A Damsel in Distress
P G Wodehouse
Literary and Cultural References
The following notes attempt to explain cultural, historical and literary allusions in Wodehouse's text, to identify his sources, and to cross-reference similar references in the rest of the canon (as yet, links to other books may not work).
A Damsel in Distress was originally annotated for the Yahoo! discussion group, Blandings, by Mark Hodson (aka The Efficient Baxter). I have added a great many new entries, modified some of Mark's comments (largely on the basis of material newly available online), and have re-cast the entirety in my own style, but credit goes to Mark for his original efforts, even while I bear the blame for errors of fact or interpretation.
A Damsel in Distress was published in the US by George H Doran, New York, in October 1919 and in the UK by Herbert Jenkins, London, two weeks later. There are a few minor differences between the two editions.
These annotations relate to the UK version. Page references are to the 2003 Everyman edition.
Chapter 1 (pp 7 - 22)
Belpher Castle, in the county of Hampshire (p 7)
There is a village named Belpher (or Belper) in Derbyshire, but no obvious link between that and Wodehouse's choice of name.
The names of two other Wodehouse castles—Dreever Castle in A Gentleman of Leisure and Beevor Castle in Spring Fever—echo the names of well-known real-life castles: Belvoir (pronounced 'Beaver') in Leicestershire and Hever (pronounced 'Heaver') in Kent (the county in which Beevor Castle is placed); it is possible that the name Belpher may have been similarly inspired.
Murphy (In Search of Blandings) identifies the village of Belpher with Emsworth, a village on the Hampshire coast just east of Havant where Wodehouse lived for varying periods between 1903 and 1914; Belpher Castle he identifies with Stansted House, a stately home about two miles north of Emsworth which features in The Little Nugget as 'Sanstead House'.
Earls of Marshmoreton (p 7)
The similarity between Marshmoreton and Moreton-in-Marsh, a market town in Gloucestershire, is probably not coincidental. Moreton-in-Marsh lies less than 15 miles from Cheltenham, where Wodehouse's parents lived from 1902.
jack-rabbit (p 7)
Jack-rabbits are not rabbits, but hares, of the genus Lepus. They are most active at night, spending much of the day-time lying in a flattened spot of grass or other vegetation; if startled, they run at a speed that few animals can match. Hares occur throughout much of Africa, Asia, Europe and North America, but the name "jack rabbit" is usually applied only to some of the North American species.
picture-palaces (p 7)
A (rather old-fashioned) term for cinema.
twenty-first birthday (p 7)
At the time when A Damsel in Distress was written, twenty-one was, in the United Kingdom, the legal age of majority, the age at which one acquires the full legal rights of an adult. Under the Family Law Reform Act 1969, the age of majority in England and Wales was lowered to 18 years with effect from 1 January 1970.
Lord Belpher . . . Lady Patricia Maud Marsh . . . Lady Caroline Byng (p 7)
The plethora of titles may be confusing. If, as is often the case, an English peer holds more than one title, his eldest son is customarily styled using one of the subsidiary titles; within the Wodehouse canon, the best-known example is Clarence, 9th Earl of Emsworth, whose elder son, George, is styled Viscount Bosham. In the present case, the Earl of Marshmoreton's son, Percy, is styled using the courtesy title of Lord Belpher; his daughter, Maud, takes the honorific prefix 'Lady', hence is known as Lady Maud Marsh, Marsh being the family name; his sister, who, as a daughter of the 6th Earl, would have been styled Lady Caroline Marsh before her marriage, retains the honorific prefix with her married name.
The use of 'Lord' or 'Lady' by the Earl's close relatives is solely a matter of courtesy and social usage; those so styled are regarded, in law, as commoners. Only the Earl has the legal status of a peer.
chatelaine (p 8)
A woman who has charge of a large house (from French châtelaine, the feminine form of châtelain, a castellan, or govenor of a castle).
Keggs the butler (p 8)
There are several butlers named Keggs, or Coggs, in Wodehouse's stories. Others Keggses are the Keith's butler in 'The Good Angel' (The Man Upstairs) and (presumably the same Keith/Keggs pairing) in 'Love Me, Love My Dog' (a short story published in Strand Magazine in August 1910); John Bannister's butler in The Coming of Bill; and Augustus Keggs, now retired but formerly in the employment of Lord Uffenham (see Money in the Bank, Something Fishy and Ice in the Bedroom). Coggs is Lord Ickenham's butler in Uncle Fred in the Springtime and Uncle Dynamite.
The Keggs of 'A Good Angel' may be the same individual as Keggs in A Damsel in Distress: as David Jasen points out, both engage in organising matrimonial sweepstakes.
the voice of calumny (p 8)
This personification occurs frequently in 18th and 19th century literature, as, for example, in Walter Scott's Kenilworth (ch 11), Mary Wollstonecraft's Maria (ch 17), Fanny Burney's Cecilia (bk 8, ch 1) and Charles Dickens's The Pickwick Papers (ch 39), as well as in several theological works.
Farmers' and Merchants' Bank (p 8)
The Farmers and Merchants Bank (now absorbed into the Bank of America) was the first bank to be incorporated in Los Angeles, California, and it played a major role in the early economic development of the city. While there are many unrelated banks of the same name in towns and cities across the US, no bank of this name seems to have existed in England.
Oddfellows' Hall (p 8)
The Oddfellows is one of the largest and oldest friendly societies currently operating in the UK. Evolving from the mediaeval Trade Guilds, the Oddfellows began in the City of London in the late 17th and early 18th centuries and established local groups across England and Wales. In 1810 the Manchester Unity of Oddfellows was formed by a number of local groups joining together. As the idea caught on, more and more groups started up around the country, generally meeting in pubs and church halls and now many Branches own their own meeting place or Oddfellows hall.
The Oddfellows website
Although the Oddfellows have several branches in the Portsmouth and Southampton area, there is no record of a Lodge in Emsworth.
The origin of the name Oddfellows is uncertain. One suggestion is that in the mediaeval period the "Odd Fellows" were associations of "fellows" (journeymen) from an odd assortment of trades, as distinct from the socially more prestigious craftsmen's guilds, which were associations of master craftsmen from a single trade.
inductive reasoning (p 8)
"Yes, gentlemen," said he, "it is the most famous pearl now existing in the world, and it has been my good fortune, by a connected chain of inductive reasoning, to trace it from the Prince of Colonna's bedroom at the Dacre Hotel, where it was lost, to the interior of this, the last of the six busts of Napoleon which were manufactured by Gelder & Co, of Stepney."
The Return of Sherlock Holmes, "The Adventure of the Six Napoleons", in
Inductive reasoning is the process of drawing inferences from specific observations. For example, from previous experience that a guard dog does not usually bark at its owner and the fact that a particular guard dog did not bark during the night-time, one can reason inductively to the inference that the burglar may have been the dog's owner. As Wodehouse clearly demonstrates, inductive reasoning yields inferences that are not necessarily true: another example of a false inference, based on countless observations of wild swans in Europe, is that all swans are white; it is immediately refuted by the sight of an Australian black swan.
Inductive reasoning is often contrasted with deductive reasoning, which derives a necessarily-true conclusion from previously known facts or premises; thus, if I am human and all humans are mortal, it necessarily follows, deductively, that I am mortal. (The premise that all humans are mortal is an inductive inference; the premise that I am human is occasionally questioned!)
whale-oil solution (p 9)
Spraying with whale-oil solution, more precisely with a solution of whale-oil soap, used to be a recognised method for the control of insect pests on roses:
The Aphis (Aphis rosae), or Green Fly, is well known by all who have grown roses. . . Much the best destructive agent to use against them is tobacco smoke. . . Whale-oil soap, dissolved in water, is also a useful remedy.
The rose; a treatise on the cultivation, history, family characteristics, pp 88-9 (1906),
The first leaves have scarcely appeared ere they are beset by the thrip or rose-hopper, almost immediately succeeded by the green fly, leaf-roller, rose-chafer and rose-slug. Were the sparrow of any earthly use, he would not leave these to hellebore, whale-oil soap, and Paris green.
The garden's story, p 188 (1891),
Athenæum Club (p 9)
The Athenæum Club was founded in 1824. While most of London's gentlemen's clubs at that period attracted mainly those of independent wealth and status, the Athenæum Club aimed additionally to attract men "of distinguished eminence in Science, Literature, or the Arts, or for Public Service". It used to number among its members so many bishops and other clerics that it was long regarded as a clergymen's club; continuing this tradition, the late Cardinal Basil Hume was a member.
The club's first chairman was the distinguished scientist Sir Humphrey Davy; the first secretary was a scientist who achieved even greater distinction, Michael Faraday. Other members have included Sir Walter Scott, Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens, Cecil Rhodes, Walter de la Mare, Thackeray, Winston Churchill, Benjamin Disraeli, and Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington. Rudyard Kipling is just one of over 50 members of the club who have been awarded the Nobel Prize, including at least one in each category of the prize.
The Athenæum Club occupies a handsome neoclassical building on the corner of Pall Mall and Waterloo Place.
Hybrid teas (p 9)
Hybrid teas are a group of rose cultivars, produced by crossing two other types, the Tea and the Hybrid Perpetual. The first hybrid teas were raised from the late 1860s. They are highly regarded for their colour and fragrance. The large flowers are usually borne singly on a long stem, which makes them particularly suitable as cut flowers.
Most hybrid teas are hardy plants and can withstand a relatively cold winter, but they do require protection from severe cold and this, together with a lack of resistance to disease, makes them difficult to grow in the home garden.
Temple Flower Show (p 9)
The Temple Flower Show, then called the Great Spring Show, was an exhibition of the Royal Horticultural Society, held annually in the gardens of the Inner Temple in London from 1888 to 1911. In 1912, the show was cancelled to make way for the Royal International Horticultural Exhibition, which was held in the grounds of the Royal Hospital at Chelsea; when the Great Spring Show resumed, in 1913, it was held at Chelsea, where it remains today and is now known as the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
rose-slugs, rose-beetles . . . (p 9-10)
Rose-slug is the name given to the larvae of certain sawflies which cause damage to rose bushes by eating away the fleshy part of the leaves, leaving only the veins and stalk untouched. Sawflies are the most primitive members of the insect order Hymenoptera, and are distantly related to bees and wasps. Over 400 species of sawfly have been recorded in Britain. Many feed on a specific type of plant, from which they derive their common name, such as Gooseberry sawfly, Pine sawfly, etc; those which show a partiality for roses include the Rose-slug sawfly, Endelomyia aethiops, and the Bristly rose slug, Cladius difformis.
Rose-beetle is another name for the rose chafer, Cetonia aurata, a member of the family Scarabaeidae and thus a relative of the dung beetles. The adult rose chafer is a bright metallic-green and measures 14-20 mm in length; it feeds mainly on the petals of roses and other plants. The larvae live in decaying plant material such as compost, peat and rotten wood; unlike the larvae of many other chafers, which do considerable economic damage to cereal crops and grassland, the larvae of the rose chafer do not feed on plant roots.
The rose-hopper, or rose leafhopper (Edwardsiana rosae, is a small yellowish-white insect, about four millimetres long, with transparent wings. While its behaviour is as Wodehouse describes it, there is some terminological confusion because the rose leafhopper is not a thrips and, indeed, belongs to a different insect order, the Hemiptera, or 'true bugs'. According to H B Ellwanger (see above), a solution of whale-oil soap is an effective remedy for rose leafhoppers.
Thrips are tiny, slender insects with fringed wings; they comprise the order Thysanoptera (from the Greek thysanos—fringe + pteron—wing). Unlike the rose leafhopper, thrips are tiny black insects and are usually to be found deep within the flower head, rather than under the leaves. The word thrips is both singular and plural; thrip is erroneous.
Attila the Hun (p 10)
Attila was born c 406 AD. In 434, he became ruler of the Huns, jointly with his brother Bleda until the latter's death, c 445, thereafter sole ruler until his own death in 453. During his reign, Attila forged an empire that extended over much of Europe, from Germany and the Netherlands to the Ural river, and from the Danube to Poland and Estonia. In 451, Attila invaded Gaul, reaching Orleans before being repulsed by a coalition of Romans, Visigoths and Franks; the two armies met at a place usually assumed to be near Châlons-en-Champagne, where they fought the Battle of Chalons. Though the Visigoth king was killed during the battle, it was Attila who was forced to retreat. After an indecisive invasion of Italy in 452, Attila retreated across the Danube. He died the following year, in circumstances that are still debated. Following his death, his three sons fought over his legacy, the Huns became disunited, and within a year Attila's empire had dissolved.
In western culture, Attila is a byword for barbarism and cruelty, though many historians now believe that this is partly due to a confusion with other so-called 'barbarians' and that Attila, and the Huns in general, were far more civilised than they are usually depicted. In the Germanic epics, Attila appears as Etzel in the Nibelungenlied and as Atli in the Volsunga Saga and the Poetic Edda.
Genghis Khan (p 10)
Temüjin, known to history as Genghis Khan, was born c 1162 AD. He rose to become the undisputed leader of the Mongols and established the basis of the Mongol Empire. Temüjin took the name Genghis Khan in 1206 when, having succeeded, by a combination of war and diplomacy, in uniting all the tribes of the Mongolian plains, he was acknowledged by a council of Mongol chiefs as their 'khan', or leader. Having united the Mongols, Genghis Khan set about conquering their neighbours, and by the time he died, in 1227, the Mongol empire extended from the Caspian Sea in the west to the Sea of Japan in the east; Mongol armies had also raided as far west as the Crimea. Under Genghis Khan's successors, the Mongol Empire was expanded to encompass the whole of China, Burma and the Korean peninsula, southern Russia from the Sea of Okhotsk to modern-day Belarus and Ukraine, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Tibet.
Like Attila, but with more justification, Genghis Khan has a reputation for savage cruelty. Though he usually offered his enemies relatively fair terms if they would submit without a fight, he and his successors were ruthless in exterminating those who resisted; cities, such as Samarkand, that opposed the Mongols were devastated and their inhabitants slaughtered. Accurate numbers for those killed by the Mongols during the 13th and 14th centuries cannot be established, but estimates range as high as tens of millions.
horny-handed toiler (p 10)
The phrase "horny-handed toiler" appears in a pamphlet written, in 1865, by a Boston-based unionist, Ira Seward, as part of a campaign for reduced working hours. In modified form, as "horny-handed sons of toil", it appears in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, attributed to Denis Kearney, an Irish-born political activist, in a speech he made at San Francisco around 1878. The spoonerism "tons of soil" is frequently, though without any evidence, attributed to William Spooner himself, while the (probably apocryphal) newspaper headline "Sons of toil buried under tons of soil", as relating to a mining accident, is also frequently quoted, again without adequate citation.
They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. (p 11)
The first to say so may have been the Latin poet Sextus Aurelius Propertius (c 50-15 BC):
semper in absentis felicior aestus amantis
(absence always increases lovers' passion)
Elegies, Book 2, XXXIII
The phrase was popularised by the English poet and songwriter Thomas Haynes Bayly (1797-1839) in his poem "Isle of Beauty". The poem was part of the collection "Songs to Rosa", which, with a melody by Charles Chapland Whitmore and musical arrangement by Thomas A Rawlings, was published in 1826:
When the waves are round me breaking,
As I pace the deck alone,
And my eye in vain is seeking
Some green leaf to rest upon,
What would I not give to wander,
Where my old companions dwell . . .
Absence makes the heart grow fonder;
Isle of Beauty “fare thee well”!
The song was sufficiently popular that it is mentioned in a letter dated 20 October 1831, written by Elizabeth Cleghorn Stevenson (Mrs Gaskell) to her friend Harriet Carr.
dashed affair (p 12)
In less permissive times, "damned", used as an oath, was usually printed as "d–––d", from which arose the practice of substituting the descriptive "dashed" in its place.
incubus (p 13)
Latin: nightmare. Hence, an oppressive person or thing.
stops at Belpher if signalled. (p 15)
Emsworth is served by the London (Victoria) to Portsmouth line, the coastal stretch of which also doubles as part of the Portsmouth to Brighton line. Nowadays, the service from Portsmouth to London Victoria makes a scheduled stop at Emsworth, from where the fastest journey takes approximately 2 hours, but at a time when express services made unscheduled stops on request, it is not improbable that Emsworth could have been a request stop. The journey time can be reduced by about 10 minutes by going one station west, to Havant, and joining the Portsmouth to London (Waterloo) express.
Social Progress League at Lewisham (p 15)
Possibly from his time at Dulwich, Wodehouse would have known Lewisham, a suburb in South London just 2-3 miles to the east, as a largely working-class area and thus just the sort of place where a social reform movement might hope to be effective. Whether a real Social Progress League existed (in England: there was one in New Zealand) has not been established, but as a generic name it could cover a wide range of activities: Lady Caroline's attitudes would tend to rule out socialism, women's suffrage or anything else that might alter the existing social order; the temperance movement, welfare for 'fallen women', and similar worthy causes would seem more likely to attract her energies.
correct stance for his approach-shots (p 15)
At the time he was writing A Damsel in Distress, Wodehouse was living at Great Neck, Long Island, near the Sound View Golf Course, which became the setting for many of his golf stories. Although he had already written a few stories with a golfing background ('A Woman is Only a Woman' was published just a few months before A Damsel in Distress), this is the first of his novels to make extensive use of the comic possibilities of golfing jargon such as "correct stance" and "approach shots".
troubled spirit (p 15)
But they my troubled spirit rule,
For they controll'd me when a boy;
They bring me sorrow touch'd with joy,
The merry merry bells of Yule.
, "In Memoriam", stanza XXVIII
soul in torment (p 15)
And there in the middle of it was the man himself, his face twisted like a lost soul in torment, and his great brindled beard stuck upwards in his agony.
The Return of Sherlock Holmes, "The Adventure of Black Peter", in
the mater (p 16)
Latin: mother. As with 'pater' (Latin: father), it became a popular expression in the slang of mid- to late-19th century public schoolboys; the earliest instance cited in the OED is from a book of reminiscences, Eton School Days, of 1864.
Simon Legree (p 16)
See Money in the Bank.
all the world was sunshine (p 16)
This phrase occurs in Jack London's short story 'The Faith of Men' (Macmillan, New York, 1904) and in a few works by other writers in the period 1910-19.
Prestwick (p 17)
Prestwick Golf Club is on the Ayrshire coast, about a half-hour's drive south-west of Glasgow. The club was founded in 1851 and from then until 1864 the Keeper of the Green was the legendary 'Old' Tom Morris. In 1860, Prestwick was the venue for the first Open Championship, which was played there each year until 1870, since when the venue has rotated among a small number of links courses. Prestwick was the venue in 1914, when Harry Vardon won the last Open before war brought the annual event to a temporary halt. Tam Duggan and Alec Fraser may be real people, but it is more probable that they are generic Scots names; there is no record of anyone of either name having won a tournament of any note, at Prestwick or any other venue, in the years preceding the writing of A Damsel in Distress.
Morning Post (p 17)
See Summer Moonshine.
absolute pash (p 17)
"pash" = passion, infatuation.
blue-eyed boy (p 18)
Favoured (figuratively). The earliest use of the phrase noted in the OED is in chapter 19 of The Coming of Bill, which was published just a few months before A Damsel in Distress:
If ever there was a blue-eyed boy, you will be it, once he hears about this.
everywhere the uncle went (p 21)
Mary had a little lamb,
its fleece was white as snow.
And everywhere that Mary went,
the lamb was sure to go.
From a nursery rhyme published in May 1830 by(1788-1879)
Thomas Edison recited, and successfuly played back, the first stanza of this poem to test his invention of the phonograph in 1877.
Belgrave Square (p 22)
Belgrave Square was laid out in the 1820s on land owned by the Earl of Grosvenor (now the Duke of Westminster) and took its name from the village of Belgrave on the Grosvenor family estate in Cheshire. The houses surrounding the square are said to among the grandest ever built in London and were, from their construction until World War II, the homes of leading members of the British aristocracy and, latterly, of exceedingly wealthy individuals and some foreign embassies; after the War, most of the private residences were converted into offices.
No 11a Belgrave Square does not exist; no 11, situated close to the eastern corner of the square, houses the Embassy of Portugal.
Chapter 2 (pp 23 - 35)
Little Gooch Street (p 23)
Probably not 'Gooch', but 'Goodge'. Little Goodge Street (since renamed as Goodge Place, though it was Little Goodge Street until at least 1915) is a narrow street off Goodge Street, immediately east of The Middlesex Hospital. It is a few minutes' walk from Shaftesbury Avenue, and just about qualifies as "round the corner" (though it is, in fact, round two or three corners!); it is also south-facing and sheltered. The children playing in the street would not, however, be visible to someone standing at the entrance to the Regal Theatre.
Lucretia Borgia (p 23)
Lucrezia Borgia (1480-1519) was the bastard daughter of Rodrigo Borgia (later Pope Alexander VI) and sister of the notorious despot Cesare Borgia. Whether the stories about her are true or not, history has given her a reputation as one whose cocktails had such a deadly kick that guests rarely had time for a second.
Shaftesbury Avenue (p 23)
Shaftesbury Avenue runs north-east from Piccadilly Circus as far as New Oxford Street. It was constructed between 1877 and 1886 to improve communications across London's busy West End, and was named after the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury, a prominent social reformer. Shaftesbury Avenue soon acquired a reputation as the heart of London's theatreland. By the time the New Princes Theatre (see below) opened, in 1911, it was the seventh theatre to have been erected on the thoroughfare; six of them are still active today.
Regal Theatre (p 23)
Murphy identifies the Regal with Princes Theatre (originally New Princes Theatre, now the Shaftesbury), which is situated toward the northern end of Shaftesbury Avenue, at the junction with High Holborn. The Regal and Mac, the guardian of its stage door, also appear in Summer Lightning (1929) and Bachelors Anonymous (1973).
George Bevan (p 24)
George Bevan shares the same initials as Wodehouse's life-long friend, Guy Bolton, his collaborator in many theatrical enterprises (though Bolton was a writer, not a composer). Murphy believes that George Bevan, George Benham (a playwright in Indiscretions of Archie) and George Caffyn (also a playwright, in 'Jeeves and the Chump Cyril') were all based on, and are a compliment to, Bolton.
a labour of Hercules (p 24)
Hercules is the latinised name of the greatest of mythical Greek heroes, Herakles. According to the myths, Herakles killed his wife and children in a fit of passion and, as penance, was required to undertake a series of ten tasks (later increased to twelve, because he had assistance for two of them). Because of the difficult nature of the twelve tasks, a 'labour of Hercules' has come to signify a particularly arduous undertaking.
dried over a barrel (p 24)
Before modern methods of resuscitation were developed, one method of treating a victim of drowning was to lay the victim over a barrel, which was then rolled back and forth in the hope that this would dislodge water from the lungs.
Say, I rode for an hour in a 'rickshaw at Nagoya to see the most beautiful girl in Japan and when we got to the teahouse they trotted out a little shrimp that looked as if she'd been dried over a barrel—you know, stood bent all the time, as if she was getting ready to jump.
The Slim Princess, ch 5 (1907),
By their united strength they pulled Silver up the bank so that his limp head hung downward. Then they began to work over him exactly as if he had been a drowned man, except that they did not, of course, roll him over a barrel.
The Flying U's Last Stand, ch 3 (1915),
Jermyn Street (p 25)
Jermyn Street runs parallel to, and immediately to the south of, Piccadilly, not far from Shaftesbury Avenue. It is famous for the number of high-quality shirtmakers who have premises there. Past residents of the street include the Duke of Marlborough, Sir Isaac Newton and Prince Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, later Emperor Napoléon III of France, who lived in an hotel on Jermyn Street, under the alias of Count d'Arenberg, after his escape from imprisonment.
The Morning Leader (p 25)
The Morning Leader was founded in 1892. It ceased publication in 1912, after being amalgamated into The Daily News, a newspaper whose first editor, in 1846, had been Charles Dickens. In 1930, The Daily News was itself absorbed into The Daily Chronicle, which thereafter appeared as The News Chronicle until 1960, when it ceased publication.
better four-fifths (p 27)
Wife. The more usual expression is "better half".
festive hams (p 27)
A 'ham' (shortened from US slang 'ham-fatter') is a poor actor. The OED cites its first occurrence in 1882; a later citation is from Wodehouse's Laughing Gas. More literally, a 'festive ham' is a meat dish that is served on festive occasions.
In this instance, Wodehouse seems to be combining the two usages to imply that the actors ('hams', here used jocularly) dined well.
Little Eva (p 27)
Little Eva—full name Evangeline St Clare—is a character in Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel Uncle Tom's Cabin. Aged between 5 and 6 years, she is rescued from drowning by Uncle Tom, who is on his way to be sold at a slave auction. Eva persuades her father, Augustine St Clare, to buy Tom and he becomes coachman to the St Clare family.
Her form was the perfection of childish beauty, without its usual chubbiness and squareness of outline. There was about it an undulating and aerial grace, such as one might dream of for some mythic and allegorical being. . . She was always in motion, always with a half smile on her rosy mouth, flying hither and thither, with an undulating and cloud-like tread, singing to herself as she moved as in a happy dream.
Uncle Tom's Cabin, ch 14 (1852),
Hicks Corners (p 28)
Wodehouse several times uses the name Hicks Corners to suggest a small rural town:
"Say, I got married since I saw you last."
"You did, did you?" I said. "Then what are you doing, may I ask, dancing on Broadway like a gay bachelor? I suppose you have left your wife at Hicks' Corners, singing 'Where is my wandering boy tonight'?"
"At Geisenheimer’s", in The Man With Two Left Feet
"Well, she comes from the Middle West, and seems to be trying to be twice as Bohemian as the rest of the girls down in Greenwich Village. She wears her hair bobbed and goes about in a kimono. She's probably read magazine stories about Greenwich Village, and has modelled herself on them. It's so silly, when you can see Hicks Corners sticking out of her all the time."
Indiscretions of Archie, ch 23
There is a real Hicks Corners in Illinois, USA. The name seems to derive from a combination of hick—an ignorant rustic—and Hickscorner, a 16th century word for a scoffer (from the eponymous libertine character who scoffs at religion in the morality play of that name, written some time between 1497 and 1512).
Bide a Wee Home (p 28)
The Bide-A-Wee Home Association was established in 1903 by Mrs Flora D'Auby Jenkins Kibbe to provide care and shelter for stray and unwanted animals. The first shelter was in Manhatten; two others were opened later, both on Long Island, at Wantagh and Westhampton. Barrie Phelps notes that in 1966 the Wodehouses donated US$20,000 to the Bide-A-Wee Association to build the 'PG Wodehouse Shelter' for stray animals at Westhampton and that six of their pets are buried there.
Covent Garden (p 28)
Covent Garden, situated just north of Strand, in central London, was the site of London's principal fruit and vegetable market from the 1600s until 1974, when it moved to a new site at Nine Elms, south of the river Thames.
Spenser Gray (p 29)
The name is possibly coined from the poets Edmund Spenser (1552-99, author of The Faerie Queen) and Thomas Gray (1716-71, famous for his Elegy written in a country churchyard). The first husband of Bertie Wooster's Aunt Agatha was named Spenser Gregson.
this gink (p 29)
The OED defines 'gink' as US slang meaning "a fellow, a man" and notes that it is frequently used pejoratively (as it is here). The earliest citation in the OED is from the Saturday Evening Post in October 1910; the second citation is this instance.
Mr Arbuckle . . . Fatty (p 29)
Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle (1887-1933) was a famously overweight comic actor in the era of silent films. He was a star of the Keystone Cops films, gave Buster Keaton his first screen opportunity (in the short film The Butcher Boy), and mentored the young Charles Chaplin.
In 1921, two years after the publication of A Damsel in Distress, Arbuckle was falsely accused of rape and manslaughter; after two mistrials, he was eventually acquitted—and received a written apology from the jury—but by then his career and reputation had been destroyed. He died of a heart attack just hours after signing a contract with Warner Brothers to make a feature-length film that would have been his first since the scandal broke 12 years earlier.
What ho, within there (p 29)
"Ha?" Mr Sturge drew back in dark surprise. "'Tis the language of delirium. He raves. What ho, without there!" he called aloud.
The Mayor of Troy, ch 14 (1906),
Halting beneath this outer gate, the youth winded the horn which hung at his side in mimicry of the custom of the times.
"What ho, without there!" challenged the old man entering grimly into the spirit of the play.
The Outlaw of Torn, ch 4 (1927),
I stopped singing and opened the door an inch.
"What ho without there!"
"Lady Malvern wishes to see you, sir," said Jeeves.
"Jeeves and the Unbidden Guest", in My Man Jeeves (1919)
mash notes (p 29)
To "mash" someone is defined by the OED as "to fascinate or excite sentimental admiration in (one of the opposite sex)". The OED cites Barrère & Leland, A Dictionary of Slang, Jargon & Cant (1897):
"About the year 1860 mash was a word found only in theatrical parlance in the United States. When an actress . . . smiled at . . . a friend in the audience, she was said to mash him."
Farmer & Henley, Slang and Its Analogues, vol 4 (1896), quotes Barrère & Leland at greater length:
"It occurred to the writer [C G Leland] that it must have been derived from the gypsy mash (masher-ava) to allure, to entice . . . Mr Paluez, a well-known impresario, said . . . he could confirm [the suggestion] for the term had originated with the C—— family, who were all actors and actresses, of Romany stock, who spoke gypsy familiarly among themselves."
blarzy (p 30)
blasé—bored through over-familiarity (French)
Tin Pan Alley (p 31)
"Tin Pan Alley" was originally the name given to a block in Manhatten, New York, on West 28th Street between Broadway and Sixth Avenue, where, from the mid-1880s, there developed a high concentration of music publishers. The name was subsequently extended to any area within a major city that has a high concentration of music publishers and musical instrument stores, such as Denmark Street, near Covent Garden, London, which has been known since the 1920s as "Britain's Tin Pan Alley". Later still, "Tin Pan Alley" came to be used as a colloquial term for the world of music composing and publishing, and for popular music generally (usually—as in this instance—with a slightly derogatory reference to the commercial and unadventurous nature of the music).
The origin of the phrase is uncertain: the OED cites the use, in 1885, of "tin-panning" to refer to "a great uproar being caused by the beating of old trays, kettles, etc" and it is often suggested that "Tin Pan Alley" referred to the cacophony produced by many musical instruments playing different tunes in a small area. The first use of the phrase cited in the OED is in the October 1908 issue of Hampton's Broadway Magazine; by 1926, the OED cites a statement that "as a matter of fact, Tin Pan Alley exists now only as a tradition".
become one of the Mendelssohn's March Daughters (p 31)
The reference is to the "Wedding March" composed by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809-47) as part of his incidental music for Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Op 61 (1843). Together with the "Bridal Chorus" from Act 3 of Richard Wagner's opera Lohengrin, WWV 75 (1850), it has traditionally been one of the most popular pieces of wedding music, the Wagner usually being played as a processional, heralding the arrival of the bride at the church, and the Mendelssohn being played as a recessional, as the newly-wed couple depart.
meet at Philippi (p 31)
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.
Then, with your will, go on;
We'll along ourselves and meet them at Philippi.
Julius Caesar, Act IV, sc 3 (1599 ?),
The plain to the west of the Greek city of Philippi was the scene, in 42 BC, of the final battle of the Roman civil war, fought between Julius Caesar's heirs, Marcus Antonius and Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus, and his assassins, Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus. Brutus and Cassius were defeated and committed suicide; Octavian went on to become the ruler of Italy and, after defeating Antony at the battle of Actium, in 32 BC, became de facto emperor, though he never used the title.
poor geek (p 31)
'Geek' is here being used to mean a simpleton or dupe. The use of 'geek' to describe "an unsociable person obsessively devoted to a particular pursuit" (OED) or "a person who is extremely devoted to and knowledgeable about computers or related technology" (OED) came much later.
stenographer (p 32)
Originally, a shorthand writer (from Greek stenos—narrow + graphos—written), later also a shorthand typist, and sometimes, more loosely, any sort of secretary.
interpolated numbers (p 32)
In the musical theatre, an interpolated number is a song, most often written by someone other than the main composer of a show, that is added between the numbers of the original work. Before he achieved success as a lyricist, Wodehouse frequently did work of this nature. Ironically, what is probably his best-known song, "Bill", only became popular as an interpolated number. Originally written for the 1918 production of Oh, Lady! Lady, the last of the five musicals by the trio of Wodehouse, Guy Bolton and Jerome Kern that were staged at the Princess Theatre, New York, it was dropped from the show and not used until 1927, when it found a home in Showboat, a work for which the book and lyrics were written by Oscar Hammerstein to music by Kern.
write it on your cuff (p 32)
This refers to the fashion, common among 'white-collar' workers of the time, for wearing shirts with detachable, disposable cuffs and collars made out of paper or celluloid. Such cuffs were a convenient place to jot down notes, a practice which gave rise to the phrase "off the cuff" (as also "white-collar").
acquired a liver (p 32)
George has, of course, always had a liver; here he is using 'liver' in its sense of 'liver-complaint':
He suffered from ague for the first time since boyhood, and later came liver.
Chinese Gordon, ch 3 (1884),
In and Out Club (p 33)
This is not, as one might think, one of Wodehouse's fictional clubs; rather, it is the nickname of the Naval & Military Club, a gentlemen's club that was founded in 1862. The name derives from the signs that were prominently displayed on the entrance and exit gates of the Club's original home at 94 Piccadilly; although the Club moved, in 1999, to premises in St James Square that have only one gate, the tradition is maintained by 'In' and 'Out' signs on either side of the entrance.
Chapter 3 (pp 36 - 44)
the work of a moment (p 36)
"It is all very strange. So suddenly to be gone! It seems but the work of a moment. . ."
Sense and Sensibility, ch 15 (1811),
It is now but the work of a moment to lift the saucepan of peas from the fire, strain them through a colander, pass them thence into a net or bag, rinse them in cold water and then spread the whole appetising mass on a platter and carry it on a fireshovel to the dining-room.
Further Foolishness, ch 7 (1916),
The charging of his enemy was but the work of a moment.
Don Quixote, Part 1, Book 1, ch 8
quoted in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed (1919)
As is clear, this phrase is not original to Wodehouse, but it was one that he made his own:
I had often wondered how those Johnnies in books did it—I mean the fellows with whom it was the work of a moment to do about a dozen things that ought to have taken them about ten minutes. But, as a matter of fact, it was the work of a moment with me to chuck away my cigarette, swear a bit, leap about ten yards, dive into a bush that stood near the library window, and stand there with my ears flapping.
"Jeeves Takes Charge", in Carry On, Jeeves
To tiptoe backwards, holding his breath, was with Montrose Mulliner the work of a moment.
"Monkey Business", in Blandings Castle and Elsewhere
. . . and to pour into a glass an inch or so of the raw spirit and shoosh some soda-water on top of it was with me the work of a moment.
Right Ho, Jeeves, ch 10
There was a sheet lying on the bed . . . and to snatch this up and envelop Spode in it was with me the work of a moment.
The Code of the Woosters, ch 7
The phrase is also found in The Clicking of Cuthbert, Indiscretions of Archie, Thank You, Jeeves, and The Inimitable Jeeves, among others.
eyes from which the scales had fallen (p 37)
And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.
And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.
Acts, ix, 17-18
the days of the Tudors (p 37)
The days of the Tudors lasted from 1485 to 1603. The Tudor dynasty began when Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, became King Henry VII of England after defeating the last Plantagenet king, Richard III, at the Battle of Bosworth in August 1485. The dynasty came to an end with the death of Henry's granddaughter, Elizabeth I, who left no direct heir and was succeeded (as James I of England) by King James VI of Scotland, son of Elizabeth's cousin, Mary Stuart (Mary, Queen of Scots).
touched in the wind (p 38)
"Touched in the wind" describes a horse whose breathing is disordered, usually as the result of an ailment rather than by over-exertion.
Lawrenceville and Harvard (p 38)
Lawrenceville is one of the oldest and most elite prep schools in the US. It was originally founded in 1810 as the Maidenhead Academy and went through several changes of name before its current name, "The Lawrenceville School", was adopted during its refounding in 1883. The school is located in Lawrence, New Jersey, just a few miles from Princeton. Lawrenceville featured in several novels written by one of its alumni, Owen Johnson (class of 1895); one of the novels, The Varmint was made into a motion picture in 1950. The novelist and playwright Thornton Wilder taught French at the school in the 1920s (he received his MA in French from nearby Princeton in 1926).
Harvard University is a private university in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It is one of the eight institutions (Princeton and Yale are others) that collectively comprise the Ivy League. Founded in 1636, Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States; it adopted the name Harvard College in 1639 in recognition of its first major donor, clergyman John Harvard.
theatrical managers (p 38)
That Wodehouse probably intends no compliment to New York theatrical managers can be judged from the following comments (from Bring on the Girls) on three prominent New York impresarios:
"Tell me about Erlanger. . . . What's he like? . . ."
"He's rather like a toad."
Colonel Savage . . . walked with a slight limp, having probably in the course of his career been bitten in the leg by some indignant author.
They found Ray [Comstock] seated at his desk with a bottle of whisky beside him for purposes of reference.
Vere de Vere (p 38)
Lady Clara Vere de Vere,
Of me you shall not win renown:
You thought to break a country heart
For pastime, ere you went to town.
At me you smiled, but unbeguiled
I saw the snare, and I retired;
The daughter of a hundred earls,
You are not one to be desired.
. . . .
Lady Clara Vere de Vere,
When thus he met his mother's view,
She had the passion of her kind,
She spake some certain truths of you.
Indeed I heard one bitter word
That scarce is fit for you to hear;
Her manners had not that repose
Which stamps the caste of Vere de Vere.
The Lady of Shalott, and Other Poems (1842), "Lady Clara Vere de Vere", in
Time was not of the essence (p 38)
"Time is of the essence" is an expression commonly used in contract law. Unless it is expressly agreed by the parties or implied by the nature of the contract, the time allowed for performance of a contract is not of the essence and the contracting parties are allowed a reasonable amount of time in which to fulfil their obligations. If it is important that performance of the contract take place as quickly as possible, it is usual to insert a clause stating that "time is of the essence". Alternatively, if one party to a contract has failed to perform its obligations, the other party can issue a notice making time of the essence and, if non-performance continues, will become entitled to terminate the contract and sue for damages.
the two Bohemians (p 39)
It is unlikely that the pair are, in fact, natives of Bohemia. More probably, Wodehouse is stretching the term beyond its colloquial usage as a description of "one who either cuts himself off, or is by his habits cut off, from society for which he is otherwise fitted; especially an artist, literary man, or actor, who leads a free, vagabond, or irregular life, not being particular as to the society he frequents, and despising conventionalities generally" (OED).
too few goes of gin (p 40)
"The score!" he burst out. "Three goes o' rum! Why, shiver my timbers if I hadn't forgotten my score."
Treasure Island, Part II, ch viii (1883),
I have tickled the captain too; I have made him dance to some tune; he must have pledged his half pay to keep open house for you, and now, like the other half-pays in London, he must live on plates of beef and goes of gin for the next seven years.
The Life of William Cobbett, Esq, 1835), addressing the electors of Preston, Lancashire, after unsuccessfully standing as a candidate in the general election of June 1826 (quoted in
a tray of collar-studs (p 41)
Detachable shirt collars (see above) were held in place by two collar-studs.
the many-headed (p 41)
And to make us no better thought of, a little help
will serve; for once we stood up about the corn, he
himself stuck not to call us the many-headed multitude.
We have been called so of many; not that our heads
are some brown, some black, some auburn, some bald,
but that our wits are so diversely coloured:
The Tragedy of Coriolanus, Act II, sc 3 (1608/9 ?),
Shakespeare was not the first to refer to a mob as the "many-headed multitude", as the following commentary on his Julius Caesar shows:
The many-headed multitude were drawne
By Brutus speech, that Caesar was ambitious,
When eloquent Mark Antonie had showne
His vertues, who but Brutus shell was vicious?
Mans memorie, with new, forgets the old,
One tale is good, untill another's told.
The Mirror of Martyrs, s 4 (1601),
"You can't do that sort of thing, you know." (p 42)
This passage mirrors very closely the exchange between Psmith and Spiller in chap 33 of Mike [chap 4 of Mike and Psmith], when the latter objects to the usurpation of his study:
"You can't go about the place bagging studies."
"But we do", said Psmith. "In this life, Comrade Spiller, we must be prepared for every emergency. We must distinguish between the unusual and the impossible. It is unusual for people to go about the place bagging studies, so you have rashly ordered your life on the assumption that it is impossible. Error! Ah, Spiller, Spiller, let this be a lesson to you."
"Look here, I tell you what it—"
"[. . .] The advice I give to every young man starting life is: 'Never confuse the unusual and the impossible.' Take the present case. If you had only realised the possibility of somebody some day collaring your study, you might have thought out dozens of sound schemes for dealing with the matter. As it is, you are unprepared. The thing comes on you as a surprise. The cry goes round: 'Spiller has been taken unawares. He cannot cope with the situation.'"
berserk frame of mind (p 43)
The Beserks (or Beserkers) were Norse warriors who fought in an uncontrollable rage; the mechanism by which the warriors induced such a rage is unclear. In 1015, Eiríkr Hákonarson, the ruler of Norway, outlawed Beserkers, and by the 1100s organised Berserker warbands had disappeared.
Today, the term 'beserk' (usually uncapitalised) is used to refer to any person who acts in a wild rage or in an uncontrolled and irrational manner.
technical battery (p 43)
Battery is a common law offence (though subject to the jurisdiction of the criminal court) and consists in the unlawful touching of another person.
Common assault is a crime and occurs when one person causes another to apprehend or fear that force is about to be used to cause some degree of personal contact and possible injury.
Technical battery is a term used in US jurisprudence to describe cases of unlawful touching that stop short of actual physical harm—for example, the provision of medical treatment, no matter how well-intentioned, without the consent of the patient has been ruled to constitute 'technical battery'.
Under English law, George's threat to "bust you one on the jaw" is a common assault in so far as he has raised in the stout young man an apprehension of immediate personal violence. And should he, in the course of removing the young man's silk hat, inflict even the most minor injury, he could be charged with the offence of battery. If he were to carry out his threat and break the young man's jaw, he could be charged with the crime of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, which carries a maximum sentence of five years' imprisonment.
Under s 42 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, charges of common assault or battery could be heard by two magistrates (acting without a jury) and, if found guilty, the offender could be fined a maximum of £200 or imprisoned in the common gaol for up to two months.
S 39 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 essentially retained this status by defining common assault and battery as 'summary offences', which means that they can be dealt with summarily, without the need for an indictment and with no right to trial by jury. It also raised the maximum penalties on conviction to £5000 fine or six months' imprisonment.
Achilles heel (p 43)
popped up into the infield (p 44)
In baseball, the infield is an area that includes the square formed by the bases and extending out to a distance of 95 feet from the centre of the pitcher's mound. In certain clearly-defined situations, a ball that is popped up into the infield is subject to what is known as the Infield Fly Rule, whereby if, in the umpire's judgment, the ball is catchable by an infielder with ordinary effort, the batter is out regardless of whether the ball is actually caught in flight.
Chapter 4 (pp 45 - 54)
Carlton (p 48)
The Carlton Hotel, once one of London's smartest hotels, was situated at the corner of Pall Mall and Haymarket. The hotel was damaged by bombing during World War 2 and in the mid-1950s the site was acquired by the New Zealand Government, the old building was demolished, and a new tower block, the first to be built in central London after the war, was erected to house the offices of the New Zealand High Commission.
Although it seems that there is no evidence to support the claim, a blue plaque on the present building commemorates a pastry cook who, it is said, worked at the hotel in 1913; the cook was named Ho Chi Minh and is better known as the first president of modern Vietnam.
the manners of a ring-tailed chimpanzee (p 48)
We can only guess at the manners of the ring-tailed chimpanzee, as no such animal has yet been seen. Nor is a sighting at all imminent, as neither of the two known species of chimpanzee—the Common Chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes, and the Bonobo, or "Pygmy Chimpanzee", Pan paniscus—possesses a tail!
Perhaps George has in mind the Ring-tailed Lemur, Lemur catta, which, although a primate, is only distantly related to the "great apes" (which include Man and the chimpanzees).
a Lothario (p 52)
In Nicholas Rowe's play The Fair Penitent (1703), Lothario, a handsome but unprincipled young nobleman, seduces and betrays Calista, the intended spouse of his enemy, Altamont. The play was so popular that the name Lothario has subsequently come to denote the type of a libertine or rake.
the Holy Grail sliding athwart a sunbeam (p 53)
And then the king and all estates went home unto Camelot, and so went to evensong to the great minster, and so after upon that to supper, and every knight sat in his own place as they were toforehand. Then anon they heard cracking and crying of thunder, that them thought the place should all to-drive. In the midst of this blast entered a sunbeam more clearer by seven times than ever they saw day, and all they were alighted of the grace of the Holy Ghost. Then began every knight to behold other, and either saw other, by their seeming, fairer than ever they saw afore. Not for then there was no knight might speak one word a great while, and so they looked every man on other as they had been dumb. Then there entered into the hall the Holy Grail covered with white samite, but there was none might see it, nor who bare it. And there was all the hall fulfilled with good odours, and every knight had such meats and drinks as he best loved in this world. And when the Holy Grail had been borne through the hall, then the holy vessel departed suddenly, that they wist not where it became: then had they all breath to speak.
Le morte d'Arthur, Book 2, ch 7 (1470)(ed Caxton),
. . . for a brief space things were mixed and chaotic and Arthurian. The silvery sound of the luncheon-bell restored an instant peace, even in the teeth of clenched antagonisms like ours. The Holy Grail itself, "sliding athwart a sunbeam", never so effectually stilled a riot of warring passions into sweet and quiet accord.
The Golden Age (1895), "Snowbound", in
C-division (p 53)
London's Metropolitan Police Force was established in 1829, and originally consisted of 17 divisions, designated alphabetically. Over time, further divisions were added, before the alphabetic designations were finally abolished in the 1990s. The Metropolitan Police is now organised geographically into 33 Borough Operational Command Units, one dedicated to Heathrow Airport and the rest aligned with the boundaries of the 32 London borough councils.
"C" Division, headquartered, until 1939, at Little Vine Street, Piccadilly, and thereafter at Savile Row Police Station, traditionally covered the areas of Mayfair and Soho.
the Olympian brow. . . thunderbolts. (p 53)
In Roman mythology, Jove, or Jupiter, was the leader of the gods, the ruler of Mount Olympus, the god of the sky and thunder, and the patron deity of the Roman state. He was often depicted hurling thunderbolts.
Mount Olympus is the highest mountain in Greece and in Greek mythology was the home of the Twelve Olympians, the principal gods of the Greek pantheon, hence 'Olympian' became a synonym for 'god-like'.
Wodehouse is facetiously endowing the police constable with the awe-inspiring majesty of a god.
fell from him like a garment (p 54)
While there does not seem to be a specific source for this phrase, variants on it are quite common:
They whispered one another, 'He is dying.'
And he said, 'I am. My age is falling from me like a garment . . .'
Household Words I, 25 (6 April 1850), "A Child's Dream of a Star", in
For a moment, perhaps, I could not clearly understand how I came there. My terror had fallen from me like a garment.
The War of the Worlds, ch 7 (1898),
His indifference fell from him like a garment.
The Valley of Decision, Book IV, ch 11 (1901),
The rough hardihood of the ring fell from him like a garment:
Cashel Byron's Profession, ch 14 (1886),
It was then . . . that fear dropped from her like a garment
The Luck of Roaring Camp and Other Tales (1870), "High-Water Mark", in
Wodehouse himself employed the phrase in a number of different ways, eg:
Nutty's fatigue fell from him like a garment.
Uneasy Money, ch 8
Vine Street Police Station (p 54)
Vine Street lies just off Regent Street, close to Piccadilly Circus. The police station, formerly the headquarters of "C" Division, is no longer in use.
As an historical footnote, one of the (not necessarily better) men who had made the journey to Vine Street police station was the Marquess of Queensberry, who was taken there in March 1895 to be charged with criminal libel against Oscar Wilde, thus precipitating the series of trials that eventually led to Wilde's imprisonment.
See also Money in the Bank.
Chapter 5 (pp 55 - 61)
Everything was emphatically for the best (p 55)
Booth Tarkington (p 55)
Newton Booth Tarkington (1869-1946) was an American novelist and dramatist. He is best remembered for his novel The Magnificent Ambersons (1918), which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1919 and was filmed by Orson Welles in 1941. The reference here is to his novel Seventeen, published in 1917.
During the last five years . . . (p 56)
Ignoring the fact that Wodehouse had been married since September 1914, this passage reads like autobiography, even to the reference to one of his well-known habits—gliding swiftly away from awkward social encounters.
trinitrotoluol (p 57)
Trinitrotoluol, or trinitrotoluene (TNT), is a chemical reagent and explosive. It is one of the most commonly-used military and commercial explosives, not least because it is insensitive to shocks and friction, is comparatively stable, neither absorbs nor dissolves in water, and can be melted and poured at temperatures well below those at which it will spontaneously detonate. First produced in 1863, it was originally used as a dye and, because it is so difficult to detonate, its explosive qualities were not immediately recognised.
The amount of energy released in an explosion of a unit quantity (eg kiloton or megaton) of TNT is frequently used to quantify the energy released in large explosions, such as nuclear weapon tests and asteroid impacts.
troubadour of the Middle Ages (p 57)
Troubadours were composers and performers of lyric poetry during the High Middle Ages (1100-1350). The troubador tradition began in the Occitan-speaking region of southern and south-western France, from where it spread to Spain and Italy. The art of the troubadors declined during the early 14th century and died out around the time of the Black Death (1348), which killed an estimated 30-60% of the population of Europe.
The troubadors were professional entertainers, some of whom wandered from court to court. More typically, a troubador would gain the patronage of a wealthy noble and would become part of the noble's household, staying in the one place as long as the patronage continued. While many troubador songs dealt with themes such as chivalry and courtly love, many were also comic or satirical, and a troubador who sang of unrequited love was not necessarily any more troubled in love than a modern-day pop singer.
in a cuppy lie (p 57)
"Ships that pass in the night!" (p 58)
Ships that pass in the night and speak each other in passing;
Only a signal shown and a distant voice in the darkness;
So on the ocean of life we pass and speak one another,
Only a look and a voice; then darkness again and a silence.
Tales of a Wayside Inn, Part III, "The Theologian's Tale: Elizabeth", iv (1863),
Piccadilly Grill-room (p 59)
The Piccadilly Hotel, on Piccadilly Circus, was built in 1905-08 on the site of the former St James's Hall. The hotel's grill-room became a very popular eating-place, especially in the evening, when a small orchestra entertained the diners, its performances often being broadcast live on radio. The hotel is now known as Le Méridien Piccadilly.
Evening News (p 59)
The Evening News was launched in London in July 1881. In 1960 it absorbed the Star, which had been published since 1888. The Evening News ceased publication in 1980 after merging with the Evening Standard; the latter, originally known simply as the Standard, has been published continuously since 1827.
that admirable slop (p 60)
"Slop" here means "policeman"; it is an example of 'back slang', where a word is written backwards and a new word coined from the result, in this case "ecilop" or "esclop", hence "slop" — another example is "yobbo", or "yob", which originated as back-slang for "boy".
See also The Code of the Woosters.
Burke's Peerage (p 61)
Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage is a guide to the titled families of Great Britain and Ireland. It was first published in 1826 by a British genealogist, John Burke, under the title Burke's Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Peerage and Baronetage of the United Kingdom. It was revised annually between 1840 and 1940, except for a hiatus from 1917 to 1923, but subsequent revisions were infrequent(there were none between 1970 and 1999); the last print edition was published in 2003, since when further revisions are being made available only online.
When "A Damsel in Distress" was written, Burke's Peerage was still recognised as a major authority on genealogical matters. In recent years that status has been eroded somewhat by a rash of publications, some of very inferior quality, bearing the name "Burke's", though unconnected with Burke's Peerage.
Chapter 6 (pp 62 - 79)
Boots (p 62)
Slang: "An appellation given to the youngest officer in a regiment, junior member of a club, etc (OED).
Not so dusty (p 62)
In the 17th century, one meaning of 'dusty' was "mean, worthless, vile" (OED), a usage that has survived only in this slang expression, meaning "not so bad".
Bow Street Police Court (p 63)
More correctly, Bow Street Magistrates' Court.
Bow Street is in central London, close to Covent Garden. It has been home to a magistrates' court since c 1739, when Colonel Thomas de Veil sat as a magistrate in his home at No 4. In 1747, the novelist Henry Fielding was appointed a Justice of the Peace (ie magistrate) and held court in the same house. A purpose-built magistrates' court was opened in Bow Street in 1881 and continued in operation until 2006.
As well as dealing with summary offences (such as Lord Belpher's), Bow Street Magistrates' Court was, for much of its history, the office of the Senior District Judge (Magistrates' Courts) and, as such, was the venue for the preliminary hearings of many famous cases that were eventually transferred, on indictment, to the Central Criminal Court ("Old Bailey"). Among those who passed through the Bow Street court are: Roger Casement and William Joyce ("Lord Haw-Haw"), both subsequently executed for treason; Dr Crippen, who was hanged for murder; the suffragette sisters, Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst; and Oscar Wilde.
the raspberry (p 64)
A 'raspberry' is a derisive sound made by keeping the lips closed and forcing air over the tongue; it derives from rhyming slang ("raspberry tart" = fart) and has been dated to 1875 by Eric Partridge (A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English). The US equivalent is the 'Bronx cheer' (which Wodehouse uses in Hot Water).
According to the OED, this example in A Damsel in Distress is the first recorded use of 'raspberry' in a figurative sense, to signify 'a refusal; a reprimand, disapproval; dismissal'; the second citation is also from Wodehouse:
He would seem . . . to have blown in one morning at seven-forty-five . . . He was given the respectful raspberry by Jeeves, and told to try again about three hours later . . .
The Inimitable Jeeves, ch 9, "A Letter of Introduction"
blot on the family escutcheon (p 64)
In heraldry, an escutcheon is a shield, or an emblem in the shape of a shield, bearing a coat of arms. Figuratively, to "blot one's escutcheon" is to stain one's reputation.
See also Sam the Sudden.
filled his cup of pleasure (p 64)
They, too, added their quota to my cup of pleasure by being distinctly frigid.
Not George Washington, ch 26
"His Nibs" (p 65)
Nibs (or Nabs), subst (colloquial) — Self: His Nibs = the person referred to; Your Nibs = yourself; My Nibs = myself.
Slang and Its Analogues, Past and Present, vol 5 (1902),
According to the OED, "now chiefly: the person in authority, as an employer, superior, etc. (frequently used ironically or with the implication that the person referred to has an excessive sense of his or her own importance) . . . usually with possessive adjective as a mock title, as his nibs, her nibs, etc".
a Socialist (p 65)
In 1919, when A Damsel in Distress was published, English politics was still dominated by the Liberal and Conservative parties and Socialists were viewed by many as revolutionaries who, left to themselves, would bring upon the country the sort of turmoil still, at that time, being experienced in revolutionary Russia.
intellectually he considered him negligible (p 65)
Shades of Jeeves and Wooster!
"You will find Mr Wooster", he was saying to the substitute chappie, "an exceedingly pleasant and amiable young gentleman, but not intelligent. By no means intelligent. Mentally he is negligible—quite negligible."
The Inimitable Jeeves, ch 5
I am not saying that in the course of our long association I have always found myself able to view Jeeves with approval. . . he has been known to allude to me as "mentally negligible".
Right Ho, Jeeves, ch 22
"Oh, yes, he thinks a lot of you. I remember his very words. 'Mr Wooster, miss', he said, 'is, perhaps, mentally somewhat negligible, but he has a heart of gold.'
Thank You Jeeves, ch 7
The cross marks the spot (p 67)
The notion that "X marks the spot" can be traced to the fictional map in Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Treasure Island (1883) on which an X marks the location of the pirates' buried treasure.
walked between with gyves upon his wrists (p 67)
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.
, "The Dream of Eugene Aram" (1829)
Other works that allude to this poem include Cocktail Time (ch 11), Uncle Fred in the Springtime (ch 14), Carry On, Jeeves ('Jeeves Takes Charge'), Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves (ch 1), and Uncle Dynamite (ch 14).
beak (p 67)
A magistrate or justice of the peace.
"I suppose you don't know what a beak is, my flash com-pan-i-on."
Oliver mildly replied, that he had always heard a bird's mouth described by the term in question.
"My eyes, how green!" exclaimed the young gentleman. "Why, a beak's a madgst'rate; . . ."
The Adventures of Oliver Twist, ch 8 (1837-9),
National Sporting Club (p 67)
See Something Fresh.
Oysters garrulous and tombs chatty (p 67)
Wodehouse is inverting two common English similes, "silent as an oyster" and "silent as a tomb".
"Lo, Ben Adhem's name led all the rest." (p 69)
Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:—
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the presence in the room he said,
'What writest thou?' The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered, 'The names of those who love the Lord'
'And is mine one?' said Abou. 'Nay not so'
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerily still; and said, 'I pray thee, then'
Write me as one who loves his fellow men'
The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blest,
And lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest.
, "Abou Ben Adhem" (1835)
See also The Code of the Woosters.
entertain the County (p 69)
The "county" is a shorthand way of referring to those families of the nobility or gentry with an ancestral home or estate in the county and who are on terms of social familiarity with Lord Marshmoreton.
See also Summer Moonshine.
like a frenzied Hottentot (p 70)
The Khoikhoi or 'Hottentots' (the latter is now regarded as an offensive epithet) were a pastoral people, closely related to the San (or 'Bushmen'), who occupied much of the Cape region of southern Africa from about the 5th century AD. Ships sailing to the Dutch East Indies were attracted to the Cape by the prospect of provisioning their vessels from the Khoi cattle herds, and this led to the establishment of a permanent white presence at what is now Capetown from 1652 onward. Over the next few hundred years, wars and disease slowly destroyed the social cohesion of the Khoikhoi. Those Khoi who did not flee the Cape colony mostly became farm workers for the white settlers; their descendants are found among that part of the population which, under Apartheid, was classified as 'Cape coloured'.
Hottentots were probably no more frenzied than other people; indeed, they were possibly far less frenzied than many people who now call London their home!
Burlington Arcade (p 71)
Burlington Arcade is a covered shopping gallery that runs from the north side of Piccadilly as far as Burlington Gardens. It was built in 1819 to the order of Lord George Cavendish, younger brother of the 5th Duke of Devonshire, who had inherited the adjacent Burlington House (now home to the Royal Academy); the Arcade occupies what was formerly the side garden of the house.
nothing in Percy's life so became him (p 71)
Nothing in his life
Became him like the leaving it: he died
As one that had been studied in his death,
To throw away the dearest thing he owed,
As 'twere a careless trifle.
Macbeth, Act I, sc 4 (1603-6 ?),
You wear flannel next your skin (p 71)
Flannel is a warm fabric, usually made from loosely-spun yarn, traditionally of carded wool. The wearing of flannel cloth next to the skin was often recommended as a means of avoiding colds, pleurisy, and other ailments. In 1803, for example, Meriwether Lewis, one of the leaders of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, was advised to wear flannel next to the skin during the expedition; a few years earlier, Admiral Sir John Jervis, Earl of St Vincent, had ordered British seaman to do likewise, to avoid chills.
Aunt Rachel charged him to remember his principles of religion, to take care of his health, to beware of Scotch mists, which, she had heard, would wet an Englishman through and through, never to go out at night without his great-coat, and, above all, to wear flannel next to his skin.
Waverley, ch 25 (1814),
Not everyone shared this view:
I'd rather have my head cut off than wear flannel next the skin.
The Voyage Out, ch 3 (1915),
insolent jacks in office (p 73)
A 'jack in office' is a petty official who abuses his position by behaving imperiously.
As the noble Lord well knows, I am instinctively sympathetic to what he says. I have spent all my life complaining about the abuse of authority—of Jacks-in-office, as they may be called. The fact that I am now a Jack-in-office myself has not stopped my objecting to the practice.
, speaking in a debate in the House of Lords, 22 July 2002
"Go out of the passage, sir."
"You're a Jack-in-office, sir."
"A what?" ejaculates he of the boots.
"A Jack-in-office, sir, and a very insolent fellow", reiterates the stranger, now completely in a passion.
Sketches by Boz, ch 18 (1836),
Apollo (p 73)
In Greek and Roman mythology, Apollo was the god of medicine and healing and one of the Olympian deities. He was usually depicted by artists as a handsome beardless youth and his name came to epitomise the ideal of male beauty.
the royal and ancient game (p 74)
ie golf (from its association with the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews.
the Lie Direct (p 75)
Can you nominate in order now the degrees of the lie?
O sir, we quarrel in print, by the book;
As you have books for good manners:
I will name you the degrees.
The first, the Retort Courteous;
The second, the Quip Modest;
The third, the Reply Churlish;
The fourth, the Reproof Valiant;
The fifth, the Countercheque Quarrelsome;
The sixth, the Lie with Circumstance;
The seventh, the Lie Direct.
All these you may avoid but the Lie Direct;
And you may avoid that too, with an If.
As You Like It, Act V, sc 4 (1599 ?),
technical assault (p 76)
See note on battery above.
Stone walls do not a prison make nor iron bars a cage (p 78)
Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage;
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for an hermitage;
If I have freedom in my love,
And in my soul am free,
Angels alone that soar above,
Enjoy such liberty.
(1618-59), "To Althea, from Prison"
love laughs at locksmiths (p 79)
But it must end, she felt. If she saw that magic lure in his eyes there would be no holding back for her. Love laughs at locksmiths. She would make the great sacrifice.
As well as being an old proverb, Love Laughs at Locksmiths is the title of a musical farce in two acts by George Colman the younger (1762-1836), with music by Michael Kelly (1762-1826). It was first performed at the Haymarket Theatre, London, on 25 July 1803. One of the songs from Act 2, "Unfortunate Miss Bailey", is alluded to by Charles Dickens in chapter 9 of The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit (1843-4):
At the period of which we write, he was generally known among the gentlemen as Bailey Junior, a name bestowed upon him in contradistinction, perhaps, to Old Bailey, and possibly as involving the recollection of an unfortunate lady of the same name, who perished by her own hand early in life, and has been immortalized in a ballad.
Chapter 7 (pp 80 - 89)
it pays to advertise (p 80)
It Pays to Advertise is a farce by Roi Cooper Megrue (1883-1927) and Walter C Hackett (c 1876-1944). It opened in New York in 1914 and ran for 399 performances. It was filmed as a silent movie in 1919 with Megrue and Hackett as scriptwriters, and was re-made in 1931, with a cast that included Carole Lombard and Louise Brooks.
In context here, it describes a strong-smelling cheese.
an annoyed cinnamon bear (p 81)
Unlike the ring-tailed chimpanzee, the cinnamon bear does exist. Named for the colour of its coat, which is cinnamon yellow, it is a subspecies (cinnamomum) of the American Black Bear, Ursus americanus. It is a resident of the Rocky Mountains, its range extending from eastern Washington and Oregon through Idaho to western Montana and Wyoming and northeastern Utah. Black Bears tend to avoid contact with humans, but—like the Grizzly Bear, Ursus arctos—will attack if cornered or threatened. And, unlike the Grizzly Bear—which hardly ever attacks except in self-defence—Black Bears do, on rare occasions, make unprovoked predatory attacks on humans.
New York Public Library (p 81)
The Main Branch (more properly, the Humanities and Social Sciences Library) of the New York Public Library occupies two blocks on Fifth Avenue, Manhatten, between 40th and 42nd Streets. It was opened in 1911. The building was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1956.
South of England oyster trade (p 81)
It is clear from the ensuing description of its geography and history that 'Belpher' is the village of Emsworth, where Wodehouse lived for several years in the early 1900s; the though the collapse of the Emsworth oyster industry owed more to over-exploitation, disease and predation, than to a minor typhoid scare.
Long Island (p 81)
Wodehouse had a summer residence on Long Island from 1914, and was living at Great Neck, Long Island, in 1918. When he returned to the USA in 1945, he again took up residence on Long Island and lived there for the rest of his life.
the Savoy (p 81)
The Savoy Hotel is one of London's most prestigious hotels. It was built by Richard D'Oyly Carte, the owner of the nearby Savoy Theatre, and opened in 1889; its first manager was César Ritz, who later established the renowned hotel that bears his name. Claude Monet and James Whistler both stayed at the Savoy and painted the view of the River Thames from their rooms.
The hotel and theatre take their name from the Savoy Palace, which once stood on the site. The palace was built in 1246 by Peter, Count of Savoy, uncle of King Henry III's queen, Eleanor of Provence. It later became the home of John of Gaunt, Richard II's uncle. During the king's minority, John of Gaunt was the major power behind the throne and was blamed for the introduction of the poll tax that triggered the Peasants' Revolt of 1381; the rioting peasants took their revenge by totally demolishing the palace and destroying its contents.
For the Carlton, see above
Romano's (p 81)
Romano's restaurant was situated at 399-400 Strand. It was opened in the 1840s by Alfonso Nicolino Romano ("the Roman", d 1901). He had been a headwaiter at the Café Royal and invested his savings in a little shop and bar that he called the Café Vaudeville. The establishment achieved popularity thanks in part to the efforts of John Corlett, the editor of The Sporting Times (better known as "The Pink 'Un"), who promoted it in his paper. It became a favourite resort of the members of the Pelican Club, one of whom, George Edwardes, took over the Gaiety Theatre in 1885. Edwardes increased the popularity of his theatre by introducing a chorus (the 'Gaiety Girls') of the prettiest girls he could find, and enhanced the popularity of Romano's by arranging for his girls to dine there at half-price: young men flocked to the restaurant, which became one of the most popular centres of London's night-life in the 1890s and early 1900s.
Romano's survived the 1914-18 war, but the society that had made it famous did not. It continued to thrive, however, until the Second World War, when it was damaged by bombing. In 1956, the old building was demolished and replaced by an office block.
". . . I've engaged a table at Romano's. That's more in my line. Get your coat, and let's be going."
"Ahead of Schedule", in The Man Upstairs
On the fifth night, when the place was fairly packed and looked for all the world like Oddy's or Romano's, . . .
"The Making of Mac’s", in The Man with Two Left Feet
For Galahad in his day had been a notable lad about town. A beau sabreur of Romano's. A Pink 'Un. A Pelican.
Summer Lightning, ch 1
"Wilfrid Slingsby. . .", explained Pilbeam. Sort of man you're always seeing at Romano's and that sort of place."
Bill the Conqueror, ch 8
"The last time I saw you must have been that night at Romano's, when Plug Basham started throwing bread and got a little over-excited, . . ."
Heavy Weather, ch 7
The glory . . . Ichabod (p 82)
And she named the child Ichabod, saying, The glory is departed from Israel:
1 Samuel, iv, 21
In Hebrew, ichabod (a closer transliteration is iy-kabowd) means "no glory" (or "inglorious"). As a sentence it can be understood as meaning "the glory has gone".
one kissed by a goddess in a dream (p 83)
This probably alludes to the story of Endymion in Greek mythology:
Endymion was a beautiful youth who fed his flock on Mount Latmos. One calm, clear night Diana, the moon, looked down and saw him sleeping. The cold heart of the virgin goddess was warmed by his surpassing beauty, and she came down to him, kissed him, and watched over him while he slept.
Bulfinch's Mythology: Age of Fable, ch 26 (1880)(1796-1867),
On such a tranquil night as this,
She woke Endymion with a kiss,
When, sleeping in the grove,
He dreamed not of her love.
Like Dian's kiss, unasked, unsought,
Love gives itself, but is not bought;
Nor voice, nor sound betrays
Its deep, impassioned gaze.
, "Endymion" (1842)
Bulfinch dedicated the 1880 edition of his Mythology to Longfellow.
Henceforth his life is saddened; as one kissed by a goddess in a dream, he goes thereafter, as one might say, in a sort of love-sickness.
Pagan Papers (1893), "Of Smoking", in
walked on air (p 83)
He had won a kiss and a confession, and he was transfigured and raised to a place among the lesser gods. He walked on air as he went home. He did a hop-step of happiness.
Saturday Evening Post, 10 May 1919, "Romance", in
. . . all fear left him from that moment, replaced, it seemed, by a mild and exquisite surprise. His footsteps made no sound, he walked on air;
Day and Night Stories (1917), "The Other Wing", in
Owen's heart gave a jump. For a moment he walked on air.
"Pots o’ Money", in The Man Upstairs
sophomore from Yale (p 83)
A second-year student at Yale University, in New Haven, Connecticut. Yale was founded in 1701 and is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the US. Like Harvard, with which it has an intense academic and sporting rivalry, Yale is a member of the Ivy League.
Bedouin's Love Song (p 83)
"Bedouin Song" is a poem by the American writer and poet, Bayard Taylor (1825-78). As "Bedouin [or Bedouin's] Love-song" it has been set to music by several composers, among them (according to the Library of Congress) Dudley Buck (1881), Ciro Pinsuti (1883) and Charles Whitney Coombs (1883). In 1907, the Australian bass-baritone Peter Dawson was filmed singing Pinsuti's version.
In 1916, the American pulp magazine All-Story Weekly published a short story by Harold Titus (1888-1967) which was inspired by Taylor's poem. Its title, "On a Stallion Shod with Fire", derived from the second line of the poem. The story was adapted in 1920 for a silent movie entitled "Shod with Fire".
From the desert I come to thee
On my Arab shod with fire.
And the winds are left behind
In the speed of my desire.
Under thy window I stand
And the midnight hears my cry
I love thee! I love but thee!
With a love that shall not die!
With a love that shall not die!
, "Bedouin Song" (1853)
Poor Butterfly (p 83)
"Poor Butterfly" was a popular song of 1916, composed by Raymond Hubbell with lyrics by John L Golden. It featured in the musical revue, "The Big Show", which opened at the Hippodrome Theatre, New York, in August 1916 and ran for 425 performances.
There's a story told of a little Japanese
sitting demurely 'neath the cherry-blossom trees
Miss Butterfly her name
A sweet little innocent child was she
Till a fine young American from the sea
To her garden came.
They met 'neath the cherry-blossoms every day
and he taught her how to love in the 'Merican way
To love with her soul! 'twas easy to learn
Then he sailed away with a promise to return.
Those who recognise this as the plot of Giacomo Puccini's opera, Madame Butterfly (1904), will not be surprised to learn that her lover won't return! The opera had been turned into a film, directed by Sidney Olcott and starring Mary Pickford, in 1915, the year before "The Big Show".
on the map (p 83)
The OED cites this example as an illustration of figurative usage: the meaning here is that one is in a position to act, unlike George, who faces numerous obstacles.
Moses on Pisgah (p 84)
Mount Pisgah (identified with Mount Nebo, a prominent peak in the Abarim Range, east of the Dead Sea) is where Jehovah sent Moses to view the Promised Land, and where he died.
And the Lord said unto Moses, get thee up into this mount Abarim, and see the land which I have given unto the children of Israel.
And when thou hast seen it, thou also shalt be gathered unto thy people, as Aaron thy brother was gathered.
Numbers, xxvii, 12-13
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 shewed him all the land of Gilead, unto Dan
And the Lord said unto him, This is the land which I swore 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.
Deuteronomy, xxxiv, 1 & 4
See also Sam the Sudden and Summer Moonshine. There are further references in Ukridge ('Ukridge's Accident Syndicate'), The Man Upstairs ('Ruth in Exile'), Jill the Reckless (ch 10), The Adventures of Sally (ch 2), The Little Warrior (ch 10), and Uncle Fred in the Springtime (ch 19).
marauders of old . . . top of this very hill (p 85)
On the contrary, the marauders of old must have been cheered to see the castle nestling in a valley, surrounded by trees, rather than commanding the heights of a windswept hill, a position which would have made it far easier to defend.
furnished cottage (p 86)
Wodehouse had himself rented a cottage at Emsworth soon after his first visit (see Something Fresh).
dispute about a right-of-way (p 86)
In England & Wales, a public right-of-way (PRoW) is a highway over which the public has a right of passage. Many PRoWs are footpaths, open only to walkers; others, known as bridleways, can also be used by horse-riders and pedal-cyclists; a further category, usually referred to as byways, is also open to motor traffic, though in practice this is often restricted to motor-cycles and off-road vehicles.
PRoWs can arise in a number of ways. The clearest is where a landowner has expressly dedicated a public right of way over his land. Alternatively, a PRoW may be presumed to exist if it has been used as a right-of-way for a time beyond anyone's memory, or deemed to exist if it has been in use for 20 years or more. As there may be disagreement about the facts in these last two cases, disputes between landowners and bodies representing public interest groups are not uncommon.
a sort of Nero (p 86)
the ghila monster of Arizona (p 86)
The Gila monster, Heloderma suspectum, is one of only two species of venomous lizard. It is a large lizard, its length sometimes exceeding 50 cm. The Gila is found in the Mojave, Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts, and its range extends beyond Arizona into parts of Utah, Nevada, California, and New Mexico, as well as into Mexico, but the core of its range is the Sonoran desert of Arizona.
Gila Monsters spend much of their time under rocks, in the burrows of other animals, or in holes that they dig for themselves. They hunt, often at night, using their keen senses of smell and hearing to locate small rodents, juvenile birds, insects, carrion, and the eggs of birds and reptiles: an adult can consume enough in three or four meals to satisfy its entire annual energy requirement. The Gila monster injects venom into its victim through grooves in the teeth of its lower jaw; the venom is not usually fatal to humans, but it can bite quickly and holds on tenaciously, causing an unpleasant wound.
antimacassars (p 87)
Macassar oil is a vegetable oil, obtained from the seeds of the Ceylon oak, Schleichera oleosa.
In the early 19th century, a London merchant named Rowland advertised a gentlemen's hair preparation that he claimed was based on sweet oils imported from Makassar, a seaport on the island of Celebes (now Sulawesi, a province of modern Indonesia). Rowland's product became popular among the nobility—Lord Byron mentioned it in his poem Don Juan in 1819—and started a fashion for oiled hair that continued throughout Victorian and Edwardian times.
Because the oil tended to transfer itself to the backs of chairs and sofas, housewives were forced to use removable, washable cloths to protect the fabric coverings of their furniture. From around 1850, these covers—at first made of stiff white crochet-work, but later of soft, coloured materials, such as embroidered wools or silks—started to be known as antimacassars.
By the early 20th century, antimacassars had become associated with the out-moded fashions of the Victorian era and their popularity waned; they survive today mainly in the form of the detachable piece of fabric that can be found on the headrests of the seats in many passenger aircraft.
statuette of the Infant Samuel (p 87)
It is unusual for a statuette of the Infant Samuel to survive an encounter with a Wodehouse character!
vanished . . . like the Cheshire cat (p 89)
The Cheshire Cat appears (and disappears) in chapter 6 of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865).
"You'll see me there", said the Cat, and vanished.
. . . While she was still looking at the place where it had been, it suddenly appeared again.
. . . "I thought it would", said the Cat, and vanished again.
The Cheshire cat also appears (or disappears) in Money in the Bank, Cocktail Time (ch 1), The Little Nugget (ch 12), and Uncle Dynamite (ch 11).
Chapter 8 (pp 90 - 98)
open to the general public (p 90)
As long ago as the 18th century, it was not unusual for respectable visitors to a country house whose owner was absent to be shown around by the housekeeper or butler—Elizabeth Bennet's visit to Mr Darcy's house at Pemberley (Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice) is a well-known example. But while we can be sure that the servants would be rewarded for their courtesy, this was a far cry from the modern practice of opening one's country house as an organised venture. The first to do so may have been Horace Walpole, who, embarassed by the flood of people wanting to see his house, "Strawberry Hill", at Twickenham, wrote guides to the house and published a list of opening times and rules for visitors to follow; he is reputed to have retreated to a "cottage in the woods" when visitors were expected, a habit that would no doubt have earned Wodehouse's approval! In a letter to George Montagu (3 September 1763), he wrote:
My house is full of people and has been so from the instant I breakfasted, and more are coming—in short I keep an inn: the sign "The Gothic Castle". Since my gallery was finished I have not been in it a quarter of an hour together; my whole time is passed in giving tickets for seeing it and hiding myself while it is seen.
half a crown (p 91)
Prior to 1970, a year before Britain adopted a decimalised currency, one of the coins in circulation was the half-crown, which was worth two shillings and sixpence, or one-eighth of a pound: there was also a crown coin, worth five shillings, but it was minted in far smaller numbers than the half-crown and was struck chiefly in commemorative issues. Until 1919, the half-crown was a silver coin; between 1919 and 1946, the silver content was reduced to 50%, the balance being cupro-nickel; from 1946, the coin was entirely cupro-nickel.
mistook him for one of the gardeners (p 91)
In being mistaken for a gardener, Lord Marshmoreton is following a notable tradition:
And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.
Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.
John, xx, 14-15
Sir Peter Lely (p 91)
Sir Peter Lely (1618-80) was a painter of Dutch origin. He arrived in London in the early 1640s and soon established himself as the successor to Anthony Van Dyck as the most fashionable portrait artist in England, a reputation that he maintained until his death, despite the turmoil of the Civil War and the Restoration: he worked in turn for Charles I, Oliver Cromwell, Richard Cromwell, and Charles II, but his talent ensured that he did not suffer as one regime replaced another.
Lely was born Pieter van der Faes to Dutch parents in Soest in Westphalia, where his father was an officer serving in the armed forces of the Elector of Brandenburg. He is reputed to have adopted the surname "Lely" (occasionally spelled Lilly) from a heraldic lily on the gable of the house where his father was born in The Hague.
on the level (p 92)
See Something Fresh.
fire when ready, Gridley (p 93)
Capt Charles Vernon Gridley USN commanded the USS Olympia, the flagship of Commodore George Dewey, at the Battle of Manila Bay in the Spanish-American War (1 May 1898). As the US squadron sailed into the Bay, Gridley was at his station in the Olympia's armored conning tower, from where he could direct the ship's fire and control the actions of the vessel, and it was here that he received Commodore Dewey's order, "You may fire when you are ready, Gridley". The order assured Gridley's fame, though he did not live to enjoy it: already sick before the battle, he was dead less than a month later.
One can only speculate as to whether Keggs would have recognised such a specifically American allusion.
Dook of Lochlane (p 94)
There no record of a Duke of Lochlane. Even if such a titled existed, the eldest son would not be known as Lord Leonard Forth, a style that is only used by the younger sons of Dukes and Marquesses; the eldest son of a Duke customarily adopts as a courtesy title one of his father's 'lesser' titles (eg the Duke of Norfolk is also the Earl of Arundel; his eldest son is therefore styled Earl of Arundel).
Steve Brodie (p 94)
Steve Brodie (1863-1901) was a bookmaker from Brooklyn who achieved considerable publicity by claiming to have jumped off the 135-foot high Brooklyn Bridge on 23 July 1886; another man, Robert E Odlum, had jumped from the bridge a year earlier and been killed. It is now believed that Brodie faked the stunt for publicity purposes, using a dummy for the 'jump', while he hid under the bridge; certainly the notoriety that he gained was helpful when he opened a tavern in the Bowery shortly after the incident.
taking forkfuls of soup to the deserving villagers (p 94)
The villagers would probably prefer to receive the soup by the spoonful: eating soup using a fork is an activity that can only be recommended to those with plenty of time on their hands (and an old shirt on their chest).
Gobelin Tapestries (p 94)
The Gobelins were a family of dyers and clothmakers. In the middle of the 15th century, Jehan Gobelin (d 1476), who had discovered a scarlet dyestuff, established a factory in the Faubourg Saint Marcel, Paris, to exploit his creation. His later descendants were less interested in dyeing, preferring to buy noble titles and offices in the financial administration or in royal councils. In 1601, Balthasar Gobelin, newly created seigneur de Brie-Comte-Robert, lent the factory to King Henry IV, under whose patronage the factory devoted itself to making tapestries. In 1652, the factory was purchased on behalf of King Louis XIV and under the superintendence of the royal painter, Charles Le Brun, all the artisans who worked for the royal court were brought together in one place. Work at the factory was suspended during the Revolutionary and Napoleon eras, but was revived by the Bourbons, under whom, from 1826, the factory began making carpets as well as tapestry. Today, the Manufacture nationale des Gobelins is a state-run institution, operating under the Ministry of Culture.
all the fifty-seven varieties (p 95)
Our corporate history tells us that, in 1896, Henry John Heinz noticed an advertisement for "21 styles of shoes". He decided that his own products were not styles, but varieties. Although there were many more than 57 foods in production at the time, because the numbers "5" and "7" held a special significance for him and his wife, he adopted the slogan "57 Varieties".
