Uncle Fred in the Springtime
P G Wodehouse
Literary and Cultural References
This is part of an on-going effort by the members of the Blandings Yahoo! Group to document references, allusions, quotations, etc in the works of P G Wodehouse.
Uncle Fred in the Springtime was originally annotated by Mark Hodson (aka The Efficient Baxter). They have been reformatted somewhat, but credit goes to Mark for his original efforts, even while we bear the blame for errors of fact or interpretation.
The book was published by Doubleday Doran in the USA on the 18th of August 1939, and by Herbert Jenkins in the UK on the 25th of the same month.
Page references in these notes are based on the 1939 Herbert Jenkins edition.
NotesUncle Fred in the Springtime was published by Doubleday Doran in the USA on the 18th of August 1939, and by Herbert Jenkins in the UK on the 25th of the same month. On the same day, Britain announced that it had entered into a formal alliance guaranteeing the security of Poland: a week later Hitler’s tanks crossed the Polish border, marking the beginning of the second World War.Uncle Fred in the Springtime is the fifth Blandings novel, and the first full-length novel to feature Uncle Fred. Since the publication of Heavy Weather (1933) there had also been two short story collections that included Blandings stories: Lord Emsworth and Others/The Crime-Wave at Blandings and Blandings Castle and Elsewhere.
Chapter 1 (Ch. 1; page 7)
Runs from pp 7 to 22 in the 1939 Herbert Jenkins edition.
Drones Club (Ch. 1; page 7)
The Drones is first mentioned in Jill the Reckless (1921). For more on the real background to this, the most celebrated fictional club in the Wodehouse world, see Murphy, Chapter VII.
[Murphy, N. T. P., In Search of Blandings (1986) Ch.Vii]
Pongo Twistleton (Ch. 1; page 7)
Pongo first appeared in “The Luck of the Stiffhams” (1933), but his celebrated Uncle Fred is only introduced in “Uncle Fred Flits By” (1935). “Pong” is schoolboy slang for a smell. He is variously called ‘Twistleton’ and ‘Twistleton-Twistleton.’
Horace Pendlebury-Davenport (Ch. 1; page 7)
This is his first appearance. He returns in the short story “The shadow passes” (1950) and links the Blandings, Jeeves and Uncle Fred worlds by appearing in Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit (1954).
The only other Pendlebury is Gwladys, the artist in “Jeeves and the Spot of Art” (1929). Horace seems to be the first Davenport in the canon, although a few more turn up in the 1950s.
Both Pendlebury and Davenport are reasonably common British surnames. Pendlebury is a town in Lancashire, nowadays effectively swallowed up by its neighbour, Salford.
[Garrison, Daniel H., Who’s Who in Wodehouse (1991) ]
Hay Hill, ... Berkeley Square , ... Mount Street, ... Park Lane (Ch. 1; page 7)
All real streets in the Mayfair district of London. This route, covering a distance of about 1.5 km — a rather brisk ten minutes! — makes perfect sense if the Drones is in Dover Street, as it seems to have been ever since Leave It to Psmith.
Murphy suggests the Bath Club at No. 34 as the most likely of the many clubs in Dover Street to be the geographical source for the Drones.
See the link below for a map of Mayfair: Dover Street is on the lower right.
Bloxham House (Ch. 1; page 7)
Seems to be fictitious. Many aristocratic families sold off their grand London houses in the 1930s, mostly for demolition and/or conversion into flats.
Oofy Prosser in “Sonny Boy” also lives at Bloxham Mansions, Park Lane.
Lord Blotsam in “The Knightly Quest of Mervyn” lives on Berkeley Square, not Park Lane. Bloxham is a village near Banbury in Oxfordshire.
Webster (Ch. 1; page 7)
Rufus Bennett has a valet called Webster in The Girl on the Boat/Three Men and a Maid (1922), but the most celebrated Webster in the canon is indisputably the hero of “The Story of Webster” and “Cats will be Cats” (1932).
the Duke of Dunstable (Ch. 1; page 8)
This is the first mention of the Duke in the canon. The ingenious schoolboy P.A. Dunstable appears in several of the early stories.
Duke is the highest rank in the British peerage; it was first introduced in England in the time of Edward III. Currently, there are 29 (non-royal) dukedoms held by 24 dukes, and a further 6 held by members of the royal family.
Dunstable is a town in Bedfordshire. The English composer John Dunstable (1389-1453) is probably the most famous person to have had this name.
Possibly Wodehouse chose this particular title because of the alliteration of “Duke of Dunstable” (cf. Dorothy L. Sayers and the Duke of Denver), or the association Dunstable/Unstable, or because there are real Dukes who take their titles from the nearby towns of Bedford and St Albans.
Alaric (Ch. 1; page 8)
Presumably named after Alaric I (ca. 370-410), king of the Visigoths, who devastated Greece after the death of the emperor Honorius, and invaded Italy a number of times, laying siege to Rome itself.
ethereal mildness (Ch. 1; page 8)
Wodehouse probably got this straight out of Bartlett, who quotes only the first line.
COME, gentle SPRING, ethereal Mildness, come;
And from the bosom of yon dropping cloud,
While music wakes around, veil'd in a shower
Of shadowing roses, on our plains descend...
[Thomson, James (1700-1748) The Seasons (1730) I.1]
Noah ... drizzle (Ch. 1; page 8)
Having survived a flood that covered even the highest mountains for ten months, Noah might be expected to be contemptuous of any normal rain or drizzle.
And the LORD said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into
the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation.
Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his
female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female.
Of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and the female; to keep seed
alive upon the face of all the earth. For yet seven days, and I will cause
it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living
substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth.
And Noah did according unto all that the LORD commanded him.
And Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters was upon the earth.
And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons' wives with him, into the ark, because of the waters of the flood. Of clean beasts, and of beasts that are not clean, and of fowls, and of every thing that creepeth upon the earth, there went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, the male and the female, as God had commanded Noah.
And it came to pass after seven days, that the waters of the flood were upon the earth.
In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.
12 And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights.
[Bible Genesis 7:1-12]
Valerie (Ch. 1; page 9)
Has not appeared before.
brought him up ... round ... turn (Ch. 1; page 9)
In nautical terms, a round turn is a loop around a winch or bollard used to brake and control a rope. So to bring someone up with a round turn is to stop them suddenly.
Claude Pott (Ch. 1; page 9)
Though there are dozens of Potters in the canon, the only Pott besides Claude and his daughter (see below) is Edwin, pigman in Full Moon.
obscurity ... Browning (Ch. 1; page 10)
Robert Browning (1812-1889) was much-criticised by his contemporaries for the obscurity and inaccessibility of many of the references in his poems. To some extent these were due to his idiosyncratic education — he seems to have spent most of his childhood reading encyclopedias — but it was also inherent in his narrative technique, which involved seeing the world from the perspective of the often obscure historical characters he wrote about.
Euclid (Ch. 1; page 10)
Euclid was a mathematician who taught at Alexandria in the 4th century BCE. His Elements set out the rules of geometry with a logical progression of definitions, postulates and proofs, and have formed the basis of school mathematics teaching ever since.
Montreuil (Ch. 1; page 10)
Town in northern France, a few km inland from Le Touquet.
dance before him (Ch. 1; page 11)
Could this be an allusion to David dancing before the Ark of the Covenant (2 Samuel 6:14)?
David Rosenbaum suggests Samuel 2, Chapter 2, verse 14: In Hebew, the word used for "play" could also mean dance, which is more in line with the intention here. Pongo says, "To dance... and generally entertain him?" David was dancing to honour God, not as entertainment. In the Abner case, it seems to be really entertainment.
And Abner said to Joab: 'Let the young men, I pray thee, arise and play before us.' And Joab said: 'Let them arise.
[Bible 2 Samuel 2:14]
that fellow Baxter (Ch. 1; page 11)
British Museum (Ch. 1; page 11)
As well as containing archaeological treasures looted from all over the world, until recently the British Museum in Bloomsbury also housed the British Library, one of the copyright libraries that hold a copy of every book published in Britain. (The library moved to Euston Road in the 1990s.)
Baxter is presumably not looking for the lost tomb of Alaric I, but working in the famous Reading Room in pursuit of printed references to rather more recent ancestors of the Duke.
dromedary with the staggers (Ch. 1; page 12)
Dromedaries are domesticated camels bred especially for riding, as opposed to load-carrying, usually (but not necessarily) of the single-humped type.
The staggers can be any of a number of diseases affecting domestic animals, which result in the animal walking unsteadily.
Le Touquet (Ch. 1; page 12)
Le Touquet-Paris Plage is a seaside resort in northern France, about 15km south of Boulogne. Wodehouse was living near Le Touquet at the time he wrote Uncle Fred in the Springtime, and remained there until interned by the Germans in 1940.
Bohemian Ball ... Albert Hall (Ch. 1; page 12)
As one of London’s largest entertainment venues, the Albert Hall was often used for big events like balls, which in Wodehouse’s younger days might have been held at Covent Garden.
Messrs. Coke and Littleton (Ch. 1; page 12)
Sir Thomas Littleton (1422-1481) was the author of On Tenures, the first major legal treatise in something approaching the vernacular. It is written in an Anglo-Norman dialect peculiar to lawyers, now known as ‘law French,’ and is based on Anglo-Saxon common law, rather than the Roman legal tradition followed in Scotland and elsewhere in Europe. Littleton was a direct ancestor of the Victorian novelist Bulwer Lytton.
Sir Edward Coke (1552-1634) was an important parliamentarian, judge and legal theorist. His defence of the Common Law and opposition to Stuart abuses of the royal prerogative got him dismissed from the post of Chief Justice in 1616, but he remained an important figure in the development of constitutional theory in the build-up to the Civil War. He is best known today for the Reports and Institutes of the Laws of England (the latter includes his commentary on Littleton).
Some modern legal historians argue that his actual writings have been far less influential than the myth of Coke that developed in the 18th and 19th centuries, especially in the USA, where he was frequently invoked in defence of the colonists’ right to self-determination.
reading for the Bar (Ch. 1; page 12)
Formerly, the railing separating the Judge’s bench from the public area of the court was called the Bar. By extension, this came to mean the Court as a whole. Accused persons were tried at the bar, and lawyers practised there.
In modern British terminology, lawyers are divided into two groups: solicitors and barristers. Only the latter are allowed to appear as advocates at the Bar, before the higher courts.
The usual way to qualify as a barrister is to take an academic law degree at University, followed by a period of practical training in an Inn of Court, a process known as “reading for the bar.”
Hotel Picardy (Ch. 1; page 16)
Picardie (often spelled “Picardy” in English) is a region in northern France. Oddly enough, there seems to be an Hotel Picardy in Nice, but not in Le Touquet.
Hockey-knockers (Ch. 1; page 16)
Informal way of referring to golf equipment.
Barmy ... Catsmeat (Ch. 1; page 17)
Presumably (although it doesn’t really matter here) Cyril “Barmy” Fotheringay-Phipps (“Fate”, “Tried in the Furnace,” etc.) and Claude “Catsmeat” Potter-Pirbright, who first appeared in The Code of The Woosters in 1938.
guillotine (Ch. 1; page 17)
The last execution by guillotine in France was on 10 September 1977; executions were public until 1939.
Dr Joseph-Ignace Guillotin proposed the use of a decapitation machine, similar to devices already in use since the middle ages in other countries including Scotland, to the National Assembly in December 1789, with the aim of removing the inequalities between common criminals and the nobility in the existing arrangements for executions. His idea was rejected and he abandoned it.
When the Legislative Assembly again proposed in 1791 that all executions should be by decapitation, it was Dr Louis of the Academy of Surgeons who designed a workable protoype, differing in several important respects from Guillotin's drawings, and the German piano builder Tobias Schmidt who constructed it. It was thus generally known as a louison or louisette - it was only later that it became associated in the public mind with the name of Guillotin. (Simon Schama, Citizens, 1989, Ch.15; Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish, 1977)
Contrary to common belief, Dr Guillotin was not executed during the Reign of Terror, but died in 1814.
rozzers (Ch. 1; page 18)
Police - British slang of the 1890s, still current. Possibly of Polari origins. One of the earliest citations in the OED is from the prominent Pelican, A.M. “Pitcher” Binstead.
trailing arbutus (Ch. 1; page 18)
Epigaea repens or ground laurel, an American plant apparently much prized as an indication that Spring is on its way. Obviously the relevance here is simply the word trailing.
