Competitions nos. 120A and 120B: results, plus special competition

Norman Collins was in charge of this competition, set at the start of July, but the results held over for a week to allow for a special competition advertised over a month earlier, with a five guinea prize, and (somehow the sum of money involved makes this inevitable) to be judged by Naomi Royde-Smith. Strictly speaking, this special competition isn’t within the remit of this project, although a previous ‘special’ competition, judged by NR-S, was numbered. So I’ll deal with 120A and 120B first, and put the special competition afterwards in this post.

Right. If you thought 119A was complicated, wait till you try to get your head round 120A. You are asked for four replies from four people (names coming), each no longer than 50 words, to the following quandary (which I’m sure you’ll agree is ‘everyday’). You are in a low-flying aeroplane when you see your worst enemy (who is a bad driver) with his family, coming round a dangerous corner near your house in a fast sports car (are or were there slow ones?). Your little daughter, aged two (were or are two-year-old daughters ever large?), is about to cross the road, and from your vantage point, you can see that the car won’t stop in time. You were a bomber in the war, and you have a heavy bag of tools in your plane. Should you ‘bomb’ the car, and thus save your child’s life?

If you have absorbed the many problems involved there – worst enemy, family with him, dangerous corner, bad driver, two-year-old daughter, bombing cars with hammers and spanners etc – it now falls to me to tell you that you have to construct your four replies as if from four of the following six: Lord Cecil, General Seely, Dr. Maude Royden, A.A. Milne, Lord Baden-Powell or Miss Evelyn Laye. (Only two of these, Milne and Baden-Powell, are really familiar to us now, I think we’d agree. Interestingly, they are all referred to as ‘celebrities’.)

First of all we – and perhaps they – might have been stumped by the very phrase ‘Lord Cecil’, since the Lords Cecil were not thin on the ground. However, it is the opinionated who come in for ridicule, so it’s plain we’re talking about Lord Robert Cecil (a former Conservative minister with responsibility for the organisation of which he had been the main proponent – the League of Nations. He fell out with many in his own party over their lack of support for the League; he won the Nobel prize in 1937 for its creation; born in 1864, he lived until 1958).

General Jack Seely (created Lord Mottistone in 1933, and living from 1868 to 1947) was Secretary of State for War until forced to resign in 1914, after which he served as a soldier for all four years of The Great War, surviving to return to the Cabinet, from which he resigned again in 1921. He was later in favour of appeasement. Like Cecil, he was known for taking stands. His horse ‘Warrior’ is often cited as the inspiration for War Horse. There’s a good biography of him here.

Maude Royden was a suffragist who broke with Emmeline Pankhurst over support for World War I – she didn’t renounce pacifism until 1940. She was highly active in the church, the country’s first female Doctor of Divinity – in 1931 – and the person who first described – and it wasn’t a compliment – the Church of England as ‘the Conservative Party at prayer’. Born in Liverpool in 1876, she died in 1956.

Robert Cecil

Robert Cecil

Jack Seely with Winston Churchill

Jack Seely with Winston Churchill


Maude Royden

Maude Royden











A.A. – Alan Arthur – Milne was born in 1878 and died in 1956. Like Royden, his almost exact contemporary, he was by nature a pacifist, and was shortly to publish (1934) an explicit attack on war (Peace With Honour). Milne was principally a playwright, but he was also a Punch associate editor as E.H.Shepherd was a Punch illustrator. Their fortune was made in 1926 with Winnie-The-Pooh (drawn to resemble Shepherd’s son’s bear, by the way, not Milne’s) and its sequel, and then And Now We Are Six.

Robert Baden-Powell (1857-1941) had been a controversial army man (there is more than one way to interpret his successful defence of Mafeking), but is principally known as the Chief Scout, and the founder of the worldwide movement in the late Edwardian years – one could pick several dates for its ‘start’. The excised section of ‘Scouting For Boys’ (1908) here gives a flavour of his eccentricities, but also the clarity of his writing.

Finally, Evelyn Laye (1900-1996): she was a popular stage actress, who was in the process of becoming a film star, but she might well have been best known for the acrimonious divorce action in the late 1920s – her husband left her for Jessie Matthews, and she opposed the divorce, which made headlines.

Lord Robert Baden-Powell

Lord Robert Baden-Powell






Evelyn Laye in 1933

Evelyn Laye in 1933












Before the competition results were published, the WR received a letter from a reader – A.A. Milne!


