This is part of an ongoing effort by the members of the Blandings Yahoo! Group to document references, allusions, quotations, etc. in the works of P. G. Wodehouse.

These annotations are by Neil Midkiff, with contributions from others as noted below.

If I Were You began as a non-musical play jointly written by Wodehouse and Guy Bolton in 1930–31; the film rights were sold to MGM for $25,000 in June 1931 but the play was never filmed or produced onstage in this form. The authors revised it as Who’s Who and in that form it was staged at the Duke of York’s Theatre, London, opening 20 September 1934, but running only 19 performances in light of mediocre reviews.

As a novel, it was serialized in the American Magazine, April to July 1931, and in the UK Daily Mail newspaper from 5 June to 3 July 1931. The US book was published by Doubleday, Doran on 3 September 1931, and the UK book by Herbert Jenkins Ltd. on 25 September. See my novel page for a brief discussion of the few differences between the editions.

Page references in these notes are based on the US first edition.

 

Notes


Chapter One (pp. 1–19)


Charles, Lord Droitwich’s footman (p. 1)

In many households, servants were addressed by names not their own; the first footman might be called Charles and the parlourmaid Jane, no matter what they had been christened, as if they were taking on roles in a play.


trunk call (p. 2)

In North America, termed a long-distance call. At this time, requiring the services of a telephone operator to make the connection.


Daily Express (p. 3)

See Money in the Bank.


Gatwick (p. 5)

See The Inimitable Jeeves.


Great Lovers Through the Ages! (p. 7)

Wodehouse used this phrase often. The oldest possible referent so far found is a Pageant of Great Lovers Through the Ages (or Through History) which was featured at a charity fundraising matinée for the Save the Children Fund at the New Theatre, London, on 6 May 1927; the event was organized by the popular actress Miss Marie Tempest and many members of the aristocracy were in the pageant as well as the audience, so newspapers gave it great attention.

“Great lovers through the ages have fixed up the preliminary formalities at Brinkley.”

Bertie to Gussie Fink-Nottle in Right Ho, Jeeves, ch. 6 (1934)

Complete though his confidence had been both in Charles the footman’s judgment in the matter of gala wear and in Mr. Steptoe’s docile acceptance of the clothes laid out for him, his employer’s appearance smote Joss like a blow.
 “Steptoe!” he cried, stunned with admiration. “My God! You look like Great Lovers through the Ages!”

Quick Service, ch. 14 (1940)

“Who patted her hand on the terrace this very afternoon, trying to look like great lovers through the ages?”

Dolly Molloy to Soapy, about Mrs. Cork, in Money in the Bank, ch. 10 (1942)

...Jack McClure, who had followed him into the room, expressed the opinion that Barmy looked like Great Lovers Through the Ages.

Barmy in Wonderland, ch. 12 (1952)

Bill was tail-coated, white-tied and white-waistcoated, and his hair gleamed with strange unguents. Rory stared at him in amazement.
 “Good God, Bill! You look like Great Lovers Through The Ages.”

Ring for Jeeves, ch. 7 (1953)

“You look like Great Lovers Through The Ages. What’s the idea of the fancy dress? Why are you disguised as a gentleman today?”

A nephew of Horace Wanklyn, to his uncle in “A Tithe for Charity” (1955)

Lord Ickenham agreed that the set-up was unusual.
 “But romantic, don’t you think?” he added. “The sort of policy great lovers through the ages would have pursued, if they had happened to think of it.”

Cocktail Time, ch. 14 (1958)

Like so many commencing barristers, [Samuel Galahad Bagshott] wrote assiduously while waiting for the briefs to start coming in. He wrote short, bright articles on fly-fishing, healthy living, muscle development, great lovers through the ages and the modern girl.

Galahad at Blandings, ch. 3.1 (1965)

Diego Seguí notes that the pageant was often reenacted afterwards (he has found notices from 1936, 1940, and 1955), so he believes this reference would have remained fresh. Photographs from the first pageant are in the Tatler for 11 May 1927, with the headline “The Great Lovers Through the Ages”; one of the participants, portraying the Empress Josephine, was Lady Wodehouse. She was the wife of John, Lord Wodehouse (1883–1941), a distant cousin of PGW; Lord Wodehouse would succeed to the title of 3rd Earl of Kimberley upon the death of his father in 1932.


skrimshanker (p. 7)

A slacker or shirker of duties; originally British military slang from Victorian times. The cat Edwin in Love Among the Chickens (1906/09) is compared to Corporal Bates, recalled by the Beales as a skrimshanker.


wrestling in prayer (p. 8)

A Biblical allusion, though not directly to the King James Version, which had translated part of Colossians 4:12 as “always labouring fervently for you in prayers,” but which later translators and commentators rendered more accurately as “wrestling in prayer”; the verb, from which the English word “agonize” is derived, refers to competing in a physical contest for a prize. [Thanks to DS for pointing this out.]


guv’nor (p. 8)

British slang for a person in authority over the speaker, in Wodehouse especially referring to one’s father.


Waddington’s Ninety-Seven Soups (p. 10)

Reminiscent of the fifty-seven varieties of Heinz food products; see A Damsel in Distress.


pacemaker (p.17)

In sporting jargon, a racing competitor (as a horse or a human runner) who sets the standard pace for all or part of a race; pacesetter; front runner. Generalized to one who sets a standard in any field to which others are expected to keep up.


shooting a sitting bird (p. 18)

One of the most unsportsmanlike things a hunter can do.


scratch … twenty-four-handicap man (p. 18)

In golf terms, an expert player who goes round the course in par compared to one who needs 24 strokes more than par.


Chapter Two (pp. 20–29)


a bit of the filthy (p. 21)

This sentence from Wodehouse is cited in the OED as an example of “the filthy” used as a noun. A condensation of “filthy lucre” as in Titus 1:11 in the New Testament—money treated as something contemptible or corrupting.


septic (p. 21)

Early 20th-century slang used offhand for something or someone unpleasant or nasty; rare in Wodehouse, so far found only here and in “The Passing of Ambrose” (1928) and “Buried Treasure” (1936).


bounder (p. 21)

Slang, originating in Victorian times in British universities, for one who breaks the bounds of normal society, someone of ill-bred manners.


Socialist (p. 25)

Besides Syd Price, other Socialists in Wodehouse include Psmith, a “practical Socialist” in Mike and Psmith in the City; Socialist politicians arguing against the British military system of ranks in The Swoop! and against the House of Lords in “Fate”; Miss Trimble in Piccadilly Jim, a “Sogelist” in her clenched-teeth speech [thanks to DS for this reference]; Archibald Mulliner, a temporary Socialist in “Archibald and the Masses”; a newspaper cartoonist referred to in The Small Bachelor; and a Socialistic schoolmistress in “Feet of Clay.” Socialistic legislation is decried in “Came the Dawn,” Right Ho, Jeeves, Ring for Jeeves, and Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit.


Buck’s (p. 27)

A real-life London club, founded in 1919 and still in operation at 18 Clifford Street, Mayfair. Norman Murphy (In Search of Blandings) identified it as one of the models upon which Wodehouse drew in creating the Drones Club. Mentioned as a London tourist attraction in Big Money (1931).


the bonded storehouse of my knowledge (p. 28)

A bonded storehouse or warehouse is a secure facility for goods such as liquor which are subject to a customs duty or an excise tax; the bond is a guarantee by the operator that the tax or duty will be paid. Freddie is slightly misquoting Jorrocks, a Cockney grocer character in stories by R. S. Surtees (1805–1864):

“Ingenious youth, having got his ’oss, and learned to tackle him, let me now, from the bonded warehouse of my knowledge, prepare him for the all-glorious ceremony of the ’unt.”

Handley Cross, or Mr. Jorrocks’s Hunt, ch. 32 (1854)


the repose that stamps the caste of Vere de Vere (p. 28)

See A Damsel in Distress.


“They call me Frederick the Infallible, because I am never wrong.” (p. 29)

Perhaps an echo of “I am called ‘Archibald the All-Right’— for I am infallible!” from Gilbert & Sullivan’s Patience.


Chapter Three (pp. 30–44)


a bit tuppence (p. 31)

Somewhat obscure; possibly related to slang “tuppence-ha’penny” in the sense of not having a full shilling’s worth of mental capacity, so perhaps meaning “silly with drink” here. Unique in Wodehouse as far as can be determined.


peeping into Volume Two (p. 32)

That is, looking into the future. Victorian novels of romance were popular but expensive to buy; many readers relied on commercial lending libraries, paying an annual subscription fee to rent their reading matter. The libraries (Mudie’s being the most successful and famous) in turn coerced the publishers into keeping retail prices high and into dividing novels into three volumes so that one novel could be simultaneously loaned to three subscribers. Wodehouse had used this metaphor already in ch. 5 of Leave It to Psmith.


permish (p. 37)

Permission, clipped as in the 1920s craze for shortened words, such as the Gershwin song “ ’S Wonderful” (1927), whose verse rhymes humble fash and tender pash.


try that on your pianola (p. 37)

Pianola was originally a trade name, then a generic term for player pianos. In the days of tinny and soft sound from wind-up acoustic gramophones, player pianos were a popular way to have music of higher fidelity and greater volume played automatically at home or in a dancing hall. Many popular songs were issued both as sheet music and as piano rolls, with cross-marketing so that the sheet music might urge you, in the above phrase, to get the piano roll and hear the song played by a professional roll-recording artist.


josser (p. 38)

Flippant slang for a person, especially one treated as a simpleton or unworthy of consideration.


stryne (p. 38)

A rare attempt at phonetic rendering of the Cockney dialect pronunciation of “strain.”


Sydney Lancelot Price (p. 38)

Wodehouse’s own younger brother was named Richard Lancelot Deane Wodehouse.


more to be pitied than censured (p. 40)

Popular pathetic song (1891) by W. B. Gray: “She is more to be pitied than censured, She is more to be helped than despised; She is only a lassie who ventured On life’s stormy path ill-advised … ”


Chapter Four (pp. 45–62)


a whacking great car (p. 47)

The use of “whacking” as an intensifier before words like “big” and “great” is so common in Wodehouse that one might infer it to be current slang, but the OED has citations back to 1797 and through the nineteenth century as well. See also The Inimitable Jeeves.


the Judge putting on the black cap (p. 47-8)

Before the death penalty was abolished, British judges in capital cases would put a square flat cap of black fabric atop their head, over their wig, before pronouncing the sentence of death.


manicure (p. 49)

The use of this word for the person we now call a manicurist is called “now rare” in the OED, with their last citation from Edith Wharton in 1905. In fact, Lady Lydia calls Polly a manicurist later in the same chapter (p. 56), and Tony uses “manicurist” in ch. 13 (p. 151). I wonder if Wodehouse considered the shorter noun an Americanism and used it to emphasize Polly’s origin.

Lynn Vesley-Gross notes that Rex Stout used “manicure” for a manicurist in his 1951 short story “The Cop Killer”; this is further evidence of its continuing usage in America.


knees are no secret nowadays (p. 50)

Compare Bertie Wooster’s reaction in “Indian Summer of an Uncle” (1930) when Maudie Wilberforce thinks that he is a doctor and asks him to look at her knee (“I am all for knees at their proper time and, as you might say, in their proper place, but somehow this didn’t seem the moment.”) and then the base of her spine (“Knees, yes. Spines, no.”) Women’s skirt hemlines had risen to knee-length in the later 1920s, though by 1930 they were a few inches below the knee.


He toils not, neither does he spin (p. 53)

Matthew 6:28–29 [KJV] And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.


butlerine (p. 54)

A word not in the OED! Other than as a rare surname, and as a coinage for a female butler, I can find it online as an adjective equivalent to “butler-like” mostly in Wodehouse and in more recent authors (Kazuo Ishiguro, Kerry Greenwood) obviously under the influence of Plum. The first PGW usage found so far is in Summer Lightning (1929).


a head on which, like the Mona Lisa’s, all the sorrows of the world seemed to have fallen (p. 58)

See Summer Lightning.


sellin’ your birthright for a mess of porridge (p. 59)

Genesis 25:29–34 tells the story of how Esau sold his birthright to his younger brother Jacob and got a mess of pottage (a stew of lentils) in return. Ma Price has misheard this in church and thinks it refers to a stew of oats, porridge.


his manner a nice blend of disclaiming any connection with the scene and of apology for having such a sister (p. 58)

See Leave It to Psmith.


Chapter Five (pp. 63–68)


an Edgar Wallace novel … the Strangling Terror (p. 68)

Edgar Wallace (pen name of Richard Horatio Edgar Freeman, 1875–1932), author of 130 novels and 40 collections of short stories, plus plays, nonfiction, poetry, and journalism. His thrillers and spy novels sold widely, including The Terror, The Angel of Terror, and Terror Keep; several of them feature the crime of strangling.


Chapter Six (pp. 69–78)


juggins (p. 77)

Victorian-era British slang for a simpleton. Used also by the Crumpet who narrates “The Amazing Hat Mystery” (1933), by Monty Bodkin in The Luck of the Bodkins (1935), and by Lord Havershot, the narrator of Laughing Gas (1936).


Chapter Seven (pp. 79–88)


orient pearl of purest ray serene (p. 81)

Freddie is apparently mixing his metaphors; “an orient pearl of the purest water” appears in the standard English edition of a medieval book on alchemy, and “a gem of purest ray serene” is a well-known phrase from Gray’s Elegy; see Love Among the Chickens. Freddie’s compound is nearly echoed, with plural “rays,” in Barmy’s thoughts about Mervyn Potter’s idea in Angel Cake (1952), ch. 21.


excrescence (p. 84)

See Right Ho, Jeeves.


half-blue (p. 87)

See Something Fresh.


Chapter Eight (pp. 89–98)


supererogation (p. 92)

Doing or giving more than is required of one, or an excess or superfluous quantity of something.


Samson in the Temple (p. 94)

See Judges, ch. 16, in the Old Testament. The temple (“house” in KJV) is one devoted to the Philistine god Dagon, not the God of the Hebrews.


the “Baby’s Vengeance” in the Bab Ballads (p. 95)

Online at The Gilbert & Sullivan Archive; rather oddly, in the Ballad the substitution was the work of one of the babies. Perhaps a closer parallel would be the plot of Gilbert & Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore, in which Buttercup, formerly a nursemaid, confesses “I mixed those children up / And not a creature knew it.” Even better is Inez in The Gondoliers, who confesses that she interchanged her own baby son for the royal prince she was also nursing, although her motive was to protect the prince from being kidnapped rather than to put her son on the throne.


that Tichborne business (p. 95)

A Victorian case of identity theft; see Wikipedia for a summary.


Chapter Nine (pp. 99–108)


in his puff (p. 100)

In his life; see The Code of the Woosters.


Freddie felt that things were looking up (p. 101)

See Bill the Conqueror.


a beetle down his back (p. 101)

See Summer Lightning.


talking sixteen to the dozen (p. 104)

See A Damsel in Distress.


a thousand pounds a year (p. 106)

Roughly equivalent to seventy thousand pounds (or US$ 90,000) in 2020; since consols (British government perpetual bonds) were paying 2.5% interest at the time, the capital sum needed to generate this annual income would be forty times that amount.


News of the World (p. 107)

A popular British Sunday newspaper, published from 1843 to 2011, which derived its high circulation from its emphasis on crime, vice, and populist sensation. In 1931, its sales were between three and four million copies each week.


ten minutes by my Ingersoll (p. 108)

The Ingersoll pocket watch was introduced in America in 1892, and when by 1896 mass production made it possible to sell one model for a dollar or five shillings, it became the most widely-sold brand of watch in the US and UK for the next quarter century.


Chapter Ten (pp. 109–119)


dispatch box (p. 116)

A sort of superior briefcase used by government ministers and legislators to carry sensitive documents. As a member of the House of Lords, the Earl of Droitwich would have access to important information requiring security.


meet at Philippi (p. 117)

See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.


Chapter Eleven (pp. 120–133)


It was some two weeks after (p. 120)

As good as a program note: Act II — Two weeks later. Price’s Hygienic Toilet Saloon, London. The structure of the novel makes its source as a three-act play very clear.


Toilet (p. 120)

See Right Ho, Jeeves.


fungoid growth (p. 120)

See Right Ho, Jeeves.


Mott Street (p. 120)

Although there is a Mott Street in Waltham Abbey north of London, there does not seem to be one off the Brompton Road near Hyde Park.


Cadogan Square (p. 121)

On the other hand, Cadogan Square does exist, in Chelsea immediately adjacent to Knightsbridge, about a third of a mile south-southeast of Harrods.


Truefitt (p. 122)

A real-life barbershop, established 1805, and still in business as Truefitt & Hill at 71 St. James’s Street.


going West (p. 125)

See Summer Lightning.


Cheshire Cheese (p. 125)

See Bill the Conqueror.


Simpson’s (p. 125)

See Something Fresh.


Morning Post (p. 130)

See Right Ho, Jeeves.


Price’s Derma Vitalis (p. 131)

It seems surprising that the real Vitalis hair tonic, a product of Bristol-Myers dating at least as far back as 1887, didn’t object to Wodehouse’s use of a similar name. This page suggests that it was marketed only to barber shops until 1938, when it was packaged for retail sale for home use, but monthly advertisements in the old Life magazine beginning in December 1932 suggest otherwise.


Drone’s Club (p. 131)

The US book has the apostrophe as above; the UK book has it as Drones’, but Wodehouse elsewhere omits the apostrophe in the name. See The Code of the Woosters for more.


Elisha (p. 132)

Also cited in Piccadilly Jim (1917), ch. 7, and the Preface to Summer Lightning (1929); Biblia Wodehousiana has the brief account from 2 Kings 2:23–24 in the Old Testament.


Ritz (p. 132)

See Ice in the Bedroom.


the Row (p. 132)

In full, Rotten Row, a horse-riding trail along the southern boundary of Hyde Park. Originally built in 1690 to allow William III to travel safely between Kensington Palace and St. James’s Palace—it was lit at night with oil lamps to discourage highwaymen—it was called Route du Roi, French for King’s Road, then corrupted into Rotten Row. Since the 1730s it has been a public bridle path and social meeting ground for upper-class Londoners.


Chapter Twelve (pp. 134–149)


sitting pretty (p. 136)

See Sam the Sudden.


Principal Boy of some early pantomime (p. 137)

British pantomime shows are not silent mime, but are popular family musical entertainments for the holiday season, typically based on fairy tales and folk legends, with added topical gags and slapstick comedy. Cross-dressing is a panto tradition, with older female roles played by male comedians (pantomime dames) and leading boy characters such as Aladdin or Dick Whittington played by young women in tights.


the champagne’s getting cold (p. 140)

Tony would have been familiar with champagne at Langley End, of course, and Slingsby would have served it well chilled. This is apparently Tony’s ironic way of implying that now that he is a barber, he must be unused to the grand traditions of wine service.


played the saxophone (p. 141)

Other sax players include Niagara “Aggie” Donaldson, in “The Custody of the Pumpkin” (1924) and Hugo Carmody in Summer Lightning (1929). Captain J. G. Walkinshaw is recalled as a sax player in “The Ordeal of Osbert Mulliner” (1928).


Ronald Colman (p. 144)

See Young Men in Spats.


brilliantine (p. 146)

See Leave It to Psmith.


took all summer (p. 147)

Presumably an allusion to General Ulysses S. Grant’s dispatch from the 11 May 1864 Battle of Spotsylvania Court House: “I propose to fight it out on this line, if it takes all summer.” Wodehouse used more of the quotation in Something Fresh (1915) and “Ukridge Sees Her Through” (1923), so it is clear that he was familiar with the full statement.


Druid High Priest inspecting the human sacrifice (p. 148)

According to ancient Greek and Roman authors, the Celtic people of northern Europe practiced human sacrifice, and this would have been accepted history in Wodehouse’s school days. The Druids were the priestly class, and thus would have presided at such rituals. For a time in the twentieth century, it was fashionable to doubt the ancient authors, suggesting that the accounts were exaggerated to emphasize the barbarism of non-Roman cultures, but more recent archaeological evidence tends to support the truth of the tales. Mr. Cornelius in Sam the Sudden (1925) speaks “with something of the intonation of a druid priest chanting at the altar previous to sticking the knife into the human sacrifice.”

A mock reenactment of a Druid sacrifice takes place at the Barrel Club in Part II, ch. 8, of Not George Washington (1907) [DS].


Chapter Thirteen (pp. 150–173)


Senior Bay Rum (p. 150)

Wodehouse enjoyed making up names for fictitious clubs, from the Senior Conservative to the Junior Bird-Fanciers. Bay rum is an aromatic after-shave lotion distilled in the West Indies from rum, the leaves and/or berries of the West Indian bay tree (not the same as the culinary bay leaf), and optionally other spices such as cloves, cinnamon, and citrus peels.


hollow square (p. 153)

Most online references to “hollow square” describe an archaic defensive combat formation, with soldiers facing outward. But Wodehouse seems to see it as a ritual formation in which the company faces inward as someone is humiliated or deprived of ranks or honors. It is used as a metaphor for Monty Bodkin’s dismissal from the Mammoth Publishing Company in Heavy Weather, ch. 5 (1933); Freddie Widgeon fantasizes a hollow square of croupiers snipping off his buttons in “Noblesse Oblige” (1934); Smallwood Bessemer has a vision of being stripped of his second vice-presidency in a hollow square in “Tangled Hearts” (1950); Bertie Wooster wouldn’t want Jeeves “to be hauled up in a hollow square of butlers and have your buttons snipped off” in Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit (1954), referred to previously in The Code of the Woosters (1938) and once again in “Jeeves and the Greasy Bird” (1965). A hollow square of sinister characters is mentioned in Do Butlers Burgle Banks? (1968); one of clerks and office boys in Bachelors Anonymous (1973); even a hollow square of Santa Clauses is envisioned in Over Seventy (1957).


morning coat and bowler hat (p. 158)

A gentleman wearing a morning coat (see Right Ho, Jeeves) would typically wear a black or grey top hat; the bowler hat (called a derby in the US) was originally part of riding dress, then became everyday wear with informal daytime suits, as for businessmen and office workers. I don’t know if Slingsby was making a fashion mistake or deliberately chose the bowler to signal that he was a servant rather than a gentleman.


Itchabod (p. 160)

Slingsby’s mispronunciation of Ichabod; see A Damsel in Distress.


all black satin and agony (p. 162)

An example of zeugma, a rhetorical device fairly rare in Wodehouse, in which items of different classes are paired grammatically. One other example is cited in the end notes to “Something Squishy”.


“Whatever ’ave I bin and gone and done?” (p. 164)

An echo of W. S. Gilbert’s Bab Ballad “Gentle Alice Brown”: “The padre said, ‘Whatever have you been and gone and done?’ ”


chapel (p. 166)

The choice of word for her place of worship implies that Ma Price is a member of a Nonconformist (not Church of England) congregation, such as the Baptists or Methodists.


Safety First’s my motto (p. 173)

A slogan originating in American campaigns for attention to industrial safety in railroads (1913) and mining (1916).


Chapter Fourteen (pp. 174–182)


Southend (p. 175)

More fully Southend-on-Sea, a town in Essex on the northern side of the Thames Estuary, some forty miles east of London; it is the site of the longest pleasure pier in the world, originally built in 1830. The games and snacks mentioned are markers for popular amusements of the working classes; see Ukridge.


Moses … Pisgah (p. 176)

A frequent image used by Wodehouse; see Biblia Wodehousiana for the account in Deuteronomy 34 as cited in Jill the Reckless (1920).


brassie (p. 177)

A golf club; see A Glossary of Golf Terminology on this site.


Dry Martini (p. 178)

The history of cocktails is widely disputed, but the earliest Google Books citation of the dry martini is from 1901; Wodehouse seems first to have mentioned it in “Absent Treatment” (1911), so it was venerable compared to the faddish cocktails of the Prohibition era, satirized by the succeeding two names seemingly invented by Wodehouse.


Roland gripping his great sword at Roncevalles (p. 179)

The Spanish spelling is Roncesvalles; in French, Roncevaux; it is a pass in the Pyrenees. In the year 778, Charlemagne invaded the Iberian peninsula, destroying the city walls of Pamplona; in retaliation, Basque forces ambushed part of Charlemagne’s army at the pass, killing a minor Frankish commander named Roland and many of his warriors. His death was elevated to legendary status in the 11th-century French epic The Song of Roland, the 16th-century Italian Orlando Furioso, and a multitude of adaptations and retellings. His sword Durendal was claimed to be enchanted and unbreakable.


a football of Fate (p. 180)

George Callender’s play in “Deep Waters” (1910) is called “Fate’s Footballs.”

Lynn Vesley-Gross notes that Ukridge is called “that battered football of Fate” in “Success Story” and that Freddie Threepwood is “a sort of football of Fate” in ch. 10.2 of Full Moon.

DS calls our attention to the similar phrase “toy of fate” which appears in Psmith in the City; The Girl on the Boat, ch. 9.1 (UK editions only); and Cocktail Time, ch. 22.


overlapping grip (p. 181)

See A Glossary of Golf Terminology.


Chapter Fifteen (pp. 183–191)


Marble Arch (p. 183)

A large ceremonial structure of three arches faced with white marble, measuring 60 feet by 30 feet at the base, 45 feet high, originally constructed in 1827–33 as the formal gateway to Buckingham Palace, moved in 1847–51 to the northeast corner of Hyde Park at Cumberland Gate, where it remains, now somewhat isolated on a traffic island since the widening of Park Lane in the early 1960s.


“Eliza, meet the bloodhounds!” (p. 184)

Referring to a famous scene in Uncle Tom’s Cabin in which a runaway slave is pursued with the assistance of dogs. The specific breed is not mentioned in the original novel, but dramatizations of the work frequently used bloodhounds.


If the jam was worth the powder (p. 187)

Most references to “worth the powder” in literature are negative: something is called so lacking in importance as not being worth the powder to blow it up. The only prior linkage to “jam” so far found, therefore the presumed source, is in Anthony Hope’s “That Little Wretch” (collected in The Dolly Dialogues), in which a thief, when caught, said “that the jam was jolly well worth the powder, and if they liked to send him to chokee, they could and be [damned]”—that he had stolen for love and had enjoyed the fruits of it.


Prince’s Gate (p. 188)

The western end of Rotten Row, near the center of the southern boundary of Hyde Park.


M. F. H. of the Maltbury (p. 189)

Master of Fox Hounds of the Maltbury Hunt.


the dirt in the Row (p. 190)

According to English Heritage, it was reconstructed in the 1870s with a brick base covered with sand.


six-inch sabre cut (p. 191)

Freddie compares his shaving cut to a Heidelberg duelling wound.


Chapter Sixteen (pp. 192–202)


throw up the sponge (p. 192)

Admit defeat, from the signal given by a boxer’s seconds when conceding that he is unable to continue; the precisely equivalent phrase “throw in the towel” is more common today.


“Blow, blow, thou Winter wind” (p. 194)

See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.


the surgeon’s knife (p. 195)

An allusion to accepting temporary pain in order to effect a longer-lasting improvement.


Is it cricket? (p. 196)

Before 1900, this question would have been asked within the context of the game itself: is a particular action within the rules and traditions of fair play and sportsmanship as applied to the game of cricket? Beginning about 1900, OED citations apply these same standards of behavior and spirit to other spheres of life.


blood will tell (p. 196)

A shorthand way of saying that inherited characteristics are important in determining ability and character; applied both to animals and people. Commonly quoted in discussions of the lineage of racehorses in the nineteenth century, for instance; renewed in the context of eugenics in the first decades of the twentieth century.


square deal (p. 197)

Found in American speech in the late nineteenth century, mostly in the context of fair play in card games. Popularized and extended to fairness in civic and commercial life in speeches and a book by Theodore Roosevelt in the first decade of the twentieth century.


patent depilatory (p. 197)

Jeeves mentions another of these, invented by a previous employer, in “Leave It to Jeeves” (1916).


his music still within him (p. 199)

See the next-to-the-last end note to “Chester Forgets Himself” (1923).


Chapter Seventeen (pp. 203–215)


wedding bells will not ring out (p. 204)

“One move on my part toward the sauce, and those wedding bells will not ring out.”

Mervyn Potter, on Hermione Brimble’s ultimatum that he go on the wagon, in Barmy in Wonderland, ch. 6 (1952)

“I will trouble you to break it to Miss Waterbury that those wedding bells will not ring out.”

Bertie to Jas Waterbury in “Jeeves and the Greasy Bird” (in Plum Pie, 1966)


Tatler (p. 206)

A gossipy magazine of high society, founded in 1709 by Addison and Steele and still in business today, now part of Condé Nast. Wodehouse’s choice of it for a flyswatter is a deft illustration for Tony’s growing distaste for the sort of society represented by Violet.


the days of the Regency (p. 211)

The decade from 1811 to 1820 when King George III was deemed unfit to rule the United Kingdom due to his madness, so his son, later King George IV, ruled as his regent.


queen of her sex (p. 213)

Used here without any apparent reservations, just as Wodehouse had dedicated Leave It to Psmith (1923) to his “daughter Leonora, queen of her species.” Other references have a suggestion of formidable majesty:

There was good old Aunt Jane, that queen of her sex, standing before me, glaring at me as if I were a vivisectionist and she had surprised me in the middle of an experiment.

Bertie Wooster narrating “Without the Option” (1925)

“I would call her rather a touchy girl. A queen of her sex, mind you, and I love her madly, but touchy.”

Eggy Mannering on Mabel Prescott in Laughing Gas (1936)

“Very touchy. A queen of her sex, but touchy. Absolutely.”

Lord Topham on Gladys “Toots” Fauntleroy in The Old Reliable (1951)


Swan and Edgar (p. 215)

See The Clicking of Cuthbert for this former department store; Abercrombie & Fitch and Fortnum & Mason are still in business, so should be familiar to readers.


Chapter Eighteen (pp. 216–226)


Encyclopædia Brittanica in its admirable article on Equestrianism (p. 216)

The quoted sentence appears verbatim in the 1911 Eleventh Edition of the Encyclopædia, but under the topic of Riding rather than Equestrianism. The article is unsigned.


“Have an accident?” “No, thanks” (pp. 216–17)

Not a Wodehouse original; the Youth’s Companion for December 9, 1920, has a cartoon with a similar caption, credited to Arthur Watts in London Opinion.


arnica (p. 217)

See Money for Nothing.


Wilbraham’s Soothine (p. 221)

Similar product names appear elsewhere in Wodehouse: “Soothine—for applying to the face after shaving” in “The Voice from the Past” (1931) and Sugg’s Soothine, a curative ointment that works wonders on Veronica Wedge’s nose in Full Moon (1947).


Homburg (p. 222)

See The Inimitable Jeeves.


mug (p. 223)

See Heavy Weather.


Chapter Nineteen (pp. 227–235)


Polly will put the kettle on (p. 229)

A reference to a traditional nursery rhyme; see Wikipedia.


daughter of a hundred earls (p. 229)

See Heavy Weather.


Chapter Twenty (pp. 236–247)


knight who had proved himself parfait and gentil (p. 238)

The UK book italicizes the two French words for “perfect” and “gentle”; both are ideal qualities for the medieval chevalier. Chaucer spelled it “parfit gentil knyght” in the prologue to the Canterbury Tales. Bertie Wooster aspires to this ideal often, as when talking to Pauline Stoker in Thank You, Jeeves (1934): “We are the parfait gentle knights, and we feel that it ill beseems us to make a beeline for a girl like a man charging into a railway restaurant for a bowl of soup.”


put the kybosh on it (p. 242)

See Ukridge.


Chapter Twenty-one (pp. 248–259)


The morning sunshine, streaming in through the French windows (p. 248)

The curtain is rising on Act III of our play.


Rowland Hill (p. 251)

English teacher, inventor, social reformer (1795–1879). Before his introduction of uniform penny postage, prepaid in the form of stamps, letters were charged varying rates depending on distance and number of sheets, and the postage was usually paid by the recipient, who sometimes refused delivery. Hill realized that a simpler system would reduce effort and waste so that the expenses of the system would be covered by a higher volume of letters even though the rate might be lower.


Thackeray (p. 251)

William Makepeace Thackeray (1811–1863), British novelist best remembered for Vanity Fair and The Luck of Barry Lyndon.


Dr. Crippen (p. 251)

Hawley Harvey Crippen (1862–1910) was an American-born doctor living in London from 1897 with his second wife; each proved unfaithful to the other, and Crippen murdered her in 1910 and fled to America with his mistress, but was recognized on board ship. A radio message to Scotland Yard led to his arrest, which became notorious as the first use of wireless in apprehending a criminal.


the high justice, the middle, and the low (p. 253)

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


FitzGerald’s Omar Khayyám … Jamshyd (p. 253)

XVIII
They say the Lion and the Lizard keep
The Courts where Jamshyd gloried and drank deep:
 And Bahrám, that great Hunter—the Wild Ass
Stamps o’er his Head, but cannot break his Sleep.


“Look ’ere,” he said, “upon that picture and on this.” (p. 258)

Syd at least knows a bit of Shakespeare; see Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse for this reference to Hamlet.


Chapter Twenty-two (pp. 260–271)


The solicitor was well stricken in years (p. 260)

See Sam the Sudden.


torts … and misdemeanours (p. 260)

A tort is an act of injury or damage to another or another’s property (not counting breach of contract) for which a civil lawsuit can be brought. A misdemeanour is a minor offense against the laws of the community, a breach of the criminal code of lower gravity than a felony, punished by a fine or a short term in jail. Neither is a physical object which can be hidden in a room.


Kind hearts … Norman blood (p. 263)

See Thank You, Jeeves.


replevins (p. 269)

A replevin is a recovery of disputed goods by a claimant who gives a bond and promises to test the matter subsequently in court, or the writ that allows him to recover the goods.


Nosey Parker (p. 270)

See Something Fresh.


Chapter Twenty-three (pp. 272–281)


Family Herald (p. 274)

A weekly “Domestic Magazine of Useful Information & Amusement” published from 1842 to 1940, originally selling for a penny, later for tuppence. Its stories appealed to the popular taste for sentiment and melodrama rather than to a highbrow literary audience.


sang-froid (p. 276)

French for “coolness of blood.”


Chapter Twenty-four (pp. 282–293)


Jiminy Christmas! (p. 283)

See Blandings Castle and Elsewhere.


cop the biscuit (p. 284)

See Ice in the Bedroom.


His Nibs (p. 285)

See A Damsel in Distress.


may be said to have begun (p. 287)

Wodehouse very frequently uses “may be said to have” begun, commenced, established, and many other verbs in his narration; the search page at Madame Eulalie returns 23 instances in the public-domain early works alone (as of 2020-03-08). It is as if the narrator wants to avoid making a definite statement of just what happened or when it took place, as if acknowledging that a different historian might have a differing opinion about the situation. This gentle diffidence subtly adds to the comic effect of the storytelling.


like corn before the sickle (p. 289)

An allusion to Macaulay’s Lays of Ancient Rome:

Like corn before the sickle
 The stout Lavinians fell
Beneath the edge of the true sword
 That kept the bridge so well.


to get my monkey up (p. 291)

British slang for “to be angry”; OED has citations of variants of the phrase from 1833 to 1999.


Pourbous (p. 291)

One of a family of Flemish painters: Pieter Pourbus (1523–1584), active in Bruges; his son and student Frans Pourbus the Elder (1545–1581), active mostly in Antwerp; and the third generation, Frans Pourbus the Younger (1569–1622), born in Antwerp, moved to Paris in 1609, becoming court painter to Marie de Médici and a highly successful portraitist of notable subjects.


well-to-do millionaire (p. 293)

Compare the tautology “rich millionaire”; see Bill the Conqueror.


Chapter Twenty-five (pp. 294–305)


“Full many a gem … on the desert air.” (p. 295)

See Love Among the Chickens.


brought the good news from Aix to Ghent (p. 303)

Browning told it the other way round; see Ice in the Bedroom.


St. George’s, Hanover Square (p. 304)

See The Clicking of Cuthbert.