Competitions nos. 193A and 193B: results

Seacape returns as a judge (he has had a strange year, what with his ‘resignation’, adoption of a second pseudonym and finally a return to form). He asks for an ‘ode to a ring of tobacco smoke’, but sets no line limit, so many entrants write odes of over 40 lines, and T.E. Casson goes over 50.

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William Powell blowing a smoke ring in ‘The Thin Man’ (filmed in 1933, released in 1934)

Having noted that there is not as much light verse as expected, Seacape moves on to Eremita’s entry, which is in alcaics, and in Latin. The fifth line is apparently

Bacchantur extra turbine strenuo

– prompting Seacape, tongue wedged quietly in his cheek, to comment, ‘May I be corrected if I’m wrong, but I believe that the penultimate foot has a duty to be dactyl, whereas ‘turbine’ is amphimacered, as it were, by ‘strenuo’.’

The prizes go to Marion Peacock and Hazel Jenner. Hazel Jenner may well be Lady Hazel Lavery, whose maiden name was Martyn, but whose father was called Edward Jenner Martyn. She knew many of the radicals associated with the WR. Her Belfast-born husband had been an official war artist, and had painted over 400 portraits of her – one of which was used on Irish banknotes. Rumours persist that she had an affair with Michael Collins. She died in 1935 at the age of 49.

Lavery 1928

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The B competition wants up to 8 lines of rhymed verse suitable to put in the front page of a collection of stamps from the British Empire. Seacape is clearly a philatelist. He responds to a suggestion that stamps are a poor investment by noting that ‘during the past year or so, the 1d Post Office of Mauritius of 1847 and the 1c British Guiana of 1856 fetched £2,400 and £7,000 respectively, and an English stamp of King Edward’s reign, issued at a face value of 10s, realised £825.’

Here is the Guianan stamp – the only example in the world:

1856 Guiana

In 2014, it sold for £5.6 million. That makes it, at least in weight, the most expensive item in the world.

There are plenty of puns, but Seacape rejects them on the grounds that the owner of an album would have to wince each time the album was opened. The prizes go to Issachar and W. Leslie Nicholls.

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To finish on a melancholy note, this competition’s results appeared on December 9 1933. Six days earlier, William Hodgson Burnet had died. One of the most enthusiastic entrants, with a competitive pedigree going back to the Edwardian era, his death goes unremarked (compare the poem written in honour of ‘Ciel’). But it may be that his death coincided (as it did) with a period of particular turbulence in the magazine’s history.

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