Competitions nos. 172A and 172B: results

After a while away from the fray, Sylvia Lynd sets a competition to write a poem – ‘a portrait in verse’ – in the manner of George Crabbe (1754-1832). Crabbe can be quite wearisome to read at length, in my opinion, but he is good in small does – the thirty-line limit Lynd sets is about right. The thing about Crabbe is that he almost always writes in rhymed iambic pentameter couplets, so it’s the manner rather the matter that’s a nuisance. For his day, he was a surprisingly revealing writer – the first not to vilify or patronise ordinary people, in his case, in village life. He can be sardonic when he wants, but you do get a sense of the character on whom he is fixing (I can’t offhand think of a comparable portrait artist from the eighteenth century/ early nineteenth, unless you count Wordsworth, who plods rather more dully in Crabbe’s footsteps).

CrabbeLynd wants each submission to include the phrase

“… The fuddled midnight and the peevish day …”

I’m not quite sure a) why she chose the line, and even b) if it is a Crabbe line or a pastiche of Crabbe (probably Crabbe, who loves the word ‘peevish’). My Day-Lewis selection doesn’t have it, and I may have missed it in the online collected Crabbe (you can read some of his poems here).

Crabbe is no problem for the WR competitors (he is quite easy to mimic). Lynd thinks there are many potential winners. She notices that the entrants seem to divide themselves into those who habitually have fuddled midnights and peevish days, and those who shun them at all costs. The majority are shunners (‘to their moral credit’). So she gets virtuous clergymen, punctusl clerks and octogenarian labourers by the score, who don’t do peevish. But as Lynd notes – she could have been more explicit in the instructions, perhaps? – it’s the peevish ones she was hoping to read about. So out go Charles G. Box (who I think is Charles Gerard Box, boirn 1871, and a schoolteacher at Midhurst Grammar School in Sussex), W. Leslie Nicholls, and one or two psudonymous, types, including H.C.M.

As often happens when Lynd judges, the prize money gets carved up. The two guineas are split betweem Eremita and Valimus, and the bonus goes to Hutch. They’re all perfectly competent, but Crabbe can cause an allergic, soporific reaction …

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The B competition – a little unpromising, although Lynd was surprised that entries weren’t so good – was to write a letter from one young person to another on the subject of a picnic. Lynd had been expecting wild and hilarious tales. She doesn’t get them. She also breaks the rules in giving Eremita a prize in B when she or he already has a prize in A. And once again, she splits the first prize, which is daft, as it means it is the same value as the second prize. The ‘first prizes’ belong to Eremita and Marion Peacock. the runner up is ‘F.J.B’, who must be Freda Jane Bromhead.

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Surely an argument for deducting points for being too clever?!

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Dear Alfred, – We had the best kind of picnic last night, on the way home. I don’t know quite where it was; we turned down a track on a long road between Stratford-on-Avon and Oxford, and found a field. We left the theatre at eleven (it was ‘The Taming Of The Shrew’ – I do like a bit of slapstick on a Saturday night, don’t you?’ – and the moon had set, so we couldn’t see anything, except what our headlights picked out, They made the trees look as green as delphiniums are blue. There wasn’t a sound or a movement anywhere – not a dog barking or a moth fluttering. We ate little cold sausages (the Lees call them ‘bangers’. I suppose because of the fuss they make in the drying-pan) and drank shandy. We;d bought a melon in Stratford and Peggy cut it up with Boy’s knife – “big blade is for pipe and horse’s hoofs, small blade, oranges and cheese”, and ate it standing up, and bending over so that the juice shouldn’t drip to our toes. This looks like a very heathen rite when it is done in the beams from two strong headlights, with streaming shadow behind. We were rather quiet; nobody sang or told long stories. We’d all five been together since lunch-time, but I don’t think anyone was bored, aggrieved or sick of the arrangement. Certainly I wasn’t, for someone else had driven the car, someone else had poled the punt on the river before the theatre, and someone else had provided my sausages and shandy. It was the best kind of picnic.

F.J.B.

I have to say I think the last one is the best – it catches a particular kind of idiocy that is all too believable.

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Competitions nos. 170A and 170B: results

Antony Bertram offers, for the first time in a while, a translation task – you have to translate this Heine poem, in three abab quatrains, although the metre can be different.

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The poem is untitled, but Schubert set it to music as ‘Der Doppelgänger’. There’s a translation by Louis Malinofsky here, and one by A.S. Kline here. With more than a touch of potential hubris, I’ve had a shot at translating it myself, so I can see what the winners do:

A stilled night, and the cobbles mute:
This house was once my lover’s space –
But she’s long left town, left no substitute,
Though the home remains, it’s the same place.

