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Good God. The former Miss Joan Hunter Dunn has died. - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
Good God. The former Miss Joan Hunter Dunn has died.

A Subaltern’s Love Song


Miss J. Hunter Dunn, Miss J. Hunter Dunn,

Furnish’d and burnish’d by Aldershot sun,

What strenuous singles we played after tea,

We in the tournament – you against me!


Love-thirty, love-forty, oh! weakness of joy,

The speed of a swallow, the grace of a boy,

With carefullest carelessness, gaily you won,

I am weak from your loveliness, Joan Hunter Dunn.


Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn,

How mad I am, sad I am, glad that you won,

The warm-handled racket is back in its press,

But my shock-headed victor, she loves me no less.


Her father’s euonymus shines as we walk,

And swing past the summer-house, buried in talk,

And cool the verandah that welcomes us in

To the six-o’clock news and a lime-juice and gin.


The scent of the conifers, sound of the bath,

The view from my bedroom of moss-dappled path,

As I struggle with double-end evening tie,

For we dance at the Golf Club, my victor and I.


On the floor of her bedroom lie blazer and shorts,

And the cream-coloured walls are be-trophied with sports,

And westering, questioning settles the sun,

On your low-leaded window, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn.


The Hillman is waiting, the light’s in the hall,

The pictures of Egypt are bright on the wall,

My sweet, I am standing beside the oak stair

And there on the landing’s the light on your hair.


By roads ‘not adopted’, by woodlanded ways,

She drove to the club in the late summer haze,

Into nine-o’clock Camberley, heavy with bells

And mushroomy, pine-woody, evergreen smells.


Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn,

I can hear from the car park the dance has begun,

Oh! Surrey twilight! importunate band!

Oh! strongly adorable tennis-girl’s hand!


Around us are Rovers and Austins afar,

Above us the intimate roof of the car,

And here on my right is the girl of my choice,

With the tilt of her nose and the chime of her voice.


And the scent of her wrap, and the words never said,

And the ominous, ominous dancing ahead.

We sat in the car park till twenty to one

And now I’m engaged to Miss Joan Hunter Dunn.


– John Betjeman

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8 comments or Leave a comment
pathology_doc From: pathology_doc Date: April 17th, 2008 09:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
Old muses never die... they just fade quietly into history. Thank you for posting this.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: April 18th, 2008 04:47 pm (UTC) (Link)

Not all of them, in fact, go quietly.

Ask Catullus.
serriadh From: serriadh Date: April 18th, 2008 12:06 am (UTC) (Link)
I was surprisingly disconcerted to find out that she was a real person. Very odd, like finding out Ratty and Mole really did live in the Riverbank.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: April 18th, 2008 04:48 pm (UTC) (Link)

Well, she was and she wasn't, I rather think.

Clodia wasn't entirely Lesbia, after all.
azdak From: azdak Date: April 18th, 2008 05:08 am (UTC) (Link)
"And the ominous, ominous dancing ahead" - oh, how I sympathise!

I had no idea there's been a real JHD. Do we know how she felt about being put into the poem? (The Telegraph commentators, lost in nostalgia, seem to have missed the note of mockery, towards both poet and muse, that pervades the poem).
wemyss From: wemyss Date: April 18th, 2008 04:50 pm (UTC) (Link)


She approved the publication even though married by then to her husband 'Jack' Jackson, Jno B having been invited to the wedding.
azdak From: azdak Date: April 18th, 2008 04:51 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Actually....

Good for her! She sounds like good egg.
fpb From: fpb Date: April 18th, 2008 08:53 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Actually....

I think Betjeman must have had the silver tongue to end all silver tongues. Think of the situation: a young woman not only allows the poet to publish, but stays good friends with him, invites him to her marriage, and still is in touch with him decades later - in spite of the fact that she knows that he has projected a wholly imaginary love affair on her and used her own name for the poem! I cannot imagine a man today, were he as handsome as a young Sean Connery and as smooth as George Clooney, who could do anything like that without being charged with stalking.

And I imagine that my original reaction, "What! Was Joan Hunter Dunn a real person?" must have been that of about 95% of readers.
8 comments or Leave a comment