Buffy-Porson (Ch. 1; page 22)
Yet another in the apparently endless series of Wodehousian car-makers. Pongo previously had a somewhat unreliable Pommery Seven (“Uncle Fred Flits By”).
The Buffy-Porson has been realised as a pedal car design by American model-maker Peter Stevenson (The Buffy-Porson, a car you can build, Scribner, New York, 1973). It isn’t clear whether this is based on an entirely fictitious two-seater using the name from Wodehouse, or whether he and Wodehouse have a common source, but the former seems more likely.
Just possibly there is a reference to the eminent Greek scholar Richard Porson (1759-1808), who edited many of the texts Wodehouse would have studied at school. Buffy is nineteenth-century slang for ‘drunk.’ Garrison does not list either Buffy or Porson as the name of a Wodehouse character.
Ickenham, in Hampshire (Ch. 1; page 22)
Ickenham is near Uxbridge in Middlesex, on the western fringes of London. It thus has the unusual distinction among Wodehouse names of appearing on the famous London Underground diagram. Wodehouse has moved it to Hampshire (conventionally abbreviated “Hants.”), on the south coast.
Chapter 2 (Ch. 2; page 23)
Runs from pp 23 to 40 in the 1939 Herbert Jenkins edition.
Paddington (Ch. 2; page 23)
Paddington station, the London terminus of the Great Western Railway, has been the station for Blandings since it was moved to Shropshire in Summer Lightning. It is only about ten minutes walk from Park Lane. 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.
2.45 (Ch. 2; page 23)
The 2.45 seems to be a new addition to the timetable: in Leave It To Psmith Freddie misses the 12.50 and has to wait until 5.00 for the next one. With a few exceptions, Wodehouse normally allows the railways about four hours to transport people between Paddington and Market Blandings.
Clarence, ninth Earl of Emsworth (Ch. 2; page 23)
Has appeared in all the Blandings stories starting with Something Fresh/Something New.
Lady Constance Keeble (Ch. 2; page 23)
The most frequently seen of Lord Emsworth’s ten sisters, she has been resident as chatelaine of Blandings since Leave It To Psmith.
forty-seven years (Ch. 2; page 23)
Probably it is best not even to attempt to work out where this figure comes from!
Lord Emsworth’s age seems to have been somewhere between about 55 and 70 for most of the 62 years between his first and last appearances on the printed page, so one reasonable guess might be that he first met Alaric as a boy at Eton.
Rupert Baxter (Ch. 2; page 23)
The Efficient Baxter is Emsworth’s secretary in Something Fresh/Something New and Leave It To Psmith. In the course of the latter book, Psmith engineers his dismissal.
Baxter was present as a guest of Lady Constance in Summer Lightning/Fish Preferred and briefly revisited the Castle in “The Crime-Wave at Blandings.”
Bonny, bonny banks... (Ch. 2; page 26)
Loch Lomond is supposed to be an old Jacobite song, but the words generally used nowadays seem to have been written in the 19th century.
O you take the high road
And I'll take the low road
And I'll be in Scotland before ye,
For me and my true love
Will never meet again
On the bonny bonny banks of Loch Lomond
[Scott, Lady John (attrib.) Loch Lomond (chorus)]
Ronald married a chorus girl (Ch. 2; page 28)
This is Ronnie Fish, of course, who drives off to the registry office with Sue Brown at the end of Heavy Weather. This seems to be confirmation that they got there safely.
Empress of Blandings (Ch. 2; page 30)
The Empress first appeared in “Pig Hoo-o-o-o-ey” (1927).
stag at bay (Ch. 2; page 31)
Painting by the celebrated Victorian animal painter Sir Edwin Henry Landseer, ARA (1803-1873), which became widely known as a result of the engraving by his brother Thomas. In Full Moon, Bill Lister visits Blandings Castle as another Landseer, painter of The Pig at Bée.
Bosham (Ch. 2; page 31)
Viscount Bosham was mentioned in Leave It To Psmith and “The Crime-Wave at Blandings” (where his young son George appears).
As is usual, Lord Emsworth’s heir has a courtesy title one step lower in the peerage than the title he will inherit. (A courtesy title entitles the holder to be addressed and given precedence as if he held that rank, but does not give him any legal rights.) Bosham is a village in West Sussex, near Wodehouse’s former house at Emsworth.
Bridgeford races (Ch. 2; page 31)
Bridgeford and Shifnal were mentioned as the nearest larger towns in Leave It To Psmith. The name Bridgeford obviously comes from the real Shropshire town of Bridgnorth.
The main horse-racing venues in Shropshire are Shrewsbury and Ludlow. Possibly Wodehouse has simply moved Ludlow racecourse to Bridgnorth to avoid the need to populate the region around Blandings with yet another town.
brother Galahad (Ch. 2; page 32)
See Summer Lightning
You know my sow, Empress of Blandings... (Ch. 2; page 33)
Strictly speaking, Lord Emsworth is committing a faux pas: as a lady, the Empress should have the Duke introduced to her first.
Derby (Ch. 2; page 34)
The Derby is a horse race, held on Epsom Downs each June. It was first run in 1779, and is named after one of the organizers, the Earl of Derby. (He tossed a coin for the honour with Sir Charles Bunbury.)
pince-nez (Ch. 2; page 34)
Spectacles without earpieces, attached to the nose (French: nose-pincher). We know from Leave It To Psmith that Emsworth keeps his on a string, which sometimes falls down his back.
in loco parentis (Ch. 2; page 35)
Latin: in the parent’s place. Normally used of e.g. schoolteachers who have temporary responsibility for the children under their care.
Whiffle On the Care of the Pig (Ch. 2; page 37)
The classic pig-book. Does not seem to have a specific source. Augustus Whiffle/Whipple, a member of the Athenaeum, makes an off-stage appearance later in the Blandings saga.
Debrett’s Peerage (Ch. 2; page 38)
Debrett’s Peerage of England, Scotland and Ireland, a directory of the peerage, originally compiled by John Debrett (1750-1822), which first appeared in 1803.
The Boy Stood on the Burning Deck (Ch. 2; page 38)
The much-recited poem Casabianca, of which this is the first line, was written by that well-known precursor of today’s Liverpool poets, Mrs Felicia Dorothea Hemans (1793-1835), who grew up in Liverpool and Wavertree, but later went to live in Dublin.
Sir Roderick Glossop (Ch. 2; page 39)
The prominent nerve specialist first appeared in The Inimitable Jeeves — he forms another of the links between the Jeeves/Wooster and Blandings/Uncle Fred characters.
Glossop is a town in Derbyshire.
Lady Gimblett (Ch. 2; page 39)
No obvious Wodehouse connection. Gimblett is an unusual surname, but there do seem to be a few of them around.
trunk telephone call (Ch. 2; page 40)
This was long before the days of subscriber-dialled trunk calls, of course: to place a call to a subscriber in another district it was necessary to go via the operator. Notice that the castle has acquired its own branch exchange: Beach will be able to put the call through to the extension in Lord Emsworth’s room.
Chapter 3 (Ch. 3; page 41)
Runs from pp 41 to 51 in the 1939 Herbert Jenkins edition.
Rolls (Ch. 3; page 41)
The Rolls-Royce company, based at Crewe in Cheshire, was for many years Britain’s best-known builder of luxury cars. In 1939, of course, they were also busy building aircraft engines.
Frederick Altamont Cornwallis Twistleton (Ch. 3; page 41)
We did not discover Uncle Fred’s full names on his previous appearance in “Uncle Fred Flits By”. Altamont and Cornwallis are both titles of Irish peers — Lord Cornwallis was of course the British general defeated by George Washington; the Browne family of County Mayo were Earls of Altamont and later Marquesses of Sligo.
Jane, Countess of Ickenham (Ch. 3; page 42)
Only ever plays an off-stage part in the Uncle Fred stories.
Dog Races (Ch. 3; page 42)
This incident is never fully described, but we receive enough hints for Norman Murphy to have put a plausible (and very funny) version into his reconstruction of Gally’s Reminiscences.
[Murphy, N. T. P., Reminiscences of the Hon. Galahad Threepwood (1993) ]
chase ... across the ice with bloodhounds (Ch. 3; page 44)
In a famous incident in Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852), a runaway slave is chased in this way.
a bit of a mucker at Lincoln (Ch. 3; page 45)
To come a mucker is mid-Victorian slang (the OED cites Kingsley as the first written use).
Probably through betting on the Lincolnshire Handicap, run in March, which marks the start of the flat racing season. Since the closure of Lincoln racecourse, it has also been run at Doncaster.
Hurst Park (Ch. 3; page 45)
Racecourse near the Thames in Surrey, also the scene of duels and prizefights in the 18th and 19th centuries, and motorcycle races in the early years of the 20th. Now a housing development. The former grandstand was moved to Mansfield Town’s football ground in the 1960s.
George Budd (Ch. 3; page 45)
Budd is a common name: several people called George Budd have achieved prominence in their own fields, but none seems to be a likely source for Wodehouse. This bookie is the only Budd in the canon.
Bingo Little (Ch. 3; page 45)
First appeared in 1922 in the stories that were later combined as The Inimitable Jeeves. Reappears, now married to Rosie M. Banks and trying to hide his gambling debts from her, in several stories written about the same time as Uncle Fred in the Springtime. His usual bookie is Charlie Pikelet.
Erb (Ch. 3; page 45)
Probably short for Herbert.
In the story “All’s well with Bingo,” Bingo Little inadvertently places a bet with Oofy Prosser’s bookie (not named). When Bingo hints that he may have difficulty paying, the bookie introduces him to his strong-arm man, but refers to him as Erbut (not Erb).
He reappears as Erb in “Ukridge Starts a Bank Account” (1967), now working for a bookie called Percy Stout.
shake-up in the Treasury department (Ch. 3; page 46)
Wodehouse liked to give the impression that he himself was a financial innocent, and that Ethel was the guardian of the purse-strings. However, Barry Phelps has argued convincingly that this is more Wodehouse disinformation, and that in reality it was the other way round.
Coggs (Ch. 3; page 49)
Lord Ickenham’s butler is mentioned in three of the four Uncle Fred novels. This is his first appearance.
Coggs is a variant of Wodehouse’s favourite butler name, Keggs.
Share-The-Wealth movement (Ch. 3; page 50)
The Share Our Wealth plan was a proposal by Louisiana Senator Huey Long in 1935, which aimed at removing the worst inequalities between rich and poor in the USA. The movement, promoted as an alternative to Roosevelt’s New Deal, gained widespread support, but collapsed when Long was assassinated after being accused of embezzling large sums of money from the movement’s funds.
“excesses” ... invariably commits (Ch. 3; page 51)
The Crumpet’s description of Lord Ickenham appears with slight variations in all the Uncle Fred stories.
Chapter 4 (Ch. 4; page 52)
Runs from pp 52 to 65 in the 1939 Herbert Jenkins edition.
scientifically worked ... pay gold (Ch. 4; page 52)
Intended as a mining analogy. In mining terminology, pay-dirt, pay-rock, pay-gravel, etc. are materials in which gold has been found in sufficient quantity to make it profitable to extract. Thus ‘pay gold’ doesn’t really make sense as a mining term.
Wailing Wall (Ch. 4; page 52)
The Western Wall or Wailing Wall is part of the retaining wall around the Temple Mount of Jerusalem’s old city. It is believed to be the only remaining part of the Second Temple, and is a place of prayer and pilgrimage for Jews.
David Rosenbaum points out that it is known as the Wailing Wall not because the wall was wailing (whereas it is western) but because those visiting the area were wailing, thus contributing to the overall depressing atmosphere. He adds:
Interestingly, Jewish sources don't refer to it as wailing but as western. Also, I'm not sure if you've been there or seen pictures (there's a webcam somewhere permanently trained on the Wall!), but the area today is totally different than what it was in Plum's time. Up to 1967, there were houses in the whole area which is now a plaza. The houses were probably about 10 feet from the wall, so there was really only a small, narrow space in which to stand. There were also strict rules about the prayers held there. In general, the pictures that I've seen from pre-67 of the area are quite drab.
chemin-de-fer (Ch. 4; page 52)
A version of baccarat. Cards are dealt from a “shoe” containing six packs of 52 cards each. The player who holds the bank (the dealer) plays against the remaining players at the table, acting together. Any of these players can challenge the current dealer and attempt to take over the bank, by matching the dealer’s stake and saying “banco.”
Homburgs (Ch. 4; page 55)
A soft felt hat with a curled brim and a dented crown, named after the spa near Wiesbaden. Made popular by Edward VII as Prince of Wales in the 1890s.
Sunday-go-to-meetings (Ch. 4; page 57)
Best clothes — this expression seems to have originated among American Quakers in the late 18th century.
Serpentine (Ch. 4; page 57)
Ornamental lake in the middle of Hyde Park. Part of it is reserved for swimmers.
Salvation Army (Ch. 4; page 57)
A protestant religious organisation dedicated to social work and evangelism, founded by William and Catherine Booth in the late 19th century. Its members wear a military-style uniform, and although teetotal, often visit bars and restaurants to collect donations for their work. The presence of a Salvationist in the telephone booth of the Drones would thus be conceivable, if not very likely.
Blue Serge (Ch. 4; page 57)
Serge is a hard-wearing twilled (i.e. woven one-up-two-down) cloth, made from worsted or with a worsted warp and a woolen weft. Blue serge would probably have been the most common material for men’s suits for city wear at the time, as Pott’s odds would suggest.
Nine-to-four means that if someone stakes four pounds on blue serge and wins, he will receive nine pounds in winnings, plus his original stake, i.e. 2.25:1.
Pin-striped Grey Tweed (Ch. 4; page 57)
Pin-stripes are fine stripes of a contrasting colour, nowadays most often seen on suits for formal or office wear.
Tweed is a twilled woolen cloth made from coarsely-spun thread with a rather rough texture, often used for clothing worn in the country.
Although tweed is traditionally made in the south of Scotland, it seems that the name is simply a contraction of ‘twilled’, and has nothing to do with the river Tweed.
Golf coat and plus-fours (Ch. 4; page 57)
Unlikely wear in central London, but conceivable for a member just on his way to or from a golfing engagement in the suburbs.
Plus-fours are knee-breeches made four inches too long at the knee, to give the wearer extra freedom of movement, e.g. for golf or cycling.
Court dress (Ch. 4; page 57)
Nowadays gentlemen attending official daytime functions at Buckingham Palace would probably dress in a morning suit, as for other formal daytime social events (tailcoat, striped trousers, top hat).
The separate reference to “Morning Suit” on p.59 below suggests that the code in the 1930s was more formal than this, but it seems unlikely that knee-breeches and stockings were still de rigueur then.
Follow the dictates of your heart and fear nothing (Ch. 4; page 58)
“Follow the dictates of your heart” seems to be another of those literary clichés with no very clear source. Wodehouse is mocking the conventions of romantic literature by putting it into the mouth of a bookie.
Herringbone Cheviot Lounge (Ch. 4; page 58)
Herringbone is a weaving technique that results in a pattern of fine chevrons.
The Cheviots are a range of hills in the Scottish Borders. The name Cheviot is used for cloth (normally a sort of tweed) made from Cheviot wool.
The term lounge suit (first used ca. 1901) describes a man’s suit with a short jacket, intended for indoor use, of the type that has now become universal for (semi-)formal daytime wear. Nowadays you only see it on invitations, where it means “wear a normal suit” (as opposed to a dinner jacket or evening dress).
I’m not allowed by law (Ch. 4; page 58)
Gaming law is a complex area, in which I am not an expert and the rules have changed several times since Uncle Fred in the Springtime was written. As far as I know, the situation in Britain in the thirties was still that organised betting was legal only at racecourses and for cash.
Off-course betting and betting on credit were widely practiced, under the pretence that it was a question of a private bet between friends, but, as such a bet was not a legally-enforcable contract, bookies had to find their own ways of dealing with defaulting clients. Hence Erb and his like.
Brummel (Ch. 4; page 59)
George Bryan “Beau” Brummel (1778-1840), the most famously well-dressed man of the Regency period. Amongst other things, he helped to introduce the fashion for wearing trousers (rather than breeches) into polite society.
Bates (Ch. 4; page 63)
Another favourite name for minor characters. Bates the hall-porter also appears briefly in Cocktail Time.
Nature hath framed strange fellows (Ch. 4; page 64)
[...] Now, by two-headed Janus,
Nature hath fram’d strange fellows in her time:
Some that will evermore peep through their eyes
And laugh like parrots at a bag-piper,
And other of such vinegar aspect
That they’ll not show their teeth in way of smile,
Though Nestor swear the jest be laughable.
[Shakespeare, William (1564-1616) Merchant of Venice I:i,54-60]
assegai (Ch. 4; page 64)
The spear which is traditionally carried by Zulu warriors.
knuckleduster (Ch. 4; page 65)
A metal implement worn over the fingers so as to do more damage when punching someone.
Chapter 5 (Ch. 5; page 66)
Runs from pp 66 to 77 in the 1939 Herbert Jenkins edition.
scrubbed with butter (Ch. 5; page 66)
For more on the hazards associated with blacking up, see Thank You Jeeves (1934).
Marlborough Street (Ch. 5; page 69)
Marlborough Street SW3 was the site of one of the nine Police Courts (later called Magistrates’ Courts) set up by the Metropolitan Police Courts Act of 1839. It was closed in March 1998. It would have been the nearest police station and court to the Albert Hall.
[If you click on the link below, you will see the Albert Hall top left and the Marlborough Street police station bottom centre, in the middle of the “3” of SW3.]
Ricky Gilpin (Ch. 5; page 70)
The first of the Gilpin family to appear. He and his brother Archie appear in Service with a Smile, while their sister Linda is in A Pelican at Blandings.
The most famous Gilpin is of course the linen-draper whose misadventures en route to his wedding anniversary lunch in Edmonton are recounted in William Cowper’s ballad “The Diverting Tale of John Gilpin” (1782).
costermongers (Ch. 5; page 70)
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.
How different from the home life... (Ch. 5; page 71)
Wodehouse is playing with the legendary remark “How different, how very different from the home life of our own dear Queen!” said to have been made by an (unnamed) lady-in-waiting of Queen Victoria after seeing a performance of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) was of course Queen Victoria’s favourite poet.
Little Lord Fauntleroy (Ch. 5; page 71)
Eponymous hero of the novel by Mrs Frances Hodgson Burnett (1885). The book and its illustrations (by Roland Birch) started a craze among American mothers for dressing their small sons in romantic velvet suits with wide lacy collars.
onion soup bar (Ch. 5; page 71)
There doesn’t seem to be any independent evidence that there was ever a craze for onion soup bars in London, but it has often been observed that young people on their way home from a night out on the town will eat anything.
Coventry Street (Ch. 5; page 71)
Lying between Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square, this would seem to be just about the ideal location for a business of this sort.
bottle party places (Ch. 5; page 71)
Dancing clubs which didn’t have a licence to sell alcohol: patrons either brought their own drink with them (hence ‘bottle party’) or sent a waiter to buy it from a nearby pub.
Donald Duck (Ch. 5; page 74)
Although the Disney Corporation used the name “Donald Duck” for a character in a Mickey Mouse comic book in 1931, the familiar white duck in a blue sailor suit did not appear until 1934, when he had a small part in the film Little Wise Hen. He was very soon achieving top billing in his own right. The Donald Duck newspaper cartoon strips started to appear in 1938.
Don Juan (Ch. 5; page 74)
The fictional libertine Don Juan Tenorio, the subject of an epic poem by Byron and an opera by Mozart, made his first literary appearance in the play El Burlador de Sevilla (1630) by Tirso de Molina (Gabriel Téllez 1584-1648), although he is clearly derived from much older legends, which exist in many different cultures.
couldn’t say No to Charles the Second (Ch. 5; page 75)
Charles II (1630-1685) returned from exile to become king on the collapse of the Commonwealth in 1660. He was married to Catherine of Braganza, but had no legitimate children. On the other hand he seems to have considerable numbers of illegitimate children by his various mistresses. His known sons included the dukes of Cleveland, Monmouth, Richmond and St Albans. Statistically, there is thus a very strong chance that any English duke is descended from a mistress of Charles II.
strength is as the strength of ten (Ch. 5; page 75)
My good blade carves the casques of men,
My tough lance thrusteth sure,
My strength is as the strength of ten,
Because my heart is pure.
[Tennyson, Alfred Lord Sir Galahad l.1-4]http://www.online-literature.com/tennyson/868/
Bricky Bostock (Ch. 5; page 76)
Could this be Lord Ickenham’s school contemporary Sir Aylmer (“Mugsy”) Bostock who appears in Uncle Dynamite? Perhaps it is his brother.
Senior Conservative (Ch. 5; page 76)
This London club first appeared in Psmith in the City.
Murphy identifies it convincingly as the Constitutional Club, formerly on Northumberland Avenue. Wodehouse became a member some time before 1908. It is mentioned by name in the preface to The Girl on the Boat.
[Murphy, N. T. P., In Search of Blandings (1986) 81-83]
Chapter 6 (Ch. 6; page 78)
Runs from pp 78 to 92 in the 1939 Herbert Jenkins edition.
[Murphy, N. T. P., In Search of Blandings (1986) 81-83]
plus pig ... minus pig (Ch. 6; page 79)
Arguably, the situation Lord Ickenham is trying to create (or rather simulate) is not “minus pig” but “zero pig”.
old bit of trouble (Ch. 6; page 80)
Presumably husband in this context, although trouble and strife is usually rhyming slang for wife.
AWOL (Ch. 6; page 80)
Absent Without Leave (military jargon).
quite close ... Sloane Square (Ch. 6; page 81)
Lord Ickenham is obviously fairly sprightly — it would be at least half an hour’s walk (or four stops on the District Line) from Northumberland Avenue (near Charing Cross) to Sloane Square.
Wilbraham Place (Ch. 6; page 82)
One of the small side streets off Sloane Street, just north of Sloane Square. This is not far from Walpole Street, where Wodehouse lived in the early 1900s.
Polonius’ speech... (Ch. 6; page 82)
Wodehouse is pointing out the irony in the way people who have never seen Hamlet treat Polonius’s fatuous litany of impractical and contradictory advice as though it were sound common sense.
Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice;
Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgement.
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
And they in France of the best rank and station
Are most select and generous in that.
Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell; my blessing season this in thee!
[Shakespeare Hamlet I:iii 72-85]
infra dig (Ch. 6; page 83)
Conventional abbreviation for infra dignitatem (Latin): beneath the dignity.
Pott’s fellow detective Percy Pilbeam raised similar objections when asked to investigate the theft of the Empress in Summer Lightning.
side ... swank (Ch. 6; page 83)
Schoolboy slang for excessive pride.
Harley Street (Ch. 6; page 84)
The traditional address for the grander sort of physicians and private clinics: those whose clients are wealthy enough to pay the rent. Harley Street runs between Oxford Street and Regent’s Park, close to University College and the main teaching hospitals, but some distance from Sloane Square. Lord Emsworth will certainly need a taxi, or have to make a longish trip on the Underground.
Devil’s Island (Ch. 6; page 89)
One of three islands off the coast of French Guiana collectively known as the Iles du Salut (the ‘Salvation Islands’). Between 1852 and 1951, they were used by France as a penal colony. The largest, Ile Royale, housed the administrative centre and less dangerous criminals; dangerous criminals were held on Ile St Joseph; Ile du Diable, the smallest (less than 2 sq km in area) and most isolated, was used to house political criminals, the most famous being Captain Alfred Dreyfus, who was confined on Devil’s Island in terrible conditions from 1895 — 1899. Devil’s Island achieved greater notoriety following the 1973 film ‘Papillon’, in which Steve McQueen portrayed Henri Charriere, said to be the only prisoner to escape successfully from the island. [AGOL]
Borstal ... Broadmoor (Ch. 6; page 89)
Borstals (named after Borstal Prison in Kent, where the system originated in 1902) were detention and rehabilitation centres for young offenders. They were abolished in the 1980s.
A prison for the criminally insane was established at Broadmoor in Berkshire in 1865. It was redesignated as a hospital in 1948, but retains the same function.
even unto half my kingdom (Ch. 6; page 91)
21 And when a convenient day was come, that Herod on his birthday
made a supper to his lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee;
22 and when the daughter of the said Hero'di-as came in, and danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him, the king said unto the damsel, Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee.
23 And he sware unto her, Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom.
24 And she went forth, and said unto her mother, What shall I ask? And she said, The head of John the Baptist.
[Bible Mark 6:21-24](a similar expression occurs in Esther 5:3 and 7:2)
Chapter 7 (Ch. 7; page 93)
Runs from pp 93 to 106 in the 1939 Herbert Jenkins edition.
(a similar expression occurs in Esther 5:3 and 7:2)
Omitting … no detail, however slight (Ch. 7; page 94)
This phrase recurs frequently throughout the canon (eg Summer Moonshine, ch. 25; Money in the Bank, ch.18), Cocktail Time, Ch.8. It is often assumed to have been inspired by Sherlock Holmes, though the great detective nowhere says anything in the least resembling this phrase.
Cyrano de Bergerac (Ch. 7; page 97)
In the play by Edmond Rostand (1897), the French 17th century writer Savinien Cyrano de Bergerac (1619-1655) is depicted chivalrously assisting his friend’s courtship of the woman he himself loves.
Ronnie Fish, Hugo Carmody and Monty Bodkin (Ch. 7; page 97)
See Summer Lightning and Heavy Weather. Ronnie is a nephew of Lord Emsworth; Hugo and Monty have both, for different reasons, briefly been employed as his secretary.
“He married her mother “... “You mean she’s his stepdaughter?” (Ch. 7; page 99)
Wodehouse is poking a little gentle fun at himself: he acquired a much-admired daughter in precisely this way.
hart ... chase (Ch. 7; page 100)
As pants the hart for cooling streams
When heated in the chase,
So longs my soul, O God, for Thee
And Thy refreshing grace.
[Tate, Nahum and Brady, Nicholas (hymn, based on Psalm 42) 1696]
single afternoon ... Valley Fields (Ch. 7; page 105)
Lord Ickenham is referring to the hilarious events described in “Uncle Fred Flits By”. However, he has evidently confused things slightly in his mind: The Cedars, Mafeking Road, was in Mitching Hill, not Valley Fields.
five o’clock train ... two forty-five (Ch. 7; page 105)
See p.23 above.
nip round to my club (Ch. 7; page 106)
We only seem to meet Uncle Fred at other people’s clubs (mainly the Drones or the Senior Conservative) — it isn’t clear which his own might be.
Shakespeare ... Hamlet (Ch. 7; page 106)
Shakespeare’s play concerns a young man who comes home from university, no doubt concerned only to get his laundry done and spend a few weeks drinking Carlsberg on the beach with Laertes and Ophelia. On arrival he finds that his father has been murdered and his mother has married her brother-in-law in very suspicious circumstances. He can surely be excused for feeling a little depressed and confused.
Chapter 8 (Ch. 8; page 107)
Runs from pp 107 to 122 in the 1939 Herbert Jenkins edition.
first stop Oxford (Ch. 8; page 107)
This suggests that the train will be taking the route through the Cotswolds via Moreton-in-Marsh and Evesham to Worcester Shrub Hill and Droitwich Spa (see Money for Nothing) and then the Severn Valley route via Kidderminster and Bridgnorth to Market Blandings, which we can presume to be somewhere between Bridgnorth and Shrewsbury.
The line from Kidderminster to Shrewsbury closed in the 1960s, although the section from Kidderminster to Bridgnorth is still operated with steam trains by a preservation society. By a minor miracle, the Cotswold line survives in normal service, despite being proposed for closure by Dr Beeching.
Niagara Falls ... Barrel (Ch. 8; page 107)
Annie Edson Taylor was the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel, on 24 October 1901. Four men had emulated her exploit — with varying success — before the publication of Uncle Fred In The Springtime.
refined calm (Ch. 8; page 108)
This has often been remarked upon, and to some extent it remains true today. In part it may be due to the fact that Paddington serves the predominantly rural West Country, as Uncle Fred suggests. The building itself, more generously laid out than most of the other London termini, certainly plays a part, as does its inconvenient location on the western fringes of central London, which reduces its attractiveness for the short-distance commuters who make up the bulk of the clientéle at stations like Waterloo and London Bridge.
ptarmigan (Ch. 8; page 112)
The ptarmigan is a grouse-like bird found in Scotland. (The ‘p’ is silent, as in Psmith.)
Fred Astaire (Ch. 8; page 112)
American actor, the pre-eminent song and dance man of the Hollywood musicals of the 1930s (1899-1987, born Frederick Austerlitz). Appeared in the unsuccessful film version of A Damsel in Distress (1937). There are a number of references in Bring on the Girls to Fred and his sister Adele.
Warner Baxter (Ch. 8; page 112)
(1891-1951) American actor. Often played suave leading men in Hollywood ‘B’-pictures of the 1930s.
Hymns Ancient and Modern (Ch. 8; page 112)
The standard hymnal of the Church of England, first published in 1861.
lorgnette (Ch. 8; page 113)
Spectacles (usually reading glasses) provided with a short, foldable handle, instead of earpieces. Wielded with devastating effect by many of Wodehouse’s dowagers, and before them by Oscar Wilde’s Lady Basildon, Mrs Allonby, and Gwendolen, but oddly enough not (in the text) by Lady Bracknell herself.
Gwendolen. [...] Cecily, mamma, whose views on education
are remarkably strict, has brought me up to be extremely short-sighted;
it is part of her system; so do you mind my looking at you through my
Cecily. Oh! not at all, Gwendolen. I am very fond of being looked at.
Gwendolen. [After examining Cecily carefully through a lorgnette.] You are here on a short visit, I suppose.
[Wilde, Oscar The Importance of Being Earnest II:ii]
Jabberwocky (Ch. 8; page 113)
Title of a poem in Lewis Carroll’s Alice Through the Looking Glass. The monster slain in the poem is called the Jabberwock.
’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”
He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought —
So rested he by the Tumtum tree
And stood a while in thought.
And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood
And burbled as it came!
One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went gallumphing back.
“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Calloh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.
’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
[Carroll, Lewis (C.L. Dodgson) Jabberwocky ]
Sir Thomas Lipton (Ch. 8; page 113)
Sir Thomas Johnstone Lipton (1850-1931), Scottish grocery millionaire. He established his first shop in Glasgow in 1869, which suggests that Uncle Fred would have to be well over seventy in 1939, if he really encountered Lipton in his pre-grocery days.
In the twenties, Lipton was very well-known as a yachtsman, making five attempts to win the America’s Cup.
dome of St Paul’s (Ch. 8; page 113)
St Paul’s cathedral in the City of London was rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren after the great fire of 1666. It is dominated by one of the largest cathedral domes in the world, which is 111.3 metres high, weighs approximately 65,000 tonnes and is supported by eight pillars.
to drum up trade (Ch. 8; page 114)
Like members of some other learned professions, senior doctors in Britain have always considered it beneath their dignity to advertise, and have strict rules to prevent their colleagues from taking advantage of this fact. (Although these rules have been somewhat realxed in recent years.)
Loyal Sons of Hampshire (Ch. 8; page 115)
Possibly fictitious? (cf. “Loyal Sons of Worcestershire” in “The Luck of the Stiffhams”)
Nowadays “Loyal Sons of...” usually denotes either an Orange lodge in Northern Ireland or the alumni group of an American university. Perhaps it might have been a war veterans’ group. Obviously the only thing that is relevant to the story is that they had a dinner where Glossop overindulged.
Bevo (Ch. 8; page 119)
The word “Bevo” has been used for quite a number of different products: the most likely here seems to be a soft drink made ca. 1900-1929 by the Anheuser Busch brewing company of St. Louis (“Milk or water may contain bacteria — BEVO never does”). It gets a mention in Sinclair Lewis’s Babbitt.
butterscotch (Ch. 8; page 120)
The Market Blandings butterscotch machine first appeared in Leave It To Psmith. The station had previously had a chocolate machine.
Chapter 9 (Ch. 9; page 122)
Runs from pp 122 to 133 in the 1939 Herbert Jenkins edition.
squeaking and gibbering ... Julius fell (Ch. 9; page 122)
This is Shakespeare proving that it isn’t just Wodehouse who occasionally recycles a good idea.
Hor. A mote it is to trouble the mind’s eye.
In the most high and palmy state of Rome,
A little ere the mightiest Julius fell,
The graves stood tenantless and the sheeted dead
Did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets.
[Shakespeare Hamlet I:i 125-129]
backing and filling (Ch. 9; page 124)
Nautical expression: to back the sails of a squre-rigged ship is to trim the yards so that the wind is blowing into the foreward side of the sail, slowing the ship down or moving it backwards; conversely to fill the sails is to trim the yards so that the wind is blowing into the after side of the sail, making the ship go forwards. Thus backing and filling is moving alternately backwards and forwards.
Isaiah as a young man (Ch. 9; page 124)
On the basis of internal historical and stylistic evidence, most 19th and 20th century scholars agree that the book we know as Isaiah must have had at least three authors, writing ca. 700, 545 and 500 BCE. None of the three Isaiahs (known in the trade as Protero-, Deutero- and Trito-Isaiah) is uniformly pessimistic: besides the messages of doom there is the promise of redemption and the coming of a Messiah.
Perhaps Uncle Fred was thinking of Jeremiah?
abaft the try-your-weight machine (Ch. 9; page 125)
Pongo seems to have been sailing, or at least reading sea-stories, recently: abaft is another nautical expression, meaning ‘behind’, or more strictly ‘in the rear half of the ship’. As it’s unlikely that Bosham is actually behind the weighing machine, Pongo is presumably thinking of the station platform as if it were the deck of a ship, and indicating that Bosham is further along the platform than the machine.
trying that one over on your bazooka (Ch. 9; page 127)
This sounds like a variant of “play that one on your pianola,” i.e. go away and think that over.
The American musician and comedian Bob Burns (1890-1956) is supposed to have invented the word bazooka in the 1930s for his unique musical instrument, apparently a sort of slide-trombone kazoo. The name of a musical instrument would fit the present context. (The word was later applied to a missile launcher, named for its supposed resemblence to Burns’s instrument.)
However, Wodehouse had used bazooka as a nonsense word in Psmith in the City, well before Burns became known, so the word must have been around before him.
...thinking makes it so (Ch. 9; page 127)
Guil. Prison, my lord!
Ham. Denmark’s a prison.
Ros. Then is the world one.
Ham. A goodly one; in which there are many confines, wards, and dungeons, Denmark being one o’ the worst.
Ros We think not so, my lord.
Ham. Why, then, ’tis none to you; for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so: to me it is a prison.
[Shakespeare Hamlet II:ii 227-232]
Agincourt ... Crecy ... Malplaquet ... Blenheim ... Waterloo (Ch. 9; page 130)
Agincourt (1415) and Crècy (1346) were battles in the Hundred Years’ War; Blenheim (1704) and Malplaquet (1709) in the War of Spanish Succession; Waterloo (1815) was of course the battle that ensured the final collapse of Napoleon’s power in France. Wodehouse had a grandfather who fought at Waterloo.
Mussolini (Ch. 9; page 131)
Benito Mussolini (1883-1945), leader of the Italian Fascist party, became Prime Minister in October 1922 and absolute dictator soon afterwards. He signed a formal alliance with Hitler in May 1939.
Mussolini would certainly fit the “head like the dome of St Paul’s” category.
Shirley Temple (Ch. 9; page 131)
Uncle Fred is making a ludicrous juxtaposition of the dainty child-star with the fascist dictator. He could not have known that Ms Temple (b.1928) would later become a Republican politician herself.
meet at Philippi (Ch. 9; page 132)
Brutus: There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat;
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.
Cassius: Then, with your will, go on;
We’ll along ourselves, and meet them at Philippi.
[Shakespeare, William (1564-1616) Julius Caesar IV:3,249-257]
Chapter 10 (Ch. 10; page 133)
Runs from pp 133 to 147 in the 1939 Herbert Jenkins edition.
To reach Blandings Castle... (Ch. 10; page 133)
For a detailed account of how this relates to the different sites that contributed to Wodehouses description of Blandings, see Murphy.
[Murphy, N. T. P., In Search of Blandings (1986) ]
slightly blue in spots (Ch. 10; page 134)
The use of blue to mean indecent or smutty goes back to the early nineteenth century. Notice the Wodehouse also sometimes describes funny stories as blue about the edges meaning that they are mouldy with age.
clean and sober (Ch. 10; page 135)
Traditionally these are qualities you would look for when interviewing a candidate for a post in your domestic staff (as opposed to examining a patient).
Freddie Threepwood ... sells dog biscuits (Ch. 10; page 136)
In The Custody of the Pumpkin, Freddie elopes with Aggie Donaldson, the gardeners niece. She turns out to be the daughter of a dog-biscuit millionaire and, to Lord Emsworths undisguised joy, Freddie goes off to the US to work in the family firm.
Waterloo Cup (Ch. 10; page 136)
The Waterloo Cup is the main event in the sport of hare coursing, where two greyhounds compete to chase a live hare across a field. The aim is for the dog to force the hare to change direction, but it often happens that the dogs catch and kill the hare. The event has been held at Great Altcar near Ormskirk in Lancashire since 1836, when it was established by William Lynn, landlord of Liverpool's Waterloo Hotel.
In recent years the event has become very controversial and is held against a background of demonstrations by anti-bloodsport campaigners. Supporters argue that to ban it would only serve to encourage unregulated illegal hare-coursing.
One would suspect that, however hard it might be to get the Empress to carry a jockey in the Derby, it would be even harder to persuade a fat pig to chase a hare across a field.
Colney Hatch (Ch. 10; page 137)
Colney Hatch, at New Southgate, Middlesex, has been the site, since 1851, of the Middlesex (later London) County Lunatic Asylum. In 1937, it was renamed as Friern Hospital, taking its new name from the nearby hamlet of Friern Barnet.
Burns, I believe (Ch. 10; page 138)
Uncle Fred is wrong in this belief: see p.26 above.
Of course, Burns wrote most of the identifiably Scots pieces known outside Scotland, so its always a reasonably safe guess when you dont know who did write something.
Loch Lomond rhymes with before ye (Ch. 10; page 140)
Loch Lomond differs from the majority of traditional songs in not having a regular rhyme scheme based on line-endings. There are internal rhymes (for example low road/Lomond), but their pattern varies from verse to verse.
Most versions of the text seem to have afore ye rather then before ye.
the bathrooms at the end of the passage (Ch. 10; page 141)
Normally, a visitor of Sir Rodericks standing would be entitled to a private bathroom, but obviously (a) the Duke has appropriated the only one available and (b) Wodehouse needs a shared bathroom for plot purposes.
sublunary medulla oblongata diathesis (Ch. 10; page 141)
A nonsense collection of quasi-scientific terms:
Sublunary means under the Moon. It is most often used as a poetic word for earthly, as opposed to heavenly (like Donnes dull sublunary lovers) but it did sometimes mean under the influence of the Moon in 17th century English. Wodehouse (or Uncle Fred) is having a little joke at the expense of the medical establishment and its tendency to disguise ignorance by using obscure jargon: doctors used to believe that mental illness was affected by the phases of the Moon (hence lunacy), but a specialist of Sir Rodericks generation would be horrified to be associated with such unscientific ideas.
The medulla oblongata is the part of the hind-brain that forms a connection with the spinal cord. It is responsible for controlling basic processes like respiration and blood circulation, thus it is one part of the brain that never goes to sleep. Medulla-Oblongata is also the name of a film company (president: Mr Glutz) in the Hollywood stories: cf. e.g. The Rise of Minna Nordstrom.
A diathesis is a physical condition (usually hereditary) that renders a person particularly susceptible to a certain illness. Wodehouse often uses this word in nonsense medical terms.
great sponge Joyeuse (Ch. 10; page 142)
This is also the name of one of the moustaches in Buried Treasure. It is obviously inspired by the medieval custom of naming swords: the original Joyeuse (French: joyous) was the sword of Charlemagne.
Hilsbury-Hepworth (Ch. 10; page 142)
Hilsbury seems to be a very rare name the form Hillsbury is rather more common. Or perhaps Wodehouse got it from Halsbury, the standard reference book on English legislation.
There are villages called Hepworth near Holmfirth (W. Yorks) and Bury St Edmunds (Suffolk).
Horace may perhaps be related to that celebrated actor Claude Hepworth (The Passing Rustic in Fangs of the Past) - see Leave It To Psmith.
The British abstract sculptor Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975) was already relatively well-known by the late 1930s, but this does not seem to be a particularly likely source for Wodehouse.
Macbeth ... Banquos ghost (Ch. 10; page 142)
In Shakespeares Macbeth, Act III, Scene iv, a dinner party is altogether ruined when the ghost of the murdered Banquo turns up uninvited and sits in Macbeths chair.
schizophrenetic (Ch. 10; page 142)
A portmanteau word: Wodehouse has stuck together schizophrenic (suffering from schizophrenia) and phrenetic (frantic, agitated). The OED does not record this variant.
Interestingly, when Wodehouse referred to schizophrenia in Thank You Jeeves, he used the obsolete nineteenth-century name for the illness, dementia praecox. Evidently he had some problems remembering the word schizophrenia.
metabolis (Ch. 10; page 144)
Once again, Uncle Fred is making up scientific terms as he goes along. There is an extensive family of English terms derived from Greek metaballein, to change, but metabolis is not one of them. The closest genuine noun is metabolism, used to describe the ensemble of chemical processes that take place in an organism or a part of an organism.
Japanese prints (Ch. 10; page 145)
The (re-)opening of trade between Japan and the West in the late nineteenth century led to a great deal of interest in Japanese art and culture in Europe in the 1880s and 1890s.
Bournemouth (Ch. 10; page 146)
Resort on the Dorset coast, with a fairly staid reputation. About two hours from London by train.
May Queen (Ch. 10; page 146)
Only Wodehouse could get the inspiration for a cocktail from the most Victorian of Victorian poets!
You must wake and call me early, call me early, mother dear;
To-morrow ill be the happiest time of all the glad New-year;
Of all the glad New-year, mother, the maddest merriest day,
For Im to be Queen o the May, mother, Im to be Queen o the May.
[Tennyson, Alfred Lord (1809-1892) The May Queen l.1-4]
Chapter 11 (Ch. 11; page 148)
Runs from pp 148 to 160 in the 1939 Herbert Jenkins edition.
solitary cannons (Ch. 11; page 148)
In billiards, a cannon is a shot where the cue-ball strikes both the red ball and the opponents ball.
Agincourt ... Crispian (Ch. 11; page 148)
The day of the battle of Agincourt, 25 October, is the feast of Saints Crispin and Crispian, according to legend two brothers who mended shoes while converting the French to Christianity. Shakespeare seems to use the two names interchangeably.
Curiously, one never hears the expression a load of old cobblers in connection with this particular piece of fiction.
This day is calld the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is namd,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say, To-morrow is Saint Crispian:
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say, These wounds I had on Crispins day.
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But hell remember with advantages
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words,
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememberd.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall neer go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he neer so vile
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England, now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursd they were not here,
[Shakespeare Henry V IV:iii, 44-70]
Norman blood ... simple faith (Ch. 11; page 151)
Howeer it be, it seems to me,
T is only noble to be good.
Kind hearts are more than coronets,
And simple faith than Norman blood.
[Tennyson, Alfred Lord (1809-1892) Lady Clara Vere de Vere 7]
Flaubert (Ch. 11; page 152)
Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880), French writer, famous for the exactitude of his style and his quest for the perfect word. Wodehouse often uses him to stand for painstaking literary excellence.
bridegroom of Antigua (Ch. 11; page 154)
A concealed limerick. There are a number of variations on this theme, most of which are rather improper. Notice that the rhyme doesnt work if youre Spanish.
A lady there was in Antigua
Who said to her spouse, What a pigua.
He answered, My queen,
Is it manners you mean?
Or do you refer to my figua?
[Anonymous Limerick ]
Sir Ralph Dillingworth (Ch. 11; page 155)
The similarity to the name of the Yorkshire, Leicestershire and England cricket captain Ray Illingworth is obviously a coincidence: Illingworth was only seven years old when Uncle Fred In the Springtime was published.
Dillingworth is a very rare surname: the most plausible source for Wodehouse seems to be a minor character in Frank Godwins Connie comic strip of the twenties and thirties.
Illingworth is a small town or large village, a few miles north of Halifax (W Yorks). Presumably the Dillingworths were originally dIllingworth.
Nemesis (Ch. 11; page 157)
The Greek personification of divine vengeance.
milk train (Ch. 11; page 157)
Before the days of refrigeration, the railways used to run an early-morning train to collect milk from rural stations and take it to dairies in the city. This was usually also the first passenger train of the day.
In Wodehouse, it is the traditional resource for those leaving country houses hurriedly.
stymie (Ch. 11; page 158)
Golfing expression: a situation where a putt is blocked by an opponents ball. The stymie has been obsolete since 1952 -- a player was laid a stymie if, on the green, the opponents ball fell in the line of his path to the hole (providing the balls were not within 6 inches of one another). The player was not allowed to strike the opponents ball when putting his own ball.
Roi Pausole (Ch. 11; page 159)
King Pausole, hero of the novel Les Aventures du Roi Pausole (1902) by the French writer Pierre Louÿs (1870-1925).
[Elsie Bean/Anne-Marie Chanet adds:]
Well, I read Le roi Pausole (or perhaps Les aventures du roi Pausole, I cant remember which) when I was quite young. My memory of the book is hazy, but I seem to remember that Good King Pausole had hundreds of wives (all of whom he vigorously kept happy), a kindly and tolerant disposition, and a daughter about whose chastity he was very anxious (compare innumerable folktales, such as Peau dâne). I remember King Ps Law, too : (1) Do no wrong to your neighbour, (2) Otherwise, do as you please. A joyous, pagan principle.
The name Pausole seems to have been invented by Pierre Louys. I feel quite sure that he was thinking of Greek pausolè (sorry for the awful transliteration), a rare word (Iliad, 2.386) meaning rest (from well-known root paw(s)- stop, cf. English pause).
The book is full of beautiful young women who (I think) go about naked all the time (Ps island kingdom being blessed with a wonderful climate, presumably) hence the erotic illustrations in those limited editions for which collectors pay the earth (just losts of chastely drawn unclothed girls like a nice nudists beach). And in the final chapters Ps daughter, Princess Aline, elopes with a young man ... who turns out to be female.
Pierre Louÿs obviously enjoyed hinting at Lesbian love (a taboo subject at the time, of course). See his Chansons de Bilitis, a famous spoof : they were supposed to be translations (from ancient Greek) of love poems composed by a Sappho-like poetess (and the funny thing is that a few so-called serious scholars are said to have been taken in at first!)
Now, in my opinion, Le roi Pausole is not pornography no comparison with the crude sexy novels that have been available everywhere for about thirty years. But yes, it is (midly) erotic, and certainly naughty, and it was much more so at the time of publication (very beginning of XXth C.). I think Louÿs enjoyed baiting the censors. For instance, the title of Book One, ch. 7, is : Qui est considérablement écourté, eu égard aux lois en vigueur [i.e. (Chapter) which is drastically shortened because of existing legislation (i.e. anti-pornography laws)]. Compare PGWs own humorous aposiopesis in Big Money, end of ch. 8.
How could PGW know about King Pausole ? Of course, he may just have heard of the Law (see above), especially since it echoes the famous motto in Rabelaiss Abbey of Thelema (viz. Fais ce que voudras, i.e. Do what you like) [see Piccadilly Jim, ch. 6]. However, I wouldnt think it impossible that he had actually read the book. He was no prude as a reader, I think, especially when he was a young man (see for instance references he made to that naughty illustrated periodical, La Vie parisienne, to Colettes novels, etc. he says he read them). And he knew all about what he called French farce cf. The Purification of Rodney Spelvin, French Leave, The Plays the Thing, etc.
Ne nuis pas à ton voisin (Ch. 11; page 159)
French: Do not harm your neighbour (see Elsies comment above).
spread sweetness and light (Ch. 11; page 160)
The phrase "sweetness and light" seems to have been first used by Jonathan Swift in The Battle of the Books (1710):
For the rest, whatever we have got, has been by infinite Labor, and search, and ranging thro' every Corner of Nature: The Difference is, that instead of Dirt and Poison, we have rather chose to till our Hives with Honey and Wax, thus furnishing Mankind with the two Noblest of Things, which are Sweetness and Light.
The phrase also occurs twice in the works of Matthew Arnold:
The pursuit of perfection, then, is the pursuit of sweetness and light.
Culture and Anarchy, chap 1 (1869)
Culture is the passion for sweetness and light.
Literature and Dogma, Preface (1873)
Richard Usborne (The Penguin Wodehouse Companion) notes that Matthew Arnold "was related by marriage to the Wodehouse family", though this appears not to be mentioned in any of the several biographies of Wodehouse. [AGOL]
Chapter 12 (Ch. 12; page 161)
Runs from pp 161 to 178 in the 1939 Herbert Jenkins edition.
boudoir (Ch. 12; page 161)
A ladys private sitting-room; the counterpart of a gentlemans study.
chorus girl ... American heiress (Ch. 12; page 163)
See Summer Lightning Sue Brown was pretending to be Myra Schoonmaker.
diamond necklaces (Ch. 12; page 166)
Her own diamond necklace had been stolen by impostors in Leave It To Psmith, although she presumably does not know for certain who was responsible.
Garden Suite (Ch. 12; page 167)
This seems to have moved to the ground floor. When Sue Brown stayed there it was upstairs, with a balcony overlooking the garden.
Trotsky (Ch. 12; page 169)
Lev Davidovich Bronstein (1879-1940). Member of the Central Committee of the Bolshevik party during the Russian revolution, Commissar for Military and Naval Affairs and founder of the Red Army. His ideas for spreading the revolution beyond Russia's borders were opposed by Stalin, and he found himself squeezed out of power after 1922, eventually being forced into exile in 1927 and murdered in 1940. In Without the Option Sippy gives his name to the Court as Leon Trotzky.
say it with eggs (Ch. 12; page 170)
In Leave It To Psmith, Baxter, of course, says it with flower-pots.
the tumult and the shouting ... died (Ch. 12; page 172)
The tumult and the shouting dies
The captains and the kings depart
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget, lest we forget!
[Kipling, Rudyard Recessional 7-12]
Sing like the birdies sing (Ch. 12; page 173)
Let's all sing like the birdies sing,
Tweet, tweet tweet, tweet tweet.
Let's all sing like the birdies sing,
Sweet, sweet sweet, sweet sweet.
Let's all warble like nightingales,
Give your throat a treat.
Take your time from the birds,
Now you all know the words,
Tweet, tweet tweet, tweet tweet.
[Robert Hargreaves, Stanley J. Damerell and Tolchard Evans Let's all sing like the birdies sing (1932) v.1]
raconteuse (Ch. 12; page 173)
French: [female] story-teller. In English raconteur normally has the sense of someone (like Uncle Fred or Gally) good at telling improper stories, so it is comically incongruous when used of Lady Constance.
He-and-She jokes (Ch. 12; page 174)
Jokes of a sort popular in the late-Victorian and Edwardian period, which take the form of a dialogue between two people, and usually rely on a terrible pun. Often seen, for example, as the captions to old Punch cartoons. They were written out in the form of speeches from a play, the characters usually being called simply HE: and SHE: hence the name. Wodehouse started his literary career writing this sort of material as newspaper fillers (see the example he quotes in Ch.1 of Over Seventy).
Chapter 13 (Ch. 13; page 179)
Runs from pp 179 to 196 in the 1939 Herbert Jenkins edition.
ultimatum ... mobilise (Ch. 13; page 179)
Remember, Uncle Fred in the Springtime was published in August, 1939. There are a remarkable number of military words and images in this chapter: clearly Wodehouse was not entirely isolated from worries about a coming war when he wrote this.
Cheeryble brother (Ch. 13; page 180)
The kindly, philanthropic twin brothers Ned and Charles Cheeryble appear in Charles Dickens's Nicholas Nickleby (1838-9).
rough notes for a ballade (Ch. 13; page 180)
A complex medieval French verse form, revived in English poetry in the nineteenth century under the influence of Swinburne and W.E. Henley. A ballade has three eight-line stanzas with an ababbcbc rhyme-scheme and an envoi rhyming bcbc. It uses a repeated refrain as the last line of each stanza.
In Leave It to Psmith, Psmith accuses Miss Peavey of being in the process of composing a rondel or ballade.
[J.A. Cuddon, Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory (1992) ]
Work of national importance (Ch. 13; page 187)
Men who were doing work judged to be of national importance were exempt from conscription, so this term was often used contemptuously to mean avoiding military service. That is obviously how we are supposed to understand it here.
Thank God ... Navy (Ch. 13; page 187)
The expression Thank God we have a Navy seems to have originated in the British army during the First World War as a ritualised ironic reaction to displays of military incompetence. It doesnt appear to be a specific quotation.
a sonnet ... Poetry Review (Ch. 13; page 187)
The sonnet is probably the best-known and longest-lived of the strict forms used in English poetry, and also one of the most difficult to write. All sonnets have 14 lines, and most are in iambic pentameters, but within these limits there are several variants. The most common in English is the Shakespearean, which has a twelve-line main part followed by a two-line envoi, the rhyme scheme being abab cdcd efef gg. One of the poems Wodehouse quotes most frequently, Keatss On first looking into Chapmans Homer (see p.199 below) is a Petrarchan sonnet, the other common variant of the form.
Poetry Review is the monthly magazine published by the Poetry Society in London since 1909 (it still exists under the same title). It was initially associated with the Georgian poets, and has always had a rather conservative reputation, but remains one of the most prestigious places for a British poet to be published.
Wodehouse wants to make it clear that Ricky is not an avant garde poet, but a man who has mastered technically difficult forms and is accepted by the establishment.
love-feast (Ch. 13; page 188)
In the early Christian church, a love-feast (Greek: agape) was a meal eaten together by members of a church as a eucharistic celebration. The idea was revived by some British nonconformist sects in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, especially the Primitive Methodists (and is still to be found in some modern Christian groups). By the late nineteenth century, the term was also starting to be used (esp. ironically) of other occasions, as here.
Shakespeare ... poets eye (Ch. 13; page 188)
This is from the speech where Duke Theseus compares the lunatic, the lover and the poet.
The poets eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
And, as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poets pen
Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.
[Shakespeare A Midsummer Nights Dream V:i]
pound ... guinea (Ch. 13; page 188)
The guinea had ceased to exist as a coin long before, but the term remained in use until the introduction of decimal coinage, to describe a sum of 21 shillings (one pound and five pence, in decimal terms). Many luxury goods were priced in guineas, and professional fees were also usually quoted in guineas, as though, if you were forced to deal with money, it was somehow less sordid to use a unit that existed only conceptually.
Phelps tells us that Wodehouse shared Gilpins attention to detail when it came to contracts with publishers.
Chapter 14 (Ch. 14; page 197)
Runs from pp 197 to 217 in the 1939 Herbert Jenkins edition.
Ed. Robinson (Ch. 14; page 197)
It looks as if Ed. must have been filling in temporarily for his brother Jno., who first appeared in Heavy Weather, and returns in all the subsequent Blandings books.
stout Cortez ... new planet (Ch. 14; page 199)
Interestingly, Psmith asserts (on no evidence, as far as we can tell) in Psmith in the City that it was Cortés who introduced mustard into Peru.
It is rare that Wodehouse manages 199 pages without alluding to this famous sonnet.
Much have I travelld 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-browd Homer ruled 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 stard at the Pacificand all his men
Lookd at each other with a wild surmise
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
[Keats, John (1795-1821) On first looking into Chapman's Homer ]
Scotland Yard (Ch. 14; page 199)
The headquarters of the Metropolitan Police was at Scotland Yard (a small side-street off Whitehall where medieval kings of Scotland used to stay when in London) from 1829 until 1890, when they moved to a building on the Thames Embankment referred to as New Scotland Yard. (They moved again in 1967, taking the name with them.)
Percy Pilbeam and Chimp Twist (in his role as J. Sheringham Adair) also invent consultations with Scotland Yard to impress clients.
Official Secrets Act (Ch. 14; page 200)
The first Official Secrets Act was introduced in England and Wales in 1911. It has been amended by several subsequent acts. As a piece of legislation that gives governments wide powers to suppress embarassing information and impose draconian penalties on anyone who questions this right, it is often cited as evidence of the weakness of Britains lack of a written constitution.
Any information about the activities of public bodies not explicitly cleared for publication could fall under the Act, so Potts claim is not necessarily false. I had to sign the act when working as a temporary postman during university vacations, for example, and was very disappointed when no-one offered me large sums of money to disclose the recipients of the Christmas cards I delivered.
Buxton Black ... Drake Denver (Ch. 14; page 200)
These names are probably meant to echo the two most published pulp detectives Sexton Blake (ca. 3800 stories, first appearance 1893) and Dixon Hawke (ca.5500 stories, first appeared 1911). Both of these looked like Sherlock Holmes. Agatha Christies Hercule Poirot could probably be said to look like a solicitor.
Dorothy L. Sayerss Lord Peter Wimsey, another rather more literary creation of the 1930s, is a pleasure-loving young man about town, and his father is Duke of Denver.
gyves upon their wrists (Ch. 14; page 202)
That very night while gentle sleep
The urchin's eyelids kissed,
Two stern-faced men set out from Lynn,
Through the cold and heavy mist;
And Eugene Aram walked between,
With gyves upon his wrist.
[Hood, Thomas (1799-1845) The Dream of Eugene Aram 1829 ]
nothing barred except biting and bottles (Ch. 14; page 205)
An echo of the language of old-style bare-knuckle boxing.
Persian Monarchs (Ch. 14; page 205)
It is entirely possible that Wodehouse invented this name. If so, it might well be a joke the game usually associated with Persia and with monarchs is chess, which lies at the opposite end of the intellectual spectrum from the game described here.
Blind Hooky (Ch. 14; page 205)
(More usually Blind Hookey) the principle is exactly the same as Bosham describes, the only difference being that instead of cutting, each player is dealt a stack of cards and has to gamble on the bottom one being higher than the bottom card in the dealers stack. Potts version presumably allows a little more scope for cheating if you are playing with your own pack.
The expression blind hookey means a leap in the dark, but its not clear whether it pre-dates the card game.
Follow the dictates of your heart and fear nothing (Ch. 14; page 207)
See p.58 above.
roll, bowl or pitch ... bad nuts returned (Ch. 14; page 207)
Roll, bowl or pitch seems to be a traditional cry of showmen operating coconut shies. It occurs (for example) a few times in John Galsworthys Forsyte Saga, and in the form roll or bowl a ball a penny a pitch in the chorus of the comic song Ive got a lovely bunch of coconuts (Fred Heatherton, 1944).
Potts other remarks make sense in this context: ladies would be allowed to stand nearer the target when throwing, and the showman would offer to replace any nuts that turned out to be past their best.
Ben Bolt ... Sweet Alice... (Ch. 14; page 212)
DONT you remember sweet Alice, Ben Bolt,
Sweet Alice whose hair was so brown,
Who wept with delight when you gave her a smile,
And trembled with fear at your frown?
In the old church-yard in the valley, Ben Bolt,
In a corner obscure and alone,
They have fitted a slab of the granite so gray,
And Alice lies under the stone.
[English, Thomas Dunn Ben Bolt l.1-8]http://www.bartleby.com/248/380.html
Greece ... Turkey (Ch. 14; page 212)
Potts surprising outburst of feminism is probably not directed at Ataturks Turkish Republic (where women were, theoretically at least, emancipated), but comes rather from anti-Ottoman sentiment of the late 19th century and the period leading up to the first world war. The reference to Greece suggests that it might even be a relic of the pro-Hellenism inspired by Byron.
as the beasts that perish (Ch. 14; page 214)
For he seeth that wise men die,
likewise the fool and the brutish person perish, and leave their wealth to others.
