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.
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.