Competition no. 200: results

We finally arrive at the first competition to be set and judged in New Statesman, with 200 being a nice round number, and curiously also as far the Saturday Review had reached before the defections. But come the hour, come not the man. Frank Sidgwick sets an almost impenetrable competition. Sidgwick recognises there is a problem, but seems to think it’s the 20-line limit. But what would you do with this?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe second sentence is a nightmare. It confuses some entrants (although I don’t see why) into only using words in the instructions – as you’ll see, the winner uses ‘conduit’. The idea is to satirise the obsession with ‘correctness’ (this recurred in the 1970s or 1980s, when Angela Rippon, for instance, made a point of making the ‘l’s silent in ‘guerilla’. But a poem on this?

William Bliss (another returnee) had a nice rhyme between ‘constable’ and ‘unstable’, apparently. Allan M. Laing starts well but limps home (give him time). In the end, Sidgwick declines to give the full first prize, and hands a guinea each to H.C.M. and N.B. for these rather trifling affairs (the Cholmondley gag has it seems been around forever):





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. 187A and 187B: results

Richard Church asks for a three verse attack on a tyrant of the entrant’s choice in the style of Shelley’s attack on Castlereagh, that is, the one that opens

As I lay asleep in Italy
There came a voice from over the Sea,
And with great power it forth led me
To walk in the visions of Poesy.

I met Murder on the way –
He had a mask like Castlereagh –
Very smooth he looked, yet grim;
Seven blood-hounds followed him:

(the rest is here).

But the WR entrants are softies (a bit confusing though for Church to begin by writing My heart aches and a drowsy numbness etc.) – one chooses Stalin, one chooses a tax-inspector, one chooses a litter-leaver, one chooses his foreman, one chooses the Conservative Party, one chooses the family doctor, one even chooses Montagu Norman. Only four pick Hitler, who is a little bit more than the obvious choice. Perhaps, he muses, they were worried by a remark in his instructions about the dangers of libel.

Come the hour. T.E. Casson is handed the two guineas by trying to write like Shelley, about Hitler. The runner-up is Pibwob, who chooses ‘the road-hog’.


The B competition asks for a reply to a producer who wants a scenario for ‘The Life of D.H. Lawrence’. Half the entrants independently think up the not-hilarious idea that D.H. and T.E. will be mixed up (T.E. Lawrence was still alive – he died in May 1935). The two winners, A.H.Ellerington and N.B. take interestingly opposing views of whether a beard is a good idea (the actor ‘Gilbert Faversham’ is an invention, by the way).


DHL beardless

Lawrence before the beard


… and after.


Competitions nos. 182A and 182B: results

R. Ellis Roberts makes his second appearance as a judge. He wants a ballade with the title ‘Any Wife To Any Husband’ or ‘Any Husband To Any Wife’, and the refrain ‘And that was his (her) idea of tact’. (Not a great refrain, I’d say.)

Roberts is not impressed with the results – should have been done in the voice of a third person, rhymes too far fetched etc. He mentions Rose Fitzpatrick as having contributed a good last stanza – unusual to see her name. She is in fact always to be found hiding behind the pseudonym ‘Chauve-Souris’. He plumps for Black Gnat before L.V. Upward (now on a serious roll), despite the former’s rather desperate -ay rhymes (there is no easier syllable, so ‘popinjay’ seems especially pointless).


It’s a purely personal thing, but I am underwhelmed by the ballade: goes on too long, stretches repetition to breaking point, is rarely able to sustain humour. Ah well.


The B competition – only eleven entrants, which is a very bad sign, and suggests to me that the circulation has started to fall – is a more interesting proposition. Which six ‘legal restrictions on personal liberty’ should be abolished? Apart from admiring a couple of facetious entries, which are discounted, Roberts is anxious to point out that some of what was assumed to be illegal is not illegal at all. Bathing in the sea naked, he points out, is not illegal – there are simply some local bye-laws and an act against indecent exposure. It is not illegal to get married after three in the afternoon (just expensive). Women are not legally obliged to take their husbands’ names. In fact, and perhaps this is a better argument as to why only eleven have entered, perhaps it’s quite hard to think of six obstacles to personal liberty. Roberts says he hasn’t discriminated by using his own views, but is pleased that a law forbidding the destitute from sleeping out comes in for such a bashing. (Divorce laws are also mentioned.)

