Competitions nos. 167A and 167B: results

A spot of bad planning here. Last week we had Pope. This week we have Pope. That surely could have been avoided unless it’s a case of ‘No-one says ‘No’ to Naomi Royde-Smith‘. She asks for up to 21 lines (21! One competitor chides her for suggesting there could be a line over) by Pope on the premise that he has had lunch at the Ivy, and spent the afternoon round Covent Garden and Fleet Street with various editors and agents.

Royde-Smith is taking no prisoners here. Why do the entrants start writing before reading the instructions? Her brief report is a slightly cack-handed piece of disguised Pope:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADamon is the only recipient of any prize money:


The second competition, however, is, even allowing for the fact that Royde-Smith thinks it is, something of a success. Competitors are asked to come up with ‘six suggested improvements to the human frame’. She prints two winners, but also some of the other suggestions. One of these entrants is P.Y.Betts – Phyllis Yvonne Betts – then a short-story writer in her early twenties, but later to fade from view until 1989, when her memoir People Who Say Goodbye was published to considerable acclaim. (She had vanished, rather as Jean Rhys did, from sight – first to East Anglia, then to a secluded part of Wales.) There is a very good blog about her here.

People-Who-Say-Goodbye-coverThe main prizewinners are Majolica and Little Billee.


Competitions nos. 124A and 124B: results

J.C Squire sets this one. Earlier in 1932, in March, Eamonn de Valera had risen to be the ‘President of the Council’ i.e. Prime Minister of the Irish Free State, as it then was. It was Fianna Fail’s first triumph, just five years after first contesting an election, and the party took very nearly half the seats (and 47% of the popular vote).

Fianna Fail government 1932

Fianna Fail government, 1932, De Valera in centre of front row

Squire asked for a song about Dev (he was fond of asking for songs) to the tune of ‘The Spanish Cavalier’, not one I know, but dating to the 1870s and running thus:

A Spanish cavalier stood in his retreat
And on his guitar played a tune, dear
The music so sweet, they’d ofttimes repeat
The blessing of my country and you, dear

Say darling say, when I’m far away
Sometimes you may think of me, dear
Bright sunny days will soon fade away
Remember what I say and be true, dear

I am off to the war, to the war I must go
To fight for my country and you, dear
But if I should fall in vain I would call
The blessing of my country and you, dear

And when the war is o’er to you I’ll return
Back to my country and you, dear
But if I be slain you may seek me in vain
Upon the battlefield you will find me

You can hear the song here.

It turns out that the song was already rather forgotten in 1932 – Squire attracts a small entry (unusual), an ‘even’ level, and no decent songs. He reproaches himself a bit for not having spelled out the bleeding obvious (De Valera was to stand in for The Spanish Cavalier), but all the same only hands out a lucky first prize to W.R.Y. who provides some Oirish:


The B competition asks for six titles, as yet unpublished by Waugh, Chesterton, Belloc, Kipling, Shaw, Walpole, Wodehouse, Priestley, or ‘Francis Iles’. Squire was obviously having a poor day at the office, because he has to apologise for not stating the bleeding obvious again – six by any one of them, not a pick and mix.

To take the last of the nine first, ‘Francis Iles’ was Anthony Berkeley Cox (1893-1971), a crime writer who also wrote as Anthony Berkeley. He had in fact just published, as Francis Iles, ‘Before the Fact’, which you are forgiven for not having heard of, but which was the basis for Hitchcock’s film ‘Suspicion’ (the end of which was notoriously changed so that Cary Grant did not turn out to be a wrong’un. Well, that’s what Hitch said, and what I’ve always believed, but the latest biography claims this was a gigantic fib being perpetrated by Hitchcock. Two other oddities about ‘Suspicion’ – Nathanael West co-wrote a screenplay that was discarded, not long before West died, in a car crash, on the same day as F. Scott Fitzgerald; and ‘Suspicion’ was the only film that garnered a Hitchcock actor an Oscar (Joan Fontaine)).

