The following notes attempt to explain cultural, historical and literary allusions in Wodehouse’s text, to identify his sources, and to cross-reference similar references in the rest of the canon. The original version of these annotations was prepared by Terry Mordue. Additional notes and formatting are by Neil Midkiff and other members of the Yahoo! Blandings group.

Money in the Bank was published by Doubleday, Doran, New York on 19 January 1942 and reprinted from the Doubleday plates by Continental Book Company, Stockholm, in 1942, in their “Clipper Books” series. The UK edition was published by Herbert Jenkins, London, on 27 May 1946. The editions are essentially identical.

Prior to its publication in book form, the story was serialised in the Saturday Evening Post in eight weekly instalments, between 8 November and 27 December 1941.

Page references are to the Penguin edition 1964, reprinted 1978.


Dedication

Money in the Bank was written while Wodehouse was interned at Tost in Upper Silesia, then in Germany, now in Poland.

Neither the US nor the UK edition contains a dedication. The edition published by Tauchnitz at Stuttgart in 1949 is dedicated “To Bert Haskins with deep affection.” Haskins was an employee of the War Graves Commission and was interned with Wodehouse at Tost. Barrie Phelps (P. G. Wodehouse: Man and Myth) records that, after the war, and until Haskins died, Wodehouse arranged for his UK publishers, Herbert Jenkins, to send Haskins a free copy of each new book as it was published, and also paid for his old friend to have a holiday each year.


Chapter 1 (pp. 5–11)

Lincoln’s Inn Fields (p. 5)

Lincoln’s Inn Fields is a square in central London. It was laid out by Inigo Jones in the 17th century. Nell Gwynne lived here for a time. It borders Lincoln’s Inn, the oldest of the four “Inns of Court” which have the exclusive right of calling to the English bar.


roopy coughs (p. 5)

Roopy is a Scots word for hoarse.


and laid him on the mat (p. 6)

There is a suggestion here of Jeff as a piece of prey which has been caught by Myrtle.


Hengist said to Horsa (p. 6)

Hengist (or Hengest) and Horsa are mentioned in several early histories, including Nennius’s Historia Brittonum, Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain, and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, as well as in the epic poem Beowulf. They were said to be the sons of Wihtgils, of one of the Germanic tribes, probably the Jutes and to have been invited to Britain in the middle of the 5th century AD to act as mercenaries for the British king, Vortigern. Realising how weak the British were under Vortigern, they turned against him and defeated him in several battles, establishing themselves as rulers of their own territory.


from Lincoln’s Inn Fields to Halsey Court, Mayfair (p. 6)

The distance from Lincoln’s Inn Fields to the centre of Mayfair is about two miles. There is no street in Mayfair named Halsey Court: based on Wodehouse’s descriptions of the location and appearance of Halsey Court, Norman Murphy (In Search of Blandings) identifies it with Hays Mews, which lies just west of Berkeley Square.


football field . . . Twickenham, Cardiff Arms Park (p. 7)

As so often in Wodehouse (but see below), “football” refers to the rugby union code. Twickenham is the home stadium of the English national side, Cardiff Arms Park was the home of the Welsh national side until 1999, when it was replaced by the Cardiff Millennium Stadium.


what the other looked like was a cassowary (p. 7)

Cassowaries (genus Casuarius) are large flightless birds, found in Australia and New Guinea. They have an elongated, unfeathered neck, from both sides of which hang naked, fleshy wattles.


cloth-headed (p. 7)

A favourite Wodehouse description for something stupid or thoughtless, e.g.:

The cloth-headed girl has gone off and got spliced to one of the canaille – a chap who’s never even had so much as athlete’s foot.

“Romance at Droitgate Spa” in Eggs, Beans and Crumpets (1940)

Whereas poor old Soapy, who had just about enough intelligence to open his mouth when he wished to eat, would go through life eking out a precarious existence, selling fictitious oil stock to members of the public who were one degree more cloth-headed than himself.

Sam the Sudden, ch. 27 (1925)


like somebody out of Shakespeare (p. 8)

There is no allusion to a particular play of Shakespeare’s, so perhaps Wodehouse was merely thinking generally of such tragic heroes as Othello and Hamlet.


that air of welcoming a prodigal son (p. 8)

See Something Fresh.


a job as a mouthpiece (p. 9)

Members of the English legal profession belong to one of two branches: those, such as Mr. Shoesmith, who are members of the Law Society and are known as solicitors; and those who, like Jeff Miller, have been “called to the Bar” and are known as barristers. Only the latter are allowed to plead cases in the higher courts. Hence, while Mr. Shoesmith can prepare the brief for the plaintiff in the case of Pennefather v. Tarvin, he is “unfortunately . . . obliged” to leave the presentation of the case in court to a “mouthpiece.”


an interior decorator (p. 9)

If Wodehouse did not have an aversion to interior decorators, he certainly saw them as a legitimate object of ridicule:

. . . the air was clamorous with the hoarse cries of futurist painters, esoteric Buddhists, vers libre poets, interior decorators, and stage reformers . . .

Piccadilly Jim, ch. 9 (1917)


fretful midges (p. 9)

Midges are small gnat-like flies; they often congregate in very large numbers and can be a serious irritation.

“Fretful” more usually means “peevish, disposed to fret”; Wodehouse seems to be using it in an older sense meaning “irritating.” [TM/NM]


Chapter 2 (pp. 12–18)

J. Sheringham Adair (p. 12)

Sheringham is a village on the north Norfolk coast.


the late John Knox (p. 12)

John Knox (1505–72), theologian and preacher, was the leading figure in the Protestant Reformation movement in Scotland. He was a fierce opponent of Mary, Queen of Scots, while also managing to antagonise Elizabeth I of England with his tract Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women (1558), of which, it has been said, the title is the best part.


a share pusher of some distinction (p. 12)

A share-pusher is someone who seeks to sell shares other than through authorised channels, the usual implication being that the shares are worth very much less than the asking price.

One of the stories in Edgar Wallace’s Again the Three Just Men (1929) is entitled “The Share Pusher.”


five smackers (p. 14)

Slang: five pound notes.


playing the old Army game (p. 14)

In this context, philandering.


a dozen knowledgeable Solons (p. 15)

Solon, an Athenian who lived during the 6th century BC, was one of the “seven wise men” of Greece. He was chosen by the Athenians as their ruler and was instrumental in repealing the harsh laws of Dracon and substituting in their place his own, milder laws.


Dorothy Dix (p. 15)

Dorothy Dix, real name Elizabeth Meriwether Gilmer (1870–1951), was an American journalist and one of the earliest “agony aunts,” her column of “advice for the lovelorn” being syndicated in newspapers for over half-a-century.


compus-boompus (p. 15)

A misprint for the slang phrase “oompus-boompus,” meaning “funny business,” “sexual dalliance”; the latter meaning is intended here. It recurs in its correct form about a dozen times in the book (for example, p. 27).

The misprint is not in the US edition.


this Shipley Hall place in Kent (p. 15)

There is no Shipley Hall in Kent. There was a Shipley Hall in Derbyshire until, rendered irreparable by damage resulting from subsidence as a consequence of underground coal-mining, it was demolished. Much of the former estate is now a country park. The gardens remain, one of the principal features being the rose garden.

Norman Murphy (In Search of Blandings) identifies Wodehouse’s Shipley with Shipbourne, Kent, near which (actually in the village of Plaxtol) is “Fairlawne” (Murphy spells it without the final “e”) which, from 1932, was the home of Wodehouse’s adopted step-daughter Leonora after her marriage to Peter Cazalet. Fairlawne House has a distinguished history, having, in the early 1600s, been the home of Sir Henry Vane, Secretary of State to Charles I.


gone bugs (p. 16)

Slang: lost his senses; English equivalents would be “gone bananas” or “lost his marbles.”


“I’ve sometimes thought of starting a racket like that myself,” said Mr. Twist (p. 16)

. . . apparently having forgotten that in Money for Nothing (1928) he had done just that!


He could step straight into Bloomingdale (p. 16)

Bloomingdale Lunatic Asylum, one of the earliest in the United States, started as part of the New York Hospital and moved into its own buildings in 1808. In 1894, the asylum was moved to White Plains, NY; the old site, and the one surviving building, are now occupied by Columbia University.


like Pike’s Peak (p. 16)

Pike’s Peak (originally named Grand Peak by its discoverer, Lt. Zebulon Montgomery Pike, in 1806) is a mountain near Colorado Springs, Colorado.

It is said that the view from the summit of Pike’s Peak inspired Katherine Lee Bates to write the lyrics of “America the Beautiful.”


he would rather see than be one (p. 16)

See Something Fresh.


form a flying wedge and break up the play (p. 16)

See A Damsel in Distress.