The business of not being allowed to sleep rough can be traced back to the 1824 Vagrancy Act in particular, but to a series of eighteenth century laws as well. In fact the 1824 Vagrancy Act is still in force, although it has been amended, as it was just two years after this competition, in 1935, at which point you could not be called a rogue or a vagabond if you had been offered but turned down a place of refuge. It is a little chilling to realise that the word ‘vagabond’ has legal force.

The winners are N.B. and (suddenly appearing almost weekly), Redling. Roberts is not sure about the ‘legitimacy’ of Redling’s points 3 and 5. I’m not quite sure what he means by this. It is interesting that ‘compulsory retirement’ is raised as an issue so long ago, since it is only a few years since it was officially banned.


vagrancy-act 1824

Competitions nos. 178A and 178B: results

J.C. Squire – now of course Sir John Squire – sets a competition in which you are to write as Queen Victoria to Lord Beaconsfield (Disraeli) about Lytton Strachey’s book about her. It’s an odd choice, given that Strachey is only a year or so dead – and also given that Squire had just been knighted by her grandson! Victoria’s letters had started to be released not long after her death (oddly so, in that one can’t imagine it now, even if they were heavily censored) and were striking for their use of emphasis. Published exchanges between Disraeli and Victoria existed, but the point is to satirise Victoria’s style.

There are a few close also-rans, but a newbie, P.S.C. (commended for his use of italics) beats off N.B. to the guineas. They’re both skilful, but pointless, I think:


The B competition, however, is far more modern and blatantly political-satirical in intent, in that it asks for twenty lines either about the Government front bench OR the Opposition front bench. The Government consisted of Macdonald, a few other Labour MPs, the Conservatives, and the ‘National Liberals’. The opposition was a Labour rump. Neither was much admired by the entrants, but then they were to be represented in the style of Pope. The prize-winners are Yury and Little Billee.


They were to hear Attlee’s name again …


George Lansbury, leader of the 46 remaining Labour MPs. Attlee, his deputy, was to take over the next year. (He’s Angela Lansbury’s grandfather.)


The Prime Gyrator, is, of course, the hapless Macdonald. Faithless Philip is Snowden.

Here’s a picture of members of Macdonald’s extraordinary Cabinet taken after the 1931 election:

1931 cabinet

Left to right: Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister (Conservative), Neville Chamberlain (Conservative), Jimmy Thomas (Labour), Rufus Isaacs (Lord Reading) (Liberal, replaced by Sir John Simon within two months), and Samuel Hoare (Viscount Templewood) (Conservative). Front row (left to right): Philip Snowden (Labour, by 1933 ennobled and resigned), Stanley Baldwin (Conservative), Ramsay MacDonald (Labour), Herbert Samuel (Liberal) and Lord (Edward) Stanley (Conservative). It’s quite a selective group: by no means all the Cabinet (and Stanley was not at this point a member).

A little disdainfully, Squire finishes thus:

‘Good enough, but Strube does better than either.’


Strube was the highly-paid Daily Express cartoonist – Sidney Conrad Strube (1892-1956) – there’s a good article about him here. He had in fact produced a calendar just before Christmas 1932, for 1933, that proves Squire’s point:

Strube cartoon



Competitions nos. 159A and 159B: results

Norman Collins is back, with an A competition based on ads he’s seen in the paper, ads like ‘Wanted, nicely bound Gibbon’s ‘Decline and Fall’ in exchange for nearly-new silver-plated cornet with solo music and stand’. It’s very hard for me to wring any sociological significance out of this, but it seems anyway that Collins has something else on his mind. ‘Assuming this decision to have been reached after moments of domestic crisis … [provide] not more than 250 words of the conversation between husband and wife which preceded the insertion of the advertisement’.

There is almost a contest over the last twenty competitions, although no-one is as rude as Agate, to blame the competitors for shortcomings (an especially  bad idea in this case, when the competition is so silly, for a reason I’ll come to). However … ‘Without wishing in any way to appear discourteous or unappreciative’ (so now Collins is going to be just that), ‘I am bound to say that if the prize money were mine, I should keep it.’ (Actually, it would make a good competition to have a judge being as politely rude as he or she could.) He admits he’s only the cashier, so he does present two candidates for prizes: N.B. and Southron.

