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

The Inimitable Jeeves was originally annotated by Mark Hodson (aka The Efficient Baxter). These notes have been reformatted and substantially extended by Neil Midkiff and others as noted, but credit goes to Mark for his original efforts, even while we bear the blame for errors of fact or interpretation.

 

The Inimitable Jeeves was published in the UK by Herbert Jenkins on 17 May 1923. In the US it appeared as Jeeves, published by George H. Doran on 28 September 1923. The text was a reworking into a continuous narrative of short stories previously published separately in magazines. Further details about differences between magazine and book appearances can be found at Neil Midkiff’s web page of the Wodehouse short stories.

Chapter(s) in The Inimitable Jeeves Story title in The World of Jeeves American magazine
version
British magazine
version
1. Jeeves Exerts the Old Cerebellum
2. No Wedding Bells for Bingo
Jeeves in the Springtime Cosmopolitan 1921-12 Strand 1921-12
3. Aunt Agatha Speaks Her Mind
4. Pearls Mean Tears
Aunt Agatha Takes the Count (earlier, different version) Cosmopolitan 1922-10 as “Aunt Agatha Makes a Bloomer” (the source of the Inimitable version) Strand 1922-04 as “Aunt Agatha Takes the Count” (an earlier, somewhat different version)
5. The Pride of the Woosters Is Wounded
6. The Hero’s Reward
Scoring off Jeeves Cosmopolitan 1922-03 as “Bertie Gets Even” Strand 1922-02
7. Introducing Claude and Eustace
8. Sir Roderick Comes to Lunch
Sir Roderick Comes to Lunch Cosmopolitan 1922-04 as “Jeeves the Blighter” Strand 1922-03
9. A Letter of Introduction
10. Startling Dressiness of a Lift Attendant
Jeeves and the Chump Cyril Sat. Eve. Post 1918-06-08 Strand 1918-08
11. Comrade Bingo
12. Bingo Has a Bad Goodwood
Comrade Bingo Cosmopolitan 1922-05 Strand 1922-05
13. The Great Sermon Handicap The Great Sermon Handicap Cosmopolitan 1922-06 Strand 1922-06
14. The Purity of the Turf The Purity of the Turf Cosmopolitan 1922-07 Strand 1922-07
15. The Metropolitan Touch The Metropolitan Touch Cosmopolitan 1922-09 Strand 1922-09
16. The Delayed Exit of Claude and Eustace The Delayed Exit of Claude and Eustace Cosmopolitan 1922-11 Strand 1922-10
17. Bingo and the Little Woman
18. All’s Well
Bingo and the Little Woman Cosmopolitan 1922-12 Strand 1922-11

Page references in the following notes are for the original Penguin paperback edition, published from 1953 through 2000, in which the text runs from p.7 to p.224. Notes marked * below are new in 2017–18; notes marked ° are newly updated in 2017–18.


Chapter 1
Jeeves Exerts the Old Cerebellum

Some slight friction threatening in the Balkans (p.7)°

As has often been suggested, this is a statement that would not have been very far off the mark at any time in the last five hundred years or so. When The Inimitable Jeeves appeared in 1923, the main disturbing factor in the region was the overthrow of the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire in 1922, leading to the proclamation of Ataturk’s Turkish Republic later in 1923. This conversation was added for the book; it does not appear in the 1921 short story “Jeeves in the Springtime.”


guide, philosopher, and friend (p.8)*

When statesmen, heroes, kings, in dust repose,
Whose sons shall blush their fathers were thy foes,
Shall then this verse to future age pretend
Thou wert my guide, philosopher, and friend!

Alexander Pope (1688–1744): An Essay on Man, Epistle IV.


Bingo Little (p.8)°

This is Bingo’s first appearance in the canon. He appears in a number of other Jeeves stories, including the second half of Carry On, Jeeves! Notice that this predates the invention of the game called “Bingo” (1927), and hence also the use of “bingo!” as an exclamation – at the time, the word existed only as a slang term for brandy, and on the evidence of this, as a schoolboy nickname. Cf. Thomas Hughes, Tom Brown at Oxford (1861): “some soda water, with a dash of bingo clears one’s head in the morning.”


cheesed it (p.8)*

stopped [doing something]. Originally 19th-c. thieves’ slang for “stop, run away” as in “Cheese it, the cops!”; OED suggests a possible derivation from “cease.”


a livelier iris (p.9)

In the Spring a fuller crimson comes upon the robin’s breast;
In the Spring the wanton lapwing gets himself another crest;
In the Spring a livelier iris changes on the burnish’d dove;
In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892): Locksley Hall ll. 17–20


Homburg (p.9)°

A formal daytime felt hat with a crown dented by a single front-to-back crease and a curled brim whose edge is trimmed in grosgrain, named after the spa near Wiesbaden. Made popular by Edward VII as Prince of Wales in the 1890s.


Whangee (p.9)°

Whangee is an English term, current in the late 18th century, deriving from huang, the Chinese word for the type of bamboo used for making walking sticks. The last syllable should be pronounced with a hard “g”; sometimes the spelling is given as -ghee to reflect this.


pastoral dances (p.9)°

British shepherds are not particularly known for their dancing – possibly this is an allusion to the interest in folk music and dance that developed in the 1920s (Bartók, Kodály)? Alternatively, see S. Baring-Gould, “Country Dances” in Cornhill Magazine, XI, 616 (1888); he refers to the pastoral dances of the stage as country or contre-dances, in which lines of men face lines of women, as in the Sir Roger de Coverley [cf. the Virginia Reel of the US]. Wodehouse’s intent was probably merely to indicate rustic simplicity and enjoyment of nature.


the Park (p.9)

Park with a capital “P” normally refers to Hyde Park, in London.


Serpentine (p.9)

Ornamental lake in the middle of Hyde Park.


At school he had the finest collection of actresses’ photographs of anyone of his time (p.10)*

British schoolboys collected photographs of their favorite actresses. In The Gold Bat from 1904, one such fellow has nineteen photographs of one actress, and Wodehouse himself indulged—his Dulwich scrapbook contained several photos of the lovely Gaiety Girl Ethel Haydon. [Note by John Dawson]


Ritz (p.10)°

The Ritz Hotel is at 150 Piccadilly, not far from Hyde Park. Fifty yards further east (slightly northeast, in the direction of Piccadilly Circus) would get you to the corners where St. James’s Street and Albemarle Street meet at Piccadilly, but no tea shops seem to have been just there in 1915. See the note for limado, p.11 below.


silent pool of coffee (p.10)

There is a small lake at Albury in Surrey known as the Silent Pool and associated with various horrible ghost stories. This is only a few miles from Worplesdon, where one of Wodehouse’s Deane aunts lived.


scenario (p.10)*

A detailed summary or outline of the plot of a play or film. Bertie, like his creator, is conversant with theatrical terms and uses them freely in everyday life. The term appears again in the third paragraph of Chapter 2, for instance.


jumping season (p.10)*

The time period during which horse races such as steeplechases and hurdle races are run, now officially called National Hunt racing, generally taking place in the winter and early spring for safer jumps on softer ground. Currently Grade 1 events are scheduled from November through April. Bingo’s betting successes in these races are about the last time we hear of him finishing ahead of the game; in later stories his luck is generally pretty bad, since his bets are more often hunches based on omens rather than on studying the form book (see note to p.208, below).


map (p.11)°

Slang: Face. OED has a few citations from 1899 to 1908, but Wodehouse’s stories helped popularize this colloquial usage, for example in “The Rough Stuff” [1920, collected in The Clicking of Cuthbert (1922)] and “Archie and the Sausage Chappie” [also 1920, in Indiscretions of Archie (1921)].


Soul’s Awakening (p.11)*

A sentimental portrait by James Sant (1820–1916) of his young great niece Annie Kathleen Rendle, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1888 and widely reproduced in engravings and prints.

[The item previously noted here, “a sentimental mezzotint engraving by Charles John Tomkins (1847–1897), published by Graves in 1892,” is listed in a guide to artworks as a companion piece to The Soul’s Awakening. Also, the 1922 Rudolf Steiner book of the same name is irrelevant to this reference, as this story appeared in magazines in 1921.]

A color reproduction of the painting

An 1897 interview with the artist, with black-and-white engraving of the painting


mazzard (p.11)

The head: by analogy to “mazer” – a drinking bowl.

Knockt about the Mazard with a Sextons Spade.

William Shakespeare (1564–1616): Hamlet V,i,97


macaroon (p.11)

A biscuit made of sugar, egg white, and almonds.


the old tum (p.11)°

See below, p. 31.


limado (p.11)°

Mark’s original note was: Perhaps a trade-name for a soft drink – I have found no trace of the word. Presumably it is a contraction of “limonade.”

An early (1905) novel by A. A. Milne, Lovers in London, refers to “sparkling limado” as one of the offerings of the A.B.C. tea shops run by the Aërated Bread Company. The 1915 Post Office Directory shows an A.B.C. at 178 Piccadilly, about 200 yards east of the Ritz. Lyons had also opened a café at 37 Piccadilly in 1894, but it was some 350 yards east of the Ritz.


Claridge’s (p.11)*

Another of London’s first-class hotels from this era; the present building was opened in 1898 at Brook Street and Davies Street in Mayfair.


sole frite au gourmet aux champignons (p.11)

Fried sole, gourmet style, with white mushrooms.


a roll and butter and a small coffee (p.12)

In Over Seventy, Wodehouse claims to have been shaken to the foundations on discovering when he started work at the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank in 1900 that “a roll and butter and a cup of coffee” would in future be all he could afford for lunch.


Camberwell (p.12)

A district of South London


the old lemon (p.12)*

one’s own head; this story is the earliest citation in the OED for this sense of the word.


wrap himself round the pie and macaroon (p.12)*

Wodehouse did not invent the phrases “get outside” and “wrap oneself round” as humorous inversions of the act of putting food and drink inside oneself, but he did much to popularize these uses, beginning in 1906; see the endnote to “How Kid Brady Joined the Press” on “you got outside your breakfast.”

See also p. 191, below.


in the soup (p.13)*

Originally American slang for “in a difficulty” with OED citations dating back to 1889. Elaborations of the phrase became a Wodehouse hallmark. Psmith remarks about a character in a story he is reading: “I should say that young Lord Antony Trefusis was in the soup already. I seem to see the consommé splashing about his ankles.” (The Lost Lambs, later published as Mike and Mike and Psmith)


unto half my kingdom (p.13)*

A Biblical expression for a generous recompense by a monarch; see the Book of Esther, chapters 5–7, and Mark 6:23, in the story of Herod and Salome: “And he sware unto her, Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom.”


ten quid (p.13)*

Ten pounds, a substantial sum in those days, and a substantial fraction of Jeeves’s likely annual cash income of perhaps £100 (in addition to his room and board at the Wooster residence). Wodehouse earned only £80 per year as a starting wage at the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank in 1900. The Bank of England inflation calculator converts £10 in 1921 to approximately £480 today.


Pounceby Gardens (p.14)

Appears to be fictitious – there is currently no street of that name.


The Sporting Times (p.15)°

The famous “Pink ’Un”, edited by John Corlett (“The Master”), which was as much a symbol of the naughty nineties as the old Pelican Club. This is a rather revealing slip on Wodehouse’s part – the Pink ’Un had ceased publication in 1914, but Bertie and Bingo clearly belong to its pre-War world rather than to the 1920s where they have been placed in many illustrations and dramatizations (cf. Murphy, In Search of Blandings, Chapter 1). We can work out other evidence of this from “Jeeves Takes Charge” (November 18, 1916, in the Saturday Evening Post). Bertie tells us that Jeeves came to him “about half a dozen years ago”—in other words, roughly 1910—and internal evidence in the story lets us know that Bertie was 24 at the time.


Rosie M. Banks (p.16)*

Norman Murphy tells us, in A Wodehouse Handbook, of three authors who may have been influential in the coinage of this character name: Ruby M. Ayres (1883–1955), Ethel M. Dell (1881–1939), and E[dith]. M[aud]. Hull (1880–1947). All found fame in romantic fiction which appealed to the British public of the time. Hull is best remembered for two novels made into Rudolph Valentino silent films, The Sheik and Son of the Sheik. Dell rose to prominence with Way of the Eagle (1912) stressing themes of “courage, the Empire, the protection of women.” Ayres wrote more conventional love stories for half a century; Wodehouse wrote to Richard Usborne that he coined “Rosie M. Banks” to give a suggestion of her name. Amusingly, a modern American romance novelist, Alan Jackson, got Wodehouse’s permission to publish a series of doctor-and-nurse romances under the pseudonym of Rosie M. Banks in the late 1950s and early 1960s.


I have an aunt, sir… (p.16)

In fact, Jeeves seems to have quite a number of them: we have already heard of two in Carry On, Jeeves!, and there are more to come.


Chapter 2
No Wedding Bells for Bingo

Rosie M. Banks (p.17)

All for love: or, The world well lost is of course a play by Dryden. There is a novel called All for Love; or, the Outlaw’s Bride by Eliza Dupuy (1878).

The British Library lists no titles resembling A Red, Red Summer Rose, Madcap Myrtle, or The Courtship of Lord Strathmorlick.

Only a Factory Girl was a song written by C. Collins and Fred Barnes, ca. 1904.


the stuff to give the troops (p.17)*

See p. 102, below.


arrowroot (p.17)*

A food starch refined from the roots of several tropical plants, valued by the Victorians as an easily digestible food for children and invalids, although it provides little nutrition other than complex carbohydrate calories. It can be baked into biscuits, boiled as puddings, and used as a thickener for jellies, gravies, and clear sauces.


pippin (p.18)*

From the sense of “pippin” as a sweet dessert apple, the further meanings of “a dear young girl” and, as here, “an excellent thing, a pleasing example of its kind” were derived.


the telephone-bell rang outside in the hall (p.20)*

Even wealthy households often had only one telephone instrument at the time, and as it would usually be answered by a servant, it would be placed in a hall so that it would be accessible by a butler or maid without disturbing the household or guests until it was known who was wanted.


Subconsciously, if you know what I mean (p.21)*

Although the term was not completely new in English, the late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century advances in psychology made this a fashionable word, much discussed in popular as well as academic literature of the time.


bally (p.21)*

Rhymes with “tally”; a very slangy intensive adjective, usually used as an euphemism for bloody; it has the effect of a mild imprecation such as “confounded” or “blasted.” It would definitely not be part of the vocabulary of Rosie M. Banks’s characters, and so is humorously inappropriate in the mouth of their putative author.


1917 … air-raids (p.22)

German Zeppelins bombed London on a number of occasions between 31 May 1915 and June 1917.


rank is but the guinea stamp (p.23)°

Is there for honest Poverty
That hings his head, an’ a’ that;
The coward slave—we pass him by,
We dare be poor for a’ that!
For a’ that, an’ a’ that.
Our toils obscure an’ a’ that,
The rank is but the guinea’s stamp,
The Man’s the gowd for a’ that.

What though on hamely fare we dine,
Wear hoddin grey, an’ a that;
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine;
A Man’s a Man for a’ that:
For a’ that, and a’ that,
Their tinsel show, an’ a’ that;
The honest man, tho’ e’er sae poor,
Is king o’ men for a’ that.

Ye see yon birkie, ca’d a lord,
Wha struts, an’ stares, an’ a’ that;
Tho’ hundreds worship at his word,
He’s but a coof for a’ that:
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
His ribband, star, an’ a’ that:
The man o’ independent mind
He looks an’ laughs at a’ that.

A prince can mak a belted knight,
A marquis, duke, an’ a’ that;
But an honest man’s abon his might,
Gude faith, he maunna fa’ that!
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
Their dignities an’ a’ that;
The pith o’ sense, an’ pride o’ worth,
Are higher rank than a’ that.

