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).



Competitions nos. 170A and 170B: results

Antony Bertram offers, for the first time in a while, a translation task – you have to translate this Heine poem, in three abab quatrains, although the metre can be different.


The poem is untitled, but Schubert set it to music as ‘Der Doppelgänger’. There’s a translation by Louis Malinofsky here, and one by A.S. Kline here. With more than a touch of potential hubris, I’ve had a shot at translating it myself, so I can see what the winners do:

A stilled night, and the cobbles mute:
This house was once my lover’s space –
But she’s long left town, left no substitute,
Though the home remains, it’s the same place.

There’s a man here too, staring up into sky,
Wringing his hands as if nothing heals –
It frightens me when I catch his eye –
It’s my alter ego, the moon reveals.

Yes, dopplegänger, you washed-out double –
Why that look of my love’s long pain,
In this very same place, giving me trouble,
So many nights, lived over again.

I couldn’t see how I could lose dopplegänger in line 9. Mainly I’ve tried to get some echo (that ‘Doch steht noch’ is impossible to capture). However …

Bertram rules out everyone who rhymes ‘woe’ and ‘long ago’, and anyone who mixes up liebeslied (‘heartsong’) with liebesleid (‘life-pain’). That takes him to four – R.G.G., N.B., Valimus and the new set of initials and winner, E.S.B. (Valimus is picked as the runner-up). The winning entry is very, very clever, because it shifts the whole poem into Scots dialect, giving the writer a whole new lexicon to use.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe second one – to be fair, Bertram thinks they’re none of them very good, is very self-conscious. I like the fourth line, I hate the ninth, and ‘unfold/Grief’ is just terrible. But then I am reacting to these having just used up an hour of my life on trying to do the same thing. It certainly sounds better in the German!

For the B competition, Bertram lifts a description of ‘a mere great man’, i.e. a snob, from the Microcosmography of the bishop John Earle (1601-1665), a sort of compendium of ‘types’ (you can read it here):


(There is a picture of John Earle here.)

Bertram wants a modern version to describe an intellectual snob. His instructions are a bit vague, and the entry small – but Southron wins with a modernised version, and Guy Innes (far more work involved, surely?) wins with a pastiche of Earle. I would have reversed the prizes, but perhaps I am being an intellectual snob.



Competitions nos. 158A and 158B: results

Frank Sidgwick is back, with a curious competition about punctuation and meaning. He imagines an eminent general dictating ‘It was the hardest day’s fighting I have ever known,’ and his secretary sending it to press, only for a printer’s reader to question the apostrophe, and for there to be a subsequent discussion between Secretary, Reader, General, Editor, Sub-editor etc.

The entries don’t really impress Sidgwick, since, he observes, no competitor has considered what was in the General’s mind. Sidgwick contends that we use ‘one of the’ to indicate a reservation, i.e. he’d had much harder days. Nor did anyone debate whether day was the substantive qualified by fighting or the other way round. (He asks, ‘Is a month’s holiday a holiday of a month or a month of holiday?’)

The report is quite short, with some reference to hyphens (it’s pretty obscure), and the second prize is withheld. Only Guy Innes gets through, commended for his realism.


At the Indignation Meeting of Animals to Protest Against the Use of their Names in Derogatory Metaphor by Humans, a lead was given by the city representatives – the Bear, the Bull, the Stag and the Guinea-Pig [how did the Guinea-Pig get in there?] Sidgwick wants the names of the other twelve protestants with (very short) reasons why they were protesting. 24 competitors submitted 282 animals (in 67 species) from Elephants to Nits. In order of occurrence: Pig (17), Cat and Dog (16 each), Ass (15), Rabbit (14), Rat (13), Goat (12), Fox and Sheep equal (10), Skunk and Elephant equal (7). There was one Beetle, and no Lobster (why would there be?). (Sidgwick adds that Lizard must be the latest addition to the list.)