The problem, says Collins, is that no-one has paused to consider the deeper implications. And it turns out that Collins has – he imagines a young wife married to an ageing scholarly husband, who has striven valiantly (his words) to keep the marriage going by bringing  music into the home. He has then repented. On Planet Collins, there is a strange melodrama going on, and nobody has tapped into it. What an odd story! He must have had genuine problems reading the adverts of the day.

He recommends Southron’s entry being read ‘in the mood in which on a Sunday night one watches a performance of the work of one of the grimmer dramatists from the North’. It is tempting to thank Collins for sitting through such plays (I admit I didn’t know there was really such a wave of them, and can only think of Lawrence’s plays, so I’m obviously ignorant of contemporary drama). I note that this is the earliest time I’ve seen ‘grim’ and ‘north’ in such close proximity.


The B competition is for a sonnet (yes, again) after Keats’ ‘On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer’, only this time ‘On First Looking Into Dickens’. One of the also-rans is Sir Hector Munro, who had been the Permanent Secretary to the Local Government Board until the end of the First World War. The others are Lester Ralph, Guy Hadley, Lapin and P.R. Laird. (Laird was an occasional entrant – he was mentioned in dispatches in 1931 in the WR, in an unnumbered sequence of competitions in The Spectator in 1926, and in a numbered competition (37) in The Spectator in 1940. Looking at these Spectator competitions he nearly won, one trips over the names of George van Raalte in 1926 and Lt. Col. H.P. Garwood in 1940.)

The sonnets are well-written, and the winners are L.V. Upward and W. Leslie Nicholls. Note the reference to Beaverbrook in the first, and to Jim and Amy Mollison (Amy Johnson) in the latter.



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 80A and 80B: results

Ernest Betts has curiously reversed the prize money for this one – a guina or half a guinea for A, and two guineas or half a guinea for B. The A competition asks for a poem marking the destruction of Bloomsbury by an earthquake. In all the entries, not a single note of grief is sounded, which is interesting, given that Bloomsbury (although a place as well as a clique) provides some of the competition judges. Nobody, notes Betts, mourns the passing of the Slade, and far too many rhyme British Museum with Te Deum (not that this stops the winner from winning!).

The winners are Olric and N.B. (who would have won the B competition as well, were it not for the one-competition-win-only rule). Here are their entries (they had 20 lines to play with but have resisted, wisely, the temptation):

WR 80

N.B.’s poem needs a few notes. ‘The Foundling site’ refers to an orphanage that had been situatd in Bloomsbury between 1739 and 1926, but had moved to the suburbs. There is still a museum about it (dating from 1937), with details here, The Carreras reference is to a cigarette factory built in the 1920s on the gardens of Mornington Crescent. A Royal Commission was set up in 1927 to consider the protection of buildings as a result, and led to the London Squares Preservation Act of 1931. There’s a good site here. Mr. Drage foxes me. A Commander Drage (whose daughter later became a ballerina, Mary Drage, and also the Duchess of Fife) worked for MI5 in Bloomsbury from 1933 onwards, but lived there earlier. I’m a bit dubious about this one. The Passing Of The Third Floor Back  is a play (first staged in 1910) written by Jerome K. Jerome, once much performed, and quite an earner for Jerome in his lifetime.

The B competition asks the competitors to imagine that the Budget was presented not by Phlip Snowden, but by W.H.Davies, Noel Coward and Augustus John, with six taxes apiece. Snowden had, just a week or two before this cmpetition was set, under the auspices of the new National Government, presented an ’emergency budget’ which cut emplyment benefit, civil servants’ pay, and was, as one might guess, extremely unpopular (although, having said that, the government won a huge majority in the October 1931 election, if the figures can be said to mean anything – what happened was that the Labour Party lost over 200 seats). Snowden – who had by that time been booted out of the Labour Party, along with Macdonald – had described Labour’s policies as ‘Bolshevism run mad’. He was given a peerage in 1931, but was always considered a traitor, as was Macdonald (with whom Snowden later fell out).

W.H. (William Henry) Davies (1872-1940) was a popular Georgian poet (although with a plainer, even more accessible style). Notoriously, he had spent some of his earlier years in the USA as a tramp, and wrote a successful account of it (The Autobiography of a Supertramp), which includes a description of how he came to have his leg amputated after jumping from a freight train. His best known poem begins ‘What is this life, if, full of care/ We have no time to stand and stare’. He had appeared in the anthologis edited by Marsh. Noel Coiward (1899 – 1973) had been writing and acting with great success since just before The First World War, and at this point in 1931, his earnings a staggering £50,000 a year, his new show Cavalcade was about to open. Augustus John (1878-1961) was also at the height of his career as a portrait painter (his sitters had included Elizabeth Bibesco, the WR judge, as well as Shaw, Yeats and many others).

