A new judge, the already redoubtable literary agent A.D. Peters, sets these competitions. He picks out Aldous Huxley – who had by this stage published eight collections of essays, eight collections of poetry, five collections of short stories, five novels (Brave New World had come out in 1932), and wh0 had just published an edition of D.H. Lawrence’s letters, even though he was still only 38 – and asks for an obituary in 1970 of Huxley as the Grand Old Man of English Literature, in what Peters suggested would be the last remaining newspaper. [In fact Huxley died in 1963 on the same day as the assassination of John F. Kennedy – and come to that, the death of C.S. Lewis.] Perhaps it’s important to realise that the epithet G.O.M. would in 1933 have been allocated to George Bernard Shaw.
One of the near-misses is by a young Anthony Max Baerlein (b.1912) who was a regular cricketer for the Eton Ramblers, but who was killed in 1941.
Peters notes that most competitors have shrugged aside the implications of ‘the only remaining newspaper’; and others have tried to dismiss him to obscurity. in which case he would hardly be the G.O.M., would he?
We have been having problems with the B competition, have we not? Often an incompetent judge (this is a case in point) will make the instructions so hard that a ragbag of entries will ensue. The premise is that theatre managers are saying there are no good new plays, and that we need to depend on revivals. So entrants are asked for two lists of eight plays worth reviving, in order of merit, the first from the ‘box office’ point of view, the second – and here’s where the trouble multiplies, ‘from the point of view of a manager who prefers good plays to bad, but also prefers the Ritz to the workhouse’. It’s not cryptic, but it’s not clear. Just to add in some more confusion, he adds that the same plays can appear on both lists, and that musicals aren’t ruled out. Oh yes and no play on the second list (or both lists?) to be less than six years old. Oh, and no more than two plays by the same author on the second list. This is not a competition, this is an exercise in decoding what the judge wants. Predictably, the competition crashes and burns. For the second time, I’m going to print an entire adjudication:
Interesting how many of these plays are now defunct, although Jerome K. Jerome’s ‘The Passing Of The Third Floor Back’ is still a big amateur success.