Clemence Dane – One of Life’s Innocents

As a cheery prelude to Jonathon Green’s column on slang this afternoon, Nige introduces a playwright who had no grasp of it at all – a lady for whom it was “second nature” to use “correctly, in a literary sense,” the words ‘erection’, ‘tool’ and ‘spunk’…

Clemence Dane (born Winifred Ashton), a playwright and novelist very successful in her time, was born on 21 February 1888. Despite being a prolific screenwriter, she seems to have remained (as her rather sweet features suggest) one of life’s innocents. In his cheering memoir, Life’s Rich Pageant, Arthur Marshall recalls her…

‘The physical side of life had passed her by, together with the words, slang and otherwise, that accompany it. She had no idea at all why people laughed, or tried tactfully to conceal laughter, as time and time again she settled for an unfortunate word or phrase. Inviting Mr Coward to lunch during the war when food was difficult, she boomed encouragement down the telephone: ‘Do come! I’ve got such a lovely cock.’ (‘I do wish you’d call it a hen,’ Noel answered.) Asking her friend, Olwen, what she had secured for a summer picnic, she was heard to yell up the stairs, ‘Olwen, have you got crabs?’

… To use correctly, in a literary sense, the words ‘erection’, ‘tool’ and ‘spunk’ was second nature to her. When wishing to describe herself as being full of life and creative energy, she chose, not really very wisely, the word ‘randy’. To hear a large and imposing women of fifty announcing to a roomful of actors that she felt randy was really something. She never cottoned on to the fact that the name ‘John Thomas’ had a hidden significance, and she was heard one day expatiating about the different sides to a person’s nature: ‘Yes, every man has three John Thomases – the John Thomas he keeps to himself, the John Thomas he shares with his friends, and the John Thomas he shows to the world.’ ‘Of course, Winifred,’ people said, when they could speak.’

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About Author Profile: Nige

Cravat-Wearer of the Year Nige, who, like Mr Kenneth Horne, prefers to remain anonymous, is a founder blogger of The Dabbler and has been a co-blogger on the Bryan Appleyard Thought Experiments blog. He is the sole blogger on Nigeness, and (for now) a wholly owned subsidiary of NigeCorp. His principal aim is to share various of life's pleasures.

8 thoughts on “Clemence Dane – One of Life’s Innocents

    September 22, 2011 at 09:27

    Do you mind Nige, just spluttered porridge over the monitor. Her eyes whisper innocence, I bet that she was a right little raver.

    September 22, 2011 at 09:31

    think I have to agree with Malty. Look at that picture. She knew exactly what she was doing….

  3. Worm
    September 22, 2011 at 09:33

    …the Christine Hamilton of her age…

    September 22, 2011 at 09:47

    She definitely had that cock in her oven.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:00

    From today’s Independent……..

    Deep under Lancashire, a huge gas find that could lead to 800 ‘fracking’ wells

    That’s the greens well fracked then.

    September 22, 2011 at 13:04

    Lantern jaw slanting down, doe-eyes looking upward, the hint of a smile (Di knew how to use this look)….afraid I have to go with the rest of the red-bloods – this madam knew more than she was letting on.

    September 22, 2011 at 13:18

    It’s like Carry On Dabbling in here today.

    My late grandmother was not one of life’s innocents I don’t think, but she did have a habit of saying ‘bonk’ to mean ‘hit playfully on the head’ with no other connotation. Always threatening to ‘bonk’ people for being cheeky etc.

    September 22, 2011 at 13:54

    Ah this all takes me back to my dear old piano teacher – another of life’s innocents. The poor chap once had to take a week off because he fell over in his garden and hurt himself. When I turned up the next week for my lesson, he explained what had happened: ‘I took a terrible toss in the garden.’ You may imagine the state to which this remark reduced the dirty-minded schoolboy Nige…

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