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.

sitwells3

Osbert, Edith and Sacheverell Sitwell

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

TWB 001

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

Competition no. 157: results

Just the one competition this week, from Gerald Bullett: the winner to get two guineas, the second to get one guinea, and the third-placed to get half a guinea (a saving of half a guinea on the usual prize pot!). ‘Spring has survived her poets, and will survive others,’ writes Bullett, a bit nebulously. He asks for a poem entitled ‘April 1933’, in three six- or eight-line stanzas, the stanzas to be in a combination of two metres. He gives an example (not to be slavishly followed) from Blake’s ‘Night’:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOddly enough, he also says that anyone who wants to drop the 1933 is welcome to, and that those who do opt to go with 1933 ‘and who write with some consciousness of our times, are advised not to make specific political allusions’. Why? What’s the point of that?

Anyway, it’s a disaster: ‘Many entrants seemed to misunderstand the terms of the competition, thinking it sufficient to vary the length of their lines, and not troubling to introduce a definite metrical change; and others, having achieved such a change in the first stanza, failed to sustain it throughout.’ Ouch. He then proceeds to take apart Prudence’s poem (Prudence is a ‘she”), despite it being ‘charming’. William Bliss and Pibwob and ‘a few others’ are let off. The prizes go to D.C.R.Francombe, Lester Ralph and Cottontail in that order. He hasn’t got space for Cottontail’s poem, but promises it will be published very soon. It never is: the first and only example of a half-guinea being handed to a writer whose work remained unpublished in the WR.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

No two ways about it: these poems could and would have won competitions set over thirty years earlier.

 

Competitions nos. 120A and 120B: results, plus special competition

Norman Collins was in charge of this competition, set at the start of July, but the results held over for a week to allow for a special competition advertised over a month earlier, with a five guinea prize, and (somehow the sum of money involved makes this inevitable) to be judged by Naomi Royde-Smith. Strictly speaking, this special competition isn’t within the remit of this project, although a previous ‘special’ competition, judged by NR-S, was numbered. So I’ll deal with 120A and 120B first, and put the special competition afterwards in this post.

Right. If you thought 119A was complicated, wait till you try to get your head round 120A. You are asked for four replies from four people (names coming), each no longer than 50 words, to the following quandary (which I’m sure you’ll agree is ‘everyday’). You are in a low-flying aeroplane when you see your worst enemy (who is a bad driver) with his family, coming round a dangerous corner near your house in a fast sports car (are or were there slow ones?). Your little daughter, aged two (were or are two-year-old daughters ever large?), is about to cross the road, and from your vantage point, you can see that the car won’t stop in time. You were a bomber in the war, and you have a heavy bag of tools in your plane. Should you ‘bomb’ the car, and thus save your child’s life?

If you have absorbed the many problems involved there – worst enemy, family with him, dangerous corner, bad driver, two-year-old daughter, bombing cars with hammers and spanners etc – it now falls to me to tell you that you have to construct your four replies as if from four of the following six: Lord Cecil, General Seely, Dr. Maude Royden, A.A. Milne, Lord Baden-Powell or Miss Evelyn Laye. (Only two of these, Milne and Baden-Powell, are really familiar to us now, I think we’d agree. Interestingly, they are all referred to as ‘celebrities’.)

First of all we – and perhaps they – might have been stumped by the very phrase ‘Lord Cecil’, since the Lords Cecil were not thin on the ground. However, it is the opinionated who come in for ridicule, so it’s plain we’re talking about Lord Robert Cecil (a former Conservative minister with responsibility for the organisation of which he had been the main proponent – the League of Nations. He fell out with many in his own party over their lack of support for the League; he won the Nobel prize in 1937 for its creation; born in 1864, he lived until 1958).

General Jack Seely (created Lord Mottistone in 1933, and living from 1868 to 1947) was Secretary of State for War until forced to resign in 1914, after which he served as a soldier for all four years of The Great War, surviving to return to the Cabinet, from which he resigned again in 1921. He was later in favour of appeasement. Like Cecil, he was known for taking stands. His horse ‘Warrior’ is often cited as the inspiration for War Horse. There’s a good biography of him here.

Maude Royden was a suffragist who broke with Emmeline Pankhurst over support for World War I – she didn’t renounce pacifism until 1940. She was highly active in the church, the country’s first female Doctor of Divinity – in 1931 – and the person who first described – and it wasn’t a compliment – the Church of England as ‘the Conservative Party at prayer’. Born in Liverpool in 1876, she died in 1956.

