Appendix 2: The Newdigate Prize

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Sir Roger Newdigate's Prize for English Verse was founded in 1806 as a memorial to Sir Roger, fifth baronet (1719-1806) and Oxford university politician. (An arch-Tory, he appears frequently in histories of the town and university partly because he was genuinely influential and partly because he kept a diary.) Each year the Professor of Poetry chooses a title, traditionally the stuff narrative paintings are made on, and judges the best entry, which the author then reads as part of the annual Encaenia ceremony. If the Professor is not sufficiently impressed by any entry, the Prize is not awarded, and the event is so badly advertised (i.e., not at all) that many undergraduates aren't aware that it even exists. The instructions, if you can find them, are pleasantly odd:

The length of the poem is not to exceed 300 lines. The metre is not restricted to heroic couplets, but dramatic form of composition is not allowed.
A few interesting literary figures did win in the nineteenth century (Matthew Arnold, 1843; Oscar Wilde, 1878) but in the first half of the twentieth century the contest was judged according to very conservative tastes, so that winning entries tend to be redolent of the 1890s or even earlier, and nothing influenced by T. S. Eliot stood much chance. It is unlikely to be a coincidence that the first substantial poets to receive the prize (Jon Stallworthy, 1958; John Fuller, 1960; James Fenton, 1968) did so in the first period when the Professor of Poetry was himself a modern poet.

Recipients 1900-82

1900. Robespierre. Arthur Carré
1901. Galileo. William Garrod
1902. Minos. Ernest Wodehouse
1903. not awarded
1904. Delphi. George Bell
1905. Garibaldi. Arthur E. E. Reade
1906. The Death of Shelley. Geoffrey Scott
1907. Camoens. Robert Cruttwell
1908. Holyrood. Julian Huxley
1909. Michelangelo. Frank Ashton-Gwatkin
1910. Atlantis. Charles Bewley
1911. Achilles. Roger Heath
1912. Richard I Before Jerusalem. William Greene
1913. Oxford. Maurice Roy Ridley
1914. The Burial of Sophocles. Robert Sterling
1915. not awarded
1916. Venice. Russell Green
1917. suspended due to war
1918. suspended due to war
1919. France. P. H. B. Lyon
1920. The Lake of Garda. George Johnstone
1921. Cervantes. James Laver
1922. Mount Everest. James Reid
1923. London. Christopher Scaife
1924. Michael Angelo. Franklin McDuffee
1925. Byron. Edgar McInnes
1926. not awarded
1927. Julia, Daughter of Claudius. Gertrude Trevelyan
1928. The Mermaid Tavern. Angela Cave
1929. The Sands of Egypt. Phyllis Hartnoll
1930. Daedalus. Josephine Fielding
1931. Vanity Fair. Michael Balkwill
1932. Sir Walter Scott. Richard Hennings
1933. Ovid among the Goths. Philip Hubbard
1934. Fire. Edward Lowbury
1935. Canterbury. Allan Plowman
1936. Rain. David Winser
1937. The Man in the Moon. Margaret Stanley-Wrench
1938. Milton Blind. Michael Thwaites
1939. Dr Newman Revisits Oxford. Kenneth Kitchin
1940. suspended due to war
1941. suspended due to war
1942. suspended due to war
1943. suspended due to war
1944. suspended due to war
1945. suspended due to war
1946. suspended due to war
1947. Nemesis. Merton Atkins
1948. Caesarion. Peter Way
1949. The Black Death. Peter Weitzman
1950. Eldorado. John Bayley
1951. The Queen of Sheba. Michael Hornyansky
1952. Exile. Donald Hall (published in OP 1953)
1953. not awarded
1954. not awarded
1955. Elegy for a Dead Clown. Edwin Evans
1956. The Deserted Altar. David Posner
1957. Leviathan. Robert Maxwell
1958. The Earthly Paradise. Jon Stallworthy
1959. not awarded
1960. A Dialogue between Caliban and Ariel. John Fuller
1961. not awarded
1962. May Morning. Stanley Johnson
1963. not awarded
1964. Disease. James Paterson
1965. Fear. Peter Jay
1966. not awarded
1967. not awarded
1968. The Opening of Japan. James Fenton
1969. not awarded
1970. Instructions to a Painter. Charles Radice
1971. not awarded
1972. The Ancestral Face. Neil Rhodes
1973. The Wife's Tale. Christopher Mann
1974. Death of a Poet. Alan Hollinghurst
1975. The Tides. Andrew Motion
1976. Hostages. David Winzar
1977. The Fool. Michael King
1978. not awarded
1979. not awarded
1980. Inflation. Simon Higginson
1981. not awarded
1982. Souvenirs. Gordon Wattles
1983. Triumphs. Peter McDonald (published in OP I.2)
1984. Fear. James Leader
1985. Magic. Robert Twigger
1986. An Epithalamion. William Morris
1987. Memoirs of Tiresias. Bruce Gibson and Michael Suarez (joint winners)
1988. Elegy. Mark Wormald(2)
1989. The House. Jane Griffiths
1990. Mapping. Roderick Clayton
1991. not awarded
1992. Green Thought. Fiona Sampson
1993. The Landing. Caron Röhsler
1994. Making Sense. James Merino
1995. Judith with the Head of Holofernes. Antony Dunn (published in OP IX.1)
1996. not awarded
1997. not awarded
1998. not awarded
1999. not awarded
2000. A Book of Hours. Still open.

Copyright Oxford Poetry 2000. Pictured above: Detail from "Parnassus" by Nicholas Poussin