P G Wodehouse
Literary and Cultural References
This is part of an on-going effort by the members of the Blandings Yahoo! Group to document references, allusions, quotations, etc in the works of P G Wodehouse.
Cocktail Time was originally annotated by Mark Hodson (aka The Efficient Baxter). They have been reformatted somewhat, but credit goes to Mark for his original efforts, even while we bear the blame for errors of fact or interpretation.
These annotations relate to the 1987 Penguin (UK) reprint.
Chapter 1 (Ch.1; page 7)
Runs from pp. 7 to 14 in the 1987 Penguin edition
Drones Club (Ch.1; page 7)
The Drones is first mentioned in Jill the Reckless (1921). For more on the
real background to this, the most celebrated fictional club in the Wodehouse
world, see Murphy, Chapter VII.
[Murphy, N. T. P., In Search of Blandings (1986) ]
Pongo Twistleton (Ch.1; page 7)
Pongo and his uncle, Lord Ickenham, first appear in the story Uncle Fred
flits by in (1935, Young Men in Spats), then in Uncle Fred in the Springtime
(1939), and Uncle Dynamite (1948). They appeared again in Service with a Smile
(1962). See Murphy for a biographical sketch of Lord Ickenham.
[Murphy, N. T. P., Reminiscences of the Hon. Galahad Threepwood (1993) ]
banner with the strange device (Ch.1; page 7)
THE SHADES of night were falling fast,
As through an Alpine village passed
A youth, who bore, 'mid snow and ice,
A banner with the strange device,
His brow was sad; his eye beneath,
Flashed like a falchion from its sheath,
And like a silver clarion rung
The accents of that unknown tongue,
In happy homes he saw the light
Of household fires gleam warm and bright;
Above, the spectral glaciers shone,
And from his lips escaped a groan,
"Try not the Pass!" the old man said;
"Dark lowers the tempest overhead,
The roaring torrent is deep and wide!"
And loud that clarion voice replied,
"Oh, stay," the maiden said, "and rest
Thy weary head upon this breast!"
A tear stood in his bright blue eye,
But still he answered, with a sigh,
"Beware the pine-tree's withered branch!
Beware the awful avalanche!"
This was the peasant's last Good-night,
A voice replied, far up the height,
At break of day, as heavenward
The pious monks of Saint Bernard
Uttered the oft-repeated prayer,
A voice cried through the startled air,
A traveller, by the faithful hound,
Half-buried in the snow was found,
Still grasping in his hand of ice
That banner with the strange device,
There, in the twilight cold and gray,
Lifeless, but beautiful, he lay,
And from the sky, serene and far,
A voice fell, like a falling star,
[Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth (1807-1882) Excelsior ]
hat ... side of his head (Ch.1; page 7)
Perhaps alluding to a popular song of the day. "My Hat's on the Side of
my Head" is the title of a song from the 1934 musical film Jack Ahoy,
directed by Harold Forde, music and lyrics by Claude Hulbert and Harry M Woods.
blue skies and ridges of high pressure... (Ch.1; page 7)
Sending up a bit of lyrical description by putting in technical language from the weather forecast is a favourite Wodehouse trick.
Eton and Harrow match (Ch.1; page 8)
Two of the most prestigious boys public (i.e. private) schools in England. Eton is near Windsor, in Berkshire, and Harrow is at Harrow-on-the-Hill, in north London. The hotly contested annual cricket match has been held every summer at Lord's since 1805. Lord Byron played in the first Harrow team. Pongo and Uncle Fred were both Etonians, like Bertie and Gussie .
Cheshire cat (Ch.1; page 8)
cf. Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland. When the Cheshire Cat disappears, only its grin remains.
Browning (Ch.1; page 8)
THE YEARS at the spring,
And days at the morn;
Mornings at seven;
The hill-sides dew-pearld;
The larks on the wing;
The snails on the thorn;
Gods in His heaven
Alls right with the world!
[Browning, Robert (1812-1889) Pippa Passes ]
Colney Hatch and Hanwell (Ch.1; page 8)
The Middlesex County Lunatic Asylum at Colney Hatch, later Friern Hospital,
opened in 1851 in the hamlet of Friern Barnet, in what is now the north London
district of New Southgate.
Hanwell Lunatic Asylum, also in Middlesex, was opened in 1829-30 and extended in the 1880s.
The trouble with Pongos Uncle Fred... (Ch.1; page 8)
This description is a set piece that recurs more or less verbatim in all the Uncle Fred stories.
dog races (Ch.1; page 9)
Like the story of Sir Gregory and the prawns, what happened at the dog races is a story Wodehouse never revealed. In Uncle Dynamite we meet the policeman who arrested them on that occasion.
Thames-side seminary (Ch.1; page 9)
Eton college is on the bank of the river Thames, near Windsor.
Brazil nuts (Ch.1; page 9)
A large, elongated nut in a very hard shell (castanha do Pará, the fruit of the Brazilian bertholletia excelsa tree). Its shape probably makes for difficult aerodynamics. We first met the marksman Egbert in similar circumstances in the story The Masked Troubadour in 1936 (Lord Emsworth and Others). His education has not progressed very far in 22 years, it seems.
Barmy (Ch.1; page 9)
Barm is the froth that collects on top of fermenting beer, etc. Barmy as a
nickname for someone of weak intellect dates back to the 1890s. Barmy Fotheringay-Phipps
is of course the hero of Barmy in Wonderland (US: Angel Cake - 1952).
[, , Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Edition on CD-ROM () ]
Annie Oakley (Ch.1; page 10)
Phoebe Ann Oakley Mozee (1860-1926), defeated the celebrated marksman Frank
E. Butler (1850-1926) in a shooting contest in 1876. They later married, and
Oakley joined Buffalo Bill Codys Wild West show in 1885.
According to his account of his misspent youth, Lord Ickenham must have been born around 1870 (cf Murphy). Thus his childhood days would have been rather early for Annie Oakley to be famous in Britain.
[Murphy, N. T. P., Reminiscences of the Hon. Galahad Threepwood (1993) ]
toppers being obligatory (Ch.1; page 11)
Gentlemen wore a silk top hat with a grey tailcoat and striped trousers as part of daytime dress on formal occasions. Nowadays this costume is limited to weddings and court events like royal Ascot and Buckingham Palace garden parties.
spinneys and coverts (Ch.1; page 11)
Woodland areas where a hunter might expect to find game. This is a particularly British hunting image: Uncle Fred also makes parallels with Indian tiger hunting and African safaris.
Homburg (Ch.1; page 11)
A soft felt hat with a curled brim and a dented crown, named after the spa near Wiesbaden. Made popular by Edward VII as Prince of Wales in the 1890s.
Fore-and-aft deerstalker (Ch.1; page 11)
Fore-and-aft is a nautical expression for something aligned along the longitudinal
axis of the ship.
The deerstalker has extended brims at front and rear to keep off rain. It fits close to the head, thus not revealing the stalkers position to the deer. Conan Doyle never mentions it in the text of the Sherlock Holmes stories: it comes from the illustrations of Sidney Paget. The OED records the first use of the word for a hat as 1881.
Demosthenes Club (Ch.1; page 11)
Demosthenes was an Athenian orator, of course, so this is probably an allusion to the Athenaeum. See Murphys discussion of the location of the Drones Club.
Sir Raymond Bastable (Ch.1; page 11)
There is a Lady Bastable (a widow from Huddersfield) in Ukridge and the Home from Home. The most famous Bastables in literature are the Bastable children who appear in E. Nesbits novels. However, Wodehouse would have been a little old to have read them as a child (The Story of the Treasure Seekers appeared in 1899). Perhaps Leonora was a fan?
stap my vitals (Ch.1; page 11)
This expression of surprise seems to have been invented by Sir John Vanbrugh - it is said by Lord Foppington in the play The Relapse (1696). Foppington pronounces all his 'o's as 'a's: he means "Stop my vital [organ]s."
Henry of Navarre ... plumed helmet (Ch.1; page 12)
Henri of Navarre (1553-1610), later Henri IV, king of France. At the battle
of Ivry (14 March 1590) he urged his troops to follow the white plumes on his
helmet: "Mes amis, vous êtes Français, voilà l'ennemi.
A eux! et si vous perdez vos cornettes, ralliez-vous à mon panache blanc,
vous le trouverez toujours au chemin de l'honneur et de la victoire!"
ten thousand ... sprung from their ranks (Ch.1; page 12)
If it is a quotation, I can't identify it, but Scott's "Lay of the Last Minstrel", which I'd guess Wodehouse had read, refers to "ten thousand" Scots and, as a classical scholar, he was familiar with Xenophon's Ten Thousand (cf. p.146 below). So perhaps it's not so much a quotation, more a nod in the direction of such conventional usages? [AGOL]
ticking bomb ... coat-tails (Ch.1; page 12)
In Bring on the Girls, Wodehouse repeats an anecdote allegedly told by him
Chaliapin in a restaurant, about a man with a bum (bomb) in his
[Wodehouse, P.G., Wodehouse on Wodehouse (1980) 108]
Draw that bead (Ch.1; page 12)
The bead is the front sight of a gun, so to draw a bead is to take aim. It is a US expression, going back to the mid-19th century.
knotted and combined locks porpentine (Ch.1; page 12)
This is another old favourite, especially with Bertie Wooster.
I am thy father's spirit,
Doom'd for a certain term to walk the night,
And for the day confined to fast in fires,
Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature
Are burnt and purged away. But that I am forbid
To tell the secrets of my prison-house,
I could a tale unfold whose lightest word
Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,
Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres,
Thy knotted and combined locks to part
And each particular hair to stand on end,
Like quills upon the fretful porpentine:
But this eternal blazon must not be
To ears of flesh and blood. List, list, O, list!
If thou didst ever thy dear father love--
[Shakespeare, William (1564-1616) Hamlet I.v]
brilliantined (Ch.1; page 12)
Brilliantine was a kind of early hair gel (ca. 1880). Only Wodehouse would manage to mix it in one sentence with Shakespeare.
Henry the Fifth at Harfleur (Ch.1; page 12)
In August 1415, Henry V of England landed in France with a small force, intent
on asserting his hereditary claim to the Duchy of Normandy. He soon became
bogged down in a five week siege of the town of Harfleur, during which he lost
many men to disease. Having taken Harfleur, he decided to retreat to England
via Calais, but his army was stopped on the road at Agincourt by a much larger
French force. The ensuing battle, on 25 October, was a surprise victory for
the English, mainly due to their use of the longbow.
SCENE I. France. Before Harfleur.
Alarum. Enter KING HENRY, EXETER, BEDFORD, GLOUCESTER, and Soldiers, with scaling-ladders
KING HENRY V:
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o'erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O'erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill'd with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height.
[Shakespeare, William (1564-1616) Henry V III.i]
Anything William Tell could do... (Ch.1; page 13)
Legendary Swiss patriot, who was ordered by the Austrian Gessler to shoot an
apple from his son's head as a punishment for refusing to make obeisance to
Gessler's hat. This legend forms the subject of a drama by Schiller and an
opera by Rossini. Wodehouse had written a children's version of the story,
William Tell Told Again (A & C Black, November 1904).
Anything you can do, I can do better is another reference to Annie Oakley (see p 10 above): it is one of the songs from Irving Berlins 1946 musical Annie Get Your Gun.
Phoebe Wisdom (Ch.1; page 13)
The actor and comedian Norman Wisdom was to star in the film version of The Girl on the Boat in 1962, but Wodehouse probably didnt know that in 1958. Perhaps Wodehouse had another motive for the choice of this name: see Chapter 12 for a possible explanation.
Peasemarch (Ch.1; page 13)
Sir Raymonds butler, Albert Peasemarch, is the same man we have previously met as the doleful ships steward in The Luck of the Bodkins. See p.57 below for Lord Ickenhams account of how he became a butler.
say it with thunderbolts (Ch.1; page 13)
The slogan Say it with Flowers was adopted by the Society of American
Florists in 1918.
Cf. Hot Water Ch. 6: shouting about the plumbing ... and not saying it with flowers, neither. Baxter, of course, decides to Say it with flower-pots in Chapter XI of Leave it to Psmith.
... better than no bread (Ch.1; page 13)
Proverbial: the more usual expression is half a loaf.
gone with the wind (Ch.1; page 13)
This expression seems to be proverbial, although of course it has been set
in stone by Margaret Mitchells romantic novel of 1936 and the 1939 film
based on it. Just possibly, it originates in Psalm 103. Possibly there might
also be a hunting reference here - cf. the quivering nostrils in the next sentence.
The wind passeth over it and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know
it no more.
[Bible Psalms 103:16]
there he spouts (Ch.1; page 13)
Yet another metaphor of the chase, this time from whaling.
printers and compositors (Ch.1; page 14)
Compositors set type, printers apply it to paper.
Milton ... Paradise Lost (Ch.1; page 14)
John Milton (1608-1674) started work on his great epic poem Paradise Lost around 1657 and finished it in 1665. It was published in 1667. He explained, in a sentiment that Wodehouse certainly approved, that he wanted to do Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme (I.16).
Cocktail Time (Ch.1; page 14)
In the prefaces to French Leave and Summer Lightning Wodehouse joked about
the number of books with these titles, and hoped that his would be added to
the list of a hundred best books called ...
The British Library and Library of Congress list only one other book called Cocktail Time, by Starr Wood (1933). There is also a show by Cole Porter (1922).
windage (Ch.1; page 14)
Allowance for the effect of crosswinds when shooting. Wodehouse may have picked the term up from golf - with his eyesight problems it is unlikely that he did much shooting.
Chapter 2 (Ch.2; page 15)
Runs from pp. 15 to 26 in the 1987 Penguin edition
Old Sureshot (Ch.2; page 15)
This sounds like an allusion to James Fenimore Cooper, Karl May, Zane Grey, or the like, but I havent found a precise source. Sureshot has been used as the trade name for several types of camera.
Lords cricket ground (Ch.2; page 15)
Thomas Lord (1755-1832), cricketing entrepreneur, held his first match on the site of the modern Dorset Square, Marylebone, in 1787. The ground was moved to a new, then still rural site near St Johns Wood in 1814. It remains the home of the Marylebone Cricket Club, and became the county ground of Middlesex in 1877. Eton and Harrow schools have rented the ground for their annual match since 1805.
shaken ... dry Martini (Ch.2; page 15)
Ian Flemings secret agent James Bond and his catchphrase Shaken not stirred first appeared in 1952 with Casino Royale.
in my puff (Ch.2; page 15)
Slang, ca. 1920: in my life. One of the earliest examples in the OED is from Mr Mulliner Speaking (1929).
spreading sweetness and light (Ch.2; page 15)
The phrase "sweetness and light" seems to have been first used by
Jonathan Swift in The Battle of the Books (1710):
For the rest, whatever we have got, has been by infinite Labor, and search, and ranging thro' every Corner of Nature: The Difference is, that instead of Dirt and Poison, we have rather chose to till our Hives with Honey and Wax, thus furnishing Mankind with the two Noblest of Things, which are Sweetness and Light.
The phrase also occurs twice in the works of Matthew Arnold:
The pursuit of perfection, then, is the pursuit of sweetness and light.
Culture and Anarchy, chap 1 (1869)
Culture is the passion for sweetness and light.
Literature and Dogma, Preface (1873)
Richard Usborne (The Penguin Wodehouse Companion) notes that Matthew Arnold "was related by marriage to the Wodehouse family", though this appears not to be mentioned in any of the several biographies of Wodehouse. [AGOL]
Time, like an ever-rolling stream (Ch.2; page 16)
Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away:
They fly forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.
[Watts, Isaac (1674-1748) Hymn (version of Ps. 90) ll.25-29]
rise from the ashes of his dead self (Ch.2; page 16)
The phoenix of classical mythology is said to do this. Just possibly there is an echo of In Memoriam (stepping stones of our dead selves...) here.
came down from Oxford (Ch.2; page 16)
Left the university, graduated. Undergraduates are said to be up at Oxford or Cambridge while in residence as members of a college. To be sent down, by contrast, is to be expelled from the university.
chucked out of the Empire (Ch.2; page 16)
The promenade of the Empire theatre, Leicester Square, was one of the main
resorts of the Pelican set in the 1890s. Murphy describes the famous chuckers-out,
Buncle and Bungay. Another confirmation that Ickenham and Bastable were born
at the latest in the seventies.
[Murphy, N. T. P., Reminiscences of the Hon. Galahad Threepwood (1993) 209-214]
Boat Race night (Ch.2; page 16)
The Oxford and Cambridge boat race takes place on a four and a half mile course on the Thames (between Mortlake and Putney), on a Saturday during the Easter vacation. It was first held in 1829. As it is in the vacation, it used to be an occasion for large numbers of students to gather and celebrate in London.
Elsie Bean ... Sir Aylmer Bostock (Ch.2; page 16)
See Uncle Dynamite.
at the Bar (Ch.2; page 16)
Formerly, the railing separating the Judges bench from the public area
of the court was called the Bar. By extension, this came to mean the Court
as a whole. Accused persons were tried at the bar, and lawyers practised there.
In modern British terminology, lawyers are divided into two groups: solicitors and barristers. Only the latter are allowed to appear as advocates at the Bar, before the higher courts.
Chops! ... chops and tomato sauce! (Ch.2; page 16)
In Mrs Bardells breach of promise action against Mr Pickwick, Mr Serjeant
Buzfuz, the barrister appearing for the plaintiff, somehow twists these innocent
words into an ardent declaration of love.
They are covert, sly, underhanded communications, but, fortunately, far more
conclusive than if couched in the most glowing language and the most poetic
imagery--letters that must be viewed with a cautious and suspicious eye--letters
that were evidently intended at the time, by Pickwick, to mislead and delude
any third parties into whose hands they might fall. Let me read the first:--`Garraway's,
twelve o'clock. Dear Mrs. B.--Chops and Tomato sauce. Yours, PICKWICK.' Gentlemen,
what does this mean? Chops and Tomato sauce! Yours, Pickwick! Chops! Gracious
heavens! and Tomato sauce! Gentlemen, is the happiness of a sensitive and
confiding female to be trifled away, by such shallow artifices as these?
[Charles Dickens Pickwick Papers Ch.34]
dishpot (Ch.2; page 16)
Edgar Saxby and Sons (Ch.2; page 17)
Saxby (presumably Danish for Saxon town) is a common place-name
in the East of England. Wodehouse might have been thinking of Saxbys
meat pies, which have been made in Northamptonshire since the 1920s. Or perhaps
...I have been in a devilish state of depression ever since; and said indeed
to Long Saxby last night - man of six foot ten, with whom my friend Dombey
is probably acquainted - that it had upset me in a confounded way, and made
me bilious. It induces a man to reflect, this kind of fatal catastrophe,
says Cousin Feenix, that events do occur in quite a providential manner;
for if my Aunt had been living at the time, I think the effect upon a devilish
lively woman like herself, would have been prostration, and that she would
have fallen, in point of fact, a victim.
[Dickens, Charles Dombey and Son Ch. 51]
a hundred and four (Ch.2; page 18)
If we were to ignore the rules of Wodehouse time for a moment and assume this story was really set in 1958, Ickenham would be approaching ninety himself.
flying saucer (Ch.2; page 19)
In similar circumstances, Lord Blicester assumed that he had been struck by a small meteor
Old Bailey ... wig and silk gown (Ch.2; page 19)
The Old Bailey, on the site of the Londons former Newgate prison, houses the Central Criminal Courts. Barristers wear a wig and gown when appearing before the courts. The fact that Bastable has a silk gown marks him as a Queens Counsel, a distinction awarded by the Lord Chancellor to senior barristers with a high reputation.
Dovetail Hammer (Ch.2; page 20)
There is nowhere in the UK called Dovetail, but there are several Dovedales,
including one in Gloucestershire (near Chipping Campden), well within Wodehouse
territory. Another possibile source is Doverdale, in Worcestershire.
Hammer is a fairly common placename element (e.g. Abinger Hammer in Surrey). The only village called Hammer by itself is in West Sussex. Could it be that a dovetail hammer is a carpenters tool?
Another possibility - cf. p.133 below - is that this is a reference to Mickey Spillanes detective, Mike Hammer.
I put it to you (Ch.2; page 21)
Barristers always say this in sensational fiction.
Jael, the wife of Heber (Ch.2; page 22)
For good reasons, there are no mentions of Brazil nuts in the Old Testament.
This is one of Berties favourite images, but it doesnt appear so
often in the non-Wooster stories.
17 Howbeit Sis'era fled away on his feet to the tent of Ja'el the wife of
Heber the Kenite: for there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and
the house of Heber the Kenite.
18 And Ja'el went out to meet Sis'era, 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.
19 And he said unto her, Give me, I pray thee, a little water to drink; for I am thirsty. And she opened a bottle of milk, and gave him drink, and covered him.
20 Again he said unto her, Stand in the door of the tent, and it shall be, when any man doth come and inquire of thee, and say, Is there any man here? that thou shalt say, No.
21 Then Ja'el Heber's wife took a nail of the tent, and took a 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.
22 And, behold, as Barak pursued Sis'era, Ja'el came out to meet him, and said unto him, Come, and I will show thee the man whom thou seekest. And when he came into her tent, behold, Sis'era lay dead, and the nail was in his temples.
[Bible Judges 4:17-22]
Bottleton East ... by-election (Ch.2; page 22)
A by-election is an election that takes place in a single constituency (voting
district), to fill a seat that becomes vacant between general elections, usually
as a result of the death, resignation, or ennoblement of the sitting member.
Bottleton (sometimes, as here, "Bottleton East") is a fictitious working-class district of the East End of London that is mentioned in many of Wodehouse's stories. The suffix - "East" - makes one suspect that Wodehouse might have had somewhere like Stratford East in mind. Interestingly, the victim of the Brazil nut in The Masked Troubadour, was also invloved in a by-election in Bottleton .
costermongering ... leaning-up-against-the-walls (Ch.2; page 23)
A costermonger is a street seller of fruit and vegetables. Covent Garden was
the site of London's wholesale fruit and vegetable market until 1972, so the
aftermath of a ball would inevitably bring guests into contact with early-rising
In other places, particularly The Masked Troubadour, we hear of another important activity of the East End - the eel-jellying industry.
Evelyn Waughs Vile Bodies (Ch.2; page 23)
Vile Bodies appeared in 1930, at a time when Waugh was still very much a member of the generation he was satirising.
Dante (Ch.2; page 24)
Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), Florentine poet. He composed his great Commedia in exile after backing the wrong side in the struggle between the Black and White Guelphs in Florence.
Juvenal (Ch.2; page 24)
Decimus Junius Juvenalis, Roman satirical poet of the 1st and 2nd centuries CE. Its not known for certain what caused his embitterment, but he seems to have had something against the emperor Domitian.
Swinburne ... weariest river (Ch.2; page 24)
From too much love of living,
From hope and fear set free,
We thank with brief thanksgiving
Whatever gods may be
That no life lives for ever;
That dead men rise up never;
That even the weariest river
Winds somewhere safe to sea.
[Swinburne, Algernon Charles The Garden of Proserpine 81-89]
Life of Talleyrand (Ch.2; page 24)
Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord (1754-1838), at various times bishop,
prince, duke, foreign minister, ambassador, and real estate agent, was one
of the most important and complex diplomatic figures of the period of the French
The British Conservative politician Alfred Duff Cooper (1890-1954) had written a celebrated biography of Talleyrand in 1932. As Minister for Information during the war, Duff Cooper was largely responsible for the attacks on Wodehouse over the Berlin broadcasts. Wodehouse has digs at him in a few other books - see Phelps, p.230.
[Phelps, Barry, P.G. Wodehouse: Man and Myth (1992) 230]
Downing Street (Ch.2; page 24)
A side-street off Whitehall, famous as the site of Number Ten,
the Prime Ministers official residence. The Chancellor of the Exchequer
(finance minister) lives next door at No. 11.
Wodehouse is exaggerating, of course. Britain has had at least one Prime Minister who wrote novels that were at least moderately racy - Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881). More recently, there has been a positive plague of best-sellers written by ministers and ex-ministers.
poppet-valve (Ch.2; page 24)
A valve with a flat sealing element moved axially by an actuator rod (e.g. the valves in most motor-car engines). Wodehouse is having fun by being over-specific: its unlikely that there were enough specialist poppet-valve manufacturers to constitute an industry.
Forever Amber (Ch.2; page 25)
Kathleen Winsors historical romance - the book which established the bodice-ripper as a literary genre - was published in 1944, and sold 800,000 copies in the first year, largely on the strength of having been banned in Boston. The story concerns a young girl who becomes the mistress of Charles II. Otto Preminger made it into a film in 1947.
Bingley versus Bingley, Botts and Frobisher (Ch.2; page 27)
This style of citation for divorce cases (plaintiff vs. defendant and co-respondents)
was normal before the reform of the English divorce law in 1969. Producing
evidence of adultery was in practice the only way to get a divorce.
Bingley is one of Wodehouses favourite names. Bingley-on-Sea (or the similar Bramley-on-Sea) appears in many stories, most memorably in 'Portrait of a Disciplinarian' (Meet Mr Mulliner). It is where the Drones have their golf tournament, and it is the setting for the first part of Doctor Sally. There is a Lancelot Bingley in Plum Pie, and Little Johnny Bingley in 'The Nodder'. There are also villages called Upper and Lower Bingley in 'The Great Sermon Handicap'.
There is a tiny Bingley in Denbighshire and a rather larger one in Airedale, West Yorkshire, but neither of them is anywhere near the sea. Murphy guesses that the most likely prototype is the south coast resort Bexhill-on-Sea.
Chapter 3 (Ch.3; page 27)
Runs from pp. 27 to 34 in the 1987 Penguin edition
Simms and Shotter (Ch.3; page 27)
Simon & Schuster were Wodehouses US publishers from 1953 onwards.
There are many Simms in the canon; Sam Shotter is the hero of Sam the Sudden.
Melville & Monks (Ch.3; page 27)
Popgood & Grooly (Ch.3; page 27)
This is the most common name for a fictitious publisher in the canon. Cf. also
Popgood, Crooly and Co. in A Damsel in Distress. Murphy points
out that Wodehouse got the name from Sir Francis Burnands book Happy
Thoughts. In Uncle Dynamite, Ch.10, we are told that the partners, Hermione
Bostocks former publishers, are Augustus Popgood and Cyril Grooly.
[Murphy, N. T. P., In Search of Blandings (1986) 5]
Bissett and Bassett (Ch.3; page 27)
Has Madeleine Bassett taken to publishing? Perhaps she could take on the output of Florence Craye. Bill Bissett (b. 1939) is a Canadian poet, but he was only just beginning to be well-known when Cocktail Time appeared.
Ye Panache Presse (Ch.3; page 27)
This also appears in some other stories. In Uncle Dynamite, Otis Painter is the directing executive of Meriday House, formerly Ye Panache Presse (ch.10, pt.2). There are, or were, a number of real printers or publishers called Panache Press, albeit without the Ye.
Alfred Tomkins (Ch.3; page 27)
There were two other boarders, besides the gentleman in the back drawing-room
- Mr. Alfred Tomkins and Mr. Frederick O'Bleary. Mr. Tomkins was a clerk
in a wine-house; he was a connoisseur in paintings, and had a wonderful eye
for the picturesque.
[Dickens, Charles Sketches by Boz Tales, The Boarding House]
monocle ... rock n roll (Ch.3; page 27)
Although the young people Wodehouse had in mind may wear monocles and drink cocktails - as the comparison with Vile Bodies implies - there is a token acknowledgement here that fashions in youthful dissipation have moved on since the thirties.
step-ins (Ch.3; page 27)
Wodehouses usual expression for ladies underwear. He often complains about publishers choice of cover art, but here it sounds entirely appropriate to the subject of the book.
Peebles Courier (Ch.3; page 27)
Peebles is a town in the Scottish Borders. The local paper there at present is the Peeblesshire News.
Basingstoke Journal (Ch.3; page 27)
Basingstoke is a town in Hampshire. WS Gilbert took it as a synonym for dullness in Ruddigore. The local paper is the Basingstoke and North Hampshire Gazette.
Times Literary Supplement (Ch.3; page 27)
The TLS has been Britains main weekly book review paper since 1902. As Wodehouse implies, it contains a listing of all newly-published books, even when they are not reviewed in detail.
laid an egg (Ch.3; page 27)
The OED suggests that this expression, in a theatrical sense, originated in the US in the twenties, but it still seems to have been current in 1958. (In the sense of scoring nothing at cricket it goes back to the 1860s at least.)
venerable (Ch.3; page 28)
In the Anglican hierarchy, archdeacons are conventionally addressed as Venerable;
bishops are Right Reverend. In the Roman Church Venerable
is a title for those on the first step of the ladder to sainthood. (Despite
the fact that his daughter has an Irish name, one assumes that the Bishop must
be an Anglican.)
Presumably Wodehouse is using the term here in a non-technical sense to mean old and worthy of respect.
Bishop of Stortford (Ch.3; page 28)
Bishops Stortford is a town in Hertfordshire, near the Essex border. There
has never been a Bishop of Stortford: the name comes from the fact that the
Bishops of London owned the town and its castle from 1060 to 1208.
Ring and Jaggard suggest that there must have been at least three Bishops of Stortford in Wodehouse: (a) Percy of Buck-U-Uppo, The Bishops Move, Unpleasantness at Bludleigh Court and Gala Night; (b) the late father of Hermione Brimble in The Right Approach and (c) the unnamed prelate of Cocktail Time.
[Ring, Tony, Millennium Wodehouse Concordance (1995) ]
drape the chaplet (Ch.3; page 28)
The laurel wreath which symbolised distinction in poetry to the Ancient Greeks.
St Jude the Resilient, Eaton Square (Ch.3; page 28)
Jude the brother of James, also known as Judas Thaddeus (which means hairy-chested,
hearty), was one of the twelve disciples. In the 19th century he became regarded
as patron saint of lost causes, so presumably he would need to be fairly resilient.
The real Anglican church on Eaton Square in London's Belgravia district is called St Peter's. Wodehouse mentions it in passing in the story The Letter of the Law. Built in 1827 in the classical style, extended in the 1870s. The Victorian interior was replaced by a modern building within the original Georgian exterior walls after a fire in 1987.
Ecclesiasticus (Ch.3; page 28)
This book is generally considered as apocryphal in the Protestant tradition,
although the Roman church includes it in the Old Testament. It is supposed
to have been written by Jesus the son of Sirach around 200 BCE, and is sometimes
referred to as Sirach to avoid confusion with Ecclesiastes (which
only has 12 chapters). Obviously the Bishop was stirred by the conjunction
of 13th chapters into preaching on this uncanonical text.
13:1. He that toucheth pitch, shall be defiled with it: and he that hath
fellowship with the proud, shall put on pride.
[Bible (Apocrypha) Ecclesiasticus 13:1]
jotting ... shirt cuffs (Ch.3; page 28)
It is very unlikely that the men in the congregation were still wearing disposable paper or celluloid cuffs in 1958 - Wodehouses mind has leapt back to the church services of his youth.
Pekinese (Ch.3; page 28)
Wodehouse was well into his Peke period by this time. He has his tongue fairly firmly in his cheek when mocking newspaper triviality - he got his professional start on the By the Way column of the London Globe. See also Over Seventy (1957) for some long digressions on newspaper stories.
Walthamstow High Street (Ch.3; page 28)
Walthamstow is a suburb in north-east London.
banned in Boston (Ch.3; page 28)
See the note on Forever Amber, p 25 above.
Express ... Mail ... Mirror (Ch.3; page 29)
Three big, popular Fleet Street papers.
stones the builder had refused (Ch.3; page 29)
The King James Bible has rejected, but most other versions of this
Psalm (not least the song This train is bound for glory) have refused.
The stone the builders rejected is become the head stone of the corner.
[Bible Psalms 118:22]
Prestwick (Ch.3; page 29)
Name of an airport and a golf-links near Glasgow
Esher (Ch.3; page 29)
Prosperous London suburb.
Ebenezer Flapton and Sons ... Worcester and London (Ch.3; page 29)
Around this time, Wodehouses books in England were printed for Herbert Jenkins by Wyman and Sons of London, Fakenham and Reading. The name Ebenezer (from the name of the memorial stone set up by Samuel after Mizpeh) is particularly associated with religious nonconformists: printing was a trade in which they were traditionally very prominent (cf Arnold Bennetts Clayhanger). The name Flapton is very rare, but I havent found a Wodehouse link yet.
smoking a pipe and being kind to the dog (Ch.3; page 30)
This is precisely the way Wodehouse usually appears in photographs.
Ouled Nail (Ch.3; page 30)
The Ouled Naïl are a Berber tribe from Algeria whose women traditionally earned their dowries by prostitution and a particularly refined form of belly dancing.
Cosmo (Ch.3; page 32)
Perhaps the name was suggested by association of ideas with bishops - the Archbishop of Canterbury, Cosmo Gordon Lang, had died in 1945. Or perhaps it is a joke: Wodehouse would certainly remember that cosmos is Greek for order, organisation.
Boots & Brewer, St Mary Axe (Ch.3; page 32)
St Mary Axe is a street in the heart of the City of London. Boots and Brewer
are minor characters in Dickenss Our Mutual Friend, friends of the Veneerings.
For, it is by this time noticeable that, whatever befals, the Veneerings
must give a dinner upon it. Lady Tippins lives in a chronic state of invitation
to dine with the Veneerings, and in a chronic state of inflammation arising
from the dinners. Boots and Brewer go about in cabs, with no other intelligible
business on earth than to beat up people to come and dine with the Veneerings.
Veneering pervades the legislative lobbies, intent upon entrapping his fellow-legislators
[Dickens, Charles Our Mutual Friend Ch. 50]
Chapter 4 (Ch.4; page 35)
Runs from pp. 35 to 40 in the 1987 Penguin edition
Mariana at the Moated Grange (Ch.4; page 35)
The character Mariana, sent off to the moated grange, comes from Shakespeares
Measure for Measure. In Victorian times she was the subject of a famous painting
by Millais and a poem by Tennyson.
WITH blackest moss the flower-plots
Were thickly crusted, one and all:
The rusted nails fell from the knots
That held the pear to the gable-wall.
The broken sheds look'd sad and strange:
Unlifted was the clinking latch;
Weeded and worn the ancient thatch
Upon the lonely moated grange.
She only said, 'My life is dreary,
He cometh not,' she said;
She said, 'I am aweary, aweary,
I would that I were dead!'
[Tennyson, Alfred Lord (1809-1892) Mariana ll.1-12]
Arthur Murray taught them dancing in a hurry (Ch.4; page 37)
Arthur Murray taught me dancing in a hurry was a song by Victor Scherzinger
and Johnny Mercer from the 1942 show The Fleets In.
The American businessman Arthur Murray set up his first dancing classes in 1912. With the help of innovative techniques, such as dancing lessons by correspondence, radio broadcasts and franchising, he soon had a chain of dancing schools across the United States. The company still exists.
House of Commons I wouldnt mix with them (Ch.4; page 38)
Lord Ickenhams title removes him from any risk of having to, of course. Peers cannot be elected to the Commons. A few years after Cocktail Time appeared, the law was changed to allow peers who renounced their titles to become MPs - Alec Douglas-Home became Prime Minister this way in 1963.
Baconians (Ch.4; page 39)
Francis Bacon (1561-1626), philosopher, essayist and statesman, never held the post of Chancellor of the Exchequer (finance minister), although he was Lord Chancellor (justice minister) from 1618-1621, when he was dismissed for taking bribes. There has long been a theory that he was the true author of Shakespeares plays. A lot of the evidence Baconians cite in favour of their theory seems to hinge on implausible word-cyphers, and the arcana of kabbala and rosicrucianism.
Sir Roderick Glossop (Ch.4; page 39)
This eminent brain specialist first appeared in The Inimitable Jeeves. In Uncle Fred in the Springtime, Lord Ickenham passes himself off as Sir Roderick.
the hour has produced the man (Ch.4; page 40)
Seems to be a literary cliché.
shimmy (Ch.4; page 40)
A dance, similar to the foxtrot but with more shaking about, which was mainly
popular in the 1920s. Wodehouse wrote the lyrics of Shimmy with me
for the 1922 show The Cabaret Girl.
Start up the music and
Come out and shimmy with me!
Just try to feel
As if you've swallowed an eel;
You'll find that helps a good deal!
[Wodehouse, P.G. Shiimmy with me ]
Chapter 5 (Ch.5; page 41)
Runs from pp. 41 to 46 in the 1987 Penguin edition
Solomon in all his glory (Ch.5; page 41)
28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the
field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
29 and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
[Bible Matthew 6:28-29]
tête-à-tête (Ch.5; page 41)
French: face to face - a one-to-one interview.
Gordon Carlisle (Ch.5; page 42)
Possibly the name is related to that of the composer Ivan Caryll (Fabulous Felix) who is mentioned a number of times in Bring on the Girls. Gordon Oily Carlisle, who appears in Hot Water and Cocktail Time, is essentially the same character elsewhere called Soapy Molloy, although Soapy is of course married to Dolly.
Flaubert (Ch.5; page 43)
Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880), French writer, famous for the exactitude of his style and his quest for the perfect word. Wodehouse often uses him to stand for painstaking literary excellence.
moustache (Ch.5; page 44)
We may have wondered about Cosmo before, but now we know that he has a moustache, we can be sure that it is not just Sir Raymond who is prejudiced against him. No Wodehouse hero ever had genuine facial hair.
Chapter 6 (Ch.6; page 47)
Runs from pp. 47 to 54 in the 1987 Penguin edition
Ava Rackstraw Lana Cootes (Ch.6; page 47)
Then as now, small children often seem to derive curiously-spelled names from
film stars, in this case evidently Ava Gardner (1922-1990) and Lana Turner
Ralph Rackstraw "the smartest lad in all the Fleet" is the hero of Gilbert & Sullivans HMS Pinafore.
Herne Hill (Ch.6; page 47)
Suburb of south-east London.
Ivor Llewellyn (Ch.6; page 48)
First appeared in The Luck of the Bodkins.
Johnston office (Ch.6; page 48)
Eric Johnston had succeeded Will Hays as the head of the Motion Picture Association, Hollywoods de facto film censor. He was followed in 1965 by the present incumbent, Jack Valenti.
Gertrude Sweetie Carlisle (Ch.6; page 48)
Gordon and his Gertie were reunited in Hot Water.
amour-propre (Ch.6; page 49)
Mariner Coleridge (Ch.6; page 51)
IT is an ancient Mariner,
And he stoppeth one of three.
'By thy long beard and glittering eye,
Now wherefore stopp'st thou me?
The Bridegroom's doors are opened wide,
And I am next of kin;
The guests are met, the feast is set:
May'st hear the merry din.'
He holds him with his skinny hand,
'There was a ship,' quoth he.
'Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!'
Eftsoons his hand dropt he.
He holds him with his glittering eye
The Wedding-Guest stood still,
And listens like a three years' child:
The Mariner hath his will.
The Wedding-Guest sat on a stone:
He cannot choose but hear;
And thus spake on that ancient man,
The bright-eyed Mariner.
[Coleridge, Samuel Taylor (1772-1834) The Rime of the Ancient Mariner I:1-20]
Chapter 7 (Ch.7; page 55)
Runs from pp. 55 to 60 in the 1987 Penguin edition
Captain Bligh of the Bounty (Ch.7; page 56)
The crew of the Bounty mutinied in the Pacific in 1789, apparently objecting to Captain Blighs harsh discipline. Frank Lloyds film version of the story, starring Charles Laughton and Clark Gable, appeared in 1935.
Cunard-White Star (Ch.7; page 57)
See The Luck of the Bodkins.
The Cunard shipping line was set up by Samuel Cunard in 1839, and remained based in Liverpool until it was bought by Trafalgar House in 1971.
Cunard merged with their rivals, the White Star Line (originally Scottish, but by then owned by J Pierpoint Morgan), in 1934, the year before The Luck of the Bodkins appeared. Their ships continued to carry the combined name until 1958, the year of publication of Cocktail Time.
Home Guard (Ch.7; page 57)
The Home Guard (originally Local Defence Volunteers) was formed in May 1940, and disbanded in November 1944. Its function was primarily to act as a first line of defence against the threat of paratroop landings in Britain. It drew its part-time members mostly from men over military age. It was, of course, immortalised in the BBC television series Dads Army.
to buttle (Ch.7; page 57)
Surprisingly enough, Wodehouse did not invent this verb. In the sense of to pour out drink, it goes back to the mid-19th century. However, in 1918 Wodehouse (in Piccadilly Jim) ties with Mrs Humphrey Ward for the honour of using it to mean perform a butlers duties. (Wodehouse has the first OED citation for the participle, Mrs W the present tense.)
Coggs (Ch.7; page 57)
Lord Ickenhams butler has small parts in most of the Uncle Fred stories.
Liberty Hall (Ch.7; page 58)
A place where one may do as one pleases. From Oliver Goldsmiths play, She Stoops to Conquer. (1773)
leopards change their spots (Ch.7; page 58)
Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye
also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.
[Bible Jeremiah 13:23]
Belinda Farringdon (Ch.7; page 58)
Apart from being the name of a street and a station in the City of London, Farringdon is the name of two villages (Upper and Lower) in Hampshire, and one in Devon. Any of these might be a source for Wodehouse.
Don Juan Casanova (Ch.7; page 59)
The fictional Don Juan Tenorio, the subject of an epic poem by Byron and an
opera by Mozart, made his first appearance in the play El Burlador de Sevilla
(1630) by Tirso de Molina (Gabriel Téllez 1584-1648).
The Venetian Giacomo Girolamo Casanova (1725-1798) had a varied and complex career which he describes in his celebrated autobiography. Unlike the heartless Don Juan, his many relationships with women seem to have been emotional as well as physical in nature.
A piquant detail is that Casanova was in Prague in 1787 and met Mozart - there is a legend that he helped to revise the libretto of Don Giovanni.
Plunkett Mews, Onslow Square. (Ch.7; page 59)
Fictitious, of course, but there are plenty of Mews streets (back streets serving
what used to be the stable blocks of grand houses and are now desirable residences
in themselves) in this part of South Kensington. Murphy reminds us that Wodehouse
lived at No.4, Onslow Square, for a while in 1922.
Wodehouse may also have been familiar with the name Plunkett from the opera, Martha by Friedrich von Flotow (1812-1883). Although the hero and his best friend are known as Lyonel and Plumkett in the original German libretto, their names were changed to Lionel and Plunkett in the operas English translation. Although Martha has now pretty much disappeared from the rep (except in German speaking countries), it was extremely popular in the early decades of the twentieth century.
The most famous historical Plunkett is probably the 17th century Irish Roman Catholic archbishop Oliver Plunkett, executed for treason in 1681 and canonised in the 1970s. Theres no obvious Wodehouse connection in either case.
charabancs (Ch.7; page 59)
This old-fashioned word (from French char-à-bancs) had been superseded in general usage by bus or coach by this time. However, the slang term chara survived rather longer in some parts of the country.
Dutch godfather (Ch.7; page 60)
The more usual term is like a Dutch uncle. - i.e. in an outspokenly strict and censorious way. The Dutch are noted for their frankness in criticism.
juggernaut (Ch.7; page 60)
In Hinduism, Jagannatha (Lord of the World) is a title of Vishnu. At Puri in Orissa, a large image of Jagannatha is annually taken from the Lord Jagannatha Temple to the Gundicha Mandir, about 3km away, in a ceremonial procession. It is said that, in the past, ardent believers used to throw themselves under the wheels of the cart carrying the image. The term juggernaut in English has thus come to mean something that crushes everything in its path.
Chapter 8 (Ch.8; page 61)
Runs from pp. 61 to 73 in the 1987 Penguin edition
a porter with no roof to his mouth (Ch.8; page 61)
This was before the reform of the railway system under Dr Beeching. A few years later, Oily would certainly have found such a small station unstaffed (if not closed altogether).
Oxford accent (Ch.8; page 61)
Foreigners use this term to refer to the way members of the University of Oxford are popularly supposed to talk (or to have talked in the past). British people, however, are more likely to use it for the regional accent of local people in Oxfordshire, i.e. the way college porters and people on the line at Cowley motor works talk.
one-armed paperhanger with the hives (Ch.8; page 62)
'The hives' is a popular term for nettle-rash and similar ailments. The phrase
is intended to evoke an image of frantic activity. Wodehouse also uses it in
Money in the Bank. It is often referred to as a proverbial American expression,
but that doesnt exclude the possibility that Wodehouse invented it.
young lady of Natchez (Ch.8; page 62)
Once again, Wodehouse slips a limerick into the text disguised as prose - a
Natchez, Mississippi, is the oldest European settlement on the Mississippi River, having been established by the French in 1716.
lumberers (Ch.8; page 63)
This seems to be British racing slang of the 1890s, so it is unlikely that Uncle Fred picked it up in Arizona. Interestingly, the example in the OED comes from Wodehouses bête noire, Sir Henry Hall Caine. In the 19th century, lumberer sometimes also meant pawnbroker.
folded its tents like the Arabs (Ch.8; page 65)
And the night shall be filled with music,
And the cares that infest the day
Shall fold their tents like Arabs,
And silently steal away.
[Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth The Day is Done ]
jewel of gold in a swines snout (Ch.8; page 66)
This is from Proverbs, not Ecclesiastes.
As a jewel of gold in a swine's snout, so is a fair woman which is without
[Bible Proverbs 11:22]
gaby (Ch.8; page 66)
A fool. Came into standard English from northern dialect in the late 18th century.
Borgias (Ch.8; page 66)
Lucrezia Borgia (1480-1519), daughter of Pope Alexander VI, was notorious for participation in her family's aristocratic intrigues, including a number of poison plots. Nothing has ever been proved against her, apparently, but it makes for great stories, as Victor Hugo and Donizetti found.
private in the Grenadiers (Ch.8; page 66)
The Grenadier Guards were traditionally selected for their physique.
Charleys Aunt (Ch.8; page 66)
A celebrated comic play by Brandon Thomas, 1892. An Oxford undergraduate needs a chaperone to allow him to meet his sweetheart, Kitty. When his friends aunt fails to turn up, fellow undergraduate Lord Harcourt Babs dresses up in drag to replace her.
poulet en casserole (Ch.8; page 67)
French: chicken stewed in the pot.
booterers (Ch.8; page 68)
The more usual word is bootmakers. Lord Ickenham is playing on the rhyme with fruiterers, a pretentious title when used by modern greengrocers, but perfectly respectable back in the 15th century when someone stuck an extra -er on the now-obsolete word fruiter.
toad beneath the harrow (Ch.8; page 68)
The toad beneath the harrow knows
Exactly where each tooth-point goes;
The butterfly upon the road
Preaches contentment to that toad.
[Kipling, Rudyard Pagett, MP ]
Nannie Bruce (Ch.8; page 68)
Berry Conway in Big Money (1932) has similar trouble with his old retainer. Cf. also Waughs Brideshead Revisited.
called the rest of the watch together knave (Ch.8; page 69)
WATCH: How, if awill not stand?
DOGBERRY: Why, then, take no note of him, but let him go; and presently call the rest of the watch together, and thank God you are rid of a knave.
[Shakespeare, William (1564-1616) Much Ado about Nothing III:iii, 12]
Omitting no detail, however slight (Ch.8; page 70)
This phrase recurs frequently throughout the canon (eg Summer Moonshine,
ch. 25; Money in the Bank , ch.18). It is often assumed to have been
inspired by Sherlock Holmes, though the great detective nowhere says anything
in the least resembling this phrase.
McMurdo (Ch.8; page 70)
There is also a McMurdo in the story Feet of Clay (Nothing Serious). McMurdo is the name of an Antarctic base.
football pool (Ch.8; page 71)
A kind of lottery in which players have to predict whether or not the results of football matches will be draws. For a long time this sort of competition was legal in Britain when lotteries based on purely random events were not. The first pools coupons were issued in 1920. With the introduction of the Idiocy Tax (National Lottery) in the 1990s, their popularity declined.
Derby Ballymore Moke the Second (Ch.8; page 72)
The Derby is a horserace, held on Epsom Downs each June. It was first run in
1779, and is named after one of the organisers, the Earl of Derby. (He tossed
a coin for the honour with Sir Charles Bunbury.)
Ballymore is the name of several places in Ireland; there doesnt seem to have been a famous racehorse with that name.
Moke is a colloquial term for a donkey or an inferior horse.
have you ever robbed a bank? (Ch.8; page 72)
Ten years later, in Do Butlers Burgle Banks? an impoverished squire does attempt to rob a bank (his own).
certain features of interest (Ch.8; page 73)
This seems to be another echo of Sherlock Holmes.
Chapter 9 (Ch.9; page 74)
Runs from pp. 74 to 82 in the 1987 Penguin edition
California ... here I come (Ch.9; page 75)
Title of one of Al Jolsons most famous songs, written in 1924 by Bud de Sylva and Joseph Meyer for Jolsons show Bombo.
port ... port of heaven ... Dons (Ch.9; page 75)
Port is a strong red wine from Oporto in Portugal, normally drunk after dinner
in British upper-class circles. In Wodehouse, it is the prerogative of butlers.
As usual, Uncle Fred is playing with words: Newbolt presumably didnt mean to suggest that Drake was drinking port in Heaven - see the quotation below.
Dons was for a long time British military and naval slang for the Spanish (Don being the usual form of address for a Spanish gentleman).
Sir Henry Newbolt, Drakes Drum (Ch.9; page 75)
Newbolt (1862-1938) was one of the most popular writers of rousing imperialist
poetry of the late 19th century. Unlike Kipling, the lawyer Newbolt was very
much an armchair imperialist. Like Sir Joseph Porter, KCB, he never, never
went to sea, but stayed in Britain in a comfortable late-Victorian ménage-à-trois
with his wife, Margaret Duckworth and her lover, Ella Coltman. According to
a recent biography (Susan Chitty, Playing the Game, 1997), he didnt play
cricket either. In later life he is said to have been somewhat embarassed by
the fame of his early work.
Drake he's in his hammock an' a thousand miles away,
(Capten, art tha sleepin' there below?)
Slung atween the round shot in Nombre Dios Bay,
An' dreamin' arl the time O' Plymouth Hoe.
Yarnder lumes the Island, yarnder lie the ships,
Wi' sailor lads a-dancing' heel-an'-toe,
An' the shore-lights flashin', an' the night-tide dashin',
He see et arl so plainly as he saw et long ago.
Drake he was a Devon man, an' ruled the Devon seas,
(Capten, art tha' sleepin' there below?)
Roving' tho' his death fell, he went wi' heart at ease,
A' dreamin' arl the time o' Plymouth Hoe.
"Take my drum to England, hang et by the shore,
Strike et when your powder's runnin' low;
If the Dons sight Devon, I'll quit the port o' Heaven,
An' drum them up the Channel as we drumm'd them long ago."
Drake he's in his hammock till the great Armadas come,
(Capten, art tha sleepin' there below?)
Slung atween the round shot, listenin' for the drum,
An' dreamin arl the time o' Plymouth Hoe.
Call him on the deep sea, call him up the Sound,
Call him when ye sail to meet the foe;
Where the old trade's plyin' an' the old flag flyin'
They shall find him ware and wakin', as they found him long ago!
[Newbolt, Sir Henry (1862-1938) Drakes Drum ]
Anachronistic parasites on the body of the state (Ch.9; page 76)
This phrase doesnt seem to occur in Marx, but it summarises his position.
Bill the Lizard (Ch.9; page 76)
The unfortunate Bill appears briefly in Chapter IV of Alice in Wonderland (The White Rabbit Sends in a Little Bill), when Alice kicks him up the chimney of the White Rabbits house, then again as a juror in the trial scene of Chapters XI and XII. (Alice upsets the jury box, and he gets put back the wrong way up.) One of the Tenniel drawings shows him flying out of the chimney.
lazar house (Ch.9; page 78)
Medieval term for a hospital, revived as a deliberate archaism by 19th century writers. A lazar (from the name Lazarus) is a sick or destitute person, especially a leper.
... a butler to fall in love with the chatelaine (Ch.9; page 78)
In earlier books, this sort of love across the class divide was something to joke about - Indian summer of an uncle; Lord Bittlesham marrying his housekeeper in The Inimitable Jeeves - but when it occurs in later books it is played straight (cf. Lord Shortlandss rivalry with his own butler for the hand of the cook in Spring Fever). Evidently Wodehouse in his seventies had become more sympathetic to late-flowering romance.
Piccadilly Circus to ... Hyde Park Corner (Ch.9; page 79)
This is a favourite Woosterism too. Notice that Wodehouse carefully says placed
rather than laid to avoid any hint of misunderstanding. Piccadilly
runs in a straight line from Piccadilly Circus, in the heart of the West End
theatre district, to Hyde Park Corner, where it turns into Knightsbridge.
The distance is 1600m, or approximately a mile, which would call for at least 400 reunited couples!
Bill Oakshott (Ch.9; page 79)
United with Hermione Bostock in Uncle Dynamite
Pongo (Ch.9; page 79)
Re-united with Sally Painter in Uncle Dynamite
Polly Pott and Horace Davenport (Ch.9; page 79)
United with each other in Uncle Fred in the Springtime
Elsie Bean (Ch.9; page 79)
United with Constable Potter in Uncle Dynamite
language of flowers (Ch.9; page 80)
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu is supposed to have brought back the idea of using flowers to transmit coded messages from Turkey.
Chapter 10 (Ch.10; page 83)
Runs from pp. 83 to 92 in the 1987 Penguin edition
When the fields are white with daisies (Ch.10; page 85)
This could be a reference to the poem below (publication date unknown). There
also appears to be a folksong called "When the fields are white with daisies"
- whether this is the same or not is unclear for the moment.
God be with you in the Springtime
When the violets unfold,
And the buttercups and cowslips
Fill the fields with yellow gold;
In the time of apple blossoms,
When the happy bluebirds sing,
Filling all the world with gladness -
God be with you in the Spring!
God be with you in the Summer,
When the sweet June roses blow,
When the bobolinks are laughing
And the brooks with music flow;
When the fields are white with daisies
And the days are glad and long -
God be with you in the Summer,
Filling all your world with song.
God be with you in the Autumn,
When the birds and flowers have fled,
And along the woodland pathways
Leaves are falling, gold and red;
When the Summer lies behind you,
In the evening of the year -
God be with you in the Autumn,
Then to fill your heart with cheer.
God be with you in the Winter,
When the snow lies deep and white,
When he sleeping fields are silent
And the stars gleam cold and bright.
When the hand and heart are tired
With life's long and weary quest -
God be with you in the Winter,
Just to guide you into rest.
[Cutler, Julian S. THROUGH THE YEAR ]
Gina Lollobrigida (Ch.10; page 85)
The Italian actress, famous for her hourglass figure, made her
film debut in 1946 in a version of Lucia di Lammermoor after winning
a beauty contest. In the fifties and sixties the press made much of a supposed
battle of the bosoms with her compatriot Sophia Loren. Nowadays,
Ms Lollobrigida is chiefly active as a photgrapher and has entered politics
as a supporter of various humanitarian causes.
The Cedars, Mafeking Road (Ch.10; page 85)
See Uncle Fred Flits By
Peter Piper ... (Ch.10; page 87)
This is a famous example of the tongue-twister. There are at least
four different versions around. It is sometimes claimed to have come from an
alphabetical collection of similar rhymes.
A peck is an English measure of volume, equal to 8 quarts.
Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers
How many pickled peppers did peter piper pick?
Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
Did Peter Piper pick a peck of pickled peppers?
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
Where's the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?
Peter Piper picked a peck of purple pippins.
Where's the peck of purple pippins Peter Piper picked?
Peter Piper put the peck of purple pippins
On Poppy Pepper's pewter platter.
Peter Prangle, the prickly prangly pear picker,
Picked three pecks of prickly prangly pears
From the prangly pear trees on the pretty pleasant prairies.
[Unknown Peter Piper ]
the quality of mercy (Ch.10; page 89)
The quality of mercy is not straind,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
T is mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway,
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest Gods,
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That in the course of justice none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy.
[Shakespeare, William (1564-1616) Merchant of Venice IV:i]
cushat dove (i) (Ch.10; page 91)
A cushat dove is a woodpigeon.
Perhaps from this poem, set to music by both Sir Hubert Parry and Sir Arthur Sullivan, and thus presumably inescapable in the Edwardian drawing room...
There sits a bird on yonder tree,
More fond than Cushat dove;
There sits a bird on yonder tree,
And sings to me of love.
Oh stoop thee from thine eyrie down,
And nestle thee near my heart,
For the moments fly and the hour is nigh,
When thou and I must part,
My love! when thou and I must part.
[Barham, Thomas (Richard Ingoldsby) There sits a bird on yonder tree ]
cushat dove (ii) (Ch.10; page 91)
...or this, from Christina Rossetti?
She listened like a cushat dove
That listens to its mate alone;
She listened like a cushat dove
That loves but only one.
And downcast were her dovelike eyes
And downcast was her tender cheek
Her pulses fluttered like a dove
To hear him speak.
[Rossetti, Christina ]
the sword of ... (Ch.10; page 92)
Damocles. In classical mythology he was a courtier of Dionysius the first.
At a dinner, Dionysius had a sword suspended over Damocles's head by a single
hair to show him the precarious nature of rank and power.
Chapter 11 (Ch.11; page 93)
Runs from pp. 93 to 100 in the 1987 Penguin edition
There was a sound of revelry by night (Ch.11; page 94)
There was a sound of revelry by night,
And Belgiums capital had gatherd then
Her beauty and her chivalry, and bright
The lamps shone oer fair women and brave men.
A thousand hearts beat happily; and when
Music arose with its voluptuous swell,
Soft eyes lookd love to eyes which spake again,
And all went merry as a marriage bell.
[Byron, George Gordon Noel, Lord Byron (1788-1824) Childe Harolds Pilgrimage III:21]
Constable Styles of C Division (Ch.11; page 94)
C Division of the Metropolitan Police had responsibility for the Mayfair and Soho areas.
gyves upon his wrists (Ch.11; page 94)
That very night while gentle sleep
The urchin's eyelids kissed,
Two stern-faced men set out from Lynn,
Through the cold and heavy mist;
And Eugene Aram walked between,
With gyves upon his wrist.
[Hood, Thomas (1799-1845) The Dream of Eugene Aram 1829 ]
hoosegow (Ch.11; page 94)
Prison. US slang from Mexican Spanish juzgao a tribunal. First recorded in English ca. 1911. cf. Quick Service, Ch.19.
Death of a Thousand Cuts (Ch.11; page 94)
A method of torture and execution traditional in pre-revolutionary China, which involved the victim being given many small sword cuts and allowed to bleed slowly to death.
Alma Mater (Ch.11; page 94)
Latin: beloved mother. A conventional term for ones former school or university, here being used ironically.
Simpsons in the Strand (Ch.11; page 94)
For a detailed description of this famous carvery restaurant, see Something
Fresh/Something New, Ch. 3 pt. 3. Nowadays it is part of the Savoy Group.
Bosher Street (Ch.11; page 94)
Appears to be fictitious: there is currently no street of this name in London.
Cf. the real Bow Street.
Magistrates' Courts (formerly sometimes known as Police Courts) deal with minor offences, and remand prisoners accused of more serious crimes for jury trial in the Crown Court. The magistrate in this case was probably a
stipendiary, i.e. a professional lawyer sitting as a paid part-timer. Outside London, most Justices are lay people, i.e. non-lawyers.
jug (Ch.11; page 94)
Jug for prison was originally American slang (initially as stone-jug), but it was well-established in England by the mid-19th century, both as noun and as here as a verb.
Daily Gazette (Ch.11; page 95)
Yul Brynner (Ch.11; page 95)
Russian-born Hollywood actor (1915-1985), who started his professional career as a trapeze artist in France in the thirties. In 1956 he had made three of his most famous films: The King and I, The Ten Commandments, and Anastasia. He was celebrated, inter alia, for his lack of hair.
Budge Street, Chelsea (Ch.11; page 95)
There is currently no Budge Street in London. There is a Budges Walk in Kensington Gardens. In his penniless youth, Wodehouse lived in lodgings in Markham Square and Walpole Street in Chelsea. In Uncle Dynamite, Pongos future wife, Sally Painter, has her studio in Budge St.
the blue bird (Ch.11; page 96)
The association of the blue bird with elusive happiness comes from
Maeterlinck's play LOiseau bleu (translated into English in 1909).
Although the expression had been in use for some time and Wodehouse had used it before (eg in The Crime Wave at Blandings, 1936), it would have been particularly well known in 1958 because of a popular song of that name. The Bluebird of Happiness was written by Art Mooney in 1948 and recorded at that time by Mooney and his Orchestra. But the ditty would later become a huge hit when covered by the Metropolitan Opera star tenor Jan Peerce (b. Jacob Pincus Perelmuth), probably in the mid-50's.
heart leaped up ... rainbows (Ch.11; page 97)
My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.
[Wordsworth, William Rainbows ]
Chapter 12 (Ch.12; page 101)
Runs from pp. 101 to 108 in the 1987 Penguin edition
married to immortal verse (Ch.12; page 101)
Here Wordsworth is talking about Milton, who was blind in later life: the tag
Married to immortal verse comes from Miltons LAllegro.
Is it too fanciful to assume that Wodehouse has made a connection between Johnsons
learned sock and the one that Mr Saxby is knitting? (Douglas Bush, editor
of the Oxford Milton, glosses sock as the light shoe of the
ancient comic actors; symbol of comedy).
Then to the well-trod stage anon,
If Johnsons learned sock be on,
Or sweetest Shakespeare, Fancys child,
Warble his native wood-notes wild.
And ever, against eating cares,
Lap me in soft Lydian airs,
Married to immortal verse,
Such as the meeting soul may pierce,
And know we not that from the blind have flowed
The highest, holiest, raptures of the lyre;
And wisdom married to immortal verse?
[Wordsworth, William The Excursion VII: 534-536]
Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers (Ch.12; page 102)
Like the previous reference, this is in Bartlett.
Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers, and I linger on the shore,
And the individual withers, and the world is more and more.
Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers, and he bears a laden breast,
Full of sad experience, moving toward the stillness of his rest.
[Tennyson, Alfred Lord Locksley Hall 131-134]
sleep ... ravelled sleeve of care (Ch.12; page 102)
Methought I heard a voice cry 'Sleep no more!
Macbeth does murder sleep', the innocent sleep,
Sleep that knits up the ravell'd sleeve of care,
The death of each day's life, sore labour's bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course,
Chief nourisher in life's feast,--
[Shakespeare, William (1564-1616) Macbeth II:ii]
Cute Crispies ... Crunchy Whoopsies (Ch.12; page 103)
Cereal and serial are pronounced alike.
These names appear to be invented. The fashion for breakfast cereals started with Cornflakes, invented in 1896 by the American physician and dietary reformer Dr John Harvey Kellogg at Battle Creek, Michigan and commercialised by his brother Will. The rapid success of the product led to many imitations being brought on the market - there is an entertaining fictionalised account in T Corraghessan Boyle's novel The Road to Wellville (1993).
four-minute mile (Ch.12; page 104)
Roger Bannister became the first person to run a mile in under four minutes
(3 minute 59.4 seconds), on 6 May 1954. In 2001, the record, held by Hicham
El Guerrouj, stood at 3:43.13.
lions ... lambs (Ch.12; page 105)
Proverbially, the month of March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.
the time Gutenberg invented the printing press (Ch.12; page 107)
Johannes Gensfleisch (ca. 1400-1468; he called himself Gutenberg after the
house in Mainz where he was born) did not invent the printing press, contrary
to popular belief. It was already well-known to print from woodcuts using a
Gutenbergs major contribution, as a trained goldsmith, was the development of the tools and materials to make cast metal movable type. With his process, type could be made in large quantities and texts set up for printing much more rapidly than by engraving each page individually on wood. He printed his first book with movable type sometime before 1450, either in Strasburg or Mainz. The famous bible - an example of which is in the Blandings Castle library - was printed at Mainz between 1452 and 1454.
Superba-Llewellyn (Ch.12; page 108)
We first met the Sam Goldwyn lookalike Ivor Llewellyn in The Luck of the Bodkins (1934).
Chapter 13 (Ch.13; page 109)
Runs from pp. 109 to 115 in the 1987 Penguin edition
empyrean (Ch.13; page 109)
The sky, or Heaven. In some accounts (eg Dante), the empyrean is the highest, non-moving level of the Heavens, the abode of peace and the seat of the divine. A favourite word of Wordsworths.
occipital bone (Ch.13; page 109)
The large bone forming the lower, rear part of the skull. Presumably Cosmo
had turned his chair to face away from Saxbys desk when Barbara came
oblectation (Ch.13; page 109)
Rare indeed. The OED lists this and the corresponding verbs oblect
and oblectate as obsolete. They all seem to have come and gone
in the seventeenth century, although Bulwer Lytton used oblectation
in his novel Eugene Aram.
PLEASURE, gratification, enjoyment, fruition, delectation, oblectation [rare]; relish, zest; gusto &c. (physical pleasure) [See Physical Pleasure]; satisfaction (content) [See Content]; complacency.
[Mawson, C.O.S., ed. (18701938) Rogets International Thesaurus. 1922. ]
ministering angel (Ch.13; page 110)
Though most often associated with Scotts woman, in our hours of
ease.., the phrase was first used by Laertes of his late sister, Ophelia.
LAERTES Lay her i the earth;
And from her fair and unpolluted flesh
May violets spring! I tell thee, churlish priest,
A ministering angel shall my sister be,
When thou liest howling.
[Shakespeare, William (1564-1616) Hamlet V:i, 118-122]
Kings Road ... Kensal Green (Ch.13; page 111)
The Kings Road (A308) is the main road running north-east to south-west
through Chelsea, from Sloane Square to Putney Bridge.
Kensal Green is a cemetery in west London, about five miles from Chelsea.
Bournemouth (Ch.13; page 112)
Seaside town in Dorset. A safe distance from Berkshire, and a plausible place for a few days holiday.
Georgina, Lady Witherspoon (Ch.13; page 113)
Wodehouse re-used this name a few years later in Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves: Jeeves
passes himself off as Chief Inspector Witherspoon of the Yard to get Bertie
out of a tight spot.
Rachel Wilsons romance novel Spirit of Love (1999) has a heroine called Georgina Witherspoon. Is she a Wodehouse fan?
oompus-boompus (Ch.13; page 114)
Also a favourite expression of Dolly Molloy. Cf. Money in the Bank, where it appears both in the sense of sexual misconduct and in the present sense of any sort of underhand or shady dealing.
catbird seat (Ch.13; page 114)
The catbird is an American thrush, mimus carolinensis. The expression sitting
in the catbird seat seems to come from the American South, and means
an advantageous position. The catbird was thought to choose the highest branch
of the tree to sit on. The OED cites this passage, and the Thurber story The
Catbird Seat. (For evidence that Wodehouse read Thurber, see p.145 below.)
It was Joey Hart, one of Mr. Martin's two assistants, who had explained what
the gibberish meant. "She must be a Dodger fan," he had said. "Red
Barber announces the Dodger games over the radio and he uses those expressions--picked
'em up down South." Joey had gone on to explain one or two. "Tearing
up the pea patch" meant going on a rampage; "sitting in the catbird
seat" means sitting pretty, like a batter with three balls and no strikes
[Thurber, James The Catbird Seat (1942) ]
Chapter 14 (Ch.14; page 116)
Runs from pp. 116 to 124 in the 1987 Penguin edition
Q.C. (Ch.14; page 116)
Queens Counsel (see p. 19 above).
cocker spaniel Benjy (Ch.14; page 116)
Cocker Spaniels do not feature in the extensive list of Wodehouse dogs Murphy
has identified, so presumably Benjy is fictititious.
[Murphy, N. T. P., In Search of Blandings (1986) Ch.5]
Mr Spurrell (Ch.14; page 116)
Spurrell is a fairly common name in Norfolk. Wodehouse may have picked it up on one of his visits to Hunstanton.
James Graham, Marquis of Montrose (Ch.14; page 118)
James Graham, 5th Earl and 1st Marquis of Montrose (1612-1650). He was a staunch
Calvinist, and became one of the chief military leaders of the Covenanters
when Charles I tried to impose bishops on the Scots in 1637. Montrose occupied
the town of Aberdeen in 1639, and Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1640.
After the Solemn League and Covenant of 1643, by which the Scottish army joined the Parliamentary side in the English Civil War, Montrose took the Royalist side. Charles made him a Marquis in 1644 in gratitude for his support, but in 1646 he was forced to go into exile after a defeat near Selkirk. He returned to Scotland in 1650 with a small force in an attempt to subvert the Commonwealth, but was caught and executed. The execution was the subject of a poem by William McGonagall, a rather better poet than Montrose on the evidence of this piece...
Wodehouse has taken this quotation straight out of Bartlett. It comes from a poem in which the central conceit is that the poet addresses his love in the terms of a ruler to a subject. Perhaps fitting for a man who is said to have spent his wedding night playing golf.
MY dear and only Love, I pray
This noble world of thee
Be governed by no other sway
But purest monarchy;
For if confusion have a part,
Which virtuous souls abhor,
And hold a synod in thy heart,
I'll never love thee more.
Like Alexander I will reign,
And I will reign alone:
My thoughts shall evermore disdain
A rival on my throne.
He either fears his fate too much,
Or his deserts are small,
That puts it not unto the touch
To win or lose it all.
But I must rule and govern still,
And always give the law,
And have each subject at my will,
And all to stand in awe.
But 'gainst my battery, if I find
Thou shunn'st the prize so sore
As that thou sett'st me up a blind,
I'll never love thee more.
Or in the empire of thy heart,
Where I should solely be,
Another do pretend a part
And dares to view with me;
Or if committees thou erect,
And go on such a score,
I'll sing and laugh at thy neglect,
And never love thee more.
But if thou wilt be constant then,
And faithful of thy word,
I'll make thee glorious by my pen
And famous by my sword:
I'll serve thee in such noble ways
Was never heard before;
I'll crown and deck thee all with bays,
And love thee evermore.
[James Graham, 1st Marquis of Montrose My Dear and Only Love ]
Le Touquet (Ch.14; page 119)
Le Touquet-Paris Plage is a seaside resort in northern France, about 15km south of Boulogne. Still very fashionable in the twenties, although it declined in popularity with the upper classes when they started going to the Riviera in summer as well as winter.
George Winstanley (Ch.14; page 120)
Could this be the author of Under two flags in Africa: recollections of a British
administrator in Bechuanaland and Botswana, 1954 to 1972? Sadly, it seems unlikely.
There is a George Winstanley Murgatroyd mentioned in Louder and Funnier.
Stalins nephew (Ch.14; page 120)
Stalin had died in 1953.
non compos (Ch.14; page 120)
non compos mentis - Latin: not of sound mind. A legal term, meaning that a person is not considered competent to transact legal business on his own behalf.
Sir Roderick Glossop (Ch.14; page 121)
See p 39 above.
Whoso findeth a butler... (Ch.14; page 121)
Once again, not Ecclesiastes but Proverbs. Does this say something about Ickenhams
(or the authors) attitude to butlers, or is he giving Phoebe a broad
Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD.
[Bible Proverbs 18:22]
only a synthetic butler (Ch.14; page 122)
Wodehouse isnt being quite as radical as we might have thought - the corollary of Ickenhams argument here is that it would not be acceptable for Peasemarch to court Phoebe if he had only his butlers salary.
Haryer, haryer (Ch.14; page 123)
i.e. How are you?
Johnny ... on the spot (Ch.14; page 123)
This phrase seems to be American 19th century slang. Its origins are obscure, but it is clearly related to a lot of other colloquial phrases in which Johnny or Charlie stands for a person. The OED cites Wodehouse using it in The Man Upstairs (1918), and a US source from 1896. More recently it has become the trade name of an American supplier of portable toilets.
great lovers through the ages (Ch.14; page 123)
This phrase recurs frequently in the canon. It is not clear where it comes from.
course of true love ... smooth (Ch.14; page 123)
Lys. Ay me! for aught that ever I could read,
Could ever hear by tale or history,
The course of true love never did run smooth;
But, either it was different in blood,
Her. O cross! too high to be enthralld to low.
Lys. Or else misgraffed in respect of years,
Her. O spite! too old to be engagd to young.
Lys. Or else it stood upon the choice of friends,
Her. O hell! to choose love by anothers eye.
[Shakespeare, William (1564-1616) Midsummer Nights Dream I:i,137-145]
sticketh closer than a brother (Ch.14; page 123)
More from Proverbs, Chapter 18.
A man that hath friends must show himself friendly; and there is a friend
that sticketh closer than a brother.
[Bible Proverbs 18:24]
rift within the lute (Ch.14; page 124)
In Love, if Love be Love, if Love be ours,
Faith and unfaith can neer be equal powers:
Unfaith in aught is want of faith in all.
It is the little rift within the lute,
That by and by will make the music mute,
And ever widening slowly silence all.
The little rift within the lovers lute
Or little pitted speck in garnered fruit,
That rotting inward slowly moulders all.
It is not worth the keeping: let it go:
But shall it? answer, darling, answer, no.
And trust me not at all or all in all.
[Tennyson Viviens Song ]
Chapter 15 (Ch.15; page 125)
Runs from pp. 125 to 131 in the 1987 Penguin edition
Lord Beaverbrook (Ch.15; page 126)
William Maxwell Aitken (1879-1964), 1st Baron Beaverbrook. Canadian stockbroker
who made a fortune in cement before moving to Britain and becoming a Conservative
MP in 1911. Lloyd-George made him a peer (cf. Lord Bittlesham) for his help
in removing Asquith from power.
During the War, he bought the Daily Express and built up its circulation to become one of the biggest-selling newspapers anywhere. He later set up the Sunday Express, and added a number of other papers including the London Evening Standard to his empire. He served as a minister during both the first and second world wars. I have not found anything to suggest that he played the trombone.
Flannery (Ch.15; page 126)
Wodehouse was interviewed by a CBS journalist called Harry W. Flannery at the
Adlon Hotel in Berlin on 26 June, 1941. Flannery later admitted that he had
written the whole interview, including Wodehouses answers, himself. He
clearly took against Wodehouse, and his account was subsequently cited by many
in Britain and America as evidence that Wodehouse was pro-German and a collaborator.
[Phelps, Barry, P.G. Wodehouse: Man and Myth (1992) p.211 ff.]
Norbury-Smith (Ch.15; page 127)
There is a Norbury in Shropshire, but it is at the southern end of the Long Mynd, at the opposite side of the county from Stableford.