Sidgwick admits to being bored reading repeatedly that Cats were tired of being tokens of mean and vindictive women. An entrant called Sedulous Ape is ticked off for writing 300 words where Sidgwick had asked for abbreviated reasons. Others abbreviated so much that they were incomprehensible. However, H.C.M. and Pibwob made it past the scrutineer:


Competitions nos. 154A and 154B: results

There is something about the grand dame in Naomi Royde-Smith that means, when she sets a competition, she feels she must alter the disposition of the guineas on offer. In this case, in the A competition, she offers three individual guineas for the three best conundrums that end in the line ‘What should A do?’ Her report mentions no names other than the winners, but does make pronouncements on what not to do (one entrant had 26 characters from A to Z in the 250 words allowed). Two failed entries are quoted in full, but not credited.

Still, for the first time, T.E. Casson comes out first, although it’s his bad luck that, on this auspicious occasion, and on his 154th attempt, he earns a single guinea rather than two. The other two winners are Hutch and Guy Innes.


Casson’s entry, in case you missed it, is a sort of amalgam of the E.W.Hornung novels featuring the cracksman Raffles with the bodyline crisis. (Raffles had been created in 1898, and appeared in twenty-six stories and a novel between then and 1909 – but a British film The Return of Raffles had come out in 1932.)Hutch’s entry seems fairly conventional to me. But Innes’s entry is a witty send-up of the whole competition.

Alas for the B competition! Entrants had been asked to complete

Upon my plate his guinea-fowl;
I asked for guinea-fare.

But ‘a sad thing has happened’. The entry contains a misprint. It should have read

Upon my plate lies guinea-fowl;
I asked for guinea-fare.

The idea was to have a go at a waiter. Royde-Smith is certainly not giving any prizes out, but she allows one entry to be printed without any other reward:


Worth at least half-a-guinea, I’d have thought!


Competitions nos. 134A and 134B: results

Norman Collins sets these. There is a reversal for once: the first prize in the A competition is a guinea, in the B competition, two guineas. The A competition observes that the London County Council has suggested renaming Pilgrim’s Lane, Hampstead ‘Worsley Road’. Six London streets are given – so this is a bit parochial – for renaming in a similarly ‘destructive way’, but with ‘local applicability’:

King’s Bench Walk, Park Lane, Kensington Gore, Petty France, La Belle Sauvage, and Cheyne Walk.

(As a matter of fact, the change to Worsley Road went through, but, thanks to a campaign by Michael Foot, it was reverted to Pilgrim’s Lane in 1969. There’s a good little blogpost about it here.)

Foot at home

Michael Foot and his wife Jill Craigie in Worsley Road, I mean Pilgrim’s Lane.

A whole host of also-rans (submitters not named) are listed, among them

King’s Bench Walk: ‘Fee-Snatcher’s Fairway’, ‘Wigan Walk’ (I sort of get this – the wig bit – but am I missing something?), ‘Lost Causeway’, ‘Nisi Lane’

Park Lane: ‘No Parkington Street’ (this one is credited, to Gerald Summers, very possibly the designer you can read about here); ‘Barnato Passage’ (Woolf ‘Babe’ Barnato was a highly successful and very rich entrepreneur, and also a racing driver who won Le Mans three times, in 1928, 1929 and 1930, and who drove Bentleys – he lived in Mayfair, so perhaps this is the significance; in the same three years he won Le Mans, he was Surrey cricket club’s wicket-keeper); and the suspiciously anti-semitic ‘New Jewry’.

Kensington Gore: ‘Ruddymead’ (Summers again), Lansbury Sweep (help again: George Lansbury was the leader of the rump opposition Labour Party in 1932, but I’m not clear why he’s associated with Kensington Gore – he lived in Bow Road), Harrods’ Approach,

Petty France: Passport Place.

La Belle Sauvage: Cassell Court (because that’s where the publishers Cassell were based)

Cheyne Walk: ‘Sage Street’ (lots of clever people), ‘Phone-box Parade’

The winners are Quint (Sidgwick’s unprinted loser) and Guy Innes



The B competition wanted 12 lines of poetry in the manner of Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802) (Charles’ grandfather) to celebrate the discovery of a serum that cured measles. It may be that a cure for measles had been announced in 1932, but the 1950s were when a cure was found. Erasmus Darwin cited measles as evidence of a cruelty in the natural world, and was the first to coin the phrase ‘natural selection’ – not his grandson. He was interested in the nature of illness; he was also a not very distinguished poet. The winners are Yury and Lester Ralph.



