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.






Competions nos. 164A and 164B: results

W. R. Hughes (aka Little Billee) returns. It’s well known, he says, that Thomas Gray polished and rejected a number of quatrains for his ‘Elegy’ [In A Country Churchyard]. Entrants have to come up with a quatrain that is not only in the style of Gray, but say where in the Elegy it will be interposed. Not easy. You can read Gray’s Elegy here.


Thomas Gray (1716-1771)

Reading the entries makes Hughes realise how good Gray is. Many of the regulars, says Hughes, cannot mange the scholarly reflection or the original turn of phrase in each oine – even the best WR rhymers. He uses Alice Herbert and Muriel Malvern as examples of two who wrote original poems, but not in the style of Gray. Guy Hadley is congratulated for reaching three lines out of the four; Chauve-Souris. Hilary and Evan John are commended, but repated reading (it’s clear Hughes took this very seriously indeed) leads him to give the prizes to George Van Raalte and Prudence. The verse is presented with the originals on either side (you get a sense that when competitors are judges, they are far more tense and formal about the process):



OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe B competition features the possibility of a pop at Peter Pan. It is heard that he has grown up: what would be Barrie’s description of the process and the man he has become?

Not many takers, and only one B prize handed out. The winner (Enid M. Norman) has the air of a pseudonym or even an anagram about it, so I guess it’s neither! (No second prize.)




Competition no. 162: results

Akron headlineMartin Armstrong sets just one competition, inspired by the crash of the R101 in 1930 (a disastrous flirtation by Britain with airships, which killed the Air Minister, amongst others), and the very recent disaster that had befallen the USS Akron, an American airship that had crashed on April 4th 1933 because of weather conditions not far from Lakehurst, New Jersey – exactly where the Hindenburg was to come to grief in May 1937. In fact the Akron was a greater calamity in human terms – there were only three survivors, including Executive Officer Herbert V. Wiley, who (incredibly) went on to survive the crash of another airship, the Macon, that he was captaining, in 1935. All the passengers drowned at sea when the Akron crashed. You can see a newsreel (silent) about the Akron here and also an interview that features Wiley and the only other two survivors (both sailors) here (scroll down).

R101R101 wreckage


AkronThe theme of the competition is whether man has gone too far in the struggle to overcome the elements. (Man certainly had with airships.) The poem is allowed to have any form, but – and here’s an early mention – prosepooems are forbidden (because ‘they have no form’). The prizes are three guineas, one guinea and half a guinea. The winners are Prudence, T.E. Casson and Damon – with Noel Archer, Mariamne and Hilary all commended.

It has to be said that they do not read like poems from 1933: too grandiloquent. And I’d have thought Damon’s poem shaded it, even by the antiquated standard being adhered to.



Competitions nos. 106A and 106B: results

Humbert Wolfe returns to the fray with a request for a poem (‘no more than twenty lines’) rebuking Flora for having invented the fritillary (it is very hard to get under Wolfe’s skin and get a sense of what drives him, but you can read about Fritillaria here). This is a competition which attracts familiar names to the near-winners’ enclosure, including Dermot Spence, W. Hodgson Burnet, Lester Ralph, William Bliss, and, naturally, the ‘accomplished’ T.E. Casson. Issachar narrowly wins, with Prudence and Hilary being so, as it were, inseparable, that Wolfe asks if they can have a prize each. (This coy ‘meekly asking permission’ of the editor always means one thing – the other competition has gone wrong, and there is a half-guinea going spare.)

Here are the winners, all writing as if Eliot had never happened:



The other second prize I’ll have to type in:

Flora, can it really be
Your taste is lacking?
Or was it sheer fauity?
Or want of backing?
Some shortage in the scheme of things
That painted Fritillaria’s wings
Yet left you nought to clothe this waif
But the dull semblance of a leaf?
You clad the prettier ones in white,
The remainder in domestic checks.
I think you must admit it wasn’t right
Or fair to this poor child our eyes to [ ]*.
Forbar then to depress
Us, but for next year’s spring
A lovelier lily bring
With sprinkled silver on a cloth of gold
And to our sight unfold
An earthbound butterfly,
The true fritillary.


* There is plainly a word missing in the printed text, and the best I can suggest is ‘flex’.