Their inward thought is, that their houses shall continue for ever,
and their dwelling places to all generations; they call their lands after their own names.
Nevertheless man being in honour abideth not:
he is like the beasts that perish.
This their way is their folly:
yet their posterity approve their sayings.
[Bible Psalms 49:10-13]
trousseau (Ch. 14; page 215)
Traditionally, a bride brought into the married home a collection of clothing, bedding, table-linen, etc., that she had been stitching away at for the past few years. In more recent times most of these items have been bought, rather than made, but Uncle Fred could hardly expect Pott to believe that Polly would spend the enormous sum of 250 pounds (enough, as we know, to buy a prosperous business in the West End) on sheets and underwear.
camisoles and slips (Ch. 14; page 216)
Since words commonly used as names of items of clothing can mean radically different things at different times and places, it is probably worth saying that in mid-20th century Britain a camisole was an under-bodice, and a slip an underskirt. Although both are garments not normally worn visibly, they are not so intimate that mentioning them to a fiancé would be likely to cause Polly any embarassment.
I dont know whether a woman of Pollys age in 1939 would wear a camisole.
feast of reason and the flow of soul (Ch. 14; page 217)
There St. John mingles with my friendly bowl
The feast of reason and the flow of soul;
[Pope, Alexander Horace, Odes, Epistles and Satires 1st Satire, l127-128]
private bar (Ch. 14; page 217)
A small bar-room, separated from the public bar or tap-room, and offering more comfort and privacy, usually in return for a small surcharge on the price of drinks.
Chapter 15 (Ch. 15; page 218)
Runs from pp 218 to 231 in the 1939 Herbert Jenkins edition.
G. Ovens (Ch. 15; page 218)
Although the Emsworth Arms has always been there, this seems to be the first time that Mr Ovens is mentioned by name. Garrison list him as reappearing in Pigs Have Wings, Service With a Smile, and Sunset At Blandings.
Ovens seems to be a surname associated with the West Midlands and the Welsh border, probably as a variant of the Welsh name Owens.
Schopenhauer ... Pollyanna (Ch. 15; page 218)
The eponymous heroine of the childrens story Pollyanna, by Eleanor Hodgman Porter (1868-1920), was noted for her naïve optimism. Mary Pickford starred in the film version released in 1919.
King Lear ... Blow winds... (Ch. 15; page 218)
A reference to the blasted heath scene, where Lear, homeless and alone with the Fool after having quarelled with all three of his daughters, calls on the elements to do their worst.
LEAR: Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drenchd our steeples, drownd the cocks!
You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Smite flat the thick rotundity o the world!
Crack natures moulds, an germens spill at once,
That make ingrateful man!
[Shakespeare King Lear III:ii, 1-9]
Include me out (Ch. 15; page 222)
Usually attributed to Wodehouses sometime employer, the film mogul Sam Goldwyn. Also used as the title of a poem by Robert Service.
hairs not everything (Ch. 15; page 223)
Wodehouse is having another little joke against himself he had lost most of his own hair by this time.
Absolom (Ch. 15; page 223)
King Davids son in the Old Testament. The name is usually written Absalom in English.
A shekel is one sixtieth of a mina, which was approximately the same as an English pound, so Absaloms hair weighed about 3.6 lb or 1.5 kg.
25 But in all Israel there was none to be so much praised as
Absalom for his beauty: from the sole of his foot even to the crown
of his head there was no blemish in him.
26 And when he polled his head, (for it was at every years end that he polled it; because the hair was heavy on him, therefore he polled it:) he weighed the hair of his head at two hundred shekels after the kings weight.
[Bible 2 Samuel 14:25-26]
om seerioo (Ch. 15; page 223)
A phonetic rendering of homme sérieux (French - literally: a serious man). Generally means more or less what Pott suggests its a phrase one very often sees in personal ads (Jeune femme cherche homme sérieux...), probably as meaningless as the invariable requirement in English that the prospective partner must have good sense of humour.
garden of the Emsworth Arms (Ch. 15; page 226)
A famous place for plotting: see for example Heavy Weather. The river seems to be the Severn.
a rakish Bingley (Ch. 15; page 227)
Bingley is one of Wodehouses favourite names, for both people and places. Bingley-on-Sea (or the similar Bramley-on-Sea) appears in many stories, most memorably in Portrait of a Disciplinarian (Meet Mr Mulliner). It is where the Drones have their golf tournament, and it is the setting for the first part of Doctor Sally. There are also villages called Upper and Lower Bingley in The Great Sermon Handicap.
There is Bingley Crocker (Piccadilly Jim) Little Johnny Bingley (The Nodder), Elsa Bingley (secretary in [The] Ice in the Bedroom), Gladys Bingley (Lancelot Mulliners fiancée), Lancelot Bingley (engaged to Gladys Wetherby(!) in A Good Cigar is a Smoke), Marcella Bingley (golfer), and Berties ex-valet Rupert Bingley (né Brinkley). In Cocktail Time, Bingley vs. Bingley, Botts & Frobisher is the name of a divorce case.
There is a tiny Bingley in Denbighshire and a rather larger one in Airedale, West Yorkshire. Probably the association of Bingley with cars comes from Bentley, the pre-eminent British racing car builder of the thirties, and the sort of car a man of Horaces means might well be able to afford. Unlike the small two-seaters favoured by most Wodehouse young men, a Bentley would be big enough for a stowaway like Ricky to cling to its rear unobserved.
angel wrestled with Jacob (Ch. 15; page 229)
And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacobs thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.
[Bible Genesis 32:24-28]
boodle (Ch. 15; page 230)
American 19th century slang for the proceeds of a robbery (also used in various other senses, which may or may not have a common origin). Probably comes from Dutch boedel (estate, possessions).
crackling fire (Ch. 15; page 230)
Most English houses at the time were still heated by open coal fires in all rooms. Burning coal was felt to be a patriotic activity, and Lord Emsworths comfortable financial position in an age when many landed proprietors were in difficulties suggest that his Victorian ancestors must have owned land in the Shropshire and Warwickshire coalfields.
a little folding of the hands in sleep (Ch. 15; page 231)
I went by the field of the slothful,
and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding;
and, lo, it was all grown over with thorns,
and nettles had covered the face thereof,
and the stone wall thereof was broken down.
Then I saw, and considered it well:
I looked upon it, and received instruction.
Yet a little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to sleep:
so shall thy poverty come as one that traveleth;
and thy want as an armed man.
[Bible Proverbs 24:30-34]
Chapter 16 (Ch. 16; page 232)
Runs from pp 232 to 244 in the 1939 Herbert Jenkins edition.
pantomime ... Demon King (Ch. 16; page 232)
Pantomime is a traditional form of entertainment generally produced in British theatres around Christmas. The show depends loosely on one of a small group of familiar stories, in which a Good Fairy and a Demon King often direct the course of the action.
forbid the banns (Ch. 16; page 234)
To object to a proposed marriage. From the custom of reading the banns, i.e. announcing the forthcoming marriage on three consecutive Sundays before the wedding, in the church of the parish where the couple live. This custom still exists in the Church of England.
The Curse has come upon me (Ch. 16; page 235)
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.
[Tennyson, Alfred Lord (1809-1892) The Lady of Shallot 109-117]
Delphic Oracle (Ch. 16; page 235)
The priestesses of Apollo who ran the Oracle at Delphi, where ancient Greeks were in the habit of going for advice when in difficulties, gave famously obscure and ambiguous answers to the questions posed to them. As a result they were almost always proved right by subsequent events.
let your Yea be Yea and your Nay be Nay (Ch. 16; page 235)
This verse is one particularly associated with George Fox and the Society of Friends (Quakers).
But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.
[Bible James 5:12]
Arabs ... fold their tents (Ch. 16; page 241)
And the night shall be filled with music,
And the cares that infest the da
Y Shall fold their tents like Arabs,
And silently steal away.
[Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth The Day is Done ]
Columbus (Ch. 16; page 244)
Cristoforo Colombo (1451-1506), Genoese sailor, who sailed from Spain to the Bahamas and Hispaniola in 1492. He reached the continent of South America on a later voyage, but he never found or suspected the presence of North America, although his voyages did mark the start of regular European commercial activity in the Americas, so they could be said to have been of some use.
Chapter 17 (Ch. 17; page 245)
Runs from pp 245 to 258 in the 1939 Herbert Jenkins edition.
Connaught Rangers (Ch. 17; page 245)
The 88th (and 94th) Regiment of Foot, recruited in the west of Ireland, which earned a reputation as the Devils Own in Wellingtons Peninsular campaign, and popularised the song Its a long way to Tipperary during the First World War. The regiment was disbanded in 1922.
During the years 1891-1899, presumably the period Uncle Fred is talking about, the 1st Battalion was stationed in England and the 2nd in Malta. One would imagine that an officer called Billy would have to be fairly tough to survive in a regiment whose soldiers were almost all Irish Catholics.
In Summer Lightning, Sue Browns father was said to have been in the Irish Guards.
Marriage is a battlefield ... Who said that? (Ch. 17; page 251)
It doesnt seem to be a specific quotation, although the phrase is a commonly repeated one.
His fair large front ... absolute rule (Ch. 17; page 252)
This is Milton, not a noted feminist, describing Adam.
[...] Severe, but in true filial freedom placed,
Whence true authority in men: though both
Not equal, as their sex not equal seemed;
For contemplation he and valour formed,
For softness she and sweet attractive grace;
He for God only, she for God in him.
His fair large front and eye sublime declared
Absolute rule; and Hyacinthin locks
Round from his parted forelock manly hung
Clustering, but not beneath his shoulders broad:
She, as a veil down to the slender waist,
Her unadornèd golden tresses wore
Dishevelled, but in wanton ringlets waved
As the vine curls her tendrilswhich implied
Subjection, but required with gentle sway,
And by her yielded, by him best received
Yielded, with coy submission, modest pride,
And sweet, reluctant, amorous delay.
[Milton, John Paradise Lost IV:294-311]
Oh my sainted bally aint (Ch. 17; page 256)
Obviously a misprint for aunt (in the 1st edition).
Chapter 18 (Ch. 18; page 259)
Runs from pp 259 to 276 in the 1939 Herbert Jenkins edition.
Ronald Colman (Ch. 18; page 260)
British Hollywood star. Colman (1891-1958) had recently starred in the film version of Anthony Hopes The Prisoner of Zenda (1937).
During Wodehouses time in Hollywood, he and Colman were both among the vice-presidents of the Hollywood Cricket Club.
[Phelps, Barry, P.G. Wodehouse: Man and Myth (1992) 165]
Man in the Iron Mask (Ch. 18; page 262)
An unknown man imprisoned in the Bastille from 1679 until his death in 1703, and said to have been made to wear an iron mask to conceal his identity. There are many more or less convincing theories as to his identity: the only reasonably certain thing is that he must have done something to upset Louis XIV.
Marie Celeste (Ch. 18; page 262)
The brigantine Mary Celeste was found abandoned, drifting near the Azores in December 1872. There was no trace of her occupants (who had included the captains wife and baby daughter). A routine Vice-Admiralty Court inquiry in Gibraltar concluded that it was most likely that the crew had abandoned ship in heavy weather mistakenly believing her to be sinking.
Apart from this, there was no great public interest in the case until 1883 when Conan Doyle published a story, J. Habakuk Jephsons Statement, which was inspired by reports of the case, but otherwise entirely fictional (although at the time some readers did not realise this). Doyle obviously thought the name Mary Celeste inelegant, and changed it to Marie Celeste. Since then there have been many involved explanations of what might have happened to the missing crew, few of them based on the known facts.
tort or misdemeanour ... barratry or socage in fief (Ch. 18; page 266)
Uncle Fred uses exactly the same legal terms in similar circumstances in Uncle Fred Flits By.
A tort is a civil, as opposed to criminal, wrong.
