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

Heavy Weather has been annotated by Deepthi Sigireddi and Neil Midkiff, with contributions from Diego Seguí, John Dawson, and others as credited. It is a direct sequel to the 1929 novel Summer Lightning (US title: Fish Preferred), and in story time it takes place some ten days later, or perhaps in the next month (see ten days and August below).

Heavy Weather was first published on July 28, 1933, by Little, Brown, and Company, Boston [left], and on August 10, 1933, by Herbert Jenkins, London [right]. It was serialized in the Saturday Evening Post prior to book publication; see this page for details of serial appearances.

These annotations and their page numbers relate to the Penguin paperback edition (1966 plates, “set in Monotype Times” and reprinted many times), in which the text covers pp. 5–249.


Chapter 1

Fleet Street (ch.1, p.5)

A major street in London. It became known for printing and publishing in the 16th century. Many newspapers had their offices there until the 1980s.

Mammoth Publishing Company (ch.1, p.5)

Norman Murphy traces the original of this to Amalgamated Press, owned by Lord Northcliffe. See Bill the Conqueror for more.

Lord Tilbury (ch.1, p.5)

This is Lord Tilbury’s fourth appearance in the canon. We first meet Lord Tilbury as Sir George Pyke in Bill the Conqueror. He’s about to be elevated to the Peerage and has chosen the title Lord Tilbury. He also appears in Sam the Sudden. In Summer Lightning, he’s mentioned as the owner of Society Spice, the magazine Percy Pilbeam used to edit.

Norman Murphy (in A Wodehouse Handbook, vol. 1) is convinced that Lord Tilbury is based on Alfred Harmsworth, later Lord Northcliffe. According to him, in 1902, Northcliffe controlled over half the newspapers and magazines in the UK. The newspapers were run from Carmelite House and the magazines from Northcliffe House, both of which were both in Carmelite Street, off Fleet Street.

Lord Tilbury runs his publishing empire from Tilbury House, similarly to how Lord Northcliffe ran his magazine empire from Northcliffe House.

Lady Julia Fish (ch.1, p.5)

One of Lord Emsworth’s ten sisters; widow of Sir Miles Fish; mother of Ronnie Fish, first mentioned in Money for Nothing (1928) and described in more detail in Summer Lightning/Fish Preferred (1929). This is her first appearance “onstage” in a novel. [NM]

Biarritz (ch.1, p.5)

A seaside city in southwestern France. The casino (opened in 1901) and the beaches made it a popular tourist destination starting in the 19th century.

Tiny Tots (ch.1, p.5)

A children’s magazine owned by Lord Tilbury. See ch. 7, p. 71 in Murphy, N. T. P., A Wodehouse Handbook, vol. 1, Revised Second Edition (2013). [In the Saturday Evening Post serialization the magazine is titled Just Tots. —NM]

Reminiscences (ch.1, p.6)

In Summer Lightning, we hear that Galahad is writing his Reminiscences. Lady Constance and Sir Gregory want to stop him from publishing them, and he agrees on the condition that Ronnie Fish be allowed to marry Sue Brown, a chorus girl, the daughter of the late Dolly Henderson, with whom Gally was once in love.

Cor! (ch.1, p.6)

A cockney slang word meaning God.

twenty-five pounds overweight (ch.1, p.6)

Lord Tilbury has grown a bit since Bill the Conqueror. In the first chapter of that book, he’s described as being twenty pounds overweight.

Napoleon (ch.1, p.6)

Napoléon Bonaparte was Emperor of the French from 1804 until 1814 and again in 1815. The British press portrayed him as short and round and that has led to the stereotype of a short person who is overly aggressive in order to compensate for an inferiority complex.

[Napoleon Bonaparte was measured at 5′7″ at his death, a bit above the average height of a Frenchman of his era, but much shorter than his bodyguards, who were selected for their size, which apparently led others to think of Napoleon as short. —NM]

every county from Cumberland to Cornwall (ch.1, p.6)

Cumberland is a county in North West England (only Northumberland is farther north), whereas Cornwall is in the south west. A picturesque way of saying ‘all along the length of England’.

long-cupboarded skeletons (ch.1, p.7)

This is Wodehouse’s twist on the idiom ‘skeletons in the cupboard’. In American English, it usually takes the form ‘skeletons in the closet’. It means a set of facts about someone that if revealed might lead to scandal. Apparently these skeletons had been in their cupboards for a long time.

Diego Seguí points us to the Phrase Finder, which traces the literary image back to Thackeray; Diego also mentions several usages in Dickens, including Our Mutual Friend, ch. 4 and 12, and Little Dorrit, ch. 20. Wodehouse used the image often:

And, besides, he really did want to know how Mr. Thompson had got to hear of this skeleton in his cupboard.

The Pothunters, ch. 12 (1902)

“We shall be able to see the skeletons in their cupboards,” he observed. “Every man has a skeleton in his cupboard, which follows him about wherever he goes.”

Clowes, in The Gold Bat, ch. 20 (1904)

“My friendship for you deplores a mammoth skeleton in your cupboard, James.”

Julian Eversleigh in Not George Washington, ch. 9 (1907)

The cupboard, with any skeletons it might contain, was open for all to view.

Mike, ch. 51 (1909)

The closet, with any skeletons it might contain, was open for all to view.

Something New, ch. 9 (1915)

We were peeping into the family cupboard and having a look at the good old skeleton.

Bertie Wooster, in “Sir Roderick Comes to Lunch” (1922; in The Inimitable Jeeves, ch. 7, 1923)

[The Duke of Dunstable] decided to abandon reserve and lay bare the skeleton in his own cupboard.

Uncle Fred in the Springtime, ch. 10 (1939)

“But is that enough?” said Homer, shrinking like a salted snail at the thought of having to reveal the skeleton in the family cupboard, but feeling that if the revelation must be made, this was the moment for a conscientious man to make it.

The Girl in Blue, ch. 3 (1970)

‘A veritable storehouse of diverting anecdote’ (ch.1, p.7)

This seems to be a play on the more common expression ‘a veritable storehouse of knowledge’. It is unknown whether Wodehouse got this from an actual critic’s review.

Sir Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe of Matchingham Hall (ch.1, p.7)

The 7th Baronet had been friendly with Galahad when they were both young men about town. By the time of Summer Lightning, he’s a solid citizen vying for a seat in Parliament.

Recording Angel (ch.1, p.7)

The angel who records all the good and bad deeds committed by men, and presumably these records are used by St. Peter at the pearly gates to decide who gets admitted.

Diego points out an early use by Wodehouse in Love Among the Chickens, ch. 10, in which the argument between Jeremy Garnet and his Conscience is published in the Recording Angel (italicized as if it were a periodical title).

He glanced over his shoulder with a sudden nervous movement, as if expecting to see the Recording Angel standing there with pen and note-book.

Lord Hoddeston, in Big Money, ch. 4.2 (1931)

The whole thing to my mind smacked rather unpleasantly of Abou ben Adhem and Recording Angels, and I found myself frowning somewhat.

Bertie Wooster, upon hearing of the Junior Ganymede Club Book in The Code of the Woosters, ch. 5 (1938)

“Now listen, Uncle Fred,” he said, and his voice was like music to the ears of the Recording Angel, who felt that this was going to be good. “All that stuff is out.”

Uncle Dynamite, ch. 2 (1948)

Society Spice (ch.1, p.7)

A gossip magazine owned by Lord Tilbury which used to be edited by Percy Pilbeam, and (incompetently) by Lord Tilbury’s son Roderick Pyke before him.

Percy Pilbeam (ch.1, p.7)

Percy Frobisher Pilbeam is first introduced in Bill the Conqueror along with Lord Tilbury and his family. He rises to editor of Society Spice before resigning to start a Private Inquiry Agency.

Pilbeam also appears in Sam the Sudden, Summer Lightning/Fish Preferred, Something Fishy, and Frozen Assets/Biffen’s Millions; his visit to Blandings is recalled by Lady Constance in Uncle Fred in the Springtime.

succès de scandale (ch.1, p.7)

French, literally ‘success of scandal’. Something that is successful due to its notoriety or scandalous nature.

dead past (ch.1, p.7)

See Sam the Sudden.

galleon under sail (ch.1, p.8)

A galleon was a large, multi-decked sailing ship used as an armed cargo carrier primarily by European states from the 16th to 18th centuries. This is a shortened form of ‘a galleon under full sail’ which means a galleon with all the sails in position or fully spread. Figuratively used to suggest rapid or unimpeded progress [OED]

the geniality of a trapped wolf (ch.1, p.8)

This vivid metaphor needs no explanation, but deserves an exclamation! [NM]

Admirals in the Swiss Navy (ch.1, p.8)

‘Admiral of the Swiss navy’ is US Armed Forces slang for a self-important person.

War Slang: American Fighting Words & Phrases Since the Civil War, Third Edition by Paul Dickson

[Presumably the doorkeeper at Tilbury House wore a quasi-military uniform, similar to that of the doorman at Barribault’s Hotel, who is described as an admiral in the Ruritanian navy in Spring Fever, ch. 20, and as a Ruritanian Field Marshal in Something Fishy, ch. 9. —NM]

small boys in buttons (ch.1, p.9)

A boy servant in livery (uniform), a page. Akin to an office boy. Essentially someone to run errands in an office or stately home. See also Bill the Conqueror.

time is money (ch.1, p.9)

Wodehouse liked to appropriate slogans and catch-phrases from the world of business, such as Do It Now. Google Books finds “Time is money” as far back as 1719, in The Free-Thinker, no. 121. Dickens made use of it in Barnaby Rudge and Nicholas Nickleby. [NM]

“Time is money, you know, with us business men.”

Archie Moffam to his father-in-law, in “The Man Who Married an Hotel” (1920; in Indiscretions of Archie, 1921)

“We young business men move fast nowadays, Uncle Cooley. Time is money with us.”

Bill West, in Bill the Conqueror.

Time is money with these coves, and no doubt he had remembered some other appointment which he couldn’t make if he waited at his club till ten.

Ukridge, in “A Bit of Luck for Mabel” (1925; in Eggs, Beans and Crumpets)

Smedley, who had been making for the French window, briskly like a man to whom time is money, paused.

The Old Reliable, ch. 19 (1951)

It was brief and business-like, the letter of a man to whom time is money.

French Leave, ch. 7 (1956)

Monty Bodkin (ch.1, p.9)

Montague (or Montrose) Bodkin is Sir Gregory’s nephew. This is his first appearance in the canon, followed by two novels (The Luck of the Bodkins and Pearls, Girls and Monty Bodkin) in which he’s one of the main male characters.

Swallowing camels and straining at gnats (ch.1, p.9)

Doing something difficult but balking at something much easier.

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.

Bible: Matthew 23:23–24

The man of iron (ch.1, p.9)

Possibly a reference to Otto von Bismarck, who gave a famous speech in 1862 called the ‘Blood and Iron speech’ while he was Minister President of Prussia. Bismarck was famously strong-willed and outspoken. Lord Tilbury had intended to be ‘strong, brusque, decisive’ with Lady Julia.

placing his thumbs in the armholes of his waistcoat (ch.1, p.10)

This pose, resulting in outspread elbows, is an expression of confidence, whether real or simulated. Lord Tilbury has adopted it in two earlier books, and several other characters have done the same. [NM]

“That,” said Sir George, thrusting his fingers into the armholes of the Pyke waistcoat and speaking in the loud, bluff, honest voice of the man who is about to do some hard lying, “is a photograph of a Miss—Miss——”

Bill the Conqueror, ch. 8 (1924)

And Lord Tilbury, having removed his thumbs from the armholes of his waistcoat in order the more freely to fling them heavenward, uttered a complicated sound…

Sam the Sudden/Sam in the Suburbs, ch. 12.2 (1925)

…a complacent-looking person with a shaven neck and an unlighted cigar, who was leaning back in a swivel-chair with his thumbs in the armholes of his waistcoat.

“The Dramatic Fixer” (1916)

“Is zat so?” Mr. Waddington put his thumbs in the armholes of his waistcoat and felt rather conquering.

Sigsbee Waddington, in The Small Bachelor, ch. 13 (1927)

Mr. Waddington’s thumbs shot into the arm-holes of his waistcoat.

G. G. Waddington, in If I Were You, ch. 8 (1931)

“Speech,” he said affably.
He then stood with his thumbs in the armholes of his waistcoat, waiting for the applause to die down.

Gussie Fink-Nottle, in Right Ho, Jeeves, ch. 17 (1934)

But hear it spoken in a loud, rasping, defiant voice by a man with his chin protruding and his thumbs in the armholes of his waistcoat, and the effect is vastly different.

Spring Fever, ch. 23 (1948)

The human race was all right. Any race that could produce a Russell Clutterbuck was entitled to slap itself on the chest and go strutting about with its thumbs in the armholes of its waistcoat and its hat on the side of its head.

French Leave, ch. 8 (1956)

Home for the Lovelorn (ch.1, p.10)

This sounds like a play on the name of an orphanage (home for orphans etc.). Elsewhere in the canon, PGW mentions two other magazines published by Tilbury House: Home Chat in A Damsel in Distress and Pyke’s Home Companion in Sam the Sudden. So maybe Tilbury means that though he publishes various Home magazines, he’s not actually running an asylum for the lovelorn.

Sunny Jim (ch.1, p.11)

Jimmy Dumps is a cartoon character created in 1901 for advertising Force cereal, a wheat flake cereal. He is supposed to be a gloomy person who is transformed into Sunny Jim after eating the cereal.

Jim Dumps was a most unfriendly man,
Who lived his life on the hermit plan;
In his gloomy way he’d gone through life,
And made the most of woe and strife;
Till Force one day was served to him
Since then they’ve called him “Sunny Jim.”


High o’er the fence leaps Sunny Jim,
Force is the food that raises him.

[advertising jingles by Minnie Maud Hanff]

who moves in a mysterious way his wonders to perform (ch.1, p.11)

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

William Cowper: God moves in a mysterious way

“I have no notion whatever why he has had this sudden change of heart.” (ch.1, p.11)

Lady Julia apparently has no scruples about lying to Lord Tilbury to hide her knowledge of the bargain made in Summer Lightning that results in Galahad’s suppression of his Reminiscences. [NM]

take him for a ride (ch.1, p.11)

In milder usages, figurative, meaning to deceive. Here it is a jocular reference to gangster slang for an out-of-the-way killing.

But in a sinister and the original sense the person taken for the ride rarely returns. The expression was of underworld origin, coined in the United States during the wave of criminality after World War I, when rival gangs of law-breakers waged warfare on each other. Anyone incurring the displeasure of a gang chieftain was likely to be invited by a henchman to go for a ride in the car of the latter, ostensibly to talk matters over and clear up the misunderstanding. The victim rarely returned from such a trip; his body might later be found by the police—or might not.

Charles Earle Funk: A Hog on Ice (1948, Harper & Row)

punching the clock (ch.1, p.11)

In some workplaces, workers literally punch a timecard using a time clock. But this can also mean doing the minimum necessary to keep the job, i.e., showing up at work for the requisite amount of time but not accomplishing much actual work.

Nature in the raw is seldom mild (ch.1, p.11)

This phrase appeared in several Lucky Strike cigarette advertisements in 1932–33 (Heavy Weather was published in 1933). The ad at right appeared in the December 1932 Popular Mechanics.

Lady Wensleydale (ch.1, p.12)

According to the Bedfordshire Archives & Records Service, there was an actual Lady Wensleydale who died in March 1879. The 1st Baron Wensleydale (born James Parke) was created Baron of Wensleydale, of Wensleydale (a life-peerage) circa 1855. This was later changed to a hereditary peerage as Baron of Wensleydale, of Walton. If this lady was his relict, then her name was Cecilia, not Jane. The Barony of Wensleydale is extinct because the 1st Baron had no male heirs.

Wensleydale is one of the Yorkshire Dales in North Yorkshire, England. It is famous for its cheese by the same name.

It is not known whether Lady (Jane) Wensleydale is based on the lady of that name, or on the cheese.

Norman Murphy suggests in The Reminiscences of Galahad Threepwood that the original for Lady Carnaby/Wensleydale/Bablockhythe is Adeline de Horsey, countess of Cardigan and Lancastre. She was for many years the mistress of Lord Cardigan of the Charge of the Light Brigade, marrying him after the death of his first wife. After his death, she married the Portugese Comte de Lancastre. Her book My Recollections appeared in 1909.

Wensleydale is one of the titles Lord Tilbury considers and decides against in Bill the Conqueror.

Sixty Years Near the Knuckle in Mayfair (ch.1, p.12)

A fictional title. Near the knuckle is an informal British phrase meaning verging on the indecent or offensive. [The US edition of Heavy Weather omitted the reference, so that Lady Wensleydale’s book was just Sixty Years in Mayfair. —NM]

Mayfair is an affluent area in the West End of London. It used to be mainly residential and housed upper class families until World War I, after which many of the largest houses were converted into foreign embassies. It attracted more commercial development after World War II and is now primarily commercial.

Chapter 2

life seemed to steal back to that rigid form (ch.2, p.13)

Perhaps an echo of Victorian cliches; a similar phrase occurs in a sentimental poem about a dying son, “The Mother’s Dream: a true incident” by Mrs. N. A. Pierson:

        When suddenly,
To the rigid form it seemed that life came back . . .

