Blandings Castle

by

P. G. Wodehouse

Literary and Cultural References

Blandings Castle and Elsewhere (some editions use the title Blandings Castle) appeared in book form in the UK on 12 April 1935 (Herbert Jenkins) and in the USA on 20 September 1935 (Doubleday, Doran).

Annotations for Blandings Castle and Elsewhere are provided by Mark Hodson (aka The Efficient Baxter). They have been reformatted and extended somewhat, but credit goes to Mark for his original efforts, even while we bear the blame for errors of fact or interpretation.

Page references in these notes are based on the 2000 Penguin edition (David Hitch cover art).

Preface (p.0)

the Saga habit (p.0)

Something Fresh appeared in 1915, Leave It to Psmith in 1923, Summer Lightning in 1929 and Heavy Weather in 1933.


The Custody of the Pumpkin (p.3)

Runs from pp. 1 to 26 in the 2000 Penguin edition.

This story first appeared in the Saturday Evening Post of 29 November 1924 and in the Strand of December 1924.


messuages (p.3)

Messuage is a term in land-law for the land occupied by a house and its immediate out-buildings.


Angus McAllister (p.3)

First appeared in Leave It to Psmith: he returns in most of the Blandings stories up to and including Full Moon (1947). In Something Fresh the gardener was called Thorne — Murphy has discovered that this was the name of Wodehouse’s grandmother’s gardener.

The “Scottish gardener” has been a familiar stereotype in England since at least the mid-18th century: as with other “Scottish” professions (doctors, engineers, etc.), the reason was partly that there were better opportunities to follow the necessary training in Scotland than in England, and partly that there were more jobs in England than in Scotland.

In Agatha Christie’s One, Two, Buckle My Shoe (1940), Alistair Blunt’s head gardener is called MacAlister — anybody’s guess whether this is a bow to Wodehouse or parallel evolution.

McAllister and its variants occur in both Scotland and Ireland (Alistair is a Celtic form of Alexander). Although not very common, it is easily recognisable as a Celtic name. Wodehouse seems to be using it as simply a generic Scottish name.


the Hon. Freddie Threepwood (p.3)

First appeared in Something Fresh. Honourable is a courtesy title enjoyed by (inter alia) the younger sons of Earls.


white flannels (p.3)

Informal white trousers worn for tennis, cricket, etc. in the summer months. (Flannel is an open woollen material, but the term was probably used indiscriminately to cover cotton summer trousers as well.)


Theocritan shepherd (p.4)

The Greek poet Theocritus (ca. 310–250 BCE) was the most famous exponent of pastoral poetry, which presents an idyllic world of nymphs and shepherds in contrast to the corruption of city life.

Blandings itself, and this story in particular, could be seen as a notable example of the influence of the pastoral ideal in English literature.


younger sons (p.5)

Only the eldest son (in this case, Freddie’s brother, Lord Bosham) can inherit the title and estates. Thus a younger son has to be provided with some means of supporting himself. Traditionally, they would be encouraged to go into the Church or the Army.


Hamlet ... Elsinore (p.5)

In Shakespeare’s play, Claudius has murdered his brother, Hamlet Sr., seized the crown, and married his brother’s widow, Gertrude. When Hamlet Jr. returns from university with a sack of dirty laundry, his behaviour causes the guilty Claudius a certain amount of disquiet.

Elsinore (Helsingør) is the Danish royal castle on the Sound, a few km north of Copenhagen. If Hamlet ever existed, then it was long before the construction of the present castle on the site.


pince-nez (p.5)

Spectacles without earpieces, attached to the nose (French: nose-pincher). We know from Leave It to Psmith that Emsworth keeps his on a string, which sometimes falls down his back.


princes in the Tower (p.6)

The young Edward V and his younger brother Richard were confined in the Tower of London on the orders of Richard, Duke of Gloucester (the future Richard III) on the death of their father Edward IV in 1483. What happened to them subsequently is still a matter of hot debate, but it seems likely that they were murdered, possibly on the orders of Gloucester, although there is no hard evidence.


Donaldson (p.7)

The name Donaldson is an anglicized variant of MacDonald — thus people with this surname usually claim descent from the Lords of the Isles in western Scotland.

[A presumably unrelated Mr. Donaldson is a housemaster at Wrykyn School in The Gold Bat, “Shields’ and the Cricket Cup,” and Mike [at Wrykyn], but though his house and its teams are often mentioned, he rarely if ever makes a personal appearance. —NM] There don’t seem to be any other Donaldsons in the canon, apart from Aggie’s immediate family (see below).


Robert the Bruce (p.9)

Robert I (1274–1329). As Earl of Bruce he fought against the English together with Wallace, and was crowned King of Scotland in 1306. His victory at Bannockburn confirmed Scottish independence.


twa poon’ (p.9)

Two pounds.


employé (p.9)

This is not an affectation: Wodehouse would have seen it as perfectly everyday usage (cf. Psmith in the City, Ch.4). At the turn of the century, the French word was still current in Britain for salaried staff like bank clerks. The American word “employee” was just starting to come into favour, but tended to be used to mean everyone employed by an organisation, irrespective of status.

[Both forms were in common usage, and the choice may have been up to the publisher. The Strand, Tit-Bits, and the “By the Way” column in the Globe used the French form in early Wodehouse works. But when Psmith in the City appeared in the December 1908 Captain, the American spelling was used, as also in the British magazines Grand and London. —NM]


early Norman period (p.9)

The Norman period started with William the Conqueror in 1066. This was the period in English history when the feudal system, based on this sort of relationship between lord and serf, was introduced.


Bannockburn (p.9)

The Scots under Robert the Bruce defeated Edward II’s English army at this battle near Stirling in 1314.


William Wallace (p.9)

Scottish soldier (ca. 1272–1305). Fought succesfully against Edward I in the late 13th century, but was later captured and executed by the English.


Matchingham Hall (p.10)

No obvious source. The web page mentioned below claims Aldersham Hall as the original for Matchingham, without further explanation.

The placename element Matching only occurs in Essex.


Sir Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe (p.10)

This is his first appearance in the canon: he reappears in most of the later Blandings stories.

Parslow (and its variants) seems to be a Shropshire name. As a placename it also appears in Buckinghamshire (Parslow’s Hillock; Drayton Parslow).


Robert Barker (p.11)

This name Barker seems to occur from time to time in the canon as an alternative (or mistake!) for Baxter or Parker. Examples include the couple who keep house for Freddie Rooke in Jill the Reckless, and Julia Ukridge’s butler in one story.


King George (p.11)

George V was born in 1865, so would have been a near-contemporary of Emsworth. He acceded to the throne in 1910, and died in 1936.


Buxton Crescent ... Cromwell Road (p.11)

The Cromwell Road runs roughly west from the Victoria and Albert Museum in the direction of Earls Court. This would be a likely area to find furnished rooms in Wodehouse’s day.

London has many Buxton Roads, Gardens and Streets, but none of them seems to be in this area. To be near Kensington Gardens, it would have to be at the eastern end of the Cromwell Road, in the neighbourhood of Gloucester Road underground station.

Buxton is a spa town in Derbyshire, most of which was owned by the Dukes of Devonshire, who also owned a lot of land in London. It is thus a doubly likely name for a street built in the Georgian period.


Kensington Gardens (p.11)

Formal gardens at the Kensington Palace end of Hyde Park. Famous for the Round Pond (where children go to sail toy boats) and the statue of Peter Pan (1912).

https://www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/kensington-gardens/about-kensington-gardens

broken reed (p.12)

Lo, thou trustest in the staff of this broken reed, on Egypt;
whereon if a man lean, it will go into his hand, and pierce it:
so is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all that trust in him.

[Bible, Isaiah 36:6]


Dr. Johnson (p.12)

Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.

[Johnson, Dr. Samuel, Cited in Boswell’s Life of Johnson, September 1779]

http://www.samueljohnson.com/tiredlon.html

Hotel Magnificent (p.13)

Northumberland Avenue hotels in the early 20th century included the Grand, the Metropole, and the Victoria. The Metropole, opposite the baths at the Embankment end of the street, seems the most likely.

http://www.victorianlondon.org/publications2/dinners-37.htm

taxicab (p.13)

Kensington Gardens are about 4km from Northumberland Avenue — St. James’s Park would have been much nearer.


Senior Conservative Club (p.13)

This London club first appeared in Psmith in the City, and is established as Emsworth’s club in Leave It to Psmith.

Murphy identifies it convincingly as the Constitutional Club, formerly on Northumberland Avenue. Wodehouse became a member sometime before 1908. It is mentioned by name in the preface to The Girl on the Boat.


détours (p.17)

The French spelling seems to have predominated over the English “detour” until the late 19th century.

Interestingly, the OED cites a passage from Eugene O’Neill’s The Hairy Ape: “They make wide detours to avoid the spot where he stands in the middle of the pavement.” Only a year before the publication of this story, and almost the identical context!


high, ... middle, and ... low justice (p.18)

This formula, traditionally used to define the powers of a seigneur in feudal France, is often used in English as a jokey way of saying “absolute power”.


large, solid constable (p.19)

The Royal Parks nowadays have their own police force, the Royal Parks Constabulary. This was only set up in 1974: before that time the keepers of the parks had some legal powers under the Royal Parks Regulation Act of 1872, but were presumably supported in their task by Metropolitan Police officers.


taxi-drivers ... bus-conductors (p.19)

As well as enforcing the usual traffic laws, the Metropolitan Police has responsibilities for licensing taxis and regulating public transport that are held in most other cities by the local councils. London has always been notorious for the strictness with which these powers are exercised.


tough time ... New Deal (p.23)

This section was obviously rewritten for the book publication in 1935: in 1924 when the story was first published, Coolidge was president and the American economy was still on the way up. The New Deal is also mentioned in the 1936 story “The Crime Wave at Blandings”.

The New Deal was a programme of economic and social reforms brought in by US president Franklin D. Roosevelt between 1933 and 1939 to help the United States recover from the depression of the 1930s. Roosevelt’s measures aroused a lot of opposition, in particular from conservative politicians. We are to assume that Lord Emsworth is similarly conservative in his gardening policy.


Long Island City (p.23)

A largely industrial area at the western end of Long Island, just over the bridge from Manhattan.

Wodehouse lived at Bellport, Long Island, for some time after his marriage. He would have been very familiar with the journey from Bellport to New York, passing through Long Island City.

(The Wodehouses bought a house in Remsenburg, Long Island, in 1952, after they returned to the USA for good in 1947.)


Agricultural Show (p.26)

The Shropshire and West Midlands Agricultural Society hold their annual show on Shrewsbury showground, by the Severn. (Originally the agricultural show was part of the Shrewsbury Flower Show, first held in 1875, but the two later became separate events.)

http://www.shropshirecountyshow.com/agriculturalshow.html
http://www.shrewsburyflowershow.org.uk/

Lord Emsworth Acts for the Best (p.27)

Runs from pp. 27 to 48 in the 2000 Penguin edition.

This story first appeared in the US magazine Liberty of 5 June 1926 and in the Strand of June 1926.


GHQ (p.27)

General Headquarters — seems to be a military term dating from the First World War.

We know from Something Fresh that the housekeeper’s room is the place where the senior domestic staff have their meals.


strong emotion and adenoids (p.27)

Beach is evidently still — at least to some extent — the hypochondriac we met in Something Fresh.


Mrs. Twemlow (p.27)

Appeared in Something Fresh — this is the only other occasion when she is mentioned by name.


writing on the wall (p.27)

1  Belshaz’zar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand.

2  Belshaz’zar, while he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnez’zar had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem; that the king and his princes, his wives and his concubines, might drink therein.

3  Then they brought the golden vessels that were taken out of the temple of the house of God which was at Jerusalem; and the king and his princes, his wives and his concubines, drank in them.

4  They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone.

5  In the same hour came forth fingers of a man’s hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote.

[Bible, Daniel 5:1–5]


eighteen years (p.27)

Beach’s early career is not very well established. Here he tells us that he started at Blandings eighteen years ago (thus 1906 if the story is set in 1924; 1917 if it is set in 1935). We also know from Summer Lightning that he was still working for Major-General Magnus in 1912 (it’s not said in what capacity), and from “The Crime Wave at Blandings” that he was not at Blandings in Lord Emsworth’s early air-gun period.

Since an under-footman would not have been likely to be much over twenty, this would suggest that Beach is still only in his forties at the time of the present story, if we were to be so foolish as to ignore the time-dilation that is part of the Blandings scene.


Beaver! (p.28)

The slang term “beaver” for a person with a beard seems to have originated in the years before World War I, but it isn’t very clear where it comes from. In the early twenties, there was briefly a craze for a game in which the players scored points by spotting beards and shouting “beaver!”

Presumably this is all a part of the reaction against the older generation that started after the war — beards were almost universal for older men in the Victorian period. One possibility, not suggested in the OED, is that it is related to the obsolete term “beaver” for the chin-protecting armour attached to a helmet (cf. modern French “bavière” = bib).

The use of “beaver” for the female pubic hair or genitalia is an obvious extension, and seems to have originated in the mid-twenties (the first example in the OED is from 1927).


Milk-Giving Jerseys (p.28)

The Jersey cow, a breed originally developed in the Channel Islands, but known in England since at least the 18th century, is one of the most productive dairy breeds. They are typically a light fawn or reddish colour.

http://www.ansi.okstate.edu/breeds/cattle/jersey/
http://www.crazyforcows.com/fow/fow12.shtml

Donaldson ... Long Island City (p.29)

See “The Custody of the Pumpkin”, p.21 above.


the Savoy (p.30)

The Savoy Hotel, on the Strand in London, was opened by Richard D’Oyly Carte in 1889. He employed César Ritz as hotel manager and Auguste Escoffier in the restaurant; it was legendary for its phenomenal number of bathrooms, and for being one of the first large scale applications of electric lighting in London. Its name recalls the Savoy Palace, the grand London residence of the Dukes of Lancaster, which stood on the site until it was destroyed in the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Savoy_Palace

King Street (p.30)

There are many streets in London called “King Street” — probably the most likely is the one in Covent Garden, a couple of streets away from the Savoy. But the one off St. James’s Street is another strong candidate.


Pauline Petite (p.31)

Perhaps the first name was inspired by the famous 1914 silent film serial The Perils of Pauline, in which Pearl White was forever being tied to railway tracks. Of course, Pauline Stoker of the heliotrope pyjamas (Thank You, Jeeves) is another dangerous American lady called Pauline. Given that the name could be either from the original 1926 version of the story or the revised 1935 version, Wodehouse could have had almost any actress from Lillian Gish to Mae West in mind. [Pauline Petite appeared in the original 1926 story. —NM]


Passion’s Slaves ... (p.32)

Fictitious, of course — none of these titles appears in the IMDB listing prior to 1935, although there are plenty of real titles that contain words like “passion”, “fetters”, “bonds”, etc.

http://www.imdb.com

Great Scott (p.32)

Late-19th century euphemism for “Great God” — notice how Emsworth is oddly being less Victorian than his son here.

The OED credits the writer “F. Anstey” (who would be a near contemporary of Lord Emsworth) as the first to use it in print, in 1885. [in real life Thomas Anstey Guthrie, 1856–1934. —NM]


Jane Yorke (p.32)

Jane is usually a name Wodehouse reserves for sympathetic characters (e.g. the niece in “The Crime Wave at Blandings”, the elephant-gun toting Jane Hubbard in The Girl on the Boat, Jane Opal in Hot Water). With the exception of Ms. Yorke, Lord Ickenham’s absent wife is perhaps the nearest we get to an unpleasant Jane.

There is a Mr. Yorke, a schoolmaster and cricket coach at St. Austin’s in the early school stories, but otherwise the only other person of this name is the novelist Leila Yorke ([The] Ice in the Bedroom), who is also a sympathetic character.


Jebusite ... Amalekite (p.32)

The Jebusites and the Amalekites were among the groups who had the misfortune already to be living in Canaan when the Israelites turned up there. As a result they tend to get rather a bad press in the Old Testament. However, they don’t really turn up in the same context, so it’s a bit of a puzzle why Freddie is juxtaposing them here.

[Adrian Mulliner (David Rosenbaum) adds]: In fact, the Amalekites are not part of the “seven nations” (sometimes ten) whose land was promised to the Israelites. The first time Amalek is mentioned is the Amalek who was the son of Elifaz and the grandson of Esau.

Furthermore, Amalekites actually came to fight with the Israelites in the Sinai desert immediately after the latter had left Egypt. The Jebusites waited another 40 years, until the Israelites actually crossed the Jordan.

So I’m not sure where Freddie got it from. But recall that we do not know if Freddie is proficient in Scripture. So it may be his mistake. If it was Bertram Wilberforce Wooster talking, we’d be puzzled.

[Augustine Mulliner (Fr Rob Bovendeaard) adds]:

There is little to add, I think, to my cousin’s reflections. There exists, however, a verse which juxtaposes the two peoples, Numbers 13:29 — “The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.”

Perhaps one could also argue that the Amalekites (2 Samuel 1) and the Jebusites (2 Samuel 5) were the two enemies, along with the good old Philistines, that David had to defeat before being able to establish himself solidly in Jerusalem. But this may be far-fetched!


Paris ... divorce (p.33)

In the 1920s, it seems to have been fairly common for wealthier American and British couples to take advantage of the more flexible French divorce law (e.g. Elaine Thayer, who got a French divorce in 1921 to marry e. e. cummings). In Britain, until the late 1960s, the only way to get a divorce in practice was to obtain evidence of adultery, with the inevitable sensational press reports, great expense, and a long delay before the court would allow either of the partners to remarry.


made your bed ... stew in it (p.33)

The usual expression is “you have made your bed and you must lie in it”. Emsworth is mixing it up with the schoolboy slang “stewing in bed” and another cliché, to make someone “stew in their own juice”.


twopence (p.33)

Twopence (two old pennies, or 0.8333p in decimal currency) was the basic charge for local calls from public telephones in Britain for many years — the price was changed to 2p when decimal currency was introduced (presumably because it would have been difficult to adapt phones to take the much smaller 1p coin) and has increased a lot since then.


spent egg (p.33)

An odd choice of expression. Literally, a spent egg is what remains after the embryo has hatched. Freddie clearly doesn’t mean this — he seems to be mixing the more usual “spent force” with “egg” in the “eggs, beans and crumpets” sense.


ague ... botts... (p.34)

Ague is a general term used to describe illnesses like malaria in which the patient passes through a succession of feverish, shivering fits.

The botts (normally it is always used with the definite article) describes a whole range of diseases of domestic animals caused by the parasitical larvae of certain flies.

Greenfly are small, green aphids that flourish on rose bushes in the summer months.

Foot-and-mouth is a highly infectious disease of domestic animals that periodically sweeps through farming communities.


Kensington Gardens (p.35)

See p.17 above.


Regent Grill (p.35)

In Ch.6 of Piccadilly Jim, Jimmy Crocker follows Anne Chester into the Regent Grill and overhears her explaining to a companion that “Jimmy Crocker is a worm.”

From that reference, we know that it is at the top (Piccadilly Circus) end of Regent Street, and that it has an orchestra fond of playing “My Little Grey Home in the West” and selections from “La Bohème”.

It sounds a bit unlikely for a man of Lord Emsworth’s tastes — even if the Senior Conservative would have been inconvenient for someone travelling from Kensington Gardens to the Savoy, one might have expected him to lunch somewhere like Simpson’s in the Strand.


move by faith alone (p.36)

This is not a directly biblical reference, but rather another pulpit cliché, deriving from Christ’s remark (see e.g. Matthew 17:20, 21:21, Mark 11:23, 1 Corinthians 13:2) that, if you have faith, you can move mountains.


Agincourt (p.36)

English triumph during the Hundred Years War. In October 1415, Henry V faced a vastly larger, but undisciplined, French army on their own soil. English courage (or the technical superiority of the longbow) carried the day.

An ancestor of Wodehouse is supposed to have fought at Agincourt. The French probably had more reason than the English to take cover, but of course we don’t know which side Emsworth’s ancestor fought on...


Dopey Smith (p.38)

Probably coincidence, but a man called Walter “Dopey” Smith was arrested after a shoot-out with police in Salt Lake City in 1921.

The name clearly doesn’t come from the character in Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which only appeared in 1937.


Jiminy Christmas (p.39)

Jiminy, thought to be a contraction of “Jesu domine,” seems to have entered American English in the mid-19th century from either German or Dutch. The OED records the first use in print of “Jiminy cricket” as 1848; “Jiminy Christmas” first appeared in Kipling’s Captains Courageous in 1896.


Ralph Vandeleur (p.39)

This must be a reference to The Hound of the Baskervilles, where Vandeleur is one of the aliases of the villain. Conan Doyle doesn’t bother with a first name in this case, but Wodehouse may well have added Ralph as suitably bad-baronetish.

Vandeleur is a Dutch name, of course, but there was a family of that name who became prominent landowners in County Clare. Wodehouse often seems to use the names of upper-class Irish families in this way.

http://www.clarelibrary.ie/eolas/coclare/genealogy/don_tran/fam_his/vandeleurs/

Swedish exercises (p.39)

Per Henrik Ling (1766–1839) developed a system of gymnastic training for the Swedish military, in which massed groups of people performed synchronised sequences of movements. The emphasis was on developing aesthetically satisfying movements, rather than physical strength. These ideas were imported into America in the 1880s, and remained popular in Europe until at least the 1930s.

http://www.britannica.com/sports/gymnastics#ref700591

Broadway Whispers ... Town Gossip (p.40)

Although these don’t ever seem to have been the titles of real scandal sheets, they certainly deserve to have been...


man of steel (p.42)

Not Superman, who first appeared in 1938, but possibly a reference to the Russian leader, Stalin.


apple sauce (p.44)

Nonsense — cf. Hot Water, ch.13 pt.3 (Hot Water also uses the variant “apple gravy”).


Super-Ultra-Art Film Company (p.44)

Other Hollywood studios in Wodehouse include:

Perfecto-Fishbein and Zizzbaum-Celluloid (later to merge as Perfecto-Zizzbaum), Outstanding Screen-Favourites, Colossal-Exquisite, Medulla-Oblongata[-Glutz] — all from “The Rise of Minna Nordstrom";

Brinkmeyer-Magnifico (Laughing Gas);

Superba-Llewellyn (The Luck of the Bodkins et seq.)

— and no doubt many more.


sack ... Bosphorus (p.44)

Ottoman sultans used this method for disposing of unwanted members of their harems. Ibrahim the Mad (ruled 1640–1648) is said to have had 280 of his concubines drowned, for example.

Brewer cites this as a possible origin of the phrase “to give someone the sack”, but also admits to the more plausible theory that it refers to the bag a discharged worker would use to carry away his tools.


A Woman’s Price (p.46)

The IMDB records titles like “Any Woman’s Choice” (1914), “Woman’s Burden” (1914), “A Woman’s Experience” (1921), “A Woman’s Place” (1921), “A Woman’s Sacrifice” (1922), “A Woman’s Justice” (1931), but this one doesn’t seem to have been used in our period.

Freddie has presumably got the phrase from the Bible.

http://www.imdb.com/

“They go into the bedroom and——” (p.46)

An old trick, but it always works!


Pig-hoo-o-o-o-ey (p.49)

First appeared in Liberty (US) on 9 July 1927 and the Strand (UK) of August 1927. In book form it appeared in both the UK and US versions of Blandings Castle. Runs from pp. 49 to 73 in the 2000 Penguin edition.


