Lucy Vickery

Henry James sells Heinz baked beans

Henry James sells Heinz baked beans
[Photo by Chaloner Woods/Getty Images]
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In Competition No. 3201, a contest inspired by Salman ‘naughty but nice’ Rushdie, you were invited to submit advertising copy for the product of your choice in the style of a well-known author. In a huge and hotly contested entry, unlucky losers Bill Greenwell, Brian Murdoch, Ann Drysdale, Tom Adam and Nick MacKinnon were only narrowly outflanked by those below who take £25 each. Congratulations, all round.

Once upon the throne I squatted, almost bursting a carotid

Till my bowels were unclotted and my mind was free once more.

Then I found the toilet paper smelled of germicidal vapour

And, like a potato scraper, left my bottom rough and sore.

Be it Izal, be it Bronco, shall I ever know for sure?

But, I swear it, nevermore!

 

Desperate, I strove to find a toilet tissue smoother, kinder,

Till a timely friend’s reminder told me Andrex knows the score.

Take the word of one who knows it, one who in his wisdom chose it,

Count on being, once you close it, safe behind the bathroom door.

No more sanding of the hind parts, happiness in every pore,

Puppy-soft for evermore.

Basil Ransome-Davies/Edgar Allen Poe
Do not go gentle into that good night.

No, live a bit before you rest in peace —

Spend, spend against the dying of the light.

 

Wise men, near death, who visit our website,

Who click the link to Equity Release,

Do give all their inheritors a fright.

 

Good men, you cannot take it with you, right?

So buy a yacht and second home in Greece.

Rage, rage — and then prepare to book your flight.

 

Wild men, you have no need to be polite.

We’re waiting for you here at Credit Suisse:

Do not go gentle when the end’s in sight.

 

Grave men, forget the kids — they’ll only fight;

Release it now, for after your decease,

It’s far too late for us to expedite.

Rage! Call us right away, for time is tight.

David Silverman/Dylan Thomas
A jingle heard in a Sheffield fleapit lodged itself in my adventurer’s psyche. Its assertion was confident, the rhythm insistent. But did the Congolese truly drink Um Bongo? I have known stranger things; slurped scalding vichyssoise in Moosejaw with a one-armed albino osteopath from Bangalore, crooned Welsh lullabies to coax gloopy milk from the teats of Patagonian wisewomen. But to journey to the Democratic Republic of Congo — then as now neither democratic nor a republic — was to enter Conrad’s phantasmagoric heart of darkness, pressing my face against a natural world of implacable indifference. Upriver, on the 17th day and following much coaxing, some natives consented to try the Um Bongo I had brought against the eventuality of their ignorance. They drank this deliciously refreshing fruity soft drink with grinning alacrity, demanding more. The jingle, after all, had been prophecy, not reportage. As is my insistence you try some.

Adrian Fry/Bruce Chatwin
The ‘lid’ having been removed, by an operation entailing no particular degree of dexterity but nevertheless accomplished with a certain insouciant joie de vivre, Simeon Camperdown observes beneath its absence an agglutinated assemblage of delicate spheroids resting contemplatively on an imaginative palette of delicate shades, from orange, through the varieties of ochre and umber, and on to the more thrusting pertinaciousness of amber. By no means declining to take advantage of the latter’s permissive if cautionary signal, he advances his spoon, delivers its so fated contents to the heat, spreads on a round of thinly resilient but not insubstantially buttered toast, and bites. Giving his attention to the matter so successfully put in hand, now at last he permits himself, in a hardly characteristic but in the circumstances not wholly unjustified pother of emotion, an unwonted vulgarism: ‘Spiffing!’ In due course all will want, and hardly sotto voce, to concur.

John Maddicott/Henry James
Call me Birdseye. Some years ago, my discontent and spleen ashore so all-devouring that I found myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, I returned to the ocean. Off Labrador I saw the cod no sooner hauled up than frozen hard as stones by the icy air, and tasted those same cod months later, thawed, fresh and flavoursome as though new-caught. The future beckoned, portentous, resplendent, sumptuous.

And now, of a dreamy Sabbath, circumambulate the insular city of the Manhattoes, belted by wharves as Indian isles by coral reefs: what do you see? Thousands upon thousands of mortals fixed in ocean reveries. After days pent up in lath and plaster, tied to counters, nailed to benches, clinched to desks, they can, for a few cents, with but a judiciously wielded skillet, transport themselves to the ocean’s awesome, ungraspable grandeur. All coated in a crunchy batter.

Moray McGowan/Herman Melville
Homewards caper our rapscallions,

Putney Heath and Richmond Park

Yielding bounding, bright battalions,

Glossy coats and cheery barks:

Patch and Lassie, tails a-wagging

Rex and Spot with owners lagging

It’s WinnaChum for which they’re gagging!

Hastening through the winter dark

 

Ah, the fireside and decanters,

Sofa-snug. we can’t ignore,

At our feet entreating panters,

Anxious eye and prodding paw,

It’s Winnachum they’re recommending,

Winnachum that’s life-extending,

Winnachum for Man’s Best-Friending,

Pleads each canine epicure!

Nick Syrett/John Betjeman

No. 3204: let’s go round again

You are invited to provide a rondeau on a summery theme. Email entries of 15 lines to lucy@spectator.co.uk by midday on 16 June.