The following notes attempt to explain cultural, historical and literary allusions in Wodehouse’s text, to identify his sources, and to cross-reference similar references in the rest of the canon. These notes were originally written by Terry Mordue, and can be seen in their original form here. They have been edited, expanded, and somewhat reformatted by Neil Midkiff [NM] and others; last updated 23 April 2018.

The Code of the Woosters was published simultaneously in the UK and US, by Herbert Jenkins, London, and by Doubleday, Doran, New York, on 7 October 1938. It was serialized in the Saturday Evening Post and the Daily Mail prior to book publication; see this page for details of serial appearances.

Page references are to the Penguin edition, 1983 reprint.


Chapter 1 (pp. 5–20)

Autumn — season of mists and mellow fruitfulness (p. 5)

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;

John Keats, Ode, “To Autumn” (1819)


one of those bracers of yours (p. 5)

We learn of Jeeves’s “pick-me-ups,” “morning revivers,” or “bracers” in several stories; the first mention (in story chronology) is in “Jeeves Takes Charge” (1916):

It is a little preparation of my own invention. It is the dark meat-sauce that gives it its color. The raw egg makes it nutritious. The red pepper gives it its bite. Gentlemen have told me they have found it extremely invigorating after a late evening.

In other stories the recipe provides aid and succour to other gentlemen as well. [NM]


he shimmered out (p. 5)

Jeeves’s movements in and out are usually described as noiseless and somewhat mystical. Here the allusion seems to be to a mirage, now seen, now unseen. [NM]


Drones (p. 5)

The Drones Club in Dover Street is a magnet for Wodehouse’s idle young men about London, named after the male bees who do no work. It is first mentioned in Jill the Reckless/The Little Warrior (1920) and continues through Pearls, Girls, and Monty Bodkin/The Plot that Thickened (1972). Norman Murphy (In Search of Blandings) identified aspects of the Bachelors’ Club, the Bath Club, and Buck’s Club contributing elements to its creation. [NM]


Gussie Fink-Nottle … Madeline (p. 5)

See Right Ho, Jeeves (1934) for the backstory of their relationship. The events of that novel take place during the “preceding summer” a “few months” before this novel in story time. [NM]


Sir Watkyn Bassett, CBE (p. 5)

Sir Watkyn Bassett’s CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) does not entitle him to be called “Sir,” as it is one rank below a knighthood (which would be denoted by KBE — Knight Commander). And if, along with the “pot of money,” he had inherited a baronetcy, one would have expected him then to be described as “Sir Watkyn Bassett, Bart., CBE.” Also, other baronets in the canon, such as Sir Gregory Parsloe, are usually described as such, but nowhere is there any mention that Sir Watkyn is a baronet.

We must assume, therefore, that he is a Knight Bachelor, an honour that entitles the holder to be called “Sir” but, because it does not belong to one of the established Orders of Chivalry, is not normally marked by any post-nominal letters. Knights Bachelor are by no means unusual: well-known modern examples are England’s former rugby coach, Sir Clive Woodward CBE, and actor Sir Anthony Hopkins CBE.


Jael the wife of Heber (p. 5)

Howbeit Sisera fled away on his feet to the tent of Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite: for there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite.
And Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said unto him, Turn in, my lord, turn in to me; fear not. And when he had turned in unto her into the tent, she covered him with a mantle.
. . . .
Then Jael Heber’s wife took a nail of the tent, and took an hammer in her hand, and went softly unto him, and smote the nail into his temples, and fastened it into the ground: for he was fast asleep and weary. So he died.
And, behold, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him, and said unto him, Come, and I will shew thee the man whom thou seekest. And when he came into her tent, behold, Sisera lay dead, and the nail was in his temples.

[Bible: Judges 4:17–18, 21–22]

Wodehouse was particularly fond of this story, which gets a mention in many of the books and stories, including “The Salvation of George Mackintosh” in The Clicking of Cuthbert, Ring for Jeeves ch. 18 (and the earlier play, Come On, Jeeves, Act III); Much Obliged, Jeeves ch. 8; Cocktail Time ch. 2; and Uncle Dynamite ch. 11.


nosegay (p. 6)

Typically a term used for a bouquet of flowers to be held in the hands, rather than a collection of travel brochures. [NM]


gruntled (p. 6?)

The Oxford English Dictionary cites this, Wodehouse’s back-formation from “disgruntled,” as the first usage of the word. [NM]


sands are running out (p. 7?)

From the old-fashioned hourglass, a metaphor for the time becoming shorter until a future event. [NM]


Boat Race night (p. 7?)

The events described here are recorded in “Without the Option” (collected in Carry On, Jeeves!) in which the Bosher Street magistrate is unnamed; he remarks that “I am aware that on the night following the annual aquatic contest between the universities of Oxford and Cambridge a certain licence is traditionally granted by the authorities.” Beginning in 1829 and annually since 1856 except during the two world wars, a rowing race between the eight-man boats of Oxford and Cambridge has been held on the river Thames from Putney to Mortlake, about 4.2 miles. The 2017 race was held on Sunday, April 2. This is one of the most popular sporting events in Britain, with over 250,000 spectators lining the banks of the river to watch. No doubt some spectators still get in trouble for excesses of celebration (or the reverse) on the night of the event.

Bertie seems to have had at least two such encounters with the police; he recalls being hauled up before the Vine Street magistrate during his second year at Oxford in Thank You, Jeeves and Right Ho, Jeeves. He also recalls, in “Jeeves and the Chump Cyril,” having to bail out a pal who got pinched every Boat Race night. Other Wodehouse characters who celebrate to excess on Boat Race night include Oliver “Sippy” Sipperley in “Without the Option,” Lord Datchet in Piccadilly Jim, and Barmy Fotheringay-Phipps (recalled in “The Word in Season” and Joy in the Morning). [NM]


not forgotten that man of wrath (p. 7)

In Homer’s Odyssey, the name Odysseus means “man of wrath.” See Love Among the Chickens for further literary parallels.


two shakes of a duck’s tail (p. 8)

Idiom: very quickly. Wodehouse is using a variant of the more common “two shakes of a lamb’s tail,” a phrase that is thought to have originated in the US in the early 19th century.


sconces and foliation … scrolls, ribbon wreaths in high relief and gadroon borders (p. 8)

Examples of silversmiths’ decorative patterns; sconces in this context are the tubular sockets of a candelabrum in which candles are inserted. Foliation is a leaf pattern; scrolls and ribbon wreaths are self-explanatory; high relief means deeply carved and/or highly molded to stand out from the surrounding surface. Gadroon borders are fancy edges of silver or gold items decorated with many small adjacent convex curves to give a beaded or rippled effect, as in the George II sauce boat at right. [NM]


up to her Marcel-wave (p. 8)

The Marcel-wave was introduced in 1872 by a Parisian hairdresser, Marcel Grateau, who had the idea of using a heated curling iron to produce natural-looking waves. Grateau’s idea revolutionised the art of women’s hairdressing and started a fashion that remained popular for nearly fifty years.


“What the Well-Dressed Man Is Wearing” (p. 8?)

The story of Bertie’s sole literary effort is told in “Clustering Round Young Bingo” in Carry On, Jeeves! [NM]


view-halloos . . . the Quorn, the Pytchley (p. 9)

“View-halloo” is the huntsman’s cry when a fox breaks cover.

The Quorn and the Pytchley are two well-known hunts in central England, the Quorn primarily in Leicestershire, with some coverts in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, and the Pytchley straddling the Leicestershire–Northamptonshire border.


an antique shop in the Brompton Road — it’s just past the Oratory (p. 9)

The London Oratory, built in 1893, was the first new Roman Catholic church to be built in London since the 16th-century Reformation. It is situated on Brompton Road, South Kensington, almost adjacent to the Victoria and Albert Museum.


The scales fell from my eyes (p. 9)

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

[Bible: Acts 9:18]


nolle prosequi (p. 10)

Latin: will not prosecute. In English law (and, with substantially the same meaning, in US law), nolle prosequi is a technical term which signifies a formal undertaking by the plaintiff in a civil action, or by the attorney-general in a criminal action, that he intends to proceed no further with the action.

Bertie is very fond of nolle prosequi, which he invariably interprets as representing that he is unable to do something.


my little chickadee (p. 10)

In North America, “chickadee” refers to any of about half-a-dozen species of songbirds of the genus Parus, members of which, elsewhere in the world, are commonly known as tits or titmice.

Aunt Dahlia seems to be using the term affectionately; in colloquial English, “chick,” “chick-a-biddy,” and “chick-a-diddle” are all used as affectionate forms of address to a child, and it is possible that “chickadee” is a corruption of the last of these.

[The American comedian W. C. Fields (William Claude Dukenfield, 1880–1946) first spoke this endearment in the 1932 film If I Had a Million and freely inserted it in his scripts thereafter; his 1940 film pairing with Mae West was even titled My Little Chickadee. —NM]


the summer afternoon … when Gussie, … full to the back teeth with the right stuff, had addressed … Market Snodsbury Grammar School (p. 10?)

See Right Ho, Jeeves, chapter 17. [NM]


publicans (p. 11?)

Bertie’s use of “publicans” for “members of my public” seems to be his own invention; more usual senses of the word are the tax-collectors who worked for Rome in New Testament times, tax-collectors generally, heathens or unbelievers, and those who owned or ran public taverns. [NM]


bimbos (p. 11?)

Bertie uses the older sense of the word, originally from the US in the 1910s, of a chap or fellow, referred to informally or sometimes contemptuously. Later in the 1920s the term began to be applied in a derogatory way to women, especially ones more noteworthy for looks than for brains or virtue, and that sense is better known today. [NM]


don the spongebag trousers (p. 12)

According to the OED, sponge-bag trousers are “men’s checked trousers, patterned in the style of many sponge-bags”; the first cited usage is in novelist Virginia Woolf’s Voyage Out, in 1915. [These are worn only with formal morningwear, as for daytime weddings. An explanation and illustrations of some striped weaves; a brief introduction, some period illustrations, and a background pattern with a twilled stripe online. —NM]


she handed Gussie the temporary mitten (p. 13)

Colloquial: jilted him for the time being. The phrase can also refer to someone being dismissed from his job:

It transpiring, moreover, that he had looted a lot of other things here and there about the place, I was reluctantly compelled to hand the misguided blighter the mitten…

“Jeeves Takes Charge” [collected in Carry On, Jeeves (1925)]

The origin is unknown, but it perhaps derives from the Latin mittere, to send.

See also Money in the Bank.


straightened out at the eleventh hour (p. 13)

See Love Among the Chickens.


the sort of hornswoggling highbinder (p. 14)

American slang. To hornswoggle is to cheat, to pull the wool over someone’s eyes.

Would she have the generosity to realize that a man ought not to be held accountable for what he says in the moment when he discovers that he has been cheated, deceived, robbed—in a word, hornswoggled?