Bridgnorth, Shifnal, and Albrighton Argus (p.49)

These are real towns in Shropshire. In some of the other Blandings books, the first two are disguised as Bridgeford and Shifley. The current local paper in Bridgnorth is the Journal.

Norman Murphy has identified Weston Park, five miles from Shifnal, as one of the main sources for Blandings.

http://www.bridgnorthjournal.com/

Shropshire Agricultural Show (p.49)

Cf. “The Custody of the Pumpkin,” (p.26) above. The Shropshire and West Midlands Agricultural Society hold their annual show on Shrewsbury showground, by the Severn. The agricultural show started life as part of the Shrewsbury Flower Show, first held in 1875, so the 87th annual show would have been in 1962, nearly 30 years after the publication of this book!


Black Berkshire sow (p.49)

The Berkshire breed of pigs was developed in Britain in the mid-19th century, and was recognised as a distinct breed in 1885.

This is the first mention of the Empress of Blandings in the canon — she reappears in all the subsequent Blandings stories. Norman Murphy has discovered that Charles LeStrange kept a black Berkshire sow at Hunstanton Hall in the late 1920s, when Wodehouse was staying there and writing these stories.

http://www.rarebreeds.co.nz/berkshire.html
http://madameulalie.org/articles/piggery.html

George Cyril Wellbeloved (p.49)

His first appearance in the canon. Apart from George Cyril and his niece, Marlene, the only other Wellbeloveds are an old lady in The Mating Season and a gardener in Ring for Jeeves. In the last case, Jeeves asserts that Wellbeloved is a Shropshire name, so presumably Wodehouse knew someone of that name when his parents lived in Stableford.

In fact, the name seems to occur in other places as well, notably Berkshire and Surrey.

Wodehouse is quoting the pigman’s full name and age to reflect the style in which local papers report proceedings in the Magistrates’ Court, but evidently liked the sound of “George Cyril Wellbeloved” so much that he gets the full three names on all his subsequent appearances.


Police Constable Evans (p.49)

He (or a colleague of the same name) is still on the strength of the local constabulary 25 years later in Pigs Have Wings, and also appears in Galahad at Blandings.

Evans is a common Welsh name, and would certainly not be unusual on the Shropshire side of the border.


Goat and Feathers (p.49)

This pub doesn’t seem to appear in the other Blandings stories. The Goat and Feathers sounds as though it should be an English pub-name, but doesn’t seem to occur in real life. Goat and Compasses is fairly common, and is often said to be a corruption of “God encompasseth us,” although there appears to be no evidence for this. More likely it is some sort of trade sign, now forgotten. Feathers are usually associated with the Prince of Wales, whose badge has three feathers.

The taproom is the part of the pub where draught beer is served — the public bar, in modern terms.


Lady Constance Keeble (p.50)

First appeared in Leave It to Psmith.


Smithers (p.51)

This seems to be his only appearance, unless he is the same Smithers that ran a fat farm for dogs on Long Island in Piccadilly Jim.


Heacham (p.51)

This is his only appearance. Heacham is a village in Norfolk, not far from Hunstanton.


...less than ten days (p.51)

We have an unusually precise definition of the date of this story: we are told explicitly that it is the 21st of July, and that the agricultural show is on Wednesday week, fewer than ten days away.

By definition, “Wednesday week” means “more than seven days away”, so the 21st must be a Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday.

The only years in the period shortly before the story was written for which this is true are 1924 and 1925. The former seems more likely, as it puts GCW’s orgy on a Friday night and court appearance on Saturday. In this case, we can work out that the Empress’s big day was to be Wednesday, the 30th of July 1924.

(Incidentally, this rules out the possibility that it really was the 87th Show — in 1962 the 21st was on a Saturday.)


James Belford (p.51)

This story is his only appearance. Not counting his father (who may well have been a canon too) he is the only Belford in the canon.

Belford is a village on the old Great North Road in Northumberland, or a fishing port in New Jersey — Wodehouse might well have been more familiar with the latter than the former.


Angela (p.51)

One of no fewer than six of Lord Emsworth’s nieces who find themselves in this situation. She isn’t given a surname, but Garrison and Tony Ring both conclude that she must be the sister of Wilfred Allsop (Galahad at Blandings). See Ring’s version of the Threepwood family tree, as reproduced in the Penguin edition of Sunset at Blandings.


Meeker’s twenty-acre field (p.52)

Wodehouse is poking affectionate fun at the way in which country people see the world. Meeker is presumably a local farmer (not necessarily a landowner, as Garrison supposes — Emsworth would still call it “Meeker’s field” if he owned it himself and the Meekers were tenant farmers).

Meeker seems to be a Midland name: interestingly, there still seems to be at least one pig farmer called Meeker (in Wiltshire).

20 acres (8ha.) would be a field of around 400m by 200m.

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/831858/posts

oxy-acetylene blowpipe (p.53)

Oxy-acetylene blowpipes also feature in A Gentleman of Leisure/The Intrusion of Jimmy and Leave It to Psmith.


poor Jane (p.54)

Obviously another of Lord Emsworth’s ten sisters. This seems to be the only direct mention of her.


fortissimo (p.54)

Musical expression: most loudly


...where beyond those voices there was peace (p.55)

?? must be a quotation


Wolff-Lehmann (p.56)

Professor Franz Lehmann (1860–1942) of the University of Göttingen Institute for Animal Physiology, building on the work done by his predecessors Wilhelm Henneberg and Emil Wolff, established a set of scientific standards for determining the quantity of feed farm animals should be given.

Details of Wolff-Lehmann Feeding Standards, from Feeds and Feeding, 1915
http://www.ksre.k-state.edu/historicpublications/pubs/SB115.pdf

fifty-seven thousand eight hundred calories (p.56)

About 240 kJ


James Bartholomew Belford (p.58)

Another good middle name. Other Bartholomews in the canon include Stiffy Bing’s terrier [and the Persian cat in “Crime by Proxy” —NM].


Damasks ... Ayshires (p.60)

Damask roses (Rosa damascena), which are native to Asia, are typified by fragrant red or pink flowers. This is the source of the perfume attar of roses. They have tall weak arching stems and dull foliage and the flowers bloom in clusters and have weak stalks which tend to droop.

Ayrshire roses are myrrh-scented hybrids of the wild field rose, Rosa arvensis. They appeared in the early 19th century, and were originally grown mostly in southern Scotland, hence the name. Lord Marshmoreton in A Damsel in Distress also grows Ayrshires.


prodigal (p.61)

Presumably Lord Emsworth would approve in principle of Prodigals, who, at least in the Gospels, are sound on pigs.

And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country;
and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat:
and no man gave unto him.

[Bible, Luke 15:15–16]


apple-jack (p.61)

American name for apple brandy (Calvados) — cf. Hot Water, ch.18.


afternoon call (p.61)

For anyone who grew up in turn-of-the-century upper middle class society, this expression would automatically conjure up incongruous visions of ladies drinking tea out of delicate china cups after complex rituals involving visiting cards.


hog-calling (p.62)

Apparently the background to this is that the wild ancestors of the domesticated pigs of today would use sound signals to tell their friends if they found something good to eat. The hog-caller attempts to trigger the pig’s instinctive response to these calls.


Komm, Schweine (p.62)

German: literally “Come, pigs!”


Fred Patzel (p.63)

This Nebraska farmer really existed, and was a celebrated hog-calling champion in the 1920s — see David Landman’s article about him from Plum Lines, Summer 2000.

Hog-calling championships still seem to be a feature of country fairs in some parts of America.

http://madameulalie.org/articles/patzel.html

staccato ... falsetto (p.63)

Musical terms: staccato (It.: “detached”) is an instruction to shorten a note by about half its normal length to give a clear separation from the following note; falsetto is a singing technique in which a male singer extends his voice upwards to notes beyond his normal range.


two sharp ... five-five (p.64)

In Leave It to Psmith the afternoon trains from Paddington to Market Blandings are at twelve-fifty and five sharp, while in Uncle Fred in the Springtime there is also a two-forty-five.

Note that in Britain it is usual to refer to trains by their departure times, rather than train numbers, which the railways use for internal purposes only.


Swindon Junction (p.64)

Cf. Something Fresh, where the Market Blandings train also runs via Swindon. If Blandings Castle is in Shropshire, the train would go by way of Oxford, not Swindon. Norman Murphy (In Search of Blandings) accounts for this anomaly with the explanation that ‘Blandings’ is an amalgam of two real locations that Wodehouse would have known — Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire (reached via Swindon and Cheltenham) and Weston Park, Staffordshire (reached via Oxford).


Angela’s grandmother (p.66)

Presumably he is thinking of Mrs. probably-Allsopp rather than Angela’s maternal grandmother, Lord Emsworth’s mother.


going blah (p.67)

Cf. Money for Nothing, ch.4, where Pat tells Johnnie that he’s “gone blah,” meaning that he’s become dull and unadventurous as a result of country life. Here the sense seems to be more like the modern “to switch off.”


bohunkus (p.67)

Bohunk was originally an American slang term for immigrants from central Europe (apparently formed from “Bohemian” + “Hungarian”), but there doesn’t appear to be any record of “bohunkus” outside Wodehouse. It occurs in a few other stories: for instance Monty uses it of his prospective father-in-law in The Luck of the Bodkins, ch.4.


WHO stole my heart away... (p.68)

This is a Jerome Kern song, from the stage and film musical Sunny (1925/1930). The opening word is held for nine quarter notes.

Who stole my heart away,
who makes me dream all day?
Dreams I know will never come true,
seems as though I’ll ever be blue.
Who means my happiness,
who would I answer yes to?
Well you oughta guess who,
No one but you.

[Harbach, Otto & Hammerstein II, Oscar; Kern, Jerome; Who stole my heart away?]


eighteen years (p.69)

This tells us that the action of this story takes place within twelve months of that of “Lord Emsworth Acts for the Best,” where Beach also states that he has been with Lord Emsworth for eighteen years.


sty ... distance from the castle walls (p.70)

See the location plan showing the Hunstanton Hall pigsty, as reproduced in Plum Lines.

http://madameulalie.org/articles/piggery.html

village blacksmith’s daughter (p.71)

Longfellow doesn’t make it entirely clear if it’s the blacksmith’s daughter or the parson’s. Possibly he doesn’t know for sure.

He goes on Sunday to the church,
And sits among his boys;
He hears the parson pray and preach,
He hears his daughter’s voice,
Singing in the village choir,
And it makes his heart rejoice.

It sounds to him like her mother’s voice,
Singing in Paradise!
He needs must think of her once more,
How in the grave she lies;
And with his hard, rough hand he wipes
A tear out of his eyes.

[Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth (1807–1882), The Village Blacksmith, ll.25–36]


a low minor of two quarter notes... (p.72)

This seems to be mostly Wodehouse poking fun at musicians’ shop-talk — as a lyricist he must have had a fair amount of it to endure — or at the very least Belford astutely pulling the wool over Emsworth’s eyes.

But, with a bit of goodwill, it could almost be read onto the notated version of Patzel’s call reproduced in David Landman’s article. It does start with quarter-notes (American for crotchets), rises up to F sharp, and has pairs of half-notes in it.

http://madameulalie.org/articles/patzel.html

...sound of a great Amen (p.73)

The poet in question, Adelaide Anne Procter, would presumably have been forgotten altogether were it not for Sullivan’s celebrated setting of this poem, the apotheosis of the Victorian drawing-room ballad.

SEATED one day at the Organ,
I was weary and ill at ease,
And my fingers wandered idly
Over the noisy keys.

I do not know what I was playing,
Or what I was dreaming then;
But I struck one chord of music,
Like the sound of a great Amen.

It flooded the crimson twilight
Like the close of an angel’s Psalm,
And it lay on my fevered spirit
With a touch of infinite calm.

It quieted pain and sorrow,
Like love overcoming strife;
It seemed the harmonious echo
From our discordant life.

It linked all perplexèd meanings
Into one perfect peace,
And trembled away into silence,
As if it were loath to cease.

I have sought, but I seek it vainly,
That one lost chord divine,
That came from the soul of the Organ
And entered into mine.

It may be that Death’s bright angel
Will speak in that chord again,—
It may be that only in Heaven
I shall hear that grand Amen.

[Procter, Adelaide Anne (1825–1864), Sullivan, Sir Arthur, The Lost Chord]


Company for Gertrude (p.74)

First appeared in the Strand for September 1928 and Cosmopolitan for October 1928. In book form it appears in both the UK and US versions of Blandings Castle. Runs from pp. 74 to 96 in the 2000 Penguin edition.


Donaldson’s Dog-Biscuits (p.74)

See “The Custody of the Pumpkin”, p.23 above.


aunt Georgiana ... Alcester (p.74)

Another of Lord Emsworth’s ten sisters. She only appears in this story and “The Go-Getter”. Tony Ring concludes that as the only one of the sisters to be a duchess or marchioness, she must be the mother of Lord Percy Stockheath, recent subject of a breach-of-promise action in Something Fresh. Lord Percy’s style indicates that he is a younger son, so Percy and Gertrude must have another, older brother, not mentioned in the canon.

Alcester is the name of a market town in Warwickshire. Wodehouse would have known it from his visits to nearby Droitwich Spa.


Pekes ... Poms ... (p.74)

Pekes (Pekinese dogs) played a large role in Wodehouse’s own life, of course. Poms [Pomeranians] are another breed of small dogs, also mentioned for example in Thank You, Jeeves and Leave It to Psmith. Yorkshire terriers and Sealyhams are both small, short-legged terriers; Airedales resemble Sealyhams but have much longer legs; the Borzoi is a large Russian hunting dog, like a greyhound but with a winter coat.

[Between the 1928 magazine appearances of this story and the 1931 magazine publication of “The Go-Getter,” Lady Alcester added two of the Sealyhams and the Airedale, and the expanded list was used for both stories in the 1935 book. —NM]

http://www.akc.org

half-crown (p.74)

A coin worth two shillings and sixpence (12.5p in decimal terms).


Cellophane (p.74)

Trade name for an early type of transparent plastic film, made from regenerated cellulose. It was invented, and the name was registered, by the Société Industrielle de Thaon in Alsace in 1912. It became very successful as a packaging material: the expression “Cellophane fresh” was an advertising cliché of the thirties.

Even today, many people still refer to any kind of transparent film generically as “Cellophane”.


Upper Brook Street (p.74)

Expensive residential street in Mayfair. Upper Brook Street is the continuation of Brook Street between Grosvenor Square and Park Lane.

http://www.streetmap.co.uk/streetmap.dll?G2M?X=528239&Y=180816&A=Y&Z=1

Beefy Bingham (p.74)

The Rev. Rupert Bingham is one of the links between the Jeeves and Blandings cycles. He first appeared in “Jeeves and the Song of Songs” (1927). He returns in “The Go-Getter”.

There are a number of other Binghams in the canon: Freddie in the American version of “A Job of Work” and Tod in “The Debut of Battling Billson” are both pugnacious types like Beefy; the widow Amelia in Bachelors Anonymous is not. [Rollo (or Ralph) Bingham in “The Long Hole” uses the book of golf rules as his best club. —NM]

Wodehouse presumably got the name from the entirely unpugnacious Mr. Bingham in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.


Blood ... Trial Eights (p.74)

‘Blood’ is public school slang for someone who is very prominent socially or as a sportsman. Trial Eights implies that Beefy was one of the people on the shortlist to row against Cambridge in the Boat Race. Note that Freddie’s experience of rowing seems to have been very similar to Bertie Wooster’s (in Bertie’s case it was Stilton who made the rude remarks).

To this day, rowing coaches cycle along the bank of the Isis shouting rude things through a megaphone.


collar ... without studs (p.74)

Most Church of England clergymen adopted the “Roman collar” in the late nineteenth century. This was a variant of the stiff detachable collars worn by laymen, but without an opening at the front. The shape was designed to recall the white neckbands worn by Victorian clergymen. Because of the lack of a visible opening, it would have been impossible to tell how it was attached to the shirt.


tithes (p.75)

Anglican clergy were supported by a 10% tax on agricultural production in their parishes. This was abolished early in the 19th century in most parts of the British Isles, but survived rather longer (??? when was this) in England, to the fury of non-Anglicans. Nowadays the income of the church comes in part from the large amount of land it owns, and the rest from charitable gifts.

Clergy like Bingham, working in poor urban parishes, would have to rely on charitable trusts (like the Extra Curates’ Society) if they did not have a private income of their own.


Park Street (p.76)

Crosses Upper Brook Street halfway from Grosvenor Square to Park Lane. It isn’t very obvious where they are going — if they were heading for the Drones, they would continue along Upper Brook Street to cross Grosvenor Square. Freddie might perhaps be heading for his Aunt Julia’s house at 17 Norfolk St (now Dunraven Lane — cf. Summer Lightning), which would involve going a short distance up Park Street, then turning left into Woods Mews.

http://www.streetmap.co.uk/streetmap.dll?G2M?X=528239&Y=180816&A=Y&Z=1

Young Hearts Adrift (p.76)

Fictitious once again, although real film titles include “Old Heads and Young Hearts” (1910), “Hearts Adrift” (1914), “When Hearts Are Young” (1915), “When the Heart Is Young” (1917), “Hearts of Youth” (1921), “Fluttering Hearts” (1927), etc.

http://www.imdb.com

Rosalie Norton (p.76)

The only other Norton in the canon is Peggy, chorus girl in “In Alcala.” Mr. Bickersdyke in Psmith in the City formerly worked for Norton and Biggleswade (and/or Morton and Blatherwick).

Rosalie was the title of a show Wodehouse worked on, together with a remarkable number of other writers and composers (Guy Bolton, Bill McGuire, George & Ira Gershwin, Sigmund Romberg), which opened in 1927, and later came back to haunt Wodehouse in Hollywood during both of his stints at M-G-M.


Otto Byng (p.76)

The first Byng in the canon is Lord Marshmoreton’s sister, Lady Caroline, the avatar of Lady Constance Keeble in A Damsel in Distress; her son Reggie also plays an important part. Wilmot Byng is the hero of “The Letter of the Law” (1936), and Stephanie “Stiffy” Byng first appears in The Code of the Woosters (1938). [Orlando Byng is a film star under contract to the Colossal-Exquisite in “The Rise of Minna Nordstrom” (1933). —NM]

There were of course many men called Otto in Hollywood in the twenties, so it is hard to say whether this is a specific reference or not. Probably Wodehouse is mocking the incongruity of actors’ stage-names by matching a British surname with a German first name.


livings up his sleeve (p.77)

In English law, many landowners retained the advowson, the right to nominate the parish priests of the churches that had originally been endowed by previous lords of the manor. The nominee had to be presented to and approved by the diocesan bishop (before 1898, some landowners had the right of advowson donative, which meant that not even the bishop of the diocese could veto their nominee).

The post of parish priest is sometimes known as a living, because of the income attached to it.


Sir Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe (p.78)

See “The Custody of the Pumpkin”, p.26 above, for his first appearance.


George Cyril Wellbeloved (p.78)

Made his first, offstage, appearance in “Pig-hoo-o-o-o-ey”, p.49 above.


the scales fell from his eyes (p.79)

17  And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.

18  And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.

[Bible, Acts of the Apostles 9:17–18]


Justice of the Peace (p.79)

Justices of the Peace are lay (i.e. not legally-trained) magistrates, who try minor offences in the local magistrates’ courts. They are nominated by some mysterious process, and appointed by the Lord Chancellor. Local landowners would have been appointed almost automatically — nowadays the process has become a little more transparent, and there is always a sprinkling of headmasters, trade union officials and the like on the bench.


telephone closet (p.79)

On p.81 below the phrase “cupboard” is used — the term “closet” for a walk-in cupboard is something of an Americanism.

British houses often had the telephone tucked away in a special alcove or enclosure, ostensibly for privacy but actually to make telephoning as uncomfortable as possible and keep calls short. Cf. Money for Nothing, where the telephone cupboard plays a prominent role. Blandings later seems to acquire an extension in the library.


the three-fifteen (p.80)

Only twenty pages ago, in “Pig-hoo-o-o-o-ey”, we are clearly told that there is nothing between the two o’clock train and the five-five. Obviously the GWR have revised their timetable in the meantime.


television (p.80)

[Without getting into the “who invented television?” discussion...]

The idea of video-telephones in the 1920s isn’t as outrageous as it might seem to a modern reader. The first experimental transmissions using the Baird electro-mechanical television system took place in 1924. The BBC started a trial public service in 1929, a year after this story first appeared. The Baird system, using a 30-line image, had an extremely low bandwidth requirement, and could have been transmitted down a telephone wire without any great difficulty (the signal could even be recorded on a conventional wax disc).

http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/blbaird.htm

Maeterlinck (p.81)

Perhaps Belgium’s most celebrated man of letters after Simenon and Hergé, the Nobel laureate Maurice Maeterlinck (1862–1949) was an important poet, dramatist and essayist. He is best-known in the English-speaking world for his plays, (e.g. Pelléas et Mélisande, 1892), which tend to have vaguely medieval settings and tragic conclusions, while being heavily loaded with mysticism.

http://www.nobel.se/literature/laureates/1911/maeterlinck-bio.html

peace, perfect peace... (p.83)

Peace, perfect peace, in this dark world of sin?
The blood of Jesus whispers peace within.
Peace, perfect peace, by thronging duties pressed?
To do the will of Jesus, this is rest.
Peace, perfect peace, with sorrows surging round?
On Jesus’ bosom naught but calm is found.
Peace, perfect peace, with loved ones far away?
In Jesus’ keeping we are safe, and they.
Peace, perfect peace, our future all unknown?
Jesus we know, and he is on the throne.
Peace, perfect peace, death shadowing us and ours?
Jesus has vanquished death and all its powers.
It is enough: earth’s struggles soon shall cease,
And Jesus call us to heaven’s perfect peace.

[Bickersteth, Edward H. (1875), Hymn]


beneath his window (p.83)

Lovers in Wodehouse always get the wrong window on these occasions.


closer than a brother (p.85)

A man that hath friends must show himself friendly; and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.

[Bible, Proverbs 18:24]


Mary ... lamb (p.85)

There seems to be considerable debate about the origins of this verse, but it is most often attributed to the American writer Sarah Hale (1788–1879), and the owner of the lamb cited as Mary Sawyer, of Sterling, Massachusetts.

Mary had a little lamb
Its fleece was white as snow;
And everywhere that Mary went,
The lamb was sure to go.

It followed her to school one day,
Which was against the rule;
It made the children laugh and play,
To see a lamb at school.

And so the teacher turned it out,
But still it lingered near,
And waited patiently about
Till Mary did appear.

“Why does the lamb love Mary so?”
The eager children cry;
“Why, Mary loves the lamb, you know”
The teacher did reply.

[Hale, Sarah (1830), Mary had a little lamb (Nursery Rhyme)]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarah_Hale

music ... mystic language of the soul (p.90)

This must be a quotation, surely???

A great many people have said things similar to this, but I haven’t found this exact phrase.


‘Love me ... ’ (p.91)

I wander on as in a dream,
My goal a paradise must be,
For there an angel waits ’twould seem,
Yet lo, dear heart, ’tis only thee.
Suns may shine to light my way dear,
Wealth be mine for ever dear,
Queens may pledge their riches too;
Yet the world would still be lonely,
With such virtues only.
Life to me dear, means just you.
I care not for the stars that shine,
I dare not hope to e’er be thine,
I only know I love you.
Love me, and the world is mine.

