Elizabeth Bibesco quotes a play called Passé by Porto-Riche from memory. (Georges Porto-Riche was a French playwright born in 1849, but who had died only three years before this, in 1930.)In the play, the heroine says, if EB remembers correctly, ‘Dire que l’année prochaine je regretterai ce visage là’ (Sad to think that next year I will regret that face). She wants (yes, again) a sonnet on this theme, in English.
In her report Bibesco notes that this competition has not attracted the usual number, and she singles out, very curiously, the following four as being missing: Pibwob, Non Omnia, Issachar – and Gordon Daviot. The first three are regulars, but Gordon Daviot – the pen-name of Josephine Tey, the novelist – has not been mentioned since 1930 and then only on one occasion in the tenth competition. Does this mean she has been entering, under a pseudonym for her pseudonym, for all the intervening competitions? It’s a curious remark.
By a really curious coincidence, on the same day that I wrote this blog entry, an article on one of the runners-up, Dorothy Bowers, was published in The Independent. It’s here. Bowers was the author of well-received crime fiction, but her reputation is a casualty of early death. This is her most famous:
But she isn’t a winner, and Bibesco prefers the serious to the many facetious face-lifting sonnets. The winner is W. Leslie Nicholls (his first win, and the first appearance of a competitor who was to do exceptionally well), and the runner up is William Bliss. Commended – and also printed, unusually, but described as ‘smoothly derivative’ is Black Gnat. As I’ve said, I’m still pretty sure this is Seacape.
For once, the B competition is a hit (and would play well today). An English cricket captain, asked who his successor should be, has remarked that ‘I cannot comment; that would not be cricket.’ Brilliant. Bibesco asks for similarly dunder-headed observations on a prime minister, president-elect, bishop (or archbishop), restaurateur, actor, or novelist . She commends a lot of individuals, including T.D.Tremlett (the heraldic expert who has come close before) on a president-elect (‘a charming man in private life’) and Mariamne on a prime minister (‘We owe him a debt that we can never repay’). The winners are Hutch and B. Gibbs, who I assume is the B.R. Gibbs who won the previous week.