There’s a man here too, staring up into sky,
Wringing his hands as if nothing heals –
It frightens me when I catch his eye –
It’s my alter ego, the moon reveals.

Yes, dopplegänger, you washed-out double –
Why that look of my love’s long pain,
In this very same place, giving me trouble,
So many nights, lived over again.

I couldn’t see how I could lose dopplegänger in line 9. Mainly I’ve tried to get some echo (that ‘Doch steht noch’ is impossible to capture). However …

Bertram rules out everyone who rhymes ‘woe’ and ‘long ago’, and anyone who mixes up liebeslied (‘heartsong’) with liebesleid (‘life-pain’). That takes him to four – R.G.G., N.B., Valimus and the new set of initials and winner, E.S.B. (Valimus is picked as the runner-up). The winning entry is very, very clever, because it shifts the whole poem into Scots dialect, giving the writer a whole new lexicon to use.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe second one – to be fair, Bertram thinks they’re none of them very good, is very self-conscious. I like the fourth line, I hate the ninth, and ‘unfold/Grief’ is just terrible. But then I am reacting to these having just used up an hour of my life on trying to do the same thing. It certainly sounds better in the German!

For the B competition, Bertram lifts a description of ‘a mere great man’, i.e. a snob, from the Microcosmography of the bishop John Earle (1601-1665), a sort of compendium of ‘types’ (you can read it here):

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(There is a picture of John Earle here.)

Bertram wants a modern version to describe an intellectual snob. His instructions are a bit vague, and the entry small – but Southron wins with a modernised version, and Guy Innes (far more work involved, surely?) wins with a pastiche of Earle. I would have reversed the prizes, but perhaps I am being an intellectual snob.

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Honours Board 1932

I predicted this would be a close run thing between Seacape and William Hodgson Burnet, and my instinct was right. However, although Seacape is for the third year the winner, the margin of his victory is not so colossal.

Here are some statistics (1931’s in brackets and italics). In 1932, there were 114 [108] winners, who won 201 prizes [175] to the value of £210.15s3d [£181.3s.3d]. 36 [26] entrants won more than once.

Of the entrants, 15 appeared behind initials and 45 behind pseudonyms – so, just over half, as with the previous year.

The additional prize fund has to so with the fact that there was an extra competition (Jan 1 and Dec 31 both included), and because there were a few additional A prizes. This brings me to the winners, all of whom have won more than two competitions (unlike 1931). Previous years’ achievements are shown in brackets.

1. Seacape                                   10 victories             £12.0s.0d   (1,1)

2. W. Hodgson Burnet         8 victories              £9.9s.0d     (3, -)

3=  James Hall                          8 victories              £7.10s.6d   (-, -)

3=  W.G.                                         4 victories              £7.10s.6d    (-,-)

5.  Wiliam Bliss                        5 victories              £5.15s.6d    (-,-)

6. E.W.Fordham                     6 victories             £5.10s.6d     (-,-)

7. Valimus                                  3 victories             £5.5s.0d       (5,-)

8. Non Omnia                           3 victories              £4.14s.6d     (-,-)

9. Little Billee                           3 victories             £4.7s.3d       (2,-)

10= W.A.Rathkey                   3 victories              £3.3s.0d      (-,-)

10= Lester Ralph                    3 victories              £3.3s.0d      (-,-)

10= Eremita                              4 victories              £3.3s.0d      (-,-)

 

A few notes ….

William Bliss also won a further guinea as ‘W.B.’; Seacape won a further two guineas as ‘Black Gnat’ – on Dec 31, and perhaps an attempt to start a new year under a new name, but one which misfired.

W.G. – who may be W.Gladden – only really does so well because he is handed a four-guinea prize by Humbert Wolfe (who implies he wasn’t worth it!)

It is probable that some people are entering under more than one name and/or pseudonym. This becomes a pattern once the competitions are established in New Statesman.

Of the five signatories of the letter in the first edition of The Week-end Review, who declare themselves Saturday Review entrants ready for more, four are in this honours board (the fifth has never featured, at least not under his own name, in any competition) – Seacape, Valimus, Non Omnia and Lester Ralph.

No sign at all of two of the top ten from 1931 – Belinda and Heber. Just behind those named above are Pibwob (7= in 1931, and 2nd in 1930), Issachar, Guy Innes, Prudence, L.V.Upward, Olric and George van Raalte (the last three also featuring on the honours board the previous year).