[Reed, Dave Jr., Ball, Ernest R., Love me and the world is mine (song, 1906)]


waste of waters (p.92)

This is another of those ancient poetic formulae that turn out (probably) to have been invented by Sir Walter Scott. The alliteration makes us think of Anglo-Saxon verse, and modern writers have used the phrase in translations of Beowulf, but it looks as though the phrase itself is rather modern. [Strictly speaking, the word “waste” only came into English, via Old French, in the Middle Ages, although there was a similar Old English word “westen”.]

The term “waste” (i.e. uncultivated land) has been applied poetically to the oceans since at least the 16th century, but according to the OED the phrase “waste of waters” appeared for the first time in Scott’s Heart of Midlothian (1815).


incog. (p.94)

incognito — unrecognised, in disguise (an Italian expression, commonly used for e.g. a royal personage who does not wish to be recognised as such).


King Lear (p.95)

The eponymous central character of Shakespeare’s play, not noted for getting on well with his children.


old Braithwaite (p.95)

The only other Braithwaite listed by Garrison is in the Lower Fourth at St Austin’s. Braithwaite is the name of a village near Keswick in the Lake District and a fairly common family name in the north of England.


Came the dawn! (p.96)

Wodehouse used this as the title of a story a year earlier, in 1927. This seems to be another cliché of obscure origins. [It seems to have originated as a commonly used passage-of-time title card in silent films, intended as a more poetic way of saying “The next morning”; it was recognized even in the late silent era as a cliché, as in this article from Photoplay, October 1925 and these citations. —NM]


The Go-Getter (p.97)

First published (with the US title “Sales Resistance”) in Cosmopolitan in March 1931 and in the Strand in August 1931. Appears in both UK and US versions of Blandings Castle. Runs from pp. 97–119 in the 2000 Penguin edition of Blandings Castle.

The OED cites the first appearance of the term “go-getter” as 1921 — it seems to come from US “self-help” literature, but it had become well-established in the general language by the thirties.


calceolarias ... lobelias (p.97)

Calceolarias (slipper-flower, or slipper-wort) have a vaguely slipper-shaped flower, and are popular with British gardeners, although originally from South America.

The lobelia is a herb, often used as a decorative plant for ground cover, in window boxes, etc., producing large numbers of flowers (usually blue, purple or crimson). Lobelias are also mentioned in Summer Lightning.


paddock at Ascot (p.97)

Royal Ascot — the most fashionable race meeting at the Ascot racecourse in Berkshire — has been held in the third week of June since 1711.

At a racecourse, the paddock is an enclosure where the horses and jockeys assemble before the race. To “cut” someone, i.e. to pretend you don’t know them, in the paddock at Ascot would be the most public way possible to indicate disapproval.


Aunt Georgiana (p.97)

See “Company for Gertrude”, p.74 above. Her collection of dogs does not seem to have changed since that story. [In this story, the list of dogs is the same in magazine versions and the book, so the additions to her menagerie happened between the magazine appearances of “Company for Gertrude” and “Sales Resistance” (the title of “The Go-Getter” in the American magazine Cosmopolitan, March 1931). —NM]


in loco parentis (p.99)

Latin: In the parent’s place.

A legal expression, indicating that someone (e.g. a guardian, a schoolteacher) has a responsibility for looking after a young person in a given situation.


Orlo Watkins, the crooning tenor (p.99)

Appears only in this story, and according to Garrison the only Watkins in the canon.

Orlo seems to be relatively rare as a first name outside the US. In Italian “orlo” means something like border, edge, threshold — it exists in this sense in English as an architectural term. The only directly musical association is that in Spanish the word “orlo” is used for a crumhorn.

“Croon” is a Scottish word, popularised in English by Burns, meaning “to emit a low groaning sound”. In the late 1920s it started to be used — ironically at first — to describe the then-new style of singing in a low voice with the lips close to a microphone. Bing Crosby was perhaps the most famous crooner.

http://members.iinet.net.au/~nickl/crumhorn.html

gifted young men ... Lady Constance Keeble (p.99)

Lady Constance has apparently not been cured of this habit by the events of Leave It to Psmith, where it is first mentioned. However, she does seem to abandon it after this story.


Adelphi Hotel, Liverpool (p.99)

Liverpool would still have been Britain’s busiest port after London at this period, and was thus the natural home of shipping magnates. The Adelphi, opened in 1826 (or possibly 1869??) and rebuilt in 1912 to serve the passengers of great liners like the Titanic, is the city’s grandest hotel.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/liverpool/localhistory/journey/lime_street/adelphi/hotel.shtml

Love and the Moonlight and You (p.99)

Seems to be a generic reference to song lyrics — I can’t find a real song with this exact phrase in it, although of course there are thousands that come very close.


British Broadcasting Corporation (p.99)

The privately-owned British Broadcasting Company Ltd. was set up in 1922; it was taken over by the government in 1927 to become the British Broadcasting Corporation.

Although BBC engagements probably didn’t pay very much, surely a man of Watkins’s talents would have been able to earn a living wage from recording contracts and club appearances?


bone-forming vitamins (p.100)

Of course, bones are formed from minerals rather than vitamins, although the latter do play a role in helping the body to metabolise things like calcium, iron and phosphorus that are required to make bones.


Genealogical College (p.102)

Although heralds traditionally exist as colleges, this doesn’t seem to be the normal collective term for genealogists. There are of course colleges that teach people to be genealogists (mostly in the state of Utah), but this probably isn’t what Wodehouse is referring to here.


Pastor of Souls (p.102)

This expression has been used since the early days of the Christian church to describe the priest’s role as “shepherd” of the congregation. Wodehouse is also reminding us that Bingham is now vicar in his own right, and no longer a Curate of Souls.


Kind hearts... (p.105)

Howe’er it be, it seems to me,
’T is only noble to be good.
Kind hearts are more than coronets,
And simple faith than Norman blood.

[Tennyson, Alfred Lord (1809–1892), Lady Clara Vere de Vere, 7


Burke and Debrett (p.106)

The two best-known directories of the British titled classes.

Burke’s Peerage was first published by John Burke in 1826, and continued to be revised until about 1970. The name and copyright were sold on to third parties when the original company went into liquidation, and are still in use.

Debrett’s Peerage of England, Scotland and Ireland was originally compiled by John Debrett (1750–1822), which first appeared in 1803.


Lord Emsworth and the Girl Friend (p.120)

Runs from pp. 120 to 142 in the 2000 Penguin edition.

This story first appeared in Liberty of 6 October 1928 and in the Strand of November 1928.


kippered herring (p.120)

A whole herring split, gutted, salted and then cold-smoked. Also sometimes called a red herring. Often eaten at breakfast in Britain.


August Bank Holiday (p.120)

The first Monday in August was established as a public holiday in England by the Bank Holidays Act of 1871. From 1965 this holiday was moved to the end of August


the quiet evenfall (p.120)

A line from Tennyson’s Maud that Wodehouse uses a lot.

Alas for her that met me,
That heard me softly call,
Came glimmering thro’ the laurels
At the quiet evenfall,
In the garden by the turrets
Of the old manorial hall.


Lady Constance Keeble (p.120)

see p.50 above


everything was for the jolliest... (p.120)

More usually rendered “everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.” The philosopher Gottfried Leibniz (1646–1716) came to the conclusion that our universe is the best possible one that God could have created, an idea that Voltaire famously satirised in Candide.


Fresh Air London children (p.121)

The journalist and newspaper proprietor Arthur Pearson (1866–1921) established the charitable Fresh Air Fund (now known as Pearson’s Holiday Fund) to provide disadvantaged children with holidays in the country. (A similar charity has been in operation in New York since 1877.) Some of Wodehouse’s earliest stories appeared in Pearson’s Magazine.


McAllister (p.121)

See p.3 above.


Glasgow ... Encyclopædia Britannica (p.121)

In the 1911 edition, the entry on Glasgow runs from pp. 80 to 85 of Volume 12. The short entry for Glasites intervenes before Glass and Glass, stained, which together do account for 27 pages. Maybe Wodehouse miscounted, or had a later edition.


hoardings with advertisements of liver pills (p.122)

The most famous were Carter’s Little Liver Pills, on the market in the US since 1868. The original advertisements used a black crow sitting on a twig, but later ones tended to show happy individuals who had taken the pills. A hoarding in this context is the British equivalent of a bill-board.


filling-station (p.122)

The first purpose-built filling-stations (“gas stations” in North America) appeared around 1909 in the US. Evidently they were already a recognisable symbol of suburban hideousness by 1928.


stick the gaff into... (p.122)

A gaff is a barbed spear used by fishermen to secure and land a fish, hence to stick the gaff into a victim is to deliver the final stroke.


likes the notion fine (p.123)

Using fine as an adverb is not peculiarly Scottish, but it is unusual enough in modern English to remind us that McAllister is speaking dialect.


Scotch (p.123)

The language of lowland Scotland is most often called Scots; to call it Scotch is an Englishism.


Agricultural Show ... pumpkin (p.124)

See “The custody of the pumpkin” above.


rule with an iron hand (p.124)

A common cliché in English, but does not have an obvious origin. Perhaps linked to Revelation ii:27 “He shall rule them with a rod of iron”? Otherwise, “iron hand” sometimes refers to the 16th century German knight Götz von Berlichingen, who lost his right hand in battle in 1504 and thereafter wore an iron prosthesis.


coward rage ... blaze (p.124)

From “Peter the Wag”, one of W. S. Gilbert’s Bab Ballads, which originally appeared in Fun in April 1868. The eponymous Peter is a policeman whose sense of humour gets him into trouble.

Against this minion of the Crown
The swelling murmurs grew—
From Camberwell to Kentish Town—
From Rotherhithe to Kew.
Still humoured he his wagsome turn,
And fed in various ways
The coward rage that dared to burn,
But did not dare to blaze.


Blandings Parva (p.124)

This village seems to appear arbitrarily whenever Wodehouse needs a small estate village, then disappear again. Norman Murphy suggests that it might be based on the village of Weston-under-Lizard, which is in a similar relation to Weston Park (In Search of Blandings, Ch.24). Parva (Latin parvus, small) is a fairly common suffix in the names of ecclesiastical parishes.


velveteen frock (p.126)

Velveteen is an imitation velvet material, normally made from cotton. Probably rather warm for a summer frock, but the sort of thing that would look impressive to a little girl.


the prevailing mode (p.126)

By the late 1920s, fashionable women were giving up the severe bobbed styles of the early twenties and getting marcel waves. Wodehouse is, of course, continuing the joke that Emsworth relates to Gladys as if she were an adult: it would have been inconceivable for a working-class child of her age to have a fashionable hairstyle.


Ebenezer Sprockett (p.126)

The first of his family to appear in the canon. The Sprockett-Sprocketts of Lower Smattering on the Wissel appear in “The Fiery Wooing of Mordred” (1934), and Lulabelle Sprockett in “Feet of Clay” (1950). Thanks to Charles Dickens, the given name Ebenezer (from the Hebrew “stone of help”) has acquired ineradicable associations with old age and grumpiness.


been out much this Season? (p.126)

In Lord Emsworth’s youth, the London Season, the time of year when grand families would move to their London houses so that the head of the family could attend Parliament and his daughters meet potential suitors at balls, ran from Easter to the 12th of August (when the grouse season opened in Scotland). By 1928, it was already well in decline. This would presumably have been a standard gambit Emsworth was taught to use for filling awkward gaps in conversation with a dance partner, but we’re supposed to recognise it as an absurd question to ask someone like Gladys.


Drury Line (p.126)

i.e. Drury Lane (Wodehouse is flagging Gladys’s Cockney accent). A central London street, close to Covent Garden and one of the most notorious slum areas in Hogarth’s day, but probably rather more up-market than Wodehouse implies by 1928.


Gladys ... Ern (p.126)

Gladys is originally a Welsh name, very popular in Britain in the early 20th century, but definitely working class. In Wodehouse, Gwladys with a “w” (in the Welsh way) is always bad news, suggesting Tennysonian pretensions, e.g. Gwladys Pendlebury in “Jeeves and the Spot of Art”.

Ern is presumably short for Ernest: here the abbreviation rather than the name itself is what marks it as working class.


tête-à-tête (p.126)

Conversation involving only two people (French “head to head”).


Cool! (p.127)

This seems a bit early for “Cool!” as an exclamation: checking the 1935 Herbert Jenkins first edition and the 1954 Penguin paperback confirms it’s a 2000 Penguin misprint for “Coo!”. [2013-12-09 NM, noted by Richard Steadman]


old josser (p.127)

josser is late-Victorian slang for fool or idiot: the OED links it to joss (n.) a Chinese idol.


super-woman (p.127)

A woman with more than ordinary abilities, by analogy to Nietzsche’s term “Übermensch”, as popularised by George Bernard Shaw in the 1903 play Man and Superman. Nothing to do with the comic-book character Superwoman, who first appeared in the 1940s. Her male counterpart was first seen in a comic book in 1938, ten years after this story appeared.


copped (p.127)

Caught (slang).


’air-oil (p.127)

Hair-oil. Actual hair-oil, e.g. the Macassar oil that was popular in Victorian and Edwardian days, was probably obsolete by 1928, but there were still plenty of gels and grease-based pomades around. The best-known pomade of modern times, Brylcreem, first came on the market in 1928.


stror penamaw (p.128)

Panama hat — a classic type of straw hat, woven in Ecuador and originally made to be shipped to Panama for construction workers on the canal project. Exactly the type of hat an English gentleman might wear in the country in summer weather.


rummage-sale (p.128)

A sale of secondhand clothes and the like in aid of charity. Generally, jumble sale seems to be more frequently used in the UK, and rummage sale in North America, but the distinction isn’t very rigid.


district-visiting (p.128)

District visitors in the Anglican Church were lay pastoral workers, generally unpaid volunteers, who assisted the parish clergy in looking after the social, moral and spiritual welfare of their parishioners. The scheme was introduced during the heyday of the Evangelical movement in the mid-19th century.


School Treat (p.128)

Most likely this would be organised for the Sunday-school: the village day school would probably be in the middle of its summer holiday at the beginning of August. That would also explain why Gladys and Ern are invited: as visitors they wouldn’t be attending the village school, but they would certainly be sent to church and to Sunday-school by their host family.


Man as Nature’s Final Word (p.129)

Wodehouse clearly liked this concept, but there’s no obvious direct source. It’s probably a pulpit-cliché Wodehouse picked up in his late 19th century childhood, cf. for instance Patrick Edward Dove, The Logic of the Christian Faith (1856): “The whole analogy of science teaches us, that we shall find there qualities which do not present themselves in any other region; and, consequently, if man be the highest object submitted to direct study, it is in man, and man in his highest capacities, functions, and employments, that we find Nature’s last word and most important revelation.” (p.168). More mundanely, Wodehouse would probably have seen that “Velvet” pipe tobacco was being advertised in 1917 with the tag “Velvet is Nature’s last word in tobacco. Lets put that in our pipes and smoke it.”

Possibly the phrase also has links to Milton’s description of Eve as “Heaven’s last best gift”.

Other uses include Right Ho, Jeeves, ch. 11: “Though never for an instant faltering in my opinion that Augustus Fink-Nottle was Nature’s final word in cloth-headed guffins, I liked the man, wished him well…"; The Code of the Woosters: “Have you ever seen Spode eat asparagus? … It alters one’s whole conception of Man as Nature’s last word.”


quality ... British citizen (p.129)

According to the British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act 1914, all that was required at the time was either birth within His Majesty’s dominions or alternatively naturalisation, descent, or marriage. Dignity was not a criterion.


blazing with tropic fury (p.129)

Another cliché without an obvious source. The film Tropic Fury only appeared in 1939.


Saturnalia (p.131)

A Roman festival held at the time of the winter solstice, traditionally celebrated with role reversals (masters waiting on their slaves) and general license. Said to be the origin of some of our modern Christmas traditions.


Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (p.131)

Three pious Jews cast into a burning fiery furnace by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar in the Book of Daniel.


Willie Drake and Thomas (Rat-Face) Blenkiron (p.132)

Garrison only lists two Drakes: a boy in The Pothunters and Sir Hugo Drake in Doctor Sally, as well as a Colonel Pashley-Drake. It’s just possible (though unlikely) that Wodehouse could have had the black baseball pitcher Bill Drake (1895–1977) in mind. The name Blenkiron doesn’t appear in Garrison at all. Wodehouse was almost certainly inspired by the American character of that name in John Buchan’s spy stories (it’s originally a Cumberland name).


sans-culottes (p.132)

French: “without breeches”. In 18th century France, only the upper-classes and bourgeois would be able to dress in breeches and stockings: the urban poor wore trousers. In political terms, the Sans-culottes were the Parisian mob, organised into political clubs, who provided the muscle to make and break various regimes during the early years of the Revolution.


Clare Market (p.132)

A slum area around the site of a 17th century meat market, between the Strand and Drury Lane. Like Drury Lane itself, the area is associated with Hogarth. It was redeveloped in 1900 by the LCC, so the slums were long-gone by the time Gladys and her friends were born. Wodehouse is appealing to his readers’ notion of a London slum, not the reality (otherwise he would have put them in Mile End, Poplar or somewhere like that). Nowadays, the site of Clare Market is occupied by part of the London School of Economics.


provisional government (p.133)

Presumably an allusion to the attempts by Kerensky and others to form a government in Russia between the February and October Revolutions of 1917.


King Herod (p.133)

Whenever Wodehouse mentions Herod the Great (73 or 74 – 4 BCE), it is in reference to the massacre of the innocents (Matthew 2:16–18).


aristocrat ... tumbril (p.133)

Another reference to the French Revolution, specifically to the Terror of 1793–4, the image of the Revolution most often conveyed in British 19th-century fiction (cf. A Tale of Two Cities). A tumbril (or tumbrel) was a two-wheeled cart used (inter alia) to transport prisoners to the place of execution.


heroes and demigods (p.135)

In Greek mythology, heroes are demigods (i.e. have one divine and one mortal parent).


gouty tendency ... port (p.136)

Drinking port was considered to be a cause of gout. Nowadays this is usually put down to the production process, as a result of which port was sometimes contaminated with lead.


flarze in full measure (p.137)

Wodehouse seems to have gone though the index of an American nurseryman’s catalogue for the next sentence. Somehow he forgot to include Zinnia.


Achillea (p.137)

Yarrow.


Bignonia Radicans (p.137)

The trumpet vine (Campsis radicans is the more usual scientific name). A North American native imported into England as early as the 17th century.


Campanula (p.137)

Bellflowers (e.g. harebells, bluebells, Canterbury bells).


Digitalis (p.137)

Foxgloves.


Euphorbia (p.137)

Spurges. Poinsettia is probably the best-known garden plant in the family.


Funkia (p.137)

More usually called Hosta — lily-like ground-covering plants introduced into Europe from Japan in the 19th century.


Gypsophila (p.137)

Soapwort, or baby’s breath.


Helianthus (p.137)

Sunflowers.


Iris (p.137)

Irises.


Liatris (p.137)

Blazing-star, Gay-feather or Button snakeroot (another American native).


Monarda (p.137)

Yet another American genus: common names include bee-balm.


Phlox Drummondi (p.137)

More properly Phlox drummondii: a flowering plant native to Texas.


Salvia (p.137)

The sage genus (ornamental species of sage are commonly referred to as salvia).


Thalictrum (p.137)

Meadow-rue.


Vinca (p.137)

periwinkle (a European native).


Yucca (p.137)

Flowering shrubs and trees with tough spiky leaves, characteristic of the drier parts of the Americas.


threshold ... flaming sword (p.137)

Genesis 3:24 : So he drove out the man: and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.


‘How now, varlet!’ (p.138)

‘What’s that, you rogue?’ Seems to be mostly a cliché of 19th century historical fiction: Shakespeare never uses this phrase (although plenty of his characters address others as “varlet”), whilst the only examples on Google Books from before 1800 are in Modern History Or the Present State of All Nations by Thomas Salmon, 1745, and the play Falstaff’s Wedding by William Kenrick (1760 — a comedy “after Shakespeare”).


‘Marry come up, thou malapert knave!’ (p.138)

More archaic nonsense. “Marry come up” is an expression of surprise or disapproval, Marry being a disguised oath (=Mary). This one does appear in Shakespeare, e.g. it’s used by the Nurse in Romeo & Juliet II:v.

To be malapert is to be presumptuous or impudent. Sir Walter Scott is very fond of this word. Google only knows one pre-Scott example of “malapert knave”, which once again comes from an obscure 18th century play.


the high, the middle and the low justice (p.138)

Different levels of judicial authority in feudal courts. The right of high justice, normally only held by the sovereign and his immediate vassals, included the power to impose the death penalty (jus gladii); the low justice corresponded to a manorial court, able to impose lesser penalties for day-to-day offences. The middle justice was somewhere in between.


the last of their line (p.138)

The ever-forgetful Lord Emsworth seems to have overlooked the fact that he has two sons, George (Lord Bosham) and Freddie, both of whom we have known about since Something Fresh, the first Blandings book. He also has a variable number of grandsons, so he’s by no stretch of the imagination last of his line. [Perhaps he is considering the line of those who have already succeeded to the title, as opposed to the biological line of descendants. —NM]

Wodehouse often uses the joke of a wimpish character remembering his bold ancestors, notably with Bertie Wooster. Barry Phelps points out that Wodehouse himself had an ancestor who fought at Agincourt and a grandfather who was at Waterloo (P.G. Wodehouse, man and myth, ch.3).


alarms and excursions (p.139)

alarums and excursions often appears as a stage-direction in Elizabethan plays, including Shakespeare. Soldiers run onto the stage shouting and generally creating the bustle of military action. An excursion is literally a rushing-out, which is exactly what McAllister is doing.


Battle of Bannockburn (p.139)

Decisive battle in the Scottish wars of independence, fought just south of Stirling in June 1314. The Scots under Robert Bruce defeated a numerically superior English force under Edward II. King Robert famously split the head of the English knight Henry de Bohun in two with a battle-axe, a precedent that might well have given Emsworth’s English ancestors pause for thought!


the soul within him quivered (p.139)

Another popular fiction cliché, cf. e.g. Quo Vadis, by Henryk Sienkiewicz & translated by Jeremiah Curtin (1896), ch. LIII: “And at this thought, even though the soul quivered in him and cold sweat drenched his temples, he believed.”


Mr. Potter Takes a Rest Cure (p.145)

Runs from pp. 145 to 168 in the 2000 Penguin edition.

This story first appeared in Liberty of 23 January 1926 and in the Strand of February 1926.


John Hamilton Potter (p.145)

This is his only appearance in the canon. Potter is a common name in Wodehouse, as it is in the real world: Garrison lists ten Potters and three Potter-Pirbrights. See below for Mabel Potter.

Hamilton is the name of a prominent Scottish family and a town in Lanarkshire. This choice of middle name may have something to do with the playwright and novelist Cosmo Hamilton (1870–1942, real name Henry Charles Hamilton Gibbs). Hamilton was a big name in London theatre in Wodehouse’s early days in London. They knew each other, and Wodehouse got his first big break in the theatre writing additional lyrics for Hamilton’s The Beauty of Bath in 1906. Hamilton later presented a profile of Wodehouse as a BBC “talk” (published in book form in 1933).

Another Charles Hamilton (1876–1961) whom Wodehouse admired was (as “Frank Richards”) the creator of the character Billy Bunter.


Skeldings Hall (p.145)

Norman Murphy suggests, mostly on the strength of the moat, that Skeldings is based on Hunstanton Hall in Norfolk. However, Wodehouse’s first known visit to Hunstanton was in June 1926, i.e. after this story first appeared in serial form. Skelding exists as a family name in the north of England, but there could perhaps also be an association in Wodehouse’s mind with the legendary Danish family of the Skjöldungar/Scyldingas.

Skeldings first appeared in “Something Squishy” (1924), where it is in Hertfordshire and takes Bobbie 43 minutes to reach from London in a fast car. It is also the scene of “Jeeves and the Yule-Tide Spirit” (1927), but we don’t get any real description of the house in either story. The Norse-sounding name would be rather improbable for a house in Hertfordshire: Norfolk, Yorkshire or Northumberland would be more likely.


Clifford Gandle (p.145)

The only other Gandle in the canon is Raymond, in “The Magic Plus Fours” (1922). Gandle-by-the-Hill is one of the parishes in “The Great Sermon Handicap” (also 1922). The American columnist Heywood Broun wrote a book called Gandle follows his nose, but this appeared in 1926, presumably too late to be relevant. As a family name, Gandle seems to be mainly associated with American physicians, if Google is anything to go by.


God was in his heaven ... world (p.145)

From Robert Browning’s poem Pippa Passes.


Lady Wickham (p.145)

We are told elsewhere that she is the widow of Sir Cuthbert Wickham: she therefore has the courtesy title “Lady Wickham”.

All the other Wickhams listed by Garrison are relatives of Lady Wickham and her daughter. Like many names in Wodehouse, Wickham is a Hampshire placename, coming from a village only a few miles from Emsworth (there are plenty of other Wickhams in England, but none with an obvious Wodehouse link). As a former public-school boy, Wodehouse would also have known about William of Wykeham, founder of Winchester College, who came from there. Jane Austen’s Mr. Wickham (in Pride and Prejudice) certainly also got his name via an authorial Hampshire connection.


Pen and Ink Club (p.145)

Julia Ukridge is another notable member of this club in the canon. Probably inspired by the P.E.N. [poets, essayists and novelists] Club, founded in London in 1921, with John Galsworthy as its first president. In Wodehouse it’s an organisation that holds boring social functions (which is probably how he thought of PEN); in real life it’s generally been focussed at protecting the political freedom of writers and promoting international understanding.


the time of the Tudors (p.146)

The Tudor period in English history runs from 1485 to 1603 (accession of Henry VII to death of Elizabeth I). Hunstanton Hall wouldn’t fit this very well, as the only Tudor part of the present buildings seems to be the gatehouse (1487); the rest was mainly rebuilt in the 17th and 19th centuries, although the site has been occupied since well before Tudor times.


the Gold Standard (p.146)

The Gold Standard is an economic system in which the value of the currency is linked directly to the price of gold. The UK went off the gold standard during the First World War, but reintroduced it in a revised form between 1925 and 1931. It was thus a hot political topic at the time this story was written.


Paradise ... Peri (p.146)

A peri in Persian mythology is a fairy-like creature, descended from a fallen angel, which has to perform an act of penance before being admitted to paradise. The concept was familiar to someone of Wodehouse’s generation through Thomas Moore’s poem Paradise and the Peri (1817). (Cf. also Gilbert & Sullivan’s punning reference in the subtitle of Iolanthe, or the Peer and the Peri, 1882).


Roberta Wickham (p.146)

First appeared in the Mulliner story “Something Squishy” (1924) and reappears frequently in Jeeves stories and elsewhere whenever Wodehouse needs a dangerously irresponsible girl.


Ethics of Suicide (p.146)

Coincidentally, WorldCat does record a 1927 US publication with this title, a reprint of a journal article by Sidney Hook. As we’ll see below, the real origin of the m/s Potter is reading isn’t hard to establish.


Member of Parliament ... Cabinet (p.147)

In the UK, there’s no formal separation of powers, and ministers are expected also to be members of the legislature, either as MPs in the Commons or as peers in the Lords. The 1924 election was a victory for Stanley Baldwin and brought a lot of new Conservative members into Parliament for the first time. It’s conceivable that Wodehouse might have had one of these prominent newcomers in mind. Duff Cooper and Leslie Hore-Belisha (who actually won his seat in the previous election in 1923) are the most obvious possibilities. But there’s no real evidence for this.

Alfred Duff Cooper (1890–1954) was elected as MP for Oldham in the 1924 general election and became a junior minister in the Baldwin government in 1928, but then lost his seat and didn’t reach the Cabinet until 1940, when Churchill made him Minister for Information. He married in 1919, so Lady Wickham wouldn’t have found him good fiancé material for her daughter. Especially as he had a reputation for extramarital affairs. Cooper only visibly comes into Wodehouse’s sights rather later on, when he made trouble for Wodehouse over the wartime broadcasts, but Barry Phelps (Wodehouse, man and myth, ch.11) notes that they had at least two clubs in common, and that Cooper in one of his letters mentions sitting next to Wodehouse at the Garrick around this time.

Leslie Hore-Belisha (1893–1957), was a Liberal MP from 1923 and later Minister of Transport and Secretary for War. At Oxford he was President of the Union. He doesn’t have an obvious Wodehouse link, but he was still a bachelor in 1926 (he only married in 1944), so he would have been perfectly eligible unless Lady Wickham had an objection to a Jewish son-in-law.


addressed me ... deputation of his constituents (p.147)

Constituents, in British political jargon, are residents of the district (“parliamentary constituency”) that the MP is elected to represent. Queen Victoria is famously supposed to have complained of Mr. Gladstone that “He always addresses me as if I were a public meeting.”


Hertford (p.148)

County town of Hertfordshire, about 30km north of London. If Skeldings is in Hertfordshire, this would have been a likely place to shop, although nowadays it has been overtaken in size by several nearby new towns.


Algy Crufts (p.148)

There are no other characters called Cruft or Crufts listed in Garrison. Charles Alfred Cruft (1852–1938) built up the first big industrial pet food business with Spratt’s dog biscuits (cf. “The Go-Getter” above) but is now mostly remembered for the dog-breeding clubs and dog-shows he established as promotional activities.

It would be nice to think that there’s a link with Algy Lacey, sidekick of Biggles in the popular boys’ stories, whose creator, Capt. W.E. Johns, lived in Hertford, but it’s rather unlikely given that the first Biggles story only appeared in 1932.


flannel-clad (p.149)

Shirts and trousers made from white flannel (a soft material, in this case woven from cotton rather than wool) were worn for summer sports such as cricket and tennis.


the first eight inches of his cigarette-holder (p.149)

According to Wikipedia, men’s cigarette holders were never more than four inches (10cm) long, but those for ladies could be up to 20 inches (50cm). Algy is clearly being set up as a fashion victim. Or he’s over-compensating for something.


up at Oxford ... President of the Union (p.149)

To be “up” at Oxford is to be an undergraduate studying there. The Oxford Union Society is an exclusive debating club, notoriously a breeding-ground for political talent. Leslie Hore-Belisha (cf. note to p.147 above) was President of the Union in 1919. Another President around this time was the writer Beverley Nichols, whom Wodehouse knew well.


all languages, including the Scandinavian (p.150)

Books published in the US in the early 20th century frequently carry a copyright notice with wording such as “All rights reserved, including that of translation into foreign languages, including the Scandinavian.” No-one seems to know why that is: presumably it’s connected with Norway (1896), Denmark (1903) and Sweden (1904) being relatively late in joining the Berne Convention. But some other countries that would be important translation markets were even later, e.g. the Netherlands in 1912.


a punt (p.150)

A small, flat-bottomed boat for use on shallow waterways, usually propelled by pushing against the bed of the river with a pole. In one of his letters, Wodehouse describes writing in a punt on the moat at Hunstanton.


jackets and remainders ... discounts (p.150)

Technical jargon of the publishing trade. Remainders are unsold books returned to the publisher by booksellers; in UK terms, the bookseller’s discount is the difference between the cover price of the book and the wholesale price that the publisher receives from the bookseller, i.e. the retail markup. The Net Book Agreement (in force in the UK from 1900–1997) obliged British booksellers to sell to customers at the cover price. In the US, the term bookseller’s discount could presumably also have meant a discount the bookseller gave the customer.


O let the solid ground... (p.150–1)

Tennyson’s Maud again. A standard device in Wodehouse: when he wants to make a lover sound ridiculous, he gives him the sort of material that went out of fashion for this purpose around the time Wodehouse’s parents were courting.

O let the solid ground
  Not fail beneath my feet
Before my life has found
  What some have found so sweet;
Then let come what come may,
What matter if I go mad,
I shall have had my day.

Tennyson, Maud, XI:i


listening-in (p.151)

At the time, this expression was normally used with reference to radio broadcasts, but it can also mean “eavesdropping”.


as are all publishers ... a shrinking violet (p.151)

Wodehouse enjoyed teasing publishers: cf. Cocktail Time and elsewhere. Shrinking violet is a standard British idiom for a shy person, especially a young woman.


toes ... poppet-valves (p.151)

A poppet valve is a valve in which a port is opened or closed by a lifting motion of the valve stem, perpendicular to the plane of the port. The most familiar examples are the inlet and exhaust valves of an internal-combustion engine. Wodehouse is probably thinking of the way the rockers that push the valve-stems on a multi-cylinder engine move: that could be compared to nervous movement of the toes. A less mechanical example might be the keys on a clarinet or saxophone.


Heart of my heart (p.151)

If this is another chunk of poetry, it’s not Tennyson. And it’s unlikely to be Kipling:

“Heart of my heart, is it meet or wise
To warn a King of his enemies?
We know what Heaven or Hell may bring,
But no man knoweth the mind of the King.
Of the gray-coat coming who can say?
When the night is gathering all is gray.
Two things greater than all things are,
The first is Love, and the second War.
And since we know not how War may prove,
Heart of my heart, let us talk of Love!”

Kipling, The Ballad of the King’s Jest


punt-pole (p.151)

A wooden pole, usually around 5m long, with a metal hook or shoe at the business end, used for pushing the punt along. On a moat there presumably wouldn’t be any need to moor the punt with the pole, as there would be little or no current, so the easiest thing would be to leave it lying loose along the gunwale when not in use. Modern aluminium poles are even noisier than wooden ones when you drop them.


ten-foot holes (p.152)

When punting, the depth is very important: it gets harder to push the pole down into the water as it gets deeper (even if you can overcome the buoyancy of the pole, at a certain point you don’t have any pole left to push on!), and it’s easy to lose your balance if you hit an unexpected deep spot. So Mr. Potter would probably have remembered these ten-foot holes.


the waste of waters (p.152)

This is probably another standard cliché, but at the time of writing it was almost certainly triggered by the poem “I vow to thee, my country”, which came into use, sung to Holst’s tune Thaxted, as a Remembrance Day hymn in the early 1920s. It appeared in the 1926 hymnbook Songs of Praise.

I heard my country calling, away across the sea,
Across the waste of waters she calls and calls to me.

Cecil Spring-Rice, I vow to thee, my country


joined Mr. Potter in the depths (p.152)

Punting is normally a very dignified, leisurely pursuit, once you’ve had a bit of practice. But standing on a small platform on the back of a rocking boat whilst waving a heavy pole around is a situation where any miscalculation can have hilarious consequences for onlookers.


alligators fighting in the River Hooghly (p.153)

The Hooghly is a major Indian river that splits off from the Ganges and runs via Calcutta (Kolkata) to the Bay of Bengal. 19th-century visitors often refer to the alligators in the Hooghly. Presumably Wodehouse saw such a picture in a book one of his colonial relatives had given him.


exhausting Session (p.157)

A Session of parliament starts with the State Opening by the Sovereign (in November or December, or directly following a general election) and continues for up to a year, usually ending at the beginning of the summer recess. Since 1911, the rule has been that there can be no more than five sessions between general elections.


Prodder and Wiggs (p.157)

Publishers Prodder & Way are mentioned in Not George Washington (ch.20), so this clearly isn’t completely random, but there isn’t an obvious source. Fictional publishers in Wodehouse are often called Popgood & Grooly, but quite a few others have appeared at various times. See Chapter 3 of Cocktail Time for a selection of these. [Prodder may be an echo of the publishing firm Hodder & Stoughton. —NM]


Watchman, What of the Night? (p.157)

Isaiah 21: 11 The burden of Dumah. He calleth to me out of Seir, Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?
12 The watchman said, The morning cometh, and also the night: if ye will inquire, inquire ye: return, come.


Day by day, in every way, I am getting better and better (p.158)

An autosuggestion mantra promoted by the French psychologist Émile Coué de la Châtaigneraie (1857–1926). His book Self-Mastery Through Conscious Autosuggestion (1920) was a big hit, especially in Europe, and many influential people took up his ideas.


sunken road at Hougoumont (p.160)

There were two important sunken lanes at Waterloo: Wodehouse is confusing the lane to the north of the farm at Hougoumont (normally called “the hollow way” in British accounts) with the Ohain Road, on the French right, where the French Cuirassiers got into trouble. Wodehouse’s grandfather served at Waterloo as a captain in the light cavalry (Phelps, Ch.3).


maid ... jug of water (p.160)

Apparently Skeldings at least has electricity in the bedrooms, but Lady Wickham can afford to pay maidservants to carry jugs rather than fit water pipes. This was a picture that was changing fast in the 1920s, as wages went up and servants became harder to find.


zareba (p.162)

An East African term for a thorn barricade. [The 2000 Penguin edition spells it “zariba” but all early editions have “zareba.”]


George Philibert (p.164)

Philibert is a French given name and family name; it doesn’t seem to come up elsewhere in Wodehouse. A little bit more exotic than most of Wodehouse’s suburban nonentity names.


32 Acacia Road, Cricklewood (p.164)

There are at least six Acacia Roads in London, but none of them, needless to say, is in Cricklewood (a suburban area of north-west London). This same address was later used by the 1970s BBC comedy series The Goodies. [The most likely source is Acacia Grove in Dulwich, very near Dulwich College, and the original of Mulberry Grove, Valley Fields; Norman Murphy (In Search of Blandings) identifies No. 6 Acacia Grove with Peacehaven. —NM]


charged with attempted suicide (p.164)

Before the Suicide Act 1961, attempted suicide was a criminal offence in England and Wales, and could be punished with imprisonment.


none but the ... monotheistic religions (p.164)

It sounds as Potter’s m/s is a translation of Schopenhauer’s 1851 essay “On suicide”. Cf. the discussion of Schopenhauer and suicide in Ch.11 of Summer Lightning (1928). There’s probably a thesis topic here for someone: how did Wodehouse become so interested in this one essay of Schopenhauer?

As far as I can see, it is only the followers of monotheistic, that is of Jewish, religions that regard suicide as a crime. This is the more striking as there is no forbiddance of it, or even positive disapproval of it, to be found either in the New Testament or the Old; so that teachers of religion have to base their disapprobation of suicide on their own philosophical grounds; these, however, are so bad that they try to compensate for the weakness of their arguments by strongly expressing their abhorrence of the act — that is to say, by abusing it. [...] If the criminal law forbids suicide, that is not a reason that holds good in the church; moreover, it is extremely ridiculous, for what punishment can frighten those who seek death? When a man is punished for trying to commit suicide, it is his clumsy failure that is punished. [...]
In Massilia and on the island of Ceos a hemlock-potion was offered in public by the magistrate to those who could give valid reasons for quitting this life. And how many heroes and wise men of ancient times have not ended their lives by a voluntary death!

Arthur Schopenhauer On Suicide (1851; tr. Mrs. R. Dircks.)


Massilia ... Cos (p.165)

The port of Massilia (the modern Marseilles) was founded in 600 BCE by Greeks from Phocaea.

Wodehouse seems to have misread here: in the German text, Schopenhauer refers to “Keos” i.e. Kea, an island in the Cyclades close to the southern tip of Attica, and not to Cos, i.e. Kos, which is one of the Dodecanese group, on the other side of the Aegean. The error is striking because Kos is particularly associated with Hippocrates, who of course is not known as an enthusiast for suicide.


Agatha’s Vow... (p.166)

Evidently she writes romantic (historical???) novels of the Rosie M. Banks type. WorldCat records no matches for Agatha’s Vow or A Strong Man’s Love (although the latter comes up in quite a few plot summaries). There is an 1879 novel called A Man’s a Man for A’ That, but no-one else before 2002 truncated Burns’s line in the same way as Lady Wickham.

The title Meadowsweet has been used by various authors before and since, most notably in 1912 by Baroness Orczy of Scarlet Pimpernel fame. Fetters of Fate apparently hasn’t been used, but there are Fate’s Fetters by Jean de La Brète (1897) and Fettered by Fate by G. W. Miller (1899)


eat her bread and salt (p.166)

Bread and salt are traditional symbols of hospitality, especially in Slavic cultures, where they are sometimes ceremonially offered to guests on arrival. Eating someone’s bread and salt means that you accept their hospitality, and have certain obligations towards them as their guest.


wind ... cracks in a broken heart (p.168)

There’s no obvious source for this image, other than as a generic pastiche of romantic fiction, but it’s clearly one that Wodehouse liked: Cf. the final chapter of Full Moon (1947): “Her voice trailed away in a sigh that was like the wind blowing through the cracks in a broken heart.”
Or The Old Reliable (1951), Ch.16: “A sigh like the wind blowing through the cracks in a broken heart escaped Adela. Her spirit was broken.”


moved to the sideboard (p.168)

Breakfast in English country houses was often organised on a self-service basis, with the food laid out in chafing-dishes on the sideboard, although the butler or a footman (in lesser houses, a parlourmaid) would be on hand to pour tea and coffee and attend to any special wishes.


Monkey Business (p.171)

Runs from pp. 171 to 192 in the 2000 Penguin edition.

This story first appeared in the Strand of December 1932 and (as “A Cagey Gorilla”) in the American of December 1932.


“Monkey business” (p.171)

The OED suggests that the use of monkey business to mean trickery or mischief may have been borrowed from a similar expression in Bengali: the first use in English cited is from 1835. “Monkey business” isn’t listed in Hobson-Jobson, but the fact that the story appeared under a different title in the US does suggest that it was considered a typically British expression. [I disagree with Mark Hobson here; the very American Marx Brothers had made a 1931 film called Monkey Business, for one thing. An 1889 British book, Americanisms—Old and New, cites the phrase. —NM]


bar-parlour (p.171)

Usually a small room separate from the main “public bar”, where the less plebeian patrons could drink with a bit of comfort and privacy. In some pubs (but apparently not at the Angler’s Rest) ladies might be admitted to the bar-parlour.


A Tankard of Stout (p.171)

It’s a convention throughout the Mulliner stories that the patrons of the Angler’s Rest pub in the frame story are identified by the drinks they order (this T. of S. is unusual in having a name: see below): apart from often being funny in itself, this conveys the semi-anonymity of conversation in a bar. Stout is heavy, dark beer, such as Guinness; a tankard is a pewter (or occasionally silver) beer mug with a handle. Some English pubs keep personal tankards for their regular customers.


Miss Postlethwaite (p.171)

Appears in nearly all the Mulliner stories. Postlethwaite is the name of a village in Cumbria, and a surname typically associated with the North-West of England. The only other Postlethwaites in the canon are a boy in “The Politeness of Princes” (1905) and an Old Bingletonian for whom Freddie Widgeon is mistaken in “Noblesse Oblige” (1934).


fruit-farmer ... plum (p.171)

Plums can be grown in most parts of England. Areas particularly known for fruit-farming include Kent, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Somerset and Dorset.


Small Bass (p.171)

Not a fish, but bottled pale ale. The Bass brewery of Burton-on-Trent was one of the first to distribute bottled beer nationally and internationally in the railway age: it has the distinction of owning UK trademark No. 1 of 1875, covering the red triangle logo. [In the American magazine version, the drink is merely a Small Beer; presumably the publisher had a rule against real brand names in fiction. —NM]


Mr. Bunyan (p.171)

Apparently the only drinker at the Angler’s Rest to be given a surname in addition to a characteristic beverage. Either John Bunyan (1628–1688), the author of Pilgrim’s Progress, or Paul Bunyan, the (probably mythical) North American lumberjack, would be a suitably over-the-top model of heroism to inspire the name of this courageous wasp-squasher. Other Bunyans in the canon include J. J. and his son Roscoe in Something Fishy (1957).


playing the ukulele (p.171)

Originally developed in Hawaii in the 1880s, the ukulele became a craze in the mainland US after the Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915 in San Francisco. In Britain, it owed its popularity mostly to the singer George Formby, who took it up in the mid-1920s.


Montrose Mulliner (p.172)

His only appearance. Montrose is a place in Angus, Scotland. James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose (1612–1650) played an important role in the Scottish wars linked with the English Civil War. [In magazine versions of this story his name appears as Mervyn Mulliner. —NM]


Rosalie Beamish (p.172)

Her only appearance. Rosalie was a 1928 Ziegfeld stage musical for which Wodehouse and Ira Gershwin wrote the lyrics. One of several abortive projects Wodehouse was asked to work on during his 1930–1931 spell in Hollywood was a screen version of Rosalie.

Beamish is a village in County Durham, an adjective in Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky and the name of an Irish brewery (biggest in Ireland before the rise of Guinness in the early 19th century). There a quite a number of Beamishes in the canon, the first being an artist in “Ukridge’s Accident Syndicate” (1923).


Gin Fizz (p.172)

Cocktail: normally gin with lemon juice, sugar and carbonated water.


Perfecto-Zizzbaum (p.172)

In English, a perfecto is a type of cigar — Wodehouse was a pipe-smoker, but would probably have known cigar terminology. I.J. Zizzbaum is one of the two dentists in Laughing Gas. The only non-Wodehouse reference to Zizzbaum I’m aware of is the name of a character (a Jewish clothes dealer) in an O. Henry story, “The Buyer from Cactus City”. The company name is probably an allusion to studio names like “Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer”.


Black Africa (p.172)

Perhaps not surprisingly, the film was never released under this title! MGM were making the famous series of Tarzan films starring Johnny Weismuller and Wodehouse’s friend Maureen O’Sullivan around this time: Tarzan the Ape Man had been released in April 1932. King Kong (released March 1933) would have been in production at RKO at the time this story was written. [The M-G-M production of Trader Horn, however, may well have inspired some of the backstory here, as it began filming in Africa at considerable expense and danger, and was completed on the Hollywood back lot for a 1931 release. —NM]


seven hundred and fifty dollars a week (p.172)

Wodehouse got $2000 a week when he was under contract to MGM in 1930–31.


Edmund Wigham and Luella Benstead (p.172)

Wigham is a fairly unusual name, with no obvious Wodehouse link, but it’s very close to Wickham, one of his favourite character names. There’s a valet called Benstead in Thank You, Jeeves (1934) and a Luella Beamish in If I Were You (1931).


Mr. Schnellenhamer (p.173)

This is his first appearance in the canon. Apart from these Hollywood stories of the thirties, he also reappears in “George and Alfred” (1967). The name seems to be a Wodehouse invention, although the similar name “Shellenhamer” does exist as a family name in Pennsylvania. However, it wasn’t unknown for Hollywood film moguls to invent their own names (Sam Goldwyn apparently started out as Goldfish).


draughts (p.173)

The British name for the game usually called checkers in America.


George Pybus (p.173)

The only Pybus listed in Garrison, and his only appearance. Pybus is a surname that seems to come from the north-east of England. No obvious Wodehouse link, but it may have been suggested by Old Pybus, the title of a 1928 work by the popular British romance novelist Warwick Deeping.


...something about being asked to pay out money (p.173)

Louis B. Mayer apparently once punched an actor who was brave enough to ask for an increase in salary.


Captain Jack Fosdyke (p.173)

Fosdyke is a small port in Lincolnshire.

In English literature, former army officers who use the rank of Captain are almost always bounders (cf. Trollope’s Captain Bellfield, for instance). The usual convention was that anyone who had held a permanent commission as captain or above was entitled to be addressed by his rank after retiring from the service. So a former army officer calling himself Captain could be presumed either to have left unusually early for a career officer (i.e. in disgrace), or to have been a temporary wartime officer not really entitled to keep his rank at the end of his service. Rather like the convention that baronets are always bad, it’s probably grossly unfair, but a convenient short-cut for writers. The late novelist Simon Raven, who was proud of having left both his public school and his regiment “under a cloud”, always felt it enhanced his louche reputation when friends called him “the Captain”.


girlie ... monk (p.174)

Mangling words in this sort of way is usually an endearing habit in Wodehouse young men: notice the cunning shift here that makes us see it from Montrose’s point of view as offensively familiar. Wodehouse makes sure we have time to remember that Rosalie is a young woman and the gorilla is an ape...


Equatorial Africa (p.174)

Although there has never been a country of precisely that name, this may well be a reference to French Equatorial Africa, which existed from 1910–1958, and included the territory of the modern countries Central African Republic, Chad, Gabon, Republic of the Congo, and Cameroon. Gorillas exist in at least part of this area. Wodehouse very often placed wildlife in the wrong continent, deliberately or otherwise (cf. p.190 below), but presumably there was so much public interest in large primates in the late twenties and early thirties, both in popular science and in fiction, that he was obliged to be accurate for once. Fosdyke’s cover would have been blown at once if he’d talked about gorillas in Borneo.


elephant gun (p.174)

Standard issue for hunters in Wodehouse, cf. e.g. Jane Hubbard (The Girl on the Boat) and Clarissa Cook (Money in the Bank). The term “elephant gun” is used loosely by firearms enthusiasts for any excessively large weapon. At this period, hunters often used specially-built double .600 calibre rifles against harmless elephants and rhinos. They would have been very expensive and very heavy to carry around, and might not have left very much of the gorilla skin for the captain to collect.


’Mlongi (p.174)

Words starting with “m + consonant” are hard for English speakers to deal with, and therefore look exotic. They exist in a number of African languages, especially the Bantu languages of central and southern Africa, where m- or mo- is often used as a prefix marking human nouns. Such names are probably most familiar to English-speaking readers from Zulu culture, e.g. in the stories of John Buchan and H. Rider Haggard. They have often been represented in English with an apostrophe at the beginning to make them easier to pronounce, but Rider Haggard doesn’t actually do this: he writes Zulu names with “Um” at the beginning, e.g. Umbopa and Umslopogaasi.


the Brown Derby (p.174)

Celebrated Los Angeles chain of restaurants. The original building on Wilshire Boulevard, opened in 1928, was in the shape of a hat (Derby is the American name for a bowler hat). The Hollywood branch opened in 1929.


Des Moines, Iowa (p.175)

Des Moines would presumably have been counted as a depressed former coal-mining town in the early 1930s. It gets a similar passing mention in Chapter 9 of Summer Lightning (1929), where Gally recalls an anecdote about Johnny Schoonmaker and a girl who wanted to go straight back to Des Moines and stick a knife into Fred.


commissary (p.176)

Historically, a commissary was an army official responsible for purchasing stores for the commissariat (supply department). In American military use, the word commissary has come to mean a provision store, and by further, not very obvious, extension, it came to be used in the film industry for a staff canteen (cafeteria). The art deco commissary building (1928) on the former MGM site at Culver City still features in many snapshots from the studio tour. In the glory days of Hollywood it was standard publicity practice to publish photos of stars “relaxing” over lunch in the commissary, preferably still in costume.


Steak Pudding Marlene Dietrich (p.176)

It’s a running joke in these stories that everything on the commissary menu, down to the most basic dishes, is named after a film star. From a few sample menus of different periods to be found on the web, it’s pretty clear that this is just Wodehouse hyperbole. There were a few “star” dishes, but no more than one or two at once. Marlene Dietrich (1901–1992) apparently had a reputation for liking heavy-duty comfort food, but I’ve found no direct evidence to link her to steak pudding (chopped steak and kidneys in a thick suet crust). She was at Paramount from 1930 to 1935, as a high-profile rival to MGM’s foreign star, Greta Garbo.


insufficiency of hormones (p.180)

The hormone testosterone is invariably associated in popular culture with aggressive behaviour, but it seems that there isn’t much actual scientific evidence for such a link in humans (or gorillas). Another candidate sometimes mentioned is a hormone called dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA).


assistant director (p.180)

The Assistant Director in a film is the person (in practice there are usually two or three ADs) responsible for organising the filming: keeping track of the schedule, making sure everyone is in the right place at the right time, etc. The AD is also traditionally the person who calls “Quiet on the set!”, “Roll camera!”, etc. Implicitly, the AD would therefore be the most likely person to blame when something goes wrong.


harem of the King of the ’Mbongos (p.181)

Probably intended as just another generic African name, but there is an ancestral figure called Mbongo in Sawa traditions.

Strictly-speaking, harem is a Turkish word, and wouldn’t apply to West-African culture. In any event, the whole point of having a harem is to keep out people like Captain Fosdyke: if he was in the harem then, by the conventions of popular literature, he must have been disguised as a girl, like Byron’s Don Juan.


chilled steel (p.181)

More properly chilled cast steel — steel that has been cast using a special process that conducts heat away very rapidly from the casting, producing metal that is both tough and extremely hard. Used for demanding applications like the rollers in steel mills.


a stockbroker motoring to Brighton... (p.182)

This is certainly an image that reflects the prejudices of Wodehouse’s younger days. In Edwardian London, working in financial services, owning a motor car and wearing a fur coat would all be taken as clear signs that someone had more cash than taste. The seaside resort of Brighton at that time fitted better with adulterous weekends than with fashionable holidays, too. By the thirties, cars had become more respectable and many of them even had heaters, so the fur coat would seem a bit archaic. The stockbrokers of 1932 would probably be taking their secretaries to Paris by air for the weekend.


gorillas ... mnemonics (p.182)

Although scientific research on primate cognition tends to focus on chimpanzees, there has been some recent work done on gorilla memory (B. L. Schwartz et al., Learning and Motivation 36 (2005) 226–244). Professor Schwartz found that the gorilla in his experiments was fairly good at remembering food-related events, so Montrose probably wasn’t entirely wasting his banana.

On the other hand, there was also a famous study recently that demonstrated how bad humans are at remembering gorillas (D. Simons & C. Chabris, Perception 28, p. 1059 — awarded an IgNobel in 2004).


pin-striped trousers and top hat (p.182)

A tail-coat would also form part of the ensemble. Although society gentlemen might dress like this for many daytime formal occasions (official receptions, Buckingham Palace garden parties, Royal Ascot, the Eton and Harrow match at Lord’s, etc.), in practice the only occasion in most people’s lives requiring this kind of dress would be a wedding.


iron heel of Fate (p.183)

The OED dates the first use of iron heel as a term for unrelenting oppression as 1838. Jack London published his dystopian novel The Iron Heel in 1907.

The iron heel of Fate seems to be a cliché of sensational writing, without any single clear source: Google Books reveals a dozen or so apparently independent examples from ca. 1870–1910. The excerpt below, taken from a piece of rant by the “incorrigibly eccentric” New Zealand journalist James Gordon Stuart Grant (1838–1902), is typical, although almost certainly not a source Wodehouse would have been aware of.

I do not believe that the Press has any influence upon a craven, illiterate, and selfish electorate. I would, therefore, squelch it out of existence, and rule this little colony of political wasps under the iron heel of fate, and beneath the salubrious influence of autocracy. I really do mean what I say. Nothing but a stern dictatorship can save New Zealand.

J.G.S. Grant, Bruce Herald (Milton, NZ), 6 June 1876, Letter to the Editor


toad beneath the harrow (p.183)

The toad beneath the harrow knows
Exactly where each tooth-point goes.
The butterfly upon the road
Preaches contentment to that toad.

Rudyard Kipling, from Pagett, M.P.


falling shades of evening (p.183)

Most probably an allusion to the opening of “Excelsior”, but there are many other possible sources.

The shades of night were falling fast,
As through an Alpine village passed
A youth, who bore, ’mid snow and ice,
A banner with the strange device,
    Excelsior!

H. W. Longfellow, from Excelsior


Standard Pacific Time (p.184)

Official standard time zones were first made compulsory by US federal law in 1918, although unofficial railroad time zones provided a de facto standard long before that. Pacific Time, which applies in California, is eight hours behind UTC.


Malibu (p.184)

Coastal resort near Los Angeles, a bit more than half an hour’s drive to the west from the MGM studios. Malibu had been a private estate belonging to the Rindge family, only opened up for housing development in 1929, so it would still have been rather new and exclusive in 1932.


a baby on the lot (p.186)

The most famous infant star of the period, Baby LeRoy, was under contract to Paramount before his first birthday and enjoying equal billing with W. C. Fields shortly thereafter. He was only born in May 1932, so probably wasn’t the inspiration for this story.


swaddling-clothes (p.186)

The practice of swaddling in the Luke’s Gospel sense, i.e. wrapping a baby in tight bandages to restrict the movement of its limbs, fell out of favour in the western world long before 1932. Wodehouse, a man with no direct experience of babies in his immediate family, was probably using the Biblical term loosely to refer to whatever Californian babies were wearing in 1932 (most likely a short, smock-type dress or a sweater).


perambulator (p.186)

A baby-carriage. The word pram started out as an abbreviation of perambulator.


the craven turns ... into the paladin (p.187)

Craven as an adjective means cowardly. The original Paladins were a group of twelve leading warriors in Charlemagne’s court: hence a paladin is someone exceptionally chivalrous and heroic. Sir Walter Scott is fond of both words, and they also turn up frequently in 19th century versions of chivalric romances. Oddly enough, there have been quite a few paladins with the name Craven (there’s a district of that name in Yorkshire). Not least Commodore Craven of the USS Tecumseh, celebrated as a latter-day Charlemagne in Newbolt’s poem:

These were paladins, these were Craven’s peers,
These with him shall be crowned in story and song,
Crowned with the glitter of steel and the glimmer of tears,
Princes of courtesy, merciful, proud, and strong.

Sir Henry Newbolt, from Craven


Balliol (p.188)

Oxford college, traditionally believed to have been founded in 1263. Since the mid-19th century it has had a strong reputation for seriousness and academic rigour, linked especially to its most distinguished Master, Benjamin Jowett (1870–1893). It is thus a splendidly incongruous place for a gorilla to have studied. J. M. Barrie’s pirate Captain Hook and George McDonald Fraser’s slave-trader John Charity Spring were both made alumni of Balliol for similar comic reasons.

More typical fictional Balliol men include Lord Peter Wimsey and Sir Humphrey Appleby. In Mike and Psmith, Psmith has been sent to Sedleigh by his father in order to win a Balliol scholarship. Wodehouse’s brother, Armine, was at Corpus Christi College, and Wodehouse himself tried for a scholarship at Oriel (a college with a rather “hearty” athletic reputation).


Alma Mater (p.188)

Latin: bounteous mother — a title used for various Roman goddesses. Used in English as a conventional way of referring to one’s old school or college since at least the 18th century.


came down in ’26 (p.188)

i.e., graduated. To be “up” is to be at Oxford or Cambridge as an undergraduate. This would mean our gorilla was somewhere in his early thirties in 1935. [In the 1932 magazine versions, he came down in ’22, leading to the same conclusion. —NM]


not a real gorilla (p.189)

The most famous gorilla-impersonator in Hollywood was Charlie Gemora (1903–1961), a make-up artist from the Philippines, who discovered that he could do as well wearing gorilla suits as making them, and appeared thus (usually uncredited) in many films from 1927 onwards. He apparently went to San Diego zoo regularly to study gorilla behaviour at first hand.


Cyril Waddesley-Davenport (p.189)

This is the only Waddesley listed in Garrison, but “a girl named Waddesley” is mentioned as having been at school with Mrs. Bingo in “Jeeves and the old school chum” (1930). Waddesley is a name associated with South Yorkshire or Lincolnshire. Also, cf. Horace Pendlebury-Davenport, nephew to the Duke of Dunstable in Uncle Fred in the Springtime (1939).


the Lotos Club (p.190)

Famous New York gentlemen’s club with literary leanings, founded in 1870 and still going strong. Wodehouse was a member “for decades”, according to Barry Phelps. As the New York counterpart to London clubs like the Athenæum and the Garrick, it sounds perfect for Wodehouse, but might have been a little on the stuffy side for a bright young gorilla. In the thirties, the clubhouse was at 110 West 57th Street. That site is now occupied by the Directors’ Guild; the club moved to its present premises on East 66th Street in 1947.


Dash my buttons (p.190)

Colloquial expression of surprise or annoyance. Often found in popular literature (e.g. twice in Treasure Island).

Brewer suggests that “buttons” in this context means “destiny”, but it isn’t clear where he gets that from. Francis Grose lists button only as “bad shilling”, or in the phrase “his a-se makes buttons” (sic.), so “Dash my buttons” obviously wasn’t 18th century cant. Judging by Google Books, it seems to have come into use in print around the late 1820s, so it may well have originated simply as a publisher’s euphemism for less printable expletives.


por-illas (p.190)

Porilla seems to exist as a Spanish (Galician?) family name, but I haven’t found it in any other context.


South American wombat (p.190)

Whilst there are about 100 species of marsupials in South America, these do not include wombats, which are of course native to Australia.


on the Lower Zambezi (p.190)

Normally refers to the navigable stretch of the river flowing through Mozambique, from what were then the Kebrabassa rapids (submerged under Lake Cahora Bassa since 1974) to the Indian Ocean. Quite a long way from French Equatorial Africa, and certainly not gorilla country.


Tiny Fingers (p.191)

Another film that never made it into production under that title. There had been a Baby Fingers in 1912, though, and there was a Ten Baby Fingers released in 1934, (a two-reel comedy with George Sidney and Charlie Murray) so perhaps the gorilla-baby did get its moment of glory after all.


The Nodder (p.193)

Runs from pp. 193 to 212 in the 2000 Penguin edition.

This story first appeared in the Strand of January 1933 and (as “Love Birds”) in the American of January 1933.


super-film (p.193)

Although not listed in the OED, this seems to have been the usual industry term in the late 1920s for a large-scale, high-budget feature film. The term has also been used at various times as a trade name for film stock that is wider, more sensitive, or has a larger sensitive area than standard film.


Baby Boy (p.193)

This exact title isn’t listed on IMDB before 2001, but similar titles include Father’s Baby Boy (1909), Mama’s Baby Boy (1923) and Mother’s Baby Boy (1914). See “Monkey Business” for more on babies in the movies.


Bijou Dream ... High Street (p.193)

A very popular name for early cinemas in the US, especially before the First World War, but I haven’t come across any British examples.

The reference to “the” High Street suggests that the Angler’s Rest must be in a small town or large village. (I tend to imagine it as being somewhere like Henley-on-Thames)


prominent first-nighters (p.193)

The term first-nighters normally refers to fashionable people who attend the opening nights of all new plays. Wodehouse is parodying gossip-column style by applying it to a small provincial cinema.


they’re all midgets, really (p.193)

They certainly were, sometimes: for example, Billy Barty (1924–2000), who founded Little People of America in 1957, played children much younger than himself in many films, including a baby in Gold Diggers of 1933, released shortly after this story was published.


unfailing fount of wisdom (p.193)

A term often applied to the scriptures in 19th century religious writing: probably an echo of sermons Wodehouse had heard as a boy.


very moot (p.193)

Wodehouse is using the term here in its British legal sense as meaning “debatable”, “open to discussion”. In US law it is used in a different way, to refer to a point that doesn’t need to be decided because it has no practical consequences for the case at issue.


Johnny Bingley (p.194)

Bingley is one of Wodehouse’s favourite names, for both people and places. Bingley-on-[the-]Sea (or the similar Bramley-on-Sea) appears in many stories, most memorably in ‘Portrait of a Disciplinarian’. It is where the Drones have their golf tournament (‘Jeeves and the Kid Clementina’), and it is the setting for the first part of Doctor Sally. There are also villages called Upper and Lower Bingley in ‘The Great Sermon Handicap’. Horace Davenport’s car in Uncle Fred in the Springtime is ‘a rakish Bingley’ (Ch.15).

There is Bingley Crocker (Piccadilly Jim), Little Johnny Bingley (‘The Nodder’), Elsa Bingley (secretary in Ice in the Bedroom), Gladys Bingley (Lancelot Mulliner’s fiancée), Lancelot Bingley (engaged to Gladys Wetherby(!) in ‘A Good Cigar is a Smoke’), Marcella Bingley (golfer), and Bertie’s ex-valet Rupert Bingley (né Brinkley). In Cocktail Time, Bingley vs. Bingley, Botts & Frobisher is the name of a divorce case.

In real life, there is a tiny Bingley in Denbighshire and a rather larger one in Airedale, West Yorkshire, but neither of them is anywhere near the sea.


distant connection (p.194)

In this context, someone related by family ties, but not necessarily a blood-relative. Wodehouse came from the sort of family in which “connections” of this sort would have been considered very important.


Wilmot (p.194)

Wilmot pops up quite often as a given name in Wodehouse, e.g. Lord “Motty” Pershore in “Jeeves and the Unbidden Guest” (1916), J. Wilmot Birdsey in “One Touch of Nature” (1914), Mrs. Wilmot Royce in “Chester Forgets Himself” (1923). There’s also the Wilmot Building, scene of the Office Boys’ High-Kicking Championship in Sam the Sudden.

The most famous real Wilmot was of course John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester (1647–1680), the celebrated libertine and poet.


Nodder ... Yes-Man (p.194)

The word nodder has been around since the 17th century, but seems to have been used mostly for someone who “nods” in the sense of falling asleep. There are a couple of 19th century examples in the OED of nodder for “person who agrees”. The first use of Yes-man cited in the OED is from 1912, and by the late twenties it was clearly a common term for the obsequious hangers-on of powerful executives. The Yes Man was the title of a 1935 novel by Margaret Langmaid.

Of course, Wodehouse is satirising the conventions of corporate life in the studios by making “yes-man” and “nodder” into the titles of actual posts in the executive hierarchy.


Pint of Half-and-Half (p.194)

Can have various meanings, but it’s most likely in this context to refer to a 50:50 mixture of mild and bitter. An imperial pint (568 ml, i.e about 20% bigger than a US pint) is still the standard measure for draught beer served in British pubs.


Mabel Potter (p.194)

One of many Potts and Potters in the canon. This is her first appearance: she returns in “The Juice of an Orange” in this collection, and in Bachelors Anonymous.


Mr. Schnellenhamer (p.195)

See “Monkey Business” above.


friendly intercourse (p.195)

Until the middle of the 20th century, the usual meaning of intercourse was “social interaction” — it was only somewhere around the 1960s that it came to have sexual intimacy as its “default” meaning.


bird-imitators (p.195)

Charles Crawford Gorst (b. 1883), who was apparently a serious naturalist as well as being an entertainer, seems to have been the most famous American bird-imitator of the period, but indeed, little has been written about him.


whip-poor-will (p.195)

Eastern whip-poor-will, Caprimulgus vociferus, a kind of nightjar heard in many woodland areas of North and Central America. Like the cuckoo, its popular name comes from the sound of its song.


...who are familiar to you all (p.195)

Wodehouse is parodying the style of a music-hall chairman introducing such a performer.


Mr. Murgatroyd (p.195)

Another frequent name for minor characters throughout the canon, especially butlers. Murgatroyd is originally a West Yorkshire name, but Wodehouse would have been most familiar with it from the bad baronets in Gilbert & Sullivan’s Ruddigore.


from soup to nuts (p.195)

From beginning to end; cf. “from A to Z”. The OED lists this as “U.S. colloq.” citing C. Mathewson in 1910 as the first published use; Google has a few earlier examples, going back to 1883. In a literal sense, referring to the progress of a meal, it goes back to at least the beginning of the 19th century in America.

Smarty Customer in Restaurant: Do you serve everything from soup to nuts?
Waiter: Yes, we serve soup to nuts.

Boys’ Life (US Scouting magazine), June 1935


St. Louis Post-Democrat (p.196)

In reality the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, founded in 1878 when Joseph Pulitzer merged the St. Louis Westliche Post with the St. Louis Dispatch. Wodehouse probably picked this newspaper by association with its famous “Weatherbird” — the longest-running newspaper cartoon in the US.


Cuckoo ... Wuckoo (p.196)

This obviously refers to the Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus), which is not native to the Americas. American cuckoos have quite different calls. There is a selection of recordings of common cuckoo calls on Xeno-Canto: you can decide for yourself who’s right.


Baltimore oriole (p.197)

Icterus galbularecordings of Baltimore orioles on Xeno-Canto.


African buzzard (p.197)

It’s not clear which species is meant — possibly the mountain buzzard Buteo oreophilus, found in East Africa?


serf ... peon (p.197)

The term serf usually refers to unfree peasants in central and eastern Europe, especially Russia, up to the late 19th century. Serfs were treated as chattels of the landowner, but they weren’t quite slaves, because there were customary laws limiting the amount of service the landowner could require of them: the rest of their time they worked the land for their own benefit. The term peon could refer to a bonded labourer in Mexico, which might be the most obvious meaning in a Californian context, but in Indian English it simply means a lowly office-worker, something that might fit Wilmot’s situation rather better.


no gutters in Hollywood (p.197)

This refers to street gutters, not the troughs on the edge of a roof, of course. The absence of gutters in Hollywood probably has as much to do with the lack of pedestrians as it does with the fine weather: if there are no footways then there’s no especial need to take precautions against roadside puddles.


Alaskan wild duck (p.197)

There are many different varieties of wild duck in Alaska, none of which (as far as I could determine) are peculiar to the state: Wodehouse probably picked up the expression “Alaskan wild duck” from a restaurant menu.


nut sundae (p.198)

A sundae is an American ice cream dessert, served in a glass, and consisting of ice cream, some kind of sauce, and whipped cream. They were supposedly invented in the late 19th century, when some states passed laws against selling ice-cream sodas.


malted milk (p.198)

Originally developed as a baby food by the Horlick brothers in the 1870s, malted milk is made from malted barley and evaporated milk, sold in powder form to be made into a drink with water. Milk shakes made with malted milk became popular at American soda fountains; in Britain hot malted milk is popular as a bedtime drink for the elderly.


whistled “My Country, ’Tis of Thee” (p.198)

The buried joke being, of course, that without the words, Thomas Arne’s music for “My Country, ’Tis of Thee” is indistinguishable from his music for “God save our gracious King”. The USA had adopted “The Star-Spangled Banner” as its official anthem only a couple of years before this, in 1931.

By the time this story appeared, Prohibition was already on the way out: the Cullen-Harrison Act came into force on 22 March 1933, legalising the sale of low-alcohol beer. Prohibition ended altogether with the 21st Amendment on 5 December 1933.


the primrose path... (p.198)

Do not, as some ungracious pastors do,
Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven,
Whiles, like a puff’d and reckless libertine,
Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads
And recks not his own rede.

