Love Among the Chickens
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).
Love Among the Chickens was published in the UK by George Newnes Ltd, London, in June 1906 and in the US by Circle Publishing Company, New York, on 11 May 1909. The US edition includes numerous small changes in the text.
In May 1921, a revised version was published by Herbert Jenkins, London. It was described on the title page as "entirely rewritten for this edition".
These annotations relate to the 1921 version. Page references are to the Barrie & Jenkins 1978 edition.
Chapter 1 (pp 9 - 12)
Caruso (p 9)
Enrico Caruso (1873-1921) was an operatic tenor whose performances, both in the opera house (especially New York's Metropolitan Opera) and on record, earned him the title of "King of Tenors".
Henrietta Street (p 9)
Henrietta Street runs parallel to the Strand. At one end is Covent Garden Market which, at the time when Love Among the Chickens was written, was the largest fruit and vegetable market in England; the market was relocated in 1973 and the area has since been extensively redeveloped.
costermongers (p 9)
Stanley Featherstonehaugh Ukridge (p 10)
'Featherstonehaugh' is pronounced 'Fanshaw' and 'Ukridge' is pronounced 'Yewk-ridge', the first syllable rhyming with the English pronunciation of 'duke'. For some strange reason, however, 'Stanley' is pronounced 'Stan-lee'.
ginger-beer wire (p 10)
Ginger-beer used to be sold in earthenware jars, the stopper of which was held in place with wire, as the cork in a bottle of champagne still is.
wouldn't hear of my standing the racket (p 10)
Idiom: paying. In this sense, the first instance cited by the OED is in G K Chesterton's The Napoleon of Notting Hill, chap 3 (1904):
'Can we do fifteen hundred pounds?'
'I'll stand the racket.'
London may have suited Doctor Johnson (p 11)
See Something Fresh.
Where is the man of wrath? (p 12)
Then Autolycus made answer and spake: "My daughter and my daughter's lord, give ye him whatsoever name I tell you. Foramuch as I am come hither in wrath against many a one, both man and woman, over the fruitful earth, wherefore let the child's name be 'a man of wrath', Odysseus."
Odyssey, Book 19 (trans S H Butcher & A Lang),
A man of great wrath shall suffer punishment: for if thou deliver him, yet thou must do it again.
Proverbs, xix, 19
Mr Stiggins took up a fresh piece of toast, and groaned heavily.
"He is a dreadful reprobate," said Mrs Weller.
"A man of wrath!" exclaimed Mr Stiggins. He took a large semi-circular bite out of the toast, and groaned again.
The Pickwick Papers, ch 27 (1837),
See also The Code of the Woosters. Unlike Bertie, Ukridge is using the phrase in a jocular sense.
Exhibit the son of Belial (p 12)
In the Hebrew Bible, the word Belia'al only appears as part of the phrase Benei Belia'al, which has the meaning of "wicked person". In English translations of the Bible, Belial is usually treated as a proper name:
Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the Lord.
1 Samuel, ii, 12
What concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
2 Corinthians, vi, 15
Milton used Belial as the name of one of the fallen angels, and it has come to signify the personification of evil:
Belial came last, than whom a Spirit more lewd
Fell not from heaven, or more gross to love
Vice for itself . . .
In courts and palaces he also reigns
And in luxurious cities, where the noise
Of riot ascends above their loftiest tow'rs,
And injury and outrage: and when night
Darkens the streets, then wander forth the sons
Of Belial, flown with insolence and wine.
Paradise Lost, Book I, 490-2, 497-503 (1667),
Chapter 2 (pp 13 - 19)
Much Middlefold, Salop (p 13)
See Something Fresh.
the waukeesis (p 13)
This word is not in the OED and it seems almost certain that it was coined by Wodehouse, perhaps because "Walkeasy" or Walk Easy" was an existing brand name.
'Mr Sellers drew that picture of the Waukeesy Shoe and the Restawhile Settee and the tin of sardines in the Little Gem Sardine advertisement.'
"The Man Upstairs" (1914)
As is clear from the reference in "The Man Upstairs", 'waukeesis' refers to shoes, boots or, as used by Ukridge, feet. The word occurs, sometimes capitalised, sometimes not, in a number of Wodehouse works, eg Jill the Reckless, ch 1 (1921); Indiscretions of Archie, ch 15 (1921); and "A Letter of Introduction" and "The Pride of the Woosters is Wounded" in The Inimitable Jeeves (1923).
It may be no more than coincidence that between September 1905 and January 1906 advertisements on behalf of Treadwell Bros, a Northampton boot manufacturer, claimed that its boot "makes Life's walk easy".
Mr Baboo Jaberjee (p 14)
Baboo Hurry Bungsho Jabberjee BA was a character created by the English humorist F Anstey (Thomas Anstey Guthrie). He made his first appearance in a column entitled "Jottings and Tittlings" in the 21 December 1895 issue of "Punch", and bowed out a year later, on 26 December 1896. The columns were collected into a book, Baboo Jabberjee, BA, which was published in 1897.
Baboo Jabberjee is a young Indian law student, reading in one of the Inns of Court before being called to the bar. His speech is larded with inappropriate Latin tags and grotesque manglings of English idiom:-
What wonder that on reading such a sine qua non and ultimatum my vox faucibus haesit and stuck in my gizzard with bashful sheepishness, for how to convulse the Thames and set it on fire and all agog with amazement at the humdrum incidents of so very ordinary an existence as mine . . .
jump off the dock (p 14)
Naval slang: got married (perhaps a jocular reference to the old custom of executing pirates by hanging them at the dock-side).
We were masters at the same school (p 14)
In January 1903, Wodehouse was invited by Herbert Westbrook to visit him at Emsworth House, a small preparatory school in Hampshire at which Westbrook was teaching. Wodehouse does not seem to have taught at the school, but he lived for a couple of months in a room over the stable block, before moving into a rented cottage, 'Threepwood'.
In a letter (quoted by Norman Murphy in In Search of Blandings) to Perceval Graves, elder brother of the poet Robert Graves, Wodehouse wrote that Herbert Westbrook was one of the models for the character of Ukridge, the other being "a man named Craxton", a friend of Wodehouse's friend Bill Townend (to whom Love Among the Chickens was dedicated).
as clear as mud (p 16)
The usual expression is "clear as crystal"; "clear as mud" is usually used ironically to describe something that is far from clear, but Ukridge uses the phrase without a hint of irony.
Combe Regis, in Dorsetshire (p 17)
Combe Regis is a very thinly-disguised version of Lyme Regis, a small coastal town in Dorset: in the 1906 edition of Love Among the Chickens, the real name was used.
An article in the March 2004 issue of "Wooster Sauce", summarising research by members of the Lyme Regis Society, identifies Ukridge's chicken farm with Fairfield House. Now a retirement home for the elderly, this was, in 1903, the home of Sir Campbell Munro, whose wife Henrietta was a Drummond and, it seems almost certain, aunt to two sisters, Issobel and Susan Drummond. Issobel married Ernest Bowes-Lyon and had three daughters, Joan, Effie and Ernestine (cousins of the late Queen Mother), while Susan married Richard Corbett of Stableford, Shropshire. It was at Stableford, where his father had rented a house, that Wodehouse first met the Bowes-Lyon sisters, in whose company, as it seems, he later made a visit to Lyme Regis, presumably staying with the girls' great-aunt Henrietta at Fairfield House.
bread sauce (p 19)
Bread sauce is a traditional accompaniment for roast chicken or roast turkey.
Chapter 3 (pp 20 - 25)
sauve qui peut (p 21)
French: literally, save (himself) who can; in other words, every man for himself.
Ships that pass in the night (p 23)
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" (1874),
a skill in logomachy (p 23)
Logomachy: a contention about words; sophistry. Jeremy, displaying his political prejudices, is suggesting that an ability to deploy specious arguments and debate about the meaning of words, rather than about the subjects that they denote, is the mark of a socialist (Labour) politician.
Molly McEachern . . . the Abbey (p 23)
Molly McEachern is the heroine of A Gentleman of Leisure (1910), part of which is set in England, at Dreever Castle, Shropshire; in this novel, there is no mention of an "Abbey". But in an earlier version of that story—The Gem Collector (Ainslie's Magazine, December 1909)—Molly's father has married the widowed Lady Jane Blunt and, at her instigation, has purchased Corven Abbey as his home. Phyllis's mention of "the Abbey" might thus be taken as a reference to the The Gem Collector, were it not that Tony Ring, in volume 4 of the Millennium Concordance, implies that "The Abbey" is mentioned in the 1906 version of Love Among the Chickens, which pre-dates both The Gem Collector and A Gentleman of Leisure.
the sea at noonday (p 25)
Noonday: the middle of the day, mid-day:
Did he never swim in the sea at Noonday with the Sun in his eyes and on his head, which all the foam of Ocean could not cool?
Letter fromto John Murray (Bologna, 12 August 1819)
Chapter 4 (pp 26 - 32)
From Axminster to Combe Regis (p 26)
The railway line from Axminster to Lyme Regis no longer exists; the route that it used to follow meandered through attractive, hilly countryside.
not a place for the halt and maimed (p 26)
It may be I have wrought some miracles,
And cured some halt and maimed; but what of that?
, "St Simeon Stylites" (1842)
Upon my Sam it's hard (p 27)
A jocular form of declaration, eg:
'Pon my sacred Sam, though, it's enough to drive a man to drink.
Stalky & Co, ch 17 (1899),
Upon my Sam I think you're both mad.
Black Plumes, ch 12 (1940),
See also The Code of the Woosters.
Fling wide the gates (p 28)
Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.
Psalms, xxiv, 7
Mrs Lee's method of entering a room was in accordance with the advice of the Psalmist, where he says, 'Fling wide the gates'.
"The Prize Poem" in Tales of St Austin's (1903)
The extract from Tales of St Austin's makes it clear that Wodehouse is referring to this psalm, even though the words he quotes do not appear in the King James Version, his invariable source.
Wodehouse may perhaps have been influenced by hearing a performance of the "Meditation on the Sacred Passion of the Holy Redeemer", more usually known as "The Crucifixion", a choral work set to music by Sir John Stainer (1840-1901), to a libretto by Rev J Sparrow-Simpson. This work, which received its first performance in 1887, achieved almost immediate success and has been a staple item in the choral repetoire ever since. Near the beginning of the work, during the Processional to Calvary, the choir sings a repetitive chorus:
Fling wide the gates
for the Saviour waits
to tread in His royal way.
He has come from above
in His power and love,
to die on this Passion day.
See also The Code of the Woosters.
And spoiled the dog (p 29)
A play on the adage "spoil the ship for a ha'porth of tar".
Discobolus (p 29-30)
The original Discobolus, or discus-thrower, was a bronze statue by the famous Greek sculptor, Myron, dating from c 450 BC and thus contemporary with the sculptures on the Parthenon.
a soft smile played over (p 31)
As Bing proceeded from generalities to details, a soft smile played over his expressive features.
Many Cargoes (1896), "The Captain's Exploit", in
A soft smile played over Ruth's face.
The Coming of Bill, ch 2 (1920)
better counsels prevailed (p 32)
It was proposed to explode a barrel of gunpowder, but, in consideration of the situation of the mother, better counsels prevailed, and only a few revolvers were discharged;
The Luck of Roaring Camp (1868),
Chapter 5 (pp 33 - 38)
a thrush . . . early birds (p 33)
A reference to the old adage, "the early bird catches the worm".
the combination of pier and breakwater (p 33)
This is a clear reference to one of the most well-known features of Lyme Regis, the Cobb (referred to throughout Love Among the Chickens as the Cob). This harbour wall-cum-breakwater has been in existence in one form or another since at least the mid-14th century. Originally constructed solely of wood, it was several times destroyed during storms before a more permanent rock structure was constructed, during the 16th century, but it was not joined to the shore until 1756, having previously been separated from the land by a stretch of tidal sand beach.
The Cobb features prominently in Jane Austen's Persuasion (1818), where it is the scene (in chap 12) of Louisa Musgrove's near-fatal fall, and had a starring role in the film of John Fowles's The French Lieutenant's Woman.
brown holland (p 34)
Brown holland, so called because it was originally manufactured in Holland, is a type of unbleached linen fabric, formerly used for some garments and upholstery.
settings of eggs (p 34)
A setting is a clutch of eggs.
Dorkings . . . Minorcas (p 34)
Varieties of hens that lay medium-sized eggs, averaging 8 or 9 to a pound. Minorcas are among the more popular breeds for laying, as their total output tends top be somewhat larger than for some other breeds; they are also somewhat larger than most other Mediterranean breeds and, like Dorkings, are good table birds.
waste the golden hours (p 34)
Indeed, my friend, I wish you would take more heed of this philosophy of mine; and not waste the golden hours of youth in vain regrets for the past, and indefinite, dim longings for the future. Youth comes but once in a lifetime.
Hyperion, ch 10 (1839),
the same as mother makes it (p 35)
A phrase that suggests that the way "mother" did things sets the standard by which others should be judged.
"Topping!" he said spaciously. "No other word for it! All wool and a yard wide! Precisely as mother makes it!
Jill the Reckless, ch 4 (1921)
the Hired Man (p 36)
In colonial America, especially in the French territories, a "hired man" was one who signed a contract to work for another for a specified period, usually 3 - 5 years. During this period, the hired man was fed and lodged, and received a token wage. At the end of his period of service, the hired man could decide whether to become a settler himself, or return to his mother country.
The phrase "hired man" later came to signify anyone who, for bed, board and token wages, worked for another, usually on a ranch or farm. Robert Lowell Frost's poem, "The Death of the Hired Man" (1914), tells the story of just such a hired hand who returns to the scene of his former employment, ostensibly to work but, in reality, to die.
There is a mildly ironic tone about Jeremy Garnet's use of capitals for "Hired Hand" and, later, "Hired Retainer".
Pigs in Clover (p 36)
'Pigs in Clover' was a game that, around 1890, became as much a craze in the US as Rubik's Cube was to be several decades later. It was a manipulative maze puzzle, in which the object was to manoeuvre a number of marbles (the 'pigs') around various obstacles and collect them all together in a 'pigpen' in the centre. Miniature variants on the same theme are still produced today.
murmure of innumerable fowls (p 38)
Sweeter thy voice, but every sound is sweet
Myriads of rivulets, hurrying through the lawn,
The moan of doves in immemorial elms,
And murmuring of innumerable bees.
, "The Princess: Come Down, O Maid" (1847)
Chapter 6 (pp 39 - 43)
want but little here below (p 39)
Then, pilgrim, turn, thy cares forego;
All earth-born cares are wrong:
Man wants but little here below,
Nor wants that little long.
The Vicar Of Wakefield, ch 8 (1766), "The Hermit", in
Whiteley's, Harrod's (p 40)
In 1851, a 30-year-old Yorkshireman, William Whiteley, opened a small shop in a little-known and unfashionable part of London called Bayswater. By 1885, Whiteley's had grown to become the most comprehensive department store of its time, with a staff of 6,000 people, and in 1896 Whiteley received an unsolicited Royal Warrant from Queen Victoria. In 1907, however, William Whiteley was murdered in his store by a man who claimed to be his illegitimate son, and though his sons tried to keep the enterprise going, in 1927 it was sold to Gordon Selfridge, one of Whiteley's greatest admirers.
In Act 2 of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, Professor Higgins tells his housekeeper, Mrs Pearce: "Take all her [Eliza Doolittle's] clothes off and burn them. Ring up Whiteley or somebody for new ones. Wrap her up in brown paper til they come."
Harrods of Knightsbridge was founded by Charles Henry Harrod, who opened his first shop in the Brompton Road in 1849. By 1902 it had grown to be the largest store in London, with a fashionable clientele and a reputation for being able to supply anything anywhere (its telegraphic address was "Everything London").
In The Return of Jeeves (US 1954), Rory Carmoyle is a floorwalker at Harrod's; in the UK version, Ring for Jeeves (1953), the store was loosely disguised as Harrige's.
See also Sam the Sudden.
freshets of sparkling dialogue (p 41)
A freshet is a stream of fresh water, a flood.
So when some professional friends of his called him up, one day, after a feast of reason and a regular "freshet" of soul which had lasted two or three hours, he read them these verses.
The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table, ch 9 (1858),
I scanned every female face that passed, and it seemed to me that all were handsome. I never saw such a freshet of loveliness before.
The Innocents Abroad, ch 17 (1872),
Another uninterrupted half-hour (p 41)
Jeremy Garnet suffers the fate of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who, waking up from an opium-induced sleep during which he had dreamed two or three hundred lines of poetry, began to set them down on paper but, after being interrupted by "a person . . . from Porlock", found that he had forgotten the rest of the dream: the unfinished work was his poem "Kubla Khan".
A Bolshevist hen (p 41)
A Bolshevist (or Bolshevik) was a member of the larger of the two factions into which the Russian Social-Democratic Party split in 1903. It was this faction that seized power in the October 1917 revolution and was later renamed as the Russian Communist Party. By association, a Bolshevist is a person (or hen!) of subversive or revolutionary views, an opponent of the existing social order.
See also A Damsel in Distress
the thing that he ought not to have done (p 41)
We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, And we have done those things which we ought not to have done, And there is no health in us:
The Order for Morning Prayer, in The Book of Common Prayer, 1559
a catalepsy of literary composition (p 42)
Catalepsy is a trance-like state.
He went in again, and put his right hand on the latch of the door to close it— but he did not close it: he was arrested, as he had been already since his loss, by the invisible wand of catalepsy, and stood like a graven image, with wide but sightless eyes, holding open his door, powerless to resist either the good or the evil that might enter there.
Silas Marner, ch 12 (1861),
Mark over! (p 43)
"Mark - Over!" is the cry made by beaters when pheasants or partridge have been driven from cover and are flying towards the guns.
as through a glass darkly (p 43)
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
1 Corinthians, xiii, 12
Chapter 7 (pp 44 - 50)
An Irishman's croquet-lawn (p 44)
A play on the ancient principle that "an Englishman's home (or house) is his castle". The principle, which dates from the days (long gone) when, if a man shut himself up in his own home, no bailiff could force an entry to arrest him or seize his goods, was enunciated by the great English jurist Sir Edward Coke (1552-1634):
A man's house is his castle, et domus sua cuique tutissimum refugium.
The house of everyone is to him as his castle and fortress, as well for his defence against injury and violence as for his repose.
See also Summer Moonshine.
the senior service (p 46)
The "Senior Service" is a traditional nickname for the Royal Navy, which prides itself on being the oldest continuously-established branch of Britain's armed services. There had, in fact, been a standing army — the New Model Army — during the Cromwell Protectorate but it was disbanded by Charles II after his restoration in 1660, and neither Charles nor his successor, James II, maintained a standing army; it was not until 1689, four years after Charles's death and a year after James's overthrow, that the Bill of Rights established Parliament's authority to raise and maintain a standing army. In the meantime, the foundations of Britain's modern navy had been laid (thanks, in no small measure, to the efforts of Samuel Pepys) and it was Charles who named it the Royal Navy, thereby establishing its primacy over the army.
only done his duty (p 46)
"England expects that every man will do his duty" was the signal that Nelson sent to his fleet as they prepared to engage the Franco-Spanish fleet at the battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805. It is said that Nelson had wished the signal to read "England confides . . ." but changed it when told that "expects" was in the signal book whereas "confides" would have to be signalled letter-by-letter, requiring the hoisting of an additional seven flags.
goes off like a four-point-seven (p 47)
As is made clear a few pages later, a "four point seven" is a gun. The 4.7 inch (12 cm) gun was standard naval armament until shortly after the outbreak of WW II.
Sir Edward Carson (p 47)
Sir Edward Henry Carson (1854-1935) was a fierce opponent of Home Rule for Ireland. He established the paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force and was responsible, at least in part, for ensuring that Northern Ireland remained part of the union. Although opposed to Asquith's policy on Home Rule, Carson served as Attorney-General in Asquith's war-time coalition government from May 1915 to October 1916, when he resigned, ostensibly because of dissatisfaction with Asquith's conduct of the war but actually as part of the plot that forced Asquith from office.
In 1895, Carson successfully defended the Marquess of Queensbury against a libel suit brought by Oscar Wilde; it was his cross-examination of the playwright that led to Wilde's prosecution and conviction on charges of homosexuality.
The 1906 version refers to Mr John Redmond, rather than Sir Edward Carson. Redmond was, from 1900 until his death in early 1918, the leader of the Home Rule Party, to whose policies Edward Carson was so vehemently opposed. Prior to the outbreak of war, Redmond had seemed to be close to achieving his aims, but by the time he died, political sentiment in southern Ireland had become markedly pro-nationalist, chiefly in reaction to the executions of leaders of the Easter Rising of 1916; in the 1918 Election, the nationalist Sinn Fein won 73 seats, the Home Rule Party only 6 seats, and by the time Love Among the Chickens was re-published, in May 1921, Redmond was very much a "yesterday's man".
Bimetallism (p 47)
Bimetallism is a monetary system in which the value of the monetary unit is expressed either with a certain amount of gold or with a certain amount of silver, the ratio between the two metals being fixed. As a system it suffers from the effect known as Gresham's Law, whereby whichever metal has the higher value tends to be withdrawn from circulation as money.
This happened in the United States, which had tried to operate a bimetallic standard throughout the 19th century: over time this became effectively a silver standard, and when the value of silver fell, as a result of the opening-up of new mines in the American West, so also did the value of the dollar. Political conflict then arose between those (Democrats, populists, and Western states with silver mines) who favoured bimetallism and the inflationary policies that resulted from a bimetallic standard and those (principally East Coast financial interests) who favoured sound money and a "gold standard".
Chapter 8 (pp 51 - 57)
nemo-me-impune-lacessit air (p 56)
Nemo me impune lacessit (Latin — No one provokes me with impunity) is the motto of the chivalric Order of the Thistle and also of the Royal Scots and Black Watch regiments of the British Army. The motto can also be found engraved round the rim of some Scottish one-pound coins.