Then let us pray that come it may,
(As come it will for a’ that,)
That Sense and Worth, o’er a’ the earth,
Shall bear the gree, an’ a’ that.
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
It’s coming yet for a’ that,
That Man to Man, the world o’er,
Shall brothers be for a’ that.

Robert Burns: A Man’s a Man for A’ That

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 (five percent) to the value of the equivalent number of pounds.

Early editions of the Burns poem used either the phrase “guinea’s stamp” presumably meaning the mint mark guaranteeing its authenticity and value or “guinea stamp” as quoted above.

Wodehouse makes a pun on this phrase when Bertie misquotes it to Jeeves in “Indian Summer of an Uncle” (1930, collected in Very Good, Jeeves) as “penny stamp”; when Jeeves corrects it as “guinea stamp” Bertie replies that he didn’t think postage stamps came any higher than five shillings.


ne’er so humble (p.23)

This is a frequently occurring misquotation of John Howard Payne’s song from his 1823 opera Clari, the Maid of Milan:

Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble there ’s no place like home!
A charm from the sky seems to hallow us there,
Which, seek through the world, is ne’er met with elsewhere.
Home! home! sweet, sweet home!
There ’s no place like home!

An exile from home, splendor dazzles in vain:
O, give me my lowly thatched cottage again!
The birds singing gayly that came at my call;—
Give me them,—and the peace of mind dearer than all!
Home! home! sweet, sweet home!
There ’s no place like home!

How sweet ’t is to sit ’neath a fond father’s smile,
And the cares of a mother to soothe and beguile!
Let others delight mid new pleasures to roam,
But give me, oh, give me, the pleasures of home!
Home! home! sweet, sweet home!
There ’s no place like home!

To thee I ’ll return, overburdened with care;
The heart’s dearest solace will smile on me there;
No more from that cottage again will I roam;
Be it ever so humble, there ’s no place like home.
Home! home! sweet, sweet home!
There ’s no place like home!

John Howard Payne (1791–1852): Home, Sweet Home


the lady who for years has cooked … (p.24)°

In Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves (1963) Gussie Fink-Nottle also marries a cook, albeit a temporary one (Emerald Stoker) whose father is a millionaire. Lord Emsworth’s sister Lady Hermione Wedge is not a cook, but often mistaken for one in Full Moon (1947) and later books. Ian Michaud notes that in Spring Fever (1948), both the impoverished Lord Shortlands and his butler Mervyn Spink both wanted to marry the cook Mrs. Punter, but she laid them both a dead stymie by pairing off with her former fiancé Augustus Robb.


Chapter 3
Aunt Agatha Speaks Her Mind

untamed gazelle (p.26)°

Byron is said to have used this expression of Lady Caroline Lamb. It appears in popular literature from 1850 onward as well.


Ciro’s (p.26)

A London nightclub (or possibly several at different times). In 1924 there seems to have been a club of this name in Orange Street, off the Haymarket. Jean Lensen and his Ciro’s Club Dance Orchestra played there until 1927.


dishing of young Bingo’s matrimonial plans (p.26)

Dish in this context means to spoil, do for, finish (18th century) – by association with the original sense of completing cooking by dishing the food up.


snooter (p.26)*

See The Code of the Woosters.


best of all possible worlds (p.27)*

See Something Fresh.


Mrs. Gregson (p.27)°

Her husband is Spenser or Spencer Gregson; sometimes she is referenced as Mrs. Spenser Gregson. In three of the stories collected in Carry On, Jeeves!, she is referred to as Mrs. Spenser. (In Chapters 7–8 below, it turns out that her butler is called Spenser. To avoid this confusion those three stories are amended in the World of Jeeves omnibus to call her Mrs. Gregson, and her butler is renamed Benson in “Sir Roderick Comes to Lunch” in the omnibus.) By the time of The Code of the Woosters (1938), Mr. Gregson is deceased.


the curse has come upon us (p.27)*

See below, p. 182.


Roville-sur-mer (p.27)°

Fictitious, probably based on the Normandy resort of Deauville. Roville-sur-Mer had appeared in “Ruth in Exile”, “The Tuppenny Millionaire”, and The Adventures of Sally, and appears again in French Leave (1956).


put the wind up me (p.27)*

got me into a state of fear or alarm; British slang from World War One.


miss-in-baulk (p.27)

In billiards, a player making an opening stroke from behind the baulk line is not allowed to hit another ball behind the baulk line. Thus a miss-in-baulk is a deliberate avoidance of something.


fruity (p.28)*

The first OED citation in the colloquial sense of rich, attractive, or interesting is from 1900; Wodehouse’s use of it in Indiscretions of Archie (1921) is cited.


I want to introduce you to a Miss Hemmingway (p.29)*

In the first version of this story, “Aunt Agatha Takes the Count” (Strand, April 1922, collected in The World of Jeeves), Bertie has already met Aline Hemmingway on the train from Paris to Roville. Wodehouse revised it for the American magazine appearance “Aunt Agatha Makes a Bloomer” (Cosmopolitan, October 1922) in a form similar to its appearance here. The improved version allows Bertie to tick Aunt Agatha off for introducing him to a pair of thieves and recommending Aline as a wife.


Chipley-in-the-Glen (p.29)

There is a Chipley in Devon and another in Somerset, but none in Dorset. However, the name must owe at least something to Shipley Glen, a celebrated Edwardian pleasure-garden on the outskirts of Bradford, W. Yorks.


right-and-left-hand knockers (p.29)

As well as being a fault-finder, a “knocker” in late nineteenth-century slang was also a skilled boxer – Wodehouse is cleverly mixing the two senses here.


the future of the race (p.29)°

Eugenics did not then have the ugly implications that it has today, but The Inimitable Jeeves was published in the year of the Munich Putsch. Wodehouse makes his views on the subject very clear in the character of the unpleasant Mrs. Lora Delane Porter in The White Hope/The Coming of Bill. It must also be remembered that England and the countries of Europe had lost a great many young men in the first World War just a few years before this, so the next generation would need replenishing.


women’s clubs (p.30)

There were some twenty ladies’ clubs in London before the Great War. At the time they were the only places where a respectable lady could stay or eat out unescorted.


hauled up her slacks (p.30)°

Wodehouse uses this phrase often in describing a long speech or pronouncement; Jonathon Green, in Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang, says it may possibly be a Wodehouse coinage. How Bertie arrives at it is a little obscure. Possibly it is by extension to the idea that some men prepare themselves physically for speaking by inflating their lungs and hitching up their trousers? It certainly doesn’t imply that Aunt Agatha was actually wearing trousers: more likely it is Bertie subconsciously giving her more authority by using a masculine image.

On the prompt side a gang of top-hatted birds were starting an open-air missionary service; on the O.P. side an atheist was hauling up his slacks with a good deal of vim, though handicapped a bit by having no roof to his mouth…

Bertie in Hyde Park in “Comrade Bingo” (1922)

See also The Code of the Woosters.


the wary up-and-down (p.30)*

In the sense of a “once-over” or rapid perusal, OED calls this usage “rare” and cites only another story in this book, chapter 10 (page 91 in this edition).


Canon Blenkinsop (p.30)°

A canon in the Church of England is a clergyman who is a member of a cathedral chapter. Blenkinsop is a name given to many of Wodehouse’s characters, the earliest probably being the cricketing curate in the story “Blenkinsop’s Benefit” (1904: collected in Tales of Wrykyn and Elsewhere).


gaspers (p.30)*

See Right Ho, Jeeves.


the old tum (p.31)*

Short for “tummy” =“stomach”; OED first citation is from 1869:

Most people think that, should it come,
They can reduce a bulging tum
  To measures fair
  By taking air
And exercise in plenty.

W. S. Gilbert: “A Discontented Sugar Broker” (1867) in The Bab Ballads.

Wodehouse uses it in The Little Warrior (1921) as well as above, p. 11 in this edition.


insular (p.31)*

Generally, pertaining to islanders; here, having the prejudices or narrow ideas of Great Britain as compared with continental Europe.

For they were a race insular in temper as well as in geographical position.

Macaulay: History of England (1849)


Vicente Blasco What’s-his-name (p.31)

The Spanish realist novelist Vicente Blasco Ibáñez (1867–1928) became known in the English-speaking world because of his war-novel Los cuatro jinetes del Apocalipsis (1916, tr. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, 1918). Bertie has presumably read some of his earlier, less polemical books.


hidalgo (p.31)

Spanish: a gentleman or minor noble (literally: the son of somebody)


gives me the pip (p.32)*

annoys or irritates me; OED citations are from 1896 onward, including this sentence from Wodehouse.


toad under the harrow (p.32)

The toad beneath the harrow knows
Exactly where each tooth-point goes;
The butterfly upon the road
Preaches contentment to that toad.

Rudyard Kipling: Pagett, M.P.


in the soup (p.32)

See p. 13 above.


up to the hocks (p.32)

The hock is a joint in a horse’s leg, between the true knee and the fetlock.


bit the bullet (p.33)

Said to come from the practice of giving wounded soldiers a bullet to bite on while surgery was performed.


Chapter 4
Pearls Mean Tears

Shades of the prison house (p.34)

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing Boy,
But He beholds the light, and whence it flows,
He sees it in his joy;
The Youth, who daily farther from the east
Must travel, still is Nature’s Priest,
And by the vision splendid
Is on his way attended;
At length the Man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day.
Earth fills her lap with pleasures of her own;
Yearnings she hath in her own natural kind,
And, even with something of a Mother’s mind,
And no unworthy aim,
The homely Nurse doth all she can
To make her Foster-child, her Inmate Man,
Forget the glories he hath known,
And that imperial palace whence he came.

William Wordsworth: Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood, ll. 59–85


gone to earth (p.34)*

Hunting jargon for an animal which has taken refuge in an underground burrow or lair.


first crack out of the box (p.36)°

At the first attempt – a crack is an attempt (as in “have a crack at”) and “out of the box” is something that is new, hasn’t been used before. Possibly the expression comes from a particular sport? There are some interesting research findings and speculations at the Stack Exchange website, but no definitive answers have been reached.


my ear was shortly going to be bitten (p.36)*

See Leave It to Psmith.


the real tabasco (p.37)

A proprietary hot sauce made with chili peppers. Tabasco® brand products are produced by the McIlhenny Company, founded in 1868 at Avery Island, Louisiana.


Mont-de-Piété (p.38)

Pawnbroker – named after the first, established by a monk in Perugia in 1462 as a charitable institution to help keep poor people out of the clutches of moneylenders. They were set up in many European towns and cities, mostly by religious institutions, in the early seventeenth century, and were generally taken over by municipalities after the French revolution. Many are now incorporated into municipal savings banks; the most famous surviving example is the Mont-de-Piété in Brussels, which has had a monopoly of pawnbroking in the city since 1618.


massaging the fin (p.38)*

By humorous extension from a fish’s fin, here meaning the hand; usage for arm or hand cited in OED from 1785 on.


Who steals my purse steals trash (p.38)

Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls:
Who steals my purse steals trash; ’t is something, nothing;
’T was mine, ’t is his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him
And makes me poor indeed.

Shakespeare (1564–1616): Othello III:3, 180–186


asp-whatever-the-word-is (p.39)

aspersions


Lord Frederick Ranelagh (p.39)

Ranelagh is in Ireland. Ranelagh Gardens in Chelsea were a famous pleasure resort of early Georgian London.


dirty work at the crossroads (p.39)*

See The Luck of the Bodkins.


paste (p.41)*

Imitation or costume jewelry in general; more specifically, imitation gemstones made by fusing a paste-like wet mixture of ground minerals into a glass with a high lead content, which gives a prismatic sparkle similar to diamonds. Paste gems can be colored or clear, and if skilfully cut and polished can be attractive, but since the glass is softer than ordinary window glass, it must be carefully handled to avoid wear, as Jimmy Pitt points out in The Intrusions of Jimmy. Imitation or paste pearls are made by a different process, nowhere detailed in Wodehouse.


snootering (p.42)°

See The Code of the Woosters.


divers (p.42)*

An old-fashioned word meaning “several” usually with an implication that the group has some variety; the word is from the same root as “diverse” and is pronounced with the accent on the first syllable and a final [z] sound, sounding like the plural of “diver”.


I knocked but no one took any notice, so I trickled in (p.42)*

See totter at p. 46 below for other self-deprecatory verbs of languid movement. Other dudes who trickle include Psmith in Psmith in the City (The New Fold in serial form):

Let us trickle towards the post office. I will leave my hat and gloves as a guarantee of good faith.

Archie Moffam in Indiscretions of Archie:

“How would it be, old thing,” he said, almost brokenly, “if you and I trickled down to the bar and had a spot of sherbet?”

and Reggie Byng in A Damsel in Distress:

There’s a new musical comedy at the Regal.… I must trickle up to town and see it some time this week.

Bertie even uses the verb to describe Aunt Agatha’s coming; see p. 190, below.


call the cattle home across the sands of Dee (p.43)

“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 dark with foam,
And all alone went she.

The western tide crept up along the sand,
And o’er and o’er the sand,
And round and round the sand,
As far as eye could see.
The rolling mist came down and hid the land:
And never home came she.

“O is it weed, or fish, or floating hair—
A tress of golden hair,
A drown’d maiden’s hair,
Above the nets at sea?”
Was never salmon yet that shone so fair
Among the stakes of Dee.

They row’d her in across the rolling foam,
The cruel crawling foam,
The cruel hungry foam,
To her grave beside the sea.
But still the boatmen hear her call the cattle home,
Across the sands of Dee.

Charles Kingsley: The Sands of Dee


I have my methods (p.44)*

Bertie is trying to achieve a Sherlockian flair here, though Holmes is not so reticent about his own methods:

“I am afraid that my explanation may disillusionize you, but it has always been my habit to hide none of my methods, either from my friend Watson or from anyone who might take an intelligent interest in them.”

Arthur Conan Doyle: “The Reigate Squires” (1893)


biting … in the gizzard (p.44)

The gizzard is the second stomach of certain kinds of birds. Bertie is strangely mixing his idioms – more usually the word appears in phrases like “it sticks in my gizzard.”


Mais oui, mais oui, c’est trop fort! (p.44)

French: Yes, indeed, it’s too much.


eftsoons or right speedily (p.44)

Eftsoons originally meant again or afterwards. “Soon afterwards,” the meaning it is now usually associated with – as in this case – seems to have been invented by 18th or 19th century historical novelists.


picking daisies … down express (p.45)°

A “down” express is a train travelling away from London which makes only a limited number of stops. Elsewhere, Wodehouse uses a number of variants of this image, featuring other trains such as the Cornish Express.


Ten o’clock, a clear night and all’s well (p.45)

The traditional call of the city watchman.


Chapter 5
The Pride of the Woosters Is Wounded

totter (p.46)*

Bertie uses a number of deprecatory verbs for his activities, part of his “knut” or “dude” pose as an idle man-about-town. He totters, trickles, staggers, toddles from one place to another, emphasizing that he has no specific purpose in what he does. Aunt Agatha calls him on this point in “Extricating Young Gussie”:

 “Well, I rather thought of tottering out for a bite of lunch later on, and then possibly staggering round to the club, and after that, if I felt strong enough, I might trickle off to Walton Heath for a round of golf.”
 “I am not interested in your totterings and tricklings. I mean, have you any important engagements in the next week or so?”

Other dudes in Wodehouse totter as well: Freddie Rooke in The Little Warrior:

Now he could totter off with a light heart and get a bit of lunch.

Archie Moffam in Indiscretions of Archie:

I hate to totter in where I’m not wanted and all that, but my wife made such a point of it.


toddled (p.46)*

Usually used to describe the unsteady gait of a young child just learning to walk; also colloquially used for a leisurely stroll. See totter above. Besides Bertie, other dudes in Wodehouse who toddle include Archie Moffam in Indiscretions of Archie:

What could be simpler than to toddle down one flight of stairs and in an easy and debonair manner ask the chappie’s permission to use his telephone?

