(US: Something New)
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).
Something New was serialised in The Saturday Evening Post between 26 June and 14 August 1915 and was first published in book form by D. Appleton & Co, New York, on 3 September 1915. The English edition, under the title Something Fresh, was published by Methuen and Co, London, on 16 September 1915.
The texts of the two editions differ in many details, for two main reasons. First, there is a sub-plot of some 20 pages in Something New that does not appear in Something Fresh: this is the passage in which Baxter finds a paint-splashed lady’s shoe at the scene of the theft from the library and attempts to identify its owner. The reason for its omission from Something Fresh is probably that Wodehouse had used the identical sub-plot some six years earlier in The Lost Lambs, the second half of Mike, a book which was published only in the UK (copies were bound and sold in the US, but only from imported sheets). Second, three of the main characters—Ashe Marson, Joan Valentine and George Emerson—are American in the US edition, English in the UK edition, with many consequential changes in descriptive passages and, especially, dialogue.
Because of these differences, pagination differs significantly between the two editions. Page numbers in these annotations refer to the 1979 Penguin UK edition of Something Fresh, reprinted 1981. For those without access to the US edition, an etext of the US edition, Something New, is available from Project Gutenberg: I have re-formatted this, added hyperlinked cross-references to these annotations, and included footnotes identifying significant differences between the two editions.
Chapter 1 Part 1 (pp 9 - 16)
Arundell Street, Leicester Square (p 9)
Arundell Street no longer exists. It used to lie west of and run parallel to Rupert Street in the London W1 postal district, within a stone’s throw of Piccadilly Circus and two minutes’ walk from Leicester Square. Prior to being known as Arundell Street, it was called Panton Square.
In his Introduction to Performing Flea (1953), Wodehouse’s friend, Bill Townend, wrote: “In the year 1906 I was living in one room in Arundel Street, a cul-de-sac off Coventry Street, where Lyons’ Corner House now stands.”
Much Middlefold, Salop (p 10)
‘Salop’ is another name for the county of Shropshire (from the Norman name, Salopescira). There is no town or village called Much Middlefold in Shropshire, though there is a Much Wenlock. ‘Much’ in this context means ‘great’ (from Middle English muche).
Jeremy Garnet (Love Among the Chickens) also claims Much Middlefold as his birthplace, while Lord Pershore (My Man Jeeves) lives there and Sally Nichols (The Adventures of Sally) admires its beauty.
Norman Murphy (In Search of Blandings) identifies Much Middlefold with Stableford, Shropshire, where Wodehouse’s father leased a house, ‘The Old House’, from 1895 to 1902.
running the mile in four and a half minutes (p 10)
By the standards of his day, this is not particularly quick. As Ashe is 26 years old, he would probably have been at Oxford from autumn 1907 to summer 1910, participating in the inter-varsity match in 1908 and 1909. In 1905, the event record for the mile was lowered to 4 min 17.8 secs, which stood until 1949, when Roger Bannister broke it. In May 1913. John Paul Jones of USA set the world record with a time of 4 mins 14.4 secs.
Blue for Athletics (p 10)
A ‘Blue’ is awarded at Oxford and Cambridge universities to those who participate in Varsity matches in certain sports, most notably rowing, cricket, rugby and some athletics disciplines. The general criteria for awarding a ‘Blue’ are that the sport should have “considerable college organization” and “be of high enough standard to compare favourably with other amateur clubs in the country”. For sports that do not meet these criteria, a ‘Half-Blue’ may be awarded.
against Cambridge at Queen’s Club (p 10)
The Queen’s Club was established at Baron’s Court in 1886, under the patronage of Queen Victoria. In 1888, it became the venue for the Varsity athletics match. This was held annually until 1914 and, after a six-year break occasioned by the First World War, from 1920 until 1928. In that year, the club began to transform itself into a lawn tennis and rackets club, and other sports moved to more suitable venues, athletics to The White City, rugby to Twickenham, soccer to Wembley.
fool some of the people some of the time (p 10)
This is a reference to a phrase usually attributed to Abraham Lincoln:
You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.
or, as it is sometimes given:
You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.
The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations attributes the phrase to a speech made by Lincoln at Clinton, Illinois, on 8 September 1858, presumably during his Senate campaign against Stephen Douglas, though it did not appear in print until Alexander K McClure’s Lincoln’s Yarns and Stories was published, in 1904.
The phrase is sometimes attributed to Phineas T Barnum, who was well-known for popularising Lincoln’s sayings.
a pair of Indian clubs (p 11)
Indian clubs resemble bowling pins in appearance. Their origin can be traced to the gada, an ancient Indian mace or war club. The Lord Vishnu, with other Hindu deities, is usually depicted holding a gada in one hand. Over time, the war club changed its shape and evolved into an instrument of physical exercise. As such, Indian clubs were adopted by the British army in India during the 19th century and found their way to England, where they soon became popular. In 1861, an American fitness enthusiast and businessman, Simon D Kehoe, observed the art of Indian-club swinging during a visit to England and, believing he had found the perfect exercise apparatus, he began to manufacture and sell clubs to the American public in 1862. Indian clubs began to go out of fashion in the 1930s and are now sought after primarily as antiques or objets d’art.
See also A Damsel in Distress.
the finger of scorn (p 11)
Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;
Isaiah, lviii, 9
The Romans “put forth” the middle finger in a gesture of scorn which is still common today.
The paragraph containing the reference to the “finger of scorn” was omitted from Something New.
Hotel Previtali . . . Hotel Mathis (p 11)
The Hotel Previrali and Hotel Mathis were indeed located in the old Panton Square. In July 1889, The Times reported that both hotels were slightly damaged by a fire that destroyed another hotel, the International.
In June 1919, The Times published a share prospectus on behalf of J Lyons & Company Ltd, in which it was disclosed that the company had agreed to purchase freeehold properties in Arundell Street, including those on which the Hotels Previtali and Mathis stood, and it is to be presumed that the Lyons’ Corner House mentioned by Wodehouse was the result of the redevelopment of the area subsequent to Lyons’ purchase.
“Bill Bailey!” (p 12)
Presumably a reference to the popular song, “Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please Come Home”:
“Won’t you come home, Bill Bailey
Won’t you come home?
You know dat I done you wrong.
“I’ll do de cookin’, honey, I’ll pay de rent,
I cry de whole night long.
Remember dat rainy evening I threw you out,
With nothing but a fine-tooth comb?
I knows I’m to blame,
Well, ain’t that a shame?
Bill Bailey, won’t you please come home?”
Words and music by(1902)
See also Love Among the Chickens.
In Something New, the cabman calls Ashe “Sunny Jim”. This may be a reference to the character of that name who, for many years, appeared in advertisements for a Canadian breakfast cereal, ‘Force’. In 1902, a drawing of Sunny Jim was the winning entry in an advertising competition organised by the Canadian Wheat Flakes Company. The Sunny Jim character was an elegant Regency dandy with a fashionable waistcoat, periwig and monocle; the accompanying jingle:
High o’er the fence leaps Sunny Jim,
Force is the food that raises him . . .
became almost as famous as the nursery rhyme about Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
King Henry . . . the White Ship (p 14)
In November 1120, King Henry I of England was preparing to return to England after a successful campaign against the French King, Louis VI. Henry was offered the use of a fine vessel, the White Ship, but, having already made his travelling arrangements, he suggested that his 17-year old son and sole legitimate heir, William the Aethling, should use it.
William’s departure was delayed, and by the time he sailed, accompanied by some 300 fellow passengers, Henry had already left for England. The White Ship was a sound vessel, but sea-faring at that time was always risky and, to add to the risks, it is thought that the crew may have been drunk. Whatever the reason, during the night of 25 November the ship struck a rock and sank. William and all but one of the other passengers, including at least two of Henry’s bastard children and many members of the royal household, were drowned.
The Wand of Death (p 16)
The wand, usually made from a traditional wood (eg oak, willow or elder), has been invested with religious or magical significance for thousands of years.
Chapter 1 Part 2 (pp 16 - 23)
A lunacy commissioner (p 17)
The Commissioners in Lunacy was a government department established by the Lunacy Act, 1845, to supervise the treatment of lunatics in England and Wales. It was re-named as the Board of Control in 1913. Its functions included monitoring the construction of a network of publicly-owned county asylums and regulating the treatment of lunatics in private asylums.
In Something New, “a lunacy commissioner” is replaced by “an alienist”.
sacred ebony stick . . . Indian temple (p 18)
This may be a reference to a now-forgotten story, or perhaps an allusion to Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone (1868), the plot of which revolves around a yellow diamond which had been stolen from an Indian temple.
something new (p 20)
Fr Rob Bovendaard has pointed out that the phrase “something new” occurs four times in the book, but “something fresh” not at all, and that it is almost as if Something New was the title Wodehouse had in mind, if only subconsciously. To add force to this suggestion, it is worth noting that Joan uses the phrase twice during this conversation with Ashe and he repeats it back to her when he tells her, in chap 4, that he has a job as a valet.
rather be a lady’s maid than a governess (p 20)
A lady’s maid takes care of the personal needs of her mistress. Her duties include assisting her mistress with her toilet and dressing, and, when travelling, ensuring that everything is properly packed at the start and unpacked at the destination.
A governess is employed to look after the children of the house. Her duties include tutoring, supervising play activities, and bathing, feeding and dressing the children, as well as packing and preparing the children for travel.
what General Sherman would have said (p 20)
General William Tecumseh Sherman (1820-91) was one of the leading Federal generals in the American Civil War. His capture of Atlanta and subsequent ‘march to the sea’ are usually regarded as the first instance of the application of ‘total war’. In 1869, when Ulysses S Grant became President, Sherman replaced him as commanding general of the US Army, retiring in 1883.
The particular remark referred to is “War is hell!”. Sherman is said to have used this phrase on one occasion, though reliable sources are lacking, and to have used a similar phrase on another occasion, though the sources differ as to what he actually said!
One claim is that Sherman used the phrase in impromptu remarks at the end of a speech to cadets of the graduating class at the Michigan Military Academy on 19 June 1879. There are several versions of what he is supposed to have said to the cadets, and none seems to be adequately sourced. One version is:
“I’ve been where you are now and I know just how you feel. It’s entirely natural that there should beat in the breast of every one of you a hope and desire that some day you can use the skill you have acquired here. Suppress it! You don’t know the horrible aspects of war. I’ve been through two wars [the Second Seminole War and the Civil War] and I know. I’ve seen cities and homes in ashes. I’ve seen thousands of men lying on the ground, their dead faces looking up at the skies. I tell you, war is hell!”
The other occasion on which he is said to have made a similar remark was at a grand reunion of Civil War veterans at Columbus, Ohio, from 10-12 August 1880. The main speaker at the event, on 11 August, was US President Rutherford B Hayes. After Hayes had finished, Sherman addressed a few impromptu remarks to the veterans. Some newspapers did not report Sherman's remarks, eg:
General Sherman made a speech to the “Boys”, which was heartily applauded.
National Republican, Washington, DC, 12 August 1880
Others reported what Sherman had said, but their accounts differ:
General Sherman followed President Hayes in an appropriate speech. He said it delighted his soul to see so many of the good old boys left. There was many a boy there to-day who looked on soldiering as all glory; “but boys” he said, “it is all hell. I look on war with horror, but if it has got to come I am here.”
Daily Record-Union, Sacramento, California, 12 August 1880
“The war is now away back in the past and you can tell what books cannot, when you come down to practical realities just as they happened. You all know that this is not soldiering here. There is many a boy here to-day who looks on soldiering as all a story, but, boys, it is all real. You can hear this moaning voice [another version is bear this warning voice] to generations yet to come. I look upon war with horror, but if it has to come I am here.”
Daily Globe, St Paul, Minnesota, 12 August 1880
Morning Post (p 21)
See Summer Moonshine.
on your note of hand (p 21)
A “note of hand” is an out-dated term for a promissory note, a promise, made in writing and duly signed, to pay or repay a specified sum of money at a stated time or on demand.
We have travelled a good way (p 22)
“But, Miss Bertram”, continued she hastily, for her father’s brows began to darken, “we have travelled a good way,—will you permit me to retire before dinner?”
Guy Mannering, ch XX (1815),
Brian MacNeill . . . required no security (p 22)
Brian MacNeill, Angus Bruce, Duncan Macfarlane, Wallace Mackintosh, and Donald MacNab are all typically Scottish names. It may be that Wodehouse is merely alluding to the traditional stereotype of the tight-fisted Scot. Another (unconfirmed) suggestion is that the laws relating to money-lending were different in England and Scotland at that time and that English money-lenders found it advantageous to establish a place of business in Scotland and to masquerade as Scots.
Such advertisements on behalf of money were at one time so common that for several weeks in January 1914 The Times carried a message on its front page stating that “the greatest possible care is taken to ensure that all advertisements inserted are trustworthy . . . Moneylenders’ announcements are rigorously excluded.”
See also Leave It to Psmith.
over the age of twenty-one (p 22)
At the time when Something Fresh 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, specifically, in this context, the right to enter into contracts, and to sue or be sued. 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.
the Grand Tour (p 23)
From the 17th to early 19th centuries, it was the custom for the sons of wealthy families to finish their education by undertaking a tour, under the guardianship of a private tutor, through France, Switzerland and Italy, returning by way of Germany. This ‘Grand Tour’ often took two years or longer, during which time the young man was supposed to study the languages and cultures of each country visited.
The paragraph referring to the Grand Tour does not appear in Something New.
Chapter 2 Part 1 (pp 23 - 27)
Hotel Guelph (p 23)
The house of Guelph is a European dynasty which traces its descent from Guelph (or Welf), a 9th century Count of Swabia. English monarchs from George I to Victoria came from the house of Hanover, a branch of the Guelph dynasty, and when what is now the city of Guelph, southern Ontario, was founded, in 1827, it was named in honour of the then ruling monarch, George IV.
the Hon Frederick Threepwood (p 23)
In January 1904, Wodehouse rented a house called ‘Threepwood’ in the village of Emsworth and used it as his permanent address for the next three years. Although he never seems to have purchased the property, which the owner unsuccessfully offered for sale in 1909 and again in 1911, he continued to rent it and lived there periodically until 1914, by which time he was married and living in New York.
The house, at 6 Record Road, Emsworth, still stands and, in 1996, the actor Ian Carmicheal (who had played Bertie Wooster on TV) unveiled a plaque recording Wodehouse’s connection with the building. In 1999, Havant Borough Council included ‘Threepwood’ in a newly-prepared List of Buildings of Local Interest, on the strength of its association with Wodehouse.
as fit as a fiddle (p 23)
Idiom: in fine condition. The origin of the phrase is obscure, perhaps having something to do with the stamina required to play the fiddle (violin).
National Sporting Club (p 23)
The National Sporting Club was formed in 1891, with the fifth Earl of Lonsdale as its first President and its premises at 43 King Street, Covent Garden (where it remained until 1955). From its inception, it took over from the Pelican Club the responsibility for organising professional boxing in England, licensing boxers, managers and promoters. It soon became known for promoting high quality contests and in 1907 was the venue for the first boxing match to be refereed from within the ring. In 1929, the NSC handed over its boxing control functions to the British Boxing Board of Control.
The last time Jimmy had seen Jerry Mitchell had been two years before at the National Sporting Club in London . . .
Piccadilly Jim, ch 8 pt 2 (1917)
See also A Damsel in Distress.
the Earl of Emsworth (p 24)
Emsworth is a small village on the Hampshire side of the border with Sussex, on the south coast of England, about halfway between Chichester and Portsmouth. It derives its name from the Anglo Saxon Æmeles worþ (“Æmele’s enclosure”). The local river, the Ems, takes its name from the town.
In the 19th century, Emsworth was an important fishing village and one of the centres of the south coast oyster industry, but a number of factors—over-exploitation of the oyster beds; fears of contamination by sewage (especially after the typhoid scares of the mid-1890s); invasion of the oyster beds by predatory species of shellfish; and an outbreak of disease just after the 1914-18 War— resulted in the collapse of the industry. Some of the old oyster-beds can still be seen at low tide, but they are no longer farmed.
In January 1903, Wodehouse was invited to Emsworth by Herbert Westbrook, who had been introduced to him by a mutual friend. Westbrook was a teacher at Emsworth House, a small private school, and Wodehouse lived at the school for some time, before renting ‘Threepwood’.
with the exception of Mr Lloyd George (p 24)
David Lloyd George (1863-1945), 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor, was a Welsh Liberal politician and, from 1916 to 1922, British Prime Minister. He served as Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Asquith government (1908-15) and in 1909 presented a “people’s budget”, which promoted higher land taxes and a super-tax on incomes over £3000 as a means of paying for social reform programmes and the rearming of the navy. The House of Lords’ rejection of this budget created a deep rift between the two houses and resulted in the Parliament Act of 1911, which limited the Lords’ powers.
the only fly in the . . . amber (p 24)
The more usual phrase is ‘fly in the ointment’ (from Ecclesiastes, x, 1), meaning ‘the trifling cause that spoils everything’.
Amber is fossilised tree resin. It is found worldwide, but most abundantly in the Baltic and Dominica in the Caribbean. The oldest known fossil resins come from seed ferns (pteridosperms) dating back to the Carboniferous period (320 million years ago). Many specimens of amber contain inclusions, either insects or plant matter. The oldest ambers found with inclusions date from the early Cretaceous period and come from Lebanon in the middle East.
better off than the male codfish (p 24)
The codfish, or cod (Gadus morhua), is an Atlantic fish which breeds both in the deep waters of the continental shelf and in inshore bays. A female lays upwards of a million eggs, which float with the currents until they hatch as small (3-5 mm) larvae. The larvae develop into pelagic juvenile cod which, after 2-4 months, settle at or near the sea floor. There is no evidence that the male cod plays any part in rearing the young.
The corresponding passage in Something New is shorter and omits any reference to codfish or ex-President Roosevelt (see next entry).
in the estimation of ex-President Roosevelt (p 24)
Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), 25th President of the United States (1901-09) and recipient of the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize, was a noted family man. He fathered six children and wrote in his autobiography:
There are many kinds of success in life worth having. It is exceedingly interesting and attractive to be a successful business man, or railroad man, or farmer, or a successful lawyer, or doctor, or a writer, or a president, or a ranchman, or the colonel of a fighting regiment, or to kill grizzly bears and lions. But for unflagging interest and enjoyment, a household of children, if things go reasonably well, certainly makes all other forms of success and achievement lose their importance by comparison. It may be true that he travels farthest who travels alone; but the goal thus reached is not worth reaching.
since he went to Eton (p 25)
Eton College is the oldest public school in England. It was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI as ‘The King’s College of Our Lady of Eton beside Windsor’. A year later, the king founded King’s College, Cambridge, with the intention that scholars from Eton would continue their education there.
the Junior Dean of his college. (p 25)
The Dean of an Oxford college is the fellow who has particular responsibility for student discipline. In some of the larger colleges, the Dean is assisted by a Junior Dean, normally one of the younger fellows. The Junior Dean may have provoked Freddie by some earlier disciplinary action: sanctions at the Dean’s disposal include fines, ‘gating’ (confinement to the college premises for a specified period), ‘rustication’ (suspension) and ‘sending down’ (exclusion from the college and university).
At Oxford (and Cambridge) colleges, a fellow is a member of the college foundation, sharing in the government of the college and drawing a stipend from its revenues.
an expensive London crammer’s (p 25)
A ‘crammer’ is a private tutorial college which specialises in getting the less gifted student through examinations, in this case presumably the entrance examination for the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, the Army’s officer training school. In 1893, Winston Churchill (1874-1965), having already failed the Sandhurst examinations twice, spent five months at a crammer’s before attempting (and just passing) the examinations for a third time. Another notable product of the cramming system was the poet Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967), who went to a crammer’s at the age of 19 years in order to prepare for the Cambridge University entrance examination.
There is a description of such an institution in E W Hornung’s Raffles, Further adventures of the amateur cracksman (1901):
The house was one of a row, though a goodly row, and an army-crammer had established himself next door. There is a type of such institutions in the suburbs; the youths go about in knickerbockers, smoking pipes, except on Saturday nights, when they lead each other home from the last train. It was none of our business to spy upon these boys, but their manners and customs fell within the field of observation.
"The Wrong House"
this best of all possible worlds (p 26)
This is a reference to the favourite saying of Pangloss, a character in Voltaire’s Candide:
Master Pangloss taught the metaphysico-theologo-cosmolonigology. He could prove to admiration that there is no effect without a cause; and, that in this best of all possible worlds, the Baron’s castle was the most magnificent of all castles, and My Lady the best of all possible baronesses.
“It is demonstrable”, said he, “that things cannot be otherwise than as they are; for as all things have been created for some end, they must necessarily be created for the best end.”
Candide, ch 1 (1759),
all, so to speak, right with the world (p 26)
The year’s at the spring
And day’s at the morn;
Morning’s at seven;
The hillside’s dew-pearled;
The lark’s on the wing;
The snail’s on the thorn:
God’s in His heaven—
All’s right with the world!
, "Pippa Passes", Part I (1841)
The phrase “God’s in his heaven” has become so associated with Bertie Wooster (possibly because it occurs in the opening paragraph of Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves) that many people (including book reviewers, of whom one expects no better!) seem to believe that the phrase originated with Wodehouse himself. Other allusions to the passage are found inter alia in Sam the Sudden, "Extricating Young Gussie" in The Man with Two Left Feet, A Damsel in Distress, Cocktail Time (ch 1), Hot Water (ch 6 pt 3), Leave It to Psmith (ch 12), The Code of the Woosters and Money in the Bank.
his collection of . . . scarabs (p 27)
Scarabs were first used by the ancient Egyptians and take their name from the dung beetle, Scarabeus sacer, which they resemble in shape. The earliest scarabs, in the Old Kingdom, were used as amulets, and were not inscribed, but in the Middle Kingdom they began to be used as seals and the underside was inscribed with the name of the person, a story, or some symbol. Later, scarabs were also made larger, especially during the reign of Amenhotep III, when they were inscribed with stories of lion hunts and other events of his reign.
Scarabs were made from a variety of materials—carnelian, lapis lazuli, basalt, limestone, schist, turquoise, ivory, resin and bronze—but the most popular material was steatite, a soft stone which was easily worked; this was usually covered with a turquoise colour glaze which gave the scarab a hard surface. During the 12th dynasty, amethyst was used for the first time. Some scarabs made of gold and silver have also been found, but, because of the activities of grave robbers over several millenia, they are rare.
London was always a trial (p 27)
Lord Emsworth clearly does not subscribe to the view attributed to Dr Samuel Johnson (1709-84):
When a man is tired of London he is tired of life;for there is in London all that life can afford.
The Life of Samuel Johnson, Vol 6, ch ix (1791),
Chapter 2 Part 2 (pp 28 - 33)
R JONES simply that, and nothing more (p 28)
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“’Tis some visitor”, I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
Only this, and nothing more.”
, "The Raven" (1845)
lean and hungry men (p 29)
Let me have men about me that are fat;
Sleek-headed men, and such as sleep o’ nights:
Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look;
He thinks too much: such men are dangerous.
Julius Caesar, Act I, sc 2,
See also Love Among the Chickens.
tapped him unexpectedly on the shoulder (p 29)
Traditionally, a policeman would tap a suspect on the shoulder when arresting him. The implication is that Jones has a guilty conscience and lives in constant fear of being arrested.
the Derby (p 29)
The Epsom Derby, founded in 1780 by the 12th Earl of Derby, is one of the premier events in the English horse-racing calendar. The race, which is open only to three-year-old colts, is run each June over a distance of 1 mile 4 furlongs at Epsom Downs, Surrey.
The pre-eminence of the race has led to a number of other horse-races around the world being named as a ‘Derby’, such as the Kentucky Derby in the United States.
The prodigal son (p 30)
And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.
But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:
And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:
For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.
Luke, xv, 20-24
Lord Stockheath (p 30)
breach-of-promise case (p 30)
Under English law, an engagement to marry was regarded as a binding contract and the party who repudiated the engagement could be sued in a civil action for "breach of promise" and for restitution of any pecuniary loss arising from outlay in anticipation of marriage. A woman who had been jilted could also hope to be awarded substantial damages ("heart-balm").
As a consequence of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1970, actions for breach of promise were abolished as from 1 January 1971.
the Piccadilly (p 31)
The Piccadilly Theatre is located in Denman Street, W1, just off Shaftesbury Avenue and close to Piccadilly Circus.
The Girl from Dublin (p 31)
A musical comedy of this name is recorded as having been performed in 1915 at Stronghurst, Illinois.
In Something New, the title of the play is “The Baby Doll”.
Chapter 3 Part 1 (pp 33 - 40)
Senior Conservative Club (p 33)
This seems to be one of Wodehouse’s creations. It appears in several of the novels (and also in one of Sapper’s Bulldog Drummond stories). Apart from Lord Emsworth, other members of the Senior Conservatives include Psmith (Psmith in the City and Leave it to Psmith) and Horace Wanklyn (“A Tithe for Charity” in A Few Quick Ones).
In A Few Quick Ones, the Senior Conservative Club is located in Northumberland Avenue, on the strength of which Norman Murphy (In Search of Blandings) identifies it with the Constitutional Club, of which Wodehouse was a member from at least 1908.
Crime novelist Carter Dickson (John Dickson Carr) mentions a Senior Conservatives’ Club in two works featuring his detective, Sir Henry Merrivale, though he places it in Pall Mall, not Northumberland Avenue. In the novel The Red Widow Murders (1935), Sir Henry is a member of the Diogenes Club “in Pall Mall just opposite the Senior Conservatives Club”. But while most members of the Diogenes view the Senior Conservatives’ as “a rather rowdy and uproarious institution that would bear watching by the police”, Sir Henry seems not to share this view: the short story “The House in Goblin Wood” (1947) opens with him lunching at the Senior Conservatives’, where it is clear that he is a member because the story concludes with him hosting a gathering in the club’s Visitors’ Room, to expound his solution of the mystery.
keeping body and soul together (p 33)
To ‘keep body and soul together’ is to sustain life; according to Brewer’s Dictionary, the phrase stems from the notion that the soul gives life (anima, Latin, and psyche, Greek, both have the dual meanings of ‘soul’ and ‘life’).
a man at peace with all men (p 33)
Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:
Hebrews, xii, 14
as a St Bernard dog (p 34)
St Bernard of Menthon (923-1008) founded a hospice on the Great St Bernard pass, between Italy and Switzerland. Manned by Augustinian Canons, the hospice became famous for aiding pilgrims and travellers through the pass. The St Bernard dog was bred specially for the purpose of tracking and aiding travellers lost in the snow. Saint Bernard dogs are often depicted carrying a barrel of alcoholic beverage attached to the collar, but this is entirely an invention of storytellers.
stood brooding over him like a Providence (p 34)
The lunch was excellent and varied. Another gentleman in beautiful clothes—a lord, presumably—lifted me into a high carved chair, and stood behind it, brooding over me like a Providence.
Kenneth Grahame, The Golden Age, chap 4 (1895)
the Mail . . . the Mirror (p 37)
The Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror are two of Britain’s most popular tabloid daily newspapers.
the late Mr Gladstone (p 37)
William Ewart Gladstone (1809-97) was one of the most prominent British politicians of the 19th century. Elected to Parliament as a Tory in 1832, he held various government posts before being appointed in 1852 as Chancellor of the Exchequer, a post he held until 1855. In 1859, the Whig Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston, offered Gladstone the post of Chancellor, which he held from 1859-66. Gladstone remained a Whig / Liberal for the rest of his parliamentary career. In December 1868, he became Prime Minister for the first time, resigning after defeat in the 1874 General Election. After the 1880 General Election, when he was elected by two constituencies, he was invited to become Prime Minister again and served in this post until 1885; until 1882, he also held the post of Chancellor. In 1886, he briefly became Prime Minister for a third time, combining the post with that of Lord Privy Seal, until he was defeated in a General Election in the same year. From 1892-4, Gladstone once again held the posts of Prime Minister and Lord Privy Seal. He left Parliament after the 1894 General Election.
suffragettes (p 38)
In 1866, John Stuart Mill presented to parliament a petition in favour of women’s suffrage and attempted, unsuccessfully, to bring in amendment to what became the 1867 Reform Act which would have given women the same political rights as men. Between 1886 and 1911 women’s suffrage bills were repeatedly introduced and defeated in the UK Parliament.
In 1906, a militant campaign for women’s suffrage was launched by Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters. A Daily Mail reporter coined the term ‘suffragette’ to describe the women who took part in this campaign. Suffragettes employed a variety of tactics, including chaining themselves to railings, heckling political meetings, and refusing to pay taxes. In 1913, suffragettes bombed the home of David Lloyd George, Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Emily Davison was killed when she threw herself beneath the feet of a horse wearing the King’s colours during the running of the Derby. Many suffragettes were sent to prison, where they continued their protests by going on hunger strike, only to be made to suffer the rigours of force-feeding. The suffragettes called off their struggle on the outbreak of World War I.
In 1918, women were finally granted a limited franchise, which was extended in 1928 to all women over the age of 21. In the USA, the 19th amendment to the constitution (1920) gave women the right to vote in federal and state elections.
this century of alarms and excursions (p 39)
‘Alarms and excursions’ are the sounds of war or war-like activity, or, more generally, loud, frantic, or excited activity. The phrase, with the spelling ‘alarums’, was used by Shakespeare as a stage direction for moving of soldiers across the stage, eg:-
Alarums and Excursions. Enter King Edward, bringing in Warwick, wounded.
The Third Part of King Henry the Sixth, Act V, sc 2
Chapter 3 of Kenneth Grahame’s The Golden Age (1895) is also entitled “Alarums and Excursions”.
without a crumpled rose-leaf (p 39)
In Roget’s International Thesaurus, 1922 edition, “crumpled rose leaf” was listed alongside “fly in the ointment” as a synonym for “source of irritation, annoyance”, and “to hunt for the crumpled rose leaf” was given as a synonym for “to be fastidious”. Examples of its use in such a sense are found in works as diverse as Louisa May Alcott’s Jo’s Boys (1886), H G Wells’s First and Last Things (1908), and Lytton Strachey’s Books and Characters (1915).
The only crumpled rose-leaf had been the absence of an evening paper. . . But even this crumpled rose-leaf had been smoothed out
A Man of Means (1916)
See also Sam the Sudden.
Chapter 3 Part 2 (pp 40 - 46)
Scarabs . . . are Egyptian hieroglyphs (p 41)
Scarabs are not Egyptian hieroglyphs, though some bear hieroglyphic inscriptions. Hieroglyphic writing, which was one of the earliest forms of writing in ancient Egypt, uses ideograms, clearly distinguishable pictures which express both sounds and ideas. Its name derives from Greek (hieros – ‘sacred’;and glyphos – ‘inscription’) and it was so called because the first Greeks to arrive in Egypt found it being used mainly for inscriptions on temple walls and on public monuments.
Memphis (p 41)
Memphis, 12 miles from Cairo, at the apex of the Nile delta, was the Egyptian capital during the Old Kingdom (c 3100-2258 BC). It was reputedly founded by Menes, the first king of united Egypt. The city’s god was Ptah and a temple to the god is one of the most important monuments found at the site. The necropolis of Sakkâra, near Memphis, was a favourite burial place for pharaohs of the Old Kingdom. From near the necropolis, a line of pyramids extends for 20 miles to Giza. Memphis remained an important city even after Thebes became the kingdom’s capital and it did not finally decline until the Arabs replaced the Romans as rulers of Egypt and built a new city nearby at Fustat.
Mr Peters, as he makes clear, hails from a slightly more modern Memphis, that in Tennessee, USA.
the New Kingdom . . . the Book of the Dead (p 42)
The period in ancient Egyptian history known as the Middle Kingdom began around 2160 BC, when the country was reunified by the nomarch of Thebes and the 11th dynasty was established.
The Hyksos (sometimes called Shepherd Kings) were a group of mixed Semitic-Asiatics who settled in northern Egypt during the 18th century BC. Around 1630 BC they established a kingdom in the Delta and middle Egypt, and Hyksos kings ruled as the 15th dynasty.
The Hyksos were eventually driven out of Egypt by the efforts of two Theban rulers, Kamose and, after he died in battle, his brother Ahmose. Kamose established the 18th Dynasty and set the stage for a reunification of Egypt. The era that followed is known as the New Kingdom (1575-1085 BC); some of the most notable pharaohs—among them Hatshepsut, Thutmose III, Tutankhamun, Rameses II and Rameses III—reigned during this period, during which the great mortuary temples and monuments at Karnak and Luxor were also erected.
Osiris was the patron god of the Underworld, the dead, past Pharaohs, agriculture, and fertility. He was for a time the primary deity and was the leader of the gods on earth, second in power only to his father, Ra, the sun god.
Amun was the patron god of the wind and the sun. In later periods he was combined with Ra and became the supreme deity, with cult centres at Karnak and Deir-el-Bahari (near Luxor). He was also worshipped by the Greeks as a variant of Zeus.
Mut (the word means ‘mother’) was the great mother goddess of Egypt. She was said to be the consort of Amun, and their son was the moon-god Khonsu.
Bubastis was a city in the Nile delta, near the modern Zagazig. It was the capital of Egypt during the 22nd and 23rd dynasties. It was the cult-centre for worship of the feline-headed goddess, Bast.
Cheops (or Khufu) (c 2551-2528 BC) was the second king of the 4th Dynasty. He ordered the construction of the Great Pyramid at Giza.
Amenhotep III (c 1382-1344 BC) was the ninth king of the 18th Dynasty. He married Tiy, daughter of Yuya, who was a chancellor of the north and was a priest of Hermonthis and Amun. Egypt enjoyed a peaceful time during Amenhotep’s reign, which allowed him to concentrate on artistic renewals: he built the famous Colossi of Memnon and is credited with building the Temple of Luxor. He also extended the temple complex at Karnak, adding temples and a row of sphinxes that linked the complex to the temple of Amun at Luxor.
Queen Taia is probably Tiy, one of the wives of Amenhotep III.
Gilakhipa was a princess of the Mitanni (an Indo-European people whose kingdom in northern Mesopotamia flourished from c 1600 BC). Her father, Shuttarna, gave her in marriage to Tuthmosis IV, a pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty.
Naucratis was a Greek trading colony in the Nile delta, initially founded by settlers from the city of Miletus, in Ionia, toward the beginning of the 26th Dynasty, in the time of Psammetichus I (664-610 BC).
“The Book of Dead” is the name given to a collection of religious compositions of the ancient Egyptians. The original version, written in hieroglyphics, is known from five copies which are inscribed upon the walls of the chambers and passages in the pyramids of kings of the 5th and 6th Dynasties at Sakkâra. The title of “Book of the Dead” is usually given by Egyptologists to the Theban version, which was commonly written on papyri in hieroglyphics; this version was much used from the 18th to the 20th Dynasties.
a supercilious scooper-up (p 42)
Possibly echoing Shakespeare:
A snapper-up of unconsidered trifles.
The Winter’s Tale, Act IV, sc 3
with that love passing the love of women (p 43)
I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan:
very pleasant hast thou been unto me:
thy love to me was wonderful,
passing the love of women.
2 Kings, i, 26
a man who would not like to be a purple cow (p 43)
I never saw a Purple Cow;
I never hope to see one;
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I’d rather see than be one.
The Burgess Nonsense Book, Being a Complete Collection of the Humorous Masterpieces of Gelett Burgess, Esq (1901), "The Purple Cow’s Projected Feast: Reflections on a Mythic Beast Who’s Quite Remarkable, at Least" from
See also Money in the Bank.
The allusion to a purple cow is not in Something New.
a Gutenberg Bible (p 43)
The Gutenberg Bible was printed at Mainz around 1454-5. It was the first major book to be printed in the West using the new mechanised printing type invented by Johannes Gutenberg (1398-1468). It is thought that about 180 copies were printed, of which significant portions of 48 copies still survive. The British Library has two complete copies of the Gutenberg Bible and a small but important fragment of a third copy.
The present whereabouts of the Blandings copy are unknown.
the field of Waterloo (p 43)
The Battle of Waterloo was fought on 18 June 1815 near the small Belgian town of Waterloo, between a French army commanded by Napoleon and an allied army under the Duke of Wellington. Napoleon had about 74,000 troops, including superior cavalry and artillery; Wellington had about 67,000 troops, which he placed in a strong defensive position. Heavy overnight rain forced the French to delay their attack until about noon and Wellington’s troops were able to resist long enough to give time for Marshal von Blucher to bring up his Prussian troops. With these reinforcements, the allies were able to win the battle, which led to Napoleon’s second (and final) abdication.
Phelps (P G Wodehouse: Man and Myth) notes that Wodehouse’s paternal grandfather, Philip, fought under Wellington at Waterloo as a captain in the 15th Light Dragoons.
wear red ties (p 44)
Red is the colour usually associated with socialism, communism, republicanism and revolutionary movements (probably from its associations with blood).
