Competition no. 205: results

Clennell Wilkinson reappears (as an old drinking pal of Clifford Sharp, and a formerly poorly-thought-of literary editor at New Statesman, he can’t have been persona very grata). He bases his competition on H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man, a film of which (starring Claude Rains) had appeared the previous year.

Wells IM 33What, asks the competition (offering one guinea and half a guinea only, incidentally) would you choose to do if you had the power of invisibility and could do three things, one altruistic, and two for yourself (no robbery)?

This competition doesn’t go well, as Wilkinson notes. Some competitors haven’t thought it through. One female entrant says she would change her sex. But how, as Wilkinson notes, is invisibility going to help her there? Ditto, ‘I should marry a Frenchman’. Redling says he’d visit the vicar and ask what he was doing about unemployment – just the sort of silly question that visible people tend to ask. William Bliss has a better idea – stand behind a BBC announcer and correct his pronunciation. T.E. Casson is commended but neglects to offer anything altrustic. ‘There is very little creative effort from anyone.’ The rather weak winners are Rufus (was the Albert Memorial so unpopular?) and Archie James (who says he is unemployed, and I guess there’s no reason to doubt it: the entrants are coming from a broader range of backgrounds).




Competitions nos. 199A and 199B: results

The task of setting and judging the very last double-competition (no more Bs, and the prize fund down to two and a half guineas after this) is the novelist John Brophy, at that point a rising star as a novelist and as a reviewer (his daughter was Brigid Brophy, whom writers have to thank for Public Lending Right). This is also of course the very last competition to have been set in The Week-end Review.

For the A competition he uses the news that Godfrey Elton (1892-1973) had been ennobled by the MacDonald government. Elton was a prolific writer, and had served throughout World One, becoming a POW of the Turks after capture in 1916 in Mesopotamia. After the war, he taught at Oxford, where one of his students was MacDonald’s son. Although his background was public school – Rugby (where he must have been a near-contemporary of Rupert Brooke) and Oxford – he joined the Labour Party, and contested two elections as a Labour candidate (1924 and 1929), both unsuccessfully. He had stuck with MacDonald, and was expelled from the Labour Party in 1931 as a consequence.


Godfrey Elton

Brophy suggests that his elevation to the peerage may give younger writers ideas, and asks entrants to imagine their reply to an approach from the PM’s office with the suggestion that they too join Elton. The entries have to be in the style of “younger novelists” (making this the first contemporary parody competition in New Statesman, although the scope is pretty broad …).

However, the competition doesn’t go well, and – perhaps because there is not nearly so much space – no winning entries are printed (very frustrating), and the money redistributed between A and B. Beverley Nichols and Compton Mackenzie (too old) and Beachcomber are all parodied to modest effect, we’re told, and the half-guineas (three) given out are for parodies of Rose Macaulay, Nichols and A.P. Herbert by (respectively) Noel Archer, Comins and A.H. Ellerington. Among the also-rans are T.E. Casson and James Hall, so we can already see the continuity. The names of the first two winners are  put into inverted commas, signalling that “Noel Archer” is a pseudonym.

On its last run out, the B competition is by contrast given a clean bill of health by Brophy, who has asked for a sonnet ‘on the Decay of Liberty’ (‘to be judged purely on its poetic qualities’). There are several commendations – Pibwob, Hassall Pitman, Hazel Jenner, and a back-handed one to W.A.Rathkey (“sounded magnificent … repeated readings did not make its meaning clear, and I am not one of those who are impressed by the unintelligible” T.S. Eliot, take note!)

More half-guineas are dispensed to unprinted entries (Southron, Palermo, W. Leslie Nicholls) – there is no worse torture for an entrant to win money but not to have the entry printed – far better the other way round, in my opinion – and the only piece published in this final WR comp is a guinea-winning sonnet by Rufus. (I’m not impressed by it either.)


The end of one era; the start of another.

Competitions nos. 197A and 197B: results

It’s the first week in January 1934. This is to be the final competition published in The Week-end Review (and was within days of being the final competition). You can read an account of the takeover by  here. It’s the 200th edition of the magazine, and there are two competitions set for future publication – but the result will come out in New Statesman and Nation after this last pair.

Gerald Bullett sets this up as follows: it’s 1999, and sexual prudery has vanished, to be replaced by prudery about eating and drinking. He wants a newspaper article reporting a court case that includes unmentionable practices. This is a clever competition – a nice one to go out on. There are nice extracts quoted about ‘comestible relations’ (Guy Hadley) and ‘prandial relations’ (Eremita) and ‘attempting to eat a boiled egg in front of a police officer’ (Archie James), but the winner is James Henderson, and the runner-up is Douzaine (a new name).


And finally, the B competition simply asks for four-line epitaphs on 1933. The entrants can have had no idea of the backstage tumult. The winners are W.A. Rathkey and Rufus.


and meanwhile:


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. 136A and 136B: results

Edward Shanks reminds readers that Dr. Watson once referred to an unpublished Holmes adventure involving a lighthouse, a politician and a trained cormorant. In 250 words he wants a synopsis of the problem Sherlock handled …

… but not its solution! But half the entrants gave a solution, many involved Bolshevists and Chinese (because of the cormorant) and most assumed the politician was a criminal. T.S. Twane (who has been hovering near the winning enclosure for a bit, but who seems to be a pseudonym) is told that he hasn’t expressed himself too well – and then given the top prize. The second prize goes to R. Hartman, who has also being doing well lately.


The B competition is for a poem ‘on the pleasures of driving in a closed car on a wet day’. Jocularity was discouraged, so there wasn’t any submitted. There is a huge list of commendations, and three prizes allowed, making the column so full that the third prize is held over to the next week (from where I have rescued it). The winners are William Bliss, Rufus, and the bizarrely-designated Correct Contact.