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.

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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) –

 

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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:

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Competitions 28A and 28B: results

Another new judge: the art critic Anthony Bertram. He also wants translations, and has asked for a rendition of a four-line Goethe poem:

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As before, the translations do not go well. J.W.Pepper gets the only prize, with the spare half-a-guinea being added to the 28B pot.

                                                                     Why interrupt this quiet season?
                                                                          Leave me in peace beside my bowl.
                                                                     Though converse be the feast of reason,
                                                                         ‘Tis solitude inspires the soul.

                                                                                                                     J.W.PEPPER

I wonder if ‘converse’ was really in everyday use.

For the second, and perhaps more demanding competition (it’s usually the other way round) competititors had to imitate Gibbon, and have him look back on the stand made by A.P.Herbert for individual liberty in the 1930s and 1940s. The winners (two of whom are from the original five signatories) are Lester Ralph, A.J. Perman, and Non Omnia. They’re skilful parodies, but they’re not actually very interesting, I don’t think, although Herbert himself was a remarkable man. Born in 1890, he’d made his name as a writer in Punch by inventing legal arguments and cases which were both witty and satirical. (Herbert had contributed an article ‘Why Not Rationalise The Law?’ to the very first edition of The Week-end Review.) As a novelist – his novel The Water Gypsies had just been published at the time of this competition – he was less well-known. Five years after this competition he was elected as an independent MP for the University of Oxford (Oxford and Cambridge had their own university seats, which gave rise to the curious phenomenon of some people having two votes), and he stayed as the MP until the university seats were abolished in 1950, making the timing of this competition (1930s and 1940s) very prophetic. Herbert died in 1971.

APherbert

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Competitions 20A and 20B: results

Robert Lynd now sets a sonnet in the style of Milton to be addressed to someone who has run off with the Speaker’s mace in the House of Commons. In our own time – okay, nearly four decades ago – this was a breach of parliamentary niceties most notoriously committed by Michael Heseltine. In 1976, as an opposition MP,  he seized the mace and waved it at a Red-Flag-singing group of Labour members who were celebrating victory on a vote relating to the nationalisation of aerospace and shipbuilding.

However, the mace was also in the news in 1930. Gateshead’s Labour MP, John Beckett, who had been in 1924 the youngest MP in parliament, objected to the suspension of the disputatious Fenner Brockway (then MP for Leyton East, and to live to be a centenarian). Beckett seized the mace and attempted to take it from the chamber, and was duly suspended himself (Beckett lost his seat in 1931, joined Mosley’s fascist party, and was imprisoned during World War II).

John Beckett

John Beckett

FennerBrockway

Fenner Brockway

Michael Heseltine

Michael Heseltine

Lynd is his usual playful self in his report: ‘It would be going too far to say that many of the sonnets which have been submitted to this Competition might have been written by Milton. It would be going too far, perhaps, to say that even one of them might have been written by Milton.’  One thing’s for sure: the competitors are not impressed by Beckett. A.D.M., Biddy, Gerald Leonard, W.B., Halcyon – all of them attempt to express some Miltonic fury. ‘Defiling the high symbol of our state/ With grin and caper like a clod-wit clown’ – which sounds a lot more like Shakespeare than Milton to me.

The winner is an entirely new name: J.W.Pepper. Here’s his effort – better for trying less hard to be serious:

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The second prize goes to another newbie: Miss C.M. Bowen, who gets ticked off for her comparatively weak last line:

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20B is an odd competition – to create a contents list of an imaginary ‘Post-Everything’ periodical, to be called ‘The Dustbin’. Lynd writes that most of the entrants, few in number, did not get the idea. But the winner did – that it was a spoof on experimental Gertrude-Stein-style writing. The winner was A.T. Chenhalls. What is extraordinary is that Chenhalls (his first name was Alfred) is another entrant who has a bit-part in a celebrated and disastrous incident which has never properly been solved. He was an accountant who worked for a number of actors, including Leslie Howard, the film star who readily signed up for anti-Nazi propaganda. He accompanied Howard (as his business manager) on a flight to Lisbon in June 1943, and was on board during the return. At the same time, Churchill had flown to North Africa, and there is a theory that Chenhalls was mistaken by spies for Churchill, to whom he was said to be similar (as Howard was also similar to Churchill’s assistant). The plane – Flight 777, handy for conspiracy theorists – was heavily targeted by eight Junkers aircraft and shot down, killing everyone on board. Churchill himself believed that the Germans had believed Chenhalls to be Churchill. A photo of Alfred Tregear Chenhalls survives from shortly before the flight:

Alfred T. Chenhalls

Alfred T. Chenhalls

Runner up to Chenhalls was the classicist Gilbert Highet, a winner in a competition (16B) a month earlier. Here are their entries:

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It would certainly seem that the readers of The Week-end Review, like the judges Wolfe, Squire, Lynd and Welby, amongst others, were firmly dismissive of all modernists – Joyce being a particular target, but Eliot (for ‘Dustbin’ read ‘Waste Land’) and Marinetti and Stein being further fodder for baiting.

There’s a 1956 Australian article, with pictures of Howard and Chenhalls, here, and another, with a longer description of Chenhalls, from a Tasmanian newspaper here.