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.

Hot Water was originally annotated by Mark Hodson (aka The Efficient Baxter). The notes have been reformatted and edited somewhat, but credit goes to Mark for his original efforts, even while we bear the blame for errors of fact or interpretation. Additional notes added in 2020 by Neil Midkiff [NM] and others as credited below are flagged with * ; significantly altered earlier notes are flagged with ° .

The novel was serialized in the US Collier’s magazine from 21 May to 6 August 1932. It first appeared in book format on 17 August 1932 in the UK (Herbert Jenkins), and simultaneously in the US (Doubleday, Doran), both under the same title. Although David Jasen says the contents are identical, much editorial intervention, principally by the UK publisher, disproves his claim. The notes below do not refer to many purely copy-editorial changes in spelling, hyphenation of compound words, punctuation, italics, and the like; changes to or omission of words are annotated.

The novel was later adapted by Wodehouse as the play The Inside Stand, first produced in London, 1935.

Page references are to the 1963 Penguin edition of Hot Water, in which the text runs from pp. 7–238, and in which the Jenkins text is used, though updated with current British punctuation rules (e.g. single quotation marks for speech). Both original editions used the traditional punctuation still in use in America.


Chapter 1

Dedication (ch. 1, p. 5)

Maureen O’Sullivan (1911–1998). American actress who appeared in more than seventy films. Famous as Johnny Weismuller’s scantily-clad co-star in the Tarzan movies of the thirties, and as the mother of actress Mia Farrow. O’Sullivan and her husband the Australian writer John Farrow were personal friends of the Wodehouses.

Ethel is Wodehouse’s wife; Leonora his step-daughter, and Miss Winks and John-John are Pekingese dogs, the latter belonging to Miss O’Sullivan. Wodehouse was looking after it for her (cf. Performing Flea, letter dated 14 March 1931).

St. Rocque ... Château Blissac (ch. 1.1, p. 7) °

St. Roch (Rocco in Italian) is supposed to have been born in Montpellier, and distinguished himself caring for the victims of a plague in Italy. St. Rocque does not appear to exist as a placename in France in any of the variant spellings of the name. See below for more.

There is a place called La Rocque on Jersey; Wodehouse might have remembered this from the time he spent at a school on Guernsey. On p. 60, St. Rocque is said to be in Brittany, as it is in French Leave (1956), where St. Rocque appears again.

Blissac also seems to be fictitious. Placenames in -ac appear most commonly in southern France, although not unknown in Brittany. In March 1932, Wodehouse was staying near Auribeau, a little way north of Cannes. The description of St. Rocque as a fishing village turned into a popular resort sounds rather like Cannes.

J. Wellington Gedge (ch. 1.1, p. 7)

Cf. the character in Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Sorcerer: “My name is John Wellington Wells / I’m a dealer in magic and spells.” Wellington is a town in Shropshire. The name Gedge possibly owes something to Broadway producer Crosby Gaige, 1882–1949, who is mentioned in passing in Bring On the Girls.

tubby (ch. 1.1, p. 7) *

Other characters described as tubby include Mr. Brewster and the Sausage Chappie (Indiscretions of Archie); Harold, the page boy (“The Purity of the Turf”); Sir Mallaby Marlowe (The Girl on the Boat); the Right Hon. A. B. Filmer (“Jeeves and the Impending Doom”); Anatole (Right Ho, Jeeves); and Cosmo Blair (Spring Fever).

The nickname Tubby is used for Tubby Bridgnorth in If I Were You, Tubby Vanringham in Summer Moonshine, Sir Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe (in his young manhood) in Pigs Have Wings, and Tubby Frobisher in Ring for Jeeves.

Casino Municipale (ch. 1.1, p. 7) °

This is either Italian or an error: in French, it would be Casino Municipal. Most French seaside and spa towns have casinos, many of which are run by the municipality. The superfluous ‘e’ has disappeared in the Penguin edition when the term appears again on p. 13 and p. 139, but both US and UK first editions retain “Municipale” throughout.

heart was in the Highlands, a-chasing of the deer (ch. 1.1, p. 7)

My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here;
My heart’s in the Highlands a-chasing the deer;
A-chasing the wild deer, and following the roe—
My heart’s in the Highlands wherever I go.
Farewell to the Highlands, farewell to the North,
The birth-place of valour, the country of worth:
Wherever I wander, wherever I rove,
The hills of the Highlands for ever I love.

Farewell to the mountains high cover’d with snow;
Farewell to the straths and green valleys below:
Farewell to the forests and wild-hanging woods;
Farwell to the torrents and loud-pouring floods.
My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here,
My heart’s in the Highlands a-chasing the deer;
Chasing the wild deer, and following the roe—
My heart’s in the Highlands wherever I go.

Robert Burns: My Heart’s in the Highlands (1789)

Glendale, Cal. (ch. 1.1, p. 7)

Glendale lies a few miles north of Los Angeles, and is the third largest city in Los Angeles County.

Medway (ch. 1.1, p. 7)

The river Medway is a tributary of the Thames in the English county of Kent.

Big Chief (ch. 1.1, p. 8) *

Popularly supposed to be Native American terminology for the leader of a tribe. Most often used in Wodehouse for the head of an organization, as with Fillmore Nicholas (Adventures of Sally), Sir George Pyke/Lord Tilbury (Bill the Conqueror, Heavy Weather, Frozen Assets), Lord Chuffnell (Thank You, Jeeves), J. B. Duff (Quick Service), Mr. Donaldson (Full Moon, “Life with Freddie”), Sir Aylmer Bostock (Uncle Dynamite), J. G. Anderson (Barmy in Wonderland), Colonel Savage (Bring On the Girls); or for the head of a family, as with Lord Bittlesham (“Bingo and the Little Woman”), Lord Blicester (“The Masked Troubadour”), Lord Worplesdon (Joy in the Morning) and Mr. Roddis (“Uncle Fred Flits By”). Jerry Nichols’s father (Bachelors Anonymous) fits both categories.

Only here and once in Cocktail Time is the term used for a forceful wife.

boat to England (ch. 1.1, p. 8)

The fact that St. Rocque has a direct boat to England would put it somewhere in northern France. Possibly it is a composite of Cannes and a resort such as Le Touquet or Deauville.

St. Rocque, normally, he found a boring spot (ch. 1.1, p. 8) *

US magazine serial and book simply have “he found boring” here.

Festival of the Saint (ch. 1.1, p. 8) °

The feast-day of St. Roch is on 17 August. But in ch. 4, p. 71, we read that the St. Rocque festival is on July 15; this may lead to the conclusion that Wodehouse intended St. Rocque to be a saint of his own invention rather than a variant spelling of St. Roch.

contributing his mite to the revels (ch. 1.1, p. 8) *

A possible allusion to the Biblical contribution of the widow’s mite (actually two mites; see Luke 21:2).

Venetian Suite (ch. 1.1, p. 8)

The Wodehouses slept in the Venetian Suite when they stayed with William Randolph Hearst in his castle at San Simeon in February 1931 (see Performing Flea, letter of February 25).

Miss Putnam (ch. 1.1, p. 8)

Possibly a reference to the famous New York publishing family. George H. Putnam had died in 1930.

featherweight (ch. 1.1, p. 8) *

In boxing terms, the featherweight class was established in 1889 for boxers up to 9 stone in weight (126 lb., 57.15 kg). Informally, as here, meaning one of slight build.

light-heavy (ch. 1.1, p. 8) *

In boxing terms, the light-heavyweight class was established in 1913 for boxers up to 12 stone 7 in weight (175 lb., 79.38 kg).

English Income Tax (ch. 1.1, p. 9)

One reason for Wodehouse’s move to France in 1931 was the difficulty he was having with the British and American tax authorities.

Philipson’s Mal-de-Mer-o (ch. 1.1, p. 9) *

Many of Wodehouse’s coinages for fictitious patent medicines and other drugstore items end in -o; Mulliner’s Buck-U-Uppo may be the most famous, but Slimmo (Pigs Have Wings, Uncle Dynamite) is a close runner-up; Peppo (“Ukridge Rounds a Nasty Corner”), Nervino (The Little Warrior), Sooth-o (Money for Nothing), Sneezo (“Rodney Has a Relapse”), and Stick-o (“There’s Always Golf!”) are others that come to mind.

Mal de mer is the French for seasickness.

bravely, for the Glendale Gedges have the right stuff in them (ch. 1.1, p. 9) *

The modern or Tom Wolfe sense of “character, grit” is one of the ways Wodehouse uses the phrase “right stuff.” Compare p. 210, below. See The Inimitable Jeeves.

A very charming young wild Indian (ch. 1.1, p. 10) *

Following this outdated reference to Native Americans, the US magazine serial and US book have the additional sentence “Haven’t you heard he’s celebrated as France’s leading souse?” Souse is originally US slang for a drunkard, first cited in the OED from Jack London in 1915; Wodehouse’s use in Laughing Gas (1936) is also an OED citation.

Keeley Cure (ch. 1.1, p. 10)

Keeley, Leslie E. (1832–1900), American physician. Around 1879 he developed a treatment for chronic alcoholism and drug addiction, injecting institutionalized patients with a chloride of gold and allowing them unlimited access to liquor. Keeley claimed a very high rate of success with only a few relapses. The medical establishment dismissed him as a charlatan.

“You are,” she said (ch. 1.1, p. 11) *

Mrs. Gedge joins the category of ambitious wives who seek distinction for their husbands. Compare Eugenia Crocker in Piccadilly Jim, also eager to disprove her sister’s disparagement of her second husband, in this case by getting Bingley Crocker a British peerage; also see Emily Trotter in Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, seeking a knighthood for L. G. Trotter in order to gain ascendancy over her social rival Mrs. Alderman Blenkinsop.

for the historian to touch but lightly (ch. 1.2, p. 11) *

Wodehouse frequently referred to himself in the character of narrator as “the historian”; see Bill the Conqueror.

“Gosh darn it!” (ch. 1.2, p. 11) *

The US magazine serial and US book have “For crying out loud!” here. The oldest citation found by Google Books for the phrase is in a US college fraternity magazine from 1924, so it is not surprising that the UK editor replaced it.

noisy collision with a small table laden with glass and china (ch. 1.2, p. 11) *

An incomplete list of the instances where Wodehouse uses this type of accident for comic relief can be found in the notes to Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves. As the late Terry Mordue wrote in his annotations to Leave It to Psmith, “No Blandings story is complete without the demise of an occasional table in the hall — it’s a wonder there are any ornaments left to display.”

heeby jeebies (ch. 1.2, p. 11) *

Printed as two words in Penguin, but hyphenated as heeby-jeebies in all original editions. The term was a recent coinage by cartoonist William de Beck, in the “Barney Google” comic strip for 26 October 1923; the citations in the OED suggest that his original intent was “a feeling of discomfort, apprehension, or depression.” Other senses of delirium tremens and of a jazz dance are cited in the later 1920s. Wodehouse first used it in “Jane Gets Off the Fairway” (1924; in The Heart of a Goof, 1926).

Hôtel des Étrangers (ch. 1.3, p. 13) °

Literally: Strangers’ Hotel or Foreigners’ Hotel. A common name for hotels in the South of France. There is an Hôtel des Étrangers in Cannes, also in Nice and Menton.

The Penguin typesetters were able to give the full diacritical markings as in French, as did the US magazine serial in Collier’s. Doubleday’s printer did not have the accented capital letters, so it appeared as Hôtel des Etrangers in the US first edition; the Herbert Jenkins UK first edition uses neither of the accent marks in the name.

a garden for the convenience of guests wishing to commit suicide (ch. 1.3, p. 13) *


[Novelists’s] stories conjured up the Casino as a home of jovial revelry—tempered, true, by an occasional suicide, but on the whole distinctly jovial revelry.

“The Small Gambler” (1913)

Chez Jimmy (ch. 1.3, p. 13) °

A famous Paris bar in the Ménilmontant district of the 20th arrondisement, noted for jazz music. In French Leave, the Hotel Splendide at Roville-sur-Mer has a barman named Philippe, also formerly of Chez Jimmy.

New York Herald (ch. 1.3, p. 13)

Founded in 1835 by James Gordon Bennett, soon becoming famous as a cheap popular scandal sheet. It later achieved a high reputation for its foreign news coverage, and established a Paris edition for sale in continental Europe. The Continental Edition was the predecessor of the International Herald Tribune.

Gordon Carlisle (ch. 1.3, p. 14) °

The original note by Mark Hodson reads:

Possibly the name is related to that of the composer Ivan Caryll (“Fabulous Felix”) who is mentioned a number of times in Bring On the Girls. Gordon “Oily” Carlisle is essentially the same character elsewhere called Soapy Molloy, although Soapy is of course married to Dolly.

I [NM] find neither of these suggestions convincing. Soapy Molloy is an older gentleman of senatorial appearance; his specialty is selling spurious shares in oil wells, and outside that métier he is limited in capability. The only impersonation he essays is that of pretending to be Thomas G. Gunn, the supposed father of his young wife Dolly. Gordon Carlisle is younger, smarter, and more versatile.

We meet Gordon Carlisle again, now married to Gertie, in Cocktail Time (1958).

“Boy, could I write a book!” (ch. 1.3, p. 15) *

The Rodgers and Hart show tune “I Could Write a Book” might come to mind, but it was not written until 1940 for Pal Joey so cannot be the referent here.

hearts and flowers (ch. 1.3, p. 15)

Song: Music by Theodore Moses-Tobani (1893) Words (added in 1899) by Mary D. Brine. A standard of the cinema pianist’s repertoire for the romantic moments in silent films, and thus “hearts and flowers” came to mean sentimental romance in general.

Out amongst the flowers sweet,
Lingers pretty Marguerite,
Sowing with her hands so white,
Future blossoms, fair and bright.
And the sunbeams lovingly
Kiss sweet Marguerite for me
Kiss my little lady sweet,
Blue eyed gentle Marguerite!
When I say, “Oh Marguerite,
All my heart is at your feet,
Turn it to a garden fair,
See it blossom ’neath your care.
“Till it yields for you alone
Wond’rous fragrance all your own.
And its sweetest flowers shall grow,
For my Marguerite I know!”
Blushes deepen in her cheek,
Ere the shy red lips can speak,
“Ah! but what if weeds should grow,
Mongst the flowers you bid me sow?”
“Love will pluck them out,” I cry,
“Trust me, Marguerite so shy,
Let my heart your garden be,
Give the seeds of love to me.”

Mary D. Brine Hearts and Flowers

you’d of thought (ch. 1.3, p. 15) *

Wodehouse is deliberately using a nonstandard spelling of the contraction “you’d’ve” (for “you would have”) to emphasize a lower-class American pronunciation, a marker for Soup Slattery’s speech here. Gertie uses it too, in “I’d of” in ch. 15, p. 187; so does Miss Putnam in ch. 17.5, p. 224, with “had of, I’d of” together in one sentence. But Gordon Carlisle does not, as he aspires to present himself more formally, nor do the other American characters, who are better-educated.

Social Register (ch. 1.3, p. 15)

In the United States, some cities have, or used to have, a directory listing the names of those who are prominent in society.

Bronx cheer (ch. 1.3, p. 16) °

Rude noise made by blowing through closed lips: US equivalent of raspberry. The OED records the first use in print as 1929, but Google Books finds a 1923 example from Time magazine. Wodehouse’s example is probably the first use in a figurative sense. Wodehouse also seems to have invented the use of raspberry to mean a dismissal; see A Damsel in Distress.

Even Stephen (ch. 1.3, p. 16) *

Slang for “equal shares” or “fifty-fifty.” OED has citations, mostly from the US, dating to the mid-nineteenth century, some spelled “Steven” and some in lower case. Wodehouse’s usage in Sam the Sudden is among the OED citations, and he also used it in Money in the Bank.

...stick up men are not quite (ch. 1.3, p. 16)

Not quite gentlemen – cf. Trollope, Last Chronicle of Barset (1867): “Still he wasn’t quite,—not quite, you know—‘not quite so much of a gentleman as I am’—Mr. Walker would have said, had he spoken out freely that which he insinuated. But he contented himself with the emphasis he put upon the ‘not quite’, which expressed his meaning fully.”

beazel (ch. 1.3, p. 16) °

Mark Hodson’s original comment was:

This is very obscure – it clearly means ‘woman’ (as it also does on p. 145 below), but so far it has not been possible to find an independent record of it elsewhere – not even in the OED.

Jonathon Green’s online Dictionary of Slang has a couple of 1920s references to beasel meaning “flapper, girl.” It surprises me that this relatively common usage by Wodehouse (usually spelled beazel as in the UK editions, although it is “beasel” in the US book and in “The Castaways”) hasn’t been recorded in this or other reference books. This use in Hot Water seems to be Wodehouse’s first mention of it. [The sentence was omitted from the US magazine serial.]

See also the earlier spelling beazle in “Came the Dawn” (1927) and the annotation in Meet Mr. Mulliner.

“I’ll bet she’s got ice.” (ch. 1.3, p. 16) *

See Leave It to Psmith.

inside stand (ch. 1.3, p. 17)

Wodehouse seems to have been the first to use this expression in print. It was also the title of the stage version of Hot Water, first produced in 1935.

automatic (ch. 1.3, p. 17)

The use of the word “automatic” on its own for an automatic (i.e. self-loading) pistol seems to have originated in the US around 1900. The OED cites a Sears catalogue of 1902.

dough (ch. 1.4, p. 17)

The use of “dough” as slang for money goes back at least to the mid-19th century in the US.

Pale hands I loved beside the Shalimar (ch. 1.4, p. 18) °

Number 3 of the collection ‘Four Indian Love Lyrics’ by ‘Laurence Hope’ (pen name of Violet Adela Florence Nicolson, 1865–1904). Set to music by Amy Woodforde-Finden, 1902. The poem originally appeared in The Garden of Káma, 1901; it is not a translation. Wodehouse also mentions another song from the collection, ‘Less than the dust...’ in several books.

Pale hands I loved beside the Shalimar,
Where are you now? Who lies beneath your spell?
Whom do you lead on rapture’s roadway far,
Before you agonise them in farewell?

Oh, pale dispensers of my Joys and Pains,
Holding the doors of Heaven and Hell,
How the hot blood rushed wildly through the veins,
Beneath your touch, until you waved farewell.

Pale hands, pink tipped, like Lotus buds that float
On those cool waters where we used to dwell,
I would have rather felt you round my throat,
Crushing out life, than waving me farewell.

Laurence Hope & Amy Woodforde-Finden: Kashmiri Song

Wodehouse referred to it in other books, most memorably in Bertie’s opening narration of Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit:

As I sat in the bath-tub, soaping a meditative foot and singing, if I remember correctly, “Pale Hands I Loved Beside the Shalimar,” it would be deceiving my public to say that I was feeling boomps-a-daisy.

Captain Biggar sings it in Ring for Jeeves; Galahad recalls the danger of reading the poem with a girl in Galahad at Blandings.

Michelangelo (ch. 1.4, p. 19)

The Florentine artist Michelangelo di Buonarroti (1475–1564), was famous as a sculptor, architect and poet as well as being a painter.

the big crash (ch. 1.4, p. 19) °

The American stock market had collapsed in October 1929, marking the start of a world-wide economic recession known as the Great Depression.

Electric Bond and Share was a subsidiary of General Electric, set up in 1905 to buy up local electric power and streetcar companies. Its stock price closed at 183 on September 3, 1929 (just as an example; this may not have been the peak) and traded as low as 50 in late October (again, this may not have been the minimum).

Aaron Montgomery Ward (1844–1913), a former employee of the Chicago store Marshall Field, established the world’s first mail-order business in 1872. Starting in 1926, they also opened a chain of department stores (for which the character “Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer” was created in 1939). The company was taken over by GE and declared bankruptcy early in 2001.

He handed over a hundred francs (ch. 1.4, p. 20) *

In the early 1930s, a hundred francs was approximately equal to four US dollars or £1 3s. sterling. In 2020 terms of buying power, the equivalent would be something like $75.

a bird in a gilded cage (ch. 1.5, p. 20)

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

The ballroom was filled with fashion’s throng,
It shone with a thousand lights,
And there was a woman who passed along,
The fairest of all the sights!
A girl to her lover then softly sighed:
“There’s riches at her command!”
“But she married for wealth, not for love,” he cried,
“Though she lives in a mansion grand.

“She’s only a bird in a gilded cage,
A beautiful sight to see.
You would think she was happy and free from care,
She’s not, though she seems to be.
’Tis sad when you think of her wasted life,
For Youth cannot mate with Age.
And her beauty was sold
For an old man’s gold.
She’s a bird in a gilded cage.”

Arthur J. Lamb, Harry Von Tilzer “A Bird in a Gilded Cage”

Patsy (ch. 1.5, p. 20) *

A dupe or scapegoat; the school dunce character in vaudeville skits (Harpo in the Marx Bros’ Fun in Hi Skule). Wodehouse may have learned it from George Ade (three citations in Green’s Dictionary of Slang) or from his friend Marion Davies, who had played the title role in the 1928 film of that title.

squidge (ch. 1.5, p. 20) *

This time the OED finds it twice in George Ade, including a 1907 citation defining it as “the fellow who does all the worrying and gets nothing out of it.” OED also cites Wodehouse linking this with the above term in Performing Flea, p. 205, in the camp diary “Huy Day by Day”:

…the fellow whom Fate has called upon to be the Patsy, the Squidge or, putting it another way, the man who has been left holding the baby.

where men are men (ch. 1.5, p. 20) *

See Leave It to Psmith.

“Look-ut!” I’ll say (ch. 1.5, p. 22) *

The hyphen is a Penguin mistake; it appears as “Lookut!” in both US and UK first editions here and in ch. 5, although in the UK book it is hyphenated at a page break at this point. In the more common spelling “lookit” it is cited in the OED as chiefly US slang from 1907 on, as an imperative to direct or draw attention. A more formal equivalent might be “Look here!”

because it’s wet (ch. 1.5, p. 22) *

Both US and UK first editions have “all wet” here, and Penguin reproduces “all wet” in ch. 10.4, p. 136, so its omission here is another mistake.

The phrase means “mistaken, completely wrong”; OED calls it originally and chiefly US colloquial and cites a 1923 definition from the New York Times: “All wet, all wrong.”

air-castles (ch. 1.5, p. 22) *

Imaginary, impossible, visionary projects or dreams. In this form, dating back to the eighteenth century; as “a castle in the air” going back at least to Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus. Wodehouse had written the lyric to Jerome Kern’s music for the song “My Castle in the Air” from Miss Springtime (1916).

Sixty grand ... good gravy ... fish (ch. 1.5, p. 23)

Grand to mean a thousand dollars seems to be early 20th century US slang. Nowadays it also appears in British English to mean a thousand pounds.

This is the first recorded use of good gravy for wealth: gravy by itself to mean money also seems to be early 20th century US slang.

fish as US slang for dollars seems to date from the 1920s. It appears to be quite rare – possibly Broadway slang.

Promised Land (ch. 1.5, p. 24) °

In Deuteronomy 34, Moses was shown the Promised Land from the summit of Mount Pisgah, but not allowed to enter it:

1 And Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto the mountain of Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, that is over against Jericho: and the Lord showed him all the land of Gilead, unto Dan,

2 and all Naphtali, and the land of Ephraim, and Manasseh, and all the land of Judah, unto the utmost sea,

3 and the south, and the plain of the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, unto Zoar.

4 And the Lord said unto him, This is the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, saying, I will give it unto thy seed: I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither.

5 So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord.

Bible Deuteronomy 34:1–5

See also Biblia Wodehousiana.

Archimedes ... Eureka (ch. 1.5, p. 24)

Archimedes (?287–212 BCE). Trying to solve the problem of discovering whether a crown belonging to his patron Hieron II of Syracuse was really made of gold, he discovered what is now known as Archimedes’ Principle, that a body immersed in a fluid experiences a buoyant force that is equal to the weight of the fluid displaced. Eureka (more properly “Heureka”) past tense of heurisko (I find), is Greek for “I have found it.”

sitting pretty (ch. 1.6, p. 24) *

See Sam the Sudden.

in the bag (ch. 1.6, p. 24) *

Originally 1920s US sporting slang for a certain or assured victory. The OED cites this sentence from Wodehouse for the sense “as good as in one’s possession.” Derived from the actual bag in which a hunter would carry the game he had shot; while aiming at a bird or animal he might say “it’s in the bag” to express his confidence that it might as well already be there, that he will be carrying it home.

pete (ch. 1.6, p. 25)

Safe – twentieth century American slang, but it comes from the old thieves’ cant word “peter” meaning a trunk or portmanteau, which goes back to the late 17th century.

string the beads (ch. 1.6, p. 25)

Tell a story; possibly an allusion to the Rosary, or to this:

Can string you names of districts, cities, towns,
The whole world over, tight as beads of dew
Upon a gossamer thread;

Wordsworth: Prelude V, 320–322

Chapter 2

Sunshine … turned the pavements to gold. (ch. 2.1, p. 26) *

Wodehouse had earlier alluded to Shakespeare’s patines of bright gold in a similar passage in Bill the Conqueror, ch. 10.1, about the sunlit pavement in front of Tilbury House. One wonders why he missed out on the reference here.

costermongers (ch. 2.1, p. 26)

People who sell fruit and vegetables in London streets (from the old word “costard” an apple)

dray-horses (ch. 2.1, p. 26)

Horses were still commonly used for moving goods in British cities until after the second world war. A dray is a low-sided cart, typically used by brewers.

Waterloo station (ch. 2.1, p. 26) °

Waterloo station is a London railway terminus located just south of the river Thames. It was opened in 1848 to serve the London and Southampton Railway Company’s line to Southampton. This company later became part of the London and South Western Railway, and from 1923 the Southern Railway. The old Waterloo was famously chaotic, comprising at least four separate stations that had grown together over the years; Wodehouse commented on its confusion in the 1909 version of Love Among the Chickens, ch. 3. The LSWR rebuilt it completely to something like its modern form in 1922. The station serves much of the South-West of England, including the seaside resorts of Hampshire, Dorset and Devon. It was also, of course, the terminus for boat trains to the port of Southampton (cf. p.31 below).

Xenophon’s ten thousand (ch. 2.1, p. 26)

In 401 BCE, the Persian king Artaxerxes defeated his brother Cyrus at the battle of Cunaxa, on the Euphrates. Cyrus’s force included ten thousand Greek mercenaries, led by the Athenian general and historian Xenophon. He describes their retreat to the Black Sea in his book Anabasis. There is a famous moment when after a long journey through the mountains they first catch sight of the sea from the top of a mountain and cry out “thalassa, thalassa” (the sea, the sea!).

Yeovil and points west (ch. 2.1, p. 26) °

Yeovil in Somerset was an important junction, about a hundred miles from London, through which anyone heading for Devon or beyond by the LSWR route would have to pass. It is one of the stops on Ukridge and Jeremy Garnet’s train in Love Among the Chickens.

Beatrice Bracken ... Patrick B. Franklyn (ch. 2.1, p. 27)

It is probably too early for Beatrice’s name to be a conscious allusion to the Irish-born politician and newspaper proprietor Brendan Bracken (1901–1958). In Wodehouse terms, her polysyllabic name marks her out immediately as an unsuitable fiancée who will insist on moulding her young man. Bracken is an Irish name (Ó Breacáin – from breac, meaning speckled); in English, the plant is something generally deprecated by landowners (poisonous to sheep, takes over whole hillsides....).

A franklin is a freeman or freeholder, which is perhaps relevant to Packy as he is unusual in being a muscular Wodehouse hero who is also reasonably well-provided with money. ‘Packy’ also does not fit into the usual pattern of muscular Joes, Sams, and Bills and silly Berties, Freddies, and Pongos. (cf. Usborne for a discussion of Wodehouse’s use of given names.)

Is there any significance in the fact that Beatrice has an Irish family name and Packy an Irish first name, I wonder?

Worbles ... Biddlecombe (ch. 2.1, p. 27)

Both fictitious. Many place names in Somerset and North Devon end in -combe (a hollow, or small valley, cf. Welsh cwm). Biddlecombe is perhaps an amalgam of Bideford and Ilfracombe. Hunt Balls, given by the local foxhunt, are among the most important county social events.

Ascot ... Lord’s (ch. 2.1, p. 27)

Ascot races in Berkshire take place in mid-June. Access to the Royal Enclosure is by invitation of the Queen, so this is one of the most exclusive social events of the year.

The Eton and Harrow cricket match has been played at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London since 1805, when Lord Byron was in the Harrow team. It also takes place in June.

Jacquerie ... facile princeps ... ne plus ultra ... crêpe royale (ch. 2.1, p. 27) °

Jacquerie is a collective term for peasants, deriving from a peasants’ revolt in northern France in 1358.

facile princeps (Latin) – acknowledged leader (literally easily chief)

ne plus ultra (Latin) – “nothing further beyond,” “go no further” (the words said to have been inscribed on the Pillars of Hercules). Normally means, as here, the acme or point of highest achievement. [Both US and UK first editions have the variant form non plus ultra here, with apparently identical meaning. —NM]

crêpe royale – Crêpe or crape is a fabric, usually real or imitation silk, treated with a mechanical embossing process to give it a crinkled surface. (A crêpe royale in the culinary sense is a dessert crêpe [i.e. thin pancake] with chocolate sauce, bananas and strawberries. It is entirely possible that Wodehouse is pulling our legs with nonsensical dressmaking terms here.)

To cut on the bias is to cut diagonally, across the texture of the fabric. The close-fitting dresses made famous by Jean Harlow are a good example of this technique.

Fireside Chatter seems to be fictitious, but sounds rather like the name of the periodical run by Charles Dickens, Household Words.

petrol at its current price (ch. 2.1, p. 27) *

The US magazine serial and book both say “gasoline” here, of course. Petrol retailed in the UK in 1932 for a shilling and 4½ pence per imperial gallon [4.546 liters] before a threepence per gallon increase in September 1932. This report suggests it works out to about the equivalent of £1.10 per liter adjusted to 2017 for inflation.

US gasoline prices were about 18 cents per US gallon in 1932, which would adjust for inflation to $2.65 in 2018 values.

Lazlo portrait (ch. 2.1, p. 27) °

László, Philip de (1869–1937) – Hungarian-born portrait painter (and occasional sculptor) who settled in London in 1907 and became a British citizen in 1914. He painted many Edwardian worthies and members of the aristocracy: Thirteen of his portraits are in the NPG in London.

Only the US book spells his name as Laszlo, though without the accent marks.

Sealyham (ch. 2.1, p. 28) °

A breed of small terrier, originally developed for otter hunting by Captain John Owen Tucker-Edwardes in Pembrokeshire, and recognised by the Kennel Club in 1910. Wodehouse’s fellow writer Dornford Yates was associated with Sealyhams in much the same way that Wodehouse was associated with Pekes. The best-known Sealyham in Wodehouse is Flick Sheridan’s beloved Bob in Bill the Conqueror; see Bill the Conqueror for more.

port ... starboard (ch. 2.1, p. 28)

Nautical terms for the left and right sides of a ship, seen in the direction of travel. Wodehouse is planting the idea that Packy is a yachtsman.

Parker (ch. 2.1, p. 28) °

One of Wodehouse’s favourite names for minor characters. The third edition of Who’s Who in Wodehouse lists eighteen. Wodehouse worked alongside Dorothy Parker on Vanity Fair from autumn 1917 to April 1918, and claimed to have disliked her so intently that he had expunged her from his mind (Phelps, p.118).

Blair Eggleston’s Worm i’ the Root (ch. 2.1, p. 28) °

In Eggleston’s literary pretensions, Wodehouse is probably mocking modernist writers of the time like Percy Wyndham Lewis (1882–1957) and his imitators, who specialised in bleak, satirical works. Lewis himself would be too old to be Eggleston, of course. In Chapter 8, Eggleston is described as a Bloomsbury novelist, though again most of the Bloomsbury set were of Wodehouse’s own generation rather than Eggleston’s.

It has also been suggested that the name Blair might be an allusion to George Orwell (Eric Blair), though this seems unlikely as Orwell’s first important book, Down and Out in Paris and London, only appeared in 1933, after the publication of Hot Water. Moreover, Orwell may have been an intellectual, but he was also a competent professional writer, something Wodehouse would have respected even before Orwell went to Wodehouse’s defence over his wartime broadcasts from Germany.

The village of Egglestone and its medieval abbey lie in County Durham, near Barnard Castle.

Wodehouse is having fun with us, because although Worm i’ the Root sounds even bleaker than “worm i’th’bud,” there is of course nothing at all sinister or unusual about a worm in a root: Egglestone’s modification takes away all the force of Shakespeare’s image.

The title, of course, is an allusion to Shakespeare:

She never told her love,
But let concealment, like a worm i’th’bud,
Feed on her damask cheek.

Shakespeare: Twelfth Night II:iv
See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse for more Wodehouse usages of the passage.

Edgar Wallace (ch. 2.1, p. 28)

Edgar Wallace (1875–1932). Wallace was even more prolific than Wodehouse – his 173 novels in many different genres (science-fiction, crime, colonial adventure...) sold more than 50 million copies worldwide. Packy’s claim to have read all of them is perhaps a little unlikely, but not impossible. Wodehouse was an enthusiast, and dedicated Sam the Sudden (1925) to him.

Yahoo! (ch. 2.1, p. 28)

In Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726), the Yahoos were debased, brutish, human-like creatures subservient to the noble, horse-like Houyhnhnms.

given it the short end (ch. 2.1, p. 29) *

The “short end” is US slang for a lesser share, a losing part of a deal; the OED cites it from George Ade in 1904.

James, the footman (ch. 2.1, p. 29) *

Servants such as footmen often were called by names not their own, as if they were taking on roles in a play; the first footman might always be called Charles and the second footman James, even if new servants were placed in these positions. This not only saved their employers the trouble of remembering real names, but tended to remind the servants of their status.

Excelsior (ch. 2.1, p. 29)

The shades of night were falling fast,
As through an Alpine village passed
A youth, who bore, ’mid snow and ice,
A banner with the strange device,

His brow was sad; his eye beneath,
Flashed like a falchion from its sheath,
And like a silver clarion rung
The accents of that unknown tongue,

In happy homes he saw the light
Of household fires gleam warm and bright;
Above, the spectral glaciers shone,
And from his lips escaped a groan,

“Try not the Pass!” the old man said;
“Dark lowers the tempest overhead,
The roaring torrent is deep and wide!”
And loud that clarion voice replied,

“Oh, stay,” the maiden said, “and rest
Thy weary head upon this breast!”
A tear stood in his bright blue eye,
But still he answered, with a sigh,

“Beware the pine-tree’s withered branch!
Beware the awful avalanche!”
This was the peasant’s last Good-night,
A voice replied, far up the height,

At break of day, as heavenward
The pious monks of Saint Bernard
Uttered the oft-repeated prayer,
A voice cried through the startled air,

A traveller, by the faithful hound,
Half-buried in the snow was found,
Still grasping in his hand of ice
That banner with the strange device,

There, in the twilight cold and gray,
Lifeless, but beautiful, he lay,
And from the sky, serene and far,
A voice fell, like a falling star,

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: Excelsior

auxiliary yawl ... (ch. 2.1, p. 30)

A yawl is a small sailing boat with a mainmast and a jigger (i.e. a small mizzen mast placed close to the stern). Auxiliary means that it is also fitted with an engine. With Marconi rig (also known as Bermuda rig) the mainsail is triangular and there is no need for a gaff. A 45ft (13m) yacht normally has room for four or five people, but would not be too big to manage single-handed.

with three eyes (ch. 2.1, p. 30) *

A Penguin misprint; all original editions have “with green eyes” here.

en brosse (ch. 2.1, p. 30) *

French for “in the form of a brush”; cut short, as in a military cut or crew cut, so that the hair stands up as in the bristles of a brush.

a sealed book (ch. 2.1, p. 30) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

County (ch. 2.1, p. 31) *

Especially when capitalized, as here, this is short for the local gentry, the upper-class families who constitute Society in the neighborhood. [Omitted from US magazine serial.]

made whoopee (ch. 2.1, p. 31) *

From the exuberant exclamation “Whoopee!” recorded in the US in 1862 and in Kipling in 1890, the phrase was coined for the 1928 song “Makin’ Whoopee” by Gus Kahn (lyrics) and Walter Donaldson (music), popularized by Eddie Cantor in the 1928 musical “Whoopee!” and the 1929 film based on it. The song emphasizes the amorous side of the phrase’s meaning, but other OED citations are more in line with Wodehouse’s usage here, emphasizing exuberant partying and drinking and rowdiness.

paint the old town pink (ch. 2.1, p. 31) *

Paint the town red is the more idiomatic phrase in US English, going back to 1882; Wodehouse is having fun with the Vicomte’s partial fluency in the language. James Joyce had used “painted the town tolerably pink” in Ulysees (1922) but it seems unlikely that Wodehouse would have sought out that book.

farceur ... speakeasy (ch. 2.1, p. 31) °

A farceur is a joker, a buffoon – the word has even been borrowed into English from French. A speakeasy is an unlicensed drinking establishment. The term was particularly used in the US during Prohibition, but goes back at least to the 1880s.

Southampton (ch. 2.1, p. 31) *

A typical point of departure for ships crossing the English channel to Brittany. Trains on the South Western railway line would depart from Waterloo several times a day for Southampton and points beyond.

If taking the shorter Dover–Calais Channel crossing, that boat train would leave from Victoria Station, not Waterloo.

Zut! (ch. 2.1, p. 32) *

A mild French imprecation, roughly equivalent to “Damn!” or “Blast!”

Northumberland Hotel (ch. 2.1, p. 33)

The Northumberland Hotel was a small hotel, close to Charing Cross Station, which famously appeared in The Hound of the Baskervilles as the place where Sir Henry Baskerville stayed in London. It is now the Sherlock Holmes pub. It would have been far too small to be the hotel meant here – a better bet would be the Savoy, which is also just across the river from Waterloo.

“get into hot water of some kind” (ch. 2.1, p. 33) *

Wodehouse often took the title of his novels from some phrase within, or (if the case arose) may have inserted it into the text after choosing the title. This is the sole use of the phrase “hot water” in the current book.

flippertygibbet (ch. 2.1, p. 33) °

A restless or chattering person. Cf. Bishop Latimer’s 2nd Sermon before Edward VI (1549): “These flybbergybes an other daye shall come & clawe you by the backe and say [...].” Nowadays more usually written “flibbertygibbet”, corresponding to the name of a character in Scott’s Kenilworth. The US first edition has the spelling “flibbertigibbet”—apparently a change by the Doubleday editor, as the US magazine serial agrees with the UK texts here.

... cashier named Bodkin (ch. 2.1, p. 33) °

Monty Bodkin made his first appearance the following year in Heavy Weather, but Wodehouse had used the surname previously as well: Aubrey Bodkin in “How Kid Brady Joined the Press” (1906) and Harold Bodkin in “The Test Case” (1915).

Yascha Pryzsky ... Queen’s Hall (ch. 2.1, p. 34)

Perhaps an echo of Jascha Heifetz (1901–1987), Russian-born violinist, moved to the USA in 1917. The Queen’s Hall in Langham Place was London’s main large concert hall from its opening in 1893. It was destroyed by bombs in 1941.

Gate Theatre (ch. 2.1, p. 34) °

Mark Hodson’s original note: “Not the modern studio theatre of that name in Notting Hill Gate, although it would fit very well, as that has only been around since 1979. Given Packy’s known propensities, Beatrice can hardly be contemplating letting him loose in Dublin, where the famous Gate Theatre had opened in 1928.”

Wodehouse is probably referring to the Gate Theatre Studio, an independent theatre opened in 1927 on Villiers Street in London after its founders Peter Godfrey and Molly Veness had begun a predecessor in 1925 in Covent Garden. By operating as a theatre club, requiring membership of its patrons, it and other independent theatres could avoid the Lord Chamberlain’s censorship and put on controversial or otherwise uncommercial plays. For instance, the Gate Theatre presented Oscar Wilde’s Salome in 1931. It closed after bomb damage in 1941.

“And day by day in every way I will haunt him more and more.” (ch. 2.1, p. 34) *

Maria Jette reminds us that this is Packy’s variant on the Coué self-improvement maxim “Every day in every way I am getting better and better.” See Leave It to Psmith for more.

“You look like a chrysanthemum” (ch. 2.1, p. 35) *

See Leave It to Psmith for a picture and another humorous non-garden reference to the flower.

Absalom, the son of David (ch. 2.2, p. 35) °

(A shekel is one sixtieth of a mina, which was approximately the same as an English pound, so Absalom’s hair weighed about 3.6 lb or 1.5 kg)

25 ¶ But in all Israel there was none to be so much praised as Absalom for his beauty: from the sole of his foot even to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him.

26 And when he polled his head, (for it was at every year’s end that he polled it; because the hair was heavy on him, therefore he polled it:) he weighed the hair of his head at two hundred shekels after the king’s weight.

Bible: Samuel 14:25–26
See Biblia Wodehousiana for more.

The US magazine serial and the UK first edition read “Absalom, the son of Saul” here; the US first edition and the Penguin paperback are correct. In general, the US book agrees with the US magazine serial and Penguin follows the UK book text, so in this unusual case, one may speculate that Wodehouse misremembered the Biblical relationship, but that the Doubleday and Penguin editors caught the error and corrected it, while the Collier’s and Jenkins editors did not question Wodehouse’s manuscript. [NM]

caravanserai (ch. 2.2, p. 35)

Originally a Persian term for an inn, especially in the Middle East. Deliberately incongruous here. Assuming it takes five minutes to walk from the platform to the taxi-rank and get a cab, and at least ten minutes to get your hair cut, the hotel must be within ten minutes’ taxi ride of Waterloo station.

the scent of bay-rum (ch. 2.2, p. 35) *

See If I Were You.

lightning strike ... downed scissors (ch. 2.2, p. 36)

A lightning strike is one that is called without any previous warning (first recorded use in the OED is from 1920). The expression “to down tools” is first recorded in 1855 – Wodehouse is having fun at the barbers’ expense by comparing them incongruously to industrial workers.

“Hullo” ... “Are you there?” (ch. 2.2, p. 36) °

The US magazine and both US and UK first edition book texts have the Senator repeat “Hello!”; only the Penguin text alters it to “Hullo!”

Americans conventionally answered the telephone with “Hello” (as recommended by Thomas Edison, as a counter to Alexander Graham Bell’s suggestion of “Ahoy!”). British people habitually answered with “Are you there?” – something Wodehouse often had fun with. Packy is provoking the Voice by replying in the English way even though he himself is American.

the Old Adam (ch. 2.2, p. 36) *

The unreformed or unregenerate self; see Biblia Wodehousiana.

Daily Dozen (ch. 2.2, p. 36) *

Here, figuratively, moral exercises for the strengthening of the soul; an allusion to physical exercises for the body popularized by American coach Walter Camp and often recommended by and practiced by Wodehouse.

Sir Philip Sidney (ch. 2.2, p. 37) °

Sir Philip Sidney (1554–1586), poet, courtier, soldier, known as a model of chivalry. Wodehouse refers to him often, as in Sam the Sudden.

Volstead Act (ch. 2.2, p. 37) °

Andrew Joseph Volstead (1860–1947) introduced this act for the enforcement of the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution, prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages. The act came into force – over President Wilson’s veto – in 1919. The 18th Amendment was repealed in 1933. The Volstead Act prohibited the sale of anything with more than 0.5% alcohol content, so presumably the Opal Law would have reduced this to 0.0833%. Wodehouse frequently made fun of American hypocrisy over Prohibition.

The US versions read “Opal bill” instead of “Opal law”; it is not clear why the UK editor changed this, as even in British dictionaries “bill” can mean “a draft of a proposed law” (Chambers). [NM]

improved out of all knowledge (ch. 2.2, p. 38) *

That is, improved beyond recognition. Wodehouse used this phrase from 1905 (The Head of Kay’s) through 1957 (Something Fishy/The Butler Did It) at least.

robot (ch. 2.3, p. 39)

The word was only nine years old – it was invented by Karel Capek (1890–1938) for his play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots) (1920, translated into English in 1923). Capek also wrote a book called ‘The War of the Newts’ that gave offence to Gussie Fink-Nottle.

five on the ninth … four niblick shots (ch. 2.2, p. 40) *

See A Glossary of Golf Terminology on this site for golfing terms.

time seemed to stand still (ch. 2.3, pp. 41–42) *

Compare The Inimitable Jeeves.

the Scotch Express (ch. 2.3, p. 42) *

See The Inimitable Jeeves for the Scotch Express. The US book substitutes the Empire State Express instead: the flagship train of the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad between New York City and Buffalo, in service 1891–1967.

moron (ch. 2.3, p. 42) *

At this point, the word moron was used by psychologists as a technical term for adults whose mental age was that of a child of eight to twelve, who could be trained to carry out some function in society; for more on this, see Stephen Jay Gould, The Mismeasure of Man (1981). Its generic use as a popular term of invective (as in Senator Opal’s tirade here) and the introduction of IQ scores led to its abandonment by scientists.

Notre Dame (ch. 2.3, p. 43) *

For some unknown reason, the US magazine serial and book omit all references to Notre Dame; in ch. 2.4 the touchdown remembered by Jane Opal was scored against Harvard in US editions.

boa-constricter (ch. 2.3, p. 43) *

A Penguin misprint. All original editions spell it “constrictor,” and US editions omit the hyphen. It is one of the few animals whose common name in English is the same as the Latin taxonomic name, Boa constrictor. (I am not counting reduplicated names like Bison bison and Gorilla gorilla.)

side-whiskers ... moustaches (ch. 2.4, p. 43)

As usual in Wodehouse, his facial hair marks Blair out as no good, as if we hadn’t already guessed that from his name and the title of his novel.

wires crossed (ch. 2.4, p. 44)

Apparently Wodehouse was the first to use this in the sense of a misunderstanding, as opposed to the technical sense of being connected to the wrong person in a telephone call.

pile on to a pot of tea (ch. 2.4, p. 44) *

The US magazine serial and book omit “to” here, which seems unidiomatic; the only results found by Google for “pile on a pot of tea” are later North American newspaper reprints of this story.

the scorched patch on his cheek where her eyes had rested (ch. 2.4, p. 45) *

A notable addition to a list of Wodehouse’s penetrating and injurious gazes!

one more grave among the hills (ch. 2.4, p. 48) *

See Ice in the Bedroom.

stevedores (ch. 2.5, p. 48)

Dock-workers employed in stowing or unloading cargo in a ship’s hold. From Spanish estivadores.

“What Fun Frenchmen Have” (ch. 2.5, p. 49) *

Announcements in magazines and newspapers during the middle 1920s suggested that Michael Arlen was preparing a play with this title, but it seems never to have opened on Broadway under that name. It was announced in 1931 as a screenplay for Ronald Colman, to be made by Samuel Goldwyn for United Artists, but does not appear in Colman’s IMDB filmography, nor in the IMDB author credits for Michael Arlen, so it may never have been gotten past the censors.

his work was considered swift (ch. 2.5, p. 49) *

That is, he led a fast life. Compare Wodehouse’s 1917 lyric for “Cleopatter” from Leave It to Jane, to a tune by Jerome Kern:

And ev’ry one observed with awe
That her work was swift, but never raw.

never going to bed before five (ch. 2.5, p. 50) *

The US first edition expands this to “five in the morning”; the magazine serial does not.

Greta Garbo ... Constance Bennett ... Norma Shearer (ch. 2.5, p. 50)

Greta Garbo (born Greta Gustafsson, 1905–1990), Constance Bennett (1904–1965), and Norma Shearer (1902–1985) were all famously beautiful film actresses of the period.

British Broadcasting Company (ch. 2.5, p. 51)

A small slip, understandable as Wodehouse had been so much outside England – the privately-owned British Broadcasting Company, which started radio broadcasts in 1922, had become the publicly-owed British Broadcasting Corporation in 1927. Fat-stock prices are still – or at least were until very recently – broadcast on BBC radio in the early mornings for the benefit of farmers.

engaged me as his valet (ch. 2.5, p. 53)

Ashe Marson in Something Fresh and Joss Weatherby in Quick Service also find themselves unexpectedly valeting for irascible Americans.

stopped a sandbag with the back of his head (ch. 2.5, p. 54) *

See Right Ho, Jeeves.

Devonshire House (ch. 2.5, p. 54)

Devonshire House is situated on the block formed by Piccadilly, Berkeley Street, Mayfair Place and Stratton Street, opposite the Ritz Hotel, and over the modern Green Park tube station. The original Devonshire House, the London residence of the Dukes of Devonshire, was demolished in 1924, to be replaced by the present building. Presumably Packy had an apartment there.

Slough of Despond (ch. 2.5, p. 54)

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

Flying Cloud (ch. 2.6, p. 55)

The original Flying Cloud was a celebrated American clipper, launched in 1851.

fully found (ch. 2.6, p. 55) *

Completely equipped; said of a ship, in maritime usage dating to the eighteenth century.

bootlegger (ch. 2.6, p. 56)

Supplier of illicit drink. Apparently, the original bootleggers carried flasks of whisky concealed in the legs of their boots. The term dates back to the 1890s.

strict lemonade ... tie a can (ch. 2.6, p. 57)

The use of ‘lemonade’ as a synonym for ‘teetotal’ seems to be a Wodehouse invention. ‘Tie a can to’ is US slang for ‘reject or dismiss’. The earliest example cited in the OED is from The Heart of a Goof (1926); the original magazine story:

In the case of Jane and William what caused the definite rift was Jane’s refusal to tie a can to Rodney Spelvin.

“Jane Gets Off the Fairway” (1924)

one-horse town (ch. 2.6, p. 59) *

US slang from the mid-nineteenth century for an insignificant place. Wodehouse had used “Onehorseville” for fictional towns in Nebraska (The Globe By the Way Book, 1908), Georgia (Psmith, Journalist, 1909/15), and Iowa (The Intrusion of Jimmy, 1910). Here, of course, it is satirically applied to London to show how Packy’s attention is concentrated on St. Rocque now that Jane is going there.

caged skylark (ch. 2.6, p. 59) *

Probably alluding to “The Caged Skylark” (1879, published posthumously) by Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–1889). Both such a bird and “man’s mounting spirit” “wring their barriers in bursts of fear or rage” according to Hopkins.

stick around Blair Eggleston like a poultice (ch. 2.6, p. 60) *

A pasty, soft medicine applied to the skin in a warm, moist condition, usually with a bandage or dressing.

to lean on so weak a reed (ch. 2.6, p. 60) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

at least one language besides his own (ch. 2.6, p. 61)

Wodehouse studied French at the Berlitz school in Cannes while he was living there. He claims that he never mastered the language, although he was able to read French.

wrote ... first thing in the morning (ch. 2.6, p. 61) °

Mark Hodson’s note: “Given all that has happened since quarter to five, it must be at least seven by now, so this shows a confidence in the abilities of the GPO quite remarkable by modern standards, the more so as, for Packy to have a reasonable chance of sailing her to France quickly enough to help Jane, the yacht must be lying in a harbour on the south coast, a couple of hours from London by train.”

Assuming that the agents may well have been in London even though the boat itself would be on the coast, this is not as remarkable for the time as it would be today. Some parts of central London had twelve postal deliveries per day, and most had six, so that a letter posted in the early evening would certainly be delivered by the start of business hours the next morning.

Chapter 3

palor (ch. 3, p. 62) *

A Penguin misprint; all original editions read “pallor” here.

Today was ... the Festival of the Saint (ch. 3, p. 62) °

17 August is the feast-day of St. Roch; we learn in ch. 4, p. 71, that St. Rocque celebrates on July 15.

the Monsieur and Madame Gedge (ch. 3, p. 62)

This is not a normal French construction (if anything, it is German), but Wodehouse is cunningly making the Vicomte appear to be thinking with a French accent by slipping in that extra article.

frequently sober, sometimes for hours at a time (ch. 3, p. 62) *

How cutting a comment can be when expressed in terms of faint praise!

boats lay at anchor (ch. 3, p. 63)

This is consistent with St. Rocque being on the Channel – in Mediterranean ports, where there are no important tides, it is more usual for boats to moor to the quay.

stump him badly (ch. 3, p. 63) °

Mark Hodson’s original note read: “Probably it is only in Wodehouse that heroes of American football use cricketing metaphors.”

The OED suggests that the US sense of “to stump” as “to confront with an insuperable difficulty, to nonplus” refers to “the obstruction caused by [tree] stumps in ploughing imperfectly cleared land,” rather than having anything to do with the upright posts which are part of the cricket wicket.

after-breakfast pipe (ch. 3, p. 64)

Richard Usborne points out that Wodehouse in his early career had a bit of a blind-spot for the clichés of pipe-smoking – “a man with a pipe in his mouth and a frown of concentration was, by the rules of fiction, somehow more manly and heroic than someone without either” (Wodehouse at Work, p 84). Here he is using that cliché to reinforce Packy’s character as the bluff outdoorsman, but at the same time mocking him gently for his reliance on the pipe for inspiration.

double-breasted suit of mauve cloth (ch. 3, p. 64) °

Sir William Perkin developed mauve, the first synthetic organic dye, in 1856. It became the fashionable colour of the late-Victorian period. But its use in 1930s menswear seems here to be a marker for a rather eccentric sense of style; once more, Wodehouse achieves his ends very efficiently.

Many men … would have shrunk from diving in.… Packy was one of them. (ch. 3, p. 65) *

The construction “many … would have” usually leads into a constrasting statement about the person under consideration, and Wodehouse in his early writing follows the typical form, as in “The Long Hole”:

Many men, I felt, having been so outmaneuvered at the start, would have given up the contest in despair; but Otis Jukes, for all his defects, had the soul of a true golfer.

But here, Wodehouse turns the expected contrast around and says that his hero is just like the majority of men. This is an early instance of this humorous inversion of the usual construction; the earliest so far found is:

Many men in such a position would have given up the struggle. Sigsbee H. Waddington did.

The Small Bachelor, ch. 17.2 (1927)

Many chaps might have resented his tone. I did myself, as a matter of fact.

The Code of the Woosters, ch. 4 (1938)

Many people do not like nervous giggles. Sir Aylmer was one of them.

Uncle Dynamite, ch. 3 (1948)

The cubbyhole allotted to Jerry at Tilbury House was two floors down from the head of the firm’s palatial office, and many people would have thought it unfit for human habitation. Jerry was one of them.

Frozen Assets/Biffen’s Millions, ch. 5 (1964)

Many men in a similar situation would have found their love, seeming so indestructible till then, expiring with a pop, leaving them convinced that they had been vouchsafed a merciful warning and would do well to make a sharp revision of their matrimonial plans. Homer was one of them.

The Girl in Blue, ch. 15.1 (1970)

Many men at such a moment would have frozen with amazement and stood silent and goggle-eyed. Monty was one of them.

Pearls, Girls and Monty Bodkin/The Plot that Thickened, ch. 9.1 (1972)

Compare a similar construction which also overturns the reader’s initial expectation for humorous effect.

the spirit of Auld Lang Syne (ch. 3, p. 65) *

Scots dialect, literally “old long since”; “for old times’ sake” or “for the sake of old friendships” would be a more idiomatic reading. Popularized in a 1788 poem by Robert Burns and often sung to a traditional folk tune at celebrations. See the Wikipedia article for lyrics, recording of the tune, literary antecedents, and more.

a medicinal dram (ch. 3, p. 65) *

In measuring fluid volumes, a dram is 1/8 of a fluid ounce, about 3.5 ml or 0.7 US teaspoons. But informally it refers to a small serving of liquor, especially Scotch whisky, and given the Veek’s proclivities we can surmise that much more than a measured dram has been poured out. For “medicinal” compare Judson Coker’s opinion in Bill the Conqueror; follow the link there for other references too.

What do you do here? (ch. 3, p. 65)

Qu’est-ce que tu fais ici? – Once again, a little bit of contorted syntax in the right place does the work another writer would have needed acres of dialect for.

Yiddish (ch. 3, p. 66) *

This is one of only two references so far found in Wodehouse to Yiddish, a family of languages historically spoken by Ashkenazi Jews, derived from German, Hebrew (in which alphabet it is written), Aramaic, and influences from other European languages. The first mention in Wodehouse:

[Mr. Mosenstein] had trouble from the outset with the resident ghost. The latter, I have heard, gave notice five times in the first week, and it was only the entreaties of Mr. Mosenstein, couched in passionate Yiddish, and the tears of Mrs. Mosenstein, that induced him to stop on and give them one more trial.

“The Thin End of the Wedge” (1904)

Here Packy is using it, rather rudely, as an epithet for the Veek’s difficult-to-understand variations of English.

cuts loose and steps on the gas (ch. 3, p. 67) *

Here the Vicomte’s residence in America influences his phrasing more than does his Eton education. “Cut loose” in the sense of letting oneself go is first cited in the OED from George Ade in 1900, one of Wodehouse’s favorite sources for American slang. “Step on the gas” is circa 1920 US slang, literally meaning pressing the accelerator pedal of an automobile, but figuratively speeding up one’s own actions.

Webster ’All (ch. 3, p. 68) *

Webster Hall, a meeting hall/concert venue/nightclub originally built in 1886, still in operation at 125 East 11th Street in the East Village of Manhattan, New York City. The Wikipedia article notes that “In the 1910s and 20s, Webster Hall became known for its masquerade balls and other soirees reflecting the hedonism of the city’s Bohemians.”

pie-eyed (ch. 3, p. 68) °

US slang meaning “drunk to the extent that vision is impaired.” The OED cites this passage as an example, but the first instance recorded is from a 1904 book by George Ade. See Right Ho, Jeeves for this and another Ade example, originally published 1903.

St. Anthony (ch. 3, p. 69)

The temptation of St. Anthony was a favourite subject of religious paintings (especially with Flemish painters like Hieronymous Bosch and David Teniers) – the saint is shown looking stern as all sorts of enticing pleasures are unfolded before him.

See also Bill the Conqueror for other Wodehouse references to the saint.

so tight as owls (ch. 3, p. 69) *

See Sam the Sudden.

Not even a simple pierrot? (ch. 3, p. 69) *

See Right Ho, Jeeves.

Chapter 4

dry Martini (ch. 4, p. 71) *

See If I Were You.

panting like a stag pursued by hounds (ch. 4, p. 71)

Possibly a reference to:

As pants the hart for cooling streams
When heated in the chase,
So longs my soul, O God, for Thee
And Thy refreshing grace.

Nahum Tate and Nicholas Brady: (hymn, based on Psalm 42) 1696

en rapport (ch. 4, p. 71)

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

under Mr. Slattery’s window at 7 a.m. (ch. 4, p. 71)

To this day, local festivals in France are arranged to start outside the hotel where one is staying at some unearthly hour of the morning.

when not engaged in his profession (ch. 4, p. 71)

When a felon’s not engaged in his employment
Or maturing his felonious little plans,
His capacity for innocent enjoyment
Is just as great as any honest man’s.

W. S. Gilbert: The Pirates of Penzance or The Slave of Duty

Lovely Woman ... (ch. 4, p. 71) °

When lovely woman stoops to folly,
 And finds too late that men betray,
What charm can soothe her melancholy,
 What art can wash her guilt away?

The only art her guilt to cover,
 To hide her shame from every eye,
To give repentance to her lover
 And wring his bosom, is—to die.

Oliver Goldsmith: When lovely woman stoops to folly (in The Vicar of Wakefield, 1765)

produced a card (ch. 4, p. 72)

Possessing visiting cards seems a little surprising for a safeblower. Possibly this encounter was originally written with a different character in mind.

the low-down on its personnel (ch. 4, p. 73) *

“Low-down” is originally US slang for “inside information”; first cited from 1905 in the OED, and also cited there from Wodehouse’s Leave It to Psmith. Personnel had been borrowed from French into English in the early nineteenth century, usually in a military context; here, UK editions still italicize it to emphasize it as a foreign-derived word, while US magazine serial and book print it in regular (roman) type. Within a short phrase, then, we have Wodehouse giving us an old borrowing and a newer coinage: part of his eclectic technique with language.

a wholly unforeseen Pekingese (ch. 4, p. 73) *

Wodehouse knew this breed well (see Ukridge) and knew well their indomitable spirit in relation to their size and their unwillingness to put up with any rannygazoo without making a racket also out of all proportion to their size.

Shriners’ conventions (ch. 4, p. 74)

The Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, a Masonic organisation in the US.

an orange-blossom (ch. 4, p. 75) *

A 1933 bartender’s manual describes this simply as the juice of one orange shaken together with dry gin.

little brother of all mankind (ch. 4, p. 75)

Possibly an allusion to Kipling’s Kim, ‘the little friend of all the world.’ In Christian doctrine, Jesus is sometimes described as “brother of all mankind.”

What … is the matter with Franklyn? He’s all right. (ch. 4, p. 75) *

A take-off on a 1910 song by Harry Williams and Egbert Van Alstyne, “What’s the Matter with Father? (He’s All Right)”. The song’s lyric mentions a group of college boys bragging about their fathers, and singing the first line of the refrain became a traditional form of “toast” in men’s clubs, fraternal organizations, and the like, to substitute the name of an honored member or guest for “Father” as Mr. Gedge does “lyrically” here with Franklyn’s name. I know I [NM] was familiar with the tune of the first line of the refrain many years ago, but never searched out the sheet music until doing these annotations; it is always sung in my experience just as it is notated in the sheet music.

step high, wide and plentiful (ch. 4, p. 76)

Mr. Gedge appears to have been the first to use this expression, more usually associated with Lord Ickenham, who first appeared in 1936. It seems to originate with the cowboy phrase “high, wide and handsome,” which both Gedge (in Glendale) and Ickenham (in his cow-punching days) might well have encountered.

Chapter 5

fairy lanterns (ch. 5, p. 78) *

Small glowing lamps, usually hung up at regular intervals on wires above a night-time party location. Originally a small candle was the source of illumination; now typically lit by a small electric bulb. The lamp globe may be spherical, cylindrical, or fancifully shaped, and made of paper, glass, or plastic, but always translucent so that the whole globe appears to glow rather than allowing the light source to be seen directly. The desired effect is a diffuse magical charm, more like soap bubbles or fireflies than light fixtures, more to amuse than to illuminate. Illustrator Rea Irvin depicted fairy lanterns in the trees in his artwork for the dust jacket of the US first edition (image at right).

Figaro ... Le Petit St. Rocqueois (ch. 5, p. 78)

Newspapers: Le Figaro is the leading conservative French national newspaper (comparable to the London Times or Telegraph), founded in 1826 and published in Paris. Given that St. Rocque is fictitious, its local paper must be too.

silver band (ch. 5, p. 78)

A brass band with silver-coloured instruments. In Britain, most silver bands date back to the second half of the nineteenth century. They tend to be associated with industrial towns and do not generally have a licentious reputation.

Cicero (ch. 5, p. 78)

Cicero is about four miles west of Chicago, Illinois. In the 1920s it was notoriously the power-base of Al Capone’s criminal empire.

beyond a certain point, the wine-cup ceases to stimulate and, instead, depresses (ch. 5, p. 79) *

See Bill the Conqueror.

on honeydew has fed ... (ch. 5, p. 79)

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced;
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail:
And ’mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean:
And ’mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!

The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves;
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!

A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw:
It was an Abyssinian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight ’twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that done in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772—1834): Kubla Khan

A child could have played with him (ch. 5, p. 79) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

Cheeryble-like (ch. 5, p. 79) °

The kindly, philanthropic twin brothers Ned and Charles Cheeryble appear in Charles Dickens’s Nicholas Nickleby (1838–9). Wodehouse referred to them as early as 1910 in The Intrusion of Jimmy/A Gentleman of Leisure and as late as The Girl in Blue (1970), although Willoughby Scrope in that novel misidentifies the brothers as being from Oliver Twist.

Schopenhauer (ch. 5, p. 79) °

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

Miss Trimble, detective in disguise as parlormaid in Piccadilly Jim (1917), reads Schopenhauer in Chapter 20, apparently the first mention in Wodehouse. The latest allusion so far found is in Chapter 9.3 of Pearls, Girls and Monty Bodkin (1972), citing him as a misogynist.

this sozzled man (ch. 5, p. 80) *

See the notes for Thank You, Jeeves and Very Good, Jeeves.

Chapter 6

parted brass-rags (ch. 6.1, p. 84)

Naval expression: ratings used to share a bag of polishing rags with a colleague (a “raggie”), so parting brass rags was a consequence of separating after a disagreement. See Very Good, Jeeves.

He should have been patient and long-suffering with him. (ch. 6, p. 84) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

sprinting was not his forte (ch. 6, p. 85) *

As a noun meaning “strong point,” forte has been borrowed from French (absolute sense of the adjective for strong) and is preferentially pronounced “fort.” When used as a musical term for “loud” the word is a borrowing from Italian and is pronounced in two syllables as for-tay.

Zowie! (ch. 6, p. 85) *

This exclamation of astonishment and surprise is called US colloquial in the OED, with citations beginning circa 1913 and an important use in Sinclair Lewis’s Babbitt in 1922. Wodehouse’s use in Pearls, Girls and Monty Bodkin (1972) is also cited in the OED, but they missed this earlier one.

St. Rocque’s able gendarmerie (ch. 6.1, p. 85)

The French Gendarmerie is a centralised, national force mainly responsible for policing rural districts. It would almost certainly be agents of the Police Municipale of St. Rocque who were keeping order at the festival, not gendarmes. Wodehouse is using the word in the loose, English sense to refer to any sort of French police.

palookas (ch. 6.1, p. 87)

US boxing slang: an inferior or average prizefighter

young carving-knife (ch. 6.1, p. 87) *

When describing a small inanimate object, Wodehouse sometimes uses “young” as if the item were later able to grow into a full-sized one. Hilda Gudgeon’s handgun in The Mating Season appears to Bertie Wooster as “a young cannon.” So here the gendarme’s pocket-knife or dagger is described as if on its way to being able to handle a large roast or fowl at the table.

schnozzle (ch. 6.1, p. 87) *

US slang for the nose, of uncertain origin. OED speculates an alteration of “nozzle” with the initial sh-sound of many words borrowed from Yiddish. Famously self-applied to the generous nose of entertainer Jimmy Durante, who is mentioned under that sobriquet by Wodehouse in Right Ho, Jeeves and The Luck of the Bodkins.

beezer (ch. 6.1, p. 87) °

Originally boxing slang for the nose (OED citation from 1915); later (1920, George Ade) cited in reference to the brightly-colored nose of a drunkard. The other two citations are from Wodehouse: this sentence and one from Jeeves in the Offing (1960).

Devil’s Island (ch. 6.1, p. 87)

One of three islands off the coast of French Guiana collectively known as the Îles du Salut (the “Salvation Islands”). Between 1852 and 1951, they were used by France as a penal colony. The largest, Île Royale, housed the administrative centre and less dangerous criminals; dangerous criminals were held on Île Saint-Joseph; Île du Diable, the smallest (less than 2 sq km in area) and most isolated, was used to house political criminals, the most famous being Captain Alfred Dreyfus, who was confined on Devil’s Island in terrible conditions from 1895 to 1899. Devil’s Island achieved greater notoriety following the 1973 film Papillon, in which Steve McQueen portrayed Henri Charrière, said to be the only prisoner to escape successfully from the island.

Do I know how to open safes? (ch. 6.1, p. 88) *

Wodehouse’s experience in writing for the stage had probably been where he learned the effectiveness of emphasizing a line by giving it different “readings” as an actor would say: changing the accent and stress patterns to find the most effective way of getting the idea across. Compare this exchange between Archibald Mulliner and Yvonne Maltravers in “The Code of the Mulliners” (1935):

 “Do you play heroines in melodramas?” he asked eagerly.
 “Do I play heroines in melodramas?” she echoed. “Do I play heroines in melodramas? Do I play heroines in melodramas? Why . . .”
 Archibald saw that she did.

rolling the fat (ch. 6.1, p. 88) *

By context, this seems to mean giving out a stream of talk, perhaps parallel to “chewing the fat” for a more leisurely conversation. The phrase in this sense, however, has not been found in slang dictionaries or online text searches.

snootful (ch. 6.1, p. 88) *

From snoot for nose or snout: as much liquor as one can absorb; enough to get drunk on. First OED citation is from Ring Lardner in 1918; Wodehouse is cited there from The Luck of the Bodkins (1935) but they missed this earlier one.

not saying it with flowers (ch. 6.1, p. 88) °

The idea of transmitting coded messages, especially to lovers, using arrangements of flowers, is supposed to have been popularised in western Europe by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, who learnt of the “language of flowers” current in Turkey during a stay in Constantinople in 1716.

Wodehouse had written a short light-hearted article on the subject in his early journalistic efforts, while still working at a bank and writing in his own spare time. “The Language of Flowers” appeared in To-Day in 1901 and earned him 18 shillings and fourpence (about as much as three days’ worth of his bank salary).

The slogan “Say It with Flowers” was adopted by the Society of American Florists in 1918.

this here now (ch. 6.1, p. 89) *

Wodehouse seems to use this phrase as a marker for American speech, an emphatic redundancy where “this” would have ordinarily served; it is used by Mrs. Meecher in The Adventures of Sally (1921); Miss Peavey in Leave It to Psmith (1923); Dolly Molloy in Money for Nothing, ch. 7.2 (1928); and screenwriter/churchwarden/kidnapper George in Laughing Gas, ch. 24. Dolly Molloy uses “these here now” in the plural in Sam the Sudden.

telling them to break (ch. 6.1, p. 89) °

i.e. to separate after a clinch (boxing/wrestling slang) – the OED records this as the first use in this sense, but it seems more likely that Wodehouse picked it up from sports reports, or even from his own school boxing days.

the big, broad view ... hotsy-totsy (ch. 6.1, p. 89) °

Soup Slattery has evidently met Stanley Featherstonehaugh Ukridge somewhere on his travels and picked up his catchphrase.

According to Webster, hotsy-totsy was coined circa 1926 by Billie DeBeck (1890–1942), the American cartoonist who created ‘Barney Google’. The OED finds it as an enthusiastic interjection in an Ira Gershwin lyric from 1924 and, in its main sense of “delightful, just right” anonymously in the American Mercury from 1925. Wodehouse first used the expression in “Mulliner’s Buck-U-Uppo” and The Small Bachelor (both in magazines in 1926).

in loco parentis (ch. 6.1, p. 90)

Latin: In the parent’s place. Normally used to describe the legal responsibilities of schoolteachers and the like.

National City Bank (ch. 6.1, p. 90) °

Either a midwestern US banking corporation based in Cleveland, Ohio, founded in 1845 and bought out in 2008, or (more likely) the First National City Bank of New York, originally founded 1812, and renamed Citibank in 1976.

Black Hand (ch. 6.2, p. 91)

Ujedinjenje ili Smrt (Union or Death), also known as the Black Hand, was a secret terrorist organisation formed in Serbia in 1911 to further the cause of Pan-Serbianism in territories then forming part of the Austrian Empire, especially Bosnia and Herzegovina. They infiltrated Serbian nationalist organisations and were most famously responsible for the assassination of Archduke Franz-Ferdinand in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914.

as well as a violin (ch. 6.2, p. 92) °

More idiomatically: as fit as a fiddle.

a dark sepia taste (ch. 6.3, p. 93)

Sepia is normally thought of as the dark brown colour formerly obtained from cuttle-fish ink, but Wodehouse could be referring to the taste of the ink itself, as it is used in cooking to make a sauce for the cuttle-fish.

The lark’s on the wing... (ch. 6.3, p. 94)

The year’s at the spring,
And day’s at the morn;
Morning’s at seven;
The hill-side’s dew-pearl’d;
The lark’s on the wing;
The snail’s on the thorn;
God’s in His heaven—
All’s right with the world!

Robert Browning: Pippa Passes

the native hue of resolution ... resembled Hamlet (ch. 6.3, p. 96)

The last few lines of the famous ‘To be, or not to be’ soliloquy.

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.

Shakespeare: Hamlet III:i, 83–88
See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse for PGW’s other usages of this passage.

a man so boiled (ch. 6.3, p. 97) *

Another of the long list of synonyms for “drunk” in Wodehouse. See Very Good, Jeeves for more.

guillotine (ch. 6.3, p. 97)

Dr Joseph-Ignace Guillotin proposed the use of a decapitation machine, similar to devices already in use since the middle ages in other countries including Scotland, to the National Assembly in December 1789, with the aim of removing the inequalities between common criminals and the nobility in the existing arrangements for executions. His idea was rejected and he abandoned it. When the Legislative Assembly again proposed in 1791 that all executions should be by decapitation, it was Dr Louis of the Academy of Surgeons who designed a workable protoype, differing in several important respects from Guillotin’s drawings, and the German piano builder Tobias Schmidt who constructed it. It was thus generally known as a louison or louisette – it was only later that it became associated in the public mind with the name of Guillotin. (Simon Schama, Citizens, 1989, Ch.15; Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish, 1977)

Contrary to common belief, Dr Guillotin was not executed during the Reign of Terror, but died in 1814. The last execution by guillotine in France was on 10 September 1977; executions were public until 1939.

white of you (ch. 6.3, p. 97) *

That is, honorable, pure of motive; referring more to whiteness of soul than any racial characteristic of paleness of skin.

Chapter 7

bird’s-eye view (ch. 7, p. 99) *

Ignoring literal references to having a high vantage point to look over a scene, Wodehouse’s first figurative use of the term as an omniscient overview of where the characters are and what they are doing seems to be the title of Part II, Chapter 3 of The Swoop! from 1909: “A BIRD’S-EYE VIEW OF THE SITUATION.” The present sentence seems to be the next example, followed by “an observant bird, winging its way over Blandings Castle and taking a bird’s-eye view of its parks, gardens, and messuages, would have noticed…” in the opening of Chapter 3 of Heavy Weather (1933).

English Income Tax (ch. 7, p. 99)

One reason for Wodehouse’s move to France in 1931 was the difficulty he was having with the British and American tax authorities.

old fossil (ch. 7, p. 99) *

Other characters described in this redundant way (after all, there aren’t many new fossils) include a farm worker (by the motorist in “Stone and the Weed”); Lady Underhill (by Horace Barker/Parker, in Jill the Reckless/The Little Warrior, ch. 2.1); Lord Emsworth (by Ralston McTodd, in Leave It to Psmith); Sturgis, the Rudge Hall butler (by Soapy Molloy, in Money for Nothing); and Galahad Threepwood (by Sir Gregory Parsloe-Parsoe, in Summer Lightning).

steam-packet Antelope (ch. 7, p. 99)

A packet is a passenger-carrying ship sailing to a timetable on a fixed route. The name Antelope has been carried by a series of British naval vessels since the eighteenth century. It thus seems unlikely as a name for a ferry.

M. le Duc de Pont-Andemer (ch. 7, p. 100)

The Duke of Pont-Andemer. Pont Audemer [Andemer seems to be an old spelling] is a town in Normandy, about 20km east of Deauville. It is also the name of a breed of spaniel. Wodehouse’s ancestors were Normans who came over with William the Conqueror, but so far there is no evidence of a connection with the de Pont-Andemers.

life is stern and earnest (ch. 7, p. 100)

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

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882): A Psalm of life 5–8
See Ukridge for the complete poem.

superman (ch. 7, p. 101) *

See Leave It to Psmith.

pill (ch. 7, p. 101) *

In this slang sense, a boring, foolish, or tiresome person. The OED has two nineteenth-century citations and then one from Wodehouse in “Jeeves and the Unbidden Guest” as Bertie’s term for Motty, Lord Pershore.

Querulousness and self-pity had marked him for their own (ch. 7, p. 101) *

See A Damsel in Distress.

through the laurels … quiet evenfall (ch. 7, p. 101) *

From Tennyson’s Maud; see Summer Lightning.

throwing oatmeal at him (ch. 7, p. 101) *

See Bachelors Anonymous (1973), ch. 7, for a similar situation in which Ivor Llewellyn throws his breakfast porridge at his valet Bosher, who has burned the cereal, and who resigns in protest.

the Hour produces the Man (ch. 7, p. 101) *

Norman Murphy (A Wodehouse Handbook) could not discover the literary origin of this phrase, and Google Books cannot trace it further back than 1854, though it is used there as if already a cliché.

wash-out (ch. 7, p. 101) *

See The Inimitable Jeeves.

Aladdin (ch. 7, p. 102)

In the Arabian Nights tale, Aladdin is the son of a poor tailor who finds a magic lamp that when it is rubbed produces a genie who can grant wishes. The story, popular in Europe since the French translation by Abbé Antoine Galland appeared in the early eighteenth century, has become one of the traditional subjects for the British Christmas pantomime.

Mills bomb (ch. 7, p. 102)

A type of hand grenade, first developed by William Mills of Birmingham in 1915 and used in various forms by the British army from the first world war until the 1960s.

one of Nature’s prunes (ch. 7, p. 103) *

When not coupled with “young” as a term of approbation (see Right Ho, Jeeves), “prune” is used by Wodehouse in the more common negative sense for a disliked, foolish, prissy, or disagreeable person. Bulstrode Mulliner considers Genevieve Bootle to be “one of Nature’s prunes” in “The Castaways” (1933; collected in Blandings Castle and Elsewhere, 1935).

Al Capone (ch. 7, p. 104)

Alphonse Capone (1899–1947). Notorious gangster, born in Brooklyn, who ran bootlegging, prostitution, and gambling operations in Chicago in the 1920s. He was imprisoned on tax-evasion charges in 1931.

Shakespeare ... twice-told tale (ch. 7, p. 105) °

This sentiment first appears at the end of Book 12 of Homer’s Odyssey, so it seems that authors have been using it for as long as there has been written narrative.

Life is as tedious as a twice-told tale,
Vexing the dull ear of a drowsy man.

Shakespeare: King John Act III, Scene iv
See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

Chapter 8

sanctum sanctorum (ch. 8.2, p. 111) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

apparently engaged in ju-jutsu (ch. 8.2, p. 112) *

A Penguin variant spelling; original editions spell it “jiu-jitsu”; see Leave It to Psmith.

Janice Devereux, the detective (ch. 8.2, p. 112)

Perhaps merely a coincidence, but in Agatha Christie’s The Seven Dials Mystery (1929), where the detective is a young girl, Eileen Brunt, there is a character called Devereux.

man of blood and iron (ch. 8.3, p. 113)

Otto von Bismarck (1815–98), Premier of Prussia and (after 1871) first Chancellor of Germany, is often referred to as “the man of blood and iron.”

passed into a minor key (ch. 8.3, p. 113) *

See Leave It to Psmith.

gump ... bozo (ch. 8.3, p. 114)

US slang – a gump is a foolish person. Also sometimes a chicken (the OED isn’t sure if the two are the same word). A bozo is simply a person or fellow – the OED cites Wodehouse’s use of it in Bill the Conqueror (1924). Both are of uncertain origin.

pop up out of a trap (ch. 8.3, p. 114) *

See Bill the Conqueror.

It (ch. 8.3, p. 115) °

Sex appeal. The OED cites Kipling (1904) as the first use. In 1932, however, Elinor Glyn’s novel It (1927) and the Clara Bow film of the same year adapted from it would be a more obvious referent. Glyn wrote of “that nameless charm, with a strong magnetism which can only be called ‘It’.”

lop-eared (ch. 8.3, p. 115)

Normally used of breeds of animals (especially sheep and rabbits) whose ears hang downwards. The Senator is probably implying that Eggleston is a bit of a rabbit.

forgathering (ch. 8.4, p. 116) *

A Penguin variant spelling; all original editions have “foregathering” here. Each is acceptable; both mean “associating (with)” in this sense.

valet ... lady’s-maid ... artistic inevitability (ch. 8.4, p. 116)

The plays The Barber of Seville (1773, first performed in public 1775) and The Marriage of Figaro (1778, performed 1784) by Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais (1732–1799), and Rossini’s and Mozart’s operas derived from them, probably constitute the most famous artistic example of a valet flirting with a lady’s-maid.

“I’ll kick his spine up through his hat.” (ch. 8.4, p. 116) *

Varying forms of this image occur often in Wodehouse, as a threat or even a contemplated self-inflicted punishment.

…you will not subsequently kick your spine up through your hat for having been such a chump…

“The Spring Suit” (1919)

The name is Wodehouse, initials P. G. If you meet him on the street, kick his spine up through his hat. He ought not to be at large.

“Reviewing a Theatre Audience” (1919)

…he had but one object in the world—just one—and that was to get into this house, find the fellow who had sloshed him on the bean and methodically kick the man’s spine up through his back hair.

Bill the Conqueror (1924)

“In about two seconds,” said Tuppy, “I’m going to kick your spine up through the top of your head.”

Right Ho, Jeeves, ch. 15 (1934)

“Couldn’t you possibly see your way to letting me do something to him, Wooster? If it was only to kick his spine up through his hat?”

Roderick Spode in The Code of the Woosters, ch. 11 (1938)

“I shall kick his spine up through that beastly bowler hat he wears. I shall twist his head off at the roots.”

Sir Raymond Bastable in Cocktail Time, ch. 25 (1958)

“…if he raises the slightest objection, I’ll kick his spine up through his hat.”

The Duke of Dunstable in Service With a Smile, ch. 11 (1961)

“If he utters a word of protest, kick his spine up through his hat.”

The Duke of Dunstable in A Pelican at Blandings, ch. 13.2 (1969)

Othello (ch. 8.5, p. 117) °

Eponymous hero of Shakespeare’s tragedy, based on a story published by Giovanni Giraldi Cinthio (d.1573). Othello is a Moorish officer in the Venetian army, who murders his wife Desdemona when Iago plays on his jealousy to make him believe she is conducting a liaison with Cassio.

Wodehouse frequently compares jealous characters with Othello. See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse on this site, especially the references to jealousy, the green-eyed monster and general mentions of Othello.

If Jane had been soothing before, she was oil and honey now (ch. 8.5, p. 118) *

Many Bible verses refer to these valuable and pleasing substances, such as II Chronicles 31:5: “And as soon as the commandment came abroad, the children of Israel brought in abundance the firstfruits of corn, wine, and oil and honey…”

the late Lord Tennyson ... King Arthur ... Guinevere (ch. 8.5, p. 118)

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

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

. . . . . She sat
Stiff-stricken, listening; but when armed feet
Through the long gallery from the outer doors
Rang coming, prone from off her seat she fell,
And grovelled with her face against the floor:
There with her milkwhite arms and shadowy hair
She made her face a darkness from the King:
And in the darkness heard his armed feet
Pause by her; then came silence, then a voice,
Monotonous and hollow like a Ghost’s
Denouncing judgment, but though changed, the King’s:

“Liest thou here so low, the child of one
I honoured, happy, dead before thy shame?
Well is it that no child is born of thee. [...]”

Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892): Idylls of the King: Guinevere

Bloomsbury novelists (ch. 8.5, p. 118)

The membership of the Bloomsbury group – named after the district of London where the Woolfs lived, and active from ca. 1904–1939 – is generally taken to include Lytton Strachey, Virginia Woolf, Leonard Woolf, E. M. Forster, Vita Sackville-West, Roger Fry, Clive Bell, and John Maynard Keynes. Eggleston is rather too young to be a member of this core group, but could well be one of their protégés.

Since one of the most important things they had in common was a rejection of the sort of Victorian ideals epitomised by Tennyson, the reference to Idylls of the King has clearly been put in as a deliberate dig at the superficiality of Eggleston’s modernism.

“The ink gets into their heads.” (ch. 8.5, p. 122) *

Bertie Wooster says exactly the same thing about romantic women writers such as Rosie M. Banks in “Jeeves and the Old School Chum” (1930, collected in Very Good, Jeeves).

Chapter 9

Journey’s End (ch. 9, p. 124)

Perhaps an ironic reference to Feste’s song from Twelfth Night?

O mistress mine, where are you roaming?
O stay and hear! your true-love’s coming
That can sing both high and low;
Trip no further, pretty sweeting,
Journeys end in lovers’ meeting—
Every wise man’s son doth know.

What is love? ’tis not hereafter;
Present mirth hath present laughter;
What’s to come is still unsure:
In delay there lies no plenty,—
Then come kiss me, Sweet-and-twenty,
Youth’s a stuff will not endure.

Shakespeare: Twelfth Night II:3
See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

Dante ... Virgil ... Inferno (ch. 9, p. 124)

In Dante’s Inferno, the narrator is given a guided tour of Hell by the Latin poet Virgil.

Aytong (ch. 9, p. 125)

See Ice in the Bedroom.

Chapter 10

a man who in his time had played many parts (ch. 10.1, p. 128) *

See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

politesse ... ancien régime (ch. 10.1, p. 128)

French: politeness; old (i.e. pre-revolutionary) nobility

Touraine (ch. 10, p. 129)

The region around the city of Tours, on the Loire, about 200 km from Brittany.

So many people fly nowadays (ch. 10.1, p. 129)

Commercial flights between London (Croydon airfield) and Paris started in 1919.

“And how nice it will be for you, having somebody to talk to in your own language.” (ch. 10.1, p. 129) *

This awkward dialogue between two supposed Frenchmen recalls a similar confrontation in Act II of Die Fledermaus, Johann Strauss Jr.’s operetta with a libretto by Karl Haffner and Richard Genée, based on a French play by Meilhac and Halévy. Gabriel von Eisenstein, a well-off Viennese gentleman, is attending a masked ball pretending to be the Marquis Renard; Frank, governor of the local prison, is pretending to be the Chevalier Chagrin. In the German libretto, their French exchange is

“Enchanté, mon cher.”
“Pomme de terre.”
“Chemin de fer.”
“Folies Bergère.”

parfaitement ... (ch. 10.1, p. 130) °

Parfaitement – Perfectly;

Alors – Well...;

Parbleu! and Nom d’une pipe are mild exclamations.

The next exchange: “The sun!” “But yes!” “Beautiful!” and then Parbleu! again, a euphemistic substitute for pardieu = “By God!”

C’est vrai – it’s true; Mais c’est vrai, mon vieux. Oo là là, c’est vrai – But it’s true, old chap. Oh, it’s true.

Wodehouse is making good use of his (alleged) failures at the Berlitz school.

But Mr. Carlisle was made of sterner stuff (ch. 10.1, p. 130) *

See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

the same lay (ch. 10.2, p. 132)

Slang (18th C) – line of business

okay ... kayo (ch. 10.2, p. 132)

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

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

the opening murder of Chapter Eleven (ch. 10.4, p. 133) *

Medway’s choice of book must indeed be a juicy thriller if there are multiple murders per chapter.

Mrs. Grundy (ch. 10.4, p. 134) °

In Morton’s 1798 play Speed the Plough, Dame Ashfield refers frequently to her neighbour Mrs. Grundy, who never appears, but whose opinion is often speculated upon. Her name has become a byword for a propensity to be shocked.

What will Mrs. Grundy say?

Thomas Morton (1764—1838): Speed the Plough II:3

Wodehouse included “What would Mrs. Grundy say?” in his lyric for “Till the Clouds Roll By” in Oh, Boy! (1917).

adagio dance (ch. 10.4, p. 134)

A dance in adagio (i.e. slow, leisurely) tempo.

frontal orbital bone (ch. 10.4, p. 134)

The frontal bone constitutes the upper front part of the skull, forming the forehead. The orbital plates are the parts of this bone that form the upper and side walls of the eye sockets. There is no frontal orbital bone, as such.

hastily covering with his coat (ch. 10.4, p. 134) *

Like Bill West in Bill the Conqueror, Gordon Carlisle feels underdressed in shirtsleeves in the presence of a lady, even though a moment earlier, when he thought he was alone and unobserved, he seemed to be preparing to go skinny-dipping, since he has not yet bought the bathing suit mentioned in the opening of Chapter 15, p. 185.

the code of the Carlisles (ch. 10.4, p. 134) *

Here, apparently referring to being properly dressed in social situations. For other family codes, see Very Good, Jeeves.

lovers’ meeting (ch. 10.4, p. 134) *

See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

a man named MacPherson (ch. 10.4, p. 134)

Scots – at least in Wodehouse’s world – are traditionally tight-fisted.

apple-gravy (ch. 10.4, p. 136)

Nonsense. It seems to be originally a US variant on ‘apple-sauce,’ (cf. p. 172 below) which has a similar connotation of “nonsense” when used in a figurative sense.

ringer (ch. 10.4, p. 136)

Originally horse-racing slang, ca. 1890 – a horse fraudulently standing in for another in a race.

rubbering around (ch. 10.4, p. 136) *

See Bill the Conqueror.

Chapter 11

Night, sable goddess, from her ebon throne (ch. 11.1, p. 139)

Night, sable goddess! from her ebon throne,
In rayless majesty now stretches forth
Her leaden sceptre o’er a slumbering world.

Edward Young (1683—1765): Night Thoughts I:18

electric torch (ch. 11.1, p. 139) *

In modern terms, a flashlight.

throw a spanner (ch. 11.1, p. 139) *

See Leave It to Psmith.

beauty-sleep (ch. 11.1, p. 140)

This expression seems to go back at least to the 1850s. It usually applies particularly to sleep before midnight.

missing papers ... stolen plans (ch. 11.1, p. 141)

See for instance Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories ‘The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans’ and ‘The Naval Treaty’.

soup (ch. 11.1, p. 142)

Nitroglycerine. Dynamite is a mixture of nitroglycerine with an inert filler that helps to prevent accidental explosion.

keester (ch. 11.1, p. 142) °

Slang, of obscure origin; a variant of keister. Like the word “pete,” (see p. 25 above) it originally meant a bag or suitcase. It also later came to mean backside – Wodehouse uses it in this sense in The Old Reliable (1951) ch. 11, and in Pigs Have Wings, ch. 6 (1952), in which Miss Horwitt supplies the word to Mr. Donaldson as they compose a cablegram about the impostor Mrs. Bunbury at Blandings: “Strongly advocate throwing her out on her keister.”

Milady (ch. 11.2, p. 143)

French version of the English form of address “my lady” – seems to have been popularised in English mainly by translations of Alexandre Dumas, The Three Musketeers.

do a dive (ch. 11.2, p. 145) *

The US serial and book read “do a Brodie” here and also in ch. 13.2, p. 171. See The Girl on the Boat.

Chevalier Bayard (ch. 11.2, p. 145) *

See The Girl in Blue.

the wild regret, of which the poet speaks, for the days that are no more (ch. 11.2, p. 145) *

 “Dear as remember’d kisses after death,
And sweet as those by hopeless fancy feign’d
On lips that are for others; deep as love,
Deep as first love, and wild with all regret;
O Death in Life, the days that are no more.”

Alfred, Lord Tennyson: from “Tears, Idle Tears” in The Princess.

brushing with hazy steps the dew away to meet the sun upon the upland lawn (ch. 11.3, p. 148) *

Haply some hoary-headed swain may say,
 “Oft have we seen him at the peep of dawn
Brushing with hasty steps the dews away,
 To meet the sun upon the upland lawn;

Thomas Gray: Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard

Fascist salute (ch. 11.3, p. 149)

The Fascists had been in power in Italy since 1922. In the months immediately before the publication of Hot Water, Hitler had been narrowly defeated by Hindenburg in the German presidential election (April 1932), and the Nazis obtained 37.2% of the vote in the parliamentary elections (July).

“Where did you see him last?” (ch. 11.3, p. 150) *

A variant on the annoying question frequently asked by a friend of someone who has lost something.

 “If the key is not in the lock, sir, you may depend upon it that it will take a long search to find it.”
 “Where did you see it last?”

“The Lost Lambs” (1908; later Mike; Mike and Psmith)

 “I don’t know where she is.”
 “Don’t know?”
 “She disappeared.”
 “Where did you see her last?” asked his lordship, as if Molly were a mislaid penknife.

The Intrusion of Jimmy, ch. 9 (1910)

 “I’ve lost my little veto,” he said, brokenly, at length.
 “Where did you see it last?” asked Clarence, ever practical.

“The Goal-keeper and the Plutocrat” (1912)

 “Pearls? Pearls? Pearls?” I said. “No, really. Dashed annoying. Where did you see them last?”

Bertie Wooster in “Aunt Agatha Takes the Count” (1922; as “Pearls Mean Tears” in The Inimitable Jeeves, 1923)

 “It was a brand-new Winchester-Murphy. I paid fifteen hundred pounds for it only a month ago, and now it’s gone.”
 “Where did you see it last?”

“The Long Arm of Looney Coote” (1923)

 “I mean—what’s the word I want?”
 “I don’t know, old thing. Where did you see it last?”

Doctor Sally, ch. 13 (1931)

bottle of milk (ch. 11.3, p. 150)

In Britain, milk in bottles is delivered to people’s doorsteps in the early morning – a tradition which is only now beginning to die out.

middy-blouse (ch. 11.3, p. 151)

A loose blouse, often extending below the waistline, similar to that formerly worn by midshipmen in the Navy.

jar (ch. 11.3, p. 151)


if it took all summer (ch. 11.3, p. 151) *

See If I Were You.

ticking a man off over the telephone (ch. 11.3, p. 152) *

US magazine serial and book have “calling a man down over the telephone” here; OED calls “to call down” a chiefly North American colloquialism dating from the late nineteenth century for “to rebuke or reprimand.“ The British version “to tick off” is traced to First World War military slang, with the same meaning. Wodehouse’s use of it in Laughing Gas (1936) is cited in the OED.

long trail ... winding (ch. 11.3, p. 153) °

There’s a long, long trail a-winding
Into the land of my dreams,
Where the nightingales are singing
And a white moon beams:
There’s a long, long night of waiting
Until my dreams all come true;
Till the day when I’ll be going down
That long, long trail with you.

Stoddard King & Zo Elliott: There’s a long, long trail a-winding

generous wrath (ch. 11.4, p. 153)

Cf. A Damsel in Distress: “He burned with generous wrath against Lord Marshmoreton, that modern Simon Legree...”

encore de coffee (ch. 11.4, p. 153) °

Another coffee – should properly be encore de café; Soup is not a great linguist.

Woolworth Building (ch. 11.4, p. 154)

A 60-storey skyscraper in New York, built 1910–1913. The architect was Cass Gilbert. The building is notable for its terracotta ornamentation in the gothic style.

Cheese! (ch. 11.4, p. 154) *

See Money in the Bank.

flivver (ch. 11.4, p. 154)

A cheap car (occasionally also a ship or aircraft of dubious quality). Early 20th century; origins obscure.

one of those copperizing letters (ch. 11.4, p. 155) *

Soup’s dialect alteration of “compromising”; interestingly enough, Albert Peasemarch in The Luck of the Bodkins, ch. 9 (1936), makes the same mistake.

French for melon (ch. 11.4, p. 156)

The French word for melon is melon.

“And me thinking maybe you weren’t such a false alarm after all!” (ch. 11.4, p. 157) *

Green’s Dictionary of Slang gives the principal slang definition of “false alarm” as “a braggart, a boaster” with citations from America and Australia from 1902 onward. [Omitted from US magazine serial.]

The US book has an additional three sentences in Gertie’s speech here expanding on “cold feet” – not in any other version:

  “…You got cold feet.”
  “I give you my word . . .”
  “Keep it. You never went near him. When it come to the point, you thought it over and your dogs went Knickerbocker Ice Company on you. And me thinking maybe you weren’t such a false alarm after all!…”

The Knickerbocker Ice Company was founded in New York State in 1831 to harvest natural ice from Rockland Lake in the winter and store it in insulated ice houses to sell during the summer. It remained in business until the 1920s, when artificial ice produced by electric refrigeration became cheaper and more convenient, and when electric refrigerators in the home reduced demand for blocks of natural ice for iceboxes.

“Dogs” as slang for “feet” has been around in US slang since the early 1910s; Wodehouse had used it in Leave It to Psmith in the voice of “Smooth Lizzie” when talking to her confederate Ed Cootes rather than in her poetess persona as Aileen Peavey.

Chapter 12

temporary lessee and proprietor (ch. 12, p. 158) *

Reminiscent of the managerial credits on theatrical posters and programs. Compare Psmith, protecting Mr. Outwood’s cabinetry in “The Lost Lambs” (1908, later in Mike and Mike and Psmith):

“He is the sole lessee and proprietor of that cupboard. I am only the acting manager.”

doing a crossword puzzle (ch. 12, p. 159) *

See Sam the Sudden.

Octave (ch. 12, p. 159) °

Domestics who dally with the local policeman feature in the plots of several other stories and books. See for example “The Romance of an Ugly Policeman” (1915), “Clustering Round Young Bingo” (1925), and The Mating Season (1949).

This is the only instance so far found in Wodehouse of Octave as a name; presumably it is a gallicized version of the Latin name Octavius.

scélérat ... assassin (ch. 12, p. 159)

Scoundrel, murderer

house-broken (ch. 12, p. 160) *

Given Wodehouse’s love for pet dogs, it is surprising to find this as one of only two uses of the word so far found in his fiction; the other is in ch. 2.2 of Service With a Smile (1961) and is a jocular reference to a character being an unobtrusive guest. The present sentence is apparently the only time Wodehouse uses it for a husband who has been more or less tamed by his wife.

“…so kind to me, Wellington.” (ch. 12, p. 160) *

It seems fully in keeping with Mrs. Gedge’s upper-class aspirations that she addresses her husband by his full middle name, rather than using a nickname such as “Welly” or “Johnny” or “Jimmy” or whatever the J. stands for. Compare J. Hamilton Beamish in The Small Bachelor, who is called “Jimmy” by his sweetheart May Stubbs (the fortune-teller Madame Eulalie).

accept no substitutes (ch. 12, p. 161) *

A phrase common since the late nineteenth century in advertisements for brand-name goods, patent medicines, and the like. The oldest found in Google Books is an 1894 bookseller’s advertisement.

tangled web (ch. 12, p. 161)

Oh, what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practise to deceive!

Sir Walter Scott (1771—1832): Marmion VI:17

like Daniel threading his way through the den of lions (ch. 12, p. 161) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

Island Race (ch. 12, p. 162) °

The British. From the title of a collection of patriotic poetry by Sir Henry Newbolt (1898).

one of the smaller infusoria (ch. 12, p. 162) °

Animalcula Infusoria – a former class of protozoa, free-swimming single-celled organisms, or a broader former collective term for various microscopic organisms such as are found in pond waters. Both uses of the term are obsolete in current taxonomy.

The US magazine serial capitalized Infusoria, following the practice of biologists in capitalizing the higher taxonomic ranks; this must have been an editorial choice, as no other edition uses a capital letter.

Chapter 13

one who has passed through the furnace (ch. 13.1, p. 165) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

fifty-seven varieties (ch. 13.1, p. 165) °

See A Damsel in Distress.

piece of cheese (ch. 13.1, p. 165) *

In colloquial usage, a person regarded negatively as unpleasant or intrusive.

She was unequal to the task of explaining, without hurting anyone’s feelings, that she had always regarded Cuthbert as a piece of cheese and a blot on the landscape.

“The Clicking of Cuthbert” (1921)

Only the thought that Bobbie would be of the company enabled him to endure the prospect of being seen in public with this outstanding piece of cheese.

Ambrose Biffen thinking of little Wilfred in “The Passing of Ambrose” (1928; in Mr. Mulliner Speaking, 1929/30)

“I’ve heard you say a hundred times that you think April June a pill. In my presence, you have many a time and oft alluded to her as a piece of cheese.”

Laughing Gas, ch. 23 (1936) — cited in the OED

It’s a pippin (ch. 13.1, p. 166) *

See The Inimitable Jeeves.

blue birds twittering (ch. 13.1, p. 167) *

an emblem of happiness, from Maurice Maeterlinck’s 1908 play L’Oiseau bleu.

Old Man Trouble (ch. 13.1, p. 167)

The Gershwin song ”I’ve Got Rhythm” first appeared in the musical Girl Crazy in 1930.

Old Man Trouble,
I don’t mind him,
You won’t find him ’round my door.

George & Ira Gershwin: I’ve Got Rhythm

hewn from the living rock (ch. 13.2, p. 168) °

OED: “rock in its natural condition and site”

Cf. e.g. Kipling, Barrack-Room Ballads (1892):

He hewed the living rock with sweat and tears, And reared a God against the morning-gold.

corroborative detail (ch. 13.1, p. 169) *

A probable allusion to Pooh-Bah in Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Mikado: “Merely corroborative detail, intended to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative.”

English Ed (ch. 13.2, p. 170)

In Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves, Ch. 11, Jeeves gives Bertie the criminal soubriquet “Alpine Joe” in similar circumstances.

do good by stealth (ch. 13.2, p. 170) *

Do good by stealth, and blush to find it Fame.

Alexander Pope: Epilogue to the Satires (1738)

put his fortune to the test, to win or lose it all (ch. 13.2, p. 171) *

See The Girl on the Boat.

Now or never must the balloon go up. (ch. 13.2, p. 171) *

This sentence is the third citation in the OED for “the balloon goes up” meaning that the action, excitement, or trouble starts. The first citation is from 1909.

“My advice would be that you changed rooms with Mr. Gedge.” (ch. 13.2, p. 171) *

The Penguin edition omitted Mrs. Gedge’s line, found in all original editions, just before this one: “But I can’t leave it empty.” Without this sentence, two successive paragraphs are obviously Packy speaking, but the first one has a closing paragraph mark, so it is clear that a mistake has been made in the typesetting.

Hollywood story-conference (ch. 13.2, p. 172) °

Wodehouse had been working in Hollywood from May 1930 to September 1931. The five Hollywood Mulliner stories found in Blandings Castle and Elsewhere, especially “The Nodder,” illuminate the studio milieu and describe the various levels of Yes-men involved.

Mark’s earlier copy of the Penguin edition had the misprint “story-confidence” here, but this had been corrected by the time of the ninth printing in the paperback that I own. [NM]

hooey (ch. 13.2, p. 172) *

A slang word, originally American, for “nonsense.” The OED has citations dating from 1924, and includes the present sentence from Wodehouse in its examples.

apple-sauce (ch. 13.3, p. 172)

Nonsense. Cf. apple-gravy, p. 134 above.

busy as a cross-eyed man with jim-jams trying to turn in a fire-alarm on the dial phone (ch. 13.3, p. 173) *

One of the all-time great extended similes in Wodehouse! Compare:

…about as much chance as a blind man with one arm trying to get out of a bunker with a tooth-pick.

A Damsel in Distress, ch. 1 (1919)

…about as much chance as a one-armed blind man in a dark room trying to shove a pound of melted butter into a wild-cat’s left ear with a red-hot needle.

“The Return of Battling Billson” (1923)

jim-jams (ch. 13.3, p. 173)

Has a lot of meanings. Probably means delirium tremens in this case.

fire-alarm ... dial phone (ch. 13.3, p. 173) °

Almon B. Strowger, an undertaker of Kansas City, Mo., developed the first commercially successful automatic dial telephone system, covered by US patent 447918 of 1891. The first large Strowger exchanges appeared in the USA around 1900. Outside the US, manual exchanges remained common until after the second world war.

The standard emergency numbers (e.g. 999 in the UK and 911 in the USA) first appeared in the late thirties. Before that, one might have to dial five to seven digits to reach the firehouse.

bunco-artist (ch. 13.3, p. 173)

Confidence trickster – also bunco-steerer. Said to come from the name of the Spanish card game ‘banco.’

Almanac de Gotha (ch. 13.3, p. 173) “

Originally published as Almanach de Gotha contenant diverses connoissances curieuses et utiles pour l’année bissextile (1764). The standard guide to the genealogy of the European royal houses and nobility until 1944; re-established as an English-language reference beginning in 1998. More at Wikipedia.

The US magazine serial omits this passage; the US book spells Almanach correctly; both Jenkins and Penguin have the anglicized spelling Almanac.

sitting pretty (ch. 13.3, p. 174) *

Once again, see Sam the Sudden.

eyewash (ch. 13.3, p. 174) *

The OED calls this slang, originally Anglo-Indian, for misleading statements to conceal actual facts or motives, or for nonsense in general. This is the first use in Wodehouse so far found; only three others have been located:

All that eyewash about wanting to see the squirt Prudence had not deceived him [Tipton] for an instant.

Full Moon, ch. 5 (1947)

“One dismisses all that stuff about jobs with the Agricultural Board as pure eyewash.”

Ring for Jeeves, ch. 3 (1953)

“…there’s a dachshund at Brinkley who when you first meet him will give you the impression that he plans to convert you into a light snack between his regular meals. Pay no attention. It’s all eyewash.”

Jeeves in the Offing, ch. 11 (1960)

chatelaine (ch. 13.3, p. 175) *

A woman who is in charge of a castle or country house: either the mistress of the household or a female relative acting in that capacity, as with Lord Emsworth’s various sisters who successively run Blandings Castle for him. The present usage as the tenant of a leased country house is a slight extension, but as Mrs. Gedge is obviously the woman in charge, the implication is accurate.

The slogan … is “Service” (ch. 13.3, p. 175) *

The word or the longer slogan “Service and Cooperation” are mentioned frequently in Wodehouse, and Norman Murphy, in A Wodehouse Handbook, noted its wide usage in the nineteenth century and beyond as a motto, but Murphy was unable to trace a specific origin.

war-horse ... battle (ch. 13.3, p. 176)

19 Hast thou given the horse strength?
Hast thou clothed his neck with thunder?
20 Canst thou make him afraid as a grasshopper?
The glory of his nostrils is terrible.
21 He paweth in the valley, and rejoiceth in his strength:
he goeth on to meet the armed men.
22 He mocketh at fear, and is not affrighted;
neither turneth he back from the sword.
23 The quiver rattleth against him,
the glittering spear and the shield.
24 He swalloweth the ground with fierceness and rage:
neither believeth he that it is the sound of the trumpet.
25 He saith among the trumpets, Ha, ha!
And he smelleth the battle afar off,
the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.

Bible: Job 39:19–25
The index to Biblia Wodehousiana lists thirty references in Wodehouse to this passage, at Job 39:25.

Chapter 14

hook, line, and sinker (ch. 14.1, p. 177) *

See Bill the Conqueror.

our eyes, like stars, do not start … knotty and combined locks … fretful porpentine (ch. 14.2, p. 178) *

An especially long Shakespeare quotation from Hamlet. All book editions read “knotty” which must be Wodehouse’s humorous slight misquotation; the Collier’s editor seems to have amended it to Shakespeare’s original “knotted.”

palpitating ganglions (ch. 14.2, p. 178) *

See Sam the Sudden.

mot juste (ch. 14.2, p. 179) *

See Right Ho, Jeeves.

John D. Rockefeller (ch. 14.2, p. 180)

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

Aphasia (ch. 14.2, p. 180)

Aphasia is a loss of the ability to speak or to use language. Packy is thinking of amnesia.

Dubuque, Iowa (ch. 14.2, p. 180) °

Lead mining centre on the Mississippi; population 41,679 in the 1930 census.

Notably referred to as an example of small-town middle America in the 1925 prospectus of The New Yorker magazine, which claimed that it would not be edited “for the little old lady in Dubuque.”

drunk the wine-cup … to its dregs (ch. 14.2, p. 182) *

A metaphor for having participated fully in something. The dregs are the sediment at the bottom of unfiltered wine; compare the equivalent word “lees” in Sam the Sudden.

tiger-skin (ch. 14.3, p. 182) °

The most celebrated tiger-skin in literature appears not in the work of a stark, modernist writer like Blair, but in Elinor Glyn’s romantic novel Three Weeks (1903).

Coming back he chanced to stop and look in at the fur shop under the hotel. There were some nice skins there, and what caught his attention most was a really splendid tiger. … Should he buy it for her?

They were sitting on the tiger by now, and she undulated round and all over him, feeling his coat, and his face, and his hair, as a blind person might, till at last it seemed as if she were twined around him like a serpent.

Elinor Glyn (1864–1943): Three Weeks (1903); excerpts from chs. 6 and 15

This book inspired a famous piece of anonymous doggerel:

Would you like to sin
With Elinor Glyn
On a tiger skin?
Or would you prefer
To err
With her
On some other fur?

tête-à-tête (ch. 14.3, p. 182)

Private conversation (French: head to head)

listening-in (ch. 14.3, p. 182)

In the early days of radio broadcasting, people spoke of “listening-in” to a programme.

Omar Khayyam (ch. 14.3, p. 182)

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!

Some for the Glories of This World; and some
Sigh for the Prophet’s Paradise to come;
Ah, take the Cash, and let the Credit go,
Nor heed the rumble of a distant Drum!

Look to the blowing Rose about us—‘Lo,
Laughing,’ she says, ‘into the world I blow,
At once the silken tassel of my Purse
Tear, and its Treasure on the Garden throw.’

And those who husbanded the Golden grain
And those who flung it to the winds like Rain
Alike to no such aureate Earth are turn’d
As, buried once, Men want dug up again.

Omar Khayyam (d. 1123), tr. Edward Fitzgerald: The Rubáiyát

pustule (ch. 14.3, p. 183) *

A pus-containing lesion such as a pimple or boil on the skin; a rather offensive figurative comparison when used personally, not even noted in the OED definitions for the word. Wodehouse uses it in Hugo Carmody’s voice for Percy Pilbeam in Summer Lightning, ch. 13.1 (1929); in Bertie’s voice for the Dowager Lady Chuffnell and Seabury in Thank You, Jeeves, ch. 2 (1934); in Angus McTavish’s voice for Legs Mortimer in “Farewell to Legs” (1935); and in Lord Havershot’s narration about Orlando Flower and Tommy Murphy in Laughing Gas, ch. 20 (1936). It is pleasing to your commentator [NM] that PGW seems to have tired of this usage after this brief period.

give you the grip (ch. 14.3, p. 183) *

That is, a secret handshake, a sign of membership in some lodge or fraternity.

tidings of great joy (ch. 14.3, p. 183) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

Chapter 15

pf’f’ft (ch. 15, p. 187) *

The internal spaces in the Penguin edition are a misprint; all original editions run the term together as here. The term seems to have been coined or popularized in the 1920s, without the apostrophes, by syndicated newspaper gossip columnist Walter Winchell for a split romance or marriage. It may be an onomatopoetic spelling of the raspberry or Bronx cheer as a dismissal, or possibly a variant on the earlier “phut” for a breakdown or small explosion. Another spelling of the word was used as the title of the 1954 comedy film Phffft, starring Judy Holliday and Jack Lemmon. Wodehouse used another form in Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, ch. 3 (1954):

…it wouldn’t take too much to make the Stilton-Florence axis go p’fft again.…

Ankling into ... (ch. 15, p. 187)

Wodehouse seems to have invented this use of “ankling” – it first appeared in the play Baa-baa Black Sheep (co-written with Ian Hay) a year earlier.

banana-split (ch. 15, p. 187)

A dessert made with a banana and ice cream (US, ca. 1920). Gertie seems to be using it here in a figurative sense – perhaps ‘slippery character’?

Wodehouse is also fond of the expressions ‘banana oil’ (nonsense) and ‘banana skin’ (unexpected hazard).

given him the bird (ch. 15, p. 188) *

Not the rude hand gesture now called by that name, but a dismissal: see Leave It to Psmith.

operating on all six cylinders (ch. 15, p. 188) *

See Bill the Conqueror.

orgy (ch. 15, p. 188) *

See Bill the Conqueror for the traditional definition of this word.

knockabout sketch (ch. 15, p. 189) *

A slapstick comedy routine, as in a vaudeville show, punctuated by mock physical violence, probably most familiar to modern readers as in the comic short films of the Three Stooges. Eggleston’s nightmare is that the violence is real in this case.

Apollyon (ch. 15, p. 189)

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

Apol. Then Apollyon broke out into a grievous rage, saying, I am an enemy to this Prince; I hate his Person, his Laws, and People; I am come out on purpose to withstand thee.
Chr. Apollyon, beware what you do, for I am in the King’s High-way, the way of Holiness, therefore take heed to yourself.
Apol. Then Apollyon straddled quite over the whole breadth of the way, and said, I am void of fear in this matter, prepare thyself to die; for I swear by my infernal Den, that thou shalt go no further; here will I spill thy soul.
And with that he threw a flaming Dart at his breast, but Christian had a Shield in his hand, with which he caught it, and so prevented the danger of that.
Then did Christian draw, for he saw ’twas time to bestir him: and Apollyon as fast made at him, throwing Darts as thick as Hail; by the which, notwithstanding all that Christian could do to avoid it, Apollyon wounded him in his head, his hand, and foot: This made Christian give a little back; Apollyon therefore followed his work amain, and Christian again took courage, and resisted as manfully as he could. This sore Combat lasted for above half a day, even till Christian was almost quite spent; for you must know that Christian, by reason of his wounds, must needs grow weaker and weaker.

Then Apollyon espying his opportunity, began to gather up close to Christian, and wrestling with him, gave him a dreadful fall; and with that Christian’s Sword flew out of his hand. Then said Apollyon, I am sure of thee now: and with that he had almost pressed him to death, so that Christian began to despair of life: but as God would have it, while Apollyon was fetching of his last blow, thereby to make a full end of this good man, Christian nimbly stretched out his hand for his Sword, and caught it, saying, Rejoice not against me, O mine Enemy! when I fall I shall arise; and with that gave him a deadly thrust, which made him give back, as one that had received his mortal wound: Christian, perceiving that, made at him again, saying, Nay, in all these things we are more than Conquerors through him that loved us. And with that Apollyon spread forth his Dragon’s wings, and sped him away, that Christian for a season saw him no more.

John Bunyan (1628–1688) Pilgrim’s Progress I: 307–312
The illustration is by John Sturt for the 1728 edition.

“you’re a wow!” (ch. 15, p. 190) *

See Money for Nothing.

to talk … turkey (ch. 15, p. 190) *

See Right Ho, Jeeves.

Listen, baby... (ch. 15, p. 190)

The strategy Gertie and Oily adopt for the theft and quick getaway in ‘one of the cars from the garage’ is also popular with Soapy and Dolly Molloy – see e.g. Money in the Bank or Pearls, Girls and Monty Bodkin.

waste of waters (ch. 15, p. 191) *

An expanse of sea considered as barren or empty, in parallel to wasteland.

Sad is the hour when sets the sun—
Dark is the night to earth’s poor daughters,
When to the ark the wearied one
Flies from the empty waste of waters!

W. S. Gilbert: “Sorry her lot” (Josephine) from H.M.S. Pinafore (1878)

Baby ... Napoleon ... Marshals (ch. 15, p. 191)

It is not recorded whether the Emperor ever addressed his marshals as ‘Baby’, but it is notable that theatrical managers in Wodehouse are often said to have a Napoleon complex, and address all their associates as ‘Baby’.

Chapter 16

Painted Desert (ch. 16.1, p. 193)

National Park in north-east Arizona, noted for its colourful rock formations.

congratulating a promising junior on … a Correspondence Course of Business Training (ch. 16.1, p. 194)*

The image at right is from Popular Science Monthly, September 1922, in an advertisement from the International Correspondence Schools of Scranton, Pennsylvania, who offered courses from their Business Training Department and their Technical and Industrial Department.

Alice in Wonderland (ch. 16.2, p. 196)

We are not told if the White Rabbit has a complete business suit – Carroll only mentions the watch and the waistcoat pocket. Tenniel draws it with jacket and waistcoat but no trousers.

So she was considering in her own mind (as well as she could, for the hot day made her feel very sleepy and stupid), whether the pleasure of making a daisy-chain would be worth the trouble of getting up and picking the daisies, when suddenly a White Rabbit with pink eyes ran close by her.
There was nothing so very remarkable in that; nor did Alice think it so very much out of the way to hear the Rabbit say to itself, ‘Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be late!’ (when she thought it over afterwards, it occurred to her that she ought to have wondered at this, but at the time it all seemed quite natural); but when the Rabbit actually took a watch out of its waistcoat-pocket, and looked at it, and then hurried on, Alice started to her feet, for it flashed across her mind that she had never before seen a rabbit with either a waistcoat-pocket, or a watch to take out of it, and burning with curiosity, she ran across the field after it, and fortunately was just in time to see it pop down a large rabbit-hole under the hedge.
In another moment down went Alice after it, never once considering how in the world she was to get out again.

Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson): Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, ch. 1

extraordinary sagacity and resource (ch. 16.2, p. 197)*

Reminiscent of Kipling’s phrase “infinite resource and sagacity”; see Sam the Sudden.

dead storage (ch. 16.2, p. 197)*

Business and legal jargon for a warehouse or similar location where seldom-used items are kept indefinitely, without easy or frequent possibility of access.

Platonic (ch. 16.2, p. 199)

A spiritual love transcending the merely physical. Although Plato did make the distinction between physical love and friendship, the notion of Platonic love as non-physical is really a Renaissance idea. It is often – as here – used disingenuously. In much the same way, Samuel Richardson has a character in Pamela say: “yet am I convinced, and always was, that Platonic love is Platonic nonsense.”

Reason, limping back to her throne (ch. 16.3, p. 200) *

The concept of Reason as a goddess enthroned must be an ancient one; the oldest citation found by Norman Murphy (A Wodehouse Handbook) is in George Farquhar’s 1706 play The Recruiting Officer, in which “Reason still keeps its throne, but it nods a little, that’s all.”—a jocular reference which can scarcely be the original statement of this trope. Other eighteenth-century references include Alexander Pope (“With terrors round, can Reason hold her throne?” in Imitations of Horace).

Wodehouse makes several allusions to the concept; here are just a few:

“In the cold light of the morning, when Reason returns to her throne, that’ll come home to you.”

The Intrusion of Jimmy/A Gentleman of Leisure (1910)

It was the berserk mood vanishing, and Reason leaping back on her throne.

“Brother Fans” (1914)

There are moments in a chappie’s life, don’t you know, when Reason, so to speak, totters, as it were, on its bally throne.

Reggie Pepper in “The Test Case” (1915)

Nutty’s reason—such as it was—tottered on its throne.

Uneasy Money (1916)

Reason, so violently expelled, came stealing timidly back to her throne, and a cold hand seemed suddenly placed upon his heart.

“The Custody of the Pumpkin” (1924)

And, what with the fresh air and everything, pretty soon I found Reason returning to her throne.

Money for Nothing, ch. 15.2 (1928)

Reason returning to her throne, his next impulse was to cry quietly.

“The Man Who Gave Up Smoking” (1929; in Mr. Mulliner Speaking, 1929/30)

Reason was beginning to do a bit of tottering on its throne.

“Jeeves and the Song of Songs” (1929; in Very Good, Jeeves, 1930)

You could see Reason returning to her throne.

Thank You, Jeeves, ch. 6 (1934)

As a matter of fact, I was not sorry I had been interrupted in the issuing of my statement, for Reason had suddenly returned to her throne and I perceived that I had been on the point of making an ass of myself.

Laughing Gas, ch. 7 (1936)

There came to Freddie the feeling he had sometimes had when trying to solve The Times crossword puzzle, that his reason was tottering on its throne.

Ice in the Bedroom, ch. 26 (1961)

Then reason returned to its throne, and he fixed his companion with an incredulous eye.

Pearls, Girls and Monty Bodkin, ch. 2.2 (1972)

See also “memory returned to its throne” in Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen, chapter 14; “optimism had returned to its throne” in Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves, chapter 13; and “Prudence returned to its throne” in Lord Emsworth and Others.

got home on the point of the jaw (ch. 16.3, p. 201) *

Wodehouse’s youthful enthusiasm for boxing gave him personal experience of the most vulnerable points at which one can be hit; he mentions most often the solar plexus (usually under the name of “the third waistcoat button”) and the point of the jaw, as in the early article “Pauline Pugilism” (1901):

It is this style that Laertes advises his son to adopt in the well-known melodrama “Hamlet.” “My son, beware of entry to a quarrel, but, being in, go for the point of the jaw and see that you get it.” I quote from memory, so errors may have crept in.

Even in France you cannot chivvy girls… (ch. 16.3, p. 203) *

To chivvy is to chase, especially with the aim of harrassing or worrying the pursued. Nothing to do with the mid-century hooligan’s term for knifing someone with a chiv or shiv.

Schwertfeger of Berlin (ch. 16.4, p. 204)

Schwertfeger (‘cutler’) is a fairly common surname in Germany. There was a B. Schwertfeger, who edited a book about the Affaire Dreyfus in 1930, but this is probably a coincidence [Militärattaché von Schwartzkoppen, Die Wahrheit über Dreyfus. aus dem Nachlaß hg. v. B. Schwertfeger, Berlin 1930.]

to the Rocky Mountains and shoot grizzlies (ch. 16.4, p. 204) *

See A Damsel in Distress.

restoring his tissues (ch. 16.4, p. 204) *

One of many examples in Wodehouse when this phrase means getting alcoholic refreshment; it also can mean getting sleep. See Sam the Sudden.

to get outside a Gustave Special (ch. 16.4, p. 205) *

See The Inimitable Jeeves.

Nosey Parker (ch. 16.4, p. 208) *

See Something Fresh.

beyond these voices there was peace (ch. 16.4, p. 208) *

See Blandings Castle and Elsewhere.

the steel engraving of the Huguenot’s Farewell (ch. 16.5, p. 209) *

Norman Murphy, in A Wodehouse Handbook, suggests this is a reference to the Millais painting now usually just referred to as A Huguenot; see Wikipedia for image and further details. A steel engraving was a finely-detailed printing process for making a large print run of black-and-white reproductions of popular artworks, but requiring the artistic skill of an engraver rather than the photomechanical process of later halftone prints.

a brimming beaker of the right stuff (ch. 16.5, p. 210) *

“Good liquor” is another of the ways Wodehouse uses the phrase “right stuff.” Compare p. 9, above. See The Inimitable Jeeves.

His views on the sanctity of personal property were fundamentally unsound… (ch. 16.6, p. 210) *

Recalls Jeeves’s opinion of Nietzsche in “Jeeves Takes Charge” (1916):

“You would not enjoy Nietzsche, sir. He is fundamentally unsound.”

that soft answer which the righteous recommend (ch. 16.6, p. 210) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

squab (ch. 16.6, p. 210) °

According to the OED, a squab is either a short, fat person or a young, inexperienced person, or a young pigeon.

Chapman’s New Dictionary of American Slang dates the colloquial sense of “a young woman, =chick” to the 1920s.

one who at the eleventh hour has seen the light (ch. 16.6, p. 211) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

heist (ch. 16.6, p. 211)

Robbery or theft (US slang). The first recorded instance in the OED is only from 1927, but it is a variant of ‘hoist’, which had the sense of shoplifting or housebreaking in British slang since the eighteenth century (still current up to at least the 1950s).

Chapter 17

Having round the corner nipped (ch. 17.1, p. 212)

Wodehouse gives us a flavour of German with a very small contortion of syntax. Needless to say, German has no verb “to nip round the corner” – but if it did, it would certainly be a separable verb, and form a construction rather like this.

For Schwertfeger, see p. 204 above.

a sudden falling of scales from the eyes (ch. 17.1, p. 213) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

Auge davongekommen (ch. 17.1, p. 213)

German: In full, the phrase is mit einem blauen Auge davongekommen (literally: got away with a blue [i.e. black] eye).

macédoine (ch. 17.2, p. 215)

In cooking, this is a mixture of chopped fruits or vegetables (apparently by analogy to the mixture of races in Alexander’s Macedonian empire). It has been used in this more general sense of a mixture of different elements since the early 19th century.

Queen could do no wrong (ch. 17.2, p. 216)

A conventional legal phrase, expressing the fact that, in Britain, the Queen (or King) is outside the jurisdiction of the courts and has immunity from prosecution.

horn-swoggling (ch. 17.3, p. 219)

Cheating. The expression seems to have originated in the southern states of the US in the early 19th century.

knobkerrie (ch. 17.3, p. 219)

(Afrikaans) A short weighted club or throwing stick.

Vardon swing ... stepped up to the tee (ch. 17.3, p. 219)

Professional golfer Harry Vardon (1870–1937) won the British Open six times between 1896 and 1914. He popularised a new overlapping grip and a swing technique that is still in use today, although there seems to be some evidence that it was actually invented by J. Laidley.

Angel of Mercy (ch. 17.3, p. 219)

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

Lytton Strachey: Eminent Victorians – Florence Nightingale II

Lady Macbeth (ch. 17.3, p. 220)

In Shakespeare’s play, it is the ambitious Lady Macbeth who urges her husband to murder Duncan to obtain the throne of Scotland. Historically, Macbeth (d. 1056) was Thane of Cromarty and Moray; his wife was Graoch, granddaughter of Kenneth IV. (Brewer)

The Château Blissac seems to have burglars the way other houses have mice (ch. 17.4, p. 222) °

Blandings Castle, of course, has impostors the way other houses have mice. (Service With a Smile, ch. 6.3 [1961])

“…no value whatever except to owner.” (ch. 17.4, p. 223) *

UK first edition and Penguin read as above, but US magazine serial and book read “except to its owner” which seems a more idiomatic reading.

introductions (ch. 17.5, p. 223)

Miss Putnam’s sense of etiquette is not quite so finely-tuned as we are being led to believe.

No lady is ever, except to the President of the United States, a cardinal, or a reigning sovereign, presented to a man.
The question as to when introductions should be made, or not made, is one of the most elusive points in the entire range of social knowledge. “Whenever necessary to bridge an awkward situation,” is a definition that is exact enough, but not very helpful or clear. The hostess who allows a guest to stand, awkward and unknown, in the middle of her drawing-room is no worse than she who pounces on every chance acquaintance and drags unwilling victims into forced recognition of each other, everywhere and on all occasions.

Emily Post: Etiquette (1922), ch. II, pp. 4, 11

ninctobinkus (ch. 17.5, p. 224) °

This word seems to be one of Wodehouse’s own – it doesn’t appear in the OED, and doesn’t much resemble anything that does appear. Obviously it is being used to mean “thigummybob” or “whatyamacallit.”

G. L. Brook cites it as popular due to its length in Words in Everyday Life (1981).

 “And what’s that little ninctobinkus?”
 “That—” Bill paused, the better to prepare her for the big news. “That,” he said passionately, “is the Holstein butter-churner.”

Doctor Sally, ch. 16 (1932)

 “What I came about was that lucky pig of mine.”
 “That . . . I beg your pardon?”
 “Little silver ninctobinkus I wear on my bracelet. I’ve lost it.”

Ice in the Bedroom, ch. 10 (1961)

penwiper (ch. 17.5, p. 224)

A small cloth item used for cleaning excess ink from the nib of a pen. Used to be a popular subject for handicraft enthusiasts – the sort of people who nowadays perpetrate crocheted toilet roll covers and the like.

William Tell (ch. 17.5, p. 224)

Legendary Swiss patriot, who was ordered by the Austrian Gessler to shoot an apple from his son’s head as a punishment for refusing to make obeisance to Gessler’s hat. This legend forms the subject of a drama by Schiller and an opera by Rossini. Wodehouse had written a children’s version of the story, William Tell Told Again (A. & C. Black, November 1904).

hep (ch. 17.5, p. 224)

See Money for Nothing.

Take off those whiskers... (ch. 17.5, p. 224)

Miss Putnam is parodying the revelation scenes so beloved of Victorian melodrama.

spied strangers (ch. 17.5, p. 227)

British Parliamentary jargon: anyone not a member of the House of Commons is known as a ‘stranger’ when in the Chamber. Members of the public can watch debates from the Strangers’ Gallery, but there is no automatic right for them to do so. If an MP objects to the presence of journalists and public, he or she can say “I spy strangers!” which forces a vote on the motion “that strangers should now withdraw.”
In practice the House never goes into private session (the last time was during WWII), but such a motion is occasionally used as a device for interrupting a debate.

goop (ch. 17.6, p. 229) *

This term for a stupid person seems to have been coined by Gelett Burgess in his 1900 book Goops, and How to Be Them. Wodehouse used it frequently, and its appearance in Joy in the Morning, ch. 1, (1947) is cited as an example in the OED.

had fallen from Mrs. Gedge like a garment (ch. 17.6, p. 229) *

See A Damsel in Distress.

took it so big (ch. 17.6, p. 229)

Reacted so strongly – the OED records this as the first use of this expression.

Aix to Ghent (ch. 17.6, p. 229) °

Aachen (Germany, called Aix-la-Chapelle in French) and Ghent (Flanders). Packy’s confusion about the direction in which the news travelled in Browning’s poem is not unusual – cf. the parody in 1066 And All That.

See also the notes for Ice in the Bedroom.

I sprang to the stirrup, and Joris, and he;
I galloped, Dirck galloped, we galloped all three;
‘Good speed!’ cried the watch, as the gate-bolts undrew;
‘Speed!’ echoed the wall to us galloping through;
Behind shut the postern, the lights sank to rest,
And into the midnight we galloped abreast.

Not a word to each other; we kept the great pace
Neck by neck, stride by stride, never changing our place;
I turned in my saddle and made its girths tight,
Then shortened each stirrup, and set the pique right,
Rebuckled the cheek-strap, chained slacker the bit,
Nor galloped less steadily Roland a whit.

’Twas moonset at starting; but while we drew near
Lokeren, the cocks crew and twilight dawned clear;
At Boom, a great yellow star came out to see;
At Düffeld, ’twas morning as plain as could be;
And from Mecheln church-steeple we heard the half-chime,
So Joris broke silence with ‘Yet there is time!’

At Aerschot, up leaped of a sudden the sun,
And against him the cattle stood black every one,
To stare through the mist at us galloping past,
And I saw my stout galloper Roland at last,
With resolute shoulders, each butting away
The haze, as some bluff river headland its spray.

And his low head and crest, just one sharp ear bent back
For my voice, and the other pricked out on his track;
And one eye’s black intelligence,—ever that glance
O’er its white edge at me, his own master, askance!
And the thick heavy spume-flakes which aye and anon
His fierce lips shook upwards in galloping on.

By Hasselt, Dirck groaned; and cried Joris, ‘Stay spur!
Your Roos galloped bravely, the fault’s not in her,
We’ll remember at Aix’—for one heard the quick wheeze
Of her chest, saw the stretched neck and staggering knees,
And sunk tail, and horrible heave of the flank,
As down on her haunches she shuddered and sank.

So we were left galloping, Joris and I,
Past Looz and past Tongres, no cloud in the sky;
The broad sun above laughed a pitiless laugh,
’Neath our feet broke the brittle bright stubble like chaff;
Till over by Dalhem a dome-spire sprang white,
And ‘Gallop,’ gasped Joris, ‘for Aix is in sight!’

‘How they’ll greet us!’—and all in a moment his roan
Rolled neck and croup over, lay dead as a stone;
And there was my Roland to bear the whole weight
Of the news which alone could save Aix from her fate,
With his nostrils like pits full of blood to the brim,
And with circles of red for his eye-sockets’ rim.

Then I cast loose my buffcoat, each holster let fall,
Shook off both my jack-boots, let go belt and all,
Stood up in the stirrup, learned, patted his ear,
Called my Roland his pet-name, my horse without peer;
Clapped my hands, laughed and sang, any noise, bad or good,
Till at length into Aix Roland galloped and stood.

And all I remember is, friends flocking round
As I sat with his head ’twixt my knees on the ground;
And no voice but was praising this Roland of mine,
As I poured down his throat our last measure of wine,
Which (the burgesses voted by common consent)
Was no more than his due who brought good news from Ghent.

Robert Browning (1812–1889): How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix

Freedom of the City (ch. 17.6, p. 229)

In medieval London, “the freedom of the city” referred to the right of the free members of the guilds (later livery companies) to engage in commercial activities within the city. Only freemen who had completed an apprenticeship and attained the age of 21 years could become citizens of London. Nowadays, an honorary “freedom of the city” is conferred by many cities on distinguished individuals. The “freedom of the city” is also often bestowed on a military unit that has enjoyed a close relationship with a city and confers the right for the unit to march through the city with drums beating, colours flying and bayonets fixed.

many fathoms beneath the surface (ch. 17.6, p. 230) *

Usually Wodehouse uses “beneath the surface” either literally, as in “under water,” or in the typical figurative sense of “going beyond first appearances.” This is the only instance so far found where it is used to mean “deeply under the influence of alcohol.”

sweetness and light (ch. 17.7, p. 232) *

See Sam the Sudden, and be sure to follow the further link there.

A pretty good bag … a very fine bag (ch. 17.7, p. 232) *

Wodehouse uses “bag” here in the hunter’s sense of the quantity of birds, game, etc. shot in a single outing, hence figuratively the collection of the day’s successful outcomes. See Leave It to Psmith and Money for Nothing, ch. 5.3 (1928), for others.

Chapter 18

Sidney Carton (ch. 18, p. 234)

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

be a little sunbeam (ch. 18, p. 235)

Be a little sunbeam every where you go;
Help to drive out darkness from this world below;
You will see the shadows swiftly flee away,
If you’ll be a sunbeam every day.

Be a little sunbeam everywhere you go,
Shine, O shine for Jesus with a radiant glow;
Little ones may help this dark world to illume,
Sending golden sunshine through the gloom.

Be a little sunbeam shining bright and clear,
Some one may be wandering in the darkness near;
You may help to scatter shadows of the night,
Leading unto Christ who is the Light.

Be a little sunbeam though your light be small,
Let its gleam of beauty o’er the darkness fall,
You will see the shadows swiftly flee away,
If you’ll be a sunbeam every day.

Alice Jean Cleator & Grant Colfax Tullar: Be a little sunbeam (Sunday-school hymn)

milk of human kindness (ch. 18, p. 235)

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

Shakespeare: Macbeth I:v
See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse for many other uses of this phrase.

Why … does your nose turn up at the tip like that? (ch. 18, p. 237) *

See A Damsel in Distress for a partial list of other Wodehouse heroines with this feature.

raising Cain (ch. 18, p. 237) °

To make a disturbance. Cf. St. Louis Daily Pennant, 2 May 1840: “Why have we every reason to believe that Adam and Eve were both rowdies? Because they both raised Cain.”
The phrase originally seems to have been “raise the Devil”; possibly Cain was a more mentionable form of evil for 19th century Americans?

See also Biblia Wodehousiana.

This … is like being in heaven without going to all the bother and expense of dying. (ch. 18, p. 237) *

In America, I Like You, Wodehouse’s “semi-autobiographical” book of 1956, he repeated this simile verbatim, but in a non-romantic context, referring to being in New York City on his first visit to America in 1904.

thought I’d say Hullo and Goodbye (ch. 18, p. 238)

Cf. Catullus: ave atque vale. Swinburne used this as the title of his poem in memory of Baudelaire.

There beneath the Roman ruin where the purple flowers grow,
Came that “Ave atque Vale” of the poet’s hopeless woe,
Tenderest of Roman poets nineteen hundred years ago,

Alfred, Lord Tennyson: (1809–1892) Frater Ave Atque Vale

“just let me fingers flicker” (ch. 18, p. 238) *

Dolly Molloy, in Pearls, Girls and Monty Bodkin, ch. 4.2 (1972), is “a shoplifter of unique gifts, the quickness of whose hand never failed to deceive the eye. As Mr. Molloy admiringly put it, her fingers just flickered…” Once, in Ice in the Bedroom, ch. 5 (1961) she has just served a short sentence because “I didn’t let my fingers flicker quick enough.”

sun-boist (ch. 18, p. 238)

Sunburst – a piece of jewelry in the form of a conventional sun with rays around it.

applejack (ch. 18, p. 238)

American name for apple brandy. (Calvados is the French varietal.)


Wodehouse’s writings are copyright © Trustees of the Wodehouse Estate in most countries;
material published prior to 1929 is in USA public domain, used here with permission of the Estate.
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