s.3d each to both winners:


potted meat


If you’re puzzling over the punchline, Lord Verulam was the title given to Francis Bacon …

101B asks for an imitation of Proust, no less (300 words max) – from the point of view of a gentleman of leisure on taking his first sip of sherry before dinner. (It is worth noting that much of Proust’s sequence of novels A la recherche du temps perdu was published posthumously after his death in 1931. The last part was not published until 1927, and the final section was only published in an English translation in 1931.) Freda Bromhead takes the guinea (it’s really good) and the remaining half-guinea goes to the almost equally worthy Seton. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Competitions no. 100A and 100B: results

A hundred up … It’s J.C.Squire who takes the judge’s chair for these two milestone competitions. He wants a parody of Walter de la Mare’s The Listeners with particular reference to the Phone Service. There is a large entry, and it’s interesting to see, amongst the near-winners, the name of A.M. Harbord – Arthur Macdonald Harbord – who is very well-known for a single poem about a man at a station watching another one depart for the Highlands. This poem is much used in Scotland, and you can buy illustrated and decorated versions of it. Harbord, who was born in 1897, and who was the son of an Anglican vicar in Sussex, also produced light verse under the name Riff (the illustrator went under the name Raff).  Here’s his well-known poem:

Stranger with the pile of luggage proudly labelled for Portree,

How I wish this night of August I were you and you were me!

Think of all that lies before you when the train goes sliding forth

And the lines athwart the sunset lead you swiftly to the North!

Think of breakfast at Kingussie, think of high Drumochter Pass.

Think of highland breezes singing through the bracken and the grass.

Scabious blue and yellow daisy, tender fern beside the train,

Rowdy Tummel falling, brawling, seen and lost and glimpsed again!

You will pass my golden roadway of the days of long ago:

Will you realise the magic of the names I used to know;

Clachnaharry, Achnashellash, Achnasheen and Duirinish?

Ev’ry moor alive with coveys, every pool aboil with fish;

Every well remembered vista more exciting by the mile

Till the wheeling gulls are screaming round the engine at the Kyle

Think of cloud on Bheinn na Cailleach, jagged Cuillins soaring high

Scent of peat and all the glamour of the misty Isle of Skye!

Rods and gun case in the carriage, wise retriever in the van;

Go, and good luck travel with you!

(Wish I’d half your luck, my man!)


‘The Listeners’, published in 1912, or at any rate the title poem of a collection published in 1912, is just the kind of poem Squire would have admired (and Walter de la Mare had contributed to the WR). His entrants have fun with it. T.E. Casson almost wins … so do Marion Peacock and Guy Hadley, W. Hodgson Burnet and (obviously) Seacape. But the prize goes to a new (nick-)name, Peejay, and the runner-up is Chauve-Souris. Peejay is preferred because he or she shows a better knowledge of the phone system! (Interesting that, as in a previous competition, phone operators come in for some stick.) Incidentally, Button A and Button B had only been around since 1925:


Here are the winners:


The B competition is typical Squire. He wants a list of ten men or women in European history who have made the most permanent mischief. ‘The setter’s prejudices,’ he adds, ‘must be taken as final.’ Rousseau turned out to be top pest, but the list, to Squire’s incredulity, included Bessemer, Torquemada (both of them), Sir John Simon, Gauguin, Aristotle, and the first ten Popes. The winner is another new sobriquet, Sennacherib, but the runner-up is none other than Eileen Power (1889-1940) , whose life is well described in a review of a 1996 autobiography here, and by an obituary to be found on JSTOR (you can read the first page, but you’ll need access to read the rest) here. Power was at this time the Professor of Economic History at the London School of Economics, although she is probably best known for her books on the medieval world, some for children (co-written with her sister Rhoda, a children’s writer). She was married (after an engagement to Reginald Johnston, the man who tutored ‘The Last Emperor’, Pu Yi) to Michael Postan in 1937, just three years before her death at 51.


Eileen Power



Here are the winning entries (the first item on the first list is at the bottom of a page so I’ll type it in)

                          FIRST PRIZE

                          Paul, otherwise Saul of Tarsus, for turning a religion into a church.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Competition no. 99: results

Gerald Bullett opts for a single competition this week, with prizes of two guineas, one guinea, and two half-guinea consolation prizes. That’s because the poems he has in mind are so long, I expect, despite his suggestion that he will reward brevity. . This is a fable competition. The instructions are so exhaustive that I’m not going to try to summarise them:


William Bliss and T.E. Casson get close, but the winners are Hilary, Seacape, Ciel and Pibwob, so this is an old hands’ competition. It is already Seacape’s fourth win of the year, and it’s still mid-February.


