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).

Competition 140: results

A new young judge, John Collier, sets a competition which must hold some kind of record: the terms of the competition are longer than the sole winning entry, which is in any case disparaged. All the usual prize money – four guineas – is offered for the best attempt at coming up with six questions which might persuade a new dictator, conducting a viva with each of the country’s inhabitants, to keep the answerer on as one of the proposed 1,000,000 survivors of a cull (the rest are to be hanged, so this is jolly). I’d like to have been there when Collier proposed this one.

The report is necessarily lengthy. It is also quite grave. First Collier congratulates himself on how hard the competition is, then bemoans the difficulty of judging it. He is hoping, however, for some Machiavellian wit, something he doesn’t get. Several entrants come up with ‘Which six questions would you ask?’ Others try ‘gems’ such as ‘Are you Winston Churchill or Lord Beaverbrook?’ and even ‘Are you a virgin?’ He was, he admits (this is a ‘guess what’s in my head’ comp) hoping for questions that would suggest a Malthusian, internationalist outlook – and someone who likes the same art and literature. Weird.

The winner is W.G., who is not really commended – he gets four-and–a-half out of six. On the other hand, were four guineas (the largest prize yet offered) ever won by something so easy and tedious?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATo rub salt into the wound, Collier says he wouldn’t pick W.G. …

Competitions nos. 137A and 137B: results

J.C.Squire, the most ebullient setter, asks for epigrams on the current state of Germany, so we will get a little insight into the middle-class perspective on the country. This competition was judged just before the second election in Germany in 1932. In July, Hitler’s Nazi Party had become the largest, with 37% of the vote, and, although this was to fall back to 33% in the November election, Hitler’s rise to power was now unstoppable – he gained power in January 1933, since both elections proved so indecisive overall. One of the also-rans is Sir Robert (Claremont) Witt, who had co-founded the Courtauld Institute with the WR‘s owner in 1932 (curious in one way, as it was at about this point that Courtauld was getting ready to withdraw his backing). Witt was an eminent art historian, and there is a good article about him here and a contemporary portrait of him here. But the two winners are Little Billee and H.C.M. – Little Billee is allowed three winners, but H.C.M.’s is, I think, the best:

Election 1932

October 1932 and a pro-Hitler poster (‘our last hope’)


The B competition is for Dr. Johnson’s prognostications on the next Australian cricket tour. There are ten entries in the frame (one of them from ‘Herkers’ Henderson, the athlete/ novelist/ poet who came close in 134B). The tour (leaving in late 1932 to play in early 1933) was the infamous ‘bodyline’ series (the term ‘bodyline’ is Australian press slang. The English called it ‘fast leg theory’). Its chief exponent, Harold Larwood, achieved an unnecessary degree of notoriety in this series, which England won 4-1, perhaps because one ball fractured the Australian wicket-keeper’s skull, an unhappy event that the wicket-keeper (Oldfield) blamed on himself. The Australian captain, Woodfull, was also injured when the ball hit his heart. There is some ancient film of Larwood in action here. One of the cricket team was the Leicestershire player Iftikhar Ali Khan, who was the Nawab of Pataudi – one of only three players to play for two different test countries (in fact he later captained India). The Nawab, who scored a century in the first match, was later dropped (and was one of the few opponents of the bodyline bowling).

The competition of course is before all these events take place, and, while the winners, W.G. and E.W.Fordham, manage a pretty good pastiche of Johnson, it isn’t a bundle of laughs, and the reference to ‘the Ethiopian’ won’t pass muster now:


Larwood’s ball strikes Woodfull


Competitions no. 132A and 132B: results


Farrago alert! The WR has invited Frank Sidgwick back to test your literary wits again. Perhaps you might try googling the answers this time.

Okay, here’s the ‘literary arithmetic’ puzzle. The result of multiplying (a) the number of our family by (b) Maisie’s braw pall-bearers, diminished by (c) half the number of love-sick maidens is (d) the number of years that she was approaching when her lover was nearly (e) aged a number of years which added to one-third of the difference when (f) the total of those who shall plough no more and (g) the riders into the valley equals the results of multiplying (h) the Affable Kinsmen by (i) the sisters of Sussex. In (d) – you’re not getting off that lightly! – be sure and identify the ‘She’, giving both married and maiden names.

While you’re lying down, let me assure you that the prize will go to the neatest and briefest correct answer.

Personally, I think I can do just one of these, without so much as a search engine. (g) must be the Light Brigade’s 600 (‘not a poem on which I pique myself’ – Tennyson). I would have guessed (h) as 2, and I would be right, but for the same wrong reason as the winner.