This paragraph is omitted from Something New.
round the corner came a vagrant man (p 46)
Something New has “a vagrom man”; the meaning is the same, ‘vagrom’ being a perversion of ‘vagrant’ employed by Dogberry in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, Act III, Scene iii.
head-gardener Thorne (p 46)
Norman Murphy (In Search of Blandings) discovered that the will of Wodehouse’s maternal grandmother, Mrs Louise Deane, included a bequest to a gardener named Thorne who had worked at Cheney Court, Mrs Deane’s home in Wiltshire after the death of her husband, and a place where Wodehouse spent time during his school holidays.
Chapter 3 Part 3 (pp 46 - 53)
Simpson’s Restaurant in the Strand (p 47)
Simpson’s was established in 1828 by a Mr Reiss as “The Grand Cigar Divan”, a place where chess-players could congregate in congenial surroundings. It occupied the site of the former Fountain Tavern where the Kit Kat Club for literati used to meet. John Simpson, a noted caterer of his day, enlarged the premises in 1848, and turned it into the restaurant that it remains today. It was acquired in 1898 by Richard D’Oyly Carte, the opera impresario and hotelier. The original building was demolished to make way for the widening of The Strand and re-opened in 1904 under the aegis of the Savoy Hotel.
second-in-command of the police force (p 47)
Wodehouse’s maternal uncle, Walter Meredith Deane, was a civil servant in Hong Kong, where he became Colonial Secretary in 1881. During the course of his career, he held the post of second-in-command of the Hong Kong police force, as also, much later, did Wodehouse’s eldest brother, Philip Peveril Wodehouse.
In Something New, George Emerson is an American, described as “a rising member in a New York law firm”.
Piccadilly . . . Soho . . . Oxford Street . . . Tottenham Court Road (p 47)
These are all locations in central London. Soho is the name given to an area roughly bounded by Charing Cross Road on the east, Oxford Street to the north, Shaftesbury Avenue to the south, and Regent Street to the west. It had, for a long time, a seedy reputation as the ‘red-light’ district of London, but is now noted once again for the quality and variety of its eating places.
ptomaine (p 47)
Ptomaine is a name loosely applied to various amino-compounds which form from putrefying animal tissue. Ptomaine poisoning is an archaic term for food poisoning, which used to be thought to be caused by ptomaines, few of which, as is now known, are poisonous if eaten.
ex-President Roosevelt’s man-eating fish (p 48)
These man-eating fish are a veritable scourge in the waters they frequent.But it must not be understood by this that the piranhas—or, for the matter of that, the New-World caymans and crocodiles—ever become such dreaded foes of man as for instance the man-eating crocodiles of Africa.
Through the Brazilian Wilderness, p 54 (1914),
the American army-worm (p 48)
The American army-worm is the larva of a noctuid moth, Mythimna unipunctata. The caterpillars feed on the stems and leaves of grasses and, when mass infestations occur, they assemble and move about in troops which can contain hundreds of thousands of individuals. The summer generation may cause serious damage to sorghum and, especially, maize and can destroy a meadow: each attacked plant is gnawed down to its roots. An unrelated species, Spodoptera exempta, causes similar damage in parts of Africa, where it too is known as the army-worm.
with a Rockefeller digestion (p 51)
John D Rockefeller (1839-1937) was the founder of the Standard Oil Company and reputedly the world’s first billionaire. He was also a devout Christian and a great philanthropist, giving away an estimated US$530 million during his lifetime. Though he lived to the age of 98, he suffered from a chronically bad indigestion and it was reported that at times he could eat only milk and dry crackers.
See also A Damsel in Distress.
The UK and US editions differ considerably in their treatment of the conversation between Aline Peters and George Emerson in Simpson’s, and there is no mention of Rockefeller in Something New.
a countess (p 51)
In England, the wife of an earl is a countess, not—as one might expect—an earless. The reason is that ‘earl’ derives from Old English eorl, a designation which originally meant ‘warrior’ and had no feminine equivalent. In continental Europe, the rank equivalent to an English earl is count (deriving from Latin comes), the feminine form of which thus came to be adopted for its English counterpart.
ever since we met on the Olympic (p 52)
The RMS Olympic was the first of three sister ships built by Harland and Wolff for the White Star Line. She was launched on 20 October 1910 and began her maiden voyage, from Southampton to New York on 14 June 1911. After service as a troop ship during WWI, the Olympic resumed commercial service but, following a merger between White Star Line and Cunard in 1934, and the launch of the Queen Mary, she was deemed to be obsolete and was sent to the breakers’ yard in 1935.
The second Olympic-class vessel was the ill-fated RMS Titanic.
There is no reference to the Olympic in Something New, where George says “I have been in love with you since I wore knickerbockers”.
one of these Supermen one reads about (p 52)
This is presumably a reference to George Bernard Shaw’s play, Man and Superman (sub-title “A Comedy and a Philosophy”), which was first performed at the Court Theatre in 1905. The title echoes the ‘superman’ (übermensch) concept of Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), one of the philosophers whose ideas Shaw introduced into the play, flagrantly disregarding Jeeves’s view that Nietzsche is “unsound”.
Something New has “one of the supermen . . .”
your own way and nothing but your own way (p 52)
Echoing the oath sworn by witnesses in a court of law, to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”.
Chapter 3 Part 4 (pp 54 - 56)
Jesse James, Captain Kidd, and Dick Turpin (p 54)
The son of a southern Baptist minister, Jesse Woodson James was an outlaw who achieved mythic status as one of the legendary ‘heroes’ of the American Wild West. In reality, he was a ruthless criminal who committed numerous bank and train robberies, and killed at least half-a-dozen men, before being murdered by one of his own gang in April 1882, at the age of 34 years.
Captain William Kidd (1645-1701) was a Scottish-born seaman turned pirate. In 1695, he received a royal commission to apprehend pirates who were molesting the ships of the East India Company in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. Sometime in 1697, having failed to capture any prizes, he turned to piracy and shortly afterwards mortally wounded his gunner, William Moore, in an argument. On his return to New York, in 1699, he was arrested and sent to England where, in May 1701, he was convicted on five indictments of piracy and one of murder and was hanged at Execution Dock in London.
In popular legend, Dick Turpin (1706-39) was a daring highwayman who rode his mare, Black Bess, from London to York in less than 24 hours. The legend stems from Harrison Ainsworth’s Rookwood, a novel which became a best-seller in 1834. In the novel, which describes an epic ride from Westminster to York, the highwayman ‘Dick Turpin’ is no more than a secondary character. The real Dick Turpin was an inept cattle-thief and smuggler, before he turned to robbing isolated farmhouses. When he tried his hand as a highwayman, he only succeeded in holding up another highwayman, Tom King He became King’s partner, but shot him by accident when they were both about to be arrested for horse-stealing. Later, while living under a false name in York, he was arrested for killing one of his landlord’s pheasants and it was while he was in custody that his true identity was discovered. He was convicted of stealing two horses and hanged at York. It was not Turpin who made the famous ride to York but an earlier highwayman, John ‘Nick’ Nevison (or Nevins), who, after committing a robbery outside Gads Hill, Kent, in 1676, rode more than 190 miles in about 15 hours, in an unsuccessful attempt to establish an alibi for himself.
motion-picture scenarii (p 55)
In English, the accepted plural for ‘scenario’ is ‘scenarios’. This reference is not in Something New.
Chapter 3 Part 5 (pp 56 - 60)
snipe-like flight (p 56)
The Common Snipe, Gallinago gallinago, is a long-billed wading bird. When flushed from cover, it has a characteristic rapid zig-zagging flight.
See also Sam the Sudden.
Again, this reference is not in Something New.
The book which the Hon Freddie was reading (p 57)
Although Wodehouse was a keen reader of mystery and suspense stories, he often poked fun at the unnecessarily complicated behaviour of the villains in many novels of the genre, such as the one which Freddie is reading:
The trouble with the heavy in a novel of suspense is that he suffers from a fatal excess of ingenuity . . . The ordinary man, when circumstances compel him to murder a female acquaintance, borrows a revolver and a few cartridges and does the job in some odd five minutes of the day when he is not at the office. . . But the heavy cannot understand simplicity. It never occurs to him just to point a pistol at the heroine and fire it.
Over Seventy, ch 12 (1957)
The Adventure of the Secret Six (p 57)
‘The Secret Six’ was a group of Northern abolitionists, two clergymen, a teacher, a physician, and two financiers, who assisted John Brown, the leader of the raid on the Federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, in 1859. Perhaps it is no more than coincidence that one of the six, the physician Samuel Howe, had the middle name Gridley.
The Secret Six was also the title of a 1931 gangster movie, directed by George Hill and starring Ralph Bellamy, Clark Gable and Jean Harlow. The script, by Frances Marion, was based on a story scooped by the Saturday Evening Post about a group of Chicago businessmen who had banded together with the state attorney and the FBI to stop illegal activities in the city.
like so many malignant June bugs (p 58)
June bugs are not bugs, but beetles; they are also known as June beetles. They are brown or dark green, about one inch long, and occur throughout North America and many other parts of the world. June bugs do some damage to grasses and other plants, but are not malignant. At worst, they are an irritation because of the manner in which adults fly around clumsily, colliding with windows, lights, and people.
a sale at Christie’s (p 59)
Christie’s is one of the world’s great auction houses. The firm was founded in 1766 by James Christie and moved, in 1823, to premises in King Street, St James’s, which it still occupies. Christie’s now has auction houses in a number of foreign cities and is a public company, with a listing on the London Stock Exchange.
one must not look a gift horse in the mouth (p 59)
When given a present, one should not inquire too closely into its intrinsic value. The phrase derives from the common practise of assessing the age of a horse by inspecting its front teeth.
Beach rang the gong (p 60)
Beach Road, Emsworth, runs from just opposite the site of the former Emsworth House School southward to the sea.
[Note: Murphy (In Search of Blandings and A Wodehouse Handbook) says that Beach Road is the original name for Record Road, on which is situated Wodehouse's Emsworth home, ‘Threepwood’, but this is disputed by Emsworth resident Roy Morgan, who points out (Wooster Sauce, no 57, March 2011) that Record Road was that road's original name, from its construction in 1897, and that it does not connect with the beach.]
Chapter 3 Part 6 (pp 60 - 71)
on the level (p 63)
‘On the level’, a term derived from Freemasonry, means ‘to be honest and sincere’.
the minor slings and arrows of fortune (p 65)
To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them.
Hamlet, Act III, sc 1,
struggle to keep the wolf . . . from the door (p 65)
Struggle to avoid starvation.
Trouble, . . . like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder (p 65)
The origin of the adage ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ is unknown. Its meaning is that each person has his own notion of what constitutes ‘beauty’. The phrase is sometimes said to be a paraphrase of a passage in Plato’s Symposium:
Remember how in that communion only, beholding beauty with the eye of the mind, he will be enabled to bring forth, not images of beauty, but realities (for he has hold not of an image but of a reality), and bringing forth and nourishing true virtue to become the friend of God and be immortal, if mortal man may.
stood not upon the order of his going (p 68)
I pray you, speak not; he grows worse and worse;
Question enrages him. At once, good night:
Stand not upon the order of your going,
But go at once.
Macbeth, Act III, sc 4,
we of the submerged tenth (p 70)
The ‘submerged tenth’ was a phrase popularised by William Booth (1829-1912), the founder and leader of the Salvation Army, who used it as the heading for chapter 2 of his book In Darkest England and the Way Out (1890). The phrase refers to the lowest stratum of society, the very poor, who are sunk, or submerged, in poverty.
In Something New, Joan refers merely to “we poor working girls” who “have got to hustle”.
See also Leave It to Psmith.
Chapter 4 Part 1 (pp 71 - 80)
Denvers Street (p 72)
There is no Denvers Street in London. There used to be a Denvers Street in All Saints, Chelsea, but that is nowhere near the Strand.
scrambled into a taxicab (p 72)
A legal firm such as Mainprice, Mainprice & Boole would probably have its offices somewhere in the vicinity of The Temple, in which case the distance from Arundell Street would be not much more than half-a-mile. An athlete like Ashe could cover this distance as quickly on foot as in a taxicab, and far more cheaply. A journey on the underground would have taken longer, since the route from either of the nearest Piccadilly Line stations, Piccadilly Circus or Leicester Square (both opened December 1906), to Strand station (later called Aldwych, opened in November 1907, now closed) would have involved a change at Holborn, but it would still have been cheaper than a taxicab.
the saddest spectacle (p 73)
And, after many scorns, many foul taunts,
They took his head, and on the gates of York
They set the same; and there it doth remain,
The saddest spectacle that e’er I view’d.
