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.
Hot Water 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.
The novel first appeared in book format on 17 August 1932 in the UK (Herbert Jenkins), and simultaneously in the US (Doubleday Doran), both under the same title. It was later adapted by Wodehouse as the play The Inside Stand, first produced in London, 1935.
Page references are to the 1963 Penguin edition of Hot Water., in which the text runs from pp 7-238.
Dedication (Ch 1. p 5)
Maureen O'Sullivan (1911-1998). American actress who appeared in more than seventy films. Famous as Johnny Weismuller's scantily-clad co-star in the Tarzan movies of the thirties, and as the mother of actress Mia Farrow. O'Sullivan and her husband the Australian writer John Farrow were personal friends of the Wodehouses.
Ethel is Wodehouse's wife; Leonora his step-daughter, and Miss Winks and John-John are pekinese dogs, the latter belonging to Miss O'Sullivan. Wodehouse was looking after it for her (cf. Performing Flea, letter dated 14 March 1931).
St Rocque ... Château Blissac (Ch 1.1 p 7)
St Roch (Rocco in Italian) is supposed to have been born in Montpellier, and distinguished himself caring for the victims of a plague in Italy. St Rocque does not appear to exist as a placename in France in any of the variant spellings of the name. There is a place called La Rocque on Jersey - Wodehouse might have remembered this from the time he spent at a school on Guernsey. On p 60 below, St Rocque is said to be in Brittany, as it is in French Leave (1956), where St Rocque appears again.
Blissac also seems to be fictitious. Placenames in -ac appear most commonly in southern France, although not unknown in Brittany. In March 1932, Wodehouse was staying near Auribeau, a little way north of Cannes. The description of St Rocque as a fishing village turned into a popular resort sounds rather like Cannes.
J. Wellington Gedge (Ch 1.1 p 7)
Cf. the character in Gilbert & Sullivan, The Sorcerer: "Oh, My name is John Wellington Wells / I'm a dealer in magic and spells." (No.12). Wellington is a town in Shropshire. The name Gedge possibly owes something to Broadway producer Crosby Gaige, 1882-1949, who is mentioned in passing in Bring on the Girls.
Casino Municipale (Ch 1.1 p 7)
This is either Italian or an error: in French, it would be Casino Municipal. Most French seaside and spa towns have casinos, many of which are run by the municipality. The superfluous 'e', also present in the first edition at this point, has disappeared when the term appears again on p 13 below.
heart ... Highlands, a-chasing the deer (Ch 1.1 p 7)
My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here,
My heart's in the Highlands a-chasing the deer -
A-chasin the wild deer, and following the roe;
My heart's in the Highlands, wherever I go.
Farewell to the Highlands, farewell to the North
The birth place of Valour, the country of Worth;
Wherever I wander, wherever I rove,
The hills of the Highlands for ever I love.
Farewell to the mountains high cover'd with snow;
Farewell to the straths and green valleys below;
Farewell to the forrests and wild-hanging woods;
Farwell to the torrents and loud-pouring floods.
My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here,
My heart's in the Highlands a-chasing the deer
Chasing the wild deer, and following the roe;
My heart's in the Highlands, whereever I go.
Robert Burns Farewell to the Highlands
Glendale, Cal. (Ch 1.1 p 7)
Glendale lies a few miles north of Los Angeles, and is the third largest city in Los Angeles County.
Medway (Ch 1.1 p 7)
The river Medway is a tributary of the Thames in the English county of Kent.
Boat to England (Ch 1.1 p 8)
The fact that St Rocque has a direct boat to England would put it somewhere in northern France. Possibly it is a composite of Cannes and a resort such as Le Touquet or Deauville.
Festival of the Saint (Ch 1.1 p 8)
The feast-day of St Roch is on 17 August.
Venetian Suite (Ch 1.1 p 8)
The Wodehouses slept in the Venetian Suite when they stayed with William Randolph Hearst in his castle at San Simeon in February 1931 (see Performing Flea).
Keeley Cure (Ch 1.1 p 8)
Keeley, Leslie E. (1832-1900), American physician. Around 1879 he developed a treatment for chronic alcoholism and drug addiction, injecting institutionalized patients with a chloride of gold and allowing them unlimited access to liquor. Keeley claimed a very high rate of success with only a few relapses. The medical establishment dismissed him as a charlatan.
Miss Putnam (Ch 1.1 p 8)
Possibly a reference to the famous New York publishing family. George H. Putnam had died in 1930.
Hôtel des Étrangers (Ch 1.3 p 13)
Literally: Strangers' Hotel. A common name for hotels in the South of France. There is an Hôtel des Étrangers in Cannes, also in Nice and Menton.
New York Herald (Ch 1.3 p 13)
Founded in 1835 by James Gordon Bennett, soon becoming famous as a cheap popular scandal sheet. It later achieved a high reputation for its foreign news coverage, and established a Paris edition for sale in continental Europe. The Continental Edition was the predecessor of the International Herald Tribune.
Chez Jimmy (Ch 1.3 p 13)
A famous Paris bar. In French Leave, the Hotel Splendide at Roville-sur-Mer has a barman named Philippe, also formerly of Chez Jimmy.
Gordon Carlisle (Ch 1.3 p 14)
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 is essentially the same character elsewhere called Soapy Molloy, although Soapy is of course married to Dolly.
Hearts and flowers (Ch 1.3 p 15)
Song: Music by Theodore Moses-Tobani (1893) Words (added in 1899) by Mary D. Brine. A standard of the cinema pianist's repertoire for the romantic moments in silent films, and thus "hearts and flowers" came to mean sentimental romance in general.
Out amongst the flowers sweet,
Lingers pretty Marguerite,
Sowing with her hands so white,
Future blossoms, fair and bright.
And the sunbeams lovingly
Kiss sweet Marguerite for me
Kiss my little lady sweet,
Blue eyed gentle Marguerite!
When I say, "Oh Marguerite,
All my heart is at your feet,
Turn it to a garden fair,
See it blossom 'neath your care.
"Till it yields for you alone
Wond'rous fragrance all your own.
And its sweetest flowers shall grow,
For my Marguerite I know!"
Blushes deepen in her cheek,
Ere the shy red lips can speak,
"Ah! but what if weeds should grow,
Mongst the flowers you bid me sow?"
"Love will pluck them out," I cry,
"Trust me, Marguerite so shy,
Let my heart your garden be,
Give the seeds of love to me."
Theodore Moses-Tobani Hearts and flowers
Social Register (Ch 1.3 p 15)
In the United States, some cities have or used to have a directory listing the names of those who are prominent in society.
Bronx cheer (Ch 1.3 p 16)
Rude noise: US equivalent of raspberry. The OED records the first use in print as 1929. This example is probably the first use in a figurative sense. Wodehouse also invented the use of raspberry to mean a dismissal.
...stick up men are not quite (Ch 1.3 p 16)
Not quite gentlemen - cf. Trollope, Last Chronicle of Barset (1867): "Still he wasn't quite,not quite, you knownot quite so much of a gentleman as I amMr Walker would have said, had he spoken out freely that which he insinuated. But he contented himself with the emphasis he put upon the not quite, which expressed his meaning fully."
beazel (Ch 1.3 p 16)
This is very obscure - it clearly means 'woman' (as it also does on p. 145 below), but so far it has not been possible to find an independent record of it elsewhere - not even in the OED.
inside stand (Ch 1.3 p 17)
Wodehouse seems to have been the first to use this expression in print. It was also the title of the stage version of Hot Water, first produced in 1935.
automatic (Ch 1.3 p 17)
The use of the word "automatic" on its own for an automatic (i.e. self-loading) pistol seems to have originated in the US around 1900. The OED cites a Sears catalogue of 1902.
dough (Ch 1.4 p 17)
The use of "dough" as slang for money goes back at least to the mid-19th century in the US.
Pale hands I loved beside the Shalimar (Ch 1.4 p 18)
Number 3 of the collection 'Four Indian Love Lyrics' by 'Laurence Hope' (pen name of Violet Adela Florence Nicolson, 1865-1904). Set to music by Amy Woodforde-Finden, 1902. The poem originally appeared in The Garden of Káma, 1901; it is not a translation. Wodehouse also mentions another song from the collection, 'Less than the dust...' in several books.
Pale hands I loved beside the Shalimar,
Where are you now? Who lies beneath your spell?
Whom do you lead on rapture's roadway far,
Before you agonise them in farewell?
Oh, pale dispensers of my Joys and Pains,
Holding the doors of Heaven and Hell,
How the hot blood rushed wildly through the veins,
Beneath your touch, until you waved farewell.
Pale hands, pink tipped, like Lotus buds that float
On those cool waters where we used to dwell,
I would have rather felt you round my throat,
Crushing out life, than waving me farewell.
Hope, Laurence (1865-1904) Woodforde-Finden, Amy Kashmiri Song
Michelangelo (Ch 1.4 p 19)
The Florentine artist Michelangelo di Buonarroti (1475-1564), was famous as a sculptor, architect and poet as well as being a painter.
the big crash (Ch 1.4 p 19)
The American stock market had collapsed in October 1929, marking the start of a world-wide economic recession known as the Great Depression.
Electric Bond and Share was a subsidiary of General Electric, set up in 1905 to buy up local electric power and streetcar companies.
Aaron Montgomery Ward (1844-1913), a former employee of the Chicago store Marshall Fields, established the world's first mail-order business in 1872. Starting in 1926, they also opened a chain of department stores (for which the character "Rudolf the red-nosed reindeer" was created in 1939). The company was taken over by GE and declared bankruptcy early in 2001.
Bird in a gilded cage (Ch 1.5 p 20)
Song by Harry Von Tilzer (music) & Arthur J. Lamb (lyric), 1900
The ballroom was filled with fashion's throng
It shone with a thousand lights
And there was a woman who passed along
The fairest of all the sights!
A girl to her lover then softly sighed:
"There's riches at her command!"
"But she married for wealth, not for love," he cried,
"Though she lives in a mansion grand
"She's only a bird in a gilded cage,
A beautiful sight to see.
You would think she was happy
And free from care.
She's not, though she seems to be.
It's sad when you think of her wasted life,
For Youth cannot mate with Age.
And her beauty was sold
For an old man's gold.
She's a bird in a gilded cage.
Arthur J. Lamb Harry Von Tilzer
Sixty grand ... good gravy ... fish (Ch 1.5 p 23)
Grand to mean a thousand dollars seems to be early 20th century US slang. Nowadays it also appears in British English to mean a thousand pounds.
This is the first recorded use of good gravy : gravy by itself to mean money also seems to be early 20th century US slang.
fish as US slang for dollars seems to date from the 1920s. It appears to be quite rare - possibly Broadway slang.
Promised Land (Ch 1.5 p 24)
In Deuteronomy 34, Moses was shown the Promised Land from the summit of Mount Pisgah, but not allowed to enter it:
1 And Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto the mountain of Nebo,
to the top of Pisgah, that is over against Jericho: and the LORD showed
him all the land of Gil'e-ad, unto Dan,
2 and all Naph'tali, and the land of E'phra-im, and Manas'seh, and all the land of Judah, unto the utmost sea,
3 and the south, and the plain of the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, unto Zo'ar.
4 And the LORD said unto him, This is the land which I sware unto Abraham, Gen. 12.7 unto Isaac, Gen. 26.3 and unto Jacob, Gen. 28.13 saying, I will give it unto thy seed: I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither.
5 So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD.
Bible Deuteronomy 34:1-5
Archimedes ... Eureka (Ch 1.5 p 24)
Archimedes (?287-212 BCE). Trying to solve the problem of discovering whether a crown belonging to his patron Hieron II of Syracuse was really made of gold, he discovered what is now known as Archimedes' Principle, that a body immersed in a fluid experiences a buoyant force that is equal to the weight of the fluid displaced. Eureka (more properly "Heureka") past tense of heurisko (I find), is Greek for "I have found it."
pete (Ch 1.6 p 25)
Safe - twentieth century American slang, but it comes from the old thieves' cant word "peter" meaning a trunk or portmanteau, which goes back to the late 17th century.
String the beads (Ch 1.6 p 25)
Tell a story; possibly an allusion to the Rosary, or cf:
Can string you names of districts, cities, towns,
The whole world over, tight as beads of dew
Upon a gossamer thread;
Wordsworth Prelude V, 320-322
costermongers (Ch 2.1 p 26)
People who sell fruit and vegetables in London streets (from the old word "costard" an apple)
dray-horses (Ch 2.1 p 26)
Horses were still commonly used for moving goods in British cities until after the second world war. A dray is a low-sided cart, typically used by brewers.
Waterloo station (Ch 2.1 p 26)
Waterloo station is a London railway terminus located just south of the river Thames. It was opened in 1848 to serve the London and Southampton Railway Company's line to Southampton. This company later became part of the London and South Western Railway, and from 1923 the Southern Railway. The old Waterloo was famously chaotic, comprising at least four separate stations that had grown together over the years, but the LSWR rebuilt it completely to something like its modern form in 1922. The station serves much of the South-West of England, including the seaside resorts of Hampshire, Dorset and Devon. It was also, of course, the terminus for boat trains to the port of Southampton (cf p31 below).
Xenophon's ten thousand (Ch 2.1 p 26)
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!).
Yeovil and points west (Ch 2.1 p 26)
Yeovil in Somerset was an important junction, about a hundred miles from London, through which anyone heading for Devon or beyond by the LSWR route would have to pass.
Beatrice Bracken ... Patrick B. Franklyn (Ch 2.1 p 27)
It is probably too early for Beatrice's name to be a conscious allusion to the Irish-born politician and newspaper proprietor Brendan Bracken (1901-1958). In Wodehouse terms, her polysyllabic name marks her out immediately as an unsuitable fiancée who will insist on moulding her young man. Bracken is an Irish name (Ó Breacáin - from breac, meaning speckled); in English, the plant is something generally deprecated by landowners (poisonous to sheep, takes over whole hillsides....).
A franklin is a freeman or freeholder, which is perhaps relevant to Packy as he is unusual in being a muscular Wodehouse hero who is also reasonably well-provided with money. 'Packy' also does not fit into the usual pattern of muscular Joes. Sams and Bills and silly Berties, Freddies and Pongos. (cf Usborne for a discussion of Wodehouse's use of given names.)
Is there any significance in the fact that Beatrice has an Irish family name and Packy an Irish first name, I wonder?
Worbles ... Biddlecombe (Ch 2.1 p 27)
Both fictitious. Many place names in Somerset and North Devon end in -combe (a hollow, or small valley, cf. Welsh cwm). Biddlecombe is perhaps an amalgam of Bideford and Ilfracombe.
Hunt Balls, given by the local foxhunt, are among the most important county social events.
Ascot races in Berkshire take place in mid-June. Access to the Royal Enclosure is by invitation of the Queen, so this is one of the most exclusive social events of the year.
The Eton and Harrow cricket match has been played at Lord's Cricket Ground in London since 1805, when Lord Byron was in the Harrow team. It also takes place in June.
Jacquerie ... facile princeps ... ne plus ultra ... crêpe royale (Ch 2.1 p 27)
Jacquerie is a collective term for peasants, deriving from a peasants' revolt in northern France in 1358.
facile princeps (Latin) - acknowledged leader (literally - easily chief)
ne plus ultra (Latin) - "go no further" (the words said to have been inscribed on the Pillars of Hercules). Normally means, as here, the acme or point of highest achievement.
crêpe royale - Crêpe or crape is a fabric, usually real or imitation silk, treated with a mechanical embossing process to give it a crinkled surface. To cut on the bias is to cut diagonally, across the texture of the fabric.
[A crêpe royale in the culinary sense is a dessert crêpe (i.e. thin pancake) with chocolate sauce, bananas and strawberries. It is entirely possible that Wodehouse is pulling our legs with nonsensical dressmaking terms here.]
Fireside Chatter seems to be fictitious, but sounds rather like the name of the periodical run by Charles Dickens, Household Words.
Lazlo portrait (Ch 2.1 p 27)
László, Philip de (1869 - 1937) - Hungarian-born portrait painter (and occasional sculptor) who settled in London in 1907 and became a British citizen in 1914. He painted many Edwardian worthies and members of the aristocracy: Thirteen of his portraits are in the NPG in London.
Sealyham (Ch 2.1 p 28)
A breed of small terrier, originally developed for otter hunting by Captain John Owen Tucker-Edwardes in Pembrokeshire, and recognised by the Kennel Club in 1910. Wodehouse's fellow writer Dornford Yates was associated with Sealyhams in much the same way that Wodehouse was associated with pekes.
port ... starboard (Ch 2.1 p 28)
Nautical terms for the left and right sides of a ship, seen in the direction of travel. Wodehouse is planting the idea that Packy is a yachtsman.
Parker (Ch 2.1 p 28)
One of Wodehouse's favourite names for minor characters. Wodehouse worked alongside Dorothy Parker on Vanity Fair from autumn 1917 to Apriil 1918, and claimed to have disliked her so intently that he had expunged her from his mind (Phelps, p118).
