Honours Board 1933

This year we can run to a top twenty (just). L.V.Upward (who is to feature for many years to come) is the first to claim Seacape’s crown, although not quite equal the number of his victories. The numbers at the end are previous placings. As the race for third, seventh and tenth place show, this was a close and far more even outcome than the previous three years.

1.    L.V.Upward              8 victories        £11.0s.0d     (-,9=,8=)

2.   E.W.Fordham           7 victories        £8.8s.0d       (6,-,-)

3=      William Bliss          9 victories       £7.7s.0d        (5,-,-)

W.Leslie Nicholls      7 victories       £7.7s.0d        (-,-,-)

T.E.Casson                 7 victories        £7.7s.0d       (-,-,-)

Black Gnat            5 victories       £6.6s.0d      (-,-,-)

7= Guy Hadley         4 victories        £5.5s.0d       (-,-,-)

 Southron              5 victories       £5.5s.0d       (-,-,-)

Lester Ralph        3 victories       £5.5s.0d      (10=,-,-)

10=  James Hall         5 victories       £4.14s.6d     (3=,-,4)

Alice Herbert      3 victories      £4.14s.6d     (-,-,-)

Marion Peacock  4 victories     £4.14s.6d         (-,-,-)

Redling                 5 victories     £4.14s.6d       (-,-,-)

H.C.M.                   3 victories    £4.14s.6d        (-,-,3)

15=  N.B.                   4 victories    £4.4s.0d         (-,-,-)

W.A.Rathkey       3 victories       £4.4s.0d      (10=,-,-)

Eremita                 5 victories    £4.4s.0d        (10=,-,-)

P.S.C.                     2 victories    £4.4s.0d        (-,-,-)

Seacape                 2 victories   £4.4s.0d         (1,1,1)

20= Rosellen Bett        3 victories   £3.13s.6d       (-,-,-)

Prudence              2 victories   £3.13s.6d        (-,-,-)


A few points:

The major absentees are W.Hodgson Burnet, who won no prizes (but did judge a competition), and who died in the last month after what must have been a severe illness; Pibwob and Little Billee, both of whom managed three wins, and both of whom will return with a vengeance; W.G.; Valimus and Non Omnia.

Black Gnat and Seacape are one and the same, so if they had entered as one, they would have come equal second.

T.E.Casson, in his fourth year, has finally seen rewards for his persistent, weekly entries.

W. Leslie Nicholls is the major new name.

It will be interesting to see who decides to keep going when the WR is taken over by New Statesman and Nation. At least three of the above were still winning prizes in the 1950s.

In 1933, there were 90 winners (down from 114, perhaps a sign of failing circulation) who won £192 (down from just over £201 – not least because of several prizeless B comps). The number appearing behind initials had shrunk from 15 to 8, and the number of pseudonyms was down from 45 to 30. So 50% of the entrants are now providing their names.





Competitions nos. 193A and 193B: results

Seacape returns as a judge (he has had a strange year, what with his ‘resignation’, adoption of a second pseudonym and finally a return to form). He asks for an ‘ode to a ring of tobacco smoke’, but sets no line limit, so many entrants write odes of over 40 lines, and T.E. Casson goes over 50.


William Powell blowing a smoke ring in ‘The Thin Man’ (filmed in 1933, released in 1934)

Having noted that there is not as much light verse as expected, Seacape moves on to Eremita’s entry, which is in alcaics, and in Latin. The fifth line is apparently

Bacchantur extra turbine strenuo

– prompting Seacape, tongue wedged quietly in his cheek, to comment, ‘May I be corrected if I’m wrong, but I believe that the penultimate foot has a duty to be dactyl, whereas ‘turbine’ is amphimacered, as it were, by ‘strenuo’.’