After which, the winning entries by M.M.R.Higgins, whom Betts considers to be a man, but who is perhaps more likely to have been female, and by the entrant with familiar handwriting who forgets to sign the entry, ergo Anon, may seem a bit of a let-down …

WR 80a

Your Choice of Chancellors:

NPG x122244; Philip Snowden, Viscount Snowden by Bassano NoelCoward WHDavies AugustusJohn

Competitions 69A and 69B: results

Dyneley Hussey, noting that Lytton Strachey has just published Portraits in Miniature and other essays (which you can incidentally read here), has challenged competitors to add himself to the list of subjects, i.e. Strachey on Strachey. A new (female) name appears as the winner: Mopsa. Like many entrants, she neglects to include her address. Here is her winner, which Hussey reckons the best winner he’s ever picked:


There is a curious link to the previous competition but one: Virginia Woolf used Strachey as the model for a character in The Waves; and she used Vita Sackville-West as her model for Orlando.


Lytton Strachey

However for Hussey ‘not to know’ the address of ‘Mopsa’ is either a deliberate piece of false trail-laying, or, in Hussey’s admiration for the exactness of the piece, very astute. ‘Mopsa’ is Strachey’s companion Dora Carrington, the painter (generally known as ‘Carrington’), who lived with Strachey and felt guilty later that she had made fun of him – Strachey had, although he did not know it, only five months to live (he died in January 1932, and Carrington felt bereft without him: she committed suicide eight weeks after his death). One wonders if Hussey, when Strachey died, recalled having written that, since Strachey’s central figures invariably died at the end of the piece, he was surprised only one competitor adopted the same tactic – and perhaps regretted it. (Mopsa is the name of a country girl in The Winter’s Tale, but also the name of the heroine of Jean Ingelow’s 1869 children’s novel, which you can read here.) Mopsa was also one of the principal nicknames Carrington had used of Strachey for over a decade.


Dora Carrington and Lytton Strachey

The second prize goes to N.B.:


Competition 69B asks for epigrams on Jacob Epstein, the sculptor, who was touring a piece of his called ‘Genesis’  to raise money for the preservation of ancient buildings. Epstein, a modernist, and not popular with WR readers, but arguing for a cause that might well have appealed to them, is a neat subject for the ever-popular epigram (popular then, but not with me!). James Hall takes the top prize; a new name, Athos, is the runner-up:


Here is Epstein with the piece the competitors disliked:

Epstein and Genesis

Competions nos. 67A and 67B: results

Ernest Betts (remember that he’s a film critic) wants a Negro Spiritual, beginning “De Lawd is strikin’ down de worl'”. The problem with this competition is that he hasn’t explained that he wants, essentially, Paul Robeson numbers. Several entrants come near, one of whom is Olive Rinder, one of the many women involved in the complex web of relationships involving Vita Sackville-West (already a WR judge herself, and the setter of the very next competition, so it is impossible not to imagine that Sackville-West encouraged her to have a go): indeed in 1931, Vita Sackville-West was having an affair with a journalist, Evelyn Irons, whose lover was Olive Rinder, but subsequently – in early 1932 – had an affair with Rinder as well. So complex are the relationships of Sackville-West that Rinder tends to be overlooked. It may well be the same Olive Rinder who married Derek Beck in 1938. She is probably also the Olive Rinder born in the early 1890s in Norfolk but who shows up in 1911 as a gardening student.

But it is Seacape who escapes with the two guineas, closely followed by Hazel Fordham.



I can’t prove it, but I’d bet that Hazel Fordham is the 21-year-old daughter of the Hampstead barrister E.W. Fordham who has already featured twice in the winners’ enclosure; if so, she is entering a couple of months before her wedding to Thomas Samuel Barnes.

The B competition assumes that a ‘talkie’ company, and remember that Betts was still more than a little ill-disposed towards talkies, has decided to film ‘Tristram Shandy’ as ‘Widow Wadman’s Wild Party’. Betts wants some publicity. I had a feeling when I saw this competition that it would not attract any great results, and sure enough, the first prize is withheld. Betts congratulates the entrants on being insufficiently vulgar, and lets N.B. have a half-guinea consolation prize: