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).
Summer Moonshine was serialised in The Saturday Evening Post (US) between 24 July and 11 September 1937 and in Pearson's magazine (UK) between September 1937 and April 1938. It was first published as a book by Doubleday Doran, Garden City, New York, on 8 October 1937 and by Herbert Jenkins, London, on 11 February 1938.
Page references are to the Penguin edition 1966, reprinted 1979.
Chapter 1 (pp 5 - 16)
Mr Waugh-Bonner (p 5)
The novelist Evelyn Waugh (1903-66) was a great admirer of Wodehouse's work, though the reference could as easily have been meant for his brother Alec or father Arthur, both of whom Wodehouse knew. Whomever Wodehouse intended, it was Evelyn who picked up the reference: in his novel Scoop, published in May 1938, a few months after Summer Moonshine, a minor character is said to have "known a man named Bertie Wodehouse-Bonner". In some later editions of Scoop, the name was changed to Bertie Booth-Bryce.
"tomayto" when I meant "tomarto" (p 6)
Probably a reference to the song 'Let's Call the Whole Thing Off', music by George Gershwin, lyrics by his brother, Ira. The song is from the musical Shall We Dance, which was premiered in New York on 13 May 1937. Wodehouse had previously worked on Broadway with the Gershwin brothers.
esprit de l'escalier (p 6)
"A tardy wit, which thinks of a smart retort or witticism too late, when its owner is going downstairs on his way out of the house" (The Oxford Companion to English Literature, ed M Drabble)
a man with so low an opinion of the sex as the late Schopenhauer (p 7)
Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), philosopher, author of The World as Will and Representation, was noted for his pessimism and misogyny.
her Widgeon Seven two-seater (p 8)
In Thank You, Jeeves (1934), Bertie Wooster also refers to his two-seater car as a Widgeon Seven. J H C Morris (Thank You, Wodehouse, 1981), notes that there was no such car as the "Widgeon". He implies that "Widgeon" was a pseudonym for "Austin", but rightly points out that the Austin Seven had four cylinders, not the six of Bertie's car, and that there was no two-seater model. While the objection regarding six cylinders remains, there was a two-seater sports car with the designation "Seven", namely the Triumph Super Seven, which was in production between 1927 and 1932: in 1930, Donald Healey, driving a Triumph Super Seven, finished 7th in the Monte Carlo race, the highest place for any British car.
And what mother thinks today, Manchester thinks tomorrow (p 8)
An inversion of the saying "what Manchester thinks today, London [or, sometimes, "the World"] thinks tomorrow". Though the origin of the phrase is uncertain, it was used as early as 1869 as the title of a women's suffrage meeting held in London — the first such meeting had been organised a year earlier by the Manchester Suffrage Society. The slogan was later adopted by the then Manchester Guardian newspaper.
like the priests of Baal (p 9)
Elijah issued a challenge to the priests of the god Baal: each would prepare a bull for sacrifice and then call upon his god to set the sacrifice alight. But after the priests of Baal had spent a morning unsuccessfully calling upon their god, Elijah mocked them, saying that perhaps their god was asleep and must be awakened:
And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them.
1 Kings, xviii, 28
pot-bellied son of Belial (p 10)
the power of the high, the middle, and the low justice (p 13)
A favourite phrase of Wodehouse's. It recurs, for example, in the short story, Lord Emsworth and the Girl Friend.
In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's novel The White Company (published 1890), the phrase is explained thus:
"Though I scarce understand this high, middle and low."
"By my hilt! you would understand it if you were Jacques Bonhomme. The low justice means that you may fleece him, and the middle that you may torture him, and the high that you may slay him."
Chapter 2 (pp 16 - 26)
written in letters of flame (p 19)
This is a familiar expression, appearing in all sorts of books, but, though it sounds Biblical, it does not appear in the King James version. In some biblical commentaries, the writing that appears on the wall at Belshazzar's feast (Daniel, v, 5) is said to have been written in letters of flame and one commentator has claimed that shazzar means "fire" (though more conventional interpretations treat -azzar as meaning "Assyrian"). Hebrew letters are sometimes known as "flame letters" on account of their shape.
to possess the wings of a dove (p 19)
And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove!
for then would I fly away, and be at rest.
Psalms, lv, 6
the chamois of the Alps (p 20)
See Sam the Sudden.
like the Lady of Shalott (p 20)
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack'd from side to side;
'The curse is come upon me!' cried
The Lady of Shalott.
, "The Lady of Shalott" (1842)
See also The Code of the Woosters.
the crackling of thorns beneath the pot (p 21)
as King Lear might have looked at Cordelia (p 22)
Here I disclaim all my paternal care,
Propinquity and property of blood,
And as a stranger to my heart and me
Hold thee, from this, for ever.
King Lear, Act I, sc 1,
"The Moving Finger writes (p 25)
The Moving Finger writes;
and, having writ, Moves on:
nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it
"The Rubaiyát" of(trans Edward Fitzgerald, 1859)
not be a Shylock (p 25)
A Shylock: a tight-fisted person. After Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice.
Chapter 3 (pp 26 - 33)
wandering from the fold (p 26)
Perhaps from the well-known hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing:
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.
But it could also be a reference to the parable of the prodigal son (Luke xv).
Waterloo . . . boat train (p 26)
Waterloo station is a London railway terminus located just south of the river Thames. It was opened in 1848 to serve the London and Southampton Railway Company's line to Southampton. This line had itself replaced an earlier proposal for a ship canal between London and Southampton, to avoid the longer sea-journey to London via the Straits of Dover. Southampton became one of the major departure ports for ocean liners sailing to the United States, with passengers travelling to and from London on special "boat trains".
St Pancras (p 27)
St Pancras station is a London railway terminus to the north of central London. It was completed in 1868 by the Midland Railway Company, which ran services to the midlands, north-west England and Scotland. The designer of the station was Sir George Gilbert Scott, who worked at the same time on the Albert Memorial in Kensington.
Fair women and brave men (p 30)
There was a sound of revelry by night,
And Belgium's capital had gather'd then
Her Beauty and her Chivalry, and bright
The lamps shone o'er fair women and brave men.
, "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage", Canto the Third, verse XXI (1816)
Abandon all hope (p 30)
buzzard (p 30)
As the buzzard (Buteo buteo) is a bird of prey which sometimes scavenges on carrion, Joe's explanation that, in calling Mr Busby "buzzard", he had merely been trying to create a pleasant atmosphere is not entirely convincing.
I am the little friend of all the world (p 31)
In chapter 1 of Rudyard Kipling's Kim, it is said of Kim that "his nickname through the wards was 'Little Friend of all the World' ". Kipling was one of Wodehouse's favourite authors.
See also Money in the Bank.
I am walking on air with my hat on the side of my head (p 31)
Possibly alluding to popular songs of the day.
"I'm walking on air" is the first line of "I'm Crazy 'bout My Baby", words and music by Fats Waller and Alex Hill, first performed by Fats Waller with Ted Lewis and His Band in 1931 and first recorded that same year.
"My Hat's on the Side of My Head" is the title of a song from the 1934 musical film Jack Ahoy, directed by Harold Forde, music and lyrics by Claude Hulbert and Harry M Woods.
See also Joy in the Morning.
Daily Mail . . . Daily Telegraph . . . Morning Post . . . The Times (p 32)
Popular English morning newspapers. The Morning Post, founded in 1772 and which once counted the poets Coleridge, Southey and Wordsworth among its contributors, ceased publication in 1937, when it was amalgamated into the Daily Telegraph. The others are still published.
Chapter 4 (pp 33 - 38)
'Sir Buckstone Abbott.' 'Plain or Bart?' (p 35)
Baronet is an hereditary title which was instituted in 1611 by King James I, who sold baronetcies to raise funds, ostensibly for the maintenance of troops in Ireland. A baronet is addressed as "Sir" followed by the sole (or preferred) forename, hence "Sir Buckstone". The wife of a baronet is properly addressed as "Lady", followed by the family name, so Buck's wife is Lady Abbott (not Lady Alice Abbott, which style of address is reserved for the daughter of a duke, earl or marquess).
Joe asks whether Buck is "plain" (ie a knight) or "Bart" (ie a baronet) because baronets are not alone in being styled "Sir" — those appointed at the rank of Knight Commander or Knight Grand Cross in one of the several British Orders of Chivalry are similarly addressed, as are Knights Bachelor (who include all male judges of the High Court of England and Wales). The wife of a knight is addressed in the same way as the wife of a baronet.
Wodehouse was himself created a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) in the Queen's New Year Honours, 1 January 1975, just over six weeks before he died.
"Baronet" should not be confused with "Baron", the lowest rank in the British nobility. A baron is addressed, or referred to, as "Lord Blank" (where Blank is the family name), never as "Baron Blank", and his wife is "Lady Blank" (which may explain why females who hold a barony in their own right — such as Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven — usually prefer to be known as "Baroness Blank", when "Lady Blank" would be equally correct).
Razed to its foundations and sown with salt (p 35)
In 146 BC, after a siege lasting three years, the city of Carthage finally fell to a Roman army under Scipio Aemilianus, thus bringing to an end the Third Punic War. According to Appian's Roman History, the city was put to the torch and burned for ten days after which, on the orders of the Roman Senate, the ruins were ploughed under and the furrows symbolically sown with salt.
his heart leaps up (p 36)
My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began,
So is it now I am a man,
So be it when I shall grow old
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man:
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.
(written 1802, published 1807 as epigraph to "Ode: Intimations of Immortality")
Chapter 5 (pp 38 - 50)
Palaeozoic Age (p 39)
The Palaeozoic Era is the period of geological time commencing with the Cambrian period (570 million years ago) and extending to the end of the Permian period (248 million years ago).
where I get the bulge (p 39)
Slang: "to get a bulge" — to have or get a decided advantage
La Vie Parisienne (p 40)
Probably a reference to the French fashion magazine of that name. In his wartime journal, referring to the graffiti on the walls of his cell in Loos Prison, Wodehouse described the general effect as being "like finding oneself enclosed in a bound volume of La Vie Parisienne".
Emily Post (p 42)
Emily Post (1872-1960) was the American author of Etiquette (1922), a best-selling guide to social manners and decorum. The book was so successful that the phrase "according to Emily Post" soon entered common parlance as meaning the last word on social conduct.
See also Money in the Bank.
as the dust beneath his chariot wheels (p 47)
Less than the dust, beneath thy Chariot wheel,
Less than the rust, that never stained thy Sword,
Less than the trust thou hast in me, O Lord,
Even less than these!
The Garden of Kama (1901), "Less than the Dust", in
This is one of four poems by Laurence Hope (1865-1904, real name Adela Florence Nicolson) which were set to music as "The Indian Love Lyrics" by Amy Woodforde-Finden in 1902.
strychnine in the soup (p 48)
Wodehouse had already employed this as the title of one of the stories in Mulliner Nights (1933).
the one in Hamlet (p 48)
The "play within a play" in Act III Scene ii of Shakespeare's Hamlet (1603).
a Shubert chorus boy (p 49)
The Shubert brothers, Sam S (1876-1905), Jacob J (1880-1963), and Lee (1883-1953), were New York theatrical managers and producers. They were known for their productions of operettas, introduced many stars to the public, and staged many of the best-known revues.
an ABC Railway Guide (p 50)
The ABC Alphabetical Railway Guide was first published in 1853 in competition with George Bradshaw's Monthly Railway Guide, which had been published since 1841. But unlike Bradshaw's, which provided comprehensive national timetables, the ABC Guide covered only journeys to or from London and so was never as popular.
Both guides have featured in classic crime fiction, Bradshaw's being referred to by Sherlock Holmes on more than one occasion, while the ABC Railway Guide plays a major part in Agatha Christie's The ABC Murders (1936).
Chapter 6 (pp 50 - 58)
lambent flame (p 50)
lambent — "playing on the surface; touching lightly; flickering over" (Webster's Dictionary, 1913); "playing about; gliding over without harm" (Dr Johnson's Dictionary)
Ev'n love (for love sometimes her Muse express'd)
Was but a lambent-flame which play'd about her breast:
, "Ode To the Pious Memory of the accomplished young lady, Mrs Anne Killigrew" (1686)
Strange to relate, from young Iulus head
A lambent flame arose, which gently spread
around his brows and on his temples fed
Aeneid, Book 2, (trans John Dryden, 1686),
Walsingford Parva (p 50)
Parva — "small" (Latin parvus). The name was often given to the smaller of two neighbouring villages, the larger being designated "magna" (Latin magnus — great).
the houseboat Mignonette (p 50)
It may be coincidence that a yacht named Mignonette featured in a celebrated murder case in the 1880s. In May 1884, it left England for Australia with a crew of three under the command of Tom Dudley. On 3 July, after 45 days at sea, the yacht was well south of the equator, heading for Cape Town, when it was swamped by heavy seas. Believing the yacht to be sinking, Dudley ordered the crew to take to a dinghy, but they were able to rescue only one tin of food and no water. After drifting for 19 days, their condition was critical and the youngest member of the crew, 17-year-old cabin boy Richard Parker, was delirious and clearly dying, after having drunk sea water. Dudley, with the agreement of the other two crew members, killed him and all three fed off his corpse. Four days later they were rescued by a German ship and eventually landed in Cornwall. Although the survivors made no secret of what they had done, justifying the killing of the dying Parker as being necessary for their own survival, they were tried for murder, found guilty and given the mandatory death sentence; this was subsequently commuted to six months' imprisonment.
wailing for her demon lover (p 56)
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover!
, "Kubla Khan or, a Vision In a Dream: A Fragment" (1816)
See also The Code of the Woosters.
Chapter 7 (pp 59 - 65)
standing with reluctant feet where the eggs and bacon meet (p 62)
Standing, with reluctant feet,
Where the brook and river meet,
Womanhood and childhood fleet!
Ballads and Other Poems (1842), "Maidenhood", in
See also Money in the Bank.
life's little ironies (p 63)
The phrase "life's little ironies" was probably a familiar one before Thomas Hardy published his collection of short stories under that title in 1894, but that Wodehouse had Hardy in mind seems clear from Kipper Herring's comment in chapter 12 of Jeeves in the Offing (1960):
"It's just one of life's little ironies. You get the same sort of thing in Thomas Hardy."
It seems Wodehouse may have been exaggerating when he claimed, in a letter written in the mid-1950s, that he had "never so much as opened a book of Thomas Hardy's and never intended to".
Chapter 8 (pp 65 - 73)
like the god Mercury on winged feet (p 65)
Mercury, the Roman counterpart of the Greek Hermes, was the god of science and commerce, the patron of travellers, and acted as Jupiter's messenger. He is usually depicted as a young man wearing a winged helmet and winged sandals.
Roget (p 65)
Although Peter Mark Roget (1779-1869) did not publish the first edition of his Thesaurus, or "Treasury of Words", until 1852, it proved so popular that by the time he died it had already gone through some 28 editions and printings.
chasing an electric hare (p 66)
An electric or mechanical "hare" is employed in greyhound races. The first use of such a device was at the Belle Vue Stadium, Manchester, England, on 24 July 1926.
See also Money in the Bank.
to clutch at a straw (p 67)
The saying "A drowning man will clutch at straws" is attributed to Sir Thomas More (1477-1535), English statesman and saint.
ministering angel (p 69)
See A Damsel in Distress.
second-act curtain (p 69)
A theatrical term — the conclusion of the second Act of a play. A three-act play was expected to develop through a sequence of events including the set-up, the complication, and the resolution; the second-act curtain represented the moment of maximum conflict.
goddesses had mated with shepherds, and princesses with herders of swine (p 71)
In Greco-Roman mythology, Aphrodite (Venus) was said to have taken as a lover the handsome young shepherd, Adonis.
In Hans Christian Andersen's fairy-tale, The Swineherd, a poor prince, who wishes to woo a proud princess, daughter of a neighbouring emperor, takes employment as the Imperial Swine-herd, but, becoming disillusioned by the object of his love, he spurns her and returns to his own land.
Young Lochinvar (p 71)
O, young Lochinvar is come out of the west,
Through all the wide Border his steed was the best;
And save his good broadsword, he weapons had none,
He rode all unarm'd, and he rode all alone.
So faithful in love, and so dauntless in war,
There never was knight like the young Lochinvar.
Marmion, Canto V (1808),
paste him right on the smush (p 72)
Slang: "to paste" — to thrash; "smush" — the mouth. So, to punch on the mouth.
come in like a lion . . . made him a lamb (p 73)
"March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb" — a traditional saying, with many variants. While usually taken to refer to the weather, it probably derives from the fact that at the start of March the zodiacal constellation Leo (the lion) is to be seen rising in the East, while at the end of the month the constellation Aries (the ram, or "lamb") can be seen setting in the West.
See also Money in the Bank.
like a cinquecento Italian prince (p 73)
cinquecento (Italian — "five hundred") usually refers to the artistic and cultural developments in Italy in the sixteenth century, a period which was also saw considerable political disturbance, as independent princes fought among themselves and with rivals for their thrones.
Chapter 9 (pp 73 - 82)
lusus naturae (p 75)
(Latin) a sport or freak of nature.
to talk like a Dutch uncle (p 77)
To reprove firmly but kindly.
Devil's Island (p 78)
Ile du Diable, the smallest (less than 2 sq km in area) and most isolated of three islands off the coast of French Guiana collectively known as the Iles du Salut (the "Salvation Islands"). Between 1852 and 1951, the three islands served as a French penal colony. The largest, Ile Royale, housed the administrative centre and less dangerous criminals while dangerous criminals were held on Ile St Joseph. Ile du Diable was used for political prisoners, most famously Captain Alfred Dreyfus, who was confined there in terrible conditions from 1895-99. Devil's Island achieved greater notoriety following the 1973 film Papillon, in which Steve McQueen portrayed Henri Charriere, said to be the only prisoner to escape successfully from the island.
the ploughman homeward plods his weary way (p 78)
The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd winds slowly o'er the lea,
The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.
, "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" (1751)
This line is notable for the fact that it can be expressed in 28 different ways without changing the accent.
a Continental tour . . . Mr Cook (p 78)
Thomas Cook (1808-92), who lived in Leicester, was a member of the Midland Temperance Association. In 1841, he arranged an outing for the Association by railway from Leicester to Loughborough and back, and went on to organise similar outings so successfully that in 1856 he was able to extend his tours to the European continent, establishing the basis for the worldwide travel agency that continues to bear his name.
chased across the ice (p 79)
In chapter 7 of Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin (1851-2), the escaped slave, Eliza, who is being pursued by the slave trader, Haley, evades capture by crossing the frozen Ohio river, leaping from floe to floe, carrying her son Harry.
the American honour system (p 79)
A system in use in many American universities since the 19th century whereby students and faculty members are placed "on their honor" to behave properly. At Vanderbilt, for example, the system was introduced in 1875, when students presenting themselves for their final examinations were asked to pledge that "On my work and honor as a gentleman, I have neither given nor received help on this examination".
Chapter 10 (pp 82 - 96)
a piece called The Pink Lady (p 85)
A show of this name was put on by Flo Ziegfeld at the New Amsterdam Theatre, New York, where it ran from 13 March to 9 December 1911. The music for the show was by Ivan Caryll, who also wrote the music for The Girl Behind the Gun (New Amsterdam Theatre, 1918) and The Canary (Globe Theatre, 1918), for both of which Wodehouse wrote lyrics.
. . . Ivan Caryll, the composer of a long list of shows at George Edwardes's London Gaiety Theatre and of that historic success of 1911, The Pink Lady, the 'Beautiful Lady' waltz from which is still sung even now . . .
Bring on the Girls, ch 9
Marcus Stone (p 87)
Marcus Stone RA (1840-1921), son of another British painter, Frank Stone RA, was a popular painter and illustrator of the late 19th century. He was a friend of Charles Dickens and provided the illustrations for Our Mutual Friend, as also for some of Trollope's works in the late 1860s. He later became an influential genre painter, his works emphasising grace, prettiness and rest, rather than action.
St Vitus's dance (p 89)
Until the late 16th century, "St Vitus's dance" was believed to be the work of demons. Today, Chorea or Sydenham's chorea, as it is now called, is known to be a disease of the central nervous system, usually a complication of rheumatic fever and affecting children, especially females, between the ages of 7 and 14. It is characterized by involuntary muscular movements of the face and extremities.
See also Money in the Bank.
privileges of sanctuary (p 91)
Until the Reformation in the 16th century, right of sanctuary was one of the privileges exercised by the Church. A fugitive who claimed the sanctuary of a church or other sacred place could not be removed by force or interfered with in any way (for example, by being placed under guard or coerced to leave by cutting off of food supplies). Sanctuary usually lasted for no more than forty days, after which the fugitive had to choose between standing trial for the alleged offence and abjuring the realm — that is, swearing on oath to leave England and not return. Persons who had abjured were given safe conduct to a port or to the Scottish border and were allowed to embark for foreign parts, but otherwise they were outlawed: their land was escheated (that is, returned to their feudal lord); their goods and chattels were forfeit to the king; and if they returned to England after abjuring they could be killed on sight.
stag at bay . . . Landseer (p 91)
Sir Edwin Henry Landseer RA RI (1802-73) was a famous painter of animals, best remembered for The Stag at Bay, or The Dying Stag, now in the Tate Gallery, London. Less well-known is that he was responsible for the lions that surround the base of Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square, London.
plasterer (p 92)
Slang: a process-server, one who serves legal writs on the defendant in a civil action. The derivation is not known.
tendency to whistle 'Body and Soul' (p 92)
My heart is sad and lonely
For you I sigh, for you dear only
Why haven't you seen it
I'm all for you body and soul
I spend my days in longin'
And wondering why it's me you're wronging
I tell you I mean it
I'm all for you body and soul
Body and Soul, music by Johnny Green, lyrics by Edward Heyman, Robert Sour, and Frank Eyton (1930)
Body and Soul was first performed by Gertrude Lawrence. It has been sung in many movies and was the first number recorded, in 1935, by the Benny Goodman trio.
Indian temple priests . . . jewel that's the idol's eye (p 93)
Probably a reference to Wilkie Collins's novel, The Moonstone (1868). The moonstone of the title is a large yellow diamond which had been stolen from a temple of the moon-god and then looted by a British officer from an Indian sultan's treasury. Three priests of the Indian moon-god sect pursue the jewel to England, where they are prepared to commit murder in order to recover the diamond and restore it to their idol.
Henry Ford (p 93)
Henry Ford (1863-1947) was an American automotive pioneer and founder (in 1903) of the Ford Motor Company. In 1908, Ford introduced the "Model T", the first 'affordable' motor car, and in 1913 the first mass-production motor vehicle assembly line.
breach of promise and heart balm (p 96)
See Something Fresh.
Prudence employs a process-server because an action for breach of contract is a civil law matter and the plaintiff is responsible for serving the writ on the defendant.
The term "heart balm" was also applied to other civil actions, such as those for "alienation of affection" and "jactitation of marriage".
Chapter 11 (pp 96 - 102)
like a cat on hot bricks (p 97)
"very uneasy; not at all 'at home' in the situation; very restless" (Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase & Fable)
like Hamlet's father's ghost (p 97)
But that I am forbid
To tell the secrets of my prison-house,
I could a tale unfold whose lightest word
Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,
Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres,
Thy knotted and combined locks to part
And each particular hair to stand on end,
Like quills upon the fretful porpentine:
Hamlet, Act I, sc 5,
The "porpentine" referred to in the last line of this quote recurs in chapter 20 of Joy in the Morning. See also The Code of the Woosters.
young men's fancies . . . a livelier iris . . . the burnished dove (p 98)
In the Spring a livelier iris changes on the burnish'd dove;
In the Spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.
, "Locksley Hall" (1842)
warring passions (p 100)
A commonly-occurring image, for example:-
When pure Religion reared the peaceful breast
And lulled the warring passions into rest,
Drove far away the savage thoughts that roll
In the dark mansions of the bigot's soul,
Enlivening Hope displayed her cheerful ray,
And beamed on Britain's sons a brighter day;
, "Lines Written as a School Exercise at Hawkshead, Anno Aetatis 14" (1785)
Speak to my warring passions, "Peace!"
Say to my trembling heart, "Be still!"
Thy power my strength and fortress is,
For all things serve thy sovereign will.
from a hymn by(1707-88)
a very melancholy thing (p 100)
Possibly inspired by an entry in Samuel Pepys' Diary (1667): "Mr William Pen, who is lately come over from Ireland, is a Quaker again, or some very melancholy thing."
The phrase was referred to by Robert Louis Stevenson in his essay on Pepys (Familiar Studies of Men & Books, chap VIII, 1904)
Sweating like a nigger at election (p 100)
A common phrase in 19th century America; origin not known.
Chapter 12 (pp 102 - 112)
a woman scorned (p 105)
Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned,
Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.
The Mourning Bride, Act III, sc 8 (1697),
the censor Cato (p 106)
Marcus Porcius Cato (234-149 BC) was a Roman soldier, statesman, orator, writer, and defender of conservative Roman republican ideas. In 184 he was elected to the post of censor, a magisterial office which derived its name from the fact that the censors were responsible for superintending the 5-yearly census of persons and property. The main duty of the censors was to exercise vigilance over the morals and conduct of Roman citizens, and this suited Cato ideally: there was, at the time, an increasing fashion for all things Greek, a fashion which Cato regarded as decadent and un-Roman. His zeal in trying to suppress these foreign influences earned him the epithet "the Censor" and the enmity of some of Rome's principal families, most notably the Scipios.
the Charge of the Light Brigade (p 108)
See Money in the Bank.
that Spirit of Frigidaire (p 108)
Frigidaire is a trademark of the Frigidaire Corporation, which pioneered the development and marketing of self-contained electric-powered refrigeration units for domestic use. The first such unit was developed in 1915 by Alfred Mellowes of Fort Wayne, Indiana. In 1916 the Guardian Refrigerator Company was founded to manufacture and sell Mellowes's refrigerators, changing its name to "Frigidaire" when it was acquired, in 1918, by General Motors. During the 1920s, the Frigidaire Corporation expanded its range of cooling units, producing ice-cream cabinets, soda-fountain equipment, water coolers and, in 1929, the first food freezer and room air-conditioner.
all that's beautiful drifts away (p 110)
I heard the old, old men say,
"All that's beautiful drifts away
Like the waters."
In the Seven Woods (1904), "The Old Men Admiring Themselves in the Water" in
Chapter 13 (pp 112 - 121)
The Angel in the House (p 114)
Probably an ironic reference to a collection of poems, published under this title by Coventry Patmore (1823-96), for whom his wife, Emily, represented all that was perfect about a Victorian wife and head of the home. When first published, in 1854, the book was almost ignored, but a reprint, some thirty years later, was regarded as a rallying call by those fearing the growing advance of the feminist movement in Victorian Britain. Virginia Woolf, in her work on women writers, A Room of One's Own (1929), blamed the influence of The Angel in the House for the difficulties facing early 20th-century women who attempted to write professionally.
Regent's Park (p 116)
In 1827, the Zoological Society of London, which had been founded a year earlier by Sir Stamford Raffles, Sir Humphrey Davy, and other eminent men, established a zoological garden ("zoo") in Regent's Park, one of London's "royal" parks. Some animals came from the Royal Menagerie, which had been based for centuries at the Tower of London, while others were donated by Raffles and other collectors and scientists. The zoo was opened to the public in 1847 and soon became a popular attraction.
as poor as a church mouse (p 119)
A traditional saying, possibly having to do with the fact that, as no-one lives in a church, the mice that live there will not be able to feed on scraps of food, as can those mice that live in houses. So a church mouse is poor because it has nothing to eat.
Chapter 14 (pp 121 - 132)
her great soul (p 122)
The phrase "great soul" occurs commonly in a variety of contexts. One possible source is:
"His purity was too great, his aspiration too high for this poor, miserable world! His great soul is now only enjoying that for which it was worthy!"
Attributed toabout her late husband, Albert.
a Gideon Bible (p 122)
Gideons International traces its origins to a room in the Central Hotel, Boscobel, Wisconsin on September 14, 1898; when the manager of the crowded hotel asked two travelling salesmen, John H Nicholson and Samuel E Hill, to share a room, they discovered that they shared the same Christian ideals. Meeting again by chance a year later, they, with a third man, William J Knights, decided to found an association for the evangelisation of business and professional men. They named their association after Gideon, a man in the Old Testament book of Judges who was willing to do whatever God asked of him. In 1908, the Gideons started the practice for which they are now best known, placing a copy of the Bible in as many hotel rooms as possible.
the Mint (p 122)
The Royal Mint is the government organisation responsible for providing the United Kingdom with its coinage. Until the early 19th century, it was housed in the Tower of London, moving from there to purpose-built premises on Tower Hill. In the 20th century, it moved again, to a modern coining works at Llantrisant, South Wales.
the North-West Mounted Police (p 122)
The Northwest Mounted Police was established by the Canadian Parliament in 1873. The "Mounties", as they became known, soon acquired a reputation for always "getting their man". The NWMP helped maintain order in the Yukon gold camps during the Klondike gold rush and in 1904 was awarded the prefix Royal by King Edward VII. In 1920, the RNWMP merged with the Dominion Police to become the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, with responsibility for federal law enforcement.
the raised eyebrows of the county (p 123)
See A Damsel in Distress.
the show must go on (p 123)
Attributed, possibly erroneously, to the 19th century American showman Phineas T Barnum (1810-91).
Bellport, Long Island . . . halfway to Patchogue (p 123)
Bellport is located about 60 miles from Manhattan, on Great South Bay, Long Island. In 1914, soon after his marriage, Wodehouse rented a small bungalow in Bellport. Patchogue lies about 6 miles to the east.
Young Kelly, the middle-weight challenger (p 124)
Jack Dempsey (1862-95), holder of the World Middleweight boxing title for seven years from 1884, was born John Kelly. As this Jack Dempsey died in 1895, it can safely be assumed that the Jack Dempsey ("the Manassa Mauler") who was World Heavyweight champion from 1919-26, is a different person.
cured him of onwee (p 125)
ennui (French) — boredom.
