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100 years ago: A collect competition

08 December 2023

December 7th, 1923.

THE competitions in the Weekly Westminster rarely fail to produce work of a high order. But to offer a prize for a Collect to be used on the Eve of a General Election was to invite failure. Our contemporary knows, more or less, what a collect is and what it is not, and has rejected “collects five great sentences long, collects extending over two sheets of foolscap, collects in fluent and disgraceful rhyme”, knowing that these were not collects in any sense of the word. It also says that comic collects were burnt upon arrival. But it awarded a prize to the following: “Grant, we beseech Thee, merciful Lord, that all those who are gone forth like Saul, breathing out threatenings and slaughter, may, when they are returned, like Thy blessed Apostle Saint Paul, strive according to Thy Will, working in them mightily; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” The other three prize-winning efforts are not quite so impossible to use. But all are entirely wanting in the characteristics of the true collect: the conciseness which avoids a jejune brevity, the balance between the accustomed parts, above all, the rhythm necessary to all pieces of grave liturgical diction intended to be recited with musical inflection. The art of writing collects may not be altogether lost; but none of those who may possess it seem to have entered for this competition.

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