The Little Warrior/Jill the Reckless, ch. 19 (1920/21)

The “High-Binders” was the name of a gang of lawless vagabonds that operated in New York early in the 19th century. The name subsequently came to be applied abusively to denote a swindler, especially a fraudulent politician.


hailed a passing barouche (p. 14)

See Summer Moonshine.

Although the barouche was the height of fashion in the first half of the 19th century, by the first half of the 20th century barouche-spotting had ceased to be a worthwhile activity, except during State processions. [Bertie is just using a jocular substitute for “taxicab” here, I think. —NM]


the dead past was the dead past (p. 15)

See Sam the Sudden.


rising on stepping-stones of his dead self (p. 16)

See Something Fresh.


distinguish between meum and tuum (p. 17)

See Something Fresh.


give Aunt Dahlia’s commission the miss-in-balk (p. 17)

See Love Among the Chickens.


get outside another of Jeeves’s pick-me-ups (p.17)

Wodehouse did not invent the phrases “get outside” and “wrap oneself round” as humorous inversions of the act of putting food and drink inside oneself, but he did much to popularize these uses, beginning in 1906; see “How Kid Brady Joined the Press” and the endnote there on this phrase.


harts panting for cooling streams (p. 17–18)

As the hart panteth after the water brooks,
so panteth my soul after thee, O God.

[Bible: Psalms 42:1]

The phrase that Wodehouse uses is from a paraphrase of Psalm 42 made by Nahum Tate and Nicholas Brady in their English Metrical Psalter (New Version), published in 1696:

As pants the hart for cooling streams
When heated in the chase,
So longs my soul, O God, for Thee
And Thy refreshing grace.

See also Money in the Bank.


I wasn’t expecting the heart to leap up (p. 18)

See Summer Moonshine.


It was a silver cow (p. 19)

From Bertie’s description, can this be anything other than the cow-creamer pictured, or another one by the same maker? See the Victoria & Albert Museum site for more on this item, made in London in 1758–59 by John Schuppe. It is indeed “about four inches high” (9.6 cm) and “six long” (14.8 cm). The V&A web page summary tab mentions that “Such was their renown that they merited inclusion in 20th-century literature: Bertie Wooster, the hero of tales by the author P. G. Wodehouse, found these cow creamers quite disgusting.” [NM]


cudster (p. 19)

Clearly a term for “one that chews cud” but not included in the OED, so apparently a coinage by Wodehouse. [NM]


skipping like the high hills (p. 20)

The voice of my beloved! behold, he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills.

[Bible: Song of Solomon 2:8]

The mountains skipped like rams, and the little hills like lambs.

[Bible: Psalms 114:4]

Why leap ye, ye high hills?

[Bible: Psalms 68:16]

This was one of Wodehouse’s favourites and he continued using it almost to the end:

When she went off unexpectedly under their feet like a bomb, strong men were apt to lose their poise and skip like the high hills.

Quick Service, ch. 11 (1940)

You will start skipping like the high hills, not that I’ve ever seen high hills skip, or low hills for that matter.

Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen, ch. 16 (1974)

Though none of the Biblical sources exactly matches Wodehouse’s usage, the example from Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen suggests that he may have had Psalm 114 in mind.


in the neighbourhood of Sloane Square (p. 20)

Sloane Square lies south-east of Brompton Oratory, from which, by the shortest route “down byways and along side streets,” it is about 1 km distant.


Chapter 2 (pp. 21–36)

to re-establish the mens sana in corpore what-not (p. 22)

Bertie is quoting the Roman satirist Juvenal (55-130 AD):

Orandum est ut sit mens sana in corpore sano

Our prayers should be for a sound mind in a healthy body

Satires, X, 356


I sank into a c. and passed an agitated h. over the b. (p. 22)

Several possible interpretations of this sentence come to mind:

I sank into a coma and passed an agitated hour over the bedclothes;

or, I sank into a canter and passed an agitated horse over the bridge;

or, I sank into a crouch and passed an agitated hawser over the bow . . .

. . . but the likeliest is: I sank into a chair and passed an agitated hand over the brow.


the young seigneur (p. 22)

A seigneur is a feudal lord, in this case used figuratively to describe Bertie’s status as Jeeves’s employer.


lighted a feverish cigarette (p. 22)

An example of one of Wodehouse’s favourite devices, the transferred epithet. There are other examples later in this chapter and in ch 5.


May all his hens get the staggers (p. 26)

The “staggers,” otherwise described as dizziness or vertigo, is not a disease but a symptom of some malady, such as lack of drinking water or worms in the nostrils. It affects mostly fat or over-fed birds. A bird afflicted with the staggers will often shake its body and turn round and round until it falls over and dies.


white ants, if there are any in England (p. 26)

There aren’t. “White ants” are termites, of the order Isoptera. Although not related to the ants (cockroaches are closer relatives), they are similarly social, living in colonies which may contain as many as a million individuals. They live in warm climates, especially in the tropics, where their huge mounds are a common feature. Termites are omniverous and frequently do great damage, especially to wooden buildings and structures.

Of the 2000 or so known species of Isoptera, only two occur naturally in Europe, one confined to the Mediterranean coastlands, the other ranging as far north as northern Italy and the Bordeaux region of France.


this Machiavelli sicked him on to it (p. 27)

See A Damsel in Distress.


you follow me, Watson? (p. 29)

Only once does Sherlock Holmes pose a question in this form to Doctor Watson:

“And when I raise my hand — so — you will throw into the room what I give you to throw, and will, at the same time, raise the cry of fire. You quite follow me?"

“Entirely."

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, “A Scandal in Bohemia,” in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1892)


over my head like the sword of — who was the chap? (p. 29)

Damocles was his name. According to legend, Damocles was a sycophant at the court of Dionysius the Elder, tyrant (ie ruler) of the Sicilian city of Syracuse in the 4th century BC. He so persistently praised the power and happiness of Dionysius that the tyrant ordered a banquet at which Damocles was the guest of honour but at which he found himself seated beneath a sword that was suspended from the ceiling by a single horse hair. Dionysius explained that the rank and power of the tyrant were no less precarious. The story is told by the Roman orator Cicero in his Tusculan Dispuations (Book V, 61)


the middle of the pheasant season (p. 29)

In England and Wales, the pheasant season begins on 1st October and continues until 1st February.


ate a moody slice of cold bacon (p. 30)

See p 22.


personal effects in the dickey. (p. 30)

See Summer Moonshine.


the bowed-downer did the heart become (p. 30)

See Sam the Sudden.


“Don’t they put aunts in Turkey in sacks and drop them in the Bosphorus?” (p. 31)

An odalisque was a member of the harem, ranking below concubines and wives.

The Bosphorus is a 20-mile long strait that connects the Sea of Marmara with the Black Sea and separates the continents of Europe and Asia. It runs through the heart of Istanbul, past several Ottoman palaces, and it is said (in Brewer’s Dictionary, for example) that if the sultan wished to be rid of one of his harem, the unfortunate woman was tied in a sack and thrown into the Bosphorus.


out pops the cloven hoof (p. 31)

See The Clicking of Cuthbert.


the cat chap (p. 32)

Bertie is referring to Macbeth, who is described by his wife in such terms:

Art thou afeard
To be the same in thine own act and valour
As thou art in desire? Wouldst thou have that
Which thou esteem’st the ornament of life,
And live a coward in thine own esteem,
Letting “I dare not” wait upon “I would,”
Like the poor cat i” the adage?

Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act I Scene 7

The adage referred to by Lady Macbeth is “All cats love fish but fear to wet their paws,” said of one who is anxious to obtain something of value but does not care to incur the necessary trouble or risk (Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable).


a combination of Raffles and a pea-and-thimble man (p. 32)

For Raffles, see Something Fresh.

A pea-and-thimble man is a small-time con-man who makes his money by a trick that involves pushing around three thimbles, under one of which is a pea, and inviting the audience to bet on which thimble conceals the pea.

Here a little knot gathered round a pea and thimble table to watch the plucking of some unhappy greenhorn and there, another proprietor with his confederates in various disguises . . . sought by loud and noisy talk and pretended play to entrap some unwary customer, while the gentlemen confederates . . . betrayed their close interest in the concern by the anxious furtive glances they cast on all new comers.

Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby, ch. 50

Bertie is perhaps suggesting that Sir Watkyn views him as having the appearance of a gentleman and the morals of a small-time crook.


the native hue of resolution (p. 33)

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.

Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act III Scene 1


about the tonnage of Jessie Matthews (p. 33)

One of 11 children of a Soho costermonger, Jessie Matthews (1907-81) was a popular musical comedy star of the 1930s. Ill-health and the onset of war put an end to her film career, but she later made a come-back as a radio performer, playing the title role in BBC’s long-running soap drama, “Mrs Dale’s diary.”

Jessie Matthews was variously described as “gamine” and “waif-like.”

[The American first edition (Doubleday, Doran, 1938) has “about the tonnage of Maureen O’Sullivan” here. Probably best remembered as Jane to Johnny Weissmuller’s Tarzan in five films, the Irish-born actress (1911–1998) was slight (5′3″) and slender; her career was busy during the 1930s and by her own choice less intense afterward, though she continued acting in films and TV movies into the 1990s. PGW knew her in Hollywood and dedicated his 1931 novel Hot Water to her. —NM]


Childe Roland to the dark tower came (p. 34)

Edgar:
Child Rowland to the dark tower came,
His word was still,—Fie, foh, and fum,
I smell the blood of a British man.

Shakespeare, King Lear, Act III Scene 4

There they stood, ranged along the hill-sides—met
 To view the last of me, a living frame
 For one more picture! in a sheet of flame
I saw them and I knew them all. And yet
Dauntless the slug-horn to my lips I set,
 And blew. “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came.

Robert Browning, “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came” (1855)

Shakespeare is referring to an ancient Scottish ballad in which “childe Roland,” youngest brother of “fair burd Helen,” who has been taken by elves, successfully rescues his sister from Elfland. Browning’s poem is not connected with the ballad, nor is there any connection between Shakespeare “Childe Roland” and the paladin Roland of mediaeval romances.
[But Browning’s poem does cite Edgar’s mad song in Lear. Jeeves will utter the same allusion in Ch. 5 of The Mating Season, and Bertie will then later look into the history of the quotation. —NM]


a place where Man was vile (p. 35)

See Sam the Sudden.


vis-à-vis (p. 35-6)

French: face to face.


to shoot the works (p. 36)

Slang: at games of chance, to risk all on one play; hence, to make the maximum effort, to exert oneself to the fullest extent.


Chapter 3 (pp. 37–61)

the King’s Remembrancer (p. 40)

The King’s Remembrancer was formerly an officer of the Exchequer whose primary responsibility was to collect debts owed to the sovereign. Business relating to the Exchequer was recorded in Memoranda Rolls whose name, like that of the King’s Remembrancer, reflect their memory-aiding function.


this absolute Trial of Mary Dugan (p. 41)

The film The Trial of Mary Dugan (1929), directed by Bayard Veiller (who also wrote the play), featured one of the stars of the silent era, Norma Shearer, in her first talking picture. Mary Dugan (Shearer), a Broadway showgirl, is accused of killing her lover, a rich playboy, by stabbing him with a knife. Dugan is defended by a lawyer friend who, however, decides not to cross-examine witnesses and later withdraws mysteriously from the case (and is finally unmasked as the real killer).

