Competitions nos. 178A and 178B: results

J.C. Squire – now of course Sir John Squire – sets a competition in which you are to write as Queen Victoria to Lord Beaconsfield (Disraeli) about Lytton Strachey’s book about her. It’s an odd choice, given that Strachey is only a year or so dead – and also given that Squire had just been knighted by her grandson! Victoria’s letters had started to be released not long after her death (oddly so, in that one can’t imagine it now, even if they were heavily censored) and were striking for their use of emphasis. Published exchanges between Disraeli and Victoria existed, but the point is to satirise Victoria’s style.

There are a few close also-rans, but a newbie, P.S.C. (commended for his use of italics) beats off N.B. to the guineas. They’re both skilful, but pointless, I think:


The B competition, however, is far more modern and blatantly political-satirical in intent, in that it asks for twenty lines either about the Government front bench OR the Opposition front bench. The Government consisted of Macdonald, a few other Labour MPs, the Conservatives, and the ‘National Liberals’. The opposition was a Labour rump. Neither was much admired by the entrants, but then they were to be represented in the style of Pope. The prize-winners are Yury and Little Billee.


They were to hear Attlee’s name again …


George Lansbury, leader of the 46 remaining Labour MPs. Attlee, his deputy, was to take over the next year. (He’s Angela Lansbury’s grandfather.)


The Prime Gyrator, is, of course, the hapless Macdonald. Faithless Philip is Snowden.

Here’s a picture of members of Macdonald’s extraordinary Cabinet taken after the 1931 election:

1931 cabinet

Left to right: Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister (Conservative), Neville Chamberlain (Conservative), Jimmy Thomas (Labour), Rufus Isaacs (Lord Reading) (Liberal, replaced by Sir John Simon within two months), and Samuel Hoare (Viscount Templewood) (Conservative). Front row (left to right): Philip Snowden (Labour, by 1933 ennobled and resigned), Stanley Baldwin (Conservative), Ramsay MacDonald (Labour), Herbert Samuel (Liberal) and Lord (Edward) Stanley (Conservative). It’s quite a selective group: by no means all the Cabinet (and Stanley was not at this point a member).

A little disdainfully, Squire finishes thus:

‘Good enough, but Strube does better than either.’


Strube was the highly-paid Daily Express cartoonist – Sidney Conrad Strube (1892-1956) – there’s a good article about him here. He had in fact produced a calendar just before Christmas 1932, for 1933, that proves Squire’s point:

Strube cartoon



Competitions nos. 134A and 134B: results

Norman Collins sets these. There is a reversal for once: the first prize in the A competition is a guinea, in the B competition, two guineas. The A competition observes that the London County Council has suggested renaming Pilgrim’s Lane, Hampstead ‘Worsley Road’. Six London streets are given – so this is a bit parochial – for renaming in a similarly ‘destructive way’, but with ‘local applicability’:

King’s Bench Walk, Park Lane, Kensington Gore, Petty France, La Belle Sauvage, and Cheyne Walk.

(As a matter of fact, the change to Worsley Road went through, but, thanks to a campaign by Michael Foot, it was reverted to Pilgrim’s Lane in 1969. There’s a good little blogpost about it here.)

Foot at home

Michael Foot and his wife Jill Craigie in Worsley Road, I mean Pilgrim’s Lane.

A whole host of also-rans (submitters not named) are listed, among them

King’s Bench Walk: ‘Fee-Snatcher’s Fairway’, ‘Wigan Walk’ (I sort of get this – the wig bit – but am I missing something?), ‘Lost Causeway’, ‘Nisi Lane’

Park Lane: ‘No Parkington Street’ (this one is credited, to Gerald Summers, very possibly the designer you can read about here); ‘Barnato Passage’ (Woolf ‘Babe’ Barnato was a highly successful and very rich entrepreneur, and also a racing driver who won Le Mans three times, in 1928, 1929 and 1930, and who drove Bentleys – he lived in Mayfair, so perhaps this is the significance; in the same three years he won Le Mans, he was Surrey cricket club’s wicket-keeper); and the suspiciously anti-semitic ‘New Jewry’.

