In Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, the incompetent doctor, Slop, curses Shandy’s father’s servant, Obadiah, for tying the knots on his medical bag too securely (Slop is on hand to supervise the birth of Tristram, and Sterne is lampooning contemporary male attempts to reclaim the authority over birth from midwives). In fact Slop curses Obadiah by reading a Latin excommunication, which is then translated into English:
‘By the authority of God Almighty, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and of the undefiled Virgin Mary, mother and patroness of our Saviour, and of all the celestial virtues, angels, archangels, thrones, dominions, powers, cherubins and seraphins, and of all the holy patriarchs, prophets, and of all the apostles and evangelists, and of the holy innocents, who in the sight of the Holy Lamb, are found worthy to sing the new song of the holy martyrs and holy confessors, and of the holy virgins, and of all the saints together, with the holy and elect of God — May he’ (Obadiah) ‘be damn’d’ (for tying these knots)—‘We excommunicate, and anathematize him, and from the thresholds of the holy church of God Almighty we sequester him, that he may be tormented, disposed, and delivered over with Dathan and Abiram, and with those who say unto the Lord God, Depart from us, we desire none of thy ways. And as fire is quenched with water, so let the light of him be put out for evermore, unless it shall repent him’ (Obadiah, of the knots which he has tied) ‘and make satisfaction’ (for them) ‘Amen.
Slop excoriating Obadiah (detail)
All of which brings us to the new competition, and judge Ernest Betts. Betts wants a curse in a similar style ‘On Modern Times’. He teasingly adds ‘A Latin version is not essential.’ I think you might guess what will happen …
Southron, Redling (notice that they are together again), J.H.G.Gibbs, Pibwob and Lester Ralph get mentions, but none are felt to be ‘Shandean’ enough. The outright winner is Eremita, who has the cutthroat instinct to outdo everyone else by including a Latin version of his curse. The runner up is Olwen Lawton.
The runner-up here (note the surprising conflation of Hitler, Mussolini and Gandhi) was later to publish several romantic novels between in 1950 and 1958, from This Was My Star to Land In Peril. Her full name was Olwen Somerset Lawton (she inherited the middle name from her mother), born in Chorley, Lancs. in 1912 (so she is only 21 here). Her father was a draughtsman, and he had moved south by the time of this competition, where he can be found living with his Marjorie, Olwen and her brother at 1 Essendon, Sanderstead (near Croydon in Surrey). She turns up on several flights (The Canary Islands, Trinidad, Bermuda) before marrying a Jack K Davant in Nevada in August 1959. This seems to be the reason she stopped her successful run of publications. She died in San Diego in 2000. Her most successful novel seems to be Dorothea – which was at the very least translated into Dutch (I assume this means something like ‘Dorothea’s all-consuming love’):