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):

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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’.

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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).

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DHL beardless

Lawrence before the beard

DHLawrence

… 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).

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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.

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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:

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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.

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They were to hear Attlee’s name again …

george-lansbury

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.)

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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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

Gander

And here are the winning entries:

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