Clennell Wilkinson firstly asks what a 1933 Alice would be thinking about when she fell down the “very deep well”. He issues a warning against “mere Freudian facetiousness” – which in my view is a pity, as there could have been some amusing Freudian material. Now, when I turned to the results, I note immediately, that Wilkinson runs straight into the exact problem I suspected. The entries have been so afraid to be facetious or Freudian that it’s cramped their style.
Willkinson also notes that Carroll has a deceptively simple and quiet and abbreviated style. He mentions no near-misses, and give the prize to Southron as the only entrant who has done what he’d hoped – give a modern twist on a Victorian girl. The runner up, H.C.M., is allowed to win because Wilkinson says it does sound like a girl (!). Note that Amy Johnson is the heroine for the first entry – or, as we’ve seen, Amy Mollison, as she was then known. Interesting that ‘ripping’ is still considered an in-word. I vaguely doubt this.
The B competition is based on an overheard (by Wilkinson) on a bus.
First Lady: ‘My dear, I have just come across such a good book, you really must get it from the library’
Second Lady: ‘What’s it called?’
First Lady: ‘The Card by Matthew Arnold’
Now, there’s a potentially great competition here – which is to write an extract of The Card by Matthew Arnold (instead of Arnold Bennett, if you haven’t got it). But Wilkinson simply asks for some overheards. As he says, these kinds of verbal blunder are somehow better if you know them to be true, but the truth, as it were, is that the examples provided, often appended with a note saying ‘this actually happened’, are not in themselves very funny. Thus:
The Last Days of Pompeii by Lytton Strachey (should be Edward Bulwer Lytton)
South Wind by Montagu Norman (should be Norman Douglas; MN was the governor of the Bank of England)
The Golden Arrow by Conrad Veidt (Wilkinson admits this takes a bit of thought. Mary Webb wrote The Golden Arrow; Joseph Conrad wrote The Arrow of Gold; Conrad Veidt was a German actor who appeared in The Cabinet of Dr. Cagliari and later also in Casablanca)
Babbitt by Upton Sinclair (should be Sinclair Lewis)
The Jungle Book by Upton Sinclair (Sinclair’s most famous work was The Jungle)
… are not brilliant, although I laughed at the last one.
There are really predictable D.H.Lawrence/T.E.Lawrence mix-ups mentioned, but in fact the guinea winning entry by W.A. Rathkey strikes me as completely feeble. However, Myra Verney‘s is genuinely clever. She’s mixing up Botticelli’s painting Primavera with the Italian boxing champion Primo Carnera who was about to become the world heavyweight champ (he was known as ‘The Ambling Alp).