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:


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 nos. 163A and 163B: results

A new judge, the already redoubtable literary agent A.D. Peters, sets these competitions. He picks out Aldous Huxley – who had by this stage published eight collections of essays, eight collections of poetry, five collections of short stories, five novels (Brave New World had come out in 1932), and wh0 had just published an edition of D.H. Lawrence’s letters, even though he was still only 38 – and asks for an obituary in 1970 of Huxley as the Grand Old Man of English Literature, in what Peters suggested would be the last remaining newspaper. [In fact Huxley died in 1963 on the same day as the assassination of John F. Kennedy – and come to that, the death of C.S. Lewis.] Perhaps it’s important to realise that the epithet G.O.M. would in 1933 have been allocated to George Bernard Shaw.


Aldous Huxley

One of the near-misses is by a young Anthony Max Baerlein (b.1912) who was a regular cricketer for the Eton Ramblers, but who was killed in 1941.

Peters notes that most competitors have shrugged aside the implications of ‘the only remaining newspaper’; and others have tried to dismiss him to obscurity. in which case he would hardly be the G.O.M., would he?

The winners are W.A. Rathkey (good last line!) and W. Leslie Nicholls. It’s interesting what an impact Brave New World had made within a year.


We have been having problems with the B competition, have we not? Often an incompetent judge (this is a case in point) will make the instructions so hard that a ragbag of entries will ensue.  The premise is that theatre managers are saying there are no good new plays, and that we need to depend on revivals. So entrants are asked for two lists of eight plays worth reviving, in order of merit, the first from the ‘box office’ point of view, the second – and here’s where the trouble multiplies, ‘from the point of view of a manager who prefers good plays to bad, but also prefers the Ritz to the workhouse’. It’s not cryptic, but it’s not clear. Just to add in some more confusion, he adds that the same plays can appear on both lists, and that musicals aren’t ruled out. Oh yes and no play on the second list (or both lists?) to be less than six years old. Oh, and no more than two plays by the same author on the second list. This is not a competition, this is an exercise in decoding what the judge wants. Predictably, the competition crashes and burns. For the second time, I’m going to print an entire adjudication:


Interesting how many of these plays are now defunct, although Jerome K. Jerome’s ‘The Passing Of The Third Floor Back’ is still a big amateur success.


Competitions nos. 161A and 161B: results

Clennell Wilkinson firstly asks what a 1933 Alice would be thinking about when she fell down the “very deep well”. He issues a warning against “mere Freudian facetiousness” – which in my view is a pity, as there could have been some amusing Freudian material. Now, when I turned to the results, I note immediately, that Wilkinson runs straight into the exact problem I suspected. The entries have been so afraid to be facetious or Freudian that it’s cramped their style.

Willkinson also notes that Carroll has a deceptively simple and quiet and abbreviated style. He mentions no near-misses, and give the prize to Southron as the only entrant who has done what he’d hoped – give a modern twist on a Victorian girl. The runner up, H.C.M., is allowed to win because Wilkinson says it does sound like a girl (!). Note that Amy Johnson is the heroine for the first entry – or, as we’ve seen, Amy Mollison, as she was then known. Interesting that ‘ripping’ is still considered an in-word. I vaguely doubt this.


The B competition is based on an overheard (by Wilkinson) on a bus.

First Lady: ‘My dear, I have just come across such a good book, you really must get it from the library’

Second Lady: ‘What’s it called?’

First Lady: ‘The Card by Matthew Arnold’

Now, there’s a potentially great competition here – which is to write an extract of The Card by Matthew Arnold (instead of Arnold Bennett, if you haven’t got it). But Wilkinson simply asks for some overheards. As he says, these kinds of verbal blunder are somehow better if you know them to be true, but the truth, as it were, is that the examples provided, often appended with a note saying ‘this actually happened’, are not in themselves very funny. Thus:

The Last Days of Pompeii by Lytton Strachey (should be Edward Bulwer Lytton)

South Wind by Montagu Norman (should be Norman Douglas; MN was the governor of the Bank of England)

The Golden Arrow by Conrad Veidt (Wilkinson admits this takes a bit of thought. Mary Webb wrote The Golden Arrow; Joseph Conrad wrote The Arrow of Gold; Conrad Veidt was a German actor who appeared in The Cabinet of Dr. Cagliari and later also in Casablanca)

Babbitt by Upton Sinclair (should be Sinclair Lewis)

The Jungle Book by Upton Sinclair (Sinclair’s most famous work was The Jungle)

… are not brilliant, although I laughed at the last one.

There are really predictable D.H.Lawrence/T.E.Lawrence mix-ups mentioned, but in fact the guinea winning entry by W.A. Rathkey strikes me as completely feeble. However, Myra Verney‘s is genuinely clever. She’s mixing up Botticelli’s painting Primavera with the Italian boxing champion Primo Carnera who was about to become the world heavyweight champ (he was known as ‘The Ambling Alp).



Competitions nos. 151A and 151B: results

A new judge, Dorothy Avery (about whom I can find nothing whatsoever, so any help appreciated), asks for a rhyming English translation of the following lines from Cyrano De Bergerac:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAShe says she hoped the tricksiness would deter entrants, but reports that scores have risen to the challenge. There are many commendations – Valimus, T.E. Casson (of course), a couple of entries who are following the vogue for reversing the letters in their name (Yram, Nagal Mac), Non Omnia, and Evan John (whom I suspect is the actor and screenplay-writer active at this time – born 1901, died 1953). But the winners are Black Gnat (Seacape) and William Bliss – note how the latter is now winning, usually by coming second, almost every week:


The B competition suggests that, in the current economic crisis, and where have I heard that term before, a case of whisky be used as the unit of currency. What would be the effect in Feb 1934 if this measure were to be adopted in Feb 1933 (prose or verse)? Why, asks Avery, is everyone so shy of the B competition? (the answer is threefold: it is often cancelled, rubbished, or just plain dull, and this one is no different). Casson has sent in a ballad, which she commends as a ballad, but says is not much to the point; Bliss, Nagal Cam and Ronald Bargate are commended, but the winners are reliables: W.A.Rathkey and Guy Hadley:


And at this point, Dorothy Avery disappears. She seems to have written no books, no articles, no letters. It may be that she is a pseudonym.

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 139A and 139B: results

Ernest Betts asks for an introduction (up to 250 words) to a new aerial Bradshaw (a Bradshaw was the annual and hefty guide to the times of trains, connections between lines, and a) retained the name of Bradshaw though he had died in 1853 and b) survived until 1961: I can just remember it, and its pages of addenda). This didn’t strike me as a very promising subject for wit or humour, and I’m afraid I was right. ‘Few in number and not extraordinary in quality,’ is Betts’ laconic comment. The winner is J.H.G.Gibbs, and the runner-up is Guy Hadley.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe B competition was for a ‘Song On The Day I Was Born’, providing you were Masefield (a bit of a WR favourite for parody), Mussolini, Bertrand Russell, or Noel Coward.

Almost nobody goes for Coward or Russell, several for Masefield, but almost everyone for Il Duce.  Many says Betts, treated Mussolini ‘flippantly’, which is a ‘political crime of the first order’. I’m not so sure. The winner is nearly T.E. Casson, but Casson makes the mistake of introducing T.S. Eliot into his Mussolini song. The winner is Cottontail, and the runner-up is W.A.Rathkey.

Mussolini had been power for over 7 years at this stage. His invasion of Abyssinia was another three years in the future.