Competition no. 198: results

Naomi Royde-Smith becomes the first of two judges to set a competition in The Week-end Review but to have her report published in New Statesman and Nation. Royde-Smith being a maverick, she has set one competition only, with prizes of three guineas and one guinea. Over the next two competitions, this will change!

She offers ‘a Viennese jingle’ – no-one seems to have been put off by the fact that it was originally printed not with a double-ss in lines 4 and 9, but a ‘b’. She wants it translated.


There are 41 entries, who don’t find it easy (one of them sent in a four-line French epigram, which is not the easy way in or out of this competition). Two poets (both unfamiliar names, Lenore and ‘A.W.’ are commended, compared, printed in full, but given no prize:


First prize goes to Hilary (an occasional, and apparently female entrant), with a clever use of dialect; and the second to WR stalwart Alice Herbert.


The competition appears in the back pages of the NS&N – as it had been doing in the WR.


Honours Board 1933

This year we can run to a top twenty (just). L.V.Upward (who is to feature for many years to come) is the first to claim Seacape’s crown, although not quite equal the number of his victories. The numbers at the end are previous placings. As the race for third, seventh and tenth place show, this was a close and far more even outcome than the previous three years.

1.    L.V.Upward              8 victories        £11.0s.0d     (-,9=,8=)

2.   E.W.Fordham           7 victories        £8.8s.0d       (6,-,-)

3=      William Bliss          9 victories       £7.7s.0d        (5,-,-)

W.Leslie Nicholls      7 victories       £7.7s.0d        (-,-,-)

T.E.Casson                 7 victories        £7.7s.0d       (-,-,-)

Black Gnat            5 victories       £6.6s.0d      (-,-,-)

7= Guy Hadley         4 victories        £5.5s.0d       (-,-,-)

 Southron              5 victories       £5.5s.0d       (-,-,-)

Lester Ralph        3 victories       £5.5s.0d      (10=,-,-)

10=  James Hall         5 victories       £4.14s.6d     (3=,-,4)

Alice Herbert      3 victories      £4.14s.6d     (-,-,-)

Marion Peacock  4 victories     £4.14s.6d         (-,-,-)

Redling                 5 victories     £4.14s.6d       (-,-,-)

H.C.M.                   3 victories    £4.14s.6d        (-,-,3)

15=  N.B.                   4 victories    £4.4s.0d         (-,-,-)

W.A.Rathkey       3 victories       £4.4s.0d      (10=,-,-)

Eremita                 5 victories    £4.4s.0d        (10=,-,-)

P.S.C.                     2 victories    £4.4s.0d        (-,-,-)

Seacape                 2 victories   £4.4s.0d         (1,1,1)

20= Rosellen Bett        3 victories   £3.13s.6d       (-,-,-)

Prudence              2 victories   £3.13s.6d        (-,-,-)


A few points:

The major absentees are W.Hodgson Burnet, who won no prizes (but did judge a competition), and who died in the last month after what must have been a severe illness; Pibwob and Little Billee, both of whom managed three wins, and both of whom will return with a vengeance; W.G.; Valimus and Non Omnia.

Black Gnat and Seacape are one and the same, so if they had entered as one, they would have come equal second.

T.E.Casson, in his fourth year, has finally seen rewards for his persistent, weekly entries.

W. Leslie Nicholls is the major new name.

It will be interesting to see who decides to keep going when the WR is taken over by New Statesman and Nation. At least three of the above were still winning prizes in the 1950s.

In 1933, there were 90 winners (down from 114, perhaps a sign of failing circulation) who won £192 (down from just over £201 – not least because of several prizeless B comps). The number appearing behind initials had shrunk from 15 to 8, and the number of pseudonyms was down from 45 to 30. So 50% of the entrants are now providing their names.





Competitions nos. 173A and 173B: results

Clennell Wilkinson sets, rather wordily, a competition for a Speech Day speech by the father of a son at the school. The father has lurid memories of his own sufferings [editor’s note: then why the hell has he sent his son there?!]. The speaker was ‘not a brilliant schoolboy’ and ‘is not interested in education’, and has resolved, in a maximum of 300 words, to cheer the beggars up. Competitions like this, with so many qualifying instructions, tend to bomb.