The prizes go to Marion Peacock and Hazel Jenner. Hazel Jenner may well be Lady Hazel Lavery, whose maiden name was Martyn, but whose father was called Edward Jenner Martyn. She knew many of the radicals associated with the WR. Her Belfast-born husband had been an official war artist, and had painted over 400 portraits of her – one of which was used on Irish banknotes. Rumours persist that she had an affair with Michael Collins. She died in 1935 at the age of 49.

Lavery 1928



The B competition wants up to 8 lines of rhymed verse suitable to put in the front page of a collection of stamps from the British Empire. Seacape is clearly a philatelist. He responds to a suggestion that stamps are a poor investment by noting that ‘during the past year or so, the 1d Post Office of Mauritius of 1847 and the 1c British Guiana of 1856 fetched £2,400 and £7,000 respectively, and an English stamp of King Edward’s reign, issued at a face value of 10s, realised £825.’

Here is the Guianan stamp – the only example in the world:

1856 Guiana

In 2014, it sold for £5.6 million. That makes it, at least in weight, the most expensive item in the world.

There are plenty of puns, but Seacape rejects them on the grounds that the owner of an album would have to wince each time the album was opened. The prizes go to Issachar and W. Leslie Nicholls.


To finish on a melancholy note, this competition’s results appeared on December 9 1933. Six days earlier, William Hodgson Burnet had died. One of the most enthusiastic entrants, with a competitive pedigree going back to the Edwardian era, his death goes unremarked (compare the poem written in honour of ‘Ciel’). But it may be that his death coincided (as it did) with a period of particular turbulence in the magazine’s history.

Competitions nos. 180A and 180B: results

For the first time a competitor is given a second shot at being a judge – the honour falls, of course, to Seacape. He firstly asks for a ‘main clause or clauses’ of a Better England Act, 1933. As with the previous week, there seems less space given over to the report, although this may be because not many quite get the idea of parodying the language of parliamentary law (not many lawgivers, as Seacape remarks). Both of the winners here seem to me very skilled, although the newbie who picks up the second prize, Redling, is really parodying the language of legal documents relating to land. The downbeat nature of this competition is a combination of Seacape (a laconic) and the dry irony of the winners: H.C.M. and Redling, as noted. Seacape remarks that the word ‘etc.’ never been seen in a parliamentary act.



The B competition asks for a requiem, for anything, in eight lines. Everyone channels their inner Georgian, and the winners are Rosellen Bett and Marion Peacock:


Competitions nos. 173A and 173B: results

Clennell Wilkinson sets, rather wordily, a competition for a Speech Day speech by the father of a son at the school. The father has lurid memories of his own sufferings [editor’s note: then why the hell has he sent his son there?!]. The speaker was ‘not a brilliant schoolboy’ and ‘is not interested in education’, and has resolved, in a maximum of 300 words, to cheer the beggars up. Competitions like this, with so many qualifying instructions, tend to bomb.

Wilkinson analyses the entries at length. Some have put in too much stuttering; some have introduced controversial subjects (school sporting types who were cowardly in World War One, where swots were brave, and killed); some have written serious speeches (and here Wilkinson is surely right in discounting them, as the speeches really wouldn’t be listened to, and pretty well infringe the admittedly complicated rubric).

Perseverance pays dividends. Having entered, as far as I can see all 173 A competitions and the slightly fewer number of B competitions, and having what few prizes he’s garnered split, or halved, or whatever, T.E. Casson finally gets his two guineas. (It’s not very good, alas!) Marion Peacock manages to slip a poem under Wilkinson’s nose. He has to admit he hasn’t outlawed them.


Here are some of the likely recipients – this comes from a web-site dedicated to Bacup and Rawtenstall Grammar School:


The B competition is triggered by someone having seen Lenin’s tomb and saying it’s the architectural equivalent of saying ‘Boo! I frightened you that time’.


In 1933, he would have been in uniform.

So what would a) The Sphinx, b) The Taj Mahal, c) The Statue of Liberty, d) The Albert Memorial say?