Seeing Waugh on the list (‘much belaboured but evidently widely-read’) is a surprise – he’d only just published his third novel, Black Mischief. (Decline and Fall and Vile Bodies were its only predecessors, and Waugh was only 28 going on 29 at the time.) The other writers were respectively 76 (Shaw), 68 (Kipling), 62 (Belloc), 58 (Chesterton), 50 (Wodehouse), 48 (Walpole), with only ‘Iles’ (39) and Priestley (37) within a decade of Waugh’s age. I don’t think anyone would disagree that it’s Walpole whose reputation has vanished – as noted in an earlier commentary on a report, he was holed beneath the waterline by an attack on him by Maugham in Cakes And Ale. Although Walpole published more than thirty novels – his most recent was one of the Cumbria-set ‘Herries’ novels (one suspects a TV producer will get round to them), The Fortress – as well as five volumes of short stories, two plays and three collections of memoirs, it is hard to think of a title of his that resonates, and I’ve only ever read one of his books. Still, I think it’s a hard job to come up with imaginary titles for any of them, Wodehouse perhaps excepted. Nevertheless, it’s Kipling and Walpole who win for Majolica and (new name) Saevio respectively (the money is split equally between them):


Squire is always generous with naming the also-rans, and in this case, they include A.H. Ellerington and H.A.L. Cockerell, who have already been mentioned in more detail. Another is (Miss) K.T. Stephenson, a veteran of the Edwardian Saturday Westminster competitions (I think she is one and the same as the Miss K.T. Stephenson who was principal of St. Gabriel’s CofE college in Rochester between 1913 and 1930).  There is a raft of others who look traceable: J.J. Nevin, Violet I. Kemp, Diana De Vaux, and the figures hiding behind the initials C.E.V.O and T.W.I.H. But no luck. I can tell you that Ronald Bargate, another proxime accessit, was Ronald Arthur Bargate (1906-1990), but other than that he was the Fulham-born son of a Middlesbrough-born architect, I can’t get closer. Over to you.

Competitions nos. 111A and 111B: results

Sylvia Lynd sets this one, and, in variant forms, it persists to this day. A has been lent a house in the country by B. A’s letter of thanks is asked for, in which there is an apology for something (fairly slight) done. (It also to contain some idea of the house.)

It is interesting to think of the country house as a feasible option for Week-end Review readers. Of all the competitions so far, this is the one that gives us the best insight into the class and character of the entrants, and perhaps a majority of the readers. But first, a digression. I once stayed in a house (immaculate) in Devon, for which only a contribution to the energy bills was required. After an hour my then partner had a shower, and knocked something off a shelf, which duly smashed. Most of the rooms in the house had precious objects in them, but this one smashed so totally that the only evidence as to what it had been was a sign that it had been purchased in Mexico. The next week was clouded completely, and the remuneration at the end was substantially more than necessary, the guilt having weighed so heavily. Some years later I confessed the crime to the owner, only to discover that it was trinket costing zilch, a thank-you gift from a student. We had spent a week in a de Maupassant story, it seemed to me.

Lynd lists the sinking of a launch, the ruin of a cricket pitch, china being broken – and the departure of servants – as just some of the apparently based-on-real-life disasters.

She writes a colossally long judge’s report, splits the first prize  between D.L.Halliday and Majolica and awards a third. The third (W.Hodgson Burnet) has to be held over for reasons of space (Lynd seems quite unaware that she is the one who has caused this problem). Although published in the next issue, I’ve placed it here.






For the B competitors, a short poem beginning ‘And this is your peculiar art, I know’ (a Coleridge line) had to be written to the creators of Big Films to persuade patrons not to sit and watch the film a second time (still possible in the 1960s, but not after that, I think). The winner is Dermot Spence, but Lynd splits the runner-up prize between two – so the smallest sums so far won (5s 3d) are thereby dished out. One of the two is N.B., but the other, I am sure, is L(eonard) Marsland Gander – the ‘G’ is a printing error – who was, four years later, in 1936, to become The Daily Telegraph‘s very first television critic. He was still working as a radio and TV journalist in the 1970s (he was a Desert Island Disc castaway in 1969). Here’s a photo of him as a war correspondent in 1945:


And here are the winning entries:



Competitions nos 56A and 56B: results

A new judge, Sylvester Gates, responding to a suggestion of an increase in Death Duties in the Philip Snowden’s 1931 Budget, proposes an adaptation of Wordsworth’s sonnet to Milton, starting instead ‘Croesus, thou shouldst be dying at this hour’ (the point being that Death Duties were said to be rescuing the Budget). In the event, Death Duties (known as ‘Estate Duties’ – ‘Inheritance Tax’ is a phrase dating from 1986) were not raised (this competition’s results came out before the Budget), although a ‘Land Value Tax’ was proposed (which never came to fruition after the political upheavals at the end of the year), but income tax was raised, and the pay of civil servants, including teachers, was cut.

Gates moves swiftly through some also-rans (E.Sefi, James Hall, Majolica) and awards first prize to the competition’s eminence grise, Seacape, whose ‘elegance of execution’, he comments, in always in evidence. The second prize goes to Olric.