Wilkinson analyses the entries at length. Some have put in too much stuttering; some have introduced controversial subjects (school sporting types who were cowardly in World War One, where swots were brave, and killed); some have written serious speeches (and here Wilkinson is surely right in discounting them, as the speeches really wouldn’t be listened to, and pretty well infringe the admittedly complicated rubric).

Perseverance pays dividends. Having entered, as far as I can see all 173 A competitions and the slightly fewer number of B competitions, and having what few prizes he’s garnered split, or halved, or whatever, T.E. Casson finally gets his two guineas. (It’s not very good, alas!) Marion Peacock manages to slip a poem under Wilkinson’s nose. He has to admit he hasn’t outlawed them.


Here are some of the likely recipients – this comes from a web-site dedicated to Bacup and Rawtenstall Grammar School:


The B competition is triggered by someone having seen Lenin’s tomb and saying it’s the architectural equivalent of saying ‘Boo! I frightened you that time’.


In 1933, he would have been in uniform.

So what would a) The Sphinx, b) The Taj Mahal, c) The Statue of Liberty, d) The Albert Memorial say?

The winners are G.C.B. Cotterell, who had been in the Naval Air Service in the latter part of World War One, and who contributed articles in support of the Scout movement and Officer Training Corps and other subjects to The Spectator at about this time, as here, and Alice Herbert.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt is worth noting of Alice Herbert’s entry that there is an etymological discussion about whether or not ‘Brown Windsor’ was used before 1943, in reference to soup. I am grateful to Michael Quinion, the etymologist, for his suggestion that ‘Brown Windsor’ refers to soap, not soup. I still don’t get the joke, though! (Is it the ‘royal appointment’ as in the image below?)

BW soap


Competitions nos. 168A and 168B: results

A new judge, Richard Church, just embarking on a successful literary career after 28 years at the Ministry of Labour, asks for a sonnet in the manner of Milton’s ‘On His Blindness’, only supposing him to have been deaf. For those of you who didn’t know JM was a redhead, here he is:


The competitors are apparently prone to staying too close to the original, the exception being Alice Herbert, who is followed into the winners’ enclosure by William Bliss (ticked off for splitting the sonnet in a non-Miltonic way).


I am afraid the B competition is just as serious, asking for the text of a broadcast, had he been able to make it, by St. Paul, the night after Damascus. Church refers to ‘glaring faults’ having spoiled many entries (but does not say what they are), and refers only to the winners, Southron, and the curiously named Sawdust as Gold. (His or her previous appearance was as Sawdust Asgold, so there may be a printing error involved.)


Competitions nos. 165A and 165B: results

Gerald Bullet offers entrants the chance to write a sonnet seeing Michael Drayton’s famous ‘Since there’s no help, then let us kiss and part’ (see here for the whole poem), from a woman’s point of view. He garners 72 entries, and the list of commendeds is colossal. It includes F.C.Burgess, whose poetry appears in the London Mercury at about the same time, but a whole host of regulars, including the strangely titled ‘Seacape II’ (who has yet to make a decent comeback), Noel Archer, Valimus, Arthur Oliver, Little Billee, Pibwob, E.W. Fordham, D.C.R. Francombe, Guy Innes, T.E. Casson, David Holland, Alfred Holland, Ian Cranna, N.B., Prudence, Hassall Pitman, William Bliss, Obispo, Hilary and Lester Ralph. The only really new name here is Hassall Pitman, and he seems to have written a couple of poem for The Windsor Magazine in 1929, but also (no date given) to have composed this:

A cynical sage with a kink,
Said, “Between thought and deed there’s a link.
When I think what I thought,
I don’t do as I ought,
So it’s best to do nought, and not think.”

Three prizes are given as the B competition is living on borrowed time, and there must surely have been a debate about dropping it. New Statesman and Nation was to be ruthless in this respect. So it’s two guineas to Alice Herbert, one to Marion Peacock, and a left-over half to Pedestrian, a word that (so today’s newspaper tells me) was invented by Wordsworth. (Alas, it is quite a pedestrian poem.)


Good to see Alice Herbert win – a regular entrant who rarely comes away with even half-a-guinea.

This is what the B competition should have been: a pithy comment (150-200 words) on the events of the week. That’s to say, a mirror of what the WR did in its opening pages. No dice. Over to Mr. Bullett:



Competitions nos. 119A and 119B: results

Clennell Wilkinson asks for a love letter from Mr. Pecksniff (Martin Chuzzlewit) to Becky Sharp (Vanity Fair), and her reply. Just so there’s no confusion, as Vanity Fair is not a short novel, he specifies the Becky of Chapter 6. So here it is.

Becky Sharp

Mr. Pecksniff (image scanned by Philip V. Allingham at

Wilkinson is not a happy bunny. He doesn’t feel anyone has Pecksniff’s turns of speech and lack of humour; he doesn’t think anyone has captured the man; he thinks even fewer have caught Becky. Seacape gets the nod on Becky but the veto on Pecksniff, however. What Wilkinson thinks Seacape has right is that Becky would not turn Pecksniff down, but keep him dangling. He grudgingly chooses W.G., but regrets that his entry contains no reference by either to money.  W. Hodgson Burnet sees off William Bliss for the second prize. Lester Ralph, H.C.M. and the doing-rather-well-lately Eremita are comended. No-one else seems to have been in the frame at all.





The B competition is a reallycomplex one, given the potentially simple instruction (I can never quite get my ahead around the way Wilkinson’s mind works, which might be no surprise, given the very poor reputation he had had as a brief holder of the post of literary editor at New Statesman and Nation. He wants wounding but innocent remarks. If he’d left it there, things might have been fine, but he goes on to specify the victims, and they’re quite busy ones:

a) a retired cavalry officer with a rather dictatorial manner

b) a film star who professes not to remember having met you

c) a former schoolmaster whose existence you yourself had hoped to forget

d) a hostess who has just upset a cocktail over your only white waistcoat (we’ve all been there …)

AND (not OR) e) a publisher, who having turned down your manuscript, offers you one of his cigars

I half-wonder if Wilkinson has actually drawn on personal experience for some of these. They’re quite revealing about the world in which he, and, it must be presumed, other WR contributors move. He notes of the entries that they seem to suggest that WR readers are all too kind. In fact, he decides to offer no second prize, so there’s a half-guinea saved. He gives a nod to Guy Hadley, to L.V. Upward and to Leopold Spero, the last of whom was a poet and short story writer to be found contributing to a range of magazines between 1919 and 1945 (and presumably either side). The solitary prize goes to Alice Herbert.




Competitions nos. 102A and 102B: results

Martin Armstrong returns with a poem by Pietro Mastri for translation into strict sonnet form (type not specified) or using the original:


Mastri, who was born in 1868, had died on 20 February 1932 – that is, just as Armstrong was due to set a competition. His real name was Pirro Masetti – i.e. his poetic name was an anagram. I can’t find any record of his having been translated into English.


The winners are A.W., and Barbara Barclay Carter. It’s not surprising that the latter was in the running, even if Armstrong berates the entry as tame, since she had learned Italian in the last year of university, and she was the translator of  the writings of a prominent Italian anti-Fascist exile, Luigi Sturzo, the leader of the Italian Popular Party, with whom she shared a house. Born in 1900 (she died in 1951), she was half Anglo-Irish and half American, but grew up in England.  She converted to Catholicism in 1921. She also wrote a novel woven around the figure of Dante, which was published in 1929. Her later work included scholarly studies of Italian writers, and all her work has Italy as its focus. She wrote for the Manchester Guardian, and had been the only English journalist at the Savona trial in 1927 – which was a political trial against Italian democratic socialists (there is reference here in a short biography of Pertini).


Barbara Barclay Carter

Here are the winners:


The rather essay-like instruction for 102B runs “‘A bird in the bush is worth two in the hand’ shows a much noble and more adventurous attitude to life than ‘A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’. You have to write an epigram ’embodying this statement’. Hmm. Not much fun. The adjudication offers advice on the epigram, and goes on to add that the competition clearly asked for direct reference to the proverb (which it didn’t). The winners are W. Snow and Alice Herbert:


However, that’s not all in this issue. Ciel, a reasonably regular winner and entrant (one prize already in 1932) has died, and below the competition, an epitaph is printed by a fellow-competitor, with a note: here it is –