Robert Cecil

Robert Cecil

Jack Seely with Winston Churchill

Jack Seely with Winston Churchill

 

Maude Royden

Maude Royden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A.A. – Alan Arthur – Milne was born in 1878 and died in 1956. Like Royden, his almost exact contemporary, he was by nature a pacifist, and was shortly to publish (1934) an explicit attack on war (Peace With Honour). Milne was principally a playwright, but he was also a Punch associate editor as E.H.Shepherd was a Punch illustrator. Their fortune was made in 1926 with Winnie-The-Pooh (drawn to resemble Shepherd’s son’s bear, by the way, not Milne’s) and its sequel, and then And Now We Are Six.

Robert Baden-Powell (1857-1941) had been a controversial army man (there is more than one way to interpret his successful defence of Mafeking), but is principally known as the Chief Scout, and the founder of the worldwide movement in the late Edwardian years – one could pick several dates for its ‘start’. The excised section of ‘Scouting For Boys’ (1908) here gives a flavour of his eccentricities, but also the clarity of his writing.

Finally, Evelyn Laye (1900-1996): she was a popular stage actress, who was in the process of becoming a film star, but she might well have been best known for the acrimonious divorce action in the late 1920s – her husband left her for Jessie Matthews, and she opposed the divorce, which made headlines.

Lord Robert Baden-Powell

Lord Robert Baden-Powell

 

 

A.A.Milne

A.A.Milne

 

Evelyn Laye in 1933

Evelyn Laye in 1933

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before the competition results were published, the WR received a letter from a reader – A.A. Milne!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After all that palaver of an introduction, we come to the gags. Don’t raise your hopes, and remember the scenario. A near-winner is one R. Hartman, who has Evelyn Laye chat to Norman Collins: OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

T.D. Tremlett, in later life the leading expert on heraldry in Britain, chips in unsuccessfully with ‘Pooh says he would drop two bags’. But the winner is Guy Hadley  and the runner-up is William Bliss:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The B competition refers to a calculation that had been recently made by the Rector of Bermondsey to the effect that, in twenty years, the mother of a family of six (does that include the father?) peels 87,600 potatoes, butters 175,200 slices of bread, darns 10,400 stockings. makes 29,200 beds, and kisses her offspring 45,000 times. Collins asked for an extra one or two verses to Home Sweet Home, but, very much as with 119B, the entry is so poor that only one prize is awarded (Collins suggests giving the money to charity …) The sole winner is Valimus.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Finally, there is the small matter of the special competition, which supersedes the regular competition for a week. Set by Naomi Royde-Smith, it asks for a piece entitled ‘Consolation Prizes’, with competitors writing to say which of books published between January 1 1932 and June 1 1932 most deserved a prize, excluding all those that had won a prize.

Royde-Smith notes that the popular vote goes (‘by 75%’)to Beatrice Curtis Brown’s ‘For The Delight of Nutorio’ – which turns out to be a misprint for ‘For The Delight of Antonio’, so not a good start for the subs. It is feasible, just, to find an image on the web:

Antonio

Three books tie for second: Arabia Felix (Bertram Thomas), Hindoo Holiday (J.R.Ackerley) and Limits And Renewals (Rudyard Kipling). As Royde-Smith points out, the regulars like Seacape don’t perhaps have time like others to read – but in fact, the runner-up essay is written by a big-hitter, James Hall, and the winner of five guineas is D.C.R.Francombe, who is no slouch (and whose address is given to us as Pen-Dinas, Tuffley, Glos.) At a future stage I may be able to reproduce his whole essay, but for the moment I’ll leave this post with a list of the books he himself chose and the list Royde-Smith appends of others mentioned by the entrants. Read any of them?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Biographies of Chaucer, Clare, Harris and Bronte (C) I have never heard of, novels by H.E.Bates and Colette I don’t know … and something faintly reminiscent by Lawrence …

Competitions nos. 113A and 113B: results

Ernest Betts sets the task of writing a love-story, either flippant or serious (300 words). The shaol of entries makes Betts feel exhausted, and none of them match up to his idea of a love story (the only clue we get as to what this is, is that he doesn’t find any with a lyrical mood). Some new names (Jean Anderson, Frances Somerville) come close, as do Majolica and Chauve-Souris – most of the commendations are to women entrants. Betts notes that the competitors’ dinner is coming up, and toys with suggesting to the editor that the prize be increased to 100 guineas and divided by fifty, and distributed there – not a very amusing remark, but one that gives an idea how many takers there have been for the evening.