The winners are G.C.B. Cotterell, who had been in the Naval Air Service in the latter part of World War One, and who contributed articles in support of the Scout movement and Officer Training Corps and other subjects to The Spectator at about this time, as here, and Alice Herbert.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt is worth noting of Alice Herbert’s entry that there is an etymological discussion about whether or not ‘Brown Windsor’ was used before 1943, in reference to soup. I am grateful to Michael Quinion, the etymologist, for his suggestion that ‘Brown Windsor’ refers to soap, not soup. I still don’t get the joke, though! (Is it the ‘royal appointment’ as in the image below?)

BW soap


Competitions nos. 172A and 172B: results

After a while away from the fray, Sylvia Lynd sets a competition to write a poem – ‘a portrait in verse’ – in the manner of George Crabbe (1754-1832). Crabbe can be quite wearisome to read at length, in my opinion, but he is good in small does – the thirty-line limit Lynd sets is about right. The thing about Crabbe is that he almost always writes in rhymed iambic pentameter couplets, so it’s the manner rather the matter that’s a nuisance. For his day, he was a surprisingly revealing writer – the first not to vilify or patronise ordinary people, in his case, in village life. He can be sardonic when he wants, but you do get a sense of the character on whom he is fixing (I can’t offhand think of a comparable portrait artist from the eighteenth century/ early nineteenth, unless you count Wordsworth, who plods rather more dully in Crabbe’s footsteps).

CrabbeLynd wants each submission to include the phrase

“… The fuddled midnight and the peevish day …”

I’m not quite sure a) why she chose the line, and even b) if it is a Crabbe line or a pastiche of Crabbe (probably Crabbe, who loves the word ‘peevish’). My Day-Lewis selection doesn’t have it, and I may have missed it in the online collected Crabbe (you can read some of his poems here).

Crabbe is no problem for the WR competitors (he is quite easy to mimic). Lynd thinks there are many potential winners. She notices that the entrants seem to divide themselves into those who habitually have fuddled midnights and peevish days, and those who shun them at all costs. The majority are shunners (‘to their moral credit’). So she gets virtuous clergymen, punctusl clerks and octogenarian labourers by the score, who don’t do peevish. But as Lynd notes – she could have been more explicit in the instructions, perhaps? – it’s the peevish ones she was hoping to read about. So out go Charles G. Box (who I think is Charles Gerard Box, boirn 1871, and a schoolteacher at Midhurst Grammar School in Sussex), W. Leslie Nicholls, and one or two psudonymous, types, including H.C.M.

As often happens when Lynd judges, the prize money gets carved up. The two guineas are split betweem Eremita and Valimus, and the bonus goes to Hutch. They’re all perfectly competent, but Crabbe can cause an allergic, soporific reaction …


The B competition – a little unpromising, although Lynd was surprised that entries weren’t so good – was to write a letter from one young person to another on the subject of a picnic. Lynd had been expecting wild and hilarious tales. She doesn’t get them. She also breaks the rules in giving Eremita a prize in B when she or he already has a prize in A. And once again, she splits the first prize, which is daft, as it means it is the same value as the second prize. The ‘first prizes’ belong to Eremita and Marion Peacock. the runner up is ‘F.J.B’, who must be Freda Jane Bromhead.


Surely an argument for deducting points for being too clever?!


Dear Alfred, – We had the best kind of picnic last night, on the way home. I don’t know quite where it was; we turned down a track on a long road between Stratford-on-Avon and Oxford, and found a field. We left the theatre at eleven (it was ‘The Taming Of The Shrew’ – I do like a bit of slapstick on a Saturday night, don’t you?’ – and the moon had set, so we couldn’t see anything, except what our headlights picked out, They made the trees look as green as delphiniums are blue. There wasn’t a sound or a movement anywhere – not a dog barking or a moth fluttering. We ate little cold sausages (the Lees call them ‘bangers’. I suppose because of the fuss they make in the drying-pan) and drank shandy. We;d bought a melon in Stratford and Peggy cut it up with Boy’s knife – “big blade is for pipe and horse’s hoofs, small blade, oranges and cheese”, and ate it standing up, and bending over so that the juice shouldn’t drip to our toes. This looks like a very heathen rite when it is done in the beams from two strong headlights, with streaming shadow behind. We were rather quiet; nobody sang or told long stories. We’d all five been together since lunch-time, but I don’t think anyone was bored, aggrieved or sick of the arrangement. Certainly I wasn’t, for someone else had driven the car, someone else had poled the punt on the river before the theatre, and someone else had provided my sausages and shandy. It was the best kind of picnic.


