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).

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Competitions nos. 138A and 138B: results

Vita Sackville-West asks for a piece (up to 300 words) on ‘How I Should Run The Southern Railway’: technical but practical, humorous but sensible. And not libellous.

Since the first line was laid, the British people have been inclined to moan about railways, and so VSW shouldn’t be surprised that almost all she got was a display of “disgruntled ill-temper” and very little that was constructive. She complains that it can’t be easy managing suburban traffic (I am actually not sure if she is being facetious, so brain-washed am I by years of anti-railway jokes). One of the runners-up is, amazingly, one Michael Bonavia, born in 1909, and so, at this point, a recent economics graduate from Cambridge, and a junior merchant banker with Rothschild and Sons. But 13 years later, he joined the London and North-East Railway as General Manager, and even later, was director of the Channel Tunnel project that came to grief in 1975. He was still alive, and on the train, when the Channel Tunnel finally opened in 1994. He may have been one of the many who apparently suggested ending the system of first-class carriages (that’s a surprise). He died in 1999, having been the author of a number of books about rail travel:

Bonavia The winners are two new names, Midory, and Sales. Of the latter, Sackville-West remarks that he is ‘jocular rather than practical, although he is really witty. (I hope he will forgive me this private pun, which he alone will be in a position to appreciate.)’ Really? So is my guess that he is Sir Robert Witt, who nearly won the previous week, especially far from the mark?

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The B competition was for a hymn of Love or Hate to … the Albert Memorial. The only reason I can suggest why, is that July 1932 had seen its sixtieth anniversary.

Albert Memorial

The Hymns of Love were said to be serious and sentimental. Attila, W.R.Y, Lester Ralph, Pibwob, Gerald Summers, W.A. Rathkey, and of course, T.E. Casson are commended. The prizes go to W. Hodgson Burnet and E.W.Fordham for Hate and Love respectively.

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A little further on in the WR that week is a very curious poem. You may have noticed that, uncharacteristically, Seacape has not been commended in this competition. However, he is present in the WR, in this effort:

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At first sight, this might well seem to be some kind of obituary (but I know better than that). Is it a statement of retirement from the fray (Seacape does indeed vanish for a bit, but makes a return). And why is it the poem called S.M.G. – is this some Latin reduced to three letters (as in R.I.P.)? (The answer may be ‘Some Must Go’.) The named competitors (did Seacape write it? I assume so) are all familiar names. It’s true that Gertrude Pitt rarely wins the WR competition, but she was wreaking havoc in other competitions, and was used as an example by a losing Dylan Thomas of the kind of person who would win. The one that interests me is Sylvia Groves. She has won a couple of times, but nothing like as often as the others. She’s a surprising name to choose. I’m torn three ways on this – a) she’s an irrelevance, b) she is in any case a pun on ‘sylvan groves’ and c) she is S.M.G. as in the title, in which case, is she … but no, I am sure Seacape is male. Any thoughts?

Competitions nos. 128A and 128B: results

A new judge, Theodora Bosanquet, arrives. Born in 1881 (she died in 1962), she was principally known as Henry James’ secretary/ amanuensis in the last years of his life, about which she wrote (he talked; she typed). She has a pot-shot at the advertising industry by asking for copy (75 words) to advertised all of the following: hair tonic, a cigarette, a breakfast cereal. She was looking for the ‘mnemonic properties of the names I was to find unevictably lodged in my mind’. Hmm, guess that’s what happens to your prose style if you work for HJ. She likes William Bliss’s suggestion for hair tonic (‘Beaverine’, because the beaver never sheds its fur) …

Pibwob makes a rare (possibly accidental) appearance under his real name, L.F.Goldsmid, but at the top of the queue of stragglers are George T. Hay (no victory yet, but perhaps one will turn up), Rathkey, Ellerington, Upward, and new runners-up, Joseph H. Goodfellow and C.A.S.Ducker. But the winners are W. Hodgson Burnet and Seacape.

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The B competition is to write a poem – a lyric – on the text “One was asked ‘What is Hell?’ And he answered ‘It is Heaven – that has come too late.” The more I think about this, the more it seems like an incomprehensible idea. T.E. Casson writes a decent poem, as does Seacape, but Marion Peacock is the only winner (more evidence of the fragility of the B competition, which is now restricted to one prize more often than not – or cancelled). Peacock is advised to work on the second half if she wants to see it published elsewhere.