H J Heinz Company website
Mr Heinz, while in an elevated railroad train in New York, saw among the car-advertising cards one about shoes with the expression '21 Styles'. It set him to thinking, and as he told it: "I said to myself, 'we do not have styles of products, but we do have varieties of products'. Counting up how many we had, I counted well beyond 57, but '57' kept coming back into my mind. 'Seven, seven'—there are so many illustrations of the psychological influence of that figure and of its alluring significance to people of all ages and races that '58 Varieties' or '59 Varieties' did not appeal at all to me as being equally strong."
Henry J Heinz: a biography (1923),
Ayrshires (p 95)
Ayrshire roses are hybrids and cultivars of the wild field rose, Rosa arvensis. They are popular with gardeners, both for their hardiness and because their 'rambling' habit lends itself to a variety of uses, eg as ground cover, as climbers, or to form a 'rose fountain'. The first Ayrshire roses were bred in the late 18th - early 19th century, possibly in southern Scotland (hence the name 'Ayrshire').
Ayrshire roses should not be confused with Ayrshire cattle, which, because of the damage they can cause, are not popular with gardeners.
Those—them— (p 96)
Lord Marshmoreton (for, of course, it is he!) is attempting to maintain the character of an uneducated rustic by changing the correct "those" to the ungrammatical "them".
went to earth (p 96)
The hole or hiding-place of certain animals, such as the badger or fox, is known as its "earth". When a fox is being hunted and seeks the (apparent) security of its earth, it is said to have "gone to earth".
Give this to Lady Maud (p 97)
There is a similar case of mistaken identity in Full Moon (ch 6 pt IV), where Bill Lister, labouring under the misapprehension that Lady Hermione Wedge is actually the Blandings Castle cook, asks her to pass on a billet-doux to Prudence Garland, while warning her not to let "this blighted Wedge woman" see her do it.
sovereign . . . half a crown (p 97-8)
A sovereign was a gold coin worth one pound sterling. See also above.
Chapter 9 (pp 99 - 108)
stucco (p 99)
Stucco is a fine plaster which is used for covering walls, ceilings, and floors, and for making cornices, mouldings, and other decorations. The term is also used for a coarser form of plaster that, applied to exterior walls, imitates the appearance of stone.
the Regency (p 99)
Historically, the 'Regency' refers to the period, from 1811 to 1820, when George III was deemed unfit to rule and his son was installed as Prince Regent. The Regency ended with the death of George III, in January 1820, and his son's accession to the throne as George IV.
The term 'Regency' is also applied more generally to the years from 1800 to 1830, a period which was characterised by distinctive fashions in costume, architecture and culture.
Ingoldsby Legends (p 100)
The Ingoldsby Legends are a collection of humorous parodies or pastiches of the myths, legends and ghost stories of medieval folklore and poetry. They were written by Richard Harris Barham (1788-1845), a clergyman, who adopted the pen-name Thomas Ingoldsby of Tappington Manor. The Legends first appeared, in magazines, in 1837 and quickly became immensely popular; they were collected and reprinted in book form in 1840.
The awkward part . . . was that the punishment . . . was not expulsion, but flogging. And Farnie resembled the lady in The Ingoldsby Legends who "didn't mind death, but who couldn't stand pinching". He didn't mind expulsion—he was used to it, but he could not stand flogging.
A Prefect's Uncle, ch 5
Wiv' blekest morss . . . (p 102)
With blackest moss the flower-plots
Were thickly crusted, one and all:
The rusted nails fell from the knots
That held the pear to the gable-wall.
The broken sheds look'd sad and strange:
Unlifted was the clinking latch;
Weeded and worn the ancient thatch
Upon the lonely moated grange.
She only said, 'My life is dreary,
He cometh not,' she said;
She said, 'I am aweary, aweary,
I would that I were dead!'
, "Mariana" (1830)
The sun was setting . . . all Nature smiled (p 106)
Not, as suggested in the Handbook, a mere newspaper cliché:
It was a glorious summer's eve—with beams of rosy red
The Sun went down—all Nature smiled—but Nelly shook her head!
Full softly to the balmy breeze rang out the Vesper bell—
—Upon the Canon's startled ear it sounded like a knell!
"Nell Cook", in The Ingoldsby Legends (1840)
See also The Clicking of Cuthbert.
Chapter 10 (pp 109 - 116)
give me a stroke or two (p 110)
This refers to the system of handicaps that allows golfers of differing abilities to enjoy a competitive game together.
squirting seltzer (p 111)
Seltzer is an artificial 'mineral' water, made by passing pressurized carbon dioxide gas through water; other names for the same product are: soda water, sparkling water, fizzy water, and club soda. The name 'selzer' derives from Selterser—German for 'from Selters'—because the product resembles a naturally-occurring mineral water from Selters im Taunus, in the Limburg-Weilburg province of Germany.
the intellectual pressure of the conversation (p 112)
As it is a point of great sensitiveness with me on such occasions to be equal to the intellectual pressure of the conversation, I deeply considered the meaning of this speech . . .
The Uncommercial Traveller, ch 3 (1860),
DON ALHAMBRA (puzzled): I'm afraid I'm not quite equal to the intellectual pressure of the conversation.
The Gondoliers, Act II (1889),
LUDWIG: Nothing is more annoying than to feel that you're not equal to the intellectual pressure of the conversation. I wish he'd say something intelligible.
The Grand Duke, Act II (1896),
Wodehouse used this phrase frequently, eg:
Bertie grinned politely. He always grinned when he was not quite equal to the intellectual pressure of the conversation.
The Gold Bat, ch 5
Fenn was still unequal to the intellectual pressure of the conversation.
The Head of Kay’s, ch 21
The earl looked a little dazed, as if he were unequal to the intellectual pressure of the conversation.
Something New, ch 9
See also Sam the Sudden.
languishes in chokey (p 112)
Chokey (or choky) is slang for prison. It derives from Hindi chauki, a police-station or lock-up.
the meeting's tiled (p 113)
In freemasonry, the doorkeeper who prevents unauthorised persons from entering or disturbing the proceedings of a lodge is known as a 'tyler' (OED), hence a 'tiled' meeting is one that is secure from interruption or whose proceedings are secret.
Alphonso (p 116)
This may be an allusion to one of W S Gilbert's "Bab Ballads":
ALPHONSO, who in cool assurance all creation licks,
He up and said to EMMIE (who had impudence for six),
"MISS EMILY, I love you—will you marry? Say the word!"
And EMILY said, "Certainly, ALPHONSO, like a bird!"
Fun, 8 August 1868, "The Modest Couple",
Wodehouse quotes this stanza is quoted in full in The Girl on the Boat, ch 4.
Diego Seguí points out that this could be a reference to Dickens' 'Nicholas Nickleby':
Upon this doubtful ground, lived Mrs Wititterly, and at Mrs Wititterly's door
Kate Nickleby knocked with trembling hand. The door was opened by a big footman
with his head floured, or chalked, or painted in some way (it didn't look genuine
powder), and the big footman, receiving the card of introduction, gave it to a
little page; so little, indeed, that his body would not hold, in ordinary array,
the number of small buttons which are indispensable to a page's costume, and they
were consequently obliged to be stuck on four abreast. [...]
The page placed them.
'Leave the room, Alphonse.'
The page left it; but if ever an Alphonse carried plain Bill in his face and figure, that page was the boy.
(Note that Albert had been previously described as 'a small boy in the many-buttoned uniform of a page' (ch. 8), and that Maud (though George can't be aware of this) 'wanted him to be as like as he could to a medieval page, one of those silk-and-satined little treasures she had read about in the Ingoldsby Legends' (ch. 9). )
Chapter 11 (pp 117 - 125)
an ant-eater (p 117)
"Anteater" is the name given to four species of mammal belonging of the suborder Vermilingua. Their nearest relatives are the sloths and armadillos. Anteaters are native to Central America and tropical South America. They live almost entirely on ants and termites, which they collect using a very long, flexible tongue that is coated with sticky saliva.
"Swank!" (p 119)
'Swank' is "ostentatious or pretentious behaviour or talk; swagger; pretence" (OED), hence also someone who displays such behaviour.
He was a pariah, outside the pale, one of the 'swanks' who lived in big houses and talked soft.
William Again, ch 5 (1923),
The thoughts of Youth are long, long thoughts (p 119)
Often I think of the beautiful town
That is seated by the sea;
Often in thought go up and down
The pleasant streets of that dear old town,
And my youth comes back to me.
And a verse of a Lapland song
Is haunting my memory still:
"A boy's will is the wind's will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts."
, "My Lost Youth" (1858)
the late King Herod (p 119)
Herod the Great (73-4 BC) was Roman client king of Judeae from 37 BC until his death. George is alluding to his alleged role in what is known as "the Massacre of the Innocents":
Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.
Matthew, ii, 16
The only other mention of this supposed event is in one of the Apocryphal Gospels, the Protoevangelium of James. While Herod was no innocent himself—he had his wife and two of his sons executed, for example, and was ruthless in punishing enemies, real or perceived—there is no other historical or archaeological evidence of such an event.
cigaroot (p 120)
This hybrid of 'cigarette' and 'cheroot' is probably one of Albert's inimitable contributions to the English language.
know the ropes . . . and smoke them (p 121)
To 'know the ropes': "to understand the way to do something, to be acquainted with all the dodges" (OED). It originated as a nautical expression, the first usage recorded by the OED being in Richard Henry Dana's classic account of life as a common sailor on a sailing ship:
The captain, who had been on the coast before, and knew the ropes, took the steering oar.
Two Years Before the Mast, ch 9 (1840),
George's reference to smoking ropes may mean nothing more than that Albert's tobacco smells as rank as burning rope. 'Rope' does have two related slang usages: a cigar (US); and marijuana. But the OED cites no examples earlier than 1934 and 1944 respectively.
sweepstake (p 121)
A sweepstake has much in common with a raffle—participants each contribute an equal amount as a stake and success is determined by an event that is beyond the control of the participants—but there are differences. In a raffle, participants buy a number that will be entered into a draw and they are often able to select the number they wish to purchase; the winner is the person whose number is drawn and there is usually a non-monetary prize. In a sweepstake, participants draw a ticket at random, the winner is the person whose ticket corresponds with some external event (eg the name of the winning horse in a major race) and the prize is the accumulated pool of stake money. Sweepstakes are popular in the work place and in social clubs, and there are several other examples in Wodehouse's work.
blowing the gaff (p 122)
To blow the gaff: (figuratively) to let out a secret; to reveal a plot, or give convicting evidence. (OED)
Machiavelli (p 125)
Nicoló Machiavelli (1469-1527) was a Florentine historian and statesman. Though he wrote several works, including a history of Florence and several plays, he is now remembered chiefly for Il Principe ("The Prince"), a political treatise in which he attempted to give practical advice to the Medici family, the rulers of Florence, on how best to establish and maintain their rule. Essentially, Machiavelli advocated that a ruler should be amoral, putting the interests of the state above personal virtues, but his views (and, more especially, the reasons for them) have been so often misrepresented that "Machiavellism" is now synonymous with treachery, intrigue, subterfuge, and tyranny, and a treacherous or deceitful person is often described as "a Machiavelli".
See also The Code of the Woosters.
quid (p 125)
Slang: one pound sterling. The phrase is still current, though the modern waiter, however occasional, would probably be more than a little dissatisfied if offered a mere quid for an evening's work.
Chapter 12 (pp 126 - 131)
coming-of-age (p 126)
tout ensemble (p 126)
The general appearance, or effect (French: all together).
fair women and brave men (p 126)
There was a sound of revelry by night,
And Belgium's capital had gather'd then
Her Beauty and her Chivalry, and bright
The lamps shone o'er fair women and brave men.
Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, Canto III: 21 (1812-18),
Roses Red and Roses White (p 126)
This is the opening line of Rudyard Kipling's poem "Blue Roses", which prefaces chapter 7 of The Light that Failed (1891):
Roses red and roses white
Plucked I for my love's delight.
W S Gilbert's libretto for The Gondoliers opens similarly (but with the colours switched):
List and learn, ye dainty roses,
Roses white and roses red
Why we bind you into posies
Ere your morning bloom has fled.
Popgood, Crooly & Co (p 126)
"Popgood, Crooly and Co" appear elsewhere (eg " The Battle of Squashy Hollow") as "Popgood and Grooly".
Boodels' letter informs me that his printing and publishing was an exceptional affair as his publisher was a distant connection of his family's by his mother's side . . . but he is sure, that if I know any respectable firm, they would be most happy to do it for me. If it is a work of a philosophical and scientific character, why not go (says the letter) to Popgood and Groolly? He incloses Popgood and Groolly's address (cut out of a newspaper) and wishes me luck.
More Happy Thoughts, ch 3 (1871),
Sir Francis Cowley Burnand (1836-1917) was a playwright and humorist. He joined the staff of Punch in 1861 and became the magazine's editor in 1880, holding the post until his retirement, in 1906. It was Burnand who, as editor, accepted Wodehouse's first contributions to Punch.
The Handbook gives Burnand's version as "Popgood and Groolley", which is probably a misprint; there is no 'e' in the original (1871) edition. And on its first appearance, in the 10 July 1869 issue of Punch magazine, there was no "Grooll(e)y" at all: the name of the publishers on that occasion was Popgood and Spritt.
stearine sentimentality (p 126)
Stearine is a waxy substance that is the chief constituent of beef tallow and suet. Its principal commercial uses are in the manufacture of candles and soap.
The OED cites only one example of the use of 'stearine' as an adjective, in 1848: "His pictures possess that peculiar stearine substance found in the works of Watteau." Wodehouse's usage is a variant of the more usual 'saccharine (that is, overly-sweet) sentimentality'.
Grantchester Towers (p 127)
Grantchester is a village on the river Cam near Cambridge. At the date of A Damsel in Distress it had recently achieved a measure of fame thanks to Rupert Brooke's nostalgic poem "The Old Vicarage, Grantchester", which had appeared in 1912:
Ah God! to see the branches stir
Across the moon at Grantchester!
. . .
Stands the Church clock at ten to three?
And is there honey still for tea?
The name also carries overtones of Barchester Towers (1857), the second novel in Anthony Trollope's Chronicles of Barsetshire series.
Truly rural . . . British constitution (p 129)
Breathalysers were not introduced into Britain until 1960. Before that, verbal tests such as these were employed by the police to assess a suspect's state of sobriety.
a ministering angel (p 130)
Lay her i' th' earth,
And from her fair and unpolluted flesh
May violets spring. I tell thee, churlish priest,
A ministering angel shall my sister be
When thou liest howling.
Hamlet, Act V, sc 1 (1603),
O, Woman! in our hours of ease,
Uncertain, coy, and hard to please,
And variable as the shade
By the light quivering aspen made;
When pain and anguish wring the brow,
A ministering angel thou!—
Marmion, Canto 6: 30 (1808),
See also Summer Moonshine.
Chapter 13 (pp 132 - 140)
water beetle (p 132)
A large number of beetles are adapted to living in water, predominantly fresh-water, and are referred to as "water beetles". In Britain, one of the commonest is Gyrinus substriatus, the common whirligig beetle, so called because of its habit of skimming round and round on the surface of ponds and slow-moving rivers in search of prey. The middle and back legs of whirligig beetles are flattened and hairy, which helps them to skate over the surface of the water. Unusually, also, each eye is divided into two parts, an upper part for seeing over the surface and a lower part for seeing below the surface.
Mexican horned toad (p 133)
The Mexican horned toad, Phrynosoma orbiculare, is not, in fact, a toad, but a lizard. Found only in the high plateau country of northern Mexico, it is also known as the Mexican plateau (or Chihuahua desert) horned lizard.
Horned lizards rarely make satisfactory bed-mates, not least because their back and sides are covered in spines.
the night of the Yale football game (p 133)
Rivalry between Harvard (George's alma mater) and Yale on the football field dates back to November 1875 and, with the exception of breaks during the two World Wars, the two have met every year since 1897. The annual meeting is usually referred to as simply "the Game" and, within the two colleges, it has much the same significance as the Boat Race does to Oxford and Cambridge, and, traditionally, is an occasion for pranks and "high jinks" (cf Wodehouse's many references to events on Boat Race night, especially in the Jeeves & Wooster stories).
the coming of the Millennium (p 135)
The "Millennium" refers to a passage in the Bible:
And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.
And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,
And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.
And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
Revelation, xx, 1-5
Belief in the imminence of the Millennium (millenialism) was particularly strong among the poorer classes during the later Middle Ages. It resurfaced after the Reformation among radical Anabaptists, and traces of the millennialist tradition can still be found in the beliefs of some modern-day sects.
what man has done, man can do (p 137)
Over the head of the bed, for example, where good folks hang texts, these truths asserted themselves, written in a clear, bold, youthfully florid hand:—"Knowledge is Power", and "What man has done man can do",—man in the second instance referring to Mr Lewisham.
Love and Mr Lewisham, ch 1 (1900),
Then a look of grim determination came into his eyes. With the air of one who might have been quoting Keats, but possibly wasn't, he said firmly:
"What man has done, man can do."
The Sunny Side, ch 6 (1921),
I hold the old mystical dogma that what Man has done, Man can do.
The Outline of Sanity (1925), "The Beginning of the Quarrel", in
Madison Square Garden (p 137)
Madison Square Garden (MSG) is a sports and entertainment arena in central New York City. The original MSG was situated on the corner of Madison Square and 26th Street and opened in 1879. In 1890 it was replaced by a new arena, which was in use until 1925, when it was demolished to make way for an insurance building. There have been two further Madison Square Garden arenas: the third was on 8th Avenue and 50th Street; the most recent, on the site of the former Pennsylvania Station (and built over the top of the new station), is on 7th Avenue, between 31st and 33rd Streets.
that breach-of-promise case (p 137)
See Something Fresh.
more sinned against than sinning (p 137)
I am a man
More sinn'd against than sinning.
The Tragedy of King Lear, Act III, sc 2 (1605),
scullery (p 137)
Originally, the scullery was "the department of a household concerned with the care of the plates, dishes, and kitchen utensils. Also the room or rooms in which the work of this department is carried on." (OED) In modern usage, it describes a small room attached to the kitchen, in which the washing of dishes and other dirty work is done.
Chapter 14 (pp 141 - 151)
boys who stood on burning decks (p 142)
The boy stood on the burning deck
Whence all but he had fled;
The flame that lit the battle's wreck
Shone round him o'er the dead.
The poem commemorates an incident during the naval battle of Aboukir Bay (the Battle of the Nile). On the evening of 1 August 1798, the French fleet was at anchor in Aboukir Bay. The French commander, Vice-Admiral François-Paul Brueys d'Aigalliers, Count de Brueys, knew that a British fleet, under Rear-Admiral Horatio Nelson, was nearby, but did not envisage an attack before daylight on 2 August. Nelson, however, chose to risk an attack under cover of darkness, taking advantage of the fact that, as the French ships were at anchor, they would be unable to assist one another. The attack was so successful that only two of the thirteen French ships of the line escaped, nine being captured and two burnt and sunk, including Admiral de Brueys' flagship, L'Orient, which caught fire and exploded. The Admiral had already been killed during the battle and his flag-captain, Captain de Casa Bianca, had assumed command until he too was killed. Casa Bianca's young son was on board L'Orient but refused to leave his father's body when the rest of the crew (of whom about a hundred survived) abandoned the doomed vessel.
See also The Code of the Woosters.
a bright light had shone (p 145)
The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.
Isaiah, ix, 2
Napoleon . . . his Cuirassiers . . . the sunken road (p 148)
The incident alluded to took place at an early stage in the Battle of Waterloo (18 June 1815). During the first attack by the French infantry, the Allied left wing began to crumble. Wellington's second in command, the Earl of Uxbridge, who commanded the cavalry, ordered a charge by two brigades of British heavy cavalry. Led by Uxbridge himself, the heavy brigades attacked a brigade of cuirassiers which was protecting the left flank of the French infantry. The cuirassiers were driven back upon a sunken road, where they found themselves hemmed and were routed.
It is unfair to describe this as a mistake by Napoleon. It is true that one brigade of cuirassiers was routed, but a counter-attack by two more brigades of cuirassiers and two regiments of lancers inflicted heavy losses on the British cavalry, before the French cavalry were in turn driven back by a counter-charge.