Reggie Byng in A Damsel in Distress:

“I’ll toddle round to the garage and fetch the car.” Reggie chuckled amusedly.

Claude and Eustace, later in this book:

“We will toddle along to Ciro’s after dinner.”


understudy (p.46)

Theatrical term: an actor kept in reserve to play a part if someone else is incapacitated (to ‘study’ in the theatre is to learn a part).


substitute (p.46)

In sports, especially cricket or football, a substitute is a player replacing another who has been injured during the course of a match.


Buck’s (p.47)

London gentlemen’s club, founded after the Great War at 18 Clifford Street by Captain Buckmaster for a group of fellow officers. It shares many features with the fictitious Drones Club of the later stories. Wodehouse may have been a member for a short time in the early twenties, although there is no record of this other than a remark of Evelyn Waugh’s in a newspaper article. He was certainly familiar with the club (note also the mention of McGarry, p. 48 below). (cf. Murphy, In Search of Blandings, Ch.7)


bracer (p.47)*

Another colloquial reference to alcoholic drinks with an implication that they contribute to health (see also tissue-restorer).

 “A quick bracer,” said Algy Martyn, “and then the jolly old foodstuffs. It’s pretty late, I see. Didn’t notice how time was slipping.”
 Over the soup Freddie was still a prey to gloom. For once the healing gin-and-vermouth had failed to do its noble work.

The Little Warrior, ch. VIII


one quick and another rather slower (p.47)*

Several of Wodehouse’s characters enjoy this approach to a couple of drinks:

There, having mixed himself a strong brandy-and-soda, he sat down and gave himself up to meditation: and eventually, after one quick drink and another taken rather slower, was able to marshal his thoughts with a certain measure of coherence.

“The Ordeal of Osbert Mulliner” (1928)

It was only after Monty had had one quick and another rather slower that he seemed to return to this world from whatever misty empyrean it was in which his soul had been wandering.

The Luck of the Bodkins (1935)

Presently, life returned to the rigid limbs and he tottered to the bar to have one quick one, followed by another rather slower.

“The Editor Regrets” (1939)


cheerio (p.47)*

As an adjective for “cheerful, merry” the OED has citations beginning in 1918, so this was a fairly new term when the short story version of this chapter appeared in 1922; one OED citation from 1948 is from Wodehouse’s Spring Fever.


wrapping himself round (p.47)*

See page 12, above.


Ditteredge in Hampshire (p.47)

There is nowhere in the UK called Ditteredge. However, Ditteridge, Wiltshire, is very close to Cheney Court, where Wodehouse’s maternal grandmother and four of his aunts lived (cf. Murphy, In Search of Blandings).


Glossop (p.47)

Glossop is a town in Derbyshire. This is the first appearance of the Glossop family.


you can fool some of the people (p.47)*

A quotation widely attributed to Abraham Lincoln, but not appearing in print before 1885 and so generally disbelieved as genuine by historians:

You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.


an absolute sitter (p.48)*

Early uses c. 1900 of “sitter” in the OED refer to easy catches at cricket that can be made without running for them, or to hunting targets at rest (like a sitting duck); by extension, the word was later used to refer to an exam one is certain of doing well at, or, as here, to a racehorse which seems certain to win. Before having looked up the earliest senses, calling a favored racehorse a “sitter” had always seemed like an oxymoron. [NM]


Haydock Park (p.48)

Racecourse near Newton-le-Willows in Lancashire


Girton (p.48)

Ladies’ college of Cambridge University. Founded at Hitchin in 1869, moved to a site two miles north of Cambridge in 1873. Wodehouse’s cousin, the philosopher Dr. Helen Marion Deane, was an undergraduate at Girton in 1898–1902, and was Mistress (head) of the college from 1931 to 1942 (cf. Murphy, chapter 17).


blew the All-Clear (p.48)*

Sounded an audible signal of the end of a wartime air raid. In London during the First World War, Boy Scout buglers were used to blow the all-clear; sirens were used in the Second World War.


Fred Thompson (p.48)*

Frederick A. Thompson (1884–1949) was an English author, librettist of some fifty musical comedies; he collaborated with Wodehouse on the book of The Golden Moth (1921), music by Ivor Novello, lyrics by Wodehouse and by Adrian Ross. The show was still running at the Royal Adelphi Theatre, London, as this story was appearing in magazines in early 1922.


McGarry (p.48)°

Norman Murphy has established that the barman at Buck’s was a former Irish Guardsman called McGarry. He is also mentioned as the Drones Club barman in A Few Quick Ones and Plum Pie.


She walks in beauty, like the night (p.49)

She walks in beauty, like the night
 Of cloudless climes and starry skies,
And all that’s best of dark and bright
 Meets in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellow’d to that tender light
 Which Heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
 Had half impair’d the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress
 Or softly lightens o’er her face,
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
 How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
 So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
 But tell of days in goodness spent,—
A mind at peace with all below,
 A heart whose love is innocent.

George Gordon Noel Byron, Lord Byron (1788–1824) She walks in beauty, like the night


Another bit of bread and cheese (p.49)*

Bingo has been so wrapped up in his poetic quotation that he continues by ordering more food while still in iambic tetrameter.


Waterloo (p.49)*

Waterloo station in London, just south of the Thames in Lambeth, was originally opened in 1848 and expanded in a haphazard fashion over the years, leading to the confusion about its platforms and services mentioned in earlier stories (see Love Among the Chickens, at footnote numbered 1). It was rebuilt in stages in the early 20th century and formally opened in March 1922, just as this story was appearing in magazines. Trains from Waterloo generally serve areas to the south and southwest of London including Hampshire.


with the fish (p.50)*

At the second course of the meal, following the soup.


score off Jeeves (p.51)*

In other words, gain points against him in their rivalry for control of the home. The original appearance of this story in the Strand magazine was titled “Scoring Off Jeeves” (February 1922).


she is coming, my love, my own (p.53)

There has fallen a splendid tear
 From the passion-flower at the gate.
She is coming, my dove, my dear;
 She is coming, my life, my fate;
The red rose cries, “She is near, she is near;”
 And the white rose weeps, “She is late;”
The larkspur listens, “I hear, I hear;”
 And the lily whispers, “I wait.”

She is coming, my own, my sweet;
 Were it ever so airy a tread,
My heart would hear her and beat,
 Were it earth in an earthy bed;
My dust would hear her and beat,
 Had I lain for a century dead;
Would start and tremble under her feet,
 And blossom in purple and red.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892): Maud I:59–73


Waukeesis (p.53)*

The Waukeezi Shoe Company of Northampton produced both men’s and women’s shoes; advertisements from 1906 to 1956 use this spelling. Wodehouse generally changes the z to an s.


Oh, happy day (p.54)

…even happier if you happen to remember that the hymn “Oh, happy day” is all about baptism! (Note that the “gospel” version by Edwin Hawkins, which is often sung nowadays, didn’t appear until 1967.)

O happy day, that fixed my choice
 On Thee, my Savior and my God!
Well may this glowing heart rejoice,
 And tell its raptures all abroad.

(Happy day, happy day, when Jesus washed my sins away!
He taught me how to watch and pray, and live rejoicing every day
Happy day, happy day, when Jesus washed my sins away.)

O happy bond, that seals my vows
 To Him Who merits all my love!
Let cheerful anthems fill His house,
 While to that sacred shrine I move.

It’s done: the great transaction’s done!
 I am the Lord’s and He is mine;
He drew me and I followed on;
 Charmed to confess the voice divine.

Now rest, my long divided heart,
 Fixed on this blissful center, rest.
Here have I found a nobler part;
 Here heavenly pleasures fill my breast.

High heaven, that heard the solemn vow,
 That vow renewed shall daily hear,
Till in life’s latest hour I bow
 And bless in death a bond so dear.

Phillip Doddridge (1702–1751): Oh, Happy Day (hymn)


Chapter 6
The Hero’s Reward

rummy (p.55)*

odd, peculiar, strange. OED has citations from 1828 including one from chapter 10 of this book (p. 93 of Penguin edition)


paving the way for young Bingo (p.56)*

Bertie has a similar plan in chapter 10 of Right Ho, Jeeves regarding paving the way for Gussie Fink-Nottle with Madeline Bassett, and is similarly misunderstood by Madeline to be proposing in a roundabout way on his own behalf, as Honoria does here.


whack up the ginger (p.56)°

summon up the courage or spirit; originally American slang. As late as 1909 an OED citation from Britain calls “ginger” an Americanism.


posish (p.56)*

position; see “condish” in Right Ho, Jeeves.


left upper entrance … down right (p.57)*

Bertie is once again demonstrating (and perhaps explaining) his familiarity with theatrical jargon. Left and right are from the actors’ point of view, not the audience’s; up and down mean toward the back or the front of the stage respectively, recalling the days when stages were raked: constructed on a slope.


doing quickly or not at all (p.58)*

A subtle hint of Macbeth, perhaps? Contemplating the murder of Duncan in Act 1, scene 7:

If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well it were done quickly.


And so the long day wore on, so to speak (p.58)*

Bertie seems to indicate that he is quoting a familiar phrase, but a Google Books search finds no earlier appearance. Unless this was a silent movie title card (not generally transcribed in searchable text), this may indeed be a Wodehouse original. He used the phrase again in an essay about his methods of composition, describing the trouble he would have dictating his fiction to a stenographer. One citation for the essay as published.


writer-chappies … talk about time standing still (p.58)*

The earliest so far discovered:

All this is true, if Time stood still; which contrariwise moveth so round, that a froward retention of custom, is as turbulent a thing as an innovation; and they that reverence too much old times are but a scorn to the new.

Francis Bacon: “XXIV—Of Innovations” in Essays (1625)


‘had evidently been in the water several days’ (p.59)*

This exact phrase is found 193 times in a search of the British Newspaper Archive, most densely in the decades from 1860 to 1909, but as early as 1804 in the London Evening Mail. Wodehouse’s ear for a cliché of journalism was as acute as always here.


Australian crawl (p.59)°

A swimming stroke, first developed in 1901. Wodehouse often mentions swimming in his autobiographical works, and many of his characters are good swimmers.


can … give you at least forty yards in the hundred (p.59)*

This is the terminology of a handicap race, in which competitors start off at different distances from the finish line based on their expected speeds, such as the Choir Boys’ Handicap in “The Purity of the Turf” later in this book. Here Bertie means that Oswald could swim a hundred yards in less time than it would take Bertie to swim the sixty remaining after his forty-yard head start.


the thing was a wash-out (p.59)*

Slang for a total failure, first cited in OED from 1902, and popularized in the British Army in the First World War, first for completely missing the target in shooting practice, then extended to apply to any failure.


Scotch express (p.59)*

A fast train service between Edinburgh and London, initiated in 1862 and improved after 1896; with a fifteen-minute stop in York the total journey took 8½ hours, averaging 47½ miles per hour. Its unofficial name of the “Flying Scotsman” was made official in 1924, and the stop in York was eliminated in 1928.


There is none like her, none. (p.61)*

I have led her home, my love, my only friend.
There is none like her, none.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson: Maud, I, xviii


Ruskin (p.61)°

John Ruskin (1819–1900), the great cultural critic and social theorist of Victorian England. He was a great champion of—and influence on—the pre-Raphaelites, and inspired the revival of gothic architecture. His enthusiasm for educating the working classes had a huge influence too, and has its monument to this day in the WEA (Workers’ Educational Association) and in Ruskin College, Oxford. One feels that Bertie could have fared far worse.

[Or maybe not; here is the first sentence of the opening section, “Of the nature of the ideas conveyable by art,” of one of his best-known books. It’s not perhaps as impenetrable as Types of Ethical Theory, but hardly a passage which lends itself to appreciation when read aloud, as Honoria proposes to do. —NM]

If it be true, and it can scarcely be disputed, that nothing has been for centuries consecrated by public admiration, without possessing in a high degree some kind of sterling excellence, it is not because the average intellect and feeling of the majority of the public are competent in any way to distinguish what is really excellent, but because all erroneous opinion is inconsistent, and all ungrounded opinion transitory; so that, while the fancies and feelings which deny deserved honour, and award what is undue, have neither root nor strength sufficient to maintain consistent testimony for a length of time, the opinions formed on right grounds by those few who are in reality competent judges, being necessarily stable, communicate themselves gradually from mind to mind, descending lower as they extend wider, until they leaven the whole lump, and rule by absolute authority, even where the grounds and reasons for them cannot be understood.

John Ruskin: Modern Painters, vol. 1, part 1, section 1, chapter 1; 2nd edition (1873)


Chapter 7
Introducing Claude and Eustace

summer time (p.62)*

British Summer Time, one hour ahead of GMT; the equivalent of Daylight Saving Time in the USA. See Leave It to Psmith.


Spenser, Aunt Agatha’s butler (p.62)*

By the time this story (under the original magazine title of “Sir Roderick Comes to Lunch”) was collected in the Jeeves Omnibus (later expanded as The World of Jeeves), the butler’s name had been changed to Benson to avoid confusion with Aunt Agatha’s husband, Spenser Gregson.


lofted (p.62)

Golfing term: to hit a ball upwards, e.g. to get it over an obstacle.


Death, where is thy … sting? (p.62)

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

Bible: 1 Corinthians 15:55


Regent Street (p.63)*

Dating from 1825, Regent Street was an early example of town planning, with original buildings designed by John Nash. It has been largely rebuilt but remains a major shopping destination in London’s West End.


scratch the fixture (p.63)*

Sporting terminology, meaning to cancel a previously-scheduled match or race. The OED cites this sentence as an example in its definition number 5 of “fixture.”


looney-bin (p.63)*

The lunatic asylum. Spelled “loony-bin” in US magazine; otherwise as here. See Leave It to Psmith for earlier uses and one other spelling.


off his onion (p.65)*

Off his head; out of his mind; mentally unbalanced. OED citations mention this as late 19th-century costermonger slang.


Lord Rainsby … Earl of Datchet (p.65)°

Datchet is on the Thames, between Windsor and Staines. Another Earl of Datchet, perhaps a father or elder brother, is mentioned in “A Job of Work” (1913), and other stories mention a Duke of Datchet and a young Lord Datchet; all these characters are disreputable or unconventional to some degree, so it seems that Wodehouse had a negative association with the name for some reason.

Rainsby seems to be without an obvious source, although the name is neither very common nor exceedingly rare. No UK place with that name is indexed in Google Maps; there are a few roads in Australia named after a family member.


the old lemon (p.66)*

See above, p. 12.


support us in the style we are accustomed to (p.66)*

See Leave It to Psmith for another version of this phrase, usually encountered in spousal support or alimony cases rather than in cadging a meal from a wealthy relative.


strictly unofficial (p.66)

Oxford undergraduates were not allowed to leave the city in term-time without permission from the college authorities.


Ritz? Savoy? Carlton? (p.66)*

Three of the most famous and expensive hotels in London, established respectively in 1906, 1889, and 1899; the first two still are in business, but the Carlton was heavily damaged by bombs in 1940 and was later demolished.


Ciro’s or the Embassy (p.67)*

The first Ciro’s restaurant and bar was founded in Monte Carlo by Ciro Capozzi in 1892; the London branch was established as a club in 1915.

The Embassy Club at 6–7–8 Old Bond Street opened in 1913 during the pre-war dancing craze as the 400 Club (not related to later clubs of the same name); renamed and reopened in 1919, under the guidance of its manager Luigi, it gained a reputation as the most fashionable and exclusive nightclub in town, with a first-class restaurant and a dance floor presided over by Ambrose and his orchestra. The Prince of Wales was frequently seen at the Embassy.


Lend us a fiver (p.67)*

Based on 1922 values when this story originally appeared, this would be something like £250–300 in today’s terms. It’s clear the boys were accustomed to lunching in style indeed.


He cometh not! (p.67)°

With blackest moss the flower-plots
 Were thickly crusted, one and all:
The rusted nails fell from the knots
 That held the pear to the gable-wall.
The broken sheds look’d sad and strange:
 Unlifted was the clinking latch;
 Weeded and worn the ancient thatch
Upon the lonely moated grange.
 She only said, “My life is dreary,
  He cometh not,” she said;
 She said, “I am aweary, aweary,
  I would that I were dead!”

Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892): Mariana (1830) ll.1–12


Chapter 8
Sir Roderick Comes to Lunch

Meadowsweet Hall (p.68)*

Meadowsweet is a fragrant plant that grows wild in much of Europe, Filipendula ulmaria, a perennial of the rose family. It was historically used to flavor mead. The only Meadowsweet Hall so far found in earlier fiction is the home of five sisters in “Miss Priscilla’s Silk Brocade” by Lindsay Trent (1898). Baroness Orczy, the author of The Scarlet Pimpernel, titled a 1912 novel Meadowsweet but there does not seem to be a house of that name in it.


6A, Crichton Mansions, Berkeley Street, W. (p.68)°

In earlier editions of these notes from 2002, Mark Hodson noted that Norman Murphy had not then been able to establish a clear origin for this address. But by the time of A Wodehouse Handbook (2006), Murphy had found that the Wodehouses took a flat at 15 Berkeley Street, Mayfair, for a few months in 1922, and had identified this with Bertie’s named address here. Crichton could be a reference to J. M. Barrie’s The Admirable Crichton.


Lord Alastair Hungerford … Duke of Ramfurline (p.68)

Hungerford is in London; Ramfurline is fictitious, but is clearly meant to sound Scottish (cf. Dunfermline).


off his rocker (p.68)*

The OED finds this first in an 1890 slang dictionary as a term for “crazy; mad”; this sentence from this story is also cited in the OED as evidence of usage of the phrase.


hell-brew (p.69)*

Only one citation, from 1899 Nebraska, precedes this sentence quoted in the OED as evidence of usage of this compound term for an unpleasant drink or mixture.


I have a particular dislike for cats (p.69)*

This notable peculiarity probably derives from the well-known aversion of Lord Roberts for felines. See the endnote at “The Man Who Disliked Cats” (Strand, May 1912).


landaulette (p.69)

A motor car made after the style of a landau, i.e. with a folding roof over the rear seats.


floating ribs (p.70)*

the lowest two pairs of ribs which do not reach around to the breastbone (sternum) but are attached only at the spine.


shindy (p.72)

row, commotion


extinguisher (p.72)

In this sense, it means a bell-shaped candle-snuffer.


whacking big fish (p.73)*

An abnormally large one, a “whopper.” Compare the “whacking great Alsatian” dog in “Good-bye to All Cats” (1934) and the “whacking big poster” in “The Metropolitan Touch” (chapter 15 of the present book; page 172 of the Penguin edition).


a blood club (p.74)

A “blood” in public school and university slang (esp. late 19th century) was a particularly conspicuous, fashionable person, so a ‘blood club’ is a club frequented by such people.


Harrods (p.74)*

A large London department store, beginning as a grocer’s shop opened in 1849 by Henry Charles Harrod, and expanded into a department store beginning in 1868 by his son Charles Digby Harrod. He sold his interest in a stock flotation and it became a limited corporation in 1889 under the name Harrod’s Stores, Limited; advertisements through early 1900 mostly use the apostrophe. By May 1900 the apostrophe had been dropped in newspaper advertisements and it became Harrods as today.

Ian Michaud comments that Wodehouse seems often to have retained the apostrophe as he learned it as a youth, although it’s quite likely that book and magazine editors corrected the spelling from time to time. And in the case of this story only the US magazine version uses the apostrophe, so it could have been inserted by the Cosmopolitan editor by mistake. Ian notes that the name was spelled Harrod’s in The Return of Jeeves (US, 1953) and in [The] Ice in the Bedroom (1961), and was disguised as Harridge’s in Ring for Jeeves (UK, 1953).


Chapter 9
A Letter of Introduction

the Stone Age (p.78)*

Wodehouse had earlier exploited the comic potential of Stone Age correspondence in “Misunderstood” (Punch, January 7, 1914).


bucked (p.78)*

cheered, encouraged, elated. British university slang from early 20th century, from one of two colloquial senses of “to buck up”; that verb phrase can mean either to cheer up or to make an effort / get down to business / “get a grip”.


olive branch … orange blossom … dove of peace (p.78–9)

In Genesis 8:11, the dove comes back to Noah with (at least in the Authorised Version) an olive leaf, not an olive branch in her mouth. Orange blossom is traditionally associated with marriages.


a foreign strand (p.79)*

Breathes there the man with soul so dead
Who never to himself hath said,
 This is my own, my native land!
Whose heart has ne’er within him burned,
As home his footsteps he hath turned
 From wandering on a foreign strand?

Sir Walter Scott: from The Lay of the Last Minstrel, canto VI.


contemporary accounts (p.79)*

A phrase usually associated with historical writing or a serious journalistic essay on the past, meaning “the way it was told by those who were there at the time.” Wodehouse uses it this way in the American version of The Prince and Betty in discussing the background of Jane Scobell Oakley:

From contemporary accounts she seems to have out-Nietzsched Nietzsche. Nietzsche’s vision stopped short at the superman. Jane Scobell was a superwoman.

But here it is used for comic effect, emphasizing Bertie’s being dead to the world in the early morning, as it is used in Piccadilly Jim to emphasize that Jimmy Crocker was drunk when he fought Lord Percy Whipple at the Six Hundred Club:

…it would appear from contemporary accounts of the affair that I just naturally sailed in and expunged the poor, dear boy!

Bertie and Jimmy use the phrase essentially to say “for all practical purposes, I wasn’t there at the time.”


ghastly sort of hour they shoot you off the liner in New York (p.79)*

Bertie has already mentioned this in “Jeeves and the Unbidden Guest”:

“I gathered from her ladyship, sir, that she had landed from an ocean liner at an early hour this morning.”

This made the thing a bit more plausible. I remembered that when I had arrived in America about a year before, the proceedings had begun at some ghastly hour like six, and that I had been shot out on to a foreign shore considerably before eight.


respectful raspberry (p.79)*

An oxymoron if ever one were spoken! A raspberry is a rude noise of dismissal or contempt; here Jeeves must have contrived diplomatic words which nevertheless conveyed the same message of rejecting Cyril’s attempt to see Bertie at that hour.


Bohea (p.79)

A type of black tea, originally from the Wu-i hills in Fuhkien, China. Later in this book, Bertie drinks Oolong tea.


Bassington-Bassington (p.80)

There are also the Kegley-Bassingtons who dominate the village concert in The Mating Season.


excrescence (p.80)*

See Right Ho, Jeeves.


in time for Goodwood (p.81)

Horse races have been held on the Duke of Richmond’s estate on the Sussex Downs since 1802. The Goodwood Cup (see Ch.12) takes place at the beginning of August, and is one of the classic summer events for the fashionable world.


Now is … the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party (p.81)°

See The Code of the Woosters.


a vegetarian fishing a caterpillar out of the salad (p.81)*

He put up his eyeglass, and stared at the offending journal with the air of a vegetarian who has found a caterpillar in his salad.

Rupert Smith (=Psmith), in the American version of The Prince and Betty, ch. XIV (1912)

And overnight, in a moment of inspiration, he had jotted down on an envelope the words:

The Adventure of the Wand of Death

It was with the sullen repulsion of a vegetarian who finds a caterpillar in his salad that he now sat glaring at them.

Ashe Marson, in Something New (Something Fresh)


the Lambs Club (p.81)°

A theatrical club (officially named The Lambs) was founded in New York City in 1874 as an offshoot of an earlier social club in London (1869–1879) honoring Charles and Mary Lamb and their salon for writers and actors. By 1905 their headquarters were in a Stanford White–designed building at 128–130 West 44th St, New York, soon afterward expanding to include 132 West 44th. The building was sold to a church in 1975, and the club moved to 3 West 51st St.; a restaurant not affiliated with the club now operates at 132 W. 44th under the Lambs Club name.

Guy Bolton became a member in 1917, and Jerome Kern in 1919. Wodehouse was never a member, but must often have dined there with his collaborators. The Lambs website has a full history including a roster of over 6,600 members since the founding. [Thanks to Noel Bushnell for suggesting these updates.]


George Caffyn (p.81)

Possibly based in part on Wodehouse’s theatrical collaborator, Guy Bolton.


Ask Dad (p.82)

Wodehouse and Bolton wrote a show called Ask Dad, later retitled Oh, My Dear, which opened at the Princess Theatre in November 1918, and ran for 189 performances.


to stagger along with me (p.82)

Not in the literal sense, but merely a self-deprecatory locution; see totter above. Other staggering dudes include Reggie Byng in A Damsel in Distress:

“How about it, then? Shall we stagger forth?”

and Archie Moffam in Indiscretions of Archie:

Archie smiled a propitiatory smile. “Well, as a matter of fact, I was going to ask if you would stagger along and have a bite with us in the grill-room.”


Boat-Race night (p.82)*

See The Code of the Woosters.


a state of tensity (p.84)

Tensity is normally used as a technical term in physiology to refer to physical tension (especially in muscles) – Bertie’s use of it here for mental strain is very unusual.


times that try men’s souls (p.84)

These are the times that try men’s souls

Thomas Paine: The American Crisis, no. 1 (1776)


it wasn’t a telegram: it was a cable (p.84)*

In fact it was both; a cable is just a telegram sent via one of the transatlantic telegraph cables laid across the ocean floor in Victorian times.


curveted (p.85)*

In classic horsemanship, a curvet is a leap by a rearing horse, jumping forward on its hind legs only, with forelegs in the air. A person curveting is leaping about, capering, prancing.


old friend of my youth (p.85)*

Cyril has known Bertie for about half a day, having met him when bailed out of prison after lunch. It’s clear that his excitement about being cast in a play is making him feel as if he is friends with the whole world.


Waukeesi (p.86)*

See p. 53 above.


fifty-seven cables (p.87)*

The use of 57 as an indefinite large number may owe something to the advertising slogan of H. J. Heinz, an American manufacturer of processed foods, who was inspired in 1896 by a streetcar sign advertising 21 styles of shoes. Even then his company had over 60 kinds of relishes, sauces, and pickles, but he thought 57 would be a lucky and memorable number, and the company has retained “57 varieties” as a slogan ever since.


Chapter 10
Startling Dressiness of a Lift Attendant

might have been Hamlet (p.89)*

Hamlet is the longest play in the Shakespearean canon, at 4,042 lines, according to www.shakespeare-online.com, and Hamlet is the second-longest role, at 1,099 lines, coming in behind the title role in Richard III at 1,152 lines, according to www.playshakespeare.com.


came by the afternoon mail (p.89)*

It would have arrived via ocean liner, presumably in the morning. Before 1950, New York City residences got two or three deliveries per day, and some businesses got up to six. In London, six or even twelve deliveries a day were made in some areas.


Norfolk suit (p.89)°

A Norfolk jacket was a loosely-fitting jacket with a waistband, worn by adults mainly for outdoor sports (cycling, shooting, etc.); when worn together with knee-breeches it constituted a Norfolk suit. Jasen has a photograph of Plum dressed like this in 1895. By 1923, it would have been rather an old-fashioned costume for a boy.


feast of reason and the flow of soul (p.90)

There St. John mingles with my friendly bowl
The feast of reason and the flow of soul;

Alexander Pope: Horace: Odes, Epistles and Satires, 1st Satire, ll. 127–128


cold Welsh rabbit (p.90)*

A simple meal of toasted bread topped with a sauce of cheese melted together with butter, flour, beer, and seasonings, best served hot.


more to be pitied than censured (p.91)*

See Leave It to Psmith.


dashed (p.92)*

See Leave It to Psmith.


into the Wooster waistcoat just around the third button (p.92)*

Wodehouse’s usual method of referring to the solar plexus. See Leave It to Psmith.


preliminary dress-rehearsal … pleasant time would be had by all … rolled up at ten-fifteen (p.93)*

This realistic slice of life could only have been written by an experienced man of the theater, as Wodehouse was by this time.


let their angry passions rise (p.93)*

 But, children, you should never let
  Such angry passions rise;
 Your little hands were never made
  To tear each other’s eyes.  

Dr. Isaac Watts: “Against Quarreling and Fighting” from Divine Songs for Children (1715)


dress-parade (p.93)*

A viewing of the actors in their costumes and makeup on the stage; the first time these would be seen under theatrical lights and against the sets.


an absolutely round chappy (p.93)

It has been suggested that this might be a self-portrait of Wodehouse, though the only real similarities are the bald head and glasses. If Bring On the Girls is to be believed, the theatrical manager who takes the advice of his young son must be based on A. L. Erlanger, head of the Syndicate that controlled the Broadway theatres until the Shuberts came on the scene.


Blumenfield (p.93)*

In the American magazine version of this story, as well as in “Jeeves and the Dog McIntosh” and Thank You, Jeeves, the manager’s name is spelled Blumenfeld.


rummy-looking (p.94)*

Either odd-looking or apparently drunk.


plug-ugly (p.94)*

An exceptionally ugly person; originally referring to a rowdy member of an urban American gang.


O.P. side (p.94)*

The side of the stage opposite the side where the prompter sits; traditional British practice is to have the prompter at stage left, but in America it is common to have the prompter at stage right.


ambers; blues (p.95)*

Stage lights with an amber-colored “gel” (a transparent colored sheet in front of the lamp) to filter the light to favor warm hues, or with a blue gel to emphasize cool hues.


je-ne-sais-quoi (p.96)*

French, literally “I don’t know what”; often referring to an indefinable quality of attraction or charm.


Oolong (p.97)°

A kind of medium-dark tea, from Chinese Wu Long (black dragon); it is made by fermenting the tea leaves about half as much as in the manufacture of black tea, before the final stage of drying. [This is the variety of tea usually served in Chinese restaurants in America, in my experience. —NM] Bertie also drinks this in Right Ho, Jeeves, ch.4.


quivering ganglions (p.98)*

See Sam the Sudden.


gave him the bird (p.98)*

Ironically, this is itself originally a theatrical phrase, meaning to hiss someone off stage. See Leave It to Psmith.


bally-ragging (p.99)*

Scolding or using abusive language to intimidate someone; a variant of “bullyragging” (used in the American magazine appearance of this story).


pie-faced (p.99)*

See The Mating Season. Not to be confused with “pie-eyed” (drunk).


Chapter 11
Comrade Bingo

Marble Arch … Manchester Square (p.101)

Marble Arch and Speakers’ Corner are at the north-east corner of Hyde Park (Park Lane and Oxford St). Manchester Square (the site of the Wallace Collection) is on the north side of Oxford Street, not far away.


sponge-bag trousers (p.102)°

According to Christopher Hodge on the AFW FAQ, sponge-bags (toilet cases) were formerly made from a material with a houndstooth pattern, which resembled the pattern of the material later used for formal trousers. “As now worn” is an echo of the style of fashion reports and tailors’ advertisements.

Some illustrations are at the Morning Dress Guide.


Honours list … Lord Bittlesham (p.102)

Peerages and other honours are traditionally announced twice a year, at New Year and on the sovereign’s birthday. Although they are theoretically awarded by the sovereign, in fact the list is drawn up by the Prime Minister. Lord Bittlesham has presumably received his peerage for “services to the pharmaceutical industry” – in practice businessmen awarded peerages have usually given considerable financial support to a political party. At the time, all peerages were still hereditary, although one assumes that Lord and Lady Bittlesham are unlikely to produce an heir, and Bingo would not be eligible to inherit the title as he is not a direct descendant. Someone awarded a peerage can choose a title. Most people either use their own surname (if there isn’t already a peer with that title) or the name of a place with which they are associated. Probably Bingo’s uncle thought “Lord Little” would sound silly. Bittlesham seems to be fictitious, although there is a Bittles Farm not far from Emsworth, a Betsham in Kent, and a Bitterley in Shropshire.


That’s the stuff to give the troops (p.102)*

The magazine appearance of this story is one year earlier than the first citation for this phrase in the online OED; I have submitted a citation to the dictionary, then discovered it also in ch. 2, p. 17 of this book, originally in magazines in 1921. Eric Partridge, in A Dictionary of Catch Phrases, quotes a 1930 account by John Brophy giving it a First World War origin, used by soldiers when rations, supplies, or billets turned out better or more plentiful than expected.


I’ve got my chemise on it (p.103)

French: shirt – Bertie is implying that he has bet a substantial amount.


snip (p.103)*

A sure thing, an easy win. OED cites it first in an 1890 slang dictionary, and last from Wodehouse in 1954, in Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit.


motor-mascot (p.103)*

A good-luck figurine mounted on an automobile as a hood ornament. It is difficult to know just what Bingo had in mind:

How diverse are the motor mascots one notices so frequently nowadays. They range from beautifully designed classical models to arch-backed stuffed black cats.

Leeds Mercury, 28 September 1922, p. 5

Other choices included a golliwog, a comic constable, the Teddy Bear, Bruce Bairnsfather’s “Old Bill” cartoon character, and other grotesques. The Bystander, 22 March 1911, praised Rolls-Royce for their Spirit of Ecstasy as “a fine protest against the cult of ugliness” in mascots. George Robey designed a kewpie-doll-like mascot called “Dinkie Doo” as a charity fundraiser.


shrubbery (p.104)*

OED cites the jocular use of this for a beard or whiskers first from Wodehouse’s story “Buried Treasure” (1936 in magazines) in Lord Emsworth and Others (1937). But it appears in “The Clicking of Cuthbert” (1921), The Adventures of Sally (1921/22), and Ukridge (1923/24) as well as here.


“Beaver!” (p.104)*

OED definition includes a beard, a bearded person, and the game of “spotting” beards. A 1927 citation from W. E. Collinson’s Contemporary English:

About three years ago a fashion was started among men of wearing beards. These were greeted with the cry: Beaver!, a term now often applied to the beard itself.

But Wodehouse was noting this exclamation in 1922, when this story appeared in magazines.


gore-and-soda (p.104)*

Bingo is continuing the “blood-sucker” theme of his socialist harangue of the previous day even before he admits to Bertie that he was the orator.


in your puff (p.104)*

See The Code of the Woosters; see also p. 185 below.


Charlotte Corday Rowbotham (p.105)°

Named for Marie Anne Charlotte Corday d’Armont (1768–1793) – a lady of aristocratic descent and revolutionary sympathies, who murdered Marat in his bath in revenge for his treatment of the Girondist moderates. She was guillotined in 1793.


blue-eyed boy (p.107)*

A boy or man held in high regard; someone’s favorite. First OED citation is from Wodehouse: A Damsel in Distress (1919).


cox of my college boat (p.107)

A college boat in this context is an eight-oared rowing shell. The coxswain is the person who steers a rowing boat and gives the necessary instructions to the oarsmen. Traditionally this role requires low body weight and a gift for forceful language.


blue round the edges (p.108)*

Of an event or situation: sad, dismal, depressing. OED has “blue business” from 1650, and cites “Life With Freddie” (in Plum Pie, 1966):

You don’t want Freddie’s whole future to turn blue at the edges…, do you?


fungus (p.109)*

See Right Ho, Jeeves.


a C3 collection (p.109)

Under the Military Service Act, 1916, men conscripted into the British army received a medical classification ranging from A1 to C3. Thus C3 (the lowest grade) implies someone very inferior in status or quality.


Swedish exercises (p.109)*

See Right Ho, Jeeves.


dancing on volcanoes (p.110)*

The earliest evidence for this phrase so far found is from Lady Grizel (1878) by Lewis Strange Wingfield, but a more likely source is F. Anstey, “A Show Place” in the Voces Populi series in Punch, September 1, 1888, and collected in volume form under the series title in 1907.


scrambled eggs and sardines at five (p.110)*

More characteristic of the working classes’ definition of “tea” than of the afternoon tea served by the aristocracy or the cream tea at a fashionable hotel. See this article about the various definitions of the meal.


Chapter 12
Bingo Has a Bad Goodwood

Devonshire Club (p.113)

A Liberal political club, at 50 St. James’s St. It was founded in 1875, and in 1909 the annual subscription was 10 guineas. Bittlesham must have received his peerage from Lloyd George, the Liberal leader who was Prime Minister until 1922.


a poleaxed blanc-mange (p.113)

A blow on the head from a poleaxe was used to stun animals when slaughtering them. Thus someone who has received a severe psychological shock is often said to look as though he has been poleaxed. A blanc-mange is a dessert made with milk and gelatine, and having a tendency to quiver. The juxtaposition of the two in this image is, as usual with Bertie, totally ludicrous.


the police should be informed … no … it would hamper me (p.114)

Once again, the spirit of Sherlock Holmes appears…


gent’s ordinary (p.114)*

The standard article of commerce; seen in advertisements for men’s gloves, shoes, suits, bicycles, and the like.

Humorist Frank Richardson (enjoyed by Wodehouse; see “fungus” in Right Ho, Jeeves) suggested in his humor column “In and Out” in the Pall Mall Gazette, June 3, 1907, that he should raise money for charity by charging for perusing the insulting letters he got, on a sliding scale beginning with “Gent’s ordinary insulting letter . . . 10 shillings (15 shillings if anonymous)”


singed (p.114)*

Penguin misprint for “signed”.


Bond Street (p.115)*

See Summer Lightning.


drool on (p.116)*

to keep talking nonsense. A contracted form of “drivel on”; cited in OED from 19th-century glossaries of Cornwall and Somerset dialect. This sentence is one of the OED citations for “drool” as a verb.


parties of the second part (p.116)*

Legal language in contracts, identifying “the other side” of some business transaction; Wodehouse is treating pocket-picking as if it were an ordinary commercial agreement.


These are the times that try men’s souls (p.116)*

See The Mating Season.


the iron had entered into my soul (p.117)*

See Thank You, Jeeves.


tearing off (p.117)*

Speaking rapidly, ranting.


stumer (p.117)°

Slang, especially in Pink ’Un circles: A flop or dud. Also used for a bad cheque or a counterfeit banknote. This sentence is one of the OED’s cited examples.


robbing the baby’s money-box with a hatpin (p.117)*

See “The New Drama” (1913) for an earlier use of this fiendish crime.


voice like the Last Trump (p.118)

Behold, I tell you a mystery: We all shall not sleep, but we shall all be changed,
in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
But when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.

Bible I Corinthians 15:51–54


business (p.119)°

Theatrical jargon for an actor’s movements and actions, as opposed to “lines,” the words that are spoken.


the work of a moment (p.119)*

See A Damsel in Distress.


he sort of shimmies respectfully (p.119)*

A contradiction in terms, since the shimmy is a wild sort of dance (see Leave It to Psmith) involving shaking the shoulders and stomping the feet. Jeeves is probably just shifting his weight from one foot to the other as he waits for Bertie to notice that he has something to say.


two five-pound notes … and a halfpenny (p.121)°

almost as complete a list of the British currency of the time as one could wish. Only the threepence and the penny are missing. (There were twenty shillings to the pound, and twelve pennies to the shilling. A half-crown was worth two shillings and sixpence; a florin was worth two shillings. Like the £5 and £1 notes, the ten-shilling would have been a banknote rather than a coin in the 1914–1969 era.)


collar (p.121)

As a verb, this means “take by the collar,” thus capture. Bertie is using it more loosely to mean simply “take.”


Chapter 13
The Great Sermon Handicap

London in August … most infernally hot (p.122)*

Historical weather data gives an average high temperature of 73°F for August 1, gradually decreasing to 67°F on August 31. In July through August 1921 (the most recent summer before the magazine publication of this story) England experienced two heat waves; on 10 July, London reached 90°F, the hottest since 1881, and on 19 August, the London high was 81°F.

Wodehouse was living in London at least in early July 1921, but then took a seaside holiday at Birchington-on-Sea near Margate during the rest of these two months, according to Norman Murphy’s researches (thanks to Elin Woodger Murphy for the vacation data; Elin suspects that he may have had to return to London briefly during this time to check on the production of Sally which would open September 10).

These maximum temperatures seem fairly mild to most American readers, I suspect. [NM]


tissue-restorers (p.122)*

See Sam the Sudden.


Twing Hall (p.122)

Twing is fictitious (possibly a variant on Tring, Hertfordshire), but there is a Twigworth in Gloucestershire.


Lord Wickhammersley (p.123)

Seems to be fictitious, but there are many English placenames beginning with “Wickham.”


Smalls (p.123)°

Popular name for Responsions, the first of the three university examinations Oxford undergraduates had to pass to qualify for a BA degree. Usually taken just before or shortly after matriculation, they assessed a student’s preparation in Latin, Greek, and mathematics. They were abolished in 1960.


old Heppenstall (p.123)

Heppenstall is a fairly common English surname. There was a Reverend Frederick Heppenstall (1835–1879) who was headmaster of Sedbergh (a public school in the north of England) in the 1870s.


Badgwick … (p.124)

Badgwick: there is a village called Badger about a mile from Stableford.

Stapleton: The village of Stableford, Shropshire, where Wodehouse’s parents lived for some years. Stapleton first appears as a placename in Tales of St. Austin’s.

Upper and Lower Bingley: The only Bingley in England is the one in the West Riding. There is a Shipley not far from Stableford – perhaps Wodehouse took it a few miles up Airedale to make it into a Bingley?

Little Clickton-in-the-Wold: Clickton is a mystery. “Wold” is normally associated with the chalk hills of Lincolnshire and East Yorkshire.

Boustead Magna and Parva: The only Boustead is Boustead Hill, on the Solway Firth near the western end of Hadrian’s Wall. Magna and Parva (large and small) are quite common modifiers for village names.


Rev. Cuthbert Dibble (p.124)°

British people of a certain generation will remember the 1960s chidren’s television series “Trumpton,” which always featured a roll-call of the firemen “Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble and Grub.” Gordon Murray, creator of the series, claims to have had no specific source for the names, but perhaps he had a subconscious memory of the Great Sermon Handicap?

Perhaps the homely garden tool called a dibble influenced the character name; it is a pointed stick of wood or metal which is used to open a hole in the soil for planting seeds and small bulbs, or transplanting seedling plants.


dickey (p.124)

This word has a great number of slang meanings: the most common, and the one probably intended here, is a detachable shirt-front for formal evening wear. It should not be taken too literally – Bertie clearly doesn’t really mean Jeeves to make up a brown-paper parcel rather than a suitcase. He is jocularly specifying the things that might be considered necessary for a stay at a country house.


Paddington (p.125)°

Paddington Station is the London terminus of the former Great Western Railway, serving the South-West of England, most of Wales, and parts of the West Midlands. It lies in west London, about a mile and a half from Arundell Street. The station was built in 1850–1854 by the GWR’s engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel. The great train-shed is an important early example of the structural use of iron.

Mark’s original note here continues: “Slightly odd here is the use of ‘five-ten at Paddington’ – from would seem more usual, unless Bertie means ‘Go to Paddington and buy the tickets there.’ ” It seems to me, though, that a Londoner would naturally say “at” because that is where the train is to be met at the departure time, one choice among several London rail terminals. Those living outside London and meeting the train at a later time would have referenced the train by its London departure time, so “from” makes sense for them, as in the Agatha Christie novel 4:50 from Paddington. [NM]


dead-heat with the soup (p.125)*

In other words, get to the table just as the first course was ready to be served.


quite a young dinner-party (p.125)*

Usually “young” for an inanimate object means a small one, as in calling Hilda Gudgeon’s handgun “a young cannon” (The Mating Season). Here Bertie asks about “all these coves” at the dinner, so perhaps we may take “quite a young” to mean “bigger than the small gathering I expected.”


assistant-master (p.125)

In a public school, an assistant-master was a teacher who did not have responsibility for a boarding house.


locum tenens (p.125)

A substitute employed by a professional person, especially a physician or clergyman, to replace them during an absence (Latin: holding the place). Often abbreviated to “locum.”


Rather a blood. Got his rowing-blue (p.126)*

For blood, see p. 74 above. At Oxford and Cambridge, each having a different shade of blue as the school color, a “blue” is an athletic honor for competing at the highest level representing one’s university, similar to a letter award at an American school. Rowing and cricket were among the sports first to award blues in the 1860s. Bertie himself got a blue in Rackets at Oxford.


the females of the species (p.127)°

In Britain it used to be conventional for ladies to withdraw to the drawing room after the dessert, leaving the gentlemen free to smoke and drink port.

When the Himalayan peasant meets the he-bear in his pride,
He shouts to scare the monster, who will often turn aside.
But the she-bear thus accosted rends the peasant tooth and nail,
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

When Nag the basking cobra hears the careless foot of man,
He will sometimes wriggle sideways and avoid it if he can.
But his mate makes no such motion where she camps beside the trail,
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

When the early Jesuit fathers preached to Hurons and Choctaws,
They prayed to be delivered from the vengeance of the squaws.
’Twas the women, not the warriors, turned those stark enthusiasts pale,
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

Man’s timid heart is bursting with the things he must not say,
For the Woman that God gave him isn’t his to give away;
But when hunter meets with husband, each confirms the other’s tale—
The female of the species is more deadly than the male.

Man, a bear in most relations—worm and savage otherwise,—
Man propounds negotiations, Man accepts the compromise.
Very rarely will he squarely push the logic of a fact
To its ultimate conclusion in unmitigated act.

Fear, or foolishness, impels him, ere he lay the wicked low,
To concede some form of trial even to his fiercest foe.
Mirth obscene diverts his anger! Doubt and Pity oft perplex
Him in deaing with an issue—to the scandal of The Sex!

But the Woman that God gave him, every fibre of her frame
Proves her launched for one sole issue, armed and engined for the same;
And to serve that single issue, lest the generations fail,
The female of the species must be deadlier that the male.

She who faces Death by torture for each life beneath her breast
May not deal in doubt or pity—must not swerve for fact or jest.
These be purely male diversions—not in these her honour dwells.
She the Other Law we live by, is that Law and nothing ese.

She can bring no more to living than the powers that make her great
As the Mother of the Infant and the Mistress of the Mate!
And when Babe and Man are lacking and she strides unchained to claim
Her right as femme (and baron), her equipment is the same.

She is wedded to convictions—in default of grosser ties;
Her contentions are her children, Heaven help him who denies!—
He will meet no suave discussion, but the instant, white-hot, wild,
Wakened female of the species warring as for spouse and child.

Unprovoked and awful charges—even so the she-bear fights,
Speech that drips, corrodes, and poisons—even so the cobra bites,
Scientific vivisection of one nerve till it is raw,
And the victim writhes in anquish—like the Jesuit with the squaw!
 
So it comes that Man the coward, when he gathers to confer
With his fellow-braves in council, dare not leave a place for her
Where, at war with Life and Conscience, he uplifts his erring hands
To some God of Abstract Justice—which no woman understands.

And Man knows it!  Knows, moreover, that the Woman that God gave him
May command but may not govern—shall enthral but not enslave him.
And She knows, because She warns him and Her instincts never fail,
That the Female of Her Species is more deadly than the Male.

Rudyard Kipling: The Female of the Species (1911)


smoking a toofah (p.127)*

From “two for”; Norman Murphy, in A Wodehouse Handbook, defines this as an inexpensive American cigarette, selling two for a halfpenny.


christened something except Cynthia (p.128)

A surprising number of English poets have faced this problem (mostly not referring to a particular woman, but using the name as one of the titles of the goddess Diana, who came from Mount Cynthus), and most have avoided the issue by not putting the name at the end of the line. The most famous “Cynthia” poem (though it would certainly have offended Bertie’s delicate sensibilities) is Kynaston’s, but Fletcher, Keats, Wordsworth, Milton and a host of others might also be mentioned.

Do not conceale thy radiant eyes,
The starre-light of serenest skies,
Least wanting of their heavenly light,
They turne to Chaos endlesse night.

Do not conceale those tresses faire,
The silken snares of thy curl’d haire,
Least finding neither gold, nor Ore,
The curious Silke-worme worke no more.

Do not conceale those brests of thine,
More snowe white then the Apenine,
Least if there be like cold or frost,
The Lilly be for ever lost.

Do not conceale that fragrant scent,
Thy breath, which to all flowers hath lent
Perfumes, least it being supprest,
No spices growe in all the East.

Do not conceale thy heavenly voice,
Which makes the hearts of gods rejoyce,
Least Musicke hearing no such thing,
The Nightingale forget to sing.

Do not conceale, not yet eclipse
Thy pearly teeth with Corrall lips,
Least that the Seas cease to bring forth
Gems, which from thee have all their worth.

Do not conceale no beauty grace,
That ’s either in thy minde or face,
Least vertue overcome by vice,
Make men beleeve no Paradice.

Sir Francis Kynaston (1587–1642): To Cynthia: On concealment of her beauty


When Cynthia smiles (p.128)

Perhaps Bingo has been dipping into Keats:

To see high, golden corn wave in the light
When Cynthia smiles upon a summer’s night,
And peers among the cloudlets jet and white,
As though she were reclining in a bed
Of bean blossoms, in heaven freshly shed.

John Keats: To Charles Cowden Clarke 92–96


Sunday the twenty-third (p.130)

As we know we are in August, this puts the date of the story back to 1914 or ahead to 1925. Sunday the 23rd of August 1914 was in the third week of the war, with the BEF involved in the Battle of Mons and the French retreating towards Paris.


it gives the handicaps and the current odds (p.130)*

See above, page 59, for the basic idea of a handicap race. Here, since the “distance” is in fact the length of the sermons preached, the handicap is expressed in minutes, so that long-winded preachers like the Revs. Tucker and Starkie start from scratch, but straight-from-the-shoulder types like James Bates have fifteen minutes added to the length of their sermon when comparing the stamina of the various preachers.

The “prices” quoted are more often called the odds: the payback if your choice wins. For instance, if you had bet £1 on Heppenstall at 6–1, if he lost you would lose your pound; if he won, you would get your pound back and £6 more besides. Bookmakers try to set the odds so that their customers will spread their bets over the field, some bettors preferring a smaller payback for a more likely winner, others preferring a smaller chance of a large payback. In addition, being in business for themselves, bookmakers distribute the odds so that in most cases they will take in more in bets than they pay out in winnings. See “Steggles did so well” in the next chapter, p. 142 in the Penguin edition.


a sporting flutter (p.130)*

an exciting chance to bet or risk something


a sitter for old Heppenstall (p.131)*

See above, page 48.


sewed up in a parcel (p.131)*

certain of victory, “in the bag”


may a cousin’s curse— (p.132)*

Reminiscent of “may a nephew’s curse—” from W. S. Gilbert’s libretto for the comic opera Patience (1881, with Arthur Sullivan).


Gatwick (p.132)

The racecourse at Gatwick, West Sussex, adjacent to the London-Brighton railway line, was opened in 1890. An airfield was built next to the racecourse in 1930, and racing continued until the RAF took over the whole site in 1939. After the war, Gatwick became one of London’s two main civil airports.


Lewes (p.132)*

The four-mile racecourse on the chalk downs near Lewes, East Sussex, had a history dating back at least as far as 1727; annual races took place in mid-August. The course closed in 1964.


Alexandra Park (p.132)*

This racing venue in North London, with a looped course which could be run at distances of 5 furlongs, 1 mile, or 1 mile 5 furlongs, was tricky on account of its curves. The course opened in 1868 and closed in 1970.


Smiles’s Self-Help (p.132)*

Scottish author and reformer Samuel Smiles (1812–1904) suggested that changing people’s attitudes would do more for improving society than any new laws could do. His most famous book, Self-Help (1859), promoted hard work, thrift, and self-discipline, not merely as an antidote to poverty, but as the means to knowledge, enjoyment of culture, fulfillment of one’s talents, and the ability to help others.


in-and-out running (p.133)*

Inconsistent performance in races, with a suggestion of deliberate manipulation of expectations (and thus odds) by sometimes not pushing a horse to do its best. OED citations begin in 1885 for this sense.


punters (p.133)*

See below, p. 142.


form (p.133)*

See below, p. 208.


dark horse (p.133)*

An entrant in a race or other contest (now especially a political one) about whom little is known beforehand to the public at large.


chaps in the poem … wild surmise (p.134)

Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
 And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
 Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
 That deep-brow’d Homer rul’d as his demesne;
 Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
 When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
 He star’d at the Pacific—and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise—
 Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

John Keats (1795–1821): On first looking into Chapman’s Homer


desiderated (p.135)

desired, longed for. Even in discussing brevity, Heppenstall uses an unnecessarily long-winded (though perfectly respectable) word.


excursus (p.135)*

a digression, especially a long one on a side issue


S.P. (p.135)

Starting Price. With horse-races, one could place a bet either at the odds quoted at the moment of placing the bet (ante-post or A.P.), or at the odds current when the race starts (S.P.). With an A.P. bet one might well get better odds, but S.P. had the advantage that one didn’t lose one’s money if the horse was withdrawn before the race.


got the wind up (p.136)*

See above, p. 27.


odds on (p.136)*

Having odds of less than 1–1 (“evens”); in other words, for a pound bet, the bettor would get back his stake plus something less than a pound if he won. A horse strongly favored to win would be an odds-on favorite.


brought him home by lengths (p.136)*

In horse-racing terms, crossing the finish line ahead of other horses by some multiple of the length of a horse.


a mighty, rushing wind (p.136)*

See Love Among the Chickens.


stayer … trier (p.137)*

Both terms mean one with endurance or perseverance in a contest. OED says that trier was originally cricket slang.


form-book (p.138)*

See below, p. 208.


Bingo registered grief, … (p.140)*

See Right Ho, Jeeves.


I don’t want any lunch! (p.140)*

Reminiscent of W. S. Gilbert’s libretto for the comic opera The Mikado (1885, with Arthur Sullivan). The Emperor has asked certain miscreants including Pooh-Bah if it will suit them to be executed after luncheon, and Pooh-Bah replies “I don’t want any lunch.”


Chapter 14
The Purity of the Turf

decanting his anguished soul (p.141)*

A less imaginative writer would have said “pouring out”; OED cites another figurative usage from “The Artistic Career of Corky” from Carry On, Jeeves (1925) [originally appearing as “Leave It to Jeeves” (1916)]:

the nurse … got up with the baby and decanted it into a perambulator


The past … is dead (p.141)*

See Thank You, Jeeves.


You interest me strangely (p.142)*

See Money in the Bank.


cokernut shies (p.142)

English has long had problems with the unfortunate confusion of names between the cocoa bush and the coconut palm. The spelling “kokernut” dates back to 1620, and remained in use in commercial contexts until at least the end of the 19th century, apparently to avoid this difficulty. In Psmith in the City, Wodehouse uses “cocos” to refer to coconuts.

A coconut shy is a fairground attraction where the aim is to knock coconuts off poles by throwing hard wooden balls at them.


jamboree (p.142)

This was originally an American slang term for any sort of noisy revel or party – it was only in 1919 that it was appropriated by the Boy Scout movement.


punters (p.142)

Slang for customers, especially for anyone placing a bet.


ante-post odds or starting price (p.142)°

See S.P. above, p. 135.


bust the Ring (p.143)

Defeat the bookmakers.


keep herself dark (p.144)*

In the sense of “dark horse”; see p. 133 above.


carries a beautiful egg (p.144)*

An example of a transferred epithet (see Right Ho, Jeeves); the more common way of saying this would be “she carries an egg beautifully.”


Grand National (p.144)*

A venerable annual steeplechase horse race run since 1839 (with a few exceptions) at Liverpool, England; horses complete almost two laps of the sixteen-fence course at Aintree, encountering 30 obstacles in all, some of which (like Becher’s Brook) have become famous in their own right. It is a handicap race, but in horse racing, this means adding extra weight to the jockey’s saddle on horses that are expected to be faster, rather than giving slower runners a starting position ahead of the nominal starting line, as in the Choir Boys’ Handicap in the current story.


voices have not broken before the second Sunday in Epiphany (p.144)*

An English choir tradition, dating from formerly all-male institutions such as monasteries and schools, emphasizes the use of young boys to sing the higher parts (treble voices), giving a sound somewhat different from the voices of women in mixed choirs. Some boys’ voices “crack” or “break” fairly suddenly as male hormones kick in to lengthen their vocal cords at puberty. Others manage to maintain muscle control over the cords during this period, especially if they are singing regularly, and their vocal range may “slide” from the soprano range through alto and tenor to bass over a period of months; this was the case with the present annotator [NM] at age 12. So the fixed deadline of the second Sunday in Epiphany (in other words, the second Sunday following January 6, the traditional date in the church calendar commemorating when the Wise Men saw the infant Jesus; in 2018 the second Sunday after Epiphany was January 14) seems comically precise from a singer’s point of view.


won … in a canter (p.144)*

Horse-racing jargon for a win so much outdistancing the other horses that the leading horse need not even gallop at the end of the race, but can cross the finish line at an easier pace.


page-boy … tubby little chap in buttons (p.145)°

A boy employed as a servant to run errands, clean boots, etc. As so often in Wodehouse, he staffs his grand houses at the level that would have been usual before the First World War. The traditional uniform, with a row of buttons down the front of the jacket, is shown in the illustration by A. Wallis Mills for the Strand magazine appearance of this story.


quarter of an hour to spare (p.145)*

Even in “such a hurry,” it seems that Bertie has taken almost fifteen minutes to get dressed, indirectly proving his point that he is slow and careful about the process.


a confused noise without (p. 146)*

See Sam the Sudden.


the field (p.147)*

Horse-racing jargon for a cluster of horses some distance back, following the leader or leaders in the race.


so moved that I nearly grasped his hand (p.147)*

A very subtle way of emphasizing the class distinctions that govern the behavior of master and servant, even ones as close as Bertie and Jeeves. Jeeves can help Bertie get dressed, but a handshake between the two would be inappropriate.


The Wooster shirt goes on this boy (p.147)*

OED cites colloquial uses of betting one’s shirt on a horse from the 1890s, meaning betting all one’s (ready) money on it.


plunge (p.147)*

To speculate or bet large amounts of money; in the intransitive sense (without saying how much money was risked) this is earlier than other OED citations, and has been submitted to the dictionary editors.


Jimmy Goode … Alexander Bartlett … Willie Chambers (p.147)

Wodehouse looked no further than his reference shelf for these three names:

Professor J. Paul Goode was responsible for editing some of the first globes and atlases produced by Rand McNally of Chicago.

John Bartlett (1820–1905) produced the first edition of his Familiar Quotations in 1855.

The brothers William and Robert Chambers, who started their Edinburgh publishing business with an edition of Burns in 1819, published their first dictionary (edited by James Donald) in 1867.


nobble (p.149)*

To interfere with the performance of a racehorse or other animal, especially by such a slight injury or maltreatment that tampering is not suspected (as in the Sherlock Holmes story Silver Blaze); by extension, to do anything to prevent a racing competitor from winning.


Pipped on the Post (p.149)

As usual, Wodehouse is ahead of the field with a good title: the British Library lists two novels with this title (Harold Graham 1929 and A. M. Stewart 1938). There is also a ‘Pipped’ at the Post (David Dornan 1927).


Lord Jasper Mauleverer (p.149)*

A name combining Wodehouse’s favorite given name for a fictional villain and a surname echoing Sir Trevor Mauleverer, a wicked baronet in W. S. Gilbert’s The Fairy’s Dilemma.


plaster (p.150)*

A (usually medicated) adhesive bandage or dressing.


Jenny, the Girl Jockey (p.151)*

What one thinks of first, the novel National Velvet, source of the 1944 Elizabeth Taylor film, was not published until 1935. But see the early Wodehouse story “Ruthless Reginald” (1905) for a reference to two racing novels, one of which was titled Jenny, the Girl Jockey, and whose authors were given as Hawley Gould and Nat Smart, a mixture of the names of two real-life writers (see the endnote to “Ruthless Reginald”). Nat Gould wrote an 1894 novel titled Harry Dale’s Jockey “Wild Rose”; this is our best guess so far as the source for Jenny.


played hookey from the choir (p.151)*

OED gives this sentence as an example of the colloquial transferred use of the phrase, originally meaning “to play truant,” to be absent from school on purpose. Examples from the mid-19th century till the early 20th are all from America, but Wodehouse clearly feels that his readers on both sides of the Atlantic will understand the term by this time.


a mixed scent of trees and honeysuckle and mildew and villagers’ Sunday clothes (p.151)*

Wodehouse is a master of mixtures like this; see Leave It to Psmith for a list of nicely blended emotions.


stage-door (p.152)*

Once again Bertie thinks naturally in theatrical terms. Just as the stage door of a theater leads to the actors’ dressing rooms, a church will have a side or rear door leading to the vestry where the clergy put on their robes.


surplice, or cassock, or whatever they call it (p.153)*

A surplice is a loose over-garment of white linen, reaching from the shoulders to hip, knee, or calf length, with wide sleeves; it is frequently worn over a cassock, a clerical garment (typically black, except sometimes white in tropical climates) with an upright clerical collar, a jacket-like top half, buttoned closely in front from neck to waist, and a skirt-like bottom half extending to ankle length. A choir wearing surplices over cassocks is depicted at Wikipedia.


putting on the black cap (p.153)*

Before the death penalty was abolished, British judges in capital cases would put a square flat cap of black fabric atop their head, over their wig, before pronouncing the sentence of death. Here Bertie is speaking figuratively of the finality of Heppenstall’s decree and the death of the syndicate’s chances; no real cap was present in this case.


Prudence Baxter (p.154)

In the Blandings stories, of course, Baxter is the secretary and McAllister the gardener.


sticky … scaly (p.154)*

Sticky is probably both literally (in the sense of children laden with sweets) and figuratively (in the sense of getting involved in a situation one would rather avoid) true in this case. Here scaly also has a sense of unpleasant difficulties or entanglements, differing from its use to mean shabby or run-down as in other contexts.


great issues toward (p.154)*

Here toward means “impending, imminent, approaching” [OED sense A2b] when used as a postfixed adjective without a linking verb. Compare its use after a linking verb.


rolled up (p.154)*

Said of a wheeled vehicle such as a carriage or wagon, roll up had been used in the sense of arrive since the early 19th century. Its use when applied to a person simply appearing on the scene, with no implication of a vehicle, was new in the 1920s.


clove my way through (p.155)*

Though I suspect most of us would now choose “cleaved” as the past tense of cleave (here, to penetrate through a fluid mass), dictionaries then and now give the form clove as the first choice of several including clave and cleft.


distrait, if you know what I mean (p.155)*

Distracted; not paying attention to the surroundings; derived from modern French.


one of the stable (p.155)*

Here Bertie takes a proprietary interest in a competitor the syndicate has bet on, as if she were a horse in their own stables.


Rupert Steggles (p.156)°

Rupert is usually a dangerous name in Wodehouse: Rupert Psmith is capable of stirring up all sorts of amusing complications, and Rupert Baxter is a long-standing thorn in the side of Lord Emsworth. Rupert “Beefy” Bingham is awkward in a parlor and gets Bertie involved in a clean, bright entertainment in Bermondsey East, but turns out all right in the end. Rupert Atkinson unpleasantly dares Thomas Billing in “Creatures of Impulse” (1914); Rupert Bashmead is dastardly in “The Dastardly Behaviour of Bashmead” (1903); Rupert Bingley is the name taken by the former mad valet Brinkley in Much Obliged, Jeeves (1971); Rupert is one of Joe Bishop’s snakes in Ice in the Bedroom (1961); see also Rupert Blenkinsop-Bustard, inconstant suitor horsewhipped in “The Ordeal of Osbert Mulliner” (1928); Rupert Dixon, unpleasant golfer in “Ordeal by Golf” (“A Kink in His Character,” 1920); Rat-Faced Rupert, the Bermondsey Twister, late father of Annabel Purvis in “Romance at Droitgate Spa” (1937); and Rupert Worple, alumnus of Sing Sing in “Keeping In With Vosper” (1926). Other less worrisome Ruperts include Sir Rupert Finch, previous victim of Horace Appleby (Do Butlers Burgle Banks?); Rupert Bailey, judge in “The Long Hole” (1921); golfer Rupert Blake in “Chester Forgets Himself” (1923); Sir Rupert Brackenbury, M.F.H. in Full Moon (1947); Rupert Antony Ferris, butler in The Small Bachelor (1927); and several others less well remembered.

Steggles in itself is a name that recalls the villains of 19th-century fiction, according to Mark’s original note; the only one I can find is in chapter II of Martin Hewitt, Investigator (1894). [NM]


work-bag (p.159)*

A bag used for storing and carrying materials and tools for needlework, knitting, sewing, and the like; itself often embroidered as a decoration appropriate to its use and contents.


Chapter 15
The Metropolitan Touch

telegram (p.160)*

In the 1910s and 1930s, UK telegrams cost sixpence for the first nine words, and a penny per word thereafter; it is assumed here that these rates held in the 1920s as well. Although Bingo is regularly hard up for money, he seems to have no concept of economy when pouring out his heart, as Bertie notes later in this story (p. 166). At 98 words including signature this would be 95 pence, or 7s.11d., about 0.396 of a pound sterling. In today’s terms after inflation that would be something like £22 or US$29, considerably more than the cost of a hundred cigarettes unless they were very, very special.


village postmistress (p.160)*

Although telegraph companies began as private corporations, beginning in 1868 they were bought out by the British government and placed under the authority of the Post Office.


second-sight (p.161)*

Clairvoyance; the ability to see things at a distance or in the future.


épris (p.161)

French: enamoured. Used in English since the late eighteenth century.


gazing up at his window (p.161)

Lovers in Wodehouse invariably get the wrong window in such circumstances.


Hurst Park (p.161)

See Carry On, Jeeves!.


Marie Lloyd (p.162)

Marie Lloyd (1870–1922), the famous music hall singer, reputed to be so skilled in suggestive gestures that she made even Tennyson’s Maud into something rather risqué. “The Metropolitan Touch” was first published in September 1922, just a month before Miss Lloyd’s death.


Saint Cecilia (p.162)

Patron saint of music and musicians. Cecilia is said to have been martyred at Rome in the 1st or 2nd century CE. Her feastday is 22 November. In medieval paintings she is normally shown as a young woman holding a small portative organ.


is, what principle (p.162)*

Neither of the original magazine appearances of the short story nor the UK or US original editions of this book have a comma after “is” here; it seems to be a Penguin invention/error.


Harry Lauder … “This is her-r-r. No, it’s a rabbut” (p.163)°

Sir Harry Lauder (1870–1950) was the most famous Scottish singer and comedian of his day. Norman Murphy, in A Wodehouse Handbook, says that Lauder interpolated this line into the song “I Love a Lassie” in a 1907 recording. See No. 46 on this list of 50 significant recordings from 1900–1919 for more data including an Edison recording number. But neither of the cylinder recordings at the Edison 19178 page at the UCSB cylinder archive contain this line, nor does this 1913 longer cylinder, with better sound, more verses, and some spoken patter. So I am as confused as before. [NM]


personnel of the ensemble (p.163)*

Bertie is again using theatrical jargon instead of just saying “members of the chorus”; here the two italicized words are borrowings from the French, although by 1922 italics were a little out of date for these words, and indeed Wodehouse had used “personnel of the ensemble” in “Paving the Way for Mabel” and “ensemble” without italics in Jill the Reckless/The Little Warrior, both in 1920.


twopence a word, or whatever it is (p.166)*

See p. 160 above. Bertie doesn’t send his own telegrams, but has Jeeves do it for him, so it is not surprising that he doesn’t know the retail price.


getting a bit fed (p.166)*

More commonly “fed up”: military slang c.1900 for having had enough of a situation; Wodehouse is cited in the OED for the first use without “up” from Indiscretions of Archie (1921).


biff down to Twing (p.166)*

All three OED citations for the intransitive verb biff in the sense of “go” are from Wodehouse, including this sentence.


All right, carry on. (p.166)*

“Carry on” has a long history as a transitive verb phrase, such as “to carry on a business”; used intransitively, it has a nautical history, originally meaning to continue sailing along the same course, but in the British Navy, as an order to go ahead or proceed as instructed, OED citations date from 1909. Wodehouse uses it in that sense here, as well as in the title Carry On, Jeeves! (1925). But he had used it that way in 1905 and 1910 as well, and Bertie had said “Carry on, Jeeves” as early as 1916. Perhaps he had been exposed to the naval sense of the phrase at Malvern House, a Navy preparatory school, which he attended 1892–94.


mumps (p.167)*

See Right Ho, Jeeves. This is the first of two cases of mumps in this story; curate Wingham is down with them later (p. 171).


Machiavelli (p.167)

Machiavelli, Niccolò (1469—1527). An important civil servant and diplomat in the Florentine Republic, he lost his job when the Medici family came to power in Florence, and retired to his country estate to write. His most famous work, based on his experience of diplomacy in the time of Cesare Borgia, is Il principe (The Prince) (1532), a book which advises an ideal amoral ruler on how to gain and maintain power. No one has ever been quite sure whether it is sincere advice or political satire, but at any rate Machiavelli has become synonymous with amoral scheming.


correspondence course (p.168)*

Given the popularity of learn-by-mail schemes and the frequency of their advertisements in magazines in the early 1900s, this is a topical way of saying “Steggles could have taught Machiavelli a thing or two.” The first mention I can find in Wodehouse:

“You are a human correspondence course in efficiency—one of the ones you see in the back pages of the magazines.”

Ashe Marson to Joan Valentine, in Something Fresh/Something New (1915)


chucked in the towel (p.168)*

See Right Ho, Jeeves.


dancing at the Embassy (p.168)*

See above, p. 67, for the Embassy Club.


getting on for three in the morning (p.169)*

We know that it is early December (see p. 172, “For the next three weeks I didn’t see Bingo”). On December 1 in London, first light is at 6:23 a.m., dawn (civil twilight) is at 7:05, and sunrise is at 7:44. The first glimmers of pre-dawn twilight would be showing at three in the morning only in midsummer.


modern Solomon (p.169)*

Famously wise King of Israel; son of David; credited with authorship of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon.

And Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt.

Bible: I Kings 4:30


the Palladium (p.171)*

The Palladium is a large theatre on Argyll Street, Westminster, London, built in 1907 to accommodate elaborate productions including variety and pantomime, with a revolving stage.


the Palace (p.172)*

The Palace Theatre, in Shaftesbury Avenue at Cambridge Circus, London W1, was opened in 1891 as the Royal English Opera House by Richard D’Oyly Carte with Arthur Sullivan’s Ivanhoe; after his plans for an English-language grand opera company withered, he sold it and it was converted to a music hall, renamed the Palace Theatre of Varieties. Since 1925 it has become best known for musical comedies.


Voice Heard Off (p.172)*

Theatrical jargon for an actor delivering lines from offstage.


This was how it ran: (p.172)*

When the story appeared in the Strand magazine, this sentence and the text of the poster were replaced by an illustration (drawn by A. Wallis Mills) showing Bertie reading the poster, held up by Jeeves, with most of the text sketchily visible in the drawing.


Friday, December 23rd (p.173)

23 December fell on a Friday in 1921.


a frost (p.173)*

See Right Ho, Jeeves.


Nibs (p.174)*

19th-century British slang: aristocrats or gentry


pew-holders (p.174)*

Those who, presumably in return for contributions, have pews reserved for them and their families in the church.


Squire Tresidder (pp.174, 177)

In an English village, Squire is a courtesy title normally given to the main local landowner. The Cornish name Tresidder may be a reference to Stevenson’s Squire Trelawney in Treasure Island.


like a chamois of the Alps leaping from crag to crag (p.176)*

See Sam the Sudden.


one of Belfast’s livelier nights (p.179)

Possibly Belfast suggested itself here because of the traditional association between Northern Ireland protestants and William of Orange.


Morning Post (p.180)*

See Right Ho, Jeeves.


a marriage had been arranged and would shortly take place (p.180)*

See Right Ho, Jeeves.


Hants (p.181)*

The traditional abbreviation for Hampshire, from the Domesday Book spelling “Hantescire”


east-to-west (p.181)*

An unusual phrase if one is reading English rather than Hebrew, Arabic, or other right-to-left scripts. One must assume this is, like “up-and-down,” referring to a quick scan.


Chapter 16
The Delayed Exit of Claude and Eustace

trapped me in my lair (p.182)*

Bertie conveys economically here that he is feeling like a hunted animal.


The Curse had come upon me (p.182)

She left the web, she left the loom,
She made three paces thro’ the room,
She saw the water-lily bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
 She look’d down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack’d from side to side;
‘The curse is come upon me!’ cried
 The Lady of Shalott.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892) The Lady of Shalott 109–117


berths in his firm (p.182)*

Berth has a wide variety of usages, all originally nautical; the oldest ones refer to space around a ship, either at sea (e.g., give the rocks a wide berth) or at anchor, and thus a place for a ship at a wharf. On board, it can be a place for sailors to eat, to stow their gear, or more often, to sleep; from the latter sense of an assigned place, it was generalized to mean a rank or an office on board (e.g., the berth of second mate). By the middle of the 18th century, landlubbers were beginning to use it to mean any office or position, especially a desirable one.

But on p. 199, below, Claude uses it in the ordinary sense of a place to sleep on a boat, though it is likely to be a nice bed in a stateroom rather than an upholstered shelf for a crew member.


Edinburgh Castle (p.182)

Mail services between Britain and the Cape were operated by the Union-Castle Mail Steamship Co. Ltd. The Union-Castle ship Edinburgh Castle (the second of that name) was built in 1910 by Harland & Wolff at Belfast with a tonnage of 13362 grt, a length of 570 ft, a beam of 64 ft 5 in and a service speed of 14 knots. She was used as a troopship and auxiliary cruiser from 1914 to 1919, then reverted to passenger service until withdrawn in 1938.


sent down (p.183)*

At Oxford and Cambridge, punished by expulsion from the college. Compare the railroad usage of “down” to mean “away from London”, as if London were the pinnacle of the country. The two great Universities consider themselves to be on even higher elevations, so being sent away is inevitably “down” from their point of view.


lemonade on the Junior Dean (p.183)

In an Oxford college, the Dean is the Fellow (faculty member) responsible for student discipline. In the larger colleges, the Dean is assisted by a Junior Dean, also a Fellow of the college. In Something Fresh, Freddie Threepwood has been sent down for pouring ink on the Junior Dean of his college.


cram for the Army (p.183)*

prepare quickly and specifically (as with a specialized tutor) for the examinations for officer candidates


They’re rather nuts (p.183)*

Because Bertie is referring to two of them, this can be interpreted in various ways. Had he said “Claude is a nut” he might have meant “a troublesome, unruly young man” (originally Australian slang); a fashionable young man, dude, “knut”; or an eccentric person (originally US slang). Had he said “Eustace is nuts” he probably would have meant it in the American slang sense of “crazy.” My vote is for the Australian sense, meaning two troublesome young men. [NM]


she holds me with her glittering eyes (p.184)*

See Love Among the Chickens.


jazz spats (p.184)*

For spats, see Right Ho, Jeeves. When applied to clothing, jazz means having wild patterns and/or bright colors; the OED has citations from 1919 on for this sense.


Burlington Arcade (p.184)

Covered shopping arcade opening off Piccadilly, next door to Burlington House (the Royal Academy). It opened in 1819, and used to belong to the Cavendish family.


Old Etonian (p.184)°

An Old Etonian is someone who was educated at Eton College, a school in Windsor. According to the Sunday Telegraph there are 130 different colours of Eton sports socks in use. But the Eton College web site explains that Eton Blue was originally the same pale greenish blue that was adopted by the University of Cambridge for the 1836 Boat Race, and that color remained in use at Eton for a century. So in Bertie’s day, Old Etonian spats would have been in Cambridge blue, approximately:




Eton has in recent years settled on a bluer hue, Pantone 7464C, approximately:





curveted (p.185)*

See p. 85, above.


never struck in my whole puff (p.185)*

Struck in the sense of “encountered” is a mostly American usage, from the middle 19th century. For puff, see p. 104, above.


come a … purler (p.185)*

to fall heavily head first, or (figuratively) to suffer a sudden misfortune


moaning at the bar (p.185)

Bar in this context means the sandbar often found at the mouth of a river; to cross it is to go to sea.

Sunset and evening star,
 And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
 When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
 Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
 Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
 And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
 When I embark;

For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
 The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
 When I have crossed the bar.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892): Crossing the Bar


Senior Tutor (p.185)

The Senior Tutor is the Fellow of an Oxford College who is responsible for organising teaching arrangements and seeing that undergraduates are devoting themselves to their studies.


siphon (p.186)*

See Heavy Weather.


toddle (p.186)*

See p. 46, above.


Ciro’s (p.186)*

See p. 67, above.


extension night (p.186)

A night on which the club had a licence to stay open later than usual.


all-night vigils (p.186)*

It seems somewhat odd for Bertie, in describing staying awake all night at a dance, to use the specific terminology of the Eastern Orthodox churches for an overnight worship service combining the canonical hours of Vespers, Matins, and the First Hour. Musical settings for the all-night vigil have been composed by Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, and many others.


Covent Garden ball (p.186)

Covent Garden balls were a feature of the 1890s and early 1900s – once again, Bertie is showing his age rather.


Hammams (p.186)°

A hammam is a Turkish bath. London’s first Turkish bath opened in Jermyn St. in 1862. Norman Murphy (In Search of Blandings, p. 82) describes the tiled Moorish doorway of a Turkish bath, along the passage to the right of the Sherlock Holmes pub, just across from the former site of the Constitutional (Senior Conservative) Club, used by Wodehouse in real life and by Psmith in Psmith in the City, as well as by Holmes and Watson. See Psmith in the City for more details and links.


costermongers (p.186)

A costermonger is a street seller of fruit and vegetables. Covent Garden was the site of London’s wholesale fruit and vegetable market until 1972, so the aftermath of a ball would inevitably bring guests into contact with early-rising market workers.


chemmy (p.187)°

Chemin-de-fer – A form of baccarat using six packs of cards. This was the first recorded use of the term “chemmy” in the second edition of the OED, but a 1918 citation has since supplanted it.


Pure Food Committee (p.187)*

An American organization, founded by women’s clubs and the National Consumers League in 1904, to press for legislation and regulation at the federal and state government levels to ban unsafe, spoiled, and adulterated foods. Their efforts led to the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act as well as many state laws and regulations.


Marion Wardour (p.188)°

Probably a disguised appearance of Marion Davies, one of the Ziegfeld Girls who caused so much trouble in Bring On the Girls; her birth surname was Douras.


that show at the Apollo (p.188)*

The Apollo Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1, was designed for musical theatre by Lewin Sharp and opened in 1901.


two hearts that beat as one (p.188)*

See Right Ho, Jeeves.


gave Eustace the slip at Waterloo (p.188)*

If departing on an ocean voyage to South Africa, one would take the boat train from Waterloo Station, London, to Southampton. See p. 49, above.


Jeeves … one of those pick-me-ups of his (p.188)*

See The Mating Season.


shining morning face (p.189)*

From Jacques’s “All the world’s a stage” speech in Shakespeare’s As You Like It, also known as the Seven Ages of Man:

Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school.


like a giant refreshed (p.189)*

So the Lord awaked as one out of sleep,
and like a giant refreshed with wine.

Book of Common Prayer: Psalms 78:66


batter pudding (p.190)*

A baked dessert, made from a beaten mixture of flour, eggs, milk, baking powder, and seasonings, which rises and browns in the oven; usually served with a fruit sauce.


all of a twitter (p.190)*

Completely agitated, trembling all over. The phrase is cited from 1802 in the OED, and the use of “twitter” as the condition of tremulous excitement is the oldest noun sense listed, from the seventeenth century, older than the sound of birds.


all was quiet along the Potomac (p.190)

Popular song of the American Civil War, from a poem published in Harper’s Weekly, 30 November 1861. The Potomac is the river which flows through Washington, D.C.

“All quiet along the Potomac,” they say,
 “Except, now and then, a stray picket
Is shot, as he walks on his beat to and fro,
 By a rifleman hid in the thicket.
’Tis nothing—a private or two now and then
 Will not count in the news of the battle;
Not an officer lost—only one of the men
 Moaning out, all alone, the death-rattle.”

All quiet along the Potomac tonight,
 Where the soldiers lie peacefully dreaming;
Their tents, in the rays of the clear autumn moon
 Or the light of the watch-fire, are gleaming.
A tremulous sigh of the gentle night-wind
 Through the forest-leaves softly is creeping,
While stars up above, with their glittering eyes,
 Keep guard, for the army is sleeping.

There’s only the sound of the lone sentry’s tread
 As he tramps from the rock to the fountain,
And thinks of the two in the low trundle-bed
 Far away in the cot on the mountain.
His musket falls slack; his face, dark and grim,
 Grows gentle with memories tender
As he mutters a prayer for the children asleep—
 For their mother; may Heaven defend her!

The moon seems to shine just as brightly as then,
 That night when the love yet unspoken
Leaped up to his lips—when low-murmured vows
 Were pledged to be ever unbroken.
Then drawing his sleeve roughly over his eyes,
 He dashes off tears that are welling,
And gathers his gun closer up to its place,
 As if to keep down the heart-swelling.

He passes the fountain, the blasted pine tree,
 The footstep is lagging and weary;
Yet onward he goes through the broad belt of light,
 Toward the shade of the forest so dreary.
Hark! was it the night-wind that rustled the leaves?
 Was it moonlight so wondrously flashing?
It looked like a rifle—“Ha! Mary, good-bye!”
 The red life-blood is ebbing and plashing.

All quiet along the Potomac tonight,
 No sound save the rush of the river;
While soft falls the dew on the face of the dead—
 The picket’s off duty for ever!

Ethel Lynn Beers (1827–1879): All Quiet Along the Potomac


Aunt Agatha trickled in (p.190)*

Bertie usually uses this verb for his own languid wanderings (see p. 42, above), so it is something of a surprise when he applies it to this usually imperious aunt. Perhaps this is a foreshadowing of her worry about her nephews.


shoving themselves outside a couple of rashers and an egg (p.191)*

See p. 12, above.


tarantulas (p.191)

The wolf spider Lycosa tarantula, found in southern Europe.


discovered that alcohol was a food (p.191–92)*

See the endnotes to “Absent Treatment” at alcohol may be a food for more.


phantasm … wraith (p.192)*

The archaic term phantasm for ghost was adopted in the early parapsychology literature of the 1880s to mean a perception of a person who is not actually present. Wraith, an old Scots term for ghost, is also frequently used for the spectral appearance of a distant person who is near death.


barley-water (p.192)*

A soothing drink prepared by steeping pearl barley in boiling water, straining, and cooling, often with lemon and/or sugar to taste.


Harrogate (p.195)*

See Carry On, Jeeves!


shifting it a bit … mopping up the stuff to some extent (p.196)*

Among Bertie’s fruitier euphemisms for excessive drinking. Also used by Archie Moffam in Indiscretions of Archie:

 “You recollect, no doubt, that Seacliff always had a—a tendency—a—a weakness—it was a family failing.”
 “Mopping it up, do you mean? Shifting it? Looking on the jolly old stuff when it was red and what-not—what?”


hauled up my slacks (p.197)*

See p. 30, above.


berth (p.198)*

See p. 182, above.


The young gentlemen ate it (p.200)*

Jeeves apologizes for a slangy expression which is not even yet included explicitly in the OED; a more usual colloquial expression would be “swallowed it whole”: accepted it unquestioningly.


travel overland to Madeira (p.201)

Don’t try this at home – you may get your feet wet. Presumably passengers to the Cape wishing to avoid the rough crossing of the Bay of Biscay would travel to Lisbon by train and take a boat to Madeira from there.


Chapter 17
Bingo and the Little Woman

Oldest Inhabitants (p.203)*

Using “oldest inhabitant” in lower case to personify the collective memory of a community was common in literature and journalism long ago; in fact, the first capitalized use of the phrase is in an article so titled in Graham’s Magazine of 1857 which complains that it is a cliché of writers. An 1863 story in Harper’s capitalizes the singular form as if recognizing it as a stock character designation. Wodehouse similarly capitalized the character name in “The Manœvres of Charteris” and used it without capitals in “Author!” and other school stories to refer to students.


Peninsular war (p.203)

The campaign against Napoleon in Spain and Portugal 1808–1814, in which Wellington distinguished himself as Britain’s foremost general. Anyone in the Senior Liberal club in 1923 who had fought in the Peninsula would be at least 125.


that old boy over by the window has been dead three days (p.203)*

This joke and the contrastingly harrowing reaction of George Fentiman in Dorothy L. Sayers’s The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club on discovering his aged grandfather’s death in a club chair seem as though they must both be based on an older joke or possibly a cartoon, but so far searches have been fruitless. Let me [NM] know if you can shed light on the source.


armistice (p.204)

The agreement ending the First World War, in November 1918. Many civilian jobs normally performed by men were taken by women during the war years.


to weigh in with (p.204)*

As the first item on the menu; the figure of speech comes from boxers and jockeys, who must take their place in the scales (weigh in) before a match or race can begin.


asbestos vests (p.205)*

The US equivalent would be undershirts, not waistcoats, made of asbestos, a fireproof mineral fiber.


come to the aid of the party (p.205)*

See p. 81, above.


king in Babylon … Christian slave (p.206)

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.

I saw, I took, I cast you by,
 I bent and broke your pride.
You loved me well, or I heard them lie,
 But your longing was denied.
Surely I knew that by and by
 You cursed your gods and died.

And a myriad suns have set and shone
 Since then upon the grave
Decreed by the King in Babylon
 To her that had been his Slave.

The pride I trampled is now my scathe,
 For it tramples me again.
The old resentment lasts like death,
 For you love, yet you refrain.
I break my heart on your hard unfaith,
 And I break my heart in vain.

Yet not for an hour do I wish undone
 The deed beyond the grave,
When I was a King in Babylon
 And you were a Virgin Slave.

William Ernest Henley (1849–1903): To W. A.


leap like a young ram (p.206)*

An apparent echo of Psalm 114:4 [Book of Common Prayer]:

The mountains skipped like rams: and the little hills like young sheep.


Trappist (p.208)*

See Money in the Bank.


Pink ’Un (p.208)

Unofficial name of the Sporting Times (see p.15 above).


form book (p.208)

A collection of statistics on the performance of racehorses used as a guide for betting.


things in aspic (p.208)*

The Larousse Gastronomique has several pages of gourmet specialties presented in aspic, a transparent jelly carefully prepared by making a stock from chicken, veal, ham, and calves’ feet, then clarifying it by boiling with egg white and then straining. When chilled, this tasty and attractive gelatin can be molded or used to enrobe cooked and cooled meats, poultry, fish, shrimps, hard-boiled eggs, patés, frogs’ legs, and other delicacies.


Stoney (p.209)*

Short for “stony broke”: completely without funds. Wodehouse also adopts the less common ‘-ey’ spelling in the only prior use so far found:

If in one small room you’re forced to live both stuffily and pokily,
If, in short, affairs are running—shall we put it?—stoney brokily,

PGW and B. Fletcher Robinson, “The Progressive’s Progress” (1907)


the right stuff (p.209)*

A phrase with a multitude of meanings. Wodehouse first used it in approving sportswriting that thrilled the reader:

This is the right stuff. It stirs. It invigorates. It would thrill a pew-opener. You feel that you want to read on and find out what it is all about.

“Baseball” (1904)

In the modern or Tom Wolfe sense of having character, courage, grit:

His father had succeeded in his life’s ambition. He had produced a gentleman! How easily and simply, without a trace of snobbish shame, the young man had introduced his father. There was the right stuff in him. He was not ashamed of the humble man who had given him his chance in life. She found herself liking Jimmy amazingly.

Piccadilly Jim (1917)

Referring to money, such as this passage on giving gifts of money to kings:

—the only Englishman who appears to have had the rudiments of resource and common sense being Bishop Latimer, who, in lieu of the right stuff, thrust into his sovereign’s disappointed palm a New Testament with the leaf turned down at Hebrews XIII, 4.

“All About New Year’s Day” (1917)

Bertie, as in the present story, generally means money:

…a quite unexpected mess of the right stuff had suddenly descended on him [Rocky Todd] from a blue sky.

“The Aunt and the Sluggard” (1916)

The chappies you’d like to lend money to won’t let you, whereas the chappies you don’t want to lend it to will do everything except actually stand you on your head and lift the specie out of your pockets. As a lad who has always rolled tolerably freely in the right stuff, I’ve had lots of experience of the second class.

“Jeeves and the Hard-Boiled Egg” (1917)

But Bertie also uses it for good liquor:

We were musing on the summer afternoon down at her place in Worcestershire when Gussie, circumstances having so ordered themselves as to render him full to the back teeth with the right stuff, had addressed the young scholars of Market Snodsbury Grammar School on the occasion of their annual prize giving.

The Code of the Woosters, ch. 1


stout fellow … seventeen stone (p.209)*

Historically, stout in the sense of “valiant, brave, courageous” is most often used of soldiers, but Bertie and his peers use the phrase to praise a reliable pal:

A friend is a “stout fellow”: an enemy a “tick.”

“The Knuts o’ London” (1914)

Seventeen stone is 238 pounds.


serpent’s tooth (p.210)

How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is
To have a thankless child.

Shakespeare: King Lear I:4, 268–269


stuffed eel skin (p.210)*

A criminal’s weapon made of a tube of leather or eelskin filled with sand or shot, designed to knock the victim unconscious without leaving a mark; similar to a cosh or blackjack but slightly softer than the usual wooden or metal clubs of this kind.

Wodehouse’s editors were uncertain whether eel skin should be one word, two words, or a hyphenated word:

Sooner or later I should be wanting to go back to England, and I didn’t want to get there and find Aunt Agatha waiting on the quay for me with a stuffed eelskin.

“Jeeves and the Unbidden Guest” (1916)

He resembled a minor prophet who has been hit behind the ear with a stuffed eel-skin.

“Ukridge’s Dog College” (1923)


old turnip (p.210)*

As far as I am aware, this is the only use of this endearment in Wodehouse. [NM]


Disturbing news from Lower Silesia (p.211)

Slightly mysterious: it was Upper Silesia, with its mixture of German, Czech and Polish populations, which was in some turmoil in the early twenties. A plebiscite held in 1921 to decide whether it should become German or Polish was partly inconclusive, and there was an armed rising of Polish Silesians in 1922 which led to partition. Lower Silesia is the area around Wroclaw (formerly Breslau).


Chapter 18
All’s Well

poof themselves out halfway down the straight (p.212)*

The analogy is to a racehorse running out of breath in the final (straight) section of the course before the finish line. This sentence is cited in the OED as a reflexive use of a normally intransitive verb phrase “poof out”: to fizzle out, blow up.


This morning at a registrar’s (p.212)*

A registrar was an official authorized under the Marriage Act 1836 to perform civil marriages in England and Wales. Prior to that, only the Church of England, Quakers, and Jews could perform marriages that were recognized at law; Roman Catholics and members of other religions, as well as atheists, had to be married in an Anglican church in order to have legal rights as being married, even if they had already had a wedding ceremony in their own house of worship.


wedding breakfast (p.212)°

The celebratory meal after a wedding is traditionally called a “breakfast,” presumably because weddings had by law to be held in the morning, and the bride and groom were presumed not to have eaten beforehand.

Before the Marriage Act 1886, weddings had to take place between 8 a.m. and noon; afterward, they could be held until three p.m.; after 1949 the regulations allowed marriages only between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.; this latter restriction was abolished in 2012.


bought a buttonhole (p.212)*

That is, a flower to wear on one’s lapel. Bingo is emphasizing the skimpiness of his preparations by naming only this. In fact, he would have also had to buy a special license from the registrar in order to marry without advance notice.


Lilian Gish (p.213)°

Lillian Gish (1897–1993), whose name is properly spelled in the American magazine appearance of this story (Cosmopolitan, December 1922). One of the first big stars of silent pictures, worked with D. W. Griffith from 1913 to 1925 (Unseen Enemy, Birth of a Nation, Orphans of the Storm, Intolerance, Way Down East, etc.)


waitress kit (p.213)*

In the 19th century, kit referred to a soldier’s equipment of clothing and supplies packed for transport or travel; by extension, to just the military uniform; later, to any uniform worn for a specific trade or sport.


upholstery (p.213)*

Bertie’s jocular use of this word to mean the fabric covering a person, rather than the fabric and padding covering furniture, has not yet made it into the OED.


wigwam (p.213)*

This time the OED recognizes the humorous use of a literally inappropriate word in reference to a house; Sir Walter Scott used it in Rob Roy (1817). Bertie’s usage, though, is not cited.


all to the mustard (p.214)*

Here the first OED definition of the phrase, “to be exactly what is required,” fits perfectly. Archie Moffam uses it of the song “Mother’s Knee” in Indiscretions of Archie:

I see no reason why it should not be ripe, fruity, and pretty well all to the mustard.

But Bertie also uses it for a person whose life is unexpectedly spicy, the supposed curate Sidney Hemmingway:

Never in my life before had I encountered a curate so genuinely all to the mustard. Little as he might look like one of the lads of the village, he certainly appeared to be the real tabasco.

“Aunt Agatha Takes the Count” (1922)


Neither principalities nor powers, my lord (p.214)*

Fr. Rob Bovendeaard finds this to be an echo of Romans 8:38–39:

 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.


I love your son, Lord Windermere (p.214)°

We do not learn until p. 216 that Lord Windermere is the old earl rather than the son, but it sounds as though Millicent is at a grave risk of eventually becoming the Lady Windermere created by Oscar Wilde …


jumped off the dock (p.215)*

See Love Among the Chickens.


prompt book (p.215)*

More theatrical jargon, for the script used by the stage manager or prompter to refresh the memory of an actor who has forgotten his lines. Here, of course, it is The Woman Who Braved All on the side table.


something attempted, something done (p.216)*

See Right Ho, Jeeves.


Life’s sitters blow up in the home stretch (p.216)*

See p. 48 above for sitter; the rest is parallel to the racing analogy at the top of this chapter.

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.