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Spectator competition winners: being dumped Alan Bennett-style

15 April 2017

11:00 AM

15 April 2017

11:00 AM

The latest challenge was to submit a Dear John letter, in prose or verse, in the style of a well-known author. My, you were good this week — good enough to make being jilted seem quite the thing. Even that most maddening of break-up clichés ‘It’s not you, it’s me’ has a certain charm when filtered (courtesy of Chris O’Carroll) through the whimsical lens of Ogden Nash.

Robert Schechter’s Andrew Marvell kept it brief:

Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, Lady, were no crime,
But since there’s not enough of either
I think we ought to take a breather.

Douglas G. Brown, Paul Freeman, Martin Parker, R.M Goddard and Bill Greenwell are also highly commended. The winners earn £25 each. D.A. Prince takes £30.

D.A. Prince/Kipling

If you could listen and not aim to wrangle —
 Remember that to tango it takes two;
If you could see things, sometimes, from my angle,
 A little more of me and less of you;
If you had sometimes been a little kinder,
 If complimenting hadn’t been so hard
Or when my birthday fell (without reminder)
 You’d turned up with both flowers and a card.

If you could mute your urge to godlike glory
 And take on board that you have feet of clay;
If you could see that I, too, had a story,
 That your attention might have made me stay;
If you had grasped that equal still meant equal
 And being top dog wouldn’t do — Of course,
our earlier lives would have a happy sequel.
 But as it is we’re heading for divorce.

Hugh King/Molesworth

Dear fotherington-tomas.

 

Enuff is enuff. You have compleetly the rong end of the stick. Wot hapend is that Peason in plaful mood bet me five cigs I wood not hold your hand on matron’s nature walk. Peason is a bad loozer so then bet another five I wood not rite you a luv poem. He thort my currage must fail at this hidyus task but giving in to Peason is even more utterly wet than riting a poem even one that says e.g. thou art like a flagrant blossum ugh pass the sickbag. Whoever said poetry makes nothing hapen did not kno you. The gastly consekwences are even soppier than gurls. Stop bringing me flowers which is a torcher worse than prunes. And if you call me darling again I will have to rezort to violents.

Singed Molesworth 1

W.J. Webster/Henry James

My dear, as you read this letter I beg you to understand that it is written with a full heart and a fervent sense of where duty lies. For I have come to see, deeply to my regret, that I can no longer lay just claim to your affections. For a blessed while, I did rise, as I imagined, to be worthy of you. But those are heights I cannot in truth sustain. What beautifully was I must now treasure in the amber of memory, safe from the sad mutabilities of time. If I could dare to hope you might, in some part, share that golden recollection, it would be immeasurable consolation to me. Meanwhile, all that is in my power is to release you from whatever encumbrance my attentions have laid upon you; and to wish that we might long be linked by bonds of amity.

Humbly yours

Brian Allgar/Christopher Marlowe

 ‘Come live with me and be my love —’
Whatever was I thinking of?
Those pleasures that my sheep provide
Would be, I hoped, much amplified

With you, but it was not to be —
A headache was your nightly plea.
And footwear frays when tending flocks;
I thought at least you’d darn my socks.

Your taste in music? It appals;
You drown the birds’ sweet madrigals,
So soothing to the shepherd’s soul,
With ghetto-blasting Rock’n’Roll.
But worst of all — my jaw still drops —
The day you cooked me mutton chops!
So now I’m giving you the shove;
It’s back to sheep for me, my love.

Adrian Fry/Alan Bennett

Dear John, Shy by both nature and nurture, I’ve always been inclined to accept Mam’s favourite proverb — least said, soonest mended — as my own. Only I’ve been saying, often and with increasing frequency, absolutely nothing about our relationship for some time and you’ve failed to catch my drift. Were you still the sensitive boy who first paused to adjust my bicycle clips in the Gloucester Road in 1972, you’d surely have noticed. Noticed, for example, our diverging literary tastes, Andy McNab as incomprehensible to me as Ivy Compton Burnett evidently is to you. Once, I imagined you were as excited as I inspecting an unfamiliar rood loft. Now, I know you’re merely impatient to be home for Top Gear. When I return from Marks & Spencer — picking up eavesdroppings for the diary and, inevitably, a meal for one — I expect to find you, though not this letter, gone. 

Susan McLean/Elizabeth Bishop

The art of leaving isn’t hard to master. 
When you’ve been left yourself, it’s hard to care
that someone else might think it’s a disaster. 

Leave someone every day. Put out to pasture
the flustered girl, the cultured millionaire. 
The art of leaving isn’t hard to master. 

Then practice leaving colder, leaving faster.
Ignore the tears, the pleas, the parting glare,
the death threats. None of these will bring
disaster. 

I left my first, then dozens more. My last, or 
next-to-last, will soon play solitaire. 
The art of leaving isn’t hard to master. 

— Even leaving you, regret is hard to muster.
The bottle’s the one lover I can’t spare.
To leave it would be (Write it!) a disaster,
but leaving you is not too hard to master

Your next challenge is to submit an acrostic sonnet of which the first letters of each line spell AT THE SPECTATOR. Please email entries to lucy@spectator.co.uk by midday on 26 April.


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