This is part of an on-going effort by the members of the Blandings Yahoo! Group to document references, allusions, quotations, etc in the works of P G Wodehouse.

The Girl on the Boat was originally annotated by Mark Hodson (aka The Efficient Baxter). They have been reformatted somewhat, but credit goes to Mark for his original efforts, even while we bear the blame for errors of fact or interpretation.

Page references in these notes are based on the Herbert Jenkins Popular edition.



The novel was published in the US, under the title Three Men and a Maid, by Doran on 26 April 1922, and in the UK, under the title The Girl on the Boat, by Herbert Jenkins on 15 June 1922. Page references in these notes are taken from the Herbert Jenkins “Popular Edition” (undated). The US edition is available as an etext from Project Gutenberg. A film of the story was made in 1962 by Henry Kaplan. Slightly implausibly, it starred the comedian Norman Wisdom as Sam, together with British stalwarts Bernard Cribbins, Millicent Martin, Sheila Hancock, and Richard Briers.

Preface (p 0)

This Preface does not appear in the US edition.

Herbert Jenkins (p 0)

Herbert Jenkins Limited published all Wodehouse’s books in the UK, from Piccadilly Jim (1918) onwards. The founder of the firm, Herbert Jenkins (1876-1923) moonlighted as an author, writing the Malcolm Sage detective stories and the Bindle comic novels as well as one or two serious books like a biography of George Borrow.

Pelham the Pincher (p 0)

A rare example of Wodehouse using one of his Christian names!

J. Storer Clouston The Lunatic at Large Again (p 0)

Joseph Storer Clouston (1870-1944), British(?) writer. The comic novel The Lunatic at Large (1893) seems to have been his best known work, and has been reprinted as recently as 1974 — The Lunatic at Large Again is presumably a sequel. Another book featuring some of the same characters, Count Bunker, is available as a Project Gutenberg text.

Constitutional Club, Northumberland Avenue (p 0)

Norman Murphy (In Search of Blandings (1986)) makes a good case for identifying this club as the prototype of the Senior Conservative, which appears in many books from Psmith in the City onwards. This is the only place in the canon where it is mentioned by its real name, although there is plenty of evidence in other books to link the real and fictitious clubs.

Chapter 1 (pp 11 - 26)
A Disturbing Morning

Mrs Horace Hignett (p 11)

Mrs Hignett and her son are the only characters of this name in the canon.

Hignett may originally have been a Cheshire name. It could possibly be a reference to the British actor H.R. Hignett (1870-1959), who was prominent on the London stage before the First World War.

Dutch clock (p 11)

The Zaan region north of Amsterdam is famous for clockmaking. Traditional Dutch clocks are usually weight-driven bracket clocks, often with a ceramic tile face.

ormolu clock (p 11)

Ormolu (French: or moulu) is a material such as bronze or copper alloy covered with gold leaf. It was used especially in French furniture and clocks of the eighteenth century.

carriage clock (p 11)

A spring-driven clock in a case with a handle, originally intended to be transportable.

Theosophy (p 11)

A mystical philosophical system that takes the existence of God as its starting point, and seeks to deal with the presence of evil in the world. The Theosophical Society was founded by Mme. Blavatsky in 1875, although many of the ideas involved go back to Jakob Boehme and beyond.

Wodehouse’s brother Armine was a theosophist, and became head of the theosphical college at Benares, India.

Mrs Hignett may be based loosely on the socialist and theosophist Annie Besant (1847-1933), who was Armine’s mentor in Benares.

About this time... (p 12)

The US edition reads “The year 1921, it will be remembered, was a trying one for the inhabitants of the United States.” Presumably Herbert Jenkins advised against pinning the story to a specific date like this.

Windles ... Hampshire (p 12)

Many of the stately homes in Wodehouse, apart from Blandings Castle, are in Hampshire, where Wodehouse lived for some years before going to America.

The name Windles could perhaps be an allusion to The Vyne (home of the Sandys and later Chute families, near Basingtoke) or Broadlands (Lord Palmerston, the Mountbattens) — both of these more-or-less meet the description in the text, as would any number of other country houses in the area.

did but hold it in trust for her son (p 13)

Mrs Hignett is obviously a widow. It was usual in English gentry families for the eldest son to inherit the house and estate, so that the family property would not be split up. Eustace would normally have come into full control of his inheritance on his 21st birthday, so we can assume that his mother’s trusteeship is a moral, rather than legal arrangement.

Sir Mallaby Marlowe (p 14)

Mallaby is a moderately common surname, but there doesn’t seem to be any obvious Wodehouse link. The only other Mallaby in the canon is Clarice, the young lady with a craving for strawberries (“The Knightly Quest of Mervyn”).

Marlowe is of course the name of the great Elizabethan playwright (and a town on the Thames). The only other Marlowe listed in Garrison is Peggy, a chorus girl in Barmy in Wonderland.

Wodehouse’s near-contemporary at Dulwich, Raymond Chandler, also seems to have been fond of the name Marlowe.

Aunt Adeline (p 15)

The name Adeline seems to have become popular in English through Mrs Radcliffe’s gothic novel The Romance of the Forest (1791). Just possibly, Wodehouse is having a little dig at Virginia Woolf, whose middle name was Adeline.

thews and sinews (p 17)

Muscular strength. ‘Thews’ by itself used to mean the physical strength of a person, and was used in that sense by Shakespeare.

‘That villain‘, exclaimed the Dwarf, ‘that coldblooded, hardened, unrelenting ruffian, that wretch, whose every thought is infected with crimes, has thews and sinews, limbs, strength, and activity enough, to compel a nobler animal than himself to carry him to the place where he is to perpetrate his wickedness.

Sir Walter Scott The Black Dwarf chap 6 (1816)

gas globes (p 17)

The use of gas for lighting was still fairly common in Britain, even long after the invention of incandescent electric lights around 1900. Some installations survived until the introduction of natural gas in the early 1970s. A globe is a protective glass or mesh bowl surrounding the incandescent ceramic mantle.

Frank Tinney (p 17)

American comedian and singer — like Al Jolson, he was best known for performing in black make-up.

Trinity Smoker (p 17)

Trinity is one of the smaller, quieter colleges of Oxford University, founded in 1555 by local businessman Sir Thomas Pope. Famous members have included the explorer Sir Richard Burton. Nowadays it is best known for sitting on top of the underground parts of Blackwell’s bookshop and the Bodleian.

A smoker, or smoking concert, was a private entertainment put on by the members of a club or similar institution (men only, hence smoking was allowed). Usually, the performers would be the members of the club itself. See Not George Washington for an account of the Barrel Club smoker.

come down from Oxford (p 18)

Left the university, graduated. Undergraduates are said to be “up” at Oxford or Cambridge while in residence as members of a college. To be “sent down,” by contrast, is to be expelled from the university.

the Atlantic (p 18)

Presumably fictitious. The White Star line, which lost its independent identity in 1935, used names ending in ‘-ic’ for its postwar ships (Britannic, Majestic, etc.). The Atlantic also appears in “Life with Freddie”, Leave It To Psmith and The Luck of the Bodkins.

Mr. Bennett ... Mr Mortimer (p 19)

The only other Bennetts in the canon appear in the story “Crowned Heads” (1915).

There are a few other minor characters with the surname Mortimer, not to mention the art critic Mortimer Bayliss in Something Fishy and the golfer Mortimer Sturgis.

Just possibly, Wodehouse might have been thinking of that archetype of long-suffering fathers of willful daughters, Jane Austen’s Mr Bennett.

Erin (p 20)

Poetic name for Ireland

Bream Mortimer (p 20)

A bream is a freshwater fish, although the word does appear occasionally as a surname.

Little Church Round the Corner (p 20)

The Church of the Transfiguration, off Madison Square on East 29th Street, where Wodehouse married Ethel on 30 September 1914. The song “The Church Round the Corner” featured in the Wodehouse/Bolton/Kern show Sally (1920).