Competition 106B could easily be set today – a list of the twelve worst phrases in journalistic use, the examples given being ‘acid test’ and ‘old Parliamentary hand’, both still with us. The results, though, says Wolfe, are disappointing (he says he nearly put ‘frankly disappointing’ , thereby adding another one to the list. He wants sloppy phrases not bad grammar or slogans. Wolfe provides a list of the twelve most common entries:


Numbers 2, 7, 8, 9, 11 and 12 are certainly still around but not the others, I’d suggest. He allows one prizewinner, A. Raybould (a new name), who has 4 of these 12 in his entry:

If and when; gives furiously to think; to implement their promises; an inferiority complex; taking in one another’s washing; the psychological moment; making up on the swings what you lose on the roundabouts; getting together; exploring every avenue; a fair crack o’ the whip; placing their cards on the table; the eternal triangle.

Raybould’s list sounds dated apart from getting together, exploring every avenue, and maybe placing their cards on the table. It’s interesting to see the word ‘implement’ in there at such an early date (it’s a hate-word of mine, but I’ve always dated it as the 1980s, along with its buddy ‘proactive’).

Competitions 85A and 85B: results

Sylvia Lynd sets a really hard competition – to give an account of The Gunpowder Plot by a) H.G.Wells and b) Hilaire Belloc. The limit for each is 300 words, which might be one reason why, in the end, there is only one prize-winner: a new name, Beatrice Rudall, whom you would have thought it easy enough to trace, but alas, not yet. It’s a tour-de-force:

WR 85

WR 85a

The B competition is to name six new bulbs after famous men (sic) of the present day. Lynd first cherry-picks four entrants (no prizes): Little Billee, James Hall, M.B.A., and also F(rederic) Wallace Hadrill. The latter was a schoolmaster, but his son was to become a professor of medieval history and his grandson is the world expert on Pompeii and the master of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. I’m afraid we don’t know which of the four wrote which of the six. Four of the six are politicians, not surprising given the fall-out from the October election (we are now just into November).  James Maxton had been, until the election, the chairman of the Independent Labour Party, a post to which he returned in 1934.

WR 85ai

The prizes go to Prudence and to R.M.:

WR 85bi

Kaye Don may be an unfamiliar name, but at the time he was holder of the world speed record on water and had come close to gaining the land speed record. Born in Dublin (his original name was Donsky), he was found guilty of manslaughter after an incident on the Isle of Man in 1934, although he returned to found a motorcycle company. He died in 1981, aged 90.


Kaye Don

Competitions nos. 70A and 70B: results

Humbert Wolfe, whose own poetry is a peculiar mixture of the witty and the sapless, has asked first for a sonnet on sonnets, and, although he is more pleased with the B competition, he still thinks that there are several excellent entries. He can’t resist a bit of dry sarcasm (almost everyone sent in fourteen-liners), and he commends the witty as well as the more serious. He cuts the shortlist to three, and the last one to be thrown out is Hilary. What is perhaps a bit of a bother is that he wished to keep Hilary because lines like ‘The sandals barefoot poesy endures’ are allegedly almost too good to lose, whereas I would have been reaching for the bin at the double, as would, I think, judges like J.C.Squire. Never mind. The winners are Dermot Spence and D. C.R. Francombe. In Spence’s case, this is a first appearance. He was a linguist who had been to Oxford and Heidelberg universities in the late 1920s, and who was fluent in German (and other languages, probably including Hungarian, since he would seem to be the translator of a number of Hungarian poems). He was working in publishing and in an art gallery, and had edited one of Conrad’s novels. His biographical details are largely visible because his son, Jonathan D. Spence, is one of the world’s foremost authorities on Chinese history.

Here are the two sonnets:



What excites Wolfe is the response to a much more surreal competition, one that feels a great deal more contemporary in spirit. Competitors had to give six questions and editorial replies on the following subjects:

goldfish, automatic chess-players, gas-fitting as a career for girls, difficulties of growing orchids in the open air in Lapland, skiing as a qualification for beekeepers, and the advantages of reading modern poetry by candlelight

This elicited a large postbag. (In passing, automatic chess-players were still in their infancy, although two famous hoaxes in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, involving chess masters hiding inside ‘machines’, had aroused interest, and there are references in some fiction, including a story by Ambrose Bierce. Not until the 1950s did automaton chess have any significance.) What Wolfe does is to select various entries to each question, and tot up who has the most entries overall:





The name of the last entrant quoted has been omitted by accident, not by me! The overall winners are Rosemary Higgins and Prudence. R. Graham’s name is a rarity: but he was one of the five original well-wishers, and the only one thus far to have won nothing (and has barely been mentioned, in fact) – although perhaps his ‘entry’ is misprinted. It’s worth noticing that the Sitwells are considered fair game (they are the subject of the next competitition). Vita Sackville-West had already had a skit on Edith Sitwell published in The Nation (under a pseudonym), and they were regarded as the leaders of a nonsensical and pretentious tendency.

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: