Sunday, September 06, 2015

Clemence Dane

Sunday, September 6th, 2015

What a gorgeou cool, crisp, sunny day.

Up early, showered and dressed, and after breakfast an hour or so to spare before morning coffee with family on their way to Victoria.

My determination to declutter, always with me, tempted me to put the time to good use and tackle the books on the shelves that line each side of the bed.  Some of them have been there forever, and one in particular drew me in, clasped me close, and whispered in my ear - 'open me - see what delightful memories I hold for you!'

Oh yes.  In the early years of our marriage Charles and I belonged to the Book of the Month Club, and sometime in the 50s The Flower Girls by Clemence Dane was the feature of the month.  I found it absorbing and delightful, and it has remained beside our bed ever since.  Re-read many times, but I must confess not recently.  It stopped me in my tracks as I sat and opened it, read the contents  and the first few pages; wondered about Clemence Dane (Winifred Ashton) and if her books were still available on library shelves,  and if so why I wasn't reading more of her prolific works.

No, - none in the library system.  Try Amazon, and there I found only one used book available, 'Broome Stages'  (which I ordered).  But there is always Google who told me all I needed to know and also made me realize how ephemeral fame is - how transitory our time in the public's favour.

Winifred Ashton chose her nom-de-plume from the Church of St. Clements in London.  She was born Winifred Ashton in Blackheath, Kent, 1888 and died in London in 1965 at the age of 77.  At the age of 16 she had finished her studies and was working in Switzerland as a French tutor, but she stayed only one year and returned to London to enroll in the Slade, studying in London and Germany.

During World War 1 she satisfied a longing to write. and her first Novel 'Regiment of Women' appeared in 1917.  She wrote three novels, but then began to write plays - her first A Bill of Divorcement.  After a film version starring Kathryn Hepburn and Douglas Fairbanks met with great success Clemence Dane turned to writing screenplays, continuing as well to write more novels.

During World War 11 Dane edited The Shelter Book: A Gathering of Tales, Poems, Essays, Notes and Notions...for use in Shelters, Tubes, Basements and Cellars in War-Time.

Here is a video of The Welcoming Land, written by her in the early years of the War, and read by Sir Noel Coward, who, by the way, is said to have modeled his character of Madame Arcati in Blithe Spirit after Clemence Dane..

Well, I am going to tuck The Flower Girls away for yet another reading,  and perhaps tomorrow I will find at least one or two books that I am prepared to part with, so I won't be completely discouraged from my de-cluttering project.  

Hopefully Clemence Dane will be rediscovered and become popular among readers again.


John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

These things tend to go in cycles; nearly every writer seems to slip into obscurity before emerging later to find their rightful place in literary history - lets hope so anyway. I can't say I've ever even heard of Clemence Dane and until the libraries and bookshops mend their ways perhaps I never shall.

Barb said...

I've never heard of this author, Hildred. I have donated so many of our books to the library. I keep only a few shelves of them which I can't part with yet. I only read electronically now. The ink and sometimes the paper in books is bad for my formaldehyde allergy. Ditto magazines and newsprint.