Officer McMurdo (Ch.15; page 128)
Once again, Uncle Freds vocabulary is influenced by his American youth.
deaf adder (Ch.15; page 128)
3 The wicked are estranged from the womb:
they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.
4 Their poison is like the poison of a serpent:
they are like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear;
5 which will not hearken to the voice of charmers,
charming never so wisely.
[Bible Psalms 58:3-5]
scrag (Ch.15; page 129)
In 18th century slang, to scrag someone is to hang them. Damon Runyon uses
scrag in the sense of murder. However, the more usual sense in
Britain by the 19th century, especially in schoolboy slang, is to attack someone,
or treat them roughly. This is clearly what is intended here.
Johnnys use of this expression - more reminiscent of the schoolyard or sports field than the courts of romance - reflects the way he sees Nanny Bruce as a quasi-parental figure.
Damon and Pythias (Ch.15; page 131)
Two friends in ancient Syracuse. According to legend, when Pythias was condemned
to death for plotting against the Tyrant, Dionysius I, he asked permission
to go and wind up his affairs first. His loyal friend Damon agreed to stand
as a hostage for his safe return. When Pythias came back to be executed, Dionysius
was so touched by their devotion to each other that he pardoned Pythias.
Brewer says that it was Damon who was condemned, and Pythias who stood bail, but he seems to be in a minority; Valerius Maximus doesnt distinguish between the two.
Shakespeare got the plot for Two Gentlemen of Verona from Richard Edwardss play Damon and Pythias.
clouded cane (Ch.15; page 131)
A malacca cane with a mottled pattern, popular, as Wodehouse suggests, in the
late 18th and early 19th centuries.
Sir Plume, of amber snuff-box justly vain,
And the nice conduct of a clouded cane.
[Pope, Alexander The Rape of the Lock iv:123]
Chapter 16 (Ch.16; page 132)
Runs from pp. 132 to 137 in the 1987 Penguin edition
Abou ben Adhem (Ch.16; page 132)
Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:-
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the presence in the room he said,
'What writest thou?' The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered, 'The names of those who love the Lord'
'And is mine one?' said Abou. 'Nay not so'
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerily still; and said, 'I pray thee, then'
Write me as one who loves his fellow men'
The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blest,
And lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest.
[Hunt, James Leigh (1784-1859) "Abou Ben Adhem" (1835) ]
Mickey Spillane (Ch.16; page 133)
Frank Morrison Spillane (1918- ), celebrated writer of hard-boiled mystery stories, occasionally controversial for their violence. His character Mike Hammer, who first appeared in I the Jury (1947), may have inspired the name of Johnnys house.
simple faith ... Norman blood (Ch.16; page 134)
Lord Ickenham, of course, has a coronet and has several times asserted that
he has Norman blood.
Howeer it be, it seems to me,
T is only noble to be good.
Kind hearts are more than coronets,
And simple faith than Norman blood.
[Tennyson, Alfred Lord (1809-1892) Lady Clara Vere de Vere 7]
Ju-Jitsu (Ch.16; page 134)
The Gentle Art - a Japanese system of wrestling, the primary unarmed combat method of the Samurai, introduced into the West around 1900. The Ju-jitsu instructor Shinzo Harade was in the USA from 1904-1910, explaining the technique to the US military and others, by which time Ickenham would have been in his thirties. Of course, its not out of the question that he had visited Japan sometime in his wild youth, or learnt the technique informally from a Japanese-Californian.
slew the Jabberwock (Ch.16; page 134)
'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"
He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought
So rested he by the Tumtum tree
And stood a while in thought.
And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood
And burbled as it came!
One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went gallumphing back.
"And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Calloh! Callay!"
He chortled in his joy.
'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
[Carroll, Lewis (C.L. Dodgson) Jabberwocky ]
United States Marines (Ch.16; page 135)
Is Uncle Fred perhaps thinking rather of the US Cavalry, who tend to turn up in just the sort of situation he mentions in the last reel of Westerns? In the aftermath of the Korean war, the Marines might have been rather more prominently in his imagination, of course.
she busted you one? (Ch.16; page 136)
i.e. hit you. The OED describes the verb bust in the sense of beat
or strike as obsolete except dialect, the last example cited being from 1400.
Other dictionaries, including Green, suggest that this usage is a US dialect
variant of burst (cf. cuss, ass, etc.),
and date the meaning to strike with the fist as late 19th century.
Policemen in Wodehouse generally have to suffer for their art, and McMurdo is clearly no exception.
Chapter 17 (Ch.17; page 138)
Runs from pp. 138 to 148 in the 1987 Penguin edition
Scriventhorpe (Ch.17; page 139)
This name seems to be unknown to all the usual search tools. Scriven appears
occasionally as a surname (e.g. Joseph Medlicott Scriven, 1819-1886, author
of the well-known hymn What a friend we have in Jesus), and is
the name of villages in Kent and North Yorkshire. The Danish suffix -thorpe,
meaning village, is common in place-names in the North-East.
Perhaps a coincidence, but Scriven Park, near Knaresborough, was the seat of the Slingsby family. The name Slingsby appears in several places in Wodehouse - including Horatio Slingsby, author of Strychnine in the Soup ... and Slingsby of the Superb Soups.
Spanish Main (Ch.17; page 140)
Usually refers to the mainland of South America from Panama to the Orinoco, or to the part of the Caribbean immediately adjacent to it. As this was the route of the Spanish treasure fleets sailing back from Central America, it was a region notoriously infested with pirates.
Brutus ... tide in the affairs of men (Ch.17; page 140)
Brutus: There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat;
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.
Cassius: Then, with your will, go on;
Well along ourselves, and meet them at Philippi.
[Shakespeare, William (1564-1616) Julius Caesar IV:3,249-257]
choir-boys hundred yard race (Ch.17; page 141)
Cf. The Purity of the Turf
Second Sunday in Epiphany (Ch.17; page 141)
More usually Second Sunday after Epiphany.
Epiphany is 6 January, the day which western Christians associate with the arrival of the Magi. It marks the end of the festival of Christmas.
swan (Ch.17; page 141)
This sounds as though it must be the same swan which threatened Bertie and
AB Filmer on an island in Jeeves and the Impending Doom (1926;
Very Good, Jeeves). Norman Murphy has suggested that the prototype for that
island is to be found in the grounds of Hunstanton Hall. However, the present
island seems to lack the useful summer-house.
sand-martin (Ch.17; page 143)
Riparia riparia, a member of the swallow family. Nests in holes it excavates in closely-packed sand.
Thurber bloodhound (Ch.17; page 145)
The American humourist James Thurber (1894-1961) often illustrated his New
Yorker pieces with drawings featuring miserable-looking bloodhounds.
I began to draw a bloodhound, but he was too big for the page... He had the
head and body of a bloodhound; I gave him the short legs of a basset.
[Thurber, James Unidentified ]
Xenophon's ten thousand (Ch.17; page 146)
In 401 BCE, the Persian king Artaxerxes defeated his brother Cyrus at the battle of Cunaxa, on the Euphrates. Cyrus's force included ten thousand Greek mercenaries, led by the Athenian general and historian Xenophon. He describes their retreat to the Black Sea in his book Anabasis. There is a famous moment when after a long journey through the mountains they first catch sight of the sea from the top of a mountain and cry out thalassa, thalassa (the sea, the sea!).
a seal was there (Ch.17; page 147)
Could this perhaps be another association with Thurber? - The famous Seal
in the Bedroom cartoon had appeared in the New Yorker on 30 January 1932.
Chapter 18 (Ch.18; page 149)
Runs from pp. 149 to 158 in the 1987 Penguin edition
Beetle and Wedge (Ch.18; page 149)
A common pub name. A beetle is a heavy hammer or mallet used especially by
masons - the combination of beetle and wedge would be used for moving heavy
stones into position.
An less plausible alternative theory links wedge to the Old English wicga, an earwig.
Rupert Morrison ... licensed to sell ales, wines and spirits (Ch.18; page 149)
English pubs are obliged by law to have a board over the door identifying the
The name might perhaps be a reference to the Labour politician Herbert Morrison (1888-1961), who had been leader of the London County Council in the thirties and Home Secretary during the Second World War. There is another Rupert Morrison in The Man Upstairs (1910), though - well before Herbert Morrison became well-known.
television (Ch.18; page 149)
By 1958, television signals could be received in about 95% of the UK. In most areas there was still only one (BBC) channel, but a second, commercial, channel was available in London, the Midlands, and the North-West. Many people had bought (or, more commonly, rented) receivers for the coronation in 1953, but they were still something of a luxury.
home-brew (Ch.18; page 149)
Beer brewed on the premises. Common in rural pubs when Wodehouse lived in England, but a real rarity by the 1950s, when most pubs had been bought by big industrial brewing conglomerates who obliged tenants to sell the brewerys own beer. The Campaign for Real Ale only started to reverse this trend in the 1970s.
troops of Midian (Ch.18; page 149)
A Wodehouse favourite!
Christian! dost thou see them
On the holy ground,
How the troops of Midian
Prowl and prowl around?
[Neale, John Mason (after St Andrew of Crete) Hymn: Christian, dost thou see them? ]
one of those spy pictures (Ch.18; page 150)
On British TV in those days, one would have been more likely to see The Good Old Days, Dixon of Dock Green, or The Black and White Minstrel Show. Cinema films were only shown very rarely, and shows like The Avengers and The Saint were still a year or two in the future.
Fly like a youthful hart or roe (Ch.18; page 151)
Hark! the Redeemer from on high,
Sweetly invites His favrites nigh,
From caves of darkness and of doubt,
He gently speaks and calls us out.
Come, my beloved, haste away,
Cut short the hours of thy delay;
Fly like a youthful hart or roe,
Over the hills where spices grow.
[Watts, Isaac Hymns and Spiritual Songs (1709) Hymn 79]
Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party (Ch.18; page 151)
This is allegedly the first sentence ever written on a typewriter, by Charles Weller in 1867.
Cor, lumme, stone the crows (Ch.18; page 153)
Cor lumme is a (Cockney?) corruption of God love me.
Stone the crows (sometimes Stiffen the crows) is an Australian expression of surprise, which seems to have appeared in British English after the First World War.
Professor Moriarty (Ch.18; page 154)
The Napoleon of Crime. Sherlock Holmess most celebrated adversary only appears in two stories, The Final Problem (1893) and The Valley of Fear.
Doctor Fu Manchu (Ch.18; page 154)
Sax Rohmers sinister Chinese villain first appeared in book form in The Mystery of Dr Fu Manchu (UK) / The Insidious Dr Fu Manchu (US) in 1913. The last two books appeared in 1957 and 1959.
The Ace of Spades (Ch.18; page 154)
Comic strip villain?
Drop cobras down your chimney (Ch.18; page 154)
Probably a reference to the Sherlock Holmes story The Speckled Band.
But see also Murphys discussion of snakes in Wodehouse.
[Murphy, N. T. P., In Search of Blandings (1986) pp. 58-59]
res (Ch.18; page 154)
res judicata (Latin: the thing judged): Legal expression for the part of a judges decision that refers directly to the case in hand, and thus constitutes a binding precedent (other remarks of the judge are considered to be obiter dicta). Hence Wodehouse uses it to mean the real issue.
E. Phillips Oppenheim (Ch.18; page 156)
E. Phillips Oppenheim (1866-1946), British author of over 150 novels, mostly mysteries or spy stories.
Chapter 19 (Ch.19; page 159)
Runs from pp. 159 to 165 in the 1987 Penguin edition
one over the eight (Ch.19; page 159)
Drunk. British military slang, apparently deriving from the old idea that eight pints of beer was the maximum a soldier could safely drink without impairing his efficiency. In the previous chapter we were told that Peasemarch had had four goes (presumably pints) of the home-brew.
lets I dare not wait upon I would (Ch.19; page 163)
According to Brewer, the adage Lady Macbeth refers to is, the cat loves
fish, but does not like to wet her paws.
Lady M. Was the hope
Wherein you dressd yourself? hath it slept since,
And wakes it now, to look so green and pale
At what it did so freely? From this time
Such I account thy love. Art thou afeard
To be the same in thine own act and valour
As thou art in desire? Wouldst thou have that
Which thou esteemst 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, William (1564-1616) Macbeth I:vii, 41-51]
great globe leave not a wrack (Ch.19; page 163)
As is obvious from the context, Shakespeare was using the now obsolete sense
of rack to mean 'mist or fog,' but in some editions the word 'wrack' (ruin,
remains) was substituted. It is this garbled version of the phrase that has
entered the language.
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-cappd 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. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
[Shakespeare, William (1564-1616) The Tempest iv. i. 146-157]
Well met by moonlight, proud Wisdom (Ch.19; page 164)
Evidently Saxby does not confine himself to jokes on the name Wisdom.
