Competition no. 206: results

Norman Collins asks for entries to do with the Codex Sinaiticus, the best-preserved Greek manuscript (about 400AD) of the New Testament, half the Old Testament and one or two non-canonical additions. It was discovered in 1844 in a monastery near Sinai. In 1933, partly as a result of public subscription, it was sold by the Soviet Union to the British Museum, and in 1934, ‘an enterprising publisher’ decided to publish it. (You can see a quarter of it here.) The Book Society immediately made it their ‘choice’.

However the competition is a little weird. Collins wants copy for advertisements for the Codex written by any of the following: Lady Houston, Ramsay MacDonald, Dean Inge, “a Well-Known West End Bookseller”, Dr. Buchman, and the Greek Archimandrite.

Collins has set a similar type of competition that included Inge and Macdonald (146 – see here), and both Inge and MacDonald were regular targets. The phrase “the Greek Archimandrite” foxes me. An Archimandrite is one below a bishop in the Greek Orthodox Church, and usually in charge of a monastery. It may be that he is referring to ‘Father Michael’ – then the leader of the the Greek Orthodox community in London, and much later a leading Greek Orthodox figure.

GreekLady Houston – Lucy, Lady Houston, although always known as ‘Poppy’ – is part of the competition story, however. There is a good blog about her here. After the debacle at ‘The Saturday Review’, Lady Houston bought the paper, and used it to attack the Labour government in particular, but any aspect of society she liked. Considered one of the wealthiest, if not the wealthiest woman in the world, and given to carrying fivers in her handbag to dispense to ‘tramps’, she had run through a lucrative relationship and three lucrative marriages (although she claimed that Churchill was in love with her). At one point threatened with being taken to an asylum, she left blank cheques on the desks of the Harley Street specialists to prevent it. She donated colossal sums to the save an air race trophy (it has been argued that she thereby ‘saved the Spitfire’). She was regular and entertaining newspaper copy.

Houston Dr. Buchman was Frank Buchman (1878-1961), an evangelist who inspired The Oxford Group in 1932, the movement that later became Moral Rearmament – a group that sought to be a bulwark against the ‘communist threat’. Not surprisingly, it was very much admired by the Express. Buchman had an uneasy relationship with Nazi Germany. Himmler invited him to the Nuremberg Rally, and Buchman was interested in Nazism, but was reasonably quick to recant any interest in Hitler, and he is credited with inspiring some European churches to stand up against Hitler. The German and UK establishment were both suspicious of him.


There are three competitors commended – E.V. Warne, Allan M. Laing and W. Leslie Nicholls, but the prizes go to Southron and Redling (who curiously often win at the same time, making me just slightly suspicious that they may be one and the same):


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 no. 196A and 196B: results

Guy Hadley is the latest regular to be offered the judging seat. He observers that most accounts of battle are reviews from the fireside. He wants an account of Waterloo, given 12 hours after the battle by one of the Old Guard after Ney’s last stand. Quite serious!

NeyHadley is not very convinced that he hears the authentic voice of veterans, and – a little too testily – says he is surprised only two competitors have mentioned Grouchy, Napoleon’s ill-fated lieutenant, who was the source of much (unfair) opprobrium for the rest of his life.

In the end, Hadley is drawn to the entry sent by Seacape. ‘He must meet his Waterloo elsewhere,’ comments Hadley. The runner-up is William Bliss, who is ticked off a little for sending an extensive footnote (this is something he was prone to do). He does mention Grouchy, mind you.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe B competition is for an American epitaph on Prohibition. The twenty-first amendment to the constitution (the only one to repeal an earlier amendment) had been passed into law on December 5 1933, a week before this competition was set).

end of prohibition

The winners are Armand B. Du Bois and Redling. The first of these two looks like a pseudonym, but isn’t. Armand Budington Du Bois was a historian, specialising in medieval history, and publishing several books in the late 1930s.


This competition was published on the penultimate day of 1933, and brings the fourth year to a close. Competition number 197 awaits in the New Year, and Competition 198 has already been set. But this is also the penultimate edition of the Week-end Review, as we shall see, although not the end of the competition. For Seacape, however, this really seems the swan-song. (Not to worry – he is to make a sudden return late in 1934!)

Competition no. 194: results

The Christmas season, now as then, gives rise to competitions of letters disguising or in some way complaining about a gift. But this first one has a twist. Suppose you’ve been the recipient, suggests John C. Moore, of a gift that you have recycled to the next year, but accidentally sent back to the very person who has sent it to you. He also wishes entrants to suppose that the victim has a style as acid as that of Martial. (There’s only one competition, with prizes of two, one and half-a-guinea.)

Among the runners-up in what Moore doesn’t think is a very successful competition, is N.B. Severn (Nigel Bruce Severn, 1871-1946), who had and has a reputation as a painter. (I wonder if he is ‘N.B.’ as well.) Here’s a painting of his from a recent auction:


T.E.Casson, A.H. Ellerington, Southron and a host of others are almost there, and Redling, John Kidd and Rufus get the prizes, but Martial they’re not:




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. 181A and 181B: results

A new judge, John C. Moore – the C is for Cecil – arrives. He was just 26 at the time (he lived from 1907 to 1967, during which time he wrote over forty books about English landscape and countryside and conservation). He asks entrants to imagine that The Taming of the Shrew ends with Kate winning the battle, and sending for a chastened Petruchio, Hortensio and Lucentio, to give a speech about what Husbands Owe Their Wives. (There had been been a Fairbanks/Pickford film version of the play a few years earlier in 1929, which you can watch the end of here. I’ve always preferred it to the Burton/Taylor effort and other ones – including a curious Charlton Heston TV one in about 1950. At the end of the speech declaring obedience, she turns to the audience and winks.)


One of the runners up is Lilian Oldfield-Davies, a teacher from Hayes (nee Lewis) who had recently married Alun Oldfield-Davies, who was destined to become the controller of BBC Wales, and one of the principal influences on the Welsh cultural revival.

Moore claims to have judged this on holiday at the sea-side. He picks L.V. Upward (on a streak) and W.E.B. Henderson. They’re both good entries, even if I doubt Shakespeare would have coined the phrase ‘tun-bellied tosspots’. But it’s a good one, and I may take to using it.


The B competition asks you to imagine a naturalist dreaming that he has a cabinet not of butterflies, but of public figures, and asks for Latin names. So we may not all get all the jokes in this. There is a huge set of runners-up (in which Little Billee appears as himself and as W.R. Hughes; and Lester Ralph – written as B. Lester Ralph – is the other main proxime accessit).

The entrants were given six specific specimens: MacDonald, Snowden, Shaw, Hitler, Lady Astor and Charlie Chaplin. I wondered to what extent they were the same age, and in what order they were born. They’re in this order:




NPG x122244; Philip Snowden, Viscount Snowden by Bassano











In fact, Chaplin and Hitler were born in the same April week in 1889.

Now for the imaginary botany, won by Redling and H.C.M. (though Moore doesn’t like the latter’s Chaplin):


It’s clear that Snowden and MacDonald are seen as a waffler and an argumentative so-and-so.

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: