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.

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Osbert, Edith and Sacheverell Sitwell

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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.

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

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