“He is your man, and he’s doing you wrong.” (p. 17)

A reference to the 19th century folk ballad, “Frankie and Johnnie.” The song exists in many variants, of which the following is typical:

Frankie and Johnnie were lovers,
Lordie, how they could love.
They swore to be true to each other,
As true as the stars above;
He was her man, but he done her wrong.
. . .
“I won’t make you no trouble,
I won’t tell you no lie,
But I saw Johnnie an hour ago
With a girl named Nellie Bligh;
He is your man, and he’s doing you wrong.”


so much diablerie (p. 18)

Literally, “devilry.”


the exact moment when he swam into Dolly’s ken (p. 18)

See The Clicking of Cuthbert.


Chapter 3 (pp. 19–28)

the wilder portions of Africa. (p. 19)

So wild, indeed, that they are inhabited by pumas, elk, and emu!


held dominion over palm and pine (p. 19)

God of our fathers, known of old —
Lord of our far-flung battle-line —
Beneath whose awful Hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine —
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget — lest we forget!

Rudyard Kipling, “Recessional” (1897)


a gnu (p. 20)

The gnu, or wildebeeste, is a large African antelope of the genus Connochaetes. There are two species: C. taurinus, the brindled gnu, is widespread on the African plains from Kenya southwards, and, at migration time, congregates in herds numbering hundreds of thousands; the other species, C. gnou, the white-tailed gnu, is found only in South Africa and has been saved from probable extinction only by the introduction of captive breeding programmes.


like a war horse at the sound of the bugle (p. 20)

See Summer Moonshine and p 224 below.

The Bible refers to trumpets, not the bugle, and on other occasions Wodehouse reflected this, but some thirty years later he was repeating the same mistake:

. . . something resembling the animation of a war horse that has heard the sound of the bugle. The war horse, we are told, when the sound of the bugle is drawn to its attention, becomes a good deal stirred. It starts. It quivers. It paws the valley, rejoices in its strength and says “Ha, ha” among the trumpets, and it was thus, give or take a “Ha, ha” or two, that Crispin behaved.

The Girl in Blue (1970)


wounded pumas (p. 21)

The puma, Puma concolor, (also known as the mountain lion, cougar, panther, Mexican lion) is the second largest cat in the Americas. Though it has the largest range of any cat species in the Americas, being found from the southern tip of South America to southern Canada, its range does not extend to Africa.


setting her cap at him (p. 22)

Trying to attract him as a lover. The explanation, dating presumably from a time when women more commonly wore caps, or bonnets, is that a woman wishing to attract a man would don her best cap.


split the welkin (p. 24)

The welkin is the sky, more precisely a region of clouds. To “split the welkin” is to utter a piercing loud cry.

A prolonged and piercing yell of wind split the welkin from end to end.

G. K. Chesterton, Manalive, ch. 1 (1912)


the old blimp (p. 24)

Slang: an incurably conservative, elderly, military gentleman, as personified by the cartoon character Colonel Blimp, created by David Low in 1934, or any person of similar views or appearance. Low did not coin the word “blimp,” which dates from WWI, when it was used to describe a small airship with a non-rigid gas-bag.


on his fanny (p. 25)

In American English—which is probably intended here—“fanny” is slang for the buttocks; while it can have the same meaning in British English, it is more commonly a vulgar expression for the female genitalia.

Richard Usborne (A Wodehouse Companion) suggests that Wodehouse’s exposure to the all-male environment of the internment camp accounts for the occurrence in this book of “fanny” and of such phrases as “bloody awful” and “too bloody much.”


having the bozo pinched and stowed away in the cooler (p. 26)

Slang: having the fellow arrested and locked up in a cell. “Bozo” also has the meaning of “dunce,” “fool.”


have him watch the bimbo (p. 27)

The slang term “bimbo” is now usually applied to women, though it originally applied to both sexes and simply meant “a vacuous person,” in which sense it occurs frequently in Wodehouse.


protected against any oompus-bumpus (p. 27)

Unlike the earlier (misprinted) occurrence, “oompus-boompus” here has no sexual connotation but refers merely to “funny business,” in the sense of “theft.”


the Light Brigade outlook (p. 27)

During the Battle of Balaclava (25 October 1854) in the Crimean War, Lord Raglan, commanding the British forces, ordered his cavalry, under Lord Lucan, to attack a Russian force which had overrun Turkish artillery batteries on a ridge known as Causeway Heights and prevent them from carrying off the Turkish guns. Lucan misunderstood his orders and instructed the Light Brigade, commanded by Lord Cardigan, to attack a massed battery of Russian guns at the mouth of the valley north of the Causeway Heights. As the Russians also had gun batteries on the hills north of the valley, the British cavalry came under fire from both sides, as well as from the guns they were attacking. Of some 673 soldiers who started the charge, only 195 reported fit for duty at the end of the day; 113 men and 475 horses were killed, and 134 men wounded.

The reasons for the mistake are still debated today. It did not help that the three commanders, Raglan, Lucan and Cardigan, heartily disliked one another, or that the courier who delivered Raglan’s final order to Lucan was contemptuous of the cavalry division and its commanders. But perhaps most importantly, Raglan, whose command post was on the heights at the head of the valley, failed to allow for the poorer view of the situation enjoyed by his subordinates down below and did not make his intentions clear.

The charge was immortalised by Alfred, Lord Tennyson in an epic poem, the second verse of which Wodehouse is alluding to in this paragraph:

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

“The Charge of the Light Brigade” (1864)

Wodehouse refers to the Charge or alludes to Tennyson’s poem on several occasions, e.g. Something Fresh, Leave It to Psmith and Summer Moonshine.


Chapter 4 (pp. 29–34)

cause célèbre (p. 32)

French: a very notable or famous trial.


tête-à-tête (p. 32)

French: a private meeting, usually of a confidential nature (literally, head-to-head).


Daily Express (p. 33)

The Daily Express was founded in 1900 and achieved immediate fame as the first newspaper to carry news rather than advertisements on its front page. In 1916, it was purchased by Max Aitken, who became Lloyd-George’s war-time Minister of Information. After the war, Aitken (by now raised to the peerage as Lord Beaverbrook) became Britain’s leading newspaper magnate and built up the Express until, by 1936, it had the largest circulation of any newspaper in the world. Today, the Daily Express remains one of Britain’s leading tabloid newspapers.


Chapter 5 (pp. 35–39)

bit like a serpent and stung like an adder (p. 35)

See The Code of the Woosters.


He was a buzzer (p. 36)

Wodehouse coined the term “buzzer” to describe the type of hero, found in many of his light novels, who has “a ready flow of that small-talk which is part badinage and part sentiment.”

Both David Jasen (A Bibliography and Reader’s Guide) and Richard Usborne (A Wodehouse Companion and Wodehouse at Work) cite this instance in Money in the Bank as Wodehouse’s first usage of the term. And they are both wrong. Wodehouse first used the term 31 years earlier, in the short story “Love Me, Love My Dog” (the only difference being that, in that story, the “buzzer” is not the hero but his rival).


at the eleventh hour (p. 36)

At the very last moment, very late in the day; the Roman day had only 12 hours.


pâtisserie (p. 36)

French: a pastry.


The odd little wax-moustached blighter (p. 37)

Is it possible that this is a gentle dig at Agatha Christie’s famous private investigator, Hercule Poirot?


sixpence (p. 37)

The sixpence was originally a silver coin, first minted in 1551. Before the British currency was decimalised, on 15 February 1971, the sixpence was worth half a shilling. It remained in circulation after decimalisation, with a value equal to 2½ new pence, but was finally withdrawn in 1980.


amour propre (p. 37)

French: self-esteem.


snatched up to heaven in a fiery chariot (p. 39)

And as they went on, walking and talking together, behold a fiery chariot and fiery horses parted them asunder: and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.

2 Kings, ii, 11


Chapter 6 (pp. 40–53)

like an eggshell in a maelstrom (p. 40)

See Something Fresh.


as Sir Walter Raleigh would have done (p. 40)

Sir Walter Raleigh (or Ralegh) (c. 1554–1618) was variously an English soldier, explorer, pirate, man of letters, and courtier at the court of Queen Elizabeth I. In 1587, he was appointed Captain of the Queen’s Guard, a position which necessitated his constant attendance on the Queen. According to a popular tradition, for which there appears to be not a shred of evidence, he is said to have placed his cloak in the mud so that the queen could step on it and avoid dirtying her feet. Under Elizabeth’s successor, James I, he fell from favour and was convicted of treason; although he was reprieved and, in 1616, released from the Tower, he was re-arrested and executed two years later under the original sentence of treason.


a circus elephant in sabots (p. 41)

Sabots are wooden shoes, as formerly worn by French peasants.


my uncle, Lord Uffenham (p. 41)

In his In Search of Blandings, Norman Murphy convincingly identifies the original for Lord Uffenham as having been Max Enke, a British citizen of German parentage, who acted as interpreter for the internees at Tost: the fact that there was an original was known from a statement to that effect made by Wodehouse in a letter he wrote to Bill Townend in February 1945.