Kensington Gore: ‘Ruddymead’ (Summers again), Lansbury Sweep (help again: George Lansbury was the leader of the rump opposition Labour Party in 1932, but I’m not clear why he’s associated with Kensington Gore – he lived in Bow Road), Harrods’ Approach,

Petty France: Passport Place.

La Belle Sauvage: Cassell Court (because that’s where the publishers Cassell were based)

Cheyne Walk: ‘Sage Street’ (lots of clever people), ‘Phone-box Parade’

The winners are Quint (Sidgwick’s unprinted loser) and Guy Innes



The B competition wanted 12 lines of poetry in the manner of Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802) (Charles’ grandfather) to celebrate the discovery of a serum that cured measles. It may be that a cure for measles had been announced in 1932, but the 1950s were when a cure was found. Erasmus Darwin cited measles as evidence of a cruelty in the natural world, and was the first to coin the phrase ‘natural selection’ – not his grandson. He was interested in the nature of illness; he was also a not very distinguished poet. The winners are Yury and Lester Ralph.



Erasmus Darwin

Erasmus Darwin

Competition no. 112: results

Only one competition this week, but only because Sylvia Lynd’s extra winner has had to be held over. Gerald Bullett sets a really difficult competition (so difficult in fact, that I would quite enjoy having a go at it – there you are, an insight into the mind of a fanatical competitor). Suppose, suggests Bullett, that Swinburne and William Morris, over a bottle of wine, decide to elevate the status of ‘Jack and Jill’ to that of an Arthurian legend (yes, can see that happening), and do so using iambics – couplets, terza rima or blank verse – each in his characteristic manner, and in 8-12 lines each, at which point they abandon them and pass them to Tennyson for a mélange of both with a dash of his own style in 12 lines. The prizes are upped to two guineas, one guinea and half-a-guinea.

Phew. But then the readers were all still Swinburne fans, it seems to me. We would probably be asked to mix up (say) Plath and Hughes, and have it all re-written by Heaney. Or something similar. And we’d also have an extra week to do it.

Morris Tennyson Swinburne








Bullett says his judging is helped by the fact that most of the glazed eyes skated over ‘iambics’; Seacape and Lester Ralph come close; Tennyson is thought the easiest of the three; and the winner, by a whisker, is Yury, followed by Obispo, and George van Raalte (who is a bit dependent on the originals, and has made what I think is a tactical blunder in footnoting one poem).





Competitions nos. 89A and 89B: results

Martin Armstrong (for this competition will wind up in the first December issue) sets the task of writing a poem, 12 lines long, either on or to a Christmas Rose, pointing out that for a rose, winter is summer and vice versa. (The B competition is to be a parody of three verses of ‘Maud’.) But the very mention of a Christmas Rose, remarks Armstrong, has thrown all the competitors into a state in which they are lyrical and humourless. He scraps the B competition, thinking perhaps that the competitors think Tennyson too sacred, which he doesn’t; in fact, he admits disliking ‘Maud’ very much.. Even Seacape is slapped down. Instead, he redistributes the money to create extra prizes, and there are four Christmas Rose poems. He doesn’t say how he distributes the money, but there are two guineas left for the three runners-up, so I’m assuming it was split into three by 13s 6d.

The first two into the winner’s enclosure are new names, with crisp Georgian poems. The first, Rosellen Bett, was 26 or 27, and the daughter of a fleet surgeon (possibly the fleet surgeon); the second is one Peri Cotgrave, whose gender I’m not sure about, but whose poetry collection The Little Centaur  (I presume for children) was published in 1936. The other two spots go to old hands: Valimus and Yury.




Competitions nos. 61A and 61B: results

Clennell Wilkinson returns with two chatty news items, and receives a huge response. ‘I suppose,’ he writes ‘that it is possible to set too easy a competition   … accustomed to rack their brains over literary problems of such difficulty that the very men who set them would, in most cases, be lucky to win a consolation prize, they find it hard to take you seriously when you offer them a couple of clippings from the daily press.’

