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. These notes are by Neil Midkiff, with contributions from others as noted below.


MMSBMMSAMr. Mulliner Speaking was first published in the UK by Herbert Jenkins Ltd. on 30 April 1929, and appeared in the US published by Doubleday, Doran & Co. on 21 February 1930. The US edition retains most of the typically British spellings such as “bar-parlour” and “demeanour.”

The nine stories had appeared in magazines from 1924 through 1929, sometimes in slightly different versions. Further details about the magazine appearances can be found at Neil Midkiff’s web page of the Wodehouse short stories.

Page references below are to the Herbert Jenkins original UK edition, in which the text runs from p. 9 to p. 320.

The Reverent Wooing of Archibald

First published in the Strand magazine, August 1928, and in Cosmopolitan, September 1928.

the subject of the Modern Girl (p. 9)

The reckless impulsiveness of the modern girl had undone him.

A Gentleman of Leisure, ch. 23 (1910)

“I am quite confident that this girl is just the sort of harum-scarum, so-called ‘modern’ girl who is sure some day to involve herself in a really serious scandal.”

Jill the Reckless/The Little Warrior, ch. 5.3 (1920)

I’m a bit apt, as a rule, to give the modern girl a miss, but there was something different about Aline Hemmingway.

“Aunt Agatha Takes the Count” (1922; in The Inimitable Jeeves, 1923)

What nonsense, he reflected, these newspapers and people talked about the modern girl.

Leave It to Psmith, ch. 10.3 (1923)

It seemed to me that, if the modern girl goes about building sand-castles with kids she has only known for five minutes and probably without a proper introduction at that, then all that has been written about her is perfectly true.

“Fixing It for Freddie” (in Carry On, Jeeves, 1925)

When Anastatia got up and said good-bye with a final reference to her dressmaker, Jane shuddered at the depths of deceit to which the modern girl can sink.

“The Purification of Rodney Spelvin” (1925; in The Heart of a Goof, 1926/27)

She reached out a clutching hand, seized his lordship’s beard in a viselike grip, and tugged with all the force of a modern girl, trained from infancy at hockey, tennis, and Swedish exercises.

“Lord Emsworth Acts for the Best” (1926; in Blandings Castle and Elsewhere, 1935)

He seemed to be deploring the get-rich-quick spirit of the modern girl, who is not content to sit down and wait for her alimony.

The Small Bachelor, ch. 9 (1926/27)

And then who will write you your Sunday-paper articles on The Modern Girl or The Decay of Home-Life?

“The Hollywood Scandal” (in Louder and Funnier, 1932)

“Nelson,” he said at length, “what are your views on the Modern Girl?”

“The Amazing Hat Mystery” (1933; in Young Men in Spats, 1936)

the tendency to write articles about the Modern Girl

Preface to Blandings Castle and Elsewhere, 1935

“Now I know what the papers mean when they talk about the headstrong modern girl.”

Spring Fever, ch. 15 (1948)

Except for the tendency to write articles about the Modern Girl and allow his side-whiskers to grow, there is nothing an author today has to guard himself against more carefully than the Saga habit.

America, I Like You (1956)

He wrote short, bright articles on fly-fishing, healthy living, muscle development, great lovers through the ages and the modern girl.

Galahad at Blandings, ch. 3.1 (1965)

“And articles. He’s doing a series for me on the Modern Girl.”

“Jeeves and the Greasy Bird” (in Plum Pie, 1966/67)

six feet two in her dancing-shoes (p. 9)

Possibly an allusion to Mr. Goldbury’s song in Gilbert & Sullivan’s Utopia, Limited:

A wonderful joy our eyes to bless,
In her magnificent comeliness,
Is an English girl of eleven stone two,
And five foot ten in her dancing shoe!

as many curves as a Scenic Railway (p. 9)

Not just any railway, but a roller-coaster-like ride at amusement parks such as Coney Island, the White City, Chicago (1905), the Franco-British Exhibition, London (1908), and Palisades Park, New Jersey (1910).

“Shall we have some ice-cream, or would you rather go on the Scenic Railway?”

At Palisades Park, New Jersey in “Crowned Heads” (1914/15; in The Man With Two Left Feet, 1917)

“I can remember the days,” said the Gin-and-Ginger-ale, “when every other girl you met stood about six feet two in her dancing-shoes and had as many curves as a scenic railway.”

“The Reverent Wooing of Archibald” (Strand magazine version, 1928)

Add a tiptilted nose and a figure as full of curves as a scenic railway…

Daphne Dolores Morehead in Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, ch. 17 (1954)

“Very possibly the seeds of rebellion start to seethe within him when she speaks her mind, but he catches sight of her sideways or gets a glimpse of her hair, assuming for purposes of argument that she isn’t wearing a hat, or notices once again that she has as many curves as a scenic railway, and he feels that it’s worth putting up with a spot of mind-speaking in order to make her his own.”

Bertie, talking about Ginger Winship and Florence Craye in Much Obliged, Jeeves, ch. 12 (1971)

hot Scotch and lemon (p. 10)

See Meet Mr. Mulliner.

Meredith (p. 10)

George Meredith (1828–1909), English novelist of the Victorian era.

du Maurier (p. 10)

George du Maurier (1834–1896), Franco-British cartoonist and author.

restorative (p. 11)

See Sam the Sudden.

pinheaded (p. 11)

In the sense of “brainless, foolish” the OED has citations beginning in 1837.

“And if you want any further proof of your young man’s pin-headedness; mark that!”

Something New, ch. 3 (1915)

“Looking over the field, I think my most formidable rival is a pin-headed string bean of a fellow named Dwight Messmore.”

“Up from the Depths” (in Nothing Serious, 1950)

to make a canary a pair of cami-knickers (p. 11)

In both magazine versions, this is “a pair of stockings.” For cami-knickers see The Code of the Woosters.

Meadowes (p. 12)

Spelled “Meadows” in both magazine versions.

odd spats on (p. 12)

That is, an unmatched pair. See Right Ho, Jeeves.

Dante and Beatrice Fortinari (p. 12)

In both magazine versions, her name is given as Beatrice Portinari, which is apparently correct; see Wikipedia for Beatrice di Folco Portinari (1265–1290), the apparent inspiration for Dante Alighieri’s Vita Nuova and for the Beatrice in the Paradiso of his Divine Comedy.

first set eyeglass (p. 12)

Archibald Mulliner is thus characterized as a monocle-wearer, and therefore something of a dandy.

the Drones Club (p. 12)

See Leave It to Psmith.

yellowback novels (p. 13)

Cheaply produced novels of the Victorian era, often of romantic or sensational stories, designed to be sold at railway bookstalls and the like for entertainment rather than literary value.

daughter of a hundred Earls (p. 13)

See Heavy Weather.

old prune (p. 14)

Unlike the usually negative senses of “prune” (see Bill the Conqueror) and the affectionate “young prune” for some female characters (see Right Ho, Jeeves), there are a few instances of this ironic usage from a chap of the “dude” or “knut” type to a person of either sex:

 “But mark this, girl…”
 “I wish you wouldn’t call me ‘girl.’ ”
 “Mark this, old prune,” amended Freddie.

Freddie Threepwood to his cousin Gertrude in “Company for Gertrude” (as revised for Blandings Castle and Elsewhere, 1935)

“I’m awfully sorry, old prune, but I had rather planned to buzz down to Bottleton East to-morrow, to take a dekko at the martyred p.”

Archibald to Aurelia in “Archibald and the Masses” (1935; in Young Men in Spats, 1936)

“My dear old prune,” said Barmy…, “you get a lot more.”

Barmy in Wonderland, ch. 21 (1952)

Ascot (p. 14)

That is, the Royal Ascot races held each June at the Ascot Racecourse in Berkshire, England.

Park Street (p. 15)

See Young Men in Spats.

potty (p. 15)

In the sense of “crazy, mad, eccentric” the OED has citations beginning in 1920.

thinks Bacon wrote Shakespeare (p. 15)

See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

“he may have owed Shakespeare money” (p. 15)

Bacon, as you no doubt remember, wrote Shakespeare’s stuff for him and then, possibly because he owed the latter money or it may be from sheer good nature, allowed him to take the credit for it.

Joy in the Morning, ch. 23 (1946)

like a welsh rabbit at the height of its fever (p. 15)

For welsh rabbit see The Inimitable Jeeves; for height of its fever see Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen.

Burlington Arcade (p. 16)

See Bill the Conqueror.

lame-brained (p. 16)

This is the earliest citation for the term “lame-brained” in the OED.

an imitation of a hen laying an egg (p. 17)

Archibald’s skill is mentioned again in “The Knightly Quest of Mervyn” (in Mulliner Nights, 1933) and in “Archibald and the Masses” and “The Code of the Mulliners” (both 1935; in Young Men in Spats, 1936). Wodehouse seems to have gotten the idea from Charles Brookfield:

…the comedian (a middle-aged man inclined to embonpoint) laid an imaginary egg on the sofa, then ran round the room cackling a maternal pæan, and finally stood on the sofa and flapped the sides of his evening coat, and crowed himself purple in the face.

Random Reminiscences (1902)

“Others abide our question. Thou art free.” (p. 17)

See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

nail to the counter (p. 18)

To display in a public manner that something is false; from the former habit of nailing a counterfeit coin to a shop counter.

superannuated from Eton (p. 18)

That is, left his public school on the basis of his age. An 1817 citation in the OED states that “At nineteen years of age the scholars [at Eton] are superannuated, when they pass off some to Cambridge, and others to Oxford.” Psmith tells Mike that “I was superannuated last term” from Eton in “The Lost Lambs”, ch. 3 (1908; in Mike, 1909, and Mike and Psmith later).

Blood will tell (p. 19)

See If I Were You.

canny (p. 19)

Originally Scottish and northern English regional dialect adjective, meaning wise, cautious, prudent.

Meadowes, his man (p. 19)

In both magazine appearances, his name is spelled Meadows, and Archibald addresses him without the tag “my man” here.

Wodehouse used both spellings of the name principally for butlers and valets; see Young Men in Spats.

Bacon, for instance, never took a cocktail in his life (p. 20)

Francis Bacon (1561–1626), scientific philosopher, statesman, and author, lived well before the invention of cocktails; the oldest citation in the OED for this type of mixed alcoholic drink is from 1803.

just another of those unfortunate incidents (p. 20)

Wodehouse used “unfortunate incident” in its ordinary meaning of ‘unlucky happening’ several times, but only in a few cases did he apply it to persons.

To such a man women are merciless, and it speedily became an article of faith with the feminine population of this locality that Ramsden Waters was an unfortunate incident and did not belong.

“The Rough Stuff” (1920; in The Clicking of Cuthbert, 1922)

In under a week he had ploughed his way through the Unfortunate Incidents—of which class Peter Willard was the best example—and was challenging the fellows who kept three shots in five somewhere on the fairway.

“The Magic Plus Fours” (1922; in The Heart of a Goof, 1926)

an arm like the tentacle of an octopus (p. 21)

Wodehouse usually uses this simile for Lord Emsworth’s legs:

his only trouble in the world now was the difficulty he was experiencing in avoiding his lordship’s legs, which showed a disposition to pervade the compartment like the tentacles of an octopus.

Leave It to Psmith, ch. 7.1 (1923)

The process of bunging Lord Emsworth into a car was never a simple one, for on these occasions his long legs always took on something of the fluid quality of an octopus’s tentacles, but the task was accomplished at last…

Service With a Smile, ch. 10.2 (1961)

It was a little past two o’clock when Gally helped a still stupefied Lord Emsworth into the car, adjusted his legs, which always tended to behave like the tentacles of an octopus when he rode in any conveyance, and started on the homeward journey, easing his way through the London traffic with practised skill.

Galahad at Blandings, ch. 4.1 (1965)

“Clarence has a way of spreading his legs about like an octopus’s tentacles.”

A Pelican at Blandings, ch. 3.2 (1969)

Cryptograms (p. 21)

Coded messages or ciphers hidden within the text of Shakespeare’s plays were one of the ways that Baconians tried to prove his authorship. See, for instance, The Great Cryptogram by Ignatius Donnelly (1888), online at the Internet Archive.

went like a sirocco (p. 21)

A warm breeze from the south, in southern Europe. Magazine versions have went like a breeze here.

acid test (p. 21)

See Thank You, Jeeves.

sown the good seed (p. 21)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

putting himself outside a Scotch and soda (p. 21)

See The Inimitable Jeeves.

Gorgonzola (p. 22)

A strong-flavored, mold-veined blue cheese produced in the northern Italian town of the same name.

Weald of Sussex (p. 22)

A region of southeastern England, lying between the chalk North and South Downs, including parts of Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex, and Kent. Once forested, it gets its name from the Old English word for “woodland.”

the evening tie of a lifetime (p. 22)

One gathers that Wodehouse himself was less than adept at tying an evening bow tie; at least many of his characters struggle with the task, have to make several attempts, or need the help of a valet to adjust it when finished. In “For One Night Only” (1903), a friend of the poet-narrator says “One night … I tied a perfect bow; I’ve not been happy since it.”

differentiate it from a Babylonian orgy (p. 23)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

a fluid ounce of weed-killer (p. 23)

Simply an ounce of weed-killer in both magazine versions.

Milton’s well-known Epitaph on Shakespeare (p. 23)

See the poem at

The UK first edition has a printing error in the quotation of this poem on p. 24; the second ‘r’ of “starry” has dropped out, leaving “under a star y-pointing Pyramid”; the plates of the 1929 first printing and my 1940s ninth printing have this same fault.

name equivalents of the figure totals (p. 24)

If Wodehouse was quoting from a real book on the Baconian theory, it is not findable by a Google search or an Internet Archive search; search results for this phrase only point to this story.

Z equals twenty-four (p. 24)

In the earlier stages of the English language, I and J were considered as different forms of the same letter, as were U and V, resulting in a 24-letter alphabet.

Verulam (p. 24)

Francis Bacon was created Baron Verulam in 1618 by King James I.

dot … one (p. 25)

British slang verb meaning to punch or strike a person.

French windows (p. 26)

See Summer Lightning.

count seventeen drop one knit purl (p. 26)

The aunt’s code explanations sound to Archibald like knitting pattern instructions.

apple-pie bed (p. 26)

See Summer Lightning.

quicker on her pins (p. 27)

Faster on her feet; the colloquial use of pins for legs or feet is cited since the sixteenth century in the OED.

the work of a moment (p. 28)

See A Damsel in Distress.

messuages (p. 29)

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

Milton … “airy light” (p. 29)

From the opening of Book V of Paradise Lost:

When Adam wak’d; so custom’d; for his sleep
Was airy light from pure digestion bred…

bulldog … snoring (p. 30)

Reminiscent of Miss Silverton’s bulldog Percy “breathing stertorously through his tilted nose” in “A Room at the Hermitage” (1920; in Indiscretions of Archie, 1921).

green-baize cloth (p. 30)

See Right Ho, Jeeves.

blancmange (p. 30)

A quivery molded cold dessert, made of flavored and sweetened milk stiffened with starch or gelatin.

straight … from the horse’s mouth (p. 31)

Inside information, as if a racetrack tip were communicated by the horse itself.

Junior Lipstick (p. 31)

This club for younger women is mentioned before in “Came the Dawn” (1927; in Meet Mr. Mulliner, 1927/28), and betting on the outcome of an engagement takes place in that story too.

dying duck (p. 32)

See The Mating Season.

blue round the edges (p. 32)

See The Inimitable Jeeves.

Rocky Mountains … grizzly-bear shooting (p. 32)

See A Damsel in Distress.

a flat tyre (p. 33)

US texts have the spelling tire here. The OED has the figurative meaning of a dull person in citations from 1925 and 1927, so Wodehouse is as always up-to-date with colloquial English.

a wet smack (p. 33)

“She said to herself, ‘If you want my candid opinion, I believe the chap’s a wet smack.’ ”

The Luck of the Bodkins, ch. 3 (US edition, 1936)

“If George Holbeton had two ounces more brain, just two ounces more, he would be half-witted. The poor wet smack!”

J. B. Duff in Quick Service, ch. 13 (1940)

“An expression … signifying a young feller deficient in spirit and enterprise. What Mrs. Molloy would describe as a boob, a sap, or possibly a wet smack.”

Money in the Bank, ch. 23 (1942)

This being so, it may seem strange that a mere couple of minutes later he was back to his original view that the Sage of Harley Street was a poor fish, a wet smack, and a mere talker through the hat.

Tipton Plimsoll thinking of E. Jimpson Murgatroyd in Full Moon, ch. 3.4 (1947)

“What she meant, I think, was that she considered you a wet smack and a total loss.”

Florence Craye speaking to Bertie about his Aunt Agatha, in Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, ch. 13 (1954)

“I thought him a wet smack and a total loss, and all the time he was a sportsman who throws eggs at butlers and breaks windows with champagne bottles.”

Hermione Brimble, speaking of Augustus Mulliner in “The Right Approach” (in A Few Quick Ones, 1959)

old bean (p. 33)

Aurelia has absorbed the jargon of Archibald’s friends at the Drones Club, an ironically affectionate sobriquet.

monkey-wrench (p. 33)

In the sense of “a monkey wrench in the works”: something that jams up the smooth operation of machinery, or, as here, someone dull who prevents a party from “going”. See under spanner in Leave It to Psmith.

Earlswood (p. 33)

The Royal Earlswood Asylum for Idiots at Redhill, Surrey.

since Buttercup won the Lincolnshire (p. 33)

The Lincolnshire Handicap, run in March, marks the start of the flat racing season. Since the closure of Lincoln racecourse, it has also been run at Doncaster. [MH]

Once again, Wodehouse uses fictitious horse names in real races to avoid being specific about dates.

as if my ideal man was the hero of a Viennese operetta (p. 34)

In other words, as if she should be singing “My Hero” from The Chocolate Soldier (1908) by Oscar Strauss; see The Mating Season.

the bee’s roller-skates (p. 34)

An elaboration of earlier slang, the bee’s knees, dating from about 1910, for something superlatively rare and special. So far, no earlier citation of this phrase has been found, so it may be original with Wodehouse.

the Black Bottom (p. 35)

An American jazz dance from the 1920s, originating with African Americans in New Orleans, spreading to the rural South, then making it to Broadway in a 1926 George White revue.

woofly gruffle (p. 35)

Wodehouse himself had owned a bulldog, so his descriptions of their habits and sounds can be taken as authentic. See Very Good, Jeeves for more.

“She is coming, my own, my sweet!” (p. 36)

From Tennyson’s Maud; see The Inimitable Jeeves for more of the poem in context.

Salvini’s Othello (p. 36)

Tommaso Salvini (1829–1915), Italian actor whose most famous role was Othello; even when playing in England and the United States with an English-speaking company, he would deliver his own lines in an Italian translation.

Mrs. Siddons … Macbeth (p. 36)

Sarah Siddons (1755–1831), a Welsh-born actress famous for portraying Lady Macbeth and other imperious roles.

maternal pæan … run round the room, flapping the sides of his coat … crowing himself purple in the face (p. 37)

See the quotation from Charles Brookfield, page 17, above.

brio (p. 37)

An Italian term used in music, meaning animation, vivacity.

divine fire (p. 37)

Artistic inspiration, creativity. An allusion to the legend of Prometheus.

Kriessler (p. 38)

An error in the UK edition; in both magazine appearances and the US book, correctly spelled Kreisler, referring to Fritz Kreisler (1875–1962), Austrian-born American violinist and composer.

hotsy-totsy (p. 39)

satisfactory, just right, delightful; US slang first recorded in a 1924 Ira Gershwin lyric.

stuffed eelskin (p. 39)

See The Inimitable Jeeves.

The Man Who Gave Up Smoking

First published in the Strand magazine, March 1929, and, very slightly cut, in Liberty, March 23, 1929.

little group of serious thinkers (p. 41)

On the edge of the mob farthest away from me a gang of top-hatted chappies were starting an open-air missionary service; nearer at hand an atheist was letting himself go with a good deal of vim, though handicapped a bit by having no roof to his mouth; while in front of me there stood a little group of serious thinkers with a banner labelled ‘Heralds of the Red Dawn’

“Comrade Bingo” (1922; in The Inimitable Jeeves, 1923)

Everybody seemed to be fighting everybody else, and at the back of the hall a group of serious thinkers, in whom I seemed to recognize the denizens of Biscuit Row, had begun to dismember the chairs and throw them at random.

“The Long Arm of Looney Coote” (1923; in Ukridge, 1924)

Along its narrow High Street the only signs of life visible were a cat stropping its backbone against the Jubilee Watering Trough, some flies doing deep-breathing exercises on the hot window sills, and a little group of serious thinkers who, propped up against the wall of the Carmody Arms, were waiting for that establishment to open.

Rudge-in-the-Vale, in Money for Nothing, ch. 1.1 (1928)

Our little group of serious thinkers in the bar-parlour of the Anglers Rest had been discussing a breach of promise case to which the papers were giving a good deal of prominence at the moment: and a Whisky Sour had raised the question of how these fellows did it.

“The Code of the Mulliners” (1935; in Young Men in Spats, 1936)

We follow the war pretty closely in the bar parlour of the “Angler’s Rest,” and not much develops that escapes the notice of the little group of serious thinkers which, presided over by Mr. Mulliner, assembles there nightly to discuss the progress of hostilities.

“Shock Dogs” (in Punch, February 14, 1940)

And when it had become clear to him that it was through her instrumentality that this unwanted addition was being made to the strength of Mrs. Cork’s little group of serious thinkers, he was more amazed than ever.

Money in the Bank, ch. 10 (1942)

Throughout the day and all through dinner Gally had been bringing a brain trained by years of mixing with the members of the Pelican Club to bear on the problems confronting his little group of serious thinkers.

Pigs Have Wings, ch. 8.4 (1952)

The little group of serious thinkers in the bar parlor of the Angler’s Rest were talking about twins.

“George and Alfred” (in Plum Pie, 1966/67)

talking Rot about smoking (p. 42)

In both magazine versions, rot is in lowercase. The slang word meaning ‘nonsense’ is cited since 1846 in the OED.

two drops of nicotine on the tongue of a dog (p. 43)

The cat to which I allude is the one that has two drops of nicotine placed on its tongue and instantly passes beyond the veil.
It is pitiful to think that that is how these men spend their lives, putting drops of nicotine on the tongues of cats day after day after day. Slaves to a habit, is the way I look at it. But if you tell them that and urge them to pull themselves together and throw off the shackles, they just look at you with fishy eyes and mumble something about it can’t be done. Of course it can be done. All it requires is will power. If they were to say to themselves “I will not start putting nicotine on cats’ tongues till after lunch” it would be a simple step to knocking off during the afternoon, and by degrees they would find that they could abstain altogether. The first cat of the day is the hard one to give up. Conquer the impulse for the after-breakfast cat, and the battle is half won.

“Smokers of the World, Unite” (in Punch, August 4, 1954; slightly adapted in Over Seventy, ch. 12.4, 1957)

Scantlebury Square (p. 44)

A fictitious address.

like all the Mulliners (p. 44)

See Meet Mr. Mulliner for more of the claims made for his whole family.

hand the mitten (p. 45)

See The Code of the Woosters.

Fulham Road (p. 46)

The Fulham Road is the present-day A308 as it heads southwest in a straight line through Chelsea; its designation changes to A304 through Coleridge Gardens and Fulham.

restorative (p. 46)

See Sam the Sudden.

elevenses (p. 46)

A meal, usually light, taken about 11 a.m. Not typically sought in a saloon bar.

At eleven o’clock he has his ‘elevenses,’ consisting of coffee, cream, more bread and more butter.

“A Slice of Life” (1926; in Meet Mr. Mulliner, 1927/28)

a quid … ten bob (p. 47)

George’s first request is for a pound sterling, then for ten shillings (half a pound). Multiply by roughly 50 to account for inflation from 1929 to 2023.

staggered and would have fallen (p. 47)

See Ice in the Bedroom.

fruitarian (p. 48)

See the early story “How Kid Brady Broke Training” (1905) and its endnotes. That story and this one seem to be the only two mentions in Wodehouse.

lodestar of his life (p. 48)

Literally, a star that assists in navigation, especially the pole star; figuratively, anything on which one’s attention or hopes are fixed.

beaten only by a short head (p. 48)

Horseracing jargon for a close finish.

some loving father on the Steppes of Russia (p. 49)

See Full Moon.

pyridine (p. 50)

Pyridine itself is an organic liquid, C5H5N, hexagonal in structure like a benzene ring with one of the CH groups replaced by a nitrogen atom. Nicotine is a pyridine alkaloid, naturally produced in the tobacco plant, with a pyridine ring as part of its molecular structure.

the colouring matter of the blood (p. 50)

That is, hemoglobin.

Academy picture (p. 50)

A painting to be entered in the annual summer competition/exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts.

Wodehouse parodied the explanations and speculations of art critics at the Academy in two early humorous articles: “Academy Notes” (1904) and a 1905 sequel.

experienced by the historian Gibbon (p. 51)

I will not dissemble the first emotions of joy on the recovery of my freedom, and, perhaps, the establishment of my fame. But my pride was soon humbled, and a sober melancholy was spread over my mind, by the idea that I had taken an everlasting leave of an old and agreeable companion….

Autobiographic Memoirs of Edward Gibbon, p. 103

leaving undone something that he ought to be doing (p. 51)

An echo of the General Confession from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer: “We have left undone those things which we ought to have done.”

ukulele (p. 51)

Originally developed in Hawaii in the 1880s, the ukulele became a craze in the mainland US after the Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915 in San Francisco. [MH] In Britain, both the original version and a variant called the banjolele were popular. Bertie Wooster played the banjolele: see Thank You, Jeeves for more.

“Ol’ Man River” (p. 51)

 “It’s about that song ‘Old Man River,’ ” said the Small Bass.
 “ ‘Ol’ Man River,’ ” insisted the Light Lager. “He says it’s ‘Old Man River,’ I say it’s ‘Ol’ Man River.’ Who’s right?”
 “In my opinion,” said Mr. Mulliner, “both of you. Mr. Oscar Hammerstein, who wrote that best of all lyrics, preferred ‘Ol’,’ but I believe the two readings are considered equally correct.”

“Big Business” (in A Few Quick Ones, 1959)

Reginald Mulliner sings this Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein song from Show Boat (1927) in the story cited above. Many other Wodehouse characters perform or cite it as well:

I played five bars of “Old Man River” with something of abandon.

Thank You, Jeeves, ch. 1 (1934)

 “ ‘Comb this dog! See that cook—’ ”
 “That sounds like a bit out of ‘Old Man River.’ ”

Quick Service, ch. 15 (1940)

 “Well, you kissed the barman, if you remember, and then you and he sang ‘Old Man River’ in close harmony.”

French Leave, ch. 10.2 (1956/59)

Anyone who has ever heard the curate at a village concert rendering ‘Old Man River’, particularly the ‘He don’t plant taters, he don’t plant cotton’ passage, with that odd effect of thunder rumbling in the distance, has little doubt that his spiritual needs are in safe hands.

Over Seventy, ch. 3.4 (1957)

 “I’m a sort of ‘Hey, you’ or dogsbody like the chap in ‘Old Man River.’ ”
 “Lift that trunk?”
 “Shift that bale. Exactly.”

Ice in the Bedroom, ch. 3 (1961)

All he could do in the way of alleviating the agony that seared his soul was to play the accordion, always his solace in times of stress, and he had worked his way through “Over the Rainbow” and was preparing to tackle “Old Man River,” when the door flew open and Gladys bounded in, her manner animated and eyes shining, it seemed to him from a quick glance, like twin stars.

“A Good Cigar Is a Smoke” (in Plum Pie, 1966/67)

to promote as far as we can the happiness of others (p. 51)

I ought to endeavour to promote the happiness of others … simply because a maxim which excludes it cannot be comprehended as a universal law….

Immanuel Kant, The Metaphysic of Morals (1797)

on the nod (p. 52)

This sentence is among the OED citations, beginning in 1882, for this phrase in its slang senses of “on credit” or “free of charge”; here Wodehouse clearly means “free.”

Belgian griffon (p. 53)

A toy dog, also called the Brussels Griffon by the American Kennel Club, described as “a sensitive companion for discerning grownups.”

mild-and-bitter (p. 55)

A mixture of two kinds of ale, one with less and one with more hops, to give an average level of bitterness.

not to be comforted (p. 55)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

Something attempted, something done (p. 56)

Quoting Longfellow; see Right Ho, Jeeves.

quivering like a frightened mustang (p. 57)

Wodehouse mentions the wild horse of the North American West, descended from horses brought by Spanish settlers, in several stories and books:

There had been a time in his hot youth when he had sprinted like an untamed mustang in pursuit of volatile Pathans in Indian hill wars, but Time, increasing his girth, had taken from him the taste for such exercise.

Mike, ch. 46 (ch. 16 of 1908 serial The Lost Lambs; 1909 in book form)

“Where others stroll, Comrade Jackson legs it like a highly-trained mustang of the prairie.”

Psmith in the City, ch. 26 (serial as The New Fold, 1909; 1910 in book form)

“You will be safer and happier when you are rounding up cows on your mustang.”

Psmith, Journalist, ch. 11 (1909/15)

“How well you were running at the footer-practice just now. Like a mustang.”

“Pillingshot’s Paper” (1911)

“Is that your contribution? What is the subject? ‘Mustangs I have Met?’ ”

The Prince and Betty, ch. 17 (US edition, 1912)

When the French temperament sees a man running rapidly and pointing into the middle distance and hears him shouting “Là! Là! Vite! Vite!” it does not stop to make formal inquiries. It sprints like a mustang.

“The Tuppenny Millionaire” (1912; in The Man Upstairs, 1914)

Only the emotion I spotted in the words wasn’t wrath or resentment—or whatever it is that makes an old gentleman weighing two hundred pounds leg it like a mustang of the prairie after a kid of ten and try to get home on him with an oak walking-stick—it was triumph.

“The Test Case” (1915)

I charged in like a mustang of the prairie and nearly stubbed my toe on young blighted Edwin, the Boy Scout.

“Jeeves Takes Charge” (1916; in Carry On, Jeeves, 1925)

Tradition says that he started in a modest way by holding horses at the doors, and a moving historical picture might be painted of the future king of the English stage, trying to read Burbage the opening scene of a comedy while the latter flitted past on his way to the Mermaid Tavern (the Elizabethan Lambs Club), and at the same time endeavoring to elude the attentions of a peevish mustang who was trying to bite him in the back of the neck.

“All About Shakespeare” (1916)

The editor holds me on a leash till about the end of the month and then he suddenly sicks me on with a whoop, and I sprint from theatre to theatre like a mustang of the prairie.

“Probably the Beginning of an Epidemic” (1917)

She was willing to permit even American expletives during the sinking-in process of her great idea, much as a broad-minded cowboy might listen indulgently to the squealing of a mustang during the branding process.

Piccadilly Jim, ch. 2 (1917)

…when, just as he was about to go in to dinner, he met her in the lobby and she smiled brightly at him and informed him that her eye was now completely recovered, he shied away like a startled mustang of the prairie….

“A Room at the Hermitage” (1920; in Indiscretions of Archie, 1921)

I turned round, humming a blithe melody, and Jeeves shied like a startled mustang.

“Aunt Agatha Takes the Count” (1922; adapted in The Inimitable Jeeves, 1923)

I waited, all of a twitter, for what seemed hours, and then suddenly there was a confused noise without and something round and blue and buttony shot through the back-door and buzzed for the archway like a mustang.

“The Purity of the Turf” (1922; in The Inimitable Jeeves, 1923)

“At the boat-house in—say—six and a quarter minutes,” said Psmith with a gentle smile, and pranced into the house like a long-legged mustang.

Leave It to Psmith, ch. 8.4 (1923)

“You imagine ’e’s an ’ell of a josser, don’t you—going to concerts with one hand and ridin’ mustangs with the other. Well, you’re wrong, see?”

If I Were You, ch. 19 (1931)

He ambled up like a courtly mustang.

“Fate” (1931; in Young Men in Spats, 1936)

And then, as I turned over, a sharp howl broke from my lips, causing Aunt Dahlia to shy like a startled mustang.

Right Ho, Jeeves, ch. 20 (1934)

“First I meet Spink-Bottle racing along the corridor like a mustang.”

The Code of the Woosters, ch. 7 (1938)

“It would send every thinking housewife in England rushing to her grocer like a stampeding mustang, screaming for the stuff.”

Quick Service, ch. 2 (1940)

I emitted a sharp gurgle, and shied like a startled mustang.

Joy in the Morning, ch. 1 (1946)

“Beach,” said Gally, wasting no time in courteous preliminaries, “pick up those flat feet of yours and race like a mustang to the west wood and remove that pig.”

Pigs Have Wings, ch. 6.3 (1952)

And with these words he pranced off like a mustang, leaving me to face the changed conditions alone.

Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, ch. 10 (1954)

He not only ran like a mustang and made the catch, but went on running right out of the ball park and into the woods beyond, and has not been seen since.

“America Day by Day” in Punch, June 4, 1958

Reason returning to her throne (p. 58)

See Hot Water.

cold shower (p. 58)

See A Damsel in Distress.

mahl-stick (p. 58)

A light stick used by painters as a “bridge” over the canvas, as a support for the brush hand; typically it has a padded leather ball at one end.

restore its tissues (p. 59)

So far, this is the only usage found of this phrase in reference to animals. See Sam the Sudden.

in the kitchen, singing hymns (p. 59)

She hated the cheap furniture of the little parlour, the penetrating contralto of the cook singing hymns in the kitchen, and the ubiquitousness of her small brother.

Claire Fenwick in Uneasy Money, ch. 3 (1915/16)

One of the first things I had had to put my foot down about, on arriving at the cottage, was Brinkley’s habit of singing hymns in the kitchen while I was trying to play fox trots on the banjolele in the sitting room.

Thank You, Jeeves, ch. 14 (1934)

the patine lacks vitality (p. 60)

The term patine or patina is usually used for a thin layer of colored film on the surface of metals such as bronze and copper, such as the greenish color of the Statue of Liberty. I have not found definitions that would be applicable to a newly-painted canvas in oils.

It, too, was a classical picture, and seemed to my untutored mind very like the other one, but presuming that some sort of art criticism was expected of me I said, “I like the patine.”
 That, too, is generally a safe bet, but it appeared that I had said the wrong thing, for the relative snorted audibly.
 “No, you don’t, you miserable blighter. You don’t even know what a patine is.”

“Jeeves Makes an Omelet” (1959; in A Few Quick Ones)

significant form (p. 60)

See The Mating Season.

“The thing is absolute drivel. It has no dramatic coherence. It lacks motivation and significant form.”

The Mating Season, ch. 9 (1949)

“I’m doing you a bouillabaisse for lunch. An experiment, but I think it will have significant form.”

Bring On the Girls, ch. 8 (1953)

“Well, sir, I would not go so far as to apply to it the adjective which I fancy you have in mind, but it seemed to me a somewhat immature production, lacking in significant form.”

Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, ch. 1 (1954)

Talking of Nantucket, one of New York’s dramatic critics was caught there by the second hurricane. He gave it a bad notice. It apparently split into two when it got up there, and in his review in next day's paper he was rather severe about its lack of significant form and uncertain direction of interest.

“Carol and Edna” (in Punch, September 29, 1954; adapted in America, I Like You and Over Seventy as well)

the work of a moment (p. 61)

See A Damsel in Distress.

spacious trouser-seat (p. 63)

Blair Eggleston was in the servants’ quarters of the Château, broodingly brushing the spacious seat of the Senator’s dress trousers.

Hot Water, ch. 7 (1932)

To the circumstance of his having so recently come down with a bump on his spacious trousers-seat must be attributed the swiftness with which Beach now got an idea that seemed to him to solve everything.

Heavy Weather, ch. 9 (1933)

His first intimation that he was not alone with nature came when Charlie slapped him genially on his spacious trouser seat.

Do Butlers Burgle Banks?, ch. 8 (1968)

joie-de-vivre (p. 65)

French: joy of living, exuberance, delight in being alive.

certificate (p. 66)

That is, certifying that Ignatius is insane and needs to be committed to an institution.

Scotch Express (p. 66)

See The Inimitable Jeeves.

guineas (p. 67)

See Ukridge.

fed to the tonsils (p. 68)

See Uncle Fred in the Springtime.

A boy’s best friend is his mother (p. 69)

See Piccadilly Jim.

the milk of human kindness (p. 70)

From Macbeth: see Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

sweetness and light (p. 71)

See Uncle Fred in the Springtime.

with charity towards all, with malice towards none (p. 71)

A paraphrase of the closing of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865.

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds….

gumboil (p. 71)

See The Mating Season.

dished (p. 71)

Slang senses of this word, meaning ruined or “done for”, are cited in the OED since 1798, but their latest citation is from 1880.

The Story of Cedric

First published in the Strand magazine, May 1929, and in Liberty, May 11, 1929.

Bon Ton Drapery Stores (p. 75)

From the French bon ton, meaning of good style or breeding, high class, the height of fashion.

a grave sip of hot Scotch and lemon (p. 75)

A good example of a transferred epithet: instead of sipping it gravely, the adverb is changed to an adjective and applied to the object rather than the described action.

yellow shoes (p. 75)

Although some shoe leather was given a yellow dye in tanning, this might well be a way of referring to the natural yellow-brown color of undyed leather, commonly used in casual footwear. Note the reference to “tan shoes” on p. 81, below.

the blood of the Lukyns is hot (p. 75)

“The blood of the Dreevers boils furiously at the idea. Listen! You can hear it sizzling.”

The Intrusions of Jimmy/A Gentleman of Leisure, ch. 27 (1910)

“I admit that the old Berserk blood of the Smiths boiled at that juncture.”

The Prince and Betty, ch. 23 (US edition, 1912)

“The Berserk blood of the MacGinnises is up.”

The Little Nugget, ch. 14.1 (1913)

It seemed to take Cyril a moment or two really to grasp the thing, and then you could hear the blood of the Bassington-Bassingtons begin to sizzle.

“Jeeves and the Chump Cyril” (1918; in The Inimitable Jeeves, ch. 10, 1923)

For some unexplained reason the generous blood of the Belphers boiled over, and then—zing!

A Damsel in Distress, ch. 6 (1919)

The fighting blood of the Moffams was now thoroughly stirred.

“First Aid for Looney Biddle” (1920; in Indiscretions of Archie, ch. 14, 1921)

They had brought the hot blood of the Fishes to the boil, and now, face to face with her, he did not hesitate.

Summer Lightning, ch. 16 (1929)

The blood of the Carlisles was up.

Hot Water, ch. 15 (1932)

The blood of the Punters is hot, and very little is required to steam it up.

“The Amazing Hat Mystery” (1933; in Young Men in Spats, 1936)

The hot blood of the McTavishes boiled over.

“Farewell to Legs” (1935; in Lord Emsworth and Others, 1937)

“Because he’s a darned ivory-domed, pig-headed son of an army mule,” cried Miss Blossom, the hot blood of the Hoboken Murphys boiling in her veins.

The Luck of the Bodkins, ch. 15 (1935)

It was a process which involved a close proximity between them, and it was a dangerous moment for a girl who had made so profound an impression on a Fotheringay-Phipps to come into close proximity with him, for the blood of the Fotheringay-Phippses is notoriously hot.

Barmy in Wonderland, ch. 11 (1952)

The blood of the Woosters is hot, and I was about to tell him in set terms what I thought of his bally feeling, when I suddenly spotted what it was that was making him crab the act.

Jeeves in the Offing, ch. 15 (1960)

St. James Street (p. 76)

More usually called St. James’s Street, as it is in the Strand appearance of this story. Connecting Piccadilly to St. James’s Palace and Pall Mall, it is known as the location of several gentlemen’s clubs (including Boodle’s, Brooks’s, the Carleton Club, and White’s), which no doubt explains the presence of the bachelor types mentioned in the story.

the Albany (p. 76)

See Young Men in Spats.

Mussolini (p. 77)

Benito Mussolini was appointed Prime Minister of Italy in 1922, having founded the Italian Fascist Party in 1919. By the time this story was written in 1929, he was effectively the dictator of Italy, sometimes holding multiple administration offices in a one-party government. At this time, he was probably best known outside Italy as “the man who made the trains run on time.”

morning-clothes (p. 78)

That is, formal morningwear; see under spats in Right Ho, Jeeves.

boots (p. 78)

See Thank You, Jeeves.

Lord Knubble of Knopp (p. 78)

A character frequently mentioned by Wodehouse on the periphery of his stories; this reference is the first mention of him. He is a guest of Sir Sutton Hartley-Wesping in “The Smile That Wins” (1931; in Mulliner Nights, 1933), and is mentioned as the godfather of Eustace Mulliner in “Open House” (1932; in Mulliner Nights). He is the tennis partner and suitor of Amanda Biffen in “Big Business” (1952; in A Few Quick Ones, 1959), in which he is described as a horse-faced young man with large ears and no chin, residing at Knubble Hall or Knubble Towers. His name is dropped by Jack Fosdyke in “Feet of Clay” (1950; in Nothing Serious) and by Wodehouse in the dedication of Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit (1954) and the Foreword to Over Seventy (1957).

Grosvenor Square (p. 78)

See Piccadilly Jim.

Achilles statue in the Park (p. 79)

The eighteen-foot bronze statue of Achilles was erected in 1822 in Hyde Park as a tribute to the Duke of Wellington after his victory over Napoleon; its head is modeled after the Duke himself, but the body is a classical nude figure. More at the Royal Parks website.

Morning Post (p. 79)

See Right Ho, Jeeves.

tramp cyclist (p. 79)

See The Mating Season.

Cohen Bros. (p. 79)

See Sam the Sudden.

sponge-bag trousers (p. 80)

See The Code of the Woosters.

yellow perils (p. 80)

Here, the term refers to any yellow objects that are threatening or distasteful. The term is unfortunately derived from an older offensive usage for the perceived threat in political, social, or military terms posed by Asians, especially the Chinese.

tan shoes (p. 81)

Reinforcing the earlier speculation that the shoes are natural, undyed leather.

the height of the Season (p. 81)

The ‘season’ was the period of the year when aristocratic families moved into their London houses and took their daughters to a series of balls to meet eligible young men. [MH]

Bucks … Wilts … Hants (p. 82)

Conventional abbreviations for Buckinghamshire, Wiltshire, and Hampshire (see Meet Mr. Mulliner) respectively.

Exalted Personage (p. 82)

The Prince of Wales at the time, the eldest son of King George V and Queen Mary, was credited with several fashion innovations, including the one in the following note. Briefly reigning as King Edward VIII in 1936, he abdicated in order to marry, and for the remainder of his life was the Duke of Windsor.

 “It may interest you to learn that when I was at Le Touquet the Prince of Wales buzzed into the Casino one night with soft silk shirt complete.”
 “His Royal Highness, sir, may permit himself a certain licence which in your own case—”

“Clustering Round Young Bingo” (1925; in Carry On, Jeeves, 1925/27)

white waistcoat with a dinner-jacket (p. 82)

Traditionally, white waistcoats are worn with a white tie and black tailcoat, the most formal evening dress; for semi-formal evening dress a dinner-jacket (called a tuxedo jacket in America) is worn with a black tie and either a black waistcoat or a black cummerbund.

ffrench-ffarmiloes (p. 83)

See Meet Mr. Mulliner.

Brigade of Guards (p. 84)

A former unit of the British Army, renamed the Guards Division in 1968. It comprised such elite units as the Grenadier Guards, from which the Buckingham Palace sentries are chosen.

the second son of a Marquis (p. 84)

The younger son of a Marquis (also spelled Marquess) has the courtesy title of Lord, used with his given name in oral address, such as “Lord John.”

characteristic of the Mulliners as a family (p. 84)

See Meet Mr. Mulliner for more of the claims made for his whole family.

Valley Fields (p. 85)

See Sam the Sudden.

registering (p. 88)

Displaying an emotion by a facial expression; see Right Ho, Jeeves.

windshields (p. 88)

A humorous references to eyeglasses.

his eyes gleamed with a strange light (p. 89)

See also p. 163, below.

Ukridge arrived in my rooms at midnight, his eyes gleaming through their pince-nez with a strange light.

“The Début of Battling Billson” (1923; in Ukridge, 1924)

The Souper’s worst suspicions had obviously been confirmed. His eyes shone with a strange light.

“Jeeves and the Spot of Art” (1929; in Very Good, Jeeves, 1930)

“As soon as the regulator is full,” he said, his eyes shining with a strange light, “the float-valve shuts off the influx.”

Doctor Sally, ch. 16 (1932)

As he spoke these words, a feverish animation swept over Tuppy. His eyes glittered with a strange light, and he thumped the bed violently with his fist, nearly catching me a juicy one on the leg.

Right Ho, Jeeves, ch. 12 (1934)

Through the streaming suds you can see that his eyes are glowing with a strange light.

Bertie thinking of Archimedes in The Code of the Woosters, ch. 10 (1938)

And next morning Bingo, with a strange light on his face, strode into P. P. Purkiss’ private office without knocking, banged the desk with his fist and said he wished to see an additional ten fish in his pay envelope from now on and to suit everybody’s convenience the new arrangement would come into effect on the following Saturday.

The Mating Season, ch. 12 (1949)

Horace Bewstridge met his accusing glare without a tremor. His face was like granite. His eyes shone with a strange light.

“Excelsior” (in Nothing Serious, 1950)

I was expecting some haughty response to this crack, for I knew her to be a girl of spirit, but she ignored the rebuke, and I saw that her eyes, which are bright and hazel in colour, were resting on me with a strange light in them.

Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, ch. 3 (1954)

Her eyes gleamed with a strange light.
“Bags I first go at it!”

Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, ch. 12 (1954)

But as she told her sensational story, animation came into his face and the eye which was still open gleamed with a strange light.

French Leave, ch. 10.4 (1956)

And presently Lord Uffenham, curled up in his chair with his Wonders of Bird Life, saw his nephew-by-marriage-to-be enter, his face shining with a strange light.

Something Fishy/The Butler Did It, ch. 18 (1957)

Oofy’s eyes are like those of a dead fish, but if he thinks he sees a way of adding to his disgustingly large bank balance, they glitter with a strange light.

“Oofy, Freddie and the Beef Trust” (in A Few Quick Ones, 1959)

He was a light mauve in color, and his eyes, generally so mild, glittered behind their pince-nez with a strange light.

Service With a Smile, ch. 6.3 (1961)

Biff rose and tapped him impressively on his gleaming shirt front. His eyes were glowing with a strange light.

Frozen Assets/Biffen’s Millions, ch. 3 (1964)

His pince-nez were gleaming with a strange light.

Lord Emsworth in Galahad at Blandings, ch. 12.3 (1965)

A loud gasp escaped Bingo. A passer-by would have noticed that his eyes were shining with a strange light.

“Stylish Stouts” (in Plum Pie, 1966/67)

hunting-cheetah of the Indian jungle (p. 90)

Wodehouse is somewhat more accurate in locating the cheetah in the Indian jungle than he was with the puma (see Full Moon). Though now found most frequently in Africa, the cheetah historically ranged through the Middle East and into central India, although they are more commonly found in grasslands and mountains than in tropical forests, as they prefer good visibility to spot their prey. After the time this story was written, the cheetah became extinct in India in the middle of the 20th century, and as of 2022 has been experimentally reintroduced there.

G. K. Chesterton falling on a sheet of tin (p. 90)

English author Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874–1936) was a large man, standing 6′4″ tall (1.93 m) and weighing about 286 lb. (130 kg). Wodehouse made a few other jokes about his size:

an aviator who has made the first non-stop flight round G. K. Chesterton

“The Decay of Falconry” (in Louder and Funnier, 1932)

“Flesho! They guarantee it to produce firm, healthy flesh on the most sparsely-covered limbs in next to no time. It comes in two sizes, the five-shilling (or large size) and the smaller at half-a-crown. G. K. Chesterton writes that he used it regularly for years.”

“The Heel of Achilles” (in The Clicking of Cuthbert, UK edition, 1922)

Earlier references to falling on a sheet of tin were not so personal:

If he had upset a cart-load of coal on to a sheet of tin it could not, so it seemed to him in the disordered state of his nerves, have made more noise.

The Head of Kay’s, ch. 17 (1905)

The night was as still as only an English summer night can be, and the first clang of the clapper sounded like a million iron girders falling from a height on to a sheet of tin.

The Lost Lambs, ch. 16 (1908; as ch. 46 in Mike, 1909)

Not ordinarily noisy, like a ton of coal falling on to a sheet of tin, but really noisy.

Psmith, Journalist, ch. 14 (1909/15)

“Why, if Scobell smashed there’d be a noise like the Singer Building had fallen onto a sheet of tin.”

The Prince and Betty (1912)

Your main aim is to say as much as you can before you are cut off, or before your partner in the chat develops either deafness or that high throaty voice which sounds as if he were dropping something rapidly on a sheet of tin.

“The Charms of Country Life” (1915)

A sound like the sudden descent of an iron girder on a sheet of tin, followed by a jangling of bells, a wailing of tortured cats, and the noise of a few steam-riveters at work, announced to their trained ears that the music had begun.

“Came the Dawn” (1927; in Meet Mr. Mulliner, 1927/28)

Jane (p. 91)

A conventional name for a parlourmaid; see If I Were You.

rose to a crescendo (p. 92)

See Heavy Weather.

off the Nore (p. 93)

A sandbank in the Thames Estuary; a naval command for the eastern area of England was named after the Nore until 1961.

Morris dances (p. 94)

A type of English folk dancing involving rhythmic stepping and clapping.

“Some of them are acting a Scout’s play, sir; some are doing Cone Exercises; one or two are practising deep breathing; and the rest are dancing an Old English Morris Dance.”

The Swoop!, part II, ch. 1 (1909)

Hard, prosaic stuff had gone to the making of T. Paterson Frisby. You didn’t find him flinging work to the winds and going out and dancing Morris dances in Cornhill just because the sun happened to be shining.

Big Money, ch. 4.1 (1931)

All the Mulliners are clear thinkers (p. 96)

See Meet Mr. Mulliner for more of the claims made for his whole family.

Douglas Fairbanks (p. 96)

See A Damsel in Distress.

as the hart pants after the water-brooks (p. 98)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

Debrett’s Peerage (p. 99)

See Lord Emsworth and Others.

Red Republicanism (p. 100)

A political philosophy advocating a radical approach to control of the government by the people and their elected representatives rather than by an aristocracy or oligarchy.

drones (p. 100)

From the male bees who do no work other than fertilizing a queen; referring to men who do no useful work and live off the fruits of others’s labors.

popinjay (p. 100)

A parrot, especially as symbolically depicted on a tapestry or coat of arms; figuratively, a person who dresses gaudily or who speaks only in repetition of what others have said.

bitten in half by a crocodile (p. 101)

Farmers in Minnesota were getting mixed up with reaping-machines, peasants in India were being bisected by crocodiles;

“Ukridge’s Accident Syndicate” (1923; in Ukridge, 1924)

“Hindoos … bung themselves into the Ganges and get eaten by crocodiles and call it a well-spent day.”

Summer Lightning, ch. 11.3 (1929)

clarion (p. 101)

A trumpet with a straight, narrow tube giving a shrill tone, formerly used as a war signal.

Mortal Error (p. 102)

Without attempting to go deeply into the doctrines of Christian Science, the following quotation from its founder Mary Baker Eddy is probably the source of Miss Watling’s statement.

Spirit is immortal Truth; matter is mortal error.

“To see how far there was to drop?” (p. 102)

Only the UK book edition has the question mark as quoted here, which seems to be a misprint; both magazine appearances and the US book have a period at the end of the sentence.

vanished off the face of the earth (p. 104)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

matrimony … shrinking horror (p. 105)

His eyes today have that unmistakable look which comes only to confirmed bachelors whose feet have been led to the very brink of the pit and who have gazed at close range into the naked face of matrimony.

“Honeysuckle Cottage” (1925; in Meet Mr. Mulliner, 1927/28)

The Ordeal of Osbert Mulliner

First published in Liberty, November 24, 1928, and in the Strand magazine, December 1928.

like a canary (p. 108)

“Phoebe, in the name of everything infernal, must you put your head on one side like a canary and say ‘What, dear?’ every time I speak to you? It’s enough to madden a saint.”

Cocktail Time, ch. 3 (1958)

European record (p. 108)

“I don’t know what the European record for engagement-breaking is, but I should say you hold it.”

Big Money, ch. 13.2 (1931)

“This is Miss Brown, Aunt Lydia,” said Tony. “I just knocked her seventeen yards, two feet, and eleven inches with my car. A European record.”

If I Were You, ch. 4 (1931)

“I am convinced that he was behind the young master from start to finish of his attempt on the Central European record, and I have no doubt frequently rallied round with ice packs and other restoratives.”

Thank You, Jeeves, ch. 1 (1934)

He did not know what the European record was for a two-hundred-yard dash to a pigsty, the bribing to silence of the pig man and the two-hundred-yard dash back, but he rather fancied that he had clipped a few seconds off it.

Full Moon, ch. 9 (1947)

Augustus was doing this, and had just shifted his eye from the top left second window to the top left third window, when a voice spoke behind him, causing him to break the European record for the standing high jump.

“The Right Approach” (in A Few Quick Ones, 1959)

His nervous system, too, was plainly far from being in midseason form, for when one of the local sparrows, perching on the window sill, uttered a sudden cheep, he quivered in every limb and made what looked to Bingo like a spirited attempt to lower the European record for the standing high jump.

Mr. Purkiss in “Bingo Bans the Bomb” (in Plum Pie, 1966/67)

walk-over (p. 108)

See Summer Lightning.

rhinoceroses … edged behind trees (p. 109)

Mr. Mulliner is clearly telling a tall tale here!

Schedule D (p. 110)

Thus in all versions, both US and UK. In the US, Schedule D is used to report capital gains. Formerly in the UK, Schedule D was used to report a variety of classes of income: profits from trades, professions and vocations; income from overseas holdings; interest not taxed at the source; and other casual income.

lumbago (p. 110)

Pain in the muscles of the lower back.

Pomeranian (p. 110)

See Love Among the Chickens.

putting his fortune to the test, to win or lose it all (p. 111)

See The Girl on the Boat.

Mills bomb (p. 111)

See Hot Water.

opera hat (p. 111)

A form of top hat made of black satin covering a collapsible, spring-loaded frame, so that it can be compressed flat for storing underneath a theatre seat.

“I have loved her since she was so high.” (p. 112)

Why, dash it, I’ve known Angela since she was so high. You don’t fall in love with close relations you’ve known since they were so high.

Right Ho, Jeeves, ch. 15 (1934)

“I understand Gertrude. I’ve known her since she was so high.”

The Luck of the Bodkins, ch. 3 (1935)

“For one thing, he would have liked Madeline to marry Spode—who, I may mention, has loved her since she was so high.”

The Code of the Woosters, ch. 3 (1938)

“I know Anne. Known her ever since she was so high.”

Money in the Bank, ch. 11 (1942)

Nobby, I reasoned, had known Florence since she was so high, and would consequently be in a position to assemble all the talking points.

Joy in the Morning, ch. 4 (1946)

He [Lord Sidcup] had loved her since she was so high but had never got around to mentioning it, and when he did so now, they clicked immediately.

Much Obliged, Jeeves, ch. 1 (1971)

Mgumbo-Mgumbo (p. 113)

See Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen.

unseeing eyes (p. 114)

Frequently used by Wodehouse to indicate a level of dismay, surprise, or alarm that prevents characters from taking in their surroundings:

The Kid sat staring across the square with unseeing eyes.

“How Kid Brady Fought for His Eyes” (1906)

Somebody had taken Bellamy’s fretwork away from him; and that injured youth was now sitting alone on a bench, gazing stolidly in front of him with unseeing eyes, thinking, doubtless, of the next meal.

The Luck Stone, ch. 7 (1908)

Propped up against the wall was the picture. He looked at it with unseeing eyes. He stared dully before him.

“Rough-hew Them How We Will” (1910; in The Man Upstairs, 1914)

Then he sat up suddenly, looked at her with unseeing eyes, and said something in a thick voice.

“Something to Worry About” (1913; in The Man Upstairs, 1914)

Claire had not been square. It was that, more than the shock of surprise of Lady Wetherby’s news, that had sent him striding along the State Road at the rate of five miles an hour, staring before him with unseeing eyes.

Bill, Lord Dawlish, in Uneasy Money, ch. 16 (1916)

She looked on the weird beauty of the ice-bound marshes which glittered red and green and blue in the sun with unseeing eyes; for her isolation was giving her time to think, and thought was a torment.

Jill Mariner in The Little Warrior/Jill the Reckless, ch. 7.3 (1920)

“Croquet!” He gulped, and stared at her with unseeing eyes. He was no prude, but he had those decent prejudices of which no self-respecting man can wholly rid himself, however broad-minded he may try to be.

“Sundered Hearts” (1920; in The Clicking of Cuthbert, 1922)

A few beads of cold perspiration were clinging to Eustace Hignett’s brow. He looked straight before him with unseeing eyes.

The Girl on the Boat/Three Men and a Maid, ch. 6 (1922)

Roderick sat down at his desk and gazed before him with unseeing eyes.

Bill the Conqueror, ch. 4.2 (1924)

Dazed by the news he had received, he stood at the window of the great library of Blandings Castle, looking out with unseeing eyes.

“Pig-hoo-o-o-o-ey!” (1927; in Blandings Castle and Elsewhere, 1935)

Seated at a table in the smoking-room, he gazed before him with unseeing eyes.

Monty Bodkin in The Luck of the Bodkins, ch. 18 (1935)

He was staring before him with unseeing eyes and wishing that the kindly Aloysius McGuffy could have been at his side, to start shaking up six or seven of his justly famous Specials.

Spring Fever, ch. 9 (1948)

He stood there, staring before him with unseeing eyes, and she touched his hand gently.

Bill Oakshott in Uncle Dynamite, ch. 5 (1948)

Smedley Cork, first of the little group of Phipps’s admirers and supporters to arrive at the tryst, stood at the open french window of the Garden Room, staring into the night with unseeing eyes.

The Old Reliable, ch. 9 (1951)

Gloria Salt, in her bedroom above, clenched her hands as the words came floating in through the open window and stared before her with unseeing eyes.

Pigs Have Wings, ch. 5.3 (1952)

She was sitting on the settee twiddling an empty coffee cup and staring before her with what are sometimes described as unseeing eyes.

Ring for Jeeves/The Return of Jeeves, ch. 9 (1953/54)

After moistening her clay she had relapsed into a sort of frozen coma, staring before her with unseeing eyes and showing a disposition to pant like a hart when heated in the chase.

Aunt Dahlia in Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, ch. 12 (1954)

I found the old relative sitting bolt upright in her chair, staring before her with unseeing eyes, and it was plain that once more something had happened to inject a black frost into her sunny mood.

Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, ch. 19 (1954)

[Freddie Carpenter] was sprawled bonelessly in a chair at the far end of the room, gazing before him with what are usually described as unseeing eyes.

French Leave, ch. 9 (1956)

Pongo, who had stiffened from head to foot like somebody in the Middle Ages on whom the local wizard had cast a spell, sat staring before him with unseeing eyes.

Cocktail Time, ch. 2 (UK edition, 1958)

As they entered, Bingo, who was pacing the room with unseeing eyes, knocked over a table with a vase, three photograph frames and a bowl of potpourri on it.

“The Word in Season” (in A Few Quick Ones, 1959)

She prepared these life-saving ingredients and put them on a tray and took them out into the garden, where Miss Yorke was sitting gazing before her with what in her books she liked to describe as unseeing eyes.

Sally Foster in Ice in the Bedroom, ch. 12 (1961)

In front of it there was a marble bench, and on this bench Myra Schoonmaker was sitting, gazing with what are called unseeing eyes at the church lads bobbing about in the water below.

Service With a Smile, ch. 3.3 (1961)

He left an affectionate nephew staring before him with unseeing eyes, his general aspect that of one who, like Lot’s wife, has been unexpectedly turned into a pillar of salt.

The Girl in Blue, ch. 6.3 (1970)

Aubrey Carruthers, faced with the same choice, had spent a good deal of time pacing with tight lips and unseeing eyes, and one supposes that this is the usual form in circumstances like those, for it was what Monty had been doing since returning to his room.

Pearls, Girls and Monty Bodkin, ch. 9 (1972)

South Audley Street (p. 114)

In the Mayfair district of London, connecting Grosvenor Square to Curzon Street; a very high-class residential address.

after one quick drink and another taken rather slower (p. 114)

See The Inimitable Jeeves.

contract bridge (p. 115)

Contract Bridge was fairly new at the time; Harold Vanderbilt published the rules in 1925, and within a few years it had supplanted Auction Bridge as the standard game.

watch her future career with considerable interest (p. 116)

See A Damsel in Distress.

half-past eight, when the first delivery of letters is made in London (p. 116)

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.

“Tchal!” (p. 117)

An unusual case of a misprint in both the US and UK book editions. Both magazine versions have the more common “Tchah!” here.

threepence to pay (p. 117)

In the Liberty magazine appearance, the postage due was given as twopence. Perhaps this was changed by the magazine editor because a US first-class postage stamp cost two cents in 1928.

Drone’s Club (p. 119)

The UK edition only has the apostrophe as quoted here; the US book and both magazine appearances have the familiar “Drones Club” spelling.

Morning Post (p. 119)

See Right Ho, Jeeves.

like all the Mulliners, a clear thinker (p. 120)

See Meet Mr. Mulliner for more of the claims made for his whole family.

a marriage had been arranged and would shortly take place (p. 120)

See Right Ho, Jeeves.

to give the gentleman the information he required (p. 120)

Both magazine versions have a longer ending to this sentence; after a comma following ‘required’ it continues “when he rang up, straight—as you might say—from the horse’s mouth, sir.”

The closing phrase refers to inside information, as if a racetrack tip were communicated by the horse itself.

the Cromwell Road (p. 122)

The Cromwell Road runs roughly west from the Victoria and Albert Museum in the direction of Earls Court. This would be a likely area to find furnished rooms in Wodehouse’s day. [MH]

Perhaps only a resident of Mayfair would consider the borough of Kensington and Chelsea to have a “wildest and least-known” part.

Bros. Cohen (p. 122)

See Sam the Sudden.

paled beneath its tan (p. 123)

See Uncle Fred in the Springtime.

“Shop!” (p. 124)

A conventional call by a customer seeking the assistance of a salesperson.

Rajputana (p. 126)

An ocean liner of the Peninsular and Oriental line, named after a region in western India, and sailing regularly between England and India from its launching in 1925 until being requisitioned by the Royal Navy in 1939. The ship was sunk by a torpedo in 1941.

It has been frequently said of the Mulliners that you may perplex but you cannot baffle them. (p. 127)

See Meet Mr. Mulliner for more of the claims made for his whole family.

Dulwich (p. 127)

The South London suburb in which Wodehouse had had his secondary education, and which he frequently characterized in his books as Valley Fields. See Sam the Sudden.

Nemesis (p. 129)

In Greek mythology, the personification of divine retribution.

put it across (p. 129)

See Thank You, Jeeves.

plug-uglies (p. 130)

See The Inimitable Jeeves.

the same feeling the prophet Daniel must have had on entering the lions’ den (p. 130)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

Bollinger (p. 130)

A highly-regarded and expensive brand of Champagne, founded in 1829 in Ay, France.

crib (p. 131)

Thieves’ slang for a house or shop, considered as a promising site for breaking and entering. OED citations for this sense begin in 1819 and include Dickens’s Oliver Twist in 1838.

port, sherry, Italian vermuth, old brandy and green Chartreuse (p. 132)

Port is a fortified sweet red wine from Portugal; sherry is an aged and fortified wine originally from Jerez in Spain. The usual spelling of vermouth is in the Strand appearance only; the alternate spelling quoted above is in both US and UK book editions and the Liberty magazine version. Italian vermouth is based on red wine, with the addition of aromatic herbs, sweeteners, and a small amount of brandy.

The mixture is reminiscent of Lord Ickenham’s formula for a drink called May Queen: see Ukridge for more.

go in before (p. 132)

The burglars are arguing fine details in the rules of precedence for guests entering a dining room based on their rank in the aristocracy.

son of a what-not (p. 132)

A euphemism for the stronger “son of a bitch” which most of Wodehouse’s readers would have found unacceptable in his fiction. (That phrase appears only in direct quotations from real people in Bring On the Girls.)

“ ‘Be careful, Sergeant-Major,’ she said to me, clasping her ’ands in what I may call an agony of appeal, ‘that this poor, misguided young son of a what-not don’t come it over you with his talk about being the Lost Heir of some family living in the near neighbourhood.’ ”

Money for Nothing, ch. 9.2 (1928)

By forking out that fiver, I had paid my debt to Society and had nothing to fear from this shrimp-faced son of a whatnot.

The Code of the Woosters, ch. 1 (1938)

“Yes, he is, the shirking, skrimshanking, four-eyed young son of a what-not, and I’m quite convinced that he stayed there because he was planning to go on a toot the moment my back was turned.”

Uncle Fred in the Springtime, ch. 2 (1939)

“You see,” he explained to a friend when telling him of the incident later, “I wanted to fire the son of a what-not from a really good job.”

Bring On the Girls, ch. 6 (1953)

The son of a what-not has short but distinct side-whiskers.

Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, ch. 8 (1954)

He resented being called on to share the same planet with a herring-gutted young son of a what-not who marcelled his hair, wore yellow corduroy trousers and, when he met his elders and betters, said “Ah, Uffenham” to them in an insufferably patronizing tone of voice.

Something Fishy, ch. 3 (1957)

Only the jug, the whole jug and nothing but the jug would show the piefaced young son of a what-not where he got off, he said, though he phrased it a little differently, and he seemed chagrined at not being able to dish out more than those fourteen days.

Cocktail Time, ch. 11 (1958)

“Well, the old popeyed son of a whatnot,” said Biff. “Still, it just shows what I’ve always said, that there’s a solution for every problem.”

Biffen’s Millions, ch. 5.1 (1964)

“Why, lord love a duck, I’d be the prime suspect, my relations with the son of a what-not being so strained, and if I hadn’t an unbreakable alibi I’d be for it.”

The Girl in Blue, ch. 13.2 (1970)

“I still wouldn’t care to have to go on a long walking tour with the son of a what-not, and if he ever gets himself put up for the Drones, I shall certainly blackball him, but I can see his point of view.”

Bertie speaking of Pop Cook in Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen, ch. 5 (1974)

one of those Orgy scenes which have done so much to popularize the motion-pictures (p. 135)

In the magazine versions, orgy is not capitalized.

Although the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America had promulgated a list of “Don’ts” and “Be Carefuls” as guidelines for self-censorship of film content in 1927, the actual Motion Picture Production Code was not adopted until 1930, and not strictly enforced until 1934.

Singer’s Midgets (p. 136)

See Sam the Sudden.

Rem acu tetigisti (p. 137)

See Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen.

fish-slice (p. 139)

See Thank You, Jeeves.

Poste Restante (p. 140)

A post-office department in which letters intended for travelers or visitors are kept until they are called for by the addressee.

Bongo on the Congo (p. 140)

See Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen.

Unpleasantness at Bludleigh Court

First published in the Strand magazine, February 1929, and in Liberty, February 2, 1929.

gaiters (p. 141)

Unlike the formal black gaiters worn as part of a bishop’s clerical attire (see Meet Mr. Mulliner), these gaiters are purely practical, protecting the shoe and lower leg from brush and brambles in the hunting field.

a posy of dead rabbits (p. 141)

The word posy usually refers to a small bunch of flowers, a nosegay. Its use here contrasts the hunter’s pleasure in his catch with the poet’s distaste for it.

the Great Change (p. 142)

Possibly alluding to a funeral sermon by Nathanael Vincent, published in 1682 under that title, in which the Great Change is Death.

a mean advantage … gratis (p. 142–43)

In other words, because she did not need to ask for payment for her poems, the magazines would be more willing to print her material than the works of other poets.

The Restaurant With A Soul (p. 143)

the well-known firm of R. P. Crumbles Inc., purveyors of Silver Sardines (The Sardine with A Soul)

“Excelsior” (1948; in Nothing Serious, 1950)

She had dined with a group of earnest friends at the Crushed Pansy, the restaurant with a soul, and at the conclusion of the meal they had all gone on to the opening performance at the Flaming Youth Group Center of one of those avant-garde plays which bring the scent of boiling cabbage across the footlights and in which the little man in the bowler hat turns out to be God.

Service With a Smile, ch. 8.2 (1961)

He broached the subject to her as they were tucking into the poulet rôti au cresson one evening at the Crushed Pansy, the restaurant with a soul.

“A Good Cigar Is a Smoke” (in Plum Pie, 1966/67)

“Cupid … has always found the family to which I belong a ready mark for his bow. Our hearts are warm, our passions quick.” (p. 143)

See Meet Mr. Mulliner for more of the claims made for his whole family.

Pastels in Prose (p. 143)

“The reviewers usually describe the sort of thing I do as Pastels in Prose.”

Charlton Prout in “Ukridge Sees Her Through” (1923; in Ukridge, 1924)

poulet rôti au cresson (p. 143)

Roast chicken with watercress.

conventional county family (p. 144)

Here, county means belonging to the upper levels of local society, the nobility and gentry.

In the Liberty magazine appearance, the phrase “—not from a long line of artists but” is omitted.

blood-imbrued (p. 144)

This synonym for “bloodstained” has a decidedly Shakespearean effect and is rare in Wodehouse.

For a while permit the cut-throat
To imbrue his hands in gore:

“The Parrot” no. 18 (1903)

“I felt like a beetle-browed brute with a dripping knife and hands imbrued with innocent gore.”

Wally Mason in The Little Warrior, ch. 17.2 (1920)

plug-uglies (p. 144)

See The Inimitable Jeeves.

a dying duck (p. 144)

One of the few cases where this phrase is meant literally, rather than as a rubber toy which makes a moaning noise when it is deflated.

“Two minds with but a single thought” (p. 146)

See Right Ho, Jeeves.

abbatoir (p. 146)

A slaughterhouse. The only other use of the word so far found in Wodehouse:

The moment had come, it seemed to me, to remove Tuppy from the abattoir, and I hopped over the ropes and toddled to where he sat scraping mud from his wishbone.

“Tuppy Changes His Mind”/“The Ordeal of Young Tuppy” (1930; in Very Good, Jeeves, 1930)

“That house exercises a spell.” (p. 146)


“Do you believe that it is possible for a malign influence to envelop a place and work a spell on all who come within its radius?”

“Honeysuckle Cottage” (1925; in Meet Mr. Mulliner, 1927/28)

Our Dumb Brothers’ League of Mercy (p. 147)

See dumb chums in The Code of the Woosters.

we Mulliners are quick workers (p. 147)

See Meet Mr. Mulliner for more of the claims made for his whole family.

eyes like a prawn’s (p. 148)

See Money for Nothing.

a good medium dose for an adult (p. 150)

See Money for Nothing.

simoons (p. 152)

Spelled thus in both UK and US books, and in Liberty magazine; the Strand editor seems to have changed this variant spelling to the more common simooms. Either spelling means a hot, dry, sandy or dusty desert wind.

whacking great rat (p. 153)

See If I Were You.

green in her memory (p. 153)

Though yet of Hamlet our dear brother’s death / The memory be green…

Shakespeare: Hamlet, I,ii

In frosty weather she could still feel the old wound (p. 153)

An allusion to “The Story of Prince Agib” by W. S. Gilbert; see The Bab Ballads at the G&S Archive.

Yoicks! Tally-ho! Hard For’ard! (p. 153)

The first two are conventional hunting cries; the third is more commonly heard as “Hark For’ard!”.

“Yoicks!” said Freddie to himself. “Hark for’ard!”

“Fate” (1931; in Young Men in Spats, 1936)

“Then come along. Hark for’ard.”

Joy in the Morning, ch. 22 (1946)

“Yoicks! Tally-ho! Hark for’ard!” she added, reverting to the argot of the hunting field.

Aunt Dahlia in Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, ch. 9 (1954)

sportsman (p. 154)

The original sense of this word, cited from the seventeenth century in the OED, is of one who participates in field sports such as hunting, shooting, or fishing. The sense of an athlete is cited only as far back as 1886, and a note mentions that until the middle of the twentieth century the athletic sense was much less common than the hunting/fishing sense.

save in the way of kindness (p. 155)

A twist on a familiar maxim; see Piccadilly Jim.

meet as strangers (p. 155)

His wife left him. Until a written apology reached her father, she stated in her brief and formal note, they must meet as strangers.

“Why Smith Left Home” (1906)

 “I thought we agreed, when we parted, not to speak to each other.”
 “Did we? I thought it was only to meet as strangers.”

“The Man, the Maid, and the Miasma” (1910)

sand-bagged (p. 155)

See Right Ho, Jeeves.

rarified (p. 156)

This somewhat archaic spelling is only in the UK book edition; the US book and both US and UK magazine appearances have the more usual rarefied.

banana-oil (p. 156)

Slang for nonsense, especially when used to flatter or mislead; Robert L. Chapman’s New Dictionary of American Slang dates it to the 1920s and gives a possible derivation from amyl acetate, an oily liquid with a fruity smell used to “dope” (tighten and stiffen) the fabric of airplane wings.

In the US magazine appearance, printed as banana oil without a hyphen.

licked to a splinter (p. 157)

See Laughing Gas.

bravest and fairest (p. 158)

Perhaps an echo of Lord Byron: see Summer Moonshine.

It was the high spot of Ashenden Oakshott’s social year, when all that was bravest and fairest in the village assembled in the Manor grounds and made various kinds of whoopee.

Uncle Dynamite, ch. 3.2 (1948)

With the prize-giving at Market Snodsbury Grammar School, a function at which all that was bravest and fairest in the neighbourhood would be present, only two days away, she must have been getting pretty uneasy about the continued absence of the big shot slated to address the young scholars on ideals and life in the world outside.

Jeeves in the Offing, ch. 13 (1960)

But in my Animals’ “Who’s Who” (p. 159)

The original Who’s Who is a reference book published annually in Britain since 1849, giving data on notable figures in the public life of the UK. Other publications with the phrase in the title have appeared in various countries and with application to specialized fields. (See Who’s Who in Wodehouse, for instance.)

This line of Charlotte’s poem is typeset in several ways. The version quoted above is from the US first edition. The UK book has Animals “Who’s Who”; the Strand magazine has Animals’ Who’s Who; the Liberty appearance has simply Animals Who’s Who here.

View Halloo (p. 159)

“View-halloo” is the huntsman’s cry when a fox breaks cover. [TM]

kopje (p. 159)

Afrikaans term for a small hill.

handed in its dinner-pail (p. 160)

See Money for Nothing.

he prayeth best, who loveth best all things both great and small (p. 162)

See Nothing Serious.

“But, Sir George, don’t you remember what Coleridge said–He prayeth best who loveth best all things both great and small?”

“Excelsior” (in Nothing Serious, 1950)

her eyes were glittering with a strange light (p. 163)

See p. 89, above.

“Infirm of purpose” (p. 164)

Quoting Lady Macbeth: see Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

beneficent ultra-violet rays (p. 165)

At this period, a suntan was thought to be a sign of good health; the effects of UV on skin cancers and aging of the skin were not yet widely understood.

moufflon (p. 165)

A wild variety of sheep, Ovis musimon, typically small with brown wool, found on Sardinia, Corsica, and Cyprus.

stuff themselves with cakes. (p. 165)

Both US and UK books end this sentence with a period; in Liberty it ends with a question mark; in the Strand it ends with an exclamation point.

put aside childish things (p. 166)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

Winchester repeater (p. 166)

A rifle with a lever action allowing the user to move a new cartridge into place and cock the firing mechanism by manually operating a handle, allowing shots to be fired in quick succession. The Winchester Repeating Arms Company of New Haven, Connecticut, produced some of the most popular models of repeating rifles in the middle and late nineteenth century.