Chapter 9 (pp 58 - 62)
Dies Irae (p 58)
Then mass was sung, and prayers were said,
And solemn requiem for the dead;
And bells toll'd out their mighty peal,
For the departed spirit's weal;
And ever in the office close
The hymn of intercession rose;
And far the echoing aisles prolong
The awful burthen of the song,—
Dies Iræ, Dies Illa,
Solvet Sæclum in Favilla,—
, "The Lay of the Last Minstrel", Canto 6, XXX
Dies Irae (Latin — day of wrath) is a mediaeval hymn on the Last Judgment which is used in the Roman Catholic Mass for the Dead.
I did not love as others do (p 58)
The lines quoted are from "Gemini and Virgo", a poem by C S Calverley (1831-84).
letting the sun go down upon his wrath (p 60)
Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:
Ephesians, iv, 26
parted brass rags (p 61)
God makes sech nights (p 62)
These are the opening lines of "The Courtin'", a poem by James Russell Lowell (1819-91).
Chapter 10 (pp 63 - 71)
Mr W W Jacobs . . . Hugh Walpole (p 63)
William Wymark Jacobs (1863-43) is chiefly remembered for his humorous stories of seafaring- and country-folk. Several of his stories first appeared in Jerome K Jerome's Idler and Strand Magazine, before being collected into Many Cargoes, his first major success.
Sir Hugh Seymour Walpole (1884-1941) was a New Zealand-born novelist who enjoyed considerable success during the last half of his life, though he is now all but forgotten. His third novel, Mr Perrin and Mr Traill (1911) (inspired, according to Barry Phelps, by Wodehouse's school stories), started a vogue for novels and plays about schoolmasters. Walpole's misgivings about the value of his own work prompted an obsequious attitude towards book reviewers that was caricatured by W Somerset Maugham in the character of Alroy Kear in Cakes and Ale (1930).
When Wodehouse joined the Beefsteak Club, in 1926, Hugh Walpole was one of the dozen members who signed the club book in support of his candidature, and they met occasionally in later years, but Walpole could never understand why Wodehouse enjoyed such a high reputation and expressed puzzlement at Hilaire Belloc's remarks that Wodehouse was "the best writer of English now alive" and "the head of my profession".
The reference to Hugh Walpole replaces a reference to Hall Caine in the 1906 edition. Sir Thomas Henry Hall Caine (1853-1931) was a best-selling author, whose books sold by the million and were adapted as plays and films. Today, like Walpole, he is almost forgotten.
Maxim Gorky . . . Stephen Leacock (p 63)
Maxim Gorky (1868-1936) was a Russian novelist and playwright. Throughout his life he was involved in radical politics, taking part in the 1905 revolution and travelling abroad to raise funds for the revolutionary movement. Although his independent views led to him leaving Russia in 1921, he returned in 1928 as an enthusiastic supporter of Stalin and was one of those who formulated the doctrine of "socialist realism". It is entirely possible that Gorky had a sense of humour, though there are no obvious signs of it in his writings.
Stephen Leacock (1869-1944), a political economist and humorist, was born in England but brought up in Canada, where he spent the rest of his life. His many volumes of humorous essays enjoyed (and still enjoy) considerable popularity; J B Priestley described his best work as "balanced between cutting satire and sheer absurdity".
Wodehouse and Leacock both contributed to "Vanity Fair" and entered the magazine's "Hall of Fame" in the same (August 1915) issue. They became friends and Wodehouse visited Leacock (whom he described as "a kindred spirit") at his Montreal home in 1931
The 1906 edition has Gorky being being invited to lunch by the Czar, something that, by 1921, would have required the intervention of supernatural powers.
got the roop (p 65)
Roop (more usually, roup) is a disease in poultry charaterised by morbid swelling on the rump. It can nearly always be traced to contaminated food or insanitary housing conditions. One of the commonest remedies is to evaporate oil of turpentine in a closed room, so that the birds will be forced to breathe the vapour; Farmer Leigh's suggested remedy is a more laborious application of the same basic principle.
the village of Up Lyme (p 66)
Uplyme (or Up-Lym) is a small village, about 2.5 km inland from Lyme Regis (which, until the "Regis" was added in the reign of Edward I, was known as Nether-Lym, the Lym — or Lim as it is now known — being the small river which passes through both the village and the town).
the Cob (p 67)
See p 33.
Harry Hawk (p 68)
Tom Pearse, Tom Pearse, lend me your grey mare,
All along, down along, out along, lee.
For I want for to go to Widdicombe Fair,
Wi' Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney, Peter Davy,
Dan'l Whiddon, Harry Hawk,
Old Uncle Tom Cobbleigh and all.
"Widdicombe Fair", traditional English folk song
Conscience came to the scratch (p 69)
Under the London Prize Ring Rules, introduced in 1839 as a means of regulating prize fights, a round ended only when one of the contestants was knocked down. After a 30-second interval, this fighter was allowed 8 seconds in which to make his way, unaided, to a mark scratched in the centre of the ring. If he could not 'come up to the scratch', his opponent was declared the winner.
Chapter 11 (pp 72 - 77)
cloak and dark-lantern effects (p 72)
The more usual term is cloak-and-dagger (or cloak-and-sword), though Charles Lamb, in an essay on "Guy Faux" (or Fawkes) in the "London Magazine" (1823) used cloak and dark-lantern.
According to the OED, 'dark-lantern' is slang for "a servant or agent who receives bribes".
with much éclat (p 72)
From French: public display, ostentation, conspicuous success.
That girt fule (p 74)
Dialect: that great fool. Appropriately, 'fule' is also an obsolete form of 'fowl'.
we parted recently in anger (p 74)
Nay, but you part in anger.
Troilus and Cressida, Act V, sc 2,
I came out strong (p 74)
To 'come it strong' is to perform, to act a part.
The spilt child dreads the water (p 76)
Who would be engag'd,
That might live freely, as he may do? I swear,
They are wrong all. The burnt Child dreads the fire.
The Devil is an Ass, Act I, sc 2 (1616),
the straight and narrow path (p 77)
Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
Matthew, vii, 14
. . . Look before thee; dost thou see this narrow way? That is the way thou must go; it was cast up by the patriarchs, prophets, Christ, and his apostles; and it is as straight as a rule can make it. This is the way thou must go.
But, said Christian, are there no turnings or windings by which a stranger may lose his way?
Yes, there are many ways butt down upon this, and they are crooked and wide. But thus thou mayest distinguish the right from the wrong, the right only being straight and narrow.
The Pilgrim's Progress, Part I, ch 3 (1678),
Chapter 12 (pp 78 - 84)
Mr Whistler (p 78)
James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) was an American-born artist who achieved celebrity, not just as a painter but also as a wit and dandy, in the fashionable salons of Paris and London, from the mid-1860s onwards. In his later work, Whistler was much influenced by Japanese art, at a time when Japan was just being discovered by the West.
Like Oscar Wilde, an admirer of Whistler's art but a rival as a wit, Whistler effectively committed professional suicide by embarking on a misguided libel suit, in his case against the venerable art critic John Ruskin. Unlike Wilde, Whistler won his case, but was awarded a mere farthing in damages and the costs of the suit ruined him.
deficient in Simple Faith (p 79)
Trust me, Clara Vere de Vere,
From yon blue heavens above us bent
The gardener Adam and his wife
Smile at the claims of long descent.
Howe'er it be, it seems to me,
'Tis only noble to be good.
Kind hearts are more than coronets,
And simple faith than Norman blood.
, "Lady Clara Vere de Vere", (1815)
smoker's heart (p 80)
Symptoms of the condition known as "smoker's heart" are a constricting pain in the region of the heart, generally accompanied by pain in the chest and in one or both arms, and, frequently, a shortness of breath.
Tobacco amblyopia is characterised by a central loss of vision for colours, in the order, green, green and red, and in extreme cases, white.
Mr George Ade's fable (p 82)
An Author was sitting at his Desk trying to pull himself together and grind out Any Old Thing that could be converted into Breakfast Food.
More Fables, (October, 1900), "The Fable of the Author Who Was Sorry for What He Did to Willie", in
à propos des bottes (p 84)
French: literally, with regard to boots, ie concerning something quite irrelevant. The correct phrase is à propos de bottes.
Chapter 13 (pp 85 - 90)
an Anarchist League (p 85)
In modern times, 'anarchist' was first used by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, in What is Property? (1840), for which reason Proudhon is claimed by some anarchists as the founder of modern anarchist theory. Anarchists were active in the Paris Commune of 1871, which, although it was quickly overthrown, served as an inspiration to later anarchists. Anarchism as a philosophy flourished in the second half of the 19th century, when it became associated on the one hand with such marxist theorists as Bakunin and Kropotkin, and on the other with the anti-militarist movement which had been given impetus by the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. At the turn of the 20th century, French anarchists led calls for an international congress of anti-militarists and when the congress finally took place, in Amsterdam in 1904, some delegates tried, without success, to turn it into an anarchist congress, with the aim of establishing an Anarchist League. Fiction writers were quick to latch on to the idea of an anarchist league, most notably G K Chesterton, whose novel, The Man Who Was Thursday (1908), tells the story of a policeman's pursuit of an anarchist league.
the Ware Cliff (p 85)
Ware is a small hamlet on the western edge of Lyme Regis and although the name Ware Cliff does not appear on the Ordnance Survey map of the district, it is quite possible that the cliffs below the hamlet would be known locally by that name. They are also the nearest cliffs to the conjectured location of Ukridge's chicken farm. Weare Cleave, or Ware Cliff, was a mediaeval manor in the parish of Uplyme.
What a judicious remark that was (p 86)
'It couldn't have been what the Governor of North Carolina said to the Governor of South Carolina in the old story, for father is strongly opposed to drink of all kinds. And in the story—'
'I've forgotten where that story originated.'
'Well, it happened a long time ago, and nobody really knows the origin. But according to tradition, at the crisis of a great row between two governors, the ice was broken by the Governor of North Carolina saying to the Governor of South Carolina those shocking words about it's being a long time between drinks.
The Little Brown Jug at Kildare (1908),
'Do you know', asked Michael, 'what the Governor of South Carolina said to the Governor of North Carolina? "It's a long time between drinks", observed that powerful thinker; and if you will put your hand into the top left-hand pocket of my ulster, I have an impression you will find a flask of brandy. Thank you, Pitman', he added, as he filled out a glass for each.
The Wrong Box, ch 7 (1892),
Alas, poor Hawk! (p 86)
Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio:
Hamlet, Act V, sc 1,
"Archibald the All-Right" (p 87)
And you, too, are a Poet?
Yes, I am the Apostle of Simplicity. I am called "Archibald the All-Right" — for I am infallible!
Patience, Act I (1881),
You're a slave to convention (p 87)
Gilbert & Sullivan's operetta The Pirates of Penzance is subtitled "A Slave to Duty".
wasting her sweetness (p 88)
Full many a gem of purest ray serene,
The dark unfathom'd caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.
, "Elegy Written in a Country Church-Yard" (1751)
See also Money in the Bank.
Tilden Back-Handed Slosh (p 88)
Bill Tilden (1893-1953) was an American tennis player who, after working obsessively to perfect a topspun backhand shot, became almost unbeatable. He won the US Open singles title seven times, finishing with 73 victories in 80 matches, and also won seven US clay court titles, five US doubles titles and four national indoor titles. Between 1920 and 1928, he helped the US to seven consecutive Davis Cup wins, winning 13 straight singles games in the competition. He was unbeaten in matches in 1924, and in 1925 had a winning streak of 57 consecutive games. Tilden was also Wimbledon singles champion three times. After winning in 1920 and 1921, he refused to make the slow ocean passage and did not compete again at Wimbledon until 1927 when, and in the succeeding two years, he was beaten in the semi-finals. In 1930, he won his third title, becoming, at age 37, the oldest man to win a Wimbledon's singles title.
His service was bottled lightning (p 88)
'Very good', said the old gentleman, raising his voice, 'then bring in the bottled lightning, a clean tumbler, and a corkscrew.'
Nicholas Nickleby, ch 49 (1838-9),
jumping crackers (p 88)
A jumping cracker was a firework which, when lit and thrown on the ground, would explode in a sequence of loud bangs, jumping about erratically as it did so. For safety reasons, the public sale of jumping crackers is now illegal in Britain.
I felt a worm and no man (p 88)
But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.
quivering ganglions (p 89)
I'm bound to say I had expected to see Cyril showing a few more traces of last night's battle. I was looking for a bit of the overwrought soul and the quivering ganglions, if you know what I mean. He seemed pretty ordinary and quite fairly cheerful.
"Death at the Excelsior" in Pearson's magazine (December 1914)
The Johnson Slam (p 90)
William M Johnston (1894-1946) was an American tennis player. Although he won the US national singles title in 1915 and 1919, his career was overshadowed by the success of Bill Tilden, who was nicknamed "Big Bill" in contrast to "Little Bill" Johnston.
Johnston's best stroke was a powerful forehand slam.
The sentence referring to the Johnson Slam is omitted from the US text.
There is a tide in the affairs of men (p 90)
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.
Julius Caesar, Act IV, sc 3,
at the eleventh hour (p 90)
Just in time, at the last moment. The phrase derives from the New Testament parable of the workers in the vineyard:
And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle?
They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.
Matthew, xx, 6-7
See also The Code of the Woosters.
his daily bread (p 90)
Give us this day our daily bread
Matthew, vi, 11
Chapter 14 (pp 91 - 98)
in the cart (p 91)
OED: In an awkward, false, or losing position; in serious difficulties. (Possibly from the old use of a cart both to convey prisoners to execution and to act in place of the 'drop')
get on their hind legs (p 91)
OED: literally, of a horse, hence jocularly of a person, to go into a rage.
her nibs (p 92)
OED: an employer, a superior; a self-important person.
Brompton and Bayswater (p 92)
Harrods is on Brompton Road, Whiteley's in Bayswater.
manly and straightforward (p 92)
'And now Tom', he said, as they rode along, 'I have a question to ask you to which I expect a manly and straightforward answer.'
Life And Adventures Of Martin Chuzzlewit, ch 37 (1843-4),
And Mary was not altogether averse to him, knowing him to be good-natured, manly, and straightforward.
The American Senator, Vol 1, ch 3 (1877),
This time, being rather pressed by business, Darton had recourse to pen-and-ink, and wrote her as manly and straightforward a proposal as any woman could wish to receive.
Wessex Tales, ch 25 (1888),
'I wonder why they call this porridge', he observed with mild interest. 'It would be far more manly and straightforward of them to give it its real name.'
Psmith in the City, ch 6 (1910)
let him have tick (p 92)
Slang: credit (possibly because the acknowledgement of the debt was originally noted by means of a 'ticket', or 'note of hand', of the borrower.
cash down on the nail (p 93)
On the nail: immediately, at once. The OED states that the origin of the phrase is obscure and rejects as being of too recent origin explanations such as are offered by Brewer's Dictionary.
full of vigour and earnestness (p 93-4)
The Lord has delivered (p 94)
And the men of the garrison answered Jonathan and his armourbearer, and said, Come up to us, and we will shew you a thing. And Jonathan said unto his armourbearer, Come up after me: for the Lord hath delivered them into the hand of Israel.
1 Samuel, xiv, 12
And it was so, when Gideon heard the telling of the dream, and the interpretation thereof, that he worshipped, and returned into the host of Israel, and said, Arise; for the Lord hath delivered into your hand the host of Midian.
Judges, vii, 15
The yoke of my transgressions is bound by his hand: they are wreathed, and come up upon my neck: he hath made my strength to fall, the Lord hath delivered me into their hands, from whom I am not able to rise up.
Lamentations, i, 14
Colney Hatch (p 94)
Colney Hatch, at New Southgate, Middlesex, has been the site, since 1851, of the London County Lunatic Asylum. In 1937, it was renamed as Friern Hospital, taking its new name from the nearby hamlet of Friern Barnet.
dunning . . . duns (p 95)
To dun is to importune for payment of an outstanding debt.
big with possibilities (p 95)
I found this situation of two brethren not only odious in itself, but big with possibilities of further evil;
The Master of Ballantrae (1889),
be it never so humble (p 96)
'Mid pleasures and palaces tho' we may roam,
Be it never so humble, there's no place like home.
, "Home, Sweet Home" (1822)
Chapter 15 (pp 99 - 105)
as if he had been David (p 100)
to make mountains out of molehills (p 100)
To make difficulties out of trifles, to exaggerate the seriousness of a problem.
the cut direct (p 100)
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,
Kensington . . . Park Lane (p 101)
To afford a home in Kensington one had to be wealthy, but only the seriously rich could afford to live on Park Lane.
the miss-in-baulk (p 102)
The phrase "give the miss in baulk [or balk]", used also by Jeeves and Psmith, derives from the game of English billiards. On a billiard table, a white line (the baulk line) 29 inches from the bottom of the table delimits the baulk area. A ball is "in baulk" when it is resting on the baulk line or between the baulk line and the bottom cushion (the cushion nearest the baulk line). During a game, a player is expected to play his cue ball so that it hits either the object ball or his opponent's cue ball (if the latter is on the table); if he fails to strike another ball, he is said to "give a miss" and incurs a foul: his opponent is awarded two points and has the option of playing the balls as they lie or having them re-spotted. But if he is playing "out of hand" and there is no ball outside the baulk area, a player is allowed to "give a miss" without incurring a foul: his opponent is still awarded two points but cannot choose to have the balls re-spotted — such a deliberate miss is known as "giving a miss in baulk".
It should be noted that when Wodehouse uses the term, it is always with the sense of an intentional miss: other explanations (eg that in A Wodehouse Handbook) overlook this vital element, confusing the intentional "miss in baulk" with the more common, and unintentional, "miss".
held me with a glittering eye (p 102)
He holds him with his glittering eye—
The Wedding-Guest stood still,
And listens like a three years' child:
The Mariner hath his will.
, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner", Part I (1817)
Oh, woman, woman! (p 103)
Oh woman, woman! when to ill thy mind
Is bent, all hell contains no fouler fiend.
, "The Odyssey of Homer", Book xi (1726)
See also Sam the Sudden.
a gaby . . . a perfect guffin (p 103)
Northern dialect words. Gaby — a simpleton; Guffin — a stupid, clumsy person
Mark Antony (p 105)
Mark Antony (c 83-30 BC) was a Roman military leader and supporter of Julius Caesar, serving as his second-in-command in the civil war against Pompey. As one of the triumvirs who took control of the Roman empire after Caesar's assassination, Antony was responsible for pacifying the Eastern Provinces, leaving Octavian, Caesar's great-nephew and adopted son (and Antony's main rival), in Rome. In 41 BC, Antony met the Egyptian queen, Cleopatra, and became her lover. Octavian used Antony's affair with Cleopatra as an excuse to attack his rival and civil war eventually broke out between them. Octavian defeated the combined naval forces of Antony and Cleopatra at the battle of Actium (31 BC) and the following year invaded Egypt. Faced with almost certain capture, Antony committed suicide (as did Cleopatra a few days later).
Samson (p 105)
Samson, son of Manoah, was a Nazarite, a body of Israelite men who, under a vow to God, refrained from strong drink and allowed their hair to grow. Before he was conceived, an angel of the Lord foretold that he would begin the liberation of the Israelites from their Philistine oppressors. Samson became a great hero of the Israelites until he was betrayed by Delilah, the woman he loved:
And it came to pass, when she pressed him daily with her words, and urged him, so that his soul was vexed unto death;
That he told her all his heart, and said unto her, There hath not come a razor upon mine head; for I have been a Nazarite unto God from my mother's womb: if I be shaven, then my strength will go from me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man.
And when Delilah saw that he had told her all his heart, she sent and called for the lords of the Philistines, saying, Come up this once, for he hath shewed me all his heart. Then the lords of the Philistines came up unto her, and brought money in their hand.
And she made him sleep upon her knees; and she called for a man, and she caused him to shave off the seven locks of his head; and she began to afflict him, and his strength went from him.
And she said, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And he awoke out of his sleep, and said, I will go out as at other times before, and shake myself. And he wist not that the Lord was departed from him.
Judges, xvi, 16-20
The story was the subject of Milton's last poem, Samson Agonistes (1671), the title of which means "Samson the Champion":
Fearless of danger, like a petty god
I walked about, admired of all, and dreaded
On hostile ground, none daring my affront—
Then, swollen with pride, into the snare I fell
Of fair fallacious looks, venereal trains,
Softened with pleasure and voluptuous life
At length to lay my head and hallowed pledge
Of all my strength in the lascivious lap
Of a deceitful Concubine, who shore me,
Like a tame wether, all my precious fleece,
Then turned me out ridiculous, despoiled,
Shaven, and disarmed among my enemies.
Bill Bailey (p 105)
See Something Fresh.
I would arise, be a man (p 105)
Then a secret voice whispereth: "Arise, be a man, and slay him! Take him grossly, full of bread, with all his crimes broad-blown, as flush as May; At gaming, swearing, or about some act That hath no relish of salvation in it!" But when the deed is done, and the floor strewn with fragments of binder — still the books remain unbound. You have made all that horrid mess for nothing, and the weary path has to be trodden over again. As a general rule, the man in the habit of murdering bookbinders, though he performs a distinct service to society, only wastes his own time and takes no personal advantage.
Pagan Papers (1893), "Non Libri Sed Liberi", in
the Invisible Man (p 105)
H G Wells's book of this name was published in 1897.
Chapter 16 (pp 106 - 111)
flowers of speech (p 106)
"Not to admire is all the art I know
(Plain truth, dear Murray, needs few flowers of speech)
To make men happy, or to keep them so"
, "Don Juan", Canto the Fifth (1824)
this ol' bufflehead (p 107)
A fool, blockhead, stupid fellow. Appropriately (though perhaps unintentionally so), Bufflehead is also the name of a North American species of diving duck.
an' gormed if I don't (p 107)
The OED defines 'gorm' (or 'gawm') as "a vulgar substitute for '(God) damn'".
let the cat out of the bag (p 107)
Disclose the secret. Brewer's Dictionary, quoting a 16th century source, explains that it was a common trick to try to pass off a cat in a sack (or bag) as a suckling-pig. If the unsuspecting victim fell for the trick, he was said to have "bought a pig in a poke" (or pocket), whereas if he was wiser, and opened the sack, he "let the cat out of the bag".
There is a Divinity (p 108)
and that should teach us
There's a divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will,—
Hamlet, Act V, sc 2,
like Mr Bardell (p 109)
'The plaintiff, gentlemen', continued Serjeant Buzfuz, in a soft and melancholy voice, 'the plaintiff is a widow; yes, gentlemen, a widow. The late Mr Bardell, after enjoying, for many years, the esteem and confidence of his sovereign, as one of the guardians of his royal revenues, glided almost imperceptibly from the world, to seek elsewhere for that repose and peace which a custom-house can never afford.'
At this pathetic description of the decease of Mr Bardell, who had been knocked on the head with a quart-pot in a public-house cellar, the learned serjeant's voice faltered, and he proceeded, with emotion—
The Pickwick Papers, ch 34 (1837),
A navvy is a labourer employed on heavy work, such as digging. The word is a contraction of 'navigator', a term that was used in the late 18th and early 19th centuries to denote those who worked on the construction of canals (or 'navigations').
"Mumbling Mose" (p 109)
"Mumblin' Mose" was a Minstrel song of the early 1900s.
we learn in suffering what we teach in song (p 109)
Said to be an Irish proverb.
See also Money in the Bank.
the iron planted immovably in his soul (p 109)
"The iron entered his soul" is Miles Coverdale's mis-translation of part of Psalm 105, verse 18, in his Great Bible of 1539; earlier English translations had used a similar form of words. The error was corrected in the King James Version, where verses 17-18 read:
He sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant:
Whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron.
Coverdale's wording is preserved in the Church of England's Book of Common Prayer. The phrase has come to express the impression made by hard usage or affliction on the 'soul', or inner being, of the sufferer.
Mudie's doorway (p 109)
Charles Edward Mudie (1818-90) was a bookseller and publisher. In 1842 he branched out into lending books, often buying very large numbers of new works to meet the demands of his borrowers. Mudie's Circulating Library was the principal means by which many middle-class readers in the second half of the 19th century were introduced to such authors as Dickens, Trollope and Thackeray. Mudie's Library eventually died out in the early years of the twentieth century, as the increasing provision of public libraries rendered it superfluous.
What does Kipling say? (p 111)
The cure for this ill is not to sit still,
Or frowst with a book by the fire;
But to take a large hoe and a shovel also,
And dig till you gently perspire;
And then you will find that the sun and the wind,
And the Djinn of the Garden too,
Have lifted the hump—
The horrible hump—
The hump that is black and blue!
"How the Camel Got His Hump", in Just So Stories (1902)
Chapter 17 (pp 112 - 116)
And all the air a solemn stillness holds (p 116)
Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,
And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds:
, "Elegy Written in a Country Church-Yard" (1751)
Chapter 18 (pp 117 - 125)
Blow, blow, thou winter wind (p 118)
Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou art not so unkind
As man's ingratitude:
As You Like It, Act II, sc 7,
Gretna Green (p 119)
Gretna Green is a village in the southeast of Dumfriesshire, Scotland, about 9 miles from the English city of Carlisle, and less than one mile from the English border. When, in 1754, an English Act of Parliament abolished clandestine marriages, eloping couples who wished to marry without the consent of parents or guardians had to leave the country to do so, and Gretna Green, lying conveniently close to the English border, and — after the expansion of the railways — easily accessible by rail, was a popular destination. All that was necessary was for the couple to declare, in the presence of witnesses, their wish to marry; the ceremony itself could be performed by anyone, the blacksmith and toll-keeper being popular choices. In 1856, a change in Scottish law required that one of the contracting parties to a marriage had to have resided in the country for at least three weeks before the event, and though this did not necessarily prevent Gretna Green weddings, the custom rapidly declined.
as the super regards the actor-manager (p 120)
A super (abbreviated from 'supernumerary') is the theatrical equivalent of what, in the cinema, is now more usually known as an 'extra' — someone engaged for a very minor part or to be present during a crowd scene.
time, the Great Healer (p 120)
a first class carriage on the underground (p 123)
Nowadays, there is only a single class on the London Underground, but there were first class carriages on the Metropolitan line until October 1941.
a house in Thurloe Square (p 124)
Thurloe Square lies about 200m east of South Kensington underground station and about 100m south of the Victoria and Albert Museum.
In Sam the Sudden, Kay Derrick's employer, Mrs Winnington-Bates, lives in Thurloe Square.
Norman Murphy (In Search of Blandings) notes that, during the period covered by the publication dates of Love Among the Chickens and Sam the Sudden, Wodehouse's widowed Aunt Juliette lived in Thurlow Square; her late husband, Capt Pollexfen Deane, had, like Sir Rupert Lakenheath, Lady Lakenheath's late husband, served in the Colonial Civil Service, though, unlike Sir Rupert, Captain Deane never achieved the rank of Governor.
one of the Upper Ten (p 124)
The 'Upper Ten' (short for 'ten thousand') was a colloquial name for the aristocracy, the upper class.
Lady Lakenheath's (p 124)
Lakenheath is a village in Suffolk, due west of Thetford; Yaxley, which may have given its name to Bertie Wooster's Uncle George, Lord Yaxley, is in the same general area, but south-east of Thetford — "may have", because there is another Yaxley, just south of Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, and very close to Norman Cross on what Wodehouse would have known as the 'Great North Road'.
a mighty, rushing wind (p 124)
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
Acts, ii, 1-2
The phrase seems to be misquoted as "mighty, rushing" about as often as it is quoted correctly.
See also Summer Moonshine.
toy Pomeranian (p 125)
The Pomeranian is a breed of dog, belonging to the Spitz family, and classed as a "toy dog" breed on account of its diminutive size: Pomeranians usually weigh between 3 and 7 lb and stand 7 to 12 inches high. They have a soft, thick, and fluffy undercoat, underlying a long, straight and coarse top coat, and require frequent grooming. Pomeranians come in a variety of colours, from black to white.
Pomeranians are thought to be descended from an Arctic breed; its immediate ancestors were large working dogs, weighing up to 50 pounds, that were used to herd sheep in the Pomerania region, an area that now forms part of eastern Germany and northern Poland. The trend toward smaller animals is said to have started with Queen Victoria, who imported numerous Pomeranians from Europe to stock a large breeding kennel. One of her favourite dogs, Marco, who was reputed to weigh a mere 12 pounds, was exhibited at many dog shows and won many prizes, encouraging other dog fanciers to breed even smaller dogs.
It is sometimes claimed, without much in the way of solid evidence, that Isaac Newton's dog, Diamond, was a Pomeranian.
Chapter 19 (pp 126 - 132)
the needle (p 126)
OED: a fit of irritation or nervousness.
on the face of the waters (p 126)
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
Genesis, i, 1-2
stood not upon the order of his sinking (p 127)
See Something Fresh.
the inscrutable workings of Providence (p 130)
Judge: 'Mr Smith, you must not direct the jury. What do you suppose I am on the bench for?'
Barrister: 'It is not for me, your honour, to attempt to fathom the inscrutable workings of Providence.'
A retort traditionally attributed to, 1st Earl of Birkenhead (1872-1930)
Chapter 20 (pp 133 - 140)
foozled a drive (p 133)
as Calverley almost said (p 133)
To sit, happy married lovers; Phillis trifling with a plover's
Egg, while Corydon uncovers with a grace the Sally Lunn,
Or dissects the lucky pheasant—that, I think, were passing pleasant;
As I sit alone at present, dreaming darkly of a Dun.
, "In the Gloaming"
Whether this is the Calverley text that Wodehouse had in mind is not clear.
softly and silently vanished away (p 133)
In the midst of the word he was trying to say,
In the midst of his laughter and glee,
He had softly and suddenly vanished away —
For the Snark was a Boojum, you see.
, "The Hunting of the Snark" (1874)
As Martin Gardner notes in The Annotated Snark, the penultimate line is persistently misquoted.
I didn't mind reading to Aunt Julia, and I could just stand taking Tibby for walks. But, when it came to shoveling snow, I softly and silently vanished away.
Jill the Reckless, ch 12 (1921)
brain himself with a cleek (p 134)
he shall taste of my despair (p 135)
Spare us the inexpiable wrong, the unutterable shame,
That turns the coward's heart to steel, the sluggard's blood to flame,
Lest, when our latest hope is fled, ye taste of our despair,
And learn by proof, in some wild hour, how much the wretched dare.
Lays of Ancient Rome (1842), "Virginia" in
to extenuate nothing (p 135)
No more of that. I pray you, in your letters,
When you shall these unlucky deeds relate,
Speak of me as I am; nothing extenuate,
Nor set down aught in malice: then must you speak
Of one that loved not wisely but too well;
Of one not easily jealous, but being wrought
Perplex'd in the extreme;
Othello, Act V, sc 2,
See also Summer Moonshine.
played euchre with the Heathen Chinee (p 135)
It was August the third,
And quite soft was the skies,
Which it might be inferred
That Ah Sin was likewise:
Yet he played it that day upon William
And me in a way I despise.
Which we had a small game,
And Ah Sin took a hand:
It was euchre. The same
He did not understand;
But he smiled, as he sat by the table,
With the smile that was childlike and bland.
Yet the cards they were stocked
In a way that I grieve,
And my feelings were shocked
At the state of Nye's sleeve,
Which was stuffed full of aces and bowers,
And the same with intent to deceive.
But the hands that were played
By that heathen Chinee,
And the points that he made,
Were quite frightful to see
Till at last he put down a right bower,
Which the same Nye had dealt unto me.
Then I looked up at Nye,
And he gazed upon me;
And he rose with a sigh,
And said, "Can this be!
We are ruined by Chinese cheap labor",—
And he went for that heathen Chinee.
In the scene that ensued
I did not take a hand,
But the floor it was strewed
Like the leaves on the strand
With the cards that Ah Sin had been hiding
In the game "he did not understand".
In his sleeves, which were long,
He had twenty-four packs —
Which was coming it strong,
Yet I state but the facts.
And we found on his nails, which were taper —
What is frequent in tapers — that's wax.
Plain Language from Truthful James, or "The Heathen Chinee" (1870),
his sleep o' nights broken (p 136)
See Something Fresh.
judicious manipulation of his brassy (p 136)
He addressed his ball (p 136)
Then he struck and topped it (p 136)
slain with a niblick (p 137)
'I killed him with my niblick', said Celia.
I nodded. If the thing was to be done at all, it was unquestionably a niblick shot.
"The Salvation of George Mackintosh", in The Clicking of Cuthbert (1922)
All hope abandon ye who enter here (p 137)
Canto III of Dante's Inferno opens with the poet reading the words inscribed above the gateway of Hell which conclude "Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate", usually translated as "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here".
See also Summer Moonshine.
I drew the garden (p 140)
Searched the garden — 'draw' in this sense is a hunting term.
Chapter 21 (pp 141 - 145)
Shot the moon (p 143)
'Shoot the moon' (also 'bolt the moon') means to 'do a moonlight flit', to remove one's household goods by night (ie by the light of the moon) to avoid paying the rent or to avoid one's creditors.
Chapter 22 (pp 146 - 154)
the comments of the Ring (p 147)
The 'Ring' refers to the onlookers at the fight. The term originally referred to the space within which a prize-fight took place, while 'to hold (or keep) the ring' meant to be an onlooker, from which 'the ring' came to refer to pugilism as an activity and then to those interested in it.
Conciliation became a drug (p 149)
That is, conciliation had become a commodity for which there was no longer any demand.
If that were the birthmark of genius, he said, genius would be a drug in the market.
Ulysses, ch 9 ("Scylla & Charybdis") (1922),
I ain't 'ad a turn-up (p 149)
A turn-up was a boxing contest, hence, loosely, a fight, especially with the fists.
a time-expired man (p 149)
Troopin', troopin', troopin' to the sea:
'Ere's September come again — the six-year men are free.
O leave the dead be'ind us, for they cannot come away
To where the ship's a-coalin' up that takes us 'ome to-day.
We're goin' 'ome, we're goin' 'ome,
Our ship is at the shore,
An' you must pack your 'aversack,
For we won't come back no more.
Ho, don't you grieve for me,
My lovely Mary-Ann,
For I'll marry you yit on a fourp'ny bit
As a time-expired man.
Barrack-Room Ballads (1890), "Troopin’ (Our Army in the East)" in
Threescore years and ten! It is the Scriptural statute of limitations. After that you have no active duties. You are a time-expired man, to use Kipling's military phrase. You have served your time, well or ill, and you are mustered out.
, Address at a Dinner Given by Colonel George Harvey at Delmonico's, 5 December 1905, to Celebrate the Seventieth Anniversary of Mr Clemens' Birth
Although Twain refers to "Kipling's" phrase, the term was already in use some years before the publication of Barrack-Room Ballads.
olive oil poured into a wound (p 151)
References in the Bible make it clear that olive oil was commonly used as a soothing agent for bruises and minor wounds.
But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,
And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
Luke, x, 33-34
In this passage, from the parable of the Good Samaritan, the oil would have served to sooth and soften the wounds, while the wine (fermented alcohol) would act both as an antiseptic and as a cleansing agent (as rubbing alcohol is still used today).
the pot-boy (p 152)
A pot-boy was a youth employed in a tavern or public-house to serve the customers with beer.
The red-headed pot-boy had scarcely finished speaking, when a most unanimous hammering of tables, and jingling of glasses, announced that the song had that instant terminated;
The Pickwick Papers, ch 20 (1837),
Chapter 23 (pp 155 - 160)
sat like Marius among the ruins (p 160)
See Something Fresh.
the Grand Army (p 160)
La Grande Armée was the name that Napoleon Bonaparte gave to the force of some 200,000 men that he assembled on the Channel coast during the period 1803-05 in preparation for a projected invasion of Britain. Although plans for the invasion had to be cancelled, the army grew hugely over the next few years until, by the start of the invasion of Russia, in June 1812, it numbered around 600,000. But by mid-December of that year, when the beaten remnants of the Grand Army retreated back across the River Niemen, out of Russian territory, they numbered at the very most just over 90,000 (and some estimates put the figure as low as 10,000).