WR Comp 56

56B asks for some appropriate last words for any person living or dead. 75% of the entries (and a large entry) selected either Beaverbrook, Rothermere, Snowden, MacDonald, Baldwin, Charlie Chaplin and Bernard Shaw.

Two of the best  (and the eventual winner) came from Passepartout, the first being Al Capone: Ut puto, reus fio. Capone had just been arrested on charges of tax evasion (of which he was found guilty later in the year). Sorry to labour explaining the joke. The Emperor Vespasian is reputed to have said Ut puto, deus fio (‘I think I am becoming a god’). By switching one letter, Capone is being made to say ‘I think I am becoming the accused’. Two competitors sent in the BBC Announcer’s ‘Good night, everybody – goodnight!’

But here’s the winner: Marie Stopes – ‘Let joy be unconfined’.

Majolica is second with Mr. Pelman: ‘All I ask of you is remembrance’.

I suspect this second one needs a bit of annotation for some. In 1903, Charles Ennever promoted a system of memory training called ‘Pelmanism’ (a term still in use in the 1950s, as my aunt taught me it). Some suspicions existed that there was never any such person as a Mr. Pelman, although Ennever’s organisation operated from the Pelman Institute. There is a good article on it here, and I’ll leave you to see what you think.


Ut puto, reus fio

Competitions 17A and 17B: results

Clennell Wilkinson has set a more manageable competition: 17A is to be a parody of Herrick, writing about ‘Julia’s Eyebrow, on seeing it Newly-Pluckt’. 17B needs a bit of research – three meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) as prepared by Robinson Crusoe, based on the evidence given in the novel …

Eyebrow-plucking has a long and evolving history, but in 1930, pencil thin eyebrows were in, and this is presumably the source of the idea. As an idea, here’s Fay Wray, shortly to become famous for her role in King Kong:

Fay Wray

The prizewinners (squeezing out the familiars Seacape and Valimus and the newly-rising star, Majolica) are Walter Harrison and H.C.M.:

Whenas my Julia browless goes
Her eyes so boldly do disclose
Their fire, that all my being glows.
And when, in painted symmetry,
That deadly drawn-out bow I see,
Oh! how its shaft transfixeth me!
Thus burned by fire and pierced by dart,
That natural, this framed by Art,
I yield my singed, stricken heart.

                       WALTER HARRISON
Fair hairs, beneath whose golden shade
    My Julia’s eyes looked out,
And with a glance me captive made
    And compassed me about;
        I see you gone,
And I, methinks, would fain bemoan
        The impious deed
Which Julia’s fancy hath decreed.

But when I gaze on Julia’s face
      And see her lips that smile
And welcome me with winning grace
      To come to Cherry Isle;
Then, then my heart
      Is so constrain’d in every part
That, nothing loth,
     It must commend what Julia doth.


Competition 17B has asked for menus for a three-course Christmas meal to be prepared by Robinson Crusoe, based on the evidence of the novel. It’s this last requirement that might make us pause. Nevertheless, as the report shows, Wilkinson was impressed (the reference to Walter de la Mare concerns the publication in 1930 of an anthology of material for children drawn from a wide range of literary sources, illustrated by Rex Whistler, and called Desert Islands. It contained several footnotes).


The second prize goes to another new winner to hide behind initials: M.L.

Here is Majolica‘s studious winner – a lot of work for a guinea! 




And here is the second prize from M.L. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


It’s very difficult to imagine the work that has gone into these two – enough research for a decent thesis on Crusoe and food, perhaps to be entitled Crusoe: Man and Menu, and attracting hefty grants to travel to the Pacific. Hmm. Not a bad idea.

Competitions 16A and 16B: results

Not only has Gerald Bullett asked for Spenserian stanzas based on a folk tale, he has also asked for an essay with an upper limit of 300 words (an impossible luxury in these straitened times: I started in 1978, and I don’t think the word limit has ever exceeded 150, and has been as low as 100)  using John Earle’s aphoristic style (1628), and as if printed in a ‘modern’ and prurient Sunday newspaper. I have never heard of John Earle; but you may read him here. I wonder what the position was in 1930. Did the competitors do their homework? (It can be done. I thought I’d get through my life without reading Lawrence Durrell, but there was a competition in the late 1970s to turn Eliot into Durrell or vice versa, so I have read Durrell. A harder-earned £7, I cannot imagine.)

Anyway: Bullett is happy with neither. He didn’t mean entrants to write in Spenser’s style, just to use the form named after him; however, he did want the folk-rhyme to be a ‘metaphysical allegory’. When it came to Earle (a means of attacking the gutter press, to use a more modern term, something the Week-end Review writers had earned the right to do), however, he did want something in Earle’s style. However ‘sincere apologies’ are not in Bullett’s phrase-book (any more than they were when Raymond Mortimer or Julian Barnes were judges). Seacape is an unlucky loser, as is T.E. Casson, who must have begun – and he has more unhappiness in store – to need therapy for the number of times he has come close but gained no guinea.

