Another new judge for us: R.Ellis Roberts, who (like Clennell Wilkinson) had been New Statesman‘s Literary Editor – and who was the only writer whom Kingsley Martin could not bear as a writer – says he has a friend who can remember a punchline to a story, but not the story itself. The punchline is ‘And then he said “Call that good spitting?”‘ The short story is asked for (no word limit given). Most go for an American story. Some turn Roberts’ stomach. Lester Ralph is admonished for ‘sordid realism’. James Hall, William Bliss and James Henderson get close but the winner is ‘Seton C‘. Now there’s already a competitor on the books called Seton, so I am going to take a wild stab and suggest that they are one and the same. The runner-up (doing very well, incidentally) is Southron.
The B competition is for an acrostic sonnet, to spell out PSYCHOANALYSIS.
One of the runners up (mis-spelled as Blarraid) is the Irish poet and playwright Blanaid Salkeld, who had just brought out her first collection of poetry, Hello Eternity. Born in what would become Pakistan in 1880 (where her father was a friend of Tagore), she grew up in Ireland, married, returned to India with her husband, who died in 1908, and came back to Ireland in 1909. She worked as an actor. She wrote five collections of poetry, and verse plays. She encouraged Flann O’Brien and Patrick Kavanagh, and her grand-daughter married Brendan Behan. She died in 1959. There is a brief synopsis of her life here.
Roberts prefers poems with models (and he believes they have missed a trick by not using Donne, but doesn’t explain why). He therefore goes for Eremita and Black Gnat (Seacape).
It’s February 27 1932, and the competition starts on its second hundred. Ironically, in that very issue, former New Statesman editor Clifford Sharp’s article ‘The Press And Contempt Of Court’ is published, the one that is to lead to a libel case that will bring the Week-end Review down within two years, and move it into the New Statesman fold, competition, ‘This England’ and all.
However, back to the competitions. Ernest Betts asks first for ‘a Song Before Breakfast by an Advertising Man’ (30 lines limit, any form). Commending the usual crew (Casson, Upward, Little Billee inter alia), he nevertheless notes that no-one produced a roaring song. But by putting ‘any form’, he has rather lost the power to discipline the competitors. He splits the total prize money of two and a half guineas between John Carter and Pibwob, each of whom have provided odes (which he can’t imagine advertising men breaking into, especially before breakfast). So, £1.6s.3d each to both winners:
If you’re puzzling over the punchline, Lord Verulam was the title given to Francis Bacon …
101B asks for an imitation of Proust, no less (300 words max) – from the point of view of a gentleman of leisure on taking his first sip of sherry before dinner. (It is worth noting that much of Proust’s sequence of novels A la recherche du temps perdu was published posthumously after his death in 1931. The last part was not published until 1927, and the final section was only published in an English translation in 1931.) Freda Bromhead takes the guinea (it’s really good) and the remaining half-guinea goes to the almost equally worthy Seton.
A new judge, Norman Collins, formerly an assistant editor at the OUP, but now literary editor under Robert Lynd at the News Chronicle, steps into the column. Collins was later to become famous, not only as a novelist (‘London Belongs To Me’) but later found success as the controller of the Light Programme (he was in charge when ‘Woman’s Hour’ started), as head of BBC Television in 1947, in time to take charge of the Olympic broadcasts in 1948, and one of the key people involved in setting up independent television in the early 1950s.
He asks firstly for the best replies to the following six remarks:
Both the winning pseudonyms are new: Seton and Animula Vagula:
Apparently there was a Soviet plan to create a hybrid that combined the cow, the sheep and the goat. The sceepgoat, perhaps, although seven entrants independently came up with ‘gowp’. Nothing seems to have come of it (although peek at this blog). Collins asks for a parody of Blake’s ‘Little lamb who made thee?’ The prizewinnres are another newbie, Lyn Carruthers, and Ciel: