Sam the Sudden
(US: Sam in the Suburbs)
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).
Sam the Sudden was published by Methuen and Co, London, on 15 October 1925. The US edition, under the title Sam in the Suburbs, was published by George H Doran, New York, on 6 November 1925. The two editions are identical.
Page references are to the Penguin edition 1974, reprinted 1982.
Sam the Sudden is dedicated "To Edgar Wallace", who dedicated two of his books, The Gaunt Stranger (1925) and A King by Night (1926), "To my friend P G Wodehouse".
Chapter 1 (pp 11 - 20)
John B Pynsent (p 11)
Wodehouse may have got the name Pynsent from the Pynsent Monument at Curry Rivel, Somerset, which he would have passed when journeying to spend holidays with his uncle, Rev Philip John Wodehouse, who was rector at Bratton Fleming, Devonshire. The monument, on the Burton Pynsent Estate, approximately equidistant from Yeovil, Taunton, and Bridgwater, was erected by the former Prime Minister, William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, to honour Sir William Pynsent, who had bequeathed him the estate in his will.
guerdon of victory (p 12)
Guerdon — reward.
a long, lean man of repellent aspect (p 12)
Lady Bracknell: Is this Miss Prism a female of repellent aspect
The Importance of Being Earnest, Act III, sc 2 (1895),
If a man creates the impression that he is going to Philadelphia (p 13)
Wodehouse's step-daughter, Leonora, told a story of Wodehouse travelling to the state of Georgia for no other reason than that, wishing to avoid an invitation, he had told a journalist that he had to go there.
the finest office force in New York (p 14)
This probably alludes to the epithet "New York's finest", which is frequently applied, often ironically, to the New York Police Department.
at Wrykyn . . . football (p 14)
Norman Murphy (In Search of Blandings) suggests that the name Wrykyn is a composite of Wykyn, a small hamlet to the south of Stableford, where Wodehouse's family had their home for several years, and The Wrekin, a famous hill to the north of Stableford.
Though 'football' probably refers here, as it usually does elsewhere in Wodehouse, to rugby union, the most popular code in English public schools of the era, it seems odd that Sam's uncle, an American, is familiar with such usage.
coming off the bat a bit fast (p 15)
Although this could refer to baseball, it is more likely that, this early in Wodehouse's career, cricket is the intended sport: taken in conjunction with the phrase "Sam let this one go by", it suggests the image of a batsman facing very fast bowling, having to leave some deliveries alone and struggling to control the ball when he does hit it.
Lord Tilbury (p 15)
Murphy (In Search of Blandings) identifies Lord Tilbury and his Mammoth Publishing Company with Alfred Harmsworth, later Lord Northcliffe, and the newspaper empire that he built up. In 1907, the Globe newspaper, on which Wodehouse was working, was taken over by Harmsworth and Wodehouse found himself working for Alfred's younger brother, Hildebrand, who was appointed as the paper's editor.
the Mauretania (p 15)
The SS Mauretania, launched in 1906, was the flagship of the Cunard fleet. In November 1907, on the return leg of her maiden voyage, she set a record for the eastbound Atlantic crossing and two years later set a record for the westbound crossing which stood for 20 years. The Mauretania served as a troopship for Allied forces during WWI, returning to commercial service when the war was over. She made her last voyage in September 1934, and was scrapped the following year.
Wodehouse sailed on the Mauretania when he visited the United States in March 1910.
There will be no fatted calf (p 16)
See Something Fresh.
more suggestive of a parrot (p 17)
The Wodehouses owned a parrot for many years. In 1920, they took a parrot, Coco, with them when they crossed the Atlantic and in 1940, when German officers occupied the Wodehouse's home at Le Touquet, they found themselves being entertained by a parrot that had been taught to sing "God Save the King".
discriminating fo'c'sle (p 17)
The fo'c'sle (short for 'forecastle') is a cabin area in the bows of a ship where the crew have their quarters and galley. The term is here being applied collectively to the crew members who would occupy the fo'c'sle.
on the Western Ocean (p 17)
The Western Ocean is another name for the North Atlantic.
hyena in its native jungle (p 18)
This must be a species new to science, as the four known species of hyena — the spotted (Crocuta crocuta), brown (Hyaena brunnea) and striped (H hyaena) hyenas, and their distant relative, the aardwolf (Proteles cristatus) — all prefer open grassy plains or arid rocky habitats. The Spotted Hyena is often known as the "laughing hyena" in reference to its call, which sometimes resembles manic laughter.
listen to . . . the nifties (p 18)
Nifty: a clever or neatly-turned phrase or joke. Mirriam-Webster's Dictionary gives its first usage as 1923, which shows that Wodehouse's slang usage was very much up-to-date.
on the beezer. (p 19)
Slang: on the nose
a young knight . . . the Holy Grail (p 19)
The Holy Grail is a legendary sacred vessel. It is usually identified with either the dish from which Christ ate the Paschal Lamb or the chalice from which he drank wine at the Last Supper; in the latter case, some legends associate the chalice with the cup in which Joseph of Arimathea is said to have collected Christ's blood at the foot of the cross.
The story of the Grail is recounted in a number of mediaeval romances (eg Chrétien de Troyes's Perceval and Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzifal), most of which date from the period 1180 - 1340 AD. The story is also linked to Celtic myths, such as those in the Welsh "Mabinogion", and to the Arthurian legends.
A common theme is that of the innocent knight engaged in a quest to find the Grail. The story was re-told in English in the 15th century by Sir Thomas Malory in Le Morte d'Arthur and in the 19th century by Tennyson in his "Idylls of the King".
A fair daughter of Nimrod (p 20)
Tennyson's . . . little English rosebud (p 20)
Presumably Sam has in mind:
A rosebud set with little wilful thorns,
And sweet as English air could make her, she:
, Prologue to "The Princess" (1847)
'He sounds like a hunting man.' (p 20)
Wodehouse rarely signals his jokes so heavy-handedly.
Chapter 2 (pp 21 - 35)
Kay of Valley Fields (p 21)
As Wodehouse says in the Preface to this book, Valley Fields is "a thin disguise" for the south London suburb of Dulwich "where so many of my happiest hours have been spent". To be more accurate, Valley Fields is West Dulwich, as distinct from East Dulwich (located not, as one might reasonably expect, to the east of West Dulwich but almost due north), which usually appears in the stories under its own name.
Valley Fields is the setting also for Ice in the Bedroom, and is mentioned in several other stories. In his book In Search of Blandings , Norman Murphy devoted considerable space to Valley Fields and was able to establish, with some certainty, the location of many of the places mentioned in the stories.
Col Eustace Derrick, of Midways Hall, Wilts (p 21)
Norman Murphy (In Search of Blandings) notes that after the death of Wodehouse's maternal grandfather, Rev John Deane, in 1887, his widowed grandmother and four unmarried daughters moved to Cheney Court in Wiltshire, where Wodehouse often stayed during his school holidays. Some six miles to the south is Midway Manor, the former home of General (not Colonel) Henry Shrapnel (1761-1842), inventor of the artillery shell that bears his name.
In The Old Reliable (1951), Phipps, the felonious butler, started on his career of crime after reading a crime novel entitled "Three Dead at Midways Manor".
In Love Among the Chickens, Jeremy Garnet falls in love with Phyllis Derrick, whose father, Patrick, is a professor at Dublin University.
Piccadilly Circus . . . a Number Three omnibus (p 21)
The No 3 bus route still follows substantially the same route as in Wodehouse's time, from Oxford Circus, to Piccadilly Circus, on to Trafalgar Square, down Whitehall to Westminster, across Lambeth Bridge and then through Kennington, Brixton and Herne Hill to West Dulwich, and along South Croxted Road to Crystal Palace.
Thurloe Square, South Kensington (p 21)
'Fez, pliz.' . . . 'Q' (p 22)
"Fares please" . . . "Thank you". Wodehouse is treating the bus conductor's speech phonetically ('Q' is "thank you" with the "tha" syllable unstressed).
the banner marked Excelsior (p 22)
The shades of night were falling fast,
As through an Alpine village passed
A youth, who bore, 'mid snow and ice,
A banner with the strange device,
, "Excelsior" (1841)
highwaymen roved West Kensington (p 22)
In the early 1700s, much of what is now central London was still open country and highwaymen and other robbers did, indeed, pose a threat to travellers. In 1720, the body of one highwayman, Jack Gutteridge, was left hanging from a gibbet on Brixton Hill to deter others.
snipe were shot in Regent Street (p 22)
At that time, it would not, of course, have been Regent Street, which was only completed in 1826.
The snipe, Gallinago gallinago, is a medium-sized wading bird with a disproportionately large bill and cryptically-coloured plumage. It is found mostly in marshland, bogs and damp meadows. When threatened, it initially sits tight, but when approached within 10-15 metres it explodes from cover in a characteristic rapid zig-zagging flight.
omnibus . . . train . . . tram (p 22)
West Dulwich can still be reached by bus, and trains operate between West Dulwich and London Victoria station, but there has been no tram service to the Dulwich district since 1952.
San Rafael, Burberry Road (p 22)
Norman Murphy identifies San Rafael with number 62 Croxted Road, Dulwich, the house which Wodehouse's father rented for a few months in 1895, and Mon Repos with its neighbour, number 64. He also found an old map which showed that numbers 62 and 64 had been a single residence some 15 years earlier. The house no longer exists, having been replaced by a more modern bungalow.
blot on the Derrick escutcheon (p 22)
See A Damsel in Distress.
Norman blood . . . simple faith which the poet ranks so much more highly (p 23)
Brixton . . . Bon Marche (p 25)
Bon Marche, which opened in Brixton in 1877, was the first purpose-built department store in the country.
Sydenham . . . Crystal Palace (p 25)
The Crystal Palace, designed by Sir Joseph Paxton, was erected in Hyde Park, London, to house the Great Exhibition of 1851. After the Great Exhibition closed, the Crystal Palace was moved to Sydenham Hill in south London, where it was opened by Queen Victoria in 1854. It was destroyed by fire in 1936.
an unsuccessful attempt to learn poultry farming in Sussex (p 25)
In Love Among the Chickens (1906), Ukridge unsuccessfully attempted to set up a chicken farm near Lyme Regis, Dorset.
habitually wore bed socks (p 27)
It is for publishing exactly this calumny to their fellow school-mates that Jeff Miller nurtures such a dislike for Lionel Green in Money in the Bank (1942).
pirate of the Spanish Main (p 27)
The 'Spanish Main' — a name given to the territory in the New World that had been conquered by Spain by the late 16th Century — extended from northern California to the southern tip of South America. It included the gold-rich territories of the Inca and Aztec empires, and the silver mines of Peru and Ecuador, and was an important source of treasure for Spain. The Treasure Fleet which set sail for Spain once each year was a target for pirates and privateers.
rock cakes (p 28)
Another theme that recurs in Money in the Bank, in which Jeff Miller's landlady, Ma Balsam, bakes rock cakes so hard that Chimp Twist mistakes them for pieces of flint.
pottage ar lar princess (p 30)
In cookery, "à la princesse" refers to a garnish of asparagus tips. "Potage à la princesse" is, presumably, intended to be a thick soup garnished in this manner, though it must be doubted whether that is what Claire manages to prepare.
suggestive of costermongers (p 30)
call the cattle home across the Sands of Dee (p 30)
"O Mary, go and call the cattle home,
And call the cattle home,
And call the cattle home,
Across the sands of Dee!"
The western wind was wild and dank with foam,
And all alone went she.
, "The Sands of Dee" (1848)
The Dee estuary lies between north Wales and the Wirral peninusula, in north-west Britain. The estuary is about 12 km long and over 6 km wide. At low tide, a large expanse of estuarine mudflats (the "sands of Dee") is exposed.
a certain Irishman had gone down to New York (p 30-1)
This carries overtones of the Biblical parable of the Good Samaritan:
And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
Luke, x, 30
the lungs were willing but the memory was weak (p 31)
Another Biblical allusion:
Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
Matthew, xxvi, 41
the big scene out of Romeo and Juliet (p 32)
The reference is to the "Balcony Scene", Act II, scene 2, of Shakespeare's play.
with all the honours of war (p 32)
The "honours of war" is the privilege allowed to an honoured enemy, on capitulation, of being permitted to retain their offensive arms. Wodehouse is applying the term to the victor, instead of the more common "spoils of war".
Macbeth . . . cauldron (p 33)
The "Cauldron Scene", Act IV, scene 1, of Macbeth, opens with the three witches gathered round a boiling cauldron. The presence of the kitten is most apt, as the first words spoken in the scene are "Thrice the brinded cat hath mewed".
Chapter 3 (pp 35 - 41)
up Villiers Street (p 35)
Villiers Street, named after George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, runs alongside Charing Cross Station, between the Embankment and Strand. Rudyard Kipling lived for a time in Villiers Street, on his return from India, and it was here that he wrote The Light That Failed.
The Kipling connection is appropriate, because it has been suggested that the nocturnal meanderings of Sam Shotter and Willoughby Braddock bear a resemblance to a similar nocturnal perambulation in Kipling's short story "Brugglesmith" (Many Inventions, 1893).
Millwall Dock (p 36)
Millwall Dock, which opened in 1868, was an early casualty of the decline in London's status as a major port, ceasing operations in 1980, since when the area has been redeveloped for housing, offices and leisure activities.
a whippet race at Hackney Marshes (p 36)
Hackney Marshes is an area to the north-east of London.
as he strolled along the Strand (p 36)
This seems to carry just a hint of the old song, "The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo".
The two exquisites (p 36)
Exquisite (slang): one who dresses fastidiously, a dandy, a fop.
'Shift ho, before he touches us, what?' (p 36)
Or, in plain English, "Let's move before he asks for money".
in statu pupillari (p 37)
Latin: literally, in a state of wardship, but more usually denoting the condition of being schoolboys.
tight as an owl (p 38)
"Tight" here means 'intoxicated', though why owls should be described in this way is not clear, owls being, on the whole, no fonder of alcohol than are other birds. The explanation may, perhaps, have something to do with the vacuous stare that is characteristic of many owls and not a few drunkards.
Wodehouse elsewhere defended owls against this libel:
'Drinking, sir? Me, sir? No sir. Where would I get a drink, sir?'
'You are as tight as an owl.'
This was a wholly unjustified slur on a most respectable breed of bird, for owls are as abstemious as the most bigoted temperance advocate could wish, and at another time George Cyril Wellbeloved might have been tempted to take up cudgels on their behalf.
Pigs Have Wings, ch 5.5
Panton Street (p 38)
Panton Street leads out of the south-west corner of Leicester Square and is thus only a short walk to the west from the entrance to the Savoy Hotel.
Laughing Cavalier (p 38)
"The Laughing Cavalier" is a well-known oil painting by the 17th-century Dutch artist Frans Hals, though the gentleman it depicts is not, in fact, laughing, so much as smirking.
Wellington Street (p 38)
If, from the entrance to the Savoy, one turns right and walks eastwards along Strand, Wellington Street is the second street on the left. The geography is slightly awry here. Until now, Sam has been on the south side of Strand, so the corner he has reached is Lancaster Place. Wellington Street is on the other side of the road.
You're the Sort of Girl That Men Forget (p 39)
Not "the Sort", but "the Kind". The song is "Just a Girl that Men Forget", lyrics by by Al Dubin and Fred Rath, music by Joe Garren, published in 1923. The song begins "Dear little girl, they call you a vamp, a flapper" and the first line of the chorus is "You're the kind of girl that men forget, just a toy to enjoy".
Sailors Don't Care (p 39)
"Sailors Don't Care" was a comic music-hall song, which was popularised by the singer Charles Whittle and recorded in 1920 by Harry Hudson on the Winner label. The English novelist and critic Frank Swinnerton, in his autobiography "Swinnerton" (1937), recounts how the author H G Wells was fond of singing "Sailors Don't Care" in a manner "rich in character, based upon that of the original singer, Charles Whittle, but raised to a point of impersonation beyond even Whittle's gifts".
Chapter 4 (pp 41 - 46)
in the direction of Charing Cross (p 41)
Sam is now returning westwards on the north side of Strand.
the Vaudeville Theatre (p 42)
The Vaudeville Theatre is on the north side of Strand, about halfway between Wellington Street and Villiers Street.
