Competition no. 222: results

Ivor Brown, always a dour judge, asks for an epitaph on a Dead Failure, in any field or sense. He admits to finding as many as forty good ones, and there is a string of also-rans, and a few quotations of which this one, by John A. Bellchambers, struck me as better than the actual winners:

Here lies a lass, who was, alas,
Long left upon the shelf:
She lost all lovers by her gas,
And so she gassed herself.

However, seeing off Sir Robert Witt, TE Casson, H.C.M., W. Leslie Nicholls, and others are David Holland and librarian Mariamne, the former punning on a sense of ‘ploughed’ that is, I think, no longer with us. (It is mid 19th century Oxford slang, and originally meant to be failed – and not to fail, as it is here.)


Competitions nos. 184A and 184B: results

Clennell Wilkinson asks for “the best suggestions” (this is a phrase he will regret) for a verse to follow the lines from Treasure Island:

Fifteen men on a dead man’s chest
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!
Drink and the Devil had done for the rest –
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!

Treasure Island 1934

Still from the 1934 film being filmed at the time of the competition

Even before the results of the competition have appeared, this letter has appeared:


Mr. Owen is only the first pedant out of the starter’s blocks. Pedantry is an adjunct of an entrant to these competitions (guilty as charged), and when it comes to the report, Wilkinson is obliged to add in a host of extracts from ‘private correspondence’. Interesting, by the way, to see Seacape chipping in under his regular name.


After all that heave-ho, he awards the prizes, to new names, M.E.Durham (“despite the feeble rhyme, ‘Come'”) and Justin Clarke Hall:


Justin Clarke Hall was the elder of two sons of Edna Clarke Hall (nee Waugh, 1879-1979 – she reached 100), a notable painter who spent her summers in Cornwall, was a friend of Gwen John, and who frequently used her sons Justin and Denis as subjects (indeed, the Tate has a picture of Justin from the previous year. She had been widowed in 1932. Justin would have been 28 at the time of winning this competition). I can find no direct reference to his death – his brother Denis died in 2005, in his nineties, after a remarkable career as a pioneering architect of schools. Justin and Denis’s father and uncle had been co-founders of the NSPCC.

Justin Clarke HallThis is Justin as a teenager.

There is a consolation prize for Mariamne, for the usual reasons.


After all this, the B competition is a bit of a fizzle. It relays at length the story of an Irish owner of a steeplechaser which came in last, and his enquiry of the jockey ‘Did anything delay you?’ The entrants were to suppose that the jockey was an ironist, a student of modern Irish literature, and capable of up to 200 words in response. Popular though the competition was, Wilkinson can only find a guinea for William Bliss, and this:



Competitions no. 160A and 160B: results

J.C.Squire amasses a huge postbag with his requests for ballades that have the refrain ‘I don’t know where the _______  ____ we are’. He is is driven to congratulating Lt Col H.P. Garwood, W. Leslie Nicholls, E.W.Parsons, and also (an unfamiliar name) Geoffrey Parsons, who, I suspect, is the lyricist who later (1954) co-provided the words for Charlie Chaplin’s melody ‘Smile’ (a song most associated with Nat ‘King’ Cole).

smileThere are also commendations for William Bliss and “Seacape II” – who’s this then, Black Gnat bored with not being Seacape?

After considerable flannelling, Squire gives first prize to Mariamne, and second to Obispo, while admitting that he’s not really sure what the latter always means with his blanks:



Ely Culbertson was a Russian with a surprising background, who popularised contract bridge, virtually single-handedly. There’s a piece about him here.


Ely Culbertson


The B competition goes awry, but perhaps because Squire worded it wrongly. He wanted an example of a ‘purple patch’ of prose, but he meant an existing one, and instead received lots of examples of the genre. He decides to give Guy Hadley a prize for some very purple prose, and a runner-up prize to Muriel M. Malvern, who has quoted something, albeit in translation (this was originally held over for space reasons, but I’ve restored it).


Competitions nos. 133A and 133B: results

An apparently rather snooty Valimus, the veteran competitor, asks for poems on harvest: a nice, safe, Georgian subject. The report is so mock-acerbic that it feels as if it might actually be acerbic … ‘a certain technical failure, a regrettable inattention to finish” knock Marion Peacock, William Bliss and Majolica out of the running. James Hall, H.C.M and Pibwob (‘who should learn not to rhyme on an unstressed syllable’) are also dismissed as below par. Chauve-Souris, Prudence, W.A.Rathkey, Lester Ralph, Damon, Una Monk and Hilary are ‘lingered on’. D.C.R.Francombe’s poem ‘seems’ good, but the last four lines are produced as evidence of incoherence. Money is once again snaffled from the B competition to bulk up the winnings, and the second prize is awarded jointly to a new competitor A.D-J and Little Billee, but, ‘well, it can’t be helped’, the winner is Seacape. Set a Georgian subject and he’s your man. ‘They call it Seacape’s Corner already,’ he adds – a reference to a letter published a couple of weeks earlier (from Guy Hadley: see below)






The B competition asks for a mathematical axiom about boarding houses, based on the piece ‘Boarding House Geometry’ in Stephen Leacock’s ‘Literary Lapses’. You can read the piece here. John Britton and Seacape (again) are commended; the rest (again) are dismissed, namelessly, and the single winner is Mariamne.


