Competitions nos. 114A and 114B: results

J.C.Squire returns. He wants a ballade on the Royal Academy Exhibition. Since the refrain has to be “Plus ça change, plus c’est le même chose” – which Squire points out is a perfectly good iambic pentameter if you pronounce it correctly – it’s not clear if Squire is refering to the January to March exhibition (French Art 1200-1900) or the 164th annual exhibition, which ran from the 6th May to the 27th August, and attracted over 140,000 people to see over 1,500 works of art. Probably the latter. Oddly enough, The Spectator had, a week or two earlier, run an account of the 1832 exhibition in its ‘One Hundred Years Ago’ slot (Turner comes in for a pasting). The eye is drawn to the back pages, where The Spectator was also running a competition (top prize, two guineas), in addition to a weekly limerick competition. The former is just over a year old; the latter about six months old. A quick glance at the winners turns up Guy Hadley and H.A.L. Cockerell of the WR parish …

In a crowded field, Seacape and D.C.R.Francombe are near-winners, just edged out by J.W. Pepper and W. Hodgson Burnet.




The B competition was for three to eight proposals for books (any genre) to be ‘put up’ to publishers. It turns out that Squire was actually being quite serious, but he had reckoned without Bertram R. Carter and the veteran James Hall, both of whom deliver the goods (another modern competition) –




A special further competition is set, but I’ll come to that when its results are announced. In the meantime, the event the competitors and judges (and their spouses, it seems) have waited for is upon us:


Competitions 6A and 6B – results

Robert Lynd is his ususal droll self about the way entrants who look for the most obscure words to castigate crossword setters generally finish their poems with an admission of being hooked – “Many … as was to be expected, have groped in the obscurest corners of the dictionary for words hard enough to serve as missiles, and others have summoned a menagerie of strange animals to their aid in inflicting upon a setter of crossword-puzzles the tortures he deserves.” He cites G.W. as an example: ‘Unheard-of things … /Tear at the raw epiphyses./ Enough! Give me a pencil, please …’. More vitriolic is W.R.D, from whose entry this verse is edited:

Panopthalmitis visit you,
Iritis, keratitis, too;
That may your corneae cicatrice,
In good plain words, Sir – “Damn your eyes!”

But the winner, and you just can’t hold him back, is once again Seacape.

What is the crossword solvers’ fun?
This, in a minor key:
The love of things begun and done
In welcome symmetry;

The piecemeal pitting of the wit
Against the wide unknown,
With here a bit and there a bit
From sources of one’s own;

The filling of a firmament
Mapped out in ordered squares;
Being, in fact, indifferent
Creators unawares.

Obviously, all the judges at this stage are aware of Seacape’s propensity for winning, since he has plainly done so since his Saturday Review days, but four out of six (and two near misses) is already good form. The last two lines are a little foggy for my taste, but the clarity and the repetition of the first ten lines lift this right out of the Georgian mire into which most of the winning poetry has so far been stuck.

And it is miles better than the second prize, which goes to W.G. for

Dodo and quagga, hear me
(By the bones of the mouldering auk, I swear!)
Shade of Eli, draw near me!
Puma and ounce, advance from your lair!
Asa, arise from your grave!
Yak, descend from the far Himalyas!
Elvers, leap from your wave!
Boa, come forth from the land of the Mayas!

When I am harping with the blest
May the cross-word fiend who steals my rest
Indite his thoughts with a red-hot pen,
On a tablet of brimstone in Sheol! Amen!


One thing that strikes me is that it may well be the fact that it is Lynd who is judging that makes these two sound more contemporary so far. There is plainly a relationship between the judge and the judgment. (And that being the case, Seacape has been particularly clever.)

Competition 6B (the second of its kind) is typical Lynd (when writing about Lynd, Rolph catches himself out with some dodgy grammar, and remarks that Lynd would have corrected him).  Entrants had to write in abominable English about a wedding. ‘There are modern grammarians who defend the use of the split infinitive,’ writes Lynd, ‘but a glance through these entries would, I imagine, cure them of their tolerance.’ He gives first prize to Bertram R. Carter for this:

  Only daughter of Sir George Golding, the popular mining magnate, who, in these days, of course, is literally coining money, the wedding took place yesterday of Miss Grace Golding, one of the prettiest brides of the season, to Mr. Reginald (“Bill”) Rhodes, himself a gentleman not entirely unknown in financial circles. The historic fane of S. Mark’s was packed from floor to ceiling with the friends of both families who had assembled to witness the nuptials. Chatting with one of these after the ceremony he told me that the bride’s aunt, Lady Byers, having a castle in the Highlands, had kindly loaned it for the honeymoon, it being the intention of Mr. and Mrs. Rhodes to, later, go on to Paris for a short trip. The presents were numerous and costly, evincing the esteem and affection in which the happy couple are held by all who know them, that of Sir George to his daughter comprising a diamond pendant. It is inteesting to record that, due to the social prominence of the parties, the marriage was consummated at the High Altar while the reception was held at Harridge’s.


Second prize goes to A.S., who commits more howlers; but Lynd has been looking for entries which are not too ostentatiously bad:

   With the prevailing cult for secret weddings, so different to Hanover Square days, cutting swathes in society, everybody is of course dying to know who will be be next.
   Yesterday the beautiful and Honourable Lettice Blunkett was married to Captain Ivor Hagge of the Coldstreams before the Chelsea Registrar. I nearly missed the ceremony.
   Having caught a cruising taxi literally by the skin of my teeth at Sloane Square, my watch showed it was already past the appointed hour, and we had to negotiate the most aggravating traffic blocks. Howbeit, I arrived at the psychological moment that the bride’s car hove into view.
    Only a few mutuial friends had been invited who were terribly intrigued at the romance of it all, which is scarcely to, under the circumstances, altogether be wondered at, and the formalities were soon over.
   The bride wore a costly ermine coat and a most unique hat trimmed with the same, while the bridegroom favoured morning dress.
   Both looked so happy as the gallant captain left with blushful Hippocrene on arm that even the adjacent ranks of taxi-drivers (who, after all, are human) could scarcely forbear to cheer.
   It is likely that the honeymoon will be spent abroad.