Wodehouse is probably confusing this affair with what happened some hours later when, mistaking the movement of casualties to the rear as an Allied retreat, Napoleon sought to break Wellington's centre using unsupported cavalry, including an entire reserve corps of cuirassiers. Such a massed cavalry attack relied for its effect largely on psychological shock, but the British infantry, deployed in hollow squares, successfully withstood repeated charges by the French cavalry, which eventually had to withdraw, exhausted. Napoleon's gamble had failed and the British troops had bought enough time to allow their Prussian allies to reach the field.
The Battle of Waterloo was Napoleon's last battle and his defeat brought to an end his reign as Emperor; he abdicated six days later and, foiled in an attempt to escape to North America, surrendered to the Royal Navy on 15 July.
Cuirassiers were heavy cavalry, taking their name from the cuirass (breastplate armour) that they wore. Though it no longer serves any useful function, the British Household Cavalry still wear a cuirass as part of their ceremonial dress when they attend the sovereign on formal occasions.
a white flag (p 148)
The white flag is an internationally recognised symbol of surrender and is also used to request a truce or ceasefire. The white flag has been used to indicate surrender for over 2,000 years and its use is enshrined in the Geneva Conventions.
truth, though crushed to earth (p 149-50)
Truth, crushed to earth, shall rise again;
The eternal years of God are her's;
But Error, wounded, writhes with pain,
And dies among his worshippers.
, "The Battlefield" (1837)
Chapter 15 (pp 152 - 167)
twenty-one today (p 152)
The song "I'm 21 Today" was composed by comedian and songwriter Alec Kendal * (d 1945) and became a popular musical-hall song: it was recorded in 1911 by Jack Pleasants (1874-1924), a Bradford-born variety performer who appeared frequently at the major London variety theatres, usually billed as "The Shy Comedian" because of his association with another popular song of the day, "I'm shy, Mary Ellen, I'm shy".
Being given a key to the door of the family home was, traditionally, one way of recognising a coming-of-age.
* Not, as stated in the Handbook, Kendall.
a Bishop's Beano (p 153)
Originally, "beano" was used by printers as an abbreviation of "bean-feast", an annual dinner given by an employer to his workers. Both "bean-feast" and "beano" later became colloquialisms for any festive entertainment, "beano" especially signifying one that ends in rowdyism. The first reference cited in the OED to its use in the original sense dates from 1888.
Exeter Hall (p 153)
Exeter Hall was a large meeting place on the north side of Strand, where the Strand Palace Hotel now stands. It was officially opened in March 1831; it was torn down in 1907.
The hall could hold about 3,000 people, and was often used for religious and philanthropic meetings; because of the hall's association with meetings of the Anti-Slavery Society, the phrase "Exeter Hall" became a synonym for the Anti-Slavery lobby.
feasts of reason and flows of soul (p 154)
There St John mingles with my friendly bowl,
The Feast of Reason and the Flow of soul:
, "The First Satire of the Second Book of Horace" (1738)
See also Sam the Sudden
joie-de-vivre (p 154)
French: joy of living—hence a feeling of healthy enjoyment of life; exuberance, high spirits (OED).
didn't foozle a single drive (p 154)
adopted by David towards Jonathan (p 156)
a pair of Indian clubs (p 157)
See Something Fresh.
Moresby-in-the-Vale (p 158)
One of the characters in "Something Squishy" (Mr Mulliner Speaking) is a magistrate, Sir Joseph Moresby.
The only place called Moresby in England is a village between Whitehaven and Workington in Cumbria.
Little Weeting (p 158)
Weeting is in west Norfolk, a few miles north-west of Thetford and a similar distance to the north-east of Lakenheath, which gave its name to Lady Lakenheath in Love Among the Chickens.
vicar . . . curate (p 160-1)
In the Church of England, 'vicar' is the title given to a clergyman who has charge of a parish; 'curate' (strictly, 'assistant curate') is the title given to one who assists the vicar. All vicars are appointed by patrons, who range from private individuals to the Crown; a curate is usually appointed by the vicar of the parish.
Historically, a vicar received his income in the form of a share of the parish tithes (taxes levied on the agricultural output of the parish), which varied in value from parish to parish; curates were paid by the parish or diocese. Since the mid-19th century, there have been moves to equalise this situation, and clergy within a diocese now receive standard stipends which are paid out of the diocesan funds.
In Wodehouse's stories, a curate is typically a young man, usually of a hearty athletic disposition, who seeks an appointment from the local vicar so as to be able to marry the girl he loves.
a pair of gold-rimmed pince-nez (p 162)
seeing ourselves as others see us (p 162)
O, wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!
It wad frae monie a blunder free us
An' foolish notion:
What airs in dress an' gait wad lea'e us,
An' ev'n Devotion!
, "To a Louse, On Seeing One on a Lady's Bonnet at Church" (1786)
king of Brixton (p 163)
Brixton is an inner-city district of south London, some 5 km south of Charing Cross. Administratively, it forms part of the London Borough of Lambeth.
Groping in Egyptian darkness (p 165)
And the Lord said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even darkness which may be felt.
And Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven; and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days:
Exodus, x, 21-2
more celebrated village blacksmith (p 166)
Under a spreading chestnut-tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands.
, "The Village Blacksmith" (1842)
See also Sam the Sudden.
a more speaking eye (p 166)
And still, and pale, and silently
Did Parisina wait her doom;
How changed since last her speaking eye
Glanced gladness round the glittering room,
Where high-born men were proud to wait—
, "Parisina" (1816)
Like one that on a lonely road (p 167)
The verse comes from Part VI of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" (1817).
Chapter 16 (pp 168 - 182)
House of Lords (p 171)
As a peer, Lord Marshmoreton would have a seat in the House of Lords, the upper house in the Parliament of the United Kingdom. As Lord Marshmoreton has displayed no interest in anything beyond the confines of his garden, it is probable that his visits to Westminster would be confined to such occasions as the State Opening of Parliament and occasional debates in which, as a landowner, he might have a personal interest.
In 1999, the House of Lords underwent radical reform. The House of Lords Act 1999 stipulates that: "No-one shall be a member of the House of Lords by virtue of a hereditary peerage." Exceptions were made for the Earl Marshal and Lord Great Chamberlain and, as a compromise, 90 hereditary peers (chosen by election) were allowed to retain their seats. The present Earl of Marshmoreton was not among those who put themselves forward for election, which suggests that he has as little interest in politics as his noble ancestor, the 5th Earl.
love-feast (p 172)
"Love-feast" is the usual interpretation of the Greek phrase hai agapai in the Biblical Epistle of Jude and is thought to refer to a communal meal shared by members of the early Christian Church, possibly as a celebration of Christ's Last Supper. The term was revived by the Moravian and Methodist churches in the 18th century, by which time it was also acquiring a figurative meaning in reference to any meal or gathering that fosters fellowship or goodwill between the participants: according to the OED, this extended usage is found chiefly in North America, frequently in a political context.
See also The Clicking of Cuthbert.
War of the Roses (p 173)
The 'Wars of the Roses' was a period of civil war and dynastic struggle in 15th-century England between adherents of the Houses of Lancaster and of York. Though private wars between powerful nobles were frequent in the first half of the century, following the overthrow of King Richard II and usurpation of the throne by Henry IV (Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of Lancaster) in 1399, the Crown was not directly involved in armed hostilities until 1455, when Richard, Duke of York, led a small army toward London and was met by forces loyal to the King, Henry VI, at the First Battle of St Albans.
The next three decades were marked by sporadic fighting and shifting alliances, as first one side, then the other, triumphed. The struggle was effectively brought to an end in 1485, when Henry Tudor's Lancastrian forces defeated Richard III's Yorkist army at the the Battle of Bosworth Field and Henry ascended the throne as Henry VII. A year later, he united the two warring factions, when he married Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV.
The name 'Wars of the Roses' refers to the badges sometimes associated with the opposing factions, a white rose for the House of York, a red rose for the House of Lancaster, and which were united in the Tudor Rose, adopted by Henry VII as his heraldic emblem after his marriage, though Henry's forces at Bosworth fought under the banner of a red dragon while Richard's army used his personal symbol, a white boar. The name 'Wars of the Roses' did not come into common use until the nineteenth century, after the publication of Anne of Geierstein (1829) by Sir Walter Scott, who based the name on a fictitious scene in Shakespeare's Henry VI Part 1 (Act II, scene 4).
BRT (p 173)
The Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company (BRT) was formed in 1896 to acquire the assets of several rapid transit and tramcar companies in Brooklyn and Queens, New York City. By 1913, the BRT had, through a succession of acquisitions, acquired all the rapid transit and streetcar operations in its target area, and in that year it signed contracts with the City of New York to construct and operate new subways and other rapid transit lines. A line from Brooklyn to Manhattan was opened in 1915 but inflation during World War I created financial problems and the BRT became insolvent in 1919. In 1923 the BRT was restructured and released from bankruptcy as the Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Corporation, which is now the BMT division of the New York City Subway.
"New York's one of the outlying suburbs." (p 173)
This is how the text reads in the US edition, and (so far as I have been able to check) in the various UK editions published by Herbert Jenkins and Penguin. For some reason, the Everyman edition renders it as "Brooklyn's one of the outlying suburbs", which is no more geographically accurate than the original—a mere glance at a map will show that Brooklyn is not an outlying suburb of New York—and manages to destroy Wodehouse's joke: we are supposed to infer from George's comment that he is such a fervent Brooklyner that, for him, the rest of New York City is merely peripheral; in much the same way might a Cockney describe London as an outlying suburb of Shoreditch.
Romeo (p 174)
One of the leading characters in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. His efforts to woo Juliet are hindered by the enmity that exists between their two families.
a first night at the Gaiety (p 179)
The Gaiety Theatre, which opened in 1864, occupied a site in the Strand until 1903, when it was forced to close to make way for the redevelopment of that part of London. The original site is now part of the Aldwych.
From 1868, under the management of John Hollingshead, the Gaiety achieved celebrity as a theatre of light entertainment, and in 1871 it was the venue for the premiere of Thespis, the first stage collaboration of Gilbert and Sullivan. In 1886, the management was taken over by George Edwardes (1852-1918), who continued the tradition of light entertainment and musical comedy (and, who, in the early 1900s, provided employment for Jerome D Kern while the composer was visiting London, a visit during which he first met Wodehouse).
Nellie Farren . . . Florence St John (p 179)
Ellen 'Nellie' Farren (1848-1904) was born into a theatrical family; her great-grandfather, William Farren, had created the part of Careless in Sheridan's The School for Scandal at Drury Lane in 1777, his son was famed for his performances as Sir Peter Teazle in the same play, and his grandson, Ellen's father, was a theatrical manager. Nellie Farren made her first London stage appearance at Sadler's Wells Theatre in December 1862. In December 1867 she married Robert Soutar, another actor, with whom, a year later, she joined the company for the opening of the Gaiety Theatre. For nearly 25 years, she was the star of the Gaiety, performing in a variety of roles, but especially 'principal boy' roles (which were extremely popular with the young men in the audience, because they allowed the actress to show her legs in tights). In 1891, while performing in Melbourne, Australia, she was stricken with cardiac gout, which ultimately ended her career and from which she finally died. In March 1898, George Edwardes organized a benefit for her at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane; it was attended by a standing-room-only crowd of 3,000 people (including the Prince of Wales) and included a performance of Gilbert & Sullivan's Trial by Jury, in which W S Gilbert played one of the roles. Her portrait is in the National Portrait Gallery, London.
Kate Vaughan (real name Catherine Candelon) (1852-1903) began her theatrical career in 1870 when she and her sister, performing as the Sisters Vaughan, appeared at the Metropolitan music-hall. In 1873 she inaugurated the skirt-dance, "a sedate forerunner of the can-can, in which the manipulation of voluminous gossamer draperies played a part just as important as the actual steps" (DNB); William Gladstone mentioned her in his Diary for 1 December 1873. In 1876 she began an association with the Gaiety theatre which ended in 1883. The following year she became the second wife of Colonel the Hon Frederick Arthur Wellesley, a younger son of the first Earl Cowley and grand-nephew of the first Duke of Wellington; they were divorced in 1897. She returned to the stage in 1885 and soon formed her own provincial touring company. Ill health forced her to seek better climates, in Australia in 1896 and South Africa in 1902; she died at Johannesburg in February 1903. The DNB described her as "in point of grace, magnetism, and spirituality, . . . the greatest English dancer of her century".
Florence St John (1855-1912) was a popular singer and actress who had a varied career in operetta, musical burlesque, music-hall, opera and, later, comic plays. She achieved her first major success when she created the title role in the English-language version of Offenbach's Madame Favart at the Strand Theatre in 1879. In October 1888 she joined the Gaiety company, playing Marguerite in Faust up to Date, subsequently touring the United States and the English provinces in the same work. She later joined the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, for whom she created the role of Rita in Arthur Sullivan and F C Burnand's The Chieftain. In June 1896, she returned briefly to the Gaiety Theatre, to played the plaintiff in Trial by Jury at a benefit performance for Kate Vaughan. In her last decade, she turned to 'straight' theatre, though she made one last appearance at the Gaiety, in the final performance at the old theatre on 4 July 1903.
Faust up to Date (p 179)
Faust up to Date was a burlesque of Gounod's opera, Faust, with a libretto by George R Sims and Henry Pettitt and music by W Meyer Lutz. It received its premiere at the Gaiety Theatre on 30 October 1888 and was revived in 1892. The Times, reviewing the first night performance, commented that "it is many years since the name of Miss Nellie Farren has been absent from the bill of the Gaiety upon an occasion of such importance. As Miss Farren is now touring in America, the authors have had to do without her assistance in the part of Faust" and went on to note that "whatever shortcoming there may be here . . . is amply compensated for by the presence in the cast of Miss Florence St John as Margaret. Such a Margaret, both as a singer and as a comic actress, would insure the success of a much inferior piece."
Meyer Lutz (p 179)
Wilhelm Meyer Lutz (c 1828-1903) was a Bavarian-born composer and conductor. He moved to England in 1848 and was for many years employed as a church and cathedral organist. From 1851-55 he was musical director at the Surrey Theatre, where he demonstrated his talents in the field of light music and, in 1855, produced his own operetta, Faust and Margaruite. In February 1869 he was appointed resident musical director and conductor at the Gaiety Theatre where, for the next 25 years he produced and conducted the music for a host of operettas and musical burlesques.
Johnnie Toole . . . Partners (p 179)
John Lawrence Toole (1832-1906) was an English comic actor and theatrical producer. He made his his first professional appearance in London in 1854 at the St James's Theatre, playing the part of Samuel Pepys in The King's Rival. In 1858, he joined the company at the Adelphi Theatre, where he established his popularity as a comedian. In 1868, he was engaged at the Gaiety Theatre, where his many appearances included a part in Thespis, the first Gilbert and Sullivan collaboration. He took over the Folly Theatre in 1879, renaming it "Toole's Theatre" a few years later, but illness forced him to retire from the stage in 1893; he eventually retired to Brighton, where, in July 1906, he died after a long illness. Toole was noted for his comic delivery and excelled in roles that combined humour and pathos. Unlike many actors of the time, he was a good businessman and left a considerable fortune on his death.
A five-act comedy-drama entitled Partners opened at the Haymarket Theatre on 5 January 1888. Written by Robert Buchanan, it featured Henry Beerbohm-Tree in the leading role. Lord Marshmoreton's judgment that it was "not a good play" is borne out by the reviews, one of which stated that "the simple story . . . is not equal to five acts, and so, five acts being considered necessary, the interest is weakened by being long drawn out, and something like weariness comes of vain repetitions . . ." (The Era, 7 January 1888), while another critic remarked that "it is a pity to see so much clever acting bestowed on a piece of so little true interest" (The Graphic, 14 January 1888). But his memory has played him false about Toole's connection with the play.
Yeomen of the Guard (p 179)
The Yeomen of the Guard, or The Merryman and his Maid is a tragi-comic opera by Gilbert and Sullivan. It was first performed at the Savoy Theatre, London, on 3 October 1888, the same month that Faust up to Date opened. It was revived at the Savoy in May 1897 and continues to be performed frequently.
my sisters—my sons-in-law (p 180-1)
In chapter 1, we learned that Lord Marshmoreton had one sister and two (unmarried) children, one of them a son. Quite how he has acquired additional sisters, plus at least two more (married) daughters, is a mystery. Perhaps Wodehouse is not as familiar with the Marshmoretons as he would have us believe.
Chapter 17 (pp 183 - 188)
boy in Sparta . . . fox (p 183)
This story is related in Plutarch's The Life of Lycurgus (75 AD). According to Plutarch, the male youth of ancient Sparta underwent harsh training to prepare them for life as soldiers. As part of this regimen, and to teach them to be bold and cunning, they were given a very spare diet and were encouraged to learn to steal whatever else they needed; those that were caught stealing were whipped, not for stealing but for being caught! Plutarch then relates the story of a boy who stole a fox (why, and from where, he does not trouble to explain) and hid it under his cloak; rather than let the fox be seen, he suffered the animal to tear out his bowels with its teeth and claws, and so died.
the beasts of the field (p 183)
This phrase recurs many times in the Bible, eg:
But the seventh year thou shalt let it rest and lie still; that the poor of thy people may eat: and what they leave the beasts of the field shall eat. In like manner thou shalt deal with thy vineyard, and with thy oliveyard.
Exodus, xxiii, 11
For thou shalt be in league with the stones of the field: and the beasts of the field shall be at peace with thee.
Job, v, 23
See also Summer Moonshine.
frown on the practice of murdering bishops (p 184)
A convention that Henry II ignored (see Money in the Bank).
No Man's Land (p 185)
In the 14th century, "Nomanneslonde" was a piece of ground outside the north wall of London that was used as a place of execution (OED). In modern military parlance, it refers to the terrain between two opposing (usually entrenched) armies or to a stretch of disputed territory.
advice to the Lovelorn (p 186)
Columns of "Advice to the Lovelorn" began to appear in newspapers in the late 19th century. Though critics complained that the press was feeding a depraved public taste, this did nothing to stem their increasing popularity. In "Black for Luck", one of the stories in The Man with two Left Feet (1917), Elizabeth gets the job of writing a column of "Advice to the Lovelorn" for the Evening Chronicle.
Forget-Me-Not . . . Home Chat (p 186)
Forget-Me-Not was one of the early magazines founded by the press magnate Alfred Harmsworth, later 1st Viscount Northcliffe. It ran from 1891 until 1918.
Home Chat was another weekly magazine founded by Harmsworth. The first issue appeared on 19 March 1895 and it ran until 1959, when it was absorbed into Women's Weekly. Subtitled "A Weekly Magazine for the Home", it provided a mixture of stories, general interest articles, and advice; a typical early issue had articles on "Behind the Footlights", "How to Love Your Husband", "What a Girl Should Not Do", and "The Husband in the Household".
I have been unable to establish whether "Aunt Charlotte" and "Doctor Cupid" were columnists for the two magazines. "Doctor Cupid" was the title of a novel published in 1886 by Rhoda Broughton (1840-1920), a popular novelist in the late 1800s, and of a silent movie produced in 1911; it is also the English title of Wolf-Ferrari's opera L'amore medico, which was first performed in 1913, at Dresden. A three-act comedy entitled That Doctor Cupid, by Robert Buchanan, who also wrote Partners, opened at the Vaudeville Theatre, London, on 14 January 1889.
this best of all possible worlds (p 187)
Ta-ra-ra boom-de-ay (p 188)
"Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay" is a vaudeville and music hall song. As "Ta-ra-ra Boom-der-e" it was copyrighted by Henry J Sayers and published in October 1891 in New York and London. It was performed, reportedly with little success, by Mamie Gilroy in a minstrel comedy in 1891. Sayers then sent the song to the popular English vaudeville singer Lottie Collins, who later described her connection with the song:
"It has been a popular volkslied, or song of the people, in Europe for years. I did not get it from the Continent, however; it was sent to me from America. I liked the air of the refrain and I thought I would have the thing written up in my own style. . . I gave it to Mr Richard Morton, who wrote the words, while Mr [Angelo A] Asher of the Tivoli put the music into shape. . . I sang it for the first time at a Tivoli matinée a few weeks before Christmas ."
"An Interview with Miss Lottie Collins", The Pall Mall Gazette, 12 March 1892
So popular did the song become, in a very short time, that the interview with Miss Collins began with the following editorial comments:
"Tara-ra Boom-de-ay! Tara-ra Boom-de-ay! Tara-ra Boom-de-ay! Tara-ra Boom-de-ay!" There is no escaping from it; it is as universally prevalent as an east wind in March. In every part of London, and at every hour of the day and night, the words quoted and the air to which they have been wedded are an obvious and occasionally a painful fact.
"An Interview with Miss Lottie Collins", op cit
The following words are as quoted in the interview; there have been numerous variants.
A smart and stylish girl you see,
Belle of good society:
Not too strict, but rather free,
Yet as right as right can be!
Never forward, never bold—
Not too hot, and not too cold,
But the very thing, I'm told,
That in your arms you'd like to hold!
Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay! (sung 8 times)
NB: According to the Handbook, "this rousing music-hall song was written by Metz in 1891": as evidenced above, this was not the case.
Chapter 18 (pp 189 - 196)
trysting-place (p 194)
To 'tryst' (originally, and still chiefly, Scottish) was "to make an agreement to do something, with a person; especially to fix or arrange time and place of meeting with some one" (OED), from which a 'trysting place' was the place arranged for the meeting. Although now chiefly used in a romantic context, it can refer to any pre-arranged meeting-place.
Depression fell from him like a garment (p 195)
See above (p 54).
Chapter 19 (pp 197 - 205)
tinker in the play (p 199)
In the Induction of The Taming of the Shrew, the tinker Christopher Sly is deluded into believing that he is a king.
Sirs, I will practise on this drunken man.
What think you, if he were convey'd to bed,
Wrapp'd in sweet clothes, rings put upon his fingers,
A most delicious banquet by his bed,
And brave attendants near him when he wakes,
Would not the beggar then forget himself?
The Taming of the Shrew, Induction, sc 1 (1590-94),
Chapter 20 (pp 206 - 215)
Stop your tickling, Jock (p 207)
"Stop Yer tickling, Jock" (1905) was a song popularised by the Scottish entertainer Harry Lauder, who composed the nusic and co-wrote the words with Frank Folloy, an Irish comedian. In 1907 the Gaumont Company produced a short film, directed by Arthur Gilbert, of Lauder singing this song.
Will you stop yer tickling, Jock!
Oh! stop yer tickling, Jock!
Dinna mak' me laugh so hairty or you'll mak' me choke.
Oh! I wish you'd stop yer nonsense,
Just look at all the folk.
Will you stop yer tic-kle-ing, tickle, ickle, ickleing
Stop yer tickling Jock! Will you Jock!
God this morning was in His heaven (p 207)
See Something Fresh.
A sorrow's crown of sorrow (p 207)
See Something Fresh.
a Fool's Paradise (p 207)
Now, afore God, I am so vexed, that every part about me quivers.
Scurvy knave! Pray you, sir, a word: and as I told you, my young
lady bid me enquire you out; what she bid me say, I will keep to
myself. But first let me tell ye, if ye should lead her in a fool's
paradise, as they say, it were a very gross kind of behaviour, as they
say; for the gentlewoman is young; and therefore, if you should deal
double with her, truly it were an ill thing to be offered to any
gentlewoman, and very weak dealing.
Romeo and Juliet, Act II, sc 3 (1591-5),
borne a weight of care (p 207-8)
Of all the goddesses, did Jove prepare
For Thetis only such a weight of care?
, "The Iliad of Homer", Book xviii (1715-20)
. . . great was the delight of his friends when they saw him enter as a man from whose bosom, to all human seeming, a weight of care had been just removed.
Kenilworth, ch 37 (1821),
. . . he bowed his head upon his hands like a man borne down below a weight of care.
The Black Arrow, ch 4 (1888),
leap off the dock (p 208)
The suggestion that this phrase may be connected with dock-side executions is given some support by the reference, a page later, to "the execution-squad".
form a flying wedge and bust up the proceedings (p 209)
Originally, the 'flying wedge' was a tactic employed by American football teams during the early development of the game; in it, the ball-carrier was surrounded by a wedge of his team-mates, who sometimes clasped hands. The tactic was so dangerous that it was outlawed in 1894.
The phrase is now used to describe similar formations employed, for example, by the police when attempting to break up crowds of demonstrators.
See also Money in the Bank.
a hummer (p 210)
From the late 17th century, 'hummer' was a colloquial term for "a person or thing characterized by extreme activity, energy, etc" (OED). From the early 20th century, it also described "a person or thing of extraordinary excellence". The earliest citation in the OED for this second usage dates from 1908; this occurrence in A Damsel in Distress is the next.
a scheme for laying the jolly old family a stymie (p 210)
A metaphor derived from golf, meaning a scheme for frustrating the family's wishes.
after a certain hour (p 211)
Until 1886, it was a felony to solemnise a marriage outside the hours from 8 am and 12 noon, except by Special Licence. The Marriage Act 1886 extended the period until 3 pm, and it was further extended in 1936 until 6 pm.
In Thomas Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd (1874), Sergeant Troy and Fanny Robins are to be married at 11.30 am, but Fanny mistakenly goes to the wrong church; the Sergeant is left waiting at the church until the clock strikes 12 noon, when, the time for weddings having expired, the clergyman and his clerk both leave.
gives you the miss-in-baulk (p 211)
the Man who Knows! (p 211)
"Do you know that gentleman", asked Frank.
The constable smiled.
"O, yes, sir; that is Mr Mann. At the Yard we call him 'The Man Who Knows!'"
The Man Who Knew, ch 3 (1918),
when I was a bachelor (p 211)
Reggie still is a bachelor. While slightly anticipating the wedded state, he seems to be distinguishing his present situation, as a soon-to-be-married man, with the days before he gave up the habits of a bachelor.
filling the radiator (p 212)
Drinking: Reggie, who is as enthusiastic about motoring as about golf, regularly employs metaphors derived from those two activities.
As well as 'filling the radiator', in this one paragraph Reggie employs four other expressions to describe his drunken state—pickled; submerged; below the surface; woozled—and adds another two a few paragraphs later—up to the gills; oiled
the dry States of America (p 212)
This refers to the legal ban on the manufacture, importation, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within the United States. The ban was introduced by the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution, and given legal effect through the Volstead Act. "Prohibition" came into effect in January 1920 and lasted, in law, until December 1933, when the 21st Amendment repealed the 18th Amendment. Some states remained 'dry' long after the 21st Amendment took effect: Mississippi, the last to do so, remained 'dry' until 1966.
your twin brother (p 212)
Compare the structure of this passage with the following, from "The Salvation of George Mackintosh" (The Clicking of Cuthbert):
"I tell you, I played on them as on a stringed instrument. . ."
"Can you play on a stringed instrument?"
"As it happens, no. But as I would have played on a stringed instrument if I could play on a stringed instrument."
pluck brands from the burning (p 213)
The phrase "a brand plucked from the burning" is particularly associated with the Methodist theologian John Wesley who, in 1709, aged six, was saved from a fire at Epworth Rectory, Lincolnshire, his family's home, and thereafter frequently referred to himself in such a fashion. In an entry in his Journal for 26 November 1753, he described how he sat down and wrote his own epitaph, which included the epithet "A Brand Plucked Out of the Burning". The phrase carries strong echoes of two Biblical passages:
And the Lord said unto Satan, The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan; even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?
Zechariah, iii, 2
I have overthrown some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord.
Amos, iv, 11
the good seed was definitely sown (p 213)
This is presumably a reference to the Biblical parable of the sower:
A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it.
And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture.
And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it.
And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit a hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
Luke, viii, 5-8
The parable is also related in Mark iv 3-9 and Matthew xiii 3-9.
The Yeoman's Wedding Song (p 195)
"The Yeoman's Wedding Song" dates from early 1871: The Manchester Times for 11 February 1871, reviewing a concert three days earlier, described it as "a new song", while The Era for 2 July 1871 described it as "decidedly the most attractive baritone song published this year". The music was composed by the Polish-born operatic tenor and composer, Prince Josef Poniatowski; the words were by Maria Ximena Hayes.
Ding dong ding dong ding dong, I love the song,
For it is my wedding morning,
And the bride so gay in fine array,
For the day will be now adorning.
Ding dong, ding dong, we'll gallop along
All fears and doubting scorning,
Through the valley we'll haste, for we've no time to waste,
As this is my wedding morning.
The song is also mentioned in Jeeves in the Offing (ch 1) and Much Obliged, Jeeves (ch 10).
bring some rice (p 215)
This refers to the long-established custom of throwing rice over a newly-wed couple. The custom is said to be related to similar practices among the ancient Romans and Egyptians and is explained as symbolising fertility.
Chapter 21 (pp 216 - 231)
the Regent Grill-Room (p 216)
In Piccadilly Jim (ch 6) it is the Regent Grill and, from the hints given there, it is situated on the corner of Regent Street and Piccadilly, a site now occupied by an ABC Cinema.
the Wedding Glide (p 217)
"The Wedding Glide", with words and music by Louis A Hirsch, was performed by Shirley Kellogg in "The Passing Show of 1912", which opened at the Winter Garden Theatre, New York, on 22 July 1912, and in "Hullo, Ragtime!", which opened at the London Hippodrome on 23 December that year.
Come on, we're goin' to have a little raggy wedding
Come on, come down where all the classy folks are heading;
I've got the preacher and here's the ring,
I've got the girl, I've got everything,
And there's a band to play a wedding rag.
. . .
Oh! hear the band aplaying the wedding glide
Oh! honey come to my side
. . .
The song is also mentioned in Thank You, Jeeves (ch 1), Uneasy Money (ch 9) and "Doing Clarence A Bit of Good" (My Man Jeeves).
coronas (p 217)
A Corona is a brand of Havana cigar (from the Spanish proprietary name La Corona—the Crown). The term 'corona' is also used in the modern classification of cigars, when it describes a straight-shaped cigar with rounded top, about 5½ inches long.
discuss many things (p 217)
"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Through the Looking-Glass (1872), "The Walrus and The Carpenter", in
Maddest, merriest day (p 217)
You must wake and call me early, call me early, mother dear;
To-morrow'll be the happiest time of all the glad New-year;
Of all the glad New-year, mother, the maddest merriest day,
For I'm to be Queen o' the May, mother, I'm to be Queen o' the May.
, "The May Queen" (1833)
He took the hilt of his ashplant, lunging with it softly, dallying still. Yes, evening will find itself in me, without me. All days make their end By the way next when is it Tuesday will be the longest day. Of all the glad new year, mother, the rum tum tiddledy tum. Lawn Tennyson, gentleman poet.
Ulysses, ch 3 ("Proteus") (1922),
This is a phrase that recurs throughout the canon (eg Mike; Indiscretions of Archie; Psmith, Journalist; The Man with Two Left Feet; Sam the Sudden).
doubloons . . . pieces of eight (p 218)
The doubloon (from Spanish doblón—double) was a gold coin that was first minted in Spain and its American colonies in the late 15th century, during the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella; the last Spanish doubloons (with a value of 80 reales) were minted in 1849. The doubloon ceased to be legal tender in 1869, when it was replaced by the peseta.
The piece of eight (Spanish: real del ocho), also the Spanish dollar, was a silver coin, so called because it was worth eight reales; it was first minted around the same time as the doubloon.
Doubloons and pieces of eight are popularly associated with pirates and the Spanish Main, thanks largely to Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Treasure Island (1883), which featured a pirate, Long John Silver, whose parrot was wont to cry "Pieces of eight! Pieces of eight! Pieces of eight!"; see also above.
Nice and Bordighera and Mentone (p 220)
Nice, Mentone and Monte Carlo are towns on the Mediterranean coast of France, Bordighera lies just over the border in Italy.
Monte Carlo, which is actually in the independent principality of Monaco, is particularly noted for its casino (hence Alice's firm "No!").
Before it become urbanised, Nice was famed for its coastal panoramas and was a popular wintering resort, especially among the wealthier class of English visitor.
Menton (Mentone is its Italian name) lies close to the Italian border; it is popularly known as la perle de la France ("the pearl of France") and is famous for its gardens.
Bordighera was another popular winter resort for English visitors and is noted for its beautiful coastal scenery.
whisk-broom (p 223)
A whisk broom is a light broom, consisting of a bundle of twigs, feathers or hair, bound to a handle. The more usual expression is "knocked me down with a feather", but the meaning is the same: that one is too shocked to resist even the lightest blow.
Henry W Methuselah (p 223)
Methuselah, son of Enoch, is said to have lived to be 969 years old; the Bible makes no mention of his forenames.
And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah:
And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters:
And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years:
And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.
And Methuselah lived an hundred eighty and seven years, and begat Lamech.
And Methuselah lived after he begat Lamech seven hundred eighty and two years, and begat sons and daughters:
And all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred sixty and nine years: and he died.
Genesis, v, 21-27
Willard Filmore (p 225)
Billie is probably thinking of Millard Fillmore (1800-74), who served as Vice-President of the United States from 4 March 1849 until 9 July 1850, when he became the thirteenth president of the United States following the sudden death of President Zachary Taylor. Fillmore served out the remainder of Taylor's term, until March 1853, but failed to gain nomination as a candidate in the presidential election in 1852 and again in 1856. The state of California was admitted to the Union during Fillmore's presidency.
great-great-great grandmother (p 225)
Elizabeth I was Queen of England from 1533 to 1603. Assuming an average generation gap of around 30 years, Billie's ancestor would need another five or six 'greats' to have been born in time to help Elizabeth with the rent.
spirit of '76 (p 225)
The spirit which drove the American Declaration of Independence of 1776:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, In Congress, 4 July 1776
IWW stuff . . . Bolsheviki (p 225)
The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) was founded in Chicago in June 1905; despite its grand name, it originally drew its members only from the United States. Those attending the inaugural convention were a mix of socialists, anarchists, and radical trade unionists, mainly from the Western Federation of Miners, who were opposed to the policies of the American Federation of Labor. The IWW was strongly opposed to American involvement in World War I, which it viewed as a struggle between capitalist factions, and it became a target for government action, over one hundred of its members being imprisoned for anti-war activities.
The Bolsheviki (or Bolsheviks) were one of the two factions into which the Russian Social-Democratic Party split at the Second Party Congress in 1903. Unlike the smaller, Menshevik, faction, which favoured a gradual move to socialism through bourgeois democracy, the Bolsheviks were a tightly-organised, disciplined group of revolutionaries. Led by Lenin, the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia during the October Revolution of 1917, and ultimately became the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
The stout girl would hear no defence. She said it was Bolsheviki like George who caused half the trouble in the world.
"The Spring Suit", The Saturday Evening Post, 12 July 1919
See also Love Among the Chickens
Rockefeller . . . Carnegie (p 228)
For Rockefeller, see Something Fresh.
Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) was a Scottish-born industrialist, businessman and philanthropist. He founded the Carnegie Steel Company in Pittsburgh and built it up into such a major enterprise that by the time he sold it, for USD 250 million, in 1901, it controlled a quarter of the US steel market. After his retirement, Carnegie turned to philanthropy; he donated over USD 350 million to good causes during his lifetime —especially the endowment of over 3,000 public libraries—and left charitable bequests of over USD 30 million in his will.
Noah . . . before the Flood (p 228)
The Biblical story of Noah and the Flood is recounted in chapters 6-8 of the book of Genesis.
one of the whitest men (p 229)
Whitest: (slang or colloquially) Honourable; square-dealing. (originally US) (OED)
". . . The quixotic thing is the first that it occurs to you to do, because you're like that, because you're the straightest, whitest man I've ever known or shall know. . ."
Uneasy Money, ch 22
"Well, well. An impulsive girl would be touched by a thing like that. Yes, indeed. 'The whitest man I know', one can hear her saying. I believe, if you played your cards right, you could still marry her, Pongo."
Uncle Dynamite, ch 2
"Tell me all about waffles."
"I won't tell you all about waffles. I'm telling you about Mr Cardinal. The whitest man I know."
"Do you know many white men?"
Spring Fever, ch 17
See also Money in the Bank.
glitter in the fighting-top (p 231)
In the days of sailing ships, the top was originally a form of crow's-nest which housed a lookout. In sailing warships, marine sharpshooters were stationed in the tops during fights at close quarters: ironically, while Nelson disliked the practice, and never stationed musketeers in the fighting tops, he was killed by a musket ball fired from just such a position on the French warship Redoubtable.
Billie is using the term metaphorically to describe her hair, her meaning being that she is a natural blonde.
"Boys will be boys" (p 231)
According to the American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, this derives from a Latin proverb, first recorded in English in 1589 as "children [boys] are children [boys] and do childish things", but it cites no source. While the Handbook gives no source for the statement that it is a 17th century English proverb, the Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs does cite a variant from early in that century:
Oh! Sir, you must bear with youth: youth you know is frail; and youth will be youthful, when you have said all that you can.
The Plain Man's Pathway to Heaven (1601), "Whoredom and Adultery", in
In the form "boys will be boys", the earliest occurrence cited in the OED dates from 1848:
And as for the pink bonnets (here from under the heavy eyebrows there came a knowing and not very pleasing leer)—why boys will be boys.
Vanity Fair, ch 13 (1848),
Wodehouse uses the phrase several times; the example from Frozen Assets is cited in the OED
He would have notified the police, and considered that all that remained for him personally to do was to stay in his room at night with his revolver. But boys will be boys.
Uneasy Money, ch 17
"You done a murder?" enquired the voice of the proprietor, mildly interested, filtering through a wall of cloth. "Well, boys will be boys!" he said, philosophically.
Indiscretions of Archie, ch 15
I tried to tell him that boys will be boys and you're only young once.
Frozen Assets, ch 3
Chapter 22 (pp 232 - 241)
like a grampus (p 233)
'Grampus' is the popular name for various whales noted for spouting and blowing and, by transference, describes "a person given to puffing and blowing" OED.
". . . and the boy breathes so very hard while he's eating, that we found it impossible to sit at table with him."
"Young grampus!" said Mr Weller.
The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, ch 25 (1836-7),
go and eat coke (p 235)
This seems to have been a common exhortation of dismissal in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, akin to the modern "get lost!" (and worse!):
". . . If that's the Newcastle Nobbler's 'theory' of fair-play, 'e may jest go 'ome and eat coke!"
"Below the Belt", Punch, 7 November 1891, p 227
Only a short time before, he had written rudely to the same person in answer to a demand for surrender, telling the Riff leader in Arabic vernacular to go and eat coke;
"Captured", Time Magazine, 16 February 1925
"Go chase yourself" may be understood in England but it will be more significant if the exhortation takes the form "Go and eat coke" or "Go and fry your face".
American Speech, vol 1 no 9 (June 1926), pp 490-4, "American and English",
In Frank Richards's Greyfriars School stories, which began appearing in the boys' weekly magazine The Magnet in February 1908, Harry Wharton, the Head of the Remove, frequently tells Billy Bunter to "Go and eat coke!".
I can trace no connection with 'coke', the drink or drug, or with the phrase usually attributed to Marie Antoinette, "Let them eat cake".
Kempton Park or some other race-course (p 236-7)
Kempton Park is horse-racing course at Sunbury-on-Thames, to the south-west of London. It takes its name from Kempton Manor, on the site of which the racecourse was constructed. Kempton Park opened in 1878. Its most famous race is the King George VI Chase, which is held every Boxing Day.
Lord Worlingham (p 238)
Worlingham Hall lies just to the east of Beccles in Suffolk. Wodehouse frequently named his characters after place-names in districts with which he was familiar, but in this case he seems to have been unaware that there was a real Lord Worlingham. The second Earl of Gosford (1776-1849), whose title had been created in the Peerage of Ireland, married Mary, daughter of Robert Sparrow of Worlingham Hall, in 1805 and, through her, became the owner of Worlingham Hall on her father's death; when, in 1835, Gosford was created a peer of the United Kingdom, he took the title Baron Worlingham, of Beccles in the County of Suffolk. This remains one of the subsidiary titles of the Earls of Gosford (the oresent Earl is the 7th) and Lord Worlingham is customarily used as a courtesy title by the Earl's eldest son.
Honourable Aubrey Pershore (p 238)
The title signifies that he is either a son of a viscount or baron, or a younger son of an earl.
In "Jeeves and the Unbidden Guest" (My Man Jeeves and Carry On, Jeeves), the 'unbidden guest' is Lord Pershore (Wilmot, or "Motty"), the son of Lady Malvern.
Though no relationship is implied, it is a possibility, if we assume that Lady Malvern is the wife of the Earl of Malvern (albeit the Earl is conspicuously absent). If the family name is Pershore, that would explain Aubrey's honorific title. Also, while Motty's title, Lord Pershore, could be one of the Earl's subsidiary titles (Viscount or Baron), it is customary, in the absence of a substantive subsidiary title, for an eldest son to use an invented courtesy title of the form "Lord Surname".
Pershore is a small town in Worcestershire, a few miles due east of Malvern.
Earl of Ackleton (p 238)
The village of Ackleton, in Shropshire, lies less than a mile east of Stableford, where Wodehouse's parents lived from 1895-1902. The school in The Head of Kay's is called Eckleton.
Lady Catherine Duseby (p 238-9)
There is no place in the UK called Duseby. There is, however, a Dowsby in Lincolnshire, which appears in Domesday Book as Dusebi and in later mediaeval documents as Duseby:
Dowsby, a parish in Bourn district, Lincoln, 3½ miles SE by S of Folkingham, and 6 NNE of Bourn railway station. Post town, Rippingale, under Bourn. Acres, 1,809. Real property, £3,618. Pop 195. Houses 38. The property is divided among nine. The living is a rectory in the diocese of Lincoln. Value, £424. Patron, the Rev K Foster. The church is old but good, and has an embattled tower.
Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870-2),
Lord Bridgefield (p 239)
While there are villages called Bridgefield in northern England and Scotland, the name may as easily be explained as a conflation of "Bridgnorth" and "Worfield", both of which are no more than a few miles south-west of Stableford.
toy Pomeranian (p 239)
Lord Ronald Spofforth (p 239)
This is the style used by the younger son of a duke or marquess.
Spofforth is a village is North Yorkshire, about 5 miles south of Harrogate. Wodehouse may have been more influenced by Fred Spofforth, "the demon bowler", whom many regard as the finest Australian pace bowler of the 19th century: in 1996 he was posthumously included as one of the ten inaugural inductees in the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame. With his keen interest in cricket, and as a fast bowler himself, Wodehouse would undoubtedly have heard of Spofforth, who, among his other achievements, was the first bowler to complete a 'hat-trick' (three wickets from consecutive deliveries) in Test cricket.
the Duke of Gorbals and Strathbungo (p 239)
The Gorbals and Strathbungo are both districts on the south bank of the Clyde in Glasgow, Scotland. In the 1980s, the prevalence of street gangs in the Gorbals gave it a reputation as the most dangerous place in Britain; the district is now in the process of being 'gentrified'. The dukedom of Gorbals and Strathbungo is a Wodehouse creation.
took a steel knife to the ontray (p 239)
Silver fish-knives will now always be met with at the best tables; but where there are none, a piece of crust should be taken in the left hand, and the fork in the right. There is no exception to this rule in eating fish.
Routledge's Manual of Etiquette(1812-88), "Etiquette for Gentlemen: X - The Dinner Table", in
Don't use a steel knife with fish. A silver knife is now placed by the side of each plate for the fish course.
Don't: A Manual of Mistakes and Improprieties More or Less Prevalent in Conduct and Speech [1880?]; quoted in: , "A Fashionable Dinner Is Arranged As Follows", Victorian Literature and Culture, vol 33, pp 133-148 (2005)
Chapter 23 (pp 242 - 252)
From the cradle to the grave (p 242)
A common idiom to describe the whole of life, from birth to death:
Man, who wert once a despot and a slave;
A dupe and a deceiver; a decay;
A traveller from the cradle to the grave
Through the dim night of this immortal day.
Prometheus Unbound, Act IV, sc l, 549-52 (1820),
But they were scarcely less beautiful in their slow decline, than they had been in their prime; for nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its own; and from morning to night, as from the cradle to the grave, is but a succession of changes so gentle and easy, that we can scarcely mark their progress.
The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, ch 22 (1838-9),
Sargasso Sea (p 242)
The Sargasso Sea is an elongated region in the North Atlantic Ocean, between 40 and 70 degrees West, 25 and 35 degrees North. It lies at the centre of the North Atlantic Subtropical Gyre, a vortex of ocean currents formed by the Gulf Stream to the west, the North Atlantic Current to the north, the Canary Current to the east, and the North Atlantic Equatorial Current to the south. The region is noted for the large masses of seaweed that float on the surface and for the frequent absence of winds: sailing ships were often becalmed in the area for long periods:
Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.
Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Part II,
Wodehouse several times refers to the Sargasso Sea, sometimes using it as a metaphor for uniform monotony:
Peter, in his boyhood, had been thrilled once by a narrative of a man who got stuck in the Sargasso Sea. It seemed to him now that the monotony of the Sargasso Sea had been greatly exaggerated.
"The Best Sauce", Strand Magazine, July 1911
The place was a cloth morgue, a Sargasso Sea of serge.
Indiscretions of Archie, ch 15
To Mike . . . it seemed about the most dismal spot he had ever struck. A sort of Sargasso Sea among bedrooms.
Psmith in the City, ch 3
he was to take her in (p 242)
At formal dinners, it is customary for each gentleman to 'take in' a lady, the precise arrangement being dictated by arcane and complex rules of precedence.
Franching said he was sorry he had no lady for me to take in to dinner. I replied that I preferred it, which I afterwards thought was a very uncomplimentary observation to make.
Diary of a Nobody, ch 20 (1892),
the youngest Devenish girl (p 243)
Devenish is an old English family name: one William le Devenish is reported as having been slain in battle at Waterford, Ireland, in 1368.
It may be coincidence, but the name occurs in a story that appeared in Punch some six months before the publication of A Damsel in Distress:
In the year 1907 John Fanshawe Dawnay-Devenish arrived in a certain Far Eastern port, deck passenger aboard a Dutch tramp out of Batavia.
Punch, vol 156, 16 April 1919, p 300, "The Mud Larks", in
OP end (p 243)
A theatrical term: in an English theatre, the prompter's desk is usually situated off-stage on the actor's left side (right as viewed from the audience). Thus, Prompt Side (PS) is to the right, and Opposite Prompt (OP) to the left, as viewed from the audience.
Summertime is Kissing-time (p 243)
"Any Time's Kissing Time" was a hit song from from the outstandingly successful musical comedy Chu Chin Chow, written by Oscar Asche, with music by Frederick Norton, which opened at His Majesty's Theatre, London, on 3 August 1916: it ran for five years and a total of 2,238 performances—more than twice as many as any previous musical—setting a record that stood for nearly forty years.
When the Wodehouse/Bolton/Caryll show The Girl Behind the Gun (New Amsterdam Theatre, New York, 1918) transferred to London in May 1919, it was retitled Kissing Time.
Alhambra revue (p 243)
The Alhambra was a popular theatre and music hall located on the east side of Leicester Square, in London's West End. Originally known as The Royal Panopticon, it became the Alhambra Circus in 1854 and the Alhambra Music Hall in 1864. John Hollingshead managed the theatre from 1865 until 1868, when he left to establish the Gaiety Theatre. The original building was destroyed by fire in 1882; it was rebuilt in a more restrained style and reopened in 1884 as the Alhambra Theatre. During World War I, the Alhambra hosted a series of hit revues, including The Bing Boys Are Here (1916), which featured the first performances of the song "If You Were the Only Girl in the World", performed by Violet Lorraine and George Robey. The Alhambra was demolished in 1936 to make way for the Odeon Theatre which, as a cinema, the Odeon Leicester Square, still stands on the site.
Sherry or 'ock, sir? (p 244)
Originally a still white wine from the region of Xeres (now Jerez de la Fontera) in Andalusia, southern Spain, 'sherry' later came to denote a class of Spanish fortified white wines. 'Hock' (from Hochheimer, a wine originating from Hochheim on the Main) was at one time used in Britain as a generic name for German white wines.
The prophet Daniel . . . lions (p 222)
Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel, and cast him into the den of lions. Now the king spake and said unto Daniel, Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee.
And a stone was brought, and laid upon the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet, and with the signet of his lords; that the purpose might not be changed concerning Daniel.
Then the king went to his palace, and passed the night fasting: neither were instruments of music brought before him: and his sleep went from him.
Then the king arose very early in the morning, and went in haste unto the den of lions.
And when he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel: and the king spake and said to Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?
Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live for ever.
My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt.
Then was the king exceedingly glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God.
Daniel, vi, 16-23
every season since I came out (p 247)
"Coming out" was a rite of passage for the daughters of the upper classes. At the age of 18, the daughters of the aristocracy would be "presented" at Court (a practice that only ended in 1958) and would then attend a "debutante's ball", that marked their "coming out" into society.
Lord Peebles . . . made his money in whisky (p 247)
Though Caroline Norton's novel Stuart of Dunleath (1851) has a character named Lord Peebles, Wodehouse probably chose the name solely because it is Scottish and suits the notion of a whisky industrialist whose peerage is a recent creation.
As it happens, Peebles—a small market town in the Borders region of southern Scotland, some 23 miles south of Edinburgh—has no direct association with the whisky industry, most of the distilleries being located well to the north, in the Highlands or Western Isles.
Hubert Broadleigh . . . Cynthia Dane (p 249)
If these actors, and the titles of the plays in which they performed, are not fictitious, they were too minor to feature in reviews in the major newspapers of the late 19th/early 20th century.
the Victrola at home (p 249)
The Victrola was a design of record player that was introduced in 1906 by the Victor Talking Machine Company of Camden, New Jersey. It was designed to look like a piece of furniture, the turntable and amplifying horn being hidden away in a wooden cabinet. Victrolas achieved immediate popularity and were one of the most popular brands of home phonographs through the 1920s.
ballyhooing (p 249)
Originally, 'ballyhoo' (origin uncertain) was the name given to a showman's touting speech, or a performance advertising a show, eg at a carnival, from which it came to mean extravagant or brash publicity; 'to ballyhoo' is "to advertise with ballyhoo, to promote or praise extravagantly" (OED).
In George's case, 'ballyhooing refers to the excessive attention that is embarrassing him.
Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego (p 249)
Then was Nebuchadnez'zar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed'nego: therefore he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated.
And he commanded the most mighty men that were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed'nego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace.
Then these men were bound in their coats, their hose, and their hats, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.
Therefore because the king's commandment was urgent, and the furnace exceeding hot, the flame of the fire slew those men that took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed'nego.
And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed'nego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.
Then Nebuchadnez'zar the king was astonished, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counselors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king.
He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.
Daniel, iii, 19-25
See also The Code of the Woosters.
one glance, fresh from the refrigerator (p 250)
Domestic refrigerators had begun to be introduced just a few years before A Damsel in Distress was written (see Summer Moonshine). Wodehouse's meaning is that Lady Caroline's glance is icy.
Douglas Fairbanks (p 250)
Douglas Fairbanks (1883-1939) was an American actor who was famous for his swashbuckling roles in silent films such as The Mask of Zorro (1920) and The Three Musketeers (1921). In 1920 he married actress Mary Pickford in what was Hollywood's first celebrity marriage. The couple quickly attained the satus of "Hollywood royalty" and were famous for entertaining at their Beverley Hills mansion: the Wodehouses met them when PGW was working in Hollywood in 1931; in a letter to Bill Townend, Wodehouse mentioned dining with them.
Francis X Bushman (p 250)
Francis X Bushman (1883-1966) was an American film actor and one of the first 'matinee idols'. He achieved great success during the era of silent movies, but his career did not survive the coming of talking pictures and turned to radio acting, later making guest appearances on television.
Ajax had in his eyes when he defied the lightning (p 252)
Ajax of Locris, called the "lesser" to destinguish him from Ajax, son of Telamon, was the leader of the Locrian contingent at the siege of Troy. He is mentioned in several classical works, which give differing accounts of his death. In the version alluded to here, the goddess Athena caused his ship to be wrecked on the way home from Troy; Ajax was saved from drowning by the god Poseidon but boasted that he would escape the dangers of the sea in defiance of the gods, whereupon Athena struck him dead with a bolt of lightning.
a soldier going over the top (p 252)
In World War I, which had ended three years earlier, soldiers went "over the top" when they emerged from their trenches at the start of an attack: as this left them exposed to enemy fire, the casualty rate was usually very high, and soldiers viewed "going over the top" with extreme apprehension.
Chapter 24 (pp 253 - 261)
the cry of a corncrake (p 253)
The Corncrake, Crex crex, is a small bird in the family Rallidae. It breeds on damp meadows and hayfields and, as a result of changing farming practices, is now very scarce across most of its breeding range, which extends from the British Isles, through central Europe, to southern Russia. At the time when A Damsel in Distress was written, its occurrence in Hampshire would probably have occasioned no surprise; today one would have to travel several hundred miles to the north, to the Outer Hebrides, to have a realistic chance of hearing one: it is a secretive little bird and is far more often heard than seen.
The corncrake is rather silent, except during courtship, when its display call is usually heard between dusk and daybreak, occasionally during the daytime. The call is a persistently repeated, hoarse and mechanical, sharp rasping "ehrp-ehrp" (like two notched sticks being rubbed together), once per second and for hours on end, with only brief rests.
Tosti's "Goodbye" (p 255)
Sir Francesco Paolo Tosti (1846-1916) was born at Ortona, Italy. When 14 years old he was sent to study music at the Naples Conservatory. He became a protegé of the composer Giovanni Sgambati, who helped him begin his career as a composer and singer. From 1875, Tosti made regular visits to London, where, in 1880, he was appointed singing master to the Royal Family. In 1894 he became a professor at the Royal Academy of Music. Tosti took British citizenship in 1906 and was knighted in 1908. When he died, The Times obituarist wrote (4 December 1916): "His music has had in this country a wide rather than a deep appeal. There are few who do not know 'Good-bye', 'Ask Me No More' . . . and there are many to whom these . . . offer all that they require of a song—facile melody, an absence of subtleties, and the charm which springs from the secure manipulation of effects."
'Goodbye', composed in 1881, to words by the Scottish poet George John Whyte-Melville (1821-78), was one of Tosti's most popular songs, though not, it seems with everybody:
"Is Mr Mortimer playing that—that damned gas-engine in the drawing-room?"
"Yes, sir. Tosti's 'Good-bye'. A charming air, sir."
"Go and tell him to stop it!"
The Girl on the Boat, ch 10
Chapter 25 (pp 262 - 265)
seared by the flame of her wrath (p 262)
This echoes a passage in the Old Testament:
And thou, even thyself, shalt discontinue from thine heritage that I gave thee; and I will cause thee to serve thine enemies in the land which thou knowest not: for ye have kindled a fire in mine anger, which shall burn for ever.
Jeremiah, xvii, 4
The exact phrase occurs in a hymn by the prolific hymnwriter Isaac Watts (1674-1748), who also wrote the popular hymn "O God, Our Help in Ages Past" and the Christmas carol "Joy to the world!":
Once more, my soul, the rising day
Salutes thy waking eyes;
Once more, my voice, thy tribute pay
To Him who rules the skies.
. . .
'Tis He supports my mortal frame,
My tongue shall speak His praise;
My sins would rouse His wrath to flame,
And yet His wrath delays.
Hymns and Spiritual Songs, Book II (1709),
to bring her erring brother to bay (p 262)
To 'bring to bay' is a hunting term, meaning to bring the hunted animal into a position from which it cannot flee and must turn and defend itself. The hunting metaphor is made even clearer in the succeeding sentence.
in the days of the seventh Henry (p 263)
See earlier. Henry VII was king of England from 1485-1509.
Chapter 26 (pp 266 - 278)
Ye Cosy Nooke (p 266)
Tea shops, in the sense of cafés where tea is served, first appeared in Edwardian times. Their popularity owed much to the fact that they were seen as places where ladies could go unescorted to eat.
The OED refers to "the affected spelling tea-shoppe" which is "applied (frequently disparagingly) to a tea-shop with sham antique decoration": Wodehouse's use of "Nooke" may be assumed to be similarly disparaging. Indeed, the OED is equally scathing about 'Ye', which, it says, is used "to suggest (spurious) antiquity"; and it quotes much of Wodehouse's next paragraph in illustration.
'Ye' (for 'The') is, in fact, a mistake, arising from a misreading as 'Y' of the Old English runic letter þ, which was commonly used in mediaeval manuscripts and printed works until the 15th century. In fact, þ represented what we now write as 'th' (hence its name, 'thorn', which came, as did the names of other runic characters, from a word of which it was the initial). The character which was used to represent 'y' was actually a variant of the Greek letter upsilon (υ) which, when written, appeared identical with debased forms of þ.
establishments of Lyons and Co (p 267)
J Lyons & Co operated a chain of up-market tea shops, the first of which, at 213 Piccadilly, opened in September 1894: by 1923, there were 200 tea-shops in London alone. Until the Second World War, customers were served by waitresses who wore a maid-like uniform with matching hat. From 1909, Lyons also ran a number of "Corner Houses" in London's West End. These were large establishments, extending to four or five floors, with a food hall, hairdressing salons, etc, on the ground floor and differently-themed restaurants, each with its own musicians, on the other floors. In the 1960s, the Lyons company ran into increasing financial difficulties and over the next few decades its various businesses were sold off; the last Corner House closed in 1977 and the last tea shop in 1981.
Rumpelmayer's (p 267)
Rumplemayer's was a fashionable salon de thé, which occupied the ground floor and basement at 72 & 73 St James's Street, from 1909 until the late 1920s; in 1935, a French restaurant, Prunier's, opened on the site. Rumplemayer's was the brainchild of Antoine Rumpelmayer, an Austrian gourmand, who, having already established three successful tea-rooms on the French Riviera (including one each at Cannes and Menton), opened an establishment on Paris's Rue de Rivoli in 1903. It quickly attracted the 'smart set', including fashion designer Coco Chanel, novelist Marcel Proust and King George V of England, its success encouraging the Rumplemayer's to set up a similar salon in London.
Rumplemayer's is mentioned on the first page of Virginia Woolf's novel, Mrs Dalloway (1925), though the reference there is to the firm's delivery service, not to the tea-rooms and restaurant.
the Florida pompano (p 271)
The Florida pompano, Trachinotus carolinus, is a marine fish of the family Carangidae. It usually reaches a length of about 18 inches and a weight of no more than three pounds, though larger specimens are sometimes caught. The Florida pompano is highly esteemed as a gourmet food and consistently attracts the highest prices of any saltwater fish found off the continental United States. Despite its name, the Florida pompano ranges from Massachusetts to Brazil, though it is more commonly found from the Carolinas to the Gulf of Mexico. Though it can be cooked in a number of ways, it is, as Godfrey advises, best broiled with butter.
Lyme Regis down Devonshire way (p 272)
Lyme Regis is in Dorset, not Devon: see Love Among the Chickens.
a sort of leit motif (p 272)
From German (leit—leading + motiv—motive, or theme), a leitmotif is a theme that recurs throughout a work, usually musical, and is associated with a particular person, situation, or sentiment. The leitmotif as a musical device is particularly associated with the music-dramas of Richard Wagner and his imitators, though it is now used more generally (as here).
"With one shout and with one cry" Prout's juniors hurled themselves into the war, and through the interval between first and second lesson some fifty twelve-year-olds were embroiled on the gravel outside King's windows to a tune whose leit-motif was the word "stinker".
Stalky & Co (1899), "An Unsavoury Interlude", in
The name Scobell had been recurring like a leit-motif in Mr Crump's conversation.
The Prince and Betty (US ed), ch 4 (1912)
He wore a bowler hat (p 274)
The US edition has "Derby hat".
Messrs Willoughby and Son, Solicitors (p 275)
The US edition has "Morris Willoughby".
All flesh is as grass (p 278)
The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field:
Isaiah, xl, 6
For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:
But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.
1 Peter, i, 24-25
See also The Code of the Woosters.
Chapter 27 (pp 279 - 284)
steamer-trunk (p 279)
In the days when long journeys were accomplished by steamship, rather than aeroplane, a steamer-trunk was used to hold articles needed for the voyage. They were usually covered in canvas or leather.
thirteen stone (p 279)
George, as an American, automatically gives his weight in pounds. Maud, being English, converts this to stones: one stone = 14 lb. Despite the widespread adoption of the metric system in Britain, this usage continues today: an athlete's weight, for example, is customarily expressed in pounds in the US, in stones and pounds in Britain, and in kilograms in many other countries.