Competitions nos. 185A and 185B: results

H.G. Wells is quoted by Ernest Betts as having said that ‘Luncheon parties for literary men may give way to lynching parties before my time is over.” (It was far from a flippant comment. He made the remark on his sixty-sixth birthday, 21 September 1933, in a speech attacking the loutish behaviour of Hitlerism.) But Betts sees some potential for a jape, and asks for a description of a Lynching party with names supplied. the competitors duly went to town with accounts, for instance, of J.H. Thomas (the Colonial Secretary in the National Government, and expelled from the Labour Party for sticking with MacDonald) being hanged with his own tie (he was known as an elegant dresser). Wells, Shaw, Belloc, Chesterton and Sir John Squire are the principal sufferers. In fact two of the best entrants, W. Leslie Nicholls and William Bliss, are so carried away that they over-shoot the word limit. P.S.C. grabs the guineas, and L.V. Upward adds another half-guinea to his mounting stash:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I like the drollery here. I am afraid the Bishop Narkover joke sails over my head; Ethel Mannin, however, was a radical writer and forceful political thinker who had written a very well-received account of the 1920s in 1930 (‘Impressions and Confessions’), and was to become the lover of W.B. Yeats in 1935 before marrying Reginald Reynolds, 176 of whose poems appeared in New Statesman.

The B competition emanates from the proposal that policemen be recruited from universities, and a police college established. Betts asks for a college song (the college was opened by the Prince of Wales at Hendon in May 1934, and closed at the outset of the war. It did not re-open until 1974, and closed again in 2007). He is so pleased that he prints three – by Peter Hadley (here’s his first win), W.E.B. Henderson and (although he gets no reward), W. J. Halliday:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lord (Hugh) Trenchard, mentioned in all three printed entries,  had been the first head of the Royal Flying Corps, and was later Chief of the Air Staff. In the 1930s, he was Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police:

Trenchard

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Advertisements

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.)

Pickford

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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:

 

G.B.Shaw

1856

NPG x122244; Philip Snowden, Viscount Snowden by Bassano

1864

macdonald2

1866

Astor

1879

Chaplin

1889

 

hitler

1889

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):

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

Competitions nos. 174A and 174B: results

A brand new judge, and the most eminent so far – not only that, but a judge who would over the next few years, with the absorption of the WR by New Statesman, judge many more: V.S.Pritchett (Victor Sawdon Pritchett, 1900 – 1997), one of the greatest short story writers in English, and the author of two memoirs as well as five novels (not successful) and countless collections of literary and other essays. (His first collection of short stories had appeared the previous year; he was already a New Statesman contributor, and was to become its literary editor.) At this point he was 33, and his first marriage was nearing its end. His second marriage began a dynasty that gives us the writer Oliver Pritchett and the cartoonist ‘Matt’. Not the least remarkable thing about this competition is the man who just misses out in the B competition …

The A competition asks for a love letter from a shy delegate at the Economic conference to a widow with three children (why this detail?!), using the language of economics. In his report, Pritchett notes that it was easy enough to come up with double-meanings, including ingenious ones, but harder to give a necessary sense of sentiment. He prints an entire entry by someone labouring under the pseudonym ‘Tentacle’, to illustrate that it is possible to be witty and amusing, but fail to win the competition. Here it is:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Incidentally, the Economic conference, attended by representatives from 66 countries, lasted for most of June and almost all of July, and was eventually scuppered by Roosevelt, much to the chagrin of European leaders. One of the observers was H.G.Wells, who wrote about it in The Shape of Things To Come – see his description here. It was held in London at the Geological Museum, and its failure reflected badly on Macdonald, seen here at the opening with a German delegate:

UK WORLD ECONOMIC CONFERENCE

The winners are A.H. Ellerington (note the misprint) and Guy Hadley.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The B competition is just as quirky – it asks for an apology in eight lines of verse by a surgeon who has left an implement inside a patient’s body, the patient being a purveyor of quack remedies. This strikes me as another competition in which the information is just too complex. Pritchett is sharp enough to spot that he should have allowed his entrants more lines (he also notes that opinions of surgeons and quack remedy-sellers are very low). He considers four winners and gives the first prize to E.W. Fordham and the second to W.E.B. Henderson (Henderson has been printed but not rewarded before – see Competition no. 134B here). Just off the money are L.V. Upward – and J.F.Wolfenden. This is none other than a thirty-year-old John Frederick Wolfenden, the educationist who was about to move from Oxford to become headmaster of Uppingham School, who was later to be Vice-Chancellor of the University of Reading, and who is best known for chairing the 1954 committee and subsequently producing the 1957 report which recommended the decriminalisation of homosexuality – the report effectively that led to the 1967 Act that did just that.

Wolfenden

 

Still, he didn’t win half-a-guinea.