Sam the Sudden

(US: Sam in the Suburbs)

by

P. G. Wodehouse

Literary and Cultural References

The following notes attempt to explain cultural, historical and literary allusions in Wodehouse’s text, to identify his sources, and to cross-reference similar passages in the rest of the canon. The original version of these annotations was prepared by the late Terry Mordue. The notes have been somewhat reformatted and substantially extended by others, notably Neil Midkiff [NM], but credit goes to Terry for his original efforts, even while we bear the blame for errors of fact or interpretation.

Sam the Sudden was published by Methuen and Co, London, on 15 October 1925. The US edition, under the title Sam in the Suburbs, was published by George H. Doran, New York, on 6 November 1925. The two editions are almost identical; the US edition has a few tiny cuts. It was serialized in the Saturday Evening Post and Sunny Magazine; see this page for details of serial appearances.

Page references are to the Penguin edition 1974, reprinted 1982.


Dedication

Sam the Sudden is dedicated “To Edgar Wallace,” who dedicated two of his books, The Gaunt Stranger (1925) and A King by Night (1926), “To my friend P. G. Wodehouse.”


Preface (pp. 9–10)

The Preface in the 1974 Penguin edition was written by Wodehouse for the 1972 Barrie and Jenkins hardcover reprint.


male codfish (p. 9)

From the Strand magazine version of “Lord Emsworth Acts for the Best” (June 1926):

Unlike the male codfish, which, suddenly becoming the parent of three million five hundred thousand little codfish, cheerfully resolves to love them all, the British aristocracy is apt to look with a jaundiced eye on its younger sons.

When the 1920s Blandings stories were collected in Blandings Castle and Elsewhere (1935), this passage was moved to “The Custody of the Pumpkin,” the opening story of that book. [NM]


counsel of perfection (p. 9)

An unrealizable ideal. [Merriam-Webster]


Valley Fields (p. 9)

See note at p. 21, below.


another of my books (p. 10)

This was Something Fishy (1957).


the one I finished the day before yesterday (p. 10)

This was Pearls, Girls, and Monty Bodkin / The Plot That Thickened (1972).


Croxted Road … the first house on the left as you come up from the station (p. 10)

Norman Murphy found that 62 Croxted Road, where Wodehouse’s parents lived in 1895, was one of a pair of semi-detached houses originally built as one. See In Search of Blandings and A Wodehouse Handbook, vol. I, ch. 9. [NM]


Chapter 1 (pp. 11–20)
Sam Starts on a Journey

Wilmot Building (p. 11)

Though none of Wodehouse’s characters had this for a surname, he used it as a given name for both men and women: [NM]

J. Wilmot Birdsey in “One Touch of Nature” / “Brother Fans”
Wilmot Brewster in Hot Water
Wilmot Byng in “The Letter of the Law”
Wilmot Mulliner in “The Nodder” and “The Juice of an Orange”
Wilmot, Lord Pershore (“Motty”) in “Jeeves and the Unbidden Guest”
Wilmot Royce in “Chester Forgets Himself”


not so much the heat as the humidity (p. 11)

This phrase can be found in sober prose as early as 1857, but the first joking reference I found was in an article in The Forecast for July 1920, which called it “that favorite of the cartoonist.” [NM]


John B. Pynsent (p. 11)

Wodehouse may have got the name Pynsent from the Pynsent Monument at Curry Rivel, Somerset, which he would have passed when journeying to spend holidays with his uncle, Rev. Philip John Wodehouse, who was rector at Bratton Fleming, Devonshire. The monument, on the Burton Pynsent Estate, approximately equidistant from Yeovil, Taunton, and Bridgwater, was erected by the former Prime Minister, William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, to honour Sir William Pynsent, who had bequeathed him the estate in his will.


Consolidated Eyebrow Tweezer and Nail File Corporation (p. 11)

Reprised in “Jeeves and the Yule-tide Spirit” (1927, collected in Very Good, Jeeves, 1930) as “the Schenectady Consolidated Nail-File and Eyebrow Tweezer Corporation.” [NM]


guerdon of victory (p. 12)

Guerdon: reward.


a long, lean man of repellent aspect (p. 12)

Lady Bracknell: Is this Miss Prism a female of repellent aspect?

Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act III, sc. 2 (1895)


Araminta (p. 13)

A feminine given name, meaning “prayer and protection”; used as a character name in Congreve’s comedy The Old Bachelor (1693) and in Vanbrugh’s play The Confederacy (1705). [NM]


If a man creates the impression that he is going to Philadelphia (p. 13)

Wodehouse’s step-daughter, Leonora, told a story of Wodehouse travelling from New York City to the state of Georgia for no other reason than that, wishing to avoid an invitation to tea, he had told a woman journalist that he had to go there. (Leonora Wodehouse, “P. G. Wodehouse at Home” in The Strand, January 1929)


the finest office force in New York (p. 14)

This probably alludes to the epithet “New York’s finest,” which is frequently applied, often ironically, to the New York Police Department.


at Wrykyn . . . football (p. 14)

Norman Murphy (In Search of Blandings) suggests that the name Wrykyn is a composite of Wykyn, a small hamlet to the south of Stableford, where Wodehouse’s family had their home for several years, and The Wrekin, a famous hill to the north of Stableford.

Though ‘football’ probably refers here, as it usually does elsewhere in Wodehouse, to rugby union, the most popular code in English public schools of the era, it seems odd that Sam’s uncle, an American, is familiar with such usage.

[Many of Wodehouse’s early school stories and novels are set at Wrykyn School, including some of the stories in Tales of Wrykyn and Elsewhere and the novels The Gold Bat (1904), The White Feather (1907), and most famously the first half of Mike (1909, later separately published as Mike at Wrykyn). —NM]


coming off the bat a bit fast (p. 15)

Although this could refer to baseball, it is more likely that cricket is the intended sport: taken in conjunction with the previous phrase “Sam let this one go by,” it suggests the image of a batsman facing very fast bowling, having to leave some deliveries alone and struggling to control the ball when he does hit it.

[When Wodehouse does intend baseball, he says “coming over the plate a bit too fast” as in Leave It to Psmith, ch. 10. —NM]


drive me out into the snow (p. 15)

See Heavy Weather.


Lord Tilbury (p. 15)

Murphy (In Search of Blandings) identifies Lord Tilbury and his Mammoth Publishing Company with Alfred Harmsworth, later Lord Northcliffe, and the newspaper empire that he built up. In 1907, the Globe newspaper, on which Wodehouse was working, was taken over by Harmsworth and Wodehouse found himself working for Alfred’s younger brother, Hildebrand, who was appointed as the paper’s editor.


the Mauretania (p. 15)

The SS Mauretania, launched in 1906, was the flagship of the Cunard fleet. In November 1907, on the return leg of her maiden voyage, she set a record for the eastbound Atlantic crossing and two years later set a record for the westbound crossing which stood for 20 years. The Mauretania served as a troopship for Allied forces during WWI, returning to commercial service when the war was over. She made her last voyage in September 1934, and was scrapped the following year.

Wodehouse sailed on the Mauretania when he visited the United States in March 1910.


There will be no fatted calf (p. 16)

See Something Fresh.


more suggestive of a parrot (p. 17)

The Wodehouses owned a parrot for many years. In 1920, they took a parrot, Coco, with them when they crossed the Atlantic and in 1940, when German officers occupied the Wodehouse’s home at Le Touquet, they found themselves being entertained by a parrot that had been taught to sing “God Save the King.”


in his cups (p. 17)

While drinking, or when drunk. The OED cites instances dating back to the Apocrypha of the King James version of the Bible (1611). [NM]


discriminating fo’c’sle (p. 17)

The fo’c’sle (short for ‘forecastle’) is a cabin area in the bows of a ship where the crew have their quarters and galley. The term is here being applied collectively to the crew members who would occupy the fo’c’sle.


on the Western Ocean (p. 17)

The Western Ocean is another name for the North Atlantic.


tête-à-tête (p. 17)

Literally “head to head” (French); more commonly used to mean “face to face” or “alone together.” [NM]


got the push (p. 17)

Been fired or dismissed; British slang cited from 1893 on. [NM]


hyena in its native jungle (p. 18)

This must be a species new to science, as the four known species of hyena—the spotted (Crocuta crocuta), brown (Hyaena brunnea) and striped (H. hyaena) hyenas, and their distant relative, the aardwolf (Proteles cristatus)—all prefer open grassy plains or arid rocky habitats. The Spotted Hyena is often known as the “laughing hyena” in reference to its call, which sometimes resembles manic laughter.


listen to . . . the nifties (p. 18)

Nifty: a clever or neatly-turned phrase or joke. The OED cites this first noun usage as 1918, which shows that Wodehouse’s slang usage was very much up-to-date; it also cites as Wodehouse’s first use:

Every time I started to pull a nifty, Sir Roderick swung round on me with such a piercing stare that it stopped me in my tracks.

“The Rummy Affair of Old Biffy” in The Saturday Evening Post, Sept. 27, 1924

but we have found an earlier use in Leave It to Psmith (1923). [NM]


I would have smitten you … on the beezer (p. 19)

Slang: on the nose.

Some night when they sat down to dine,
Sir Claude would say, “That girl of mine
 Makes every woman jealous when she sees her.”
Then someone else would yell “Behave!
Thou malapert and scurvy knave!
 Or I will smite thee one upon the beezer.”

Wodehouse’s lyric for verse 2 of “Sir Galahad” from Leave It to Jane (1917) [NM]


a young knight . . . the Holy Grail (p. 19)

The Holy Grail is a legendary sacred vessel. It is usually identified with either the dish from which Christ ate the Paschal Lamb or the chalice from which he drank wine at the Last Supper; in the latter case, some legends associate the chalice with the cup in which Joseph of Arimathea is said to have collected Christ’s blood at the foot of the cross.

The story of the Grail is recounted in a number of mediaeval romances (eg Chrétien de Troyes’s Perceval and Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzifal), most of which date from the period 1180–1340 AD. The story is also linked to Celtic myths, such as those in the Welsh “Mabinogion,” and to the Arthurian legends.

A common theme is that of the innocent knight engaged in a quest to find the Grail. The story was re-told in English in the 15th century by Sir Thomas Malory in Le Morte d’Arthur and in the 19th century by Tennyson in his “Idylls of the King.”


A fair daughter of Nimrod (p. 20)

See The Clicking of Cuthbert.


Tennyson’s . . . little English rosebud (p. 20)

Presumably Sam has in mind:

A rosebud set with little wilful thorns,
And sweet as English air could make her, she:

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Prologue to “The Princess” (1847)


“He sounds like a hunting man.” (p. 20)

Wodehouse rarely signals his jokes so heavy-handedly.


Chapter 2 (pp. 21–35)
Kay of Valley Fields

Kay of Valley Fields (p. 21)

As Wodehouse says in the Preface to this book, Valley Fields is “a thin disguise” for the south London suburb of Dulwich “where so many of my happiest hours have been spent.” To be more accurate, Valley Fields is West Dulwich, as distinct from East Dulwich (located not, as one might reasonably expect, to the east of West Dulwich but almost due north), which usually appears in the stories under its own name.

Valley Fields is the setting also for Ice in the Bedroom, and is mentioned in several other stories. In his book In Search of Blandings, Norman Murphy devoted considerable space to Valley Fields and was able to establish, with some certainty, the location of many of the places mentioned in the stories.

[ Horace Appleby lives in Resthaven, Croxley Road, Valley Fields, London S.E. 21 in Do Butlers Burgle Banks? (1968).
  (West Dulwich has the SE21 postcode in real life; see the Preface regarding Croxted Road.)
 Jane Benedick and her uncle George, Lord Uffenham, live at Castlewood, Valley Fields, in Something Fishy (1957). Major Everard Flood-Smith had been living at Castlewood in Big Money (1931).
 Mrs. Amelia Bingham and Jane Priestly are Valley Fields neighbors in Bachelors Anonymous (1973).
 Lord Biskerton rents Peacehaven, Valley Fields, under the name of Smith in Big Money (1931) to escape his creditors; he deals with house agent Percy Cornelius, who appears in three novels. In Ice in the Bedroom (1961), Freddie Widgeon and his cousin George are at Peacehaven.
 “Bill” Hardy rents Mon Repos, Burberry Road, Valley Fields in The Purloined Paperweight/Company for Henry (1967).
 Percy Pilbeam’s father William Albert lives in Valley Fields in Biffen’s Millions/Frozen Assets (1964).
 Maudie Beach Stubbs lives in Valley Fields in Pigs Have Wings (1952).
 Myrtle Watling’s family live at 7, Nasturtium Villas, Marigold Road, Valley Fields, in “The Story of Cedric” (1929).
 Other characters appear in these locations as well, but this is the best list I can provide of the Valley Fields houses in other stories. —NM]


Col. Eustace Derrick, of Midways Hall, Wilts. (p. 21)

Norman Murphy (In Search of Blandings) notes that after the death of Wodehouse’s maternal grandfather, Rev. John Deane, in 1887, his widowed grandmother and four unmarried daughters moved to Cheney Court in Wiltshire, where Wodehouse often stayed during his school holidays. Some six miles to the south is Midway Manor, the former home of General (not Colonel) Henry Shrapnel (1761–1842), inventor of the artillery shell that bears his name.

In The Old Reliable (1951), Phipps, the felonious butler, started on his career of crime after reading a crime novel entitled “Three Dead at Midways Manor.”

In Love Among the Chickens, Jeremy Garnet falls in love with Phyllis Derrick, whose father, Patrick, is a professor at Dublin University.


Piccadilly Circus . . . a Number Three omnibus (p. 21)

The No. 3 bus route still follows substantially the same route as in Wodehouse’s time, from Oxford Circus, to Piccadilly Circus, on to Trafalgar Square, down Whitehall to Westminster, across Lambeth Bridge and then through Kennington, Brixton and Herne Hill to West Dulwich, and along South Croxted Road to Crystal Palace.


Thurloe Square, South Kensington (p. 21)

See Love Among the Chickens.


‘Fez, pliz.’ . . . ‘Q’ (p. 22)

“Fares please” . . . “Thank you.” Wodehouse is treating the bus conductor’s speech phonetically (‘Q’ is “thank you” with the “tha” syllable unstressed).


the banner marked Excelsior (p. 22)

The shades of night were falling fast,
As through an Alpine village passed
A youth, who bore, ’mid snow and ice,
A banner with the strange device,
  Excelsior!

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Excelsior” (1841)

From the Latin for “ever higher”; often loosely rendered as “onward and upward.” See also The Code of the Woosters and Money in the Bank.


highwaymen roved West Kensington (p. 22)

In the early 1700s, much of what is now central London was still open country and highwaymen and other robbers did, indeed, pose a threat to travellers. In 1720, the body of one highwayman, Jack Gutteridge, was left hanging from a gibbet on Brixton Hill to deter others.


snipe were shot in Regent Street (p. 22)

At that time, it would not, of course, have been Regent Street, which was only completed in 1826.

The snipe, Gallinago gallinago, is a medium-sized wading bird with a disproportionately large bill and cryptically-coloured plumage. It is found mostly in marshland, bogs and damp meadows. When threatened, it initially sits tight, but when approached within 10–15 metres it explodes from cover in a characteristic rapid zig-zagging flight.


omnibus . . . train . . . tram (p. 22)

West Dulwich can still be reached by bus, and trains operate between West Dulwich and London Victoria station, but there has been no tram service to the Dulwich district since 1952.


flotsam (p. 22)

Any part of the wreckage of a ship or its cargo which remains floating on the water; usually paired with jetsam, the wreckage or cargo which has already washed up on a shore, and contrasted with lagan, wreckage or cargo lying on the bed of the sea. By strict maritime law, Kay would be more properly referred to as jetsam. [NM]


San Rafael, Burberry Road (p. 22)

Norman Murphy identifies San Rafael with number 62 Croxted Road, Dulwich, the house which Wodehouse’s father rented for a few months in 1895, and Mon Repos with its semi-detached neighbour, number 64. He also found an old map which showed that numbers 62 and 64 had been a single residence some 15 years earlier. The house no longer exists, having been replaced by a more modern bungalow.

[The builders seem to have favored exotic names for these dwellings; San Rafael is a common place name in Spanish-speaking countries, named for the Archangel Raphael; Mon Repos is French for “my resting place” and is also the name of several resorts and estates throughout the world. Pontresina (p. 34) is a town in Switzerland near St. Moritz, not far north of the Italian border. —NM]


blot on the Derrick escutcheon (p. 22)

See A Damsel in Distress.


Stately-Homes-of-England (p. 22)

See Leave It to Psmith.


Pyke’s Home Companion (p. 22)

Those who have read Bill the Conqueror (1924, one year before the publication of the present book) will have met George Pyke, founder and head of the Mammoth Publishing Company, and will recall that he chose the name Lord Tilbury when elevated to a peerage. Otherwise, readers will as yet be unaware that this magazine is owned by the man for whom Sam Shotter is going to work. [NM]


Norman blood . . . simple faith which the poet ranks so much more highly (p. 23)

See Love Among the Chickens and also A Damsel in Distress.


Brixton . . . Bon Marché (p. (25)

Bon Marché, which opened in Brixton in 1877, was the first purpose-built department store in the country.


Sydenham . . . Crystal Palace (p. 25)

The Crystal Palace, designed by Sir Joseph Paxton, was erected in Hyde Park, London, to house the Great Exhibition of 1851. After the Great Exhibition closed, the Crystal Palace was moved to Sydenham Hill in south London, where it was opened by Queen Victoria in 1854. It was destroyed by fire in 1936.


an unsuccessful attempt to learn poultry farming in Sussex (p. 25)

In Love Among the Chickens (1906), Ukridge unsuccessfully attempted to set up a chicken farm near Lyme Regis, Dorset.


frousted over fires (p. 26)

In other words, stayed indoors in a warm, stuffy room rather than taking part in fresh-air activities. [NM]


habitually wore bed socks (p. 27)

It is for publishing exactly this calumny to their fellow school-mates that Jeff Miller nurtures such a dislike for Lionel Green in Money in the Bank (1942).


pirate of the Spanish Main (p. 27)

The ‘Spanish Main’—a name given to the territory in the New World that had been conquered by Spain by the late 16th Century—extended from northern California to the southern tip of South America. It included the gold-rich territories of the Inca and Aztec empires, and the silver mines of Peru and Ecuador, and was an important source of treasure for Spain. The Treasure Fleet which set sail for Spain once each year was a target for pirates and privateers.


rock cakes (p. 28)

Another theme that recurs in Money in the Bank, in which Jeff Miller’s landlady, Ma Balsam, bakes rock cakes so hard that Chimp Twist mistakes them for pieces of flint.


tow-coloured (p. 29)

Of a pale straw color, like tow, the fibers of flax before being spun into linen thread. [NM]


reproach and disappointment were nicely blended (p. 29)

See Leave It to Psmith.


pottage ar lar princess (p. 30)

In cookery, “à la princesse” refers to a garnish of asparagus tips. “Potage à la princesse” is, presumably, intended to be a thick soup garnished in this manner, though it must be doubted whether that is what Claire manages to prepare.

[Since she reads the French potage as “pottage” (probably thinking of Jacob’s lentil stew in Genesis 25, traded for Esau’s birthright), it is almost certain that Claire’s version will be a failure. Other sources describe potage à la princesse as “chicken purée with cream, garnished with quenelles of chicken, or with dice of fried bread”; or as quenelles of eggs, flour, cream, and milk in a veal-and-beef stock, each of which sounds even more difficult than Terry’s suggestion. It is not in Mrs. Beeton’s cookbook under that name, nor in Escoffier (1907), to go from the ridiculous to the sublime. —NM]


suggestive of costermongers (p. 30)

See The Clicking of Cuthbert.


call the cattle home across the Sands of Dee (p. 30)

“O Mary, go and call the cattle home,
And call the cattle home,
And call the cattle home,
Across the sands of Dee!"
The western wind was wild and dank with foam,
And all alone went she.

Charles Kingsley, “The Sands of Dee” (1848)

The Dee estuary lies between north Wales and the Wirral peninusula, in north-west Britain. The estuary is about 12 km long and over 6 km wide. At low tide, a large expanse of estuarine mudflats (the “sands of Dee") is exposed.


a certain Irishman had gone down to New York (p. 30–1)

This carries overtones of the Biblical parable of the Good Samaritan:

And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.

Luke 10:30


the lungs were willing but the memory was weak (p. 31)

Another Biblical allusion:

Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Matthew 26:41


the big scene out of Romeo and Juliet (p. 32)

The reference is to the “Balcony Scene,” Act II, scene 2, of Shakespeare’s play.


with all the honours of war (p. 32)

The “honours of war” is the privilege allowed to an honoured enemy, on capitulation, of being permitted to retain their offensive arms. Wodehouse is applying the term to the victor, instead of the more common “spoils of war.”


Macbeth . . . cauldron (p. 33)

The “Cauldron Scene,” Act IV, scene 1, of Macbeth, opens with the three witches gathered round a boiling cauldron. The presence of the kitten is most apt, as the first words spoken in the scene are “Thrice the brinded cat hath mewed.”


in the soup (p. 33)

See Right Ho, Jeeves.


chatelaine (p. 33)

A woman who is mistress of a castle or country house, especially one not the wife of the owner; she acts as hostess and supervises the servants of a house. Lord Emsworth’s sisters act in turn as chatelaine of Blandings since he is a widower, for example. Applying the term to Kay at San Rafael is humorously intended. [NM]


Chapter 3 (pp. 35–41)
Sailors Don’t Care

up Villiers Street (p. 35)

Villiers Street, named after George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, runs alongside Charing Cross Station, between the Embankment and Strand. Rudyard Kipling lived for a time in Villiers Street, on his return from India, and it was here that he wrote The Light That Failed.

The Kipling connection is appropriate, because it has been suggested that the nocturnal meanderings of Sam Shotter and Willoughby Braddock bear a resemblance to a similar nocturnal perambulation in Kipling’s short story “Brugglesmith” (Many Inventions, 1893).


Millwall Dock (p. 36)

Millwall Dock, which opened in 1868, was an early casualty of the decline in London’s status as a major port, ceasing operations in 1980, since when the area, near the center of the Isle of Dogs, just south of the Canary Wharf commercial business development, has been redeveloped for housing, offices and leisure activities.


fourteen days (p. 36)

Compare that with a six-day crossing on a fast first-class liner like the Mauretania. [NM]


a whippet race at Hackney Marshes (p. 36)

Hackney Marshes is an area to the north-east of London.


as he strolled along the Strand (p. 36)

This seems to carry just a hint of the old song, “The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo.”

As I walk along the Bois de Boulogne
With an independent air
You can hear the girls declare
“He must be a Millionaire.”


The two exquisites (p. 36)

Exquisite (slang): one who dresses fastidiously, a dandy, a fop.


‘Shift ho, before he touches us, what?’ (p. 36)

Or, in plain English, “Let’s move before he asks for money.”


in statu pupillari (p. 37)

Latin: literally, in a state of wardship, but more usually denoting the condition of being schoolboys.


tight as an owl (p. 38)

“Tight” here means “intoxicated,” though why owls should be described in this way is not clear, owls being, on the whole, no fonder of alcohol than are other birds. The explanation may, perhaps, have something to do with the vacuous stare that is characteristic of many owls and not a few drunkards.

Wodehouse elsewhere defended owls against this libel:

 ‘Drinking, sir? Me, sir? No sir. Where would I get a drink, sir?’
 ‘You are as tight as an owl.’
 This was a wholly unjustified slur on a most respectable breed of bird, for owls are as abstemious as the most bigoted temperance advocate could wish, and at another time George Cyril Wellbeloved might have been tempted to take up cudgels on their behalf.

Pigs Have Wings, ch. 5, §5


Panton Street (p. 38)

Panton Street leads out of the south-west corner of Leicester Square and is thus only a short walk to the west from the entrance to the Savoy Hotel.


Laughing Cavalier (p. 38)

“The Laughing Cavalier” is a well-known oil painting by the 17th-century Dutch artist Frans Hals, though the gentleman it depicts is not, in fact, laughing so much as smirking.


Wellington Street (p. 38)

If, from the entrance to the Savoy, one turns right and walks eastwards along Strand, Wellington Street is the second street on the left. The geography is slightly awry here. Until now, Sam has been on the south side of Strand, so the corner he has reached is Lancaster Place. Wellington Street is on the other side of the road.


half-crown (p. 39)

A coin worth two shillings and sixpence, one-eighth of a pound. From 1919 through 1952 the coin had a 50% silver content. The Bank of England inflation calculator suggests multiplying 1925 values by 57.8 to yield a 2017 equivalent, so this would be between £7 and £7.50 in modern terms. [NM]


You’re the Sort of a Girl That Men Forget (p. 39)

Not “the Sort,” but “the Kind.” The song is “Just a Girl that Men Forget,” lyrics by by Al Dubin and Fred Rath, music by Joe Garren, published in 1923. The song begins “Dear little girl, they call you a vamp, a flapper” and the first line of the chorus is “You’re the kind of girl that men forget, just a toy to enjoy.”


Sailors Don’t Care (p. 39)

“Sailors Don’t Care” was a comic music-hall song, which was popularised by the singer Charles Whittle and recorded in 1920 by Harry Hudson on the Winner label. The English novelist and critic Frank Swinnerton, in his autobiography Swinnerton (1937), recounts how the author H. G. Wells was fond of singing “Sailors Don’t Care” in a manner “rich in character, based upon that of the original singer, Charles Whittle, but raised to a point of impersonation beyond even Whittle’s gifts.”

A 1936 recording by Harry Fay is at YouTube.


Chapter 4 (pp. 41–46)
Scene Outside Fashionable Night-Club

the wandering minstrel (p. 41)

Reminiscent of Nanki-Poo in Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Mikado:

A wandering minstrel I, a thing of shreds and patches


in the direction of Charing Cross (p. 41)

Sam is now returning westwards on the north side of Strand.


the Vaudeville Theatre (p. 42)

The Vaudeville Theatre is on the north side of Strand, about halfway between Wellington Street and Villiers Street.


Depression claimed Sam for its own (p. 43)

A modification of an older quotation that “melancholy claimed [him/her] for [its/her] own,” dating at least as far back as 1851:

From childhood, she had been blythe as the lark, but now dull melancholy claimed her as its own.

John Mackay Wilson, Wilson’s Historical, Traditionary and Imaginative Tales of the Borders and of Scotland (1851) [NM]


the iron seemed to have entered his soul (p. 43)

A traditional phrase in the Book of Common Prayer version of the Psalms, deriving from a mistranslation of a Hebrew phrase in Psalm 105:18. Most modern translations render this as “he was put in irons” or in fetters, but the Latin Vulgate had it as ferrum pertransit animam ejus which says that the iron entered his soul. [NM]


six of the juiciest with a walking-stick (p. 44)

In other words, Sam as a senior student had administered six caning strokes to the junior student Bates. [NM]


He’s a bear, he’s a bear (p. 44)

See The Clicking of Cuthbert.


dog . . . substance-and-shadow fable (p. 45)

The reference is to Aesop’s fable of the dog which, crossing a stream with a fine piece of meat in its mouth, sees a reflection of itself in the water and, thinking it to be another dog, opens its mouth to bark, whereupon the piece of meat falls into the water and is lost.


will-o’-the-wisp (p. 45)

See Leave It to Psmith.


some primrose path (p. 46)

The phrase “primrose path” derives from Ophelia’s speech to Laertes:

But, good my brother,
Do not, as some ungracious pastors do,
Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven;
Whiles, like a puff’d and reckless libertine,
Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads,
And recks not his own rede.

Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act I, sc. 3


Borstal (p. 46)

‘Borstals’ were an attempt to deal with delinquent boys of 16–21 years. They took their name from the first such institution, established in 1902, at Borstal Prison, Kent. The borstal system, which involved a combination of education, hard work, and strict discipline, including corporal punishment, was abolished in 1982.


Chapter 5 (pp. 47–49)
Painful Affair at a Coffee-Stall

Lower Belgravia . . . Pimlico . . . Lupus Street (p. 47)

Belgravia, the district centred around Belgrave Square, to the west and south-west of Buckingham Palace, is one of London’s most expensive and exclusive residential districts. Pimlico is the name given to the (relatively) less expensive area between Victoria Station and the Thames. Lupus Street is at the southern end of the district, close to Pimlico underground station. To have reached Lupus Street from Leicester Square, Sam must have been walking for well over half-an-hour, which may explain why he is starting to feel hungry.


fall of Babylon (p. 48)

According to the Bible (Daniel v), Babylon was invaded by Darius the Mede while the Babylonian king, Belshazzar, son of Nebuchadnezzar, was hosting a sumptious feast for his court. Although their accounts differ in other respects from the biblical tradition, the Greek historians, Herodotus and Xenophon, also mention that Babylon fell while its king was feasting.


sybarites (p. 48)

Persons devoted to luxury or pleasure. [OED]


the Duke of York (p. 48)

The title of Duke of York is traditionally bestowed on the sovereign’s second oldest son. Though the Duke of York would not normally expect to become king, it happened twice during the 20th century: George V succeeded to the throne in 1910 because his elder brother, Albert, who had died in 1892, left no issue, while George’s second son, who was created Duke of York in 1920, only became King George VI when his elder brother, Edward VIII, abdicated in 1936. George V, a former naval officer, wore a luxuriant beard; his son was clean-shaven, as shown in the 1925 portraits of the Duke and Duchess at right.


the Athenæum Club (p. 49)

The Athenæum Club, on Pall Mall, was founded in 1824 as a gentlemen’s club (women were not admitted until 2002) for artists, writers, scientists, and their patrons.


Shakespeare . . . man’s ingratitude (p. 49)

Blow, blow, thou winter wind!
Thou art not so unkind
As man’s ingratitude.

Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act II, sc. 7


Chapter 6 (pp. 49–53)
A Friend in Need

some distant Mount Pisgah (p. 51)

See A Damsel in Distress.


a distance of several miles (p. 52)

Google Maps gives a choice of road routes from Lupus Street to Croxted Road, but each is just under five miles. [NM]


that curious snipelike abruptness (p. 53)

See p. 22 above and Something Fresh.


Chapter 7 (pp. 54–58)
Sam at San Rafael

seeing the long shot romp in ahead of the field (p. 54)

In horse racing, seeing an unfavored horse (with long odds against its winning) cross the finish line some distance ahead of its competitors. [NM]


cross-word puzzle (p. 54)

Although crossword puzzles of varying kinds date back to the eighteenth century, and the modern style can be found in newspapers from 1913 on, their popularity increased in the early 1920s and attracted much media attention as a fad or craze in 1924–25, so this reference was indeed timely when this story first appeared. [NM]


howitzer (p. 54)

Technically, a howitzer is a type of field artillery that is distinguished from other cannon by its ability to fire explosive shells (such as Claire’s rock cakes?) at both high and low trajectories.


squiffed (p. 56)

Slang for “drunk”; OED has citations dating from 1890. Wodehouse more usually uses the form “squiffy” with the same meaning, and in fact gives this as a nickname to three characters. [NM]


silk serge linings (p. 57)

Silk serge is a silk fabric twilled in the manner of serge and used as a lining for coats. ‘Serge’ derives from Latin serica, silk.


Chapter 8 (pp. 58–61)
Sam at Mon Repos

a brief communion service (p. 58)

An editorial mistake at some point in the sequence of reprints. The 1925 editions (except the UK serial, which omits this phrase) read “commination”: threatening of divine punishment or vengeance. The Anglican Book of Common Prayer includes “A commination, or denouncing of God’s anger and judgements against sinners, with certain prayers.” [NM]


scenario (p. 60)

An outline or summary of the action of a novel, play, film, etc.; OED says “also fig.” and gives, from Wodehouse’s 1924 Bill the Conqueror, the first figurative citation: “a small young man with close-set eyes and the scenario of a moustache.” Wodehouse was a man of the theatre and used dramatic jargon in his own narrative voice and especially in Bertie Wooster’s narration (see The Inimitable Jeeves). Here, in modern idiom, we might say that the bed was sketchy. [NM]


modern springs and box mattresses (p. 61)

Apparently a slip on Wodehouse’s part; 1918 New York state laws required, among other things, the sterilizing of any second-hand material used in “the making, remaking or renovating of any mattress, upholstered box-spring or metal bed-spring”; this tells us that the present-day nomenclature of mattresses and box springs was current at the time of writing this book. [NM]


sleep poured over him like a healing wave (p. 61)

Wodehouse liked the sound of this so much that he reused it in Bertie’s voice as the closing phrase of The Code of the Woosters (1938) and in his last completed novel, Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen/The Cat-Nappers (1974), ch. 6. [NM]


Chapter 9 (pp. 61–63)
Breakfast for One

bending and stretching exercises (p. 61)

Whether Scandinavian (e.g. the Larsen or Petersen exercises of Something Fresh/Something New) or American (the Daily Dozen devised by Walter Camp), Wodehouse frequently praised the virtue of calisthenics and practiced what he preached. [NM]


in two ticks (p. 62)

Idiom: in a moment, straightaway.


Chapter 10 (pp. 63–66)
Sam Finds a Photograph

joy had certainly come in the morning (p. 63)

For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life:
weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.

Psalms 30:5

The same source gave Wodehouse the title for his novel Joy in the Morning (1946).


as Sir Philip Sidney said (p. 66)

The joke is that this is exactly the opposite of what Sir Philip is reputed to have said!

Sir Philip Sidney (1554–86) was an Elizabethan courtier, diplomat, poet and soldier. In 1585, Elizabeth appointed him Governor of the province of Flushing in the Netherlands. The following year, during a skirmish against the Spanish outside the town of Zutphen, he was mortally wounded when a musket-ball shattered his thigh-bone. The story (almost certainly apocryphal) is that while lying wounded he called for a drink but, seeing a wounded soldier nearby, handed his drink to the dying man, with the words “thy necessity is greater than mine.”

See also Leave It to Psmith.


Chapter 11 (pp. 66–71)
Sam Becomes a Householder

druid priest (p. 67)

See Ice in the Bedroom.

stick the knife into the human sacrifice (p. 67)

The head-gardener was standing gazing at the moss like a high priest of some ancient religion about to stick the gaff into the human sacrifice.

“Lord Emsworth and the Girl Friend” (1928; collected in Blandings Castle and Elsewhere, 1935) [NM]


Breathes there a man (p. 69)

Mr. Cornelius is quoting (at great length) from the first stanza of Canto VI of Sir Walter Scott’s “The Lay of the Last Minstrel” (1805), except that Scott’s verse begins “Breathes there the man. . .”

[The Penguin edition has an erroneous closing quotation mark in the paragraph above, after “not ashamed to say so.” Original editions omit the quotation mark, making it clear that Mr. Cornelius is continuing to speak as he quotes from Scott. —NM]


a second Charles Peace (p. 70)

Charles Peace (1832–79) was a notorious burglar and murderer; although he maintained that the killing for which he was condemned to death had been an accident, he confessed, shortly before his execution, to having committed a murder for which another man was already serving a life sentence (and provided enough proof to enable the innocent man to be freed).

When first arrested, Peace refused to give his name and at the magistrate’s hearing he was described merely as “a half-caste about sixty years of age, of repellent aspect.” It is interesting to speculate whether Wodehouse knew this when he described Hash Todhunter as a man “of repellent aspect.”

According to Sherlock Holmes (“The Adventure of the Illustrious Client,” in The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes), “My old friend Charlie Peace was a violin virtuoso.”


I take it regularly (p. 70)

Another Penguin editorial slip; original editions have “I take it in regularly.” [NM]


Chapter 12 (pp. 71–91)
Sam is Much Too Sudden

Cohen Bros. (p. 71)

Modeled on the real-life Moss Bros. of Covent Garden (mentioned by Wodehouse in Service With a Smile, 1961), the Cohen Bros. first appear in “The Magic Plus Fours” (1922), and pop up in several later stories, including “The Ordeal of Osbert Mulliner” (1928), “The Story of Cedric” (1929), Joy in the Morning (1946), and Biffen’s Millions/Frozen Assets (1964). [NM]


a wanghee (p. 71)

Wanghee (or whanghee) is the name given to two species of bamboo of the genus Phyllostachys whose slender but strong stems are used as walking canes; in this instance it refers to a cane made of such bamboo.


burying the dead past (p. 73)

See below, p. 196, for a more accurate quotation. [NM]


support some bookie in the style to which he has been accustomed (p. 73)

See Leave It to Psmith. [NM]


perpetually thirsty community … Fleet Street (p. 73)

There is not another street probably in the whole range of modern London which can equal Fleet Street for the historical and world-wide celebrity of its taverns and coffee houses.

T. C. Noble, Memorials of Temple Bar (1869)

From thence, along that tipling street,
Distinguish’d by the name of Fleet,
Where Tavern-Signs hang thicker far,
Than Trophies down at Westminster;

Quoted in H. C. Shelley, Inns and Taverns of Old London (1909) [NM]


Napoleon . . . Bellerophon (p. 76)

After his defeat at Waterloo, Napoleon returned to Paris, from where he fled to the Ile d’Aix, off La Rochelle. He had hoped to escape to America, but was frustrated by the British naval blockade of French ports. On 15 July 1815, he was rowed from Ile d’Aix to HMS Bellerophon, where he surrendered to her commanding officer, Captain Frederick Maitland. The Bellerophon took him to Plymouth, where, without setting foot on land, he was transferred to HMS Northumberland, the ship in which he sailed to his exile on St. Helena.

Vultures are exceedingly rare in the English Channel and it is most unlikely that there was one on board the Bellerophon.


telling it again (p. 76)

Wodehouse was clearly sensitive to the pain inflicted on hearers by the tellers of repetitive tales; he often made use of this in his stories. See for instance “The Code of the Mulliners” (1935, collected in Young Men in Spats, 1936). [NM]


prolix (p. 77)

A useful but increasingly rare word meaning “long-winded, tediously wordy.” [NM]


Cor! (p. 78)

A British colloquial euphemism for “God!” used to express surprise, excitement, admiration, or alarm. [OED] This instance is earlier than the first citation currently in the OED, from J. B. Priestley in 1931; I have submitted it online to the OED. [NM]


business in Lombard Street (p. 79)

Lombard Street lies in the centre of the City of London, close to the Bank of England, and several major banks have their headquarters there.

Between 1900 and 1902, Wodehouse worked in the Lombard Street offices of the Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank.


spreading sweetness and light (p. 81)

See Uncle Fred in the Springtime for Terry’s note on this phrase, which we so often associate with Uncle Fred. But Wodehouse made use of it much earlier as well: [NM]

The attitude of the Press here is intolerable. It cannot be made to see that the burning of Louvain, the shelling of Rheims Cathedral, the mutilation of the wounded, and the slaughter of non-combatants, are all part of the great scheme for spreading sweetness and light, and establishing German Kultur as an ideal for Humanity to strive after.

“The Amazing Ambassador” in the London Sunday Chronicle, December 13, 1914

They cheered him in a way which must have made Jack the Ripper, if he was in the audience, regret that he had missed his chance of a similar popularity by doing his little acts of sweetness and light anonymously.

“Summer Stuff” in Vanity Fair (US), September 1915

The photographer advocates more sweetness and light, and suggests as a means toward achieving these things the moistening of the lips with the tip of the tongue.

“On Being Photographed” in Vanity Fair (US), March 1916

“I don’t mind telling you that, in the fullness of time, I believe this is going to spread a good deal of sweetness and light.”

J. B. Wheeler, speaking of his home-brew in Indiscretions of Archie (1921)

“I’m all for spreading sweetness and light and cheering up the jolly old pater’s sorrowful existence, but I haven’t a bean.”

Indiscretions of Archie (1921)


Rev. Aubrey Jerningham (p. 84)

The Jerninghams were an old-established East Anglian family, whose home, from 1555, was at Costessey Hall, some five miles NW of Norwich. Although the Jerninghams were prominent Catholics, they do not appear to have included among their number a Reverend Aubrey.

Wodehouse may have known of the Jerninghams through his Norfolk connections, but there is another Wodehousean link. In 1733, Sir George Jerningham, 6th Baronet, married Mary Plowden, heiress to the estate of Viscount Stafford. Their son, Sir William Jerningham, inherited the Stafford estates, which included Shifnal Manor in Shropshire. Wodehouse knew this area well, the neighbouring village of Shifnal being identified by Norman Murphy as the prototype for Market Blandings.

[Wodehouse used the name once before, in “The Kind-Hearted Editor” (1908), for one of the members of a family of amateur authors whose contributions turn an editor’s hair white. —NM]


Henley Regatta (p. 86)

Henley Regatta was first held in 1839, since when (except during wartime) it has been an annual rowing competition, held around the end of June / beginning of July. The traditional image of Henley is of men in garishly-coloured blazers and straw boaters.


The early Christians used to do it all the time (p. 89)

The apostle Paul, writing to early churches, urges his readers to “greet one another with a holy kiss” (or similar words) in Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12, 1 Thessalonians 5:26, and 1 Peter 5:14. [NM]


Do it Now! (p. 89)

See Leave It to Psmith. [NM]


to bite the ears of the passers-by (p. 90)

See Leave It to Psmith. [NM]


under the ether (p. 90)

See The Mating Season. [NM]


Chapter 13 (pp. 92–104)
Introducing a Syndicate

ancient lights (p. 92)

Under English common law, the doctrine of ancient lights provides that a landowner who has enjoyed the benefit of sunlight across an adjoining property for a period of 20 years or more acquires a right to continue to enjoy that same benefit without obstruction. It is not clear why this would have prevented Lord Tilbury from acquiring the adjacent property; indeed, it might be thought to have given him an incentive to do so.

[Perhaps the landowner whose ancient lights are in question is the rear neighbor of the ramshackle property, facing the next street, and so not part of the Mammoth’s holdings. —NM]


J. Sheringham Adair (p. 93)

Sheringham is a village on the north Norfolk coast, a short distance from Hunstanton, where the Wodehouses often rented the country house owned by his distant relatives, the Le Strange family.

As Norman Murphy (In Search of Blandings) notes, Sheringham is one of a number of Norfolk place-names which Wodehouse used for his characters. Others from the same area of the north Norfolk coast include: (Lord) Hunstanton, (Lord) Brancaster, (Jack) Snettisham and (Lord) Heacham.


Alexander Twist (p. 93)

This is our first meeting with Twist; he will return in Money for Nothing (1928), Money in the Bank (1942), Ice in the Bedroom (1961), and Pearls, Girls, and Monty Bodkin/The Plot That Thickened. [NM]


meek and contrite heart (p. 94)

Roughly parallel to “humble and contrite spirit” as used in Leave It to Psmith. [NM]


fungus (p. 94)

See Right Ho, Jeeves. [NM]


It and money were the only things he loved (p. 94)

An echo of W. S. Gilbert’s comic poem “Etiquette” (1869), in which two island castaways find difficulties in coming to terms with their situation. [NM]

Gray gnashed his teeth with envy as he saw a mighty store
Of turtle unmolested on his fellow-creature’s shore:
The oysters at his feet aside impatiently he shoved,
For turtle and his mother were the only things he loved.


in the coop (p. 94)

Though Wodehouse puts this term for prison in the mouth of an American, it seems to be British slang dating back to the eighteenth century. Dolly emphasizes that Chimp would have to shave his moustache if he returned to prison. [NM]


Pierpont Morgan (p. 95)

John Pierpoint Morgan (1837–1913) was a American financier whose vast wealth became a legend. He played a major part in the development of the US rail industry in the decades following the Civil War and in 1893 was instrumental in saving the US financial system from collapse during a crisis sparked by the withdrawal of British investors.


Harrod’s Stores (p. 95)

See Love Among the Chickens.


tie a can to that stuff (p. 95)

The OED cites Wodehouse, in The Heart of a Goof (1926) [more precisely, in the 1924 story “Jane Gets Off the Fairway”], as the first usage of “tie a can to” in the sense of rejecting or dismissing a person, and in Money in the Bank (1942) in the sense of stopping an activity. Here we have the second sense much earlier in his career. [NM]


Gorgonzola (p. 95)

A strong-flavored, mold-veined blue cheese produced in the northern Italian town of the same name. [NM]


walking up the Haymarket (p. 96)

Haymarket runs parallel to Regent Street in London’s West End.


right plumb spang in the middle (p. 96)

The OED defines “right spang” as “entirely, exactly” and cites this instance of its use. It defines “plumb” as an intensive, meaning “completely, entirely, absolutely” and occurring chiefly as US slang.

See also The Code of the Woosters.


New Asiatic Bank (p. 97)

Rupert Psmith is employed in the Postage Department of the New Asiatic Bank in Psmith in the City (1910). Wodehouse spent part of his time with the Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank on the Postage Desk.


razz (p. 97)

US slang for a mocking noise made by blowing through the closed lips, same as “Bronx cheer”; Chapman (New Dictionary of American Slang) says it is from the early 1900s, and gives a derivation from rhyming slang “raspberry tart” for “fart.” [NM]


spiel (p. 97)

US slang for a persuasive speech or long-winded explanatory story; from the German spiel for play or game. OED first cites George Ade with an 1896 use. [NM]


bulls (p. 97)

US slang for the police; Chapman (New Dictionary of American Slang) says it is from the 1700s. [NM]


janes (p. 97)

Early 20th-century US slang for women. [NM]


doing me wrong (p. 97)

In older literature, “doing someone wrong” usually expressed physical harm or injustice; it began to signify infidelity in the early 20th century, notably in the refrain of the ballad “Frankie and Johnny” which was in circulation at least by the early 1920s. [NM]


cooler (p. 98)

Another American slang word for prison, dating from the late nineteenth century. [NM]


button, button (p. 98)

“Button, button, where’s the button” is an old children’s game in which the object is to find the hidden button.


info’ (p. 98)

This shortening of “information” is early enough to be just the second citation in the OED. [NM]


infinite resource and sagacity (p. 101)

A description of the Mariner in Kipling’s “How the Whale Got His Throat” in Just So Stories (1902). [NM]


beefing (p. 102)

Complaining, protesting; originally US slang with citations from 1888 onward. [NM]


taken the joint (p. 102)

Rented the place. Original US slang senses of “joint” had illicit overtones, as of a place where criminals met or where drugs or alcohol were illegally served. Later, Bertie Wooster would use it merely as an offhand way to refer to a house (see Right Ho, Jeeves). This usage has more of the criminal overtones, and helps in cementing the idea that these plotters come from America. [NM]


Act Two … curtain rings up (p. 102)

More theatrical jargon (see p. 60 above). [NM]


pegged out (p. 103)

Died; US slang from mid-19th century. Chapman (New Dictionary of American Slang) links it to finishing a cribbage game early by advancing one’s peg to the last hole before the show of hands. [NM]


eighteen guineas (p. 103)

A guinea was a gold coin of 1663 to 1813 whose value from 1717 onward was fixed at 21 shillings sterling, that is, one pound and one shilling. Even after the coin went out of circulation, it became conventional to quote professional fees and the prices of valuable artworks, custom-made clothing, and similar luxury goods in guineas rather than in pounds, as if adding a small honorarium to the stated value of the equivalent number of pounds.

Eighteen guineas would then be £18.90 decimalized, or some £1,100 in modern values. [NM]


ships and ha’porths of tar (p. 103)

See Right Ho, Jeeves. [NM]


a tacky lid (p. 104)

A shabby hat. “Tacky” was first a US 19th-century slang noun for a poor-quality horse, then in late 19th century became an adjective for cheap, dowdy, in poor taste. “Lid” for hat is first cited from George Ade in 1896. [NM]


Chapter 14 (pp. 104–109)
The Chirrup

Sir Henry Irving in ‘The Bells’ (p. 104)

Henry Irving (1838–1905) was one of the most famous actors and theatre managers of the 19th century and the first actor to receive a knighthood. He established his reputation with his performance in the rôle of Mathias in ‘The Bells’ at the Lyceum Theatre in 1871. ‘The Bells’ was an adaptation by Leopold Lewis of Erckmann-Chatrian’s Le Juif Polonais (‘The Polish Jew’). Irving continued to play the rôle of Mathias, an unconvicted murderer tormented by his conscience, throughout his career.

[French authors Émile Erckmann (1822–1899) and Alexandre Chatrian (1826–1890) wrote nearly all their works jointly and published them under their names hyphenated together as one. —NM]


the college clock striking (p. 105)

The college is Dulwich College, Wodehouse’s old school.


borrow the garden roller (p. 105)

This image of ideal suburbia is used by Wodehouse as early as 1907, in the spoof newspaper serial “For Love Or Honour” (ch. 18, July 27, 1907). [NM]


Aunt Ysobel (p. 105)

Wodehouse enjoyed the humor of having female pseudonyms for advice columns written by men. We learn in Frozen Assets/Biffen’s Millions (1964) that Percy Pilbeam’s first job at Tilbury House was writing the Aunt Ysobel column. In “The Last Instance” (1903) Smythe writes the “Aunt Jane” column for The Cosy Corner. In The Girl in Blue (1970) “Aunt Phyllis” is really a fat man in his fifties with a passion for lager beer and a ribald outlook on life. [NM]


Tiny Tots (p. 106)

Monty Bodkin struggles with the proper tone of voice while writing the Uncle Woggly column for Tiny Tots in Heavy Weather (1933). [NM]


the Village Blacksmith (p. 107)

See A Damsel in Distress.


Chapter 15 (pp. 109–115)
Visitors at Mon Repos

the county calling on the new-comer (p. 109)

In this usage, “the county” is short for the local gentry, the upper-class families who constitute Society in the vicinity. [NM]


Gillette (p. 110)

King C. Gillette’s disposable-blade safety razor was patented in 1904.


No one knows the words … (p. 110)

The song “The Argentines, the Portuguese, and the Greeks” was composed by Carey Morgan, with lyrics by Arthur Swanstrom, and apparently first recorded in 1920 by Nora Bayes. A 1923 recording by the Duncan Sisters is available at the Library of Congress website. The lyrics are a mixed bag, with some slang words no longer considered polite, but with a certain sense of admiration for (as well as gibes at) recent immigrants to the USA who have achieved some success.

And the funny thing
When we start to sing
“My Country ’Tis of Thee”
None of us know the words
But the Argentines
And the Portuguese
And the Greeks.

Wodehouse would later write an introduction to Charles Graves’s 1930 book —And the Greeks in which he quotes the song and mentions that he sings it in his bath. [NM]


sitting pretty (p. 110)

In a comfortable situation, in a place of advantage. The OED first cites this from a 1915 US newspaper and gives the next citation from Wodehouse in Hot Water (1932), ignoring both this use and the Bolton/Wodehouse/Kern musical comedy Sitting Pretty (1924). A Google Books search on the phrase before 1924 yields only a few minor American results in this sense, so Wodehouse can be credited for popularizing the term. [NM]


Lord Fauntleroy (p. 111)

See The Clicking of Cuthbert.


a gentleman of majestic port (p. 111)

Dignified or stately deportment, manner, carriage. OED cites Wodehouse in Bill the Conqueror (1924), ch. 3: “There was indeed something suggestive of Napoleon in the port of Sir George Pyke as he strode up and down his office.” [NM]


This was the man he had seen in the bar … in Fleet Street (p. 111)

In the first section of chapter 12 (pp. 73–74 in the Penguin edition). [NM]


stricken in years (p. 111)

Aged, feeble; a phrase used in the King James translation of the Bible for Joshua (13:1), David (I Kings 1:1), Zechariah and Elizabeth (Luke 1:5–7), and others. Similarly, Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 18:11) were “well stricken in age.” [NM]


feeling … shared by practically all America’s most eminent song writers (p. 112)

For example: [NM]

I was born in Michigan and I wish and wish again
That I was back in the town where I was born.

Irving Berlin: “I Want to Go Back to Michigan” (1914)


hovels of the poor … palaces of the rich (p. 112)

a common literary trope; the oldest so far found, and probably the most commonly quoted: [NM]

As commonly happens, a mortal pestilence was added to the horrors of famine: the worst kinds of fevers carried off crowds from the public hospitals, the lowly hovels of the poor, and the superb palaces of the rich.

Annual Register, 1828, p. 474

Benevolence effects this union. It carries the rich to the cottage, or to the very hovels of the poor; it allows the poor admission into the palaces of the rich; and both become richer in the only true sense of the word, because to both there is an accession of happiness.

Thomas Brown & David Welsh: Lectures on the Philosophy of the Human Mind (1860)


aposiopesis (p. 113)

Aposiopesis (from Greek aposiopao—to be silent after speaking) is a term used in rhetoric to denote a sudden breaking-off in the middle of speaking, usually to portray being overcome with emotion.


Sing Sing (p. 113)

See Something Fresh.


When the enterprising burglar isn’t burgling (p. 113–4)

When the enterprising burglar’s not a-burgling,
 When the cut-throat isn’t occupied in crime,
He loves to hear the little brook a-gurgling,
 And listen to the merry village chime.
When the coster’s finished jumping on his mother,
 He loves to lie a-basking in the sun.
Ah, take one consideration with another,
 A policeman’s lot is not a happy one.

William S. Gilbert, The Pirates of Penzance, Act II (1879)


Thomas G. Gunn, then a mere number, in the role of a senator (p. 114)

While in prison, Soapy would have been referred to by a number rather than a name. In Pearls, Girls and Monty Bodkin/The Plot that Thickened (1972), Wodehouse noted that Molloy resembled an American Senator of the better sort. [NM]


smoking a thoughtful pipe (p. 114)

An example of a humorous device, the transferred epithet, that Wodehouse used frequently; see Leave It to Psmith and Right Ho, Jeeves. There are several similar examples in The Code of the Woosters.


Chapter 16 (pp. 115–128)
Astonishing Statement of Hash Todhunter

John Street, Mayfair (p. 115)

John Street has since been renamed as Chesterfield Hill.


restorative (p. 119)

Among the many euphemisms for alcoholic beverages in Wodehouse, “restorative” has the advantage of seeming like a healthful prescription. Earliest mention so far found is in the spoof serial “For Love Or Honour”, ch. 9 (July 17, 1907); Psmith orders a glass of neat brandy as a potential restorative for Mr. Bickersdyke in “The New Fold” (1909, in book form as Psmith in the City, 1910). Archie (Indiscretions of Archie, 1921) runs afoul of Prohibition in his search for a restorative. Other characters in need of the same include Hugo Carmody in Summer Lightning, the Vicomte de Blissac in Hot Water, the Rev. Trevor Entwhistle in “The Bishop’s Move” (Meet Mr. Mulliner), and Mustard Pott in Uncle Fred in the Springtime; Bertie Wooster prescribes brandy for Gussie Fink-Nottle in The Code of the Woosters and needs a restorative himself in Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, among many other instances. [NM]


shingled (p. 119)

Having a short haircut with the cut ends exposed all over the head and tapered to the nape of the neck in boyish fashion; the narrator Michael Arlen’s 1924 novel The Green Hat mentions that he first saw this style on an Englishwoman in 1922, so the young ladies here are adopting a recent style. [NM]


the picture gallery (p. 120)

Dulwich Picture Gallery, designed by Sir John Soane in 1811, was England’s first public art gallery, opened to the public in 1817. It was built to house a collection originally put together for the King of Poland, prior to that monarch’s forced abdication in 1795, when Poland ceased to exist as a state, and contains many works by such notable artists as Poussin, Claude, Rubens, Murillo, Van Dyck, Rembrandt, Watteau and Gainsborough.


sole meunière (p. 121)

A meunière is a miller’s wife; to cook a fish à la meunière is to dredge it in flour and cook it in butter, serving it with a sauce made from the browned butter with parsley and lemon. [NM]


all was for the best in the best of all possible worlds (p. 121)

See Something Fresh.


reveller out of Rabelais (p. 121)

François Rabelais was a 16th century French monk, physician, humanist, and writer. Between 1532 and 1552 he published four books (the authenticity of a fifth, published posthumously in 1564, is sometimes questioned) chronicling the adventures of Gargantua and Pantagruel, two larger-than-life characters who revel exuberantly and excessively in the joys of the physical aspects of life (drink, food, sex and bodily functions).


a dead rat in every barrel (p. 121)

Legend has it that makers of scrumpy (a rough farmhouse cider) used to add a dead rat to the vat to help start the process of fermentation. Whatever the truth of this claim, modern cider manufacturers, operating under the strict eye of public health officials, seem to manage quite well without rats.


to walk from John Street, Mayfair, to Burberry Road, Valley Fields (p. 124)

Google Maps gives three possible walking routes from Chesterfield Hill, Mayfair, to Croxted Road, Dulwich, ranging from 5.6 to 5.9 miles, rather than the seven suggested by Wodehouse. [NM]


Surrey-side Londoner … Brixton (p. 124)

Much of the portion of the metropolis south of the Thames was part of the county of Surrey until the creation of the County of London in 1889. (Surrey would lose more territory in 1965 with the creation of Greater London.) Brixton was developed as a middle-class suburban area in Victorian times, but became a working-class neighborhood in the early 20th century as houses were subdivided and converted to flats and boarding houses. [NM]


wail of a soul in torment (p. 125)

This phrase, referring to the tortures of the inhabitants of Hades, can be traced back to the 19th century in obscure pieces of fiction; it is not clear where Wodehouse may have learned it. [NM]


Cruft’s Show (p. 125)

Charles Cruft (1852–1938) joined a dog-food manufacturer as a messenger boy and quickly rose to become head of sales by age 26, when he also became secretary of the Toy Spaniel Club. Expanding his activities into other breed associations, he began running terrier shows in 1886; in 1891 his first all-breeds Cruft’s Dog Show was held in Islington. By his last show in 1938 it had grown to include about ten thousand canine entrants. After his death, his widow sold the rights to the Kennel Club, who continue it as Crufts today. [NM]


one little rose from my hair (p. 127)

If I were a girl and he begged me for one little rose from my hair, I wouldn’t give it him. He’d have a pretty thin time trying to get roses out of me.

Lord Ickenham, speaking of his nephew Pongo Twistleton, in Uncle Dynamite (1948). [NM]


conversation … way with me (p. 127)

Arrostino: Now tell me, Minestra, candidly—what was it you saw in him to admire? It’s not his face, of course; nor his figure—we’ll put them out of the question. It couldn’t be his conversation, because he hasn’t any.
Minestra:   I don’t know. He’s got a way with him.
Arrostino: Has he got it with him now?
Minestra:   I don’t know. I suppose so.

William S. Gilbert, The Mountebanks (1892, with music by Alfred Cellier)
[Thanks to Arthur Robinson for the comparison]


Chapter 17 (pp. 129–140)
Activities of the Dog Amy

Tulse Hill (p. 131)

Tulse Hill is the suburb adjoining Dulwich (‘Valley Fields’) to the West.


Niobe (p. 131)

In Greek mythology, Niobe was married to Amphion, King of Thebes, by whom she bore seven sons and seven daughters. Niobe insulted the goddess Leto, taunting her for having only two children. As punishment, Leto sent her children, Apollo and Artemis, to Thebes, where they slew six of Niobe’s sons and six daughters. Niobe mourned the deaths of her children for nine days and nine nights, but could find no-one to bury them as Zeus, sympathising with Leto, had turned all the Thebans to stone. On the tenth day, the Olympians themselves conducted the funeral rites, while Niobe fled to Mount Sipylus, the home of her father Tantalus. Here, Zeus, taking pity on her grief, turned her to a statue which, however, according to legend, continued to weep each year in early summer.


stout Cortez . . . watcher of the skies (p. 132)

See The Clicking of Cuthbert.


to see themselves as others see them (p. 132)

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
 An’ foolish notion…

Robert Burns: “To a Louse” (1786) [NM]


a feast of reason and a flow of soul (p. 133)

See A Damsel in Distress.


scared to come down, bein’ frightened of this ’ere dog (p. 134)

Compare ch. 1, section 3, of The Purloined Paperweight/Company for Henry (1967), in which much of this scene is reprised with Jane Martyn, an unnamed gentleman of leisure, and Bill Hardy. [NM]


Ellums are treacherous things (p. 135)

The Common Elm, Ulmus campestris, is peculiarly liable to lose its large horizontal branches. Compare:

Ellum she hateth mankind, and waiteth
 Till every gust be laid,
To drop a limb on the head of him
 That anyway trusts her shade:
But whether a lad be sober or sad,
 Or mellow with ale from the horn,
He will take no wrong when he lieth along
 ’Neath Oak, and Ash, and Thorn!

Rudyard Kipling, “A Tree Song,” in Puck of Pook’s Hill (1906)


shoot down like Lucifer (p. 137)

Lucifer is mentioned only once in the Bible:

How art thou fallen from heaven,
O Lucifer, son of the morning.
How art thou cut down to the ground,
which didst weaken the nations!

Isaiah 14:12

The passage is variously interpreted as referring either to Satan’s Fall from Heaven or, symbolically and prophetically, to the fall from power of the King of Babylon. In Jeeves in the Offing (ch. 8), Bobbie Wickham quotes the first two lines when referring to Bertie’s tumble from a chair.


Oh woman . . . ministering angel thou (p. 137)

O woman! in our hours of ease
Uncertain, coy, and hard to please,
And variable as the shade
By the light quivering aspen made;
When pain and anguish wring the brow,
A ministering angel thou!

Sir Walter Scott, Marmion, Canto VI, stanza xxx (1808)


If you imagine you’re a lily of the field (p. 138)

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow;
they toil not, neither do they spin:

Matthew 6:28


the Press Club (p. 139)

The Press Club, founded in 1882, has its home at the Wig and Pen Club in the Strand.


the taste lingered (p. 140)

See Right Ho, Jeeves.


Chapter 18 (pp. 140–150)
Discussion at a Luncheon-Table

the body politic (p. 141)

The population of a country, considered as a single entity, or figuratively as an organism comprised of members. [NM]


hair … shone with the unguent (p. 141)

This predates Brylcreem (1928), so probably refers to brilliantine. See Leave It to Psmith. [NM]


age of discretion (p. 141)

The age at which a person becomes responsible for his or her own actions; variously defined depending on the context. In religious law, it refers to the full understanding of a profession of faith or confirmation, typically in a range from seven to twelve years of age. In criminal law, it may be defined by statute or judicial discretion, and typically twelve to fourteen years is specified as nominal. In contract law, it is synonymous with majority, formerly twenty-one years in most areas and now usually eighteen. [NM]


celerity (p. 142)

Speed or swiftness of movement, especially of living beings; a less technical term than velocity. [NM]


the maddest, merriest day (p. 143)

See A Damsel in Distress.


hors d’oeuvre (p. 143)

French, literally “outside the work”; something out of the ordinary course of events, or (most often) an extra dish served as an appetizer before the main courses of a meal. In French, the plural form does not have a final ‘s’; in English, the plural usually does. In both UK and US first editions and both US and UK magazine serials from 1925, the waiter is bearing hors d’oeuvres at this point. The Penguin spelling may be a misprint or a correction by a hypercritical editor who thinks his French is better than Wodehouse’s. [NM]


oeufs marseillaises (p. 144)

Divide small eggplants in halves, salt them to bring out the juices then fry in oil. Spoon out and chop the cooked flesh, mixing with equal parts of scrambled eggs. Fill the eggplant shells with the mixture, serving with a garlicky tomato sauce. [NM rough translation from this online recipe]


a scientific boxer (p. 145)

One who relies on technique, agility, defensive parrying, and patience rather than on brute strength or speed. From his earliest writing days, Wodehouse frequently praised science in boxing, both in his sports reporting (here is a 1901 example) and his fiction, including his 1902 novel The Pothunters, in which “the feather-weights gave excellent exhibitions of science” in Chapter I. [NM]


uppercut (p. 148)

a boxing punch delivered upwards to the jaw or solar plexus [NM]


king in Babylon … Christian slave (p. 149)

Or ever the knightly years were gone
 With the old world to the grave,
I was a King in Babylon
 And you were a Christian Slave.

William Ernest Henley (1849–1903): “To W. A.” [NM]


Northumberland Avenue (p. 150)

Northumberland Avenue runs between the Strand at Trafalgar Square and the Thames Embankment. Wodehouse was a member of the Constitutional Club in Northumberland Avenue, writing the preface to The Girl on the Boat (1922) as from the club. Walking from the Savoy to Northumberland Avenue would be about half a mile. [NM]


Chapter 19 (pp. 151–160)
Lord Tilbury Engages an Ally

Oh, woman, woman! (p. 151)

See Love Among the Chickens.


He was, he perceived (p. 151)

Original UK and US editions from 1925 have a comma after “perceived” which the Penguin typesetter left out. [NM]


Society Spice … Percy Pilbeam (p. 152)

See Bill the Conqueror (1924) for his first appearance. [NM]


some chamois of the Alps (p. 153)

Wodehouse may have encountered the image of the chamois when writing William Tell Told Again (1904), in which his character-names are drawn from the play by Friedrich Schiller. The chamois is not fundamental to the legend, having been introduced by Schiller, and in his Wilhelm Tell it is the huntsman, not the chamois, who has “von Fels zu Fels den Wagesprung zu thun” (to make a daring jump from rock to rock). Even so, it was so over-exploited by the Romantics (examples here, here, and here) that it had become a literary cliché well before Wodehouse used it, but nobody else had employed the image in so many varied contexts: [TM/NM]

“Comrade Gooch reminded me of the untamed chamois of the Alps, leaping from crag to crag.”

Psmith, Journalist (1910 serial)

Glossop came up at a gallop, springing from stair to stair like the chamois of the Alps.

The Little Nugget (1913)

A story, if it is to grip the reader, should, I am aware, go always forward. It should march. It should leap from crag to crag like the chamois of the Alps.

Three Men and a Maid (1922)

[The song] went well now, even with a squeaky-voiced child jumping on and off the key like a chamois of the Alps leaping from crag to crag.

“The Metropolitan Touch” (1922)

It is a defect unfortunately inseparable from any such document as this faithful record of events . . . that the chronicler, in order to give a square deal to each of the individuals whose fortunes he has chosen to narrate, is compelled to flit abruptly from one to the other in the manner popularized by the chamois of the Alps leaping from crag to crag.

Summer Lightning (1929)

[Freddie Widgeon] tells me he doubts if a chamois of the Alps, unless at the end of a most intensive spell of training, could have got down those stairs quicker than he did.

“Trouble Down at Tudsleigh” (1935)

Like so many substantial citizens of America, he had married young and kept on marrying, springing from blonde to blonde like the chamois of the Alps leaping from crag to crag.

Summer Moonshine (1938).


without let or hindrance (p. 154)

without impediment


a confused noise without (p. 154)

Here “without” means “outside”; this is common theatrical jargon for an offstage uproar. Wodehouse used it often, as in The White Feather (1905/07) and in “The Purity of the Turf” (1922)/The Inimitable Jeeves (1923). [NM]


Napoleon! And Nelson! . . . Battling Nelson . . . Tom Sharkey (p. 155–6)

While Lord Tilbury is thinking of the great military leaders, Napoleon Bonaparte and Admiral Horatio Nelson, Chimp’s mind works on more prosaic lines.

“Battling Nelson” was the ring-name of boxer Oscar Mathæus Nielsen, who was born in Copenhagen in 1882 but emigrated to the United States the following year. During a career that extended from 1896 to 1917, Nielsen fought 133 times and twice held the World Lightweight Championship. He died in 1954. Nielsen was 5 ft 7½ in tall.

Wodehouse perhaps had “Battling Nelson” in mind when he named the boxer, “Battling” Wilberforce Billson, who made his first appearance in Ukridge (1924).

“Sailor” Tom Sharkey was born in Dundalk, Ireland, in 1871, but ran away to sea and eventually wound up in the United States, where he died in 1953. Sharkey fought his first fight in 1893 and was undefeated over the next three years, which won him the opportunity to fight world heavyweight champion Bob Fitzsimmons; the referee for the fight was legendary lawman Wyatt Earp, who awarded the fight to Sharkey in circumstances that gave rise to lawsuits, allegations of match-fixing and a refusal by the authorities to recognise Sharkey as champion. Three years later, at Coney Island, he again fought for the world title, unsuccessfully, against Jim Jefferies in the first boxing match to be filmed by a movie camera. Sharkey was 5 ft 9 in tall.

[Napoleon Bonaparte was measured at 5′7″ at his death, a bit above the average height of a Frenchman of his era, but much shorter than his bodyguards, who were selected for their size, which apparently led others to think of Napoleon as short. One source says that Lord Nelson was 5′6″ but confirmation has been difficult to find. —NM]


lounge lizard (p. 157)

An idle man who hangs about in society circles, hoping to attract wealthy women. US slang cited from 1918 on; in British sources of 1923–25 still mentioned as American slang. “Parlour tarantula” seems to be a Wodehouse invention. [NM]


pathos . . . desiderium (p. 160)

More specifically, pathos is a feeling which the mind suffers, in either a good or a bad sense, though the sense of a misfortune or affliction predominates, while desiderium (from desiderare, to desire, to long for) is an ardent longing for something.


raze it to the soil and sow salt upon the foundations (p. 160)

At least in legend, the Roman victors in the Third Punic War razed the city of Carthage in 146 b.c. and sowed salt into the earth to make it infertile. Similar utter destruction has been attributed to the Chinese (Father Le Comte, quoted by Addison in The Spectator, 1711), the Spanish in Sicily in 1679, the Flemish in Castile after the failed revolt of the Comuneros in 1521, Frederick Barbarossa in Milan in 1162, and probably many others. [NM]


Chapter 20 (pp. 161–166)
Trouble in the Syndicate

one crumpled rose leaf (p. 161)

Just as we now cite the fable of the Princess and the Pea as an example of exquisite sensitivity, classical writers cited the Sybarite who was pained by a crumpled roseleaf beneath his couch. W. S. Gilbert gives the line “Some crumpled roseleaf light is always in the way!” to Captain Fitzbattleaxe in Utopia, Limited. [NM]

See also Something Fresh.


truth, though crushed to earth (p. 161)

See A Damsel in Distress.


rise on stepping-stones (p. 161)

See Something Fresh.


when the fields were white with daisies (p. 161)

Chimp is really piling it on now! A 1907 song by C. M. Denison and W. A. Pratt, now almost forgotten, ran as follows:

When the fields are white with daisies,
And the roses bloom again,
Let the love light in your heart most brightly burn,
For I love you, sweetheart, only
And remember when you’re lonely,
When the fields are white with daisies
I’ll return.

The same phrase is used by Psmith (in Psmith in the City, serialized as “The New Fold” in 1908), by Lord Ickenham (in Cocktail Time), by Jeff Miller in Money in the Bank and by Bertie in The Code of the Woosters.


black silk dress with bugles (p. 161)

Bugles are thin tube beads, as distinct from round beads, which are called rocailles. In the early 1920s, fashion designers began creating art deco motifs out of bugles and rocailles; at times the entire dress was covered with beads, at others the beads were used to create simple floral patterns on the sleeves, bodice or hem.


sparkling limado (p. 161)

Private Biggs, who had brought his sparkling limado and a bath-bun with him from the other table, took a sip of the former, and embarked upon his narrative.

The Swoop!, ch 4 (1909)

Through a mist he was aware of Mrs. Coppin crying in a corner, of Mr. Coppin drinking his health in the remains of his sparkling limado.

A Man of Means (1914/16)

“Or how about a bit of hot steak-pudding, with a sparkling limado to wash it down?” said Bingo.

“Jeeves in the Spring-Time,” in Strand magazine (December 1921)

Notwithstanding these uses of “limado,” the word does not appear in the OED and one can only speculate that it was, perhaps, something akin to lemonade.

[Sparkling limado can be found at an A.B.C. tea shop, according to A. A. Milne’s 1905 novel Lovers in London. —NM]


a meal of Cambridge sausages (p. 161)

The Oxford Companion to Food lists just ten British classic varieties of sausage, of which the Cambridge is one. It is described as a pork sausage, seasoned with sage, cayenne and nutmeg. (The Oxford, on the other hand, combines pork, veal and beef with sage, nutmeg, pepper and optional herbs, while the Cumberland is properly a coarse, spicy pork sausage, unlinked and sold by length from a coil.)


‘There is none like her, none’ (p. 165)

I have led her home, my love, my only friend.
There is none like her, none.
And never yet so warmly ran my blood
And sweetly, on and on
Calming itself to the long-wish’d-for end,
Full to the banks, close on the promised good.

None like her, none,
Just now the dry-tongued laurels’ pattering talk
Seem’d her light foot along the garden walk,
And shook my heart to think she comes once more.
But even then I heard her close the door;
The gates of heaven are closed, and she is gone

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “Maud,” Part I, XVIII (1855)

Around 1900, these verses were set to music as part of his song-cycle “Maud,” by Sir Arthur Somervell. And, of course, Wodehouse re-uses the phrase:

Walking across the lawn I saw the most radiant, the most beautiful girl in the world. There is none like her, none.

“Jeeves in the Spring-Time,” in Strand magazine (December 1921)

You know how women waggle as a rule, fiddling about for a minute and a half like kittens playing with a ball of wool. Well, she just makes one firm pass with the club and then bing! There is none like her, none.

“Chester Forgets Himself,” in The Heart of a Goof (1926)


‘Infirm of purpose, give me the sandbag!’ (p. 166)

Or, as Shakespeare might have said, had he thought of it first, “Infirm of purpose! Give me the daggers” (Macbeth, Act II scene ii)


Chapter 21 (pp. 166–179)
Aunt Ysobel Points the Way

Samson, Doctor Crippen, and other celebrities (p. 167)

In addition to his well-remembered troubles with Delilah, Samson also had earlier difficulties in trying to marry a Philistine woman, who gave away a secret before the wedding. See Judges 14–16.

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


each individual bloom a hidden and esoteric meaning (p. 168)

In his early attempts to create a journalistic career in his off hours while still employed at a bank, Wodehouse wrote all sorts of articles for newspapers and magazines; one of these was “The Language of Flowers” (1901), a comic take-off on a penny booklet on the subject. [NM]

You can do a lot with flowers. Girls love them. There is poetry in them. And, what is more, there is a recognized language of flowers. Shoot in a rose or a calceolarius or an herbaceous border or something, I gather, and you have made a formal proposal of marriage without any of the trouble of rehearsing a long speech and practising appropriate gestures in front of your bedroom looking-glass.

“Something to Worry About” (1913)


pretend to show a liking (p. 168)

Wodehouse had used the advice-columnist “test him” plot before; see Dr. Cupid of Fireside Chat in “When Doctors Disagree” (1910) or Laura Mae Podmore of the Evening Chronicle in the American version (1911). [NM]


drained the wine of life … lees (p. 170)

The lees are the sediments at the bottom of a vessel of unfiltered wine. Used as a metaphor for “to the last drop, to the very end”: [NM]

They may not part till they have drunk…the cup of the wrath of God to the very lees.

Thomas Taylor (1576–1632): A commentary upon the Epistle of St. Paul to Titus (1612)

I will drink Life to the lees.

Tennyson: Ulysses (1842)


four-ale (p. 170)

The cheapest variety of ale, sold at fourpence a quart. [NM]


It was with a heart bowed down (p. 170)

The heart bowed down by weight of woe,
 To weakest hope will cling,
To thought and impulse while they flow,
 That can no comfort bring,
With those exciting scenes will blend,
 O’er pleasure’s pathway thrown;
But mem’ry is the only friend
 That grief can call its own.

Count Arnheim’s aria from Act II sc 4 of the English opera, The Bohemian Girl (1843), by Michael William Balfe (1808–70), libretto by Alfred Bunn (1790–1860).

First, scarcely daring to consider the possibility of success, he had taken on the man who tried to catch his ball off its guard and had beaten him five up and four to play. Then, with gradually growing confidence, he tackled in turn the Cat-Stroker, the Whip-Cracker, the Heart Bowed Down, and the Soup-Scooper, and walked all over their faces with spiked shoes.

“The Heart of a Goof” (1926)

More conventional allusions to the same phrase occur in Leave It to Psmith, Summer Lightning, Summer Moonshine, Money in the Bank and The Code of the Woosters.


your man of affairs must take these little business precautions (p. 171)

Reminiscent of Ukridge using the false name Mr. Smallweed in “No Wedding Bells for Him” (1923) as an “ordinary business precaution.” [NM]


stalking horse (p. 171)

Originally, a horse trained to stand still, or a portable screen made in the figure of a horse, for hunters to hide behind as a blind when pursuing game. Figuratively, a person whose participation in a situation is guided and used by another person to conceal a plan or motive from still other persons. [NM]


absence … makes the heart grow fonder (p. 173)

Credited in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations to Sextius Propertius (54 b.c.–a.d. 2). [NM]


the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party (p. 174)

See The Code of the Woosters.


he stood not upon the order of his going (p. 175)

Another phrase that William Shakespeare no doubt wished he had thought of first. See Something Fresh.


must be … after a famous victory (p. 176)

They say it was a shocking sight
 After the field was won,
For many thousand bodies here
 Lay rotting in the sun;
But things like that, you know, must be
After a famous victory.

Robert Southey: After Blenheim, 49–54. [NM]


a little rest, a little folding of the hands (p. 177)

A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.

Proverbs 6:10–11 [ESV]


Chapter 22 (pp. 179–190)
Stormy Times at Mon Repos

that thing of Browning’s (p. 179)

See Something Fresh.


Sleep, which knits up the ravelled sleeve of care (p. 180)

Yet another allusion to Shakespeare’s Macbeth:

Methought I heard a voice cry ‘Sleep no more!
Macbeth does murder sleep,’ the innocent sleep,
Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleeve of care,
The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,
Chief nourisher in life’s feast,—

Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act II, sc 2


Henry Ford, or any other confirmed peacemaker (p. 181)

In 1915, the industrialist Henry Ford (1863–1947) chartered Oscar II, a passenger ship owned by the Scandinavian-American Line, to carry a peace mission to Norway for the purpose of establishing a “Neutral Conference for Continuous Mediation,” in an effort to bring an end to the First World War, which Ford opposed on economic grounds. It was hoped that President Woodrow Wilson could be persuaded to act as a mediator between the warring parties and Ford promised to “get the boys out of the trenches by Christmas.” Ford was widely ridiculed for his peacemaking efforts.


full of the milk of human kindness (p. 182)

More Macbeth!

yet do I fear thy nature;
It is too full o’ the milk of human kindness
To catch the nearest way:

Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act I, sc 4


the picture of Saint Sebastian in the Louvre (p. 187)

By Andrea Mantegna, 1431–1506. Click to open an image in a new window or browser tab. [NM]


compositor (p. 187)

a typesetter in a printing plant


Chapter 23 (pp. 191–206)
Soapy Molloy’s Busy Afternoon

let the dead past bury its dead (p. 196)

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
 Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act, act in the living Present!
 Heart within, and God o’er head!

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “A Psalm of Life” (1838)

Longfellow was presumably echoing the words of Christ in Matthew 8:22:

But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

Wodehouse makes frequent use of this phrase, e.g. in Money in the Bank and The Code of the Woosters; Hash Todhunter alludes to it earlier in this book.


Lord George Spelvin (p. 197)

“George Spelvin” is a fictitious name that is sometimes used in a theatre programme to disguise the fact that an actor is playing dual roles. The earliest reference to “George Spelvin” is thought to be in 1886 in the Broadway production of Karl the Peddler by Charles A. Gardiner, but the tradition only started in 1907, in a play called Brewster’s Millions by Winchell Smith and Byron Ongley. A minor actor in the production doubled in two roles and used the name George Spelvin for one of the parts. When the play proved to be a success, Winchell Smith continued to use the name in his future productions.


coming sixteenth prox. (p. 197)

That is, the sixteenth day of next month. Abbreviation of Latin proximō, next. [NM]


Sherlock Holmes (p. 198)

Conan Doyle nowhere describes Sherlock Holmes as “hatchet-faced” with “penetrating eyes,” but Professor von Baumgarten in Doyle’s The Captain of the Polestar is described in exactly those terms (see “The Great Keinplatz Experiment”):

[He] was tall and thin, with a hatchet face and steel-grey eyes, which were singularly bright and penetrating.


“The ’Oly City” (p. 198)

Almost certainly this refers to “The Holy City,” words by Frederick E. Weatherly (1848–1929), set to music by Stephen Adams (1844–1913) and published in 1892. The song, the first verse of which begins:

Last night I lay a-sleeping
There came a dream so fair,
I stood in old Jerusalem
Beside the temple there.

was a popular music-hall piece throughout the early decades of the 20th century and is still recorded today.


“Asleep on the Deep” (p. 198)

Not “on” but “in” the Deep. The song, with words by Arthur J. Lamb (who also wrote “Only a Bird in a Gilded Cage”) and music by Henry W. Petrie, was published in 1897.

A report of a church concert held in Victoria, Australia, in September 1901 lists as one of the turns a song, “Asleep on the deep,” sung by a Mr. Filmer. Unfortunately, no further details are available, so we cannot be sure that this Mr. Filmer is the same gentleman who, some 30 years later, as the Cabinet Minister, the Rt. Hon. A. B. Filmer, made an appearance in “Jeeves and the Impending Doom” (in Very Good, Jeeves).


‘Where every prospect pleases’ (p. 202)

What though the spicy breezes
 Blow soft o’er Ceylon’s isle;
Though every prospect pleases,
 And only man is vile?
In vain with lavish kindness
 The gifts of God are strown;
The heathen in his blindness
 Bows down to wood and stone.

Bishop Reginald Heber (1783–1826), “From Greenland’s Icy Mountains—Missionary Hymn” (1819)

“But there’s a catch. It’s a case of ‘Where every prospect pleases and only Man is vile.’ At least, not exactly vile, I suppose, but terribly stodgy.”

The Adventures of Sally, ch 12 (1922)

' . . . life there at the moment has its drawbacks. There’s far too much of that where-every-prospect-pleases-and-only-man-is-vile stuff buzzing around for my taste.'

Jeeves in the Offing, ch 2 (1960)

See also The Code of the Woosters and Joy in the Morning.


Chapter 24 (pp. 207–214)
Mainly About Trousers

ganglions … not having ceased to vibrate (p. 206)

These anatomical structures of nerve cells communicate through electro-chemical processes across synapses; though Wodehouse typically refers to them as quivering or vibrating, they do not actually have any mechanical functionality. [NM]

Examples: Psmith in the City (1908/10); Psmith, Journalist (1909/15); “Jeeves and the Chump Cyril”


Take off those trousers! (p. 209)

Wodehouse’s characters who are temporarily immobilized by the loss of their trousers include Eustace Hignett in The Girl on the Boat/Three Men and a Maid (1921/22); Soapy Molloy and Lord Tilbury in the present book; Freddie Widgeon in “Trouble Down at Tudsleigh” (1935); Butch Carpenter in French Leave (1956); and, most complicated, Biff Christopher, Henry Blake-Somerset, Percy Pilbeam, and Lord Tilbury (again) in Biffen’s Millions/Frozen Assets (1964). [NM]


The intellectual pressure of the conversation (p. 209)

See A Damsel in Distress.


delivered to me f.o.b. (p. 210)

free on board; in commercial delivery, the term is used with a specified location, usually that of the buyer or of the seller, to determine who pays shipping costs and bears liability for loss or damage in transit. Here, with “to me” the implication is that the trousers will be handed over without any additional charges or delays. [NM]


Life … was one long round of interruptions (p. 215)

“Life is made up of interruptions. The tortured soul, yearning for solitude, writhes under them.”

Reginald Bunthorne, in W. S. Gilbert: Patience (1881) [NM]


Chapter 25 (pp. 215–223)
Sam Hears Bad News

off his onion (p. 216)

Earliest citation (1881) in OED is in the sense of being unwell, but by 1890 a slang dictionary called this costermonger slang for “off one’s head, imbecile, cracked.” [NM]


de-bag (p. 217)

From 19th-century Oxford slang of “bags” for trousers: to remove the trousers from someone. [NM]


morning suit (p. 218)

Formal daytime wear, now usually only encountered at daytime weddings, including gray or black swallowtail coat, white waistcoat, ascot tie, gray or black top hat, striped trousers, spats, etc. See Right Ho, Jeeves. [NM]


in loco parentis (p. 219)

Latin: acting in place of a parent


abaft the fiddley (p. 220)

Towards the stern, from the iron framework round the deck opening that leads to the stoke-hole of a steamer. [OED 1895]


Every Achilles has his heel (p. 222)

See The Clicking of Cuthbert


Chapter 26 (pp. 223–229)
Sam Hears Good News

steep gradient of Sydenham Hill (p. 224)

From West Dulwich station to Sydenham Hill station, the track rises approximately 13 meters over a distance of 1.24 km, or just over a 1 percent grade. (Measurements approximated from Google Earth views.) Nineteenth-century American railroads sometimes had twice this slope, but if London-area trains had locomotives sized for more nearly level track, the strain here would indeed be audible. [NM]


Chapter 27 (pp. 230–234)
Spirited Behaviour of Mr. Braddock

sans-culotte (p. 230)

Literally, “without breeches” (French). During the French Revolution, sans-culotte was a nick-name applied by Royalists to the revolutionaries (presumably because the latter favoured long trousers rather than the fashionable knee breeches worn by aristocrats). Wodehouse is deliberately using the phrase in a literal sense, to mean “without trousers.”


strolling with stout Cortez (p. 230)

Another reference to Keats’s poem.


shirty (p. 231)

Ill-tempered, annoyed.


ravening (p. 231)

Being on the prowl, especially in search of prey or food.


one degree more cloth-headed (p. 233)

Cloth-headed: stupid or thoughtless.


Chapter 28 (pp. 234–239)
The Missing Millions

captious critics (p. 234)

captious: fault-finding, disposed to raise objections. Wodehouse regularly uses this adjective with “critic”; examples may be found in “A Shocking Affair” (1903); Three Men and a Maid (1922); The Small Bachelor (1926); Cocktail Time (1958); Ice in the Bedroom (1961); and Service With a Smile (1961). [NM]


Wax to receive (p. 234)

His heart was one of those which most enamour us,
Wax to receive, and marble to retain:

Lord Byron, “Beppo,” Stanza 34 (1818)

c

Singer’s Troupe of Midgets (p. 235)

. . . a chair of the type designed for the use of Singer’s Midgets

Second Berlin Broadcast, 9 July 1941

Baron Leopold von Singer (1877–1951) was born in Vienna. When his daughter Trudy contracted polio, Singer and his wife found that a local fairground show with midget performers provided a therapeutic distraction. In 1914 Singer formed his own troupe of midget performers, “Singer’s Midgets,” which travelled through Europe, South America, Asia and Australia, before finally settling in the United States. Although, at that time, midgets were regarded by many as freaks, Singer always insisted on treating them as adults and provided them with a salary and education. In 1939, Singer contracted with MGM to supply the midgets who appeared as Munchkins in the film “The Wizard of Oz.”


man of wrath (p. 235)

See Love Among the Chickens.


Valley Fields when it had not a single cinema house (p. 238)

Not such a stretch as that for a man of Cornelius’s vintage. The term “cinema house” does not even appear in British newspaper archives until 1909, only sixteen years earlier than the publication of this story. [NM]


Chapter 29 (pp. 239–247)
Mr. Cornelius Reads His History

third galley of … serial (p. 240)

Galleys were paper prints made from metal type immediately after it was typeset, for purposes of proofreading and checking for worn or damaged type. [NM]


Palais de Dance at Hammersmith (p. 241)

Built in 1919 on the former site of a train shed, the location of a roller-skating rink from 1910–15, the Hammersmith Palais de Dance was a project of two North American businessmen to capitalize on the new craze for ballroom dancing and popular bands playing jazz and light dance music. It had a sprung dance floor of Canadian maple. For a time in the early 1930s it was converted to an ice-skating rink, but another dance floor was installed by late 1934. It closed in 2007. [NM]


Blenkiron … Poskitt (p. 241)

The names are reused in the 1956 American magazine serial of Something Fishy, with the dollar amounts doubled. [NM]


restoring their tissues (p. 244)

Here used in the sense of sleep rather than alcoholic refreshment. Bertie Wooster uses it in both senses: [NM]

I was in bed, restoring the good old tissues with about nine hours of the dreamless…

“The Aunt and the Sluggard” (1916)

You can always rely on Jeeves. Just as I was wiping the brow and gasping like a stranded goldfish, in he drifted, merry and bright, with the good old tissue restorers on a tray.

“The Great Sermon Handicap” (1922)


schoolgirl complexion (p. 245)

“Keep that schoolgirl complexion” was a long-running slogan of Palmolive soap from 1917 on, praised by advertising experts early on and referred to as “that schoolgirl complexion look” in ads into the middle 1950s. [NM]

Wodehouse’s writings are copyright © Trustees of the Wodehouse Estate in most countries;
material published prior to 1923 is in USA public domain, used here with permission of the Estate.
Our editorial commentary and other added material are copyright © 2012–2018 www.MadamEulalie.org.