Hamlet I:iii

Shakespeare seems to have invented the idea of the primrose path — as well as Hamlet, he uses it in a slightly different form in Macbeth. He avoided the easy alliteration with “perdition”, but late-Victorian writers were not so fussy, and all too often fell into this trap, almost always meaning “alcohol” by it. Shakespeare never seems to have used “perdition” to mean Hell — he prefers to use it for secular loss or destruction, as in Othello II:ii “the meere perdition of the Turkish Fleete.”


Lord Fauntleroy costume (p.198)

From the popular 1886 novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The young hero (an American boy who unexpectedly finds himself heir to an earldom) wears a black velvet suit with a lace collar and his hair in ringlets. American middle-class mothers went wild for this style, to the chagrin of their young sons (I don’t suppose their launderers were very pleased, either).

The unfortunate Pen Browning (1849–1912, son of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning) was dressed in a similar way about thirty years earlier, but it didn’t catch on at that time, possibly because it was before the age of the illustrated newspaper and the Brownings lived in relative isolation in Florence and Rome.

Little Lord Fauntleroy was adapted for the cinema many times, inter alia in 1921 (with Mary Pickford) and 1936.


gamboge elephant (p.199)

Gamboge is a bright yellow pigment. I don’t know where the connection comes from: gamboge and elephants are both found in Thailand, perhaps? Pink elephants are often cited as a feature of alcohol-induced delusions: presumably this is a variant on that.


the big, broad view (p.200)

Wodehouse uses this a lot, e.g. in Joy in the Morning, Hot Water, Big Money, Money in the Bank, Spring Fever, The Old Reliable, ... Wodehouse apart, it seems to be a cliché of American business journalism. Most of the examples in Google Books date from the period of 1900–1925.


this awful depression (p.201)

The economic depression that had started with the stock market crash of 1929 was still having serious effects in 1933: unemployment in the US peaked in 1934. (Cf. Also Mr. Schnellenhamer’s reference to the Depression, below.)


Venice ... Santa Monica (p.201)

Two neighbouring seaside districts of Los Angeles, about 15km from Hollywood Boulevard.


Mr. Levitsky (p.201)

Generic East European name, probably — perhaps inspired by the Russian chess master Stepan Levitsky (1876–1924), who would have been fairly prominent in Wodehouse’s younger days.


Idol of American Motherhood (p.202)

Joey Cooley in Laughing Gas is also the I. of A.M. There was a magazine called American Motherhood, edited by the indefatigable Mary Wood-Allen, MD (1841–1908), but it looks a bit too serious to have been running competitions to choose idols.


Connolly’s Circus (p.202)

Connolly’s is not listed as an American circus of the period on the Circus Historical Society website. It could just possibly have been a joke directed at the prominent British critic and intellectual Cyril Connolly, but it’s clearly got nothing to do with Wodehouse’s subsequent biographer, Joseph Connolly (born 1950).


Mike’s Place (p.202)

Probably just a generic bar name: difficult to check.


to alibi (p.203)

alibi as a verb is listed by the OED as “orig. U.S.” — the earliest example cited is from 1909, in the play Alias Jimmy Valentine (which Wodehouse certainly must have seen). [The online Third Edition OED has removed the U.S. reference, adding British citations from 1612 onward, including works by Fielding and Macaulay. The word derives from Latin alibī meaning “elsewhere, in another place.” —NM]


lynx ... links (p.203)

The lynx has been proverbial for keen sight in many languages: in English at least since the 14th century, if the OED is to be believed. Links is a Scottish term for sandy seaside grasslands, which has come to be used more generally for land on which golf is played. The spelling difference between the two is fairly recent in English.


significant and sinister signs (p.204)

Notice how Mr. Schnellenhamer even thinks in tautologies. Significant and sinister is a pairing that appears in a number of popular books on “effective speaking” and still pops up in modern-day journalism: it’s also used in a very similar context to the present one by Bulwer-Lytton:

Arbaces, as he turned, met the eye of that priest of Isis—it was Calenus; and something there was in that glance, so significant and sinister, that the Egyptian muttered to himself:
‘Could he have witnessed the deed?’.

E. Bulwer-Lytton, The Last Days of Pompeii (1834), IV:6


not everybody’s money (p.204)

Everybody’s money goes back to the 17th century as an expression for something everyone wants to buy, but this jocular negative sense seems to be Victorian. The OED cites Henry Mayhew for it, so it might have started out as London slang.


the poet Keats (p.205)

Wodehouse quotes the first line and a half of the Ode “To a nightingale”, written in May 1819.


...dared to dream (p.205)

Not a reference to The Wizard of Oz, unless Wodehouse had inside information: the song “Over the Rainbow” was written specially for the 1939 film. Characters in literature have (or have not) dared to dream everywhere from The Wind in the Willows to Poe’s “The Raven”, not to mention endless romantic novels, which are presumably what Wodehouse is sending up here.


Did you say “crouching leopard”...? (p.205)

The crouching leopard is a commonly-occurring image, e.g. in heraldry; it was also the symbol of Osiris in ancient Egypt. Having the clerk write down comments that weren’t meant to be overheard and then read them back is a joke as old as courtroom farce, but still very popular.


Cabot Delancy (p.206)

Officer Garroway uses the alias “Delancy Cabot” in The Small Bachelor.

John Cabot (a.k.a. Giovanni Caboto) was one of several Italian sailors to “discover” America in the 15th century: he was working for the English at the time, and is believed to have landed in Newfoundland in 1497. The French-born Stephen Delancey (originally Etienne de Lancy, 1663–1741) was a very prosperous merchant in colonial New York, the founder of an influential dynasty. Cabot Delancy would thus be a very good name for an upper-crust New England character, although New York would fit better than Boston.


North Pole ... submarine (p.206)

The first crossing of the North Pole by submarine was by USS Nautilus in 1958; USS Skate was the first to surface at the Pole through the ice in 1959. (Of course, Jules Verne’s Captain Nemo had already reached the South(!) Pole by submarine in 1870.)


Gyffte Shoppe (p.206)

The spelling gyffte for “gift” would seem to be too extravagant to occur in the wild, even in the imaginations of olde worlde gift shop proprietors, but remarkably enough this spelling does appear in Scott’s Lady of the Lake. This sort of pseudo-archaism has probably been going on in a small way ever since Scott’s day, but it first seems to have started to engage the scorn of intellectuals at just about this moment: indeed the OED’s first citation for “shoppe” is from John Betjeman in 1933. Olde worlde goes back a little further (Cyril Connolly in 1927). Cecil Beaton records seeing a huge electric sign reading ‘Ye Olde Gas Shoppe’ on his first visit to Hollywood in December 1930 — “There were many such ‘shoppes’, with Merrie England propaganda abundant” (Self-portrait with friends, 1979, p.14).

[As often the case, Wodehouse was ahead of other writers in noting fads in language usage. In The Adventures of Sally (1921), a little fancy shop possibly to be named “Ye Corner Shoppe” seems like a good investment for Sally’s legacy. As early as 1916, a fictional resort named “Ye Jolly Olde Inne” appears in “A Great Coming Tennis Match.”  —NM]

Notice that Wodehouse, tolerant as he was in other ways, evidently had a bit of a blind spot when it came to anything that could be seen as even slightly camp, quaint, or effeminate. Interior decorators, antique dealers, crooning tenors and set-designers are always treated as fair game for mockery. Although such attitudes weren’t unusual for someone of his generation, it is a bit odd when you consider how many years he spent working in musical theatre.


drag-net (p.206)

The use of “dragnet” to describe a co-ordinated police action goes back to at least 1906, according to the OED: long before the 1950s TV series, in any case.


kewpie-dolls (p.206)

Dolls in the form of a little Cupid, based on drawings by the American illustrator Rose O’Neill that first appeared in the Ladies’ Home Journal at Christmas 1909. The dolls were manufactured from 1912 onwards.


Philadelphia censors (p.208)

During the 1920s, the film industry in America increasingly faced problems due to states adopting their own censorship laws setting out what might and might not be shown in local cinemas. Hollywood’s own internal certification system, the Motion Picture Production Code, was designed to forestall further legislation by cleaning up the reputation of the industry. The Code came fully into force in 1934, so state censors would still have been an issue in 1933.


Joan of Arc ... inquisitors (p.209)

Joan of Arc was tried and found guilty of heresy in 1431. Her trial would still have been a familiar topic in the early thirties, thanks to her canonisation by Pope Benedict XV in 1920, and to George Bernard Shaw’s play Saint Joan of 1923.


Palace, Portland, Oregon (p.210)

The main theatres in Portland around that time, most of which were able to put on both films and live entertainment, included the Heilig (later the Mayfair), the Broadway, the Portland Publix (later the Paramount and now the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall) and the Hollywood Theatre (still a cinema). The Palace Theater on Broadway in New York was America’s top venue for music hall (vaudeville) acts.


Hippodrome, Sumquamset, Maine (p.210)

Sumquamset seems to be a made-up New England placename that occurs only in this story. There was a place called Squamset in New Hampshire, apparently, but it doesn’t seem to appear on current maps. It’s anybody’s guess where Wodehouse plucked Sumquamset from: just possibly it might be Latin, as the sequence “sum, quam sit” often appears in real Latin texts and even in the printer’s traditional filler text “Lorem ipsum...” (the phrase is rather meaningless out of context: something like “... I am, that which it may be”). The state of Maine may have been picked by simple association with “Portland”, perhaps. There have been many famous theatres using the name “Hippodrome”, e.g. in New York, Bristol and Birmingham.


more cuckoos ... than a month of Sundays (p.210)

A month of Sundays is an expression used to describe a very long time, usually to suggest that the event in question will never happen, in the same way as expressions like “not until Hell freezes over”. Mabel is obviously getting a bit flustered here, as it doesn’t really make sense to compare a number of cuckoos to a period of time.


sudden whirring noise (p.211)

This suggests a grouse rather than a cuckoo.


brevet rank (p.212)

Most armies have strict rules that determine when an officer may be eligible for regular promotion, depending on things like length of service, passing exams, absence of more senior candidates, and number of available budget posts. A promotion by brevet is a way of circumventing such rules when required: it normally does not go with the pay or the seniority of a higher rank, and it may only be temporary (e.g. for a specific mission) or purely honorary (you get to wear the uniform and be called “Colonel” but not to command troops). The term is largely obsolete except in a few US states (Kentucky, Georgia, ...) where the governor can award brevet ranks in the state militia instead of decorations for public service.


The Juice of an Orange (p.213)

Runs from pp. 213 to 232 in the 2000 Penguin edition.

This story first appeared in the Strand of February 1933 and (as “Love on a Diet”) in the American of February 1933.


Ernest Biggs (p.213)

There are many Biggses in the canon, going right back to The Swoop and the school stories. Closest to this story in time are the Mayor and his daughter from “The Romance of a Bulb-Squeezer” (1927). There’s no obvious Wodehouse connection with the name. As a surname Biggs occurs in various parts of England. It could perhaps derive from the same root as the modern adjective “big” (e.g. as an ironic name for someone very small) or perhaps have a connection with old words meaning “pig” or “barley”. The later “great train robber” Ronnie Biggs was still a child of four at this point, so is clearly not relevant!


popular landlord (p.213)

Oddly enough, this is the only time we meet the landlord of the Angler’s Rest. In Britain, the term landlord (or landlady) is used for the person who runs a public house, irrespective of whether or not they actually own the house. In most cases at this period, a pub would belong either to the brewery or to the local squire (in a few villages the pub even belonged to the church): the landlord was thus almost always a tenant.


number eleven shoe (p.213)

Size 11 on the British scale is a rather large shoe (equivalent to European size 46 and US men’s size 12).


diet ... gout (p.213)

Gout is associated with a build-up of uric acid crystals in joints. Diets for gout patients typically recommend avoiding things like red meat, seafood, alcohol and sugar. It’s not hard to imagine how a pub landlord might find this rather trying.


Wilmot (p.213)

See “The Nodder”


Louella Parsons (p.214)

Louella Parsons (1881–1972) is usually cited as the first specialist movie gossip columnist. She started out in Chicago in 1914, and joined the Hearst organisation in 1923, moving to the Los Angeles Examiner in 1925: her columns were syndicated worldwide. Wodehouse’s own famous encounter with the Hollywood press was not with her, but with Alma Whitaker of the Los Angeles Times


eight hundred thousand dollars a year (p.215)

Not long after this, Louis B. Mayer became the first executive in the US to earn more than a million dollars a year. He was the highest-paid person in America from 1937 to 1946.


dear chaps on the P-F lot (p.215)

The Penguin edition here repeats an apparent error in the text of the original UK publication in the Strand magazine. The US appearance in the American has “P-Z” at this point, as do the 1980 Hutchinson edition and the Hollywood Omnibus. Possibly Wodehouse originally intended to use “Perfecto-Fishbein” (cf. “The Rise of Minna Nordstrom”) as the name of the studio in this story, and later changed it to “Perfecto-Zizzbaum” without correcting “P-F” to “P-Z”.

[Note that the 1935 Herbert Jenkins first edition has P-F here. The apparent discrepancy has another possible explanation in that the merger of the Perfecto-Fishbein with the Zizzbaum-Celluloid and the Colossal-Exquisite is a recent event (in fact, the story in which the merger is described comes later in the magazine story sequence as well as in the book). It seems likely that the actual work of moviemaking is still going on at the original companies’ lots with the personnel of the original companies working where they always have been, even though the corporate structure has been merged. So the P-F lot would be one of the facilities within the P-Z corporation. I’ve read references to the “First National lot” in Burbank even after that company was acquired in 1928 by Warner Bros., who moved their operations from a smaller studio building on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood to the Burbank lot, where they remain today. —NM]


worldwide money shortage (p.216)

The Great Depression was at its worst in March 1933, when this story first appeared, with manufacturing output down by a third from 1929 levels, and 25% unemployment in the US. 40% of American banks had gone bankrupt. FDR’s Emergency Banking Act (9 March 1933) restored some stability.


as inevitable as the climax of a Greek tragedy (p.218)

Tragedy, as defined by Aristotle, has to involve a peripeteia, a sudden reversal of fortune. Wodehouse could be using climax here in its modern sense simply to mean the emotional high-point of the play, i.e. the peripateia. On the other hand, given that Wodehouse knew a thing or two about theatre and had studied Greek at school, it’s also possible that he is talking about something more subtle, and intends us to read climax in its technical, rhetorical sense: a series of ideas where each rises above the preceding one in its force or emotional appeal (like a crescendo in music).


gastric juices (p.218)

The digestive fluid produced in the stomach. It consists mostly of dilute hydrochloric acid, pepsin, potassium chloride and sodium chloride and is needed for digesting proteins. Contrary to what Wodehouse suggests, starch digestion does not depend on the gastric juices, but relies on the action of amylase in the saliva.


Eustiss Vanderleigh (p.219)

Eustiss exists as a rather rare variant of “Eustace”, both as an (Irish) family name and as a given name. “Eustis” is more common, and is also the name of a town in Florida. Vanderleigh is presumably an anglicised form of the Dutch name van der Lee (or perhaps van der Leeuw) — there seems to be a sprinkling of Vanderleighs in England, Ireland and the US, going back to at least the 19th century. Neither name has an obvious Wodehouse connection, but there was a Stella Vanderley in “Rallying Round Old George” (1912). Wodehouse generally uses unusually-spelled given names as an indication of awfulness in a character.


Little Theatre (p.219)

In this context, Wodehouse evidently means what we would now call a “studio theatre” or “theatre workshop”, i.e. a venue for experimental plays of no commercial interest. The term Little Theatre (in the UK at least) nowadays tends to be used mostly for amateur or community theatres.


shipped to Hollywood... (p.219)

When talking pictures came in (The Jazz Singer was released in 1927), the Hollywood studios suddenly needed a lot of writers to do dialogue for them. If Wodehouse’s account is to be believed, they frequently paid over the odds to prevent other studios securing a big-name author, and often didn’t know what to do with the writers when they got them (cf. many apocryphal stories told about American software companies in the 1990s). He turns this situation into a running joke that features in many of these Hollywood stories.


tortoiseshell-rimmed spectacles (p.220)

In Wodehouse terms, this marks him out as a ghastly intellectual as surely as the name Eustiss. The fashion for tortoise-shell (“horn-rimmed”) spectacle frames was started by Harold Lloyd, who first used them in a film in 1917. Although some expensive frames were made of real tortoise-shell, most were actually plastic.


mutton stew Joan Clarkson (p.220)

Cf. steak pudding Marlene Dietrich in “Monkey Business”. The beautiful English actress Joan Clarkson (b.1903) seems to have been chiefly known for her work in West End and Broadway musicals, e.g. with Charles Cochran. She played the “girl in peril” character Karamaneh (or possibly Zaramaneh) in a silent Fu Manchu serial in 1923, but doesn’t seem to have any other obvious claim to Hollywood fame. She was painted by Laszlo in 1935; the National Portrait Gallery has some photographs of her by Bassano in its collection.

Clarkson doesn’t really sound like a sufficiently famous film actress to have a commissary dish named after her: maybe this was a private joke of some kind. She doesn’t get a mention in Bring On the Girls or any of the Wodehouse biographies, but it would not be surprising if Wodehouse knew her in his Broadway days.


snickle ... sardinic (p.221)

snickle actually exists: it’s a word for a snare or noose. *sardinic (Schnellenhamer’s mistake for “sardonic”) is not recorded in the OED. Whilst Schnellenhamer’s fabulous salary and his aggressive negotiation techniques are clearly based on Louis B. Mayer, malapropisms are more usually associated with Mayer’s rival producer Samuel Goldwyn, who deliberately cultivated a reputation for mangling the language. He is said to have paid writers to come up with fresh “Goldwynisms” to feed to the press.


Glutz of the Medulla-Oblongata (p.221)

Mentioned in several other stories (in some of which his name is hyphenated onto the company name). Appears in person as Jacob Glutz in The Old Reliable. In anatomy, the medulla oblongata is the lower part of the brain stem, responsible for controlling various involuntary functions (breathing, etc.). Glutz is a Swiss family name, and was later used as the name of a character in James Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein (1935).


Genghis Khan ... Jack the Ripper ... Attila the Hun (p.222)

Genghis Khan (c.1162–1227) conquered most of Eurasia and founded the Mongol empire. His campaigns, especially in the middle East, often involved large-scale death and destruction.

Jack the Ripper is the name given by the press to an unidentified serial killer who murdered at least five and perhaps as many as eleven women in the Whitechapel area of London in 1888. The murders became the subject of endless legends and conspiracy theories.

Attila (d. 453), sometimes known as “the scourge of God”, was the ruler of the Huns, who overran most of Europe in the 5th century. He constantly made war against Rome and Byzantium and was indirectly responsible for the foundation of Venice.


eyeballs ... heaps (p.222)

The Huns certainly went in for massacring any captives they couldn’t readily sell, ransom or conscript, and also seem to have practiced human sacrifice, but it’s not clear where Wodehouse got this story from. Gibbon doesn’t mention anything about eyeballs in connection with Attila.

During the First World War the Berlin newspapers apparently carried stories of British soldiers gouging out the eyes of Germans killed in battle: the British propaganda organisation retaliated by calling the Germans “Huns”. Just possibly, Wodehouse might have got these stories mixed up in his mind. He was in America during the war, so he would presumably have seen the atrocity stories of both sides in the press.


China and Japan (p.223)

Notice how very topical the references in this paragraph are, despite Wodehouse’s reputation for writing about a timeless world detached from the nastiness of 20th century history.

Japanese forces had invaded Chinese Manchuria in September 1931, and continued to occupy the region until the end of World War II.


Polish Corridor (p.223)

The Treaty of Versailles gave the 2nd Polish Republic (1920–1939) a narrow strip of territory along the Vistula between German Pomerania and East Prussia that provided Poland with direct access to the Baltic sea and to the free city of Danzig (Gdansk). The new Polish port of Gdynia was built within the corridor. The “unpleasantness” had various causes, not least that the many Germans living in the corridor area resented being put under Polish administration. Hitler deliberately exploited the situation and repeatedly tried to renegotiate the status of Danzig.


Gandhi ... Civil Disobedience (p.223)

The Indian-born lawyer Mahatma Gandhi (1869–1948) initially developed his tactics of non-violent civil disobedience campaigning for the civil rights of Asians in South Africa. From 1915 onwards he became one of the leaders of the struggle for Indian independence. He used fasting as a protest technique on several occasions, including a six-day fast in September 1932, around the time this story was written, protesting against a proposed new electoral system that would have given segregated representation to untouchables. As a committed vegetarian, Gandhi would have been very unlikely to take Wodehouse’s advice and sit down to a steak. Both Stilton cheese and roly-poly pudding, when made in the traditional way, would also contain ingredients that make them unsuitable for vegetarians (respectively rennet from calves’ stomachs and suet from cows or sheep).


St. Francis of Assisi (p.224)

Francis of Assisi (c.1181–1226), founder of the Franciscan order in the Roman Catholic church, was known particularly for his devotion to poverty and his deep sense of brotherhood with people and animals.


stern and rockbound coast (p.225)

The breaking waves dashed high
On a stern and rock-bound coast,
And the woods against a stormy sky
Their giant branches tossed;

And the heavy night hung dark,
The hills and waters o’er,
When a band of exiles moored their bark
On the wild New England shore.

Felicia Dorothea Hemans, opening of “Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers”


doves ... elms (p.225)

    ... the children call, and I
Thy shepherd pipe, and sweet is every sound,
Sweeter thy voice, but every sound is sweet;
Myriads of rivulets hurrying thro’ the lawn,
The moan of doves in immemorial elms,
And murmuring of innumerable bees.

Tennyson, from “The Princess”

(Students of literature will remember that John Crowe Ransom famously changed the last line into “...murdering of innumerable beeves” to demonstrate a point about the irrelevance of sound to sense.)


Dangerous Trades (p.226)

A term used from the late nineteenth century onwards in both Britain and the US to designate jobs that were considered so hazardous that workers needed to be protected by occupational health legislation (whether or not such legislation ever materialised...). It most often referred to the mining and chemical industries.


temperamental female star (p.226)

The idea of the “temperamental star” seems to have been taken over wholesale from the theatre, and was firmly fixed in Hollywood fiction, anecdote and publicity by at least the mid 1920s, whether or not real actresses ever behaved like this. Of course, it’s not entirely surprising: the combination of youth, large amounts of money, sensation-hungry reporters and an inflated sense of self-importance is hardly conducive to good behaviour, as modern professional footballers are constantly demonstrating.


Hortensia Burwash (p.226)

In Laughing Gas the two dentists are I. J. Zizzbaum and B. K. Burwash. There’s also Twombley Burwash in Big Money. Burwash is a village in East Sussex. Rudyard Kipling lived at Bateman’s in Burwash from 1902 to 1936.

There were of course many female stars of the time who could have been a model for the “Empress of Molten Passion”, including Jean Harlow, Tallulah Bankhead, Norma Shearer, Marion Davies, Joan Crawford, Myrna Loy — maybe even Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich.


air raids in the war (p.227)

During the First World War, when it was feared that London would be bombed by German Zeppelins, a primitive system of air raid warnings was established. Policemen would announce an imminent raid by cycling through the streets blowing their whistles and carrying notices saying “Take Cover”. Another, more effective system that was tried later was to use mortars firing blanks. The “All clear” indication was given by Boy Scouts playing a two-note call on the bugle (shades of The Swoop!). A network of air raid sirens was set up in towns throughout the UK in the thirties, so the buglers were no longer needed in the Second World War.


