Another new judge, Beverley Nichols, (who had just published his classic Up the Garden Path), sets a quite badly-phrased competition, but this is the gist. Beaverbrook has sent James Douglas not (as he thinks) Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness, but Mrs. Gaskell’s Cranford by accident. Douglas, who has been the butt of parodies in these competitions before, was the editor of the Sunday Express, and known for his acerbic reviews and editorials, and his campaigns against obscene books, The Well of Loneliness in particular. Beaverbrook has asked for the headline ‘A Book That Britain Should Burn’. (The attack on Hall in 1928 had been headlined ‘A Book That Britain Should Ban’, and concluded ‘I would rather give a healthy boy or a healthy girl a phial of prussic acid than this novel. Poison kills the body, but moral poison kills the soul.’ The key line in The Well of Loneliness is ‘they were not divided that night’. Strong meat.)
Actually, although the setting is a mess, this is a competition that could be set now. In fact Nichols feels that not many readers have heard of Douglas (we know this is not true), and that the relatively light postbag is possibly because it is impossible to parody a parody. He quotes a Douglas line, ‘Mars is the Moloch of Motherhood’, an opening line, but to what, alas, I don’t know. It certainly augurs badly.
I think these two are both brilliant. 141B also promises fun – six celebrities are banned from entry through the pearly gates by St. Peter. What witty remarks did they use to get in? The six are: Edith Sitwell, Gandhi, Noel Coward (a friend of Nichols), Winston Churchill, Bernard Shaw and Mayor Walker (Jimmy Walker was the mayor of New York from 1926 to 1932, until September 1st, when he stepped down in the face of corruption scandals. At the time, he was In Europe, keeping out of the way of any charges). But Nichols describes the entries as ‘third rate quibbling’, declines to give a prize, manages an honourable mention for Pibwob, and is prepared only to quote Cuniculus, who has Churchill saying ‘I have not yet worn a halo’.