Blair Eggleston's Worm i'the Root (Ch 2.1 p 28)
In Eggleston's literary pretensions, Wodehouse is probably mocking modernist writers of the time like Percy Wyndham Lewis (1882-1957) and his imitators, who specialised in bleak, satirical works. Lewis himself would be too old to be Eggleston, of course. In Chapter 8, Eggleston is described as a Bloomsbury novelist, though again most of the Bloomsbury set were of Wodehouse's own generation rather than Eggleston's.
It has also been suggested that the name Blair might be an allusion to George Orwell (Eric Blair), though this seems unlikely as Orwell's first important book, Down and Out in Paris and London, only appeared in 1933, after the publication of Hot Water. Moreover, Orwell may have been an intellectual, but he was also a competent professional writer, something Wodehouse would have respected even before Orwell went to Wodehouse's defence over his wartime broadcasts from Germany.
The village of Egglestone and its medieval abbey lie in County Durham, near Barnard Castle.
Wodehouse is having fun with us, because although Worm i'the Root sounds even bleaker than "worm ithbud," there is of course nothing at all sinister or unusual about a worm in a root: Egglestone's modification takes away all the force of Shakespeare's image.
The title, of course, is an allusion to Shakespeare:
She never told her love,
But let concealment, like a worm ithbud,
Feed on her damask cheek.
Shakespeare Twelfth Night II:iv,110
Edgar Wallace (Ch 2.1 p 28)
Edgar Wallace (1875-1932). Wallace was even more prolific than Wodehouse - his 173 novels in many different genres (science-fiction, crime, colonial adventure...) sold more than 50 million copies worldwide. Packy's claim to have read all of them is perhaps a little unlikely, but not impossible. Wodehouse was an enthusiast, and dedicated Sam the Sudden (1926) to him.
Yahoo! (Ch 2.1 p 28)
In Swift's Gulliver's Travels (1726), the Yahoos were debased, brutish, human-like creatures subservient to the noble, horse-like Houyhnhnms.
Excelsior (Ch 2.1 p 29)
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,
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Excelsior
auxiliary yawl ... (Ch 2.1 p 30)
A yawl is a small sailing boat with a mainmast and a jigger (i.e. a small mizzen mast placed close to the stern). Auxiliary means that it is also fitted with an engine. With Marconi rig (also known as Bermuda rig) the mainsail is triangular and there is no need for a gaff. A 45ft (13m) yacht normally has room for four or five people, but would not be too big to manage single-handed.
farceur ... speakeasy (Ch 2.1 p 31)
A farceur is a joker - possibly this is one of the bits of French slang Wodehouse invented. A speakeasy is an unlicensed drinking establishment. The term was particularly used in the US during Prohibition, but goes back at least to the 1880s.
Northumberland Hotel (Ch 2.1 p 33)
The Northumberland Hotel was a small hotel, close to Charing Cross Station, which famously appeared in The Hound of the Baskervilles as the place where Sir Henry Baskerville stayed in London. It is now the Sherlock Holmes pub. It would have been far too small to be the hotel meant here - a better bet would be the Savoy, which is also just across the river from Waterloo.
flippertygibbet (Ch 2.1 p 33)
A restless or chattering person. Cf. Bishop Latimer's 2nd Sermon before Edward VI (1549): "These flybbergybes an other daye shall come & clawe you by the backe and say [...]." Nowadays more usually written "flibbertygibbet", corresponding to the name of a character in Scott's Kenilworth.
... cashier named Bodkin (Ch 2.1 p 33)
Monty Bodkin made his first appearance the following year in Heavy Weather.
Yascha Pryzsky ... Queen's Hall (Ch 2.1 p 34)
Perhaps Jascha Heifetz (1901-1987), Russian-born violinist, moved to the USA in 1917. The Queen's Hall in Langham Place was London's main large concert hall from its opening in 1893. It was destroyed by bombs in 1941.
Gate Theatre (Ch 2.1 p 34)
Not the modern studio theatre of that name in Notting Hill Gate, although it would fit very well, as that has only been around since 1979. Given Packy's known propensities, Beatrice can hardly be contemplating letting him loose in Dublin, where the famous Gate Theatre had opened in 1928.
Absalom the son of David (Ch 2.2 p 35)
(A shekel is one sixtieth of a mina, which was approximately the same as an English pound, so Absalom's hair weighed about 3.6 lb or 1.5 kg)
25 ¶ But in all Israel there was none to be so much praised as Ab'salom
for his beauty: from the sole of his foot even to the crown of his head
there was no blemish in him.
26 And when he polled his head, (for it was at every year's end that he polled it; because the hair was heavy on him, therefore he polled it:) he weighed the hair of his head at two hundred shekels after the king's weight.
Bible Samuel 14:25-26
caravanserai (Ch 2.2 p 35)
Originally a Persian term for an inn, especially in the Middle East. Deliberately incongruous here. Assuming it takes five minutes to walk from the platform to the taxi-rank and get a cab, and at least ten minutes to get your hair cut, the hotel must be within ten minutes' taxi ride of Waterloo station.
lightning strike ... downed scissors (Ch 2.2 p 36)
A lightning strike is one that is called without any previous warning (first recorded use in the OED is from 1920). The expression "to down tools" is first recorded in 1898 - Wodehouse is having fun at the barbers' expense by comparing them incongruously to industrial workers.
'Hullo' ... 'Are you there?' (Ch 2.2 p 36)
Before the war, Americans conventionally answered the telephone with 'Hullo' and British people with 'Are you there?' - something Wodehouse often has fun with. Packy is provoking the Voice by replying in the English way.
Sir Philip Sidney (Ch 2.2 p 37)
Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586), poet, courtier, soldier, known as a model of chivalry.
Volstead Act (Ch 2.2 p 37)
Andrew Joseph Volstead (18601947) introduced this act for the enforcement of the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution, prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages. The act came into force - over President Wilson's veto - in 1919. The 18th Amendment was repealed in 1933. The Volstead Act prohibited the sale of anything with more than 0.5% alcohol content, so presumably the Opal Law would have reduced this to 0.033%. Wodehouse frequently made fun of American hypocrisy over Prohibition.
robot (Ch 2.3 p 39)
The word was only nine years old - it was invented by Karel Capek (18901938) for his play R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots) (1920), translated into English in 1923. Capek also wrote a book called 'The War of the Newts' that gave offence to Gussie Fink-Nottle.
side-whiskers ... moustaches (Ch 2.4 p 43)
As usual in Wodehouse, his facial hair marks Blair out as no good, as if we hadn't already guessed that from his name and the title of his novel.
wires crossed (Ch 2.4 p 44)
Apparently Wodehouse was the first to use this in the sense of a misunderstanding, as opposed to the technical sense of being connected to the wrong person in a telephone call.
one more grave among the hills (Ch 2.4 p 48)
??? - possibly from a Western.
stevedores (Ch 2.5 p 48)
Dock-workers employed in stowing or unloading cargo in a ship's hold. From Spanish estivadores.
Greta Garbo ... Constance Bennett ... Norma Shearer (Ch 2.5 p 50)
Greta Garbo (born Greta Gustafsson, 1905-1990), Constance Bennett (1904-1965), and Norma Shearer (1902-1985) were all famously beautiful film actresses of the period.
British Broadcasting Company (Ch 2.5 p 51)
A small slip, understandable as Wodehouse had been so much outside England - the privately-owned British Broadcasting Company, which started radio broadcasts in 1922, had become the publicly-owed British Broadcasting Corporation in 1927. Fat-stock prices are still - or at least were until very recently - broadcast on BBC radio in the early mornings for the benefit of farmers.
engaged me as his valet (Ch 2.5 p 53)
Ashe Marson in Something Fresh and Joss Weatherby in Quick Service also find themselves unexpectedly valeting for irascible Americans.
Devonshire House (Ch 2.5 p 54)
Devonshire House is situated on the block formed by Piccadilly, Berkeley Street, Mayfair Place and Stratton Street, opposite the Ritz Hotel, and over the modern Green Park tube station. The original Devonshire House, the London residence of the Dukes of Devonshire, was demolished in 1924, to be replaced by the present building. Presumably Packy had an apartment there.
Slough of Despond (Ch 2.5 p 54)
A deep bog that has to be crossed in Pilgrim's Progress Pt 1, to get to the Wicket Gate.
