Vita Sackville-West offers competitors the chance to be autobiographical, although she admits she won’t know if it’s fiction. The instructions, which could easily be set today (and which have been set in The Spectator, when Jaspistos was in charge), run as follows:
VSW says the competition is easy to judge, the easiest ever, because nearly all the entries misunderstand or ignore the task, and send in when they have been most frightened. Surely the instructions were clear, she says. Yes, but ‘the most painful moment’ is probably the phrase that has sent competitors astray, although they had to work hard to miss ‘social solecism’. Four hundred words! It does seem a luxury.
Both the prizewinners are new winners, and that might well suggest that they are telling the truth. Three others are mentioned – Agatgha (not very funny story about a mannequin on a mantelpiece; the Rev. A. Ferguson, who once mixed up a fish-cake and a bread-roll (the worst solecism?); and William Bliss, whose improving story about a Jesuit father is so good that VSW says he could get more than two guineas elsewhere (Yes, but …). The winners (and I like them both) are Antigone and Lemuel. Antigone offers an interesting insight into the kind of people who were amongst New Statesman and Nation‘s readers.
There are plenty of adverts on eBay for what should be -warmers, but are shown as -pans.