Competitions nos 98A and 98B: results

For this, the one hundredth edition of The Week-end Review, a new judge, Eric Gillett, a literary and film critic, mainly at The Daily Telegraph, and who had also just edited a collection of contemporary poetry, sets a ballade on the circus, with reference to performing animals. Circuses were popular – there was a Clark Gable film in 1932 called Polly at the Circus, and the front cover of Time magazine in April 1932 depicted a circus:

Time cover 1932Gillett has a slight moan about ‘surprising lapses in scansion’, and (as always happens with ballade competitions) several entrants have sent in ballads. The winner, who is admiited despite his ballade being more about the animals than the circus, is E.W.Fordham, and, keeping up the pressure, the half-guinea goes to Seacape.




The B competition is pretty demanding, asking for a 300 word essay on ‘The Cruelty Of Inanimate Objects’. One of the many proxime accessits in the B competition is John Barnicot, one of Barbara Pym’s Oxford friends, whom she fictionalised in her first novel Some Tame Gazelle (1933); others are regulars like Marion Peacock. Gillett notes that he could compile ‘a ghastly gallery’ of objects from the entries, ranging from The Albert Memorial to pea soup, The prizes go to W. Snow, and to a new name, R. P. Gunningham.


Although Barry and his team do not of course know it, the one hundredth issue marks the halfway mark in The Week-end Review’s existence. When we get to competition 200, we’ll find it set in one magazine, and won in another …

Competitions nos. 97A and 97B: results

Dyneley Hussey takes us forward from 1932 to 3932, and an arcaheological dig on the site of Piccadilly Circus, which discovers  the head and torso of a winged figure, and also a sign with some letters missing which reads UN*ER***UN*.  An interpretation of these finds from a 3932 archeological journal is asked for. One of the ‘savants of the future’ who comes near to winning, is John Benyon, which I suspect may well be a misprint for John Beynon, since the same misprint occurs elsewhere. If I’m right, this near-winner is John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Beynon Harris (1906-1969), who published three sci-fi novels as John Beynon in 1935, and who was already selling stories to American magazines. One of them, Planet Plane, was retitled Stowaway to Mars :

Stowaway to Mars

After a few different attempts under perms and combs of his name, he emerged as John Wyndham in 1951, with The Day of the Triffids. His suggestion in this competition was that it was the remains of a freakshow, which seems quite in keeping with his ideas.


John Wyndham

The winner, on good form, is the victor ludorum, Seacape. The second prize goes to Dorothy Halliday, who may be Dorothy Eveline Millard Halliday, the mother of best-selling novelist, Dorothy Dunnett. (Apologies for the heap of speculation this post.) And (‘despite his pseudonym’) a third prize is given to Strawberrynose. As it happens, there is a slip-up in the editing department, and Strawberrynose is unmasked as J.E.S. Cooper – hence the rather confusing double attribution.




A third prize in an A competition always means something has gone wrong with B. And it has. Hussey has asked for a contents list of an anthology of unwritten poems mentioned in English Literature, e.g. a ballad on his mistress’s eyebrow (in Jaques’s speech on the seven ages of man). There are only three entrants, two disqualify themselves, leaving a half-guinea ‘second prize’ to ‘Aries‘, who has done a lot of spadework:


Competitions nos. 96A and 96B: results

Elizabeth Bibesco asks for three mistranslations of famous French sayings, giving as an example ‘J’y suis; j’y reste’ = ‘I am Swiss; I do not work’. Interestingly, she makes a point of saying that the examples must be original, the first time a judge has suggested that sending in well-known mistakes is off-limits. Hard to see how she could check!

Some competitors (Seacape included) blundered either by misquoting, or giving non-famous phrases, or (the shame) being ungrammatical. There is a large cast of also-rans, from Belleverte (toujours la politesse = two juries and a policewoman) to Guy Hadley (Le coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne connait pas = The dog has reasoning powers of which we know nothing). The winner is a new pseudonym, Tonk, and the runner-up is W. Sterne:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

96B is an epigram competition. Undeniably popular, but they seem to me to have dated badly, Bibesco wanted one on a brilliant reviewer whose first novel has been justly panned. Her own panning of the entries is brisk, and by the look of it, fair: only Michael Holland gets a prize