Competitions nos. 120A and 120B: results, plus special competition

Norman Collins was in charge of this competition, set at the start of July, but the results held over for a week to allow for a special competition advertised over a month earlier, with a five guinea prize, and (somehow the sum of money involved makes this inevitable) to be judged by Naomi Royde-Smith. Strictly speaking, this special competition isn’t within the remit of this project, although a previous ‘special’ competition, judged by NR-S, was numbered. So I’ll deal with 120A and 120B first, and put the special competition afterwards in this post.

Right. If you thought 119A was complicated, wait till you try to get your head round 120A. You are asked for four replies from four people (names coming), each no longer than 50 words, to the following quandary (which I’m sure you’ll agree is ‘everyday’). You are in a low-flying aeroplane when you see your worst enemy (who is a bad driver) with his family, coming round a dangerous corner near your house in a fast sports car (are or were there slow ones?). Your little daughter, aged two (were or are two-year-old daughters ever large?), is about to cross the road, and from your vantage point, you can see that the car won’t stop in time. You were a bomber in the war, and you have a heavy bag of tools in your plane. Should you ‘bomb’ the car, and thus save your child’s life?

If you have absorbed the many problems involved there – worst enemy, family with him, dangerous corner, bad driver, two-year-old daughter, bombing cars with hammers and spanners etc – it now falls to me to tell you that you have to construct your four replies as if from four of the following six: Lord Cecil, General Seely, Dr. Maude Royden, A.A. Milne, Lord Baden-Powell or Miss Evelyn Laye. (Only two of these, Milne and Baden-Powell, are really familiar to us now, I think we’d agree. Interestingly, they are all referred to as ‘celebrities’.)

First of all we – and perhaps they – might have been stumped by the very phrase ‘Lord Cecil’, since the Lords Cecil were not thin on the ground. However, it is the opinionated who come in for ridicule, so it’s plain we’re talking about Lord Robert Cecil (a former Conservative minister with responsibility for the organisation of which he had been the main proponent – the League of Nations. He fell out with many in his own party over their lack of support for the League; he won the Nobel prize in 1937 for its creation; born in 1864, he lived until 1958).

General Jack Seely (created Lord Mottistone in 1933, and living from 1868 to 1947) was Secretary of State for War until forced to resign in 1914, after which he served as a soldier for all four years of The Great War, surviving to return to the Cabinet, from which he resigned again in 1921. He was later in favour of appeasement. Like Cecil, he was known for taking stands. His horse ‘Warrior’ is often cited as the inspiration for War Horse. There’s a good biography of him here.

Maude Royden was a suffragist who broke with Emmeline Pankhurst over support for World War I – she didn’t renounce pacifism until 1940. She was highly active in the church, the country’s first female Doctor of Divinity – in 1931 – and the person who first described – and it wasn’t a compliment – the Church of England as ‘the Conservative Party at prayer’. Born in Liverpool in 1876, she died in 1956.

Robert Cecil

Robert Cecil

Jack Seely with Winston Churchill

Jack Seely with Winston Churchill

 

Maude Royden

Maude Royden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A.A. – Alan Arthur – Milne was born in 1878 and died in 1956. Like Royden, his almost exact contemporary, he was by nature a pacifist, and was shortly to publish (1934) an explicit attack on war (Peace With Honour). Milne was principally a playwright, but he was also a Punch associate editor as E.H.Shepherd was a Punch illustrator. Their fortune was made in 1926 with Winnie-The-Pooh (drawn to resemble Shepherd’s son’s bear, by the way, not Milne’s) and its sequel, and then And Now We Are Six.

Robert Baden-Powell (1857-1941) had been a controversial army man (there is more than one way to interpret his successful defence of Mafeking), but is principally known as the Chief Scout, and the founder of the worldwide movement in the late Edwardian years – one could pick several dates for its ‘start’. The excised section of ‘Scouting For Boys’ (1908) here gives a flavour of his eccentricities, but also the clarity of his writing.

Finally, Evelyn Laye (1900-1996): she was a popular stage actress, who was in the process of becoming a film star, but she might well have been best known for the acrimonious divorce action in the late 1920s – her husband left her for Jessie Matthews, and she opposed the divorce, which made headlines.

Lord Robert Baden-Powell

Lord Robert Baden-Powell

 

 

A.A.Milne

A.A.Milne

 

Evelyn Laye in 1933

Evelyn Laye in 1933

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before the competition results were published, the WR received a letter from a reader – A.A. Milne!