The introduction to Bullett’s report is so grudging that even Valimus, who does get half-a-guinea, must have wondered whether to accept it. The winner (who has been waiting like Casson for a reward) is the pseudonymous Majolica:

Anon Sir Guyon counter’d as he far’d
An old decrepit woman all alone
With haske of eggs for market-day prepar’d,
Who shook and sneez’d, and weping made her mone;
And her olde legges that were but skin and bone,
She sought within her petticote to hide,
And ‘Lord have mercy on me’ did she groan,
‘I am not I, but who I be besyde,
Or in what unlykelyness, uneath may be descryde.’

Forwearied, by the way I layd me down,
And in my Kirtle did my feet enfold;
But lo, all starke, my sences in a swowne,
I wake, and am not I, and am a-colde,
Nor who I be, by no means may be told,
For when to meet me ran my littel hound,
As one bemused at what he doth behold
He bark’d and wayl’d, and gnarring lept around,
That I am none of I his wisdom doth expound.

This dearnely that mishappening bewayl’d
Hispania (for so the beldame hight)
Which, while she senceless lay, her coats curtayl’d,
And of her words and weeds despoyl’d her quite.
One Stout of harte and arm, a merry wight,
Had snipt the Kirtle of that ancient dame,
Nor mought she have agayne her antique might,
But with her vestiment, put off her fame,
And ‘I am none of I’ was still her fitt of shame.


Wheron sore laden with her merchandyse
Up til the toun on heavie steppes she wente,
Which ere she raught, as I wol yow devyse,
Upon the waye her litel fors was spent,
And sodainly dire weariness her hente
That al for failynge limbes she might not kepe
Her lonelie viage ne her ful intent,
Til on her droopyyng eye lids gan to crepe
As softe as quiet death the heavie lidded slepe.

Bifel that there a foul and witless loun
Stretcht on the cruell paument her espide,
Who cut her kirtel robe the knees aboun
And left her, on his palfreye for to ride
And don his other mischiefs far and wide.
So on a sodain was she ful awake
With biter colde, and “Lauk-a-mussie!” cryde
That al her limbes with pynching cramps did ake
And deathlie shivers so her tremblyng bones did shake.

O gentil Ouid, chroniler of chaunge,
Haue pitie of this poure and wretched wight!
What agonie of feares, what fantomes straunge
Her fraile and crazie senses did affright,
And stopt her eares, and blinded eek her sight,
So was she left with al her minde fordone,
And haples laye in sad and piteous plight
As she were thunder strook or turned to stone,
Nor knewe if she were she or els some other one!

Bisette with euil doutes and mazed with feares
She was as al her wits were stoln awaye,,
Nor coude the wantowne sorrowe of her teares
The Passyng Time with helying hande allaye.
Onlie she wepte, “O sad and woful daye,
Now graunte this teste of resoun may not faile:
If still mysefe am I, in happie playe
My gentil bound shall wagge his litel taile,
But if I be not I he shall bothe barke and waile.”

Which when she sayde, on weake unsteadie feet
Back to her wonyngre she assayed to goe,
And waited for her hound those steppes to grete
That at the lintel halted tired and slowe;
Yet he with rorying bowe and angrie wowe
Leped as a thief were knockyng at the dore,
That certes she could neuere tel nor knowe
If she were stille waht she had ben bifore,
And whose her wearie bodye was could know namore.


Gilbert Highet

Now we have 16B: the two pastiches of Earle. The winner is Gilbert Highet, and he is singled out for special praise as having produced ‘perhaps the most perfectly finished work that has ever come to me for judgment in a Literary Competition’. This must have pleased Highet, at that time an undergraduate at Balliol College, Oxford (at the age of 25), having already achieved a master’s degree in Greek and Latin from Glasgow. He had also won a whole host of prestigious prizes in Scotland, as he was to continue to do in Oxford. He was also to become one of the most renowned classics professors in the USA – and played a significant role in profiling Nazi leaders, successfully predicting their actions by comparing them to Roman emperors.

Here’s his winner:


The half-guinea goes to another young man who was destined for greater things – Stuart Piggott, later one of the key British archaeologists, and at this stage only 20 years old, but precocious enough to have published learned articles. In fact at almost the same time he was the tail-end charlie in Competition 16B, he was preparing a highly influential article on Neolithic pottery.

Stuart Piggott

Stuart Piggott