Misdemeanour no longer has a technical meaning in English law, but before 1967 referred to criminal offences of types considered less serious than felonies.
Barratry is a name for various arcane offences, in particular: (i) fraud, theft or malicious damage to a ship or its cargo by the captain or crew without the owners consent; (ii) travelling abroad to purchase ecclesiastical offices (simony) from the Bishop of Rome; and (iii) persistently indulging in vexatious litigation. In Scotland it can also mean attempting to bribe a judge.
Socage is an obsolete term for the feudal tenure of land other than by knight-service; land held in fief was held by service to a feudal overlord, so socage in fief is almost a contradiction in terms.
Lily Pons (Ch. 18; page 267)
The French-born soprano Lily Pons (1904-1976) was the star coloratura at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in the 1930s.
Lorelei (Ch. 18; page 268)
According to Heinrich Heine, the Lorelei was a kind of Siren, a maiden accustomed to sit on a rock in the Rhine combing her hair and luring sailors to their doom by singing. Heines poem has become so much a part of the folklore of tourism that it is easy to forget that the entire legend from ancient times goes no further back than the poem Lore Lay written by another German romantic poet, Clemens Brentano, twenty-five years earlier.
The real Lorelei is just a projecting cliff at an awkward bend in the Rhine gorge near St Goarshausen. The name Lorelei comes from old German words meaning nasty rock.
The narrator of Anita Looss Gentlemen Prefer Blondes another blonde who lures men to their doom is called Lorelei Lee.
[If you cant read German, the link below will take you to the celebrated translation of Heines poem by that eminent German scholar and romantic poet, S. Langhorn Clemens.]
Ich weiß nicht, was soll es bedeuten,
Daß ich so traurig bin,
Ein Märchen aus uralten Zeiten,
Das kommt mir nicht aus dem Sinn.
Die Luft ist kühl und es dunkelt,
Und ruhig fließt der Rhein;
Der Gipfel des Berges funkelt,
Die schönste Jungfrau sitzet
Dort oben wunderbar,
Ihr goldnes Geschmeide blitzet,
Sie kämmt ihr goldenes Haar,
Sie kämmt es mit goldenem Kamme,
Und singt ein Lied dabei;
Das hat eine wundersame,
Den Schiffer im kleinen Schiffe,
Ergreift es mit wildem Weh;
Er schaut nicht die Felsenriffe,
Er schaut nur hinauf in die Höh.
Ich glaube, die Wellen verschlingen
Am Ende Schiffer und Kahn,
Und das hat mit ihrem Singen,
Die Loreley getan.
[Heine, Heinrich Die Lorelei (1823) ]
Will-o-the-Wisp (Ch. 18; page 268)
Also called ignis fatuus, a flickering light sometimes seen over marshland at night, and once thought to be a malevolent spirit luring travellers to their doom. More recently it has been ascribed to phosphorus-containing gases released by the decay of organic matter.
Mickey Finn (Ch. 18; page 268)
Supposedly, Mickey Finn was a Chicago barman who developed chemical means of dealing with rowdy customers and/or robbing them. There was apparently a real Chicago bar owner called Michael Finn whose bar was shut down after a robbery in 1903, but there dont seem to be any further details, and Michael Finn is a very common Irish name.
The OED gives the first use in print as 1928, where it refers not to a knockout drop but to an extra-strong drink. Another citation suggests that the original Mickey Finn was croton oil, a powerful laxative. In later use, the term seems to refer mostly to chloral hydrate, which is a sedative.
beating his breast ... wedding guest (Ch. 18; page 273)
The Sun came up upon the left,
Out of the sea came he!
And he shone bright, and on the right
Went down into the sea.
Higher and higher every day,
Till over the mast at noon
The Wedding-Guest here beat his breast,
For he heard the loud bassoon.
The bride hath paced into the hall,
Red as a rose is she;
Nodding their heads before her goes
The merry minstrelsy.
The Wedding-Guest he beat his breast,
Yet he cannot choose but hear;
And thus spake on that ancient man,
The bright-eyed Mariner.
[Coleridge, Samuel Taylor Rime of the Ancient Mariner I:25-40]
shackles ... fallen from me (Ch. 18; page 273)
This sounds as though it ought to be a biblical phrase, but I havent found anything earlier than Cowper so far. It is a phrase often used in connection with emancipation of slaves.
Slaves cannot breathe in England; if their lungs
Receive our air, that moment they are free!
They touch our country, and their shackles fall.
[Cowper, William (1731-1800) The Task ]
Chapter 19 (Ch. 19; page 277)
Runs from pp 277 to 294 in the 1939 Herbert Jenkins edition.
priests of Baal (Ch. 19; page 277)
The famous contest on Mount Carmel, in which Elijah demonstrates that the priests of Baal are helpless without matches.
And Eli'jah said unto the prophets of Ba'al, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under. And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Ba'al from morning even until noon, saying, O Ba'al, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made. And it came to pass at noon, that Eli'jah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked. And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them.
[Bible 1 Kings 18:25-28]
the quality of mercy (Ch. 19; page 280)
The quality of mercy is not straind,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
T is mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway,
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest Gods,
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That in the course of justice none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy.
[Shakespeare, William (1564-1616) Merchant of Venice IV:i]
Slippery Joe (Ch. 19; page 282)
There is a card game called Slippery Sam, where players are dealt three cards and bet, without looking at them, on having a card in the same suit as and higher than the cards turned up by the dealer.
The nickname Slippery often seems to be attached to people called either Joe or Sam, particularly in America, so it would not be surprising if Wodehouse simply mixed the name up by accident: there is no particular need for the card game to be Potts own invention in this case.
Moses ... Pisgah (Ch. 19; page 284)
1 And Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto the mountain
of Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, that is over against Jericho: and the LORD
showed him all the land of Gile-ad, unto Dan,
2 and all Naphtali, and the land of Ephra-im, and Manasseh, and all the land of Judah, unto the utmost sea,
3 and the south, and the plain of the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, unto Zoar.
4 And the LORD said unto him, This is the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, saying, I will give it unto thy seed: I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither.
5 So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD.
[Bible Deuteronomy 34:1-5]
poem ... followed the gleam (Ch. 19; page 286)
The character in question was Merlin, the wizard.
Not of the sunlight,
Not of the moonlight,
Not of the starlight!
O young Mariner,
Down to the haven,
Call your companions,
Launch your vessel,
And crowd your canvas,
And, ere it vanishes
Over the margin,
After it, follow it,
Follow The Gleam.
[Tennyson, Alfred Lord (1809-1892) Merlin and the Gleam IX]
Time, the great healer (Ch. 19; page 288)
The closest true quote seems to be from Benjamin Disraeli's Henrietta Temple. Time is the great physician.
It crops up again in (at least) Uncle Fred in the Springtime, A Damsel in Distress, Right Ho Jeeves and Jeeves Takes Charge .
A British movie of the silent era was entitled "Time the great healer"
In Seneca's Moral Essays (Ad Marciam de Consolatione), there is a phrase illud ipsum naturale remedium temporis... which I translate as Time, himself, that natural healer ... (book translations have it as Even Time, Nature's great healer), so the phrase is obviously of some antiquity.
nil admirari (Ch. 19; page 290)
Latin: Be astonished at nothing. (In Tom Jones, Fielding translates it literally as Stare at nothing)
In Money for Nothing we learn that this is also the motto of the dog Emily.
Nil admirari, prope res est una, Numici
Solaque, quae possit facere et servare beatum
(To be astonished at nothing, Numicius, is the only way to become and remain happy)
[Horace Epistles Bk. I, Ep. VI, V. 1]
Jesse Owens (Ch. 19; page 291)
J.C. Owens (1913-1980), the African-American athlete who established a number of world records at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, to the consternation of the Nazis.
somewhat expert with an airgun (Ch. 19; page 293)
See The Crime Wave at Blandings
skipped like the high hills (Ch. 19; page 293)
When Israel went out of Egypt,
the house of Jacob from a people of strange language;
Judah was his sanctuary,
and Israel his dominion.
The sea saw it, and fled:
Jordan was driven back.
The mountains skipped like rams,
and the little hills like lambs.
What ailed thee, O thou sea, that thou fleddest?
thou Jordan, that thou wast driven back?
ye mountains, that ye skipped like rams;
and ye little hills, like lambs?
Tremble, thou earth, at the presence of the Lord,
at the presence of the God of Jacob;
which turned the rock into a standing water,
the flint into a fountain of waters.
[Bible Psalms 114]
terra firma (Ch. 19; page 293)
Latin: solid ground
Chapter 20 (Ch. 20; page 295)
Runs from pp 295 to 311 in the 1939 Herbert Jenkins edition.
There you take me into deep waters (Ch. 20; page 298)
These are deep waters, Mr. Mason; deep and rather dirty.
[Conan-Doyle, Sir Arthur The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place ]
as mad as a hatter. (Ch. 20; page 298)
The phrase 'mad as a hatter' seems to date from the early 19th century; Thomas Chandler Haliburton, a Canadian author, used it in his comic work, The Clockmaker; or the Sayings and Doings of Samuel Slick of Slickville (1836); in Britain, it first appeared in William Makepeace Thackeray's Pendennis (serialised between 1848-50) and Thomas Hughes's Tom Brown's Schooldays (1857), before being popularised by Lewis Carroll in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865). Unlike Hughes, Carroll (and Wodehouse), the earlier writers used 'mad' in the sense of angry, enraged.
The phrase had its origins in a disease that was an occupational hazard of workers making felt hats (such as top hats, bowlers, etc). These workers frequently suffered from what came to be known as mad hatter syndrome, exhibiting physical symptoms such as trembling, loss of co-ordination and slurred speech, and mental symptoms that included irritability, loss of memory, depression and anxiety. It is now known that these symptoms resulted from an accumulation of mercury in the workers' bodies the felt for hats was made by treating fur with a solution of a mercury compound. [AGOL]
Whoso findeth a wife (Ch. 20; page 301)
In Pigs Have Wings, Ch.11, Gally also attributes this to Solomon, who is traditionally considered the author of the Book of Proverbs, but when Uncle Fred uses it again in Cocktail Time he mistakenly attributes it to Ecclesiastes.
Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD.
[Bible Proverbs 18:22]
breach of promise (Ch. 20; page 308)
Under English law, an engagement to marry was regarded as a binding contract and the party who repudiated the engagement was liable to be sued for breach of promise. As a consequence of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1970, actions for breach of promise were abolished as from 1 January 1971.
In an action for breach of promise, which was a civil law matter, the plaintiff (man or woman) could sue for restitution of any pecuniary loss arising from outlay in anticipation of marriage. In some circumstances, a woman could also hope to be awarded substantial damages (heart-balm).
A surprising number of characters seem to have got involved in such actions with girls from Oxford: perhaps this happened to one of Wodehouses friends or relations.
Take it and see what you can do (Ch. 20; page 309)
The Dukes apparently uncharacteristic generosity here has led to some discussion: Is he simply acting as Connies banker, assuming that she will reimburse him for the outlay, or does class solidarity overcome his parsimonious streak? Wodehouse does not give us many clues.
March hare (Ch. 20; page 309)
Male hares are often seen to be acting strangely during their mating season in March. The expression mad as a March hare was already proverbial by the time Lewis Carroll brought the March Hare and the Mad Hatter (see p.298 above) together for a tea-party in Alices Adventures in Wonderland.
the county (Ch. 20; page 310)
In this context refers to members of the local gentry and aristocracy who would be on social calling terms with Lord Emsworth and Lady Constance.
pennies from heaven (Ch. 20; page 311)
This song, from the film musical of the same title, was a big hit for Bing Crosby in 1936, but the expression pennies from heaven seems to go back further. It was for example the name of a charity associated with the Fitzroy Tavern and started in 1923. Dennis Potters innovative television drama of 1978 takes its title from the Bing Crosby song, of course.
Every time it rains,
It rains pennies from heaven
Don't you know each cloud contains
Pennies from heaven
[Burke, Johnnie & Johnston, Arthur Pennies from Heaven ]
disburse (Ch. 20; page 311)
Wodehouse is slipping in a last little gem of incongruous vocabulary: normally this word is only used by lawyers, who use it for spending [the clients] money.