In the end, the prizes go to one old hand, D.C.R. Francombe and one new one, Whistletop (unless he, for it is a he, is an old name behind a new mask).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

What an odd and sad story! But a lot better than the half-guinea effort below …

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

The B competition could easily be set today – although twenty lines wouldn’t be allowed. Competitors are asked to modernise/ update nursery rhymes (or one long rhyme – not an option exercised). This time there is a string of apparently worthier proxime accessits, including H.C.M., W.Hodgson Burnet, W.A.Rathkey, Jocelyn Lea, and one P. Seton Crisp, about whom I can only tell you that he was employed in Australia in 1915 as an actor, and that he was a leading mourner at Chesterton’s funeral in 1936. The first prize goes to Dermot Spence, who submits five and the second to E.W.Fordham, who submits four:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’ve been trying to work out if there is any significance in ‘Schwartz’, but can’t see it. The spelling ‘gompromised’ turns up regularly as a parody of German pronunciation.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Megan and Gwilym Lloyd George were a Liberal party on their own, in effect, as opposed to those led by Sir Herbert Samuel, who was still in the National government, and a third faction, in opposition. Megan (the first woman Welsh MP) died in 1966, having joined the Labour Party. Her brother did the opposite, and joined the Conservatives (he was Home Secretary from 1954-1957). He died in 1967.

You can see a short fim of Gwilym in 1941 here. Megan Lloyd George is below.

MLGeorge

Competitions nos. 70A and 70B: results

Humbert Wolfe, whose own poetry is a peculiar mixture of the witty and the sapless, has asked first for a sonnet on sonnets, and, although he is more pleased with the B competition, he still thinks that there are several excellent entries. He can’t resist a bit of dry sarcasm (almost everyone sent in fourteen-liners), and he commends the witty as well as the more serious. He cuts the shortlist to three, and the last one to be thrown out is Hilary. What is perhaps a bit of a bother is that he wished to keep Hilary because lines like ‘The sandals barefoot poesy endures’ are allegedly almost too good to lose, whereas I would have been reaching for the bin at the double, as would, I think, judges like J.C.Squire. Never mind. The winners are Dermot Spence and D. C.R. Francombe. In Spence’s case, this is a first appearance. He was a linguist who had been to Oxford and Heidelberg universities in the late 1920s, and who was fluent in German (and other languages, probably including Hungarian, since he would seem to be the translator of a number of Hungarian poems). He was working in publishing and in an art gallery, and had edited one of Conrad’s novels. His biographical details are largely visible because his son, Jonathan D. Spence, is one of the world’s foremost authorities on Chinese history.

Here are the two sonnets:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

What excites Wolfe is the response to a much more surreal competition, one that feels a great deal more contemporary in spirit. Competitors had to give six questions and editorial replies on the following subjects:

goldfish, automatic chess-players, gas-fitting as a career for girls, difficulties of growing orchids in the open air in Lapland, skiing as a qualification for beekeepers, and the advantages of reading modern poetry by candlelight

This elicited a large postbag. (In passing, automatic chess-players were still in their infancy, although two famous hoaxes in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, involving chess masters hiding inside ‘machines’, had aroused interest, and there are references in some fiction, including a story by Ambrose Bierce. Not until the 1950s did automaton chess have any significance.) What Wolfe does is to select various entries to each question, and tot up who has the most entries overall:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The name of the last entrant quoted has been omitted by accident, not by me! The overall winners are Rosemary Higgins and Prudence. R. Graham’s name is a rarity: but he was one of the five original well-wishers, and the only one thus far to have won nothing (and has barely been mentioned, in fact) – although perhaps his ‘entry’ is misprinted. It’s worth noticing that the Sitwells are considered fair game (they are the subject of the next competitition). Vita Sackville-West had already had a skit on Edith Sitwell published in The Nation (under a pseudonym), and they were regarded as the leaders of a nonsensical and pretentious tendency.

Competition nos 50A and 50B: results

Not only does the competition reach its first half-century, The Week-end Review itself reaches the end of its first year in circulation with this edition (there were no competition reports in the first two, for the obvious reason that they were being set). If you get a chance to look at the magazine, you will find it is starting to steer an interesting course, straying quietly into social issues. Barry had done this with a little more circumspection in The Saturday Review; now he feels free to liberalise the paper. Its fit with the New Statesman and Nation is obvious in hindsight, although the WR is a little more light-hearted (a quality Kingsley Martin recognised when the takeover was negotiated in early 1934).

As with New Statesman, the ‘back half’ (the competitions remained in the centre of The Week-end Review, dividing social and political comment from literary and cultural comment) is a almost oblivious of the front half. The reviews are well-written (the reviews editor – to use a modern title –  is L.P.Hartley, as in The Go-Between), but the standards and attitudes are completely apolitical, and conservative with a small c when it comes to literary preference. Readers of the WR were expected to have a nodding acquaintance with the literature of the sixteenth to nineteenth century, not least because most of the writers had specialism in those eras – ‘Stet’, or T.Earle Welby, for instance, was still much taken with the work of late Victorian poets, and Humbert Wolfe saw himself in a romantic tradition that encompassed European writers. So the reference to Lovelace in this competition is not at all surprising.

