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.

Psmith in the City was originally annotated by Mark Hodson (aka The Efficient Baxter). The notes have been reformatted somewhat, but credit goes to Mark for his original efforts, even while we bear the blame for errors of fact or interpretation.

These annotations relate to the 1950 (UK) reprint of the 1923 A&C Black edition.

 

Dedication (p 1)

Leslie Havergal Bradshaw - a writer and fan of Wodehouse's school stories, living in New York, who interviewed Wodehouse for the Captain in 1909, and subsequently became a friend. Bradshaw dedicated his school story The Right Sort to Wodehouse.
Psmith in the City was published in the UK by A&C Black on 23 September 1910, and in the US by Macmillan in November 1910 (the US edition is not listed in Jasen, but is in the Phelps bibliography). The events of the story follow on directly from those of Mike, published the previous year. Mike was later revised and reissued in two parts, Mike at Wrykyn (1953) and Enter Psmith/Mike and Psmith (1935). For convenience, I refer to the latter books in these notes.
[Phelps, Barry, P.G. Wodehouse: Man and Myth (1992) Ch.8]


Chapter 1 - Mr Bickersdyke Walks Behind the Bowler’s Arm (pp 1 - 12)

Mr John Bickersdyke (p 1)

Phelps suggests that Bickersdyke must be modelled on Sir Ewan Cameron, manager of the London Branch of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank when Wodehouse worked there in 1900-1902.


Ilsworth (p 1)

Fictitious - the nearest real placename is perhaps Isleworth, on the Thames near London.


Incogniti (p 1)

A cricket club, founded 1861, with the motto "icogniti incognitis" (unknown [only to] the unknown). Still exists.


brake (p 2)

A large wagonette, a horse-drawn carriage for carrying a number of people (Often written 'break').


neighbouring county (p 2)

He would have had quite a few to choose from in those days: Cheshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire, or Herefordshire in England; Radnor, Montgomery, Denbigh or Flint in Wales. Hereford and Worcester are now combined, and the four Welsh counties have merged into Powys and Clwyd. Knowing Wodehouse, Worcestershire is probably the most likely.


pro. (p 3)

Professional [cricketer]. The distinction between amateurs and professionals ('gentlemen and players') in sport was very rigid. Mr Smith employed a pro as expert to direct his cricketing activities and supervise the maintenance of the pitch. He is named on p 6 as "Bagley, the Ilsworth Hall groundman".


moving in echelon (p 3)

Military term - a column of troops advancing with each unit offset sideways from the one ahead, so as to have a clear front. Mike and Psmith would have had some military training at school, so both know very well that the term is meaningless when referring to a single person.


Territorial Army (p 3)

The British army's part-time reserve.


'Varsity (p 4)

Slang: university (i.e. Oxford or Cambridge)


Cambridge ... King's (p 4)

King's College, founded by Henry VI (who also founded Eton) in 1441, is the grandest of the Cambridge colleges. Cambridge University is thought to date back to the twelfth century.


thingummy of what's-its-name (p 4)

Perhaps plaything of Fortune?


three-shies-a-penny (p 4)

Coconut shies, where one pays to throw balls at coconuts in the hope of knocking them off their pedestals to win a prize, are a popular fairground attraction. The word "shy" in this context means to throw.


cocos (p 4)

The use of 'coco' for coconut may be a deliberate archaism, or slang of the time. The most recent examples given in the OED are from the 18th century.


threshing-machine (p 4)

A common large piece of farm machinery at the time. Used to separate freshly-harvested cereal crops into grain and straw. Threshing machines were normally portable, and would be parked in the farmyard at harvest time and powered by a steam traction engine.


mangel-wurzel (p 4)

(more commonly 'mangold-wurzel') A type of beet, grown for cattle food.


Newgate Calendar (p 5)

Newgate was the site of a famous London prison, which survived until 1902. The site is now occupied by the Central Criminal Courts (Old Bailey). The “Newgate Calendar” was a publication (first issued in 1773) containing accounts of prisoners in Newgate. Psmith is using the term here in the sense of “rogues’ gallery.”


Bagley (p 6)

There is a village in Shropshire called Bagley, but it is in the north of the county, some way away from the parts Wodehouse knew well.


on a billiard table (p 6)

i.e. on a perfectly smooth wicket


Green Jackets (p 7)

Collective name for the rifle brigades of the British army, the first of which was formed in America in 1755. In this case, of course, it is their cricket team that is referred to.


very silly point (p 8)

Cricket uses the term “silly” for fielding positions close to the batsman - presumably because of the danger involved. Point is a fielding position on the “off” side, at roughly 90 degrees to the line of bowling.


croquet (p 9)

In croquet, the aim is of course to hit the ball horizontally along the ground.


Chapter 2 - Mike Hears Bad News (pp 13 - 19)

female Jacksons (p 13)

Wodehouse did not have any sisters. Norman Murphy (In Search of Blandings) suggests that Mike's sisters are based on the three Bowes-Lyon girls, with whom Wodehouse was friendly at the time. Mike's cricketing brothers are apparently based on the Fosters who played for Worcestershire, so presumably we can take it that this is the county where Mr Smith has settled.


first-class cricket (p 13)

Full-length, three-day matches between certain teams that are recognised by national cricketing authorities (broadly-speaking, in England these are county and national teams) are considered as “first-class” for the purposes of records, qualification to play for the national team, etc.


Sedleigh … Mr Downing (p 16)

See Mike and Psmith. Mr Downing was Mike’s housemaster.


John the bulldog (p 18)

Wodehouse owned a bulldog, Sammy, in 1920 (see Performing Flea), but there's no evidence of a predecessor who might have been the inspiration for John.


Chapter 3 - The New Era Begins (pp 20 - 27)

New Asiatic Bank (p 20)

Wodehouse worked for the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank (which still exists, of course).


Wyatt (p 20)

Expelled from Wrykyn for breaking out at night to pot at cats. Ended up on a sheep ranch in Argentina (see Mike at Wrykyn).


Bridge (p 21)

This was presumably “Auction Bridge,” introduced into the English-speaking world in the 1890s, apparently from Russia or the Ottoman Empire (there seem to be many theories as to its precise origins). The modern form of “Contract Bridge,” which incorporates elements of the French game “plafond,” was developed by Harold S. Vanderbilt in 1925, some years after the first publication of Psmith in the City.
See the US Bridge Federation article


made-up tie (p 21)

A bow-tie which is supplied ready-tied and is held around the neck by means of elastic or the like. The implication is that Bickersdyke is a person so lacking in the social graces that he doesn't even know how to fasten his own tie.


slings and arrows of outragous fortune (p 21)

 To be, or not to be: that is the question.
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them. To die; to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to. ’Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die; to sleep;—
To sleep? Perchance to dream! Ay, there ’s the rub;  
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffl’d off this mortal coil, 
Must give us pause. There’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.

Shakespeare, William (1564-1616) Hamlet III:i,63-76


Paddington (p 22)

London terminus of the Great Western Railway, where Mike would arrive if coming from Worcestershire.


crossed the Rubicon (p 22)

The Rubicon is a small river that in Roman times marked the border between Italy and Gaul. Julius Caesar's decision to cross it and attack his rival Pompey in 49 BCE marked his irrevocable commitment to conflict.


New York (p 22)

Wodehouse had visited New York for the first time in 1904.


Victoria (p 22)

Victoria Station, served by the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway and the South-Eastern and Chatham Railway, lies on the southern side of the Royal Parks, close to Buckingham Palace, and about a mile from Paddington. Mike could also have reached Dulwich from London Bridge Station, in the City.


Dulwich station ... Acacia Road (p 23)

The station is now called West Dulwich. Dulwich College was, of course, Wodehouse's own school. Murphy retraces Mike's walk in Chapter 9 of In search of Blandings. Acacia Road is in real life called Acacia Grove. This road also appears (as Mulberry Grove) in Big Money.


Pooh-Bah (p 23)

POOH-BAH: I am in point of fact a particularly haughty and exclusive person of preAdamite ancestral descent. You will understand this when I tell you that I can trace my ancestry back to a protoplasmal primordial atomic globule.
Consequently, my family pride is something inconceivable. I can't help it. I was born sneering. But I struggle hard to overcome this defect. I mortify my pride continually. When all the great Officers of State resigned in a body because they were too proud to serve under an ex-tailor, did I not unhesitatingly accept all their posts at once?

PISH-TUSH: And the salaries attached to them? You did.

POOH-BAH: It is consequently my degrading duty to serve this upstart as First Lord of the Treasury, Lord Chief Justice, Commander in Chief, Lord High Admiral, Master of the Buckhounds, Groom of the Back Stairs, Archbishop of Titipu, and Lord Mayor, both acting and elect, all rolled into one. And at a salary! A Pooh-Bah paid for his services! I, a salaried minion! But I do it! It revolts me, but I do it.

NANKI POO: And it does you credit.

Gilbert, W.S. The Mikado Act I


Pantomime dame (p 23)

The pantomime is a traditional entertainment, popular in Britain as a means of filling theatres with children and their parents over the Christmas period. The story is based loosely on a well-known children's tale (Aladdin, Cinderella, Puss-in-Boots,...), and there is always at least one "dame" part - an unsympathetic middle-aged female character (Cinderella’s stepmother, Aladdin's mother, etc.) played by a man (normally a well-known comedian) in drag. Wilkie Bard (1874 - 1944) and George Robey (1869-1954) were both celebrated music hall comedians.


gramaphone (p 23)

The gramophone was patented by Emile Berliner in 1887. It differs from the earlier Edison phonogram in using a spiral groove in a flat disc rather than a helical groove on a cylinder. The spelling "gramaphone" is probably a printers' error: “gramophone” appears in some later editions. Presumably Wodehouse is suggesting that the lady's voice is as muffled and scratchy as the sound quality of early records.


Sargasso Sea (p 24)

A region of the North Atlantic, ca. 20ºN to lat. 35ºN, where there are few winds and an abundance of marine life. Sailing ships were often becalmed there for long periods.

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.

The very deep did rot: O Christ!
That ever this should be!
Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs
Upon the slimy sea.

About, about, in reel and rout
The death-fires danced at night;
The water, like a witch's oils,
Burnt green, and blue, and white.

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor (1772-1834) The Rime of the Ancient Mariner II


en prince (p 25)

In princely style (French)


a hundred and fourteen pounds a year (p 25)

Wodehouse earned eighty pounds a year at the bank, and received an allowance of an equal amount from his father, so he was significantly better off than Mike. (Phelps)


Carnegie (p 25)

Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) made his money in steel. He was controlling a quarter of the US market when he sold out to US Steel in 1901 for USD 250 million. He gave over USD 350 million to good causes, including the endowment of some 2800 public libraries.


Shah of Persia (p 25)

Persia (modern Iran) and its rulers were a byword for wealth. Ahmad Mirza (1898-1930) was Shah from 1909-1925, succeeding his father Muhammad Ali.


coals (p 25)

Most British houses at the time were heated by open coal fires in each room.


professional Association footballer (p 26)

Association football (soccer) had a much lower social status than rugby, especially for people like Wodehouse who had been to rugby-playing schools. Thus he is simultaneously condemning her housekeeping abilities and getting in another dig at her lack of social graces.


College grounds (p 26)

According to Norman Murphy (Search of Blandings), the geography here is exactly as Wodehouse describes it. He points out, though, that Mike, having been at school in distant Shropshire, would not have known that it was the second eleven telegraph board he was sitting by, or that the clock was over the senior block.


Chapter 4 - First Steps in a Business Career (pp 28 - 36)

City (p 28)

The City of London (often called "The Square Mile") is traditionally the business district and forms the eastern part of central London. Nowadays the City is just one of the boroughs that make up greater London, but the Corporation of the City of London remains one of Britain’s wealthiest local authorities.


St Pauls ... Mansion House (p 28)

The Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank's London Branch was in Lombard St, near the Mansion House and the Bank of England. Mike presumably travelled into the City by bus or tram: there was no station at St Pauls.
Mansion House is the official residence of the Lord Mayor of the City of London It was built between 1739 and 1752 in the Palladian style.
NB: the office of Lord Mayor of the City should not be confused with the newly-created position of elected Mayor of London, who has responsibility for the whole London area.


per mensem (p 28)

a month (Latin)


employé (p 29)

This is not an affectation: Wodehouse would have seen it as perfectly everyday usage. At the turn of the century, the French word was still current in Britain for salaried staff like bank clerks. The American word “employee” was just starting to come into favour, but tended to be used to mean everyone employed by an organisation, irrespective of status.


large book (p 29)

In Over Seventy, Wodehouse says “if I was late three times in a month, I would lose my Christmas bonus.”


Waller (p 30)

There is no obvious source for the name 'Waller', though it is a common enough English surname (e.g. the 17th century poet Edmund Waller). Mr Waller seems to be an early sketch for the contented house-agent, Mr Cornelius.


discovered sitting ... business (p 31)

Wodehouse is already using stage terminology. He had supplied lyrics for a number of shows in London from 1906 on.


Mephistopheles ... Faust (p 32)

In the Faust legend, as told by Marlowe and Goethe, the devil appears to Dr Faust in the form of Mephistopheles.


messengers (p 33)

Clearly, this was before the days of internal telephone systems.


my number is up (p 33)

This phrase seems to have a military, or possibly naval origin, implying that one is doomed to die. There may also be a connection with lotteries.


Rossiter (p 33)

There is no obvious source for the name.
Wodehouse re-used the name for the Blandings Parva grocer Jno. Rossiter (“Lord Emsworth and the Girl Friend”) and Hermione Rossiter and her family (“The Man who gave up smoking”).


Chapter 5 - The Other Man (pp 37 - 43)

come at ten and go at five (p 37)

The fact that the bank has a seven hour day (apparently including a 45 minute lunch break, see p 38 below) perhaps accounts for the fact that Wodehouse was able to do so much writing while he was there. At this time, most other workers would have had much longer hours, and would have been expected to work on Saturday mornings.


Shropshire (p 38)

At the time he worked in the bank, Wodehouse’s parents were living at the Old House, Stableford, in Shropshire.


lunch is no slight matter (p 39)

In Over Seventy, Wodehouse claims that all he was able to afford for lunch when working in the Bank was “a roll and butter and a cup of coffee.”


Morton and Blatherwick’s (p 39)

No obvious source, although Wodehouse did use the name Blatherwick for the head of Harrow House in “Out of School” (1909).
Blatherwick, as a surname, comes from the name of a village (also spelled Blarewich, Blatherwyck) in Nottinghamshire. It remains a common family name in the Nottingham area.


Unionist candidate for Kenningford (p 39)

Unionists, in British politics of the time, were conservatives who opposed Irish independence. Parliamentary candidates in Wodehouse are often Unionists, even long after the term became obsolete in mainland Great Britain (there are still Unionist parties in Northern Ireland, of course).
Kenningford is fictitious, possibly based on the South London district of Kennington, where the Oval cricket ground is.


Sieur de Psmith (p 41)

The Wodehouse family is said to descend from Bertram of Wodehouse Tower in Yorkshire, who compounded with William the Conqueror (Phelps, Ch.3)


That little more … and how much is it (p 41)

Oh, the little more, and how much it is!
And the little less, and what worlds away!
How a sound shall quicken content to bliss,
Or a breath suspend the blood's best play,
And life be a proof of this!

Browning, Robert By the Fire-side Stanza xxxix


Chapter 6 - Psmith Explains (pp 44 - 52)

stuck two pens into the desk (p 45)

These would be steel-nibbed pens that could be stuck into the woodwork of the desk without much chance of damaging them.


When the fields are white with daisies (p 45)

This could be a reference to the poem below (publication date unknown). There also appears to be a folksong called “When the fields are white with daisies” - whether this is the same or not is unclear for the moment.

God be with you in the Springtime
When the violets unfold,
And the buttercups and cowslips
Fill the fields with yellow gold;
In the time of apple blossoms,
When the happy bluebirds sing,
Filling all the world with gladness -
God be with you in the Spring!

God be with you in the Summer,
When the sweet June roses blow,
When the bobolinks are laughing
And the brooks with music flow;
When the fields are white with daisies
And the days are glad and long -
God be with you in the Summer,
Filling all your world with song.

God be with you in the Autumn,
When the birds and flowers have fled,
And along the woodland pathways
Leaves are falling, gold and red;
When the Summer lies behind you,
In the evening of the year -
God be with you in the Autumn,
Then to fill your heart with cheer.

God be with you in the Winter,
When the snow lies deep and white,
When he sleeping fields are silent
And the stars gleam cold and bright.
When the hand and heart are tired
With life's long and weary quest -
God be with you in the Winter,
Just to guide you into rest.

Cutler, Julian S. Through the Year


ganglions (p 47)

Clusters of nerve cells. They do not vibrate mechanically, as Psmith suggests, but transmit electrical signals to each other.


porridge … finnan haddock … shortbread (p 47)

These are all Scottish dishes. Porridge is oatmeal cooked in water (usually as a breakfast food); Finnan haddock (or haddie) is a filletted haddock smoked without additional dye; shortbread is a hard, sweet, biscuit made with flour, butter and sugar.
Porridge seems an unlikely thing to eat as an afternoon snack. Possibly (cf. Psmith’s comment on p.50: ‘I wonder why they call this porridge,’) the name ‘porridge’ was used at the time for some sort of oatmeal cake or biscuit.
See this link for more information


cocoanut (p 49)

English has always had a problem with the confusion of names between the coconut palm and the cocoa bush. Presumably Psmith is simply extending his coconut shy image (cf. p 4 above). City merchants used to use the spelling “kokernut “ to reduce the risk of confusion.


stately home of England (p 49)

This phrase seems to have been invented by Mrs Hemans of Casabianca notoriety. Noël Coward’s celebrated song of 1938 is a parody. Possibly he was provoked by Mrs Hemans’s choice of epigraph?

Where's the coward that would not dare
To fight for such a land?

Walter Scott


Senior Conservative (p 50)

This is the first appearance of the London club to which many of Wodehouse’s best-loved characters belong.
Norman Murphy (Search of Blandings)identifies it convincingly as the Constitutional Club, formerly on Northumberland Avenue. Wodehouse became a member some time before 1908. It is mentioned by name in the preface to The Girl on the Boat.


soupçon (p 52)

French: suspicion, hint


Chapter 7 - Going into Winter Quarters (pp 53 - 62)

Lusitania (p 56)

Psmith is using the name merely as a symbol of industry: the RMS Lusitania was the fastest and biggest of the Cunard liners, launched in 1906, and the biggest liner afloat when she captured the Blue Ribbon from the Deutschland in 1907. Psmith was not to know that on 7 May, 1915, the Lusitania would be sunk by a German submarine, with the loss of 1195 British and American lives.
Lusitania was an Iberian province of the Roman empire, roughly corresponding to modern Portugal. The Lusitania had sister ships called Mauretania and Aquitania.


an uncommonly cheery, companionable feller (p 57)

Dickens?


the stir in a theatre when the curtain is on the point of falling (p 57)

Wodehouse is presumably having a little tilt at the people who gather up their packages and rush for the last train at the climactic moment of a play.


left to darkness and the night watchman (p 58)

Perhaps suggested by Gray’s Elegy? The night watchman might also be a reference to Act II of Wagner’s “Meistersinger.”

THE CURFEW tolls the knell of parting day,
  The lowing herd winds slowly o’er the lea,
The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,
  And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

Gray, Thomas (1716-1771) Elegy written in a country churchyard ll.1-4


Clement’s Inn (p 59)

Lying just west of the Law Courts on the Strand, this was formerly one of the Inns of Chancery, which were institutions similar to the Inns of Court (which provide social facilities and training for barristers), but catering to the needs of attorneys and solicitors. They became obsolete with the foundation of the Law Society in the 19th century; the name Clement’s Inn survives as a street name.
The position, convenient for the City, but in what was then the heart of the entertainment district along the Strand, would have been ideal for Psmith.


taximeter cab … aristocrat on the box (p 60)

The term “taximeter cab” (i.e. a cab fitted with a meter to register the fare automatically) was already an affectation by this time (this didn’t stop Wodehouse continuing to use it for the rest of his life in places where affectation was needed, cf. The Girl in Blue, 1970). It could have applied either to a horse or motor taxi. However, the reference to the driver being “on the box” must mean that it was a horse-drawn Hansom cab, where the driver sat high up behind the passenger compartment (that is also why Mike has to stand up to direct the driver on p.61). Motor cabs only became common in London after the First World War.


Carlton (p 60)

The Carlton Hotel was opened by Ritz and Escoffier in 1899.


Chapter 8 - The Friendly Native (pp 63 - 73)

bargee (p 63)

As well as the literal meaning of “bargeman,” this term was often used in the 19th and early 20th century as slang for a person lacking in social sophistication. Probably this was due to the unrestrained vocabulary that Thames bargemen would be likely to develop when navigating a heavy barge through busy traffic on a relatively narrow, tidal river. Another possible origin sometimes cited is Eton College - boys rowing for sport would presumably come into conflict with commercial users of the river. This would explain Psmith’s use of the term. Wodehouse mostly uses it ironically, e.g. in Pigs Have Wings, where Gally accuses the haughty Lady Constance of “stiffing and blinding like a bargee.”

The air of the river has a demoralizing effect upon one’s temper, and this it is, I suppose, which causes even bargemen to be sometimes rude to one another, and to use language which, no doubt, in their calmer moments they regret.

Jerome, Jerome K Three Men in a Boat Ch.18


Hall Caine (p 65)

Sir Thomas Henry Hall Caine (1853–1931), was secretary to Dante Gabriel Rossetti as a young man. Later in life he became well-known as an author of popular historical novels. He had a Manx father, a fact which he made much of, setting several of his novels in the Isle of Man, buying a castle there in 1895 and becoming a member of the House of Keys in 1903. He was apparently very active in promoting himself as a writer. According to Owen Dudley Edwards (The Quest for Sherlock Holmes) Conan Doyle constantly mocked Hall Caine for this, a theme which Wodehouse took up in his “Globe by the way” column. Clearly, this reference is a continuation of his teasing.


Work, the hobby of the philosopher and the poor man’s friend (p 66)

Sounds as though it must be a quotation. But cf. the last sentence of this chapter, where Psmith seems to be quoting himself.


The Eternal City (p 67)

Published in 1901, this was the first of Hall Caine’s novels to sell a million copies. It would have been a hot topic at the time Wodehouse was working for the bank (Oct 1900-Sept 1902).


Spillikins (p 69)

Game in which players take turns to extract sticks from a heap without moving the rest of the heap. Seems to be of considerable antiquity.


brass-rubbing (p 69)

Many British churches have memorials decorated with engraved brass plaques from the medieval and Tudor periods. The pattern can be copied onto a sheet of paper by rubbing over it with a wax crayon. Nowadays most churches don’t allow visitors to do this with original brasses, because of the risk of wearing them out, but in the past people used to travel around the country collecting rubbings.


Near-Eastern Question (p 69)

The unstable political situation caused by the decline of Ottoman power and the attempts of other powers, especially Austria-Hungary and Russia, to profit from it, which would ultimately lead to the First World War.


watching Chelsea (p 70)

Chelsea Football Club was founded in 1905.


Buck up Cottagers! (p 70)

In this context, a reference to Fulham Football Club, another London team, whose ground is at Craven Cottage. They became a professional team in 1898.


Lay ‘em out, Pensioners (p 70)

Nickname for Chelsea FC - from the retired soldiers who live in the Chelsea Army Hospital.


Manchester United (p 70)

Newton Heath Football Club, originally a works team of the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway, joined the Football League in 1892. They left the Newton Heath district of the city soon afterwards, but only adopted the name “Manchester United” in April 1902.
United did not achieve real prominence in English football until the 1908 season, when they won their first League Championship. Wodehouse seems to have taken all the football details from the time he was writing, not the time he was in the bank himself.


Newcastle United (p 71)

Manchester United beat Newcastle in the semi-final of the FA Cup in 1909. Manchester went on to win the Cup, but Newcastle won the League Championship, so it must have been a debatable point.


Chapter 9 - The Haunting of Mr Bickersdyke (pp 74 - 81)

J. Turnbull … Sandy Turnbull … Meredith (p 74)

Jimmy Turnbull, Sandy Turnbull, and Billy Meredith were all celebrated Manchester United forwards.
Sandy Turnbull (played for United 1906-1915) and Billy Meredith -referred to as “the Welsh wizard” and “the George Best of the the pre-war era” - (1906-1921) came from Manchester City after a scandal: City were found to have been paying more than the permitted rate, and were forced to transfer most of their best players elsewhere.
Jimmy Turnbull came from Leyton in 1907 and was transferred to Bradford in 1910, returning to Manchester for a short time in 1914.


entente cordiale (p 75)

Friendly understanding (French). This term was applied specifically to the informal alliance between Britain and France established in 1904. It would not have been current at the time Wodehouse was in the bank.


Moger the goalkeeper (p 75)

Harry Moger joined Manchester United in 1903 from Southampton, and retired in 1912
See this link for player history


Gorgonzolaesque marble (p 75)

Gorgonzola is a town in Northern Italy, famous for a strong-smelling blue cheese. Norman Murphy (Search of Blandings) confirms that the Constitutional Club matched this description.


Gaiety (p 80)

The Gaiety Theatre on the Strand (where Bush House now stands) was one of the most fashionble of Edwardian London. When George Edwardes set it up in the 1880s, he laid great stress on getting the prettiest girls in his chorus. Many of them later married into the aristocracy, as Norman Murphy (Search of Blandings) reports. The original theatre was replaced by a new building (since demolished) in 1903. It would have been about three minutes’ walk from Psmith’s flat.


Savoy (p 81)

The Savoy Hotel was opened by Richard D’Oyly Carte in 1889. He employed César Ritz as hotel manager and Auguste Escoffier in the restaurant; it was legendary for its phenomenal number of bathrooms, and for being one of the first large scale applications of electric lighting in London. It would have been more-or-less across the road from Psmith’s flat.


Chapter 10 - Mr Bickersdyke Addresses his Constituents (pp 82 - 91)

Captain Coe (p 83)

Given the reference in The Arcadians (which opened in London in 1908), Capt. Coe was presumably a racing tipster in one of the newspapers, rather than the Captain Coe of the Brazilian navy who is supposed to have loaded his cannons with Dutch cheese when he ran out of roundshot.

When first you begin you risk your tin 
According to "Captain Coe," 
And swear you've a "cert" 
And put your shirt 
On something you think you know. 
It's part of the game - we've done the same 
When betting we first began, 
The "winner" you spot a name has got - 
They call it the "Also ran!"

Wimperis, Arthur The Arcadians


Harry Lauder (p 87)

Harry Lauder (1870-1950; he became Sir Harry in 1919), the Scottish singer and comedian, was then at the height of his fame.


nasty things about Free Trade (p 88)

As a Unionist, he would of course be opposed to this; in his previous incarnation as a Liberal he would have supported it.


increasing the fleet (p 88)

This was the era of Anglo-German naval competition and the “dreadnought crisis.”


Three Men in a Boat (p 88)

By J.K. Jerome, published 1889. The trout incident is in Ch.17.


His Majesty’s Government (p 88)

Queen Victoria died on 22 January 1901, to be succeeded by her son Edward VII (d. 1910).
The Conservative Balfour government had fallen in 1905, to be replaced by the Liberals under Campbell-Bannerman (1905-1908) and then Asquith.


Chapter 11 - Misunderstood (pp 92 - 99)

Bertillon (p 92)

The French criminologist Alphonse Bertillon (1853-1914) developed a scientific system for identifying criminals, based on photographs and accurate measurement of their body parts. Wodehouse is mixing his facts here a little: Bertillon did not use fingerprints - it was Sir Francis Galton who was largely responsible for developing the fingerprint as a method of identification.


Jui-jitsu (p 93)

(More usually written “Ju-Jitsu”) “The Gentle Art” - a Japanese system of wrestling, the primary unarmed combat method of the Samurai, introduced into the West around 1900. The Ju-jitsu instructor Shinzo Harade was in the USA from 1904-1910, explaining the technique to the US military and others.


séance (p 93)

Session (French): It is only recently that this term has been reserved in English for spiritualist meetings.


bring the charge home against Jerome (p 93)

Perhaps there’s a joke buried here, as Jerome himself had had endless trouble with copyright: pirated editions of Three Men in a Boat are supposed to have sold more than a million copies in the USA.


These are deep waters (p 99)

“These are deep waters, Mr. Mason; deep and rather dirty.”

Conan-Doyle, Sir Arthur The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place


Chapter 12 - In a Nutshell (pp 100 - 110)

unsweetened (p 100)

[i.e. unsweetened gin] Gin is a spirit made by redistilling grain alcohol over a flavouring mixture including juniper berries. It was first developed in the Netherlands. Until the 18th century, when London-based distillers developed a way to make a palatable dry gin, most gins were sweetened to hide the raw taste of the spirit.


A.B.C. Shop (p 101)

The Aerated Bread Company ran a chain of bakeries in the London area. In 1864, the manageress (often mentioned, never named) of the London Bridge branch tried the experiment of serving tea to customers in the back room. It was a success, and soon the ABC were running a chain of tea shops. Their main competitors were Lyons.


Little Clarence (p 102)

?? Maybe a newspaper cartoon


Agesilaus and the Petulant Pterodactyl (p 107)

Agesilaus (444-360 BCE), King of Sparta, features in Plutarch’s Lives. He was known for his modest personal style and his aggressive policies. Plutarch censures him for strengthening the enemies of Sparta by constantly attacking them. He was still campaigning at the head of a mercenary force in Egypt at the age of eighty.
The Pterodactyl or pterosaur was a flying reptile that existed some 228 to 65 million years ago, well before the time of Agesilaus.


Nemo me impune lacessit (p 107)

No-one provokes me with impunity (Latin)
This is the motto of the Order of the Thistle, the main Scottish order of chivalry. It was probably founded in the 15th century; today there can be up to sixteen Knights Brethren (either men or women) of the order, appointed by the Sovereign. The motto has appeared on several British coins.


where the hair is crisp (p 108)

Presumably not a reference to Longfellow’s blacksmith, for once. This expression also appears in Psmith Journalist, ch.10. It seems to be a variant of the English slang expression “caught by the short and curlies,” i.e. in both cases an allusion to pubic hair.

UNDER a spreading chestnut tree  
  The village smithy stands;  
The smith, a mighty man is he,  
  With large and sinewy hands;  
And the muscles of his brawny arms
  Are strong as iron bands.  
  
His hair is crisp, and black, and long,  
  His face is like the tan;  
His brow is wet with honest sweat,  
  He earns whate'er he can,
And looks the whole world in the face,  
  For he owes not any man.

Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth (1807-1882) The village blacksmith 1-12


Chapter 13 - Mike is Moved on (pp 110 - 115)

winning the Ashburton (p 111)

The Ashburton Shield is a rifle shooting competition for teams from public schools, held at Bisley in Surrey.


Tonbridge, Dulwich, Bedford, St Paul’s (p 112)

Boys’ public schools (in the English sense, i.e. exclusive private schools catering for the children of the upper-middle class) in the London area.


Wisden (p 112)

Wisden’s Cricket Almanack, the standard reference book on cricket and cricketers, which has been published since 1864.


Geddington (p 112)

Geddington is a village in Northamptonshire. It does not appear to have a public school (there is a church primary school in the village). The village is chiefly famous for having one of the three surviving Eleanor Crosses.


Wryken (p 112)

Obviously a misprint - the school is called Wrykyn elsewhere in the text.


Ripton (p 112)

Fictitious - obviously based on Repton, a public school in Derbyshire, established in 1557. Ripton and Geddington both feature in Mike at Wrykyn.


glass … set fair (p 113)

A glass in this sense is a barometer. “Set fair” is one of the standard markings, implying that no major change in the weather is to be expected.


Chapter 14 - Mr Waller Appears in a New Light (pp 116 - 125)

Marshall … Snelgrove (p 117)

Marshall & Snelgrove was one of the first of the big Oxford Street department stores of the Victorian era, established as a draper’s in 1837. By the end of the 19th century there were branches in cities throughout Britain. They merged with Debenhams in 1919, although the name remained in use for a long time.


Pearce … Plenty (p 117)

Perhaps an allusion to the standard conjunction of “peace and plenty”?


outed in the first round of the cup yesterday (p 117)

Manchester United were knocked out of the FA Cup by Burnley on 15 January 1910. Thus, for once, it looks as though Wodehouse has given us a precise date, consistent with “towards the beginning of the New Year” on p.115.
Unfortunately, the match was played on a Saturday, so Psmith and Rossiter could not have been at work the following day!


from ledger to ledger they hurry me (p 117)

Oh no! we never mention him, his name is never heard;
My lips are now forbid to speak that once familiar word:
From sport to sport they hurry me, to banish my regret;
And when they win a smile from me they think that I forget.

They bid me seek a change of scene the charms that others see;
But were I in a foreign land, they'd find no change in me.
'Tis true that I behold no more the valley where we met,
I do not see the hawthorn-tree but how can I forget?

For oh! There are so many things recall the past to me,-
The breeze upon the sunny hills, the billows of the sea;
The rosy tint that decks the sky before the sun is set;-
Ay, every leaf I look upon forbids me to forget,

They tell me he is happy now, the gayest of the gay;
They hint that he forgets me too,- but I heed not what they say:
Perhaps like me he struggles with each feeling of regret;
But if he loves as I have loved, he never can forget.

Bayley, Thomas Haynes (1797-1839) Oh, No! We Never Mention Him.


a pink paper (p 120)

The Sporting Times - the famous “Pink ‘Un,” edited by John Corlett (“The Master”), which was as much a symbol of the naughty nineties as the old Pelican Club. The Pink ‘Un ceased publication in 1914, but continues to be mentioned in later Wodehouse books.


Hyde Park … Clapham Common (p 120)

Hyde Park was bought as a deer park by Henry VIII. It was opened to the public in 1662, although part of the park continued to be a royal hunting preserve for the next hundred years. The right to free speech and assembly in the park was established after the unrest surrounding the passing of the Reform Bill of 1866, and survives in the institution of “Speakers’ Corner,” at the Marble Arch corner of the park.
Clapham Common is a large open space in south London.
Wodehouse uses radical public speakers as a source of ready comedy in a number of other stories, most famously with the Heralds of the Red Dawn in “Comrade Bingo.”


Chapter 15 - Stirring Times on the Common (pp 126 - 136)

sea voyage … tram (p 126)

Psmith is right in a way: they had to cross the river, which many (North-)Londoners to this day consider a venture into terra incognita. However, if we are to assume “Kenningford” is Kennington, then Psmith has already been most of the way to Clapham in Ch.10.
The City & South London Railway extension to Clapham Common (now part of the Northern Line of London Underground) opened in June 1900, so Mr Waller almost certainly travelled to work by tube. This line would have been less convenient for Mike & Psmith’s journey, as the link from Embankment to Kennington was not built until 1926. Wodehouse characters rarely, if ever, travel by Underground, although Wodehouse probably used the District Line himself when he lived in Chelsea and worked in the City.
There were extensive horse tram networks both north and south of the river by 1900 - most routes were taken under the control of the LCC and electrified in the period 1901-1914.


nearest the old town of Clapham (p 128)

This would be the northern edge of the Common, near Clapham Common tube station. The distance from Trafalgar Square is about 5 km or 3 miles.


Comrades Prebble and Wotherspoon (p 130)

Wodehouse re-uses the name Prebble in “The Rise of Minna Nordstrom,” “Dudley is back to Normal” and “Tangled Hearts.” Prebble is a common Kent surname, with no obvious Wodehouse link.

The only other Wotherspoon listed by Garrison is Orlando of “Open House,” although the variant Witherspoon occurs a few times. The names come from the Scottish borders, probably from “wederspong,” a sheep pasture. Again there is no obvious link: probably Wodehouse chose it because of the comic value of long names.
[Garrison, Daniel H., Who’s Who in Wodehouse (1991) ]


scattered his aitches (p 130)

Failing to aspirate where it is usual to do so in standard English, and conversely aspirating where it is not usual, are famous markers of “lower-class” speech in Britain. It is unlikely that this speech habit would have been at all noticeable to Wotherspoon’s audience.


not having a palate (p 130)

This speech impediment is mocked in many lower-class characters in Wodehouse. Perhaps we can charitably assume that Wodehouse means the person does in fact have a palate/roof to his mouth, but is speaking as though he hasn’t.


temperance (p 132)

There was a strong association between socialism and the temperance (anti-alcohol) movement in Britain - not least because both these working-class movements had their roots in the nonconformist churches. The Labour party leader of the time, Keir Hardy, was a firm teetotaller who did not allow his fellow Labour MP’s to drink.
Temperance was one of the big political issues of the time. See p.153 below for the 1908 Licensing Bill.


Chapter 16 - Further Developments (pp 137 - 144)

tram (p 139)

This is probably an early electric tram, as suggested by the fact that it is a double-decker (there were horse trams with upstairs seats, but they were less common) and more significantly by the fact that “all would have been well” if the tram had started when they got on. Bill and friends would have had little difficulty keeping up with a horse tram.


Horatius on the bridge (p 139)

When Rome was threatened by the Etruscan army of Lars Porsena, Horatius is supposed to have held the outer end of the Janiculum bridge over the Tiber with two companions until the defenders were able to cut it down behind him. He then swam over the river to safety, and was rewarded with as much land as he could plough around in a day.

“Haul down the bridge, Sir Consul,
With all the speed ye may;
I, with two more to help me,
Will hold the foe in play.
In yon strait path a thousand
May well be stopped by three.
Now who will stand on either hand,
And keep the bridge with me?”

Macaulay, Thomas Babbington Lays of Ancient Rome: Horatius xxix


a seat on the roof (p 143)

Most electric trams of the time were open-topped double-deckers, with an enclosed saloon on the lower deck and open-air seating above it.


parley (p 144)

Discuss terms (from French: parler, to talk). Usually used for military negotiations, especially between besiegers and besieged.


Chapter 17 - Sunday Supper (pp 145 - 155)

Etna (p 145)

A small spirit lamp used for heating liquids. Baxter uses opne to prepare a hot toddy in the UK edition of Something Fresh.


the fatted blanc-mange (p 146)

Blancmange is a milk pudding stiffened with corn starch and served cold as a dessert. Psmith is alluding to the fatted calf which is killed to welcome home the Prodigal Son in the parable.

22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:
23 and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:
24 for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.


Bible Luke 15:22-24


Eton suit (p 149)

A style of boy’s suit derived from the Eton College uniform, and worn (at least on formal occasions) by boys of all social classes whose parents could afford it, throughout the Victorian and Edwardian period. It consisted of long trousers, a short jacket, and a very large, stiff white collar. At ten years old, Edward had probably only recently moved to Eton suits from the sailor suits worn by younger boys.


some sort of colours (p 150)

In many public schools, those regularly selected to play for a senior sports team against other schools would be awarded team “colours,” which entitled them to wear a distinctive item of uniform (often a cap or blazer). Someone old enough to be “in the running for colours” would probably be seventeen or eighteen.


exports of Marseilles (p 150)

Marseilles is the principal port on the French Mediterranean coast. At a guess, the main exports in 1910 would be agricultural products, wine and perhaps weapons.


Capital of Madagascar (p 150)

Antananarivo (or Tananarive). It had been captured by the French in 1895.


kings of Israel (p 151)

Learning the list of kings of Israel from the Old Testament was a traditional, if somewhat pointless, Sunday School task. Bertie Wooster’s sole academic distinction is the Scripture prize he won with the aid of a carefully-concealed list of kings of Israel.


beetroot (p 151)

Slices of beetroot pickled in vinegar were often eaten with cold meat.


Mustard … introduced into Peru by Cortez (p 151)

This is presumably a reference to Hernando Cortés (1485-1547), the Spaniard who overthrew the Aztec empire in Mexico (1519-21). It is possible that he visited Peru after Pizarro’s conquest (1534) but I haven’t found anything to confirm this. Keats famously confused Cortés with Balboa, so perhaps Edward is confusing him with Pizarro.


George had become Mr Richards and all was over (p 153)

This is the nearest we come to a love-interest in this novel. Wodehouse treats this sub-plot, which is only there for increasing Mike’s embarassment, with masterful economy.


Licensing Bill (p 153)

The 1908 Licensing Bill of the Campbell-Bannerman government would have allowed a great reduction in the number of pubs and limitations on their opening hours. It was strongly supported by the large Temperance lobby (Liberal and Labour voters), and of course opposed by brewers, publicans and drinkers, as well as those who had bought shares in the recent Guiness flotation (Unionist, i.e. Conservative, voters). There was great public agitation for and against the Bill.

After being passed by the Commons, the Bill was defeated in the House of Lords, one of the last important measures to suffer this fate before the 1911 budget crisis took away the Lords’ power to block legislation.

The unrest surrounding this Bill in the period 1906-1908 meant that by-election campaigns, which mostly turned into single-issue votes on the Licensing Bill, were every bit as colourful as that of Mr Bickersdyke, if not more so, and perhaps explains why they play such a large part in Wodehouse’s later work.
[Longmate, Norman, The Water-Drinkers, 1968 (Ch.22)]


Women’s Suffrage (p 154)

Giving the vote to women had first been seriously proposed in Britain in 1851. It became a hot topic in 1903 when Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters, despairing of getting the main political parties to put it on their agendas by persuasion, founded the Women’s Social and Political Union to campaign by direct action. Despite “suffragette outrages” attracting a great deal of publicity, it was 1920 before a limited franchise was given to women, and 1928 before full equality.
Australia was the second country in the world to give the vote to women, in 1902. New Zealand (1893) and Finland (1906) seem to have been the only others when Psmith in the City was published. Some American states allowed women to vote from the 1870s, but full equality at Federal level only came with the 19th Amendment, in 1920.


Death, where is thy sting? (p 155)

O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?

Bible 1 Corinthians 15:55


Chapter 18 - Psmith Makes a discovery (pp 156 - 164)

painting the lily … gilding refined gold (p 157)

To gild refined gold, to paint the lily,
To throw a perfume on the violet,
To smooth the ice, or add another hue
Unto the rainbow, or with taper-light
To seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish,
Is wasteful and ridiculous excess.

Shakespeare King John IV:ii


gargoyle (p 158)

A grotesque figure or face carved on the edge of the roof of a stone building, usually doubling as a waterspout. Supposedly, the hideous faces were to keep evil spirits away.


Tulse Hill Parliament (p 158)

Tulse Hill is a district of South London, just to the west of Wodehouse’s old stamping ground in Dulwich. Long after Wodehouse’s time, that modern Fink-Nottle, Ken Livingstone, went to school there.


Ancient Mariner … glittering eye (p 158)

IT is an ancient Mariner,  
And he stoppeth one of three.  
'By thy long beard and glittering eye,  
Now wherefore stopp'st thou me?  
 
The Bridegroom's doors are opened wide,
And I am next of kin;  
The guests are met, the feast is set:  
May'st hear the merry din.'  
 
He holds him with his skinny hand,  
'There was a ship,' quoth he.
'Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!'  
Eftsoons his hand dropt he.  
 
He holds him with his glittering eye—  
The Wedding-Guest stood still,  
And listens like a three years' child:  
The Mariner hath his will.  
 
The Wedding-Guest sat on a stone:  
He cannot choose but hear;  
And thus spake on that ancient man,  
The bright-eyed Mariner.

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor (1772-1834) The Rime of the Ancient Mariner I:1-20


Tom Bowling (p 162)

HERE, a sheer hulk, lies poor Tom Bowling,
  The darling of our crew;
No more he’ll hear the tempest howling,
  For Death has broached him to.
His form was of the manliest beauty,
  His heart was kind and soft;
Faithful below he did his duty,
  And now he’s gone aloft.
 
Tom never from his word departed,
  His virtues were so rare;
His friends were many and true-hearted,
  His Poll was kind and fair:
And then he’d sing so blithe and jolly,
  Ah, many’s the time and oft!
But mirth is turned to melancholy,
  For Tom is gone aloft.
 
Yet shall poor Tom find pleasant weather,
  When He, who all commands,
Shall give, to call Life’s crew together,
  The word to ‘pipe all hands.’
Thus Death, who kings and tars dispatches,
  In vain Tom’s life has doffed;
For though his body’s under hatches,
  His soul is gone aloft.
 

Dibdin, Charles (1745-1814) Tom Bowling


Chapter 19 - The Illness of Edward (pp 165 - 173)

Haileybury (p 167)

Public school in Hertfordshire.
See official site


Hignett (p 167)

This name comes back in The Girl on the Boat, of course.


the Bedford (p 167)

Celebrated music hall (variety theatre) in Camden High Street in north London. It was demolished in 1969.
See this link


Bounding Zouaves (p 167)

The Zouaves (from Zououau, an Algerian tribe) were originally North African auxiliary regiments in the French army, established around 1830. They quickly established a reputation as elite fighting troops. By the 1850s the Zouaves were recruited mostly in metropolitan France, but they retained their famous North-African-style uniform with fez and baggy trousers until the First World War.
Presumably these “bounding Zouaves” were acrobats in Zouave costume.


Steingruber’s Dogs (p 167)

Steingruber (“Stone-miner”) is a south-German name.


…dabbled in journalism (p 168)

As Wodehouse did himself when he was in the bank. It is not recorded whether he ever wrote “Straight talks to housewives,” but we do know he wrote jokes and fillers for “By the Way” and similar columns, as well as stories for schoolboy magazines.


Chapter 20 - Concerning a Cheque (pp 174 - 180)

Thirty Years’ War (p 174)

A series of wars between the Catholic and Protestant European states, generally considered to have started with the Defenestration of Prague in 1618 and ended with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. Most of the fighting was in Germany and the Low Countries, but practically all of Europe was involved at various times. A very complicated period, which one can easily imagine confusing any historian.


Chapter 21 - Psmith Makes Inquiries (pp 181 - 190)

Neapolitan ice (p 181)

In the English-speaking world, at least, Neapolitan ice cream is ice cream made in the form of a block with layers of different colours (in theory, with different flavours too).


the Hackenschmidt-Gotch act (p 185)

Wrestling: the Americans Frank Gotch (1878-1917) and George Hackenschmidt fought for the world heavyweight wrestling championship title in Chicago in April 1908, amid huge publicity and more than a little scandal. The two met again in 1911, with even more publicity.


half-Nelson (p 185)

A wrestling hold.


Mecca (p 186)

Yet another chain of cafés. The name was supposed to evoke associations of Arabian coffee.


chess blue at Oxford (p 186)

Blues are roughly equivalent to colours (see above) at school: a student at Oxford or Cambridge is awarded a “blue” for competing in a “Varsity Match” against the other university in certain sports.
Nowadays quite a few sports have “blue” or “half-blue” status, but Oxford still does not recognise chess as one of them. Cambridge recently designated chess a “half-blue” sport. Dominoes, of course, is even less likely to be recognised.
Psmith is thus speaking ironically here.


radius bone of his bazooka (p 186)

The radius is one of the two bones in the forearm.
Bazooka is a mystery - the American musician and comedian Bob Burns (1890-1956) is supposed to have invented the word in the 1930s for his unique musical instrument, apparently a sort of slide-trombone kazoo. (The word was later applied to a missile launcher, named for its supposed resemblence to Burns’s instrument.)
Thus Wodehouse is using the word at least twenty years before it was invented, unless an over-zealous proofreader has inserted it retrospectively into the text. The only explanations that suggest themselves are: (i) Wodehouse has independently invented it as a nonsense word or (ii) there is another, earlier sense of the word which got lost in the fame of Bob Burns.


brass-rag-parting (p 186)

Naval expression: ratings used to share a bag of polishing rags with a colleague (a "raggie"), so parting brass rags was a consequence of separating after a disagreement. Apparently.


Oxo (p 187)

The brand name “OXO” for beef extract was first used in 1899. The product itself goes back to 1847, when the German Baron Justus von Liebig and the Belgian George Giebert developed a process for making a liquid beef extract. This allowed them to raise beef cattle profitably in Uruguay long before the advent of refrigerated ships. Florence Nightingale was an early customer. The liquid extract was replaced by the famous cubes in 1910, to reduce marketing costs.


what Psmith thinks today … I shall think tomorrow (p 188)

There are many variants of this phrase, but the original seems to be “What Manchester thinks today, the world thinks tomorrow.” This was definitely an advertising slogan used by the Manchester Guardian newspaper (now moved to London), but it may go back as far as the Chartist movement of the early 19th century.


Chapter 22 - And Takes Steps (pp 191 - 195)

tide in the affairs of men (p 194)

Brutus: There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat;
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.
Cassius: Then, with your will, go on;
We’ll along ourselves, and meet them at Philippi.

Shakespeare, William (1564-1616) Julius Caesar IV:3,249-257


Turkish Baths (p 194)

“Turkish Baths” began to appear in Britain in the mid-19th century. They differ from traditional Turkish hammams in several ways, in particular by using hot dry air and by having a plunge pool.

Norman Murphy (In Search of Blandings) identifies these as the Northumberland Avenue Baths, close to the Constitutional Club, and famously patronised by Holmes and Watson.

There is a detailed description of the baths at 25 Northumberland Avenue on Malcolm Shifrin’s Victorian Turkish Bath website (see link below: look in the “London” directory listing for Northumberland Avenue). They were built in 1884 by the Nevill brothers and closed in 1947. Contrary to what Murphy implies, the building is still there, although no longer in use as a baths. The “Moorish” doorway in Craven Passage mentioned by Murphy is actually the former entrance of the adjoining ladies’ baths; the men’s entrance was on the corner.

Wodehouse’s description corresponds exactly with the description and drawings on Shifrin’s site, even in details like the hot rooms being downstairs.


paid his money (p 194)

Twenty years later, a Turkish bath cost 4/- (20p), massage 2/6 (12.5p) extra.


box (p 195)

The “boxes” or alcoves on the ground floor had space for four people, with a waist-high partition for privacy. Those upstairs (as used by Holmes and Watson) had only two sofas.


Chapter 23 - Mr Bickersdyke Makes a Concession (pp 196 - 207)

the first room (p 196)

There were three hot rooms on the basement level, of progressively higher temperatures.


room where muscular attendants … Catch-as-catch-can (p 201)

The rooms for washing and massage were also on the basement level.
For Jiu-Jitsu, see above.
Catch-as-catch-can is a form of wrestling.


smoking a cigarette (p 201)

He is not alone in wanting to smoke after his bath. Notice too that Psmith had obviously learnt something from Dr Watson in choosing his moment.

Both Holmes and I had a weakness for the Turkish bath. It was over a smoke in the pleasant lassitude of the drying-room that I have found him less reticent and more human than anywhere else. On the upper floor of the Northumberland Avenue establishment there is an isolated corner where two couches lie side by side, and it was on these that we lay upon September 3, 1902, the day when my narrative begins.

Conan-Doyle, Sir Arthur The Illustrious client


Strowther (p 202)

It is indeed an unusual name. There don’t seem to be any obvious Wodehouse connections.


Norton and Biggleswade (p 203)

It’s not clear whether this is a mistake for “Morton and Blatherwick” (p.39 above), or a different firm altogether. Biggleswade is a town in Bedfordshire. Norton is a very common placename, but there is one (in Hertfordshire) just a few miles south of Biggleswade on the A1 road.


Red Lion, Tulse Hill (p 203)

Probably fictitious. Many pubs have rooms that they let out for meetings and “private functions.” The Masonic Room would probably be a meeting room let out to other groups when not in use by the Freemasons.


The Clarion (p 205)

A weekly newspaper published in Manchester between 1891 and 1931 by Robert Blatchford. Although he started out as a socialist and continued to support the Labour party until after the war, Blatchford was an imperialist and an opponent of women’s suffrage. This would not have stopped him from seizing the opportunity to mock Bickersdyke, of course.


Chapter 24 - The Spirit of Unrest (pp 208 - 215)

Germany … Heidelberg University (p 208)

This was the period of war scares and anti-German hysteria whipped up by writers like John Buchan and Erskine Childers. Wodehouse had mocked this attitude in The Swoop (1909).


M.C.C. … Lord’s (p 214)

Thomas Lord (1755-1832), cricketing entrepreneur, held his first match on the site of the modern Dorset Square, Marylebone, in 1787. The ground was moved to a new, then still rural site near St John’s Wood in 1814. It remains the home of the Marylebone Cricket Club, the governing body of English cricket, and became the county ground of Middlesex in 1877.


Chapter 25 - At the Telephone (pp 216 - 222)

…bonnets a policeman (p 216)

Policemen and their helmets, merely mentioned in passing here, were to play a vital part in some of Wodehouse’s later work…


Chapter 26 - Breaking the News (pp 223 - 230)

Haymarket Theatre (p 223)

Unlike most of the theatres mentioned in Wodehouse, this one is still going strong. It was built in 1720, the current interior dates from a refurbishment in 1905.


hold the gorgeous East in fee (p 224)

ONCE did she hold the gorgeous East in fee,  
  And was the safeguard of the West; the worth  
  Of Venice did not fall below her birth,  
Venice, the eldest child of Liberty.  
She was a Maiden City, bright and free;  
  No guile seduced, no force could violate;  
  And when she took unto herself a mate,  
She must espouse the everlasting Sea.  
And what if she had seen those glories fade,  
  Those titles vanish, and that strength decay,—   
Yet shall some tribute of regret be paid  
  When her long life hath reach'd its final day:  
Men are we, and must grieve when even the shade  
  Of that which once was great has pass’d away.  

Wordsworth, William On the extinction of the Venetian Republic


on my face (p 225)

Without security, by sheer cheek - US slang.


Chapter 27 - At Lord’s (pp 231 - 241)

L.b.w. (p 239)

Leg Before Wicket - The batsman is only allowed to defend the wicket with the bat. If a ball that would have struck the wicket hits his leg or protective pads, then he is judged out LBW (there are complications in practice, but that’s the general idea).


professionals’ gate (p 239)

Professional and amateur players did not mix in the pavilion: they had separate gates onto the field. Wodehouse is drawing attention to the social stigma that will attach to Mike if he does turn pro.


Chapter 28 - Psmith Arranges his Future (pp 242 - 249)

View Halloos (p 244)

Traditional foxhunting cry on catching site of the fox.


…not be able to slide into the pavilion (p 245)

Apart from providing changing rooms and so forth for players, the pavilion at Lord’s is also the clubhouse of the MCC. Mike, as an MCC member, would have been able to invite Psmith and his father in as his guests: if he is still busy on the field he would not be in a position to do this, so they will have to go into the public part of the ground.


the Bar … barrister (p 247)

Formerly, the railing separating the Judge’s bench from the public area of the court was called the Bar. By extension, this came to mean the Court as a whole. Accused persons were tried at the bar, and lawyers practised there.
In modern British terminology, lawyers are divided into two groups: solicitors and barristers. Only the latter are allowed to appear as advocates at the Bar, before the higher courts.
The usual way to qualify for the Bar is to take an academic law degree at University, followed by a period of practical training in an Inn of Court.


Cambridge next term (p 247)

Since it is the cricket season, the next term would presumably be the Michaelmas term, which starts in October, and is the beginning of the academic year for most undergraduates.


Chapter 29 - And Mike’s (pp 250 - 259)

leg-theory bowler (p 252)

Leg theory was a style of bowling in which the ball was aimed at the leg stump, to force the batsman to hit it towards that side, and the fielders concentrated correspondingly on the leg side. This technique evolved into the controversial “bodyline” bowling of the 1930s.


c.-and-b. (p 254)

Caught-and-Bowled. The entry in the scorebook when the bowler makes a catch himself.


Simpson’s (p 255)

For a detailed description of this famous carvery restaurant in the Strand, see Something Fresh/Something New, Ch. 3 pt. 3. Since 2005, Simpson's has been run by Fairmont Hotels and Resorts.
See the wikipedia entry


Lord Chancellor (p 256)

The Lord Chancellor is Minister of Justice, head of the judiciary, and speaker of the House of Lords - just to prove that the British constitution can break every rule in the book and still work. As the person at the top of the legal profession, it is a natural post for Psmith to aim at.


a not entirely scaly job (p 256)

There is a certain element of double standards here - everyone looks down at professional cricketers, but no-one seems to have any ethical scruples about taking quasi-sinecure jobs in order to earn a living while playing as an “amateur.” The distinction seems to be that if a private patron supports you it’s OK, if a cricket club does then it’s not.


Chapter 30 - The Last Sad Farewells (pp 260 - 266)