A clue to (f)

I’ll take you through these in a minute, but nobody got this all right. One person, hiding behind the name Lilian, reached the correct solution, but only because, like me, she (or he) reckoned the Affable Kinsmen were the Noble ones. There are two of each, fortuitously.

Personally, I think (a) gets us off to a bad start. Whose family? Is it The Swiss Family Robinson? The Bennets? No – more mawkish than that. Sidgwick is a Wordsworth fan, and he is alluding to this. I will spare any readers the whole poem, but here is the computing part of it:

“The first that died was sister Jane;
In bed she moaning lay,
Till God released her of her pain;
And then she went away.

“So in the church-yard she was laid;
And, when the grass was dry,
Together round her grave we played,
My brother John and I.

“And when the ground was white with snow,
And I could run and slide,
My brother John was forced to go,
And he lies by her side.”

“How many are you, then,” said I,
“If they two are in heaven?”
Quick was the little Maid’s reply,
“O Master! we are seven.”

“But they are dead; those two are dead!
Their spirits are in heaven!”
‘Twas throwing words away; for still
The little Maid would have her will,
And said, “Nay, we are seven!”

So 7 has to be multiplied by the number of Maisie’s braw pall-bearers. What Maisie Knew? No, and braw suggests Scotland. Here is Frederick Anthony Sandys’ much later picture of the right Maisie:

maisieThe poor wee lass is subjected to burial in Chapter XL of Sir Walter Scott’s Heart of Midlothian (oh yes, of course). She appears in the deathbed song of ‘lunatic’ ‘maniac’ Madge Wildfire, a cigarette card of whom (really) you can see here

“Proud Maisie is in the wood,
Walking so early;
Sweet Robin sits on the bush,
Singing so rarely.

“‘Tell me, thou bonny bird.
When shall I marry me?’
‘When six braw gentlemen
Kirkward shall carry ye.’

“‘Who makes the bridal bed,
Birdie, say truly?’—
‘The grey-headed sexton,
That delves the grave duly.

“The glow-worm o’er grave and stone
Shall light thee steady;
The owl from the steeple sing,
‘Welcome, proud lady.'”


7 times 6 = 42.

(c) will be easy if you like Gilbert and Sullivan (it’s Sullivan I’m not keen on), and, particularly, Patience – an apt choice for this puzzle. The answer is that there are twenty love-sick maidens and you can hear (and see) them here. Half that number is ten (I’m good at this.)

42-10 = 32.

Now we stray into algebra, I think. I confess that I don’t understand the question, quite (and I have the answer!). Let’s plough on.

(d) The number of years she was approaching … ummm … all right, it’s from a humorous poem by C.S. Calverley (‘humorous’) that you can read here – these are the key verses:

She was a blushing, gushing thing;
All—more than all—my fancy painted;
Once—when she helped me to a wing
Of goose—I thought I should have fainted.
The people said that she was blue:
But I was green, and loved her dearly.
She was approaching thirty-two;
And I was then eleven, nearly.


(Calverley was born in 1831 and died in 1884. His complete works – he is a sort of minor Hood – were published in 1901, and are here. You’ll have spotted from his poem that the nearly-32 year-old is Miss Anna Poser, but becomes Mrs. Horace Nibbs. Bear that in mind.)


So a + b – (c ÷ 2) = 32, which = d – 32 (yes!) – when

11 is added to [(f – g) ÷ 3].

Okay I’ve given you a clue to (f). We need, of course, to turn to the poem On The Loss of the Royal George, by William Cowper. That’s here and is based on an event in 1782 described here, but, more importantly, those who will plough (the waves) no more are in the last two lines:

Weigh the vessel up,
Once dreaded by our foes,
      And mingle with your cup
The tears that England owes;
      Her timbers yet are sound,
And she may float again,
      Full charg’d with England’s thunder,
And plough the distant main;
      But Kempenfelt is gone,
His victories are o’er;
      And he and his eight hundred
Must plough the wave no more.
I hope you don’t make that 800. Don’t forget ‘he’. The total is 801, and we already know (g) is 600 from The Charge of the Light Brigade.


So 11 is added to [(f – g) ÷ 3] becomes 11 added to (801 – 600) ÷ 3 = 201 ÷ 3 = 67. So 11 + 67 = 78.

The first sum, then, is 32, when the second is 78: that’s what it looks like, providing (h) by (i) also equals 78.

Now you and I are simpletons. We see Kinsmen, we think ‘obscure maybe-Shakespeare play’, Two of them, don’t we? This is where the winner slipped, too. Sidgwick says he’s ‘gravelled’ (great word) that no-one’s heard of the Two Affable Kinsmen. ‘Does no-one read The Wrong Box any more?’ he asks. No, not in 1932, and not now, either.

