Oh well, we’ve been silly for long enough. Anthony Bertram asks for three quatrains on three painters in the style of Baudelaire (‘Les Phares’) He gives a reminder ‘for those who have no Baudelaire on their holidays’. Perish the thought.
This competition’s results were published twenty years to the day before I was born, and only seven years to the day before the start of World War II, come to that. There must have been many in 1932’s late August who were not tempted by this competition, which Bertram says he’s set because he hasn’t seen it done before. Not a great reason. You aren’t allowed to use the artists Baudelaire used: Watteau, Rembrandt, Goya, Michelangelo, Delacroix, Leonardo and Rubens. Drat.
Van Gogh was the most popular choice, followed in joint second place by Greco and Gauguin and in joint third by Angelico and Hogarth. Greco was a surprise to me. More than one person did Raeburn (I’d have to look him up). There are no modernists on the list. Bertram admits it was ‘a great outing for traditional winners’ and traditional losers too (Casson), although there is a near-winner called Ursula Hobhouse, who was the daughter of a New Zealand-born priest (CofE), had been born in London and brought up in Edgbaston, Birmingham; and who was born in 1899 and died in Cowes in 1957. He takes issue with some of the judgments and discounts the entries as a result, which is quite high-minded of him. Among those who miss out are Pibwob, Seacape, Olric, William Bliss, W.A. Rathkey and Issachar. The winners are Eremita and L.V.Upward, the latter more catholic in his taste, and including Laura Knight, whose reputation has just been boosted over the last year by a reappraisal and an exhibition.
The B competition is hard (especially if you’re on holiday!). You have to provide appropriate epigraphs from real sources for book-titles Bertram has made up. Hard work. The titles he lists are ‘A Life of Hitler’; a cloak-and-sword romance called ‘For Pope and King’; ‘The Manifesto of the Anti-Nudist League’; ‘Memoirs of a Soldier and a Sportsman’; Prof. Blank’s ‘Geological Studies on the French Riviera’; and ‘A Dictionary of Modern Slang’. (The first and last are now of course real books.) The winners are Guy Innes, and – not very long after she has started entering, or, as I actually suspect, since she started using this name (we’ll see why in two competitions time), Sylvia Groves (odd quote for the Life of Hitler, by the way). Some of the commended are quoted, but what catches the eye is the name of one who is mentioned at the end of the report as having sent in good entries. It’s Hilary Trench.
Hilary Trench was one of the pseudonyms used by Graham Greene – he had another Trench (Henry) to use – especially when writing to newspapers. Some of his early pieces in Oxford Outlook were signed ‘Hilary Trench’. It is also suggested by more than one of his biographers that ‘Hilary Trench’ represented to Greene a sort of darker alter ego, a depressive side. At any rate, whether we have to wait for his victory (see Links) in parodying himself or not, we know that he was drawn to competitions as early as 1932.