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Punch, or the London Charivari, Volume 99, October 4, 1890

by Various

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This age has been called an Age of Progress, an Age of Reform, an Age of Intellect, an Age of Shams; everything in fact except an Age of Prizes. And yet, it is perhaps as an Age of Prizes that it is destined to be chiefly remembered. The humble but frantic solver of Acrostics has had his turn, the correct expounder of the law of Hard Cases has by this time established a complete code of etiquette; the doll-dresser, the epigram-maker, the teller of witty stories, the calculator who can discover by an instinct the number of letters in a given page of print, all have displayed their ingenuity, and have been magnificently rewarded by prizes varying in value from the mere publication of their names, up to a policy of life insurance, or a completely furnished mansion in Peckham Rye. In fact, it has been calculated by competent actuaries that taking a generation at about thirty-three years, and making every reasonable allowance for errors of postage, stoppage in transitu, fraudulent bankruptcies and unauthorised conversions, 120 per cent. of all persons alive in Great Britain and Ireland in any given day of twenty-four hours, must have received a prize of some sort.

Novelists, however, have not as yet received a prize of any sort, at least as novelists. The reproach is about to be removed. A prize of £1000 has been offered for the best novel by the Editor of a newspaper. The most distinguished writers are, so it is declared, entered for the Competition, but only the name of the prize-winner is to be revealed, only the prize-winning novel is to be published. Such at least has been the assurance given to all the eminent authors by the Editor in question. But Mr. Punch laughs at other people's assurances, and by means of powers conferred upon him by himself for that purpose, he has been able to obtain access to all the novels hitherto sent in, and will now publish a selection of Prize Novels, together with the names of their authors, and a few notes of his own, wherever the text may seem to require them.

In acting thus Mr. Punch feels, in the true spirit of the newest and the Reviewest of Reviews, that he is conferring a favour on the authors concerned by allowing them the publicity of these columns. Sometimes pruning and condensation may be necessary. The operation will be performed as kindly as circumstances permit. It is hardly necessary to add that Mr. Punch will give his own prize in his own way, and at his own time, to the author he may deem the best. And herewith Mr. Punch gives a specimen of—

No. I.—ONE MAN IN A COAT. (By ARRY O.K. ARRY, Author of "Stige Fices," "Cheap Words of a Chippy Chappie," etsetterer.)

[PREFATORY NOTE.—This Novel was carefully wrapped up in some odd leaves of MARK TWAIN'S Innocents Abroad, and was accompanied by a letter in which the author declared that the book was worth £3000, but that "to save any more blooming trouble," he would be willing to take the prize of £1000 by return of post, and say no more about it.—ED.]