King Henry VI, Third Part, Act II, sc 1,
alluvial deposits (p 74)
Alluvial deposits are formed of material that has been carried in suspension and deposited by a river or flood, in this instance floods of rainwater.
hoodoos (p 75)
A hoodoo is a landscape feature, defined as “a pillar of rock, usually of fantastic shape, left by erosion”. A hoodoo is also a person or thing that is supposed to bring bad luck, and, by extension, could perhaps be applied to someone who suffers bad luck. Wodehouse may be conflating the two meanings in his description of the dead-beats.
Instead of ‘hoodoos’, SomethingNew has ‘hobos’, which makes Mr Peters’s meaning much clearer (as well as being a word which he would have been more likely to have had in his vocabulary).
to fling the massive pewter ink-pot (p 76)
Although he wrote with a typewriter, Wodehouse often speaks of inkpot-flinging as the violent reaction of an irritated author—Gally threatens it a number of times in the later Blandings books, for instance—but what is unusual here is that it is the person in front of the desk who contemplates such an action.
some cooking and plain sewing (p 76)
This was a stock phrase in advertisements for domestics. Plain sewing is “needlework which is of a merely useful character in contradistinction to that which is purely decorative” (Caulifield & Saward, Dictionary of Needlework, 1882).
to get gay with (p 76)
“To get gay” was a late 19th century US slang term, meaning to be impertinent or over-familiar. ‘Gay’ in the sense of ‘homosexual’ was probably already current in London as a cant expression by the 1890s but did not enter general use until the 1930s; the first instance recorded in the OED is from 1935.
In Something New, Mr Peters uses “get fresh with”, which has the same meaning, without any of the modern overtones of ‘gay’.
I’ll play square (p 77)
To “play square” is to behave honestly. According to the OED, the earliest recorded use of ‘square’ with this meaning is in the sixteenth century:
If that Coggers all were barde, . . .
And euery Gamster would play square:
Then some men would hope well to fare.
“I don’t know where to begin.” . . . “why not at the beginning?” (p 77)
The White Rabbit put on his spectacles. “Where shall I begin, please your Majesty?” he asked.
“Begin at the beginning”, the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, ch 12 (1865),
Shakespeare and Pope . . . the tediousness of a twice-told tale (p 78)
Life is as tedious as a twice-told tale,
Vexing the dull ear of a drowsy man.
King John, Act III, sc 4,
And what so tedious as a twice-told tale
The Odyssey of Homer, Book xii, line 538,
The line from Homer is variously translated, eg:
And, for me to grow
A talker over of my tale again,
Were past my free contentment to sustain.
It is an irksome thing, meseems, to tell again a plain-told tale.
. . . and it goes against the grain with me to repeat a tale already plainly told.
a sort of elderly Raffles (p 78)
Raffles, the archetype of the ‘gentleman burglar’, was the creation of E W Hornung (1866-1921), Arthur Conan-Doyle’s brother-in-law. Like the Holmes stories, Raffles’s adventures are narrated by an admiring assistant, Bunny Manders, though Hornung inverted the Holmesian motif by making a scoundrel his ‘hero’. Raffles made his first appearance in The Amateur Cracksman (1899).
See also The Code of the Woosters.
an oily old plug-ugly (p 78)
The origins of the term “plug-ugly” are obscure. Bartlett suggested that it may have originated with “certain fire companies” (ie volunteer fire fighters, cf ‘fireplug’, an American term for a hydrant) in American cities, especially Baltimore, in the mid-19th century. Alternatively, it may have come from a short spike fixed in the toe of a boot. Either way, it came to be applied to gangs of violent ruffians disrupting 19th century US elections. In the 20th century it was also been applied, often by Wodehouse, to unpleasant and violent individuals. In this instance, the meaning is subverted by the adjective “oily” (subtle, insidious), giving a delightfully incongruous picture of Lord Emsworth as seen by Peters.
See also Joy in the Morning.
In Something New, Mr Peters refers to Lord Emsworth as “an oily old second-story man”, which carries the suggestion that the Earl would steal from first-floor (US second-story) bedrooms, but lacks any suggestion of violence.
Chapter 4 Part 2 (pp 80 - 82)
jump my claim (p 82)
To “jump a claim” is to take possession of a piece of land (such as a mine) when the former occupant has abandoned it or allowed his rights to lapse. In the technical sense, this is a (quasi-)legal act, but when it is used figuratively, as here, it usually refers to some kind of underhand behaviour.
Chapter 5 Part 1 (pp 82 - 90)
The four-fifteen express (p 82)
Passenger trains in Britain do not have train numbers, being referred to by their departure times. At this time, the 24-hour clock was not generally used in England, so this would have been the 4.15 pm (ie 16.15) departure.
Paddington Station (p 82)
Paddington Station is the London terminus of the former Great Western Railway, serving the South-West of England, most of Wales, and parts of the West Midlands. It lies in west London, about a mile and a half from Arundell Street. The station was built between 1850 and 1854 by the GWR’s engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel. The great train-shed is an important early example of the structural use of iron.
second class . . . first class (p 82)
Railway companies in Britain used to provide three classes of service, with varying fares and comfort levels—in the early years, third-class passengers were carried only in goods carriages! Until 1872, third-class was not available on all trains but in that year the Midland Railway extended third-class to all its services and followed this by eliminating second-class altogether in 1875. The other railway companies slowly followed suit, the GWR abolishing second-class on main-line services in 1908 and on all other services by 1911.
Ordinary working people travelled third class, but Joan and Ashe, as upper servants, would have considered themselves a cut above this and would have expected to travel second class.
the life adventurous (p 83)
Poor Mole, the Life Adventurous was so new a thing to him, and so thrilling; and this fresh aspect of it was so tempting; and he had fallen in love at first sight with the canary-coloured cart and all its little fitments.
The Wind in the Willows, ch II, "The Open Road" (1908),
Goddess of Adventure (p 83)
There is no specific Goddess of Adventure in classical or Germanic mythology. The nearest equivalent would be the Goddess of Fortune, known to the Greeks as Tyche, to the Romans as Fortuna.
pluck at his sleeve (p 83)
As they pass by, pluck Casca by the sleeve,
And he will, after his sour fashion, tell you
What hath proceeded worthy note to-day.
Julius Caesar, Act I, sc 2,
looking neither to left nor right (p 83)
Perhaps a Biblical allusion:
Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.
Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established.
Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.
Proverbs, iv, 25-27
slothful peace (p 84)
A civil war, indeed, is like the heat of a fever; but a foreign war is like the heat of exercise, and serveth to keep the body in health; for in a slothful peace, both courages will effeminate, and manners corrupt.
The Essays, "Of the True Greatness of Kingdoms and Estates" (1601),
Thus Belial, with words clothed in reason’s garb,
Counselled ignoble ease and peaceful sloth,
Paradise Lost, Book II: 226-228 (1667),
smite us like boomerangs (p 84)
‘Smite’, meaning to strike, beat, overthrow, is a word resonant of the Old Testament, where it occurs frequently in phrases such as “smite with the edge of the sword”, but even the following is unlikely to refer to a weapon of the Australian outback:
Or if he smite him with an hand weapon of wood, wherewith he may die, and he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.
Numbers, xxxv, 18
on the eve of perilous times (p 85)
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
2 Timothy, iii, 1
the Groom of the Chambers (p 87)
The groom of the chambers was an upper manservant, perhaps an attendant to the head of the household. Possibly influenced by the works of Sir Walter Scott, the position, which had fallen into disuse, made a comeback in the 19th century but is now obsolete except as an office of the royal household. According to Phelps (P G Wodehouse: Man and Myth), one of Wodehouse’s ancestors held the post of Groom to the Chamber of King Henry V from 1413 to 1422.
rules of precedence (p 87)
Joan is referring to the rules which determine the relative ranks of different members of the upper classes and, consequently, the place they take in the order on formal or ceremonial occasions—in this instance the order of the procession from the drawing room to the dining room at dinner—and is suggesting that the same emphasis on rank applies ‘below stairs’.
Society (p 87)
In this context, Society is a collective term approximating, roughly, to the English upper classes.
Servant Problem (p 87)
Throughout the Victorian and Edwardian eras in Britain, there was a chronic shortage of skilled people prepared to work as domestic servants; this was often referred to as the ‘Servant Problem’, and it was considered serious enough to give rise to letters to The Times in April 1914.
This, perhaps, explains why some people are always having a ‘servant problem’; finding servants difficult to get, more difficult to keep, and most difficult to get efficient work from. It is a question whether the ‘servant problem’ is not more often a mistress problem. It must be!
Emily Post, Etiquette, Chap XII (1922)
his ‘scout’ and his bedmaker (p 87)
At Oxford, a ‘scout’ is a servant (usually a man) who attends to the needs of the students and fellows living on a particular college staircase; at Cambridge, the corresponding term is ‘gyp’, while at Trinity College, Dublin, it is ‘skip’. The bedmaker (often the scout’s wife) would also do the cleaning and washing-up.
powdered footmen (p 88)
At one time, footmen wore court livery, which included pomaded and powdered hair. This custom had become largely obsolete by 1915, though Emily Post, writing at the start of the 1920s, considered that there were still three or four houses in New York where powdered footmen in full livery were to be seen.
a butler . . . in swallow-tails (p 88)
The butler never wears the livery of a footman and on no account knee breeches or powder. In the early morning he wears an ordinary sack suit—black or very dark blue—with a dark, inconspicuous tie. For luncheon or earlier, if he is on duty at the door, he wears black trousers, with gray stripes, a double-breasted, high-cut, black waistcoat, and black swallowtail coat without satin on the reverse, a white stiff-bosomed shirt with standing collar, and a black four-in-hand tie.
Etiquette, ch XII (1922),
You come after the butler (p 88)
See above. Wodehouse is remembering the below-stairs life of the great houses he visited as a child in the 1880s and ’90s. By September 1915, when Something Fresh appeared, households on this scale had become a thing of the past, largely as a consequence of the war. When Blandings returned to normality, after 1918, it would have been with a much smaller staff, as can be seen in the later novels.
Lady Ann Warblington’s (p 88)
The first of Lord Emsworth’s many sisters to appear in the canon. She does not appear in any of the subsequent stories.
Warblington is a small village about a mile west of Emsworth in Hampshire.
We stop at Swindon (p 89)
If, as is stated in the later novels, Blandings Castle is in Shropshire, the train would go by way of Oxford, not Swindon. Norman Murphy’s explanation for this anomaly is that ‘Blandings’ is an amalgam of two real locations that Wodehouse would have known—Sudely Castle in Gloucestershire (reached via Swindon and Cheltenham) and Weston Park in Staffordshire (reached via Oxford).
Darkness fell on the land (p 90)
Possibly an allusion to the New Testament:
Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.
Matthew, xxvii, 45
And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.
Mark, xv, 33
Chapter 5 Part 2 (pp 90 - 95)
a railroad station (p 90)
‘Railroad’ was current in British English until about 1850, after which ‘railway’ became the normal usage and ‘railroad’ came to be regarded as an Americanism.
moving-pictures are on view (p 90)
At this time ‘moving pictures’ was not an archaism: the earliest recorded use of ‘cinema’ dates only from 1909, ‘film’ from 1911, ‘movies’ from 1912, and ‘kinema’ from 1914.
The church is Norman (p 90-1)
That is, the church dates from the period of roughly a hundred years (1066-1154) which followed the Norman conquest of England. Characteristics of the Norman style of church architecture include: round-headed arches and doorways, the latter often a series of concentric, stepped-backed arches, each with its own columns, and with the doorway head often infilled with a carved tympanum; thick walls, often buttressed; the use of simple barrel or tunnel vaulting in crypts, but rarely in naves (because of the weight and outward thrust on the walls); massive columns with a plain capital, later examples being thinner and having a carved capital.
the intelligence . . . of the natives palaeozoic (p 91)
The Palaeozoic Era lasted from c 570 to 240 million years ago. It was the period when the first vertebrates emerged, in particular amphibians and reptiles, which are creatures not noted for their intelligence.
a land flowing with milk and honey (p 91)
This phrase, representing God’s promise of the land of Canaan to the Israelites fleeing from Egypt, occurs 18 times in the Old Testament, as, for instance:
And it shall be when the Lord shall bring thee into the land of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Hivites, and the Jeb’usites, which he sware unto thy fathers to give thee, a land flowing with milk and honey, that thou shalt keep this service in this month.
Exodus, xiii, 5
So sings the poet (p 93)
Hardly a case of the poet singing, since the text, by William Camden (1551-1623), is entitled Epitaph for a Man killed by falling from his Horse (1586). Camden was Headmaster of Westminster School, and author of important geographical and historical works. Doctor Johnson disliked the scansion of the second line, which he changed to read “I mercy ask’d; I mercy found”, making both lines iambic, and thus more in keeping with 18th century classicism.
the Theatre-Royal, Birmingham (p 93)
The Theatre-Royal stood on New Street, Birmingham, where it was first erected in 1774, though it did not become ‘Royal’ until 1807. Having twice been re-built after being devastated by fires, the theatre finally closed in 1956. Admiral Lord Nelson attended a performance at the theatre in 1802, in the company of his mistress, Lady Emma Hamilton, and her husband.
In Something New, “principal girl of the Theatre-Royal, Birmingham, pantomime” is replaced by “heroine of the road company of a musical comedy which had visited the Hayling Opera House”. So far as I am aware, Hayling, Massachusetts, does not boast an opera house.
Sonnets from the Portuguese (p 93)
Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “Sonnets from the Portuguese” were originally published in 1850 in a two-volume publication entitled Poems. The sonnets were written during the two years prior to her marriage to Robert Browning and there are numerous links between the Sonnets and the letters and incidents of the courtship. She did not show the poems to Browning until after their marriage. There are 44 sonnets for Ashe to try to learn, the most famous being the 43rd, which begins:
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
In Something New, “learn by heart the Sonnets from the Portugese” is replaced by “read the complete works of Ella Wheeler Wilcox”. It is difficult to say which task would be the more onerous: the prolific Miss Wilcox (1850-1919) wrote over 2000 poems, in addition to books and journalism.
in distant Much Middlefold, Salop (p 94)
The adjective ‘distant’ is more appropriate in Something New, where it is applied to Hayling, Massachusetts.
“The Wreck of the Hesperus” (p 94)
An epic poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882):
It was the schooner Hesperus,
That sailed the wintry sea;
And the skipper had taken his little daughter,
To bear him company.
a penny in the chocolate slot machine (p 94)
A penny was the smallest unit in Britain’s pre-decimalisation currency—there were 12 pence (12d) in one shilling and 20 shillings (20s) in one pound. At decimalisation, a new unit, one new pence (1p), was introduced, with a value equivalent to 2.4 old pence.
For many years, Nestlé’s chocolate was sold at a penny a bar from red slot-machines, especially at railway stations, in shop doorways and on seaside piers.
Then he saw the indubitable form of his betrothed at a penny-in-the-slot machine, and the indubitable form of Nellie at another penny-in-the-slot machine. And then, he could hear the click-click-click of the machines, working rapidly.
The Card, ch 4 (1910-11),
Chapter 5 Part 3 (pp 95 - 102)
Violett-le-duc (p 96)
Eugène Emmanuel Violett-le-Duc (1814-1879) was a French architect and military engineer who wrote extensively on the history of fortifications and was responsible for a revival of interest in gothic architecture in France. He supervised the restoration of Notre Dame in the 1840s but has been heavily criticised for his over-enthusiastic rebuilding of the mediaeval cité of Carcassonne. That such a prominent mediaevalist should have been interested in the architecture of Blandings Castle suggests that the castle’s origins may well pre-date the Tudor period.
two nervous scullery-maids (p 96)
The scullery is the area of the kitchen where the washing-up and other dirty work is done. The scullery-maids are thus among the lowest of the servants, hence their nervousness when greeting upper servants such as Joan and Ashe.
Mrs Twemlow the housekeeper (p 96)
Murphy (In Search of Blandings) notes that Twemlow is a common place-name in Shropshire, with at least two within a mile or so of Stableford (which he identifies with Much Middlefold, Ashe’s birthplace).
a fruity voice, like old tawny port (p 96)
Port (originally ‘red Portugal’, a red wine from Portugal) is a wine fortified by the addition of brandy, which stops the fermentation process, giving the wine a characteristic sweetness. The basic port is ‘ruby’, which is matured for three years. A tawny port is one that has been left to mature in the wooden cask, usually for a minimum of two more years, until the colour has begun to fade. Aged tawnies are a much superior style, which may be matured in the cask for up to 40 years. Aged tawnies are sold as a blend of ports of different ages, the average age being indicated by the label: 10-year-old, 20-year-old, etc.
Butlers as a class (p 96)
These comments about butlers presage those in Over Seventy (1957).
I Suffer From My Feet (p 97)
Beach’s hypochondria is much less pronounced in the later stories, perhaps because he is rarely seen talking to someone like Ashe, whom he regards as a rather junior professional colleague.
to tell the truth was the easier (p 99)
Wodehouse was noted for his punctilious honesty, even when it was not the easier course—his step-daughter, Leonora, told of one occasion when he travelled to the state of Georgia for no other reason than that, wishing to avoid an invitation, he had told a journalist that he had to go there.
a green baize door (p 101)
The traditional separation between the public part of the house and the servants’ quarters, the green baize acted as sound insulation.
he was not aware that Ashe was a valet (p 102)
A valet would not usually wear livery except at grand dinners, when he might be required to double as a footman. As his normal dress would be a dark business suit and black tie, there would be nothing to distinguish him from one of the younger male guests.
Chapter 5 Part 4 (pp 103 - 108)
snow-white butterfly-shaped creation (p 103)
Dinners at Blandings during house-parties would have been formal affairs, with gentlemen wearing full evening dress, ie white tie and tails. Dinner jackets (known in the US as tuxedos) did not appear until the 1890s, and would have been worn only on less formal occasions. Many of Wodehouse’s characters have problems getting the white tie just right.
a digestive tabloid (p 105)
The term ‘Tabloid’ was registered as a trademark by Burroughs, Wellcome & Co in 1884 for their solid pharmaceutical preparations.
cumbered the earth (p 106)
The great will not condescend to take any thing seriously; all must be as gay as the song of a canary, though it were the building of cities or the eradication of old and foolish churches and nations which have cumbered the earth long thousands of years.
Essays and English Traits (1841), "Heroism", in
The earth cumbered, and the winged air darked with plumes
Comus, a Mask (1637),
Somewhere in England—if not dead already—this Wilding lurked, an outlaw, whom any might shoot down at sight. Sir Rowland swore he would not rest until he knew that Anthony Wilding cumbered the earth no more—leastways, not the surface of it.
Mistress Wilding, ch XVII (1910),
You have the immortal rind (p 107)
“You have the —”
“— the immortal rind”, she amended, and I had to admit it was stronger
Jeeves in the Offing (1960)
‘Crust’ is a slang word for ‘impertinent’ which Wodehouse seems to have popularised: the OED cites an example from 1900 and two from Wodehouse (The Inimitable Jeeves and Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit).
The transfer of the slang connotation to ‘rind’, a synonym for ‘crust’, and the use of the phrase ‘immortal rind’ seem to have been initiated by A M ‘Pitcher’ Binstead, author of Pitcher in Paradise (1903): the OED cites Binstead and this example from Something Fresh.
spread his feet like a Colossus (p 107)
Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a colossus, and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs and peep about
To find ourselves dishonorable graves.
Julius Caesar, Act I, sc 2,
The Colossus of Rhodes, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, was a gigantic bronze statue representing the sun-god Helios and commemorating the successful defence of Rhodes against Demetrius Poliorcetes in 305-4 BC. It was completed by Chares about 280 BC and was destroyed by an earthquake in 224 BC. It is often said that it was built astride the harbour entrance and that ships could pass between its legs, but this story seems to have originated in the 16th century—neither Strabo nor Pliny mentions it.
See also Money in the Bank.
You must think beautiful thoughts (p 108)
Life is beautiful to whomsoever will think beautiful thoughts. There are no common people but they who think commonly and without imagination or beauty. Such are dull enough.
The Ministry of Beauty (1907),
Chapter 5 Part 5 (pp 108 - 121)
festive board (p 108)
‘Festive board’ here refers to the ceremonial of dinner in the Steward’s Room. In freemasonry the term designates the formal meal served after a lodge meeting. There are a number of freemasonry terms scattered throughout the canon and Wodehouse was himself a freemason, though, according to Phelps, he was not initiated until March 1929, long after Something Fresh had been published.
high and disposedly (p 109)
Here ceremonial might be viewed in its finest flower, and we conducted ourselves, like Queen Elizabeth when she trod the measure, “high and disposedly”.
The Golden Age, ch 6 (1895),
So the regular work went to the dogs, Beetle being full of other matters and metres, hoarded in secret and only told to M’Turk of an afternoon, on the sands, walking high and disposedly round the wreck of the Armada galleon, shouting and declaiming against the long-ridged seas.
Stalky & Co, "The Last Term" (1899),
Lady Mildred Mant’s (p 111)
Neither Lady Mildred nor her husband appears in any of the subsequent Blandings stories. Murphy (In Search of Blandings) discovered that in 1903, at the time Wodehouse was living in Emsworth, there were four brothers named Mant living in the village: one owned the bakery, another was the village butcher and a third was the village postman.
Probably the lower servants . . . discussed the upper servants (p 111)
This is somewhat reminiscent of the ditty penned by Jonathan Swift (and later altered and attributed to just about everybody from Ogden Nash to Bertrand Russell):
So, naturalists observe, a flea
Hath smaller fleas that on him prey;
And these have smaller fleas to bite ’em,
And so proceed ad infinitum.
the bottom circle (p 111)
Perhaps an allusion to Dante’s Inferno, in which the bottom circle of Hell was reserved for traitors, who were entombed in ice.
a little distrait (p 112)
Distrait (French) – preoccupied, absent-minded.
“Alfred spilled the ’ock!” (p 112)
‘Hock’ used to be a common generic name in Britain (and occasionally elsewhere, eg Australia) for German white Rhenish wines. The name derives from Hochheimer, a wine from Hochheim in the Rheingau region. As wine-drinking has become more common in Britain, and knowledge about wine has increased correspondingly, the name is less often encountered nowadays.
degrees of rank (p 112)
Possibly another allusion to freemasonry, where ranks are distinguished by the attainment of ‘degrees’.
Pooh Bah in the Mikado (p 113)
Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado, or the Town of Titipu was first performed on 14 March 1885.
I am in point of fact a particularly haughty and exclusive person of preAdamite ancestral descent. You will understand this when I tell you that I can trace my ancestry back to a protoplasmal primordial atomic globule. Consequently, my family pride is something inconceivable. I can’t help it. I was born sneering. But I struggle hard to overcome this defect. I mortify my pride continually. When all the great Officers of State resigned in a body because they were too proud to serve under an ex-tailor, did I not unhesitatingly accept all their posts at once?
And the salaries attached to them? You did.
It is consequently my degrading duty to serve this upstart as First Lord of the Treasury, Lord Chief Justice, Commander in Chief, Lord High Admiral, Master of the Buckhounds, Groom of the Back Stairs, Archbishop of Titipu, and Lord Mayor, both acting and elect, all rolled into one. And at a salary! A Pooh-Bah paid for his services! I, a salaried minion! But I do it! It revolts me, but I do it.
And it does you credit.
Nosey Parker (p 113)
Although the term ‘Nosey Parker’, applied to overly-inquisitive persons, is in common use, its origins are unclear. The first instance recorded in the OED dates from 1907, a picture post card with the caption “The adventures of Nosey Parker”; the second entry in the OED is this example from Something Fresh. Partridge (A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English) notes that, according to the OED, ‘nosey’ on its own dates from 1851, and ‘parker’, a rabbit living in a park, from 1846, and quotes a suggestion that it may have arisen at the time of the Great Exhibition of 1851 in Hyde Park, when the huge crowds of inquiring visitors could have attracted correspondingly large numbers of Peeping Toms and eavesdroppers. Another theory links the phrase to Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury at the time of Elizabeth I, who was noted for his enquiring attitude concerning church affairs.
her photograph in the Daily Sketch (p 114)
The Daily Sketch was launched in March 1909, initially in Manchester and later in London, under the ownership of Edward Hulton. The paper gained fame for some of its scoop photos, which included pictures of the sinking of the Titanic and the death of the sufragette Emily Davison. In 1971, the Daily Sketch was absorbed into the Daily Mail and ceased independent publication.
like a little Briton (p 115)
To fight ‘like a Briton’ is to fight with indomnitable courage. But Brittunculus, ‘little Briton’, was a derogatory term applied by the Romans in Britain to their local adversaries and this may be closer to the derisive attitude displayed by Mr Ferris.
The first Labour (socialist) MPs in Britain were elected in 1906, and their numbers were increased at the general election in 1910. The Labour Party joined a coalition government in 1916, the year after Something Fresh was published.
the Havant case (p 117)
Havant is another of the many Hampshire place-names used by Wodehouse—it is a town about 2-3 miles west of Emsworth.
Lord Mount Anville (p 117)
There doesn’t appear ever to have been a Lord Mount Anville. Mount Anville, an imposing regency house at Dun Laoghaire, near Dublin, was the family home of Baron Trimbletown. In 1841 it was bought by William Dargan, a railway engineer who, having worked in England with George Stephenson and Thomas Telford, had returned to Ireland, where he was responsible for constructing the first railway lines in that country.
Walkinshaw’s Supreme Ointment (p 117)
I have an aunt, sir, who a few years ago was a martyr to swollen limbs. She tried Walkinshaw’s Supreme Ointment and obtained considerable relief—so much so that she sent them an unsolicited testimonial.
"Jeeves Takes Charge", Saturday Evening Post (1916)
every smoking-concert at Oxford (p 118)
A smoking-concert was a concert at which smoking was allowed, and thus, in the era in which Something Fresh is set, would have been a male-only affair. It was usually restricted to members of a particular group (eg undergraduates, workmates), who provided their own entertainment.
like Cortes’ soldiers, “with a wild surmise” (p 119)
the neighbouring town of Blatchford (p 120)
Blatchford is a small village in Devon, on the northern side of Dartmoor, a considerable distance from the presumed location of Blandings.
my genial cicerone (p 121)
A cicerone—from the name of the Roman orator, Cicero—is a guide. The word seems to have been coined in the 18th century to describe learned Italians who showed local antiquities to Englishmen doing the Grand Tour. It seems to have appeared in English before Italian, even though it is clearly an Italian formation. Wodehouse is mocking the inflated language of a certain style of journalism.
Chapter 5 Part 6 (pp 121 - 126)
Mr William Muldoon (p 121)
William Muldoon (1852-1933) was born at Caneadea, Allegany County, New York. He became famous as a wrestler, under the epithet ‘Iron Duke’, and was proclaimed world champion of the Greco-Roman style wrestling. Muldoon later became closely involved with the development of boxing, served as the New York State Boxing Commissioner for many years, and is a member of the American Boxing Hall of Fame. He also had a reputation as a great fitness trainer and owned a health and fitness club in White Plains, New York.
distant prospect of Sing-Sing prison (p 122)
Sing-Sing prison (the name derives from Sint Sinck, the native Indians of the locality) was established in 1828 as the New York State penitentiary. It is situated on the bank of the Hudson River, about 20 km north of White Plains.
In Sam the Sudden, Sam Shotter is able to unmask the con artist, ‘Soapy’ Molloy, when the latter, masquerading as ‘Thomas G Gunn’, a wealthy tycoon from Pittsburgh, hesitates over the word ‘sing’, reminding Sam that the last time he had seen the so-called Mr Gunn was as the star turn at a concert in Sing-Sing Prison, which Sam had attended as the guest of a newspaper reporter.
There may be a hint of a reference here to Thomas Gray’s “Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College”, and perhaps Wodehouse is having a little joke at the expense of the school.
the Hosts of Midian prowled (p 123)
So the people took victuals in their hand, and their trumpets: and he sent all the rest of Israel every man unto his tent, and retained those three hundred men: and the host of Midian was beneath him in the valley.
And it came to pass the same night, that the Lord said unto him, Arise, get thee down unto the host; for I have delivered it into thine hand.
Judges, vii, 8-12
The Bible says nothing about the Midianites’ prowling; Wodehouse’s source for this is probably a hymn, “Christian dost thou see them”, written (in Greek) by St Andrew of Crete (660-732) and translated into English by John Mason Neale in 1862:
Christian dost thou see them on the holy ground,
How the troops of Midian
Prowl and prowl around?
Christian up and smite them, counting gain but loss;
smite them by the merit of the Holy Cross.
backing and filling (p 124)
‘Backing and filling’ was originally a nautical term that referred to the action of alternately letting the sails fill then spilling wind, to keep a boat in one place. Later it came to refer to the action of manoeuvring in a confined space (such as in a narrow river) by frequent small changes of direction, and, by extension, became a figurative expression for constantly changing ground in a decision or argument.
a new variety of the Tango (p 124)
The tango is believed to have originated in the 1880s in the lower-class barrios of Buenos Aires. In the early 1900s, the dance was introduced into Europe and a craze developed, especially in Paris. By the winter of 1910-11, the tango craze had reached New York, where it received a considerable impetus a decade later through the films of Rudolph Valentino.
any specific tort or malfeasance (p 124)
A tort is a negligent or intentional civil wrong not arising out of a contract or statute, an act that injures someone in some way, and for which the injured person may sue the wrongdoer for damages. Legally, a tort is a civil wrong, as opposed to a crime (though an act may constitute both a tort and a crime; for example, the crime of battery may also be a trespass against the person, which is a tort; the wrongdoer in such a case may face both civil and criminal penalties).
Malfeasance is the doing of a wrongful act, whether a tort or a crime, where the act itself is unlawful, as opposed to nonfeasance, which is the omission of an act that a person is under a legal duty to perform.
the nice distinction between meum and tuum (p 125)
Meum and tuum are ‘mine’ and ‘thine’.
Therefore it is an happy thing in a state, when kings and states do often consult with judges; and again, when judges do often consult with the king and state: the one, when there is matter of law, intervenient in business of state; the other, when there is some consideration of state, intervenient in matter of law. For many times the things deduced to judgment may be meum and tuum
The Essays, "Of Judicature" (1601),
‘Nice’ here does not bear its modern meaning of ‘pleasant, agreeable’, but is being used ironically in one of its earlier senses, meaning ‘with very fine discrimination’.
See also The Code of the Woosters.
Chapter 6 Part 1 (pp 127 - 133)
Ardent Youth (p 127)
There she stood, that slim, radiant girl, bouncing Ardent Youth out of its father’s hard-earned with a smile that alone was nearly worth the money
"The Goal-keeper and the Plutocrat", in The Strand Magazine (Jan 1912)
looks askance at Fate bearing gifts (p 127)
The allusion is to the phrase “beware of Greeks bearing gifts”, which derives from Virgil’s line Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes (Aeneid II, 49)—“I fear the Greeks, even when they offer gifts”—and is ultimately a reference to the Wooden Horse by which the Greeks gained entrance to Troy.
the etiquette-maelstrom (p 127)
A maelstrom is a whirlpool. The name is most usually linked to the Lofoten Maelstrom, or Moskstraumen, which lies south west of the main chain of the Lofoten Islands, off the northern coast of Norway. For centuries, this has been well-known for the strength of its dangerous whirlpools. Edgar Allan Poe and Jules Verne featured this “Charybdis of the north” in stories, eg Poe’s A Descent into the Maelstrom (1841).
he had spiked the millionaire’s guns (p 127)
In the days when cannon were fired by applying a spark to the touch-hole, it was the practice, if a gun was about to fall into enemy hands (or, having been captured, could not be carried away), to render it useless by hammering a metal spike into the touch-hole. Hence, to ‘spike an adversary’s guns’ is to frustrate his plans.
See also Money in the Bank.
smite him . . . with that powerful weapon, the Efficient Baxter (p 128)
In the Bible, a variety of weapons are used to smite enemies, but none as potent as this.
Nor poppy nor mandragora (p 128)
One of the poppies of the genus Papaver is the source of opium which, as a tincture, laudanum, was widely prescribed as a soporific in Victorian times. Mandragora, or mandrake, is a poisonous plant related to the potato; in small doses it is narcotic:
Not poppy, nor mandragora,
Nor all the drowsy syrups of the world,
Shall ever medicine thee to that sweet sleep
Which thou owedst yesterday
Othello, Act III, sc 3,
A little rest, a little folding of the hands (p 133)
How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? When wilt thou arise out of thy sleep?
Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep:
So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth; and thy want as an armed man.
Proverbs, vi, 9-11
See also Money in the Bank.
Chapter 6 Part 2 (pp 133 - 139)
the Votes for Women question (p 134-5)
Another reference to the issue on which the suffragettes campaigned.
Ours not to reason why. Ours but to elude (p 137)
A reference to Tennyson’s poem, “The Charge of the Light Brigade”:
Their’s not to make reply,
Their’s not to reason why,
Their’s but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
See also Money in the Bank.
Chapter 7 Part 1 (pp 140 - 144)
between the hunting and shooting seasons (p 140)
The hunting (ie fox-hunting) season begins with ‘Autumn’ hunting from late August / early September until the end of October, followed by the hunting season proper from November until March or April, depending on the nature of the farming in the area.
The shooting season varies with the game species but starts between 12 August (grouse, ptarmigan and snipe) and 1 October (pheasant) and ends between 10 December and 1 February.
The action of Something Fresh takes place in the spring, when the hunting and shooting seasons have ended.
Note: Since February 2005, it has been illegal to hunt foxes with dogs in England and Wales (a similar ban was implemented in Scotland some months earlier).
clock golf (p 141)
Clock golf is a poor substitute for (or, depending on one’s preferences, a great improvement on) links golf. It is essentially a putting game and can be played in small spaces such as a domestic lawn. A circle, 20 to 24 feet across, is drawn on the ground and twelve numbers or markers, representing the 12 hours on a clock-face, are placed at regular intervals around the circumference. The putting hole is placed off-centre, within the circle, so that the distances vary for each shot. The aim of the game is to putt the ball into the hole from each marker in turn, starting with the one o’clock marker and so on around the clock, in the fewest number of putts.
Bishop of Godalming (p 141)
Godalming, Surrey, is a small market town, about 5 miles south of Wodehouse’s birthplace, Guildford. It does not have a bishop.
Mrs Jack Hale (p 141)
Jack Hale is a common name and Wodehouse’s source, if any, is not clear. A possible source is the novel The Trail of the Lonesome Pine (1908), by John Fox, in which principal character is called Jack Hale; the novel was popular in its day and was made into a movie in 1936.
Mrs Hale is described as belonging to the collateral branch of the family. In a strict sense, this would mean that she is not a direct descendent of the 1st Earl of Emsworth, but in this case it is more likely to mean that she descends from a brother or sister of the 8th Earl and is thus either a first cousin to Clarence or a second cousin to Lady Mildred.
Chapter 7 Part 2 (pp 144 - 150)
the marriage which had been arranged (p 145)
“A marriage has been arranged” is a common phrase of newspaper parlance,—and it has one advantage over most newspaper forms of speech—namely, that of being strictly and literally true. A marriage is “arranged” as a matter of convenience or social interest; lawyers draft settlements and conclude the sale,—and a priest of the Most High God is called in to bless the bargain.
The Modern Marriage Market (1898),
Mrs Norbury was delighted to see them, as she always was to see any man in her house who came up to the necessary standard of eligibility. When her life-work was completed, and summed up in those beautiful words: “A marriage has been arranged, and will shortly take place, between Angela, daughter of the late John Norbury” . . . then she would utter a grateful Nunc dimittis and depart in peace to a better world, if Heaven insisted, but preferably to her new son-in-law’s more dignified establishment.
The Red House Mystery, ch 15 (1922),
A marriage has been arranged, and will shortly take place, between Peter, son of the late Mr W M Cazalet and Mrs Cazalet, of Fairlawne, and Leonora, daughter of Mr and Mrs P G Wodehouse.
The Times, "Forthcoming Marriages" (15 November 1932)
One of the Georges (p 146)
It was King George III, who is reputed to have told his architect, Wyatt, that “Six hours sleep are enough for a man, seven for a woman and eight for a fool”.
what might have been (p 146)
For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: “It might have been!”
, "Maud Muller" (1854)
See also Money in the Bank.
I’ll go and see the Methodist chapel (p 148)
Early Methodist chapels were often nothing more than converted dwelling-houses and even those that were purpose-built were no more than plain rectangular buildings with no ornamentation. Later chapels were more elaborate and in the latter part of the 19th century many Methodist and other Nonconformist chapels were constructed in a grand pseudo-Gothic style. Mr Jones clearly has in mind something in the more traditional style, with little or no architectural interest.
a drummer of some kind (p 149)
Drummer: a commercial traveller, a sales representative.
Chapter 8 Part 1 (pp 150 - 154)
a kettle on the range (p 150)
A kettle here is a cauldron, not the spouted pot in which water is boiled. A range is an enclosed kitchen fireplace.
a sorrow’s crown of sorrow is remembering happier things (p 151)
Comfort? comfort scorn’d of devils! this is truth the poet sings,
That a sorrow’s crown of sorrow is remembering happier things.
, "Locksley Hall" (1842)
Tennyson is probably alluding to a line from Dante’s Divina Commedia: “there is no greater grief than to remember times of happiness in the midst of wretchedness” (nessun maggior dolere che ricordarsi del tempo felice nella miseria), itself an allusion to Boethius: In omni adversitate fortunae infelicissimum genus est infortunii fuisse felicem. (De Consolatione Philosophiae, II)
See also A Damsel in Distress.
dwelt in Arcadia (p 151)
Arcadia (Arcady) is a mountainous region lying at the centre of the Peloponnese. Virgil, in his Eclogues, idealised it as an idyllic pastoral land, the “happy land of shepherds”, and later poets and artists continued the theme, using an imaginary Arcadia as the setting for visions of rural innocence. The motto Et in Arcadia ego (“I too have dwelt in Arcadia”) came to epitomise this utopian ideal of rustic simplicity, though the reality is more sombre: around 1622, the phrase was used as the title of a painting by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri (1591-1666); the painting depicts two shepherds who are seen looking at a skull which rests on a pedestal inscribed with this motto—the point of the symbolism is that the motto is spoken by Death, who is to be found even in Arcadia. The same theme was used by Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665) in the two versions (c 1630 and c 1638) of his painting “The Shepherds of Arcadia”.
See also The Code of the Woosters.
rise on stepping-stones of his dead self (p 152)
I held it truth, with him who sings
To one clear harp in divers tones,
That men may rise on stepping-stones
Of their dead selves to higher things.
, "In Memoriam A H H" (1849)
. . . prison life does not degrade . . . does not warp the character and prevent a man rising on stepping-stones of his dead self to higher things.
The Code of the Woosters, ch 1 (1915)
In Something New, “curried lobster” becomes “lobster à la Newburg”.
brooks no divided allegiance (p 152)
There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn’t an American at all. We have room but for one language here and that is the English language, for we intend to see that the crucible turns our people out as Americans, of American nationality; we have room for but one soul loyalty, and that is loyalty to the American people.
Chapter 8 Part 2 (pp 154 - 157)
such Barmecide feasts (p 155)
A Barmecide is an imaginary or pretended banquet. In “The Barber’s Story of His Sixth Brother”, one of the Tales from the Arabian Nights, a prince of the Barmecide family invites a beggar, Schacabac, to dinner and taunts him by setting before him a series of empty dishes and then enquiring how the beggar is enjoying his meal.
no common love (p 155)
Kate hath a spirit ever strung
Like a new bow, and bright and sharp
As edges of the scimitar.
Whence shall she take a fitting mate?
For Kate no common love will feel;
My woman-soldier, gallant Kate,
As pure and true as blades of steel.
, "Kate" (1833)
Chapter 8 Part 3 (pp 157 - 158)
first fine careless rapture (p 157)
That’s the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!
Dramatic Romances and Lyrics (1845), "Home-Thoughts, from Abroad", in
See also Leave It to Psmith
Chapter 8 Part 4 (pp 159 - 165)
occasional china (p 159)
Occasional china consists of pieces of crockery, no doubt particularly fine and valuable pieces, which are used only on special occasions (and which might otherwise spend much of the time on display).
no poltroon (p 162)
A poltroon is a coward; a mean-spirited wretch (Shak.) The word is said to derive from the Italian poltrone, meaning not only ‘coward’ but also ‘slothful and lazy lout’, and which in turn was based on poltro, a ‘couch’. Thus the original sense of the word, which first appeared in English around 1529, was a worthless, dissolute person who wasted his time idling on couches (or, as we would now say, a ‘couch potato’).
like the Last Trump (p 162)
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed
1 Corinthians, xv, 52
looked like George Robey (p 162)
George Robey (1869-1954), real name George Edward Wade, was an English music-hall comedian who was known for many years as ‘the prime minister of mirth’. His most famous character role was a collarless cleric with a red nose, startled and heavy black eyebrows, an indignant stare and a ribald smile. Robey was knighted in 1954, receiving his knighthood (like Wodehouse two decades later) in the year in which he died.
In Something New, Lord Emsworth’s grandmother is likened to Eddie Foy, who appeared in vaudeville as one of the ‘Seven Little Foys’. (His son, Eddie Foy Jr, was also a vaudeville artiste, but was born only in 1905).
Venus . . . rising from the sea (p 162-3)
In Greek mythology, Aphrodite (Venus) rose naked from the foam of the sea and rode ashore on a scallop shell. In one version of the myth, the goddess was born from the foam that surrounded the genitals of Uranus after his son, Cronus, one of the seven Titans fathered by Uranus on Mother Earth, had castrated him and thrown them into the sea. The birth of Venus was a popular theme for Renaissance painters, the most famous example being the painting, now in the Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence, by Sandro Botticellli (1445-1510).
See also The Code of the Woosters.
the late Countess of Emsworth (p 164)
Two pages earlier the portrait was said to depict Lord Emsworth’s maternal grandmother, in which case, barring some uncomfortably close inter-marrying, she would not have been the Countess of Emsworth.
In Something New, the word “maternal” is omitted; it may be that Wodehouse, who was living in New York at the time, was able to correct the proofs of the US edition but was unable to include the changes in the UK edition, even though that was published a little later.
Chapter 9 Part 1 (pp 166 - 170)
a general running amuck (p 166)
To run amuck (or amok) is to indulge in physical violence while in a frenzied state. The word is of Malay origin (amog – a state of frenzy).
the true inwardness of last night’s happenings (p 167)
Wodehouse may be having a sly dig at those arbiters of good English, the brothers H W & F G Fowler. In chapter 1 of The King’s English (1906), in a section condemning the use of slang in written English, they wrote:
Phenomenal, soon, we hope, to perish unregretted, is . . . from Metaphysics; . . . true inwardness from Literary Criticism; . . . As for the rest of them, they are being subjected to that use, at once over-frequent and inaccurate, which produces one kind of slang.
Earlier in the same chapter, the Fowlers castigated Rudyard Kipling (one of Wodehouse’s favourite writers and recipient, just one year later, of the Nobel prize for literature) for describing rocks as “honey-coloured” and sea bathers as “shrimp-pink”, both phrases being, in the considered opinion of the Fowlers, more in harmony with American than with English methods!
Chapter 9 Part 3 (pp 171 - 175)
sea-captain . . . crow’s-nest (p 172)
In the days of sailing ships, the crow’s-nest was a wooden platform, usually fixed to the crosstrees of the maintop mast, from which a lookout could keep watch.
like Marius among the ruins of Carthage (p 173)
Gaius Marius (157-86 BC) was a famous Roman military commander and politician, and an uncle by marriage of the future dictator, Julius Caesar. He was elected consul six times and, as consul, achieved major military successes against Jugurtha, King of the Numidians, and against the Germanic tribes, the Cimbri and Teutoni. In 88 BC, civil war broke out between supporters of Marius and the consul Lucius Cornelius Sulla, and Marius was forced to flee Rome. He was taken prisoner but his captors put him on a ship bound for North Africa. Marius landed at Carthage (which had been destroyed in 146 BC, at the end of the Third Punic War) but was ordered by a messenger from the Roman governor to leave the country on pain of death. According to Plutarch in his Lives, Marius sent back the messenger with the words “Go tell the praetor that you have seen Gaius Marius sitting in exile among the ruins of Carthage”. Marius subsequently returned to Rome where he joined forces with the consul Cinna, who had also been driven from Rome by Sulla’s supporters. Together they entered Rome, slaughtering Sulla’s supporters, and named themselves consuls but, only eighteen days into his consulship, Marius died of pleurisy.
See also Love Among the Chickens.
as mad as a hatter (p 175)
The phrase ‘mad as a hatter’ seems to date from the early 19th century; Thomas Chandler Haliburton, a Canadian author, used it in his comic work, The Clockmaker; or the Sayings and Doings of Samuel Slick of Slickville (1836); in Britain, it first appeared in William Makepeace Thackeray’s Pendennis (serialised between 1848-50) and Thomas Hughes’s Tom Brown’s Schooldays (1857), before being popularised by Lewis Carroll in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865). Unlike Hughes, Carroll (and Wodehouse), the earlier writers used ‘mad’ in the sense of angry, enraged.
The phrase had its origins in a disease that was an occupational hazard of workers making felt hats (such as top hats, bowlers, etc). These workers frequently suffered from what came to be known as mad hatter syndrome, exhibiting physical symptoms such as trembling, loss of co-ordination and slurred speech, and mental symptoms that included irritability, loss of memory, depression and anxiety. It is now known that these symptoms resulted from an accumulation of mercury in the workers’ bodies—the felt for hats was made by treating rabbit fur with a solution of a mercury compound.
Chapter 9 Part 4 (pp 175 - 178)
in the watches of the night (p 176)
The watches of the night were the periods into which the time between sunset and sunrise was divided and were so called because each represented the period during which a watchman stood duty. The Bible refers initially to three watches, “the beginning of the watches” (Lamentations, ii, 19), “the middle watch” (Judges, vii, 19) and “the morning watch” (eg Exodus, xiv, 24), which extended from two o’clock until sunrise. By the time of the New Testament, the night was divided into four watches, a change which was probably introduced by the Romans (Matthew, xiv, 25; Mark, vi, 48; Luke xii, 38).
One of the stories in Rudyard Kipling’s Plain Tales From the Hills (1888) is entitled “Watches of the Night”.
Chapter 10 Part 1 (pp 178 - 186)
The postman came late . . . on Sundays (p 178)
In England, postal deliveries on Sundays are but a dim and distant memory. Sunday deliveries in most areas were curtailed as an economy measure around the end of World War I and a general cessation of Sunday deliveries was implemented in 1921; Sunday collections were abolished in 1976.
as fit as a drayhorse (p 181)
A dray was a stout cart intended for heavy goods and the horses that drew such a cart had to be very strong, despite which the average dray-horse had a working life of only about seven years. Although mechanisation long since overtook the working drays, some London breweries, notably Young’s and Whitbread, maintained working dray-horses, primarily for publicity purposes, into the 1980s.
Chapter 10 Part 2 (pp 186 - 193)
“Had he no methods?” (p 187)
Perhaps a nod in the direction of the Great Detective:
“You know my methods. Apply them!”.
The Hound of the Baskervilles, ch 1 (1902),
the mysterious ways of Providence (p 189)
Possibly an allusion to a well-known hymn:
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
Olney Hymns, no 68 (1774),
Chapter 10 Part 4 (pp 201 - 203)
give me Kalamazoo (p 202)
Kalamazoo is a city in the state of Michigan, USA, and, at first sight, it is not clear why Mr Peters should have introduced it into the conversation: it is not, for example, his home town, which, as he has already made clear, is Memphis, Tennessee.
But in Something New, Mr Peters says “give me Hoboken” and Wodehouse’s intent becomes clearer: Hoboken, New Jersey, was, from about 1860, one of the main points of entry into the US for immigrants, at first mainly Germans but later other ethnic groups; the city came to have a very mixed population and what Mr Peters is saying is that he prefers the mixed blood of someone from Hoboken (or Kalamazoo—though the reason for the change still is not obvious) to the pure blue blood of the English aristocracy.
Chapter 10 Part 5 (pp 203 - 207)
the old bus horses (p 205)
The first horse-drawn bus service in London began on 4 July 1829.The first double-decker horse-drawn bus was introduced in 1847. Horse-drawn buses began to be replaced when the engine-driven B-type bus made its debut in 1908, and by the time that Something Fresh was published, horse-drawn omnibuses were no longer to be seen on the streets of London.
“She travels the fastest who travels alone.” (p 206)
A friend at a pinch is a friend indeed,
But a fool to wait for the laggard behind.
Down to Gehenna or up to the Throne,
He travels the fastest who travels alone.
, "The Winners" (1888)