Enter OBERON from one side, with his Train; and TITANIA from the other, with
Obe. Ill met by moonlight, proud Titania.
Tita. What! jealous Oberon. Fairies, skip hence:
I have forsworn his bed and company.
[Shakespeare, William (1564-1616) A Midsummer Nights Dream II:i, 64-66]
aficionado (Ch.19; page 165)
Chapter 20 (Ch.20; page 166)
Runs from pp. 166 to 171 in the 1987 Penguin edition
There you take me into deep waters, Constable (Ch.20; page 166)
These are deep waters, Mr. Mason; deep and rather dirty.
[Conan-Doyle, Sir Arthur The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place ]
wild surmise (Ch.20; page 166)
Much have I travelld in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-browd Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He stard at the Pacificand all his men
Lookd at each other with a wild surmise
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
[Keats, John (1795-1821) On first looking into Chapman's Homer ]
Chapter 21 (Ch.21; page 172)
Runs from pp. 172 to 181 in the 1987 Penguin edition
sanctum (Ch.21; page 174)
sanctum sanctorum (Latin): holy of holies. Inner chamber of a temple. By extension, a private room or office, forbidden to the general public.
one brushing flies off a sleeping Venus (Ch.21; page 175)
This also appears for instance in The Man Upstairs and The Indiscretions of
Archie, but it seems to have been proverbial long before Wodehouse, even in
The love goddess Venus, Roman equivalent of Aphrodite, is often depicted in art as a sleeping woman guarded by Cupids or putti (e.g. Giorgione, Titian, Poussin, etc.). Presumably one would not wish to arouse the anger of such a potent goddess by waking her.
Boatswains mate, roared the captain, do your duty! or by
G I will have you up, and give you four dozen yourself. One would think,
dn your bd, that you were brushing flies off a sleeping Venus,
instead of punishing a scoundrel with a hide as thick as a buffalos,
and be dd to him. Do your duty, sir, dn your soul.
[Marryat, Capt. Frederick (1792-1848) Frank Mildmay Ch.16]
Chevalier Bayard (Ch.21; page 175)
Pierre du Terrail (1476-1524) was regarded as the model of French chivalry, the chevalier sans peur et sans reproche. The Elizabethan courtier Sir Philip Sidney was sometimes referred to as the English Bayard. [Brewer]
asleep at the switch (Ch.21; page 175)
Proverbial, probably American. In the days before interlocking signal systems, railwayman were posted to control individual switches (i.e. point-levers). One who was asleep at the switch would be failing in his duty and putting the safety of trains at risk.
all-day sucker (Ch.21; page 178)
A large sweet or lollipop. Given as a prize for one of the events in The Purity of the Turf.
F.O.B. (Ch.21; page 178)
Free on Board. Business expression, when a price is quoted including all charges for delivery to a specified point (originally to the purchasers ship).
Chapter 22 (Ch.22; page 182)
Runs from pp. 182 to 187 in the 1987 Penguin edition
fifty shillings (Ch.22; page 182)
Two pounds and fifty pence in decimal currency.
highbinder (Ch.22; page 183)
In the early 19th century, this American expression meant something like hellraiser - a member of a rowdy New York mob. By the 1890s it was beginning to take on the sense of swindler, as here. Possibly it has links with the German word Hochstapler?
Volga boatman (Ch.22; page 184)
Possibly this is a reference to the painting Boat-haulers on the Volga
(1872) by Ilya Efimovitch Repin (1844-1934). There is nothing in the usual
text of the Song of the Volga Boatmen about bent head and leaden
Chapter 23 (Ch.23; page 188)
Runs from pp. 188 to 194 in the 1987 Penguin edition
panting like a white rabbit heated in the chase (Ch.23; page 188)
As pants the hart for cooling streams
When heated in the chase,
So longs my soul, O God, for Thee
And Thy refreshing grace.
[Tate, Nahum and Brady, Nicholas (hymn, based on Psalm 42) 1696]
Julius Caesar used to swim with all his clothes on (Ch.23; page 190)
The evidence for this is not as strong as Lord Ickenham supposes: Cassius reports
that he himself leapt in accoutred as I was, but there is nothing
explicit in the text about how Caesar was dressed, or whether he removed any
clothes before jumping in after Cassius.
I was born free as Caesar; so were you.
We both have fed as well, and we can both
Endure the winter's cold as well as he.
For once, upon a raw and gusty day,
The troubled Tiber chafing with her shores,
Caesar said to me, 'Dar'st thou, Cassius, now
Leap in with me into this angry flood
And swim to yonder point?' Upon the word,
Accoutred as I was, I plungèd in
And bade him follow. So indeed he did.
The torrent roared, and we did buffet it
With lusty sinews, throwing it aside
And stemming it with hearts of controversy.
But ere we could arrive the point proposed,
Caesar cried, 'Help me, Cassius, or I sink!'
[Shakespeare, William (1564-1616) Julius Caesar I:ii]
Brigham Young (Ch.23; page 190)
Brigham Young (1801-1877) became the leader of the Mormon community after the
murder of its founder, Joseph Smith, in 1844. He was responsible for the migration
to the West and the establishment of the successful settlement at Salt Lake
City in 1846-7. He followed the Mormon practice of plural marriage, as directed
by Joseph Smith, and is believed to have married 27 times, having a maximum
of 19 wives at once. He was tried on a federal charge of polygamy in 1871,
King Solomon (Ch.23; page 191)
Solomon, who reigned in Israel ca. 974-934 BCE, was an even more noted enthusiast
for the married state than Brigham Young, although the writers of 1 Kings clearly
1 But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter
of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zido'ni-ans, and
2 of the nations concerning which the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon clave unto these in love.
3 And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart.
4 For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.
[Bible 1 Kings 11:1-4]
precisian (Ch.23; page 191)
Originally meant someone who is strict and literalistic in religious observance (often used of Puritans). Later came to mean anyone who is strict in adhering to the rules, but seems to be rare nowadays.
the County (Ch.23; page 194)
In this context refers to members of the local gentry and aristocracy who would be on social calling terms with Johnny as squire of Hammer Hall.
Chapter 24 (Ch.24; page 195)
Runs from pp. 195 to 208 in the 1987 Penguin edition
sports dress (Ch.24; page 195)
In the thirties, this term was used to describe a loosely-cut, sleeveless, womans dress for daytime wear (like a mans sports jacket, it was not necessarily intended for athletic use).
dosshouse (Ch.24; page 196)
A common lodging house, i.e. a place which provides cheap beds for homeless people. Uncle Fred uses the term ironically, of course.
adventures by flood and field (Ch.24; page 196)
Wherein I spake of most disastrous chances,
Of moving accidents by flood and field,
Of hair-breadth scapes i the imminent deadly breach,
Of being taken by the insolent foe
And sold to slavery, of my redemption thence
And portance in my travels history;
Wherein of antres vast and desarts idle,
Rough quarries, rocks and hills whose heads touch heaven,
It was my hint to speak, such was the process;
And of the Cannibals that each other eat,
The Anthropophagi, and men whose heads
Do grow beneath their shoulders. This to hear
Would Desdemona seriously incline;
[Shakespeare, William (1564-1616) Othello I:iii, 152-165]
my niece Valerie (Ch.24; page 203)
See Uncle Fred in the Springtime
let my Yea be Yea and my Nay be Nay (Ch.24; page 203)
This verse is one particularly associated with George Fox and the Society of
But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither
by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your
nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.
[Bible James 5:12]
Chase my aunt Fanny up a gum tree (Ch.24; page 204)
Aunt Fanny appears in a range of colloquial expressions of surprise or - more often - incredulity. The presence of the gum tree suggests that this one is probably Australian. The expression up a gum tree, in a difficult situation, goes back to the early 19th century. However, its not impossible that Wodehouse invented this particular variant. It also occurs in Jeeves in the Offing, Ch. 7.
too, too solid flesh melt (Ch.24; page 205)
O! that this too too solid flesh would melt,
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew;
Or that the Everlasting had not fixd
His canon gainst self-slaughter! O God! O God!
How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world.
Fie on t! O fie! tis an unweeded garden,
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely. That it should come to this!
[Shakespeare, William (1564-1616) Hamlet I:ii, 133-141]
a sower going forth sowing (Ch.24; page 206)
3 And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a
sower went forth to sow;
4 and when he sowed, some seeds fell by the wayside, and the fowls came and devoured them up:
5 some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:
6 and when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.
7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:
8 but other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some a hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.
9 Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.
[Bible Matthew 13:3-9]
inland Garden of Eden (Ch.24; page 206)
The biblical Garden of Eden is generally considered to have been in Mesopotamia (southern Iraq). There has been a good deal of argument as to where it was in relation to the Persian Gulf, but there is no direct indication that it was any nearer to the sea than Berkshire is.
Chapter 25 (Ch.25; page 209)
Runs from pp. 209 to 222 in the 1987 Penguin edition
trembled like one stricken with an ague (Ch.25; page 210)
Seems to be a cliché of sensational fiction. An ague is an attack of
fever, especially malaria.
There followed a dead silence. The Commissary felt that his senses were reeling.
He trembled as if suddenly stricken with ague and sank into a chair to save
himself from falling. The candle sent a stream of wax on the carpet; Chauvelin
stamped on it viciously with his foot.
"Not the Scarlet Pimpernel?" Lacaune contrived to murmur at last.
[Orczy, Baroness The Scarlet Pimpernel Ch.36]
minute guns (Ch.25; page 211)
Guns fired at regular intervals (e.g. by a ship) as a fog signal.
Lucas-Gore Henry James (Ch.25; page 211)
Lucas-Gore also appears briefly in The Ice in the Bedroom. The distinguished American-born novelist Henry James (1843-1916) spent his last years at Rye in Kent. Though he was somewhat reclusive, many British literary figures claimed acquaintance with him. One possible candidate might be E.F. Benson, who bought Jamess former house in Rye, the setting for Mapp and Lucia.
blessings on the falling out (Ch.25; page 218)
As through the land at eve we went,
And plucked the ripened ears,
We fell out, my wife and I,
O we fell out I know not why,
And kissed again with tears.
And blessings on the falling out
That all the more endears,
When we fall out with those we love
And kiss again with tears!
For when we came where lies the child
We lost in other years,
There above the little grave,
O there above the little grave,
We kissed again with tears.
[Tennyson, Alfred Lord (1809-1892) The Princess Canto I]
Alexandre Dumas (Ch.25; page 219)
Thanks to the huge success of his books, the name of Alexandre Dumas père
(1802-1870) was worth a great deal. Taking advantage of the weaknesses of 19th
century copyright law, Dumas himself, his publishers, and above all his fellow
writers, shamelessly stuck the Dumas name on anything they could think of,
especially in the American market.
Ichabod (Ch.25; page 221)
Inglorious. From the name of an Old Testament character (Elis grandson)
who had the bad luck to be born at the moment that the Philistines captured
the Ark of the Covenant, the same day that his father, uncle and grandfather
15 Now Eli was ninety and eight years old; and his eyes were dim, that
he could not see.
16 And the man said unto Eli, I am he that came out of the army, and I fled today out of the army. And he said, What is there done, my son?
17 And the messenger answered and said, Israel is fled before the Philistines, and there hath been also a great slaughter among the people, and thy two sons also, Hophni and Phin'ehas, are dead, and the ark of God is taken.
18 And it came to pass, when he made mention of the ark of God, that he fell from off the seat backward by the side of the gate, and his neck brake, and he died: for he was an old man, and heavy. And he had judged Israel forty years.
19 ¶ And his daughter-in-law, Phin'ehas' wife, was with child, near to be delivered: and when she heard the tidings that the ark of God was taken, and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she bowed herself and travailed; for her pains came upon her.
20 And about the time of her death the women that stood by her said unto her, Fear not; for thou hast borne a son. But she answered not, neither did she regard it.
21 And she named the child Ich'abod, saying, The glory is departed from Israel: because the ark of God was taken, and because of her father-in-law and her husband.
22 And she said, The glory is departed from Israel: for the ark of God is taken.
[Bible 1 Samuel 4:15-22]
Chatsworth, Mafeking Road (Ch.25; page 221)
This address at once tells us a lot about the house: the streetname implies that it was built in the period shortly after the Boer War (1899-1902), and the name of the house indicates lower-middle-class delusions of grandeur (Chatsworth, near Bakewell in Derbyshire, is the seat of the Dukes of Devonshire). The scene of Uncle Fred Flits By is on another Mafeking Road. This is not so surprising: there are currently four Mafeking Roads as well as several Mafeking Avenues in the London area.