There was a re-make in 1941, directed by Norman Z McLeod.

Neither version featured cow-creamers, baronets or would-be dictators.


once lived in Arcady (p. 42)

See Something Fresh.


47, Charles Street, Berkeley Square (p. 44)

In In Search of Blandings, Norman Murphy notes that this was the address of Wodehouse’s friend and colleague, Ian Hay (real name John Hay Beith).


the Seigneur Geoffrey Rudel (p. 45)

Geoffrey Rudel, a minstrel, is said to have fallen in love with Melisande, daughter of the Count of Tripoli, merely on the strength of reports of her beauty. According to the story, he set off for the East, accompanied by his friend, Bertrand d’Allamanon, but became very ill and feared that he would die without ever seeing his lady. When their ship neared land, Bertrand went ashore and hurried to ask the Countess if she would agree to come and meet her unknown lover, which she did, whereupon Rudel showed his gratitude by pegging out in front of her. No doubt taken aback by this display of gross bad manners and wishing to avoid a recurrence, Melisande hastily donned widow’s clothes and retired to a convent.


parted brass rags (p. 46)

Slang: quarrelled.


his imitation of Beatrice Lillie (p. 47)

Beatrice Lillie (1894-1989) was a Canadian-born comedienne who achieved considerable success in London and, later, New York in musical comedies and revues. A good friend of Noel Coward, she worked with him on several productions and introduced his song “Mad Dogs and Englishmen" in The Third Little Show (1932).

During WWI, when so many men were being called to war, her slim build and short-cropped hair meant that she was often cast in male roles, something that would, no doubt, have made it easier for Catsmeat to imitate her.


a sensitive plant, what? (p. 47)

A Sensitive Plant in a garden grew,
And the young winds fed it with silver dew,
And it opened its fan-like leaves to the light.
And closed them beneath the kisses of Night.

Percy Bysshe Shelley, “The Sensitive Plant” (1820)


There she spouts (p. 49)

More usually rendered as “There she blows!,” this was the cry of the look-out on a whaling ship at the sight of a whale.

See also Money in the Bank.


Mussolini (p. 50)

See Summer Moonshine.


Others abide our question (p. 51)

Others abide our question. Thou art free.
We ask and ask—Thou smilest and art still,
Out-topping knowledge.

Matthew Arnold, “Shakespeare” (1849)


We are as little children (p. 53)

Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

[Bible: Matthew, xviii, 3


Man of Destiny . . . Napoleon (p. 54)

The Man of Destiny is the title of a play (1898) by George Bernard Shaw in which the young Napoleon Bonaparte finds himself entangled with a “Strange Lady.”


Saviours of Britain . . . Black Shorts (p. 54)

Roderick Spode and his “Black Shorts” are a parody of Oswald Mosley (1896-1980), founder of the British Union of Fascists, whose members, particularly the more extremist ones, wore distinctive black shirts.

Throughout his career, Mosley showed an inability to settle within the confines of a political party. At the 1918 General Election, he won Harrow for the Conservatives, becoming the youngest MP in Parliament, but at the 1922 election, disillusioned with the Conservative Party, he contested (and won) Harrow as an Independent. Two years later, he joined the Labour Party and, after the 1929 election, served as a member of Ramsay MacDonald’s government, only to resign the following year. In 1931, he founded his own party, the New Party, but it failed to win a single seat in the 1931 election, and after meeting Mussolini in Italy, Mosley disbanded the party in 1932 and founded the British Union of Fascists. In 1936, Mosley, by now a Nazi sympathiser, married his second wife, Diana Mitford, at a ceremony which took place in the Berlin home of German propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels in front of six guests, one of them Adolf Hitler. In May 1940, Mosley and his wife were detained under Defence Regulations as persons likely “to endanger the safety of the realm” and the BUF was banned a few days later. The Mosleys were released in 1943, on grounds of his ill-health, and, though they remained in England for a few years after the war, they finally left 1949, eventually settling in France.


one of those detectives (p. 54)

This is the sort of deductive exercise at which Sherlock Holmes excels:

“It is simplicity itself,” said he; “my eyes tell me that on the inside of your left shoe, just where the firelight strikes it, the leather is scored by six almost parallel cuts. Obviously they have been caused by someone who has very carelessly scraped round the edges of the sole in order to remove crusted mud from it. Hence, you see, my double deduction that you had been out in vile weather, and that you had a particularly malignant boot-slitting specimen of the London slavey. As to your practice, if a gentleman walks into my rooms smelling of iodoform, with a black mark of nitrate of silver upon his right forefinger, and a bulge on the right side of his top-hat to show where he has secreted his stethoscope, I must be dull, indeed, if I do not pronounce him to be an active member of the medical profession."

“A Scandal in Bohemia,” in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1892)

“Beyond the obvious facts that he has at some time done manual labour, that he takes snuff, that he is a Freemason, that he has been in China, and that he has done a considerable amount of writing lately, I can deduce nothing else."

“The Red-Headed League,” in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1892)

“When a gentleman of virile appearance enters my room with such tan upon his face as an English sun could never give, and with his handkerchief in his sleeve instead of in his pocket, it is not difficult to place him. You wear a short beard, which shows that you were not a regular. You have the cut of a riding-man. As to Middlesex, your card has already shown me that you are a stockbroker from Throgmorton Street. What other regiment would you join?"

“The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier,” in The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes (1927)


Footer bags (p. 54)

Baggy knee-length shorts, as favoured by football players of that era.

Among its more social activities, the British Union of Fascists established its own football teams .


a man who has found the blue bird (p. 55)

L’Oiseau bleu (1908), translated into English as The Blue Bird (1909), is a play by the Belgian author and 1911 Nobel laureate, Maurice Maeterlinck (1862-1949). It tells the story of two children, Tyltyl and Mytyl, the son and daughter of a poor woodcutter, who are sent off by the Fairy Bérylune to search the world for the Blue Bird of Happiness. After much searching, they return home to find that the Blue Bird has been in their bird-cage all the time.

The play has been filmed several times, twice as a silent film, in 1910 and 1918, and most famously in 1940, with Shirley Temple playing the role of Mytyl. A further film, in 1976, with Patsy Kensit as Mytyl and Elizabeth Taylor playing the part of Bérylune, was a resounding failure.

See also Money in the Bank and Joy in the Morning.


a carefree cat on hot bricks (p. 55)

The idiomatic expression “like a cat on hot bricks” (in US, “on a hot tin roof") means “uneasy, or very nervous, and unable to keep still.” Wodehouse presumably wishes us to understand that Sir Watkyn was behaving in this agitated manner, but not from any uneasiness (hence “carefree").


hauled up her slacks about me (p. 55)

Wodehouse employs the same phrase elsewhere, though it does not seem to be in common use. From the context, it seems to mean making a special effort or employing exaggeration when describing something or someone.

As for Clarence, how easy it would be to haul up one’s slacks to practically an unlimited extent on the subject of his emotions at this time.

“The Goal-Keeper and the Plutocrat,” in The Man Upstairs

Secondly, as there appears to be no law of libel whatsoever in this great and free country, we shall be enabled to haul up our slacks with a considerable absence of restraint.

Psmith, Journalist, ch. 9

Of course, if in the vein, I might do something big in the way of oratory. I am a plain, blunt man, but I feel convinced that, given the opportunity, I should haul up my slacks to some effect.

Psmith in the City, ch. 15

See also The Inimitable Jeeves.


a cross between Robert Taylor and Einstein (p. 55)

Robert Taylor (1911-69) was a film star and matinee-idol; nicknamed “the man with the perfect profile,” his good looks frequently secured him leading roles for which he then received unfavourable reviews from critics who could not bring themselves to accept that so handsome an actor could act.

Albert Einstein, who formulated the theory of relativity and turned classical physics on its head, needs, as they say, no introduction.

One hopes that Gussie is referring to Robert Taylor’s looks and Einstein’s brains, as the alternative hardly bears thinking about.


the full moon influences the love life (p. 57)

This is certainly true of some undersea creatures. For example, seahorses (Hippocampus spp) perform their mating rituals around the time of the full moon, while ostracods (tiny crustaceans) synchronise their mating cycles with the phases of the moon.


like a Pekingese taking a pill (p. 57)

Wodehouse is, no doubt, writing here from personal experience: Pekingese were their favourite dogs and even in Berlin, after Wodehouse was released from internment and Ethel joined him, she was accompanied by their Pekingese, Wonder.


out of the night that covered me (p. 57)

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

William Ernest Henley, “Invictus” (1875)


Chapter 4 (pp. 62–86)

leap . . . like a gaffed salmon (p. 62)

Bingo, who had given a sharp, convulsive leap like a gaffed salmon, reassembled himself.

“The Editor Regrets,” in Eggs, Beans and Crumpets (1940)

A gaff is a hook used to land large fish; because a gaffed fish is not dead, it will usually writhe convulsively.


élan and espièglerie (p. 63)

French: élan — impetuosity, dash; espièglerie — frolicsomeness.


full many a glorious morning (p. 63)

Full many a glorious morning have I seen
Flatter the mountain-tops with sovereign eye,
Kissing with golden face the meadows green,
Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy;
Anon permit the basest clouds to ride
With ugly rack on his celestial face,
And from the forlorn world his visage hide,
Stealing unseen to west with this disgrace:
Even so my sun one early morn did shine
With all triumphant splendor on my brow;
But out, alack! he was but one hour mine;
The region cloud hath mask’d him from me now.
Yet him for this my love no whit disdaineth;
Suns of the world may stain when heaven’s sun staineth.

Shakespeare, Sonnet XXXIII


And falls to earth (p. 66)

I shot an arrow into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For, so swiftly it flew, the sight
Could not follow it in its flight.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “The Arrow and the Song,” (1845)


It biteth like a serpent (p. 67)

Look not though upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright.

At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.

[Bible: Proverbs, xxiii, 31-32

See also Money in the Bank and Joy in the Morning.


drop a silent tear (p. 68)

But we forbear, out of sympathy to our readers’ bones. Western travellers . . . will have a respectful and mournful sympathy with our unfortunate hero. We beg them to drop a silent tear, and pass on.

Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, ch. 9 (1852)


The shades of evening were beginning to fall pretty freely (p. 68)

See Sam the Sudden.


this serene slop (p. 68)

“Slop” here means “policeman”; it is an example of “back slang,” where a word is written backwards and a new word coined from the result — another example is “yobbo,” or “yob,” which originated as back-slang for “boy.”


A fine Aberdeen terrier (p. 68)

The Wodehouses owned an Aberdeen terrier, Angus, but Wodehouse claimed to find him too austere and Presbyterian — he described the dog as looking like a Scottish preacher about to rebuke the sins of his congregation — and Angus eventually went to another home, but not before being immortalised as Bartholomew.


stepping high, wide and handsome (p. 68)

High, Wide and Handsome was the title of a film released in 1937, starring Irene Dunne, Dorothy Lamour and Randolph Scott, with lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II and music by Wodehouse’s former collaborator, Jerome Kern.

According to the OED, “high, wide and handsome” was originally US slang, meaning “in a carefree manner, in good style.” The first recorded example is in a collection of Western stories, Arizona Nights (1907), by S E White — “Tim could talk high, wide, and handsome when he set out to.” One of the other examples cited is from Uncle Fred in Springtime, ch. 3 (1934) — “He has a nasty way of lugging Pongo out into the open and . . . proceeding to step high, wide and plentiful."


Nemesis is at his heels (p. 68)

In Greek mythology, Nemesis was a goddess “who measured out to mortals happiness and misery, and visited with losses and suffering all who were blessed with too many gifts of fortune” (A Smaller Classical Dictionary, ed E H Blakeney, 1910), and this is the sense intended here. Nemesis later came to be regarded, like the Furies, as the goddess who punished crimes.


a sudden swerve spells a smeller (p. 69)

Smeller: slang for a heavy fall. The OED cites an example from Right Ho, Jeeves, ch. 9 (1934): “A man’s brain whizzes along for years exceeding the speed limit, and then something suddenly goes wrong with the steering gear and it skids and comes a smeller in the ditch."


a sort of macédoine (p. 69)

A mixture of finely-chopped pieces of fruit or vegetable; figuratively, a medley or mixture of unrelated things (derived, according to the OED, from “Macedonia” and having reference to the diversity of peoples in the Macedonian empire of Alexander the Great).


that rather offensive expression of virtuous smugness (p. 69)

See above.


If Scotties come, can Stiffy be far behind? (p. 69)

Be through my lips to unawaken’d earth
The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

Percy Bysshe Shelley, “Ode to the West Wind” (1820)


like Venus rising from the foam (p. 69)

See Something Fresh.


fight this case to the House of Lords (p. 70)

The House of Lords is the highest court of appeal for civil and criminal matters in England and Wales and Northern Ireland and for civil matters in Scotland. Appeals from lower courts are heard by one of two Appellate Committees, each of which consists of at least five Lords of Appeal in Ordinary (’Law Lords’). The Law Lords, of whom there are twelve active judicially, are usually appointed from the ranks of the Lords Justices of Appeal.

Appellate Committees usually sit in a House of Lords Committee Room but their decisions are delivered in the Chamber of the House of Lords, preserving the “fiction” that it is the Court of Parliament which hears appeals.

With the development of the European Union, the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights, both in Strasbourg, have become the final courts of appeal for some matters that would previously have terminated in the House of Lords.

See also Money in the Bank.


returning to the res (p. 72)

The crux of the matter, the point at issue (or “point at tissue” as PC Oates would say) (Latin: the thing).


what I believe is known as a moue (p. 72)

French: a grimace of discontent, a pout.


seeking whom he may devour (p. 72)

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:

[Bible: 1 Peter 5:8


Justice of the Peace (p. 72)

Justices of the Peace, commonly known as magistrates, represent the lowest tier in the judicial system. Their origins date back to 1195, when Richard I commissioned certain knights as “Keepers of the Peace,” to maintain the peace in areas of unrest. JPs are unqualified and unpaid (unlike “stipendiary magistrates,” who are qualified lawyers) and were traditionally appointed from among the landed gentry, though they are now drawn from a much broader spectrum of the population. JPs, usually sitting as a “bench” of three, preside in magistrates’ courts, where they deal with the overwhelming majority of criminal cases, either deciding cases and passing sentence themselves, or, in more serious cases, hearing the preliminary evidence in proceedings for commital to the Crown Court. Magistrates’ courts also deal with such non-criminal matters as applications for liquor licences, while a magistrate’s signature is required before certain legal documents, such as search warrants, can be served.


Star Chamber (p. 72)

The Court of Star Chamber evolved out of the king’s royal council. During the reign of Henry VII, it developed into a separate judicial entity, distinct from the king’s council, primarily to hear appeals. Under Henry VIII, plaintiffs were encouraged to bring their cases directly to the Star Chamber, bypassing the lower courts entirely. From an early stage, the court could order torture, prison, and fines, but it did not have the power to impose the death sentence.

The power of the Court of Star Chamber grew considerably under James I and Charles I, who both used it to suppress anti-monarchist opposition; court sessions were held in secret (they had been held in public under the Tudors), there was no right of appeal, and punishment was both swift and severe to any enemy of the Crown. As a result, Star Chamber become a byword for Royalist abuse of power and, under the Long Parliament, in 1641, it was abolished. The name survives to designate arbitrary and secretive proceedings in opposition to personal rights and liberty.


looking like Judge Jeffries (p. 72)

George Jeffreys, 1st Baron of Wem (1645-1689), was a lawyer who prospered during the reigns of Charles II, who appointed him Lord Chief Justice, and James II, under whom he was created a Baron, the first Lord Chief Justice to be ennobled while still in office. A few months later, in August 1685, he presided over a commission set up at Winchester to try those accused of complicity in the failed Monmouth rebellion. His conduct at Winchester led to him being branded “Hanging Judge Jeffreys” and the trials are now known to history as the “Bloody Assizes” — at least 320 people were executed and hundreds more were transported to work as slaves in the West Indies after trials which, in many cases, were a mockery of justice. James II, however, was sufficiently pleased that he rewarded Jeffreys with appointment as Lord Chancellor. When, in 1688, William of Orange invaded England and James fled the country, Jeffreys tried to do likewise, but he was recognised, arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London, where he died a few months later.


putting on the black cap (p. 73)

Not a cap, so much as a square of black silk, which a judge placed on his head before sentencing a prisoner to death. Putting on the black cap before imposing a fine was not regarded as good judicial practice.


taken his pound of flesh (p. 73)

A reference to Shylock’s demand:

What judgment shall I dread, doing no wrong?
You have among you many a purchased slave,
Which, like your asses and your dogs and mules,
You use in abject and in slavish parts,
Because you bought them: shall I say to you,
Let them be free, marry them to your heirs?
Why sweat they under burthens? let their beds
Be made as soft as yours and let their palates
Be season’d with such viands? You will answer
“ The slaves are ours’: so do I answer you:
The pound of flesh, which I demand of him,
Is dearly bought; “tis mine and I will have it.
If you deny me, fie upon your law!
There is no force in the decrees of Venice.
I stand for judgment: answer; shall I have it?

Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act IV Scene 1


Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings! (p. 73)

O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens.

Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.

[Bible: Psalms, viii, 1-2


mere thews and sinews (p. 76)

Muscular strength. “Thews” by itself used to mean the physical strength of a person, and was used in that sense by Shakespeare.

Brown, accustomed to judge of men by their thews and sinews, could not help admiring his height, the breadth of his shoulders, and the steady firmness of his step.

Sir Walter Scott, Guy Mannering, ch. 25 (1815)

“That villain,” exclaimed the Dwarf, . . . “has thews and sinews, limbs, strength, and activity enough, to compel a nobler animal than himself to carry him to the place where he is to perpetrate his wickedness"

Sir Walter Scott, The Black Dwarf, ch. 6 (1816)

With all these cares on his mind, my fellow traveller, to judge by his thews and sinews, was a man who might have set danger at defiance with as much impunity as most men.

Sir Walter Scott, Rob Roy, ch. 3 (1817)

The OED cites the example from Rob Roy as the first recorded instance of the two words being used in combination, having overlooked the two earlier occurrences.

Whereon Captain Butler offered to draw and fight, to which Amyas showed no repugnance; whereon the captain, having taken a second look at Amyas’s thews and sinews, reconsidered the matter, and offered to put Amyas on board of Sir Humphrey’s Delight, if he could find a crew to row him.

Charles Kingsley, Westward Ho!, ch. 11 (1855)

See also Money in the Bank.


Freddie Threepwood . . . Blandings (p. 78)

A rare cross-reference between the Wooster and Blandings sagas.


insert a spanner in her hopes and dreams (p. 79)

A typically Wodehousean mangling of the colloquial expression, “to throw a spanner in the works” (meaning to cause disruption, to interfere with the smooth running of something). The expression is now common, but its first recorded use, according to the OED, was by Wodehouse himself, in Right Ho, Jeeves, ch. 11 (1934) — “He should have had sense enough to see that he was throwing a spanner into the works.” [But see the notes to Leave It to Psmith for earlier Wodehouse uses beginning in 1920. —NM]


Samson . . . Delilah (p. 79)

See Love Among the Chickens.


do my stretch at Dartmoor (p. 82)

The prison at Princetown, in the heart of Dartmoor, was built between 1806 and 1809 to house French captives taken during the Napoleonic war. It also housed Americans taken prisoner during the war of 1812. After being unoccupied for over 30 years, it reopened in 1850 as a civilian prison for convicts sentenced to long terms of imprisonment or to hard labour. Both the prison and its surroundings are bleak and forbidding, and the prison has long been regarded as a place to which the most recalcitrant prisoners are consigned. Though the prison is by no means as “escape-proof” as is sometimes suggested, its isolated location and the rugged nature of the surrounding moorland add to the difficulties facing would-be escapers.


cherishing . . . a harmless newt-fancier in his bosom (p. 84)

An allusion, as the subsequent mention of a snake confirms, to Aesop’s fable of the farmer and the snake. The farmer sees a snake frozen stiff with cold and, taking pity on it, puts it in his bosom to warm it, only to receive a fatal bite when the snake revives. To cherish a snake (or viper) in one’s bosom is to befriend someone who is treacherous and ungrateful.


this lax post-war world (p. 84)

The war in question is World War I, which had ended some 20 years earlier. With hindsight, we now know that World War II was less than 12 months away, but Bertie can be excused for not knowing that he is living in a lax pre-war world.


the muster of the vultures (p. 85)

The Muster of the Vultures is the title of a book, published in 1929, by Gerard Fairlie (1899-1983). Fairlie, who, in the late 1930s, succeeded “Sapper” (H C McNeile) as the author of Bulldog Drummond stories, is described by Barry Phelps (Wodehouse: Man and Myth) and Robert McCrum (Wodehouse: A Life) as one of Ethel Wodehouse’s “gentleman friends” and, according to McCrum, he stayed with the Wodehouses shortly after they moved to Hollywood.


Chapter 5 (pp. 87–104)

Mona Lisa (p. 88)

Hers is the head upon which all “the ends of the world are come,” and the eyelids are a little weary.