After all that palaver of an introduction, we come to the gags. Don’t raise your hopes, and remember the scenario. A near-winner is one R. Hartman, who has Evelyn Laye chat to Norman Collins: OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

T.D. Tremlett, in later life the leading expert on heraldry in Britain, chips in unsuccessfully with ‘Pooh says he would drop two bags’. But the winner is Guy Hadley  and the runner-up is William Bliss:




The B competition refers to a calculation that had been recently made by the Rector of Bermondsey to the effect that, in twenty years, the mother of a family of six (does that include the father?) peels 87,600 potatoes, butters 175,200 slices of bread, darns 10,400 stockings. makes 29,200 beds, and kisses her offspring 45,000 times. Collins asked for an extra one or two verses to Home Sweet Home, but, very much as with 119B, the entry is so poor that only one prize is awarded (Collins suggests giving the money to charity …) The sole winner is Valimus.


Finally, there is the small matter of the special competition, which supersedes the regular competition for a week. Set by Naomi Royde-Smith, it asks for a piece entitled ‘Consolation Prizes’, with competitors writing to say which of books published between January 1 1932 and June 1 1932 most deserved a prize, excluding all those that had won a prize.

Royde-Smith notes that the popular vote goes (‘by 75%’)to Beatrice Curtis Brown’s ‘For The Delight of Nutorio’ – which turns out to be a misprint for ‘For The Delight of Antonio’, so not a good start for the subs. It is feasible, just, to find an image on the web:


Three books tie for second: Arabia Felix (Bertram Thomas), Hindoo Holiday (J.R.Ackerley) and Limits And Renewals (Rudyard Kipling). As Royde-Smith points out, the regulars like Seacape don’t perhaps have time like others to read – but in fact, the runner-up essay is written by a big-hitter, James Hall, and the winner of five guineas is D.C.R.Francombe, who is no slouch (and whose address is given to us as Pen-Dinas, Tuffley, Glos.) At a future stage I may be able to reproduce his whole essay, but for the moment I’ll leave this post with a list of the books he himself chose and the list Royde-Smith appends of others mentioned by the entrants. Read any of them?


Biographies of Chaucer, Clare, Harris and Bronte (C) I have never heard of, novels by H.E.Bates and Colette I don’t know … and something faintly reminiscent by Lawrence …

Competitions nos. 119A and 119B: results

Clennell Wilkinson asks for a love letter from Mr. Pecksniff (Martin Chuzzlewit) to Becky Sharp (Vanity Fair), and her reply. Just so there’s no confusion, as Vanity Fair is not a short novel, he specifies the Becky of Chapter 6. So here it is.

Becky Sharp

Mr. Pecksniff (image scanned by Philip V. Allingham at

Wilkinson is not a happy bunny. He doesn’t feel anyone has Pecksniff’s turns of speech and lack of humour; he doesn’t think anyone has captured the man; he thinks even fewer have caught Becky. Seacape gets the nod on Becky but the veto on Pecksniff, however. What Wilkinson thinks Seacape has right is that Becky would not turn Pecksniff down, but keep him dangling. He grudgingly chooses W.G., but regrets that his entry contains no reference by either to money.  W. Hodgson Burnet sees off William Bliss for the second prize. Lester Ralph, H.C.M. and the doing-rather-well-lately Eremita are comended. No-one else seems to have been in the frame at all.





The B competition is a reallycomplex one, given the potentially simple instruction (I can never quite get my ahead around the way Wilkinson’s mind works, which might be no surprise, given the very poor reputation he had had as a brief holder of the post of literary editor at New Statesman and Nation. He wants wounding but innocent remarks. If he’d left it there, things might have been fine, but he goes on to specify the victims, and they’re quite busy ones:

a) a retired cavalry officer with a rather dictatorial manner

b) a film star who professes not to remember having met you

c) a former schoolmaster whose existence you yourself had hoped to forget

d) a hostess who has just upset a cocktail over your only white waistcoat (we’ve all been there …)

AND (not OR) e) a publisher, who having turned down your manuscript, offers you one of his cigars

I half-wonder if Wilkinson has actually drawn on personal experience for some of these. They’re quite revealing about the world in which he, and, it must be presumed, other WR contributors move. He notes of the entries that they seem to suggest that WR readers are all too kind. In fact, he decides to offer no second prize, so there’s a half-guinea saved. He gives a nod to Guy Hadley, to L.V. Upward and to Leopold Spero, the last of whom was a poet and short story writer to be found contributing to a range of magazines between 1919 and 1945 (and presumably either side). The solitary prize goes to Alice Herbert.