There was a fellow named Jorkins (p 127)
David Copperfield, the hero of Charles Dickens's novel of that name, was articled to Mr Spenlow of the firm of Spenlow and Jorkins, proctors (ecclesiastical lawyers).
Chapter 15 (pp 132 - 139)
as if on a quarter-deck (p 132)
The quarter-deck is that part of the deck of a sailing ship between the mainmast and the stern. On a man-of-war, it was usually reserved for the use of the captain.
'Alice Blue Gown' or 'What'll I Do?' (p 132)
I once had a gown, it was almost new,
Oh, the daintiest thing, it was sweet Alice Blue.
With little forget-me-nots placed here and there.
When I had it on, I walked on the air,
And it wore, and it wore, and it wore,
Till it went and it wasn't no more.
In my sweet little Alice Blue Gown,
When I first wandered down into town,
I was both proud and shy, as I felt ev'ry eye,
But in ev'ry shop window I'd primp, passing by;
Then in manner of fashion I'd frown,
And the world seem'd to smile all around.
Till it wilted I wore it,
I'll always adore it,
My sweet little Alice Blue Gown.
Song with music by Harry Tierney and lyrics by(1919)
"Alice Blue Gown" was written for the Broadway musical Irene and was dedicated to President Theodore Roosevelt's young daughter, Alice.
What'll I do when you
Are far away
And I'm so blue,
What'll I do?
Song with words and music by(1924)
"What'll I Do?" was written as a non-production number. It later featured in Berlin's Broadway musical Music Box Revue, having been introduced after the show's opening by its star, Grace Moore.
An Englishman's country home is his castle (p 133)
like Minerva from the brow of Jove (p 133)
Minerva was the Roman goddess of wisdom and patroness of the arts and trades. Jove, or Jupiter, was the supreme god of Roman mythology and had a special status as the protector of Rome itself. According to mythology, Minerva was said to have sprung fully-armed from the brain of Jupiter.
'Happy Days Are Here Again' (p 133)
Happy days are here again,
The skies above are clear again
Let us sing a song of cheer again —
Happy days are here again.
Song with words byand music by Milton Ager (1929)
"Happy Days Are Here Again" featured in the MGM film Chasing Rainbows and the Columbia film Rain Or Shine (both 1930). It was adopted by Franklin D Roosevelt as his presidential campaign song in 1931 and was later used as the Democratic Party's theme song for all its political rallies and fundraisers.
See also The Code of the Woosters.
A jack rabbit of the Western prairies (p 134)
Not a rabbit but a hare, of the genus Lepus. The name is applied to a number of species that are found in the deserts and prairies of western North America. The white-tailed jack rabbit, Lepus townsendii, can attain short-burst speeds of over 70 km per hour, often leaping as high as 4 - 6 metres.
fear no foe in shining armour (p 137)
"I fear no foe" was a popular Victorian parlour song, with words by Edward Oxenford (1847–1929) and music by Ciro Pinsuti (1829–1888):
I fear no foe in shining armour,
Tho' his lance be swift and keen,
But I fear and love the glamour
Through thy drooping lashes seen.
Be I clad in casque and tasses,
Do I perfect cuirass wear,
Love thro' all my armour passes,
To the heart that's hidden there.
Would I fend a blow so given?
Would I raise a hand to stay,
Tho' my heart in twain be riven,
And I perish in the fray?
I fear no foe, except the glamour
Of the eyes I long to see;
I am here, love, without armour,
Strike! and captive make of me.
The song dates from no later than November 1879.
meadowsweet (p 137)
Meadowsweet, Filipendula ulmaria, also known as meadow-wort, pride of the meadow and queen of the meadow, is a perennial herb belonging to the order Rosaceae. It is found in damp meadows, ditches and bogs, at the edges of ponds, on river banks and in damp open woodland, and grows to a height of 120 cm.
Romeo (p 138)
One of the leading characters in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. His efforts to woo Juliet are hindered by the enmity that exists between their two families.
Her Uncle Sam from America (p 139)
"Uncle Sam" is a nickname applied collectively to the citizens of the United States. The suspicion lingers that Bulpitt was christened Sam specifically for this joke.
Chapter 16 (pp 139 - 146)
St Bernard dog (p 140)
See Something Fresh.
Greta Garbo . . . Myrna Loy . . . Ginger Rogers (p 140)
Greta Garbo (1905-90), real name Greta Louisa Gustafsson, was born in Stockholm. Her first talking picture, Anna Christie (1930), earned her the first of four unsuccessful Academy Award nominations for Best Actress. In 1935, Garbo was named best actress of the year by the New York Times for her role in Anna Karenina. Though she never won an Academy Award for Best Actress, she received a special Academy Award in 1954 for her "unforgettable screen performances", which included the roles of the WWI spy and femme fatale in Mata Hari (1932) and the doomed courtesan in Camille (1937).
Myrna Loy (1905-93) was born Myrna Adele Williams. In 1925, she signed a seven-year contract with Warner Brothers, and changed her name to Myrna Loy. She played many roles, generally as a vamp and often in exotic and oriental roles. In 1929 she was cast in the first all-sound movie, The Desert Song, as a native girl, Azuri.
Ginger Rogers (1911-95) made her performing debut at age 14 before going into Vaudeville and then on to Broadway. She moved to Hollywood in 1931 and became a star with her first movie, playing a 16-year-old flapper opposite Claudette Colbert in Honor Among Lovers. During the 1930s she starred with dance partner Fred Astaire in a number of classic musicals, including Top Hat (1935) and Swing Time (1936). She later expanded her range and received an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in Kitty Foyle (1940).
raised old Harry (p 141)
"Old Harry" is a familiar name for the Devil. "To raise the devil" is slang for "to cause a great disturbance; to make great trouble".
the reign of William the Conqueror (p 141)
William, Duke of Normandy (c 1027-1100) claimed to be the rightful heir to Edward ("the Confessor"), king of England, but in 1066, when Edward died, Harold, Earl of Wessex, claimed the crown. In order to assert his claim, William invaded England, defeated Harold at the Battle of Hastings and established Norman rule in England. He reigned as King William I until his death in 1100 and was succeeded by his second son, William (known as "the Rufus"), and, on William's death, by his youngest son, Henry (who is now thought to have had a hand in his brother's death). When Henry died, in 1135, he left no male heir, his only legitimate son, William, having drowned some years early when the White Ship sank. His nephew, Stephen, moved quickly to establish himself as king but was soon embroiled in a civil war ("the Anarchy") against the supporters of Henry's daughter, Matilda, and peace was only restored when Stephen agreed to recognise Matilda's son, Henry of Anjou, as his successor. Stephen's death, in 1154, marked the end of the Norman dynasty in England.
April fool (p 141)
An 'April fool' is a person fooled or tricked on All Fool's Day, 1 April. The origin of the term is obscure, one suggestion (Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase & Fable) being that the new year used to start on 25 March and that the festivities associated with it would have ended on 1 April. Another (also Brewer) is that it is a relic of the ancient Roman festival of Cerealia, held in honour of the goddess Ceres and which took place around the beginning of April.
one for all and all for one . . . Three Musketeers (p 142)
Alexandre Dumas' novel The Three Musketeers (Les Trois Mousquetaires) was serialised from 1844 in a Parisian magazine, Siècle, and was an immediate popular success. The three musketeers are Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, who are joined in their adventures by the young Gasconard, d'Artagnan. Their motto is "All for one, one for all".
Moses . . . Mount Pisgah (p 143)
See A Damsel in Distress.
Murder at Bilbury Manor (p 144)
This paragraph is a parody of a type of detective novel exemplified by Dorothy L Sayers's The Five Red Herrings (1931), which may itself have been a subtle parody of a genre of now-forgotten detective stories.
a fiend in human shape (p 144)
This phrase, possibly taken from one of the pulp thrillers of Wodehouse's youth, recurs throughout the canon.
Manna in the wilderness (p 145)
And the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.
Then said the Lord unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no.
Exodus, xvi, 3-4
And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground.
And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat.
Exodus, xvi, 14-15
See also Money in the Bank.
noise like a linnet (p 145)
The linnet, Carduelis cannabina, is a small finch belonging to the Fringillidae. It is a common and widespread species across Britain, inhabiting weedy fields, hedgerows, gorse thickets, heathland and scrub (particularly near the coast). In recent decades, changes in farming practices and loss of habitat have contributed to a sharp decline in the linnet population in Britain: on farmland, numbers are said to have fallen by 56% between 1968 and 1991.
the rough song of the linnet is (p 146)
The song of the linnet is very varied. Volume 8 of the monumental 9-volume The Birds of the Western Palearctic (ed Stanley Cramp et al, OUP, 1994) devotes over 6 pages to the songs and calls of this species, illustrated with numerous sonographs. In summary, the song is described as "a cheerful, musical, quite varied warble-cum-twitter, interspersed with scratchy and twanging notes which suggest plucking of loose-stringed instrument." The flight call is a "fast, soft, twittering, rather musical 'djit-djit-djit'" or a "dry but lilted 'tihtihtihtihtit'". The alarm call is "a more plaintive 'tsooeet'". The detailed description includes such gems as "te-ooor-t-chee tsurrrr-tk-ze-tk-ze", "che chee te-yooo kit-up chp tyk-chee tien" and "chit-ip kit-ip kit-ip terreeeeeeee".
Nothing in this detailed description remotely resembles Pollen's "tolic-gow-gow tolic-joey-fair tolic-hickey-gee tolic-equay-quake" etc, but Norman Murphy (A Wodehouse Handbook) has traced the source to Arthur Binstead's Pitcher in Paradise, a book which he knows that Wodehouse owned and in which is found the identical syllabic rendering.
Chapter 17 (pp 146 - 154)
a knight or an OBE (p 146)
An "OBE" is an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, the most recent (and thus most junior) of the British Orders of Chivalry. Below the rank of Officer is Member (MBE), while above it are Commander (CBE), Knight Commander (KBE) and Knight Grand Cross (GBE). These last two ranks are knightly, and recipients (if citizens of a country which recognises the British monarch as head of state) are entitled to style themselves "Sir" or "Dame", as appropriate.
Lincoln's Inn Fields (p 147)
Lincoln's Inn Fields is a square in central London. It was laid out by Inigo Jones in the 17th century. Nell Gwynne lived here for a time. It borders Lincoln's Inn, the oldest of the four 'Inns of Court' which have the exclusive right of calling to the English bar.
the Forbidden City (p 148)
Lhasa, capital of Tibet and sacred city of Lamaist buddhism, was known as the 'Forbidden City', on account of its remoteness and the antipathy of the Tibetan monks towards foreigners.
The imperial palace in Peking of the former emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties was also known as the 'Forbidden City', because the only people allowed inside were the emperor, his wives and concubines, and the eunuchs.
pemmican (p 148)
A North American Indian preparation of lean flesh-meat, dried, pounded and mixed with fat and flavourings such as dried fruit (traditionally cranberries).
Doctor Livingstone . . . in '66 (p 148)
Dr David Livingstone (1813-73) was a Scottish missionary and explorer. From 1853, he undertook a three-year expedition during which he 'discovered' the Victoria Falls (though one suspects that local inhabitants had already discovered them). In 1866 he set out on an expedition to find the source of the Nile, but when nothing was heard from him for some time, reports of his death began to circulate. The New York Times despatched a young journalist, Henry Stanley, to find him, or to find proof that he was dead. After searching for over two years, Stanley found Livingstone, alive but frail and short of supplies, on the edge of Lake Tanganyika.
Livingstone died in what is now Zambia in 1873. Stanley remained in Africa and, between 1874 and 1877, charted the Congo river from its source to the Atlantic Ocean. He later served as a British Member of Parliament, receiving a knighthood in 1899.
Marcus Aurelius . . . Jupiter . . . Julius Caesar . . . Apollo (p 148)
Marcus Aelius Aurelius Antoninus (121-180 AD) was a Roman emperor, though he is now remembered chiefly as the author of a slender volume of Stoic philosophy, the Meditations, which is frequently quoted by Jeeves and in "Ordeal by Golf", one of the stories in The Clicking of Cuthbert.
Jupiter (also known as Jove) — see p 133.
Julius Caesar (100-44 BC) was a Roman politician and general. Appointed Governor of the Roman province of Gaul in 58 BC, he spent the next eight years extending Roman rule throughout the whole of Gaul and recounting his successes in his Gallic Wars. Following the appointment of Pompey as sole Consul in 52 BC, Caesar was ordered by the Senate to give up his command. Instead, in 49 BC, he marched on Rome, instigating a civil war, during which Pompey fled to Egypt, where he was murdered, after having been defeated by Caesar at the battle of Pharsalus. Caesar assumed the title of Dictator in 48 BC but spent most of the next three years dealing with resistance in North Africa and Spain. In 45 BC, he returned to Rome, where, on the Ides of March (15 March) in 44 BC, he was assassinated by a group of senators that included Gaius Cassius and Marcus Junius Brutus.
Apollo, the son of Zeus, was the Greek god of music, poetry, archery, prophecy and the healing arts.
"Author! Author!" (p 150)
Wodehouse used this as the title for the extensively-revised version of Performing Flea that was published in the US in 1953.
without whose never-failing sympathy . . . would never have been written (p 150)
Wodehouse made use of just such a dedication . . . twice!
To Herbert Westbrook, without whose never-failing advice, help, and encouragement this book would have been finished in half the time.
A Gentleman of Leisure (1910)
To my daughter Leonora, without whose never-failing sympathy and encouragement this book would have been finished in half the time.
The Heart of a Goof (1926)
For some reason, this latter is frequently quoted. the former almost never.
excavated from Tutankhamen's tomb (p 151)
Tutankhamen was ruler of ancient Egypt from 1336-1327 BC. When he died, apparently unexpectedly, at the age of about 18 years, he was buried in a hastily-prepared tomb in the Valley of the Kings, close to the Nile, opposite Luxor. Unlike most pharaonic tombs, Tutankhamen's tomb remained undiscovered for over 3000 years, until 1922, when, after several years of fruitless searching, a British Egyptologist, Howard Carter, succeeded in finding and excavating it. Because it had escaped the attentions of tomb robbers, the tomb yielded many priceless treasures.
Mae West (p 151)
Mae West (1893-1980) started her career as a child star in vaudeville, before going on to write and star in her own plays. Her first film was Night After Night (1932), intended as a vehicle for George Raft. Mae West had no more than a bit part but re-wrote her dialogue in such a way that she stole the show in every scene. Her first starring role was in She Done Him Wrong (1933), based on her own highly-successful play, Diamond Lil (1928), followed later that same year by I'm No Angel. Because of her racy style of comedy and provocative sexuality, Mae West became a target for those trying to impose censorship on the film-making industry and, after making only nine films (with a writer's credit in five of them), she retired from Hollywood and returned to the stage, in plays and musical revues.
Emperor Nero (p 151)
a peri at the gate of Paradise (p 151)
In Persian mythology, a peri was a beautiful, but malevolent, sprite. Later, the term was applied to gentle, fairy-like beings who direct the pure in mind along the way to Heaven.
The second tale in Lalla Rookh, an oriental romance by Thomas Moore (1779-1852) tells of a peri who, having been expelled from Paradise, is told that she will be re-admitted if she will bring to the gate of Heaven "the gift most dear to the Almighty". After a number of unsuccessful offerings, she brings a guilty old man who, weeping with repentance, sheds a tear — the peri offers the Repentant Tear and the gates of Heaven fly open. The story is mentioned in Something Fishy (1957), where there is a reference to "some poignant stuff . . . written by the poet Thomas Moore" about "the Peri who was excluded from Paradise".
Träumerei (p 152)
Kinderscenen, op 15 no 7, "Träumerei", by Robert Schumann (1810-56)
to love not wisely but too well (p 152)
Chapter 18 (pp 154 - 165)
love conquers all (p 155)
omnia vincit amor — Virgil, Eclogues X, 69
Lo, the poor Indian (p 157)
of one whose hand,
Like the base Indian, threw a pearl away
Richer than all his tribe; of one whose subdued eyes,
Albeit unused to the melting mood,
Drop tears as fast as the Arabian trees
Their medicinal gum.
Othello, Act V, sc 2,
Lo, the poor Indian! whose untutor'd mind
Sees God in clouds, or hears him in the wind;
His soul, proud science never taught to stray
Far as the solar walk, or milky way;
An Essay on Man, I (1733),
Though crushed to earth, they rise again (p 158)
See A Damsel in Distress.
His flesh might shrink (p 158)
"John Brimblecombe", said Frank, in a sepulchral tone, "you cannot be ignorant, as a scholar and bachelor of Oxford, of that dread sacrament by which Catiline bound the soul of his fellow- conspirators, in order that both by the daring of the deed he might have proof of their sincerity, and by the horror thereof astringe their souls by adamantine fetters, and Novem-Stygian oaths, to that wherefrom hereafter the weakness of the flesh might shrink."
Westward Ho!, ch 10 (1855),
trailing pig smells behind him like clouds of glory (p 159)
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
, "Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood" (1807)
a precisian like the late Gustave Flaubert (p 163)
Gustave Flaubert (1821-80), a French novelist of the realist school, is noted for the painstaking perfection of his style. His most famous work is Madame Bovary (1857).
Maybe you're on the level (p 163)
See Something Fresh.
a poke in the beezer (p 163)
Slang: a punch the nose.
socked him on the snoot . . . hauled off . . . on the schnozzle (p 164)
Slang: punched him on the face . . . drew back slightly, in preparation for . . . on the nose.
Note: 'snoot' may derive from Dutch snuit, meaning 'face'; alternatively, it may be a corruption of 'snout', meaning 'nose' — the fact that the nose ('schnozzle') is mentioned specifically, suggests that 'face' is the intended meaning here.
Chapter 19 (pp 165 - 182)
three hearts bowed down with weight of woe (p 166)
See Sam the Sudden.
sold the pass (p 166)
Slang: betrayed one's own side. According to Irish tradition, Crotha, lord of Atha, sent a regiment to hold a pass against the invading army of Trathal, king of Cael, but the soldiers accepted payment for betraying the pass, allowing Trathal to conquer the country and become King of Ireland. The term was originally applied to Irish nationalists who took payment to turn "King's evidence" and betray their comrades.
asleep at the switch (p 166)
Slang: Inattentive, not doing one's job. On 19th-century American railroads, the trainman had to switch cars from one track to another by means of manually-operated levers. Failure to do so could result in a collision. The term later came to be applied to any lack of alertness. See also “the man at the switch”.
like Samson (p 167)
rise on stepping stones . . . to higher things (p 167)
See Something Fresh.
lay a nor'-nor'-easterly course (p 167)
A humorously incongruous use of nautical language — "to set a course to the north-north-east".
bellows to mend (p 168)
"Bellows to mend" was a sporting term, meaning having the wind knocked out of one. For example:
Uncommon glad I was to see them; for ten minutes more, at the pace they had been going, would have shaken off every man Jack of us. As it was, it was bellows to mend;
Mr Sponge's Sporting Tour, ch XXVIII (1853),
In Haddon Hall (1892), an operetta with music by Sir Arthur Sullivan and libretto by Sydney Grundy, there is a character called Barnabas Bellows-to-Mend.
"Bellows to mend!" was also the call of the travelling bellow-mender, who often also carried on the trade of tinker. It was one of the cries illustrated in a series of cigarette cards issued just before WW I under the title of "Cries of London".
Nebuchadnezzar in search of better pasture (p 169)
While the word was in the king's mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee.
And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.
The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles' feathers, and his nails like birds' claws.
Daniel, iv, 31-33
swung himself into the dickey (p 170)
A "dickey" was originally the seat provided for a footman at the rear of a carriage (possibly Dickey — ie Richard — was a generic name for a footman). Later it came to refer to a fold-out seat in the back of a car, usually outside the cover of the hood. Jane's Widgeon Seven is described as a two-seater, so there would have been no proper back seat. When not required as a seat, the dickey could hold luggage.
See also The Code of the Woosters.
the second post (p 171)
In Britain, most mail is delivered by postmen to the door and not merely left in a mail box or, as in many countries, held in a box at the nearest post office, and the "second post" refers to the second such delivery of the day — a second delivery is now rare, except in the largest towns, and recent "improvements" by the Post Office mean that the timing even of the first (or only) delivery is very erratic, unless one is prepared to pay for a "premium" service.
Juggernaut (p 172)
In English dictionaries, "Juggernaut" has the meaning of "an irresistible, destructive force". The word is a corruption of the Hindu jagannath, the name of an incarnation of Krishna. The cult of Jagannath is centred in the east-central Indian town of Puri, Orissa state, where there is a vast temple complex housing wooden effigies of Jagannath, his brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra. Every summer, during Rath Yatra (or the "car festival"), the three images are transported to their summer residence, the Gundicha Ghar, about one mile away. Each statue is borne atop a large wooden temple cart, or rath, which stands over 40 feet high and has sixteen wheels, each with a diameter of nearly eight feet. The carts are each hauled by hundreds of temple workers, pulling on thick ropes. Once under way, the carts are almost impossible to turn and are nearly unstoppable. During their journey, the carts are preceded by tens of thousands of worshippers and ancient reports tell of fanatics throwing themselves under the enormous wheels in order to die in their god's sight.
charabanc (p 173)
Formerly a long open vehicle with rows of transverse seats (French char-à-bancs — "carriage with benches"), it now refers to a bus or coach, particularly one used for tourist excursions. In the north of England, the term "chara" was still current for such vehicles at least until the 1940s.
rumble seat (p 173)
Another name for the dickey seat.
gone with the wind (p 174)
Gone With the Wind is the title of a highly successful novel (later an equally successful film) by Margaret Mitchell. Published in May 1936, it sold 1,370,000 copies in its first year, stayed in the best-seller list for 21 consecutive months, and earned its author a Pulitzer prize in May 1937.
Sherlock Holmes . . . several features of interest (p 175)
As so often with phrases that sound as if they come from the Holmesian canon, this precise phrase is never uttered by Sherlock Holmes, though there are several that are closely similar, such as:
"I must thank you", said Sherlock Holmes, "for calling my attention to a case which certainly presents some features of interest."
The Hound of the Baskervilles, ch 2
"On the face of it the case is not a very complex one, though it certainly presents some novel and interesting features."
"The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge", in His Last Bow
"The problem presents features of interest", said he.
"The Crooked Man", in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
victim of a hatchet murder (p 175)
Another phrase, variants of which recur throughout the canon. It perhaps alludes to some (unidentified) pulp fiction thriller of Wodehouse's youth.
Stalin (p 176)
Joseph Stalin (1879-1953) was born Joseph Vissarionovich Djugashvili, in Gori, Georgia. With Lenin, he directed the armed uprising of October 1917 and two years later was a member of the delegation representing the Bolshevik faction of the Russian Communist Party at the First Congress of the Communist International in Moscow. When Lenin suffered a stroke, in May 1922, Stalin moved quickly to consolidate his position and was thus able to ensure that he became Soviet leader after Lenin's death in January 1924.
As at the date of publication of Summer Moonshine, Stalin's reputation as a champion of the proletariat was still largely intact, though rumours were already beginning to circulate about the mass purges and executions of the 1930s. Only much later, however, did these become common knowledge.
a modern Babylon (p 177)
Babylon was one of the most important cities of the ancient Middle East. When, in the early part of the 18th century BC, Hammurabi succeeded in uniting Mesopotamia into one kingdom, he established his capital at Babylon. The city was destroyed around 689 BC by the Assyrians under Sennacherib but was rebuilt and flourished under Nebuchadnezzar (d 562 BC). He built the famous "hanging gardens" which came to be regarded as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
barouche (p 177)
A barouche was a large four-wheeled carriage with an outside seat for the driver, two double facing seats inside, and a collapsible top that covered two of the four passengers. It was pulled by two pairs of horses and was considered a vehicle for the man of means in Regency England. In Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, Mrs Gatewood boasts that her brother owns his own barouche, as does Mrs Elton (often) in Emma. Although it looks and sounds French, the word is of German derivation (Barutsche).
purify . . . with pity and terror (p 178)
Possibly an allusion to the Poetics of Aristotle (c 350 BC), in which the philosopher divided drama into two main groups, comedy and tragedy, and asserted that the function of the latter was to achieve 'catharsis' (cleansing, or purification) by arousing 'pity and terror' in the audience.
her proud spirit (p 179)
This phrase occurs in a wide variety of Victorian literature, such as Kingsley's Westward Ho! (1855), Lambs' Tales From Shakespeare (1807), Trollope's Barchester Towers (1857), and H Rider Haggard's Montezuma's Daughter (1894).
It also recurs in the canon (eg Service With a Smile, chap 6, 3: "it sometimes seemed to her that Blandings Castle had imposters the way other houses had mice, a circumstance at which her proud spirit rebelled.")
the situation in Spain (p 179)
One of Wodehouse's infrequent topical allusions (there is another in The Clicking of Cuthbert) — the Spanish Civil War had begun on 17 July 1936, when the army garrison in Morocco, commanded by General Francisco Franco, revolted against the newly-elected socialist government. With help from Italy and Germany, Franco was able to break the naval blockade imposed by the Republican government to prevent his troops crossing from Africa into mainland Spain, and by early 1937 Madrid was being threatened by four converging columns of fascist troops. On 26 April 1937, just a few months before Summer Moonshine was published, the town of Guernica was bombed by aircraft of the German Condor Legion, apparently at the suggestion of Franco, who then tried to put the blame on the Republicans or Basques — 1500 civilians were killed and 800 wounded.
the freedom of the city (p 180)
In medieval London, "the freedom of the city" referred to the right of the free members of the guilds (later livery companies) to engage in commercial activities within the city. Only freemen who had completed an apprenticeship and attained the age of 21 years could become citizens of London. Nowadays, an honorary "freedom of the city" is often conferred by a city on a resident who has distinguished himself (and hence, by association, the city). The "freedom of the city" is also often bestowed on a military unit that has enjoyed a close relationship with a city and confers the right for the unit to march through the city with drums beating, colours flying and bayonets fixed.
the sun god Ra (p 180)
Ra, or Re ("Annu" to the ancient Egyptians), was the Egyptian sun god and god of creation. He was usually depicted in human form with a falcon head, crowned with a sun disc encircled by the uraeus (a stylized representation of the sacred cobra). The principal centre for the cult of Ra was Heliopolis, near modern Cairo.
Philadelphia Jack O'Brien (p 182)
Jack O'Brien (1878-1942), born James Francis Hagen in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is regarded as one of the best light-heavyweight boxers of all time. In 1905, he defeated Bob Fitzsimmons to take the World Light-Heavyweight title, which he held (largely by virtue of never officially defending it) until his retirement in 1912. Between 1905 and 1912 he fought three times, unsuccessfully on each occasion, for the World Heavyweight title. After retiring, he ran a gym and fitness club in Philadelphia for many years. In 1930, at the age of 52, he came out of retirement briefly to fight an exhibition bout against Jack Johnson.
Chapter 20 (pp 182 - 188)
bead ferns in brass pots (p 182)
Bead ferns, Onoclea sensiblis, are grown for their leaves, which are unlike the usual fern-like leaf, and for their spore-bearing fertile spikes, which resemble beaded feathers and were popular in Victorian times as a component in arrangements of dried flowers.
Apollo Theatre (p 183)
The Apollo Theatre, on Shaftesbury Avenue, is one of the smaller theatres in central London, seating just 775 people. It opened in February 1901 with a performance of a play called The Belle of Bohemia.
one should be prepared (p 184)
"Be Prepared" was adopted as the motto of the Boy Scouts by Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the scouting movement, in the first edition of Scouting for Boys (1908).
see my lawyer about my income tax (p 185)
In December 1932, Wodehouse received a demand from the US Internal Revenue Service for $187,000 in back taxes. By 1933, he was facing US tax demands, including penalties, of $300,000, and decided to transfer his residence to France, which would also allow him to avoid being taxed twice, in the UK and in the US, on the same income. He continued to suffer in his dealings with the tax authorities and, in December 1948, a case concerning his earnings in 1938 and 1941 (at which times he was resident in France) was argued before the US Supreme Court: Wodehouse lost.
trying to soak the rich (p 185)
Soak the Rich was the title of a 1936 comedy film by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. One critic has described it as "thoroughly unwatchable".
Right . . . triumph over Wrong (p 186)
Perhaps from a hymn translated from Greek by John Brownlie:
And let the endless bliss begin
By weary saints foretold,
When right shall triumph over wrong,
And truth shall be extolled.
"The King Shall Come When Morning Dawns" (1907)
Chapter 21 (pp 188 - 198)
Edith . . . King Harold (p 188)
King Harold is Harold Godwinson, Earl of Wessex, who, on the death of Edward the Confessor, had himself crowned king of England as Harold II (6 January 1066). On 14 October 1066, at Senlac Hill, near Hastings, he was killed, and his army defeated, by a Norman army led by William, Duke of Normandy, who considered himself the rightful heir to the crown.
According to legend, Harold's mistress, Edith Svenneshals ("swan-neck"), accompanied by two monks, searched the mounds of dead English warriors and recognised Harold's body from birthmarks.
the knife-and-boot boy (p 189)
The boy whose job it was to sharpen the knives and clean the boots — one of the lowliest positions among the household servants.
maelstrom (p 190)
See Something Fresh.
the bluebird singing (p 191)
"Bluebird" is the common name for three closely-related North American species in the genus Sialia which are noted for their sweet song.
There may also be an allusion to Maeterlinck's Blue Bird (See The Code of the Woosters).
deaf to the voice of conscience (p 192)
Probably a cliché, but perhaps from a classical source, eg:
It is not therefore a question of a rascal merely, but of a crafty rascal, like Quintus Prompeius when he disowned the treaty he had made with the Numantines; nor yet of a timid, cowardly knave, but of one who to begin with is deaf to the voice of conscience [sed primum qui animi conscientiam non curet], which it is assuredly no difficult matter to stifle. The man we call stealthy and secret, so far from betraying his own guilt, will actually make believe to be indignant at the knavery of another; that is what we mean by a cunning old hand.
De Finibus II (Cicero's Refutation of Epicurean Ethics),
battle of Walsingford (p 192)
There is no Walsingford in Berkshire, but there is a Wallingford in neighbouring Oxfordshire. William the Conqueror built a castle at Wallingford which was used as a royal residence until the time of the Black Death (around 1348). In 1646, during the English Civil War, a force under Oliver Cromwell besieged the castle for 65 days ["the battle of Wallingford"], before it eventually submitted; it was later demolished on Cromwell's order.
the story of Bruce and the spider (p 193)
Robert (8th Robert de Bruce) was born in 1274 at Cardross, Dumbartonshire, and died there in 1329. His grandfather had unsuccessfully claimed the vacant Scottish crown in 1290. When William Wallace rebelled against English rule, Bruce joined him and, with his arch rival John Comyn, became a Guardian of Scotland. In 1306, the year that Wallace was executed, Bruce killed John Comyn, then rushed to Scone, ancient coronation site for Scots monarchs, and had himself crowned as Robert I of Scotland. Edward I, king of England, who claimed feudal rights over Scotland, which he had ruled directly since 1296, reacted by having three of Bruce's four brothers murdered and imprisoning Bruce's wife. Bruce himself was defeated twice in battle in 1306 and went into hiding on the island of Rathlin off Ireland.
Legend has it that while hiding in his cave, Bruce watched a spider try repeatedly to place a web across a wide space in his cave and, impressed by the spider's persistence, took fresh heart to try again. . . In February 1307 he landed in Ayrshire and began the fight to assert his claim to the throne. Fortuitously, Edward I died that same year and was succeeded by his son, Edward II, a relatively weak king. Bruce succeeded in extending his control over Scotland, capturing Perth, a major English garrison city, in 1313 and Edinburgh in 1314. Edward suffered a decisive blow in 1314 when, at the battle of Bannockburn, an army of 20,000 men which, under his personal command, was trying to relieve the besieged garrison in Stirling Castle was defeated by Bruce's army of 7,000 men.
Despite Bruce's victory at Bannockburn, fighting continued throughout his reign. The Scots captured Berwick in 1318 and repeatedly ravaged the north of England but not until 1328, after Edward II had been deposed and the warring sides signed the Treaty of Northampton, was peace finally achieved and England's king dropped all claims to Scotland.
growing like a gourd (p 194)
And the Lord God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd.
But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered.
And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live.
And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death.
Then said the Lord, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night:
Jonah, iv, 6-10
The gourd is a very fast-growing plant.
Lock, stock and barrel (p 195)
The phrase means "everything, the whole thing" and refers to the three parts that comprised antiquated firearms such as firelock, flintlock, and matchlock muskets. The lock was the firing mechanism, the stock the wooden handle.
The phrase only entered into common use in the nineteenth century, at a time when such weapons were already becoming obsolete. The OED attributes the first use to Sir Walter Scott in a letter of 1817: "She wants stock, lock, and barrel, to put her into repair". Scott was well known for inventing deliberate archaisms, of which this may be one.
See also Money in the Bank.
peace to its ashes (p 195)
The phrase is probably an old one, used conventionally or, as in the following example, ironically:
Novel: . . . The art of writing novels, such as it was, is long dead everywhere except in Russia, where it is new. Peace to its ashes — some of which have a large sale.
The Devil's Dictionary (1911),
Just summer moonshine (p 197)
'Moonshine' is a colloquial term for 'nonsense', an allusion (according to Brewer's Dictionary) to the supposed effects of moonlight on mental stability.
Chapter 22 (pp 198 - 204)
Irving Berlin (p 199)
Irving Berlin (1888-1989) was born Israel Isidore Baline in a poor Jewish ghetto in Mogilyov, Russia (now Belarus). His parents emigrated to the United States when he was five and Berlin grew up in New York's Lower East Side. He began writing songs and had his first hit in 1911, with "Alexander's Ragtime Band". Over the next 50 years he produced hundreds of songs, including such standards as "White Christmas", "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better", "There's No Business Like Show Business", "Puttin' On The Ritz", "Easter Parade", and "Let's Face The Music And Dance". He wrote seventeen complete scores for Broadway musicals and revues (including Annie Get Your Gun), and contributed to six more. Classic Hollywood musicals with scores by Berlin include Top Hat, Follow The Fleet, Holiday Inn, Easter Parade, White Christmas and There's No Business Like Show Business.
like a mighty rushing wind (p 199)
Puccini (p 199)
Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924) was an Italian musician and composer of some of the most popular works in the operatic repertoire, including La Bohème (1896), Tosca (1900) Madame Butterfly (1904) and Turandot (1926 — unfinished when the composer died).
One does not need to be particularly numerate to see that his name only has seven letters.
Berkshire Territorials (p 201)
The "Territorials" are the British Army's volunteer reserve. Their history is complex, extending back several centuries, but they have their origins largely in the old Yeomanry units, volunteer troops of tenant farmers and landowners raised by the county Lord Lieutenants in 1794 to meet the threat of a French invasion. In 1908, the yeomanry and volunteer units were reorganised into a Territorial Force, and the infantry battalions were renumbered consecutively after the regular battalions (1st and 2nd) and special reserve (3rd) of the county's Regular Army regiment. Thus, "Berkshire Territorials" probably refers to the 4th battalion, The Royal Berkshire Regiment (Princess Charlotte of Wales's).
In 1914, the Territorial Force was incorporated into the regular army and its units became full-time combatants. Territorial Force units were disembodied during demobilisation in 1918 but reconstituted in 1920 as the part-time Territorial Army.
Providing officers for county volunteer units was a traditional role of the landed gentry. Buck, who would probably have been of military age during the First World War, would no doubt have served with his regiment.
Garibaldi (p 201)
Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807-1882) was an Italian patriot and popular hero of the Risorgimento, the movement to unify Italy. Though born in Nice (then, and now, part of France), he was of Ligurian stock. In February 1834 he took part in an abortive insurrection in Piedmont, was sentenced to death in absentia, and fled to Marseilles and from there to Brazil. He was active in the liberationist movement that resulted in independence for Uruguay and it was there that his legion first adopted the red shirts that later became their symbol (the shirts had been intended for export to Argentinean slaughter-houses). In 1848, he and some 60 followers returned to Italy, where Garibaldi participated in the struggles that eventually gave birth to the unified state of Italy. Together with Cavour and Mazzini, Garibaldi is regarded as one of the makers of modern Italy.
Garibaldi's many achievements did not include musical composition.
produced a sort of obligato on the keys (p 202)
See Leave It to Psmith.
Mussolini (p 202)
Benito Mussolini (1883-1945), was the leader of the Italian Fascist party. In 1922, his "Blackshirts" marched on Rome and Mussolini was installed as "il Duce" (leader). Although he succeeded in improving the Italian economy and brought stability to the country, he did so with a disregard for civil liberties. In 1935, condemnation by Britain and France of Italy's invasion of Abyssinia pushed Mussolini into an alliance with the Axis powers, Germany and Japan. Under Mussolini, Italy provided support for Franco and the "nationalists" during the Spanish Civil War, and he was also instrumental in taking Italy into the Second World War on the Axis side. In 1943, Mussolini was deposed by his own Grand Council and arrested but was rescued by German troops and installed as leader of an Italian Social Republic in German-held northern Italy. When the Germans armies in northern Italy surrendered, in April 1945, Mussolini fell into the hands of communist partisans, who executed him.
Wodehouse shared with Mussolini the distinction of being a recipient of the medallion of the International Mark Twain Society.
in a hansom cab (p 203)
The hansom cab, a light, two-wheeled carriage, drawn by a single horse, is named after Joseph Hansom (1803-82), an English architect, who patented the design in 1834. The most significant feature of Hansom's design was the positioning of the driver high up behind the cab.
The hansom cab became so popular as a public cab that, by the end of the 19th century, there were more than 7000 licensed hansom cabs in London. But with the introduction, from 1907, of motorised cabs ('taxis', from the taximeter which was fitted to record the fare automatically), horse-drawn cabs declined rapidly in popularity and they had been completely replaced by 1918.
See also Money in the Bank.
Pagliacci (p 204)
Pagliacci is an opera in two acts and a prologue, with music and libretto by the Italian composer Ruggero Leoncavallo (1857-1919). It received its first performance, conducted by Arturo Toscanini, at the Teatro dal Verme, Milan, on 21 May 1892.
The "identity of an Italian composer in nine letters beginning with P" is a long-running joke throughout this chapter and Lady Abbott's answers are, it hardly needs saying, all wrong:
Irving Berlin was not Italian and his name is short by three letters; Puccini was an Italian composer but his name lacks two letters; Garibaldi and Mussolini were Italians and their names are the correct length, but neither was a composer.
Finally, Sir Buckstone's solution fails because Pagliacci, while unquestionably a nine-letter Italian name beginning with 'P', is a composition, not a composer.
The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music lists the following Italian composers in nine letters beginning with P:
Paisiello (1740-1816); Peragallo (born 1910); Pergolesi (1710-1736); Piccinini (1550 - 1638); Pollarolo (1653-1722); Poglietti (? - 1683); and Previtali (1907-1985).
Of these, Pergolesi is probably the best known today (but see Something Fresh).
Chapter 23 (pp 204 - 212)
'Pennies from Heaven' (p 205)
That's what storms were made for
And you shouldn't be afraid for
Every time it rains it rains
Pennies from heaven.
Don't you know each cloud contains
Pennies from heaven.
Song by Johnny Burke and Arthur Johnston (1936)
Bing Crosby sang 'Pennies From Heaven' in the film of the same name and it won him an Oscar. He recorded it with the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra in August 1936 and the recording went straight to the top of the charts, where it stayed for 10 weeks.
Liberty Hall (p 206)
A place where one may do as one likes.
Hardcastle: Mr Marlow — Mr Hastings — gentlemen — pray be under no constraint in this house. This is Liberty-hall, gentlemen. You may do just as you please here.
She Stoops to Conquer (1773),
Liberty Hall was also the title of a ballad opera (1785) by Charles Dibdin.
the Man in the Iron Mask (p 207)
The Man in the Iron Mask (1846) is a novel by Alexandre Dumas. It appeared as the final part of The Vicomte de Bragelonne, the second sequel to Dumas' highly successful novel, The Three Musketeers, and tells the story of a mysterious masked prisoner in the Bastille.
It seems that a masked prisoner was indeed held in the Bastille, as a prisoner of Louis XIV, from at least 1687 until his death in 1703, though whether he wore an iron mask, or one of velvet, and whether or not he ever took it off, are all subjects of conflicting tales.
The identity of this masked prisoner has been the subject of much speculation. The philosopher and writer Voltaire was held in the Bastille in 1717 for almost a year and later told a friend that he had spoken to people who had served the Man in the Iron Mask. In The Age of Louis XIV (1751), Voltaire claimed that the prisoner was forced to wear an iron mask from as early as 1661. In his later writings, he dropped hints that the prisoner was Louis XIV's illegitimate elder brother, a suggestion that Dumas adopted in his novel.
Many other suggestions have been made, some fanciful, some less so, but there is no solid evidence for any of the theories, many of which require the assumption that the recorded death of the individual concerned was faked.
biblical character . . . among the trumpets (p 208)
The character referred to is the horse:
Hast thou given the horse strength? hast thou clothed his neck with thunder?
Canst thou make him afraid as a grasshopper? the glory of his nostrils is terrible.
He paweth in the valley, and rejoiceth in his strength: he goeth on to meet the armed men.
He mocketh at fear, and is not affrighted; neither turneth he back from the sword.
The quiver rattleth against him, the glittering spear and the shield.
He swalloweth the ground with fierceness and rage: neither believeth he that it is the sound of the trumpet.
He saith among the trumpets, Ha, ha; and he smelleth the battle afar off, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.
Job, xxxix, 19-25
See also Money in the Bank.
more like Jesse Owens (p 208)
Hitler planned that the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin should be a showcase for his Nazi government and demonstrate to the world that the German 'Aryan' people were the dominant race, but, to his chagrin, the star of the games was Jesse Owens (1913-1980), a black American athlete. Owens won the 100 and 200 metre sprints and the long jump, and was a part of the winning US 400-metre relay team, becoming the first person to win four Olympic gold medals in track and field events at the same Games, and setting Olympic records in three of the events.
In 1976, Jesse Owens was awarded the Medal of Freedom, the highest honour a civilian of the United States can receive, by President Gerald R Ford.
the Pyramus and Thisbe interview (p 210)
In classical mythology, Pyramus and Thisbe were a pair of lovers who lived in Babylon at the time of Semiramis. Although they lived next door to each other, their parents forbade them to meet, so they exchanged messages through a crack in the wall separating their parents' houses. The affair ends tragically: mistakenly thinking that Thisbe has been killed by a lion, Pyramus stabs himself; Thisbe, finding him dead, kills herself.
In Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream (Act V scene i), the artisans enact a play based on this story, while his Romeo and Juliet has a similar plot.
a small Union Jack (p 212)
'Union Jack' is the name by which the national banner of the United Kingdom is usually (and incorrectly) known; it should be 'Union Flag'. In strict nautical parlance, a 'jack' is a flag, smaller than an ensign, which is worn on the jackstaff in the bows of a warship. Furthermore, British vessels do not wear a Union Jack: they wear an ensign at the stern, a White Ensign for naval vessels, a Red Ensign for merchant vessels. The Union Jack should only ever be worn by foreign-registered vessels, who may wear it from the mast as a courtesy flag.
It should come as no surprise that a houseboat on the Thames is lax in observing these nautical niceties.
Chapter 24 (pp 212 - 221)
like Eliza crossing the ice (p 215)
Another reference to the incident, alluded to earlier, in Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin.
poke you in the snoot (p 216)
See pp 163-4.
an elementary knowledge of ju-jitsu (p 216)
Ju jitsu, the forerunner of judo, is one of the oldest Japanese martial arts. It is thought to have its origins in the samurai era, when its joint locks and chokes were developed for use against armoured warriors who were impervious to kicks and punches. Ju jitsu began to be systematised in the latter half of the 16th century and gave rise to many different variants that have been documented from the 17th to about the beginning of the 19th centuries.
perfectly boop-a-doop (p 219)
The original "Boop-Boop-a-Doop" girl was the singer and actress, Helen Kane (1904-66). In 1928, she appeared in the musical Good Boy, in which she sang what became her signature song, "I Wanna Be Loved by You"; this had a boop-boop-a-doop tagline that Kane sang in a little girl's voice. She later became a contract player with Paramount Studios and it was while she was there, in 1930, that her distinctive singing style was copied for a new cartoon character, Betty Boop, created by Max and Dave Fleischer (creators also of the cartoon character Popeye).
In the earliest Betty Boop films, starting with Dizzy Dishes (1931), Betty Boop was drawn with a poodle's head and the body of a human female, but in most of the more than 80 films which followed she appeared in human form, her voluptuous figure supposedly being modelled on that of the actress Mae West. Betty Boop films were very popular throughout most of the 1930s.
like the Last Trump (p 221)
Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
1 Corinthians, xv, 51-55
Chapter 25 (pp 221 - 237)
East Surreys . . . Bengal Lancers (p 222)
The East Surrey Regiment was formed in 1881 by a merger of the 31st (Huntingdonshire) Regiment of Foot and the 70th (Surrey) Regiment of Foot, which respectively became the 1st and 2nd Battalions in the new regiment. 2nd Bn East Surrey Regiment was stationed at Chaubattia in India, as part of the Jhansi Brigade, 5th (Mhow) Division, Indian Army, between August and October 1914, when it transferred to join the 28th (British) Division, serving in France.
In 1959, The East Surrey Regiment and The Queen's Royal Regiment (West Surrey) amalgamated as The Queen's Royal Surrey Regiment, the East Surreys forming the 2nd Battalion in the new regiment. This in turn became 1st Bn, The Queen's Regiment when, in 1966, it united with The Queen's Own Buffs, The Royal Kent Regiment, The Royal Sussex Regiment, and The Middlesex Regiment (Duke of Cambridge's Own).
The Bengal Lancers, which became one of the most famous units in the Indian Army, had its origin in an Irregular Cavalry unit, formed in 1803 as Captain Skinner's Corps of Irregular Horse. After several reorganisations and changes of name, it emerged in 1896 as the 1st Regiment of Bengal Lancers, becoming the 1st (The Duke of York's Own) Regiment of Bengal Lancers in 1899, and the 1st (Duke of York's Own) Bengal Lancers (Skinner's Horse) in 1901.
V-shaped depressions (p 223)
The reference is to the depiction on a synoptic weather chart of the fronts associated with a depression, or low pressure system. The warm and cold fronts usually appear as an inverted 'V', with its apex at the centre of the depression. In Britain, such frontal systems almost always bring thick cloud and rain.
. . . even now a V-shaped depression was coming along which would shortly blacken the skies and lower the general temperature to freezing-point . . .
"Romance at Droitgate Spa", in Strand magazine (August 1937)
The first V-shaped depressions to darken their lives after the unbroken fine weather . . .
Bring on the Girls, ch 6
See also The Code of the Woosters.
such Indian fauna as Afridis (p 223)
'Afridi' was the name given to tribesmen from the area around the Khyber Pass in north-west India. They had a reputation as fierce warriors and were much valued as recruits to the British Army in India, no doubt on the sound principle that it was better to have them in a British uniform than fighting for the enemy!
fireplace . . . fender . . . fire-irons (p 223)
Walsingford Hall is presumably too far from town to be supplied from the town gas supply and Sir Buckstone is not wealthy enough to afford coal-fired central heating. The main rooms, including bedrooms, would therefore be heated by open coal fires.
While the task of cleaning the grates and keeping them fuelled would be the responsibility of housemaids, each room would no doubt be supplied with its own fire-irons (poker, tongs and shovel) for the convenience of the occupants.
creatures of the night watches (p 225)
a British porch climber (p 225)
Slang: a burglar, a house-breaker (perhaps because climbing up the porch was a common means of gaining access to the upper floor.
See also Money in the Bank.
Omitting no detail, however slight (p 225)
This phrase recurs frequently throughout the canon (eg Money in the Bank). It is often assumed to have been inspired by Sherlock Holmes, though neither it nor anything similar is found in the Holmesian canon.
The Cinderella story (p 229)
There are numerous variants of this fairy story of the poor step-sister who is enabled by her fairy godmother to attend the Prince's ball, attracts the attention of the Prince, leaves hurriedly before the chimes of midnight minus one slipper, is identified by the slipper, and marries the Prince. The classic version of the story appeared as "Cinderella; or, The Little Glass Slipper" in Charles Perrault's Histoires ou contes du temps passé, avec des moralités: Contes de ma mère l'Oye (Paris, 1697). The story was also told by the brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm in their Kinder- und Hausmärchen (1st ed, Berlin, 1812).
the life of Riley (p 235)
To live "the life of Riley" is to enjoy a life of blissful idleness. The phrase is thought to derive from a Victorian song, though the source has not been identified. The earliest known reference is in a song by H Pease, "My Name is Kelly" (1919):
Faith and my name is Kelly, Michael Kelly,
But I'm living the life of Reilly just the same.
From this, however, it seems that Pease expected his audience to be familiar with the phrase and that he did not originate it. The earliest usage, as in this song, was "Reilly", but today "Riley" is more common.
cast him off like a soiled glove (p 236)
. . . the conjurer strode up, still towing the girl. He halted before Sir Aylmer and threw Annabel aside like a soiled glove.
"Romance at Droitgate Spa", in Strand magazine (August 1937)
talk turkey (p 236)
Although it is probably much older, the first recorded occurrence of this phrase is in 1824, when it meant "to speak agreeably, to say pleasant things". At some time during the 19th century, the meaning shifted, until it came to mean "to speak frankly, discuss hard facts, or get down to serious business". Although the phrase is undoubtedly American, its origin is uncertain; one suggestion is that the original meaning may have developed from the nature of family conversation around the Thanksgiving dinner table.
a prodigal son . . . return to the fold (p 236)
See Something Fresh.