Walter Pater, The Renaissance (1893)

The “Mona Lisa” (or “La Gioconda") is one of the world’s best-known paintings. Painted by the Florentine artist and inventor, Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), and dating probably from around 1503-05, it depicts a young woman, whose enigmatic expression has been the subject of endless speculation and debate. Pater, a Victorian essayist and critic, elsewhere described the subject of the painting as “older than the rocks among which she sits.” The “Mona Lisa” hangs in the Louvre in Paris.


a toad beneath the harrow (p. 88)

See The Clicking of Cuthbert.


the mathematician Archimedes (p. 89)

Archimedes of Syracuse (287-212 BC) was a mathematician, engineer and inventor. According to legend, he was lying in a bath when he discovered the hydrostatic principle (that the buoyancy force acting on body immersed in fluid is equal to the weight of fluid displaced by the body) and, in his excitement, jumped from the bath and ran naked through the streets shouting “Eureka” ("I have found it"). Archimedes also discovered the transcendental number pi, and made important discoveries concerning the centre of gravity of plane and solid figures. As an inventor, he is credited with inventing the Archimedes screw (a helical device for raising water) and the compound pulley, among others. He played a prominent part in the defence of Syracuse, when it was besieged by a Roman army under Marcus Claudius Marcellus, in 213 BC, but when, in late 212 or early 211, the city fell to the Romans, Archimedes was among those killed by Roman soldiers as they sacked the town.


all flesh is as grass (p. 89)

See A Damsel in Distress.


lighted a thoughtful cigarette (p. 89)

See p 22.


to snooter me (p. 89)

To harass, bedevil, snub. According to the OED, the word only occurs in the works of Wodehouse; it is derived from US slang “snoot” for “nose”. The OED cites three examples:

My Aunt Agatha . . . wouldn’t be on hand to snooter me for at least another six weeks.

The Inimitable Jeeves, ch. 3 (1923)

“As far,” replied Mr Finch frigidly, “as a bloke can be said to be all right . . . who has been . . . chivvied and snootered and shot in the fleshy part of the leg —"

Mr. Mulliner Speaking, ch. 8 (1929)

Would this idea be any good to you? Downtrodden young peer, much snootered by aunts, etc, has become engaged to two girls at once . . .

Letter of 13 August 1932, in Performing Flea (1953)


none of that sex, however deadlier than the male (p. 89)

When the Himalayan peasant meets the he-bear in his pride,
He shouts to scare the monster, who will often turn aside.
But the she-bear thus accosted rends the peasant tooth and nail,
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

When Nag the basking cobra hears the careless foot of man,
He will sometimes wriggle sideways and avoid it if he can,
But his mate makes no such motion where she camps beside the trail.
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

When the early Jesuit fathers preached to Hurons and Choctaws,
They prayed to be delivered from the vengeance of the squaws.
’Twas the women, not the warriors, turned those stark enthusiasts pale.
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

Rudyard Kipling, “The Female of the Species” (1911)

See also Money in the Bank.


the chap whose name led all the rest (p. 89)

See A Damsel in Distress.


she’s the top (p. 89)

Presumable an allusion to the song “You’re the Top,” music and lyrics by Cole Porter. In one verse, Porter paid a tribute to his friend and fellow song-writer, Irving Berlin:

You’re the top, you’re a Waldorf salad,
You’re the top, you’re a Berlin ballad.
You’re a baby grand of a lady and a gent
You’re an Old Dutch Master, you’re Mrs Astor, you’re Pepsodent.
You’re romance, you’re the Steppes of Russia.
You’re the pants on a Roxy usher
I’m a lazy lout that’s just about to stop
But if, baby, I’m the bottom, you’re the top.

The song was written for the 1934 musical “Anything Goes,” for which Guy Bolton and P G Wodehouse wrote the original script. When they were not available to do the total rewrite demanded by the producer, Vinton Freedley, the job was passed on to the musical’s director, Howard Lindsay, who was assisted by Russel Crouse. However, Bolton and Wodehouse were given the main credit and also, thanks to their original contract, enjoyed a larger share of the proceeds than did Lindsay and Crouse. And when Paramount Studios decided to film the musical, with Bing Crosby and Ethel Merman as the leading artists, it was Bolton and Wodehouse who produced the screenplay (1936), not altogether successfully, as they jettisoned many of the hit songs from the stage version and the producers kept only a few lines of “You’re the Top.”

Wodehouse also re-wrote Porter’s lyrics for the 1935 London West End production of “Anything Goes.” In addition to giving the lyrics an English slant, he also substituted his friend George Gershwin in place of Irving Berlin:

You’re the top–you’re a Russian salad,
You’re the top–you’re a Gershwin ballad.
You’re the boy I’d swipe for the perfect type of male.
You’re an old Dutch master, you’re Lady Astor, you’re Chippendale.
You’re supreme–you’re the gates of Heaven.
You’re the cream from the shire of Devon.
I’m just in the way–as the French would say, “le trop,”
But if, baby, I’m the bottom, you’re the top.

See also Money in the Bank.


The Prince Consort (p. 90)

“Prince Consort” was the title bestowed by Queen Victoria on her husband, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, in 1857. Albert was quite liberal in matters of social reform, but, if one is to judge by the way in which he is said to have berated his eldest son, the future Edward VII and a notorious philanderer, for his behaviour, it is likely that he would have had stern words for a young woman of Stiffy’s propensities.


the full soup and fish (p. 90)

As the context makes clear, the “full soup and fish" is formal evening wear, i.e. white tie and tails, as distinct from black tie and dinner jacket (cf. Spode’s comment at the end of chap. 4 when he refers to a black tie as being “quite informal.”).


like stars, started from their spheres (p. 92)

See Summer Moonshine and p 123 below.


a statuette of a shepherdess (p. 94)

Statuettes of shepherds and shepherdesses, produced in porcelain by factories such as those at Dresden and Derby, were popular household ornaments in Victorian times:

When she came into the room, my first thought was how like she was to a statuette of a Dresden shepherdess which had always stood at one end of our mantel-piece, coquetting with the shepherd lad on the other side of the clock.

Richard Harding Davis, Captain Macklin (1902)


the shot is not on the board (p. 95)

“Shot on the board" is a US colloquialism which refers to the betting odds in horse-racing, as, for example: “—— had not raced in nearly a year. He was the longest shot on the board” or “—— was the longest shot on the board at odds of 27-1.” Wodehouse uses the phrase to mean that something is not to be allowed or tolerated:

To brawl with a fellow-man in a public street had been bad, but to be brawled with by a girl—the shot was not on the board. Absolutely not on the board.

Indiscretions of Archie, ch. 15 (1921)


all of a doodah (p. 96)

In a state of excitement. According to the OED, it derives from the refrain of the plantation song “Camptown Races”:

De Camptown ladies sing dis song — Doo-dah! doo-dah!
De Camptown racetrack five miles long — Oh! doo-dah day!

An alternative meaning is “dithering,” for which the OED cites Wodehouse:

Poor old Clarence was patently all of a doodah.

Pigs Have Wings, ch. 1 (1952)


Hell’s foundations are quivering (p. 97)

At the sign of triumph Satan’s host doth flee;
on then, Christian soldiers, on to victory!
Hell’s foundations quiver at the shout of praise;
brothers, lift your voices, loud your anthems raise.

Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
with the cross of Jesus going on before.

“Onward, Christian soldiers,” a popular English hymn (1871), words by Sabine Baring-Gould and music (also known as “St Gertrude") by Sir Arthur Sullivan


found the going so sticky (p. 97)

In hunting and horse-racing, “sticky going” refers to the condition of the ground when, after heavy rain, it is soft and yielding underfoot.


oviform chocolate pot (p. 98)

Oviform means egg-shaped. A chocolate pot is a vessel in which hot chocolate was served. It is similar in form to the coffee pot, but is distinguished by a small hole in the lid into which a stirring rod, or molionet, could be inserted so that the chocolate could be crushed and stirred while the cover remained closed, keeping the contents warm. The earliest surviving chocolate pot dates from 1685 and was made by George Garthorne, an English silversmith.


a terracotta statue of the Infant Samuel at Prayer (p. 98)

See The Clicking of Cuthbert.


say on, old thicker than water (p. 101)

Old relative (deriving from the traditional saying that “blood [in the sense of “kinship’] is thicker than water").


Suppose we knew that Spode had shot a fox (p. 101)

In most countries, if a fox raids the chicken run, one sets a trap, lays out poisoned bait, or takes a gun and shoots it. The English landed gentry abhor such hit-and-miss methods and believe that if the fox is to suffer the inconvenience of being killed, it is only right that his killer should risk his own neck in the process. Consequently, if an Englishman wishes to rid himself of a troublesome fox, he dons a scarlet hunting jacket, mounts a strong horse, and, with a few like-minded friends, and accompanied by a pack of foxhounds, he rides at breakneck speed across ploughed fields and over ditches and hedges, confident that, though he may not survive to see it, there is a faint possibility that the hounds will run the fox to earth and tear it limb from limb. A person who takes the easy option and simply shoots the fox is despised and derided as a spoilsport.

Or rather, such was the case until recently. The British Government recently brought in legislation that outlaws the killing of foxes by hounds. The sporting English gentleman can still risk his neck by “riding to hounds” but if the fox is run to earth, by law it must now — horror of horrors! — be shot!


St Bernard dogs (p. 102)

See Something Fresh.


pukka sahibs (p. 102)

Gentlemen, socially acceptable (an Anglo-Indian term).


the Junior Ganymede . . . in Curzon Street (p. 102)

Norman Murphy, so indefatigable in researching the origins of Wodehouse’s characters and localities, had to confess defeat in his efforts to locate an original for the Junior Ganymede Club, though he believes that Wodehouse knew of such an establishment and notes that:

. . . when he placed the Junior Ganymede “off Curzon Street” he showed again his accuracy for description. “Off Curzon Street” means Shepherd Market, which would be the perfect spot for a club like the “Junior Ganymede,” away from the great Mayfair houses but central enough to meet the needs of the men who served them.

In Search of Blandings, ch. 7

To be strictly accurate, Wodehouse did not (in CotW at least) say “off” Curzon Street, but “in” Curzon Street, though this hardly invalidates Colonel Murphy’s thesis.


Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party (p. 102)

This phrase is often stated to be a typing drill proposed by a teacher named Charles E. Weller. In fact, Weller was the author of a book, The Early History of the Typewriter (1918) in which he stated (without taking any credit for himself) that the sentence was devised to test the speed of the first typewriter, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in the autumn of 1867. The phrase was popularised by Ulysses S. Grant, who adopted it as the Republican Party slogan for the 1868 presidential campaign.


leaving not a rack behind (p. 104)

Be cheerful, sir.
Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind.

Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act IV Scene 1


Chapter 6 (pp. 105–112)

festive board (p. 105)

In freemasonry, “festive board” refers to the formal meal served after a lodge meeting. This is one of a number of freemasonry terms that are scattered throughout the canon. According to Phelps (Wodehouse: Man and Myth), Wodehouse was himself initiated as a freemason in March 1929.


better a dinner of herbs (p. 105)

Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.

[Bible: Proverbs, xv, 17


turned the food to ashes in my m. (p. 105)

The fruit is turned to ashes in his mouth at the fancied moment of enjoyment

Capt Frederick Marryat, The King’s Own, ch. 59 (1830)

Had the apples of Sodom turned to ashes in my mouth, I could not have felt a more startling revulsion.

Herman Melville, Typee, ch. 8 (1846)

The afternoon had turned to ashes in his mouth;

Robert Louis Stevenson, Weir of Hermiston (1896)

I felt myself surrounded as with deserts of friendlessness, and the delight of my welcome was turned to ashes in my mouth.

Robert Louis Stevenson, St Ives, ch. 17 (1897)

Then understanding that the case was hopeless, I left him and he glowered after me, for fear had made him cruel. He had won the long game and success had turned to ashes in his mouth.

H Rider Haggard, Finished, ch. 20 (1917)


a ticket-of-leave man (p. 106)

Historically, a “ticket of leave” was the colloquial name for an “order of licence,” whereby a convict in the Australian penal colonies was freed, under certain restrictions, before serving out his full sentence.


got in by crashing the gate (p. 106)

A gate-crasher is someone who enters a sporting or social event without a ticket or invitation, hence an unwanted guest. The term began to be popularised in the mid-1920s.


should he ever do Madeline Bassett wrong (p. 108)

Possibly an allusion to the 19th century folk ballad, “Frankie and Johnnie,” which is referred to more specifically in Money in the Bank.


gooseflesher (p. 108)

“Goose flesh" is a rough, pimply condition of the skin, produced by cold or fear, and resembling the skin of a plucked goose. Although the term has been used in various ways (eg goose-fleshed, goosefleshy, goosefleshing), Wodehouse seems to be unique in his use of “gooseflesher” to describe a book that induces such a condition: this coinage is not in the OED.


Tout comprendre, c’est tout pardonner (p. 109)

French: To understand all is to pardon (or forgive) all. The phrase is often attributed, erroneously, to Madame de Stael.


Working Men’s Institute (p. 111)

The Working Men’s Institutes grew out of a social movement in the mid-19th century which had as its aim the education and “improvement” of the working class. The first working men’s institute opened in Salford, Lancashire, in 1852 and was described as providing the working man with, “social intercourse, innocent amusement, mental improvement and mutual helpfulness.”


Chapter 7 (pp. 113–132)

like the deaf adder of Scripture (p. 117)

The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.

Their poison is like the poison of a serpent: they are like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear;

which will not hearken to the voice of charmers, charming never so wisely.

[Bible: Psalms, lviii, 3-5

See also Money in the Bank.


in your puff (p. 118)°

A colloquial expression, probably by transference from puff: breath of life, for “in your whole life”:

You never saw the like of it in all your born puff.

James Joyce, Ulysses, ch. 12 (“Cyclops”) (1922)
(page 510 in Everyman edition)

The OED cites Wodehouse from Mr. Mulliner Speaking:

“Did you ever see a hat like that, Stinker?”
“Never in my puff,” replied his friend.

“The Passing of Ambrose” (1928)

See also The Inimitable Jeeves.


with a perfectly familiar map (p. 119)

See The Clicking of Cuthbert.


ancient Roman gladiators (p. 120)

Bertie is thinking of the retiarius ("net man"), a gladiator whose principal weapons were a large net and a trident. Unlike other gladiators, who were usually well-armoured and often carried a large shield, the retiarius wore minimal armour and relied on speed and agility to evade his opponent. His only protection was a leather or padded arm-guard (manica), which extended to cover the shoulder and left side of the chest, and sometimes a metal shoulder shield (galerus), which protected the neck and lower face.


like quills upon the fretful porpentine (p. 123)

See p 92.


like an adagio dancer (p. 124)

In ballet, and other styles of dance, an adagio dancer is one who moves relatively slowly and is often lifted or carried, as distinct from an allegro dancer, whose movements are typically faster and usually involve lots of leaping and spinning.

The OED cites Wodehouse’s use of “adagio dancer" in Joy in the Morning (1946), but overlooks this rather earlier example.


a sort of Soul’s Awakening look (p. 127)

“The Soul’s Awakening" is a painting by the Victorian artist James Sant RA (1820-1916). The painting, which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1888, is a portrait of the artist’s 13-year-old great niece, Annie Kathleen Rendle. The sentimentality of the subject appealed to the Victorian public and the painting was widely reproduced in engravings and prints.

The other work for which Sant is now remembered is a painting which was first exhibited in 1853 under the title “Speak Lord for Thy Servant Heareth” but which is now better known under the title given it when it was reproduced as an engraving, "The Infant Samuel".


an aunt who dandled one on her knee as a child (p. 127)

In “Clustering Round Young Bingo” Bertie refers to his Aunt Dahlia’s marriage to Tom Travers in terms that seem to imply he had not met her before (from which one would suppose that Tom Travers is his maternal uncle and Dahlia merely an aunt by marriage). But that supposition seems to be contradicted by Bertie’s recollection of having been dandled on Dahlia’s knee when a child.


drained the bitter cup (p. 128)

Experienced disappointment, humiliation, pain, anguish. The phrase is usually assumed to allude to the words of Christ, in which he speaks of his coming agony as “a cup”:

But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?

[Bible: Matthew, xx, 22

And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.

[Bible: Matthew, xxvi, 39

There may be a secondary allusion to the fate of Socrates, who was condemned to die by drinking a cup of hemlock. As in the present instance, however, Wodehouse rarely uses the phrase to denote emotions any more severe than disappointment or irritation:

“Golly! Uncle Tom must be frothing at the mouth a bit,” I said, for I knew the old buster’s distaste for guests in the home. Even a single weekender is sometimes enough to make him drain the bitter cup.

Jeeves in the Offing, ch. 1

“The demeanour of Mr Travers cast something of a gloom on the proceedings. He was low-spirited."

“He always is when Aunt Dahlia fills the house with guests. I’ve known even a single foreign substance in the woodwork to make him drain the bitter cup."

Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves, ch. 1


rotten at hunt-the-slipper (p. 129)

“Hunt the Slipper" is a traditional English children’s game. Those taking part sit in a circle, all except one, who sits in the middle, eyes closed and with his hands covering his eyes. The others pass a slipper around the circle, behind their backs, while chanting:
Cobbler, cobbler mend your shoe,
Have it done by half past two.
The player in the centre of the ring then chants:
Cobbler, cobbler tell me true,
Which of you has got my shoe?
As he finishes, the other players stop passing the slipper and the player in the centre opens his eyes and tries to guess, from facial appearances, which of the other players has the slipper. If he guesses wrongly, he changes places with the person holding the slipper.


he has cropped out (p. 129)

The OED gives no definition for this usage. Something is said to “crop out” when it comes out, appears, or discloses itself accidentally, as, for example, a topic which arises unexpectedly during the course of a conversation. Wodehouse’s meaning seems to be that the threat from Spode has been eliminated or cut off (hence “cropped’).

[As it turns out, this is a Penguin misprint for “dropped out,” which appears in the US first edition book, the UK newspaper serial (Daily Mail, 1 October 1938), the 1990 Vintage UK paperback, and all other sources I can find. —Neil Midkiff]


this Becher’s Brook (p. 129)

Becher’s Brook is a notoriously difficult obstacle in the Grand National horse-racing circuit at Aintree, Liverpool. It is named after Captain Martin Becher, who rode in the first National to be run at Aintree, in 1839; his horse, Conrad, refused to jump the sixth fence, catapulting Becher over the fence and into the brook. Becher’s Brook is jumped twice in the Grand National, as the sixth and 22nd fence. The fence is a fairly modest 4 feet 10 inches on the take-off side, but on the landing side there is a two-foot wide brook and — what makes the fence so difficult — the ground is nearly two feet lower than on take-off. The drop used to be even greater on the inside of the track but the landing area has now been levelled off, in an effort to reduce the number of horses killed or injured at this fence. To add to the difficulty of the fence, it is situated just where the course makes its first turn, with the result that the extra drop on landing comes as even more of a surprise to the horses.


gird up your loins (p. 130)

Prepare for work, or for a journey.

Then he said to Gehazi, Gird up thy loins, and take my staff in thine hand, and go thy way:

[Bible: 2 Kings 4:29

Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning;

[Bible: Luke, xii, 35


tying itself into reefer knots (p. 131)

A reefer knot is a square (or “reef’) knot with a loop in it that allows the knot to be untied quickly. It takes its name from the days of sailing ships, when the act of reefing the sails (folding them up and tying them to the cross-yard) was an essential precaution if strong winds threatened to rip the sails or make the ship impossible to handle.


two minds with but a single thought (p. 132)

So what is love? If thou wouldst know
The human heart alone can tell:
Two souls with but a single thought,
Two hearts that beat as one.

Franz Joseph von Munch-Bellinghausen (1806-71), Der Sohn der Wildniss, Act II Scene 4 [translated by Maria Lovell (1803-77), English writer and actress, as Ingomar the Barbarian, or The Son of the Wilderness (1851)]


like a Scottish elder rebuking sin (p. 132)

See p 68.


Chapter 8 (pp. 133–156)

like a bump on a log (p. 134)

Unmoving, inactive, stupidly silent (American idiom dating from the mid-1800s).


Heir of the Ages (p. 134)

“ Heir of the Ages” is an epithet often applied to mankind. The Heir of the Ages is the title of a book by James Payn (1888) and of an unrelated silent movie (1917)

I wonder what Adam’d think of me—as a specimen. Civilisation, eigh? Heir of the ages! I’m nothing. I know nothing. I can’t do anything—sketch a bit. Why wasn’t I made an artist?

H G Wells, The Wheels of Chance, ch. 27 (1896)

Corner Table, heir of the ages; victor of Waterloo, Corner Table, Modern man as his master want him to be. A docile little porker, sitting in the money-sty, drinking Bovex.

George Orwell, Keep the Aspidistra Flying, ch. 1 (1936)

Man, “heir of the ages,” is a demoralised spendthrift, in a state of galloping consumption, living on stimulants.

H G Wells, The New World Order (1940)


come over with the Conqueror (p. 134)

See Summer Moonshine.


Upon my Sam (p. 134)

See Love Among the Chickens.


lazar house (p. 135)

A house for diseased persons, especially lepers (from Lazarus, a sore-ridden beggar in the parable of the rich man: Luke, xvi, 19-31).


pourparlers (p. 136)

French: informal discussions preliminary to actual negotiations.


like a Volga boatman (p. 137)

The Volga Boatman (1926) was a film by Cecil B DeMille. Set at the time of the Russian Revolution, it tells the story of Feodor, the boatman of the title, who, until he becomes caught up in the revolution, spends his days yoked together with a dozen or so companions as they haul barges by rope up and down the Volga river, “with a slow and dragging step.”