Competitions nos. 118A and 118B: results

Ivor Brown asks for twenty lines in the manner of Chesterton , beginning ‘When Parliament met on Parliament Hill’. Too much beer, remarks Brown – not every Chesterton verse has the word ‘flagon’ in it. He commends Seacape,  a new figure called Q.Q.Q., Xenos, and – back where he belongs in the also-rans again, T.E. Casson. The winners are Valimus and Frank Milton.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The B competition is an epitaph on a Dead Certainty – Brown adds that, although Ascot week approaches, that isn’t the mandatory theme. Brown observes that almost everyone spotted that ‘cert’ rhymed with ‘shirt’, and from that followed in many cases the idea that a shirt was a shroud. Hence a lot of epitaphs involving winding-sheets. The runners-up include new man Q.Q.Q., but also T.E. Casson, Lester Ralph, William Bliss, Little Billee, Baldwin S. Harvey, Cuniculus, and D.S. Meldrum (his first appearance here. He was a Scots academic who was working at the time with William Roughead on the collected works of nineteenth century political novelist, John Galt). Another mentioned in dispatches is Sir Robert Witt, an eminent art historian (1872-1952). Witt is an interesting figure to find here. He had jointly founded the Courtauld Institute with the eponymous Sam Courtauld – the latter beiung the owner, of course, of the Week-end Review. At this point in the WR’s history, behind the scenes, Courtauld must have already been having the second thoughts that were to lead to the magazine’s closure.

Xenos and James Hall carry off the prizes.


Competitions nos. 117A and 117B – results and report of the competitors’ dinner

Anthony Bertram sets this competition, which is to be ‘a fairly-conducted’ dialogue between the spirits of the Library and the Cellar, tempters both (two hundred words). The B competition is a 20 line poem on the competitors’ Dinner (to be imagined, if the entrant was not present).

Bertram notes that M.C.Trench suggests having tea and turning on the wireless, and J.H.G.Gibbs suggests cheap ale and paper editions, neither solution acceptable to Bertram. Also not suitable is William Bliss’s submission of poetry and suggests Bertram give him the prize and say his verse is indistinguishable from prose. Bertram laconically demurs; he could not be so rude (and there may be another dinner – and this competition is very much in the context of that dinner, now past). He thinks the A competition is a bit below par, and gives the prizes to Eremita and Olric:


And now to the B competition, which is about the competitors’ dinner. This time I’m going to print Bertram’s whole report:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd now the prize entries of W.B. and the ineffable and inevitable Seacape:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe previous week, details had been published about the dinner. From my point of view (seeing that there doesn’t seem to have been a dinner since the 1950s, and only one gathering (1978) of several competitors, not long after I started), I am quite jealous. But I’m interested to see what I can deduce from the list given of all 83 people who were there.


Seventeen speeches!!

If we look through the list we’ll see that –

Pibwob is keeping his ID secure, but his wife (Mrs. Goldsmid) is named. There are some names here of people who have never won a competition (or come close) under these names, including Ivy Davison, L.H.Leslie-Smith, John Amberley, E. Nelson Exton, R.P. Cunningham, Rosina Graham, Graeme Hay, Hilda Knight, Hugh Mackintosh, Alison Outhwaite, Mrs. C.K. Philips, Dilston Radcliffe, and Myra Verney. Now it may be that they were working for the WR, or even readers (who weren’t banned, I don’t think), but I suspect that they are some of the names behind the pseudonyms.

L.H. Leslie-Smith may well be the founding member of the Theosophical Society mentioned here.

I’d like to thank Professor Felix Driver of Royal Holloway, University of London, for the information that Ivy Davison (1892-1977) had been an assistant editor at The Saturday Review, and had moved across with Barry’s team to the WR, specifically the back half of the magazine, including the competitions. She was probably the person who contacted and dealt with the judges, and, I would guess, supervised payments to judges and competitors. She went to work as a journalist on The Geographic Magazine with Michael Huxley, becoming the magazine’s assistant and eventually executive editor (during World War II). She maintained friendships with many of the WR writers – including Barry and L.P. Hartley. She retired to North Mundham near Chichester. She bequeathed her books and papers to the Sybil Campbell Library (now in Winchester) – she was distantly related to Campbell. She had served as a nurse in the First World War, and was said to be tall and to have enjoyed the company of dogs.

