Competition no. 236: results

Margaret A. Macalister, a very occasional competitor (she came second in 122A in The Week-end Review – the Frank Sidgwick competition that asked for numerical references in literature to make a sum), but a well-connected Cambridge resident (her brother-in-law had been Chancellor of Glasgow University, and her father Cambridge’s professor of Anatomy) sets a competition that already feels like a throwback – she wants a selection of ten books suitable for each of the following:

a) a fraudulent company promoter’s prison cell

b) a youth hostel

c) an off-duty librarian and

d) a dyspeptic lighthouse keeper.

As she remarks, the entries are always mixed in quality – and she then finds that there is not enough space to print the four lists of each winner (the winners are Allan M. Laing and Peter Hadley), just one list each, so we have to take it on trust that they are the best two.

A scattering of other suggestions is provided – for the banker, The Wages Of Sin, Crime and Punishment, Goodbye to all that, and Songs of Innocence, for instance. He is also given Eden Philpotts’ Dartmoor Stories (geddit?).


Youth hostels, she argues, need quick books. William Bliss suggests sets of an omnibus Wodehouse. Classicist Edmund Casson is sterner, offering Kant, Hegel, Marx, Mill, Hobbes, Locke. A better suggestion is Cold Comfort Farm. The librarian causes problems (it is alleged): he is supposed by many to want ‘censored literature’. (I suspect Macalister has this the wrong way round – doesn’t she mean ‘uncensored’?) The lighthouse keeper gives competitors a headache but I rather liked A Room of One’s Own and Shrimps For Tea. (The latter was a very popular collection of short stories, written by Josephine Blumenfeld and published in 1930.)


The near-winner Hugh Shearman was in later life known for books about the occult.



Competition no. 221: results

One craze that was gathering supporters in 1934 was the caravanning holiday – the acravan had become popular in the twenties, but the thirties (and later the fifties) saw a rapid growth in its popularity. This is from 1929:

Caravan 29

The judge is Richard Church. Church notes that caravanning is all the rage, and that ‘motor-gypsies’ will threaten the countryside, requiring competitors to submit six rules. It is interestingly evident that Church is not a regular reader of the competitions – he gives out addresses, for instance, and makes a feature of where the people are from. So we are told that T.E. Casson is from Newton-le-Willows, Lancs. Casson has bothered Church because he (Casson) suggests that there should be no drinking. This does not fit with Church’s view. He conjures up several rural vicars from the entry, and says none of them had a problem with wine. The prize goes to James Hall, and the runner-up (with a very unsatirical set of instructions, leading one to believe that he was a caravanner) is Allan M. Laing. (He is from Lyndale, 19 Wavertree Nook Road, Liverpool 15.)




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’.


Competitions nos. 192A and 192B: results

Philip Jordan comes up with a complex idea. Entrants have to imagine it is 1940, and the fifth anniversary of the establishment of a totalitarian state in the UK. An official history has been commissioned, and the “approved” journalist is to write an account of the burning down of Parliament five years earlier by Ramsay MacDonald and Stafford Cripps, and their trial. This is a complex reference to the fire that destroyed the Reichstag in early 1933 – even then, there was some suspicion that the lone confessor, who was Dutch, was not the real culprit, and that it may have been the work of the Nazis.

Nevertheless, this is a difficult competition. Cripps was at the time a surviving member of the Labour party in Parliament, and had broken away from the Independent Labour Party to form the Socialist League, a left-wing grouping that included G.D.H. Cole as well as two youngsters, Michael Foot and Barbara Castle (Cripps was later Chancellor in the post-war Attlee government).


Stafford Cripps

Jordan reckons that only one entrant has really pulled off the trick of being a polemical journalist. His name is Nalgar, and although this is a ‘new name’, it’s also Raglan backwards, so it is Fitzroy Somerset, the $th Baron Raglan (the 1st had been Wellington’s right-hand man, and was later known for sending the order that led to the demise of the Light Brigade in the Crimea). The fourth baron, however, was known as a beekeeper, an anthropologist (the first to compile a dictionary from English to the language of South Sudan when stationed there in World War One), and also as the writer in 1936, of a book that identified the archetypes of a hero – somewhat in advance of Joseph Campbell’s less penetrable study.???????????????????????????????

Lady Houston was the owner by now of The Saturday Review, the magazine abandoned by Barry and his staff to found the WR. The runner-up is T.E. Casson (on his best streak since the competitions began).

???????????????????????????????The B competition takes a Morning Post headline, ‘A Thousand Years of Tradition Can’t Be Wrong’ and asks for nine further fatuities of the English Language. One of the runners-up is Ellen Sophia Bosanquet, the daughter of the historian Thomas Hodgkin, and the wife of Robert Carr Bosanquet, an eminent Aegean archaelogist (1871-1935). His wife, who also wrote about Greece, lived on until 1970, and one of their daughters helped published a highly regarded collection of her mother’s letters, poems, and autobiography, Late Harvest. Ellen herself published a collection, in 1938, of her husband’s letters and light verse, so the attraction of the competition to both is clear.


Ellen Sophia Bosanquet

Guy Innes wins the guinea after a lot of discussion, but the runner-up, having first made an appearance as an also-ran a few competitions earlier, is the victor-ludorum-to-be, Allan M. Laing. There are to be several years of competitions in which no-one can touch him. The expert on Allan M. Laing is George Simmers, who has blogged about him on several occasions, as here.

Laing incidentally does it the hard way, selecting nine phrases from contemporary newspapers. His is the second below (his name was accidentally omitted).