Jenny kissed me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in;
Time, you thief, who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in!
Say I’m weary, say I’m sad,
Say that health and wealth have missed me,
Say I’m growing old, but add —
Jenny kissed me.
Not long ago, I mentioned this poem by Leigh Hunt to a good friend of mine. I’ve always loved it (for reasons that may be obvious) and I don’t find it palls. A couple of weeks later, I found a play by Jean Kerr in my mailbox, titled Jenny Kissed Me.
The play revolves around Father Moynihan, a temperamental Catholic priest who has little use for women of any age. When his housekeeper, Mrs. Deazy, wants to bring her 18-year-old niece, Jenny, to stay for a month, Father Moynihan resists the idea: he doesn’t want any “jazzy flapper” bringing her “gin-mad,” lipsticked, “hep” ways into his house, saints preserve us. It wouldn’t be fitting. When Jenny turns out to be a thoughtful, gentle, straightforward girl (and terminally un”hep”), Father Moynihan still can’t bear her presence. His thirtysomething friend Michael spends too much time talking to her and playing chess with her, for one thing. What should he do but marry her off to one of the young university men in town? So this middle-aged Catholic priest commences a makeover. A gentle romance (unbeknownst to Father Moynihan) runs through the play, and the resolution of the romance is the lovely solution to all the play’s interactions.
Oh, this is a charming play. It isn’t deep or unpredictable or full of bitter conclusions about life’s emptiness, or whatever. It’s just a sweet story about a priest who has avoided women for so long he thinks he knows everything about them, and a girl who is so… so eighteen that she actually does know what she needs and wants. The only person in the play who isn’t sure of his own mind is the 34-year-old, Michael, and that’s reasonably true to life. It’s funny and gentle, and has some thoughts to share about why we want others to change, and why we change ourselves. And, of course, it has the most charming title going.
I think this play would be great fun to act, if you were doing community theatre or a school play or something like that. (I read an “acting edition” of the play and got stage directions, so I could imagine it very clearly.) The language is a trifle old-fashioned, but I think kids would enjoy both acting in it and watching it. I certainly enjoyed reading it.