Everard Nelson Exton was the co-author of Modern Furniture (1936), a surprising inclusion in the list of the 1930s publishing house Boriswood (in 1935 they accepted that James Hanley’s Boy, which they published, was obscene, and withdrew it). But he is, it later transpires, the editor of Week-end Publications Ltd, presumably the spin-off company that dealt with the sale of associated pamphlets. I think this means he is the business manager. When the WR folds, his name is given in the announcement as contactable at the same address as usual, even though the WR has been absorbed into the NS.

Edward John Dilston Radclyffe (sic) was a friend of Conrad Aiken’s, and features in a story about Eliot telling Aiken he had a problem with completing The Waste Land. Aiken mentioned this to Radclyffe, who was being psycho-analysed by a lay psychologist called Homer Lane. Lane let Eliot know through Aiken and via Radclyffe (!) that Eliot had a God complex and just needed to stop being a perfectionist. In 1911 he is a schoolteacher at Highgate Secondary School (his father was head of securities at Coutt’s Bank). Born in 1885, he died in 1952. He never married.

We learn that Non Omnia is really called Clark (not much help!) and that Weaver is S.K. Ruck (so he is Sydney Kenneth Ruck, born in 1889, a civil servant or possibly a historian who wrote about London local government). It’s interesting too that William Bliss is seen as a senior figure, and also, from the self-deprecating irony, and the guest list, that he is also ‘W.B.’. Royde-Smith and Herbert had previous form as literary judges; Seacape and Pibwob and Hodgson Burnet have long form as winners. I must put my thinking cap on.

Competitions nos. 116A and 116B

Lance Sieveking is the first to judge a competition in the wake of the dinner, where he claims to have met ‘hardened old competitors and cynical judges’, the latter having been accused of crimes by the former. In a spirit of spoofery, he commends the ‘seven hundred and sixty’ entrants to competition A as all ‘brilliant’. What he has asked them to do is to create a title for any six of the following people he assumes will be raised to the peerage. They are: Mr. Justice McCardie; Mr. A.P. Herbert; Mr. Gillie Potter; Mr. C.B.Cochran; ‘Beachcomber’; Mr. James Douglas; Mr. Gordon Selfridge; Mr. Austin Reed; ‘Low’; ‘The Controller of the London Telephone Service.

Mr. Justice McCardie, an outspoken high court judge, has already been spoofed in 106B (where you can see a picture of him) here – and was within nine months of suicide, a victim of illness and blackmail. A.P. Herbert, at this stage a well-known humorist, was to become the Independent MP for Oxford University, and was already a favourite of the WR. Like McCardie, he was knighted, but never ennobled. Gillie Potter (real name, Hugh Wiliam Peel) was a music-hall comedian, whose act went out of fashion, and who subsequently became a severe critic of lapses in moral standards at the BBC. Charles B. (‘C.B.’ Cochran) was a theatrical manager who made the careers of Noel Coward, Gertrude Lawrence and Jessie Matthews, among many others (and he too was knighted); he also brought a Russian theatre group to London called Chauve-Souris (so the origin of that pseudonym is solved). ‘Beachcomber’ is the famous humorist, J.B. Morton, who has already been a WR judge – the Express writer who wrote a daily column for over half a century. James Douglas had been, until 1931, the editor of the Daily Express, and the scourge of novels that he thought should be banned, including Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness and James Hanley’s Boy (I’ll throw in the egregious fact that I was lucky enough to meet Hanley when I was about 30, and he was a gentle and kindly man). It’s odd, too, that the Express could have such a vicious editor and such an amenable columnist. (Harry) Gordon Selfridge was an American-born store manager (responsible for the phrase, allegedly) that there are ‘only [x] shopping days to Christmas’, and also, even more allegedly, ‘The customer is always right’. He visted London in 1906, and in 1909 founded Selfridge’s, which he ran until forced out in 1941, by which time his colossal fortune had gone – partly the cause of the Depression, but also, as with McCardie, due to an addiction to gambling.