The church was founded in 1848 by the Rev. G.H. Houghton, an American Episcopal follower of the ideas of Pusey, Keble and Newman, the leaders of the Anglo-Catholic “Oxford Movement,” in the Church of England.

In the late 19th century it started to be seen as the Broadway actors’ church, a role it retains today.

Chapter 2 (pp 27 - 55)
Gallant Rescue by Well-dressed Young Man

Rivington Street (p 28)

Formerly a slum area, on the fringes of the Bowery and Greenwich Village.

being seen off by detectives (p 28)

Cf. Ukridge’s departure from Canada (“Ukridge Sees Her Through”).

companion-way (p 31)

On a ship, a companion-way is a ladder or staircase leading from one deck to another.

vers-libre (p 32)

Free verse: poetry that does not have a fixed rhythmic pattern or rhyme-scheme. T.S. Eliot’s The Waste-Land, probably the most famous free-verse poem in English, was published the same year as The Girl on the Boat.

J.B. Midgeley (p 33)

Seems to be the only Midgeley in the canon. The surname, in various spellings, is quite common, especially in Yorkshire and Co. Durham. There are two villages in Yorkshire called Midgley.

Thomas Otway .. Orphan (p 37)

Happy a while in Paradise they lay;
But quickly woman longed to go astray:
Some foolish new adventure needs must prove,
And the first devil she saw, she chang’d her love:
To his temptations, lewdly she inclined
Her soul, and, for an apple, damn’d mankind.


What mighty ills have not been done by woman!
Who was ’t betrayed the Capitol?—A woman!
Who lost Mark Antony the world?—A woman!
Who was the cause of a long ten years’ war,
And laid at last old Troy in ashes?—Woman!
Destructive, damnable, deceitful woman!

Otway, Thomas (1652-1685) The Orphan Act III, Sc.

bar ... three-mile limit (p 37)

The Volstead Act, enforcing the 18th Amendment and thus prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages, came into force — over President Wilson’s veto — in 1919. The 18th Amendment was repealed in 1933.

Oscar Swenson (p 41)

Seems to be a generic Swedish or Norwegian name.

Svensk! (p 42)

Svensk is of course the Swedish word for “Swedish.”

scows, skiffs, launches,... (p 45)

In this context, a scow is a flat-bottomed workboat like a large punt; a skiff is a light rowing boat, and a launch is a small motor boat.

North River (p 45)

The White Star Line used Pier 59, opposite West 17th Street. It is now part of the Chelsea Piers sports complex.

Reuben S. Watson (p 46)

Tugs are often named after family members of the owners.

The only remotely celebrated Reuben Watson seems to have been the founder of R. Watson and Sons, which is now the British arm of the actuaries Watson Wyatt.

Or perhaps this is a buried Sherlock Holmes reference??

following a famous precedent (p 46)

This is probably a reference to the (apocryphal??) incident described in James Fields’s sentimental ballad and thousands of evangelical sermons and Sunday-School texts since.

Alternatively, it could be an HMS Pinafore allusion...

We were crowded in the cabin,
Not a soul would dare to sleep,
It was midnight on the waters,
And a storm was on the deep.

"Tis a fearful thing in winter
To be shattered by the blast,
And to hear the rattling trumpet
Thunder, "Cut away the mast!"

So we shuddered there in silence,
For the stoutest held his breath,
While the hungry sea was roaring
And the breakers talked with Death.

As thus we sat in darkness,
Each one busy with his prayers,
"We are lost!" the captain shouted
As he staggered down the stairs.

But his little daughter whispered,
As she took his icy hand,
"Isn’t God, upon the ocean,
Just the same as on the land?"

Then we kissed the little maiden.
And we spoke in better cheer,
And we anchored safe in harbour
When the morn was shining clear

Field, James T. The Captain’s Daughter

do a Brodie (p 47)

Steve Brodie (1863-1901) was a Brooklyn bookmaker famous for jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge and surviving the fall, on July 23, 1886, although there are those who say that it was merely a publicity stunt using a dummy.

Chapter 3 (pp 56 - 68)
Sam Paves the Way

Three shillings and sixpence (p 61)

17.5p in decimal currency

Limerick (p 61)

A short humourous nonsense verseform, it consists of five anapestic lines with the rhyme scheme aabba. The third and fourth lines have two stresses each, and the others three. It has been around in various guises since medieval times, but only achieved serious popularity with the publication of Edward Lear’s first Book of Nonsense in 1864. The association of the name “Limerick” with the form is not very clear — the OED asserts that it comes from an old parlour game where each person had to improvise a verse, which was followed by a chorus of “Will ye come to Limerick”.

There was a Young Lady whose chin
Resembled the point of a pin:
So she had it made sharp,
And purchased a harp,
And played several tunes with her chin.

Lear, Edward There was a young lady whose chin

sonnet-sequence (p 61)

A few pages back Wodehouse accused Eustace of writing free verse, but here he is talking about writing in sonnet form, probably the strictest and most challenging form in English poetry.

pencil ... cuff (p 61)

Many men at this time, especially from the working and middle classes, wore shirts with detachable, disposable cuffs and collars made out of paper or celluloid. Such cuffs were a convenient place to jot down notes. This practice is the origin of the phrase “off the cuff.”

Tennyson ... Idylls of the King (p 61)

Tennyson published his main collection of retellings of the Arthurian legends in 1859. Although extremely popular at the time, and catering to the mid-Victorian taste for all things medieval, these blank-verse epics full of cringe-makingly stilted pseudo-archaic language don’t really show Tennyson at his best, and are not much read these days. They would certainly have been the courtship-literature of choice for the generation of Wodehouse’s parents, but don’t seem a very likely preference for a young woman in the early 1920s (or for a poet who writes free verse).

intervene ... dog-fights (p 64)

All of Wodehouse’s young men-of-action seem to share a talent for stopping dog-fights.

raisin dropped in the yeast (p 65)

This doesn’t seem to be a quotation (?) — it seems to be a rather odd way of going about inducing fermentation. Normally one adds yeast to the mixture one wants to ferment, rather than the other way around.

Chapter 4 (pp 69 - 94)
Sam Clicks

In slang of the time, to click is to succeed, to make a hit. (Cf. “The Clicking of Cuthbert”)

...when this story is done in the movies (p 69)

Wodehouse wasn’t to know that talking pictures would be well-established before this happened (see above).

“Everybody wants a key to my cellar” (p 70)

A comic song by Bert Williams from the early days of Prohibition. (The link below takes you to a recording of Williams singing it.)

Everybody wants a key to my cellar
They’ll never get in, just let them try,
They can have my money,
They can have my car,
They can have my wife if they wanna go that far.
But they can’t have a key that opens my cellar
If the whole darned world goes dry!

Bert Williams Everybody wants a key to my cellar (1919)

pour-parlers (p 71)

Preliminary discussions (Old French pourparler, to discuss). For more on Victorian courtship rituals, see Spring Fever, Ch.15.

Alphonso (p 72)

Wodehouse also refers to these lines (without quoting them) in A Damsel in Distress.

ALPHONSO, who in cool assurance all creation licks,
He up and said to EMMIE (who had impudence for six),
‘MISS EMILY, I love you--will you marry? Say the word!’
And EMILY said, ‘Certainly, ALPHONSO, like a bird!’

Gilbert, W. S. Bab Ballads: ‘The Modest Couple’

Bruton Street, Berkeley Square (p 72)

A street in London’s Mayfair district, only a bun’s toss from the Drones Club in Dover Street. Runs from the NE corner of Berkeley Square across to Bond Street.

“I am the Bandolero” (p 73)

Song, 1894, words and music by Thomas Augustine Barrett (1863-1928), who had a career as a classical pianist and wrote popular songs under the pseudonym ‘Leslie Stuart.’ He was best known for the hit show Floradora (1899) and would have been one of the biggest names in British musical theatre in Wodehouse’s youth.

This song was later to be made famous by Albert Peasemarch (see The Luck of the Bodkins).

dresses that have to be hooked up... (p 74)

This suggests a degree of intimacy that Eustace is unlikely to have reached with Miss Bennett: possibly his mother has made him hook up her dresses, or perhaps it is Wodehouse’s own experience of four years of marriage coming out?

Romeo and Juliet ... pleasantness of the morning (p 76)

Shakespeare makes it quite clear that the “balcony scene” (Act 2, Sc. 2) takes place at night, as Juliet is going to bed. Wodehouse is maybe thinking of Romeo’s famous opening lines comparing Juliet herself to the dawn.

But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun!
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief,
That thou her maid art far more fair than she:
Be not her maid, since she is envious;
Her vestal livery is but sick and green,
And none but fools do wear it; cast it off.
It is my lady; O! it is my love:
O! that she knew she were.

Shakespeare Romeo and Juliet II:ii, 4-12

tube station (p 77)

London’s first deep-level electric “tube” railway, the City and South London, opened in 1890. By 1921, the system in central London was essentially complete (the Victoria and Jubilee lines are the only major parts to have been added since then).

"The Rosary" (p 82)

Song (1898), music by Ethelbert Woodbridge Nevin (1862-1901). With a name Wodehouse would have been proud to invent, he was one of the most famous American composers of his day but now largely forgotten; the words are by the justly obscure Robert Cameron Rogers. The song was a huge success at the time.

It also appears in the story “Lines and Business” (a.k.a. “Fixing it for Freddie”).

The hours I spent with thee, dear heart,
Are as a string of pearls to me;
I count them over, every one apart,
My Rosary, my Rosary.

Each hour a pearl, each pearl a prayer,
To still a heart in absence wrung;
I tell each bead unto the end,
And there a cross is hung.

O memories that bless and burn!
O barren pain and bitter loss!
I kiss each bead, and strive at last to learn
To kiss the cross;
Sweetheart!- to kiss the cross.

Nevin, Ethelbert Woodbridge The Rosary

Oh let the solid ground... (p 83)

Sam seems to have picked up the wrong book — this is from Maud, not The Idylls of the King.

Perhaps not the happiest of choices, whn one considers that the speaker of Maud is well on the wrong side of the line separating romantic love from serious mental illness by the time he gets to this point in the poem.

O let the solid ground
Not fail beneath my feet
Before my life has found
What some have found so sweet!
Then let come what come may,
What matter if I go mad,
I shall have had my day.

Let the sweet heavens endure,
Not close and darken above me
Before I am quite quite sure
That there is one to love me!
Then let come what come may
To a life that has been so sad,
I shall have had my day.

Tennyson, Alfred Lord Maud Pt I, XI

Walt Mason (p 84)

Canadian-born poet and journalist (1862-1939), famous for his rhyming prose pieces, many of which appeared in the Detroit Free Press. Compare the piece below with the opening chapter of Ring for Jeeves or Hemingway’s “Short, Happy Life of Francis Macomber”...

ONCE a hunter met a lion near the hungry critter’s lair, and the way that lion mauled him was decidedly unfair; but the hunter never whimpered when the surgeons, with their thread, sewed up forty-seven gashes in his mutilated head; and he showed the scars in triumph, and they gave him pleasant fame, and he always blessed the lion that had camped upon his frame. Once that hunter, absent minded, sat upon a hill of ants, and about a million bit him, and you should have seen him dance! And he used up lots of language of a deep magenta tint, and aphostrophized the insects in a style unfit to print. And it’s thus with worldly troubles; when the big ones come along, we serenely go to meet them, feeling valiant, bold and strong, but the weary little worries with their poisoned stings and smarts, put the lid upon our courage, make us gray, and break our hearts.

Mason, Walt (1862-1939) Lions and Ants

the Princess and the Swineherd (p 86)

Title of a moral fable by Hans Christian Andersen.

My love is like a glowing tulip... (p 86)

Could well be an authentic Victorian ballad, but I haven’t been able to find any confirmation of this.

Jane Hubbard (p 88)

One of Wodehouse’s most splendid women characters, and the only Hubbard in the canon. The other notable female elephant-gun exponent is the rather less attractive Mrs Clarissa Cork.

Jane’s first name must owe something to the heroine of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan stories, which appeared as a magazine serial in 1912, a book in 1914 and on film for the first time in 1918. Of course, Wodehouse was not to know that the most celebrated movie Jane, Maureen O’Sullivan (still a schoolgirl in 1921), would later become a family friend of the Wodehouses and dedicatee of Hot Water.

Part 4 of Chapter IV is omitted in the US edition.

go into Parliament (p 90)

A limited number of women (those who were over thirty and were graduates, householders, or the wives of householders) were given the vote in the UK by the Representation of the People Act 1918. Constance Markiewicz was the only woman to be elected in the 1918 general election, but was a Sinn Fein member who refused to take her seat, so the first woman in Parliament was the Conservative, Nancy Astor, who won her husband’s old seat in a by-election in 1919 when he inherited a peerage.

British East Africa (p 91)

This term was used between 1886 and 1920 for — broadly-speaking — the British protectorate covering the area of the modern countries Kenya and Uganda.

Unless she was actually there during hostilities (possibly disguised as Katherine Hepburn??), she must have been there in 1919, before the name was changed to Kenya.

Annie Laurie (p 92)

Annie Laurie (1682-1764) was the daughter of Sir Robert Laurie of Maxwelton House, in Dumfriesshire (SW Scotland). It’s not recorded whether Douglas did lay him doon and dee when Annie married someone else. According to Brewer, her son, Alexander Ferguson, was in turn the hero of a Robert Burns song, “the Whistler”.

Max Welton’s braes are bonnie
Where early falls the dew
And ‘twas there that Annie Laurie
Gave me her promise true.
Gave me her promise true
That ne’er forgot shall be
And for Bonnie Annie Laurie
I’d lay me doon and dee.

Her brow is like the snowdrift
Her nape is like the swan
And her face it is the fairest
That ‘ere the sun shone on.
That ‘ere the sun shone on
And dark blue is her E’e
And for Bonnie Annie Laurie
I’d lay me doon and dee.

Like the dew on the Gowan Lion
Is the fall of her fairy feet
And like winds in the summer sighing
Her voice is low and sweet.
Her voice is low and sweet
And she’s all the world to me
And for Bonnie Annie Laurie
I’d lay me doon and dee.

William Douglas Annie Laurie

Chapter 5 (pp 95 - 103)
Persecution of Eustace

father in the pigstye (p 95)

This is presumably a joke from an old comic song, but I haven’t traced it yet. Something like “There among the pigs he sat / But I could tell him by his hat.”

Note the rare spelling of pigstye with a final “-e” (a quick internet sample suggests that the other spelling is 65 times more common) - Wodehouse also spells it this way when he uses the same joke in Jill the Reckless.

burnt cork (p 96)

A much safer way to black up than boot polish: cf. Thank You, Jeeves.

Titian (p 98)

Veccelio Tiziano (1490-1576), known in the English-speaking world as Titian, is particularly known for painting women with the flowing red-blonde hair then fashionable in Venice. The work of Dante Gabriel Rossetti helped to revive the fashion for red hair in late-Victorian Britain.

toad beneath the harrow (p 99)

The toad beneath the harrow knows
Exactly where each tooth-point goes;
The butterfly upon the road
Preaches contentment to that toad.

Kipling, Rudyard Pagett, MP

Schopenhauer (p 101)

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), philosopher, author of The World as Will and Representation, was noted for his pessimism and misogyny.

Chapter 6 (pp 104 - 110)
Scene at a Ship’s Concert

deep-sea fish ... haddocks ... shrimps (p 104)

While there are some shrimps who live in deep water, they are crustaceans, not fish.

rival lady singers (p 105)

For similar programme clashes, see The Luck of the Bodkins and “Jeeves and the Song of Songs”.

‘Gunga Din’ (p 105)

‘E carried me away
To where a dooli lay,
An’ a bullet come an’ drilled the beggar clean.
‘E put me safe inside,
An’ just before ‘e died,
“I ‘ope you liked your drink”, sez Gunga Din.
So I’ll meet ‘im later on
At the place where ‘e is gone—
Where it’s always double drill and no canteen;
‘E’ll be squattin’ on the coals
Givin’ drink to poor damned souls,
An’ I’ll get a swig in hell from Gunga Din!
Yes, Din! Din! Din!
You Lazarushian-leather Gunga Din!
Though I’ve belted you and flayed you,
By the livin’ Gawd that made you,
You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din!

Kipling, Rudyard Gunga Din (last stanza)

‘Fuzzy-Wuzzy’ (p 105)

‘Fuzzy-Wuzzy’ is another of Kipling’s Barrack-room Ballads. Fuzzy-Wuzzy was the British soldiers’ name for their opponents in the Sudanese campaign.

So ’ere’s to you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, at your ’ome in the Soudan;
You’re a pore benighted ’eathen but a first-class fightin’ man;
An’ ’ere’s to you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, with your ’ayrick ’ead of ’air—
You big black boundin’ beggar—for you broke a British square!

Kipling, Rudyard Fuzzy-Wuzzy (refrain)

My Little Grey Home in the West (p 105)

When the golden sun sinks in the hills
And the toil of a long day is o'er
Though the road may be long, in the lilt of a song
I forget I was weary before
Far ahead, where the blue shadows fall
I shall come to contentment and rest
And the toils of the day will be all charmed away
In my little grey home of the west

There are hands that will welcome me in
There are lips I am burning to kiss
There are two eyes that shine just because they are mine
And a thousand things other men miss
It's a corner of heaven itself
Though it's only a tumble-down nest
But with love brooding there, why no place can compare
With my little grey home in the west

Hermann Frederic Löhr and D. Eardley-Wilmot My Little Grey Home in the West (song, 1911)

fair women and brave men (p 105)

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.
A thousand hearts beat happily; and when
Music arose with its voluptuous swell,
Soft eyes look’d love to eyes which spake again,
And all went merry as a marriage bell.

Byron, George Gordon Noel, Lord Byron (1788-1824) Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage III:21

Keats ... knell (p 105)

Wodehouse seems to have thought Keats wrote knell, not bell. He also uses this image in Money for Nothing, Ch.4.

... The same that oft-times hath
Charmed magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.
Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
To toll me back back from thee to my sole self!

Keats, John Ode to a Nightingale 68-72

Macbeth ... Banquo’s ghost (p 108)

In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Act III, Scene iv, a dinner party is altogether ruined when the ghost of the murdered Banquo turns up uninvited and sits in Macbeth’s chair.

Chapter 7 (pp 111 - 125)
Sundered Hearts

Runs from pp 111 - 125 in the Herbert Jenkins edition.


When a man’s afraid... (p 111)

The bard in question being W.S. Gilbert, of course - this is from the wonderful scene where Koko, Pooh-Bah and Pitti-Sing introduce a certain amount of corroborative detail, intended to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative in describing the (wholly imaginary) execution of Nanki-Poo.

PITTI-SING: He shivered and shook as he gave the sign
For the stroke he didn't deserve;
When all of a sudden his eye met mine,
And it seemed to brace his nerve;
For he nodded his head and kissed his hand,
And he whistled an air, did he,
As the sabre true
Cut cleanly through
His cervical vertebrae, his vertebrae!
When a man's afraid,
A beautiful maid
Is a cheering sight to see;
And it's oh, I'm glad
That moment sad
Was soothed by sight of me!

Gilbert, W.S. and Sullivan, A. The Mikado, or The Town of Titipu Act II

O woman, in our hours of ease (p 115)

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!

Scott, Sir Walter (1771-1832) Marmion vi:30

Bert Williams (p 115)

Egbert Austin Williams (1875-1922). The celebrated Antiguan-born comedian died in March 1922, shortly before The Girl on the Boat appeared in book form, but Billie was presumably not aware of this. Charitably, one could assume that Sam is offended here because Billie assumed that he was imitating a black person (Williams), as opposed to imitating a white person (Tinney) imitating a black person, though this is probably reading far too much into the text.

(Note also the reference to Williams’s song “Everybody wants a key to my cellar” on p.70 above.)

small black golliwog (p 116)

A doll representing a minstrel-show character, nowadays regarded by many as offensive to black people. The name was first used by Florence and Bertha Upton in the children’s book The Adventures of Two Dutch Dolls (1895). Enid Blyton and the jam makers James Robertson and Sons used golliwogs extensively.

Cf. the Mickey Mouse in The Luck of the Bodkins.

I fee-er naw faw in shee-ining arr-mor... (p 116)

"I fear no foe in shining armour" is a drawing-room ballad with words by Edward Oxenford (1847 - 1929) and music by Ciro Pinsuti (1829-1888).

Sigsbee’s Superfine Featherweight (p 120)

A golfer called Sigsbee appears in the early story “Archibald’s Benefit” (1910).

Cf. also Slingsby’s Superb Soups (“The Spot of Art”) and a number of other minor Slingsbys in the canon.

a rag and a bone... (p 122)

A fool there was and he made his prayer
(Even as you and I!)
To a rag and a bone and a hunk of hair
We called her the woman who did not care)
But the fool he called her his lady fair
(Even as you and I!)

Oh, the years we waste and the tears we waste
And the work of our head and hand
Belong to a woman who did not know
(And now we know that she never could know)
And did not understand!

Kipling, Rudyard The Vampire ll.1-11

Borneo wire-snake (p 122)

There doesn’t seem to be such a thing as a wire snake - perhaps Eustace is getting them confused with whip snakes or pipe snakes, both of which are found in Asia, but are said to be harmless to humans.

Chapter 8 (pp 126 - 143)
Sir Mallaby Offers a Suggestion

This chapter is very different in the US edition - see the note to Chapter 9 below.

Southampton (p 126)

Most transatlantic liners between the wars docked at Southampton (White Star) or Liverpool (Cunard).

Bingley-on-the-Sea (p 126)

Bingley is one of Wodehouse’s favourite names, for both people and places. Bingley-on-[the-]Sea (or the similar Bramley-on-Sea) appears in many stories, most memorably in ‘Portrait of a Disciplinarian’. It is where the Drones have their golf tournament (“Jeeves and the Kid Clementina”), and it is the setting for the first part of Doctor Sally.

Sam seems to be the only visitor to take against it in this way — Bertie describes it as a place “where every prospect pleases” — his only objection to it is the presence of a school run by Aunt Agatha’s friend, Miss Mapleton.

There are also villages called Upper and Lower Bingley in ‘The Great Sermon Handicap’. Horace Davenport’s car in Uncle Fred in the Springtime is “a rakish Bingley” (Ch.15).

There is Bingley Crocker (Piccadilly Jim) Little Johnny Bingley (“The Nodder”), Elsa Bingley (secretary in Ice in the Bedroom), Gladys Bingley (Lancelot Mulliner’s fiancée), Lancelot Bingley (engaged to Gladys Wetherby(!) in “A Good Cigar is a Smoke”), Marcella Bingley (golfer), and Bertie’s ex-valet Rupert Bingley ( Brinkley). In Cocktail Time, Bingley vs. Bingley, Botts & Frobisher is the name of a divorce case.

In real life, there is a tiny Bingley in Denbighshire and a rather larger one in Airedale, West Yorkshire, but neither of them is anywhere near the sea. Murphy guesses that the most likely prototype is the south coast resort Bexhill-on-Sea.

Hotel Magnificent (p 126)

Perhaps this choice of hotel was Sam’s error - Bertie Wooster seemed to be very happy with the food at the Splendide in Bingley-on-Sea (see “Jeeves and the Kid Clementina”).

ozone-swept (p 127)

It used to be believed that the air at seaside resorts was particularly healthy because it was rich in ozone. In fact, of course, ozone is a harmful pollutant, found in significant quantities only in big cities and in photocopier rooms. The “ozone” smell in the seaside air actually turns out to come from iodine in decaying seaweed.

Archilochum ... proprio rabies armavit iambo (p 127)

See Horace, Epistles II,iii (“Ars Poetica”), line 79. Among Greek poets whose work survives to any significant extent, Archilochus of Paros (fl. ca. 650 BCE) is the earliest to have written lyric poetry about his own experiences and emotions. The Greeks seem to have regarded him as one of their greatest poets, and Horace was a big fan. He probably didn’t actually invent the iambic trimeter, as Horace suggests, but he was certainly one of the first people to use it effectively.

The lady who rejected him was called Neobule, and comes in for some pretty strong criticism in his verses. As well as making him write satirical verse, his rejection by Neobule seems to have been the reason for his going off to become a soldier of fortune.

Gehenna (p 127)

New Testament name for hell, deriving from the Vale of Hinnom, a valley south of Jerusalem. Occurs eight times in the NT (Matt. v. 22, 29, x. 28, xiii. 15, xviii. 9, xxiii. 15, 33; James iii. 6); the word Hades is slightly more popular, appearing nine times. (source: Brewer)

trains ... two hours (p 128)

Two hours is about the time it would take to travel from the Sussex coast to Charing Cross and walk to Fleet Street.

Marlowe, Thorpe, Prescott, Winslow and Appleby (p 128)

In Leave It To Psmith there is a coal merchant in Dover Street called Thorpe & Briscoe. Thorpe & Widgery (see below for the latter) is the grocer’s shop in “Tried in the Furnace.”

Prescott is the name of a number of minor characters, the most memorable perhaps being Mabel, who collects for he Temple of the New Dawn in Laughing Gas.

The name Winslow doesn’t seem to apear elsewhere in the canon. It is the name of several towns in the US, while Winslow Homer (1836-1910) was a celebrated American artist.

Appleby is a name that pops up throughout the canon, from a master at Wrykyn in 1904 to a bank-burgling butler in 1968. It is the name of a town in Westmoreland, of course.

Ridgeway’s Inn (p 128)

Fictitious: presumably represents one of the eight Inns of Chancery: Barnard's Inn, Clement's Inn, Clifford's Inn, Furnivals Inn, Lyon's Inn, New Inn, Staple Inn, Thavies Inn. These originally functioned as a sort of preparatory school for the Inns of Court, where barristers are trained, but by the nineteenth century had lost their educational function and simply provided “chambers”, i.e. office space, for law firms.

The Ridgeway is the ancient track that runs along the top of the North Downs in Berkshire and Wiltshire.

Not far from Fleet Street (p 128)

Very little connected with the legal profession is more than a few hundred yards from Fleet Street. The Temple (one of the Inns of Court) is on the southern side of Fleet Street, so perhaps Sir Mallaby’s firm is in one of the Inns associated with the Temple.

demurrer (p 129)

A demurrer is an objection that the plaintiff is not legally entitled to relief, even if the facts are as claimed.

replevin (p 129)

Replevin is something like bail, but for property, not people: When, in the course of a dispute, goods have been seized, the defendant can attempt to get them back until the case is decided, by lodging equivalent security with the court.

The People v. Schultz and Bowen (p 131)

Criminal cases in the US are conducted on behalf of the People; in Britain it is the Crown that prosecutes (“R. v. Schultz and Bowen”).

There doesn’t seem to be any obvious Wodehouse connection in the names.

Rupert Street Rifle Range (p 131)

Rupert Street is in Soho, just east of Piccadilly Circus, maybe 15 minutes’ walk from Fleet Street. Nowadays it’s known mostly for gay bars, but there’s no reason why there shouldn’t have been a shooting range there in the 1920s.

Miss Milliken (p 132)

Letter-writing was a lot easier in the days before PCs and “standard” clauses (provided you had an intelligent and experienced secretary)...

Sir Mallaby’s stenographer seems to be the only Milliken in the canon, although there are a couple of Mulligans.

(The physicist who measured the electron charge in 1909 was called Millikan, not Milliken.)

Brigney, Goole and Butterworth (p 132)

Brigney is a mystery - it seems to be very rare as a name, although rather common on the internet as a spelling mistake.

Goole is a town in East Yorkshire, developed as an inland port by the Aire and Calder Canal Company from 1826 onwards.

Butterworth is a fairly common English name (e.g. the name of a well-known publisher of legal textbooks).

None of these names features elsewhere in the canon, but there are quite a few Brinkleys, Gooches and Butterwicks.

Mr Wibblesley Eggshaw (p 132)

This name seems to stand alone! There are a few placenames of the Wibbsleigh/Wobbley type in the canon.

Hyacinth (p 133)

The original Hyacinth was a Greek youth, loved by Apollo, and killed in a sports accident. St Hyacinth (1185-1257), the “Apostle of the North,” was a Polish Dominican who did extensive missionary work in the countries around the Baltic.

The short story “Hyacinth” (1906) by Saki (H.H. Munro) features an evil small boy of that name.

Wodehouse, with good personal reasons, often makes little jokes about “dirty work at the font.” To be called Hyacinth would have been bad enough for a young man, even without the fashion for “flower names” (Rose, Daisy, Marigold, etc.) for girls, that led to the name Hyacinth swapping genders in the course of the 20th century.

Dante (p 133)

Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), Florentine poet. In his Inferno, he describes a visit to Hell.

Life is real! (p 134)

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
 Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
 And things are not what they seem.

Life is real—life is earnest—
 And the grave is not its goal:
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
 Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
 Is our destin’d end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
 Find us farther than today.

Art is long, and time is fleeting,
 And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
 Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
 In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
 Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
 Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act—act in the glorious Present!
 Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
 We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
 Footsteps on the sands of time.

Footsteps, that, perhaps another,
 Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
 Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us then be up and doing,
 with a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
 Learn to labor and to wait.

Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth (1807–1882) A Psalm of Life

 [Knickerbocker Magazine, September 1838, vol. 12, p. 189; updated 2015-12-08 NM; thanks to Dirk Laurie for spotting missing stanza]

Margate is too bracing (p 135)

Margate is on the north coast of Kent, and as such is probably a little windier than Sussex resorts like “Bingley”/Bexhill.

The phrase ‘ so bracing’ was originally used by a railway company (the Great Eastern or the LNER?) on its posters to advertise trains to the Lincolnshire resort of Skegness. The town later adopted the phrase ‘Skegness is so bracing’ (and the jolly fisherman depicted on the railway poster) for its own publicity purposes.

The girl is suing him... (p 136)

Under English law, an engagement to marry was regarded as a binding contract and the party who repudiated the engagement was liable to be sued for ‘breach of promise.’ As a consequence of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1970, actions for breach of promise were abolished as from 1 January 1971. An action for breach of contract was a civil law matter.

In an action for breach of promise, the plaintiff (man or woman) could sue for restitution of any pecuniary loss arising from outlay in anticipation of marriage. In some circumstances, a woman could also hope to be awarded substantial damages (‘heart-balm‘).

torts and misdemeanours (p 137)

A tort is a civil, as opposed to criminal, wrong.

Misdemeanour no longer has a technical meaning in English law, but before 1967 referred to criminal offences of types considered less serious than felonies.

Vic. I cap.3’s (p 137)

Statutes in Britain were formerly cited by the year of the sovereign’s reign in which they were given the Royal Assent (like the “Emperor Years” used for official documents in Japan). Nowadays calendar years are used for most purposes.

However, Sam doesn’t have the format quite right: conventionally, statutes from the first year of Queen Victoria’s reign (1837) should be cited as “1 Vict., c. 3” (etc.).

The statute in question is: An Act to carry into further Execution the Provisions of an Act for completing the full Payment of Compensation to Owners of Slaves upon the Abolition of Slavery.

pianola (p 141)

A pianola was a self-playing piano. Invented in 1896 by Edwin Votey of Detroit, USA, it was a popular form of home entertainment until the 1930s, when the significantly cheaper gramophone began to replace it. The device was operated by two foot pedals, which generated suction to drive a paper roll (a ‘piano roll’) across a pneumatic reading device. Perforations in the piano roll represented the music to be played, the individual perforations triggering a pneumatic motor, which caused the appropriate piano keys to be struck by felt-covered wooden ‘fingers’.

snowy white tie ... dinner jacket (p 141)

In most houses at this time, formal evening dress (with a tail-coat and a white tie) would only have been worn on particularly grand or formal occasions. On less formal occasions, gentlemen would wear the less formal dinner-jacket (US: “Tuxedo”), which came into fashion in the 1890s, with a black tie.

I can hear them on the stairs (p 143)

In larger town-houses, the main reception rooms would typically be on the first floor (US: second floor).

Chapter 9 (pp 144 - 158)
Rough Work at a Dinner Table

In the US edition, there is a meeting between Eustace and Sam at Bingley at the end of Chapter 8, while Chapter 9 contains Sam’s return to his father’s office (the second half of Chapter 8, pt.1, in the UK edition). The dinner party scene is not in the US edition at all.

Ouseley v. Ouseley, Figg, Mountjoy, Moseby-Smith and others (p 144)

The style of citation - plaintiff and respondent with the same surname - suggests that this is a complicated divorce case. The other parties named would be co-respondents, i.e. people alleged to have been involved in adultery with the respondent. Until the reform of the divorce laws in the 1960s, to prove adultery was in practice the only straightforward way to obtain a divorce.

Ouseley is an Irish name: Sir William Ouseley (1762-1849) was a great oriental scholar, who did a lot of field work in Persia, where his brother, Sir Gore Ouseley, was British ambassador. Sir Gore’s son, Sir Frederick Arthur Gore Ouseley (1825-1889) was a noted music educator and composer of English church music.

Gideon Ousely (no relation: 1762-1842) was a celebrated evangelical preacher in Ireland.

James Figg (1695-1734) was a celebrated boxer, usually credited as Britain’s first heavyweight champion.

William Blount, 8th and last Baron Mountjoy (1563-1606) was Queen Elizabeth’s Lord Lieutenant in Ireland. He was later created Earl of Devonshire.

The name Moseby seems to be more common in Denmark than in the English-speaking world, but it does appear occasionally.

orchestrion (p 155)

Orchestrion is a generic term for automatic musical devices that imitate an orchestra by playing a variety of instruments controlled by a punched paper roll. They were usually based around a piano or [reed-] organ mechanism. They could be fitted with an automatic roll-changer, allowing them to be used as coin-operated “nickelodeons”. Most seem to have been built in Germany.

Chapter 10 (pp 159 - 179)
Trouble at Windles

Chapter 10 is much shorter in the US edition - it goes straight from Mr Bennett looking out at the rain to his interview with Billie, omitting most of the incidents in the UK version.

Flood ... Noah (p 160)

As anyone who has lived in the North-West of England will confirm, it hardly rains at all in the South-East.

bridge (p 161)

This was presumably “Auction Bridge,” introduced into the English-speaking world in the 1890s, apparently from Russia or the Ottoman Empire (there seem to be many theories as to its precise origins). The modern form of “Contract Bridge,” which incorporates elements of the French game “plafond,” was developed by Harold S. Vanderbilt in 1925, some years after the first publication of The Girl on the Boat. (Bridge is also mentioned in Psmith in the City.)

fourteen cards (p 161)

In both forms of bridge, a 52-card pack is dealt to four players, so Mortimer should have thirteen cards.

bulldog (p 161)

Norman Murphy (In Search of Blandings (1986) Ch.V) traces Wodehouse’s bulldog period to a dog named Sammy (itself named after the bull-terrier in Mike) that Wodehouse was given in 1917.

Webster (p 164)

Horace Pendlebury-Davenport also has a valet called Webster (Uncle Fred in the Springtime), but the most celebrated Webster in the canon is indisputably the hero of “The Story of Webster” and “Cats will be Cats” (1932). Wodehouse probably got the name from the spine of his dictionary.

panama hat (p 164)

“Panama” hats are traditionally made in Ecuador(!) from the leaves of the screw-palm; the name comes from the fact that they were exported in large quantities to supply workers building the Panama Canal. They are undyed straw hats with a shape similar to a conventional trilby or Homburg, though usually with a slightly wider brim.

insects ... extra pairs of legs (p 166)

Not being a taxonomist, Mr Bennett can be forgiven for not knowing that insects always have six legs. Creepy-crawlies with extra legs belong to the other classes of arthropods: crustaceans, arachnids, or myriapods.

dropping like the gentle dew upon the place beneath (p 166)

The quality of mercy is not strain’d,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
’T is mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway,
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s,
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That in the course of justice none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy.

Shakespeare, William (1564-1616) Merchant of Venice IV:i

tam o’shanter (p 167)

A round Scottish bonnet with a bobble. Named, for unclear reasons, after the gloriously drunken hero of Robert Burns’s ballad.

Southampton ... twenty miles (p 168)

Southampton, as well as being a port, is the largest town in Hampshire. The distance of twenty miles would be consistent with Emsworth, where Wodehouse lived for a while. In this case, as Norman Murphy (In Search of Blandings (1986) p.185) suggests, Windles might be based in part on one of the big houses near Emsworth, e.g. Southleigh Park or Southwick House.

Of course, this begs the question of why Billie and the Mortimers went shopping in Southampton when they could have gone to the much nearer towns of Havant or Portsmouth, but presumably Wodehouse’s local knowledge told him that no self-respecting person would buy a Panama hat in Portsmouth.

Wilberforce v. Bayliss (p 171)

Wilberforce is the first name of Battling Billson, and the middle name of Bertie Wooster, as well as appearing as family name of a few minor characters. Bayliss seems to have been another name Wodehouse liked and kept coming back to. Note that the association with Mortimer stuck, and gave him the name of the art critic in Something Fishy.

Notice too how Wodehouse subtly distinguishes the lawyer Mortimer from the layman Bennett by exploiting the lawyers’ convention that v. [for versus] in the name of a case is pronounced “and”.

Mumps (p 175)

Wodehouse had a serious attack of mumps when he was nineteen.

Tosti's 'Goodbye' (p 176)

Tosti, Sir Francesco Paolo (1846-1916). Italian born composer and music teacher, a prominent member of the London musical establishment in the late 19th and early 20th century. ‘Goodbye’ (1881) is one of his most famous songs. The words were by George John Whyte-Melville. Also mentioned in A Damsel in Distress.

Consul, the Almost Human (p 176)

A cartoon character? - also appears as the nickname of one of the elderly golfers in “The Letter of the Law”.
Update: Consul was a performing chimpanzee trained by Frank Bostock, interviewed under the title “The King of Wild Animal Trainers” in The Captain for August 1908, p. 407–09. A 1913 newspaper advertisement of Consul’s upcoming appearance at the Exeter Hippodrome describes him as the “almost human” chimpanzee. [Neil Midkiff, 2014-06-20]

Savoy (p 178)

The Savoy Hotel was opened by Richard D’Oyly Carte in 1889. He employed César Ritz as hotel manager and Auguste Escoffier in the restaurant; it was legendary for its phenomenal number of bathrooms, and for being one of the first large scale applications of electric lighting in London.

Chapter 11 (pp 180 - 192)
MR. Bennett has a Bad Night

Chapter 11 is omitted altogether in the US edition.

lighting system (p 180)

Windles obviously has electricity to run the orchestrion, so the use of candles in the bedrooms must be a matter of choice, rather than necessity, on Mrs Hignett’s part.

...with the object of murdering her (p 187)

Does it tell us more about Jane or about Wodehouse that this seems to be the only motive men can have for entering her tent?

elephant gun (p 187)

The term “elephant gun” is used loosely by firearms enthusiasts for any ecessively large weapon.

At this period, hunters often used specially-built double .600 calibre rifles against harmless elephants and rhinos. One reason for Jane carrying it with her at all times might be that such a weapon would have cost about as much as a largish house or a diamond necklace. Firing one indoors might have had rather spectacular consequences, too...

Chapter 12 (pp 193 - 206)
The Lurid Past of Jno. Peters

Jno. is a conventional abbreviation for “John”. This chapter corresponds to Chapter 11 of the US edition.

Widgery on Nisi Prius evidence (p 193)

Widgery is a Devon surname. The only other Widgery in the canon seems to be a grocer in “Tried in the Furnace”.

Nisi Prius is Latin for “unless before”. A court of nisi prius is a local court that is used by consent of the parties instead of a Court of Record — the term comes from the old practice of issuing summonses to a hearing at the King’s Bench in Westminster when in practice the case would be heard before the stated date at the county Assize sessions. Due to various reforms in the court system, the term is largely obsolete in English law, although it still seems to be current in the US.

The standard text on nisi prius evidence seems to have been Isaac Espinasse, PRACTICAL TREATISE ON THE SETTLING OF EVIDENCE FOR TRIALS AT NISI PRIUS; AND ON THE PREPARING AND ARRANGING THE NECESSARY PROOFS, London; Joseph Butterworth and Son; 1825.

The most celebrated book on nisi prius law was by Francis Buller (1785).

Wodehouse may well have picked the term up from Ko-Ko’s little list — we have already had one reference to The Mikado, after all.

Lord Chief Justice Widgery (b.1911, LCJ 1971-1980), famous for his role in the “Bloody Sunday” report, the Oz case, Malone v. Metropolitan Police Commissioner, etc., seems to have been the only well-known English lawyer of this name, and of course was still a small child when this was written. However, it is a strange coincidence — the Lord Chief Justice, as President of the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court, the successor to the Assize courts, is probably the person best qualified to comment on nisi prius evidence!

And that Nisi Prius nuisance, who just now is rather rife,
The judicial humourist - I’ve got him on my list!

Gilbert, W.S. and Sullivan, A. The Miakado, or the Town of Titipu Act I (Ko-Ko’s patter song)

Copyhold and Customary Estates (p 193)

A form of tenure of land based on the customs of a manor and possession of a copy of the rolls of the manorial court. Copyhold was abolished by statute in 1922, so Sam’s efforts, should he get that far in the book, would have been of only rather short-term use.

It isn’t obvious why a book on court practice would deal with land-law.

mashie (p 193)

An iron golf club, like a niblick but with a straight face. Notice how Sam and Sir Mallaby have had their roles reversed here!

Walton Heath (p 194)

A golf club in Surrey, about 25km south of London. The course was designed by Herbert Fowler in 1903.

Raptu Haeredis ... holding in socage (p 194)

More properly de raptu haeredis - a writ by means of which a guardian could get his ward back after she had been abducted. Became obsolete somewhere around the fourteenth century, when such matters were taken over by the Court of Chancery.

Socage is an obsolete term for the feudal tenure of land other than by knight-service - clearly a word Wodehouse liked, as he has Uncle Fred use it whenever he needs a bit of obscure legal terminology. It has nothing to do with the abduction of heirs.

Again, unlikely topics to find in a book on nisi prius evidence.

a tort or a malfeasance (p 200)

For tort see p.137 above.

Malfeasance is the doing of a wrongful act, whether a tort or a crime, where the act itself is unlawful, as opposed to nonfeasance which is the omission of an act that a person is under a legal duty to do.

Putney (p 201)

A suburb on the south bank of the Thames, about 5km to the south-west of central London. Putney Bridge is familiar to Wodehouse fans as the finishing line of the Boat Race.

Ealing West (p 202)

More usually “West Ealing” - a suburb about 10km west of central London.

Home Whispers (p 203)

Seems to be fictitious - probably a reference to the title of Dickens’s magazine Household Words.

a small handbag (p 204)

This is obviously a handbag in the Importance of Being Earnest sense, i.e. a small holdall to be carried in the hands, rather than a lady’s purse.

in the next court (p 204)

The Inns where old law firms like Sir Mallaby’s have their chambers are traditionally laid out rather like colleges, with staircases opening off a series of courtyards.

Chapter 13 (pp 207 - 216)
Shocks All Round

This chapter corresponds to Chapter 12 of the US edition, which omits the last two words.

The Dangers of Diana (p 207)

Obviously a reference to the famous 1914 silent film serial The Perils of Pauline, in which Pearl White was forever being tied to railway tracks.

idée fixe (p 209)

French: fixed idea, obsession. The concept of the idée fixe is particularly associated with nineteenth century Romanticism, cf. for example Berlioz and his Symphonie Fantastique. [Or, for those who like to follow the more abstruse manifestations of French intellectualism, cf. Obélix’s dog, which is called Idéfix in French and Dogmatix in English...]

Chapter 14 (pp 217 - 226)
Strong Remarks by a Father

This chapter corresponds to Chapter 13 of the US edition, which has a little more at the beginning to explain Mr Bennett’s change of heart.

effecting (p 217)

Presumably a misprint for affecting

Waterloo ... Savoy (p 217)

If he was fit enough to walk the two miles to the local station, one wonders why Mr Bennett took a cab for the brief trip across Waterloo Bridge, which wouldn’t take much more than ten minutes on foot. From the Savoy to Fleet Street would be at most another five minutes’ walk.

Pure Food Committee (p 223)

Pure Food Committees seem to have been set up by residents of a number of US states around 1910, presumably as part of a national movement: it isn’t clear to me whether the idea was to inform consumers about what they were eating or to persuade legislators to do something about it.

Be careful, sir... (p 224)

Gally also uses this line in Summer Lightning.

Chapter 15 (pp 227 - 241)
Drama at a Country House

Corresponds to Chapter 14 in the US edition.

Aristotle ... pity and terror (p 227)

This is an allusion to Aristotle’s famous definition of tragedy as catharsis, or purging of the emotions.

Tragedy is an imitation of an action of high importance, complete and of some amplitude; in language enhanced by distinct and varying beauties; acted not narrated; by means of pity and terror effecting its purgation of these emotions.

Aristotle Poetics Ch.6

not compos (p 232)

non compos mentis - Latin: not of sound mind. A legal term, meaning that a person is not considered competent to transact legal business on his own behalf.

Sweet spirits of nitre! (p 232)

A solution of ethyl nitrite in alcohol, formerly commonly used for treating colic in infants, but which has fallen out of favour in recent years. Not recorded elsewhere as an exclamation...!

Blue Boar (p 232)

The White Boar was the badge of Richard III. After his defeat at the Battle of Bosworth, many pub landlords considered it politically advisable to repaint their signs a different colour (but why blue???).

Havant ... Cosham (p 238)

As Murphy (In Search of Blandings (1986)) points out, this suggests Southwick House, which lies just west of Havant and north of Cosham.

Miss Trimblett (p 238)

There don’t seem to be any other Trimbletts in the canon, but there are a number of Trimbles, notably Miss Trimble, the detective in Piccadilly Jim.

scullery-maid (p 240)

Scullery maids did the dirty work of the kitchen - washing-up, preparing vegetables, etc. The scullery is the annex to the kitchen where washing-up is done.

