Sylvia Lynd (her husband was New Statesman and Nation‘s most popular columnist) offers this one (variations of which have appeared since, although not set at the same social level) – a letter of thanks to a ‘Useful Hostess’ from a weekend guest who has on arrival, either ‘met with a slight but disfiguring accident’, had no sleep, has a bad cold, has made a gaffe at tea, or (this is the giveaway phrase about the world the judges inhabited!) ‘from whose baggage in repacking, a servant has omitted an important item of apparel’.
Lynd nearly always goes her own way with competitions, but this one is completely different. She notes that it had to sound like a letter (many didn’t), and combine thanks with a sense of humiliation or misery (many didn’t manage this). What she then does is to print four extracts and give each of them half-a-guinea, before awarding second prize (another half a guinea) to a pseudonymous Thomas Truefitt, whose entry is mentioned but not printed. Since the extracts are buried in her commentary, the only way I can do this is to print her report. (It is interesting to note that Non Omnia‘s gender is revealed. She had been one of the original signatories of the congratulatory letter on the founding of the Week-end Review.) The other three ‘winners’ are E.B.C. Thornett (wrongly noted as ‘F.B.C.’), William Bliss and (W.) Leslie Nicholls. (Ernest) Basil (Charles) Thornett was a prolific writer, with two pesudonyms: Rupert Penny, and Martin Tanner. He worked at Bletchley in the war, and was in a senior position as a cryptologist. He was born in 1909, and died in 1970 (he had also edited the annual book belonging to the British Iris Society). As Rupert Penny, he produced a series of police novels in the late 1930s, one of them, Policeman’s Evidence, containing a fiendish cipher.
We start with Non Omnia:
As the runner-up is only patted on the head and slipped 10s 6d, I can’t add him in.