A Volga Boatman is also a cocktail drink consisting mainly of vodka, with which are mixed smaller amounts of kirsch and fresh orange juice, the general effect being to leave one incapable of anything more than a “slow and dragging step.”


making the world safe for democracy (p. 137)

On 2 April 1917, US President Woodrow Wilson addressed an extraordinary joint session of Congress which he had summoned in order to seek a Declaration of War against Germany. During his speech he stated that “The world must be made safe for democracy.”


another point d’appui (p. 138)

French: point of support, a fulcrum, but used figuratively to refer to a strategic point.


to tickle the ivories (p. 138)

To play the piano: the keys of a piano were traditionally made of ivory.


the heart bleeds (p. 139)

This phrase was presumably already of some antiquity when it was included in Webster’s Dictionary of 1828, with the explanation “used to denote extreme pain from sympathy or pity.”


Time, the great healer (p. 139)

See The Clicking of Cuthbert.


content merely to sit and stare (p. 140)

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?

No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:

W H Davies (1871-1940), “Leisure"


full of strange oaths (p. 140)

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
And then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel,
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth.

Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act II, sc 7


her demon lover (p. 140)

See Summer Moonshine.


my nonage (p. 141)

Legal infancy, minority, period of immaturity (from French nonage, literally “not of age").


catch him in Lent (p. 141)

In the Christian churches, Lent is a period of abstinence prior to the Easter festival. It takes its name from Old English lencten — Spring, the period when the days lengthen.

In the early days of Christianity, the length of this period of abstinence varied greatly, but by the 7th century it was more or less fixed at 40 days (excluding Sundays), commencing on Ash Wednesday and ending on Easter Sunday. While it was generally agreed that abstinence should involve eating no more than one meal each day, in the evening after the service of nones, and that no meat should be eaten on Sundays during Lent, the degree of abstinence otherwise varied greatly: Pope St Gregory (d 604) endeavoured to establish uniformity, insisting that the daily meal during Lent should include neither flesh meat nor what comes from flesh (ie milk, cheese and eggs).

In recent times, the Lenten restrictions have been increasingly relaxed and there is no reason to suppose that, even in Lent, Rev Pinker would resemble the “lean, finely trained” Stinker of old.


as if conscience were gnawing at his vitals (p. 142)

That haunting visitation left Duane sitting there in a cold sweat, a remorse gnawing at his vitals, realizing the curse that was on him.

Zane Grey, The Lone Star Ranger, Book 1 ch. 2 (1915)

The anguish that the recollection of his treachery caused him was worse than a physical pain gnawing at his vitals.

W Somerset Maugham, “A Man with a Conscience” (1939)


preaches about Hivites, Jebusites and what-not (p. 143)

The Hivites and Jebusites were two of the Canaanite tribes which were conquered by the Israelites after the latter’s exodus from Egypt (eg Exodus, xiii, 5). The Hivites have been identified with the Hurrians, whose name occurs frequently in ancient Near-Eastern texts. Jebusite was a 17th-century nickname for Roman Catholics.

See also Money in the Bank.


speaks the word in season (p. 143)

A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good it is!

[Bible: Proverbs, xv, 23

Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.

[Bible: 2 Timothy 4:2


sticking on dog (p. 145)

“Put on the dog" is a phrase which now means “get dressed up,” but when it first appeared in the late 19th century, as “put on dog” it meant to be pretentious, to put on airs, which is the sense intended here.


tantamount to shooting a sitting bird (p. 145)

A crime as heinous as shooting a fox. When shooting grouse or pheasants, Englishmen employ beaters to harry the birds into flight, thus making the task of shooting them (the birds) more challenging.


at twelve pip emma (p. 146)

That is, 12 pm. The phrase is RAF slang (in which “ack emma" is morning and “ack-ack" is “anti-aircraft’) and derives from a phonetic alphabet that was developed in the trenches in WW I by field telephone operators, when “ack,” “emma” and “pip” were respectively the phonetic equivalents of the letters “a,” “m” and “p.” A similar usage still persists in the name of a well-known charity, Toc H, that takes its name from the initials of Talbot House, in the Belgian town of Poperinge, where it was founded during WW I: in the phonetic jargon, “toc” stood for the letter “t.”


trying to keep on the straight and narrow path (p. 147)

See Love Among the Chickens.


calm insouciance (p. 147)

Indifference, lack of concern (from French).


ground beneath the iron heel (p. 145)

The Iron Heel (1908) is a futuristic novel by Jack London which tells of the overthrow of democracy in the United States by a fascist capitalist oligarchy, the “Iron Heel.”

The phrase is thought, however, to date from 20 years earlier, 3 December 1888, when President Grover Cleveland, delivering his annual address to Congress, commented: “As we view the achievements of aggregated capital, we discover the existence of trusts, combinations, and monopolies, while the citizen is struggling far in the rear or is trampled to death beneath an iron heel. Corporations, which should be the carefully restrained creatures of the law and the servants of the people, are fast becoming the people’s masters."


with knobs on (p. 149)

The OED defines this as “jocular slang phrase = “that and more” (indicating ironic or emphatic agreement, or in retort to an insult, etc)” and includes this Wodehouse example among its citations.


looking at him with a wild surmise (p. 151)

See p 218 below and The Clicking of Cuthbert.


Kipling was right. D than the m. (p. 155)

See p 89.


Oh, Diamond, Diamond (p. 155)

The reference is to a story about the great English scientist and mathematician, Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727), who is said to have had a dog named Diamond. As recounted in Brewer’s Dictionary, 1894 edition, one winter’s morning, while attending early service in Trinity College, Newton inadvertently left the dog shut up in his room. Returning from chapel, he found that Diamond had knocked over a burning candle, setting fire to papers that contained “the unfinished labours of some years.” Newton is said to have cried “Oh Diamond, Diamond! Thou little knowest the mischief thou hast done!.”


Chapter 9 (pp. 157–170)

rise on stepping-stones of his dead self (p. 157)

See p 16.


in statu pupillari days (p. 160)

Latin: literally, in a state of wardship, but more usually denoting the condition of being schoolboys.


Quis custodiet ipsos custodes (p. 160)

Latin: who is to guard the guards themselves? (from Juvenal, Satires, VI, 347-8)


the late Lord Asquith (p. 160)

Herbert Henry Asquith (1852-1928), 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith, was a prominent Liberal politician of the late 19th and early 20th century. He served as Home Secretary under Gladstone and as Chancellor of the Exchequer under Campbell-Bannerman, before succeeding the latter as Prime Minister in 1908. In December 1916, he was forced from office and replaced by David Lloyd George, an event which divided the Liberal Party and from which it has never recovered.

Asquith is said to have used the phrase “wait and see” so often, in response to Opposition questions about the 1910 Budget, that it became inextricably associated with him and when, during the War, his Government seemed to lack a clear policy and a sense of direction, his opponents were quick to use it as a taunt.

Wodehouse dedicated Meet Mr Mulliner (1927) to Lord Asquith.


letting the dead past bury its dead (p. 160)

See p 15.


pince-nezing me coldly (p. 160)

Pince-nez (literally “pinch-nose’) are spectacles which are kept in place by a spring clipped to the nose. Only Wodehouse, one suspects, would have thought to turn the word into verb: the OED recognises the adjective “pince-nezed” but overlooks Wodehouse’s usage.


chokey . . . Bastille . . . jug (p. 161)

Three words with but a single meaning: prison.

“ Chokey” (also “choky,” “chokee,” “chowkie” and other variants) is English slang deriving from the Hindi word chauki, meaning a shed, watch-house or lock-up.

The Bastille, in Paris, was a royal castle built by Charles V between 1370 and 1383. It was later used as a state prison and came to symbolise the tyranny and oppression of the French monarchy. The storming of the Bastille by a Paris mob, on 14 July 1789, heralded the start of the French Revolution and 14 July, Bastille Day, is now a French national holiday, having much the same significance in France as Independence Day does in other countries.

“ Jug” (originally stone-jug) was a nickname for Newgate prison, and hence for prison in general:

He shall be kept in the Stone Jug, Charley, like a gentleman.

Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist, ch. 43 (1838)


like a rocketing pheasant (p. 163)

The Common Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus, is noted for the noisy and abrupt manner in which it takes flight if disturbed:

“Takes off with loud burst of wing-beats, and in sustained flight, wings continue to make distinctive whirring noise. . . shows marked ability to climb fast out of close surroundings. . . Capacity for steep rises, even through foliage, on sudden alarm offset by extremely limited endurance. . .”

S Cramp & K E L Simmons (eds), The Birds of the Western Palearctic, vol II (1979)


plucked the gowans fine (p. 163)

Gowan is a general name for various white or yellow field flowers. When used without qualification, it is usually taken to refer to the common daisy, Bellis perennis. The phrase “plucked the gowans fine" is an English translation of phrase from a well-known Scottish poem and song:

We twa hae run about the braes,
And pou’d the gowans fine,
But we’ve wander’d monie a weary fit,
Sin auld lang syne.

Robert Burns, “Auld Lang Syne” (1788)


tidings of great joy (p. 165)

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

[Bible: Luke 2:10


other indications of bien être (p. 168)

French: well-being.


while measuring footprints or looking for cigar ash (p. 168)

R Austin Freeman’s Dr Thorndyke was a great believer in the importance of measuring footprints: in Mr Pottermack’s Oversight (1930), his meticulous attention to the details of a set of footprints leads him to a solution of the mystery.

And we are told by Sherlock Holmes himself:

I found the ash of a cigar, which my special knowledge of tobacco ashes enables me to pronounce as an Indian cigar. I have, as you know, devoted some attention to this, and written a little monograph on the ashes of 140 different varieties of pipe, cigar, and cigarette tobacco.

Arthur Conan Doyle, “The Boscombe Valley Mystery" in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1892)


pumpkin-headed foozlers (p. 169)

A foozler is a bungler (later applied to one who plays golf badly).


the Ogpu (p. 169)

Ob’edinennoe Gosudarstvennoe Politicheskoe Upravlenie’, or OGPU, the Combined State Political Directorate, was formed in 1923, when, as a result of the creation of the USSR, the various regional State Political Directorates were unified under a single authority. OGPU ceased to exist in 1934, when it was incorporated into the NKVD, the forerunner of the KGB. The OGPU was not merely a secret police force; it also ran a network of prisons and forced-labour camps, forcibly implemented Stalin’s policies of mass collectivisation and deportation of the kulaks (wealthy peasants), and was responsible for staging the show trials which Stalin used to rid himself of all opposition.


Chapter 10 (pp. 171–182)

like the Mona Lisa (p. 171)

See p 88 above.


working in a spot of stage business (p. 171)

Throughout his narrative, Bertie uses a number of stage terms: just before Gussie hits Spode with the painting, he is described as making a “sort of gasping gulp from up-stage”; Stiffy, seeing Stinker at her bedroom window, claps a hand to her throat “like someone in a play”; and after Bassett sends his butler to find Stiffy, “a stage wait then occurred.”