Gerald Bullett wants a reply from the addressee to the famous lyric to Lucasta, written by Richard Lovelace. in the same form, and of the same length. You can read the poem here. It is about putting the honour of war ahead of love. The responses don’t, however, take the opportunity to make any kind of political statement about any potential prospect of war, and avoid satire completely. That underlines the way the back half of the paper works. The winners, who include two of the original five letter-writers, and who are three in number (one guinea each) are Valimus, Lester Ralph and D.C.R.Francombe.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

50B asks for short pieces on any subject in the style of Logan Pearsall Smith’s Trivia. This collection of short reflections, aphoristic and epigramatic, had been hugely popular when published in 1917, and Logan Pearsall Smith, an American who had settled in London, and was well-connected to  many in the cultural world, followed it with further collections in the same vein.You can read extracts from Trivia here or indeed download the whole book for free here. The competition attracted a very large entry. The two winners, Xenon and W.E., are new to the competition pages.

Logan Pearsall Smith

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Competitions nos. 48A and 48B: results

J.C. Squire returns with a competition that has been set many times in the ‘modern era’: by which I suppose I mean since I started entering in 1978. Hmmm. The task is to write up to 300 words in any genre, composed entirely of monosyllables. Squire (who seems to me the judge who understands his audience best) attracts a large postbag. There is a long list of near-misses, including Jane Smith (aged 12) and somebody with an amusing pseudonym, Corona Underwood (they’re two makes of typewriter). Another also-ran is V.I.Longman, a writer whose novel ‘Harvest’ (1913) has been considered culturally significant enough to be be reprinted in the last decade in France. Longman is a bit of a tricky figure to identify, but I would guess that it’s Violet Isabelle Longman, who married first a man called Balkwill, and secondly a man called Dean: but the British Library does not catalogue her 1913 novel.

The prizewinners are Belinda and C.H.P.:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

48B is for a ballade – and Squire does say ballade, not ballad – with the refrain ‘If only I had stopped to think’. He’s had a large postbag for this, too, which he’s been able to winnow by removing all those who didn’t use the ballade form properly – including his sister! One of the competitors who misses out is W. Leslie Nicholls, who wrote a number of hymns, and whose poems can sometimes be found in contemporary magazines (he has a villanelle in The Windsor Magazine in 1928). He later became an actuary, and there is quite a helpful obituary of him on an actuarial site:

W. Leslie Nicholls, a Fellow of the Institute of Actuaries and of the Canadian Institute of Actuaries and an Associate of the Society, died in Mount Royal, Quebec on June 22, 1992. He was 87 years old. Born in London, England [in 1905] Mr. Nicholls attended Alleyn’s school there. He was on the actuarial staff of Atlas Assurance Company in that city from 1923 to 1937, earning his Institute Fellowship in 1931. Atlas bought control of Montreal Life Insurance Company in 1937, and he was sent to Canada to become Actuary of the company. In 1938 he was granted Society Associateship by waiver of examinations. For many years he was General Manager and Actuary of Montreal Life and was elected Vice President and General Manager in 1956. He inherited the financial stewardship of Montreal Life in difficult circumstances and not only nursed it through rough patches but also built it into one of the soundest small-medium companies in Canada. He retired in 1970, living in Mount Royal until his death. Mr. Nicholls was a quiet man who performed his duties effectively and was well liked by those who knew him. He was a devout member of the Mount Royal United Church and was its treasurer for 30 years, up the day he died. He was also an avid lawn bowler. He is survived by his wife, Laura.

Need I say that T.E.Casson was in the running?

The winners are H.S. Mackintosh and D.C.R.Francombe. H.S. Mackintosh was keen on the writing of ballades, and he was known to Squire, who had published a ballade by him in the paper he edited, the London Mercury. It may have been this ballade that was picked out by Belloc for an anthology in 1931 (One Hundred And One Ballades) – and Mackintosh produced his own collection, Ballades and other verse in 1953 (Rupert Hart-Davis). Another of his ballades can be found here. He was evidently Scots, and this may possibly mean he was the rugby player who played for Scotland in 1928, and subsequently became a teacher: idle speculation.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The week these were published (February 21 1931), Gerald Barry started a new feature in The Week-end Review. It was called ‘This England’, and Gerald Barry had the idea from a column in an American newspaper The American Mercury, which had a similar column, ‘Americana’. It was instantly popular with readers, and it still survives in New Statesman. It proved, even more than the competition, to be one of the attractions for Kingsley Martin when he absorbed the WR into New Statesman (by which time, Barry had already had an anthology printed). In its third week, Barry wrote quite a serious article in its praise, ironically perhaps making much of the fact that people were complaining that a chocolate advert showed someone smoking, and objected. He referred to tobacco as an ‘alleged poison’. But this little historical clanger doesn’t detract from how seriously Barry saw the job of This England as being a way of debunking ‘the pontifications of magistrates and coroners’ and others who threatened the liberty of the individual.