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After all that palaver of an introduction, we come to the gags. Don’t raise your hopes, and remember the scenario. A near-winner is one R. Hartman, who has Evelyn Laye chat to Norman Collins: OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

T.D. Tremlett, in later life the leading expert on heraldry in Britain, chips in unsuccessfully with ‘Pooh says he would drop two bags’. But the winner is Guy Hadley  and the runner-up is William Bliss:

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The B competition refers to a calculation that had been recently made by the Rector of Bermondsey to the effect that, in twenty years, the mother of a family of six (does that include the father?) peels 87,600 potatoes, butters 175,200 slices of bread, darns 10,400 stockings. makes 29,200 beds, and kisses her offspring 45,000 times. Collins asked for an extra one or two verses to Home Sweet Home, but, very much as with 119B, the entry is so poor that only one prize is awarded (Collins suggests giving the money to charity …) The sole winner is Valimus.

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Finally, there is the small matter of the special competition, which supersedes the regular competition for a week. Set by Naomi Royde-Smith, it asks for a piece entitled ‘Consolation Prizes’, with competitors writing to say which of books published between January 1 1932 and June 1 1932 most deserved a prize, excluding all those that had won a prize.

Royde-Smith notes that the popular vote goes (‘by 75%’)to Beatrice Curtis Brown’s ‘For The Delight of Nutorio’ – which turns out to be a misprint for ‘For The Delight of Antonio’, so not a good start for the subs. It is feasible, just, to find an image on the web:

Antonio

Three books tie for second: Arabia Felix (Bertram Thomas), Hindoo Holiday (J.R.Ackerley) and Limits And Renewals (Rudyard Kipling). As Royde-Smith points out, the regulars like Seacape don’t perhaps have time like others to read – but in fact, the runner-up essay is written by a big-hitter, James Hall, and the winner of five guineas is D.C.R.Francombe, who is no slouch (and whose address is given to us as Pen-Dinas, Tuffley, Glos.) At a future stage I may be able to reproduce his whole essay, but for the moment I’ll leave this post with a list of the books he himself chose and the list Royde-Smith appends of others mentioned by the entrants. Read any of them?

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Biographies of Chaucer, Clare, Harris and Bronte (C) I have never heard of, novels by H.E.Bates and Colette I don’t know … and something faintly reminiscent by Lawrence …

Competitions nos. 118A and 118B: results

Ivor Brown asks for twenty lines in the manner of Chesterton , beginning ‘When Parliament met on Parliament Hill’. Too much beer, remarks Brown – not every Chesterton verse has the word ‘flagon’ in it. He commends Seacape,  a new figure called Q.Q.Q., Xenos, and – back where he belongs in the also-rans again, T.E. Casson. The winners are Valimus and Frank Milton.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The B competition is an epitaph on a Dead Certainty – Brown adds that, although Ascot week approaches, that isn’t the mandatory theme. Brown observes that almost everyone spotted that ‘cert’ rhymed with ‘shirt’, and from that followed in many cases the idea that a shirt was a shroud. Hence a lot of epitaphs involving winding-sheets. The runners-up include new man Q.Q.Q., but also T.E. Casson, Lester Ralph, William Bliss, Little Billee, Baldwin S. Harvey, Cuniculus, and D.S. Meldrum (his first appearance here. He was a Scots academic who was working at the time with William Roughead on the collected works of nineteenth century political novelist, John Galt). Another mentioned in dispatches is Sir Robert Witt, an eminent art historian (1872-1952). Witt is an interesting figure to find here. He had jointly founded the Courtauld Institute with the eponymous Sam Courtauld – the latter beiung the owner, of course, of the Week-end Review. At this point in the WR’s history, behind the scenes, Courtauld must have already been having the second thoughts that were to lead to the magazine’s closure.

Xenos and James Hall carry off the prizes.

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Competitions nos. 110A and 110B: results

April 23 1932 – a week after this competition was set, and a week before the winners were announced – saw the opening of a new Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford (the one replaced in 2010 – the Memorial Theatre itself was built on the site of the 1879 Memorial Theatre that was burned down in 1926). A couple of years ago, documents emerged suggesting that this was where Parliament was set to go in World War Two, if bombing made it necessary:

Shakespeare-Memorial-Theatre-1932-

Dyneley Hussey asks for a sonnet on the occasion. This solicits a large postbag, some of it simply sonnets in favourof Shakespeare, but a good deal of it attacking the architecture (W. Hodgson Burnet wittily calls it ‘a factory for curing Bacon’). Hussey refers to a lot of bad verse being written about bad architecture, and opts instead for two very romantic, and pretty mediocre sonnets, the winner by Valimus and the runner-up a new name, Eremita. You would have thought that there was scope for a little satire, but perhaps that these two win tells us something about the traditional sensibilities of not only the judges but the readers.