Hail, Caesar (p.227)

Another film that was never released. The closest match seems to be Hallo, Caesar (1927). Sword-and-sandal epics are generally more associated with the early days of Hollywood (D. W. Griffith, etc.) than with the thirties, although of course they enjoyed a big revival both in Hollywood and in Italy in the fifties and sixties.


Hearts Aflame (p.228)

Obviously meant as a generic title for a torrid romance, but there was a 1915 film of this title, starring Joan Marsh, and also a 1902 Broadway show. The title has subsequently been used for a 1987 bodice-ripper novel by Johanna Lindsey and —incongruously enough— for a Roman Catholic summer school programme, among many other things. Aflame is a word that didn’t really catch on with poets until the Romantics came along, e.g. Coleridge with “The western wave was all aflame” in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, but it remained very popular throughout the 19th century.


steel-hard orbs (p.229)

Wodehouse cleverly puts two clichés back-to-back to create something that sounds like even more of a cliché, but is actually totally original.

The nautical term hard-eye is used for a loop in the end of a rope that is spliced around a thimble (a metal ring), so the cliché “steel-hard eyes” might perhaps have come into use by association with “steel hard-eyes”. Or maybe not.


Fiend about to Seize Hatchet and Slay Six (p.229)

It’s not clear whether Wodehouse had a specific set of murders in mind, or is just parodying the newspapers’ fascination with violent crime. Predictably, there are plenty of real incidents during Wodehouse’s periods of residence in the US that could have been a source, for example a family of six and two of their guests murdered with an axe in Iowa in 1912 and a series of axe murders in New Orleans in 1918–1919. Victor Licata’s murder of five members of his family in October 1933 (often cited in debates about the effects of marijuana) came a few months after this story was published. The capital letters here are a joke directed at the typographic conventions of American newspapers, which have the habit of setting their headlines in this way.


registered Distress (p.229)

Cf. Something Fresh, ch. iii: “A stage-director of a moving-picture firm would have recognized the look; Lord Emsworth was ‘registering’ interest” (cited in the OED). In theatrical terms, to register something is to assume a pose or a facial expression that conveys that particular emotion to the audience. Actors in silent films had to do this in rather exaggerated ways to make sure that the audience got the point without the need for dialogue. Wodehouse is rather cruelly suggesting that Hortensia is such an actress that she has adopted these ritualised expressions in real life as well.


a hundred and eight pounds (p.231)

49 kg, or a bit less than 8 stone. This would be a normal mass for a woman a bit less than five feet tall.


‘clorse’ or ‘clorze’ (p.232)

Had Schnellenhamer been to an English public school, like his creator, he would have known that clause ultimately comes from the Latin verb claudere (to close). The OED records claus, clawse, and clausse as variant spellings, but nothing with an ‘r’ in it.



The Rise of Minna Nordstrom (p.233)

Runs from pp. 233 to 252 in the 2000 Penguin edition.

This story first appeared in the Strand of April 1933 and (as “A Star Is Born”) in the American of March 1933.


Minna Nordstrom (p.233)

See p.245 below.


Bijou Dream (p.233)

See “The Nodder”.


... verdict can make or mar (p.233)

The power to “make or mar” is frequently attributed to (or denied by) critics. In the 19th century, the Scottish poet and critic Andrew Lang (best-known today for his fairy-tale collections) was often referred to as the one critic who could make or mar.

Cf. Wodehouse’s essay “All About Me: Self-Revelation Stuff by a Dramatic Critic” (Vanity Fair, September 1916): “My lightest word can make or mar a new production. If I say a piece is bad, it dies. It may not die instantly. Generally it takes forty weeks in New York and a couple of seasons on the road to do it, but it cannot escape its fate.”


’Swonderful (p.233)

The song “ ’S Wonderful”, by George and Ira Gershwin, was introduced in the Broadway show Funny Face in 1927. Wodehouse had collaborated with both Gershwin brothers on several occasions.


Port from the Wood (p.233)

i.e. Port wine drawn from a barrel rather than from a bottle. Although French and German wines used to be considered a luxury outside the reach of ordinary people, long-standing British trading links with Spain and Portugal meant that the cheaper sorts of Port and Sherry were quite widely available.


Dry Martini (p.233)

The Martini (made with gin and vermouth) is usually seen as the classic cocktail of the Prohibition era, although its origins seem to go back to the mid-19th century.


married to one of the bosses (p.233)

Maybe a dig at Norma Shearer, who had married Irving Thalberg (Vice-President of MGM) in September 1927 (however, she was already a star before that).


Jacob Z. Schnellenhamer (p.234)

See “Monkey Business”. In the previous stories he was simply Mr. Schnellenhamer: now he has a first name and middle initial. Both are clearly meant as (rather unsubtle) pointers to his Jewish origins.


merger (p.234)

MGM was formed in 1924 when the New York theatre tycoon Marcus Loew, who had acquired Metro Pictures in 1920, bought out first Goldwyn Pictures Corporation, and then Louis B. Mayer Pictures. The real merger, unlike that described in this story, was motivated mainly by Loew’s wish to bring in Mayer, as someone who understood the production side of the business. Apparently Loew wasn’t aware of the importance of Thalberg. Loew died in 1927.


Colossal-Exquisite (p.234)

Maybe a nod towards Paramount and Universal?


Perfecto-Fishbein (p.234)

See “Monkey Business” for Perfecto. Fishbein (from the Yiddish word for whalebone) is a Jewish surname. Sam Goldwyn was born Schmuel Gelbfisz (anglicised to Samuel Goldfish when he moved to England).


Zizzbaum-Celluloid (p.234)

See “Monkey Business” for Zizzbaum. Celluloid is a thermoplastic material derived from nitrocellulose, originally developed in the mid-19th century. Flexible celluloid film was first used as a substrate for photographic emulsions in the 1880s. Because celluloid photographic film was highly flammable, it dropped out of use in the 1950s, to be replaced by cellulose acetate, but the term “celluloid” has continued to be used as a metonym for cinema films.


flair (p.234)

The word flair, in the sense of perceptiveness or instinctive skill, was borrowed from French (where it means “to smell”) sometime before the 1880s. It wouldn’t have been thought of as a foreign word any more by the thirties: the implication of the italics is that Schnellenhamer is showing off his (bogus) sophistication by pronouncing it as a French word (cf. début in the next paragraph).


life ... he would hesitate to force on any dog (p.235)

Wodehouse is telescoping two proverbial expressions into each other: “a dog’s life” and “not fit for a dog”.


everyone you meet starts acting at you (p.235)

This is also a running joke in Laughing Gas.


Vera Prebble, his parlourmaid (p.235)

The first of her family to feature in the canon: there’s an Ellabelle Prebble in “Dudley Is Back to Normal” (1940) and a Julia Prebble in “Tangled Hearts” (1948). The name Prebble seems to originate in Kent or Sussex, (possibly linked to the Norman town of Preville) but a lot of Prebbles emigrated to New England, Canada and New Zealand. Prebble v. Boghurst and Prebble v. Prebble are frequently-cited cases in land-law, but there’s no very obvious reason why Wodehouse should have heard of them. (The novelist and historian John Prebble was only 17 in 1933.)

A parlourmaid is a female servant employed to perform the duties that would be allocated to the butler or footmen in a larger house, including answering the front door, waiting at table, and serving drinks, tea, etc. in the living rooms. Apparently even a man with $800,000 a year wasn’t able to run to the luxury of employing footmen in Hollywood.


‘Gunga Din’ (p.236)

A poem by Kipling about a heroic Indian water-carrier — a very popular recitation piece in the early 20th century (my grandfather would recite it at the drop of a hat). It’s a running joke throughout this story that none of the poems Prebble attempts to recite are remotely appropriate for a young woman who wants to break into the movies. There’s a certain irony in the opening lines of Kipling’s poem in the context of the present story.

You may talk o’ gin and beer
When you’re quartered safe out ’ere,
An’ you’re sent to penny-fights an’ Aldershot it;
But when it comes to slaughter
You will do your work on water,
An’ you’ll lick the bloomin’ boots of ’im that’s got it.
Now in Injia’s sunny clime,
Where I used to spend my time
A-servin’ of ’Er Majesty the Queen,
Of all them blackfaced crew
The finest man I knew
Was our regimental bhisti, Gunga Din.
He was “Din! Din! Din!
“You limpin’ lump o’ brick-dust, Gunga Din!
“Hi! Slippy hitherao!
“Water, get it! Panee lao
“You squidgy-nosed old idol, Gunga Din.”

Rudyard Kipling, from “Gunga Din” (1892)


the decanter contained liquid balm (p.236)

Presumably whisky. As will become clear, we are still (by a few months) in the era of Prohibition, so Schnellenhamer is proud of having any drinkable whisky at all. The term liquid balm seems to have had various special meanings in pharmacology and elsewhere in the past, but Wodehouse is simply using balm here in the figurative sense for a healing or soothing substance.


ethereal beauty (p.236)

Primarily a Victorian cliché, but it persists to this day in gushing film reviews. Lillian Gish and Greta Garbo both attracted the adjective “ethereal” fairly frequently.


roguish gaminerie (p.236)

The term gaminerie, borrowed from French, means boyishness (in French, a gaminerie can also be a bachelor apartment). This expression definitely has more of a flavour of the Gaiety in the nineties than Hollywood in the thirties about it. Most of the examples I found lead back to Gaiety girl Nellie Farren (1848–1904), whom Wodehouse might have seen in his schooldays. In the early thirties, it could perhaps have been applied to Mae West or Marlene Dietrich. [?!?!?! Hardly to either, in my view. West was never less than fully feminine, and Dietrich’s occasional male drag was sophisticated, not boyish. —NM]


dark, slumberous face (p.236)

This one is peculiar to Wodehouse. American sensitivity about race would probably have ruled it out for studio publicity material. “Slumberous face” by itself is not uncommon in romantic literature, but I couldn’t find it in a film review.


Chesterfield (p.236)

A sofa. Nowadays, especially in languages other than English, the term is normally reserved for sofas of a “traditional” design with buttoned, deeply-quilted leather upholstery and a convex back and ends. However, it seems that in Canada and (perhaps) parts of the US it was used as a generic term for any kind of sofa. The name is said to come from the 4th Earl of Chesterfield (1694–1773), supposedly the first person to commission such a piece of furniture, but this is probably just marketing: the first example cited in the OED is only from 1900 (Google Books comes up with a few slightly earlier examples, but nothing before 1890).


I’m going to register (p.237)

Cf. “The Juice of an Orange”, p.229 above.


happy among my books ... being kind to the dog (p.237)

Two categories of publicity photographs Wodehouse had plenty of personal experience with. It’s almost surprising we don’t get a picture of Vera pensive and smoking a pipe...


Pasadena gas-fitters’ ball (p.237)

Presumably refers to Pasadena, California, a town to the east of Los Angeles (there are several other Pasadenas in the US). In 1930 its population was 76,086. Gas lighting in Los Angeles was first introduced in 1867, using gas distilled from asphalt. Since the discovery of huge natural gas reserves in the Buena Vista oilfield in 1909, domestic natural gas supplies have been available throughout southern California, so there would have been plenty for the Pasadena gas-fitters to do.


aphasia (p.237)

The loss of speech, or loss of the ability to understand language, as experienced e.g. by people who have had a stroke. (The inability to remember the names of things is a specific form of aphasia called anomia.)


‘Boots’ (p.238)

A poem by Kipling about the tedium of marching in an infantry column in the Boer War. Notice how “brutally bade me begone” adds an extra “b” to a well-worn cliché to pick up Kipling’s monotonous alliteration.

We’re foot—slog—slog—slog—sloggin’ over Africa —
Foot—foot—foot—foot—sloggin’ over Africa —
(Boots—boots—boots—boots—movin’ up and down again!)
      There’s no discharge in the war!

Seven—six—eleven—five—nine-an’-twenty mile to-day —
Four—eleven—seventeen—thirty-two the day before —
(Boots—boots—boots—boots—movin’ up and down again!)
      There’s no discharge in the war!

Rudyard Kipling, from “Boots”


‘The wreck of the Hesperus’ (p.238)

Another classic recitation piece that would have been popular in Wodehouse’s childhood. Readers of a younger generation may remember Roger McGough reciting the whole poem in one minute (ca. 1980). Longfellow’s poem was apparently suggested by the loss of the Favorite on the Norman’s Woe reef off the coast of Massachusetts in a storm in January 1839.

It was the schooner Hesperus,
That sailed the wintery sea;
And the skipper had taken his little daughter,
To bear him company.

Blue were her eyes as the fairy flax,
Her cheeks like the dawn of day,
And her bosom white as the hawthorn buds,
That ope in the month of May.


Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, from ‘The wreck of the Hesperus’ (1842)


exhibitors (p.239)

In this context, cinema proprietors (i.e. people who exhibit his films).


the Servant Problem (p.239)

“The Servant Problem”, i.e. the difficulty of getting competent domestic staff who are prepared to work long hours performing menial tasks for low wages, has been a hot topic for upper and middle-class families in Britain for at least a couple of centuries (the earliest reference to it that Google could find is from the Spectator in 1788). It was especially acute in the inter-war years, when most middle-class people were still accustomed to having servants, but people who would otherwise have become servants (especially young women) found that they could earn much more in pleasanter, more dignified conditions, in factories and offices. Google’s frequency plot shows a considerable dip in references to “servant problem” between 1920 and 1930 — the Depression obviously made domestic service more attractive for a while.


Empress of Stormy Emotion (p.239)

Wodehouse is being careful not to make the wife of the boss look too much like a portrait of Norma Shearer: in her silent days, she was apparently more of a “girl-next-door” type. However, she does seem to have been pretty tough, certainly able to hold her own with Mayer and Thalberg, and she played some quite racy characters in her early talkies.


contrary to law (p.239)

Not for much longer: by the time this story appeared, the Cullen-Harrison Act had already legalised the sale of low-alcohol beer. Prohibition in the US ended altogether with the 21st Amendment on 5 December 1933.


Duke of Wigan (p.240)

Wigan in Lancashire was then a notoriously-depressed mining town, to be made famous by George Orwell’s 1937 book The Road to Wigan Pier. Despite its famous pier, and unlike nearby Manchester, it has never been the title of a Duke, except in the Wodehouse canon and the novels of Georgette Heyer.


as so many British dukes do (p.240)

It’s hard to say at this distance whether Wodehouse had a particular duke in mind or was just commenting on the attractiveness of Hollywood in its “golden age” to celebrity-hungry British tourists. Likely candidates might include the 2nd Duke of Westminster, whose mistress, Coco Chanel, worked for MGM on a couple of occasions in the 30s. The 8th and 9th Dukes of Manchester are also possibles: they were both bankrupts who married American heiresses—two of them, in the case of the 9th Duke. The Dowager Duchess of Sutherland is another—more respectable—visitor to inter-war Hollywood from the upper ranks of the British aristocracy: she became a close friend of Mary Pickford. This reference could perhaps even be a little joke directed at Adele Astaire, a friend of the Wodehouses, who married the younger son of the Duke of Devonshire.

The most famous duke in the early thirties was undoubtedly the Duke of York, the future George VI. He travelled a lot, but doesn’t seem to have visited the US before June 1939, when he became the first reigning British monarch to do so.

The tradition continues to this day: the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited Hollywood in 2011, to the delight of the American press.


the Lulubelle Mahaffys (p.240)

It would have been unusual at the time to refer to a couple by the lady’s name: presumably we are supposed to deduce that Lulubelle is a female star and her husband a mere consort.

Lulu Belle was the stage name of the country singer Myrtle Eleanor Cooper, who was a regular from 1932 on the radio show Barn Dance (she later teamed up with Scott Greene Wiseman as “Lulu Belle and Scotty”).

Mahaffy (or Mahaffey) is an Irish family name, quite widely distributed in the US. In his schooldays, Wodehouse might well have come across books by the distinguished Anglo-Irish classicist Sir John Pentland Mahaffy (1839–1919) of Trinity College Dublin. There don’t seem to be any other Mahaffys in the canon.


Duke of Kircudbrightshire (p.240)

The Stewartry of Kircudbrightshire in south-west Scotland was part of the Lordship of Galloway, ruled in the middle ages by the Douglases: it has never been a Duchy.


brown sherry (p.240)

Normally refers to Oloroso, a type of Sherry that has been aged oxidatively to give a dark colour, high alcohol level, and a rich taste.


serpent ... bosom (p.240)

To “(nurse|cherish|nurture) a (serpent|viper) in one’s bosom” is a proverbial expression derived ultimately from Aesop’s fable “The Farmer and the Viper”, used as the basis for many subsequent stories on the theme of ingratitude.


undo the evil she had wrought (p.240)

Evil and wrought occur together rather often in the Authorised Version, but Wodehouse is probably just using this as a cliché of Victorian fiction. Cf. for instance Mrs. Gaskell’s Lois the Witch: “She stood aloof from the chained girl, in the remote corner of the prison-cell near the door, ready to make her escape as soon as she had cursed the witch, who would not, or could not, undo the evil she had wrought.”


Sundered Hearts (p.241)

This, of course, is the title of one of Wodehouse’s own stories (1920: collected in The Clicking of Cuthbert). There are several novels with this title, but Hollywood doesn’t seem to have used it. There are several films called Wounded Hearts and Conquered Hearts, though.


And it was just... (p.241)

Notice how this whole paragraph is written in a quasi-biblical style designed to make us think of the sort of moral fable you might find in Evangelical or Temperance literature. Starting a paragraph with “And” is an oddity of the style of the translators of the Authorised Version, and phrases like “he bethought him of”, “darkness”, “gleam of hope”, and “it so happened” all have a rather scriptural ring to them. Perhaps this also ties in with the bootlegger playing a bishop in the previous paragraph.


he bethought him of (p.241)

i.e. “he remembered” (“him” is acting as a reflexive pronoun here: “himself” in modern English). The phrase pops up here and there in the Authorised Version, but it was also a popular archaism with 19th century writers. Mark Twain uses it in a similarly incongruous way in Tom Sawyer, in the scene where Tom releases a beetle to relieve the tedium of a sermon (ch.5):

Now he lapsed into suffering again, as the dry argument was resumed. Presently he bethought him of a treasure he had and got it out. It was a large black beetle with formidable jaws—a “pinchbug,” he called it.


Isadore Fishbein (p.241)

See above for Fishbein. Isadore was originally a Greek given name, but it seems to have become particularly popular in Jewish families around the end of the 19th century.


beating his head against the wall ... and moaning to himself (p.241)

“Oy vey!” presumably.

Wodehouse is perhaps being a little heavy-handed with his racial stereotypes here, although he certainly didn’t intend any harm by it.


“boots, boots, boots, marching over Africa” (p.242)

Fishbein misremembers the poem: the line is actually “Foot—foot—foot—foot—sloggin’ over Africa”.


ex-King of Ruritania (p.242)

Ruritania is the imaginary small European country that is the setting of Anthony Hope’s classic adventure story The Prisoner of Zenda (1894). The popularity of the book led to the name becoming a generic term for a small, obscure or fictitious state. Wodehouse sometimes describes hotel commissionaires as “Ruritanian field-marshals”. Since the royal line of the Elphberg dynasty is extinguished in Hope’s sequel Rupert of Hentzau (1898), an ex-King of Ruritania must presumably be an impostor.

There were quite a few real ex-kings in circulation at the time, most having lost their thrones as a direct or indirect result of the Great War, e.g. Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany (abdicated 1918, died 1941); William of Wied (1876–1945), who was sovereign of Albania for a few months in 1914; Ferdinand of Bulgaria (1861–1948; Tsar from 1887–1918); George II of Greece (1890–1947; King from 1922–1924 and 1935–1947) and even Michael of Romania (not a likely whisky drinker: he was a small boy who had nominally been king from 1927–30 while his father Carol II was otherwise engaged). A few years on they would be joined by Haille Selassie of Ethiopia and Edward VIII of England.


Camden Drive (p.242)

Residential street in Beverly Hills. During his spell in Hollywood in 1930, Wodehouse lived a couple of streets away at 742 Linden Drive (previously Norma Shearer’s house).


tally-ho! ... English hunting district (p.242)

Tally-ho! is a traditional hunting cry made on catching sight of the fox. The OED asserts that it is simply an English version of a similar (meaningless) French hunting cry, nothing to do with tails.

Fox-hunting is (or has been) practiced in most parts of the British Isles, but it is most associated with the Midland counties of England. The growth of hunting as a fashionable pastime for the upper classes, celebrated by writers like Trollope and Surtees, was directly connected with the expansion of the railway network: areas like Bedfordshire, Leicestershire, and Northamptonshire were within easy reach of London by train, and had plenty of prosperous landowners who could afford to keep a pack of hounds.


Stella Svelte (p.243)

Theoretically, Wodehouse could have found this name in George Sand’s roman-à-clef about Chopin, Lucrezia Floriani (1846): “Stella, svelte et blanche, rêvait aux étoiles, ...” But it seems pretty unlikely reading-matter for him.


Orlando Byng (p.243)

Perhaps a brother of Stiffy Byng (The Code of the Woosters, 1938)?.


Crusader ... Paynim (p.244)

Paynim is an archaic word for a non-Christian, dating back to the time of the crusades, and frequently used in the historical novels of Sir Walter Scott, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, et al.


Sigismund Glutz (p.244)

Sigismund (“hand of victory”) is a German given name, popular with German, Lithuanian and Polish princes going right back to the Holy Roman Emperor St Sigismund of Burgundy (d. 524). Glutz is a Swiss family name. In The Old Reliable, the head of Medulla-Oblongata-Glutz is Jacob Glutz.


Malemute saloon (p.244)

It seems to be an open question whether it should be Malemute or Malamute. The spelling with an “a” is the one that appears in most versions of Robert Service’s poem and is used for the breed of dog, but there are quite a few real places that spell it with an “e” as well. There wasn’t a Malamute Saloon when Service wrote the poem, but needless to say the Alaskan tourist industry has since stepped in to fill this gap in the market.

A bunch of the boys were whooping it up
in the Malamute saloon;
The kid that handles the music-box
was hitting a jag-time tune;
Back of the bar, in a solo game,
sat Dangerous Dan McGrew,
And watching his luck was his light-o’-love,
the lady that’s known as Lou.

Robert W. Service, from “The Shooting of Dan McGrew” (1907)


nom de théâtre (p.244)

French: stage name. More commonly nom de scène.


Ursuline Delmaine (p.244)

Ursuline is the adjective derived from the name Ursula and is familiar as the name of an order of Roman Catholic nuns—it doesn’t look as though it’s ever used as a given name. Delmaine seems to occur occasionally both as a family name and a given name, especially in South Africa. Neither name has any obvious Wodehouse connection.


Theodora Trix (p.244)

Theodora is a perfectly respectable name; indeed, the most famous Theodora (c.500–548), builder of Hagia Sophia and wife of the emperor Justinian, seems to have been an actress herself in her youth. But perhaps putting it together with Trix might be too much of a good thing, especially for anyone who remembers the bit about the barley in Procopius.


Uvula Gladwyn (p.244)

In anatomy, the Uvula is a conical projection from the soft palate, used in the production of “uvular consonants” in languages other than English (e.g. Parisian “r”). No sign of it as a name. Gladwyn is an English name that crops up occasionally as either a given name or a family name. The distinguished diplomat Gladwyn Jebb (b.1900, later Lord Gladwyn) doesn’t have an obvious Wodehouse connection.


