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:

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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.

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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.

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