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The B competition (remember, Hussey is the music critic) floored me somewhat. ‘Had modern journalism existed in 1791, Herr Schickaneder, the Reinhardt-Cochran of his time, would surely have givem interviews in anticipation of his production of ‘Die Zauberflote’.

Cochran is Charles B. Cochran, the promoter, who had worked with Max Reinhardt, the composer, to produce spectacular (and well-advertised concerts). Die Zauberflote is better known as The Magic Flute, and you can watch the opera here. But of course, what’s being asked for is a parody of modern journalism. The winner is W.A. Rathkey, but the runner-up is a new name, Desmond Shawe-Taylor (1907-1995), who was, in 1945, to be the New Statesman‘s music critic for thirteen years, before moving to The Sunday Times. One wonders if he was known to Hussey – but probably not. At the time, he was in his twenties (having said which he later became close friends with the son of one the WR judges – Eddy Sackville-West).

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______________________

In the meanwhile, Barry has been receiving replies relating to Guy Hadley’s suggestion of a competitors’ dinner. T. Usborne (in the sixties to be the driving force in the Ministry of Transport committee that regularised road signs) writes in on April 23, offering to wait on the bigger names; Barry appends an editor’s note that he is just waiting for a few more veterans, and has had a large response. On April 30, Non Omnia chips in:

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A week later, dates are being canvassed:

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And a week later, the date is fixed, with the typical English contradiction: it’s an evening meal for which morning dress is required.

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Gatti’s was an Italian restaurant founded by a Swiss-Italian family. This particular restaurant closed in 1939, but you can still find a Gatti’s in London today.

Honours Board 1931

After 20 months, 177 people have won a competition in The Week-end Review  (or rather, 175 different names have appeared). Of these fewer than half – 85, to be exact – are allowing their names to be published. Exactly thirty hide behind initials, and 62 use pseudonyms. Because there have been just over 190 competitions, adding A to B, and remembering that Naomi Royde-Smith tends to set one, there’s an odd thing – there are about as many winners as there have been competitions (put it another way, everyone, as there are normally two winners for each, has won on average about twice). But some competitors are of course mopre equal than others.

In 1931, 108 people won 175 prizes to the value of £181 3s 3d. This included 38 who won a half-guinea once, 24 who won a guinea or a nearby sum once, 18 who won two guineas once, and two exceptional cases (both to do with Naomi Royde-Smith) who won three guineas once. So only twenty-six entrants won more than once.

Here then is the leader board, with the previous ‘year’ in brackets. I don’t think anyone will be surprised with the winner

1. Seacape                      15 victories          £17  6s 6d     [1]

2. Little Billee                   5 victories          £7  12s 3d     [-]

3  W. Hodgson Burnet      7 victories         £7  6s   9d      [-]

4. Valimus                         8 victories          £6  19s 6d    [-]

5. Belinda                         3 victories          £6   6s  0d     [-]

6. Heber                            4 victories         £4  14s 6d    [-]

7 =     Pibwob                       4 victories        £4   4s  0d   [2]

           George van Raalte   2 victories        £4    4s  0d  [-]

9 =      L.V. Upward              3 victories       £3    13s  6d  [8=]

            Olric                         3 victories        £3    13s  6d  [-]

Technically, the two three-guinea winners, Edward Marsh and Hilda Newman would come next, followed by W.G. and Guy Innes. However, since you can make the top ten by winning a top A competition prize just twice, it’s clear that the guineas have been handed out to the many, not the few. It’s the top four who are the exceptions who prove the rule – especially the indefatigable Seacape, whose strike rate is almost one in three. And it’s worth remembering that Seacape and Valimus are the ones who came from The Saturday Review  (with Pibwob, who is still moonlighting in his old haunts as well), and wrote the opening letter. The old gang are still setting the pace. W. Hodgson Burnet was no new boy either – he’d been winning competitions in the Saturday Westminster before World War One!

Of course, there are many who enter, it would seem, every week. Not just the all-conquering Seacape, but T.E. Casson as well. His total winnings are still only one half-guinea. At least it would have covered the cost of his stamps from Cumberland.