Competition no. 76: results

Martin Armstrong sets no. 76, and he obviously considers it a hard one, as he sets only one competition, with first and second prizes of three guineas and one guinea respectively. And an odd competition it is (there is a harder one due shortly, though!).

The rubric reads “There is a regrettable omission in Book IV of Paradise Lost, for in the description of Adam and Eve retiring for the night, there is no reference to toothbrushing … [please provide] twelve lines in the appropriate metre and style, describing Eve engaged in this necessary operation.” It’s hard to work out why toothbrushing was suddenly so supposedly potentially funny, but I suspect that there was more advertising, and this is what has triggered Armstrong’s odd competition. Colgate had floated on the American stock exchange in 1930, so it was getting to be bigger business. And here is an advert from 1931:

Toothbrush ad 1931

And another:

Colgate ad 1931

The standard Armstrong reports is apparently very high, and Armstrong apologises for having accidentally overlooked that there was a toothpaste called Milton, which has elicited puns in a couple of entries.

The winner, last seen in the competition columns as a loser in Competition no. 1, is Edward Marsh, the patron of the Georgian poets preferred by the literary wing of The Week-end Review, the editor of several volumes of Georgian poetry, the literary executor of Rupert Brooke, and someone whose connections in the literary world can only have been matched by Lady Ottoline Morrrell.  His wealth – part of it inherited on his mother’s side from a government stipend paid to the descendants of the only British prime minister to be assassinated (Spencer Perceval in 1812) – supported many young writers, including D.H.Lawrence.

Edward Marsh

The runner-up is W. Sterne.

WR 76

Competition no. 1A and IB: results

Follow this link for Comps I to XX

Martin Armstrong’s asked for a spritely prospectus for the new paper. He archly thinks there is plenty of excellent verse, but many ‘excellent prospectuses that were not spritely’ and many ‘spritelinesses that were not prospectuses’. Not for the last time, a judge is going to whinge about instructions not being followed. Armstrong singles out no less a figure than Edward Marsh for ‘a deaf ear and an empty palm’, but still quotes his whole effort. Edward Marsh was the chief benefactor of Georgian Poetry, all of whose anthologies he sponsored. He was a professional civil servant, who spent most of his life seconded from the Colonial Office to be private secretary to Winston Churchill in every post Churchill held until the 1930s (Marsh retiring with a knighthood in 1937). You can see his National Portrait Gallery image here. Armstrong – who owed his first appearance in a major anthology to Marsh himself – must have enjoyed dismissing Marsh’s effort (it was advice to the editors, whereas the competition calls for an editorial announcement of intention. It contains the immortal opening ‘Bid the sweet Saturday adieu/ And in hebdomadary blend/ Mix jets of lyric fire and dew …’). Marsh once memorably remarked that he wanted poetry to be ‘three things, or if not three, then two; and if not two, at least one of the following: intelligible, musical and racy’. I’ve always liked that word ‘racy’.

Seven entrants are commended, including two of the signatories to the letter in Issue 1 – Non Omnia and Lester Ralph – and one character who will recur, Issachar. But the first two winners, both pseudonymous, are Yelsom and Seacape (another signatory). The total prize money of two guineas and half a guinea is split equally between them. Here is Yelsom, who looks to me like someone who might be really called Mosley (surely not that one?)

Each Friday we shall offer you,
If Providence remains our friend,
Some politics, books old and new,
The theatre, music, art. Our end

And object is to make you spend
One sixpence of your revenue
To get a literary blend
Of Comments fair on matters true.

Papers abound of every hue;
And some you scorn, and some commend:
But how exceptionally few
Are those to keep and not to lend.

You’ll KEEP the new WEEK-END REVIEW!

A bit too much inversion for my taste, but these are Georgian amateurs! Here is Seacape, who is destined for greater things. He’s tried to go one better by making it an acrostic.

W alk up! Walk up! Your sixpence spend
E nriching none so much as you!
E nrol yourself with us, and blend
K nowledge with current points of view!

E xperts, who know what to eschew,
N ovels and plays will recommend;
D ivergent policies their due
R eceive, if Tories we befriend.

E ntrants for prizes may contend;
V erse, Music, Art live here anew;
I ndeed, of worth there is no end.
E nsuring it the whole year through,

W hy not your thirty shillings send?


In the B competition, Mrs G.P.Lea nabs the first prize of a guinea, and a K.Heanley gets the second prize of half a guinea. I think modern competitors might do better than these two, though they have their moments: Mrs Lea first:

… He opened the box, his sensitive mouth trembling. It was filled with roses. He laid them in her lap, and his well-maniucured hands quivered as they touched hers. Smiling she bent her head and smelt them.
“You carry cardboard-boxes in your dress-clothes!”
“I took a bus as far as Piccadilly and carried it the rest of the way. I did it because – I love you.”
The roses fell to the floor. She dropped her eys in confusion and picked them up again. Heavy footsteps sounded without …
“My husband!” She snatched the box and, pressing her mouth passionately to his, she thrust the roses into it. “Quick! The lid!”
But he had lost his head and could not find it.
The door opened …

And finally K. Heanley:

Tommy loaded his fork with both meat and vegetables and swallowed it. Then taking a good pull at the beer he replaced it beside him on the table. Picking up his knife he caught the eye of the waitress, put it into his mouth, winked, and proceeded with his meal. The waitress offered him another roll. She turned her back and he bit it in two, but the one half sticking in his throat he cut that and continued eating with gusto.
The host, watching his viands disappear in alarm made out his bill. He disguised his anxiety and presented it to Tommy. The boy, with his mouth full exhibited a pained surprise and put it in his pocket.