Competitions nos. 111A and 111B: results

Sylvia Lynd sets this one, and, in variant forms, it persists to this day. A has been lent a house in the country by B. A’s letter of thanks is asked for, in which there is an apology for something (fairly slight) done. (It also to contain some idea of the house.)

It is interesting to think of the country house as a feasible option for Week-end Review readers. Of all the competitions so far, this is the one that gives us the best insight into the class and character of the entrants, and perhaps a majority of the readers. But first, a digression. I once stayed in a house (immaculate) in Devon, for which only a contribution to the energy bills was required. After an hour my then partner had a shower, and knocked something off a shelf, which duly smashed. Most of the rooms in the house had precious objects in them, but this one smashed so totally that the only evidence as to what it had been was a sign that it had been purchased in Mexico. The next week was clouded completely, and the remuneration at the end was substantially more than necessary, the guilt having weighed so heavily. Some years later I confessed the crime to the owner, only to discover that it was trinket costing zilch, a thank-you gift from a student. We had spent a week in a de Maupassant story, it seemed to me.

Lynd lists the sinking of a launch, the ruin of a cricket pitch, china being broken – and the departure of servants – as just some of the apparently based-on-real-life disasters.

She writes a colossally long judge’s report, splits the first prize  between D.L.Halliday and Majolica and awards a third. The third (W.Hodgson Burnet) has to be held over for reasons of space (Lynd seems quite unaware that she is the one who has caused this problem). Although published in the next issue, I’ve placed it here.

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For the B competitors, a short poem beginning ‘And this is your peculiar art, I know’ (a Coleridge line) had to be written to the creators of Big Films to persuade patrons not to sit and watch the film a second time (still possible in the 1960s, but not after that, I think). The winner is Dermot Spence, but Lynd splits the runner-up prize between two – so the smallest sums so far won (5s 3d) are thereby dished out. One of the two is N.B., but the other, I am sure, is L(eonard) Marsland Gander – the ‘G’ is a printing error – who was, four years later, in 1936, to become The Daily Telegraph‘s very first television critic. He was still working as a radio and TV journalist in the 1970s (he was a Desert Island Disc castaway in 1969). Here’s a photo of him as a war correspondent in 1945:

Gander

And here are the winning entries:

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Competitions nos. 110A and 110B: results

April 23 1932 – a week after this competition was set, and a week before the winners were announced – saw the opening of a new Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford (the one replaced in 2010 – the Memorial Theatre itself was built on the site of the 1879 Memorial Theatre that was burned down in 1926). A couple of years ago, documents emerged suggesting that this was where Parliament was set to go in World War Two, if bombing made it necessary:

Shakespeare-Memorial-Theatre-1932-

Dyneley Hussey asks for a sonnet on the occasion. This solicits a large postbag, some of it simply sonnets in favourof Shakespeare, but a good deal of it attacking the architecture (W. Hodgson Burnet wittily calls it ‘a factory for curing Bacon’). Hussey refers to a lot of bad verse being written about bad architecture, and opts instead for two very romantic, and pretty mediocre sonnets, the winner by Valimus and the runner-up a new name, Eremita. You would have thought that there was scope for a little satire, but perhaps that these two win tells us something about the traditional sensibilities of not only the judges but the readers.

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The B competition (remember, Hussey is the music critic) floored me somewhat. ‘Had modern journalism existed in 1791, Herr Schickaneder, the Reinhardt-Cochran of his time, would surely have givem interviews in anticipation of his production of ‘Die Zauberflote’.

Cochran is Charles B. Cochran, the promoter, who had worked with Max Reinhardt, the composer, to produce spectacular (and well-advertised concerts). Die Zauberflote is better known as The Magic Flute, and you can watch the opera here. But of course, what’s being asked for is a parody of modern journalism. The winner is W.A. Rathkey, but the runner-up is a new name, Desmond Shawe-Taylor (1907-1995), who was, in 1945, to be the New Statesman‘s music critic for thirteen years, before moving to The Sunday Times. One wonders if he was known to Hussey – but probably not. At the time, he was in his twenties (having said which he later became close friends with the son of one the WR judges – Eddy Sackville-West).

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In the meanwhile, Barry has been receiving replies relating to Guy Hadley’s suggestion of a competitors’ dinner. T. Usborne (in the sixties to be the driving force in the Ministry of Transport committee that regularised road signs) writes in on April 23, offering to wait on the bigger names; Barry appends an editor’s note that he is just waiting for a few more veterans, and has had a large response. On April 30, Non Omnia chips in:

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A week later, dates are being canvassed:

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And a week later, the date is fixed, with the typical English contradiction: it’s an evening meal for which morning dress is required.

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Gatti’s was an Italian restaurant founded by a Swiss-Italian family. This particular restaurant closed in 1939, but you can still find a Gatti’s in London today.

Competitions nos. 109A and 109B: results

A new judge, Alfred Wareing (a theatre producer of twenty-five years’ standing), asks for an account of what happened when Dr. Johnson negotiated the publication of Oliver Goldsmith’s The Vicar of Wakefield with a publisher. Did he drive a hard bargain? (Goldsmith wrote the novel in 1762-3, but seems to have been unable to do anything with it, so summoned his friend to help. Johnson sold it for £60 to a publisher (‘bookseller’ would be the right term then) called Newbery, and after it had finally been printed in 1766, it went on to be one of the most popular novels of that century. There is a famous painting of Johnson reading the novel (with Goldsmith’s creditors waiting on the result, which you can see here). Johnson had already advanced Goldsmith money that morning, and Goldsmith had already spent it on Madeira.

Goldsmith

Oliver Goldsmith

It seems a curious kind of a competition to me, but there we are. The entrants are pulled up for failing to refer to Newbery, and also for suggesting that Johnson lacked integrity. T.E. Casson and Seacape are in the frame but the winners are Non Omnia and Muriel M. Malvern. The former wisely chooses Boswell.

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The B competition asked – and this has been done much more recently – for new examples of rhyming slang. Four entrants suggested a George Bernard for a jaw (I like that – he punched him in the George Bernard), and, among the other selected suggestions were these, some of which seem deeply unfunny (and this is the pick of the bunch!):

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The winners are L.V.Upward and George van Raalte (so all four winners this week are regulars).

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