Dress Down Sunday: Golden Pavements by Pamela Brown

published 1947



[Drama student Lyn is appearing in a seaside rep performance of The Constant Nymph]

The second act went off without a hitch with an inspiring hush of attention from the audience. Even Mark seemed to be enjoying himself, and acutally deigned to offer Lyn a cigarette between the second and third acts. The third act contained some difficult scene changes, and for these it was “all hands on deck” to get it done quickly. Jean was playing the part of the lodging-house keeper in the last scene, and she did so well that Lyn wondered why she ever bothered to slave away as a stage manager when she was such a competent actress. By this time Lynette was exhausted by the mental strain and physical effort of the part, and was pale as death without the help of make-up. She wore a white petticoat during most of the scene, and this had a curiously shroud-like effect. At the end of the scene, as she died upon the ugly iron bedstead, there was a flutter of handkerchiefs among the audience a clearing of throats.

observations: Last week I did an entry on The Constant Nymph itself - this week a look at its place in popular culture.

What a favourite book Nymph is, and one that has lived down the ages, beloved by all, a form of shorthand – the Radlett family use it to tease Fanny in The Pursuit of Love, reading out the chapters staged above because her aunt is about to marry, late in life. Will Fanny fall in love with her new uncle…? An admirable young woman in Dorothy L Sayers The Nine Tailors wants to write books like The Constant Nymph. And in Antonia Forest’s seminal school story Attic Term, sceptical Nicola Marlow knows her older sister Ginty (15 or 16) is putting it on when she asks to borrow Dante from the neighbours’ handsome son: ‘What Ginty liked were thrillers and grown-up novels like The Constant Nymph. She must have been doing a massive show-off to have borrowed these.’ This should place the book exactly even if you haven’t read it.

In the book above - drama college followup to the excellent Swish of the Curtain - Lyn is an acting student working as an ASM in a repertory company in her summer break: she is supposed to get small walk-on parts, but because she is so talented, she gets the chance to play Tessa Sanger. Tessa is a very virtuous young woman (according to the author of the original novel, Margaret Kennedy) but otherwise the sacrificial dying could be from La Traviata or La Dame aux Camelias – though not the splendid blog favourite Romance, where the difficult woman is allowed to live a chaste and charitable life.

Another Margaret Kennedy book, Lucy Carmichael, recently gave me a couple of splendid blog entries, where I also pontificated on Constant Nymph.

One of my favourite books-about-books is Claud Cockburn’s long out-of-print Bestseller – a look at the most popular books in the first half of the 20th century – and his chapter on The Constant Nymph and The Green Hat is wonderful.

The picture is from the Library of Congress.


  1. Moira - What I love about this post is the diversity of perspectives you've offered about the same book. And I always think it's an interesting touch when books are mentioned in other books. It suggests a sense of community, for lack of a better way to put it. And I like that 'inside look' at acting, too in the book you've highlighted today.

    1. Thanks Margot, it was interesting to remember all the different books which mentioned Constant Nymph. And I always like books about acting....

  2. Well, I will pass on reading this post since I do plan to read The Constant Nymph someday, I hope. (She says after checking to make sure that it is not too terribly long.)

  3. I'd rather read Dan Brown (if I had to) or more enjoyably Larry Brown. Glad you enjoyed it though.

    1. Wasn't really expecting you to go for this one. The only deaths are all too natural.


Post a Comment