[Our Monthly, v. 7, p. 407 (June 1873), found by NM]

Though pain and anguish rack the brow (ch.2, p.13)

This was a poem PGW quoted in several of his novels. See Piccadilly Jim, A Damsel in Distress, Summer Moonshine, How Right You Are, Jeeves (ch.13), Three Men and a Maid (ch.7), Very Good, Jeeves (ch.6), Bill the Conqueror, etc.

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!

Sir Walter Scott: Marmion, Canto 6, line 30 (1808)

And here it would be agreeable to leave him (ch.2, p.13)

Could this be a reference to Winnie-The-Pooh? Ch. 10 in The House at Pooh Corner is titled In which Christopher Robin and Pooh come to an enchanted place, and we leave them there. The House at Pooh Corner was published in 1928, Heavy Weather in 1933.

motorman’s glove (ch.2, p.13)

A motorman is a person who operates an electric tram, trolley or train. (S)he’s in charge of the electric motor, similarly to an engineer on a rail engine. A motorman’s glove would probably not taste very good, what with all the motor oil it has to be around.

That’s what puts hair on the chest (ch.2, p.13)

to do or take something to invigorate or energize someone

McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms (2002) a leaking siphon (ch.2, p.14)

A hissing sound? [No doubt, since the word (spelled “syphon” in some editions including the US first) refers to a bottle for dispensing carbonated water; pressing a lever or button opens a valve, so that the pressure of the gas forces soda water out of the bottle’s spout into the user’s drinking glass. —NM]

the lowdown (ch.2, p.14)

the true facts or relevant information about something [OED]

US magazine and book hyphenate it as low-down; the OED cites the term first from San Francisco newspapers in 1905 and 1915, next from Wodehouse in Leave It to Psmith.

straight from the horse’s mouth (ch.2, p.14)

from an authoritative or dependable source.

mug (ch.2, p.14)

here, a gullible simpleton, a person easily persuaded or taken advantage of (British slang, mid-nineteenth century) [NM]

rummy (ch.2, p.14)

odd, strange, queer [OED]

Hendon (ch.2, p.14)

A London suburb seven miles northwest of Charing Cross, created a Municipal Borough in 1932, and subsumed into the London Borough of Barnet in 1965. [DS/NM]

Stow-in-the-Wold (ch.2, p.14)

Probably Stow-on-the-wold, a small market town in Gloucestershire, England.

lose her shirt (ch.2, p.14)

lose everything she owns on a bet

Ponders End (ch.2, p.14)

a commercial and residential district in the north London Borough of Enfield

popinjay (ch.2, p.14)

Literally a parrot. Figuratively, a vain or conceited person, especially one who dresses extravagantly.

It was a judgement (ch.2, p.14)

To Lord Tilbury, letting himself be worked for a job is a sin.

Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come

King James Bible: Revelation 14:6

what a harvest, what a reckoning! (ch.2, p.15)

Further references to Judgement Day, also known as the day of reckoning.

for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe

King James Bible: Revelation 14:15

lissom (ch.2, p.15)

Adjective used to describe someone who is supple and graceful.

the Drones Club (ch.2, p.15)

A gentlemen’s club in London that PGW used as a recurring location in many stories. The first mention is in Jill the Reckless (1921), and the last in Pearls, Girls and Monty Bodkin (1972).

spats (ch.2, p.15)

A shortening of spatterdashes or spatter guards. A footwear accessory worn to cover the instep and ankle. Spats were popular in the late 19th century and early 20th century.

one of his minor Marshals (ch.2, p.15)

Napoleon Bonaparte appointed a total of 26 Marshals of the Empire, with 14 of them being appointed in the first promotion in 1804. Some of them were relatively obscure generals who had never held significant commands.

deeps of misunderstanding (ch.2, p.15)

The deepest parts of oceans are often referred to as “the deeps of the ocean.” This is PGW’s variation on ‘seas of misunderstanding.’

Who’s the man that says that we’re all islands shouting lies to each other across seas of misunderstanding?

Rudyard Kipling: The Light that Failed, ch. 5 (1891)

taken his oath (ch.2, p.15)

Similar to ‘could have sworn.’ Historically, people were required to swear on the Bible and take an oath while assuming public office, or while giving evidence in a public court.

Cor! (ch.2, p.16)

A British slang word meaning “God” in cockney English.

elfin personality (ch.2, p.16)

small and delicate, with a mischievous charm.

lad about the metropolis (ch.2, p.16)

variation of ‘man about town.’ PGW coined the phrase but didn’t use it again.

alarm and despondency (ch.2, p.17)

See Ukridge.

the sack (ch.2, p.17)

losing one’s job

Custer’s Last Stand (ch.2, p.17)

The most significant battle of the Great Sioux War of 1876 in North America. Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer suffered a significant defeat at the hands of the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho (peoples and tribes of Native Americans). Custer was killed in the battle. Colloquially used to signify an all-out last effort in a losing battle.

bradawl (ch.2, p.17)

a hand boring tool similar to a small, sharpened screwdriver

wheels within wheels (ch.2, p.17)

used to indicate that a situation is complicated and affected by secret or indirect influences.
[A literary echo of Ezekiel’s vision:

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

Bible: Ezekiel 1:16, English Revised Version —NM]

Gertrude Butterwick (ch.2, p.18)

This is Gertrude’s first appearance in the canon. She also appears in The Luck of the Bodkins and Pearls, Girls and Monty Bodkin.

No clock-watching, no folding of the hands in … (ch.2, p.18)

How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? When wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.

Bible: Proverbs 6:9–11

No bowels—of compassion (ch.2, p.18)

But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?

Bible: 1 John 3:17

See Biblia Wodehousiana for Fr. Rob’s commentary.

Pip-pip (ch.2, p.18)

Informal way of saying goodbye.

young aristocrat of the French Revolution stepping into the tumbril (ch.2, p.18)

During the French Revolution (1789–99), people that had been sentenced to death by guillotine were transported to the site of execution by tumbril – an open wooden cart that could be tilted backwards for unloading.

Lizard’s Breath (ch.2, p.19)

A cocktail. The name seems to have been invented by PGW. [The Firefly Hollow Brewing Co. in Bristol, Connecticut, now produces a “massively hoppy” Lizard Breath India Pale Ale, but none of their other offerings have Wodehousean names, so this must be a coincidence. —NM]

Turfed out (ch.2, p.19)

Removed or ejected from a place

Driven into the snow (ch.2, p.19)

Wodehouse often mentions the sad fate of many Victorian and Edwardian heroines unjustly accused of immorality. Perhaps the most familiar today is the character Anna Moore in William A. Brady’s production of Lottie Blair Parker’s 1897 melodrama Way Down East, now best remembered from Lillian Gish’s performance in D. W. Griffith’s 1920 silent film. [NM]

For a long time after the arrival of peace they will feel like orphans driven out into the snow.

“Watchman, What of the Night?” in Vanity Fair, April 1916

The whole thing reminded me of one of those melodramas where they drive chappies out of the old homestead into the snow.

“The Aunt and the Sluggard” (1916)

She shot a swift glance sideways, and saw the dark man standing in an attitude rather reminiscent of the stern father of melodrama about to drive his erring daughter out into the snow.

The Adventures of Sally, ch. 2 (1921)

“The idea of anybody doing that absurd driving-into-the-snow business in these days!”

See Leave It to Psmith (1923).

“Driven into the snow before I could so much as set eyes on him.”

See Full Moon, ch. 9.1 (1947).

drove me out into the snow

See Ice in the Bedroom (1961).

That’s Life (ch.2, p.19)

Life isn’t fair, what happened to you isn’t fair, but you need to accept it and go on. Thought to originate as a translation of the French phrase “C’est la vie.”

not unblessed with the world’s goods (ch.2, p.19)

Wealthy. See the note a page or so earlier, under bowels of compassion.

a fellow called Baxter (ch.2, p.20)

Rupert Baxter first appeared in Something Fresh in 1915. Also known as The Efficient Baxter, he’s Lord Emsworth’s secretary and the comic villain that the protagonists have to circumvent to achieve their ends. He reprises this role in Leave It to Psmith. He also appears in Summer Lightning, Uncle Fred in the Springtime, and the long short story “The Crime Wave at Blandings” (collected in Lord Emsworth and Others in the UK and in The Crime Wave at Blandings in the US), and is recalled in The Brinkmanship of Galahad Threepwood/Galahad at Blandings.

left ages ago (ch.2, p.20)

At the end of Leave It to Psmith, the second book in the Blandings series.

this business of going to the South of France in the summer (ch.2, p.20)

The French Riviera became a winter resort for the wealthy in the late 18th century, but it was not until the opening of the Train Bleu rail line in 1922 and Coco Chanel’s spearheading the fashion for suntanning in 1923 that the summer season became popular. [NM]

roses and pumpkins (ch.2, p.20)

See “The Custody of the Pumpkin” (1924), collected in Blandings Castle and Elsewhere. [NM]

pigs … Empress of Blandings (ch.2, p.20)

See “Pig-hoo-o-o-o-ey!” (1927), collected in Blandings Castle and Elsewhere. [NM]

A bright light had just flashed upon him (ch.2, p.21)

An idea had occurred to him.

See Biblia Wodehousiana for a possible Scriptural source.

Worcestershire … head of the clan (ch.2, p.21)

As we learn in Money for Nothing (1928), Hugo’s uncle Lester Carmody is his trustee and the present occupant of Rudge Hall in Worcestershire. [NM]

the Empress was stolen the other day (ch.2, p.22)

As related in Summer Lightning/Fish Preferred (1929), which takes place about ten days prior to this book in story time, according to Beach’s recollections in ch. 16. But see the discussion of discrepancies at that note and at August, below. [NM]

stone-cold certainties (ch.2, p.23)

A discussion of how the phrase “stone cold” came to mean “complete” is found in the English Language and Usage Stack Exchange blog. [NM]

Othello or green-eyed monster school of thought (ch.2, p.23)

Oh, beware, my lord, of jealousy!
It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock
The meat it feeds on.

Shakespeare: Othello III, iii

trunk call (ch.2, p.24)

A long-distance telephone call, from trunk line, a telephone line connecting two distant exchanges. [NM/Diego]

Chapter 3

Matchingham 8-3 (ch.3, p.25)

Telephone numbers in the UK in the early 1900s had a three-letter exchange code followed by the phone number. The exchange code was usually (but not always) the first three letters of the exchange name. While placing a call through an operator, the practice was to say the full name of the exchange followed by the phone number.

messuages (ch.3, p.25)

A dwelling house with outbuildings and land assigned to its use [OED].

stately home of England (ch.3, p.25)

The stately homes of England
How beautiful they stand!
Amidst their tall ancestral trees,
O’er all the pleasant land!

Felicia Dorothea Hemans (1793–1835): The Homes of England

Diego reminds us that Wodehouse cited the author by name in Full Moon, ch. 6.2 (1947):

“The stately homes of England,” sang the poetess Hemans, who liked them, “how beautiful they stand”; and about the ancient seat of the ninth Earl of Emsworth there was nothing, as far as its exterior was concerned, which would have caused her to modify this view.

and that the phrase often appeared in the titles of books, tourist guides, and magazine series, both in real life (Jewitt & Hall and Geddie) and in Wodehouse’s fiction:

the Stately-Homes-of-England series appearing in the then newly established Pyke’s Home Companion

Sam the Sudden, ch. 2 (1925)

She had read up the Manor, Woollam Chersey, in Stately Homes of England

Doctor Sally, ch. 9 (1932)

Quaker collar (ch.3, p.25)

A broad flat collar of a type characteristically worn by Quakers. A Quaker is a member of the Religious Society of Friends.

twelve-forty train east (ch.3, p.25)

Market Blandings is situated in Shropshire. Norfolk is almost exactly due east from Shropshire.

surging round him like glue (ch.3, p.25)

An unusual metaphor apparently coined by PGW.

talk pig to him (ch.3, p.26)

The pig referred to here is that pre-eminent pig, the Empress of Blandings.

Aunt Constance, Lady Constance Keeble (ch.3, p.26)

One of Lord Emsworth’s ten sisters in the canon.

Last of the Fishes (ch.3, p.26)

Ronnie apparently does not have any brothers, or male cousins or uncles on his late father’s side, who would become head of his branch of the family if he died childless. See also Summer Lightning, ch. 18 (1929) for another similar reference to Ronnie. [NM]

Diego Seguí points out that Bertie Wooster three times refers to himself as the last of the Woosters (Joy in the Morning, ch. 20; Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves, ch. 12; Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen, ch. 15) even though he has cousins (Claude, Eustace, Harold) who would be the male successors to the line (and to the title of Lord Yaxley, after Uncle George hands in his dinner pail) after Bertie’s death. Bertie’s self-styling could be an oversight on his part, a subtle way of mentioning that he has no direct heir, or more likely a pompous inexactitude. The same could hold true for Freddie Rooke (who calls himself “The Last of the Rookes” in The Little Warrior/Jill the Reckless) and Spennie Dreever (“the last of the Dreevers” in The Intrusion of Jimmy/A Gentleman of Leisure, although this is not Spennie’s wording but rather the narrator’s, so perhaps more reliable).

See also Clifford Gandle, “the last of the mad Gandles” (“Mr. Potter Takes a Rest Cure”, 1926); Bill, the last of the Bannisters (Doctor Sally, ch. 13, 1932); Freddie, the last of the Fitch-Fitches (“Romance at Droitgate Spa”, 1937); Lord Uffenham, the last of the Uffenhams (Money in the Bank, ch. 6, 1942); Pongo, the last of the Twistletons (Uncle Dynamite, ch. 9.1, 1949); Barmy, “the Last of the Fotheringay-Phippses” (Barmy in Wonderland, ch. 8, 1952); Freddie, last of the Widgeons (Ice in the Bedroom, ch. 13, 1961); Gussie, the last of the Mortlakes (Do Butlers Burgle Banks, ch. 13, 1968); and Monty, the last of the Bodkins (Pearls, Girls and Monty Bodkin, ch. 6, 1972).

… a mixed Press. Some of the notices were good, others not. (ch.3, p.26)

Good reviews of plays in the newspapers were called “favorable press notices.” Bad reviews – “unfavorable press notices.” Mixed press meant that some were good and some were not.

Sue’s mother (ch.3, p.26)

Dolly Henderson, the late singing star of music halls, “a little bit of a thing in pink tights, with the jolliest smile you ever saw” in Lord Emsworth’s recollection later in this chapter. First recalled in Summer Lightning, ch. 2 and 18. [NM]

Their views on the importance of rank diverge from those of the poet Burns (ch.3, p.26)

Is there for honest Poverty
That hings his head, an’ a’ that;
The coward slave – we pass him by,
We dare be poor for a’ that!
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
Our toils obscure an’ a’ that,
The rank is but the guinea’s stamp,
The Man’s the gowd for a’ that.

Robert Burns: A Man’s a Man For A’ That (1795)

Blot … upon the escutcheon (ch.3, p.26)

A stain or mark against one’s reputation or that of one’s family. An escutcheon was a heraldic shield that bore a family’s coat of arms, and thus serves as a metaphor for one’s honor. (Source: The Free Dictionary)

To put on dog (ch.3, p.26)

This is an American idiom rather than a British one. It is first recorded in 1871, in a book by L. H. Bagg called Four Years at Yale. One of the meanings is to make things extra formal, which is presumably the sense in which it is used here.

marcelled (ch.3, p.26)

crimped in waves by a heated iron, a process developed by French hairdresser François Marcel [NM]

P. Frobisher Pilbeam (ch.3, p.27)

A.k.a. Percy Pilbeam. First appeared in Bill the Conqueror (1924). [In Summer Lightning he had sent flowers to Sue at her theatre, approached her at her table at Mario’s, and otherwise given Ronnie some cause for jealous feelings. —NM]

Wake the fiend that slept (ch.3, p.27)

PGW presumably means jealousy, though the more accurate reference would be to vengeance.

That voice had pow’r to quell the fiend within,
Whose touch had turn’d his very soul to sin.
That fiend was vengeance; – e’en his virtues bow’d
Before the altar which to vengeance glow’d.
His virtues! yes; for even fiends may boast
A shadow of the glory they have lost, –
But oh! like them, his crimes were dark and deep,
For vengeance was awake, – can vengeance sleep?
Yes; sleep, as tigers sleep, with half-shut eye,
Crouching to spring upon the passer-by,
With parch’d tongue cleaving to his blacken’d cell,
Stiff’ning with thirst, and jaws which hunger fell
Hath sharply whetted, quiv’ring to devour
The reckless wretch abandon’d to his pow’r.
Yes: thus may vengeance sleep in breast like his,
Where thoughts of wild revenge are thoughts of bliss.

Lucretia Maria Davidson: Maritorne, or the Pirate of Mexico (1841)

perisher (ch.3, p.27)

an annoying person. British colloquial citations in the OED date from 1896 onward, including one from Wodehouse’s The Luck of the Bodkins (1935). [NM]

Pilbeam blister came to a head (ch.3, p.28)

A particularly evocative phrase. “Came to a head” is a figure of speech meaning that a crisis had been reached in events, but “head” here literally means the part of a boil, pimple, or abscess that is likely to break or burst. Since Ronnie thinks that Pilbeam is a blister, he (Pilbeam, not Ronnie) would naturally “come to a head.”

come the old aristocrat … pursed-lip-and-lorgnette (ch.3, p.28)

Behave haughtily in order to put social inferiors in their place

Queen Elizabeth (ch.3, p.28)

A reference to Queen Elizabeth I, presumably meaning imperious.

his work at the altar rails (ch.3, p.29)

In Anglican weddings, the betrothed couple faces the pastor at the altar rails at the beginning of the wedding service.

Trouble, trouble. A dark lady coming over the water. (ch.3, p.29)

Stock phrases of fortunetellers and crystal-ball gazers. [NM]

They can’t do nothin’ till Martin gets here! (ch.3, p.30)

You can’t do nothing till Martin gets here was a monologue by Bert Williams, recorded in January 1913 and released after his death in 1922. It is available as part of the collection Bert Williams: The Middle Years, 1910–1918, published by Archeophone Records. [It can also be heard at —NM]

Cerise (ch.3, p.30)

Deep reddish pink color, from the French for “cherry”

August sun (ch.3, p.31)

Wodehouse seems to have been careless with his timeline. Summer Lightning is stated to have taken place in the middle of July; if it is now ten days later it cannot be August yet. And yet in Chapter 17, Gally tells Clarence that it is August the fourteenth. Thanks to Diego Seguí for pointing out these discrepancies, which seem impossible to reconcile. Fortunately, as with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s slips in the timelines of the Sherlock Holmes stories, the technical details are far less important than the overall effect of the writing.

Berkshire sow (ch.3, p.31)

A rare breed of pig originating in the county of Berkshire, England.

the poet Wordsworth … when he beheld a rainbow in the sky (ch.3, p.32)

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

William Wordsworth: My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold (1802)

the Big Shot (ch.3, p.32)

Term used in 1930s American slang to mean a criminal boss. Here Sir Gregory is the boss.

nobbling the favourite (ch.3, p.32)

A phrase from horse-racing jargon, where an unscrupulous gambler might want to slightly injure or distract the horse most expected to win an upcoming race, just enough to lower its chances without there being a suspicion of dirty work which would change the odds. Bingo Little cites examples from racing fiction in “The Purity of the Turf” (1922). [NM]

Vice-President in charge of Pigs (ch.3, p.33)

Joking reference to prevalence of vice-presidents in American corporations

the Empress’s sanctum (ch.3, p.33)

For sanctum, see Biblia Wodehousiana.

Noblesse oblige (ch.3, p.34)

Of French origin, meaning that “one must act in a fashion that conforms to one’s position and with the reputation that one has earned.” [Wikipedia]

the Tivoli (ch.3, p.36)

In full, the Tivoli Theatre of Varieties in the Strand, one of the leading music halls in London from 1890 to 1914. The building was demolished in 1916. [Wikipedia article]

the Argus (ch.3, p.36)

In Greek mythology, a giant with many eyes, some of which remained open while others slept, so that he was always watchful. A useful metaphor for a supposedly giant firm of private detectives, although in reality Pilbeam was the sole proprietor and investigative agent at this time. [NM]

spurned the grass with a frenzied foot (ch.3, p.37)

Chivalric tales tell of the brave horse “who seemed as if his feet were furnished with wings, so fast he spurned the ground beneath his hoofs” [In the Days of Chivalry, Evelyn Everett-Green (1911)]. This echo of such tales portrays Lady Constance as being impatient with her brother and eager to get on to something else. [NM]

Chapter 4

cedar (ch.4, p.40)

See Leave It to Psmith.

Musketeer of the nineties (ch.4, p.40)

The Gay Nineties (US) / Naughty Nineties (Britain) was a nostalgic name for the 1890s that became common during the 1920s. It is unclear whether the reference is to the Three Musketeers (Alexandre Dumas) or to something else.

painted a gas-lit London red (ch.4, p.40)

London streets were illuminated with gas lamps starting in the early 1800s. Starting in the early 20th century, most of the streetlights were replaced with electric lights but there remain around 1500 gas lamps which are still operational.

Painting the town red is an American slang expression meaning to celebrate in a wild, rowdy manner, especially in a public place.

Vichy water (ch.4, p.40)

Sparkling mineral water from the springs at Vichy, France. The waters from Vichy were believed to have medicinal properties.
A promotional pamphlet advertising their qualities.

German cure resorts (ch.4, p.40)

A number of German resorts were popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries for treatment of various ailments with thermal waters a.k.a. hot springs. Some of the well-known ones include Baden Baden and Wiesbaden. Baden Baden, for instance, has a long history as a hot springs spa, starting in Roman times and continuing until modern times.

bath-chair (ch.4, p.40)

a wheelchair, esp. of the hooded kind used by invalids visiting the spas at Bath, England; not “a chair for bathing in”!

The Old Guard which dies but does not surrender (ch.4, p.40)

Pierre Jacques Étienne Cambronne, later Pierre, Viscount Cambronne, General of the French Empire is reported to have said this during the Battle of Waterloo.
At the battle’s conclusion, Cambronne was commanding the last of the Old Guard when General Colville called on him to surrender. According to a journalist named Rougement, Cambronne replied: “La garde meurt et ne se rend pas!” (“The Guard dies and does not surrender!”)

In a world so full of beautiful things, where he felt we should all be as happy as kings (ch.4, p.40–41)

PGW is paraphrasing here. The original couplet is by R. L. Stevenson.

25. Happy Thought
The World is so full of a number of things,
I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.

Robert Louis Stevenson: A Child’s Garden of Verses (1905)

biffing (ch.4, p.41)

From biff: a blow, whack; slang from 1889 on, derived from earlier usage as an interjection or onomatopoetic spelling of the sound one makes when receiving a punch. [NM]

pineapple bomb (ch.4, p.41)

Pineapple-shaped hand grenades were used by both British and American military. The British version was called the Mills bomb and the American version was called Mk 2 or Mk II.

Old Pelican Club (ch.4, p.43)

The Pelican Club was “the most raffish of London clubs, which flourished from 1887 to 1892.” Norman Murphy has a wealth of detail about the club’s history and its members in his Handbook.

N.T.P. Murphy: A Wodehouse Handbook, Volume One: The World of Wodehouse (2013), pp. 43–50

Only God can make a tree (ch.4, p.43)

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Joyce Kilmer: Trees (1913)

Mister Bones (ch.4, p.44)

One of the three main characters in an American “minstrel show” or “minstrelsy”. Mr. Bones was played by a white male in blackface and rattled the ‘bones’ (a pair of clappers). Mr. Tambo (also in blackface) played the tambourine, and the interlocutor (in whiteface) asked the questions.
See also Thank You, Jeeves. (1934)

Carved up in letters of gold over the door of every school and college (ch.4, p.45)

At Dulwich College, which PGW attended from 1894 to 1900, there was and is a Latin inscription carved into a tablet of black marble over the door of the College chapel (in the center of the original Dulwich buildings, half a mile from the mid-19th-century campus buildings better known today). The author of the inscription was the Rev. James Hume, Schoolmaster of the College from 1706 to 1730. “Some trace of gold colouring” can still be seen in the incised letters.

Regnante Jacobo,
Primo Totius Britanniæ Monarcha;
Edvardus Alleyn Armiger,
Theromachiæ Regiæ Præfectus,
Theatri Fortunæ dicti choragus,
Ævique sui Roscius,
Hoc Collegium instituit;
Atque ad Duodecim Senes egenos
Sex scilicet Viros et totidem Fœminas
Commode sustentandos,
Paremque Puerorum numerum alendum,
Et in Christi Disciplina et bonis moribus Erudiendum,
Re satis ampla instruxit.
Ne quod Deo dicaverat postmodum frustra fieret
Sedulo cavit.
Diplomate namque Regis munitus, jussit
Ut a Magistro, Custode, et Quatuor Sociis,
Qui et Conscientiæ vinculis astricti,
Et sua ipsorum utilitate admoniti,
Rem bene Administrarent,
In perpetuum regeretur.
Postquam annos bene multos Collegio suo præfuisset
Dierum tandem et bonorum operum Satur,
Fato concessit,
VII° Cal. Decbris, A. D. MDCXXVI.
“Beatus ille qui misertus est pauperum.”
“Abi tu, et fac similiter.”

We are indebted to Dr. Neil Croally of Dulwich for most of the following translation, as well as to librarian Paul Fletcher, archivist C. M. Lucy, and Diego Seguí for research assistance:

During the reign of James I, monarch of all Britain,
Edward Alleyn, shield-bearer, [i.e. gentleman]
Master of the Royal Beast Fights,
Actor-manager of the Theatre named Fortune,
Of his age the Roscius,
Founded this College;
And properly to support 12 needy elders,
That is, six men and as many women,
And to nurture an equal number of boys,
To be educated in the discipline of Christ and good character,
He organized the college with sufficient, ample resource.
So that what he had dedicated to God might not later be in vain,
He took zealous precautions.
For, fortified by a letter of authority from the king, he ordered that
the College should be ruled in perpetuity
by a Master, a Warden and four Fellows,
Who constrained by the chains of conscience,
And advised by the benefit to themselves
Would administer the thing well.
After he had well led his college for many years,
At last sated with days and good works,
He yielded to fate
On November 25th, 1626 A.D.
“Blessed is he who takes pity on the poor.”
“Go thou and do likewise.”

Daniel Lysons: The Environs of London: Volume 1, County of Surrey (1792), pp. 105-117

William Young: The History of Dulwich College, Volume 1 (1889), p.216, p.466

William Harnett Blanch: Dulwich College and Edward Alleyn (1877), p.74

put it on the spot (ch.4, p.45)

To “put someone on the spot” means to place them in a difficult situation (since 1928).

Wivenhoe’s pig (ch.4, p.46)

Gally first recounts the story in Summer Lightning (1929), repeats it here, and adds additional details in chapter 17, below, Full Moon (1947), Pigs Have Wings (1952), and Galahad at Blandings/The Brinkmanship of Galahad Threepwood (1965). [NM]

found some formula (ch.4, p.46)

In the sense of diplomatic agreements which usually follow prescribed standard wording called formulas / formulae.

cat’s paw (ch.4, p.46)

A person used as a tool by another to accomplish a purpose. [OED]

touch of Auld Lang Syne (ch.4, p.47)

The song is generally interpreted as a call to remember old friendships.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne?

Robert Burns: Auld Lang Syne (1788)

a sort of awful Eton and Cambridge silence (ch.4, p.47)

Besides their undoubted academic excellence, great public schools like Eton and universities such as Oxford and Cambridge were thought of as reinforcers of the social codes of British gentlemen, including reticence in showing emotion and keeping a “stiff upper lip” spirit in adversity. Sue here is attributing Ronnie’s formality in difficult circumstances to his educational background. Later, on the roof in Chapter 7, these institutions are mentioned again, as well as in the narrator’s voice in Chapter 9 when Ronnie sees the tattoo on Monty’s chest, and soon after has a difficult conversation with Sue.

world’s great romances (ch.4, p.48)

Among the books with this title are an eight-volume series published in 1911–13 by Thomas Nelson, Edinburgh, a 1918 anthology published by the Henry Altemus Company, Philadelphia, and a 1929 collection of short stories published by Walter J. Black, New York. No doubt other publishers have used this appealing title as well. [NM]

Pitch it strong (ch.4, p.48)

A baseball idiom. A strong pitch is a good (fast and accurate) throw of the ball by the pitcher.

[Alternatively, it could mean “make your speech persuasive” like a salesman’s pitch. —NM]

to make heavy weather (ch.4, p.49)

to allow one’s emotions to be stormy; to make a fuss about something, especially something unimportant. The OED’s first citation is from Wodehouse’s sometime collaborator Ian Hay in 1915. Here, Ronnie’s jealousy is the cause of the storm. [NM]

Chapter 5

Paddington station (ch.5, p.50)

See Uncle Fred in the Springtime.

Berkeley Hotel (ch.5, p.50)

A deluxe hotel, at the time located on the corner of Piccadilly and Berkeley Street, London, opened in 1867 and renamed the Berkeley in 1897. In the 1920s it became one of the first London hotels to be air-conditioned. The present hotel at Wilton Place, Knightsbridge, dates from 1972.

regard the dear old days as a sealed book (ch.5, p.50)

Meaning they will not talk about the past. A sealed book is one that cannot be opened or read.

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed.

Bible: Isaiah 29:11

But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.

Bible: Daniel 12:4

high-powered shell (ch.5, p.50)

That is, an artillery shell of high explosive power.

truite bleue (ch.5, p.50)

A delicacy that is also known as truite au bleu. Refers to trout that is so fresh that it turns blue when it is cooked. One method is to start with live trout, club it on the head, remove the internal organs, poach in hot court-bouillon (a special broth used for poaching fish and seafood) in a special fish kettle and serve immediately.

Secret of a happy and successful married life (ch.5, p.51)

One would have thought this more appropriate coming from Uncle Fred than from Monty. [NM]

On appro. (ch.5, p.52)

On approval. A purchase on appro. means that the customer may return it for a refund if not satisfied after a trial use or examination.

wheels within wheels (ch.5, p.52)

See above.

the course of true love (ch.5, p.52)

See Summer Lightning (title of chapter 2).

ankled (ch.5, p.53)

1920s slang for “walked”; OED cites one 1926 source, then the 1930 Wodehouse–Ian Hay play Baa, Baa, Black Sheep and Wodehouse’s 1932 novel Hot Water:

Ankling into the hospital and eating my grapes…

how I earned my living (ch.5, p.53)

We will learn later in this conversation that Monty has money of his own, and in Chapter Six just how wealthy he is.

doing the dirty on Father (ch.5, p.53)

That is, double-crossing him or going against his wishes; playing him a dirty trick. OED records this as World War One slang for dishonourable war tactics, with no sexual connotations. [NM]

formed a hollow square and drummed me out (ch.5, p.53)

A hollow square is an infantry formation that was popular in the 18th and 19th century. Drumming out refers to a dishonorable discharge from the military to the sound of drums. This is an example of PGW combining two images to form a more evocative one.

fairy gold (ch.5, p.53)

Money supposedly given by fairies that turns into rubbish when put to use.

Dead Sea fruit (ch.5, p.53)

Something that appears to be beautiful or full of promise but is in reality nothing but illusion and disappointment.

The man who makes himself a slave to gold is a miserable wretch indeed, winning for his prize the “Dead Sea apple” — golden without, but ashes within.

Duncan George Forbes Macdonald: British Columbia and Vancouver’s Island, Comprising a Description of These Dependencies (1862)

See also Biblia Wodehousiana.

look on the bright side ... spot the blue bird (ch.5, p.54)

Be optimistic or cheerful in spite of difficulties. The OED defines bluebird as a symbol of happiness.

In 1908, Maurice Maeterlink published a stage play named The Blue Bird, which was immensely popular in London. This probably originated the idiom. From the programme for the revival of the play at London’s Haymarket Theatre in 1912: “The Blue Bird, inhabitant of the pays bleu, the fabulous blue country of our dreams, is an ancient symbol in the folk-lore of Lorraine, and stands for happiness.”

pig-conscious (ch.5, p.54)

The use of “-conscious” in making compounds like self-conscious arose in the 19th century, but this sort of formation implying special attention or devotion to an object or activity seems to have been newer at the time of writing. The OED cites “money-conscious” from 1933 and “chess-conscious” from 1938, for example. An advertising journal from 1925 notes that “advertising has made [America] tooth conscious.”

Compare Parsloe-conscious in Summer Lightning. [NM]

biting the bullet (ch.5, p.54)

endure a painful or otherwise unpleasant situation that is seen as unavoidable.

“Steady, Dickie, steady!” said the deep voice in his ear, and the grip tightened. “Bite on the bullet, old man, and don’t let them think you’re afraid.”

Rudyard Kipling: The Light That Failed (1891)

Lady Di (ch.5, p.55)

Probably a reference to Lady Diana Sartoris, known as Lady Di, from the melodrama The Whip by Cecil Raleigh and Henry Hamilton. First produced at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London, in 1909 where it ran for nearly 400 performances, despite featuring a horse race on stage with real horses! Lady Di was the deputy of the Beverly (fox) hunt. It was also performed on tour, opened to New York in 1912, toured the US for many years and was made into a film in 1917 and 1928. There’s a good chance PGW saw one of these. [The name derives from the Roman moon-goddess Diana, patroness of hunting.]

“O Perfect Love” (ch.5, p.55)

Popular hymn sung at weddings; music by Joseph Barnby; lyric by Dorothy F. Gurney (1883):

O perfect Love, all human thought transcending,
 lowly we kneel in prayer before thy throne,
that theirs may be the love which knows no ending,
 whom thou in sacred vow dost join in one.

sands are running out (ch.5, p.55)

The phrase refers to an hourglass, in which sand trickles from the top of the hourglass to the bottom through an opening until it has run out.

pip emma (ch.5, p.55)

PM, afternoon hours. From pip (“P”) + emma (“M”) in RAF WWI signalese.

laddishiong (ch.5, p.56)

L’addition — French for ‘the bill’ as transliterated in some textbooks for English-speakers unfamiliar with the nasalized French pronunciation of -on.

working up to a crescendo (ch.5, p.56)

As all musicians are aware, crescendo literally means “increasing” in Italian, and technically refers to the “working up”—to the gradual increase in volume—rather than to the peak of the intensity. Wodehouse generally uses the less-exact sense referring to the climax itself, but is joined by other good writers (including F. Scott Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby) in the loose usage. [NM]

preux chevalier (ch.5, p.57)

a gallant knight. From French.

barked the skin (ch.5, p.57)

A misprint in Penguin and other recent reprints. Original editions (both US and UK) read “barked the shin” here: that is, scraped the skin at the front of the lower leg. [NM]

daughter of a hundred earls (ch.5, p.57)

Lady Clara Vere de Vere,
 Of me you shall not win renown;
You thought to break a country heart
 For pastime, ere you went to town.
At me you smiled, but unbeguiled
 I saw the snare, and I retired:
The daughter of a hundred Earls,
 You are not one to be desired.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson: Lady Clara Vere de Vere (1842)

unfortunate Hindu beneath the wheels of Juggernaut (ch.5, p.57)

In the early 14th century, Franciscan missionary Friar Odoric brought to Europe the story of an enormous carriage that carried an image of the Hindu god Vishnu (whose title was Jagannath, literally, “lord of the world”) through the streets of India in religious processions. Odoric reported that some worshippers deliberately allowed themselves to be crushed beneath the vehicle’s wheels as a sacrifice to Vishnu. That story was probably an exaggeration or misinterpretation of actual events, but it spread throughout Europe anyway. The tale caught the imagination of English listeners, and by the 19th century, they were using juggernaut to refer to any massive vehicle (such as a steam locomotive) or to any other enormous entity with powerful crushing capabilities.


his Moscow (ch.5, p.58)

An utter defeat; referring to Napoleon’s rout in trying to conquer Russia in 1812.

breach of promise actions (ch.5, p.58)

From at least the Middle Ages until the early 20th century, a man’s promise of engagement to marry a woman was considered, in many jurisdictions, a legally binding contract. If the man were to subsequently change his mind, he would be said to be in “breach” of this promise and subject to litigation for damages.

cut by the county (ch.5, p.59)

Ignored socially by the upper-class residents of the county.

Possibly a reference to the book by that name, written by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, who is famous for writing Lady Audley’s Secret and other sensational novels in the mid- to late 19th century.

wrought in vain (ch.5, p.59)

The phrase appears in an untitled poem by T. K. Hervey on the topic of Athens. The poem is included in a collection by Hugh William Williams called Select Views in Greece, Volume 1 (1829), p.77.

Thine own blue hill,—where time and Turk have wrought
In vain to break the charm that lingers still,—

Diego Seguí points out that an earlier and better-known example is Dr. Johnson’s tragedy Irene, III, 10:

Sure heaven, for wonders are not wrought in vain,
That joins us thus, will never part us more.

The phrase may perhaps be too common to be linked to a specific source. [DS]

a man of affairs (ch.5, p.60)

A “man of affairs” is a businessman, especially an owner or executive. The term caught on in the late nineteenth century, especially in America. Nothing in the sense of romantic affairs is implied. [NM]

a shade below par (ch.5, p.61)

Not feeling as well as normal. In golf, par is the number of strokes a first-class player should normally require for a particular hole or course. In finance, par is the nominal or face value of a security.

velvet hand beneath the iron glove (ch.5, p.61)

Also said by Bertie Wooster in chapter 2 of The Code of the Woosters and Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves.

So much deadlier than the male (ch.5, p.62)

When the Himalayan peasant meets the he-bear in his pride,
He shouts to scare the monster, who will often turn aside.
But the she-bear thus accosted rends the peasant tooth and nail.
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

Rudyard Kipling: The Female of the Species (1911)

snakes of the first water (ch.5, p.62)

A play on ‘diamond of the first water’.

According to Wikipedia: The clarity of diamonds is assessed by their translucence; the more like water, the higher the quality. The 1753 edition of Chambers’ Encyclopedia states “The first water in Diamonds means the greatest purity and perfection of their complexion, which ought to be that of the clearest drop of water.”

Chapter 6

two forty-five (ch.6, p.63)

One of various trains from London to Blandings that PGW refers to in the various novels. Chapter 5 makes it clear that this one is an express, not stopping at every little station, but it may seem surprising that Market Blandings is large enough to be served by an express train. This topic deserves an essay of its own.

Mendelssohn’s well-known march (ch.6, p.63)

Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847) composed his Wedding March in C Major in 1842 as part of a suite of incidental music to Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It is a popular wedding march, often used as a recessional as the newlyweds depart, and is at least as often heard arranged for a church organ as in its original orchestral version.

Wilt thou, Robinson, take this Ronald to Blandings Castle? (ch.6, p.63)

A reference to the wording of Anglican wedding vows.

crepe-de-Chine (ch.6, p.63)

A lightweight fabric of silk or silk/wool blend with a plain weave and a crisp appearance. [NM]

perfect butterfly shape (ch.6, p.63)

Jeeves tells Bertie in “Jeeves and the Impending Doom” (1926) that “One aims at the perfect butterfly effect.” In Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, ch. 11 (1954), “One aims at the perfect butterfly shape.” [NM]

old familiar juice (ch.6, p.63)

Alcohol, of course. Here, a reference to pre-dinner cocktails.

Diego finds the source in the FitzGerald translation of the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám:

“Well,” murmur’d one, “Let whoso make or buy,
My Clay with long Oblivion is gone dry:
 But fill me with the old familiar Juice,
Methinks I might recover by and by.”

The above is from the fourth English edition of FitzGerald’s version, stanza LXXXIX. Noel Bushnell alerted us to a different version from FitzGerald’s first edition of 1859, in which stanza LXV reads:

Then said another with a long-drawn Sigh,
“My Clay with long oblivion is gone dry:
 “But, fill me with the old familiar Juice,
“Methinks I might recover by-and-bye.”

See also Right Ho, Jeeves. Ian Michaud notes that ‘the old familiar juice’ can also be found in Barmy in Wonderland/Angel Cake, Pigs Have Wings, and Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit/Bertie Wooster Sees It Through.

For more comparison between FitzGerald’s editions, see a comprehensive edition, courtesy of the Internet Archive. [NM]

“I must go and put on a white tie” (ch.6, p.64)

This chapter is the clearest example of the two types of evening dress in Wodehouse. Ronnie has just learned from Beach that guests are expected for dinner; when he thought that it was merely a family dinner, he put on a black tie, which only goes with a dinner jacket (US: tuxedo), a semi-formal style of evening wear. He now realizes that the full formality of “white tie” is required: a black tailcoat, a white waistcoat and tie, the full “soup and fish” as Wodehouse likes to call it, named from the first two courses of a formal dinner. [NM]

Heavyweight jinn, stirred to activity by the rubbing of a lamp (ch.6, p.64)

Like Aladdin and the magic lamp. Jinn is a loan word from Arabic where it is a plural noun meaning supernatural spirits. It is commonly anglicized as genies.

resident patients (ch.6, p.65)

Ronnie is comparing Blandings Castle to a clinic or sanatorium, perhaps suggesting that all is not quite normal with the members of his family. [NM]

fifteen thousand a year (ch.6, p.65)

The Bank of England inflation calculator suggests a factor of about 73 for the increase in the cost of goods and services from 1933 to 2020. This suggests that Monty’s invested capital is bringing him an annual income with a buying power equivalent to over £1 million today. [NM]

dagger in his bosom (ch.6, p.65)

In medieval times (up to the 17th century), women sometimes carried concealed knives or daggers inside their bodices for self-protection. Here Ronnie means something else, more like a pang of jealousy. A more poetic way of saying ‘knife through the heart’.

His lips were sealed (ch.6, p.66)

He could not say what he would have liked to.

Madam, I had rather seal my lips
Than to my peril speak that which is not.

Shakespeare: Antony and Cleopatra, Act 5, Scene 2

If you dare to lift up your finger and say “Tweet-tweet, shush-shush, come-come,” (ch.6, p.68)

I lift up my finger and I say
“Tweet tweet, shush shush, now now, come come”
And there’s no need to linger when I say
“Tweet tweet, shush shush, now now, come come”

Leslie Sarony: from the musical comedy Love Lies (1929)

It seems only the other day that my poor father… (ch.6, p.69)

You will find the details elsewhere in the archives, specifically in Summer Lightning (Fish Preferred), chapter II, § ii, and chapters XVIII–XIX.

Painted hussies (ch.6, p.69)

Hussy actually derives from hussive meaning housewife, but over time has evolved into a derogatory term meaning a brazen, immoral woman or impudent girl. Painted here refers to the fact that in the early 19th century, respectable women did not use makeup but actresses and singers did.

Fine old crusted family rows (ch.6, p.71)

Like fine old crusted port.

war-horse to start at the sound of the bugle… (ch.6, p.71)

Fr. Rob Bovendeaard’s Biblia Wodehousiana traces this to the Bible [Job 39:25] without identifying a specific translation. However, the U.S cavalry had a well-defined set of bugle calls by 1867. A number of them were meant to be sounded while the soldiers were riding to direct them to change pace or direction. For more, see

“That tie!” (ch.6, p.71)

As discussed above, “tie” whether white or black was and is used as a shorthand way of referring to formal or semi-formal evening wear. [NM]

Poison was running through his veins (ch.6, p.71)

As with the next reference, this is a description of the physical effects of Ronnie’s jealousy, induced by Lady Julia’s insinuations about Sue’s supposed unfaithfulness. One assumes that a similar phrase in an Alice Cooper rock lyric from 1989 is a coincidence; no common literary source has been found. [NM]

Green-eyed devils were shrieking mockery (ch.6, p.71)

Oh, beware, my lord, of jealousy!
It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock
The meat it feeds on. That cuckold lives in bliss
Who, certain of his fate, loves not his wronger,
But, oh, what damnèd minutes tells he o’er
Who dotes, yet doubts—suspects, yet soundly loves!

Shakespeare: Othello, Act 3, Scene 3

As if somebody had touched Othello on the arm as he poised the pillow (ch.6, p.71–72)

The murder scene in Othello where he kills Desdemona. Shakespeare only says:

He stifles her.

Shakespeare: Othello, Act 5, Scene 2

see him steadily and see him whole (ch.6, p.74)

See The Clicking of Cuthbert.

“I don’t suppose that there are forty million people in England who think more highly of Galahad than I do.” (ch.6, p.76)

The estimated population of England and Wales combined in mid-1933 was 40,350,000; some two and a half million lived in Wales, leaving fewer than 38 million in England. So in a roundabout way Lady Julia is admitting the fact that nearly everyone else thinks more highly of Galahad than she does. [NM]

“Galahad’s daughter, too?” (ch.6, p.77)

Perhaps the only instance in Wodehouse of someone seriously suggesting the possibility of childbirth outside marriage when discussing current-day characters. Julia confronts Galahad with this question point-blank in Chapter 10; his reply proves the impossibility of the suggestion. [NM]

something about some prawns (ch.6, p.78)

I have to think that Wodehouse was deliberately tantalizing his audience with an untold story in homage to his friend Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who had Doctor Watson tease us with allusions to the singular affair of the aluminium crutch as well as the story of the giant rat of Sumatra, for which the world is not yet prepared. [NM]

completed his toilet (ch.6, p.79)

That is, finished dressing. See Right Ho, Jeeves.

Unionist (ch.6, p.80)

This party had nothing to do with labor unions. Unionists favored keeping Ireland within Great Britain, forming a split within the Liberal party when Prime Minister W. E. Gladstone began supporting Irish Home Rule in 1886. Many Unionists joined into a coalition with the Conservative party; by 1912 most had joined a merged Conservative and Unionist party, though after Irish independence in 1922 the party would generally be referred to merely as Conservative. Wodehouse often labels his parliamentary candidates as Unionist, for instance Mr. Bickersdyke in Psmith in the City; if the events of the present novel are intended to be post-1922, Unionist is a slightly anachronistic label. Certainly, as the remainder of the paragraph implies, Sir Gregory is wishing to appeal to the more conservative element among his neighbors. [NM]

Bridgeford and Shifley (ch.6, p.80)

See Summer Lightning.

a buck of the Regency days (ch.6, p.80)

See Summer Lightning.

a small, brilliantined head (ch.6, p.80)

See Leave It to Psmith.

Chapter 7

the battlements of Blandings Castle (ch.7, p.84)

Norman Murphy places the original of Blandings Castle as Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire, though the grounds are based on Weston Park in Shropshire (A Wodehouse Handbook, vol. 1, ch. 39).

Aerial photo of Sudeley Castle (opens in new tab or window)

under a leaden sky (ch.7, p.84)

The figurative use of the adjective to mean “dull grey” like the color of lead, the metal, goes back at least as far as Chaucer. The additional connotation of heaviness makes this even more evocative of the oppressive character of the impending storm. [NM]

spinneys (ch.7, p.84)

Small clumps of trees.

witches lived in crooked little cottages (ch.7, p.84)

A possible reference to Hansel and Gretel.

cows with secret sorrows (ch.7, p.84)

See The Mating Season.

slouch-hatted (ch.7, p.85)

A slouch hat is a wide-brimmed hat of felt or cloth, often with one side of the brim turned up; often associated with military and police uniforms.
Details and images at Wikipedia.

I wouldn’t know a clue if you brought me one on a skewer (ch.7, p.85)

A play on “handed on a silver platter” meaning given to someone easily, without them having to work for it.

my first cigar … where I was sick (ch.7, p.85)

In “Jeeves Takes Charge” Bertie Wooster recollects being in need of “solitude and repose” after a cigar when he was fifteen. Young Gussie Rastrick in “Against the Clock” has a bad reaction to a strong cigar. In “The Improbabilities of Fiction” the archetypal villain of a school story “must and will have gin … and a cigar; and it must be a bad one, too, because the public expects me to be ill after it.”

One wonders whether Wodehouse himself had a similar experience as a youth. [NM]

whangee (ch.7, p.85)

See The Inimitable Jeeves.

Shrewsbury (ch.7, p.85)

The county town of Shropshire, UK.

Biarritz (ch.7, p.86)

A resort city in southwestern France, on the Bay of Biscay, 22 miles north of the Spanish border, with luxurious hotels, shops, casinos, and other attractions for wealthy tourists. [NM]

As what’s-his-name said to the stretcher-case, “Your need is greater than mine.” (ch.7, p.86)

His name was Sir Philip Sidney and he said ‘Thy necessity is yet greater than mine.’ The stretcher-case was another injured soldier.

…he called for drink, which was presently brought to him; but as he was putting the bottle to his mouth, he saw a poor Souldier carryed along, who had eaten his last at the same Feast, gastly casting up his eyes at the bottle. Which Sir Philip perceiving, took it from his head, before he drank, and delivered it to the poor man, with these words, Thy necessity is yet greater than mine. And when he had pledged this poor soldier, he was presently carried to Arnheim.

Sir Fulke Greville: The Life of the Renowned Sir Philip Sidney (1652), p.129–130 (Clarendon, 1907 edition)

impending doom (ch.7, p.87)

See The Code of the Woosters.

Signs and portents (ch.7, p.87)

The phrase can be traced at least as far back as the sixteenth century, relating to omens and predictions of coming events as seen by astrologers and other diviners of the future. It does not appear in the Authorized Version of the Bible but is used in some other English translations of Scripture and in theological works.

Wodehouse used the phrase as the title of an early cricket story: “Signs and Portents” (1906). [NM]

Tails me up (ch.7, p.87)

The OED calls this sense of the verb tail (to follow someone closely, as a detective would) originally US colloquial, and gives citations from 1907 and a 1914 glossary of criminal slang; the first British citation is from Edgar Wallace in 1925. But none of their citations include “up” as part of the verb phrase.

the hosts of Midian (ch.7, p.87)

See Something Fresh.

Grade A (ch.7, p.87)

Of the best of its type: a label applied by government inspection agencies to eggs, milk, and other products.

the order of the boot (ch.7, p.88)

Referring to getting fired from a job, but jocularly, as if this were an honor like the Order of the Garter.

Not within the sphere of practical politics (ch.7, p.88)

See Cocktail Time.

Knows All (ch.7, p.88)

The capital letters are a hint that this is a stock phrase, a cliché of melodrama.

upstage (ch.7, p.88)

Not in the verb sense of trying to distract attention from other actors or make them turn away from the audience; as an adjective, it means aloof or superior in manner. OED has citations from 1918 on. [NM]

a touch of liver (ch.7, p.89)

See Money for Nothing.

short, stout, stumpy man (ch.7, p.90)

See the descriptions of him as overweight and Napoleonic in Chapter 1.

men of the bulldog breed (ch.7, p.91)

See Money for Nothing.

Crushed to earth, they rise again (ch.7, p.91)

See A Damsel in Distress.

made of sterner stuff (ch.7, p.91)

One of Wodehouse’s favorite allusions to Julius Caesar. See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

straight from the shoulder (ch.7, p.91)

Figuratively: spoken directly, candidly, without evasion; compare the opinion of James Bates on sermons in “The Great Sermon Handicap” (1922). Derived from boxing terminology for the most straightforward kind of punch, with no “hook” or other misdirection. [NM]

Flaubert … mot juste (ch.7, p.92)

See Right Ho, Jeeves.

pickled to the gills (ch.7, p.92)

See Carry On, Jeeves!.

Do-It-Now (ch.7, p.92)

See Leave It to Psmith.

giving trade rivals the elbow (ch.7, p.92)

See Very Good, Jeeves.

full habit (ch.7, p.92)

Stoutness of body. Jeeves uses it to Mr. Blumenfeld in “Jeeves and the Dog McIntosh” (1929; in Very Good, Jeeves, 1930):

“One of Mr. Wooster’s peculiarities is that he does not like the sight of gentlemen of full habit, sir. They seem to infuriate him.”
“You mean, fat men?”

screw his courage to the sticking point (ch.7, p.93)

From Macbeth; see Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

barcarolle (ch.7, p.93)

The type of song characteristic of Venetian gondoliers, or a composition in a style that is reminiscent of such songs. Classical composers often set these in a 6/8 meter. [NM]

Rodney Spelvin … was strolling up and down behind the tee, humming a gay Venetian barcarolle

“Rodney Fails to Qualify” (1924; in The Heart of a Goof, 1926)

Romano’s (ch.7, p.93)

See A Damsel in Distress.

some sort of connexion of our bride (ch.7, p.94)

Thus in the Penguin paperback, but this is an editorial spelling choice. All original editions have “connection” here, meaning “someone having a family relationship.”

talked to him like a Dutch uncle (ch.7, p.94)

The relationship with Netherlanders is unclear, but the phrase has been proverbial for a stern lecture since at least 1838, the first OED citation.

absinthe (ch.7, p.95)

Of course Plug Basham was misinformed; absinthe is a spirit flavored with anise, wormwood, fennel, and other herbs, heavily alcoholic (90 to 148 proof) as bottled. It is typically served with added water and sugar. It may be green in color or colorless; when diluted it has a cloudy or milky opalescence. Popular especially in the Bohemian culture of fin de siècle Paris, it gained a reputation for hallucinogenic effects blamed on trace amounts of thujone from the wormwood, but most likely the alcohol content was more to blame; nevertheless, it was banned in the United States and much of Europe by 1915.

City and Suburban (ch.7, p.95)

A handicap horse race inaugurated in 1851, still run at Epsom every April. Open to horses at least four years old; run over a distance of 1 mile 2 furlongs 17 yards (2027 m).

Honours List (ch.7, p.96)

See below, ch. 8.

its Homer or its Gibbon (ch.7, p.97)

Both noted for the literary qualities of their histories, of the Trojan War and the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire respectively.

the dashed thing (ch.7, p.97)

In less permissive times, “damned,” used as an oath, was usually printed as “d–––d,” from which arose the practice of substituting the descriptive “dashed” in its place when spoken.

Diego Seguí notes that the printed form with the dashes appears only in an early Wodehouse newspaper item, “The Amazing Ambassador” (1914). But the verbal “dashed” survives in the man-about-town speech of Bertie Wooster and his pals and (as here) in the thoughts of Gally Threepwood. Other, more vehement speakers use damned, damn, or dam’ as an indication of their anger, as with Sir Gregory below.

blinding and stiffing (ch.7, p.97)

See The Mating Season.

gaze … like that of a Pekinese on coffee-sugar (ch.7, p.97)

Wodehouse and his wife Ethel were enthusiastic Peke owners themselves, so this is clearly drawn from life.

And, as he spoke, the dog Reginald, hearing voices, crawled out from under the sofa in the hope that something was going on which might possibly culminate in coffee-sugar.

Reginald is Marcella Tyrrwhitt’s Peke in “Open House” (1932; in Mulliner Nights, 1933)

The six Pekes accompanied him into the library and sat waiting for their coffee-sugar, but he was too preoccupied to do the square thing by the dumb chums.

“Bingo and the Peke Crisis” (1937; in Eggs, Beans and Crumpets, 1940)

resurgence of the Old Adam (ch.7, p.98)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

Of all sad words … It might have been (ch.7, p.99)

See Leave It to Psmith.

Groaning in spirit (ch.7, p.99)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

dislodged from the main couvert (ch.7, p.100)

The French term has a number of meanings, but seems to refer to a place setting at a dinner table here. [NM]

best and humanest (ch.7, p.100)

The second adjective should be read as most humane, not most human. Kindness to animals is the idea here.

A sinewy hand closed vice-like (ch.7, p.101)

Thus in both US and UK book editions, but “viselike” in the Saturday Evening Post serial, reflecting the American preference for the spelling vise meaning the screw-operated clamping tool whose jaws hold a workpiece being filed, sawn, etc. by carpenters, machinists, and the like. [NM]

Jas. (ch.7, p.101)

Conventional abbreviation for James. Original editions have “Jas” without the period.

like the Canadian Mounted Police, always got their man (ch.7, p.101)

See The Girl in Blue.

like a poultice (ch.7, p.101)

See Hot Water.

had the air been nipping and eager (ch.7, p.101)

See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

Sheridan … ‘a damned disinheriting countenance’ (ch.7, p.101)

Careless. That, now, to me, is as stern a looking rogue as ever I saw; an unforgiving eye, and a damned disinheriting countenance!

Richard Brinsley Sheridan: The School for Scandal, IV, i (1777)

the sack … hovering in the air … beating of its wings (ch.7, p.102)

See Ukridge.

the bum’s rush (ch.7, p.102)

A forcible and swift ejection from a place; a rude or abrupt dismissal. [JD]

an Egyptian blackness (ch.7, p.102)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

Upsy-daisy! (ch.7, p.103)

See The Code of the Woosters.

like Goethe, for more light (ch.7, p.103)

The last recorded words of German poet/playwright/philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) were reported in an 1872 English-language biography by George Lewes as “More light!”; this was often interpreted as the culmination of his search for truth. It seems that more accurate accounts have him asking for the shutter of his bedroom window to be opened to brighten the room.

in his puff (ch.7, p.103)

From the association of breath with life, this is a colloquialism for “in his whole life.”

“My sainted aunt!” (ch.7, p.103)

This exclamation of surprise (see The Mating Season) is a mere figure of speech; Monty’s Uncle Gregory is at this point a bachelor. Later (in Pigs Have Wings, 1952) Sir Gregory will marry and provide Monty with an Aunt Maudie.

Old Man River (ch.7, p.103)

A rare case in Wodehouse where these words do not refer to the Kern/Hammerstein song from Show Boat (1927), but are applied to a person, here Lord Emsworth.

Devil’s Island (ch.7, p.103)

See Uncle Fred in the Springtime.

in a canter (ch.7, p.104)

See The Inimitable Jeeves.

taking at the flood that tide in the affairs of men which … leads on to fortune (ch.7, p.105)

See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

to let the dead past bury its dead (ch.7, p.105)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

taking me back into the fold (ch.7, p.105)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

with a heart for any fate (ch.7, p.105)

From the last stanza of Longfellow’s A Psalm of Life; see Leave It to Psmith.

grand sweet song (ch.7, p.105)

See Right Ho, Jeeves.

Even unto half of my kingdom (ch.7, p.106)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

“Well, lord-love-a-duck!” (ch.7, p.107)

See Ice in the Bedroom.

Napoleon of Crime (ch.7, p.107)

Sherlock Holmes uses this title for Professor Moriarty in “The Final Problem” (1893).

slightly sandbagged feeling (ch.7, p.108)

See Right Ho, Jeeves.

He felt bold and resolute (ch.7, p.108)

Reminiscent of “Be bloody, bold, and resolute” in Macbeth; see Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

with a flea in his ear (ch.7, p.109)

With strong words that left his ear buzzing as if there actually was a flea in it. The phrase is cited in the OED beginning in the sixteenth century.

flannel vests (ch.7, p.110)

In American parlance, woollen undershirts.

This meeting is tiled. (ch.7, p.112)

See A Damsel in Distress.

Dusk was closing down … dressing for dinner-time (ch.7, p.114)

As in Summer Lightning, it seems that Wodehouse failed to reconcile his descriptions with the actual time of sunset and twilight. If we take the ten days literally, it is approximately July 25, and civil twilight ends in Shropshire about ten p.m. (daylight-saving time) on that date, about three-quarters of an hour after sunset. The dressing-for-dinner gong would be rung about half an hour before dinner, and surely the meal would not have been as late as half-past ten.

If it is mid-August, sunset would be about eight-forty p.m. and civil twilight would end about nine-twenty, still rather late for the dinner gong. [NM]

His manner … was still Eton, still Cambridge. (ch.7, p.112)

See above.

Chapter 8

dreaming the centuries away (ch.8, p.117)

Two possible sources:

It died in the great old ocean,
 Where lone the island lay,
Dreaming, sadly dreaming,
 The centuries away.

James Riley (1848–1930): “A Wintry Day” (collected 1886)

…the gray granite boulders have been lying there chewing their stony cuds vastly longer. How meditative and contented they look, dreaming the centuries away!

John Burroughs: “The Friendly Rocks” in Under the Apple-Trees (collected 1916)

over the pipes and tankards (ch.8, p.117)

That is, while smoking and drinking.

bowler hat (ch.8, p.117)

See Summer Lightning.

a snorter of a thunderstorm (ch.8, p.117)

A remarkably strong or severe thunderstorm; colloquial sense of the word cited from 1859 onward in the OED.

The advice one would give to every young man starting life (ch.8, p.118)

Could be a reference to either Advice to Young Men by William Cobbett (1829) or Advice to Young Men on their Duties and Conduct in Life by Timothy Shay Arthur (1848).

Plimsoll mark (ch.8, p.118)

The Plimsoll line is a reference mark located on a ship’s hull that indicates the maximum depth to which the vessel may be safely immersed when loaded with cargo. It was devised by Samuel Plimsoll (1824–1898), an English politician and social reformer who was responsible for the passage of the Merchant Shipping Act of 1876.

Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Wikipedia

the boys in the back room (ch.8, p.118)

One’s first thought might be the song “See What the Boys in the Back Room Will Have” made famous by Marlene Dietrich, but that song was written by Frank Loesser and Friedrich Hollander for the 1939 movie Destry Rides Again. The phrase is older than the song, though; a 1914 article notes that the ballroom dancing craze has increased the demand for soft drinks and decreased the practice of ordering alcohol for everyone in the place. The full title of the song is found in a 1916 magazine. [NM]

“They don’t get in any more and tell the bartender to ask the boys in the back room what they are going to have,” said a saloon man recently.

Southern Pharmaceutical Journal, November 1914, p. 32

“In your country a dog says ‘Bow wow!’ or words to that effect, but in Cartoonland he says ‘See what the boys in the back room will have?’ or … something equally appropriate and doglike.”

Cartoons Magazine, September 1916, p. 473

His motto was ‘Service’ (ch.8, p.119)

See Hot Water.

The historic case … had been when Mr. Ronald, having stolen the Empress (ch.8, p.119)

Recounted in Summer Lightning, chapter 3, section v.

the limits of what a man should ask a butler to do (ch.8, p.119)

This theme is revisited in Cocktail Time, chapter 18, when Lord Ickenham asks Peasemarch to safeguard the letter in which Cosmo Wisdom has disclaimed the authorship of the controversial novel Cocktail Time. [NM]

Shropshire lads (ch.8, p.119)

The wording here alludes to the title “A Shropshire Lad” (1896), a collection of poems by A. E. Housman.

a nonchalant dramatic critic watching the curtain go up (ch.8, p.120)

Wodehouse knew this feeling well, as he had been a drama critic for the U.S. Vanity Fair magazine from 1915 to 1918, with occasional additional contributions through the early 1920s.

had run … the gamut of the emotions (ch.8, p.120)

Originally “gamut” had musical meanings, particularly the range of musical notes that a single voice or instrument can produce. So, figuratively, running the gamut here means experiencing the whole scale, the widest possible variety of feelings.

One might be tempted to think of Dorothy Parker’s snide comment that Katharine Hepburn had run “the gamut of emotions from A to B” but that referred to her performance in The Lake, which opened on Broadway in December 1933 and so had not happened when this book was written. [NM]

like Lucifer, from heaven to hell (ch.8, p.120)

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!

Bible: Isaiah 14:12

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

harpooned whale (ch.8, p.120)

A harpoon is a long spear-like instrument used in hunting whales.

the beer frozen … on his lips (ch.8, p.120)

The usual idiom is “the smile froze on his lips”. Here PGW is displaying his inimitable knack for inventing variants of common idioms to produce a comic effect.

calling coals (ch.8, p.121)

The cry of a street vendor announcing his wares for sale.

popinjay (ch.8, p.121)

a vain or conceited person, especially one who dresses or behaves extravagantly.

Source: OED

Trappist monk (ch.8, p.122)

The Trappists are a Catholic religious order. Trappists generally speak only when necessary; idle talk is strongly discouraged. They don’t actually take a vow of silence, though there is a popular belief that they do, and that is what PGW is implying here.

moping owl in Gray’s ‘Elegy’ (ch.8, p.122)

Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tow’r
 The moping owl does to the moon complain
Of such, as wand’ring near her secret bow’r,
 Molest her ancient solitary reign.

Thomas Gray: Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard (1751)

half a crown (ch.8, p.123)

Two shillings and sixpence, or one-eighth of a pound. See A Damsel in Distress for more on the coinage. In modern terms, the equivalent buying power in 2020 would be roughly nine pounds.

So it was he who had been egging young Mr. Bodkin on to bungle! (ch.8, p.123)

A curious typographical error, perhaps made by a typist preparing the manuscript for both US and UK book publishers. Lord Tilbury would certainly not have encouraged Monty to bungle the job. In the Saturday Evening Post serial (June 24, 1933, page 36), this line has him “egging young Mr. Bodkin on to burgle!” which makes a great deal more sense, and must have been Wodehouse’s original intent. [NM]

Baronets … Peers … a recent creation (ch.8, p.123)

Though the title of baronet is hereditary, baronets are not peers; they rank just above knights, and in fact a baronetcy can be thought of as a sort of hereditary knighthood. Peers include the ranks of duke, marquess, earl, viscount, and baron, and titled members of their families. Beach is consoling himself that Lord Tilbury’s behavior is not associated with an ancient line of nobility, but that he has only recently been elevated to the peerage, as we learn in chapter 1 of Bill the Conqueror. [NM]

hoi polloi (ch.8, p.123)

the masses, common people

Birthday Honours lists (ch.8, p.123)

In the United Kingdom (and some other commonwealth realms), medals, decorations and appointments to various orders (i.e. knighthoods and peerages) are awarded twice a year. The one associated with the reigning monarch’s birthday is called the Birthday Honours, the other being New Year Honours.

stag at eve (ch.8, p.124)

The stag at eve had drunk his fill,
Where danced the moon on Monan’s rill,
And deep his midnight lair had made
In lone Glenartney’s hazel shade;

Sir Walter Scott: “The Stag Hunt” (1904) from The Lady of the Lake, Canto I

Bishop of Bangor (ch.8, p.125)

Apparently a Penguin typographical error; the US serial and US and UK first editions read “Bishop of Bognor” here. There are many cities and towns named Bangor throughout the world, but Bognor refers to a seaside town in Sussex; it had only recently been granted the name “Bognor Regis” after King George V convalesced there in 1929. Wodehouse would have been familiar with Bognor as it is roughly twelve miles east of Emsworth, where he had visited his friend Herbert Westbrook, and then had rented a house from 1904 through 1914. [NM]

Diego Seguí adds that the Bishop of Bognor is also mentioned in “The Voice from the Past” (1931; in Mulliner Nights, 1933), “Joy Bells for Barmy” (1947), and “The Right Approach” (1958; in A Few Quick Ones, 1959). But there is no bishop of Bognor; Bognor is not a bishopry but a deanery in the diocese of Chichester. A few “bishops of Bognor” mentioned in later literature must derive from PGW.

any spot Paradise enow (ch.8, p.126)

A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread—and Thou
 Beside me singing in the Wilderness—
O, Wilderness were Paradise enow!

Edward FitzGerald: The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám (1859)

an eggshaped head (ch.8, p.126)

Another Penguin typo; the three original versions have “egg-shaped” here.

The only other Wodehouse character so far found with an egg-shaped head is Edwin Pott, pigman to Lord Emsworth in Pigs Have Wings, ch. 10.5 (1952). Of course Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot had a head “exactly the shape of an egg” (The Mysterious Affair at Styles, 1920), but there seems little reason to think that Poirot had any influence on the description of either Beach or Pott. [NM]

leading executive of the sinister Parsloe Gang (ch.8, p.127)

In the older sense of “executive” as the one who does the actual work, rather than the administrator who does the planning; see Bill the Conqueror.

moratorium (ch.8, p.128)

A time period during which debtors may delay repayment to their creditors. Timely when this was written, as in order to ease the oncoming economic crisis, U. S. President Herbert Hoover had instituted a one-year moratorium on repayments of German war debts from the First World War, proposed in June 1931 and approved by Congress in December.

a blot on the Bodkin escutcheon (ch.8, p.128)

See above.

Virtue, drawing itself up (ch.8, p.129)

One of the conventions of 19th-century Victorian melodrama was to have the actors ‘freeze’ on stage to create a dramatic tableau at certain moments of heightened emotion.

in good order (ch.8, p.130)

In military terms, to withdraw or retreat in good order meant to move away from the enemy in an organized way.

Housekeeper’s Room (ch.8, p.130)

This is the room in which senior members of the Blandings domestic staff assemble before dinner (cf. Piccadilly Jim), not the housekeeper’s private apartment.

Old Faithful geyser (ch.8, p.130)

A geyser in the Yellowstone National Park in the United States which is famous for erupting at fairly predictable intervals.

Admiralty Plans, Maharajah’s rubies (ch.8, p.130)

Conventions of detective fiction. The Maharajah’s rubies in particular is probably a reference to a story by Anthony Hope called “Uncle John and the Rubies.”

The whole affair, of which the duel was the first stage and the lawsuit the second, arose out of the disappearance of the Maharajah’s rubies.

McClure’s Magazine, Vol. 9, No. 3 (1897)

the tips of his fingers together (ch.8, p.130)

See Summer Lightning.

telegraphic code address (ch.8, p.131)

See Ukridge.

silly ass (ch.8, p.131)

See Right Ho, Jeeves.

tidings of great joy (ch.8, p.132)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

Competition is the soul of Trade (ch.8, p.132)

Competition is the soul of trade all the world over...