We are now well into October 1932, and an advertisement, with one explicit eye on Christmas, is placed. As it says, the original plan was to produce an anthology of the competitions, but this has been expanded into something more representative of the whole magazine. Nevertheless, the competitions take up about half the available space, suggesting that they were a major selling-point.


Competitions nos. 64A and 64B: results

Gerald Bullett produces an A competition that is not too dissimilar from Squire’s request in the previous week: another Ode, although this one involves translation. The model is Sainte-Beuve, whose poem is the source of the subject, ‘Ode To Rhyme’. You can read the original here. As almost always, T.E. Casson is the first to be commended (perhaps he had started by now to wonder if it would take a year for his turn to come round again). Marion Peacock and Guy Innes come close, but it is the old warhorse, Seacape, who snaffles the top prize, and, as I’ve remarked before, when he wins, it’s often the case that Pibwob is in the frame as well. He gets the runner-up’s half-guinea. Seacape is always praised for his elegance. See what you think.



These two poems very clearly illustrate the traditionalism of the judges, and, I suspect, many of the readers.

The B competition asks – yet again – for epigrams. There had been some rumblings against the League of Nations, especially in the Daily Express (Beaverbrook still pushing his Empire Crusade). The first two winners (who split their guinea) are Mariamne and Prudence (her first win at last), but the third name is that of (Edward) Jerrard Tickell, who gains the second prize. Tickell (1905-1966), who was Irish,  was to become a highly successful novelist and writer, and to have two particular successes with his memoir of Odette, the special agent, and with a novel in 1951 called Appointment With Venus, which was turned into a film starring David Niven. His wife was a well-known spiritualist, Renee Haynes. There is a good bibliography of his work here.

Jerrard Tickell

Here are the three squibs:


Competitions nos 60A and 60B: results

Anthony Bertram firstly gives us a poem in the shape of a triangle or pyramid, which he ascribes to Drummond. There is more than one poet called Drummond, but I am going to hazard that this is a slightly modernised version of a poem by Shakespeare’s contemporary, William Drummond of Hawthornden. There is an article (as much about his being a bibliophile as a poet) about him here. Please let me know if you think I’m wrong. There is a nineteenth century Drummond who writes almost exclusively in dialect. There is a Brazilian concrete poet (the term ‘concrete poetry’ did not get used till the 1950s, although Apollinaire’s experiments with calligrammes  in1915 were well-known – however, this poem, rather like George Herbert’s efforts, rhymes), but the Brazilian’s first collection did not appear until 1935. So I think it must be the earlier one. ‘Only the form need be imitated,’ says Bertram.

WR Comp 60

Since we already know that W. Hodgson Burnet likes anything that allows him to be visual, it’s no surprise that he’s the first honourable mention (ruled out regretfully because his entry did not rhyme) as well as Seacape, R. Mal (not a winner yet, but increasingly mentioned as a runner-up), H.C.M, Myra Verney, R.W.MacGoun, Henry Sharp – and, of course, running ‘close to prizewinners with the Pyramid of Cestius as his subject’ is T.E. Casson. Myra Verney, whose portrait can be seen here, was a well-known soprano, who died in the early 1990s, and whose life and career are commemorated by a recital prize. Her sister, Harriet Cohen, is famous not only as a singer, but as the mistress of Sir Arnold Bax, and also of Ramsay Macdonald; and as someone who put a huge effort into rescuing Jewish friends from Nazi Germany. R.W.Macgoun may be the reverend from Morningside, Edinburgh, whose daughter was a painter (but is more probably a son of his).

The winners were Guy Innes and Chauve-Souris, and Bertram can’t decide between them, so splits the two-and-half-guineas equally between them:

WR Comp 60b

60B (where is the idea for this coming from?) asks for a four-line verse supposed written by (A.E.) Housman in a condemned murderer’s autograph book. Do condemned murderers have autograph books? Odd. Bertram also drops into the slightly schoolmasterly finger-wagging that a couple of other judges are prone to: ‘I did not ask for parody, but lines supposedly written by Mr. Housman. I think that we may therefore presume that he would not have employed whole lines out of his other poems, as many competitors do. I am afraid that some people do not know their Housman as well as they should …’ He’d like to give the prize to Guy Innes, but the rules forbid winning both contests, so he gives the prizes to two newcomers, Cumbrian and Mariamne (and not Marianne, as spelt):

WR Comp 60d