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Competitions nos. 125A and 125B: results

Philip Jordan returns for this one, and notes that, at the end of some correspondence in the Greenock Telegraph of June 27, the gnomic comment ‘”Interested” should enquire at the fire-station” appears. He asks for the original letter that elicited this reply. Again, this strikes me as a slightly modern competition – it could be set today. There is no mention in the report of many of the familiar names, except for the top winner, the venerable William Hodgson Burnet, and near-but-not-quite James Hall. However, we do get a positive response to the same Miss K.T. Stephenson as 124 (of the same, as it were, vintage), and two recent and keen entrants, A.H. Ellerington and H.A.L. Cockerell. Three prizes are given out (yes, the B competition is attracting opprobrium again, and here perhaps are the first signs that it will eventually disappear) – the runners up are new names Miss Mary G. Thomas and W. Gladden (whose brief entry I think is very funny). It is possible that W. Gladden is ‘W.G.’, of course, a more regular entrant and winner.

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The B competition imagines Shaw meeting Cleopatra in heaven and Shaw having a better impression of her. A four line epigram (yawn) is requested. The only winner is William Bliss, although there is a near win by an entrant with a long-winded pseudonym, one who had entered the previous competition, in fact, Maher-shalal-hashbaz. I can’t imagine why this has been set. Shaw’s play dates from 1901, and I can’t find any references to contemporary productions. However, there are the 1948 film and 1945 stage productions I can show: about as close as I can come.

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Caesar and Cleo 1945 Caesar and Cleo

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.

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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.

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Competitions nos. 114A and 114B: results

J.C.Squire returns. He wants a ballade on the Royal Academy Exhibition. Since the refrain has to be “Plus ça change, plus c’est le même chose” – which Squire points out is a perfectly good iambic pentameter if you pronounce it correctly – it’s not clear if Squire is refering to the January to March exhibition (French Art 1200-1900) or the 164th annual exhibition, which ran from the 6th May to the 27th August, and attracted over 140,000 people to see over 1,500 works of art. Probably the latter. Oddly enough, The Spectator had, a week or two earlier, run an account of the 1832 exhibition in its ‘One Hundred Years Ago’ slot (Turner comes in for a pasting). The eye is drawn to the back pages, where The Spectator was also running a competition (top prize, two guineas), in addition to a weekly limerick competition. The former is just over a year old; the latter about six months old. A quick glance at the winners turns up Guy Hadley and H.A.L. Cockerell of the WR parish …

In a crowded field, Seacape and D.C.R.Francombe are near-winners, just edged out by J.W. Pepper and W. Hodgson Burnet.

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The B competition was for three to eight proposals for books (any genre) to be ‘put up’ to publishers. It turns out that Squire was actually being quite serious, but he had reckoned without Bertram R. Carter and the veteran James Hall, both of whom deliver the goods (another modern competition) –

 

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A special further competition is set, but I’ll come to that when its results are announced. In the meantime, the event the competitors and judges (and their spouses, it seems) have waited for is upon us:

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Competitions nos. 111A and 111B: results

Sylvia Lynd sets this one, and, in variant forms, it persists to this day. A has been lent a house in the country by B. A’s letter of thanks is asked for, in which there is an apology for something (fairly slight) done. (It also to contain some idea of the house.)

It is interesting to think of the country house as a feasible option for Week-end Review readers. Of all the competitions so far, this is the one that gives us the best insight into the class and character of the entrants, and perhaps a majority of the readers. But first, a digression. I once stayed in a house (immaculate) in Devon, for which only a contribution to the energy bills was required. After an hour my then partner had a shower, and knocked something off a shelf, which duly smashed. Most of the rooms in the house had precious objects in them, but this one smashed so totally that the only evidence as to what it had been was a sign that it had been purchased in Mexico. The next week was clouded completely, and the remuneration at the end was substantially more than necessary, the guilt having weighed so heavily. Some years later I confessed the crime to the owner, only to discover that it was trinket costing zilch, a thank-you gift from a student. We had spent a week in a de Maupassant story, it seemed to me.

Lynd lists the sinking of a launch, the ruin of a cricket pitch, china being broken – and the departure of servants – as just some of the apparently based-on-real-life disasters.

She writes a colossally long judge’s report, splits the first prize  between D.L.Halliday and Majolica and awards a third. The third (W.Hodgson Burnet) has to be held over for reasons of space (Lynd seems quite unaware that she is the one who has caused this problem). Although published in the next issue, I’ve placed it here.

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For the B competitors, a short poem beginning ‘And this is your peculiar art, I know’ (a Coleridge line) had to be written to the creators of Big Films to persuade patrons not to sit and watch the film a second time (still possible in the 1960s, but not after that, I think). The winner is Dermot Spence, but Lynd splits the runner-up prize between two – so the smallest sums so far won (5s 3d) are thereby dished out. One of the two is N.B., but the other, I am sure, is L(eonard) Marsland Gander – the ‘G’ is a printing error – who was, four years later, in 1936, to become The Daily Telegraph‘s very first television critic. He was still working as a radio and TV journalist in the 1970s (he was a Desert Island Disc castaway in 1969). Here’s a photo of him as a war correspondent in 1945:

Gander

And here are the winning entries:

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