Erasmus Darwin

Erasmus Darwin

Competitions nos. 130A and 130B: results

Sylvia Lynd – always likely to overrun – takes back the conch. She asks first for meditations on a portrait by a) a sitter and b) a painter. Her report is brisk, and doles out the prizes to two new names, N.H. Peters and someone whose pseudonym can’t be arsed to move beyond ‘A.’ I suspect he or she will even now come at the start of any alphabetical list of winners during the last 83+ years. Here they are:


The B competition – an open letter in verse that has to start ‘Ye innkeepers of England’ – starts with a nice trick, by amalgamating the best parts of the entries of Mariamne (mis-spelt as Marianne), Pibwob and Seacape, who are the runners up. There is reference to the evils of D.O.R.A., and I assume this is a Department of Rural Affairs rather than of Real Ale. (It’s the Defence of the Realm Act, which restricted opening hours: thank you, George Simmers)

Here’s the composite:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABut the winners are Baldwin S. Harvey and Guy Innes, both of whom have been out of the winners’ enclosure for some time:



Competitions nos. 127A and 127B: results

Oh well, we’ve been silly for long enough. Anthony Bertram asks for three quatrains on three painters in the style of Baudelaire (‘Les Phares’) He gives a reminder ‘for those who have no Baudelaire on their holidays’. Perish the thought.


This competition’s results were published twenty years to the day before I was born, and only seven years to the day before the start of World War II, come to that. There must have been many in 1932’s late August who were not tempted by this competition, which Bertram says he’s set because he hasn’t seen it done before. Not a great reason. You aren’t allowed to use the artists Baudelaire used: Watteau, Rembrandt, Goya, Michelangelo, Delacroix, Leonardo and Rubens. Drat.

Van Gogh was the most popular choice, followed in joint second place by Greco and Gauguin and in joint third by Angelico and Hogarth. Greco was a surprise to me. More than one person did Raeburn (I’d have to look him up). There are no modernists on the list. Bertram admits it was ‘a great outing for traditional winners’ and traditional losers too (Casson), although there is a near-winner called Ursula Hobhouse, who was the daughter of a New Zealand-born priest (CofE), had been born in London and brought up in Edgbaston, Birmingham; and who was born in 1899 and died in Cowes in 1957. He takes issue with some of the judgments and discounts the entries as a result, which is quite high-minded of him. Among those who miss out are Pibwob, Seacape, Olric, William Bliss, W.A. Rathkey and Issachar. The winners are Eremita and L.V.Upward, the latter more catholic in his taste, and including Laura Knight, whose reputation has just been boosted over the last year by a reappraisal and an exhibition.






















You can look at Matania’s paintings here, Tuke here and Knight here. Knight was very much alive at this point – indeed, she was the official artist at the Nuremberg trials.

The B competition is hard (especially if you’re on holiday!). You have to provide appropriate epigraphs from real sources for book-titles Bertram has made up. Hard work. The titles he lists are ‘A Life of Hitler’; a cloak-and-sword romance called ‘For Pope and King’; ‘The Manifesto of the Anti-Nudist League’; ‘Memoirs of a Soldier and a Sportsman’; Prof. Blank’s ‘Geological Studies on the French Riviera’; and ‘A Dictionary of Modern Slang’. (The first and last are now of course real books.) The winners are Guy Innes, and – not very long after she has started entering, or, as I actually suspect, since she started using this name (we’ll see why in two competitions time), Sylvia Groves (odd quote for the Life of Hitler, by the way). Some of the commended are quoted, but what catches the eye is the name of one who is mentioned at the end of the report as having sent in good entries. It’s Hilary Trench.

Hilary Trench was one of the pseudonyms used by Graham Greene – he had another Trench (Henry) to use – especially when writing to newspapers. Some of his early pieces in Oxford Outlook were signed ‘Hilary Trench’. It is also suggested by more than one of his biographers that ‘Hilary Trench’ represented to Greene a sort of darker alter ego, a depressive side. At any rate, whether we have to wait for his victory (see Links) in parodying himself or not, we know that he was drawn to competitions as early as 1932.






























‘Hilary Trench’