Austin (Leonard) Reed, was the Reading-born founder of the shop of the same name (still trading) in 1900, which offered high-class but ready-to-wear tailoring (he was only 27 when he founded the business). (David) Low was the greatest cartoonist of the first half of the twentieth century. New Zealand-born, he moved to London in 1919, working successively for the London Star, The Evening Standard (his longest stint, and given carte blanche by, of all people, Max Aitken aka Lord Beaverbrook) and finally, The Daily Herald, although he is also known for his New Statesman cartoons. He invented the character of Colonel Blimp, and specialised in lampooning the three great dictators – Mussolini, Franco and Hitler (hitting the mark in the last case). He was knighted a year before his death in 1963. I’m afraid I don’t know the name of the Controller, but it’s the office that is being offered for satire, not the person, I assume. Unless the last in the list was ennobled, none of the characters on offer made it to the House of Lords.

You can see a picture of Beachcomber here. Here is Austin Reed:

Austin Reed

And here is Gordon Selfridge:


Here’s Gillie Potter (cigarette card from 1934):

Gillie Potter

And here’s David Low:


Click here for a good short biography of him.

Here’s C.B.Cochran:

CB Cochran

You can see James Douglas here. And below is A.P. Herbert.

 AP Herbert

The Controller of course defeats me here.

Of course, you know, after that gallery, that all you are going to get are some puns. H.C.M. just beats off the opposition.


Close behind come (the prize being split, which scarcely seems fair for a half-guinea) Dermot Spence and new winner Launceston, who has, as Sieveking remarks, at least gone to the trouble of using real places.


We aren’t told which is the libellous one, but I wonder if it was Douglas.

The B competition is for a sixteen line poem on ‘What I Would Do If I Ruled The World’. There doesn’t seem to be any contemporary political reason for this being set, but it does allow Sieveking another pop at the competitors he has so recently met, and he offers a comic exaggeration of the number of entrants, and stresses again how successful they all are. He gives the first prize to Seacape (‘I gathered at the Dinner that he is quite used to this’). Second prize goes to Eremita. Olric (the third below) is printed without winning a prize. Sieveking also makes fun of William Bliss for having been so frightening that he was almost cowed into giving him a prize. T.E. Casson gets an honourable mention for the first time in a long time.




Competitions nos 115A and 115B: results

Martin Armstrong reappears as the judge, so we know there’s some foreign language in store. He returns us to the Royal Academy exhibition, and suggests that the general question is ‘Que diable allait-il faire dans cette galere’, with particular reference to Walter Richard Sickert, who was causing a considerable rumpus that year, not least with this use of photography. If you click here you’ll get a good sense of what he was up to at this stage of 1932 (although this particular work wasn’t in the 1932 exhibition). Armstrong (not at all unlike Squire a couple of weeks earlier) wants three six-lined rhymed verses, the last line on which is ‘But what is Sickert doing in this gallery?’


One competitor found nine rhymes for ‘gallery’ (Experienta docet, sighs Armstrong). However, he has no hesitation in returning Seacape to the podium, with James Hall in close proximity.



For the B competition, Armstrong asks for a translation of a Voltaire fable ….


The winners are Fontanist (a new name) and Rosellen Bett. There was a huge response to this one – compelling Armstrong to draw lots to make his decision.


Competitions nos. 114A and 114B: results

J.C.Squire returns. He wants a ballade on the Royal Academy Exhibition. Since the refrain has to be “Plus ça change, plus c’est le même chose” – which Squire points out is a perfectly good iambic pentameter if you pronounce it correctly – it’s not clear if Squire is refering to the January to March exhibition (French Art 1200-1900) or the 164th annual exhibition, which ran from the 6th May to the 27th August, and attracted over 140,000 people to see over 1,500 works of art. Probably the latter. Oddly enough, The Spectator had, a week or two earlier, run an account of the 1832 exhibition in its ‘One Hundred Years Ago’ slot (Turner comes in for a pasting). The eye is drawn to the back pages, where The Spectator was also running a competition (top prize, two guineas), in addition to a weekly limerick competition. The former is just over a year old; the latter about six months old. A quick glance at the winners turns up Guy Hadley and H.A.L. Cockerell of the WR parish …

In a crowded field, Seacape and D.C.R.Francombe are near-winners, just edged out by J.W. Pepper and W. Hodgson Burnet.




The B competition was for three to eight proposals for books (any genre) to be ‘put up’ to publishers. It turns out that Squire was actually being quite serious, but he had reckoned without Bertram R. Carter and the veteran James Hall, both of whom deliver the goods (another modern competition) –




A special further competition is set, but I’ll come to that when its results are announced. In the meantime, the event the competitors and judges (and their spouses, it seems) have waited for is upon us: