Lucy Vickery

When two becomes one

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In Competition No. 3107 you were invited to provide an extract that is a mash-up of two well-known works of literature. The germ for this challenge was the discovery that Middlemarch was originally two separate works — a novel about the townspeople (the Vincys, Bulstrode, etc) and a short story called ‘Miss Brooke’, which focused on the country folk). Neither worked on its own, so Eliot stitched them together and, hey presto! I realised, reading your entries, that the brief had been ambiguous: while some of you lifted the exact text, others went for a looser approach. Both were permissible and both produced some terrific entries. Honourable mentions to Lauren Peon and ­Adrian Fry. The winners take £30 each.

I saw the best daughters of my generation destroyed by lack of fortune, maternal hysteria, running naked,

being dragged through the balls of Netherfield mother-fixed on future matrimony,

who bared their shoulders to flaming candles with radiant cool eyes hallucinating Mr Bingley,

who was universally acknowledged as singular and mile-high with money to burn in waste paper baskets and in want of a wife,

angel-headed Bennets levered up for the ancient heavenly connection to property,

who hollow-eyed with passion sat up talking in the supernatural darkness of Longbourn contemplating uniforms and wild regiments of lust,

who contrived the fabulations of Darcy, secret hero of this poem, who sweetened the snatches of girls trembling in the sunset,

who fantasised Pemberley while the sirens of Lady Catherine de Bourgh wailed them down piano-playing in despair

who overturned the entailment of fathers to the end of patience.

D.A. Prince (‘Howl’ meets Pride and Prejudice)

To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman, burned-out minor-royalty groupie or not. But that came later. It all started with a mystery letter. Holmes had been coking it up for several days and was living on the ceiling.

‘’Pon my soul, Holmes!’ I exclaimed on reading it, ‘this is batshit-crazy.’

‘Not with the right conditionality, Watson. Did you know that the Pope never visits a town where the newspapers are on strike? I forget where I got that from. My attorney, maybe. Whatever, I refer you to the bowl of Acapulco Gold on the ottoman.’

Once I’d fired up a doobie we sat watching the shadows move around the room, playing ‘White Rabbit’ on a loop and munching popcorn.

Finally Holmes pronounced decisively, ‘Come, Watson. The game’s afoot. If I have learned one thing, it’s that when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.’

Basil Ransome-Davies (Scandal in Bohemia meets Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas)

The sun was shining on the sea

In the middle of the night

When suddenly the Carpenter

Walked on the billows bright.

And Peter said: ‘O bid me come.’

And he replied: ‘All right.’

The moon was shining sulkily

Because she thought the Son

Had got no business walking there.

It simply wasn’t done.

But Peter jumped out from the boat

Intent on having fun.

Alas he sank and cried for help

And shed a bitter tear.

The Carpenter said nothing but

‘You’re lacking faith, my dear’.

Frank McDonald (‘The Walrus and the Carpenter’ meets Matthew 14:24-32)

Whose mind this is, I think I know.

It’s not a mind of winter, though.

It can’t regard these pine-trees here,

Their boughs all crusting up with snow,

And not feel miserable and queer

This longest evening of the year,

Not feel the sound of wind’s a cue

To go and down a tub of beer.

The sound of leaves that are too few

Imposes on the listener who

Stands snowbound in this place so bare

And, knowing he is nothing, too,

Beholds two nothings to compare:

The one that isn’t anywhere

And, too, the nothing that is there,

And, too, the nothing that is there.

Max Gutmann (‘The Snow Man’ meets ‘Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening’)

Sleeping, waking, weak and weary; sorry sight this midnight dreary,

Hark! it was the owl that shreik’d, fatal bellman, bird of yore.

Will these hands be clean; I’m fearing every noise, and vainly peering

Into darkness, always hearing ‘Out damned spot’ for evermore,

Yet I hear an urgent rapping, just behind the chamber door,

Hear a voice cry ‘Sleep no more!’

Perfumes of Arabia’ll never wash the smell of blood forever,

In this house of horror haunted, Banquo’s shadow on the floor,

Grim, ungainly — I’m entreating, ‘ghastly creature’, then repeating,

‘While my weary heart is beating, wake up Duncan, I implore!’

Hell is murky and what’s done will not be undone— nevermore,

Darkness there and nothing more.

Sylvia Fairley/Macbeth meets ‘The Raven’


There is a version of the ‘Hokey-­Cokey’ rewritten as a Shakespearean sonnet by Jeff Brechlin. You are invited to filter the song through the pen of another well-known writer. Please email entries of up to 16 lines to by midday on 31 July.