'He's a bear, he's a bear (p 44)
dog . . . substance-and-shadow fable (p 45)
The reference is to Aesop's fable of the dog which, crossing a stream with a fine piece of meat in its mouth, sees a reflection of itself in the water and, thinking it to be another dog, opens its mouth to bark, whereupon the piece of meat falls into the water and is lost.
some primrose path (p 46)
The phrase "primrose path" derives from Ophelia's speech to Laertes:
But, good my brother,
Do not, as some ungracious pastors do,
Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven;
Whiles, like a puff'd and reckless libertine,
Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads,
And recks not his own rede.
Hamlet, Act I, sc 3,
Borstal (p 46)
'Borstals' were an attempt to deal with delinquent boys of 16 - 21 years. They took their name from the first such institution, established in 1902, at Borstal Prison, Kent. The borstal system, which involved a combination of education, hard work, and strict discipline, including corporal punishment, was abolished in 1982.
Chapter 5 (pp 47 - 49)
Lower Belgravia . . . Pimlico . . . Lupus Street (p 47)
Belgravia, the district centred around Belgrave Square, to the west and south-west of Buckingham Palace, is one of London's most expensive and exclusive residential districts. Pimlico is the name given to the (relatively) less expensive area between Victoria Station and the Thames. Lupus Street is at the southern end of the district, close to Pimlico underground station. To have reached Lupus Street from Leicester Square, Sam must have been walking for well over half-an-hour, which may explain why he is starting to feel hungry.
fall of Babylon (p 48)
According to the Bible (Daniel v), Babylon was invaded by Darius the Mede while the Babylonian king, Belshazzar, son of Nebuchadnezzar, was hosting a sumptious feast for his court. Although their accounts differ in other respects from the biblical tradition, the Greek historians, Herodotus and Xenophon, also mention that Babylon fell while its king was feasting.
the Duke of York (p 48)
The title of Duke of York is traditionally bestowed on the sovereign's second oldest son. Though the Duke of York would not normally expect to become king, it happened twice during the 20th century: George V succeeded to the throne in 1910 because his elder brother, Albert, who had died in 1892, left no issue, while George's second son, who was created Duke of York in 1920, only became King George VI when his elder brother, Edward VIII, abdicated, in 1936. George V, a former naval officer, wore a luxuriant beard; his son was clean-shaven.
the Athenaeum Club (p 49)
The Athenaeum Club, on Pall Mall, was founded in 1824 as a gentlemen's club (women were not admitted until 2002) for artists, writers, scientists, and their patrons.
Shakespeare . . . man's ingratitude (p 49)
Blow, blow, thou winter wind!
Thou art not so unkind
As man's ingratitude.
As You Like It, Act II, sc 7,
Chapter 6 (pp 49 - 53)
some distant Mount Pisgah (p 51)
See A Damsel in Distress.
that curious snipelike abruptness (p 53)
Chapter 7 (pp 54 - 58)
howitzer (p 54)
Technically, a howitzer is a type of field artillery that is distinguished from other cannon by its ability to fire explosive shells (such as Claire's rock cakes?) at both high and low trajectories.
silk serge linings (p 57)
Silk serge is a silk fabric twilled in the manner of serge and used as a lining for coats. 'Serge' derives from Latin serica, silk.
Chapter 9 (pp 61 - 63)
in two ticks (p 62)
Idiom: in a moment, straightaway.
Chapter 10 (pp 63 - 66)
joy had certainly come in the morning (p 63)
For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life:
weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
Psalms, xxx, 5
The same source gave Wodehouse the title for his novel Joy in the Morning (1946).
as Sir Philip Sidney said (p 66)
The joke is that this is exactly the opposite of what Sir Philip is reputed to have said!
Sir Philip Sidney (1554-86) was an Elizabethan courtier, diplomat, poet and soldier. In 1585, Elizabeth appointed him Governor of the province of Flushing in the Netherlands. The following year, during a skirmish against the Spanish outside the town of Zutphen, he was mortally wounded when a musket-ball shattered his thigh-bone. The story (almost certainly apocryphal) is that while lying wounded he called for a drink but, seeing a wounded soldier nearby, handed his drink to the dying man, with the words "thy necessity is greater than mine".
See also Leave It to Psmith.
Chapter 11 (pp 66 - 71)
Breathes there a man (p 69)
Mr Cornelius is quoting (at great length) from the first stanza of Canto VI of Sir Walter Scott's "The Lay of the Last Minstrel" (1805), except that Scott's verse begins "Breathes there the man. . ."
a second Charles Peace (p 70)
Charles Peace (1832-79) was a notorious burglar and murderer; although he maintained that the killing for which he was condemned to death had been an accident, he confessed, shortly before his execution, to having committed a murder for which another man was already serving a life sentence (and provided enough proof to enable the innocent man to be freed).
When first arrested, Peace refused to give his name and at the magistrate's hearing he was described merely as "a half-caste about sixty years of age, of repellent aspect". It is interesting to speculate whether Wodehouse knew this when he described Hash Todhunter as a man "of repellent aspect".
According to Sherlock Holmes ("The Adventure of the Illustrious Client", in The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes), "My old friend Charlie Peace was a violin virtuoso".
Chapter 12 (pp 71 - 91)
a wanghee (p 71)
Wanghee (or whanghee) is the name given to two species of bamboo of the genus Phyllostachys whose slender but strong stems are used as walking canes; in this instance it refers to a cane made of such bamboo.
Napoleon . . . Bellerophon (p 76)
After his defeat at Waterloo, Napoleon returned to Paris, from where he fled to the Ile d'Aix, off La Rochelle. He had hoped to escape to America, but was frustrated by the British naval blockade of French ports. On 15 July 1815, he was rowed from Ile d'Aix to HMS Bellerophon, where he surrendered to her commanding officer, Captain Frederick Maitland. The Bellerophon took him to Plymouth, where, without setting foot on land, he was transferred to HMS Northumberland, the ship in which he sailed to his exile on St Helena.
Vultures are exceedingly rare in the English Channel and it is most unlikely that there was one on board the Bellerophon.
business in Lombard Street (p 79)
Lombard Street lies in the centre of the City of London, close to the Bank of England, and several major banks have their headquarters there.
Between 1900 and 1902, Wodehouse worked in the Lombard Street offices of the Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank.
Rev Aubrey Jerningham (p 84)
The Jerninghams were an old-established East Anglian family, whose home, from 1555, was at Costessey Hall, some five miles NW of Norwich. Although the Jerninghams were prominent Catholics, they do not appear to have included among their number a Reverend Aubrey.
Wodehouse may have known of the Jerninghams through his Norfolk connections, but there is another Wodehousean link. In 1733, Sir George Jerningham, 6th Baronet, married Mary Plowden, heiress to the estate of Viscount Stafford. Their son, Sir William Jerningham, inherited the Stafford estates, which included Shifnal Manor in Shropshire. Wodehouse knew this area well, the neighbouring village of Shifnal being identified by Norman Murphy as the prototype for Market Blandings.
Henley Regatta (p 86)
Henley Regatta was first held in 1839, since when (except during wartime) it has been an annual rowing competition, held around the end of June / beginning of July. The traditional image of Henley is of men in garishly-coloured blazers and straw boaters.
Chapter 13 (pp 92 - 104)
ancient lights (p 92)
Under English common law, the doctrine of ancient lights provides that a landowner who has enjoyed the benefit of sunlight across an adjoining property for a period of 20 years or more acquires a right to continue to enjoy that same benefit without obstruction. It is not clear why this would have prevented Lord Tilbury from acquiring the adjacent property; indeed, it might be thought to have given him an incentive to do so.
J Sheringham Adair (p 93)
Sheringham is a village on the north Norfolk coast, a short distance from Hunstanton, where the Wodehouses often rented the country house owned by his distant relatives, the Le Strange family.
As Norman Murphy (In Search of Blandings) notes, Sheringham is one of a number of Norfolk place-names which Wodehouse used for his characters. Others from the same area of the north Norfolk coast include: (Lord) Hunstanton, (Lord) Brancaster, (Jack) Snettisham and (Lord) Heacham.
Pierpont Morgan (p 95)
John Pierpoint Morgan (1837-1913) was a American financier whose vast wealth became a legend. He played a major part in the development of the US rail industry in the decades following the Civil War and in 1893 was instrumental in saving the US financial system from collapse during a crisis sparked by the withdrawal of British investors.
Harrod's Stores (p 95)
walking up the Haymarket (p 96)
Haymarket runs parallel to Regent Street in London's West End.
right plumb spang in the middle (p 96)
The OED defines "right spang" as "entirely, exactly" and cites this instance of its use. It defines "plumb" as an intensive, meaning "completely, entirely, absolutely" and occurring chiefly as US slang.
See also The Code of the Woosters
New Asiatic Bank (p 97)
button, button (p 98)
"Button, button, where's the button" is an old children's game in which the object is to find the hidden button.
Chapter 14 (pp 104 - 109)
Sir Henry Irving in 'The Bells' (p 104)
Henry Irving (1838-1905) was one of the most famous actors and theatre managers of the 19th century and the first actor to receive a knighthood. He established his reputation with his performance in the rôle of Mathias in 'The Bells' at the Lyceum Theatre in 1871. 'The Bells' was an adaptation by Leopold Lewis of Erckmann-Chatrian's 'Le Juif Polonais' ('The Polish Jew'). Irving continued to play the rôle of Mathias, an unconvicted murderer tormented by his conscience, throughout his career.
the college clock striking (p 105)
The college is Dulwich College, Wodehouse's old school.
the Village Blacksmith (p 107)
See A Damsel in Distress.
Chapter 15 (pp 109 - 115)
Lord Fauntleroy (p 111)
aposiopesis (p 113)
Aposiopesis (from Greek aposiopao — to be silent after speaking) is a term used in rhetoric to denote a sudden breaking-off in the middle of speaking, usually to portray being overcome with emotion.
Sing Sing (p 113)
See Something Fresh.
When the enterprising burglar isn't burgling (p 113-4)
When the enterprising burglar's not a-burgling,
When the cut-throat isn't occupied in crime,
He loves to hear the little brook a-gurgling,
And listen to the merry village chime.
When the coster's finished jumping on his mother,
He loves to be a-basking in the sun.
Ah, take one consideration with another,
A policeman's lot is not a happy one.
The Pirates of Penzance, Act II (1879),
smoking a thoughtful pipe (p 114)
An example of a humorous device, the transferred epithet, that Wodehouse used frequently. There are several similar examples in The Code of the Woosters.
Chapter 16 (pp 115 - 128)
John Street, Mayfair (p 115)
John Street has since been renamed as Chesterfield Hill.
the picture gallery (p 120)
Dulwich Picture Gallery, designed by Sir John Soane in 1811, was England's first public art gallery. It was built to house a collection originally put together for the King of Poland, prior to that monarch's forced abdication in 1795, when Poland ceased to exist as a state, and contains many works by such notable artists as Poussin, Claude, Rubens, Murillo, Van Dyck, Rembrandt, Watteau and Gainsborough.
all was for the best in the best of all possible worlds (p 121)
See Something Fresh.
reveller out of Rabelais (p 121)
François Rabelais was a 16th century French monk, physician, humanist, and writer. Between 1532 and 1552 he published four books (the authenticity of a fifth, published posthumously in 1564, is sometimes questioned) chronicling the adventures of Gargantua and Pantagruel, two larger-than-life characters who revel exuberantly and excessively in the joys of the physical aspects of life (drink, food, sex and bodily functions).
a dead rat in every barrel (p 121)
Legend has it that makers of scrumpy (a rough farmhouse cider) used to add a dead rat to the vat to help start the process of fermentation. Whatever the truth of this claim, modern cider manufacturers, operating under the strict eye of public health officials, seem to manage quite well without rats.
Chapter 17 (pp 129 - 140)
Tulse Hill (p 131)
Tulse Hill is the suburb adjoining Dulwich ('Valley Fields') to the West.
Niobe (p 131)
In Greek mythology, Niobe was married to Amphion, King of Thebes, by whom she bore seven sons and seven daughters. Niobe insulted the goddess Leto, taunting her for having only two children. As punishment, Leto sent her children, Apollo and Artemis, to Thebes, where they slew six of Niobe's sons and six daughters. Niobe mourned the deaths of her children for nine days and nine nights, but could find no-one to bury them as Zeus, sympathising with Leto, had turned all the Thebans to stone. On the tenth day, the Olympians themselves conducted the funeral rites, while Niobe fled to Mount Sipylus, the home of her father Tantalus. Here, Zeus, taking pity on her grief, turned her to a statue which, however, according to legend, continued to weep each year in early summer.
stout Cortez . . . watcher of the skies (p 132)
a feast of reason and a flow of soul (p 133)
See A Damsel in Distress.
Ellums are treacherous things (p 135)
The Common Elm, Ulmus campestris, is peculiarly liable to lose its large horizontal branches. Compare:
Ellum she hateth mankind, and waiteth
Till every gust be laid,
To drop a limb on the head of him
That anyway trusts her shade:
But whether a lad be sober or sad,
Or mellow with ale from the horn,
He will take no wrong when he lieth along
'Neath Oak, and Ash, and Thorn!
Puck of Pook's Hill (1906), "A Tree Song", in
shoot down like Lucifer (p 137)
Lucifer is mentioned only once in the Bible:
How art thou fallen from heaven,
O Lucifer, son of the morning.
How art thou cut down to the ground,
which didst weaken the nations!
Isaiah, xiv, 12
The passage is variously interpreted as referring either to Satan's Fall from Heaven or, symbolically and prophetically, to the fall from power of the King of Babylon. In Jeeves in the Offing (ch 8), Bobbie Wickham quotes the first two lines when referring to Bertie's tumble from a chair.
Oh woman . . . ministering angel thou (p 137)
O woman! in our hours of ease
Uncertain, coy, and hard to please,
And variable as the shade
By the light quivering aspen made;
When pain and anguish wring the brow,
A ministering angel thou!
Marmion, Canto VI Stanza xxx (1808),
If you imagine you're a lily of the field (p 138)
Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow;
they toil not, neither do they spin:
Matthew, vi, 28
the Press Club (p 139)
The Press Club, founded in 1882, has its home at the Wig and Pen Club in the Strand.
Chapter 18 (pp 140 - 150)
the maddest, merriest day (p 143)
See A Damsel in Distress.
Chapter 19 (pp 151 - 160)
Oh woman, woman! (p 151)
some chamois of the Alps (p 153)
Wodehouse may have encountered the image of the chamois when writing William Tell Told Again (1904). The chamois is not fundamental to the legend, having been introduced by Schiller, and it was so over-exploited by the Romantics that it had become a literary cliché well before Wodehouse used it, but nobody else had employed the image in so many varied contexts:.
Glossop came up at a gallop, springing from stair to stair like the chamois of the Alps.
The Little Nugget (1913)
A story, if it is to grip the reader, should, I am aware, go always forward. It should march. It should leap from crag to crag like the chamois of the Alps.
Three Men and a Maid (1922)
It is a defect unfortunately inseparable from any such document as this faithful record of events . . . that the chronicler, in order to give a square deal to each of the individuals whose fortunes he has chosen to narrate, is compelled to flit abruptly from one to the other in the manner popularized by the chamois of the Alps leaping from crag to crag.
Summer Lightning (1929)
See also Summer Moonshine.
Napoleon! And Nelson! . . . Battling Nelson . . . Tom Sharkey (p 155-6)
While Lord Tilbury is thinking of the great military leaders, Napoleon Bonaparte and Admiral Horatio Nelson, Chimp's mind works on more prosaic lines.
"Battling Nelson" was the ring-name of boxer Oscar Mathæus Nielsen, who was born in Copenhagen in 1882 but emigrated to the United States the following year. During a career that extended from 1896 to 1917, Nielsen fought 133 times and twice held the World Lightweight Championship. He died in 1954. Nielsen was 5 ft 7½ in tall.
Wodehouse perhaps had "Battling Nelson" in mind when he named the boxer, "Battling" Wilberforce Billson, who made his first appearance in Ukridge (1924).
"Sailor" Tom Sharkey was born in Dundalk, Ireland, in 1871, but ran away to sea and eventually wound up in the United States, where he died in 1953. Sharkey fought his first fight in 1893 and was undefeated over the next three years, which won him the opportunity to fight world heavyweight champion Bob Fitzsimmons; the referee for the fight was legendary lawman Wyatt Earp, who awarded the fight to Sharkey in circumstances that gave rise to lawsuits, allegations of match-fixing and a refusal by the authorities to recognise Sharkey as champion. Three years later, at Coney Island, he again fought for the world title, unsuccessfully, against Jim Jefferies in the first boxing match to be filmed by a movie camera. Sharkey was 5 ft 9 in tall.
pathos . . . desiderium (p 160)
More specifically, pathos is a feeling which the mind suffers, in either a good or a bad sense, though the sense of a misfortune or affliction predominates, while desiderium (from desiderare, to desire, to long for) is an ardent longing for something.
Chapter 20 (pp 161 - 166)
one crumpled rose leaf (p 161)
See Something Fresh.
truth, though crushed to earth (p 161)
See A Damsel in Distress.
rise on stepping-stones (p 161)
See Something Fresh.
when the fields were white with daisies (p 161)
Chimp is really piling it on now! A song popular in the early 1920s but now almost forgotten ran roughly as follows:
The roses round the door make me love mother more
I see my sweetheart Flo, and friends I used to know
When I get back to my home in Tennessee
Or when the fields are white with daisies
Another possibility is that the reference is to "Through the Year", a poem by the Rev Julian Stearns Cutler (1854-1930):
When the fields are white with daisies
And the days are glad and long —
God be with you in the summer,
Filling all your world with song.
black silk dress with bugles (p 161)
Bugles are thin tube beads, as distinct from round beads, which are called rocailles. In the early 1920s, fashion designers began creating art deco motifs out of bugles and rocailles; at times the entire dress was covered with beads, at others the beads were used to create simple floral patterns on the sleeves, bodice or hem.
sparkling limado (p 161)
Private Biggs, who had brought his sparkling limado and a bath-bun with him from the other table, took a sip of the former, and embarked upon his narrative.
The Swoop!, ch 4 (1909)
Through a mist he was aware of Mrs Coppin crying in a corner, of Mr Coppin drinking his health in the remains of sparkling limado.
A Man of Means (1916)
"Or how about a bit of hot steak-pudding, with a sparkling limado to wash it down?" said Bingo.
"Jeeves in the Springtime", in Strand magazine (December 1921)
Notwithstanding these uses of "limado", the word does not appear in the OED and one can only speculate that it was, perhaps, something akin to lemonade.
a meal of Cambridge sausages (p 161)
The Oxford Companion to Food lists just ten British classic varieties of sausage, of which the Cambridge is one. It is described as a pork sausage, seasoned with sage, cayenne and nutmeg. (The Oxford, on the other hand, combines pork, veal and beef with sage, nutmeg, pepper and optional herbs, while the Cumberland is properly a coarse, spicy pork sausage, unlinked and sold by length from a coil.)
'There is none like her, none' (p 165)
I have led her home, my love, my only friend.
There is none like her, none.
And never yet so warmly ran my blood
And sweetly, on and on
Calming itself to the long-wish'd-for end,
Full to the banks, close on the promised good.
None like her, none,
Just now the dry-tongued laurels' pattering talk
Seem'd her light foot along the garden walk,
And shook my heart to think she comes once more.
But even then I heard her close the door;
The gates of heaven are closed, and she is gone
, "Maud", Part I, XVIII (1855)
Around 1900, these verses were set to music as part of his song-cycle "Maud", by Sir Arthur Somervell. And, of course, Wodehouse re-uses the phrase:
Walking across the lawn I saw the most radiant, the most beautiful girl in the world. There is none like her, none.
"Jeeves in the Springtime", in Strand magazine (December 1921)
You know how women waggle as a rule, fiddling about for a minute and a half like kittens playing with a ball of wool. Well, she just makes one firm pass with the club and then bing! There is none like her, none.
"Chester Forgets Himself", in The Heart of a Goof (1926)
'Infirm of purpose, give me the sandbag!' (p 166)
Or, as Shakespeare might have said, had he thought of it first, "Infirm of purpose! Give me the daggers" (Macbeth, Act II scene ii)
Chapter 21 (pp 166 - 179)
It was with a heart bowed down (p 170)
The heart bowed down by weight of woe,
To weakest hope will cling,
To thought and impulse while they flow,
That can no comfort bring,
With those exciting scenes will blend,
O'er pleasure's pathway thrown;
But mem'ry is the only friend
That grief can call its own.
Count Arnheim's aria from Act II sc 4 of the English opera, The Bohemian Girl (1843), by Michael William Balfe (1808-70), libretto by (1790-1860).
First, scarcely daring to consider the possibility of success, he had taken on the man who tried to catch his ball off its guard and had beaten him five up and four to play. Then, with gradually growing confidence, he tackled in turn the Cat-Stroker, the Whip-Cracker, the Heart Bowed Down, and the Soup-Scooper, and walked all over their faces with spiked shoes.
"The Heart of a Goof" (1926)
he stood not upon the order of his going (p 175)
Another phrase that William Shakespeare no doubt wished he had thought of first. See Something Fresh.
Chapter 22 (pp 179 - 190)
that thing of Browning's (p 179)
See Something Fresh.
Sleep, which knits up the ravelled sleeve of care (p 180)
Yet another allusion to Shakespeare's Macbeth:
Methought I heard a voice cry 'Sleep no more!
Macbeth does murder sleep', the innocent sleep,
Sleep that knits up the ravell'd sleeve of care,
The death of each day's life, sore labour's bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course,
Chief nourisher in life's feast,--
Macbeth, Act II, sc 2,
Henry Ford, or any other confirmed peacemaker (p 181)
In 1915, the industrialist Henry Ford (1863-1947) chartered Oscar II, a passenger ship owned by the Scandinavian-American Line, to carry a peace mission to Norway for the purpose of establishing a "Neutral Conference for Continuous Mediation", in an effort to bring an end to the First World War, which Ford opposed on economic grounds. It was hoped that President Woodrow Wilson could be persuaded to act as a mediator between the warring parties and Ford promised to "get the boys out of the trenches by Christmas". Ford was widely ridiculed for his peacemaking efforts.
full of the milk of human kindness (p 182)
yet do I fear thy nature;
It is too full o' the milk of human kindness
To catch the nearest way:
Macbeth, Act I, sc 4,
Chapter 23 (pp 191 - 206)
let the dead past bury its dead (p 196)
Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act, act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o'er head!
, "A Psalm of Life" (1838)
Longfellow was presumably echoing the words of Christ in Matthew, viii, 22:
But Jesus told him, "Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead."
Lord George Spelvin (p 197)
"George Spelvin" is a fictitious name that is sometimes used in a theatre programme to disguise the fact that an actor is playing dual roles. The earliest reference to "George Spelvin" is thought to be in 1886 in the Broadway production of Karl the Peddler by Charles A Gardiner, but the tradition only started in 1907, in a play called Brewster's Millions by Winchell Smith and Byron Ongley. A minor actor in the production doubled in two roles and used the name George Spelvin for one of the parts. When the play proved to be a success, Winchell Smith continued to use the name in his future productions.
Sherlock Holmes (p 198)
Conan Doyle nowhere describes Sherlock Holmes as "hatch-faced" with "penetrating eyes", but Professor von Baumgarten in Doyle's The Captain of the Polestar is described in exactly those terms (see "The Great Keinplatz Experiment"):
[He] was tall and thin, with a hatchet face and steel-grey eyes, which were singularly bright and penetrating.
"The 'Oly City" (p 198)
Almost certainly this refers to "The Holy City", words by Frederick E Weatherly (1848-1929), set to music by Stephen Adams (1844-1913) and published in 1892. The song, the first verse of which begins:
Last night I lay a-sleeping
There came a dream so fair,
I stood in old Jerusalem
Beside the temple there.
was a popular music-hall piece throughout the early decades of the 20th century and is still recorded today.
"Asleep on the Deep" (p 198)
Not "on" but "in" the Deep. The song, with words by Arthur J Lamb (who also wrote "Only a Bird in a Gilded Cage") and music by Henry W Petrie, was published in 1897.
A report of a church concert held in Victoria, Australia, in September 1901 lists as one of the turns a song, "Asleep on the deep", sung by a Mr Filmer. Unfortunately, no further details are available, so we cannot be sure that this Mr Filmer is the same gentleman who, some 30 years later, as the Cabinet Minister, the Rt Hon A B Filmer, made an appearance in "Jeeves and the Impending Doom" (in Very Good, Jeeves).
'Where every prospect pleases' (p 202)
What though the spicy breezes blow soft o'er Ceylon's isle,
Though every prospect pleases, and only man is vile?
In vain with lavish kindness the gifts of God are strown;
The heathen in his blindness bows down to wood and stone.
(1783-1826), "From Greenland's Icy Mountains—Missionary Hymn" (1819)
'But there's a catch. It's a case of "Where every prospect pleases and only man is vile". At least, not exactly vile, I suppose, but terribly stodgy.'
The Adventures of Sally, ch 12 (1922)
' . . . life there at the moment has its drawbacks. There's far too much of that where-every- prospect-pleases-and-only-man-is-vile stuff buzzing around for my taste.'
Jeeves in the Offing, ch 2 (1960)
Chapter 24 (pp 207 - 214)
The intellectual pressure of the conversation (p 210)
See A Damsel in Distress.
Chapter 25 (pp 215 - 223)
in loco parentis (p 219)
Latin: acting in place of a parent
Every Achilles has his heel (p 222)
Chapter 27 (pp 230 - 234)
sans-culotte (p 230)
Literally, "without breeches" (French). During the French Revolution, sans-culotte was a nick-name applied by Royalists to the revolutionaries (presumably because the latter favoured long trousers rather than the fashionable knee breeches worn by aristocrats). Wodehouse is deliberately using the phrase in a literal sense, to mean "without trousers".
strolling with stout Cortez (p 230)
Another reference to Keat's poem.
one degree more cloth-headed (p 233)
Cloth-headed: stupid or thoughtless.
Chapter 28 (pp 234 - 239)
Wax to receive (p 234)
His heart was one of those which most enamour us,
Wax to receive, and marble to retain:
, "Beppo", Stanza 34 (1818)
Singer's Troupe of Midgets (p 235)
. . . a chair of the type designed for the use of Singer's Midgets
Second Berlin Broadcast, 9 July 1941
Baron Leopold von Singer (1877-1951) was born in Vienna. When his daughter Trudy contracted polio, Singer and his wife found that a local fairground show with midget performers provided a therapeutic distraction. In 1914 Singer formed his own troupe of midget performers, "Singer's Midgets", which travelled through Europe, South America, Asia and Australia, before finally settling in the United States. Although, at that time, midgets were regarded by many as freaks, Singer always insisted on treating them as adults and provided them with a salary and education. In 1939, Singer contracted with MGM to supply the midgets who appeared as Munchkins in the film "The Wizard of Oz".