It’s here, it’s an 1889 novel by Robert Louis Stevenson and his stepson Lloyd Osbourne – they collaborated three times – and is a black comedy which highly amused, among others, as Sidgwick mentions, Rudyard Kipling (‘I laughed over it dementedly,’ he wrote in a letter, and in his autobiography he was still claiming he could get 75% in a viva on it. Sidgwick also credits the Headmaster of Eton with being a fan. In 1932, that was Cyril Argentine Alington, a much published novelist and writer of memoirs and also hymns). To my amazement, it provides the plot for the 1966 Bryan Forbes film The Wrong Box (Michael Caine et al), which I certainly recall, and the trailer for which you can see here.

 Here is the key passage:


‘Oho!’ said Michael queerly. ‘You say your uncle is dangerously ill, and you won’t compromise? There’s something very fishy about that.”What do you mean?’ cried Morris hoarsely.’I only say it’s fishy,’ returned Michael, ‘that is, pertaining to the finny tribe.’

‘Do you mean to insinuate anything?’ cried Morris stormily, trying the high hand.

‘Insinuate?’ repeated Michael. ‘O, don’t let’s begin to use awkward expressions! Let us drown our differences in a bottle, like two affable kinsmen. The Two Affable Kinsmen, sometimes attributed to Shakespeare,’ he added.

So – let’s wrap this up – the answer is 2 and must be multiplied by the sisters of Sussex, in the hope that we will find the answer 78 again. I hope you’re following. We are looking, are we not, for 39 sisters of Sussex? Those of you at the back who are concentrating will realise we have already had a competition about Sussex poems. It’s Kipling, and the lines are:
Though all the rest were all my share
    With equal soul I’d see
Her nine-and-thirty sisters fair,
Yet none more fair than she.
(We are talking counties, not girls, note.) The original is here.


So 32 is 32, when 78 is 78. That’s it! Here’s Lilian’s neat summary:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATo be fair, someone called Quint (an occasional also-ran) has almost won, and his not-correct entry is awarded the half-guinea, although not printed.
For 132B, Sidgwick wants epigrams distinguishing Holyrood from Hollywood; suburbia from Siberia; and the Decalogue from the Decameron. Sidgwick hands out three prizes, to Tarsius, Jean Anderson and W.G.,  but also prints a generous selection of also-rans (some of them better than the winners, I think).



One of the runners-up, Walter Edward Bonhote Henderson (1880-1944), known by the nickname ‘Herkers’, was not only a poet who had published two volumes (you can read his first, in 1908, here) and a novelist (one novel, Behind the Thicket) and short story writer, but also an Olympic athlete – certainly in 1908, when he came eighth in the standing high jump competition, and 1912; in 1920 he won the trials but was not picked. He was a hammer and discus thrower, too, and had set the UK discus record in 1912 (128ft 4½in – not surpassed till 1928). In fact, the striking thing about him was the longevity of his athletic career. He began by representing Oxford against Cambridge in five sports (add the shot put and javelin) between 1900 and 1903, and in 1900, won the high jump. A full 23 years later, he came second in the discus at the AAA championships, and was selected to play for England against France, even though he was over 43. He was one of those rare unfortunates who was reported to have died (in 1943) when he was still alive: the Times obituary said of him that “his classic head and beautifully proportioned body suggested Apollo rather than Hercules”. He worked in the solicitors’ department of the Ministry of Labour.


Competitions nos. 119A and 119B: results

Clennell Wilkinson asks for a love letter from Mr. Pecksniff (Martin Chuzzlewit) to Becky Sharp (Vanity Fair), and her reply. Just so there’s no confusion, as Vanity Fair is not a short novel, he specifies the Becky of Chapter 6. So here it is.

Becky Sharp

Mr. Pecksniff (image scanned by Philip V. Allingham at http://www.victorianweb.org/art/illustration/eytinge/144.html)

Wilkinson is not a happy bunny. He doesn’t feel anyone has Pecksniff’s turns of speech and lack of humour; he doesn’t think anyone has captured the man; he thinks even fewer have caught Becky. Seacape gets the nod on Becky but the veto on Pecksniff, however. What Wilkinson thinks Seacape has right is that Becky would not turn Pecksniff down, but keep him dangling. He grudgingly chooses W.G., but regrets that his entry contains no reference by either to money.  W. Hodgson Burnet sees off William Bliss for the second prize. Lester Ralph, H.C.M. and the doing-rather-well-lately Eremita are comended. No-one else seems to have been in the frame at all.





