Competition no. 198: results

Naomi Royde-Smith becomes the first of two judges to set a competition in The Week-end Review but to have her report published in New Statesman and Nation. Royde-Smith being a maverick, she has set one competition only, with prizes of three guineas and one guinea. Over the next two competitions, this will change!

She offers ‘a Viennese jingle’ – no-one seems to have been put off by the fact that it was originally printed not with a double-ss in lines 4 and 9, but a ‘b’. She wants it translated.


There are 41 entries, who don’t find it easy (one of them sent in a four-line French epigram, which is not the easy way in or out of this competition). Two poets (both unfamiliar names, Lenore and ‘A.W.’ are commended, compared, printed in full, but given no prize:


First prize goes to Hilary (an occasional, and apparently female entrant), with a clever use of dialect; and the second to WR stalwart Alice Herbert.


The competition appears in the back pages of the NS&N – as it had been doing in the WR.

Competitions nos. 106A and 106B: results

Humbert Wolfe returns to the fray with a request for a poem (‘no more than twenty lines’) rebuking Flora for having invented the fritillary (it is very hard to get under Wolfe’s skin and get a sense of what drives him, but you can read about Fritillaria here). This is a competition which attracts familiar names to the near-winners’ enclosure, including Dermot Spence, W. Hodgson Burnet, Lester Ralph, William Bliss, and, naturally, the ‘accomplished’ T.E. Casson. Issachar narrowly wins, with Prudence and Hilary being so, as it were, inseparable, that Wolfe asks if they can have a prize each. (This coy ‘meekly asking permission’ of the editor always means one thing – the other competition has gone wrong, and there is a half-guinea going spare.)

Here are the winners, all writing as if Eliot had never happened:



The other second prize I’ll have to type in:

Flora, can it really be
Your taste is lacking?
Or was it sheer fauity?
Or want of backing?
Some shortage in the scheme of things
That painted Fritillaria’s wings
Yet left you nought to clothe this waif
But the dull semblance of a leaf?
You clad the prettier ones in white,
The remainder in domestic checks.
I think you must admit it wasn’t right
Or fair to this poor child our eyes to [ ]*.
Forbar then to depress
Us, but for next year’s spring
A lovelier lily bring
With sprinkled silver on a cloth of gold
And to our sight unfold
An earthbound butterfly,
The true fritillary.


* There is plainly a word missing in the printed text, and the best I can suggest is ‘flex’.

Competition 106B could easily be set today – a list of the twelve worst phrases in journalistic use, the examples given being ‘acid test’ and ‘old Parliamentary hand’, both still with us. The results, though, says Wolfe, are disappointing (he says he nearly put ‘frankly disappointing’ , thereby adding another one to the list. He wants sloppy phrases not bad grammar or slogans. Wolfe provides a list of the twelve most common entries:


Numbers 2, 7, 8, 9, 11 and 12 are certainly still around but not the others, I’d suggest. He allows one prizewinner, A. Raybould (a new name), who has 4 of these 12 in his entry:

If and when; gives furiously to think; to implement their promises; an inferiority complex; taking in one another’s washing; the psychological moment; making up on the swings what you lose on the roundabouts; getting together; exploring every avenue; a fair crack o’ the whip; placing their cards on the table; the eternal triangle.

Raybould’s list sounds dated apart from getting together, exploring every avenue, and maybe placing their cards on the table. It’s interesting to see the word ‘implement’ in there at such an early date (it’s a hate-word of mine, but I’ve always dated it as the 1980s, along with its buddy ‘proactive’).

Competition no. 99: results

Gerald Bullett opts for a single competition this week, with prizes of two guineas, one guinea, and two half-guinea consolation prizes. That’s because the poems he has in mind are so long, I expect, despite his suggestion that he will reward brevity. . This is a fable competition. The instructions are so exhaustive that I’m not going to try to summarise them:


William Bliss and T.E. Casson get close, but the winners are Hilary, Seacape, Ciel and Pibwob, so this is an old hands’ competition. It is already Seacape’s fourth win of the year, and it’s still mid-February.


Competitions nos. 68A and 68B: results

Just a week after one of her current lovers had narrowly failed to carry off a portion of a guinea, the judge is Vita Sackville-West, who is to become a regular. Only a few weeks earlier, Sackville-West had received the news – surprising to her – that the novel the Woolfs had published through their Hogarth Press in May, All Passion Spent, was selling well (‘Lord! What fun!’ remarked Virginia Woolf in her letter). She sets two modern competitions, or at least that’s how they feel.

68A is the first limerick competition: a limerick of thanks after a weekend visit (not a very promising topic). Oddly enough, Sackville-West’s very first published writing was a limerick, co-winning a competition in The Onlooker in July 1907 when she was fifteen (she won a pound and confided to her diary ‘This is the first money I have got through writing: I hope as I am to restore the fortunes of the family that it will not be the last’).  

Several competitors are instantly disqualified by sending in a sequence of limericks, or by ‘failing to adhere to the exigencies of the metre’. Several limericks referred to leaving things behind, and some to ‘Black Monday’ (confusing, this, as it was in 1929, although the stock market had been in a slide for two months in 1931). The fact is, though, that the limericks are not great, and Sackville-West admits to taking the easy option and going for one of two facetious spelling entries. The winners (both new names) are Talahina and Hilary. (Talahina is the name of the Indian wife of Col. Sam Houston of Revenging The Alamo fame.)


Is it me, or has Hilary just won half-a-guinea for a limerick that has nothing to do with the subject?

68B wants a scene (up to 300 words) from an imaginary novel typified by such lines as ‘He stared at her, fascinated,’ or ‘Her rare smile passed slowly across her features’. In the event, Sackville-West admits she was looking for a piece made up of hackneyed phrases from fiction, but that her entrants seemed to be well-versed in the work of Mrs. Amanda Ros. Amanda Ros, about whom there is a good blog here, is cited by many as the worst prose writer there has ever been. Here she is:

Amanda Ros

The winner (back in his stride, and no mistake) is Seacape; the runner-up is Welch.