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 Luck of the Bodkins 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.

The book was published on 11 October, 1935 by Herbert Jenkins in the UK, and (under the same title, for once) by Little, Brown in the US on 3 January, 1936.

Page references in these notes are based on the current (2000) Penguin paperback edition.



The action follows on a few months after that of Heavy Weather (1932). Pearls, Girls and Monty Bodkin (1972) resumes Monty’s adventures shortly after the point where the present book ends.

The title is perhaps inspired by things like E.F. Benson’s detective story The Luck of the Vails (1901).

Chapter 1 (Ch. 1; page 1)

Runs from pp 1 to 14 in the Penguin edition

Hotel Magnifique at Cannes (Ch. 1; page 1)

Cannes is, of course, a celebrated resort of the wealthy on the French Riviera - the Mediterranean coast. Before the war fashionable people went there only to escape the northern winter, preferring Normandy or the Atlantic coast in summer, but by the thirties it had become the fashion to go to the Riviera in the summer months and to the mountains in winter.

The Hotel Magnifique appears to be fictitious. Possibly it is based on the Hotel Splendid (not “Splendide” - that was a 1932 movie), which overlooks the yacht harbour.

In the early 1930s, Wodehouse was living near Auribeau, a little way north of Cannes. He moved to a house near Le Touquet in the north of France in 1935. Englishman is about to talk French (Ch. 1; page 1)

Wodehouse took lessons at the Berlitz School in Cannes, but claims never to have mastered the language, although when he was living in Paris at the end of the war he was able to read French novels without any difficulty.

Wodehouse had used a similar version of this joke in The Adventures of Sally (1922):

He braced himself with that painful air of effort which announces to the world that an Englishman is about to speak a language other than his own.

[Wodehouse, P.G. The Adventures of Sally ]

Gertrude Butterwick (Ch. 1; page 1)

Gertrude is mentioned in Heavy Weather, but does not appear in person.

There are villages called Butterwick in Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Co. Durham, Westmoreland, and Dorset (at least...).

Monty Bodkin (Ch. 1; page 1)

Monty first appeared two years earlier in Heavy Weather. Wodehouse had used the name “Bodkin” in the early Kid Brady and Reggie Pepper stories.

A bodkin is a large needle or hairpin - the word probably comes from the Welsh word for a dagger, and it originally meant dagger or stiletto in English.

When he himself might his quietus make with a bare bodkin.

[Shakespeare, William (1564-1616) Hamlet III:i]

Er, Garçon... (Ch. 1; page 1)

‘Er, waiter.’


‘Er, waiter, do you have a spot of ink and a piece of paper - notepaper, you know - and an envelope and a pen?’

‘Very good, sir.’

There is a lot going on here:

Notice how Wodehouse is subtly exaggerating Monty’s difficulty in speaking French by rendering ‘est-ce que’ as ‘esker’ - it looks odd, but it is in fact a phonetic British-RP-English representation of the correct French pronunciation.

spot (as in ‘a spot of whisky-and-soda’) is Drones idiom - there is no French word ‘spot’. In normal French, one would say ‘de l’encre’ (some ink).

pièce is more specific than English ‘piece’ and doesn’t make sense in this context (Monty’s expression could mean something like ‘a room of paper’). Normal French would be ‘du papier’ (some paper) or ‘une feuille de papier’ (a sheet of paper).

note-papier should be ‘papier à lettres’

plume is the word for ‘pen’ famously used in British French lessons (‘la plume de ma tante’). It seems somewhat archaic today, but at the time an old-fashioned pen of the type you have to dip in the ink would have been the most likely item for the hotel to provide.

To add even more emphasis, Wodehouse represents the waiter’s speech with all its colloquial elisions: ‘m’sieur, v’là, ben’ not ‘monsieur, voilà, bien’.

‘Right ho, m’sieur’ (Ch. 1; page 2)

This is most odd: How does a French waiter, who gets all his English vowels wrong and says ‘zere’ for ‘there,’ manage to pronounce ‘Right ho’ - a phrase with at least three sounds that don’t occur in French - idiomatically? We have to assume (a) that Wodehouse felt the reader would be getting the idea by now, and further silly accents would be a distraction and (b) that the ‘h’ - one of the biggest problems in English for French speakers - is silent in ‘Right ho’ as pronounced by Monty.

Ambrose Tennyson (Ch. 1; page 2)

see below

Eden Rock (Ch. 1; page 2)

A famous hotel on the southern tip of the Cap d’Antibes, about 10km east of Cannes.

A.M. (Ch. 1; page 2)

Alpes Maritimes - the French département (administrative region) containing Nice and Cannes.

a couple of islands ... some mountains (Ch. 1; page 3)

The Ile Sainte Marguerite (with its Fort Royal, supposed to have been the prison of the “Man in the Iron Mask”) and Ile Saint Honorat are the largest of the Iles de Lérins, which close off the bay of Cannes to the east.

Along the coast west of Cannes are the mountains of the Massif de l’Esterel, rising to about 600m.

Ivor Llewellyn (Ch. 1; page 3)

This is Llewellyn’s first appearance. He reappears in Frozen Assets, Pearls Girls and Monty Bodkin, and Bachelors Anonymous.

In this book he is an obvious caricature of central European film magnates like Sam Goldwyn, and has clearly adopted Llewellyn as an ‘American-sounding’ name. Presumably then we should pronounce it “Loo-Ellin” and not as if it were Welsh.

In the later novels he is a genuine Welshman and much less ignorant - possibly Wodehouse was afraid of being accused of anti-semitism.

Llewellyn is a traditional name used by Welsh princes: the most famous was the 13th century Llewellyn ap Gruffudd, who fought against Edward I.

The novelist Richard Llewellyn only became well-known with the publication of How Green Was My Valley, five years after The Luck of the Bodkins.

bohunkus (Ch. 1; page 4)

This seems to be a Wodehouse invention. The nearest thing listed in the OED is bohunk, which is a late 19th century American slang term for an immigrant from central or eastern Europe (especially Hungary or Bohemia).

Clearly Monty just means that Butterwick is annoying or unpleasant.

Blue Train (Ch. 1; page 5)

Luxury train between Paris and the Côte d’Azur, first ran in 1922. The name has become a synonym for luxury in many fields.

[Anne-Marie Chanet adds:] Agatha Christie’s The Mystery of the Blue Train had been published in 1928, and PGW was a fan of Christie’s. However, he must have travelled to and fro on that train, so perhaps Christie's book is irrelevant.

Listen, Ikey (Ch. 1; page 6)

If Llewellyn had really been christened Ivor, it is unlikely that his intimates would be calling him “Ikey,” which is usually short for Isaac. In the later books his friends call him “Jumbo.”

some quail before income tax assessors (Ch. 1; page 7)

Wodehouse’s long-running battle with the US tax authorities was one of the main reasons for his choosing to live in France in the thirties.

Apache ... While Paris Sleeps (Ch. 1; page 9)

The Apaches were the Paris gangs of the early 20th century.

Possibly this is a reference to the celebrated Joan Crawford movie Paris of 1926. Grayce certainly seems to have a lot in common with the sort of parts Miss Crawford used to play. Interestingly, she worked for MGM, so Wodehouse may well have come across her during his spell in Hollywood in 1931. In 1935 she had just been divorced from Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

Comme ça, m’sieur... (Ch. 1; page 10)

Like this, sir...

The joke here, of course, is that the French don’t just spell the word for ‘sciatica’ differently from the English, but they also pronounce the letters differently - something neither Monty nor the waiter seems to be aware of. The waiter is giving Monty information which any French speaker would recognise as clear and correct, but which appears nonsensical in English.

A problem Wodehouse would frequently have come across as an Englishman living in France!

Ming vase (Ch. 1; page 10)

The Ming dynasty ruled China from 1368 to 1644. This long period of political stability saw some of the finest achievements of Chinese arts, especially in the field of ceramics.

Uncle Percy (Ch. 1; page 10)

Nothing further seems to be known about this uncle. In Heavy Weather it came out that Sir Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe is also Monty’s uncle. He is mentioned briefly below.

New Deal (Ch. 1; page 10)

The New Deal was a programme of economic and social reforms brought in by US president Franklin D. Roosevelt between 1933 and 1939 to help the United States recover from the depression of the 1930s. Roosevelt's measures aroused a lot of opposition, in particular from conservative politicians.

Even I knew there wasn’t an ‘r’ in it. (Ch. 1; page 10)

The French pronounce the letter ‘a’ as ‘ah’ when spelling - an English listener would understand this as ‘r’.

osteopath (Ch. 1; page 12)

Osteopathy is a form of alternative therapy, developed by A.T. Still in 1874, based on the idea that illness is due to the derangement of muscles and bones, and can be treated by physical manipulation. To practice as an osteopath in the US, Mabel would have had to qualify as a conventional physician first.

In America every practitioner of any branch of the healing art, even a chiropodist or an osteopath, is a doctor ipso facto, but in England a good many surgeons lack the title and it is not common in the lesser ranks.

[Mencken, H.L. The American Language (1921)]

Que est-il maintenant? (Ch. 1; page 13)

Monty has translated the English idiom “What is it now?” word for word into French, with bizarre results. More normal French would be “Qu’est-ce que c’est maintenant?”

Une telegramme pour moi? (Ch. 1; page 14)

A telegram for me?

Tout droit. (Ch. 1; page 14)

Again, translating English idiom word for word, Monty thinks this means ‘all right’ - in fact it means ‘straight ahead.’

Donnez-le ici (Ch. 1; page 14)

Literally ‘Give it here’. Not a normal French expression.

Chapter 2 (Ch. 2; page 15)

Runs from pp 15 to 24 in the Penguin edition

Waterloo (Ch. 2; page 15)

Waterloo station is a London railway terminus located just south of the river Thames. It was opened in 1848 to serve the London and Southampton Railway Company's line to Southampton. This company later became part of the London and South Western Railway, and from 1923 the Southern Railway. The old Waterloo was famously chaotic, comprising at least four separate stations that had grown together over the years, but the LSWR rebuilt it completely to something like its modern form in 1922. The station serves much of the South-West of England, including the seaside resorts of Hampshire, Dorset and Devon. It was the terminus for boat trains to the port of Southampton.

the liner Atlantic (Ch. 2; page 15)

Obviously fictitious, as she plays so large a part in the rest of the story. The White Star line, which lost its independent identity in 1935, used names ending in ‘-ic’ for its postwar ships (Britannic, Majestic, etc.).

The Majestic features in Anita Loos’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1926).

...asking the bookstall clerk if he had anything by Ambrose Tennyson (Ch. 2; page 15)

Wodehouse is presumably using this joke to establish Ambrose as an insecure young writer, trying to drum up trade, rather than suggesting that he is so vain he will only read his own books. By 1935, Wodehouse himself was too famous to try this, but surely he must have resorted to it himself in his impecunious youth?

Unusually, Wodehouse puts in an unnecessary Americanism here - both Ambrose and the W.H. Smith employee at the bookstall would presumably have used the word ‘assistant’ rather than ‘clerk’.

Ladies’ Hockey (Ch. 2; page 15)

This is field hockey, of course, a game much played in girls’ schools in Britain. Ice hockey was relatively unknown in Britain.

Bath bun (Ch. 2; page 15)

A sticky, sugar-coated bun, decorated with raisins or candied fruit.

shortly after nine (Ch. 2; page 15)

Nowadays it takes about an hour and a quarter to travel from Waterloo to Southampton Central. A boat train to the Ocean Terminal station in the thirties would certainly have taken under two hours, leaving plenty of time for passengers to transfer to the ship.

Admiralty (Ch. 2; page 15)

The department of the British government responsible for the Royal Navy. Ambrose was evidently a civil servant. A naval officer wouldn’t have been able to resign so easily.

Anne-Marie Chanet points out that Raymond Chandler (who was at Dulwich shortly after Wodehouse) worked for some time as a clerk at the Admiralty before resigning to become a full-time journalist. It is hard to say whether this is coincidence or a buried joke. Wodehouse might well have been aware of Chandler’s career, as he continued to take a close interest in his old school.

when does the balloon go up? (Ch. 2; page 20)

This seems to be First World War slang for ‘When does it start?’ - possibly because the artillery bombardment that marked the start of a battle would be preceded by the launch of captive balloons for spotters to mark the fall of the shells.

Montague Bodkin (Ch. 2; page 21)

Somewhere between this book and Pearls, Girls and Monty Bodkin, Monty changes his first name to ‘Montrose’.

levin flash (Ch. 2; page 23)

Levin is an archaic word for lightning, popular with nineteenth century poets (especially Sir Walter Scott).

Nurslings of nature, I mark your bold bearing,
Pride in each aspect and strength in each form,
Hearts of warm impulse, and souls of high daring,
Born in the battle and rear'd in the storm.
The red levin flash and the thunder's dread rattle,
The rock-riven wave and the war trumpet's breath,
The din of the tempest, the yell of the battle,
Nerve your steeled bosoms to danger and death.

[Drake, Joseph Rodman (1795-1820) Niagara II]

Chapter 3 (Ch. 3; page 25)

Runs from pp 25 to 32 in the Penguin edition.

Morning Post (Ch. 3; page 26)

The Morning Post was founded in 1772. It ceased publication in 1937, when it was amalgamated into another national daily.

wheels within wheels (Ch. 3; page 26)

The first occurrence in this book of Monty’s famous catchphrase. There doesn’t seem to be a precise origin for this cliché, but it may possibly come from the Hebrew scriptures. David Rosenbaum suggests Ezekiel 1:16 as the ultimate source. It also seems to occur a lot in theosophy - perhaps Wodehouse picked it up from his brother.

(Not strictly relevant, but it is nice to see that the eminent motorist, Lord Montagu, took this phrase as the title for his autobiography, published in 2001.)

16  The appearance of the wheels and their work was like unto the color of a beryl: and they four had one likeness: and their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel.

[Bible Ezekiel 1:16]

Streatley (Ch. 3; page 27)

Village on the Thames, between Reading and Oxford, situated in the gap where the Thames passes through the ridge of the North Downs. Streatley is on the Berkshire side and Goring directly opposite on the Oxfordshire bank.

Gretna Green (Ch. 3; page 29)

Village in Dumfriesshire; the first village in Scotland for travellers from England by the west coast route.

Scottish law allowed for marriage by a public declaration of mutual consent, and until 1854 there was no requirement for a period of notice beforehand, so many eloping couples from England were married at the smithy in Gretna Green. Although this particular legal anomaly was abolished long ago, the romantic reputation persists.

three-volume novel (Ch. 3; page 29)

Most 19th century publishers brought out novels as three volume (“triple-decker”) editions. This was a format especially popular with lending libraries. Thus Reggie is making a joke about the conventions of Victorian popular fiction. Cf. also the references in Spring Fever to volume II of Percy’s Promise by Marcia Huddlestone.

Tiny Tots ... Blandings Castle (Ch. 3; page 29)

cf. Heavy Weather

Catsmeat Potter-Pirbright (Ch. 3; page 32)

At this point the distinguished actor is just a name - he has a small part to play in The Code of the Woosters (1939) and he appears in his own right in The Mating Season (1954).

Chapter 4 (Ch. 4; page 33)

Runs from pp 33 to 40 in the Penguin edition.

R.M.S. (Ch. 4; page 33)

Royal Mail Ship - this confirms that the Atlantic must be a British-registered vessel. The White Star ships mostly sailed from Southampton, while the Cunard line was based at Liverpool.

Cherbourg (Ch. 4; page 33)

Liners starting from Southampton could conveniently cross the Channel and pick up continental passengers at Cherbourg in Normandy. To save time, they would normally anchor offshore and take on passengers from a tender (a smaller vessel), rather than manoeuvre to moor at the quay. In much the same way, liners from Liverpool would call at an Irish port.

secret dug-out (Ch. 4; page 34)

Another bit of first world war jargon. Monty would be too young to have served, of course, but expressions like this entered everyday language after the war.

stinker (Ch. 4; page 35)

Cigarette - obviously a variant of the more usual ‘gasper’.

initialling memoranda in triplicate (Ch. 4; page 35)

A traditional recreation of civil servants everywhere.

dancing hornpipes (Ch. 4; page 35)

A hornpipe is a traditional sailors’ dance. Reggie has condensed into two short phrases the central joke of HMS Pinafore.

Stick close to your desks and never go to sea
Then you all may be rulers of the Queen’s Nav-ee

[Gilbert, William S. HMS Pinafore ]

mysterious Chinaman (Ch. 4; page 36)

These feature most particularly in the Fu Manchu novels of Sax Rohmer, of course, but are a stock cliché of early-20th century thrillers. Compare Freddie Widgeon’s description of Bottleton East: ‘Like Limehouse, but with fewer mysterious Chinamen’ (‘The Masked Troubadour’).

fifteen hundred dollars a week (Ch. 4; page 36)

Wodehouse got $2500 a week from MGM when he was under contract to them in 1931. Notice how this salary, while absurdly generous, still clearly labels Ambrose as a writer not in the same league as PG Wodehouse!

In fact, because Wodehouse frankly told the papers that he was fed up with taking ridiculous amounts of money from MGM without being given anything sensible to do, the studios’ bankers clamped down on this sort of thing after 1931.

Angry Cheese (Ch. 4; page 37)

Some day, we shall have to tabulate the night clubs and restaurants in Wodehouse’s London...

The most complete list is probably in “Came the Dawn” : ‘the Mauve Mouse, the Scarlet Centipede, the Vicious Cheese, the Gay Fritter, the Placid Prune, the Café de Bologna, Billy’s, Milly’s, Ike’s, Spike’s, Mike’s, and the Ham and Beef.’ To which we should add Mario’s and the late-lamented Hot Spot from Summer Lightning.

Chapter 5 (Ch. 5; page 41)

Runs from pp 41 to 49 in the Penguin edition.

mot juste (Ch. 5; page 43)

French: correct, exact word

renig (Ch. 5; page 43)

The OED lists this as a US spelling of renege.

purser (Ch. 5; page 45)

In the days of sailing ships, the purser was effectively the ship’s banker, and among his responsibilities was the purchase of consumable supplies, which he then sold to the ship’s company and passengers during the voyage. By the twentieth century this had evolved into overall responsibility for everything connected with the accommodation and feeding of passengers: as such he would be the ship’s officer who had most contact with passengers.

Southampton ... Portsmouth (Ch. 5; page 47)

Perhaps not: Portsmouth is about 20km from Southampton. Perhaps Wodehouse was thinking of Portsmouth and Gosport, which face each other across a narrow harbour entrance, or even Southampton and Cowes, which are at opposite ends of Southampton Water.

The Super-Bijou cinema is presumably fictitious.

continuity writers (Ch. 5; page 47)

People in a film production team who are responsible for avoiding inconsistencies between one scene and another, and would thus have plenty of scope for making awkward objections.

Chapter 6 (Ch. 6; page 50)

Runs from pp 50 to 63 in the Penguin edition.

Deck B (Ch. 6; page 50)

Terminology varies a little, but most liners seem to have followed the convention of labelling the level immediately below the main open deck as “A”, the level below that as “B”, etc.

Levels above the main deck would be identified by their function (“Promenade deck,” “Sun deck,” etc.), and be occupied mainly by public rooms. First class accommodation was normally on the upper few levels under the main deck, well above the waterline.

King Arthur ... Guinevere (Ch. 6; page 52)

In Tennyson's Idylls of the King, a retelling of the medieval Arthurian legends, Queen Guinevere has had an affair with Lancelot during Arthur's absence. On Arthur's return, she flees in panic to the convent at Almesbury, where he finds her.

Wodehouse's memory may be playing him a little false here - Tennyson does not tell us anything about the look on Arthur's face, as we see the scene from Guinevere's point of view, and she dares not look him in the eye.

. . . . . She sat
Stiff-stricken, listening; but when armed feet
Through the long gallery from the outer doors
Rang coming, prone from off her seat she fell,
And grovelled with her face against the floor:
There with her milkwhite arms and shadowy hair
She made her face a darkness from the King:
And in the darkness heard his armed feet
Pause by her; then came silence, then a voice,
Monotonous and hollow like a Ghost's
Denouncing judgment, but though changed, the King's:
‘Liest thou here so low, the child of one
I honoured, happy, dead before thy shame?
Well is it that no child is born of thee. [...]’

[Tennyson, Alfred Lord (1809-1892) Idylls of the King - Guinevere ]

chap in the Old Testament ... Jacob (Ch. 6; page 52)

Fortunately, Gertrude doesn’t seem to have an elder sister! However, Jacob only had to toil twice seven years, while Monty’s servitude started with Heavy Weather in 1933 and only ended with Pearls, Girls and Monty Bodkin in 1972.

16  And Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Le'ah, and the name of the younger was Rachel.
17  Le'ah was tender eyed; but Rachel was beautiful and well-favored.
18  And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter.
19  And Laban said, It is better that I give her to thee, than that I should give her to another man: abide with me.
20  And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her.
21  ¶ And Jacob said unto Laban, Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in unto her.
22  And Laban gathered together all the men of the place, and made a feast.
23  And it came to pass in the evening, that he took Le'ah his daughter, and brought her to him; and he went in unto her.
24  And Laban gave unto his daughter Le'ah Zilpah his maid for a handmaid.
25  And it came to pass, that in the morning, behold, it was Le'ah: and he said to Laban, What is this thou hast done unto me? did not I serve with thee for Rachel? wherefore then hast thou beguiled me?
26  And Laban said, It must not be so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn.
27  Fulfil her week, and we will give thee this also for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven other years.
28  And Jacob did so, and fulfilled her week: and he gave him Rachel his daughter to wife also.
29  And Laban gave to Rachel his daughter Bilhah his handmaid to be her maid.
30  And he went in also unto Rachel, and he loved also Rachel more than Le'ah, and served with him yet seven other years.

[Bible Genesis 29:16-30]

glittering ... eye (Ch. 6; page 53)

IT is an ancient Mariner,  
And he stoppeth one of three.  
'By thy long beard and glittering eye,  
Now wherefore stopp'st thou me?  
The Bridegroom's doors are opened wide,
And I am next of kin;  
The guests are met, the feast is set:  
May'st hear the merry din.'  
He holds him with his skinny hand,  
'There was a ship,' quoth he.
'Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!'  
Eftsoons his hand dropt he.  
He holds him with his glittering eye—  
The Wedding-Guest stood still,  
And listens like a three years' child:  
The Mariner hath his will.  
The Wedding-Guest sat on a stone:  
He cannot choose but hear;  
And thus spake on that ancient man,  
The bright-eyed Mariner.

[Coleridge, Samuel Taylor (1772-1834) The Rime of the Ancient Mariner I:1-20]

ruth or pity (Ch. 6; page 54)

Ruth is a synonym for pity: this is a poetic cliché, probably not a specific allusion.

And speak me no soft words in ruth or pity, but tell me plainly what sight thou didst get of him. Ah! I pray thee, if ever at all my father, noble Odysseus, made promise to thee of word or work, and fulfilled the same in the land of the Trojans, where ye Achaeans suffered affliction; these things, I pray thee, now remember and tell me truth.’

[Homer, tr. S.H. Butcher & A. Lang Odyssee III]

throw in the towel (Ch. 6; page 54)

In boxing, a contestant deciding to abandon the fight between rounds would signal defeat by throwing a towel into the ring.

My left elbow... (Ch. 6; page 55)

Seems to be a Wodehouse invention. Obviously a playful variation on expressions of incredulity like “my foot.”

Ian Michaud suggests:

Could this be an echo from Act Two of "The Mikado"? In a slab of dialogue Katisha is heard boosting her many charms by saying, "I have a left shoulder-blade that is a miracle of loveliness. People come miles to see it. My right elbow has a fascination that few can resist (...) And, as for my circulation, it is the largest in the world."

Later, after Pooh-Bah, Pitti-Sing and Ko-Ko had been condemned to death, it was decided that the only way for them to win a reprieve would be for Ko-Ko to marry Katisha To encourage him to make this grisly sacrifice Pitti-Sing and Pooh-Bah reminded the reluctant bridegroom that despite her unattractive face Katisha possessed "a left elbow which people come miles to see and a right heel that is much admired by connoisseurs."

brown plush Mickey Mouse (Ch. 6; page 61)

Walter Elias Disney (1901-1966) made his first animated cartoons in Kansas City after serving with the Red Cross in the First World War. He moved to Hollywood in 1923 to set up a production company with his brother Roy O. Disney. The character Mickey Mouse was created in 1928, first appearing in Steamboat Willy.

Of course, the mouse has always been black with a white face (these were after all the only colours available at the time). Successive cover artists illustrating this book have avoided the need for Wodehouse’s publishers to pay license fees to the Disney Corporation by drawing mice that look nothing like Mickey.

Chapter 7 (Ch. 7; page 64)

Runs from pp 64 to 71 in the Penguin edition.

flappers (Ch. 7; page 64)

Late 19th century slang for girls in their late teens, usually used as here to convey a sense of flightiness. Although it is usually supposed to come from the hunting term ‘flapper’ meaning a young duck or partridge just able to fly, the OED suggests that it may instead come from the Northumbrian dialect ‘flap’, an immoral woman.

medicine ball (Ch. 7; page 64)

A heavy ball, about the size of a football, used for strength-building in some exercise systems.

Malibu Beach (Ch. 7; page 64)

An exclusive resort near Santa Monica, California. The sort of place where a film magnate might live.

Angel of Mercy (Ch. 7; page 65)

To the wounded soldier on his couch of agony she might well appear in the guise of a gracious angel of mercy; but the military surgeons, and the orderlies, and her own nurses, and the Purveyor, and Dr. Hall, and even Lord Stratford himself could tell a different story.

[Strachey, Lytton Eminent Victorians - Florence Nightingale II]

fits ... like the paper on the wall (Ch. 7; page 65)

This expression, which may come originally from an old music-hall song(?), was already a cliché by 1900. However, Wodehouse may have been the first to use it of abstract qualities; it is normally used of clothes (Wodehouse had used it this way in The Indiscretions of Archie, for instance).

magic lantern (Ch. 7; page 66)

An early type of slide projector, a popular form of entertainment in the 19th century.

sweetness and light (Ch. 7; page 66)

The phrase "sweetness and light" seems to have been first used by Jonathan Swift in The Battle of the Books  (1710):

For the rest, whatever we have got, has been by infinite Labor, and search, and ranging thro' every Corner of Nature:  The Difference is, that instead of Dirt and Poison, we have rather chose to till our Hives with Honey and Wax, thus furnishing Mankind with the two Noblest of Things, which are Sweetness and Light.

The phrase also occurs twice in the works of Matthew Arnold:

The pursuit of perfection, then, is the pursuit of sweetness and light.

Culture and Anarchy,   chap 1   (1869)

Culture is the passion for sweetness and light.

Literature and Dogma,   Preface   (1873)

Richard Usborne (The Penguin Wodehouse Companion) notes that Matthew Arnold "was related by marriage to the Wodehouse family", though this appears not to be mentioned in any of the several biographies of Wodehouse. [AGOL]

au revoir (Ch. 7; page 67)

A conventional French way of saying goodbye, meaning something like ‘until [we] see [each other] again.’

cottage piano (Ch. 7; page 68)

A piano intended for domestic use, made with a vertical frame to reduce the amount of floorspace it occupies.

Soul's Awakening (Ch. 7; page 69)

A sentimental mezzotint engraving by Charles John Tomkins (1847-1897), published by Graves in 1892. Also used as the title of a book by Rudolf Steiner (published 1922).

Bob Montgomery (Ch. 7; page 69)

The distinguished actor and director Robert Montgomery (born Henry Montgomery Jr. in 1904) who appeared in many MGM films of the thirties playing sophisticated “playboy” types and served for four terms as president of the actors’ union, the Screen Actors’ Guild.

Chapter 8 (Ch. 8; page 72)

Runs from pp 72 to 78 in the Penguin edition.

Albert Eustace Peasemarch (Ch. 8; page 72)

Peasemarch is also the surname of the Earl of Bodsham (“Fate” and “Bramley is so Bracing”). Wodehouse apparently based the character on a real steward he met on one of his many Atlantic crossings, but the name comes from the engineer of Henry Savage’s yacht Dorinda.

Peasemarch later reappears in Cocktail Time.

Columbus (Ch. 8; page 74)

Cristoforo Colombo (1451-1506), Genoese sailor, who sailed from Spain to the Bahamas and Hispaniola in 1492. Although he reached the continent of South America on a later voyage, he never found North America, but his voyages did mark the start of regular European commercial activity in the Americas.

His largest ship was the Santa María, believed to have been about 23m long by 8m beam, with a crew of 41. The RMS Britannic of 1930 (presumably similar to the fictitious Atlantic) was 214m long with a beam of 24.7m, and carried 1553 passengers.

Jimmy the One (Ch. 8; page 76)

This expression in a naval vessel usually refers to the first lieutenant (US: executive officer). Thus, when used in a passenger ship, one would have thought it more likely to mean the first officer than the chief steward.

see jew-ness savvay (Ch. 8; page 77)

This is the first half of a well-known proverb, si jeunesse savait, si vieillesse pouvait! i.e. "if only the young knew [how to...], if only the old could [...] !" - which makes sense, I think, even though it's French. The young have inexhaustible energy, but no knowledge / technique / savoir-faire, whereas it's the opposite for the old.

[Anne-Marie Chanet]

My strop? (Ch. 8; page 77)

Men used a leather strap to sharpen (or “strop”) their cut-throat razors: this would usually be kept hanging on the bathroom wall.

Fratton (Ch. 8; page 77)

A district about a mile to the east of the centre of Portsmouth.

The writing was on the wall (Ch. 8; page 78)

Yet another reference to Wodehouse’s favourite book of the Old Testament. For more on Belshazzar, see also p79 below.

1  Belshaz'zar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand.

2  ¶ Belshaz'zar, while he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnez'zar had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem; that the king and his princes, his wives and his concubines, might drink therein.

3  Then they brought the golden vessels that were taken out of the temple of the house of God which was at Jerusalem; and the king and his princes, his wives and his concubines, drank in them.

4  They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone.

5  ¶ In the same hour came forth fingers of a man's hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaster of the wall of the king's palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote.

[Bible Daniel 5:1-5]

Chapter 9 (Ch. 9; page 79)

Runs from pp 79 to 88 in the Penguin edition.

Belshazzar (Ch. 9; page 79)

Little seems to be known about this last king of Babylon, who was the son of Nebuchadnezzar and ruled ca. 560-540 BCE. According to the OT, Babylon fell to the Medes (the Bible says Darius, but it was probably Cyrus) the very night the writing appeared on the wall.

Sir William Walton’s celebrated oratorio on this subject was first performed in 1931.

Mene mene tekel upharsin (Ch. 9; page 79)

Aramaic: “It has been counted and counted, weighed and divided.”

In fact Belshazzar seems to have had no idea what this meant (probably he didn’t speak Aramaic anyway) until Daniel helpfully explained.

solar plexus ... medicine ball (Ch. 9; page 80)

Strictly-speaking, the solar plexus is a concentration of nerve cells located under the diaphragm and behind the stomach, which controls the functioning of the digestive system. Loosely it is used to refer to the stomach area when talking about painful blows.

For medicine ball, see p.64 above.

shimmying (Ch. 9; page 80)

The shimmy was a dance, similar to the foxtrot but with more shaking about, which was mainly popular in the 1920s. Wodehouse wrote the lyrics of “Shimmy with me” for the 1922 show The Cabaret Girl.

Start up the music and
Come out and shimmy with me!
Just try to feel
As if you've swallowed an eel;
You'll find that helps a good deal!

[Wodehouse, P.G. Shimmy with me ]

a wild surmise (Ch. 9; page 80) old friend!

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 ]

my alligator (Ch. 9; page 81)

Don’t try this at home! Murphy cites a number of examples of actresses keeping exotic pets as publicity stunts, though not alligators. Presumably Lottie’s alligator is very young, but nonetheless, as Peasemarch observes, it would already be dangerous if you got too close to it, and there is no real evidence that alligators learn to distinguish their handlers from other potential food items.

[Murphy, N. T. P., In Search of Blandings (1986) ]

different spears (Ch. 9; page 83)

spheres - an allusion to the Platonic idea that the earth and heavens consist of a series of concentric spheres.

panto (Ch. 9; page 83)


dooser ... scupperguts (Ch. 9; page 85)

As Wodehouse must have had ample opportunity to pick up the jargon on his many Atlantic crossings, these are probably authentic. There doesn’t seem to be any independent confirmation of their use in this context. Dooser/deucer seems to be fairly common as a slang term for someone who is second in a hierarchy.

dossed (Ch. 9; page 86)

To doss is to sleep, especially to sleep rough.

Old Man (Ch. 9; page 86)

Captain - this at least is standard maritime jargon.

undeliable (Ch. 9; page 86)


knotted and combined locks … porpentine (Ch. 9; page 86)

This is another old favourite, especially with Bertie Wooster.

I am thy father's spirit,
Doom'd for a certain term to walk the night,
And for the day confined to fast in fires,
Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature
Are burnt and purged away. But that I am forbid
To tell the secrets of my prison-house,
I could a tale unfold whose lightest word
Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,
Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres,
Thy knotted and combined locks to part
And each particular hair to stand on end,
Like quills upon the fretful porpentine:
But this eternal blazon must not be
To ears of flesh and blood. List, list, O, list!
If thou didst ever thy dear father love--

[Shakespeare, William (1564-1616) Hamlet I.v]

war ... lipstick (Ch. 9; page 87)

Peasemarch presumably means the first world war, but is apparently unaware that women have been colouring their lips since at least ancient Egyptian times. The OED records the first use of the word “lipstick” in English as 1880.

that bloke in Switzerland shooting the German Emperor (Ch. 9; page 87)

The incident usually considered to have been the immediate cause of the first world war was the assassination of the Archduke Franz-Ferdinand, the heir to the Austrian Emperor, at Sarajevo in Bosnia, by the Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip (28 June 1914). Peasemarch has his facts delightfully mixed up.

what caused the bloke in Switzerland? (Ch. 9; page 87)

Gavrilo Princip was born in 1894, the fourth of nine children (his father was a postman).

Interestingly, the Peasemarch theory of history seems to be the direct antithesis of the theory that Tolstoy expounds in War and Peace (even if Napoleon hadn’t existed, there would still have been a European invasion of Russia).

Chapter 10 (Ch. 10; page 89)

Runs from pp 89 to 97 in the Penguin edition.

a worm in a chestnut (Ch. 10; page 90)

This is not a usual English expression: it may perhaps be an American allusion, a reference to the chestnut timber worm, melittoma sericeum. Worm-damaged chestnut wood has long been popular in North America as a decorative material to give a rustic appearance.

Chapter 11 (Ch. 11; page 98)

Runs from pp 98 to 109 in the Penguin edition.

Casanova (Ch. 11; page 98)

The Venetian Giacomo Girolamo Casanova (1725-1798) had a varied and complex career which he describes in his celebrated autobiography. Unlike the heartless Don Juan, his many relationships with women seem to have been emotional as well as physical in nature.

vivid and soul-shattering red (Ch. 11; page 99)

Of course, this was well before the advent of colour in feature films.

As if we hadn’t guessed it already, we now know that Lottie is another of Wodehouse’s delightful but dangerous red-haired troublemakers, along with the likes of Roberta Wickham and Mabel Murgatroyd, and any young man who gets involved with her is in for trouble.

Dr Livingstone, I presume? (Ch. 11; page 99)

The journalist Henry Morton Stanley claims to have spoken these words to the missing explorer David Livingstone on finding him at Ujiji on Lake Tanganyika, on 10 November, 1871. It’s possible - though it seems unlikely - that Stanley was alluding to the line “Mr Stanley, I presume?” which appears in Sheridan’s School for Scandal.

Yass’r, toll’able pert (Ch. 11; page 99)

This is apparently a joky parody of southern U.S. dialect as it is represented in (e.g.) Mark Twain, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and the Brer Rabbit stories, rather than a specific allusion.

Tol’able [tolerable/tolerably] in these dialects can be either an adjective or an adverb. It was also used in this way in British English before about 1750.

“Sure, now, if she an’t a sight to behold!” said old Dinah, compassionately; “‘pears like ‘t was the heat that made her faint. She was tol’able peart when she cum in, and asked if she couldn’t warm herself here a spell; and I was just a-askin’ her where she cum from, and she fainted right down. Never done much hard work, guess, by the looks of her hands.”

[Stowe, Harriet Beecher Uncle Tom’s Cabin Ch.9]

troops of Midian (Ch. 11; page 102)

A Wodehouse favourite!

Christian! dost thou see them
On the holy ground,
How the troops of Midian
Prowl and prowl around?

[Neale, John Mason (after St Andrew of Crete) Hymn: Christian, dost thou see them? ]

Black Hand (Ch. 11; page 102)

Ujedinjenje ili Smrt (Union or Death), also known as the Black Hand, was a secret terrorist organisation formed in Serbia in 1911 to further the cause of Pan-Serbianism in territories then forming part of the Austrian Empire, especially Bosnia and Herzegovina. Gavrilo Princip (see p.87 above) was a member.

spawn of a boll-weevil (Ch. 11; page 102)

The boll weevil Anthonomous grandis grandis is a small beetle which does great damage to cotton crops in North America. Spawn is being used figuratively here (as in “spawn of Beelzebub” etc.) - only fish and amphibians literally have spawn in a biological sense (masses of small eggs).

lilies of the field (Ch. 11; page 103)

27  Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
28  And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
29  and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

[Bible Matthew 6:27-29]

kiss the place and make it well (Ch. 11; page 103)

One feels that Ms Taylor’s poor mother must have been a founder-member of Victims of Bad Poetry, together with the unfortunate Christopher Robin Milne.

Who fed me from her gentle breast
And hushed me in her arms to rest
And on my cheek sweet kisses prest?
My mother.

When sleep forsook my open eye,
Who was it sang sweet lullaby,
And rocked me that I should not cry?
My mother.

Who sat and watched my infant head,
When sleeping on my cradle bed,
And tears of sweet affection shed?
My mother.

When pain and sickness made me cry,
Who gazed upon my heavy eye,
And wept for fear that I should die?
My mother.

Who dressed my doll in clothes so gay,
And taught me pretty how to play,
And minded all I had to say?
My mother.

Who ran to help me when I fell,
And would some pretty story tell,
Or kiss the place and make it well?
My mother.

Who taught my infant lips to pray,
To love God's Holy Word and day,
And walk in wisdom's pleasant way?
My mother.

And can I ever cease to be
Affectionate and kind to thee
Who wast so very kind to me…
My mother.

Oh no, the thought I cannot bear,
And if God please my life to spare,
I hope I shall reward thy care,
My mother.

When thou art feeble, old and gray,
My healthy arm shall be thy stay,
And I will soothe thy pains away,
My mother.

And when I see thee hang thy head,
It will be my turn to watch thy bed,
And tears of sweet affection shed…
My mother.

For God Who lives above the skies,
Would look with vengeance in His eyes,
If I should ever dare despise
My mother!

[Taylor, Jane ]

Shadows on the Wall (Ch. 11; page 103)

Probably used by Wodehouse as simply a generic name for a film, although there was a ghost story of this title by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman (1903). There is a corpse in this story, but no cabin-trunk.

The expression is also often used to refer to Plato’s cave allegory, of course.

bimbo (Ch. 11; page 105)

The slang term 'bimbo' is now usually applied to women, though it originally applied to both sexes and simply meant 'a vacuous person'.

Spaniard (Ch. 11; page 106)

His nationality was perhaps inspired by the cheerfully xenophobic comic song, “The Spaniard that blighted my life” by the British music-hall comedian Billy Merson (Nottingham’s answer to George Formby), who recorded it in 1911. There is an explicit reference to this song in Summer Lightning. Biarritz is very close to the Spanish border, of course. Spain was already in a state of political turmoil in 1935, but the Nationalist risings which led to the Civil War did not start until summer 1936.

King Kong (Ch. 11; page 106)

The celbrated RKO film about a giant gorilla who terrorises New York (based on an Edgar Wallace story) appeared in 1933.

Chapter 12 (Ch. 12; page 109)

Runs from pp 109 to 120 in the Penguin edition.

Lovers in Brooklyn ... Storm over Flatbush (Ch. 12; page 110)

Both seem to be fictitious, not surprisingly. Flatbush is a part of Brooklyn. There was a film called It Happened in Flatbush, but that did not appear until 1942.

en rapport (Ch. 12; page 110)

In rapport; in harmony with. Once again, Wodehouse manages to provide a French flavour, while using a word which has been common in English since the seventeenth century.

Sieur Pharamond de Bodkyn (Ch. 12; page 110)

The Wodehouse family is said to descend from Bertram of Wodehouse Tower in Yorkshire, who compounded with William the Conqueror (Phelps, Ch.3).

Psmith claims descent from a Sieur de Psmith in Psmith in the City, while in Right Ho, Jeeves we learn that a Sieur de Wooster fought at Agincourt.

Pharamond was the name of a knight in the Arthurian romances, said to have been the first king of France.

Paynim (Ch. 12; page 110)

Archaic term for paganism or pagans - sometimes used in the Middle Ages (as here) to mean followers of non-Christian faiths, particularly Islam.

Fontenoy (Ch. 12; page 110)

A battle near Tournai, in what is now the Belgian province of Hainault, during the War of the Austrian Succession (April 1745), in which the French defeated the Duke of Cumberland’s forces. This was the battle where Lord Charles Hay is said to have courteously invited the French to fire first, and received the reply “Non, Monsieur, nous ne tirons jamais les premiers.” Presumably this impasse was resolved somehow, or Monty’s ancestor would scarcely have received his wound.

He looked like an aunt... (Ch. 12; page 114)

...than which nothing in Wodehouse can be more disapproving.

Whose table are you at? ... Jimmy the One’s (Ch. 12; page 116)

It seems unlikely that “Jimmy the One” would preside over a dinner table if he were the chief steward. Probably the reference on page 76 above was a slip, and the term is being used for the first officer after all.

Upon my sacred Sam (Ch. 12; page 117)

This is a favourite ejaculation of Ukridge’s, of course.

The origins of the expression seem rather obscure - it may have been popularised by Kipling's Stalky and Co (1899), but according to the OED it existed in Devon, at least, before that, so Kipling could have picked it up at school. The similarly obscure "Upon my salmon/Salomon/sang" seem to be much older.

juggins (Ch. 12; page 117)

Why the name Juggins became a slang word for a simpleton is unclear (the OED suggests that possibly there is a link to mug, or to the character Juggins in Disraeli’s Sybil), but it was certainly in use by the 1880s, and it remained popular with the generation born, like Monty, around 1900.

cupola (Ch. 12; page 117)

Normally an architectural term for a decorative dome, e.g. on a roof. Using it as slang for the head seems to be pure Wodehouse. However, Addison did something quite similar in the Spectator: “[Nature] designed the Head as the Cupola to the most glorious of her Works.” (Cit. OED)

Battle of Joppa (Ch. 12; page 119)

Joppa (thus in the King James Bible, but elsewhere more usually written in English as Jaffa) was the ancient port city now part of modern Tel Aviv. The Crusaders took it from the Arabs in 1126 and 1191, and the Arabs took it back in 1187 and 1196. It isn’t clear on which of these occasions Monty’s ancestor was present. The language of his letter seems to suggest the 16th century rather than the 12th, although this could be simply the work of a later scribe.

Chapter 13 (Ch. 13; page 121)

Runs from pp 121 to 142 in the Penguin edition.

deck tennis ... shuffleboard (Ch. 13; page 121)

These are two of the most popular of a number of games that have evolved to be playable on a moving ship.

Deck tennis is a game where a ring is thrown from one player to the other over a net.

Shuffleboard is a variant of games like bowls and curling - wooden disks are slid along a smooth surface using long cues. The idea is to get your disks into the scoring area while knocking those of your opponents out of it.

Youth on the prow, and pleasure at the helm (Ch. 13; page 121)

A slightly ominous reference, this! It comes from Gray’s poem based on the curse which is also at the centre of Shakespeare’s Richard III.

Mighty Victor, mighty Lord!
Low on his funeral couch he lies!  
  No pitying heart, no eye, afford  
A tear to grace his obsequies.  
Is the sable warrior fled?  
Thy son is gone. He rests among the dead.
The swarm that in thy noon tide beam were born?  
Gone to salute the rising morn.  
Fair laughs the morn, and soft the zephyr blows,  
While proudly riding o'er the azure realm  
In gallant trim the gilded vessel goes;
  Youth on the prow, and Pleasure at the helm;  
Regardless of the sweeping whirlwind's sway,  
That, hush'd in grim repose, expects his evening prey.

[Gray, Thomas The Curse upon Edward 15-28]

wind ... howling through the rigging (Ch. 13; page 122)

Although a steamer like the Atlantic would not have sails, there would still be masts used for handling cargo and coal, supporting radio aerials, etc., and these would require rigging to support them. There might also be wire stays used to reinforce funnels, ventilators and the like. All of these would vibrate in strong winds and make howling noises.

Nijinsky (Ch. 13; page 122)

Vaslav Nijinsky (1888-1950), often regarded as the greatest dancer and choreographer of the 20th century. He met and fell in love with Sergei Diaghilev in 1907, and worked together with him in the Ballets Russes company in Paris. Ironically, it was a sea voyage that broke up one of the most famous couples in ballet history: in 1913 Nijinsky went on a tour of South America with the Ballets Russes, but Diaghilev was afraid of the long crossing, and stayed behind. In the course of the tour, Nijinsky, evidently a good sailor, got married to one of the female members of the company. He was forced to retire in 1919 by mental illness.

leaping into the air and twiddling the feet (Ch. 13; page 122)

Large ships don’t actually do this, of course, but in heavy seas the impact of the waves against the hull can be hard enough to make one feel as though this is what must be going on, especially if the screws are partly exposed, causing the engines to race.

...bloaters, haddock, sausages, curry? (Ch. 13; page 122)

Wodehouse never tires of having the healthy taunt those of poor digestion with the mention of rich, strong-smelling foods. Bloaters are similar to kippers, but more lightly smoked.

the old Laurentic (Ch. 13; page 123)

There were two White Star liners called Laurentic: the first was built in 1908 and later became a Canadian troopship, being sunk by a German U-boat in 1917; the second was built in 1927, and was still in sevice between Liverpool and Canadian ports in 1935. The use of the word “old” here implies that Peasemarch is talking about the first: he seems to be old enough to have served on her (from what he told Monty, he was born in 1889).

racing down fields with mallets (Ch. 13; page 124)

Another Peasemarchism: mallets are used in polo and croquet, but hockey players have sticks.

Napoleon ... Bellerophon (Ch. 13; page 124)

The veteran ship of the line HMS Bellerophon (known in the navy as the “Billy Ruffian”) was used to take Napoleon from France to England after the defeat at Waterloo in 1814. He spent some time aboard her in Torbay and Plymouth before being transferred to HMS Northumberland for the voyage to St Helena. He seems to have been something of a tourist attraction, and several artists depicted the defeated emperor pacing the decks.

the valley of the shadow (Ch. 13; page 125)

cf. Psalm 23

first murderer ... Shakespeare (Ch. 13; page 127)

Enter First Murderer, to the door.
  Macb.  ... [Approaching the door.] There’s blood upon thy face.
  Mur.  ’Tis Banquo’s, then.  
  Macb.  ’Tis better thee without than he within.  
Is he dispatch’d?  
  Mur.  My lord, his throat is cut; that I did for him.
  Macb.  Thou art the best o’ the cut-throats; yet he’s good  
That did the like for Fleance: if thou didst it,  
Thou art the nonpareil.  
  Mur.        Most royal sir,  
Fleance is ’scap’d.  

[Shakespeare, William (1564-1616) Macbeth III:iv]

bump-supper (Ch. 13; page 128)

This is to do with "eights week," the inter-college rowing competition in Oxford University. As the river Isis (elsewhere known as the Thames, don't ask why...) at Oxford isn't wide enough for two eights to race side by side, the boats of all the various colleges set off equally spaced in line astern.

If the bow of your boat catches up with the stern of the boat ahead, you are said to have "bumped" them, and you move up one place in the line in the following day's race. The aim is to end up at the "head of the river" at the end of the week. A bump-supper is a celebration of such a victory. Traditionally the winning boat is ceremonially burnt in the quad - these days they're rather too expensive for that.

In Thank You Jeeves, Bertie is said to have bathed in the college fountain after a bump-supper. The presence of the fountain suggests that Monty and Ambrose were probably at Christ Church (although one or two other colleges have fountains, Mercury at Christ Church is the largest and best-known, unless you count the lake at Worcester).

There is a similar tradition in Cambridge - Psmith mentions attending one there in Leave it to Psmith, ch.14.

faces that launch a thousand ships (Ch. 13; page 128)

The beauty of Helen led, indirectly, to the Trojan war. Thus Marlowe’s Faustus, who has just had her summoned for his pleasure, refers to hers as the face that caused a thousand ships to be launched, and the city of Troy destroyed.

Was this the face that launched a thousand ships
And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?
Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss.

[Marlowe, Christopher Doctor Faustus XIII]

sports suit ... coal-heaver hat (Ch. 13; page 129)

In the thirties, a sports suit was a loosely-cut costume for daytime wear (like a man’s sports jacket, it was not necessarily intended for athletic use).

Coal-heavers were labourers employed to carry sacks of coal around on their backs. The distinguishing feature of their headgear was a piece hanging down at the back to protect the neck and shoulders from the coal. I haven’t found any reference to coal-heaver hats as fashionable wear for ladies - it might have been a brief thirties fad, or simply Wodehouse sending up the extremes of Hollywood fashion.

Hoboken (Ch. 13; page 132)

A port and industrial centre on the Hudson River in New Jersey, across from Manhattan. Nowadays rather more fashionable than it was in the early 20th century.

Sinclair Lewis (Ch. 13; page 132)

Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) was the most popular of the early 20th century American realist novelists, becoming the first American to win the Nobel Prize for literature in 1930. He is known for his sharply-observed and highly-detailed satirical novels, each focussing on a particular aspect of middle-class professional life.

I wouldn’t wiggle my toes... (Ch. 13; page 133)

Other notable toe-wigglers in the canon include Pauline Stoker and Mr Bickersdyke.

James Cagney (Ch. 13; page 134)

Film actor (1899-1986) noted for playing gangsters and tough guys. Oddly enough, in 1935 he had just appeared as Bottom, the Weaver in a version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Dottyville-on-the-Pacific (Ch. 13; page 135)

The OED dates the use of “dotty” for feeble-minded to the 1880s.

Dottyville seems to have been a conventional jokey term for a mental hospital. It occurs in Joyce’s Ulysses, (since Joyce uses the real name of the medical superintendent of the Richmond District Asylum, Dublin, it was presumably also the usual popular name for the asylum) and Siegfried Sassoon used it to refer to Craiglockhart where he was treated for shell-shock in 1917.

Dottyville-on-the-Pacific for Hollywood seems to be Wodehouse’s own invention, though.

-That fellow I was with in the Ship last night, said Buck Mulligan, says you have gpi. He's up in Dottyville with Conolly Norman. General paralysis of the insane.

[Joyce, James Ulysses Pt.1, p.6]

irised out (Ch. 13; page 136)

This is a technical cinema term for an effect where the image is progressively reduced to a white spot in the middle of a dark screen as though by a closing iris diaphragm, often used at the end of a film. Lottie is using it figuratively to mean “disappeared.”

Bozo the Apeman (Ch. 13; page 138)

Obviously alludes to Tarzan the Apeman (1932), the first of the screen adaptations of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s books, in which Johnny Weissmuller’s - untattooed - chest was so memorably exhibited. Wodehouse’s friend and fellow peke-fancier Maureen O’Sullivan played Jane, of course.
Perhaps Lottie’s film was the inspiration for the title of Bedtime for Bonzo (1951), one of Ronald Reagan’s last films, in which - to the subsequent delight of the press - his co-star was a chimpanzee.

Ian Michaud adds: It may seem like the American icon Bozo the Clown has been around forever, but in fact his first appearance wasn’t until a 1946 children’s record Bozo at the Circus followed by a 1949 television series Bozo’s Circus.

five kinds of soup ... ice-cream and fruit (Ch. 13; page 139)

Most of the items in this list are familiar enough, and may well come from an original White Star Line menu. York, Virginia and Bradenham hams are defined by the way the meat is cut and cured, and do not necessarily come from those places. A salmi is a ragout of part-roasted game.

python (Ch. 13; page 139)

Pythons are noted for swallowing their prey whole, then digesting it at leisure.

tabby (Ch. 13; page 141)

This word has a complicated history. Tabby meaning striped material (formerly much used in dressmaking) comes from the name of a district of Bagdad where such material was made. From this comes the use of tabby to mean a cat of a similar colour, and sometimes a female cat.
By the 18th century, possibly by extension from cats, or perhaps from the name Tabitha, it had come to mean an elderly spinster.
It isn’t clear which, if any, of these words led to the military and nautical slang term tabby for a girl, which was current in the early 20th century, and is presumably the origin of tabby for stewardess.

Chapter 14 (Ch. 14; page 143)

Runs from pp 143 to 167 in the Penguin edition.

Julius Caesar ... fat (Ch. 14; page 143)

Cæs.  Let me have men about me that are fat;  
Sleek-headed men and such as sleep o’ nights.  
Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look;
He thinks too much: such men are dangerous  
Ant.  Fear him not, Cæsar, he’s not dangerous;  
He is a noble Roman, and well given.  
Cæs.  Would he were fatter!

[Shakespeare, William (1564-1616) Julius Caesar I:ii, 202-208]

Yond Ambrose (Ch. 14; page 143)

Yonder, i.e. “That Ambrose”. Wodehouse is continuing the Julius Caesar quotation above.

Boy Scoutful exuberance (Ch. 14; page 143)

This has to be a Wodehouse coinage! A mere mortal would have said “Boy-Scoutish,” but Wodehouse takes it a couple of steps further. Someone who is described as “Boy-Scoutish” merely has qualities like those of a Boy Scout; someone who is Boy Scoutful possesses the very qualities that make a Boy Scout a Boy Scout.

may worms attack its maple trees (Ch. 14; page 144)

The maple leaf has long been regarded as the national symbol of Canada, of course, although it has only appeared on the national flag since 1965. Reggie seems to be expressing a general irritation with Canada for not being Hollywood, rather than talking about a specific worm threat. However, it is odd that this should be Reggie’s second reference to tree pests in this book (cf. p90 above) - not something one would expect a Drone to know much about.

gather rosebuds (Ch. 14; page 144)

GATHER ye rosebuds while ye may,  
  Old Time is still a-flying;  
And this same flower that smiles to-day,  
  To-morrow will be dying.  
The glorious Lamp of Heaven, the Sun,
  The higher he's a-getting  
The sooner will his race be run,  
  And nearer he's to setting.  
That age is best which is the first,  
  When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst  
  Times, still succeed the former.  
Then be not coy, but use your time;  
  And while ye may, go marry:  
For having lost but once your prime,
  You may for ever tarry.

[Herrick, Robert (1591-1674) Counsel to Girls ]

Burlington Arcade (Ch. 14; page 145)

Covered shopping arcade opening off Piccadilly, next door to Burlington House (the Royal Academy). It opened in 1819, and used to belong to the Cavendish family.

Two Thousand Guineas (Ch. 14; page 145)

The Two Thousand Guinea Stakes is a one mile race for three-year-olds [horses, that is!] that has been run at Newmarket each Spring since 1809. It is one of the five English flat races known as classics.

Gadzooks ... ‘Odsblood (Ch. 14; page 146)

Archaic oaths. Gadzooks is 17th century, a variant of God-sookers (the OED suggests that the second part is just a nonsense word). ’Odsblood seems to be a 19th century fabrication, but it is of course a variant of “God’s [i.e. Christ’s] blood,” and similar forms are recorded from the 16th and 17th century.

B.B.C.’s Children’s Hour (Ch. 14; page 146)

This was broadcast every day between 5 and 6 in the evening on what eventually became the Home Service (now Radio 4), from 1922, when the BBC was set up, until 1964, when the focus of children’s broadcasting moved to television (although daytime programmes for pre-school children remained on Radio 4 for some years longer).

As with most changes in Radio 4 schedules, there was outcry in the newspapers and questions were asked in Parliament when Children’s Hour disappeared, but the BBC went on regardless.

Mormon elder (Ch. 14; page 147)

Brigham Young (1801-1877) became the leader of the Mormon community after the murder of its founder, Joseph Smith, in 1844. He was responsible for the migration to the West and the establishment of the successful settlement at Salt Lake City in 1846-7. He followed the Mormon practice of plural marriage, as directed by Joseph Smith, and is believed to have married 27 times, having a maximum of 19 wives at once. He was tried on a federal charge of polygamy in 1871, but acquitted.

Sidney Carton (Ch. 14; page 148)

Altruistic hero of Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities, who does a ‘far, far better thing...’ when he goes to the scaffold to save the life of his rival in love, Charles Darnay.

...a girl I’ve seen spanked by a nurse (Ch. 14; page 148)

This is also Gally’s defence mechanism against his sisters’ lorgnettes in the Blandings stories.

kiss in the ring ... postman’s knock (Ch. 14; page 149)

Children’s party games involving kissing.

In kiss-in-the-ring, one child is blindfolded while others dance around it in a circle. When the music stops the blindfolded child points at someone in the ring, and that person has to kiss and change places with it.

There is a version of this game at the beginning of Gilbert & Sullivan’s Gondoliers (“My papa he had three horses”).

There are a number of versions of postman’s knock, but the essence is much the same - each player in turn has to make an arbitrary choice that specifies (without them knowing in advance who it will be) a member of the opposite sex they then have to kiss.

Trinity Hall (Ch. 14; page 149)

Cambridge college, founded 1350 (not to be confused with the better-known Trinity College, which is much more recent). Alumni include Wodehouse’s fellow writer J.B. Priestley. Evidently Reggie did not follow his brother to Oxford.

I haven’t been able to discover the colours of Trinity Hall blazers, but college blazers (rarely seen nowadays away from Henley regatta and the sets of Merchant-Ivory films) are generally pretty startling, so Reggie may be wise in sticking to the neat blue jacket.

a wireless (Ch. 14; page 151)

A radio-telegram; conventional telegrams were also referred to as ‘wires.’ Note that there was only a relatively short period when ‘wireless’ by itself could mean both a receiver and a message. In the early days the word Marconigram was sometimes used.

Bird in a gilded cage (Ch. 14; page 154)

Song by Harry Von Tilzer (music) & Arthur J. Lamb (lyric), 1900

The ballroom was filled with fashion's throng
It shone with a thousand lights
And there was a woman who passed along
The fairest of all the sights!
A girl to her lover then softly sighed:
‘There's riches at her command!’
‘But she married for wealth, not for love,’ he cried,
‘Though she lives in a mansion grand’
‘She's only a bird in a gilded cage,
A beautiful sight to see.
You would think she was happy
And free from care.
She's not, though she seems to be.
It's sad when you think of her wasted life,
For Youth cannot mate with Age.
And her beauty was sold
For an old man's gold.
She's a bird in a gilded cage.

[Arthur J. Lamb ]

fox-hunting in July (Ch. 14; page 154)

The hunting season runs from November to March.

Glorious Devon (Ch. 14; page 155)

Devon, a county in the South-West of England, has been a popular holiday destination for a long time, and the expression “Glorious Devon” has become firmly established as its marketing slogan. It may have come originally from the title of a song (words by Harold Boulton, set by Sir Edward German).

When Adam and Eve were dispossessed
of the garden, hard by Heaven,
they planted another one down in the West -
'twas Devon, ‘Twas Devon, glorious Devon.

[Boulton, Harold Glorious Devon ]

Shires (Ch. 14; page 155)

A generic term for the rural counties of England.

Rockefeller, Pierpont Morgan, Death Valley Scotty (Ch. 14; page 157)

John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937) - Founder of the Standard Oil Company. Donated more than USD 540 million to charitable causes.

John Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913) was a banker and financier who controlled much of the US railway network and a number of important shipping lines, including Cunard-White Star. He donated most of his vast art collection to the Metropolitan Museum in New York on his death.

Death Valley Scotty (Walter E. Scott, 1872-1951) was a con-man and shameless self-promoter in the best American tradition, who operated a non-existent gold-mine in Death Valley. On being exposed as a fraud, he exploited the resulting publicity to become a lucrative tourist attraction in his own right.

Tennyson’s been dead forty years (Ch. 14; page 159)

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Queen Victoria’s favourite poet (even the royal family occasionally exhibit good taste), was born in 1809 and died in 1892.

Who ... is Dante? (Ch. 14; page 159)

Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), Florentine poet. He composed his great Commedia in exile after backing the wrong side in the struggle between the Black and White Guelphs in Florence.

This is Llewellyn at his most Goldwynesque.

English novelists ... two distinct classes (Ch. 14; page 160)

Presumably, among thirties novelists, J.B. Priestley, George Orwell or the young Graham Greene might represent “beer and heartiness” while Evelyn Waugh, Christopher Isherwood and Anthony Powell could be “cocktails and cynicism”.

Ernest Hemingway and André Malraux, though not English, are the early 20th century writers most often accused of being virile. It is unlikely that Wodehouse was thinking of D. H. Lawrence, who doesn’t really fit into either category.

half a league ... onward (Ch. 14; page 163)

 HALF a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
  Rode the six hundred.
“Forward the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!” he said.
Into the valley of Death
  Rode the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismay’d?
Not tho’ the soldier knew
  Some one had blunder’d.
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die.
Into the valley of Death
  Rode the six hundred.
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
  Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of hell
  Rode the six hundred.
Flash’d all their sabres bare,
Flash’d as they turn’d in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
  All the world wonder’d.
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro’ the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel’d from the sabre-stroke
  Shatter’d and sunder’d.
Then they rode back, but not,
  Not the six hundred.
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,     
Cannon behind them
  Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro’ the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of hell,
All that was left of them,
  Left of six hundred.
When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
  All the world wonder’d.
Honor the charge they made!
Honor the Light Brigade,
  Noble six hundred!

[Tennyson, Alfred Lord (1809-1892) The Charge of the Light Brigade ]

Come up and sue me some time (Ch. 14; page 163)

Llewellyn is paraphrasing Mae West’s famous, and often misquoted, line from She Done Him Wrong (1932). Apparently, what she actually said was: “I always did like a man in uniform. And that one fits you grand. Why don’t you come up some time and see me?”

play the pin in Pinafore (Ch. 14; page 166)

This Wodehouse expression seems to be a variant of the theatre critic’s traditional joke about actors “putting the ham in Hamlet,” suitably adapted for the nautical setting. Wodehouse previously used the “pin/Pinafore” joke in The Coming of Bill (1914), Ch.4.

Gilbert & Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore, or The Lass That Loved a Sailor opened at the Opera Comique in London on 25 May 1878.

Ascot ... the Derby (Ch. 14; page 166)

Royal Ascot - the most fashionable race meeting at the Ascot racecourse in Berkshire - has been held in the third week of June since 1711.

The Epsom Derby, founded in 1780 by the 12th Earl of Derby, is one of the premier events in the English horse-racing calendar. The race, which is open only to three-year-old colts, is run each June over a distance of 1 mile 4 furlongs at Epsom Downs, Surrey.

The pre-eminence of the race has led to a number of other horse-races around the world being named as a 'Derby', such as the Kentucky Derby in the United States.

Plumstead Marshes (Ch. 14; page 166)

A former wetland area on the south bank of the Thames, once used as a firing range by the adjacent Woolwich Arsenal. Now largely drained and built over. The only sporting connection seems to be that Arsenal Football Club played there in their early days. The “melancholy Plumstead Marshes” are mentioned in The Sign of Four.

Chapter 15 (Ch. 15; page 168)

Runs from pp 168 to 189 in the Penguin edition.

Nobby Clark (Ch. 15; page 169)

Nobby is a traditional nickname, especially in the Royal Navy, for men with the surname Clark (cf. ‘Smudge’ Smith, ‘Dusty’ Miller, ‘Windy’ Gale, etc.). Some of these names are obvious jokes, or of quite recent origin (like ‘Flash’ Gordon), but Nobby Clark seems to be one of a small number that are ancient and entirely obscure.

Nobby normally means grand or haughty (usually in a pejorative sense).

imbrolligo (Ch. 15; page 170)

imbroglio - Italian: a confusion or entanglement

argle-bargle (Ch. 15; page 170)

This is a reduplication of the Scots verb argle (to argue, haggle), used for an argument, fuss or disturbance. It seems to have appeared south of the border in the late 19th century. Nowadays ‘argy-bargy’ is a more common spelling.

The Boy Stood on the Burning Deck (Ch. 15; page 171)

Peasemarch is complicating the issue still further, of course: the much-recited poem Casabianca, of which this is the first line, was written by that well-known precursor of today’s Liverpool poets, Mrs Felicia Dorothea Hemans (1793-1835), who grew up in Liverpool and Wavertree, but later went to live in Dublin.

Tennyson came from Lincolnshire, of course.

Committee of Public Safety (Ch. 15; page 171)

After the execution of Louis XVI in January 1793, the revolutionary government in France had to deal with a continuing economic crisis, risings in Lyon, the Vendée and elsewhere, and trouble from the Paris mob and the army. In April, the Convention set up a committee of twelve members, known as the Committee of Public Safety, to restore order and defend the reforms brought in by the revolution. The members of the Committee exploited the chaotic political situation to concentrate effective power in their own hands, and instituted tight economic regulation and military conscription, ending the risk of famine and allowing the republic to defend itself effectively against internal risings and foreign interference.

This degree of control was only achieved against the background of a violent and fanatical suppression of real and suspected political opponents, the Reign of Terror, the chief architect of which was Robespierre. Thousands of people went to the guillotine.

Ironically, it was the success of the military reorganisation that gave opponents of the Terror the confidence to overthrow Robespierre in 1794.

[Simon Schama, Citizens]

frosted malted milk (Ch. 15; page 174)

This drink seems to be inseparable from Hollywood in the Wodehouse world.

According to experts, it is actually a milkshake, made with milk, malted milk powder (a product like “Bournvita,” “Horlicks,” etc.), vanilla ice cream and a flavouring, usually chocolate. The “frosted” bit refers to the use of a chilled mixing vessel and the addition of ice cream. This concoction has been popular in US drugstores since the early 1920s.

Baby Leroy (Ch. 15; page 176)

Celebrated child actor, worked with W.C. Fields as a toddler in 1933 and 1934. Fields famously spiked his bottle with gin while they were filming It’s a Gift.

Warner brothers (Ch. 15; page 177)

The brothers who founded the Warner Brothers studio were: Harry Morris (1881-1958), Albert (1884-1967), Samuel Louis (1887-1927) and Jack (1892-1978).

Winged Victory in the Louvre (Ch. 15; page 177)

A marble sculpture, made ca. 190 BCE, found on the Greek island of Samothrace, which is one of the most famous works in the Musée du Louvre, occupying a prominent position on the main staircase.

George Arliss (Ch. 15; page 182)

British actor (1868-1946), who worked with great names of the theatre like Mrs Patrick Campbell, and had more than twenty years experience on the stage before he ever went to Hollywood. He won an Oscar in 1930 for his part in Disraeli.

Bernhardt (Ch. 15; page 182)

Sarah Bernhardt (Rosine Bernard, 1844-1923), the most famous French actress of her generation. She ran her own theatre company, and toured extensively outside France, attracting enormous publicity wherever she went. One of her most famous roles was as Hamlet in 1899. Also appeared in a few French silent films later in life.

musical comedy (Ch. 15; page 182)

As usual in Wodehouse, a musical comedy background is a guarantee of respectability.

Malibu, Catalina, Aqua Caliente (Ch. 15; page 182)

Malibu is a beach resort near Los Angeles. Santa Catalina is an island off the coast, near Long Beach, also well-known as a resort. “Aqua Caliente” could be a misprint for “Agua Caliente” (Hot Water) the Spanish name for the golf resort of Palm Springs, in the desert not far from Los Angeles. It is also the name of a racecourse across the border in Tijuana, Mexico.

the skin you love to touch (Ch. 15; page 183)

“For the skin you love to touch” - advertising slogan for Jergens Lotion, produced by Andrew Jergens & Co. of Cincinatti, ca. 1900.

the chariest maid... (Ch. 15; page 183)

This is Laertes giving pompous good advice to his sister Ophelia.

Fear it, Ophelia, fear it, my dear sister;  
And keep you in the rear of your affection,  
Out of the shot and danger of desire.
The chariest maid is prodigal enough  
If she unmask her beauty to the moon;  
Virtue herself ’scapes not calumnious strokes;  
The canker galls the infants of the spring
Too oft before their buttons be disclos’d,  
And in the morn and liquid dew of youth  
Contagious blastments are most imminent.  
Be wary then; best safety lies in fear:
Youth to itself rebels, though none else near.  
Oph.  I shall th’ effect of this good lesson keep,  
As watchman to my heart. 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.

[Shakespeare, William (1564-1616) Hamlet I:iii, 38-56]

kayo (Ch. 15; page 184)

'OK' is first recorded in 1839. It is most probably a joky spelling of 'all correct' - there are other theories too. The spelling 'okay' is first recorded in 1919.

'KO' and 'kayo' both appeared in the early nineteen-twenties, both in the sense of 'knock out' (boxing) and as here as a comic reversal of 'okay.'

Shakespeare wrote “The boy...” (Ch. 15; page 184)

See p171 above.

tremble like a leaf ... hay fever (Ch. 15; page 185)

This is definitely a song...

vacatuated (Ch. 15; page 185)

More Peasemarch: vacated + evacuated, presumably.

from the ties in his drawer ... Eton (Ch. 15; page 185)

Notice how much work this short phrase does: it tells us that Peasemarch snoops in drawers, but is entirely unabashed about admitting it; it undermines his aspersions on the public school system by revealing that he is enough of a snob to recognise an Old Etonian tie; it suggests that Monty owns more than one such tie...

Eton College is the oldest public school in England. It was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI as “The King’s College of Our Lady of Eton beside Windsor.” A year later, the king founded King’s College, Cambridge, with the intention that scholars from Eton would continue their education there.

The “Yeoman’s Wedding Song” (Ch. 15; page 186)

The Yeoman’s Wedding Song (1875): words by Maria X. Hayes, music by Prince Poniatowski

Ding dong ding dong ding dong, I love the song,
For it is my wedding morning,
And the bride so gay in fine array,
For the day will now be adorning.

Tho' I've little wealth but sov’reign health,
And am only a yeoman free
When heart joins hand, there’s none in the land,
Can be richer in joys than we.


Ding dong, ding dong, we’ll gallop along
All fears and doubting scorning,
Through the valley we'll haste, for we’ve no time to waste,
As this is my wedding morning.

Ding dong ding dong ding dong, my steed, hie on,
For the church will soon be filling,
They must not wait, they must not wait,
For were we late, they’d deem the groom unwilling.

The sun is high in the morning sky,
And the lark o’er our heads doth sing,
A bridal song as we gallop along,
Keeping times to the bells as they ring.

[Hayes, Maria X. Yeoman's Wedding Song 1875]

sea-water (Ch. 15; page 187)

Fresh water is an expensive commodity in ships, so sea-water would be supplied for bathing.

tail-spin (Ch. 15; page 187)

An expression from the early days of aviation, probably entered the language during the first world war.

Chapter 16 (Ch. 16; page 190)

Runs from pp 190 to 208 in the Penguin edition.

Even such a man ... burnt (Ch. 16; page 190)

This is an odd choice of quotation, as in Shakespeare the situation is the reverse of that Wodehouse is describing. Northumberland guesses the nature of the bad news Morton is bringing from the look on his face; Peasemarch, however, has no idea that the news he brings is bad, and it is Monty, the recipient of the news, who is suffering from shock. Possibly Wodehouse quoted it from memory without checking the context?

How doth my son and brother?  
Thou tremblest, and the whiteness in thy cheek  
Is apter than thy tongue to tell thy errand.
Even such a man, so faint, so spiritless,  
So dull, so dead in look, so woe-begone,  
Drew Priam’s curtain in the dead of night,  
And would have told him half his Troy was burn’d;
But Priam found the fire ere he his tongue,  
And I my Percy’s death ere thou report’st it.

[Shakespeare, William (1564-1616) Henry IV, Part II I:i, 82-90]

...would have to tip the fellow (Ch. 16; page 191)

Of course, it would never occur to a Wodehouse gentleman to be so ill-mannered as to deprive an incompetent underling of his tip.

Rabelais (Ch. 16; page 191)

This is one of a number of references in Wodehouse to the great French comic writer François Rabelais (ca.1490-1553), suggesting that Wodehouse may have read and enjoyed his works (possibly in translation).

For an analysis of the similarities in their comic styles, see the essay by Prof. Barbara C. Bowen in L’Esprit Créateur, Vol. XVI, No.4 (Winter 1976), pp.63-77.

focused that mouse (Ch. 16; page 194)

This is a slightly unusual use of the verb ‘focus’. Normally in this context it would be used transitively “focused [her eyes] on that mouse”. What Wodehouse is implying here is more like “focused [the image of] that mouse. Perhaps another reminder that both Lottie and Mickey have a cinematic background? Or perhaps the Penguin compositor lost the preposition.

grand larceny (Ch. 16; page 194)

Larceny is a legal term for “feloniously taking and carrying away another’s personal goods with the intention of converting them to the taker’s use.”

In English law it is obsolete, having been replaced by theft, which has a slightly different meaning.

It became grand larceny, carrying the death penalty, if the goods were valued at more than twelve pence.

Had she been tried on this charge, the legal question to decide would have been whether the element of feloniousness was present, i.e. did she really know that Peasemarch was not authorised to give her the mouse? As Lottie has already demonstrated that she can write, she would, if found guilty, have been able to claim benefit of clergy and escape the gallows, in which case she would almost certainly have been transported to America or Australia...!

The term still exists in some US law codes, although the grand/petty threshold is a little higher than in 18th century England.

ere yonder sun had set (Ch. 16; page 194)

Seems to be a cliché of historical fiction rather than a specific allusion.

Now bear straight at the center, master-shipman. Ere yonder sun sets we will bring a red ship back as a gift to our ladies, or never look upon a lady's face again.

[Conan Doyle, Sir Arthur Sir Nigel Ch.17]

collar ... hosier (Ch. 16; page 197)

A hosier used to be someone who makes or deals in hose, i.e. stockings and similar knitted garments. The OED cites this passage as evidence that by this time the term was being used more generally to refer to gentlemen’s outfitters. Nowadays you would probably buy collars from a draper or a shirtmaker (if you buy collars at all, that is).

Death to Blenkinsop (Ch. 16; page 197)

Blenkinsop is a name given to many of Wodehouse's clergymen, the earliest probably being the cricketing curate in the story "Blenkinsop's Benefit" (1904: collected in Tales of Wrykyn and Elsewhere); there is a Canon Blenkinsop in The Inimitable Jeeves. This seems to be the only butler of this name.

The family probably takes its name from Blenkensop Castle in Northumberland.

Angela Prosser (Ch. 16; page 198)

Possibly a sister of “Oofy” Prosser, the wealthiest man in the Drones Club, who first appeared in “The Knightly Quest of Mervyn.”

According to Norman Murphy, a prosser, in 1890s slang, was someone who lived by borrowing money. I haven’t been able to find any independent confirmation of this.

Otherwise, Prosser is a Welsh surname (like Prothero, it is an anglicisation of the patronymic “Ap Rydderch”, i.e. son of Roderick), and the name of a town in Washington state.

Damocles (Ch. 16; page 198)

In classical mythology he was a courtier of Dionysius the first. At a dinner, Dionysius had a sword suspended over Damocles's head by a single hair to show him the precarious nature of rank and power.

temp. (Ch. 16; page 198)

Latin: tempore - in the time of

Queen Anne (Ch. 16; page 198)

Anne (1665-1714) succeeded William III in 1702 as the last Stuart monarch. Technically, she was the first monarch of Great Britain, which was created by the Act of Union in 1707. Her reign is remembered chiefly for furniture, the development of party politics, and for the rise of Sarah Churchill and her husband, the Duke of Marlborough.

Battle of Blenheim (Ch. 16; page 198)

One of the decisive battles of the War of Spanish Succession, 13 August 1704. The British (under John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough) and Austrians (Prince Eugen of Savoy) defeated the French and Bavarians near the Bavarian village of Blenheim.

St Vitus’s dance (Ch. 16; page 199)

St Vitus may have been an early Roman martyr. He is considered the patron of epileptics, those afflicted with St. Vitus' Dance (chorea, an illness characterised by involuntary muscle spasms), dancers, and actors, and is a protector against storms. His feast day is 15 June. "St Vitus's Dance" is often also used figuratively, as here.

quoits (Ch. 16; page 199)

Another shipboard game, in which players score points by throwing rope rings to land on wooden pegs.

paranoiac diathesis (Ch. 16; page 200)

Nonsensical combination of medical terms. A paranoiac is someone suffering from paranoia, a mental illness characterised by delusions and hallucinations. A diathesis is a physical condition (usually hereditary) that renders a person particularly susceptible to a certain illness.

gimlet (Ch. 16; page 200)

A boring device, similar to a bodkin.

trilobite ... primeval slime (Ch. 16; page 202)

A prehistoric arthropod of the paleozoic era (ca. 300 million years ago). Although some may have wallowed in slime, most apparently lived in the sea.

Primeval slime usually describes the medium in which the first, simple life-forms on earth are thought to have developed, a long time before the trilobites.

Cro-Magnon man (Ch. 16; page 202)

Early members of our species, homo sapiens, living as Wodehouse says in the palaeolithic period (ca. 40,000 years ago) , and noted for their cave paintings, tools and other marks of early civilisation. They seem to have competed with and eventually displaced Neanderthal man.

three fifteen, summer time (Ch. 16; page 203)

This is fairly imprecise as an indication: we don’t know which summer time. The ship would have changed its clocks by about an hour a day as it sailed west. Wodehouse probably meant “ship’s time.”

Summer time (one hour ahead of GMT) was first introduced in Britain in 1916, as a temporary wartime economy measure, the clocks reverting to GMT in the darker winter months. Apart from a short period of double summer time in World War II, and Harold Wilson’s abortive attempt to maintain summer time all year round (1968-1971), the pattern has remained in use ever since.

in the slats (Ch. 16; page 207)

ribs - the OED lists this as US slang, giving the first example from 1898.

close harmony ... troubadours (Ch. 16; page 207)

This is a singing style associated particularly with early twentieth century America, and characterised by the different parts all lying close together in the same octave.

There is a lot of debate as to how troubadour songs - most of which only survive as text and (occasionally) melody - were performed. It seems likely that the troubadours (who belonged to the upper classes) were essentially poet-composers and there was a separate class of jongleurs who actually sang the songs, probably accompanied by a stringed instrument. They would certainly not have used harmony in the modern sense, which only developed in the renaissance.

Think on your feet (Ch. 16; page 207)

The OED cites this as the first known use of this expression in print.

a single ribald word (Ch. 16; page 208)

No, I’m not going to try to guess...

Chapter 17 (Ch. 17; page 209)

Runs from pp 209 to 221 in the Penguin edition.

rooked by sharpers (Ch. 17; page 213)

Thieves’ cant - to rook someone is to take advantage of their simplicity to cheat them; a sharper or sharp is someone who lives by his wits, especially by cheating in gambling games.

It’s perhaps unlikely that many passengers complained to the purser in precisely those terms, unless they happened to be students of eighteenth century fiction.

oofiness (Ch. 17; page 216)

Wealth - probably from Yiddish ‘auf Tische.’ According to Murphy, this word was current among the Pelicans. This passage is cited as an example in the OED.

Chapter 18 (Ch. 18; page 222)

Runs from pp 222 to 241 in the Penguin edition.

Carioca (Ch. 18; page 222)

A variant of the Rumba briefly popular as a ballroom dance in the thirties as a result of the Fred Astaire / Ginger Rogers movie Flying down to Rio (1933).

Carioca is the Portuguese adjective describing people or things associated with the city of Rio de Janeiro.

step-ins (Ch. 18; page 222)

Wodehouse’s usual expression for ladies’ underwear.

mother ... iceberg (Ch. 18; page 222)

It isn’t clear whether the depression would be due to the sight of the mother or the iceberg!

...soul the iron had entered (Ch. 18; page 222)

This expression seems to come originally from a mistranslation of Psalm 105:18 in the Prayer Book version. The King James Version (below) has a more accurate translation of the Hebrew original.

The phrase conventionally expresses anguish and embitterment, although Wodehouse often seems to use it in a slightly different way.

17  He sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant:
18  whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron:

[Bible Psalms 105:17-18]

It’s just Fate (Ch. 18; page 223)

The ocean-liner chapter in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is called “Fate Keeps on Happening”.

pain and anguish ... Scott (Ch. 18; page 223)

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 Marmion VI:30]

Bandollero (Ch. 18; page 223)

See explanation in text.

The Spanish term bandolero (a bandit, a robber in remote places) comes from bandolera, a bandolier, i.e. a belt worn over one shoulder, and used for carrying weapons and ammunition.

“The Bandolero” (Ch. 18; page 224)

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.

J.G. Garges (Ch. 18; page 224)

No obvious Wodehouse connection; this seems to be the only Garges in the canon. Garges is a reasonably common surname in the USA, possibly coming from the French town of that name.

caramba! (Ch. 18; page 224)

Mild Spanish exclamation.

mañana (Ch. 18; page 224)

Spanish: “tomorrow” - in English and American stereotypes of them, Spaniards and Latin Americans are represented as procrastinators par excellence.

take a lib. (Ch. 18; page 228)


Yes ... he had no mañanas (Ch. 18; page 230)

There's a fruit store on our street
It's run by a Greek.
And he keeps good things to eat
But you should hear him speak!

When you ask him anything,
he never answers "no".
He just "yes"es you to death,
and as he takes your dough he tells you:

Yes, we have no bananas
We have-a no bananas today.
We've string beans, and onions
Cabashes, and scallions,
And all sorts of fruit and say
We have an old fashioned tomato
A Long Island potato
But yes, we have no bananas.
We have no bananas today.

[Silver, Frank & Cohn, Irving Comic Song, 1923 v.1]

parley (Ch. 18; page 231)

To talk or negotiate, especially in a military or diplomatic context. From French parler.

Mona Lisa (Ch. 18; page 231)

Celebrated painting by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1521), the portrait of the wife of a Florentine merchant. Another of the most famous works in the Louvre.

Wodehouse might conceivably have been thinking of Cole Porter’s line “You’re the smile on the Mona Lisa” from “You’re the top,” which was written in 1934, and which Wodehouse was busy revising for the British production of Anything Goes at about the same time he was writing The Luck of the Bodkins.

Deb-whatever-the-word-is (Ch. 18; page 231)

debonair, presumably.

Leslie Howard (Ch. 18; page 231)

Leslie Howard (1893-1943) was a few years behind Wodehouse at Dulwich, and, like Wodehouse, worked in a bank after leaving school. Wodehouse apparently only discovered this when Howard was his guest at Rogate Lodge in 1928 (see letter dated 26 June in Performing Flea).

Howard became an actor after military service in the first world war. In 1935 his greatest triumphs (Pygmalion and Gone With the Wind) were still ahead of him, but he had just appeared in Of Human Bondage with Bette Davis. Wodehouse co-wrote two plays for Howard: Her Cardboard Lover and Candle-Light.

[Phelps, Barry, P.G. Wodehouse: Man and Myth (1992) ]

Ronald Colman (Ch. 18; page 232)

Another British Hollywood star. Colman (1891-1958) had recently appeared in the Sinclair Lewis adaptation, Arrowsmith.

During Wodehouse’s time in Hollywood, he and Colman were both among the vice-presidents of the Hollywood Cricket Club.

[Phelps, Barry, P.G. Wodehouse: Man and Myth (1992) 165]

leaven (Ch. 18; page 232)


Schnozzle Durante (Ch. 18; page 232)

Jimmy Durante (1893-1980), American comedian, famous inter alia for his large nose. Had recently appeared in the film Palooka (1934: GB title The Great Schnozzle).

Clark Gable (Ch. 18; page 232)

William Clark Gable (1901-1960), American film actor, best known for his portrayal of tough, romantic heroes. One of his most famous films, Mutiny on the Bounty, was released about the same time as Luck of the Bodkins was published; Gone with the Wind was still a couple of years in the future.

Louella Parsons (Ch. 18; page 233)

(1881-1972) Celebrated and feared Hollywood gossip columnist for the Hearst newspapers.

Jean Harlow (Ch. 18; page 233)

Harlean Carpentier (1911-1937), the original platinum blonde, and perhaps the best-known sex symbol of the thirties (“Would you mind if I change into something more comfortable?”). She often acted with Clark Gable (see above).

Cleopatra (Ch. 18; page 233)

Cleopatra VII (69-31 BCE), Macedonian queen of Egypt, the last of the Ptolemies to hold power. As head of the most economically important country in the region, she inevitably became involved in the power struggles for the control of the Roman Empire, marrying Julius Caesar and, after Caesar's assassination, Mark Anthony (she also had to marry two of her younger brothers and one of her sons at various times to comply with Egyptian dynastic law). When Anthony was defeated by Octavian she committed suicide rather than be humiliated as a Roman captive.

tryst (Ch. 18; page 235)

From the Scottish verb 'tryst,' to arrange a meeting. Now chiefly used in a romantic context, but until the nineteenth century could refer to any kind of pre-arranged encounter, e.g. a duel, a business meeting.

Chapter 19 (Ch. 19; page 242)

Runs from pp 242 to 257 in the Penguin edition.

purchase of chocolates after eight p.m. (Ch. 19; page 242)

This is presumably a reference to the restrictions on shop opening hours imposed by the Shops Act of 1934. There were all sorts of odd legal restrictions in Britain on what you could buy during which hours, intended to protect shop workers (later ruthlessly swept away by Mrs Thatcher). One oddity was always that you could buy wine after normal shopping hours, but not food, presumably including chocolates.

There does not seem to be any connection to the “After Eight” chocolate mint, which was introduced by Rowntree’s of York in 1962. The name and marketing strategy are said to have been thought up by John Horam, later to become famous as an MP for belonging - successively - to three different parties (Labour, SDP, Conservative). Given the ideals of Joseph Rowntree, it is unlikely that there was any intention that exploited shop-workers should be obliged to sell them late at night - the idea was rather to suggest to consumers that the mint was such a self-indulgent pleasure that one wouldn’t dare eat it in daytime.

Desmond Carruthers (Ch. 19; page 243)

Carruthers as a name for heroes of adventure stories became a cliché with Erskine Childers’s Riddle of the Sands (1903), where it is the name of the narrator.

sapphire ... eye of the idol (Ch. 19; page 243)

This may be a reference to a now-forgotten story of the Edgar Wallace type, or perhaps an allusion to Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone (1868), the plot of which revolves around a yellow diamond which had been stolen from an Indian temple (Cf. the sacred ebony stick in Something Fresh). More recently, the Indiana Jones films parodied just this sort of story.

novelists of the virile school ... pipes (Ch. 19; page 244)

Wodehouse perhaps wouldn’t have considered himself in this category (cf. p 160 above), but in later life he sometimes allowed this particular photographic cliché to be perpetrated on the back cover of his books.

knee-length underwear (Ch. 19; page 245)

This seems rather unlikely wear for a woman of Lottie’s age and tastes: perhaps Wodehouse’s knowledge of the facts of life is letting him down here?

Yoicks! ... Tally-Ho! (Ch. 19; page 246)

Hunting cries.

Apollyon (Ch. 19; page 247)

The Angel of the Bottomless Pit (Book of Revelation), with whom Christian has to fight in Pilgrim's Progress.

A1 at Lloyd’s (Ch. 19; page 253)

In Lloyd’s Register of British and Foreign Shipping, the character of the ship’s hull is designated by letters, and that of the anchors, cables, and stores by figures. A1 means hull first-rate, and also anchors, cables, and stores; A2, hull first-rate, but furniture second-rate. Vessels of an inferior character are classified under the letters Æ, E, and I.

[ Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable s.v. A1]

only shot in my locker (Ch. 19; page 254)

Sailing ships carried roundshot (i.e. cannonballs) in special shot-lockers because of their weight and tendency to roll around. If you only had one shot left, you had to use it carefully.

high road … low road (Ch. 19; page 255)

O ye'll tak' the high road, and I'll tak' the low road,
 And I'll be in Scotland afore ye,
 But me and my true love will never meet again,
 On the bonnie, bonnie banks o' Loch Lomon'.

[Anonymous Loch Lomond (traditional Scottish song) ]

for the love of Peter (Ch. 19; page 257)

(More usually: “For the love of Peter, Paul and Mary”) As a Hoboken Murphy, Lottie evidently has a Roman Catholic background.

Chapter 20 (Ch. 20; page 258)

Runs from pp 258 to 274 in the Penguin edition.

tout ensemble (Ch. 20; page 259)

French: everything together; the total impression. Often a fashion term, also used in English in art criticism, etc.

Mickey Mice (Ch. 20; page 260)

Linguists argue at great length about “Mickey Mice” vs. “Mickey Mouses” - see for example Stephen Pinker’s The Language Instinct. Noam Chomsky was still only six years old when this passage was written, so we can assume that Wodehouse was free to choose the option that seemed to have most in common with the rules of traditional grammar.

superman (Ch. 20; page 260)

Nietzsche coined the term Übermensch in Also sprach Zarathustra (1883). The translation “superman” was established in English by George Bernard Shaw’s 1903 play Man and Superman.

The comic-book hero Superman did not appear until 1938.

dirty work at the crossroads (Ch. 20; page 260)

Dirty Work at the Crossroads, or Tempted, Tried and True is the title of an American melodrama by Bill Johnson, first produced in 1890 (the only evidence I have for this date is the Afrikaans site below, but it seems plausible). The play has evidently been a staple of amateur dramatics ever since. The title had entered the language as a cliché by the 1920s.

Of course, crossroads have been associated with nefarious activity of one sort or another since Roman times, if not before.

Sir Stafford Cripps (Ch. 20; page 260)

British lawyer and politician (1889-1952). He had held office as solicitor-general in 1930-31, and was to hold important ministerial posts during and after the second world war, but in the mid-30s he was best known as a left-wing dissident in the Labour party, annoying Labour moderates by making speeches advocating closer links with the Communist party, denouncing the League of Nations as a capitalist conspiracy, and urging military action against fascism.

wounded soldier ... Sir Philip Sidney (Ch. 20; page 270)

Sir Philip Sidney (1554-86), Elizabethan poet, courtier, soldier, and all-round model of excellence. Bored with court life, he got himself made governor of Vlissingen (Flushing) during the Dutch war against Spain, and he died, aged 32, of a wound he received in a skirmish near Zutphen. According to legend, though wounded himself, he insisted on caring for an injured soldier on the battlefield.

contract ... options (Ch. 20; page 270)

An option is a clause where a party to a contract allows the other a certain period of time to decide whether he wants that part of the contract to enter force, usually in exchange for an advance payment. This is a common device in the movie industry, where it is often uncertain until the last minute whether a project will go ahead, and producers use options to secure actors and writers while they look for capital to make the film.

For an author like Wodehouse, it is of course very annoying if a producer takes out an option on your work and then doesn’t use it, leaving you unable to sell the work to anyone else while the option is in force.

holocaust (Ch. 20; page 271)

Wodehouse is here using the word holocaust in its original Greek sense, of an all-consuming fire; it was also commonly used in English in the biblical sense of a burnt offering.

Just under a month before the British publication of The Luck of the Bodkins, the so-called “Nuremberg Laws” were passed by the Nazi government in Germany, depriving Jewish Germans of most of their civil rights.

Mona Lisa (Ch. 20; page 272)

see above

off her oats (Ch. 20; page 274)

An expression one would normally use of a horse that has lost its appetite. Wodehouse is establishing the hockey players as horsey outdoor types.

Chapter 21 (Ch. 21; page 275)

Runs from pp 275 to 283 in the Penguin edition.

typhoons ... water-spouts (Ch. 21; page 275)

Typhoons, by definition, only occur in the western Pacific. Atlantic storms are called hurricanes.

A waterspout is the phenomenon observed when a weak tornado passes over the sea. They are not usually a serious danger to large ships.

Czecho-Slovakian director (Ch. 21; page 276)

The Czech film industry was one of the biggest in Europe in the twenties and thirties. Gustav Machaty was perhaps the best-known director of the period. His leading lady, Hedwig Kiesler, became the Hollywood star Hedy Lamarr, apparently largely on the strength of a brief nude scene in Machaty’s film Ecstasy (1933).

Statue of Liberty (Ch. 21; page 277)

A 46m high metal statue at the entrance to New York harbour, presented to the United States by the Franco-American Union in 1886 to commemorate the alliance between the two countries during their respective revolutions, designed by the French sculptor F.A. Bartholdi. Later came to be seen as a symbol of the United States’ welcome to European immigrants.

Hippodrome (Ch. 21; page 277)

The Hippodrome, on the corner of Charing Cross Road and Cranburn St (directly opposite Leicester Square tube station) opened in 1900 as an indoor circus, including facilities for equestrian and aquatic performances (though presumably not both at once...). It was converted to a music hall in 1909, which would account for its having a chorus in Monty’s account.

The original interior was ripped out in 1958, but the building survives and is now a nightclub/discotheque.

Burgess, Bostock and Billington-Todd (Ch. 21; page 277)

Mary Burgess is old Heppenstall’s niece, one of the objects of Bingo’s affection in The Inimitable Jeeves. There is also a Burgess who is the Wrykyn cricket captain in Mike at Wrykyn.

The Bostocks re-appear in Uncle Dynamite (1948).

There are many Todds in the canon, but this seems to be the only Billington. Possibly Wodehouse is thinking of Teresa Billington-Greig (1877-1968), a prominent suffrage activist and one of the founders of the Women’s Freedom League (a left-wing, pacifist splinter group of the Pankhursts’ WSPU, associated with the Independent Labour Party), who would have been much in the newspapers in Wodehouse’s London days.

[Garrison, Daniel H., Who’s Who in Wodehouse (1991) ]

presents his comps (Ch. 21; page 278)

Compliments - a standard polite formula when sending a message via an intermediary. Also common theatrical jargon for complimentary (free) tickets to a show.

Piazza (Ch. 21; page 282)

Presumably the famous Plaza Hotel on Fifth Avenue and Central Park South, which opened in 1907.

Girton (Ch. 21; page 283)

Ladies' college of Cambridge University. Founded at Hitchin in 1869, moved to a site two miles north of Cambridge in 1873. 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 (cf Murphy, chapter 17).

Chapter 22 (Ch. 22; page 284)

Runs from pp 284 to 300 in the Penguin edition.

stevedores and gentlemen of leisure (Ch. 22; page 284)

Stevedores are dock workers, in particular those employed to stow cargo in the holds of ships.

Wodehouse’s early novel A Gentleman of Leisure (US title: The Intrusion of Jimmy) appeared some 25 years before The Luck of the Bodkins. The phrase ‘gentlemen of leisure’ can be found elsewhere in the canon, too, ironically referring to loafers, seedy characters, wall-proppers, etc. E.g. see Sam the Sudden, ch. 5.

the Bar Building (Ch. 22; page 285)

This building is the headquarters of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, and lies between 5th and 6th Avenues, on West 44th Street, about a mile south of the Plaza Hotel.

From the White Star terminal, the Bar Building would be on the way to the Plaza Hotel.

universal benevolence ... Charles Dickens (Ch. 22; page 287)

Obviously a reference to Scrooge in A Christmas Carol (1843).

Cheeryble brother (Ch. 22; page 288)

The kindly, philanthropic twin brothers Ned and Charles Cheeryble appear in Charles Dickens's Nicholas Nickleby (1838-9).

White Star Pier (Ch. 22; page 289)

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

‘deepo’ (Ch. 22; page 289)

i.e. depot (American for a railway station)

Finis (Ch. 22; page 290)

Latin: the end. Often used to mark the end of a book, both in English and French.

grow or catch copra (Ch. 22; page 290)

Copra is dried coconut flesh (albumen), which is harvested on Pacific islands, especially Tahiti, for the production of coconut oil, used extensively in the soap and cosmetics industry.

As coconuts fall from the tree when ripe, it would presumably be possible for a skilled cricketer to “catch copra,” although this would be a rather hazardous way of harvesting it.

‘Goodbye to all that’ (Ch. 22; page 290)

Title of Robert Graves’s celebrated memoir describing his youth and experiences of the first world war, which was published in 1929. Wodehouse made (punning) use of that title in that of "Goodbye to All Cats" (1934).

beasel (Ch. 22; page 291)

This is very obscure - it clearly means 'woman' (as it also does in Hot Water, where it is spelled ‘beazel’), but so far it has not been possible to find an independent record of it elsewhere - not even in the OED. The best I have is an unsubstantiated suggestion that beasel hound was twenties slang for ‘skirt-chaser.’

Beasel occurs occasionally as a surname.

hep (Ch. 22; page 292)

Early 20th century US slang: in the know

The OED isn’t sure where hep comes from, and several of the first examples cited are from early Wodehouse (Piccadilly Jim, Adventures of Sally). It is sometimes said to come from the name of a celebrated Cincinnati detective, or from the way American soldiers are taught to march (“hep, two three four...”). In any case it seems to be a variant of the black American term hip.

Empire State Building (Ch. 22; page 292)

This 381m high skyscraper was the tallest building in the world when it was built in 1930-1931. It stands on Fifth Avenue between 33rd and 34th Streets.

commissary (Ch. 22; page 292)

A commissary was a person, usually an official of some kind, given a special responsibility for something (cf. French commissaire). This word is generally obsolete in Britain apart from a few obscure academic and ecclesiastical titles.

In American military usage in the 19th century commissary took over the meaning of the similar-sounding word commissariat, i.e. a place where stores are kept and issued. By extension (possibly because the big Hollywood studios were set up shortly after the war, when many workers would have seen military service), it came to be used for a canteen in a film studio.

Brother Bodkin (Ch. 22; page 294)

Brother, apart from its monastic use, is, or was, often used as a form of address between fellow members of trade unions, Masonic institutions, and some Nonconformist chapels. There is brief mention of a (chapel-) Brother Bodkin in Chapter 5 of George Eliot’s Felix Holt, for instance, which might be the origin of Lottie’s remark. Alternatively, it could be a Masonic reference of some kind.

better man than most, Gunga Din (Ch. 22; page 298)

It’s hard to imagine Llewellyn as an Indian water carrier, but the last line of Kipling’s Barrack-Room Ballad, a popular recitation piece, has entered the language.

‘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)]

Chapter 23 (Ch. 23; page 301)

Runs from pp 301 to 310 in the Penguin edition.

referee ... offside (Ch. 23; page 301)

The offside rule in hockey was a famous bugbear, and was finally scrapped by the FIH in the late 1990s. As an attacking player, you were not allowed to receive a pass from a team-mate if you were within 25 yards of the goal, unless there were at least two opposing players between you and the back line. It was thus very easy for defenders deliberately to provoke offside violations to stop the game for tactical reasons.

by the beard of Sam Goldwyn (Ch. 23; page 302)

The usual expression is “by the beard of the Prophet,” of course: Muhammed’s beard, a hair from which is preserved in Istanbul, is an object of veneration in Islamic tradition.

Wodehouse’s former employer, Sam Goldwyn (ca.1880-1974), was clean-shaven, of course, like most Americans of the period. Lottie is making an absurd comparison between the position of the Prophet in Islam and the position of the studio boss in Hollywood, of course, but we are perhaps also supposed to remember that Goldwyn was born into a Jewish family in Poland (his original name was Schmuel Gelbfisz).

Pilgrim Father (Ch. 23; page 303)

The first recorded use of the term “Pilgrim Father” to describe the Mayflower colonists dates from 1799. Most of the stories of the Pilgrim Fathers that have become part of American tradition are now known to be pious nonsense concocted in the nineteenth century, much of it connected with the need for re-establishing a distinct American identity after the Civil War, but clearly they are too deeply embedded in the national culture to be lightly dismissed.

Reading the entry from Brewer below, one suspects that “Father” must have been the operative word...!

Wodehouse may again have been thinking of the Cole Porter show he had been working on:

Times have changed
And we’ve often rewound the clock
Since the Puritans got a shock
When they landed on Plymouth Rock.
If today any shock they should try to stem
‘Stead of landing on Plymouth Rock,
Plymouth Rock would land on them.

[Cole Porter, Anything Goes (from the show Anything Goes, 1934)]

Pilgrim Fathers (The).

 The 102 English, Scotch, and Dutch Puritans who, in December, 1620, went to North America in the ship called the Mayflower, and colonised Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.

[ Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable s.v. Pilgrim Fathers]

What I tell you three times is true (Ch. 23; page 303)

“Just the place for a Snark!” the Bellman cried,
As he landed his crew with care;
Supporting each man on the top of the tide
By a finger entwined in his hair.

“Just the place for a Snark! I have said it twice:
That alone should encourage the crew.
Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice:
What I tell you three times is true.”

[Carroll, Lewis (Dodgson, C.L.) The Hunting of the Snark Fit the First, ll.1-8]

Béarnaise Sauce (Ch. 23; page 304)

A sauce made from butter, vinegar and egg yolks, and flavoured with tarragon and shallots. It is often served with meat dishes.

flying tackle (Ch. 23; page 305)

As a hockey player, Gertrude would be unlikely to have much experience of this rugby technique.

scales fallen ...? (Ch. 23; page 305)

17  And Anani'as went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.
18  And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.

[Bible Acts of the Apostles 9:17-18]

wrestled ... in prayer (Ch. 23; page 305)

There’s quite a bit of wrestling in the Bible, but the phrase “wrestling in prayer” seems to be a later pulpit cliché.

10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
11  Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
12  For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places

[Bible Ephesians 6:10-12]

sweet suffering soup-spoons (Ch. 23; page 308)

There are many mild exclamations involving “suffering...” (“Suffering Moses!” and “Suffering Cats!” are among the better-known), but I have not seen soup-spoons in this connection elsewhere.

It could perhaps be a distortion of suffering succotash, the name of a traditional native American dish made with maize and beans. This phrase later became famous in cartoons, of course (Sylvester the cat first appeared in 1944).

Chapter 24 (Ch. 24; page 311)

Runs from pp 311 to 323 in the Penguin edition.

rising on stepping-stones of his dead self to higher things. (Ch. 24; page 311)

I held it truth, with him who sings
To one clear harp in divers tones,
That men may rise on stepping-stones
Of their dead selves to higher things.

[Tennyson, Alfred Lord (1809-1892) In memoriam A.H.H. I:1-4]

volte-face (Ch. 24; page 311)

Military French: a reversal, U-turn

Slough of Despond (Ch. 24; page 311)

A deep bog that has to be crossed in Pilgrim's Progress Pt 1, to get to the Wicket Gate.

Bayard (Ch. 24; page 320)

Pierre du Terrail (1476-1524) was regarded as the model of French chivalry, the “chevalier sans peur et sans reproche.” The Elizabethan courtier Sir Philip Sidney (see above) was sometimes referred to as “the English Bayard.” [Brewer]

prohibition (Ch. 24; page 323)

The 18th Amendment (brought into force by the Volstead Act of 1919) was repealed in 1933. Wodehouse frequently made fun of American hypocrisy over Prohibition - cf. also Senator Opal in Hot Water, for instance.


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