I have to say I think the last one is the best – it catches a particular kind of idiocy that is all too believable.

Competitions nos. 165A and 165B: results

Gerald Bullet offers entrants the chance to write a sonnet seeing Michael Drayton’s famous ‘Since there’s no help, then let us kiss and part’ (see here for the whole poem), from a woman’s point of view. He garners 72 entries, and the list of commendeds is colossal. It includes F.C.Burgess, whose poetry appears in the London Mercury at about the same time, but a whole host of regulars, including the strangely titled ‘Seacape II’ (who has yet to make a decent comeback), Noel Archer, Valimus, Arthur Oliver, Little Billee, Pibwob, E.W. Fordham, D.C.R. Francombe, Guy Innes, T.E. Casson, David Holland, Alfred Holland, Ian Cranna, N.B., Prudence, Hassall Pitman, William Bliss, Obispo, Hilary and Lester Ralph. The only really new name here is Hassall Pitman, and he seems to have written a couple of poem for The Windsor Magazine in 1929, but also (no date given) to have composed this:

A cynical sage with a kink,
Said, “Between thought and deed there’s a link.
When I think what I thought,
I don’t do as I ought,
So it’s best to do nought, and not think.”

Three prizes are given as the B competition is living on borrowed time, and there must surely have been a debate about dropping it. New Statesman and Nation was to be ruthless in this respect. So it’s two guineas to Alice Herbert, one to Marion Peacock, and a left-over half to Pedestrian, a word that (so today’s newspaper tells me) was invented by Wordsworth. (Alas, it is quite a pedestrian poem.)


Good to see Alice Herbert win – a regular entrant who rarely comes away with even half-a-guinea.

This is what the B competition should have been: a pithy comment (150-200 words) on the events of the week. That’s to say, a mirror of what the WR did in its opening pages. No dice. Over to Mr. Bullett:



Competitions nos. 128A and 128B: results

A new judge, Theodora Bosanquet, arrives. Born in 1881 (she died in 1962), she was principally known as Henry James’ secretary/ amanuensis in the last years of his life, about which she wrote (he talked; she typed). She has a pot-shot at the advertising industry by asking for copy (75 words) to advertised all of the following: hair tonic, a cigarette, a breakfast cereal. She was looking for the ‘mnemonic properties of the names I was to find unevictably lodged in my mind’. Hmm, guess that’s what happens to your prose style if you work for HJ. She likes William Bliss’s suggestion for hair tonic (‘Beaverine’, because the beaver never sheds its fur) …

Pibwob makes a rare (possibly accidental) appearance under his real name, L.F.Goldsmid, but at the top of the queue of stragglers are George T. Hay (no victory yet, but perhaps one will turn up), Rathkey, Ellerington, Upward, and new runners-up, Joseph H. Goodfellow and C.A.S.Ducker. But the winners are W. Hodgson Burnet and Seacape.


The B competition is to write a poem – a lyric – on the text “One was asked ‘What is Hell?’ And he answered ‘It is Heaven – that has come too late.” The more I think about this, the more it seems like an incomprehensible idea. T.E. Casson writes a decent poem, as does Seacape, but Marion Peacock is the only winner (more evidence of the fragility of the B competition, which is now restricted to one prize more often than not – or cancelled). Peacock is advised to work on the second half if she wants to see it published elsewhere.