S. F. van Oss: American Railroads as Investments: A handbook for investors in American railroad securities, p. 35 (1893)

The phrase is much older; Diego Seguí finds it quoted in parliamentary debates of 1786 as if it were a common proverb.

man of affairs (ch.8, p.132)

See above.

wheels within wheels (ch.8, p.132)

See above.

blow the gaff (ch.8, p.133)

to reveal a secret, especially in a public way

Source: Merriam-Webster dictionary

cold hawk-faced stuff (ch.8, p.133)

A reference to Sherlock Holmes, the most famous fictional private detective of all time. He was often described as having a cold personality.

In height he was rather over six feet, and so excessively lean that he seemed to be considerably taller. His eyes were sharp and piercing, save during those intervals of torpor to which I have alluded; and his thin, hawk-like nose gave his whole expression an air of alertness and decision. His chin, too, had the prominence and squareness which mark the man of determination.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: A Study in Scarlet (1887)

brilliantine (ch.8, p.133)

See Leave It to Psmith.

Chapter 9

lowering sky (ch.9, p.134)

Pronounced to rhyme with “towering”; this means gloomy, threatening, sullen, and is related to the verb lour: to frown or look angry or depressed. It is etymologically distinct from “low, lower, lowering” with the sense of descending; here it does not mean that the clouds are coming in at a lower altitude (though that might also be true coincidentally). Beach’s rising and falling chest in the next sentence has no connection with this phrase, of course. [NM]

nursed in my bosom (ch.9, p.135)

The common idiom is “nursing (or nourishing) a viper in one’s bosom”. Refers to one of Aesop’s Fables (titled The Farmer and the Viper), numbered 176 in the Perry Index.

Source: Wikipedia

put his shirt on (ch.9, p.135)

gamble everything he owned

Whistling Rufus (ch.9, p.135)

A fictional (at the time) name for a racehorse. Incidentally there is a registered thoroughbred named Whistlin Rufus born in 1960.

Possibly taken from the name of a popular tune from 1899:

Cesarewitch (ch.9, p.135)

The Cesarewitch Handicap is a flat handicap horse race in Great Britain open to horses aged three years or older.

three-cornered Cape of Good Hope stamp (ch.9, p.135)

Diego Seguí tells us: This stamp is quite well-known among collectors, and sometimes extremely valuable. Depending on the type, its price today may be anywhere between £50 and £150,000.

Information, varieties, and pricing at The Antique Trade.

Compare the Spanish 1851 dos reales, blue unused, with an error in colour, central to the plot of Spring Fever (1948).

hundred to sixteen (ch.9, p.135)

Betting odds. Odds in UK horse racing are still expressed as fractions; “hundred to sixteen” means that betting £16 would return a profit of £100. “hundred-to-eight” and “hundred-to-sixteen” were common betting odds for long shots in those days.

King Lear (ch.9, p.135)

See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse for other general references to the character of King Lear.

callisthenics (ch.9, p.135)

Exercises performed for physical fitness and grace of movement; see Right Ho, Jeeves. Here, a jocular term for a sweeping gesture not intended as an exercise.

The three original editions have the alternate spelling calisthenics; the Penguin editor seems to have chosen the double-ll version, perhaps because of the spelling of the Greek root καλλι- meaning “graceful, beautiful.” [NM]

momentarily (ch.9, p.136)

Beach is using an older and somewhat rare sense of this word, now more commonly used for “in a moment from now” or “for a moment only.” Beach means that he is apprehensive at every moment. [NM]

Old Testament spirit (ch.9, p.137)

Perhaps an allusion to the stern penalties and harsh judgments for failing to obey the word of God which were announced by the prophets recorded in the Hebrew scriptures. [NM]

the Bottle Imp (ch.9, p.137)

“The Bottle Imp” is an 1891 short story by the Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson, found in the 1893 short story collection Island Nights’ Entertainments. Also referred to in Bill the Conqueror, ch. 13; see the annotations to it for further links.

as straight as they make ’em (ch.9, p.137)

honest, genuine. A variation of “as straight as an arrow.”

featherweight (ch.9, p.138)

A traditional boxing weight division, the upper limit of which was established at 126 lbs (57.15 kg) in 1909 by the National Sporting Club (in London).

boxing Blue (ch.9, p.138)

See Something Fresh. A sample of the Cambridge blue color is in the notes to The Inimitable Jeeves.

run amok (ch.9, p.138)

See Bill the Conqueror.

conking out (ch.9, p.138)

Dying down; see Summer Lighting.

cheese it (ch.9, p.138)

See Leave It to Psmith.

of the terrace, a ray of sunshine (ch.9, p.138)

The comma is a mistake by the Penguin editor; it is ungrammatical and does not appear in any of the three original editions. [NM]

this best of all possible worlds (ch.9, p.139)

See Something Fresh.

milk of human kindness (ch.9, p.139)

yet do I fear thy nature; It is too full o’ the milk of human kindness To catch the nearest way:

Shakespeare: Macbeth, Act 1, scene 5
See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse for the forty quotations of this phrase so far found in Wodehouse.

brave new world (ch.9, p.139)

From The Tempest, appropriately enough after this storm. [NM] See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

Diego Seguí reminds us that although Aldous Huxley’s novel Brave New World had been published two years before, and that Wodehouse was aware of it, the context (“contain a fellow human being” / “has such people in ’t!”) strongly suggest that PGW was thinking of Shakespeare rather than Huxley. Wodehouse had written to Bill Townend:

I bought Aldous Huxley’s book, but simply can’t read it. Aren’t these stories of the future a bore. The whole point of Huxley is that he can write better about modern life than anybody else, so of course he goes and writes about the future.

Letter of March 6, 1932, quoted in P. G. Wodehouse: A Life in Letters, p. 228–9

embrocation (ch.9, p.139)

A fluid topical remedy for relieving pain, a liniment.

total immersion (ch.9, p.139)

This phrase usually refers to Christian baptism performed in some traditions by briefly submerging the recipient in a body of water, compared to the alternative rite of the symbolic sprinkling of a few drops of consecrated water over the subject’s head. [NM]

Rigg’s Golden Balm (ch.9, p.139)

Fictional, as far as can be determined. The real-life embrocation Elliman’s was advertised on the cover of the Public School Magazine (“Elliman’s eliminates pain”) and was mentioned in “Welch’s Mile Record” (1902) and “An Affair of Boats” (1905).

large (or seven-and-sixpenny) size (ch.9, p.139)

Seven shillings and sixpence, equivalent to three-eighths of a pound sterling, roughly equivalent in purchasing power to £27 in modern terms. Coincidentally, the first UK edition of Heavy Weather (Jenkins, 1933) was priced at 7/6. Chuffy’s marriage licence in Thank You, Jeeves, ch. 6, and some cigars in later books of the 1950s have the same price.

Another fictional product in the same category is “Doctor Wilberforce’s Golden Gargle in the large or seven-and-sixpenny size” in “The Voice from the Past” (1931; in Mulliner Nights, 1933). Later patent medicines like Slimmo (Pigs Have Wings, 1952) come in the “large economy size” without a specific price. [NM]

for horses (ch.9, p.140)

Such as Blake’s Balsam, bought by Rev. Rupert “Beefy” Bingham for Lord Emsworth’s injured ankle in “Company for Gertrude” (1928; in Blandings Castle and Elsewhere, 1935). [NM]

vitriol (ch.9, p.140)

See Summer Lightning.

vermilion (ch.9, p.140)

A brilliant red or scarlet pigment, originally made from the powdered mineral cinnabar, and the corresponding color.

Source: Wikipedia

Eton and Cambridge (ch.9, p.140)

See above; other references to these institutions are on page 143.

“Girl I used to be engaged to. She died.” (ch.9, p.141)

Another example of a fictional deceased fiancée is in “Wilton’s Holiday” (1915).

scan the horizon, like Sister Ann (ch.9, p.141)

Norman Murphy (A Wodehouse Handbook) found this in Charles Perrault’s account of the story of Bluebeard, who murdered several wives.

Her sister Anne went up to the top of the tower, and the poor afflicted wife cried out from time to time, “Anne, sister Anne, do you see anyone coming?”
And sister Anne said, “I see nothing but a cloud of dust in the sun, and the green grass.”

earthly Paradise (ch.9, p.142)

Dante’s Purgatorio. Purgatory in the poem is depicted as a mountain in the Southern Hemisphere, consisting of a bottom section (Ante-Purgatory), seven levels of suffering and spiritual growth (associated with the seven deadly sins), and finally the Earthly Paradise at the top.

Might also be a reference to the Garden of Eden: see Biblia Wodehousiana.

contented cows (ch.9, p.142)

Carnation, an American brand of evaporated milk and similar products, began advertising its Carnation Condensed Milk in 1907 as “the milk from contented cows.” [NM]

“Do you get your milk from contented cows?”
“They’ve never complained to me yet,” said Bill.

Doctor Sally, ch. 16 (1931)

Diego Seguí points us to other contented farm animals:

“Extraordinarily good bacon, this, Jeeves.”
“Home cured, I understand, sir.”
“And made, no doubt, from contented pigs.”

The Mating Season, ch. 8 (1949)

“Good sausages, these.”
“Yes, sir.”
“Made, no doubt, from contented pigs.”

Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, ch. 22 (1954)

Of sausages at school, Reggie “said they were made not from contented pigs but from pigs which had expired, regretted by all, of glanders, the botts and tuberculosis.”

Jeeves in the Offing, ch. 11 (1960)

“These eggs, Jeeves,” I said. “Very good. Very tasty.”
“Yes, sir?”
“Laid, no doubt, by contented hens.”

Much Obliged, Jeeves, ch. 1 (1971)

‘Ah, here are your eggs. You’ll enjoy them. They’re very good at the Goose and Grasshopper. Come, no doubt, from contented hens.’

Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen, ch. 18 (1974)

to practise sombre cannons (ch.9, p.143)

In billiards a cannon, which is worth two points, is when a player’s shot-ball clicks off both of the other two balls on the table. [IM/LVG]

Cheeryble Brother (ch.9, p.143)

Originally identical twin brothers in Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens who are extremely benevolent. Figuratively, someone who goes around doing good to others.

miasmic (ch.9, p.144)

Producing unhealthy air or noxious vapors.

work the wheeze (ch.9, p.144)

Here, to carry out a scheme or plan.

a penny saved is a penny earned (ch.9, p.144)

Benjamin Franklin never actually said this, one of the adages most often attributed to him. He did, however, write in the 1737 Poor Richard’s Almanack: “A penny saved is two pence clear.”

feudal (ch.9, p.145)

Meant figuratively here, for loyalty to one’s employer and family, alluding to the fealty of a vassal or serf to his overlord in feudal times.

in fine (ch.9, p.145)

Latin expression meaning “at the end; in conclusion; in summary.”

talking drip (ch.9, p.145)

See Summer Lightning.

as sick as mud (ch.9, p.146)

The OED defines the phrase as “extremely depressed, exasperated, or furious” and gives the first citation from 1935, with a Wodehouse citation from 1954. I have submitted this earlier example to the editors. [NM]

Diego Seguí provides the following:

B. J. Whiting, Modern Proverbs and Proverbial Sayings (1989) p. 432 has the following entry:

M316 As sick as Mud
1917 MGibbon Inglorious (L 1968) 276: Watson must be as sick as mud. 1933 GBegbie Sudden (L) 65: Mother would be as sick as mud. 1957 PGWodehouse Butler (NY) 107: He was as sick as mud. 1974 PGWodehouse Cat-Nappers (NY) 101: As sick as mud. Cf. Muck above.

But there is a much earlier example in Punch, Nov. 24, 1909, p. 376:

 “Stir him up,” said Saccharissa. “I’m sorry he has such a vile temper. Stir him up!”
 “Give me an egg-whisk,” I said, “and William shall think he is helping at a performance of ‘The Maelstrom’ at the Hippodrome.”
 “No, we mustn't be heartless. Just a weeny poke.”
 I gave him a “weeny” poke, and William simply hared round the basin, looking as sick as mud.

(William is a goldfish. He comes to a bad end.)

including the Scandinavian (ch.9, p.146)

See Blandings Castle and Elsewhere.

dishes the dirt (ch.9, p.146)

Tells the gossip or scandal. The OED cites Wodehouse for “dishing the dirt” from Frozen Assets (1964); I have submitted this earlier citation. [NM]

blue-gored (ch.9, p.146)

Another way of saying blue-blooded or noble.

MS. (ch.9, p.146)

Conventional abbreviation for “manuscript.”

Big Chief (ch.9, p.146)

See Hot Water.

The Sidney Carton spirit (ch.9, p.148)

In A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens, Sidney Carton willingly goes to the guillotine in Paris to save the life of Charles Darnay.

Israelite caught in a sudden manna-shower in mid-desert (ch.9, p.148)

And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat.

Bible: Exodus 16:15

See also Biblia Wodehousiana.

Chapter 10

thirty-year-old Limerick (ch.10, p.149)

Edward Lear’s Book of Nonsense (published 1846) popularized limericks. See The Girl on the Boat.

fungoid growth in sticky ridges (ch.10, p.150)

See marcelled, above.

drawing the long bow (ch.10, p.152)

an idiom dating back to at least the 1660s meaning “to exaggerate; to tell tall tales”. Appeared first in print in 1668 (“There came to us several Tradesmen; the first of them a Poor Rogue that made profession of drawing the long Bow”) in the English translation of “The Visions of Dom Francisco De Quevedo Villegas.”

Text at Project Gutenberg

Chopin’s Funeral March (ch.10, p.152)

The third movement of the Piano Sonata No. 2 is Chopin’s famous funeral march (French: Marche funèbre) which was composed at least two years before the remainder of the work and has remained, by itself, one of Chopin’s most popular compositions.

See Wikipedia.

forty-eight seconds (ch.10, p.152)

Most traditional performances of the Funeral March take from eight to ten minutes.

Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli’s performance at YouTube is an excellent example at nine and a half minutes. [NM]

wambling (ch.10, p.156)

A rare word, denoting having a feeling of nausea or moving with an unsteady or staggering gait. See Very Good, Jeeves. [NM]

spavined frog (ch.10, p.156)

Spavin in horses is a condition where the hock is enlarged. In this context, it means swollen.

Nosey Parker (ch.10, p.158)

The saying is said by some to refer to the reforming cleric Matthew Parker (1504–1575) who was Archbishop of Canterbury during Elizabeth I’s reign. Parker was obsessed with finding the roots of the Christian Church in England. He collected many manuscripts including the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles and was granted a warrant by the Privy Council to locate and preserve the many religious documents that had been scattered following the dissolution of the monasteries. Armed with the warrant, he sent out many detailed enquiries to manor houses, churches and officials. His searching enquiries upset many people and his many instructions to his clergy on day-to-day matters earned him the reputation of being a bit of a busybody and the name Nosy Parker (some say partly because he had a big nose!).

See Something Fresh for other theories, and the daunting fact that the phrase is not recorded before 1907 in the OED.

nice bit of box-fruit (ch.10, p.159)

See Laughing Gas. Thus in US and UK first editions; two words without hyphen in US magazine serial.

The Penguin edition has the inexplicable error “fruit-box” here; it was not corrected for the Life at Blandings omnibus volume.

heavy weather about nothing (ch.10, p.159)

“Making heavy weather of” something means to treat it in a way that makes it seem more important or difficult than it really is. See also above.

perplexed in the extreme (ch.10, p.159)

Continuing the parallels between Ronnie and Othello. See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

Galahad strode to the hearthrug (ch.10, p.161)

Compare similar passages in the annotations to The Code of the Woosters.

If this be treason, make the most of it (ch.10, p.161)

On May 28, 1765, Patrick Henry addressed his fellow members of the House of Burgesses, the assembly of the British colony of Virginia, protesting the Stamp Act and disputing the authority of Parliament to tax the colonies. His closing remarks: “Caesar had his Brutus, Charles the First his Cromwell, and George the Third—” were interrupted by cries of “Treason!” He concluded: “—and George the Third may profit by their example! If this be treason make the most of it.” [NM]

Adelphi Theatre (ch.10, p.162)

The present theatre in London’s West End is the fourth theatre to occupy its site. During the nineteenth century it was famous for melodramas popularly known as “Adelphi screamers”; no doubt Lady Julia’s quotation of “A time will come!” had its source in one of these plays. [NM]

a butt of malmsey (ch.10, p.163)

A barrel of a strong sweet wine, first produced in Malvasia, Greece; the name was later applied to similar fortified wines from other Mediterranean territories such as the Azores, the Canaries, and Madeira. George, duke of Clarence, was according to legend drowned in a butt of Malmsey for treasonous plots against his elder brother, Edward IV, king of England. Shakespeare perpetuated the legend in his play Richard III.

is she your daughter?” (ch.10, p.163)

Lady Julia’s suspicion is a rare example of Wodehouse’s characters even considering the possibility of illegitimate children. [NM]

Irish Guards (ch.10, p.163)

One of the Foot Guards regiments of the British Army; part of the Guards Division.

the Tivoli (ch.10, p.163)

See above.

C.B.E. (ch.10, p.164)

An award or honor in the UK: Commander of the Order of the British Empire. The third-highest of the ranks of the Order.

Brigade of Guards (ch.10, p.164)

An administrative formation of the British Army from 1856 to 1968.

subaltern (ch.10, p.164)

an officer in the British army below the rank of captain, especially a second lieutenant.

the beasts of the field (ch.10, p.166)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

Chapter 11

Surgit … aliquid amari (ch.11, p.167)

The “old Roman” is Lucretius (Titus Lucretius Carus, c.99bc–c.55bc), from his philosophical poem De rerum natura (On the Nature of Things), book IV, lines 1133–34. In full, medio de fonte leporum surgit amari aliquid quod in ipsis floribus angat: from the midst of a fountain of pleasant things arises something bitter that vexes us among the flowers themselves. Or, as Jeeves translates it for Bertie in Jeeves and the Tie That Binds, ch. 17: “From the heart of this fountain of delights wells up some bitter taste to choke them even among the flowers.”

gumboil (ch.11, p.167)

An infected sore or inflammation on the gums in the mouth.

editor of Society Spice (ch.11, p.168)

We met him first as sub-editor under Roderick Pyke in Bill the Conqueror; he is editor in Sam the Sudden.

flung wide the gates (ch.11, p.169)

Probably referring to “Fling wide the gates,” a chorus with tenor solo in John Stainer’s oratorio The Crucifixion (1887); an alternate possibility is the hymn “Ten thousand times ten thousand” by Henry Alford (1867), whose first stanza concludes “Fling open wide the golden gates and let the victors in.” But see Biblia Wodehousiana for a source in the Psalms and a cross-reference to an early Wodehouse school story. [NM]

den of the Secret Nine (ch.11, p.170)

See The Code of the Woosters.

“You can tell him by his hat” (ch.11, p.170)

Norman Murphy, in A Wodehouse Handbook, identified the source as a music-hall song “Seven and Sixpence” written and sung by Sam Mayo about 1900; Murphy’s contact at the Music Hall Society recalled the last line as above. The lyrics as printed in the 1904 sheet music, titled “She Cost Me Seven and Sixpence,” have “My father’s in the pigsty, You’ll know him by his hat.” [NM]

comparing my mind to a sieve (ch.11, p.172)

See Summer Lightning.

A in alt (ch.11, p.173)

A musical note in the range which is written in the first octave above the staff, on or between ledger lines; from the Latin altum: high. Since Lord Emsworth is a tenor, reading from a transposed treble clef (that is, sung an octave lower than notated), this means the A above the piano’s Middle C. Not quite the operatic high C of a Pavarotti, but only a couple of steps below it. [NM]

“God give me strength!” (ch.11, p.174)

The only other instance of this exclamation so far found in Wodehouse is from Adela Cork in The Old Reliable, ch. 16 (1951):

“God give me strength!” she moaned. “I telephone for policemen, and they send me a couple of ham actors.”

“You bloodstained Bodkin!” (ch.11, p.175)

The only prior use of the adjective is a literal one, a fingerprint on a windowsill in Money for Nothing (1928). But beginning with this novel, Wodehouse’s characters sometimes seem to use it as a substitute for the formerly taboo adjective “bloody” (along with other substitutes such as ruddy and crimson). [NM]

“You were saying that my bloodstained uncle John did not approve of you.”

Reggie Tennyson in The Luck of the Bodkins, ch. 3 (1936)

“What the hell are you doing here, you bloodstained Wooster?”

Stilton Cheesewright in Joy in the Morning, ch. 8 (1946)

“Are you tight, you bloodstained Potter?” asked Sir Aylmer…

Uncle Dynamite, ch. 13 (1948)

“If you’re looking for that bloodstained butler of yours, you’re too late.”

Sir Gregory Parsloe in Pigs Have Wings, ch. 10.4 (1952)

Chapter 12

two minds with but a single thought (ch.12, p.177)

See Right Ho, Jeeves.

restricted in his choice of caches (ch.12, p.178)

The UK first edition and the Penguin paperback italicize this as if cache were still considered a foreign word. It is indeed a direct borrowing from the French for hiding-place, but has been used in English since the early nineteenth century. US magazine and book do not use italics here. [NM]

it had as innocent a look as any straw he had ever seen (ch.12, p.179)

All three original versions read as above; the Penguin paperback erroneously omits “a”: “as innocent look” here. The error was corrected in the Penguin omnibus volume Life at Blandings.

a sovereign specific (ch.12, p.179)

In this phrase, specific denotes a medicine or similar remedy for a particular disease or ailment; sovereign here means supremely effective, the most potent of its kind. The phrase is intended to evoke advertising claims for patent medicines, such as Nervino in Jill the Reckless/The Little Warrior, ch. 20, claimed by Uncle Chris to be a sovereign specific for lack of vitality.

His not to reason why (ch.12, p.180)

See Something Fresh.

part-singing (ch.12, p.180)

Music written for several voices in harmony and/or counterpoint, each singer having an individual part, usually without instrumental accompaniment, such as madrigals and glees. This is the only reference to part-singing so far found in Wodehouse. [NM]

fourth Countess (ch.12, p.181)

That is, the wife of the fourth Earl, whose firstborn son would later become the fifth Earl.

Buster Keaton (ch.12, p.181)

American comedian (1895–1966) of vaudeville and films, noted especially for silent films in which he performed physical comedy and daring stunts with a stoic, expressionless face.

Mon Abri, Kitchener Road, East Dulwich (ch.12, p.181)

An address indicating a lower-middle-class neighborhood; see Very Good, Jeeves. Mon abri is French for “my shelter.”

in a purely Pickwickian sense (ch.12, p.182)

Not meant literally; intended to be interpreted in the most positive light possible. The phrase actually occurs within The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, ch. 1:

The Chairman felt it his imperative duty to demand … whether he had used the expression which had just escaped him in a common sense. Mr. Blotton had no hesitation in saying, that he had not—he had used the word in its Pickwickian sense.

Bonty Modkin (ch.12, p.183)

Wodehouse uses spoonerisms (accidental transposition of opening consonants) very rarely. See Very Good, Jeeves.

failing to abate a smoky chimney (ch.12, p.184)

See Summer Lightning.

Queen Elizabeth (ch.12, p.184)

See Wikipedia for an account of the speech at Tilbury delivered to her armies by Queen Elizabeth I in 1588.

tacking uncertainly towards the door (ch.12, p.184)

See Right Ho, Jeeves.

“that you were, a little less of the grande dame” (ch.12, p.185)

The comma reproduced above is a typographical error in the Penguin paperback; it appears in none of the original editions, and is not present in the Penguin omnibus volume Life at Blandings. Grande dame is French for “great lady”; Lady Julia correctly diagnoses the effect of Lady Constance’s snootiness on others.

broken reed (ch.12, p.185)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

a certain metallic note (ch.12, p.186)

Metallic here may have a double meaning: both a harsh or ringing tone of voice, as of a metal item being struck, and a reference to money, as in coin of the realm.

The chapter on the Fall of the Rupee you may omit. It is somewhat too sensational. Even these metallic problems have their melodramatic side.

Miss Prism, to Cecily, in Oscar Wilde: The Importance of Being Earnest, act 2.

he could speculate in order to accumulate (ch.12, p.187)

See Money for Nothing.

a sprat to catch a whale (ch.12, p.187)

The OED gives the most frequent version as a sprat to catch a mackerel: using a small fish as bait to bring in a larger fish more valuable as food for humans. Figuratively, a small outlay or risk with a prospect of a much more significant return. With whale the expectation is even greater; here Lord Tilbury is anticipating great profits from the sale of the Reminiscences.

See also Full Moon.

Ay tank I go home (ch.12, p.187)

A parody of Greta Garbo’s Swedish accent, when in her negotiations with M-G-M in Hollywood she used the threat of returning to her native land to improve her bargaining position for salary and better roles. Cited as from 1927 in a 1937 article in Life magazine.

Chapter 13

Now slept the crimson petal and the white. (ch.13, p.189)

Adapted from a sonnet in The Princess (1847) by Alfred, Lord Tennyson:

Now sleeps the crimson petal, now the white;
Nor waves the cypress in the palace walk;
Nor winks the gold fin in the porphyry font:
The fire-fly wakens: waken thou with me.

whilom (ch.13, p.189)

Former; at some time past. The OED has no citations later than 1888 for this archaic word.

Unionist (ch.13, p.189)

See above.

the dam’ feller? (ch.13, p.190)

US magazine serial and book spell out “damn” here.

muster-roll (ch.13, p.190)

An official list of the members of a military unit, convicts in a prison, or more generally any comprehensive list of names. Spelled as two unhyphenated words in US serial; US first edition has “roll call” here instead.

Foxes were gnawing at Beach’s vitals (ch.13, p.190)

See A Damsel in Distress.

botts (ch.13, p.191)

Any of various diseases of horses, sheep, cows, and other domesticated animals, caused by infection with the maggots of parasitic flies.

glanders (ch.13, p.191)

A contagious bacterial disease of horses, causing swelling of glands beneath the jaw and mucous nasal discharge; often fatal. It can be transmitted to other animals including humans.

quartan ague (ch.13, p.191)

A fever with chills, such as that of malaria, which recurs on the fourth day (counting inclusively), that is, on a three-day cycle. Wodehouse often mentions ague but this is the only mention of this specific kind found so far. [NM]

adhesion (ch.13, p.191)

Thus in both books, but US magazine serial substitutes “adherence” here: a form of the word more familiar to most of us today. The meaning of “agreement” is of course the same. [NM]

fantastic (ch.13, p.191)

Though this word has been trivialized in more recent popular usage to become a non-specific adjective of approval, Lady Julia is using it in its traditional sense meaning “inclined to flights of fantasy; having an uncontrolled imagination.” [NM]

Diego Seguí notes another sense of the word elsewhere in Wodehouse, applied to salaries and other sums of money, meaning “extravagant” or “large beyond belief.”

poison in his soup (ch.13, p.191)

Reminiscent of Wodehouse’s lyric for “Cleopatterer” (in Leave It to Jane, 1917), in which, avoiding “stormy farewell scenes” with a discarded lover, the ancient Egyptian queen decided:

To such coarse stuff she would not stoop;
So she just put poison in his soup.

Compare the short story “Strychnine in the Soup” (1932; in Mulliner Nights, 1933) and a mention of cyanide in the consommé in “Clustering Round Young Bingo” (1925; in Carry On, Jeeves).

carrying coals to Newcastle (ch.13, p.191)

Since Newcastle, in New South Wales, Australia, was and is the largest coal-exporting harbor in the world, this is a proverbial expression for the futility of taking something to a place where it is already abundant. Here Lady Julia is implying that Pilbeam has already had more than enough champagne.

The only other use of this expression so far found in Wodehouse:

[Broadway Willie Cream is] the fellow who likes to let off stink bombs in night clubs, which rather falls under the head of carrying coals to Newcastle…

Jeeves in the Offing/How Right You Are, Jeeves, ch. 2 (1960)

muzzily (ch.13, p.192)

in a vague or confused manner

wash-stand … water-jug … basin (ch.13, p.192)

Since an ancient house like Blandings Castle would have had many bedrooms and few bathrooms, each bedroom was provided with a side table with a pitcher of water (renewed every day by servants), a soap dish, and a bowl for washing hands, etc.

In chapter 14, Beach refers to “the bathroom on Mr. Pilbeam’s floor” in the singular. [NM]

first-aid treatment (ch.13, p.192)

Presumably splashing his face with water to help him wake up and deal with his hangover.

she must be scored off (ch.13, p.192)

In other words, Pilbeam needs to do something to gain a victory over her or to get retribution for her insult.

There is a lovely moon (ch.13, p.192)

Thus in the UK book; “There is a moon” in US magazine. For unknown reasons, the US book has “Dark, of course” instead here. [NM]

Diego Seguí notes that the moon shines in Chapter 17 and “looks like a silver medal” at the end of Chapter 18, so the alteration in the US book is inexplicable.

an electric torch (ch.13, p.192)

a battery-powered flashlight

under that gracious moon (ch.13, p.192)

Thus in the UK book; “under the quiet moon” in US magazine; “under the quiet stars” in US book. [NM]

Angus McAllister (ch.13, p.195)

See Leave It to Psmith.

hollyhocks (ch.13, p.195)

See Leave It to Psmith.

groaned in spirit (ch.13, p.195)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

Prodigal Son (ch.13, p.196)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

heliograph (ch.13, p.196)

A means of transmitting messages over long (but still line-of-sight) distances by using a flashing beam of reflected sunlight, using either a moving mirror or a shutter to create coded pulses of light. Sometimes called a sun-telegraph. OED citations are from the last quarter of the nineteenth century. [NM]

Chapter 14

had sown the wind and was reaping the whirlwind (ch.14, p.198)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

G.H.Q. (ch.14, p.198)

General Headquarters: a military term for the site of the command of armed forces. First cited from an 1856 letter of Florence Nightingale, during the Crimean War.

letters of flame (ch.14, p.200)

See Summer Moonshine.

Why skip ye so, ye high hills? (ch.14, p.204)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

Something sound and conservative … Morning Post (ch.14, p.204)

See Right Ho, Jeeves.

put him through to the library (ch.14, p.205)

A large house like Blandings Castle would have had a single outside telephone line, with a switching system to enable incoming calls answered at one phone to be connected to a specific extension phone, rather than being available to be picked up at any extension as has been more likely in recent years. [NM]

jumping bean (ch.14, p.205)

See The Girl in Blue.

come a purler (ch.14, p.205)

Take a headfirst fall or trip; British colloquial from mid-19th century.

Cassandra (ch.14, p.205)

In Greek mythology, a Trojan priestess who was given the gift of true prophecy by Apollo, but cursed by him in that no one would believe her accurate predictions.

the turn of a card at Wattier’s (ch.14, p.206)

Correctly spelled Watier’s; the above spelling is in all three original editions. A gentleman’s club, established 1807 at 81 Piccadilly, London, at the instigation of the Prince Regent (later King George IV), and named after the Prince’s cook Jean-Baptiste Watier, who was put in charge so that the dining would be superior to that of other clubs. It soon became the site of very high-stakes gambling at which fortunes were won and lost, and was disbanded in 1819.

Chapter 15

ozone (ch.15, p.208)

See The Girl on the Boat.

turns to ashes in your mouth (ch.15, p.208)

See The Code of the Woosters.

form-book (ch.15, p.208)

Literally, a collection of statistics on the performance of racehorses used as a guide for betting. Figuratively, as here, the expectation of someone’s behavior based on past experience.

The US magazine has this as two unhyphenated words.

wart-hog (ch.15, p.208)

See Bill the Conqueror.

The US magazine and US book have this as two unhyphenated words.

heart bowed down with weight of woe (ch.15, p.209)

See Sam the Sudden.

black mackintosh (ch.15, p.209)

A raincoat made from rubberized cloth.

to prosper like a couple of bay trees (ch.15, p.209)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

follow the dictates of her heart (ch.15, p.209)

See Uncle Fred in the Springtime.

registrar’s (ch.15, p.209)

See The Inimitable Jeeves.

Gretna Green (ch.15, p.209)

See Love Among the Chickens.

interview with Bodkin, M. before dinner (ch.15, p.210)

As Monty’s former employer, Lord Tilbury thinks of him as he would have been listed on a roster of the office staff.

Punctuated as above in the Jenkins first UK edition. The US magazine serial has a second comma after “M.” here; the Penguin paperback omits the comma after Bodkin. The US book omits the initial altogether: “interview with Bodkin before dinner” at this point. [NM]

sediment that looked like black honey (ch.15, p.210)

The Emsworth Arms’ idea of a writing-room was an almost pitch dark cubbyhole with no paper, no pens and in the ink-pot only a curious sediment that looked like something imported from the Florida Everglades.

Pigs Have Wings, ch. 9.2 (1952)

Licensed Victualler (ch.15, p.210–211)

An owner of a restaurant or pub that in addition to serving food has a license to sell alcoholic beverages.

a perfect sitter of a chance (ch.15, p.211)

See The Inimitable Jeeves.

But first to spy out the land (ch.15, p.211)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

radio … accidentally got San Francisco (ch.15, p.211)

Assuming this refers to medium-wave broadcasting (the AM radio band) this would be an exceedingly rare event if possible at all. Only at night are the atmospheric conditions favorable for the propagation of medium-wavelength radio waves for more than a few hundred miles, as the D layer of the ionosphere absorbs medium-wave signals when it is active during daylight hours. From Britain, stations on the east coast of Canada are the easiest North American broadcasts to receive at night, on the order of 2,400 miles distant. San Francisco is more than twice that distance: Heathrow to SFO is 5,368 miles. [NM]

sitting on top of the world (ch.15, p.212)

See The Mating Season.

the den of the Secret Nine (ch.15, p.212)

See The Code of the Woosters.

nifties (ch.15, p.212)

See Sam the Sudden.

stake was on the board and the wheel had begun to spin (ch.15, p.213)

An allusion to gambling on roulette.

when we wish to appear nonchalant, lighting a cigarette (ch.15, p.213)

See The Code of the Woosters.

Make it open (ch.15, p.213)

In United Kingdom banking law a crossed cheque is one that has been marked by two parallel lines, specifying that it can only be deposited into a bank account having the same name as the payee of the cheque. An open cheque, without the crossing lines, can be redeemed over the drawer’s bank counter for cash. [NM]

Pigs like me. (ch.15, p.214)

And Lord Tilbury likes pigs and keeps them at his place in Buckinghamshire, as we were told in Chapter 7 (p.99); we learn more of his ardor in Service With a Smile (1961), in which he plots with Lavender Briggs to steal the Empress. [NM]

tooth and claw (ch.15, p.216)

An allusion to Tennyson’s In Memoriam:

Who trusted God was love indeed
 And love Creation’s final law—
 Tho’ Nature, red in tooth and claw
With ravine, shriek’d against his creed—

stout, stumpy man (ch.15, p.216)

See the descriptions of him as overweight and Napoleonic in Chapter 1.