Stage “business” denotes minor acts — eg, lighting a cigarette, picking up a cup of tea, or re-arranging cushions on a sofa — that are not called for by the plot and that do nothing to further the action.


a satyr (p. 173)

In Greek mythology, the satyrs were woodland gods, supposed to be comapnions of Bacchus. The Greeks represented satyrs as having the long ears and tail of a horse, but the Romans depicted them as part-goat and, like “goat,” “satyr” came to signify a lustful or lecherous man.


that tout comprendre, c’est tout pardonner stuff (p. 173)

See p 109 above.


we all had our cross to bear (p. 174)

And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.

[Bible: Matthew, x, 38


plumb spang (p. 175)

See Sam the Sudden.


“Happy Days Are Here Again” (p. 175)

See Summer Moonshine.


right in the mazzard (p. 176)

In the face.


stop, look, and listen (p. 177)

“Stop, Look, and Listen” was the title of a song, lyrics by Ralph Freed, that was recorded by the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra in 1934.


Snootered to bursting point (p. 177)

See p 89.


soaping of the loofah (p. 179)

A loofah is a stiff bath sponge used especially for scrubbing the back. It takes its name from a vine, Luffa aegyptiaca, or sponge gourd, a relative of the pumpkin which is native to tropical Africa and Asia. The vine produces a fibrous fruit, looking not unlike a large cucumber, that can grow to a length of up to two feet long and a diameter of about 3 inches. When the fruit is dried and peeled, it can be used as a sponge or even as a pot scourer.


the Wreck of the Hesperus (p. 181-2)

“The Wreck of the Hesperus” (1840) is a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Bertie quotes the first verse and Jeeves the second verse, both nearly word-perfect.


promesso sposo (p. 182)

Italian: betrothed man (literally, promised spouse).


a consummation devoutly to be wished (p. 182)

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether “tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, “tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d.

Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act III Scene 1


Chapter 11 (pp. 183–198)

one man’s peach (p. 183)

The usual phrase is “one man’s meat is another man’s poison,” but Wodehouse uses “peach” not just here but in The Man with Two Left Feet ("Wilton’s Holiday") (1917) and Indiscretions of Archie, ch. 19 (1921).


preferred . . . turn his face to the wall (p. 185)

In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz came to him, and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live.

Then he turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto the Lord.

[Bible: 2 Kings, xx, 1-2


nonettes de poulet Agnès Sorel (p. 187)

Nonettes are small honey cakes, filled with marmelade or another preserve. They are not made from chicken (poulet).

Agnès Sorel (1421-50), was the mistress of King Charles VII of France. She also has no connection with chickens.

If Anatole’s dishes are as creative as the names he bestows on them, it’s easy to see why Aunt Dahlia is reluctant to lose his services.


He is well stricken in years (p. 188)

Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age

[Bible: Genesis, xviii, 11

And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.

[Bible: Luke 1:7


rather have a cup of tea (p. 188)

Constable Oates would seem to be a disciple of Hash Todhunter:

“When you’ve seen as much of life as I have,” he replied, “you’d rather have a cup of tea."

Sam the Sudden, ch. 1 (1925)


the boy who stood on the burning deck (p. 191)

See A Damsel in Distress.


doing the old cat-in-an-adage stuff (p. 194)

See p 32.


There . . . but for whatever it is (p. 197)

The phrase is “There, but for the grace of God, go I,” words attributed to John Bradford, a Protestant chaplain, as he watched a condemned criminal being led to his execution. Bradford was ordained in 1550, but when Mary Tudor came to the throne, in 1553, she moved quickly to suppress Protestant clerics and, within a month, Bradford was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London. In January 1555, after nearly two years in the Tower, he was removed to Newgate prison, where he was burnt at the stake as a heretic.


Chapter 12 (pp. 199–206)

a parfit gentil knight (p. 199)

He nevere yet no vileynye ne sayde
In al his lyf unto no maner wight.
He was a verray, parfit gentil knyght.

Geoffrey Chaucer, “The Knight’s Portrait,” from the Prologue to The Canterbury Tales


a porringer (p. 199)

A small vessel of metal, earthenware or wood, from which soup, broth, porridge, children’s food, and the like, is eaten.


preux chevalier (p. 199)

French: literally, valiant knight. The phrase was very common in the literature of the 19th century; examples can be found in the works of Elizabeth Gaskell, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, William Makepeace Thackeray and Charlotte Yonge, in addition to those quoted below.

Here have we gained a victory, unparalleled in history—and your behaviour is praised by every living mortal to the skies—and the Prince is eager to thank you in person—and all our beauties of the White Rose are pulling caps for you,—and you, the Preux Chevalier of the day, are stooping on your horse’s neck like a butter-woman riding to market, and looking as black as a funeral!

Sir Walter Scott, Waverley, ch. 50 (1814)

Mannering, agreeably flattered by this allusion to the fame of his celebrated ancestor, replied by professing himself only a distant relation of the preux chevalier, and added, “that in his opinion the wine was superlatively good.”

Sir Walter Scott, Guy Mannering, ch. 36 (1815)

Aurora sat with that indifference
Which piques a preux chevalier — as it ought:
Of all offences that’s the worst offence,
Which seems to hint you are not worth a thought.

Lord Byron, Don Juan, Canto XV (1819-24)

. . . but our other knight—our other preux chevalier, sans peur et sans reproche—at whose feet will he lay his trophies, Marie?

Anthony Trollope, La Vendée, ch. 5 (1850)

“ Come and give Mrs Bold your arm,” said Charlotte, “while I set you on a piece of duty which, as a preux chevalier, you must immediately perform. Your personal danger will, I fear, be insignificant, as your antagonist is a clergyman.’

Anthony Trollope, Barchester Towers, ch. 42 (1857)

“ You need not be ashamed,” said Madalina. “I have heard how well you behaved on that occasion. You were quite the preux chevalier; and if any gentleman ever deserved well of a lady you deserved well of her.’

Anthony Trollope, The Last Chronicle of Barset, ch. 46 (1867)

She had been most gracious to me at the Governor-General’s rout, and indeed I was looked upon by all as her preux chevalier—which is French for a much worse word.

Rudyard Kipling, “The Dream of Duncan Parrenness,” in Life’s Handicap (1891)


howl like a banshee (p. 200)

In Celtic folklore a banshee (from Gaelic bean-sidhe — a woman of the fairies) is a female fairy who announces her presence by shrieking and wailing beneath the windows of a house in which one of the occupants is dying.


the native hue of resolution (p. 201)

A later part of the soliloquy alluded to on p 182:

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.

Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act III Scene 1


had passed through the furnace (p. 203)

Been sorely tried — the reference is to the Biblical story (Daniel, iii) which tells of the ordeal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who were cast into a burning fiery furnace by King Nebuchadnezzar but emerged unscathed. (See A Damsel in Distress)

See also Money in the Bank.


the man had rung the bell (p. 204)

A reference to an attraction that used to be popular at fairgrounds and where the aim was to strike a metal plate, using a sledgehammer, with enough force to push a sliding block up a post until it struck a bell at the top; any one who succeeded in doing so won a small prize.


rannygazoo (p. 206)

Described by the OED as “chiefly US dialect or slang,” “rannygazoo” (also ranikaboo, reinikaboo or renicky-boo) is a prank, trick, horseplay or nonsense. The OED cites two examples from Wodehouse:

I’ll hang around for a while just in case friend Pilbeam starts any rannygazoo.

Bill the Conqueror, ch. 11 (1924)

Her lips were tightly glued together, her chin protruding, her whole lay-out that of a girl who intended to stand no rannygazoo.

Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen, ch. 7 (1974)


V-shaped depressions (p. 206)

See Summer Moonshine.


Chapter 13 (pp. 207–217)

clubman and boulevardier (p. 207)

A clubman is one who frequents clubs, a man-about-town; a boulevardier is one who frequents boulevards, particularly those of Paris, and is another synonym for man-about-town.


man of chilled steel (p. 207)

The Man of Chilled Steel is the title of a novel which Eunice Bray ("The Rough Stuff" in The Clicking of Cuthbert) has been reading.


straight into Colney Hatch (p. 208)

See Love Among the Chickens.


I did not immediately fling wide the gates (p. 209)

See Love Among the Chickens.


the Assyrian comes down (p. 210)

The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.

Lord Byron, “The Destruction of Sennacherib” (1815)

Ogden Nash’s poem “Very Like a Whale” provides an amusing analysis of this passage from Byron.


Carter Paterson (p. 212)

Carter, Paterson was a haulage and delivery company which flourished in the period before WW II. The company was founded by James Paterson, with his brother Robert and their friend Walter Carter. In 1946, Carter, Paterson merged with its main competitor, Pickfords, to form the Joint Parcel Service; two years later, the firm was nationalised and ceased to have a separate existence.


Nick Carter (p. 212)

Nick Carter was a popular detective fiction character who made his first appearance in September 1886, in the New York Weekly. The character quickly became so popular that dozens of writers were involved in turning out stories for dime magazines.


Sidney Carton (p. 212)

Sydney (not Sidney) Carton is a character in Charles Dickens’s novel A Tale of Two Cities. A drunken English barrister, he is in love with a young Frenchwoman, Lucie Manette, who is also loved by a young French aristocrat, Charles Darnay. Darnay is condemned to the guillotine, but Carton, taking advantage of the resemblance between them, takes Darnay’s place in prison and goes to the guillotine in his stead, so that Darnay may marry Lucie.

See also Money in the Bank.


take a dekko (p. 217)

Take a look (from Hindi dekho, imperative of dekhna, to look)


Chapter 14 (pp. 218–238)

Bethnal Green (p. 218)

Bethnal Green is a district in the East End of London, in the Borough of Tower Hamlets.


costermonger (p. 218)

See The Clicking of Cuthbert.


Then the scales fell from my eyes (p. 218)

See p 9 above.


like some watcher of the skies . . . Darien (p. 218)

See p 151 above.


put it up the spout (p. 220)

Pawned it: “spout” was the name for a lift used in pawnbrokers’ shops to transfer goods to storage and, by a transfer of meaning, came to be used for a pawnshop.


so busy rejoicing in spirit (p. 226)

In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes:

[Bible: Luke, x, 21


when the fields are white with daisies (p. 229)

See Sam the Sudden.


though he had snootered me (p. 231)

See p 89.


Murder her? (p. 232)

Bertie’s grip on reality has surely deserted him if he believes not only that Spode might actually be a murderer but that Jeeves would be prepared to keep the fact quiet.


thought that the curse had come upon me (p. 233)

See Summer Moonshine.


vanished like the dew on the what-is-it (p. 233)

This may be an allusion to Sir Walter Scott:

Like the dew on the mountain,
Like the foam on the river,
Like the bubble on the fountain,
Thou art gone, and forever!

“The Lady of the Lake,” Canto III, Stanza 16 (1810)


like the troops of Midian (p. 236)

See Something Fresh.


that thing of yours about larks (p. 236)

See Something Fresh.


sleep which does something (p. 237)

Methought I heard a voice cry “Sleep no more!
Macbeth does murder sleep,” the innocent sleep,
Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleave of care

Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act II Scene 2