Competitions 82A and 82B: results

Humbert Wolfe wants a poem dealing with the Austrians having transported some stranded swallows across the Alps to Venice. One of the entrants, Rex Boundy, took a Wolfe poem as the basis for his entry, and ‘improved on it’ – Boundy appears to have been Australian, and perhaps in England for a decade, as he has had poems published in Pearson’s Magazine in 1922, and turns up in the compendious diary of Mrs. Mollie Walker, a doctor’s wife who travelled the world and who was in England in 1931 and 1932. D.C.R.Francombe sent in a Latin entry, which Wolfe thinks Barry should publish. But the winners are W.B., whose third verse Wolfe says he’d cut; and Marion Peacock, whose third verse Wolfe considers weak.

WR 81




The B competition six titles of novels, with blurbs, and marks for pretentious silliness. Over a hundred people entered this competition, turning up all the following titles:

Maiden Into Flea, From Protoplasm to Puberty, The Missing Finger-Joint, Scalene Triangle, Bathsheba’s Boyfriend, Ye are to declare it, A Plumber In The Midst, Strong Silent Mannequin, Daisy on the Dole, Holly Pillows (‘the sex life of a laundress’), and others.

The winner is R. Barton, and the runner-up is the successful playwright John van Druten (1901-1957), who had a hit play, London Wall, running in the West End at the time (‘romantic entanglements in a firm of solicitors’!). He was best known for his adapted play ‘I Am A Camera’ in 1951, his version of Isherwood’s ‘Goodbye To Berlin’ which was in turn used as the basis for Cabaret.



John Van Druten


Competitions 65A and 65B: results

Naomi Royde-Smith (her own rules as ever, with three guineas for A, and two guineas for B) first sets ‘A Song in June’ (max 21 lines, and a host of competitors stroll into the trap of rhyming ‘June’ and ‘bloom’, ‘birds’ and ‘words’; and also the trap of whingeing about rain. W. Hodgson Burnet is commended as having been amusing, but ruled out because of the plethora of serious poems (that doesn’t sound a very good reason). One by one the top twenty entrants are winnowed. Seacape: Swinburnian echo, does not fulfil promise; Anthony Cowdray: great start to sonnet, but stops at line 12 and forgets to mention June. Hilda Newman (a winner on the previous occasion Royde-Smith was in charge, and perhaps the Hilda Newman here), Yeonhala, Cherryblossom, Miss M.M. Scott and Margaret Monroe are commended for various forms of prettiness and delicacy. Now we get to the final three, ‘as remarkable as any that have ever been sent in for an open competition’, which can’t quite be true, as the first (‘Loo’) is admonished for a dreadful line, before two victors share the spoils: Valimus (one guinea) and Marion Peacock (two guineas):

WR Comp 65ii

WR Comp 65iia

Marion Peacock is good at this kind of poem – not stolidly Georgian, but quite fluent, even Imagist.

The B competition was for ‘an essay on hairpins’. Yes, an essay on hairpins. The winner is ‘F.J.B.‘ but Naomi Royde-Smith, perhaps unthinkingly, reveals her to be Freda Jane Bromhead – who was born the second daughter of a London art-dealer in 1903, and who lived, unmarried, in London for most of her life, dying in Bristol in 1993. There is a selection of her unpublished novels in a King’s College London archive, and there are traces here and there that she had poems published: but she did have one novel published in 1962, called The Flower On The Path.

WR Comp 65ii

Gladys Cooper

Some hairgrips in use


Competitions 18A and 18B: results

For 18A, T.Earle Welby has come up with the idea of an English equivalent to Flaubert’s idea of a ‘Dictionnaire des Idees recues’. So he wants six ‘ ‘not necessarily consecutive’, and I like that ‘not necessarily’ – definitions, to be concerned with the sort of idea characteristic in 1930 (‘at least in the view of the Popular Press’).

