Competitions nos. 93A and 93B: results

Vita Sackville-West opens 1932 with an odd little competition to provide a twelve-word telegram with the greatest number of letters. She admits to not thinking about the Welsh station (pictured here in 1962)

Llanfair

and three competitors duly pile in with variants of its spelling, including ‘Buskin‘, a new winner (very odd this, as my grandfather’s middle name – and that of his father and grandfather – was Buskin. He disliked it so much he refused to go to a post office to get a dog licence, as it would mean declaring it).

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Second prize also goes to a new name, John C. Dickinson:

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The B competition gives entrants up to 30 lines to compose the worst ode to 1932 (example given: ‘Along the wires the electric message came/ ‘He is no better, he is much the same”.

These lines are much cited as the worst lines ever written by a poet laureate, although, to be fair, Alfred Austin (poet laureate from 1896 to 1913. and writer of some fairly dreadful verse) actually wrote the lines in 1871, a quarter of a century before he was laureate, when the Prince of Wales was ill, and the lines (often misquoted) were ‘Flash’d from his bed, the electric tidings came,/ He is not better; he is much the same.’

Alfred Austin

The incomparable Alfred Austin

However, the entries, Sackville-West thinks, fall into the trap of writing bad odes, rather than parodies of unconsciously bad odes (a fine distinction, but a good one). She gives first prize to M.V., a third new name, but the runner-up’s half-guinea to W. Hodgson Burnet, who (in my view) has been a bit unlucky.

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