Greta Garbo (p.245)

Nom de théâtre of Greta Lovisa Gustafsson (1905–1990). After making her name in Sweden, she had come to America to work for MGM in 1925 and made her first talkie in 1930. She was at the height of her fame: Grand Hotel had been released six months before this story appeared; her next project was Queen Christina (released in December 1933).


Minna Nordstrom (p.245)

Minna exists in German as a diminutive of Wilhelmina (just as as Greta is a diminutive of Margaretha), and is also popular as a given name in Finland. There were quite a few actresses called Minna in the 20s and 30s, e.g. Minna Gombell who appeared with Maureen O’Sullivan in The Thin Man in 1934. Nordström is a Swedish family name, often anglicised to Nordstrom by Swedes in the US. John W. Nordstrom set up his first shoe shop in 1901, but his company didn’t expand outside the Seattle area until the 1950s, so is unlikely to have been a source. There are no other Nordstroms in the canon, but cf. Minna Norcross, an actress who appears in the story “Mr. McGee’s Big Day” (1950). Vera Prebble is obviously picking a Swedish-sounding name to cash in on Garbo’s success.


the one ... that was absolutely and indubitably right (p.245)

This sounds like an echo of an advertising slogan, but I can’t find a source for it.


Homburg hats (p.245)

A soft felt hat, named after the German spa town, and originally made fashionable by the future Edward VII when Prince of Wales.


Murphy ... Donahue (p.249)

Just as we expect film magnates to be Jewish, American policemen in Wodehouse are invariably Irish. Cf. Officer Donahue in Indiscretions of Archie, etc.


on account (p.249)

i.e. “because” — colloquial contraction of “on account of the fact that”. The first citation in the OED is from Maria Edgeworth in 1817, so it’s not specifically American.


sex-appeal (p.249)

This term seems to have come into use shortly before the first world war, originally applied mostly to plays or books, later to people.


can you tie that? (p.250)

American expression of surprise (Cf. “can you beat it?”). The OED cites Wodehouse in Uncle Dynamite Ch. 6: “Tie that for a disaster, Uncle Fred.”


tried to crash the Colossal-Exquisite (p.250)

This is unusual: to crash in this context normally means “to get in without being invited”. The first example of the transferred sense “to get into a profession” in the OED is only from 1950.


College of Eastern Iowa (p.250)

There are quite a number of higher education establishments in Eastern Iowa, many of which date back well before the 1930s (e.g. the University of Iowa in Iowa City, founded 1847), but not surprisingly there don’t seem to be any with this precise name.


play Romeo opposite Jean Harlow (p.251)

A somewhat unlikely Juliet, even if she was only 21 at the time—up to that point, Harlow was mostly known for playing blonde floozies in gangster films, although MGM tried to make her image a bit more respectable when they acquired her contract in 1932. Her first films for MGM were Red-Headed Woman and Red Dust (with Clark Gable).


‘Leave me ... I am thinking’ (p.251)

Could this be an echo of Garbo’s famous line in Grand Hotel, “I want to be alone”? Probably not.


final reel (p.251)

A standard reel of cinema film (1000 ft) has a running time of about 11 minutes. (See “The Nodder”, p.193 above, for super film.)


United States Marines (p.251–2)

In Westerns, it’s the US Cavalry that appears in the last reel to save everyone, not the Marines. This probably refers to depictions of the Marines’ role in the Spanish-American war and various other colonial conflicts in the Caribbean and Pacific: their most cinematic moments of glory in the Pacific in World War II were still to come.


“The Bells” by Edgar Allan Poe (p.252)

Published in 1845, after Poe’s death, and with a rhythm almost as heavy as Kipling’s “Boots”.

Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the throbbing of the bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells—
    To the sobbing of the bells;
Keeping time, time, time,
   As he knells, knells, knells,
In a happy Runic rhyme,
To the rolling of the bells,
   Of the bells, bells, bells:
   To the tolling of the bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
    Bells, bells, bells—
To the moaning and the groaning of the bells.

Edgar Allan Poe, from “The Bells”


“The Charge of the Light Brigade” (p.252)

Another classic recitation piece where Prebble would have had no chance to show her delicate, feminine side. But by this point she doesn’t need to.

“Forward, the Light Brigade!"
Was there a man dismay’d?
Not tho’ the soldier knew
Some one had blunder’d:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, from “The Charge of the Light Brigade”

The Castaways (p.253)

Runs from pp. 253 to 274 in the 2000 Penguin edition.

This story first appeared in the Strand of June 1933 (it apparently didn’t appear in serial form in the US).


Sunday afternoon (p.253)

From the first world war until the 1990s, pubs in England had to close in the afternoons (a consequence of Lloyd George’s Defence of the Realm Act), normally from 3 to 5.30 pm on weekdays and from 2 to 7 pm on Sundays. Thus Sunday afternoon would be a barmaid’s biggest chunk of free time in the week.


caramels (p.253)

Chewy, brown sweets made from a mixture of butter, sugar and milk (or cream), usually flavoured with vanilla. Sometimes covered in chocolate.


Cyril Trevelyan (p.253)

Cf. “The Man Upstairs": “I had often wondered what it would feel like to be called by some name like Alan Beverley or Cyril Trevelyan. It was simply the spin of the coin which decided me in favour of the former.”

Wodehouse often gives the heroes of fictitious romantic novels Cornish names — cf. for instance Lord Claude Tremaine (“No Wedding Bells for Him”). Maybe this is a nod towards Daphne Du Maurier?


Eunice Westleigh (p.253)

There are a number of places in Britain called Westleigh, including two in North Devon (one near Tiverton, an area a number of other Wodehouse placenames come from; the other near Bideford), and one near Wigan.


murmur of the surf (p.253)

A cliché to be found in just about every Victorian and Edwardian account of a tropical beach.


the Duke of Rotherhithe (p.253)

Fictitious, but he also appears in the 1902 novel Indiscretions by Cosmo Hamilton (cf. p.145 above). The London district of Rotherhithe is effectively a peninsula, on the inside of a sharp 180 degree bend in the Thames opposite Wapping. It was formerly an important dock and shipbuilding area.


Genevieve Bootle (p.254)

Bootle is on the Mersey, near Liverpool. A Mrs. Bootle is Stinker Pinker’s landlady in Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves, and a Whisky Sour in “The Code of the Mulliners” mentions that his wife is a “Miss Bootle, as was.” Bootle stands in a similar relation to Liverpool as Rotherhithe (see above) to London: perhaps there was some association of ideas going on here.


Bulstrode Mulliner (p.254)

This is his only appearance. There are many minor characters in the canon called Bulstrode as a surname — e.g. the householder through whose domain Uncle Fred flits; the family of the Mabel who has a Bit of Luck when she escapes marriage to Ukridge; and butlers in Barmy in Wonderland and Ring for Jeeves.

Bulstrode is an English surname: probably the only famous person to have had it as a first name was the puritan MP and Civil War diarist Bulstrode Whitelocke (1605–1675).

Bulstrode Park is an estate near Gerards Cross, Buckinghamshire, which passed into the hands of the Dukes of Somerset in the late 17th century.

http://www.britannica.com/biography/Bulstrode-Whitelocke

Mishkin Brothers (p.254)

Presumably a reference to the Warner Brothers (who were born with the name Wonskolaser in Russian Poland). Mishkin is a Russian or Yiddish surname, derived from diminutive forms of the name Michael in either case.


the old Press Gang (p.254)

During the Napoleonic wars, the Royal Navy was allowed to intercept inbound merchant ships and patrol the streets of seaports to impress (i.e. forcibly recruit) any seamen they were able to find. Contrary to common belief, they weren’t allowed to impress landsmen.


Mabelle Ridgway (p.254)

The only Ridgway in the canon. As usual, the non-standard spelling of her given name (Mabelle rather than Mabel) is a clue that she’s not going to be a sympathetic character. Ridgway or Ridgeway is a name associated with the South of England. A ridgeway is an ancient track running along the crest of a range of hills, especially the one along the North Downs in Berkshire and Wiltshire.


California ... strike Oil (p.254)

The oil boom in California started around 1890, but large new fields were still being discovered in the 1930s (notably the Wilmington oil field, in the Los Angeles area, in 1932). Wodehouse is jokily comparing the oil boom with the earlier gold rushes: of course, prospecting for oil required a bit more than a shovel and a frying pan...

One young man who went to California in the 1920s to enter the oil business, rising to become Vice-President of Dabney Oil by 1932, was Wodehouse’s fellow-Alleynian, Raymond Chandler. Like Bulstrode, he later became a writer, although he turned out to be a bit more successful than Bulstrode at getting his work actually filmed.


Fedora (p.254)

A man’s soft hat, less formal than a Homburg, as worn by all self-respecting Prohibition-era gangsters. The name comes from the play Fédora (1882), in which Sarah Bernhardt wore a hat of this type.


Leper Colony (p.254)

Until fairly recently, leprosy was effectively incurable and believed to be highly contagious. In areas where the disease was prevalent, it was usual to oblige leprosy patients to live in separate, isolated communities. Isolation hospitals, the mordern counterpart of leper colonies, continued to be a feature of many Western countries until about the 1960s. Wodehouse is using “leper colony” here figuratively to refer to a distant part of the studio buildings to which the most unimportant staff would be banished (many organisations have such a building — usually with an unofficial name like this (Cf. also “Ohio State Penitentiary” below).

It’s a little disingenuous of Wodehouse to complain about the office accommodation for writers—when he worked as a screenwriter for MGM, he negotiated permission to work from home into his contract.


Scented Sinners (p.256)

The title, as you might expect, doesn’t correspond to any actual play or film, but the background for this story is very loosely based on Wodehouse’s experience working on an abortive screen adaptation of the musical Rosalie.


our slogan is co-operation (p.256)

Seems to be a generic bit of corporate self-promotion, rather than a specific reference. The phrase, and versions of it, pop up quite frequently, e.g. in a 1918 newspaper article about the “Help-your-city Complaint Bureau” in New York: “Our slogan is co-operation, threefold co-operation—first, with the citizen; second, with city officials; third, with the agent complained against.” (New York Evening Telegram, 9 November 1918, retrieved via fultonhistory.com).


Robinson Crusoe ... Friday (p.257)

In Daniel Defoe’s 1719 novel, after spending 24 years alone on his island, Robinson Crusoe encounters and rescues a “savage” (presumably a Carib) who has been brought to the island as a prisoner by his cannibal captors. Crusoe calls him Friday after the day of the week on which they met, introducing himself as “Master” (start as you mean to go on...). Defoe doesn’t tell us much about Crusoe’s feelings on meeting Friday: the meeting takes place about a year after Crusoe first noticed a human footprint on the beach, so it isn’t a huge surprise to him.

It would have been a big surprise if Crusoe had been electrified, certainly: the OED records the first technical use of this word as 1745, and its first use in the figurative sense of excited or thrilled only in 1801.


Mr. Murgatroyd (p.258)

Another favourite Wodehouse name for minor characters: there’s about a page of Murgatroyds in Garrison. Cf. p.195 above for a director of this name in “The Nodder”.


bootlegger in Chicago (p.258)

By June 1933, Prohibition only had a few more months to run. Al Capone and George “Bugs” Moran were the most famous leaders of Chicago organised crime gangs in the Prohibition era. Capone’s gang was believed to have connections in Los Angeles. After the end of Prohibition, the gangs moved into other activities, such as extortion: one of their prime targets in the thirties and forties was the Hollywood movie industry.


pre-War Scotch (p.258)

This could either mean Scotch whisky bottled before 1914 (and hence unlikely to have been subject to Prohibition-era adulteration) or—more likely—whisky distilled before 1914 and matured for around 20 years before bottling.


buckle to (p.258)

The OED suggests that “buckle to” is English and “buckle down” American, but Wodehouse has Bulstrode saying “buckle to” here in a very American context, and Bertie Wooster a year later in Right Ho, Jeeves saying “buckle down” in the very English context of the Brinkley Court fire-bell.


a Mulliner and a gentleman (p.259)

More usually “an officer and a gentleman”.

This phrase seems to have its origins in the usefully vague military offence of Conduct unbecoming the character of an officer and a gentleman, which can cover anything from sexual irregularities to failure to pay gambling debts, enshrining the notion that commissioned officers are meant to adhere to a higher standard of behaviour than Other Ranks. The punishment is normally discharge from the service. The phrase “an officer and a gentleman” has been used in the English Articles of War since at least early Georgian times and has also entered into American military law (in Article 133 of the current US Uniform Code of Military Justice, for example). Note that the phrase “conduct unbecoming”, usually used to refer to this offence, comes from 19th century wording. Earlier, it was: “behaving in a ſcandalous infamous Manner, ſuch as unbecoming the Character of an Officer and a Gentleman”.


picturization (p.259)

This word for a film adaptation of another work seems to have come into use around 1914, reached the peak of its popularity in the forties, and then disappeared again by 1970 for no obvious reason. See the Google n-gram trace.


thermometer in the nineties (p.260)

Americans use the Fahrenheit scale: 90–99 °F corresponds to roughly 32–37 °C. Pretty hot by most standards.


Mr. Noakes’s treatment (p.260)

In cinema, a treatment is a detailed scene-by-scene prose outline of the action. Bulstrode and Genevieve are dialogue writers, so they will be working on turning the treatment into a draft screenplay, putting in the actual words to be spoken by the characters.


Something snapped in him. It was his collar-stud. (p.260)

Wodehouse subverts another cliché of fiction, although in this case he has to skate around the minor difficulty that collar-studs are normally not worn intracorporeally.

Arnold Bennett seems to have been unusually fond of “something snapped in him” to express a sudden emotional change in a character, but there are lots of other early 20th century examples. Collar-studs were used to fasten detachable collars to men’s shirts. Wodehouse was still wearing such collars in the early thirties, but they would have been on the way out (for daytime wear) by then. For formal evening wear, detachable starched collars continued in use much longer.


a fifteen and an eighth ... a large seventeen (p.260)

Shirtmakers in Britain and the US use the neck circumference in inches to define the collar size. Fifteen and an eighth would be a fairly average size; seventeen is definitely at the large end.


there rent the air ... (p.260)

Another cliché, this time a pseudo-archaic one. Shakespeare uses “rent the air” in Macbeth, but not “there rent...”.

Wodehouse also uses this formula in “The Coming of Gowf": “...suddenly, from behind this wall, there rent the air a great shout of laughter. ‘Pull up!’ cried Ascobaruch to the charioteer.”


Schoenstein’s Bon Ton Delicatessen Store in Eighth Avenue (p.260)

The name Schoenstein in the US seems to be associated almost exclusively with organ-building (from the San Francisco firm of Schoenstein & Co., founded in 1877). Schönstein is a German surname, being—among other things—the name of a medieval castle in Wissen on the river Sieg.

Bon ton is French for correct etiquette, or by extension for something that is fashionable. In North America it is quite often used in the names of shops or restaurants.

Delicatessen needs a bit of unpacking: it comes ultimately from the French word délicatesse (delicacy) which was taken into German as a loan-word and thus acquired a German plural in -n. German settlers took it to America and created the Delicatessen store, originally meaning a place to sell fine foods but later coming to be used for any small grocery or sandwich shop. The name has also become established in Europe, but there it typically refers to shops selling imported luxury food items (cheese, salami, olives, etc.).

Eighth Avenue —presumably the one in New York, which runs from the West Village to the west side of Central Park, and still has plenty of delis along it. Wodehouse lived at the Hotel Earle on Waverley Place, close to the end of Eighth Avenue, for some years before the first world war.


sawn-off shot-guns (p.261)

A shot-gun is a smooth-barrelled gun firing a cluster of small pellets, normally used for shooting birds or small mammals. With the barrels (and sometimes also the stock) cut short for compactness, it became the weapon of choice of the traditional British armed robber. If fired at short range in the general direction of an unarmed opponent, it was almost sure to kill or incapacitate. However, a shot-gun can normally only fire twice before reloading. A Chicago gangster, faced with the prospect (if Hollywood is to be believed) of running gun-battles with armed police or rival gangs, might have been more likely to carry an automatic pistol, especially in his hip pocket.


...that this necker is necking (p.261)

To neck is to kiss or caress someone: the term seems to have become current in the mid-Victorian period. The OED cites this sentence in its entry for neck (v.1).


In person. Not a picture. (p.261)

Wodehouse liked this: he also used it of Sir Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe in Pigs Have Wings and of Colonel Savage’s cook, Palmer, in Bring On the Girls. As you will recall, Palmer ends up working as a cousin-by-marriage in a Hollywood studio.


the expression “Polack mug” (p.261)

If Google Books is to be believed, this is the only place where that expression was ever used in dialogue. Presumably it was a mildly racist insult of the time.


No Man’s Land (p.262)

The term goes back to medieval times as a designation for waste or unclaimed land, especially on a border. But Wodehouse was probably thinking of its use in the specific context of the First World War, for the space between the trenches of two opposing armies.


draw the studios (p.262)

Draw here is a term borrowed from hunting, meaning to search an area of cover to flush out any game that might be there (as in “draw the coverts”).


pineapple bombs (p.262)

Hand grenades. From the characteristic grooved pineapple-like shape of the Mk. II hand grenade, originally introduced by the US army in 1920, and used in various forms throughout the Second World War and subsequently.


two-timing daddy (p.262)

Two-timing for deceiving, or being unfaithful (to a lover) is US slang: the earliest examples in print seem to be from around 1922.


trailing arbutus (p.262)

Epigaea repens, or ground laurel: a North American plant. Traditionally much-prized as a wild flower in New England; its use to describe an unfaithful lover seems to be peculiar to Wodehouse, cf. Indiscretions of Archie, Uncle Fred in the Springtime, Uneasy Money, and no doubt many more.


Exercise Yard (p.262)

An exercise yard is normally an attribute of a prison, rather than a film studio—Wodehouse is continuing his running joke about the “mistreatment” of writers.


marooned (p.263)

Although marooned in general use just means “stranded”, or “stuck in a place one can’t escape from”, it originally had the more precise meaning, familiar to us from pirate stories of the Caribbean, of being put ashore on a desert island as a punishment (by association with maroon, a Caribbean term for runaway slaves living in the forests), which fits in very neatly with the “castaway” theme that runs through this story.


dungeon cell ... pet mouse (p.263)

There are many stories of prisoners befriending mice: it was so well-established as a narrative device by the mid-19th century that even Dumas seems to have considered it too corny to use in The Count of Monte Cristo.


Abode of Love (p.263)

In general, the term “abode of love” is often used, especially by late-Victorian Evangelical writers, to represent the ideal Christian family or its home. Mabelle’s coment is probably intended as simply an ironic reference to this convention. However, it could also be a reference to a famous Victorian religious sect, the Agapemonites, who used the name “Abode of Love” for their community at Spaxton in Somerset. This commune was led by a charismatic clergyman; many of the members were unmarried young women from wealthy families. Not surprisingly, it was constantly plagued by sex-scandals and lawsuits.


a pill (p.264)

Mid-19th century slang for an unpleasant or foolish person (by analogy to “a bitter pill”, etc.). The OED cites “Jeeves and the Unbidden Guest”, where Motty is described as a pill.


slap her over the nose with a piece of blotting-paper (p.264–5)

Blotting-paper is thick, absorbent paper used to soak up any excess ink from writing with a nib pen. Essential school and office equipment before the invention of the ball-point pen. It’s typical of Wodehouse that Bulstrode’s only notion of violence against a woman should be a way of getting even peculiar to small boys in school.


Ohio State Penitentiary (p.266)

Cf. “Leper Colony” above.

The original Ohio State Penitentiary in Columbus, Ohio (replaced by a new prison elsewhere in 1983) would have been notorious at the time because of a terrible fire in April 1930 that killed 322 inmates and injured 150.

Wodehouse might also have been aware of it as the place where the writer O. Henry (William Sidney Porter) was imprisoned from 1898 to 1901. O. Henry had worked for a while in a bank in Austin, Texas. After he left, federal auditors discovered irregularities in the accounts, and he was charged with embezzlement. It isn’t clear whether he did deliberately steal from the bank, or was simply careless in his accounting. Wodehouse, who was a reluctant bank employee a couple of years after O. Henry, might well have had a “there but for the grace of God” moment when he read about it.


Surprise Gloria Swanson (p.266)

Wodehouse continues the running joke that started with “Steak Pudding Marlene Dietrich” in “Monkey Business”. Gloria Swanson (1899–1983) was one of the biggest stars of the silent era, and the first female star to become a fashion icon. In the late twenties she joined United Artists, and produced a number of independent films dealing with controversial subject-matter, most famously Sadie Thompson (1928), which may be why she is associated with the idea of a “surprise”.


Cheese Sandwich Maurice Chevalier (p.266)

The French actor and singer Maurice Chevalier (1888–1972) first went to Hollywood in 1928, to make his name in The Love Parade, written by Wodehouse’s writing-partner, Guy Bolton. The influential cheese-tasting society Confrérie des chevaliers du Taste Fromage de France was only set up in the 1950s, so clearly isn’t relevant here.


this beasel (p.267)

Beasel/Beazel seems to be a 1920s American slang term for a girl, but it isn’t recorded in the OED (except as an alternative spelling of “bezel”) or in any other authoritative source I could find. There was a celebrated racehorse in the 1920s called “The Beasel” — perhaps that’s the origin? The word in this sense only very rarely appears outside Wodehouse, but he uses it a lot, e.g. in Hot Water, Jeeves in the Offing, Barmy in Wonderland, and Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit). [Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang, ed. Jonathon Green (2005), defines beasel n. [1920s+] (US) a young woman. —NM]


miasma (p.268)

Before the development of modern microbiology, it was believed that diseases were spread by miasmas or bad smells.


a wren (p.268)

A young woman. This particular bit of 1920s American slang is recorded in the OED, on the authority of no less a writer than Sinclair Lewis.


needling beer (p.268)

To needle beer is to add alcohol (or another substance) to it to make it more intoxicating— cf. “spike”. More 1920s slang.


one of nature’s prunes (p.268)

In British use, a prune is a dried plum, an ingredient once popular with middle-class parents for its “healthy” (i.e. laxative) properties as well as for its cheapness and its availability at times of year when there is no fresh fruit around, and consequently detested by most children.


Cossacks ... pogrom (p.268)

A tasteful little reminder, in case we had forgotten that Mr. Schnellenhamer is meant to be Jewish (to be fair, Wodehouse probably thought of pogroms as something in the distant Russian past: he may not have been aware of what was going on in Germany at the time). Although Cossacks were involved in massacres of Jews in medieval Russia, they were not the main instigators of pogroms in the 19th and 20th century. At the time this was written the Cossacks themselves were the victims of large-scale ethnic violence under Stalin.


Isadore Levitsky (p.272)

Cf. “The Nodder”, p.201 above.


dancing the Carmagnole (p.273)

The Carmagnole is a savage revolutionary song associated with the sans-culottes of the French Revolution. It goes with a wild dance, and features prominently in most of the classic English novels about the Revolution (A Tale of Two Cities, The Scarlet Pimpernel, etc.).


muscling into the North Side (p.274)

There was a notorious rivalry in the Chicago underworld of the Prohibition era between Al Capone’s gang on the South Side of the city and George “Bugs” Moran’s on the North Side.


like Lincoln (p.274)

Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865) is generally credited with ending slavery in the USA. In 1863 he issued the Emancipation Proclamation, a wartime measure officially freeing all the slaves in the ten rebel states. He was also largely responsible for the passing of the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution, outlawing slavery. It only came into effect in December 1865, after Lincoln’s assassination.