For once everyone lets the side down, even Pibwob, who comes close. No-one is awarded a prize, and the whole mass of entrants is condemned for being either ‘straightforwardly abusive’ or offering ‘comment as a substitute’. Because there aren’t any examples given, it remains a bit hard to work out what Welby really wanted, and he duly blames himself. Ah well. No-one can say they didn’t have standards.

When it comes to 18B, epigrams are requested (in not more than eight lines of rhymed verse) for ‘liking Dr. Fell or any of his spiritual descendants’. Doctor Fell was John Fell, a seventeenth century churchman (Anglican Bishop of Oxford) who was a by-word for discipline, and was an obsessive martinet. He is commemorated in the rhyme that begins ‘I do not like thee, Doctor Fell’, allegedly composed by one Tom Brown as a translation of a Martial epigram, the translation being a punishment.


John Fell

Fell makes it as a bogeyman into the early chapters of ‘Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’, just after Jekyll’s friend Utterson first has a conversation with Hyde: 

Mr. Hyde was pale and dwarfish, he gave an impression of deformity without any nameable malformation, he had a displeasing smile, he had borne himself to the lawyer with a sort of murderous mixture of timidity and boldness, and he spoke with a husky, whispering and somewhat broken voice; all these were points against him, but not all of these together could explain the hitherto unknown disgust, loathing and fear with which Mr. Utterson regarded him.  “There must be something else,”  said the perplexed gentleman.  “There is something more, if I could find a name for it.  God bless me, the man seems hardly human!  Something troglodytic, shall we say? or can it be the old story of Dr. Fell? or is it the mere radiance of a foul soul that thus transpires through, and transfigures, its clay continent?  

Among the candidates chosen were Dean Inge, the Anglican churchman (1860-1954) whose view of the Anglican church was that it was the bulwark of the state, and who had a view that the poorer classes should accept poorer pay; Lord Rothermere (the kind of target perhaps anticipated by Welby); and the Bishop of Bath and Wells, then Rt. Rev. St John Basil Wynne Willson, and about whom I can find nothing perverse at all, other than that – !! – I’m actually connected to him via several marriages (I wasn’t expecting that!).

The winning entry (‘the best of a not very bright batch’, so Welby must have been particularly glum), is by Marion Peacock, who picks out William Arbuthnot Lane, a notable surgeon, who resigned from the BMA to be able to speak freely. To take just four ways in which he was ahead of his time, rightly or wromgly, he was an exponent of homeopathy; the most successful surgeon in curing cleft palate and hare-lip; an advocate of the removal of the colon; and also one of the first to suggest that nutrition was the key to the growing Western disease of cancer.  He was born in 1856 and died in 1943 aged 87 – but not of ill health. He was run over outside the Athenaeum Club during a blackout.

William Arbuthnot Lane

William Arbuthnot Lane

Here is Marion Peacock’s epigram:

I like you well, Arbuthnot Lane,
You take the trouble to explain
In English words, without pretence,
How to keep well by common sense.
Just common sense, you rub it in,
Aided by liquid paraffin,
No lane are you, but one we bless,
The great by-pass to happiness.

This is Marion Peacock’s third victory. I don’t know anything firm about her, but I suspect she is the same Marion Peacock whose poems appeared in editions of Argosy in the late 1940s (one of them a re-publication from New Statesman). Gerald Barry’s correspondence includes letters from her. She may also be the author of two collections of poems – ‘Poems and Songs’ in 1923 and ‘Quiet Ladies’ in 1926.  That said, this really isn’t a great poem, and the final pun is a little feeble …

Second prize goes to ‘N.B.’, and he or she simply goes for the Dr. Fell option.

No work of reference doth tell
A fact about thee, Doctor Fell.
‘Who Was Who’ and the D.N.B.
Reticent are regarding thee.
A modest silence doth enshrine
Thee and all others of thy Line.
Good luck, my friend – I wish them well
That did descend from thee – or fell!

Another dicey pun. As for Doctor Fell, his name is incidentally also appropriated by Hannibal Lecter.