Mrs. Withers (p 240)

Cooks traditionally get an honorific “Mrs.” ex officio - whether married or not. There are no other Witherses in the canon, but there are a number of Witherspoons (genuine and otherwise!) in the later books.

raspberry (p 240)

Putting the tongue firmly between the lips and blowing, making a rude sound. From rhyming slang "raspberry tart."

Wodehouse seems to have been the first to use this (and the US equivalent "Bronx cheer") to mean a refusal or dismissal. Previously it was used for the noise itself, and more generally in the theatre for the booing of a play or act.

Nosegay Novelette (p 240)

A novelette is a short novel written for the popular market (as opposed to a novella, which is the same thing but with literary pretensions...). In “No Wedding Bells for Him” (1923) there is some talk of Primrose Novelettes.

Montagu Webster (p 240)

Could his first name be an ironic reference to Romeo and Juliet?

Chapter 16 (pp 242 - 256)
Webster, Friend in Need

Corresponds to Chapter 15 in the US edition.

ragged-robins (p 242)

A small wild flower, also known as cuckooflower or marsh-gillyflower (Lychnis floscuculi).

Lady Blanche Trefusis (p 242)

The passionate affair between Violet Trefusis (née Keppel, 1894-1972) and Vita Sackville-West attracted scandal when they eloped to Paris in 1920, with their respective husbands in hot pursuit in a private plane. Wodehouse presumably didn’t intend the similarity of the names - if he had wanted to refer to Mrs Trefusis, he would have covered his tracks a little better - but still, the resemblance seems too close to be a complete coincidence. Probably he had filed away the name in the back of his mind for future use when he read the newspaper stories, but later forgot where he got it from.

Chapter 17 (pp 257 - 312)
A Crowded Night

Corresponds to Chapter 16 of the US edition. Section 2 (the bedroom scene between Jane and Eustace) is omitted in the US edition, where Eustace has twisted his ankle, rather than contracting mumps.

Bennett, Mandelbaum & Co. (p 258)

Cf. Monty Bodkin’s prospective father-in-law, whose firm is called Butterwick, Price and Mandelbaum.

Nuronia (p 259)

While the White Star Line stuck to names ending in ‘-ic’, Cunard preferred names in ‘-ia’: Lusitania, Mauretania, Carpathia, Franconia, etc. Nearest to the fictitious Nuronia is probably the first RMS Caronia, launched in 1904, refitted after war service in 1919, and used on the Atlantic route until 1932. (Caronia is a town in Southern Italy.)

pas seul (p 262)

Ballet term: a dance performed by a single dancer.

green baize door (p 263)

The traditional separation between the public part of the house and the servants’ quarters: the green baize (the same material used to cover billiard tables) acted as sound insulation.

terpsichorean (p 264)

Dancing - in Greek myth, Terpsichore is the Muse of dance.

Issawassi River (p 264)

Fictitious: presumably the name is inspired by the Irrawaddy, the main river of Myanmar (Burma).

The principal river of central Africa is the Congo, of course - cf. p.269 below.

an Association football (p 265)

Association football (soccer) uses a spherical ball.

Othello ... Desdemona (p 266)

Notice how, even though the roles of the sexes here are reversed compared to the situation Shakespeare describes, Jane cannot depart from Wodehouse convention by proposing to Eustace!

Wherein I spake of most disastrous chances,
Of moving accidents by flood and field,  
Of hair-breadth ’scapes i’ the imminent deadly breach,  
Of being taken by the insolent foe  
And sold to slavery, of my redemption thence
And portance in my travel’s history;  
Wherein of antres vast and desarts idle,  
Rough quarries, rocks and hills whose heads touch heaven,  
It was my hint to speak, such was the process;
And of the Cannibals that each other eat,  
The Anthropophagi, and men whose heads  
Do grow beneath their shoulders. This to hear  
Would Desdemona seriously incline;

Shakespeare, William (1564-1616) Othello I:iii, 152-165

peace, perfect peace... (p 273)

Peace, perfect peace, in this dark world of sin?
The blood of Jesus whispers peace within.
Peace, perfect peace, by thronging duties pressed?
To do the will of Jesus, this is rest.
Peace, perfect peace, with sorrows surging round?
On Jesus’ bosom naught but calm is found.
Peace, perfect peace, with loved ones far away?
In Jesus’ keeping we are safe, and they.
Peace, perfect peace, our future all unknown?
Jesus we know, and he is on the throne.
Peace, perfect peace, death shadowing us and ours?
Jesus has vanquished death and all its powers.
It is enough: earth’s struggles soon shall cease,
And Jesus call us to heaven’s perfect peace.

Bickersteth, Edward H. (1875) Hymn

aequam memento rebus... (p 273)

(See Wodehouse’s translation in the text.)

Aequam memento rebus in arduis
servare mentem, non secus in bonis
ab insolenti temperatam
laetitia, moriture Delli !

Horace Odes Bk. II, 3, ll.1-4

...some watcher of the skies (p 277)

A new record - 277 pages without a reference to Keats’s sonnet - Uncle Fred In the Springtime, the previous record-holder, only manages 199.

Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told    
That deep-brow’d Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;    
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star’d at the Pacific—and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

Keats, John (1795-1821) On first looking into Chapman's Homer

Dempsey-Carpentier (p 277)

A very topical reference: the American boxer Jack Dempsey fought the French Georges Carpentier on 2 July 1921 - the match was billed as “the fight of the century”, and was the first major event to be broadcast on live radio across the whole United States.

Girton (p 277)

Ladies' college of Cambridge University. Founded at Hitchin in 1869, moved to a site two miles north of Cambridge in 1873. According to Norman Murphy (In Search of Blandings (1986) Ch.17) Wodehouse's cousin, the philosopher Dr Helen Marion Deane, was an undergraduate at Girton in 1898-1902, and was Mistress (head) of the college from 1931-1942.

Wellington ... “When in doubt, ... retire” (p 277)

Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington (1769-1852). I can’t find any evidence that he said this in so many words, but it certainly seems to have been the strategy that he followed when fighting numerically superior French forces in Spain.

sang-froid (p 279)

Nerve, presence of mind (literally: cold blood)

Muirfield, Hoylake, St. Andrew’s, Westward Ho, Hanger Hill, Mid-Surrey, Walton Heath, Sandwich (p 282)

All celebrated golf courses: Muirfield (near Edinburgh) and St. Andrew’s Fife are two of the most famous Scottish courses.

Hoylake is in the Wirral, near Liverpool; Westward Ho! is in Devon, Sandwich is in Kent, and the other three are on the outskirts of London.

Bastille (p 283)

Fortress in Paris, used as a prison in the 17th and 18th centuries. The storming of the Bastille on the 14th July 1789 was one of the great symbolic events of the French Revolution, although there were few if any political prisoners there at the time.

the table rocked... (p 286)

Another record? Almost three hundred pages without the demise of any occasional china...

Doctors’ Commons ... Court of Arches (p 311)

Without going too far into the complexities of English canon law, Doctors’ Commons, near St Paul’s, was the consistory court (court of first instance) for the Diocese of London, and gradually assumed the role of England’s main ecclesiastical court. Until the late 19th century, most matters relating to marriage would have been dealt with there, including the issue of special licences by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Vicar-General.

The Court of Arches acts as court of appeal for matters decided in the consistory courts.

special licence (p 311)

This can mean two different things. In the Anglican church, a special licence may be granted by the Archbishop of Canterbury to allow a couple to marry in a church other than that of the parish where one of them lives.

A special licence from the Registrar allows a civil marriage to take place with only one day’s notice, instead of the usual three weeks.

Sam has got the two mixed up. In principle, if his home is with his father in London, they should be able to marry in the parish church there without a special licence. For a church wedding, they would need a licence from the registrar to dispense with the need for the reading of banns, however.


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