Chapter 16

hot fomentations (ch.16, p.217)

Liquid medicinal treatments, applied usually in a moistened pad on the skin, to treat pain, swelling, or inflammation.

statesmanlike policy (ch.16, p.217)

Wodehouse rarely makes satirical comments on politics in his fiction, though he had frequently done so in his early newspaper work. Here he seems to be saying that making irrelevant responses is characteristic of politicians. [NM]

ink a highly corrosive acid (ch.16, p.217)

Lord Emsworth was correct up to a point. The standard preparation of ink from the fifth century until well into the twentieth century was iron gall ink, based on iron salts and a tannic acid derived from plants, often from oak galls. But once the ink has dried on the paper, it is not water-soluble, according to the Wikipedia article, so the danger to the Empress seems minimal. [NM]

poets … gazelles … Arab steeds (ch.16, p.218)

The first is probably alluding to lines from Thomas Moore’s Lalla Rookh:

I never nurs’d a dear gazelle
 To glad me with its soft black eye,
But when it came to know me well
 And love me, it was sure to die!

The second likely refers to a broadside ballad titled “The Arab’s Farewell to His Steed” by Caroline Norton (1808–1877):

My beautiful! my beautiful! that standest meekly by
With thy proudly arched and glossy neck, and dark and fiery eye;
Fret not to roam the desert now, with all thy winged speed—
I may not mount on thee again—thou’rt sold, my Arab steed!

thoroughly berserk mood (ch.16, p.219)

See A Damsel in Distress.

turning on his sister like a stringy tiger (ch.16, p.219)

The reader may be surprised at the adjective “stringy” here; presumably the reference is to Clarence’s build, as described in Summer Lightning, ch. 1.2: “a long, lean, stringy man of about sixty.” To this reader’s mind the unusual adjective blunts the impact of turning on his sister like a tiger, something so unusual that it deserves emphasis. The few instances where the typically docile ninth Earl finds the strength to assert himself are precious, showing that he can be “pushed just so far” (Service With a Smile, ch. 4.2) and no further. [NM]

“The idea of bringing Pirbright into the library!” (ch.16, p.219)

The Penguin paperback erroneously indents this as if it began a new speech paragraph. The three original versions continue Lady Constance’s speech immediately following “sharply.”

a statuette of the young David prophesying before Saul (ch.16, p.220)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

a warrior who, crippled by wounds, must stay in his tent while the battle is joined without (ch.16, p.221)

Diego Seguí tells us that this is a Homeric image; it recalls the beginning of the Iliad, Book XVI, when Patroclus reminds Achilles that the most of the Achaean champions (Diomedes, Odysseus, Agamemnon, Eurypylus) lie wounded while the Trojans triumph.

Another Achilles reference can be found in Mike ch. 15 [serialized as Jackson Junior], describing Firby-Smith; as a result Mike Jackson pretends to be hurt (chs. 15–16). Later Mike is specifically described as an Achilles sitting in his tent (chapters 32 and 39 of Mike, serialized as ch. 3 and ch. 10 of The Lost Lambs), not because of a wound but for motives similar to Achilles’.

a masonic glance of understanding (ch.16, p.221)

By extension from the supposedly secret signs and code words by which one member of the Freemasons can recognize another, the lower-case adjective here suggests that Lady Constance and Lady Julia are signaling to each other that they are on the same side in this discussion. Wodehouse himself was a Mason, joining in 1929 and resigning in 1934. [NM]

bien-être (ch.16, p.221)

French: “well-being”; a comfortable state.

women’s voices began to beat upon him like rain upon a roof (ch.16, p.222)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

light baritone … deep bass (ch.16, p.222)

See Summer Lightning.

toddle along (ch.16, p.222)

Monty is of Bertie Wooster’s generation and class, a member of the Drones Club, so his vocabulary includes self-deprecatory verbs like this. See totter and toddle in the notes to The Inimitable Jeeves. [NM]

a stoup of the right stuff (ch.16, p.222)

Stoup is a somewhat archaic word for a drinking vessel, and has been used for containers of various sizes. Tankard was used in the preceding paragraph, and avoiding its repetition by using stoup also allows a pleasant alliteration with stuff here.

For the right stuff, see The Inimitable Jeeves. We are told later (p. 225) that he is drinking the inn’s own draught ale. [NM]

tortured vocal chords (ch.16, p.222)

Spelled chords in the Penguin paperback, but more properly as cords in the US magazine serial and the US and UK first edition books. See Very Good, Jeeves for more, and below for an inconsistency in a similar case. [NM]

loved and lost (ch.16, p.222)

See Young Men in Spats.

stepped in for a quick one (ch.16, p.223)

One senses the barmaid’s approval of Mr. Webber’s sense of priorities in taking time for a drink and a short chat before heading off on an extremely urgent sty call. [NM]

stout-and-mild (ch.16, p.224)

A combination of two types of brewed beverage: stout is a dark beer (Guinness is a well-known brand) with a lighter ale brewed with a minimal amount of hops (thus “mild” rather than “bitter”). When served in unmixed layers in the glass, it is sometimes also known as a black-and-tan. [NM]

did his hair in a pretty gruesome way (ch.16, p.224)

See marcelled, above.

a bit above the odds (ch.16, p.224)

UK colloquial for “past the acceptable limit.”

in the soup (ch.16, p.224)

See The Inimitable Jeeves.

raw work (ch.16, p.224)

See Money for Nothing.

near the knuckle (ch.16, p.224)

See above.

big, broad outlook (ch.16, p.224)

Reminiscent of Ukridge’s recommendations to take a “big, broad, flexible outlook” in many of his stories, including the first: “Ukridge’s Dog College” (1923).

tripe-hound (ch.16, p.225)

Slang for a person who goes sniffing after items or information considered to be of low quality or worth; a term of contempt applied to newspaper reporters, spies, detectives, informants. [NM]

Freedom of the City (ch.16, p.225)

Formerly, a grant of full privileges of citizenship (such as the right to vote, to transact business or participate in a craft guild); with the capitalized word City, probably referring to the City of London. More recently, the phrase refers to an honor award given ceremonially to a distinguished person, similar to the symbolic Key to the City once awarded in American municipalities. [NM]

a rather awed thumb (ch.16, p.225)

Another transferred epithet (see Right Ho, Jeeves), and compare another use in Summer Lightning in Wodehouse’s narration rather than in Bertie Wooster’s voice.

sort of spider … sitting in his web (ch.16, p.225)

Reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes’s description of Professor Moriarty: [NM]

He sits motionless, like a spider in the centre of its web, but that web has a thousand radiations, and he knows well every quiver of each of them.

“The Final Problem” in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (1894).

basilisk (ch.16, p.226)

See Ice in the Bedroom.

the boot (ch.16, p.226)

Dismissal from one’s job or position; OED has citations dating back to H. Rider Haggard in 1888.

beer-engine (ch.16, p.227)

Most American and some European brews are artificially charged with carbon dioxide to replace the natural carbon dioxide lost when the beer is filtered, so that gas pressure is sufficient to expel the beer from a keg once a tap is opened. Conversely, traditional British “real ale” is lightly fizzy, not kept under high gas pressure, and must be pumped from the cask. Typically the server operates a long lever handle which works the beer-engine to draw the brew upward from a cask kept below the bar in a cool cellar. [NM]

to clear his vocal chords (ch.16, p.227)

At this point, the US magazine and book both have cords (compare above) but the UK first edition and Penguin paperback have chords. The Jenkins editor or typesetter was not being consistent with these two mentions in a single chapter. [NM]

J. G. Butterwick (ch.16, p.227)

This is the first mention of Gertrude’s father’s name. We learn in The Luck of the Bodkins that he is “Uncle John” to Reggie Tennyson. In Pearls, Girls and Monty Bodkin (1972) his initials are given as J. B., and in the US version of that book, The Plot That Thickened (1973), J. B. is mentioned once, with J. G. given more often.

the film of Jekyll and Hyde (ch.16, p.227)

Robert Louis Stevenson’s tale of dual personality had already been filmed several times, in numerous silent short subjects and an important silent feature starring John Barrymore, made by Paramount in 1920, directed by John S. Robertson. The first talkie feature from 1931, also from Paramount, starred Fredric March under the direction of Rouben Mamoulian, and would have been in recent circulation when Wodehouse was writing this novel. [NM]

Diego points us to a clip of the transformation scene from the 1931 film at YouTube.

gangs, shots in the night, underground cellars (ch.16, p.228)

Wodehouse clearly was attracted to detective fiction, and clearly influenced by the more literary branches of the genre. His debt to Arthur Conan Doyle is enormous; see John Dawson’s bibliography of Wodehouse’s early references to Sherlock Holmes and Doyle’s other works, elsewhere on this site. He was a vocal fan of the works of Agatha Christie and Rex Stout, among others. At the same time, he was able to satirize the more formulaic clichés of the run-of-the-mill type of crime fiction, such as the ones mentioned above. [NM]

sinister Chinamen (ch.16, p.228)

The Detection Club was founded in 1930 by writers such as Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, E. C. Bentley, and G. K. Chesterton, and they all pledged to follow a set of rules designed to play fair with the reader and to avoid the familiar shortcuts and outworn plot devices of mass-market fiction. As remembered by Gladys Mitchell, these included “that we should furnish all necessary clues to our murderers, ignore sinister Chinamen and poisons unknown to science, promise never to steal other people’s plots” and so forth. [NM]

cobras down the chimney (ch.16, p.228)

In “Jeeves and the Spot of Art” (1929; in Very Good, Jeeves, 1930), Lucius Pim is reading a detective story in which “the villain has just dropped a cobra down the heroine’s chimney.” No doubt Wodehouse would have agreed with the Detection Club members that Conan Doyle had treated this sort of thing once and for all in “The Adventure of the Speckled Band”; he referred to the Holmes tale as early as The Pothunters, ch. 5 (1902) and returned to it in “Dear Old Squiffy” (1920; incorporated into Indiscretions of Archie, 1921). Another reference to cobras down the chimney comes in Cocktail Time, ch. 18 (1958). [NM]

ten days ago (ch.16, p.229)

The butler is thinking of the events of Summer Lightning, ch. 3.5; this is the most definite evidence that Summer Lightning and Heavy Weather are to be thought of as a matched pair, taking place within a very short span of story time.

But there are inconsistencies in the account of time and the naming of months; see the notes for August and August the fourteenth on this page.

Stop Press (ch.16, p.230)

Urgently important news; see Uncle Fred in the Springtime.

Go through fire and water (ch.16, p.231)

This may be a Biblical reference, as Fr. Rob has it in Biblia Wodehousiana, or it may refer to the trials of Tamino and Pamina in Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Act II, scene 7. [NM]

Chapter 17

a thinking rôle (ch.17, p.235)

In theatre jargon, a non-speaking part. [Thanks to Diego Seguí.]

The voice is the voice of Constance (ch.17, p.235)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

the deaf adder of Scripture (ch.17, p.235)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

Justice of the Peace (ch.17, p.237)

See The Code of the Woosters.

trailing like clouds of glory (ch.17, p.237)

See Summer Moonshine.

Beau Brummell (ch.17, p.238)

George Bryan Brummell (1778–1840) is often referred to as the epitome of the Regency dandy; his elegant taste in clothing was admired and set the standard for men’s fashion in the era. His wit helped make him a society favorite; he was a close friend of the Prince Regent (later King George IV), but they quarrelled and Brummell’s standing quickly declined.

well begun is half done (ch.17, p.238)

An ancient proverb, even older than Aristotle, who quotes it as a proverb in his Politics, I, V, 4 (as translated by Benjamin Jowett, 1885).

the burned child dreading the potting-shed (ch.17, p.238)

A variation on the ancient proverb “the burnt child dreads the fire”—cited in Hendyng’s Proverbs, c. 1300, as “Brend child fur dredeth.”

thingummajig (ch.17, p.238)

One of several variations on “thing” used as a substitute name for something or someone whose precise name has been forgotten.

“How does it go? ‘When you were a tiddley-om-pom and I was a thingummajig.’ ”

Spennie, Lord Dreever, in The Intrusions of Jimmy, ch. 28 (1910)

“What’s a dog-thingummy?”
“Why, a thingamajig. For dogs, you know.”

Sally and Ginger in The Adventures of Sally, ch. 10 (1921/22)

“Near the window of the room where you keep your thingamajigs, sir.”

Uncle Dynamite, ch. 9.1 (1948)

alluvial deposits (ch.17, p.239)

Mud, specifically that which has been carried as silt by flowing water and deposited from it on a riverbank, delta, and so forth. Wodehouse seemed to like the sound of the phrase:

Looking through this window—or, rather, looking at it, for X rays could hardly have succeeded in actually penetrating the alluvial deposits on the glass—was a little man.

Something New/Something Fresh, ch. 2 (1915)

Rupert Bailey made no comment. He was too busy with the alluvial deposits on his person.

“The Long Hole” (1921)

There is plenty of dirt in other parts of Ridgeway’s Inn, but nowhere is it so plentiful, so rich in alluvial deposits, as on the exterior of the offices of Marlowe, Thorpe, Prescott, Winslow and Appleby.

Three Men and a Maid, ch. 9 (1921/22) [Not in UK edition The Girl on the Boat]

When I arrived I was deep in alluvial deposits, and have only just managed to scrape them off.

Leave It to Psmith, ch. 7 (1923)

He was so crusted with alluvial deposits that one realized how little a mere bath would ever be able to effect.

“Tuppy Changes His Mind”/“The Ordeal of Young Tuppy” (1930; in Very Good, Jeeves)

…as Jeff finished removing the alluvial deposits from a second of Mr. Twist’s chairs, the missing member of the party arrived.

Money in the Bank, ch. 6 (1942)

She took the handkerchief from his hand and removed the alluvial deposit.

Barmy in Wonderland/Angel Cake, ch. 11 (1952)

Sons of Toil Buried by Tons of Soil (ch.17, p.239)

See the note for horny-handed toiler in A Damsel in Distress.

collecting eyes like a hostess at a dinner-party (ch.17, p.239–240)

Traditionally, when dinner is concluded, the ladies depart to the drawing room while the gentlemen are left at table for masculine conversation, port, and cigars. From Emily Post’s Etiquette (1922 first edition):

At the end of dinner, when the last dish of chocolates has been passed and the hostess sees that no one is any longer eating, she looks across the table, and catching the eye of one of the ladies, slowly stands up.

Like the mountain reluctantly deciding to come to Mahomet (ch.17, p.241)

Mahomet made the people believe that he would call a hill to him, and from the top of it offer up his prayers for the observers of his law. The people assembled; Mahomet called the hill to come to him again and again; and when the hill stood still he was never a whit abashed, but said, “If the hill will not come to Mahomet, Mahomet will go to the hill.”

Francis Bacon: Essays, ch. 12 (ed. F. Howe, 1908, D. C. Heath & Co.)

worth about twopence a week in the open market (ch.17, p.242)

Gally’s assessment of the earning capacity of members of his family has gone up since chapter 18 of Summer Lightning, where he quoted it as “threepence ha’penny per annum.”

like a gaffed trout (ch.17, p.243)

See The Code of the Woosters.

like a rising pheasant (ch.17, p.244)

See Right Ho, Jeeves.

in the dicky of his car (ch.17, p.244)

See the alternate spelling dickey in the notes for Money for Nothing. US magazine serial and US book use the synonym “rumble seat.”

Wivenhoe’s pig (ch.17, p.244)

See above for other references to this prank.

Skegness is so bracing (ch.17, p.245)

See Ice in the Bedroom.

that thing of Kipling’s (ch.17, p.246)

See The Three-Decker by Kipling. There are minor variations between published versions of the poem as well as some variants in the quotation, but Galahad gets most of it right—certainly it is less paraphrased than many readers will have expected, as noted by Norman Murphy in A Wodehouse Handbook.

The date is August the fourteenth. (ch.17, p.246)

Another specific date that is hard to reconcile with Wodehouse’s other statements in this pair of novels; see ten days and August above.

Chapter 18

You have fought the good fight, Beach. (ch.18, p.248)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

‘Jenny kissed me when we met’ (ch.18, p.248)

From a Rondeau by Leigh Hunt (1784–1859).

there are the seeds of greatness in that woman (ch.18, p.248)

“She has the seeds of greatness in her, but she is wasted in the present case on an insignificant part.”

The Adventures of Sally, ch. V (1921/22)

a minor jockey with scarlatina (ch.18, p.249)

Allusions to Ronnie’s small stature and the pinkness of his complexion. Scarlatina is scarlet fever, especially a mild case of it.

It looked like a silver medal (ch.18, p.249)

Empress of Blandings has won her first silver medal in “Pig-hoo-o-o-o-ey” (1927; later collected in Blandings Castle and Elsewhere, 1935). We learn in Summer Lightning that this is the first prize at Shropshire, and that it was won in the last year. So this concluding sentence foreshadows her winning for the second time; this is confirmed in Uncle Fred in the Springtime (1939) and Full Moon (1947), in which she has won twice, in successive years. Her third successive silver medal is awarded at the end of Pigs Have Wings (1952).

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