The B competition is a reallycomplex one, given the potentially simple instruction (I can never quite get my ahead around the way Wilkinson’s mind works, which might be no surprise, given the very poor reputation he had had as a brief holder of the post of literary editor at New Statesman and Nation. He wants wounding but innocent remarks. If he’d left it there, things might have been fine, but he goes on to specify the victims, and they’re quite busy ones:

a) a retired cavalry officer with a rather dictatorial manner

b) a film star who professes not to remember having met you

c) a former schoolmaster whose existence you yourself had hoped to forget

d) a hostess who has just upset a cocktail over your only white waistcoat (we’ve all been there …)

AND (not OR) e) a publisher, who having turned down your manuscript, offers you one of his cigars

I half-wonder if Wilkinson has actually drawn on personal experience for some of these. They’re quite revealing about the world in which he, and, it must be presumed, other WR contributors move. He notes of the entries that they seem to suggest that WR readers are all too kind. In fact, he decides to offer no second prize, so there’s a half-guinea saved. He gives a nod to Guy Hadley, to L.V. Upward and to Leopold Spero, the last of whom was a poet and short story writer to be found contributing to a range of magazines between 1919 and 1945 (and presumably either side). The solitary prize goes to Alice Herbert.




Competition 83: result

Gerald Bullett takes the judge’s seat for a single competition. He quotes a private letter (I assume it’s real): ‘We have never had so many goods in the world before; therefore we must all economise. We must balance our Budget by letting people have less to spend and so creating more unemployment. Wemust save money by reducing unemploymentvrelief, and lose it (lose far more than we save) by increasing the number of unemployed persons . . . Even industrialists may learn one day that their interest is not the same as the financiers’ interest’ – he asks for not more than twelve epigrammatic couplets in the manner of Pope. The context is, of course, Snowden’s budget. Three prizes: two guineas, one guinea, half-a-guinea. In the event, he splits the two guineas between Dermot Spence and Little Billee, gives the third guinea to Geoffrey Vickers, and the bonus half-guinea to W.G. Vickers is the only new name here, and he is probably the Geoffrey Vickers (1892-1984) who had won a Victoria Cross in The First World War in 1915. He went on to become a lawyer, and in 1931 was working for Slaughter and May. In later life he had a successful career as a social scientist – at some times associated with The Open University. Seacape and T.E.Casson are among those in the running. Spence is effectively docked his guinea because of the run-on in line 2, which Bullett points out is not consistent with Pope.


Geoffrey Vickers

 WR 83 really

WR 83 really1

Competitions nos. 77A and 77B: results

What if, asks T. Earle Welby, Falstaff was invited into a soda fountain establishment? Epigrams are required. (Sigh.)

The soda fountain had a history of well over a century, and was a fixture in diners in the USA as here in Wisconsin:

soda fountain 1930s

As with the toothpaste in the previous competition, something is nagging Welby, so we must assume that something, possibly anti-American, is informing this competition. In America, there were already about 60,000 soda fountains by 1900, but although there were soda fountains in London and Paris before World War One, they have never been as culturally important as in America. As for Falstaff …


Soda pop?

Competitors are slightly ticked off for over-modernising or for punning too relentlessly on ‘sack’. The also-rans are familiar names (Casson, Ralph, Bliss, Hall, H.C.M., Hodgson Burnet), but the first prize goes to Little Billee, who is destined for greater rewards, and the second to W.G. (although I don’t get the point of his entry)


Now for something less taxing …

For a guinea or half a guinea, competitors are given a Latin poem to translate:


The extract is from an imitation of Catullus by the short-lived Dutch poet, Johannes (or Janus) Secundus (1511-1536), whose Basia (Kisses) was first collected five years after his death.

Johannes Secundus

Welby has warned entrants that Johannes is a scholar and a gentleman and not ‘the laureate of petting parties’, but many competitors ignore the injunction and commit cardinal sins like rendering ‘udum’ as ‘slobbering’ rather than ‘dewy’. Shame on them … It’s hard, even with my Latin O level (grade 2) to see how I could have done this competition, but it was only a quarter of a century since a collection of the Westminster Gazette’s competitions (in the ‘Saturday Westminster’ and set by Naomi Royde-Smith) had been published in two volumes – one of them being solely Greek and Latin translations or compositions.

The winners (Marion Peacock just misses out, as do Casson and Chauve-Souris) are a new forename-only entrant, Mark; and Seacape:




The only thing that surprises me is that the competition-setters have so much to set that might satirise the political world, but neglect it – after all, with the National Government now consisting of a Labour Prime Minister and Chancellor but with two factions of Liberals and the Conservatives making up half the Cabinet, while a third faction of Liberals and most of the Labour Party were in Opposition, there was plenty of scope. (The political end of the WR had already made the point that there is no such thing as a coalition.)