For the A competition, he has picked a story about a crate full of live poultry being sent from Blackpool to London by air. A short poem, in any form (not excluding free verse) is asked for, condoling with the alleged birds upon their humiliating situation. The judge’s report is quite short, apart from noting that many competitors had the idea that pullets might be air-sick, and that many also went for the over-obvious joke about ‘foul play’. The prizes go to J.W.A.Hunt and E.W.Fordham. There was in fact a comic poet called E.W.Fordham, and it’s tempting to speculate that this is a relative (the poet died in 1925), but this E(dward).W(ilfred).Fordham is a barrister aged 57, who lived in Hampstead, and wrote a book in 1950 called Notable Cross-Examinations. Shortly before that he’d joined in a debate on instances of ‘literally’ in a running correspondence (April 1949) in The Times: Sir,Perhaps the most picturesque use of ‘literally’ was that of a writer who asserted that ‘for five years Mr Gladstone was literally glued to the Treasury Bench.’Yours faithfully, E.W. Fordham. The next letter in sequence is from Gerald Barry!

J.W.A.Hunt is Joseph Wray Angus Hunt (1898-1976), known as ‘Wray Hunt’, and a writer of academic books (Medieval Studies in 1931), a co-writer with his wife Molly of children’s books (two in the late 1930s, Fairy Corner and The Toby Inn) and also a novelist. JWAHunt

Whether the two novels below, one from 1931 and one from 1970 are both his work I am very unsure – but it seems likely!

Wray Huntwrayhuntsatanschild

Here are the winners:WR Comp 61

The B competition refers to the early morning of Sunday May 3 1931, when an earthquake had been felt on the outskirts of Manchester, centring on Eccles. Various chimney pots had been dislodged, book-cases had fallen over, and The Guardian reported (very much in the tradition of underwhelming tales) that a golfer, out early, had missed his shot. Curiously enough, and the subject of the competition (epigram wanted), was a Times report of another golfer, at Chorlton, who had seen his ball shaken by the earthquake into the hole. Mind you, perhaps there was a season for earthquakes. Only a fortnight later there was a much larger earthquake across the country:


Sylvia Lynd wrote an article about this larger earthquake for the WR.

Wilkinson can’t make his mind up between four, so he prints two unrewarded runners-up as well, Yury and One-Up taking the money.

WR Comp 61a

Competitions 31A and 31B: the results

A new judge, and the first woman judge so far – not to mention the individual whose name will be most recognisable eighty years later – is Vita Sackville-West. She asks competitors to imagine Dr. Johnson returning to contemporary Britain for an aeroplane flight to Paris with Boswell, or Bozzy, as she calls him, and with the chance to include Mrs.Thrale. She is quite sniffy about the entries, but awards prizes to W.G. and K. Heanley– who won Competition no. 1B, but has not been glimpsed since.


Here is W.G’s effort, followed by Heanley’s






The choice of subject for 31B is quite surprising: 12-20 lines in the style of Pope, satirising Bloomsbury, of which Sackville-West must have been one of the most obvious targets. She was closely associated with all of the principals, had only comparatively recently ceased her affair with Virginia Woolf, and was between the publication of her two most well-known novels – The Edwardians and All Passion Spent. In the event, VSW gamely notes that competitors fell into three classes – those who wrote about the place, those who wrote about ‘a certain so-called clique’, and those who tried to do both. She gives the guinea to Yury, and the half-guinea to J.H.A.S.



It’s interesting to note that our modern perception of the Bloomsbury Group probably wouldn’t extend to T.S.Eliot, who is taking the fullest force of J.H.A.S.’s stick here. The reference to King’s College, Cambridge refers perhaps in particular to Desmond MacCarthy and E.M.Forster. Mr. R–d is the pro-Eliot critic, Herbert Read (not to be mistaken – and they were frequently confused – with Henry Reed). At about the same time as this competition was set, the poet Roy Campbell was preparing a vicious satire on the Bloomsbury Group called The Georgiad (1931), which starts

Now Spring, sweet laxative of Georgian trains,
Quickens the ink in literary veins,
The Stately Homes of England ope their doors
To piping nancy-boys and crashing Bores,
Where for week-ends the scavengers of letters
Convene to chew the fat about their betters….
Hither flock all the crowd whom love has wrecked
Of intellectuals without intellect
And sexless folk whose sexes intersect….