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A Victorian Puzzle Poem - this was previously on Ann's Page.

About a Victorian publication called "The Girl's Own Paper" and a chance to win a prize.

I've never been a great lover of magazines. In the late 60s I was a big fan of "Nova", but once that bit the dust (much to my disappointment), none of the others had any appeal. Then one day, I was browsing in a secondhand bookshop and found a weighty tome called "The Girl's Own Paper". It was the annual volume of a weekly magazine, published in 1896/97. The "girls" of the title is something of a misnomer. When you start dipping into the articles, it quickly becomes apparent that the articles are aimed at young unmarried women, and the magazine was read by women of all ages.

Some of the articles are too heavy for me, but a lot of them are fascinating. How two sisters set up home in the country on £100 a year had me rivetted. The rent on their cottage was 3/- (15p) a week and it cost an extra 1/6d (7½p) for a woman from the village to come in and do the heavy work 2 mornings a week for them. The prize winning essays on "'My Daily Round', a competition for girls who work with their hands", simply beggar belief. "Answers to Correspondents" also provides a great deal of interest. One of my favourites was in answer to a query about how to do laundry. The reply advised hiring a washerwoman!

I don't have a vast collection, but, by the time I'd reached the end of the first volume I was addicted and over the years have found several more, some even earlier, others later. (The magazine began in 1878 and continued to be published until around 1930.) From 1893, puzzle poems began to appear. I've attempted many, but haven't even come close to solving any to the very high standard of the Victorian entrants. Even the combined efforts of several of us in the Coffee Shop Forum haven't succeeded. The easiest one I've come across is the one below. (After so many years, I don't think I'm infringing any copyrights by including it.)

Email me your solution and, if there's enough interest, I'll award a prize to the best attempt. Closing date for entries is:

Sunday 25th July 2004

(PS I wasn't unduly surprised when no entries arrived!)

As the competition is now over, I've added the solution - it's underneath the puzzle picture, so new visitors can still try their hand at solving it if they wish.



The Solution

The Examiners' Report said that there were 1,500 entries, of which about 300 had less than a whole mistake! Here is the solution.



Supposting I were born a mole,
Forever living in a hole;
Supposing I were born a snail,
Leaving where'er I went a trail;
Supposing I were born a cat,
With many mice to make me fat;
Supposing I were born a wren,
Of country fields a denizen;
Supposing I were born a dove,
For ever cooing out my love;
Supposing I were born a whale
A mile from tip of snout to tail;
Supposing I were born a squaw,
Existing under Indian law;
Supposing I were born a queen,
With robes the grandest ever seen?
Supposing as I'm born a girl,
I didn't set my brain a-whirl!


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Copyright Ann Dickinson 2004