Competition no. 219: results

After spending so long masterminding the competition, the WR’s editor, Gerald Barry, now on the board of New Statesman and Nation, judges his first competition. He has asked for a hate poem, of which he notes that there are examples in The Week-End Book (1923, with sixteen reprints before a new and expanded edition in 1928), an anthology edited by Francis and Vera Meynell that seems likely to be the major influence on the title of The Week-end Review. It was published by the Nonesuch Press. The targets of all this hate were to be either a) the manager of a pretentious country hotel that has monstrously overcharged, or b) a bank Holiday party that has marauded a local copse and uprooted wild flowers (a rare example of marauded as a transitive verb).

‘When I said ‘hate’, I meant ‘hate”, starts Barry, adding ‘and when I said ‘poem’, I meant ‘poem’.’ He concedes that you can’t order up hate as he has done; that a good hate poem is only going to come from genuine rather than manufactured rage. (Barry has had in mind something like Chesterton’s The White Horse (1911), a fragment of which appears in TWB.) Like Moore in 218, Barry has words of greeting for competitors old and new (he adds ‘Hail!’ to Lester Ralph’s name, and picks out W. Leslie Nicholls, Issachar and Marion Peacock amongst others). The prizes are split so that D.C.R. Francombe gets one and a half guineas, while H.C.M and Palermo get a half-guinea each. Francombe is said to be writing in the ‘style of Mrs. Kinsfoot’, a slip for ‘Mrs. Kinfoot’, who features in an elaborate social satire by Osbert Sitwell, printed in 1921 (sixteen pages long, and limited to 101 copies, you can pick one up today for between £100 and £250). Mrs. Kinfoot, an opinionated bore, is said to be based on the society hostess, Sybil, Lady Colefax (1874 – 1950). (There is a surprising number of mis-attributed photos of her on the web, mostly of Nancy Lancaster, who bought Colefax’s interest in the interior decoration firm, Colefax and Fowler, just before World War Two. The firm still exists.) There is one of her with Cecil Beaton, in the 1930s, at the National Portrait Gallery here. An extract from Osbert Sitwell’s lampoon of Mrs. Kinfoot appears in TWB. He, his brother Sacheverell, and his sister Edith, had contributed to The Week-End Review. Curiously enough, Osbert’s third (of three) forenames was Sacheverell.

Here is a sample from ‘At the House of Mrs. Kinfoot’:

The black curls of Mrs. Kinfoot
Are symmetrical.
Descended, it is said,
From the Kings of Ethiopia
But the British bourgeoisie has triumphed.

Mr. Kinfoot is bald
And talks
In front of the fireplace
With his head on one side,
And his right hand
In his pocket.


Osbert, Edith and Sacheverell Sitwell


The Weekend Book was extremely popular and well-designed. After a collection of ‘Great Poems’ there are several further selections, including the Hate Poems, but also including songs, instructions on making cocktails, sandwiches and playing games of all sorts when out in the country. (The cocktails are lethal, and the presumption is that readers have driven to their destination.) There is an entertaining section on legal untruths, and the whole thing would appeal to anyone who liked This England. I rather like the first two and last two pages, which fold out to make a serviceable chess board and checkers board.

TWB 001

Inside The Weekend Book (1923) – note that it’s a ruler as well.

Competition no. 218: results

A return to the competition for John Moore. He reports the experience of receiving a letter from from an indignant male reader, who accuses him and his novel of ‘bare filth’ and ‘sensual garbage’ that is an ‘insult to the modern girl’. He has been advised that the book has been burned. How ought one to respond to such a letter?

James Hall proposes that he offers to charge him for a copy of his next novel, with all the objectionable bits marked up.  There are many names mentioned as runners-up, several familiar (Southron, W.E.B. Henderson, W. Leslie Nicholls, Marion Peacock, Allan M. Laing), but two notable. One is T.S. – Thomas Simons – Attlee (mis-spelt as Atlee); the other is W.A. Ismay. Tom Attlee (1880-1960) was the elder brother of Clement Attlee, with whom he had a lifelong correspondence – Tom was an architect, and had had a very different Great War – the elder boy had been a conscientious objector. Tom Attlee had also published a book called ‘Man And His Buildings’, an account of the influence of building on the working man’s experience. This was first published in 1919, but based on a talk he had done in 1914. The book was still being reprinted in the 1950s.

Tom Attlee

Tom, Laurence and Clement Attlee as children

W.A. Ismay – William Alfred – Ismay (known as Bill) was born in Wakefield in 1910, and died in 2001. He was a librarian who lived in a two-bedroom terrace in his home town, and accumulated no fewer than 3,500 pots, a collection that earned him the MBE in 1982, for services to studio pottery, of which he was an enthusiastic proselyte.


Bill Ismay

However, the winners are L.V.Upward and John Rutherford (a nice example of not using the words available):


Moore takes time at the end of his report to say how nice it is to see the Week-end Review crowd, noting in particular William Bliss and T.E. Casson, respectively memorable for adding footnotes, and for quoting from the Classics.

Competition no. 217: results

Gerald Bullett oversees this competition, which asks for an extract from Earle’s Microcosomography (you can read it here). This is the second time it has been used as the basis for a competition (it was used by Anthony Bertram in 170B). The idea is to come up with a denunciation of rearmament, and arms manufacturers (and by the by, to come up with a term of abuse for them). Rearmament had started to become a major issue with the failure of the Zurich arms conference in 1933, and Hitler’s rise to power – and his refusal to be part of the League of Nations. Macdonald’s government hads a huge majority, but he himself was now becoming ill. New Statesman and Nation was vocal in its antipathy to rearmament, thereby siding with the Labour Party in opposition (and Lloyd George’s Liberals and a few other Liberals). Baldwin, effectively the prime minister, began planning a growth in armament, and was harried by men like Churchill for moving too slowly. It is worth remembering that there was quite a feeling in favour of peace, as was suggested by the ‘Peace Ballot’ held later in 1934 – which found the population far from decisive about armament, and split 50:50 on the subject. There is a good outline here.

Bullett is aggrieved that no-one has come up with a good word; but he has no uncertainty about the direction to be taken by the prizes. In this still relatively rare political competition, it seems appropriate that the conscientious objector Allan M. Laing should grab the first prize. L.V. Upward is second. Redling is commended for the word ‘gunster’.