Flying Cloud (Ch 2.6 p 55)
The original Flying Cloud was a celebrated American clipper, launched in 1851.
bootlegger (Ch 2.6 p 56)
Supplier of illicit drink. Apparently, the original bootleggers carried flasks of whisky concealed in the legs of their boots. The term dates back to the 1890s.
strict lemonade ... tie a can (Ch 2.6 p 57)
The use of 'lemonade' as a synonym for 'teetotal' seems to be a Wodehouse invention. 'Tie a can to' is US slang for 'reject or dismiss'. The earliest example cited in the OED is from Heart of a Goof (1926).
at least one language besides his own (Ch 2.6 p 61)
Wodehouse studied French at the Berlitz school in Cannes while he was living there. He claims that he never mastered the language, although he was able to read French.
wrote ... first thing in the morning (Ch 2.6 p 61)
Given all that has happened since quarter to five, it must be at least seven by now, so this shows a confidence in the abilities of the GPO quite remarkable by modern standards, the more so as, for Packy to have a reasonable chance of sailing her to France quickly enough to help Jane, the yacht must be lying in a harbour on the south coast, a couple of hours from London by train.
Today was ... the Festival of the Saint (Ch 3. p 62)
17 August is the Feast-day of St Rocque.
the Monsieur and Madame Gedge (Ch 3. p 62)
This is not a normal French construction (if anything, it is German), but Wodehouse is cunningly making the Vicomte appear to be thinking with a French accent by slipping in that extra article.
boats lay at anchor (Ch 3. p 63)
This is consistent with St Rocque being on the Channel - in Mediterranean ports, where there are no important tides, it is more usual for boats to moor to the quay.
stump him badly (Ch 3. p 63)
Probably it is only in Wodehouse that heroes of American football use cricketing metaphors.
after-breakfast pipe (Ch 3. p 64)
Richard Usborne points out that Wodehouse in his early career had a bit of a blind-spot for the clichés of pipe-smoking - "a man with a pipe in his mouth and a frown of concentration was, by the rules of fiction, somehow more manly and heroic than someone without either" (Wodehouse at Work, p 84). Here he is using that cliché to reinforce Packy's character as the bluff outdoorsman, but at the same time mocking him gently for his reliance on the pipe for inspiration.
What do you do here? (Ch 3. p 65)
Qu'est-ce que tu fais ici? - Once again, a little bit of contorted syntax in the right place does the work another writer would have needed acres of dialect for.
pie-eyed (Ch 3. p 68)
US slang meaning "drunk to the extent that vision is impaired." The OED cites this passage as an example, but the first instance recorded is from 1904.
St Anthony (Ch 3. p 69)
The temptation of St Anthony was a favourite subject of religious paintings (especially with Flemish painters like Hieronymous Bosch and David Teniers) - the saint is shown looking stern as all sorts of enticing pleasures are unfolded before him.
panting like a stag pursued by hounds (Ch 4. p 71)
Possibly a reference to:
As pants the hart for cooling streams
When heated in the chase,
So longs my soul, O God, for Thee
And Thy refreshing grace.
Nahum Tate and Nicholas Brady (hymn, based on Psalm 42) 1696
en rapport (Ch 4. p 71)
In rapport; in harmony with [his surroundings]. Once again, Wodehouse manages to provide a French flavour, while using a word which has been common in English since the seventeenth century.
under Mr Slattery's window at 7 a.m. (Ch 4. p 71)
To this day, local festivals in France are arranged to start outside the hotel where one is staying at some unearthly hour of the morning.
when not engaged in his profession (Ch 4. p 71)
When a felon's not engaged in his employment
Or maturing his felonious little plans,
His capacity for innocent enjoyment
Is just as great as any honest man's.
WS Gilbert The Pirates of Penzance or The Slave of Duty No.24
Lovely Woman ... (Ch 4. p 71)
WHEN lovely woman stoops to folly,
And finds too late that men betray,
What charm can soothe her melancholy,
What art can wash her guilt away?
The only art her guilt to cover,
To hide her shame from every eye,
To give repentance to her lover
And wring his bosom, isto die.
Oliver Goldsmith When lovely woman stoops to folly
produced a card (Ch 4. p 72)
Possessing visiting cards seems a little surprising for a safeblower. Possibly this encounter was originally written with a different character in mind.
Shriners' conventions (Ch 4. p 74)
The Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, a Masonic organisation in the US.
little brother of all mankind (Ch 4. p 75)
Possibly an allusion to Kipling's Kim, 'the little friend of all the world.' In Christian doctrine, Jesus is sometimes described as "brother of all mankind."
step high, wide and plentiful (Ch 4. p 76)
Mr Gedge appears to have been the first to use this expression, more usually associated with Lord Ickenham, who first appeared in 1936. It seems to originate with the cowboy phrase "high, wide and handsome," which both Gedge (in Glendale) and Ickenham (in his cow-punching days) might well have encountered.
Figaro ... Le Petit St Rocqueois (Ch 5. p 78)
Newspapers: Le Figaro is the leading conservative French national newspaper (comparable to the London Times or Telegraph), founded in 1826 and published in Paris. Given that St Rocque is fictitious, its local paper must be too.
silver band (Ch 5. p 78)
A brass band with silver-coloured instruments. In Britain, most silver bands date back to the second half of the nineteenth century. They tend to be associated with industrial towns and do not generally have a licentious reputation.
Cicero (Ch 5. p 78)
Cicero is about four miles west of Chicago, Illinois. In the 1920s it was notoriously the power-base of Al Capone's criminal empire.
on honeydew has fed ... (Ch 5. p 79)
IN Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced;
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail:
And ’mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean:
And ’mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!
The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves;
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!
A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw:
It was an Abyssinian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight ’twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that done in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor (1772—1834) Kubla Khan
Cheeryble-like (Ch 5. p 79)
The kindly, philanthropic twin brothers Ned and Charles Cheeryble appear in Charles Dickens's Nicholas Nickleby (1838-9).
Schopenhauer (Ch 5. p 79)
Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), philosopher, author of The World as Will and Representation, was noted for his pessimism and misogyny.
parted brass rags (Ch 6.1 p 84)
Naval expression: ratings used to share a bag of polishing rags with a colleague (a "raggie"), so parting brass rags was a consequence of separating after a disagreement. Apparently.
St Rocque's able gendarmerie (Ch 6.1 p 85)
The French Gendarmerie is a centralised, national force mainly responsible for policing rural districts. It would almost certainly be agents of the Police Municipale of St Rocque who were keeping order at the festival, not gendarmes. Wodehouse is using the word in the loose, English sense to refer to any sort of French police.
palookas (Ch 6.1 p 87)
US boxing slang: an inferior or average prizefighter
beezer (Ch 6.1 p 87)
Boxing slang: Nose
Devil's Island (Ch 6.1 p 87)
One of three islands off the coast of French Guiana collectively known as the Iles du Salut (the "Salvation Islands"). Between 1852 and 1951, they were used by France as a penal colony. The largest, Ile Royale, housed the administrative centre and less dangerous criminals; dangerous criminals were held on Ile St Joseph; Ile du Diable, the smallest (less than 2 sq km in area) and most isolated, was used to house political criminals, the most famous being Captain Alfred Dreyfus, who was confined on Devil's Island in terrible conditions from 1895 - 1899. Devil's Island achieved greater notoriety following the 1973 film "Papillon", in which Steve McQueen portrayed Henri Charriere, said to be the only prisoner to escape successfully from the island.
not saying it with flowers (Ch 6.1 p 88)
The idea of transmitting coded messages, especially to lovers, using arrangements of flowers, is supposed to have been popularised in western Europe by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, who learnt of the "language of flowers" current in Turkey during a stay in Constantinople in 1716.
telling them to break (Ch 6.1 p 89)
i.e. separate (Boxing slang) - the OED records this as the first use in this sense, but it seems more likely that Wodehouse picked it up from sports reports, or even from his own school boxing days.
the big, broad view ... hotsy-totsy (Ch 6.1 p 89)
Soup Slattery has evidently met Stanley Featherstonehaugh Ukridge somewhere on his travels and picked up his catchphrase.
According to Webster, hotsy-totsy was coined circa 1926 by Billie DeBeck (1890-1942), the American cartoonist who created 'Barney Google'. Wodehouse first used the expression in The Small Bachelor (1927).
in loco parentis (Ch 6.1 p 90)
Latin: In the parent's place. Normally used to describe the legal responsibilities of schoolteachers and the like.
National City Bank (Ch 6.1 p 90)
A large US banking corporation based in Cleveland, Ohio.
Black Hand (Ch 6.2 p 91)
Ujedinjenje ili Smrt (Union or Death), also known as the Black Hand, was a secret terrorist organisation formed in Serbia in 1911 to further the cause of Pan-Serbianism in territories then forming part of the Austrian Empire, especially Bosnia and Herzegovina. They infiltrated Serbian nationalist organisations and were most famously responsible for the assassination of Archduke Franz-Ferdinand in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914.
as well as a violin (Ch 6.2 p 92)
More usually: as fit as a fiddle.
a dark sepia taste (Ch 6.3 p 93)
Sepia is normally thought of as the dark brown colour formerly obtained from cuttle-fish ink, but Wodehouse could be referring to the taste of the ink itself, as it is used in cooking to make a sauce for the cuttle-fish.
The larks on the wing... (Ch 6.3 p 94)
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!
Robert Browning Pippa Passes
the native hue of resolution ... resembled Hamlet (Ch 6.3 p 96)
The last few lines of the famous 'To be, or not to be' soliloquy.
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied oer with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.
Shakespeare Hamlet III:i, 93-98
guillotine (Ch 6.3 p 97)
Dr Joseph-Ignace Guillotin proposed the use of a decapitation machine, similar to devices already in use since the middle ages in other countries including Scotland, to the National Assembly in December 1789, with the aim of removing the inequalities between common criminals and the nobility in the existing arrangements for executions. His idea was rejected and he abandoned it. When the Legislative Assembly again proposed in 1791 that all executions should be by decapitation, it was Dr Louis of the Academy of Surgeons who designed a workable protoype, differing in several important respects from Guillotin's drawings, and the German piano builder Tobias Schmidt who constructed it. It was thus generally known as a louison or louisette - it was only later that it became associated in the public mind with the name of Guillotin. (Simon Schama, Citizens, 1989, Ch.15; Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish, 1977)
Contrary to common belief, Dr Guillotin was not executed during the Reign of Terror, but died in 1814. The last execution by guillotine in France was on 10 September 1977; executions were public until 1939.
English income tax (Ch 7. p 99)
One reason for Wodehouse's move to France in 1931 was the difficulty he was having with the British and American tax authorities.
steam-packet Antelope (Ch 7. p 99)
A packet is a passenger-carrying ship sailing to a timetable on a fixed route. The name Antelope has been carried by a series of British naval vessels since the eighteenth century. It thus seems unlikely as a name for a ferry.
M le Duc de Pont-Andemer (Ch 7. p 100)
The Duke of Pont-Andemer. Pont Audemer [Andemer seems to be an old spelling] is a town in Normany, about 20km east of Deauville. It is also the name of a breed of spaniel. Wodehouse's ancestors were Normans who came over with William the Conqueror, but so far there is no evidence of a connection with the de Pont-Andemers.
life is stern and earnest (Ch 7. p 100)
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (18071882) A Psalm of life 5-8
Aladdin (Ch 7. p 100)
In the Arabian Nights tale, Aladdin is the son of a poor tailor who finds a magic lamp that when it is rubbed produces a genie who can grant wishes. The story, popular in Europe since the French translation by Abbé Antoine Galland appeared in the early eighteenth century, has become one of the traditional subjects for the British Christmas pantomime.
Mills bomb (Ch 7. p 102)
A type of hand grenade, first developed by William Mills of Birmingham in 1915 and used in various forms by the British army from the first world war until the 1960s.
Al Capone (Ch 7. p 104)
Alphonse Capone (1899-1947). Notorious gangster, born in Brooklyn, who ran bootlegging, prostitution and gambling operations in Chicago in the 1920s. He was imprisoned on tax-evasion charges in 1931.
Shakespeare ... twice-told tale (Ch 7. p 105)
This sentiment first appears at the end of Book 12 of Homer's Odyssey, so it seems that authors have been using it for as long as there has been written narrative.
Life is as tedious as a twice-told tale,
Vexing the dull ear of a drowsy man.
Shakespeare King John Act III, Scene iv
Janice Devereux, the detective (Ch 8.2 p 112)
Perhaps merely a coincidence, but in Agatha Christie's The Seven Dials Mystery (1929), where the detective is a young girl, Eileen Brunt, there is a character called Devereux.
man of blood and iron (Ch 8.3 p 113)
Otto von Bismarck (1815-98), Premier of Prussia and (after 1871) first Chancellor of Germany, is often referred to as 'the man of blood and iron.'
gump ... bozo (Ch 8.3 p 114)
US slang - a gump is a foolish person. Also sometimes a chicken (the OED isn't sure if the two are the same word). A bozo is simply a person or fellow - the OED cites Wodehouse's use of it in Bill the Conqueror (1924). Both are of uncertain origin.
It (Ch 8.3 p 115)
Sex appeal. The OED cites Kipling (1904) as the first use.
lop-eared (Ch 8.3 p 115)
Normally used of breeds of animals (especially sheep and rabbits) whose ears hang downwards. The Senator is probably implying that Eggleston is a bit of a rabbit.
valet ... ladys-maid ... artistic inevitability (Ch 8.4 p 116)
The plays The Barber of Seville (1773, first performed in public 1775) and The Marriage of Figaro (1778, performed 1784) by Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais (1732-1799), and Rossini's and Mozart's operas derived from them, probably constitute the most famous artistic example of a valet flirting with a lady's-maid.
Othello (Ch 8.5 p 117)
Eponymous hero of Shakespeare's tragedy, based on a story published by Giovanni Giraldi Cinthio (d.1573). Othello is a Moorish officer in the Venetian army, who murders his wife Desdemona when Iago plays on his jealousy to make him believe she is conducting a liaison with Cassio. Wodehouse frequently compares jealous characters with Othello.
the late Lord Tennyson ... King Arthur ... Guinevere (Ch 8.5 p 118)
In Tennyson's Idylls of the King, a retelling of the medieval Arthurian legends, Queen Guinevere has had an affair with Lancelot during Arthur's absence. On Arthur's return, she flees in panic to the convent at Almesbury, where he finds her.
Wodehouse's memory may be playing him a little false here - Tennyson does not tell us anything about the look on Arthur's face, as we see the scene from Guinevere's point of view, and she dares not look him in the eye.
. . . . . She sat
Stiff-stricken, listening; but when armed feet
Through the long gallery from the outer doors
Rang coming, prone from off her seat she fell,
And grovelled with her face against the floor:
There with her milkwhite arms and shadowy hair
She made her face a darkness from the King:
And in the darkness heard his armed feet
Pause by her; then came silence, then a voice,
Monotonous and hollow like a Ghost's
Denouncing judgment, but though changed, the King's:
Liest thou here so low, the child of one
I honoured, happy, dead before thy shame?
Well is it that no child is born of thee. [...]
Tennyson, Alfred Lord (1809-1892) Idylls of the King - Guinevere
Bloomsbury novelists (Ch 8.5 p 118)
The membership of the Bloomsbury group - named after the district of London where the Woolfs lived, and active from ca. 1904-1939 - is generally taken to include Lytton Strachey, Virginia Woolf, Leonard Woolf, E. M. Forster, Vita Sackville-West, Roger Fry, Clive Bell, and John Maynard Keynes. Eggleston is rather too young to be a member of this core group, but could well be one of their protégés.
Since one of the most important things they had in common was a rejection of the sort of Victorian ideals epitomised by Tennyson, the reference to Idylls of the King has clearly been put in as a deliberate dig at the superficiality of Eggleston's modernism.
Journeys End (Ch 9. p 124)
Perhaps an ironic reference to Feste's song from Twelfth Night?
O MISTRESS mine, where are you roaming?
O stay and hear! your true-love’s coming
That can sing both high and low;
Trip no further, pretty sweeting,
Journeys end in lovers’ meeting—
Every wise man’s son doth know.
What is love? ’tis not hereafter;
Present mirth hath present laughter;
What’s to come is still unsure:
In delay there lies no plenty,—
Then come kiss me, Sweet-and-twenty,
Youth’s a stuff will not endure.
Shakespeare Twelfth Night II:3
Dante ... Virgil ... Inferno (Ch 9. p 124)
In Dante's Inferno, the narrator is given a guided tour of Hell by the Latin poet Virgil.
politesse ... ancien régime (Ch 10.1 p 128)
French: politeness; old (i.e. pre-revolutionary) nobility
Touraine (Ch 10. p 129)
The region around the city of Tours, on the Loire, about 200 km from Brittany.
So many people fly nowadays (Ch 10.1 p 129)
Commercial flights between London (Croydon airfield) and Paris started in 1919.
parfaitement ... (Ch 10.1 p 130)
Parfaitement - Perfectly; Alors - Well...;
Parbleu! and Nom d'une pipe are mild exclamations.
C'est vrai - it's true; Mais c'est vrai, mon vieux. Oo là là, c'est vrai - But it's true, old chap. Oh, it's true.
Wodehouse is making good use of his (alleged) failures at the Berlitz school.
the same lay (Ch 10.1 p 132)
Slang (18th C) - line of business
okay ... kayo (Ch 10.1 p 132)
'OK' is first recorded in 1839. It is most probably a joky spelling of 'all correct' - there are other theories too. The spelling 'okay' is first recorded in 1919.
'KO' and 'kayo' both appeared in the early nineteen-twenties, both in the sense of 'knock out' (boxing) and as here as a comic reversal of 'okay.'
Mrs Grundy (Ch 10.4 p 134)
In Morton's play Speed the Plough, Dame Ashfield refers frequently to her neighbour Mrs Grundy. Her name has thus become a byword for a propensity to be shocked.
What will Mrs. Grundy say?
Morton, Thomas (1764—1838) Speed the Plough II:3
adagio dance (Ch 10.4 p 134)
A dance in adagio, i.e. slow, leisurely, tempo.
frontal orbital bone (Ch 10.4 p 134)
The frontal bone constitutes the upper front part of the skull, forming the forehead. The orbital plates are the parts of this bone that form the upper and side walls of the eye sockets. There is no frontal orbital bone, as such.
a man named MacPherson (Ch 10.4 p 134)
Scots - at least in Wodehouse's world - are traditionally tight-fisted.
apple-gravy (Ch 10.4 p 134)
Nonsense: It seems to be originally a US variant on 'apple-sauce,' (cf. p 172 below) which has a similar connotation of nonsense when used in a figurative sense.
ringer (Ch 10.4 p 134)
Originally horse-racing slang, ca. 1890 - a horse fraudulently standing in for another in a race.
Night, sable goddess, from her ebon throne (Ch 11.1 p 139)
Night, sable goddess! from her ebon throne, In rayless majesty, now stretches forth Her leaden sceptre o’er a slumbering world.
Young, Edward (1683—1765) Night Thoughts I:18
beauty-sleep (Ch 11.1 p 140)
This expression seems to go back at least to the 1850s. It usually applies particularly to sleep before midnight.
missing papers ... stolen plans (Ch 11.1 p 141)
See for instance Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories 'The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington plans' and 'The Naval Treaty'
soup (Ch 11.1 p 142)
Nitro-glycerine. Dynamite is a mixture of nitro-glycerine with an inert filler that helps to prevent accidental explosion.
keester (Ch 11.1 p 142)
Slang, of obscure origin; a variant of keister. Like the word "pete," (see p 25 above) it originally meant a bag or suitcase. It also later came to mean backside - Wodehouse uses it in this sense in The Old Reliable (1951) Ch. 11.
Milady (Ch 11.2 p 143)
French version of the English form of address "my lady" - seems to have been popularised in English mainly by translations of Alexandre Dumas, The Three Musketeers.
Fascist salute (Ch 11.3 p 149)
The Fascists had been in power in Italy since 1922. In the months immediately before the publication of Hot Water, Hitler had been narrowly defeated by Hindenburg in the German presidential election (April 1932), and the Nazis obtained 37.2% of the vote in the parliamentary elections (July).
bottle of milk (Ch 11.3 p 150)
In Britain, milk in bottles is delivered to people's doorsteps in the early morning - a tradition which is only now beginning to die out.
middy-blouse (Ch 11.3 p 151)
A loose blouse, often extending below the waistline, similar to that formerly worn by midshipmen in the Navy.
jar (Ch 11.3 p 151)
long trail ... winding (Ch 11.3 p 153)
There's a long trail a winding,
Into the land of my dreams,
Where the nightingales are singing,
And a white moon beams;
There's a long, long night of waiting
Until my dreams all come true;
Till the day when I'll be going
Down that long, long trail with you.
King, Stoddard Elliott, Z There's a long trail a winding
generous wrath (Ch 11.4 p 153)
Cf. A Damsel in Distress: "He burned with generous wrath against Lord Marshmoreton, that modern Simon Legree..."
encore de coffee (Ch 11.4 p 153)
More coffee - should properly be encore de café; Soup is not a great linguist.
Woolworth Building (Ch 11.4 p 154)
A 60-storey skyscraper in New York, built 1910-1913. The architect was Cass Gilbert. The building is notable for its terracotta ornamentation in the gothic style.
flivver (Ch 11.4 p 154)
A cheap car (occasionally also a ship or aircraft of dubious quality). Early 20th century; origins obscure.
French for melon (Ch 11.4 p 156)
The French word for melon is melon.
Octave (Ch 12. p 159)
Domestics who dally with the local policeman feature in the plots of several other books. See for example 'Clustering round young Bingo' and The Mating Season.
scélérat ... assassin (Ch 12. p 159)
tangled web (Ch 12. p 161)
Oh what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practise to deceive!
Scott, Sir Walter (1771—1832) Marmion VI:17
Island Race (Ch 12. p 162)
The British. From the title of a collection of patriotic poetry by Sir Henry Newbolt (1898).
one of the smaller infusoria (Ch 12. p 162)
Animalcula Infusoria - a class of protozoa, free-swimming single-celled organisms.
fifty-seven varieties (Ch 13.1 p 165)
The famous "57 varieties" slogan of H.J. Heinz, which first appeared in the 1870s.
Old Man Trouble (Ch 13.1 p 167)
The Gershwin song "I've got rhythm" first appeared in the musical Girl Crazy in 1930.
Old man trouble
I don't mind him
You won't find him 'round my door
Gershwin, George Gershwin, Ira I've got rhythm
hewn from the living rock (Ch 13.2 p 168)
Cf. e.g. Kipling, Barrack-Room Ballads (1892), "He hewed the living rock with sweat and tears, And reared a God against the morning-gold."
English Ed (Ch 13.2 p 170)
In Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves, Ch. 11, Jeeves gives Bertie the criminal soubriquet "Alpine Joe" in similar circumstances.
Hollywood story-confidence (Ch 13.2 p 172)
Possibly a misprint for "story-conference"? Wodehouse had been in Hollywood from May 1930 to September 1931.
apple-sauce (Ch 13.3 p 172)
Nonsense - Cf. apple-gravy, p134 above.
jim-jams (Ch 13.3 p 173)
Has a lot of meanings. Probably means delirium tremens in this case.
fire-alarm ... dial phone (Ch 13.3 p 173)
Almon B. Strowger, an undertaker of Kansas City, Mo, developed the first commercially successful automatic dial telephone system, covered by US patent 447918 of 1891. The first large Strowger exchanges appeared in the USA around 1900. Outside the US, manual exchanges remained common until after the second world war.
The standard emergency numbers (e.g. 999 in the UK and 911in the USA) first appeared in the late thirties. Probably this is a reference to internal emergency systems in hotels or the like.
bunco-artist (Ch 13.3 p 173)
Confidence trickster - also bunco-steerer. Said to come from the name of the Spanish card game 'banco.'
Almanac de Gotha (Ch 13.3 p 173)
Originally published as Almanac de Gotha contenant diverses connoissances curieuses et utiles pour l'année bissextile (1764). The standard guide to the genealogy of the European royal houses and nobility.
war-horse ... battle (Ch 13.3 p 176)
19 Hast thou given the horse strength?
Hast thou clothed his neck with thunder?
20 Canst thou make him afraid as a grasshopper?
The glory of his nostrils is terrible.
21 He paweth in the valley, and rejoiceth in his strength:
he goeth on to meet the armed men.
22 He mocketh at fear, and is not affrighted;
neither turneth he back from the sword.
23 The quiver rattleth against him,
the glittering spear and the shield.
24 He swalloweth the ground with fierceness and rage:
neither believeth he that it is the sound of the trumpet.
25 He saith among the trumpets, Ha, ha!
And he smelleth the battle afar off,
the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.
Bible Job 39:19-25
Aphasia (Ch 14.2 p 180)
Aphasia is a loss of the ability to speak or to use language. Packy is thinking of amnesia.
John D. Rockefeller (Ch 14.2 p 180)
John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937) - Founder of the Standard Oil Company. Donated more than USD 540 million to charitable causes.
Dubuque, Iowa (Ch 14.2 p 180)
Lead mining centre on the Mississippi.
listening-in (Ch 14.3 p 182)
In the early days of broadcasting, people spoke of "listening-in" to a programme.
tête-à-tête (Ch 14.3 p 182)
Private conversation (French: head to head)
tiger-skin (Ch 14.3 p 182)
The most celebrated tiger-skin in literature appears not in the work of a stark, modernist writer like Blair, but in Elinor Glyn's romantic novel Three Weeks (1903).
The light of all the love in the world seemed to flood the lady's
face. She bent over and kissed him and smoothed his cheek with her velvet
cheek, she moved so that his curly lashes might touch her bare neck, and at
last she slipped from under him and laid his head gently on the pillow. Then
a madness of tender caressing seized her. She purred as a tiger might have
done while she undulated like a snake. She touched him with her finger-tips,
she kissed his throat, his wrists, the palms of his hands, his eyelids, his
hair. Strange subtle kisses, unlike the kisses of women. And often, between
her purrings she murmured love words in some fierce language of her own, brushing
his ears and his eyes with her lips the while.
This book inspired a famous piece of anonymous doggerel:
Would you like to sin
with Elinor Glyn
on a tiger skin?
Or would you prefer
On some other fur?
Glyn, Elinor (1864-1943) Three Weeks excerpt
Omar Khayyam (Ch 14.3 p 182)
A BOOK of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread—and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness—
O, Wilderness were Paradise enow!
Some for the Glories of This World; and some
Sigh for the Prophet's Paradise to come;
Ah, take the Cash, and let the Credit go,
Nor heed the rumble of a distant Drum!
Look to the blowing Rose about us—'Lo,
Laughing,' she says, 'into the world I blow,
At once the silken tassel of my Purse
Tear, and its Treasure on the Garden throw.'
And those who husbanded the Golden grain
And those who flung it to the winds like Rain
Alike to no such aureate Earth are turn'd
As, buried once, Men want dug up again.
Khayyam, Omar (d.1123) tr. Edward Fitzgerald The Rubáiyát
Ankling in ... (Ch 15. p 187)
Wodehouse seems to have invented this use of "ankling" - it first appeared in the play "Baa-baa black sheep" (co-written with Ian Hay) a year earlier.
banana-split (Ch 15. p 187)
A dessert made with a banana and ice cream (US, ca. 1920). Gertie seems to be using it here in a figurative sense - perhaps 'slippery character'?
Wodehouse is also fond of the expressions 'banana oil' (nonsense) and 'banana skin' (unexpected hazard).
Apollyon (Ch 15. p 189)
The Angel of the Bottomless Pit (Book of Revelation), with whom Christian has to fight in Pilgrim's Progress.
Apol. Then Apollyon broke out into a grievous rage, saying, I am
an enemy to this Prince; I hate his Person, his Laws, and People; I am come
out on purpose to withstand thee.
Chr. Apollyon, beware what you do, for I am in the King’s High-way, the way of Holiness, therefore take heed to yourself.
Apol. Then Apollyon straddled quite over the whole breadth of the way, and said, I am void of fear in this matter, prepare thyself to die; for I swear by my infernal Den, that thou shalt go no further; here will I spill thy soul.
And with that he threw a flaming Dart at his breast, but Christian had a Shield in his hand, with which he caught it, and so prevented the danger of that.
Then did Christian draw, for he saw ’twas time to bestir him: and Apollyon as fast made at him, throwing Darts as thick as Hail; by the which, notwithstanding all that Christian could do to avoid it, Apollyon wounded him in his head, his hand, and foot: This made Christian give a little back; Apollyon therefore followed his work amain, and Christian again took courage, and resisted as manfully as he could. This sore Combat lasted for above half a day, even till Christian was almost quite spent; for you must know that Christian, by reason of his wounds, must needs grow weaker and weaker.
Then Apollyon espying his opportunity, began to gather up close to Christian, and wrestling with him, gave him a dreadful fall; and with that Christian’s Sword flew out of his hand. Then said Apollyon, I am sure of thee now: and with that he had almost pressed him to death, so that Christian began to despair of life: but as God would have it, while Apollyon was fetching of his last blow, thereby to make a full end of this good man, Christian nimbly stretched out his hand for his Sword, and caught it, saying, Rejoice not against me, O mine Enemy! when I fall I shall arise; and with that gave him a deadly thrust, which made him give back, as one that had received his mortal wound: Christian, perceiving that, made at him again, saying, Nay, in all these things we are more than Conquerors through him that loved us. And with that Apollyon spread forth his Dragon’s wings, and sped him away, that Christian for a season saw him no more.
Bunyan, John (1628-1688) Pilgrim's Progress I: 307-312
Listen, baby... (Ch 15. p 190)
The strategy Gertie and Oily adopt for the theft and quick getaway in 'one of the cars from the garage' is also popular with Soapy and Dolly Molloy - see e.g. Money in the Bank or Pearls, Girls and Monty Bodkin.
Baby ... Napoleon ... Marshals (Ch 15. p 191)
It is not recorded whether the Emperor ever addressed his marshals as 'Baby', but it is notable that theatrical managers in Wodehouse are often said to have a Napoleon complex, and address all their associates as 'Baby'.
Painted Desert (Ch 16.1 p 193)
National Park in north-east Arizona, noted for its colourful rock formations.
Alice in Wonderland (Ch 16.2 p 196)
We are not told if the White Rabbit has a complete business suit - Carroll only mentions the watch and the waistcoat pocket. Tenniel draws it with jacket and waistcoat but no trousers.
So she was considering in her own mind (as well as she could, for
the hot day made her feel very sleepy and stupid), whether the pleasure of
making a daisy- chain would be worth the trouble of getting up and picking
the daisies, when suddenly a White Rabbit with pink eyes ran close by her.
There was nothing so very remarkable in that; nor did Alice think it so very much out of the way to hear the Rabbit say to itself, `Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be late!' (when she thought it over afterwards, it occurred to her that she ought to have wondered at this, but at the time it all seemed quite natural); but when the Rabbit actually took a watch out of its waistcoat- pocket, and looked at it, and then hurried on, Alice started to her feet, for it flashed across her mind that she had never before seen a rabbit with either a waistcoat-pocket, or a watch to take out of it, and burning with curiosity, she ran across the field after it, and fortunately was just in time to see it pop down a large rabbit-hole under the hedge.
In another moment down went Alice after it, never once considering how in the world she was to get out again.
Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Ch. 1
Platonic (Ch 16.2 p 199)
A spiritual love transcending the merely physical. Although Plato did make the distinction between physical love and friendship, the notion of Platonic love as non-physical is really a renaissance idea. It is often - as here - used disingenuously. In much the same way, Samuel Richardson has a character in Pamela say, “I am convinced, and always was, that Platonic love is Platonic nonsense.”
Schwertfeger of Berlin (Ch 16.4 p 204)
Schwertfeger ('cutler') is a fairly common surname in Germany. There was a B. Schwertfeger, who edited a book about the Affaire Dreyfus in 1930, but this is probably a coincidence [Militärattaché von Schwartzkoppen, Die Wahrheit über Dreyfus. aus dem Nachlaβ hg. v. B. Schwertfeger, Berlin 1930.]
squab (Ch 16.6 p 210)
According to the OED, a squab is either a short, fat person or a young, inexperienced person. Apparently, Soup is using an extension of the second sense to mean a young woman.
heist (Ch 16.6 p 211)
Robbery or theft (US slang). The first recorded instance in the OED is only from 1927, but it is a variant of 'hoist', which had the sense of shoplifting or housebreaking in British slang since the eighteenth century (still current up to at least the 1950s).
Having round the corner nipped (Ch 17.1 p 212)
Wodehouse gives us a flavour of German with a very small contortion of syntax. Needless to say, German has no verb "to nip round the corner" - but if it did, it would certainly be a separable verb, and form a construction rather like this.
For Schwertfeger, see p 204 above.
Auge davongekommen (Ch 17.1 p 213)
German: In full, the phrase is mit einem blauen Auge davongekommen (literally: got away with a blue [i.e. black] eye).
macédoine (Ch 17.2 p 215)
In cooking, this is a mixture of chopped fruits or vegetables (apparently by analogy to the mixture of races in Alexander's Macedonian empire). It has been used in this more general sense of a mixture of different elements since the early 19th century.
Queen could do no wrong (Ch 17.2 p 216)
A conventional legal phrase, expressing the fact that, in Britain, the Queen (or King) is outside the jurisdiction of the courts and has immunity from prosecution.
horn-swoggling (Ch 17.3 p 219)
cheating - the expression seems to have originated in the southern states of the US in the early 19th century.
Vardon swing ... stepped up to the tee (Ch 17.3 p 219)
Professional golfer Harry Vardon (1870-1937) won the British Open six times between 1896 and 1914. He popularised a new overlapping grip and a swing technique that is still in use today, although there seems to be some evidence that it was actually invented by J Laidley.
knobkerrie (Ch 17.3 p 219)
(Afrikaans) A short weighted club or throwing stick.
Angel of Mercy (Ch 17.3 p 219)
To the wounded soldier on his couch of agony she might well appear in the guise of a gracious angel of mercy; but the military surgeons, and the orderlies, and her own nurses, and the “Purveyor,” and Dr. Hall, and even Lord Stratford himself could tell a different story.
Strachey, Lytton Eminent Victorians - Florence Nightingale II
Lady Macbeth (Ch 17.3 p 220)
In Shakespeare's play, it is the ambitious Lady Macbeth who urges her husband to murder Duncan to obtain the throne of Scotland. Historically, Macbeth (d.1056) was Thane of Cromarty and Moray; his wife was Graoch, granddaughter of Kenneth IV. (Brewer)
has burglars the way other houses have mice (Ch 17.4 p 222)
Blandings Castle, of course, has impostors the way other houses have mice.
introductions (Ch 17.5 p 223)
Miss Putnam's sense of ettiquette is not quite so finely-tuned as we are being led to believe.
No lady is ever, except to the President of the United States, a
cardinal, or a reigning sovereign, presented to a man.
The question as to when introductions should be made, or not made, is one of the most elusive points in the entire range of social knowledge. “Whenever necessary to bridge an awkward situation,” is a definition that is exact enough, but not very helpful or clear. The hostess who allows a guest to stand, awkward and unknown, in the middle of her drawing-room is no worse than she who pounces on every chance acquaintance and drags unwilling victims into forced recognition of each other, everywhere and on all occasions.
Post, Emily Ettiquette (1922) Ch.II
ninctobinkus (Ch 17.5 p 224)
This word seems to be one of Wodehouse's own - it doesn't appear in the OED, and doesn't much resemble anything that does appear. Obviously it is being used to mean "thigummybob" or "whatyamacallit".
penwiper (Ch 17.5 p 224)
A small cloth item used for cleaning excess ink from the nib of a pen. Used to be a popular subject for handicraft enthusiasts - the sort of people who nowadays perpetrate crocheted toilet roll covers and the like.
William Tell (Ch 17.5 p 224)
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).
hep (Ch 17.5 p 224)
Well-informed, in the know (US slang, first recorded by the OED in 1908). Wodehouse had previously used it in Piccadilly Jim and The Adventures of Sally.
Take off those whiskers... (Ch 17.5 p 224)
Miss Putnam is parodying the revelation scenes so beloved of Victorian melodrama.
spied strangers (Ch 17.5 p 227)
British Parliamentary jargon: anyone not a member of the House of Commons
is known as a 'stranger' when in the Chamber. Members of the public can watch
debates from the Strangers' Gallery, but there is no automatic right for them
to do so. If an MP objects to the presence of journalists and public, he or
she can say "I spy strangers!" which forces a vote on the motion "That strangers
should now withdraw."
In practice the House never goes into private session (the last time was during WWII), but such a motion is occasionally used as a device for interrupting a debate.
took it so big (Ch 17.6 p 229)
Reacted so strongly - the OED records this as the first use of this expression.
Aix to Ghent (Ch 17.6 p 229)
Aachen (Germany, called Aix-la-Chapelle in French) and Ghent (Flanders). Packy's confusion about the direction in which the news travelled in Browning's poem is not unusual - cf. the parody in 1066 And All That.
I SPRANG to the stirrup, and Joris, and he;
I galloped, Dirck galloped, we galloped all three;
‘Good speed!’ cried the watch, as the gate-bolts undrew;
‘Speed!’ echoed the wall to us galloping through;
Behind shut the postern, the lights sank to rest,
And into the midnight we galloped abreast.
Not a word to each other; we kept the great pace
Neck by neck, stride by stride, never changing our place;
I turned in my saddle and made its girths tight,
Then shortened each stirrup, and set the pique right,
Rebuckled the cheek-strap, chained slacker the bit,
Nor galloped less steadily Roland a whit.
’Twas moonset at starting; but while we drew near
Lokeren, the cocks crew and twilight dawned clear;
At Boom, a great yellow star came out to see;
At Düffeld, ’twas morning as plain as could be;
And from Mecheln church-steeple we heard the half-chime,
So Joris broke silence with ‘Yet there is time!’
At Aerschot, up leaped of a sudden the sun,
And against him the cattle stood black every one,
To stare through the mist at us galloping past,
And I saw my stout galloper Roland at last,
With resolute shoulders, each butting away
The haze, as some bluff river headland its spray.
And his low head and crest, just one sharp ear bent back
For my voice, and the other pricked out on his track;
And one eye’s black intelligence,—ever that glance
O’er its white edge at me, his own master, askance!
And the thick heavy spume-flakes which aye and anon
His fierce lips shook upwards in galloping on.
By Hasselt, Dirck groaned; and cried Joris, ‘Stay spur!
Your Roos galloped bravely, the fault’s not in her,
We’ll remember at Aix’—for one heard the quick wheeze
Of her chest, saw the stretched neck and staggering knees,
And sunk tail, and horrible heave of the flank,
As down on her haunches she shuddered and sank.
So we were left galloping, Joris and I,
Past Looz and past Tongres, no cloud in the sky;
The broad sun above laughed a pitiless laugh,
’Neath our feet broke the brittle bright stubble like chaff;
Till over by Dalhem a dome-spire sprang white,
And ‘Gallop,’ gasped Joris, ‘for Aix is in sight!’
‘How they’ll greet us!’—and all in a moment his roan
Rolled neck and croup over, lay dead as a stone;
And there was my Roland to bear the whole weight
Of the news which alone could save Aix from her fate,
With his nostrils like pits full of blood to the brim,
And with circles of red for his eye-sockets’ rim.
Then I cast loose my buffcoat, each holster let fall,
Shook off both my jack-boots, let go belt and all,
Stood up in the stirrup, learned, patted his ear,
Called my Roland his pet-name, my horse without peer;
Clapped my hands, laughed and sang, any noise, bad or good,
Till at length into Aix Roland galloped and stood.
And all I remember is, friends flocking round
As I sat with his head ’twixt my knees on the ground;
And no voice but was praising this Roland of mine,
As I poured down his throat our last measure of wine,
Which (the burgesses voted by common consent)
Was no more than his due who brought good news from Ghent.
Browning, Robert (1812-1889) How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix
Freedom of the City (Ch 17.6 p 229)
In medieval London, "the freedom of the city" referred to the right of the free members of the guilds (later livery companies) to engage in commercial activities within the city. Only freemen who had completed an apprenticeship and attained the age of 21 years could become citizens of London. Nowadays, an honorary "freedom of the city" is conferred by many cities on distinguished individuals. The "freedom of the city" is also often bestowed on a military unit that has enjoyed a close relationship with a city and confers the right for the unit to march through the city with drums beating, colours flying and bayonets fixed.
Sidney Carton (Ch 18. p 234)
Altruistic hero of Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, who does a 'far, far better thing...' when he goes to the scaffold to save the life of Charles Darnay, Eggleston to Lucie's Jane.
be a little sunbeam (Ch 18. p 235)
Be a little sunbeam every where you go;
Help to drive out darkness from this world below;
You will see the shadows swiftly flee away,
If you’ll be a sunbeam every day.
Be a little sunbeam everywhere you go,
Shine, O shine for Jesus with a radiant glow;
Little ones may help this dark world to illume,
Sending golden sunshine through the gloom.
Be a little sunbeam shining bright and clear,
Some one may be wandering in the darkness near;
You may help to scatter shadows of the night,
Leading unto Christ who is the Light.
Be a little sunbeam though your light be small,
Let its gleam of beauty o’er the darkness fall,
You will see the shadows swiftly flee away,
If you’ll be a sunbeam every day.
Alice Jean Cleator & Grant Colfax Tullar Be a little sunbeam (Sunday-school hymn)
milk of human kindness (Ch 18. p 235)
Yet do I fear thy nature;
It is too full o’ the milk of human kindness.
Shakespeare, William (1564-1616) Macbeth I:v
raising Cain (Ch 18. p 237)
To make a disturbance. Cf. St. Louis Daily Pennant 2 May 1840: "Why have we every reason to believe that Adam and Eve were both rowdies? Because they both raised Cain." - the phrase originally seems to have been "raise the Devil", possibly Cain was a more mentionable form of evil for 19th century Americans?
sun-boist (Ch 18. p 238)
Sunburst - a piece of jewelry in the form of a conventional sun with rays around it.
applejack (Ch 18. p 238)
American name for apple brandy (Calvados)
Hullo and Goodbye (Ch 18. p 238)
Cf. Catullus: ave atque vale. Swinburne used this as the title of his poem in memory of Baudelaire.
There beneath the Roman ruin where the purple flowers grow, Came that “Ave atque Vale” of the poet’s hopeless woe, Tenderest of Roman poets nineteen hundred years ago,
Tennyson, Alfred Lord (1809-1892) Frater Ave Atque Vale