Vine Street (p. 41)

See A Damsel in Distress.


Gutzon Borglum (p. 42)

John Gutzon de la Mothe Borglum (1867–1941) was the creator of the Mount Rushmore monument, which depicts gigantic likenesses of Presidents Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt, carved (actually blasted) out of the side of the mountain.


count the number of chirps a grasshopper makes (p. 42)

The method, which is known as Dolbear’s Law, applies not to grasshoppers (members of the families Acrididae and Tetrigidae), but to crickets, and particularly to members of the family Gryllidae, the true crickets. Indeed, one member of that family, the Snowy Tree Cricket, Oecanthus fultoni, is sometimes known as the “temperature cricket” for this reason: adding 40 to the number of chirps it makes in 15 seconds is said to give the ambient temperature in degrees Fahrenheit.


You interest me strangely (p. 43)

Though often thought to be an allusion to Sherlock Holmes, this phrase does not in fact occur in the Holmesian canon, though it is to be found in other crime fiction of that period, e.g.:

“But,” continued Sir Brian, “your remarks interest me strangely;”

Sax Rohmer, The Yellow Claw, ch. 27 (1915)


loved ones far away, of whom the hymnal speaks (p. 45)

Peace, perfect peace, with loved ones far away?
In Jesus’ keeping we are safe, and they.

Lines from “Peace, perfect peace, in this dark world of sin” (1875) by Edward H. Bickersteth.
[Note added 2016–10–06 NM]


put the whole dashed human race into a pit half a mile wide by half a mile deep (p. 45)

The British statistician John Holt Schooling (1859–1927), cited by Wodehouse in another context in the original edition of Love Among the Chickens, is quoted in a 1903 book as saying “Give each person 27 cubic feet of room, and all could be packed in a cubic box of 1,140 yards, or two-thirds of a mile; this box could be deposited in Battersea Park, or occupy one-third the space of Hyde Park.” This calculates out to just under 1.5 billion people, roughly in line with estimates from 1900. By 1940 the world’s population was some 2.3 billion, so Lord Uffenham must be allowing for just 8 cubic feet per person, such as a box 6 feet by 2 feet by 8 inches. Squashy indeed, as Anne notes.
[Note added 2016–10–06 NM]


obiter dicta (p. 45)

Latin: spoken by the way, cursory remarks, something said as an aside.

The phrase has a specific meaning in the law, where it applies to any remarks made by a judge as part of his decision but which do not relate directly to the matter being decided (e.g. comments on what the decision might have been if the facts had been different) and which do not therefore constitute a precedent.


the lady in Dickens (p. 45)

The lady is Mr. F’s Aunt, in Charles Dickens’s Little Dorrit.


“Original” is correct (p. 48)

Jeff is using “original” here in its sense of “odd in character, quirky.”


a certain amount of method in your madness (p. 48)

Though this be madness, yet there is method in ’t.

Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act II, sc 2

 “I have usually found that there was method in his madness.”
 “Some folk might say there was madness in his method.”

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, “The Reigate Puzzle” in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (1892)


Full many a gem of purest ray serene (p. 48)

See Love Among the Chickens.


the White Knight (p. 49)

The White Knight, whom Alice encounters in chapter 8 of Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass (1871), is a dreamy character, much given to inventions of doubtful worth (such as anklets around his horse’s feet, to guard against shark bites). Some commentators believe that the White Knight is based on Carroll himself.


a tribe called the Ugubus (p. 51)

There does not seem to be an African tribe of this name. Perhaps, like the pumas, elk and emu, they make their home in the wilder portions of Africa.


to reappear like the Cheshire Cat (p. 53)

See A Damsel in Distress.


Chapter 7 (pp. 54–59)

Supralapsarianism (p. 54)

Derived from Latin (supra: “above” or “before”; and lapsus: “fall”), this is the Christian doctrine that God’s decree of predestination preceded Adam’s Fall; the opposing doctrine, Infralapsarianism (infra: “below” or “after”), maintains that Adam’s Fall preceded God’s decreee to elect some of the fallen to salvation and to condemn the rest for their sins.

The arguments are sufficiently abstruse and recondite to leave any Bishop looking worried!


A real private rozzer (p. 56)

“Rozzer” is slang for a policeman, not necessarily a detective, as might be inferred from the usage here. It is first recorded in use in the 1890s, during the era of the Pelican Club.


Chapter 8 (pp. 60–67)

the Black Man’s Burden (p. 60)

A mangled reference to Kipling:

Take up the White Man’s burden—
Send forth the best ye breed—
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives’ need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild—
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child.

Rudyard Kipling, “The White Man’s Burden” (1899)


Cakebread, the whole Cakebread and nothing but (p. 60)

An allusion to the oath given by witnesses in a court of law to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”


the numerous elks and wapiti which had encountered her (p. 60)

. . . possibly in the wilder portions of Africa!

The European Elk, Alces alces, is the largest European deer. Although still found in the forests of Scandinavia and north-eastern Germany, its numbers are declining. The same species is found in Siberia, Manchuria, Mongolia, and northern North America (where it is known as the Moose).

Wapiti is the name now favoured for a North American species, Cervus elaphus, which the early European settlers called “elk.” Wapiti once ranged widely across most of the United States and Canada but numbers were greatly reduced by hunting and, though efforts are being made to reintroduce the species in many areas, the largest numbers are to be found only to the west of the Rocky Mountains, especially in Yellowstone Park.


she preferred those about her to be Yes-men (p. 63)

Possibly an allusion to Shakespeare:

Let me have men about me that are fat;
Sleek-headed men and such as sleep o’ nights;
Yond’ Cassius has a lean and hungry look;
He thinks too much: such men are dangerous.

Julius Caesar, Act I, sc 2

See also Something Fresh.


in the fine old Hollywood tradition (p. 63)

Wodehouse, who had worked in Hollywood in the decade before writing this book, had already ridiculed this “fine old Hollywood tradition” in the Mulliner story “The Nodder” (Blandings Castle, 1935).


Oompus-Boompus (p. 63)

Once again the phrase has a subtly different meaning from those intended by Dolly when talking earlier with Chimp and Mrs. Cork. Here there are no sexual overtones, nor does it imply theft, so much as “mischief,” “trickery.”


years of healthy exercise on shikarri (p. 65)

The Hobson-Jobson Dictionary assigns three meanings to the Hindi word shikari, the essential element of all three being that they refer to a sportsman (ie a hunter), while the sport of hunting is more properly referred to as shikar:

. . . they were trackers and shikarris of the Northern valleys, keen after bear and wild goat;
 “Not for five years was I Yankling Sahib’s shikarri without knowing that medicine.”
 “If we get a bad name among the Sahibs, none will employ us as shikarris any more.”

Rudyard Kipling, Kim, ch. 13 (1901)

“I wonder that my very simple stratagem could deceive so old a shikari,” said Holmes.

Arthur Conan Doyle, “The Adventure of the Empty House” in The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1905)

Mrs. Cork’s travels in “the wilder portions of Africa” must have been wild indeed, if she encountered Indian shikaris. Wodehouse, who employs the word incorrectly, follows Kipling’s spelling.


renewal of his licence . . . the local Bench (p. 66)

In England and Wales, the sale of alcohol is controlled by a system of licences, which are issued and renewed by local magistrates (the “Bench”).


a one-armed paperhanger with the hives (p. 66)

The “hives” is a popular term for nettle-rash and similar ailments. The phrase is intended to evoke an image of frantic activity.


Chapter 9 (pp. 68–72)

our full helping of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (p. 68–9)

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, in Congress, 4 July 1776.


I am armed so strong in honesty (p. 69)

There is no terror, Cassius, in your threats,
For I am arm’d so strong in honesty
That they pass by me as the idle wind,
Which I respect not.

Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act IV, sc 3


Auld Lang Syne (p. 70)

Scots: literally, “old long since,” i.e. nostalgia (or, in this instance, what might be termed a fond remembrance of “the old school tie”).


Chapter 10 (pp. 73–78)

batted me over the bean (p. 74)

Slang: hit me on the head


her lunch-hook (p. 74)

Slang: hand (usually employed in the plural, as lunch-hooks).


piquant face (p. 74)

The dictionary defines “piquant” as “stinging, pleasantly pungent, appetising, kindling keen interest,” none of which seems appropriate here. Perhaps Wodehouse intended “piqued,” in the sense of “angered or vexed by wounded pride.”


Oh, blessings on the falling out (p. 75)

As thro’ the land at eve we went,
And pluck’d the ripen’d ears,
We fell out, my wife and I,
O we fell out I know not why,
And kiss’d again with tears.
And blessings on the falling out
That all the more endears,
When we fall out with those we love
And kiss again with tears!

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “The Princess” (1850)


that little grifter (p. 75)

Slang: a con-man, swindler. (A case of the pot calling the kettle?)


Looks like a new internee (p. 75)

A phrase Wodehouse himself must have heard, if not uttered, more than once while at Tost.


Lock, stock and barrel (p. 77)

See Summer Moonshine.


Chapter 11 (pp. 79–86)

old codger (p. 80)

Slang: usually refers to an elderly and quite eccentric gentleman.


sang froid (p. 80)

French: self-possession, coolness in a crisis (literally “cold blood”).


A Hivite and a Jebusite (p. 81)

See The Code of the Woosters.


A costermonger, sporting with his donah on Hampstead Heath (p. 83)

For “costermonger” see The Clicking of Cuthbert.

For “donah” see The Clicking of Cuthbert.

Hampstead Heath — an open space covering a large area (in excess of 800 acres even today) on Hampstead Heights in north London — has long been the traditional site for a fair on Bank Holidays.


like a male Galatea (p. 82)

Pygmalion, King of Cyprus, having fallen in love with the goddess Aphrodite, who did not return his love, made an ivory image of the goddess and laid it in his bed. Aphrodite entered into the image and brought it to life as Galatea, who subsequently bore him two children. The story is told by Ovid in his Metamorphoses.


liquorice powder (p. 83)

Liquorice powder is a mild laxative, consisting of powdered liquorice root, fennel, and senna, its laxative properties being mainly due to the senna. Liquorice plants are shrubs, native to south-east Europe and south-west Asia, and belonging to the genus Glycyrrhiza.


preferred the troubadour to the stevedore type of wooer (p. 84)

A stevedore is a manual worker whose job is to load and unload cargoes from ships’ holds: Jeff assumes that such a worker would have a rougher love-making technique than a troubadour, with whom he identifies himself.


a greyhound pouncing on an electric hare (p. 85)

See Summer Moonshine.


Chapter 12 (pp. 87–100)

stringing the beads (p. 87)

A slang expression, the precise meaning of which is unclear.


Tom Tiddler’s Ground or Cave of Ali Baba (p. 88–9)

Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable defines Tom Tiddler’s Ground as “a place where it is easy to pick up a fortune or make a place in the world for oneself” and relates it to an old children’s game.

 “And why Tom Tiddler’s ground?” said the Traveller.
 “Because he scatters halfpence to Tramps and such-like,” returned the Landlord, “and of course they pick ’em up.”

Charles Dickens, “Tom Tiddler’s Ground” in the Christmas number of All the Year Round (1861)

Ali Baba, the hero of a story Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, overhears a band of robbers use a magic password to enter their cave and, after they have gone, enters the cave himself and removes some of their treasure; with the aid of his servant, Morgiana, he eventually succeeds in killing the robbers, who are attempting to kill him and thus preserve the secret of their cave. The story was included in the translation by Antoine Galland (1646–1715) of Arabian Nights Entertainments (otherwise The Thousand and One Nights), though his source for the story is unknown, as it does not survive in any of the Arabic manuscripts which provide the source for the other stories in the collection.


about enough to make a duck fly crooked (p. 92)

A slang expression, presumably meaning less than a full complement of brains.

Mrs. Datchett was a widow, and since her husband’s death had been in the habit of accepting every utterance of her brother Frederick as a piece of genuine all-wool wisdom; though, as a matter of fact, James’s uncle had just about enough brain to make a jay-bird fly crooked, and no more.

“Out of School” in The Man Upstairs (1914)


except through I and Soapy (p. 92)

Grammarians would insist that this should be “through Soapy and me,” but by deliberately flouting the grammatical norms and having her use even more slang than usual, Wodehouse is able to emphasise Dolly’s agitation.


straw-headed gazook (p. 93)

Slang: fair-haired fellow.


doing a buck and wing (p. 93)

The “buck and wing” (from “buck dance” and “pigeon wing”) was a pre-tap dance routine popular with Minstrel and Vaudeville performers of the 19th century. The buck dance was a type of clog- or tap-dance, usually associated with barn-dancing. The pigeon wing was a dance step in which the dancer raised one leg and used it to tap the rear calf of the other leg.


splitting Even Stephen (p. 94)

Sharing equally.


get our hooks on the stuff (p. 94)

Slang: hands (cf. the earlier “lunch-hook”).


the local cuckoo in the nest (p. 95)

The Eurasian Cuckoo, Cuculus canorus, parasitises other species. The female, which can lay as many as 15–20 eggs during the breeding season, lays a single egg in the nest of a host species, usually removing and eating one of the existing eggs; when the young cuckoo hatches, it evicts any other eggs and nestlings and is then reared by its foster parents. Although over 50 host species have been identified, a handful of species are particularly preferred, with individual female cuckoos seeming to have a definite preference for certain species.


a ringer (p. 95)

An imposter — something not entirely unknown in Wodehouse’s stories.


like one who sees the Taj Mahal for the first time (p. 96)

See The Clicking of Cuthbert.


try that one on your pianola (p. 97)

A pianola was a self-playing piano. Invented in 1896 by Edwin Votey of Detroit, USA, it was a popular form of home entertainment until the 1930s, when the significantly cheaper gramophone began to replace it. The device was operated by two foot pedals, which generated suction to drive a paper roll (a “piano roll”) across a pneumatic reading device. Perforations in the piano roll represented the music to be played, the individual perforations triggering a pneumatic motor, which caused the appropriate piano keys to be struck by felt-covered wooden “fingers.”


a brace of Napoleons of the Underworld (p. 98)

“Napoleon of crime” is the epithet applied by Sherlock Holmes to his arch-enemy, Professor Moriarty:

He is the Napoleon of crime, Watson. He is the organizer of half that is evil and of nearly all that is undetected in this great city.

Arthur Conan Doyle, “The Final Problem” in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (1892)


what Mr. Shoesmith would have called the res (p. 98)

The crux of the matter, the point at issue (Latin: the thing).


caravanserai (p. 99)

A caravanserai (Persian: karwan: caravan; and sarai: inn) was originally a extensive enclosed court in which desert caravans could halt for the night. It later came to signify (often, as here, facetiously) an unpretentious inn.


the Malemute Saloon (p. 99)

The Malemute (or Malamute) Saloon is at Fairbanks, Alaska, scene of a frantic gold rush in the early 1900s. It was immortalised in the poem “Dangerous Dan McGrew,” by the Alaska poet Robert W. Service:

A bunch of the boys were whooping it up
In the Malamute saloon;
The kid that handles the music-box
Was hitting a jag-time tune;
Back of the bar, in a solo game,
Sat Dangerous Dan McGrew,
And watching his luck was his light-o’-love,
The lady that’s known as Lou.
. . .
Then I ducked my head, and the lights went out,
And two guns blazed in the dark,
And a woman screamed, and the lights went up,
And two men lay stiff and stark.
Pitched on his head, and pumped full of lead,
Was Dangerous Dan McGrew,
While the man from the creeks lay clutched to the breast
Of the lady that’s known as Lou.

This is yet another image which Wodehouse employed elsewhere:

“Well, I don’t know what view you take of the situation, but it seems to me that you and Emsworth are like two cowboys in the Malemute saloon who have got the drop on each other simultaneously.”

Service With a Smile, ch. 12 (1961)


that slicker (p. 100)

Slang: a swindler, a shifty person.


You wouldn’t croak him? (p. 100)

Slang: kill him.


Chapter 13 (pp. 101–112)

her heart was bowed down with weight of woe (p. 101)

See Sam the Sudden.


gêne (p. 102)

French: embarrassment.


able executive abilities of Lady Macbeth (p. 103)

The female protagonist of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Lady Macbeth incites her husband to murder the Scottish king, Duncan; when Macbeth is unhinged by guilt, she takes control of the situation but, eventually, she succumbs to madness and dies.


spike his adversary’s guns (p. 103)

See Something Fresh.


first crack out of the box (p. 103)

Slang: immediately, at the first attempt.

“That I should have found you first crack out of the box like this is the one bit of goose I have experienced in the course of a sticky evening.”

Uncle Fred in the Springtime (1939)

“course lots of people think he’s a regular old grouch when they meet him because he doesn’t give ’em the glad hand the first crack out of the box, but when they get to know him, he’s a corker.”

Sinclair Lewis, Babbitt (1922)


tourists with Baedekers (p. 104)

Karl Baedeker (1801–59) was a German publisher who began publishing tourist guidebooks. After his death, his son Fritz continued the business, which became so successful that “Baedeker” became almost a generic term for tourist guidebooks.


at Roedean (p. 105)

Roedean school, founded in 1885 by three sisters, Penelope, Dorothy, and Millicent Lawrence, is one of the premier independent girls’ schools in England. The school is situated on the south coast just east of Brighton, Sussex.


Simone Legree (p. 106)

Simon Legree is a brutal slave-owner in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852). In the story, Legree has Tom whipped to death for refusing to divulge the whereabouts of some runaway slaves. The name came to signify a brutal taskmaster. Wodehouse has feminised the name so that Jeff can apply it to Mrs. Cork.


a little strong on the wing (p. 106)

“Strong on the wing” is a hunting term, applied particularly to game birds which fly too fast for the hunters. The term is being used here metaphorically to describe Lord Uffenham’s enthusiasm.


been through the furnace (p. 106)

See The Code of the Woosters.


hands in his dinner pail (p. 106)

Dies. A “dinner pail” is a lunch-box.


with her distaff (p. 107)

The distaff was a stick on which flax, wool or tow was wound during spinning.


When the fields are white with daisies (p. 107)

See Sam the Sudden.


this amateur Colney Hatch (p. 108)

See Love Among the Chickens.


spurn the antic hay (p. 108)

The antic hay was a rustic dance. Wodehouse is using “spurn” here in its sense of “tread” (i.e. dance), rather than the more common “reject with contempt.”

My men, like satyrs grazing on the lawns,
Shall with their goat-feet dance an antic hay.

Christopher Marlowe, Edward II, Act I, sc 1 (1594)


cobra di capella (p. 111)

Cobra di capella is another name for the hooded cobra, Naja tripudians, a venomous snake native to the Indian sub-continent.


wishes he was James Cagney (p. 112)

James Cagney (1899–1986) was an American movie actor, who became famous for his portrayals of gangsters and tough guys, although he actually started his career as a “song and dance” man.


to put up a squawk (p. 112)

Slang: to complain.


Chapter 14 (pp. 113–120)

Molly gaped at her husband (p. 113)

“Molly” is a misprint for “Dolly.” The misprint was not in the US 1st edition or in the earlier magazine serialisation.


standing behind the eight ball (p. 113)

Slang: in a perilous position, with little chance of escape. The phrase is said to have its origin in a variant of the game of pool, in which a player forfeits the game if his cue ball hits the black (eight) ball out of turn: thus, a player whose cue ball is trapped “behind the eight ball,” with no obvious shot available, is in imminent danger of losing the game.


gumshoeing around (p. 113)

“Gumshoe” is American slang for a detective. As a verb, it means to snoop, to pry.


his heart leaped up (p. 114)

See Summer Moonshine.

The same poem is alluded to in chapter 16.


St Vitus’s Dance (p. 115)

See Summer Moonshine.


all of a doodah (p. 115)

Colloquial: in an agitated state.


hand in his portfolio (p. 115)

Resign his position.


mosey out of here (p. 115)

Slang: to depart.


the spiel (p. 115)

A plausible story, or line of talk.


nothing else except suspenders (p. 116)

As is clear from what follows, Dolly is referring to what in England are known as braces, ie straps for holding up a man’s trousers (“pants”). In England, “suspenders” refers to an article of ladies’ underwear and, less commonly, to a similar item for supporting men’s socks (USA garter belt and garters).


like King Kong (p. 116)

King Kong was a gigantic ape-monster in the classic 1933 film of that name, which re-tells, metaphorically, the fable of Beauty and the Beast.


like a Dumb Isaac (p. 116)

Slang: a fool (according to Jonathon Green, The Cassell Dictionary of Slang, 1984, it is a play on “smart alec” and was current in the US in the period 1900–20).


the Woolworth Building (p. 117)

Designed by Cass Gilbert for Frank W. Woolworth, the Woolworth Building in New York occupies a full block on Broadway between Park Place and Barclay Street. Erected between 1910 and 1913, and towering 792 feet, it was, on completion, the tallest building in the world, taking that distinction from the 612-foot Singer Building and in turn losing it in 1930 to the 1046-foot Chrysler Building.


a low-life (p. 117)

Slang: a person of no consequence, someone beneath contempt.


a porch-climber (p. 117)

See Summer Moonshine.


everything’s jake (p. 118)

Slang: fine, satisfactory


as mad as a wet hen (p. 118)

Slang: furious, irate. Dolly means that she is angry, but the references to “dementia,” “eccentricity” and “hatters” suggest that Lord Uffenham is interpreting “mad” in its alternative sense of “insane.”


a private dick (p. 118)

Slang: a private detective.


his little friend (p. 119)

Possibly another Kipling allusion. See Summer Moonshine.


a bird vis-à-vis with a serpent (p. 120)

French: face to face.


a made-up tie (p. 120)

In the days when gentlemen were expected to dine wearing full evening dress, a gentleman who wore a “made-up” bow tie, as opposed to tying his own, was liable to be regarded with disdain.


Chapter 15 (pp. 121–126)

God was in His heaven and all right with the world (p. 121)

See Something Fresh.


chevalier of industry (p. 121)

French: chevalier d’industrie — a soldier of fortune, one who lives by his wits.


bien être (p. 121)

French: a sense of well-being.


southern end (p. 123)

The bottom, from the cartographic convention whereby South is always at the bottom of the map.


supplementary brace of beetle-crushers (p. 123)

spare pair of boots


bestriding his narrow world like a Colossus (p. 124)

See Something Fresh.


of all sad words of tongue or pen (p. 126)

See Something Fresh.


Chapter 16 (pp. 127–134)

aequam mentem (p. 127)

A calm mind. The reference is to Book II, Ode iii, of the Roman poet Quintus Horatius Flaccus (Horace): aequam memento rebus in arduis servare mentem (remember to keep a calm mind in adversity — or, in modern terms, stay cool in a crisis)


a green baize door (p. 127)

The traditional separation between the public part of the house and the servants’ quarters, the green baize acted as sound insulation.


like a footballer bucking the line (p. 127)

“Bucking the line” is an expression from American football, where it denotes a short plunging run into the line by a running back. The term was used mostly in the 1940s and earlier, in the era of “single wing” offensive formations, and is now rarely heard.

To Wodehouse, “football” had usually meant rugby union; perhaps this usage reflects the amount of time he had spent out of England in the years preceding his internment.

From the moment when the room began to fill till the moment when it began to empty she did not cease to plough her way to and fro, in a manner equally reminiscent of a hawk swooping on chickens and an earnest collegian bucking the line.

Piccadilly Jim, ch. 9 (1917)


a little sleep, a little folding of the hands (p. 128)

See Something Fresh.


prowled around, like the hosts of Midian (p. 129)

See Something Fresh.


an emu she had known (p. 129)

The emu, Dromaius novaehollandiae, the world’s second largest bird, is a flightless species found only in Australia. Mrs. Cork would probably have met ostriches, Struthio camelus, in Africa, but not emus.


a rainbow . . . the poet Wordsworth (p. 130)

The poem in question has already been quoted in chap 14.


as the hart yearns for the water-brooks (p. 130)

See The Code of the Woosters.


an injudicious dip in the Trafalgar Square fountain (p. 131)

Trafalgar Square, in central London, used to be the favoured venue for New Year’s Eve revellers, for whom a jump into the cold water of the fountain was, no doubt, a necessary sobering experience.

It was, perhaps, the sad demise of Mr. Cork that the kill-joy authorities had in mind when, a few years ago, they put a stop to such New Year’s Eve frolics in the Square!


crib-cracking (p. 131)

Thieves’ slang: breaking and entering a building for the purpose of burglary.


that some unidentified third party was the top (p. 133)

As soon becomes clear, this is a reference to Cole Porter’s song “You’re the Top.” See The Code of the Woosters.


Chapter 17 (pp. 135–141)

deaf adders who stopped their ears (p. 137)

See The Code of the Woosters.


Gadarene swine (p. 138)

And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes.

. . . .

Now there was there nigh unto the mountains a great herd of swine feeding.

And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them.

And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand) and were choked in the sea.

Mark, v, 1 and 11–13

The Gadarenes were residents of Gadara, a town east of the Jordan. In the recounting of the same incident in Matthew, viii, 28–32, they are referred to as the Gergesenes.


Boadicea . . . the warlike queen of the Iceni (p. 140)

Boudicca (“Boadicea” to the Roman annalists) was the wife of Prasutagus, king of the Iceni, one of the most powerful tribes in eastern Britain. Following the Roman invasion of Britain in 43 AD, Prasutagus, who had submitted to Roman rule, was allowed to continue ruling as king of the Iceni.

When Prasutagus died, in 60 or 61 AD, he bequeathed some of his personal property to his wife and two daughters, the rest going to the Roman Emperor, Nero. Not content with the share bequeathed to Rome, the Procurator, Catus Decianus, despatched officials to seize all Prasutagus’s belongings. The Romans acted harshly, stripping Iceni nobles of their lands and taking their families to be sold into slavery. Boudicca herself was stripped and beaten in public, and her daughters were raped by Roman soldiers.

Boudicca retaliated by leading a revolt against the Romans and, supported by major tribes such as the Trinovantes, who had never submitted to Rome, she raised a large army. The Britons seized the Roman towns of Camulodunum (Colchester), Londinium (London), and Verulamium (St Albans), razed them to the ground and slaughtered their inhabitants, but were eventually defeated in battle by an army led by the Governor of Britain, Suetonius Paulinus. Tacitus, in his Annals, asserts (possibly with some exaggeration) that the Romans killed over 80,000 Britons, while suffering losses of no more than 400 dead and as many wounded.

What happened to Boudicca and her daughters is not known; they may have been killed in the battle — the location of which has never been identified — though tradition has it that Boudicca survived the battle, but took poison rather than suffer capture, humiliation and almost certain execution.


an impasse (p. 141)

French: a deadlock, stalemate.


Chapter 18 (pp. 142–146)

Plain, even Spartan (p. 142)

The inhabitants of Sparta, one of the leading city-states in ancient Greece, were noted for their frugality, courage, and stern discipline.


“Omitting no detail, however slight” (p. 143)

See Right Ho, Jeeves.


Chapter 19 (pp. 147–154)

the lowdown (p. 149)

Slang: information, especially of a confidential or damaging nature.


bright young cut-ups . . . for a gag (p. 149)

“To cut up” (US slang): to make jokes, to play tricks, so a “cut-up” is a joker or trickster. A “gag” is a joke or hoax.


a Balliol man (p. 150)

Balliol College, reckoned to be the oldest College in Oxford University, was founded some time between 1263 and 1266 by John Balliol, one of King Henry III of England’s barons.

Balliol College has a distinguished list of alumni, including former British Prime Ministers Harold Macmillan and Edward Heath, authors Graham Greene, Aldous Huxley, Anthony Powell and Nevil Shute, film director John Schlesinger, cricketers the Nawab of Pataudi and his son, and King Olav of Norway and his son, King Harald.


take a run-out powder (p. 150)

Slang: depart hurriedly. A “take-out powder” was a laxative.


in the role of kibitzer (p. 151)

An onlooker, one who gives advice without having been asked.


Damon and Pythias (p. 152)

See The Clicking of Cuthbert.


artful as a wagon-load of monkeys (p. 152)

The origin of this phrase is not known. It appears in numerous variants, in which “artful” is replaced by other adjectives, such as: clever, cute, unruly, crafty, cute and funny.


stringing along with you chisellers (p. 153)

Slang: co-operating with you cheaters.


flying off the handle (p. 153)

Becoming suddenly angry, losing one’s temper; the origin of the phrase is said to lie in an analogy with what happens when the head of a hammer or axe, having worn loose, suddenly flies off.


on the up-and-up (p. 153)

Honest, true.


tie a can to (p. 154)

Slang: put a stop to.

“Stop! Look! Listen to a Dad’s advice
She’s a nice girl, that is true
But she’ll never do for you
So tie a can to Cupid, lay him on the shelf.”
Then he stopped, looked, listened to his Dad’s advice
While his Dad went out and married her himself.

Irving Berlin, “Stop! Look! Listen!” (1915)


Chapter 20 (pp. 155–160)

a spin in a hansom cab (p. 157)

See Summer Moonshine.


would have pleased Emily Post (p. 158)

See Summer Moonshine.


Chapter 21 (pp. 161–172)

“Come into the garden, Maud” (p. 161)

Come into the garden, Maud,
For the black bat, night, has flown,
Come into the garden, Maud,
I am here at the gate alone;

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “Maud: A Melodrama” (1855)

Tennyson’s Maud is a narrative consisting of 28 poems in three parts, the last of which is a single poem, while the first consists of 22 songs, culminating in Poem XXII, “Come into the garden, Maud.”

In 1898, Sir Arthur Somervell (1863–1947) used Tennyson’s poem as the basis for his Maud, a cycle of 13 songs, of which “Come into the garden, Maud” is the ninth; Lawrence Rea gave the work its first performance at the Salle Erard in London on 2 November 1899.

A setting of “Come into the garden, Maud” by Michael W. Balfe, the Irish-born composer of the opera The Bohemian Girl, achieved great popularity in the 19th century music hall, where, it is to be hoped, singers did not experience Jeff’s “difficulties with the second and fourth lines"!


a Parker so notoriously nosey (p. 163)

See Something Fresh.


Merchiston, Loretto, Fettes (p. 165)

All three are old-established independent schools in Scotland, with a strong rugby-playing tradition.

Merchiston Castle School was founded in 1833 by Charles Chalmers and was originally housed in Merchiston Castle, the family home of the Lairds of Napier, which was Chalmers had leased. In 1924, having been refused planning permission to extend Merchiston Castle, the school moved into new premises built in the grounds of Colinton House, which it had acquired. Merchiston Castle is now part of Napier University.

Loretto School is the oldest independent school in Scotland, having been founded in 1825 at Stoneybank, Musselburgh, near Edinburgh. The school moved to its present site at Musselburgh in 1827.

Fettes College, situated in the Comely Bank district of Edinburgh, was founded with a legacy from Sir William Fettes (1750–1836) and was opened in 1870. Prominent ex-pupils include the former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and General John de Chastelain, the Canadian who headed the arms decommissioning body in Northern Ireland; none, however, has achieved greater fame than another old boy, secret agent 007, James Bond.


at the old Alma Mater (p. 166)

Latin: benign mother. The term is applied by alumni to their school or university.


With my pipe and my bowl and my fiddlers three (p. 168)

The reference is to an old children’s nursery rhyme:

Old King Cole was a merry old soul,
And a merry old soul was he.
He called for his pipe, and he called for his bowl,
And he called for his fiddlers three.

It is said that the rhyme refers to an old Celtic king, Coelric, who lived around the end of the 7th century AD. The pipe and bowl may refer to old musical instruments.


having come in like a lioness . . . going out like a lamb (p. 168)

See Summer Moonshine.


There she spouts (p. 170)

See The Code of the Woosters.


Chapter 22 (pp. 173–183)

Tunbridge Wells (p. 174)

If Shipley Hall is near Shipbourne, it would have made more sense for Mrs. Cork to have chosen a firm of solicitors in Tonbridge, about five km to the south, rather than in Tunbridge Wells, which lies about 10 km further south and the route to which would, at that time, have necessitated driving through Tonbridge.


she had not found the blue bird (p. 174)

See The Code of the Woosters.


She is coming, my own, my sweet (p. 175)

A further reference to “Come into the garden, Maud".


a Sleeping Beauty (p. 177)

“The Sleeping Beauty,” a fairy-tale by Charles Perrault (1628–1703), appeared in the collection Histoires et contes du temps passe, which was published in 1697 under the name of his son, Pierre. The collection was translated into English in 1729, by Robert Samber, under the title Mother Goose Tales.

“The Sleeping Beauty” tells of a princess who, at her christening, is cursed by an old fairy, who pronounces that the child will wound herself with a spindle and die. Another fairy, unable to lift the curse entirely, amends it by pronouncing that the princess will not die but will sleep for a hundred years, until awakened by a prince’s kiss. When events happen as has been foretold, the fairy casts a sleeping spell on everyone in the castle, which she then causes to be surrounded with an impenetrable hedge of briars and thorn trees. After a hundred years, the prince comes, penetrates the hedge, and kisses the princess, who duly awakes, along with all the other residents of the castle.


the word of the Millers was their bond (p. 179)

Dictum meum pactum, “My word is my bond,” was the motto of the London Stock Exchange and signified that deals made on no more than a verbal agreement, without contractual backing, would be honoured.


the beasts that perish (p. 179)

Man that is in honour, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish.

Psalms, xlix, 20


snubbed by a Snow Queen (p. 180)

“The Snow Queen” is the title of two stories in the collection of fairy tales, Kinder- und Hausmarchen, published by the brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm in 1812–15, and translated into English by Edgar Taylor as German Popular Stories in 1823. In one of the stories, Fate has decreed that no mortal may marry the Snow Queen and any man who dares to declare his love is hurled to destruction by goblins while the Snow Queen, whose heart is of ice, stands by, unable to show any emotion.

Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen also published a story which was translated into English as “The Snow Queen,” but this story does not seem to be as relevant here.


love fell from her like a garment (p. 181)

See A Damsel in Distress.


no Israelite . . . consignment of manna (p. 181)

See Summer Moonshine.


Chapter 23 (pp. 184–193)

a sleeping Venus (p. 186)

Venus was the Roman goddess of beauty and sensual love, usually identified with the Greek goddess Aphrodite. In Greek mythology, Aphrodite was the mother of Aeneas, who, as related in Virgil’s Aeneid, was believed by the Romans to be their ancestor. The Romans therefore came to regard the goddess Venus as the foundress of their race.

“The Sleeping Venus” is the title of a famous Renaissance painting by the Italian artist Giorgione, da Castelfranco. It is believed that this work, left unfinished at his death in 1510, may have been completed by Titan, who took it as a model for his own “Venus of Urbino” (1538), while Titian in his turn may have provided the inspiration for Nicolas Poussin’s “The Sleeping Venus and Cupid” (c. 1630).

By the time that Archibald, putting with the care of one brushing flies off a sleeping Venus, had holed out and won the thirteenth, he was in the full grip of this feeling.

“Archibald’s Benefit” in The Man Upstairs (1914)

[“Brushing flies…” is a quotation from Frederick Maryatt’s Frank Mildmay, or The Naval Officer (1829); in the original, the captain swears at the boatswain’s mate who is too gentle with the cat o’ nine tails:
  “One would think, d—n your b—d, that you were brushing flies off a sleeping Venus, instead of punishing a scoundrel, with a hide as thick as a buffalo’s.”
 Wodehouse uses the phrase again in Indiscretions of Archie, “Jeeves and the Old School Chum” (Very Good, Jeeves), and Cocktail Time. —Note added 2018-05-18 NM]


at the Gaiety (p. 186)

See A Damsel in Distress.


Ordinaries . . . Preferred (p. 187)

Types of shares in a limited company. Ordinary shares rank last for receiving dividends, and carry the greatest risk, but the amount of dividend may be as large as the profits permit. Preferred shares rank ahead of ordinary shares for receiving dividends, and are therefore inherently less risky, but the amount of the “preferred” dividend is usually restricted, such restrictions being set out in the terms of issue of the shares.


female Trappist monk (p. 188)

The first “Trappists” were Cistercian monks of the French abbey at Soligny-la-Trappe, where, in 1664, the abbot, Armand Jean le Bouthillier de Rancé, reformed the existing Cistercian order, introducing a more austere and ascetic regime. In 1892, the Trappists were absorbed into the Order of the Cistercians of the Strict Observance, and the name is now applied to the monks and nuns of that Order. Trappists are noted for their extreme austerity, their Rule including speaking only when absolutely necessary, a common dormitory, and no recreation.


standing . . . with reluctant feet (p. 189)

See Summer Moonshine.


Noblesse oblige (p. 190)

French: rank imposes obligations.


tidings of the gladdest joy (p. 191)

Presumably a reference to the angel’s greeting to the shepherds:

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

Luke, ii, 10


handed him the mitten (p. 191)

See The Code of the Woosters.


we learn in suffering what we teach in song (p. 192)

See Love Among the Chickens


Chapter 24 (pp. 194–205)

“. . . the thing’s a conditional clause.” (p. 194)

Actually it’s not, it’s a hypothetical clause, though Lord Uffenham is right to insist on the subjunctive “were.”


the sixth Commandment (p. 194)

Clearly a reference to the injunction “Thou shalt not kill.” But Wodehouse has overlooked the fact that, while this is, indeed, the sixth commandment for most Christians, it is actually the fifth Commandment for Roman Catholics, who recognise a slightly different Decalogue and for whom the sixth Commandment is “Thou shalt not commit adultery”! It is extremely unlikely that Jeff, whilst embroiled in a school rugby match, would have felt any strong or sudden adulterous urge, but Catholic readers may be understandably confused at this point.


something the carrion crow had brought in (p. 195)

The usual phrase is “like something the cat brought in,” meaning “having a slovenly or unkempt appearance,” and often said in fun: the reference is to the behaviour exhibited by many domestic cats, which bring dead (or not yet dead) prey into the house.

Why Wodehouse should have employed “carrion crow” is a mystery: the carrion crow, Corvus corone corone, is not a domesticated species, so its opportunities for bringing in anything must be very limited!


as Commander Peary must have felt (p. 196)

Commander Robert E. Peary USN (1856–1920) led the first succesful expedition to the North Pole, which he reached, accompanied by Matthew Henson and four Eskimos, on 6 April 1909. Peary, with Henson as his regular companion, had made seven unsuccesful attempts to reach the Pole over the preceding 23 years and in 1906 was the first recipient of the National Geographic Society’s highest honour, the Hubbard Medal.

For his success in reaching the Pole, the Society awarded Peary a Special Medal of Honor, while another member of his team, Robert Bartlett (who did not reach the Pole), was awarded the Hubbard Medal; Matthew Henson (a black American) received no recognition and the National Geographic Society did not recognise his achievement until November 2000, when it finally awarded him a Hubbard Medal. Unfortunately, this came 45 years too late for Henson, who died in 1955.


a thing of sweetness and light (p. 199)

The phrase “sweetness and light” seems to have been first used by Jonathan Swift in The Battle of the Books (1710):

For the rest, whatever we have got, has been by infinite Labor, and search, and ranging thro’ every Corner of Nature: The Difference is, that instead of Dirt and Poison, we have rather chose to till our Hives with Honey and Wax, thus furnishing Mankind with the two Noblest of Things, which are Sweetness and Light.

The phrase also occurs twice in the works of Matthew Arnold:

The pursuit of perfection, then, is the pursuit of sweetness and light.

Culture and Anarchy, ch. 1 (1869)

Culture is the passion for sweetness and light.

Literature and Dogma, Preface (1873)

Richard Usborne (The Penguin Wodehouse Companion) says that Matthew Arnold “was related by marriage to the Wodehouse family,” though the relationship is not mentioned in any of the several biographies of Wodehouse.


like a sibyl about to prophesy (p. 204)

In classical legend, a sibyl was a prophetess whose utterances were inspired by a deity.


Chapter 25 (pp. 206–213)

liked the dead past to bury its dead (p. 208)

See Sam the Sudden.


the blush of shame (p. 208)

Possibly an allusion to “Barbara Frietchie” (1863), a patriotic poem by John Greenleaf Whittier, whose “Maud Muller” is quoted in chap 15:

“Shoot, if you must, this old gray head,
But spare your country’s flag,” she said.

A shade of sadness, a blush of shame,
Over the face of the leader came;

The poem describes an incident (almost certainly apocryphal) during the US Civil War, at Frederick, Maryland, when Confederate General Robert E Lee marched his Army of Northern Virginia into Maryland, a march that culminated in the battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg) on 17 September 1862. The leader referred to in the poem is not Lee, but the commander of his II Corps, Lt-Gen Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.


a Roscoe (p. 211)

Slang: a gun.

 “Got the roscoe?” Jeff panted.
 “Yes.” Ned Beaumont stood up, stepped back holding a black pistol leveled at O’Rory.

Dashiell Hammett, The Glass Key, ch. IX, pt 3 (1931)

Although Hammett used “roscoe,” he didn’t coin the phrase. According to the OED, it first appeared in print in 1914, in Jackson & Hellyer’s Dictionary of Slang. The OED also gives as an alternative “John Roscoe,” in which form it was used occasionally by Damon Runyon.


I have a rod (p. 211)

Slang: a gun.


raising Cain (p. 211)

Colloquial: to make an angry fuss or a noisy disturbance. Brewer’s Dictionary suggests that “Cain” is used here either as an alternative to “the Devil” or as a direct allusion to the violent anger which caused Cain to kill his brother Abel (Genesis, iv, 5):

Seven men from all the world, back to Docks again,
Rolling down the Ratcliffe Road drunk and raising Cain:
Give the girls another drink “fore we sign away —
We that took the Bolivar out across the Bay!

Rudyard Kipling, “The Ballad of the Bolivar” (1890)


take it on the lam (p. 212)

Slang: leave hurriedly, especially to escape the law. One meaning of “lam” is “beat,” as in a thrashing, and it has been suggested that “take it on the lam” developed by the same route as another slang expression of similar meaning, “beat it.”


Chapter 26 (pp. 214–220)

Walter Winchell (p. 214)

Walter Winchell (1897–1972) was a gossip columnist, with a syndicated column and a radio show that, at its peak, had an audience estimated at around 50 million. He specialised in titillating insinuations about Broadway notables and, maintained a correspondence for over 30 years with FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, giving the Bureau much publicity, presumably in return for gossip. One imagines that a “Walter Winchell peep” at the home life of the rhinoceros would have concentrated on its more intimate aspects.

Why yes, sir. References to the gentleman are frequent in the tabloid newspapers of New York, notably in the column conducted by Mr. Walter Winchell.

Jeeves in the Offing, ch. 2 (1960)


put his fate to the test (p. 215)

She had only to get through this, to solace Manning as much as she could, to put such clumsy plasterings on his wounds as were possible, and then, anyhow, she would be free — free to put her fate to the test.

H. G. Wells, “The Sapphire Ring” in Ann Veronica (1909)

“Yes, brother.” The other was heard, lying still in the darkness as though he were talking in his sleep. “The time has come to put fate to the test.”

Joseph Conrad, Under Western Eyes, ch. 1 (1911)

Every time I feel I’ve mustered up enough pep to propose, I take a bogey three. Every time I think I’m in good mid-season form for putting my fate to the test, to win or to lose it all, something goes all blooey with my swing, and I slice into the rough at every tee.

“The Heart of a Goof” in The Heart of a Goof (1926)


King Henry the Second . . . Thomas à Becket (p. 216)

Thomas à Becket (1118–70) was a friend of Henry II of England and, from 1154, his Chancellor. In 1163, Henry secured his election as Archbishop of Canterbury, believing that he would have Thomas’s full support, but Thomas, who only agreed reluctantly to accept the office, was soon in conflict with the King over the issue of the Church’s prerogatives in matters affecting the clergy and, in 1164, he fled to France, where he remained in exile for six years, while he, the King and Pope Alexander III sought to reach an accommodation.

In 1170, Thomas and Henry met in Normandy and seemed to patch up their differences, for Thomas returned to England at the end of November. But almost immediately, they quarrelled again, over Thomas’s refusal to lift bans of excommunication which he had imposed on the Archbishop of York and the Bishops of London and Salisbury for their part in a coronation of Henry’s eldest son, in defiance of a papal ban. The King, who was still in France, is said to have expressed an exasperated desire to be rid of the Archbishop and four knights, taking him at his word, crossed the Channel and attacked and murdered Thomas in the transept of Canterbury Cathedral. Within three years Thomas was canonised by Alexander III, while Henry was forced to do public penance at Canterbury.

Exactly what Henry said to instigate the murder is not recorded: the words traditionally attributed to him are “What sluggards, what cowards have I brought up in my court, who care nothing for their allegiance to their lord. Who will rid me of this meddlesome [or—in other variants—pestilent, or turbulent, or low-born] priest.”


a far, far better thing (p. 218)

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, Book 3, ch. 15 (1859)

Dickens closed his novel with these words, which are thoughts attributed to Sydney Carton as he stands at the foot of the guillotine, awaiting execution.


Chapter 27 (pp. 221–229)

fondling a scorpion (p. 221)

Scorpions are arthropods, members of the Arachnidae, and thus distantly related to spiders. Most of the 1200 or so known species are found in the tropics and sub-tropics, mainly in arid or semi-arid regions. Scorpions have pincer claws and a tail with a venomous sting. While only about 80 species normally pose any danger to humans, one would not normally choose to fondle a scorpion, as the sting can be fatal to someone who is severely allergic.

The toxicity of scorpion venom seems to be greatest in some of the smaller species, though this should not be taken as an encouragement to fondle the larger species. Anyone doing so risks respiratory paralysis, extremely high body temperature, dangerously low or high blood pressure, a rapid heartbeat, etc.


underneath her step-ins (p. 221)

Drawers, knickers.


slip it across (p. 222)

Slang: hand it over. Elsewhere, Wodehouse uses the same expression to mean “mislead.”


More deadly than the male (p. 223)

See The Code of the Woosters.


He started like a war horse. . . . Pawing the air and snorting valiantly (p. 224)

A reference to the passage from the Book of Job quoted earlier.


thews and sinews (p. 225)

See The Code of the Woosters.


you greasy Tishbite (p. 226)

And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.

1 Kings, xvii, 1

The designation “Tishbite” probably signifies that Elijah was born at Tishbi, a place (according to the apocryphal book of Tobit) in Upper Galilee. There is nothing to suggest that he was more (or less) greasy than other prophets.


She’s got more dough (p. 227)

Slang: money.


in the best of all possible worlds (p. 228)

See Something Fresh.


the prunes (p. 228)

Slang: simpletons (“punters” would probably be a more recent equivalent).


Cheese! (p. 228)

An exclamation of exasperation or, as in this instance, surprise (albeit simulated) — derived, like the similar expression “Jeeze!,” from the name Jesus.


the arms of Trinity Hall, Cambridge (p. 228)

Trinity Hall, one of the smallest Cambridge colleges, was founded in 1350 by Bishop Bateman of Norwich, who wished to provide a legal training to clerics, to replace the many in his diocese who had died of the plague. Trinity Hall is not to be confused with Trinity College, the largest of the Cambridge colleges, which was founded by Henry VIII in 1546 — it was the existence of Trinity College that obliged Trinity Hall to retain its existing name when many of the other colleges changed their name from “Hall” to “College” in the 19th century. Prominent alumni of Trinity Hall include the 16th century poet Robert Herrick and the 20th century writer J. B. Priestley.

In heraldic terminology, the arms of Trinity Hall are described thus: Sable, a crescent within a bordure Ermine; crest: on a wreath of the colours, a lion sejant Gules, in its right paw a book Sable leaved and clasped Or. Or, in plainer English, a black shield with an ermine crescent and border, the crest comprising a wreath of the same colours on which is seated a red lion holding a black book with gold leaves and clasp.


Chapter 28 (pp. 230–239)

Cleopatra (p. 231)

Cleopatra (69–30 BC) was the last Pharaoh of Egypt. Even before she came to the throne, in 51 BC, her father, Ptolemy XII, had been forced to pay tribute to Rome. Cleopatra sought to ally herself with Rome, and secure her position, by embarking on affairs first with Julius Caesar and then, after his assassination, with Mark Antony, who it at first seemed would prevail over his rival, Octavian. But Octavian declared war on Antony and Cleopatra, defeated their combined navy at the battle of Actium (31 BC), and invaded Egypt. Mark Antony committed suicide and Cleopatra, having been captured by Octavian, also took her own life.

Although Shakespeare wrote a play about “Antony and Cleopatra,” the “haughty” description was applied by a later dramatist:

Octavia:
I need not ask if you are Cleopatra;
Your haughty carriage —

Cleopatra:
Shows I am a queen:

John Dryden, All for Love, Act III, sc 1 (1678)


the chap in Excelsior (p. 232)

See Sam the Sudden.


the St Bernard dogs (p. 232)

See Something Fresh.


a Prince Charming (p. 232)

A stock character in many fairy tales, such as Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella.


brought you a dot (p. 233)

French: a marriage portion, a dowry. Pronounced “doh,” this is a pun on “dough”, the slang word for money.


vision of things past (p. 234)

It was a fevered vision of things past and present all confounded together; of his life and journey blended into one.

Charles Dickens, Dombey and Son, ch. 55 (1848)


Couldn’t you draw the Cork? (p. 234)

Puns are not unknown in Wodehouse (eg “dot” on the previous page), and occur in the titles of a few of the books (Money in the Bank is a triple pun), but are rarely as blatant as this.


fight him to the House of Lords (p. 235)

See The Code of the Woosters.


the whitest man I know (p. 235)

See A Damsel in Distress.


like Sidney Carton (p. 236)

See The Code of the Woosters.


more sense than a coot (p. 236)

Colloquially, a “coot” is a foolish person, as in the expressions “a silly coot” and “as stupid as a coot.” Why the Coot, Fulica atra, a small water-bird not noticeably less intelligent than other birds, should deserve to be stigmatised in this way is unclear.


in the dog days (p. 237)

The hottest days. According to Brewer, the Romans called the hottest weeks of summer caniculares dies from the notion that during the period from about 3 July to 11 August, when the rising and setting of the Sun and of Sirius, the Dog Star, coincide, the days bear the combined heat of both.


with a wild surmise (p. 238)

A further reference to the Ode by Keats.


Lord Uffenham home from the hunt (p. 238)

The metre and phrasing suggests that Wodehouse is alluding to the last line of a well-known verse:

Under the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave for me:
“Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.”

Robert Louis Stevenson, “Requiem” (1887)


take a gander at (p. 239)

Slang: take a look at.