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SLANG WRITING AS AN ART.
MR. C. J. DENNIS TALKS OF HIS
He talks the King's English, good Eng- lish, save an occasional expressive and ap- propriate slang term. He talks better English, indeed, than the average man, and yet he wrote the "Songs of the Senti- mental Bloke." He did not not wear leg- gings or chew a cigarette to receive the interviewer, he sat squarely and easily
in his chair - not on the arm of it. He ¡s delightfully unspoiled is Mr. C. J. Den- nis, despite that the issue of the "Senti- mental Bloke" is just on a hundred thou- sand, and "Ginger Mick" has run to 70,000. Success such as he has achieved in a few years might have turned the brain of many a man, but he is still an alert, un- affected, and entertaining young genius. He is a South Australian, which is some- thing to South Australia's credit, and he is enjoying a brief visit to his native State. He submitted to an interview re- luctantly, "I have done a little inter- viewing myself," he commented, recalling his experiences on the press in Adelaide years ago. The reporter suggested that he would find it more pleasant, with the tables turned. "I don't know which I like most - or least," he said.
Conversation naturally turned on his
poems "The Sentimental Bloke," he said, was meeting with good success in London. After an article by William Canton in the London "Bookman" 5,000 copies were sold in a month. The poem in slang has met with phenomenal success everywhere.
'Inspiration! Where did I get it?" he echoed in answer to a question. "Yes, I think the Sentimental Bloke had an original. I knew a man, a horse trainer, formerly a plumber, who used to work in Little Bourke-street. I think I got most of the slang from him. Someone has said there is no sentiment in the 'push,' but this chap was the most sentimental fellow I ever saw. But really the poem was built up. I wrote a piece called 'Doreen,' and then the possibilities of the thing oc- cured to me and I began to sketch a little plot. It grew as I wrote, for there was, indeed, no preliminary laying out of a plot.
It sort of evolved."
Was it laborious work?
'"Oh! no. Slang has become so easy now that I am frightened to write It. Mr. Tate, the Director of Education in Vic- toria, asked me once where I picked it up. I said, 'Four-fifths of the people of Victoria talk it and seven-eighths of the children in your schools.' He was sur- prised. I think he did not like what I said. You see he had moved amongst people who talked correctly. But he began to listen to navvies, clerks, carpenters, and others, and some months afterwards he
came to me and said. 'I believe you are nearly right.' I don't mean to say all clerks, carpenters, and factory hands talk like the Sentimental Bloke, but more do than you would think. Well-educated people are not altogether free of it. A University professor said to me, 'I am ashamed to say it, but I had to go to the glossary for only one word.' "
You cannot yourself claim infallibility, Mr. Dennis. You spoke just now of a man who "sloped," said the pressman.
Mr. Dennis laughed, "I heard a judge on the bench tell a prisoner that if he came
before him again he would deal with him,' " he replied, "Unfortunately the Aus- tralian slang is very uncouth."
Is it worse than the Cockney?
"It mostly comes from the Cockney. I studied it after writing the 'Sentimental Bloke.' We got some of it from America."
And your "'type," where is he now? "I have never seen him since."
Mr. Dennis was born at Auburn, a son of Mr. James Dennis, of Gladstone, and in his youth lived at Gladstone and Laura.
He came to Adelaide and took a position on the "Critic," and on the retirement of the editor (Mr. Alfred McKain) he became
editor. He left that paper to found the "Gadfly." It died a natural death three or four months after he left it. "I left it because it was dying," he said, with his whimsical smile. Then he went to Mel- bourne, became a freelance for the "Bulletin"' and other papers. Then came "The Sentimental Bloke'' that was to make him world-famous. To-day, Mr. Dennis is in Adelaide to complete arrange- ments for the filming of "The Sentimental Bloke'' by the Southern Cross Feature Film Company, which is an Adelaide concern. Mr. R. Longford is doing the scenario, and Mr. Dennis is making suggestions. Mr. Dennis is going to dramatise "The Senti- mental Bloke" for the legitimate stage.