The Strand magazine appearance ends this sentence with an exclamation point.

shikarri (p. 166)

Spelled shikaree in Strand, shikari in US magazine and book, which is the OED headword spelling. An Anglo-Indian term, borrowed from Urdu, for a native hunting guide or a European sportsman who learns the techniques of hunting in India from such a guide.

Cape Dutch (p. 167)

A dialect of Dutch settlers in South Africa; now more commonly called Afrikaans.

Bechuanaland (p. 167)

A landlocked country of southern Africa; a former British protectorate under that title from 1885 until it became an independent Commonwealth republic named Botswana in 1966.

a fine head (p. 169)

Apparently Charlotte has advanced from “tickling him up” to considering stuffing and mounting his head as a trophy!

zebu (p. 169)

This seems odd, as the zebu is a domesticated variety of cattle with a shoulder hump and a large dewlap, farmed in many tropical countries, rather than a wild animal to be shot by hunters.

Bishop of Stortford (p. 170)

Presumably the same man as Percy “Boko” Bickerton, the bishop who employs Augustine Mulliner in “Mulliner’s Buck-U-Uppo” and “The Bishop’s Move” (in Meet Mr. Mulliner, 1927/28).

keeping his vicars off the incense (p. 170)

 “The Vicar of St. Beowulf’s in the West wants to know how about incense?”
 “Tell him he mustn’t.”

“The Bishop’s Move” (in Meet Mr. Mulliner, 1927/28)

zareba (p. 170)

In Sudan, a zareba (Arabic: zaribah, a pen or enclosure for cattle) is a stockade, often a thorn-hedge, providing protection against wild animals and enemies. [TM]

gone to earth (p. 171)

Hunting jargon for an animal which has taken refuge in an underground burrow or lair.

somnambulist (p. 171)


shooting of a sitting sun-bather (p. 172)

In sporting circles, shooting a sitting bird is a breach of sportsmanship almost as dire as cheating at cards.

plumb spang (p. 173)

See Sam the Sudden.

shifting (p. 173)

This seems like it ought to be recent slang for “leaving, going somewhere else” but the OED traces this sense back to the sixteenth century, usually with a reflexive pronoun (e.g., shifted themselves away).

Those in Peril on the Tee

First published as a story told by the Oldest Member in Liberty, May 21, 1927, and in the Strand magazine, June 1927. Mr. Mulliner framing introduction added for this book.

chessboard knickerbockers (p. 174)


…he had never seen Plus Fours like these. What might be termed the main motif of the fabric was a curious vivid pink, and with this to work on the architect had let his imagination run free, and had produced so much variety in the way of chessboard squares of white, yellow, violet, and green that the eye swam as it looked upon them.

“The Magic Plus Fours” (1922)

Slave of the Lamp (p. 174)

That is, the genie in the story of Aladdin.

gifted though the Mulliners have been (p. 175)

See Meet Mr. Mulliner for more of the claims made for his whole family.

Flack. Agnes was the girl’s name (p. 175)

This is the first appearance of Agnes Flack, and of course in the magazine versions as told by the Oldest Member, no mention is made of any relationship with Mr. Mulliner.

One exchange from the magazine introduction, a conversation with a young new member of the golf club, is worth quoting:

 “In fact, the only drawback to the club, the secretary tells me, is that there is a fearful old bore who hangs about the place, lying in wait to collar people and tell them stories.”
 The Oldest Member wrinkled his forehead thoughtfully.
 “I do not know whom he can have been referring to,” he said. “No, I cannot recall any such person.”

We meet Agnes Flack again in “Scratch Man” (1940; in the US Eggs, Beans and Crumpets, 1940, and in A Few Quick Ones, 1959); in “Tangled Hearts” and “Feet of Clay” (in Nothing Serious, 1950); and in “Sleepy Time” (1965; in Plum Pie, 1966/67).

dumb brick (p. 176)

See Carry On, Jeeves.

exuberantly and dynamically scratch (p. 177)

Having a golf handicap of zero; see A Glossary of Golf Terminology on this site for explanations of “handicap” and other golfing jargon.

scratch their match (p. 178)

See The Inimitable Jeeves.

Human Gorilla (p. 179)

A term usually used for Roderick Spode.

“Push along, Gussie,” I said, and stood watching him with a protective eye as he sidled round the human gorilla and disappeared along the passage. Then I turned to Spode.

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

“Ah, Spode. Come on in and take a few chairs,” I said, and was on the point of telling him that we Woosters kept open house, when he interrupted me with the uncouth abruptness so characteristic of these human gorillas.

Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves, ch. 13 (1963)

The Mystery of the Severed Ear (p. 179)

Many of Wodehouse’s thrillers seem to involve absent body parts:

The Mystery of the Mutilated Mummy

One of the books credited to Paul Vane in “Women, Wine and Song” (1908)

The Man with the Missing Toe. Comrade Threepwood lent it to me. He has a vast store of this type of narrative.”

Leave It to Psmith, ch. 9.1 (1923)

“You haven’t seen a novel called The Man with the Missing Eyeball anywhere about, have you?”

“Jane Gets Off the Fairway” (1924; in The Heart of a Goof, 1926)

Beach, the butler, was in a deck-chair outside the back premises of the house, smoking a cigar and reading Chapter Sixteen of The Man With The Missing Toe.

“The Crime Wave at Blandings (1936; in Lord Emsworth and Others, 1937)

The mysterious leper and the man with the missing toe were examples that leaped to her mind.

Quick Service, ch. 10 (1940)

No doubt I had interrupted him just as Spinoza was on the point of solving the mystery of the headless body on the library floor.

Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen, ch. 9 (1974)

sneaking off with the Albert Hall (p. 179)

See Money for Nothing.

a lover’s knot (p. 180)

For the actual knot made in ropes and cords, see Wikipedia.

“You mean to say you tie Uncle Lester into a lover’s knot, shoot him under a cold shower, push a lean chop into him accompanied by water, and then don’t even let the poor old devil get his lips round a single gasper?”

Money for Nothing, ch. 2.1 (1928)

Beach, had he been younger and slimmer and in better condition and not a butler, could—for two pins—have taken Percy Pilbeam’s unpleasant neck in his hands and twisted it into a lover’s knot.

Heavy Weather, ch. 12 (1933)

Every nerve in his body had tied itself into a lover’s knot, and he could still taste the heart which had jumped into his mouth and tried to escape through his front teeth.

Reggie Tennyson in The Luck of the Bodkins, ch. 2 (US edition, 1936)

“A Strong Woman on the music-hall stage. One of Uncle Gally’s dearest friends. She’s been dead for a good many years, but he tells me that when she was in her prime she could take the poker and tie it into a lover’s knot with one hand.”

Bill Lister’s mother in Full Moon, ch. 2 (1947)

He turned green and tied himself into a lovers’ knot.

Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, ch. 20 (1954)

“…let me mention that I have a rudimentary knowledge of ju-jitsu, amply sufficient to enable me to tie you into a lover’s knot which it would take you hours and hours to get out of.”

Lord Ickenham to Beefy Bastable in Cocktail Time, ch. 25 (1958)

Under normal conditions lions could have taken his correspondence course, and had he encountered Spode on the football field, he would have had no hesitation in springing at his neck and twisting it into a lover’s knot.

Stinker Pinker in Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves, ch. 15 (1963)

butterflies (p. 181)

See The Code of the Woosters.

“And may the better … man win.” (p. 182)

Sidney McMurdo may be a human gorilla, but at least he has had a good education in grammar, and knows to use “better” rather than the more common “best” when the comparison is between just two.

tidings of great joy (p. 183)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

Felix the Cat (p. 184)

An animated-cartoon character created in 1919 by Pat Sullivan and Otto Messmer.

a mass of muscle (p. 184)

“It’s funny, I always used to think of butlers as fat old men, always drinking port, but Mr Chibnall is a mass of muscle.”

Quick Service, ch. 13 (1940)

Stanwood, a doughty performer on the football field during his college career, was a mass of muscle and bone, and it was Mr. Cobbold’s opinion that the bone extended to his head.

Spring Fever, ch. 1 (1948)

“But apparently Basher’s about eight feet high and a mass of muscle, and he said he’d beat Yost up unless he did what he was told.”

Do Butlers Burgle Banks?, ch. 13.1 (1968)

stories about men who play golf matches for the hand of a woman (p. 185)

See, for example, “A Woman Is Only a Woman” (1919) and “The Long Hole” (1921; both in The Clicking of Cuthbert, 1922).

Sandy McHoots (p. 185)

Mentioned as a golf pro and champion several times in The Clicking of Cuthbert; onstage as the teacher of Vincent Jopp in “The Heel of Achilles”.

to be beaten five and four (p. 186)

In match play (scored by number of holes won, rather than by fewest total strokes taken), the match can be won before all eighteen holes are played in a situation like this. It is short for “five up and four to play”: the winner has won five more holes than the loser, and only four holes remain to play, so there is no way for the loser to catch up. (One or more holes must have been halved, that is, tied. The possible ways this situation can be reached are with won–lost–halved scores of 9–4–1, 8–3–3, 7–2–5, 6–1–7, and 5–0–9 after fourteen holes.)

win the match on the twelfth (p. 186)

That is, after twelve holes the winner would be seven up with six to play; the loser could have won no more than two holes by this point, for a score of nine to two with one halved as one way of attaining this.

morning-coat (p. 187)

For a description of formal morningwear, see spats in Right Ho, Jeeves.

into the City (p. 188)

That is, to his office in London’s financial district; see Leave It to Psmith.

when Arnaud Massy won the British Open (p. 190)

French golfer Arnaud George Watson Massy (1877–1950) won the 1907 British Open championship, the first time a non-Briton had done so.

pot of poison (p. 193)

See Thank You, Jeeves.

truckle bed (p. 194)

See Thank You, Jeeves.

Boadicea (p. 194)

See Right Ho, Jeeves.

skip like a young ram (p. 195)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

another laugh like a steam-riveter at work (p. 196)

Sometimes this sort of noise is external, as here; sometimes it is internal, the result of a hangover.

This lasted without a break till two-fifteen, when he made a noise like a steam-riveter for some moments; after which, apparently soothed, he fell asleep again.

Leonard the parrot in “Ukridge Rounds a Nasty Corner” (1924; in Ukridge, 1924)

Somewhere close at hand a steam-riveter was at work, making a noise singularly afflicting to the nerves.

Bill the Conqueror, ch. 2.1 (1924)

A sound like the sudden descent of an iron girder on a sheet of tin, followed by a jangling of bells, a wailing of tortured cats, and the noise of a few steam-riveters at work, announced to their trained ears that the music had begun.

“Came the Dawn” (1927; in Meet Mr. Mulliner, 1927/28)

Honoria Glossop was hearty, yes. Her laugh was like a steam-riveting machine…

Joy in the Morning, ch. 2 (1946)

Chester, slumped in his seat, sat listening to the steam-riveting in progress inside his head and wondering how he was to get through this ghastly lunch alone and unaided.

French Leave, ch. 8.3 (1956)

foozle (p. 200)

See A Glossary of Golf Terminology.

painting the lily (p. 200)

See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

skipped in a manner extraordinarily reminiscent of the high hills mentioned in Sacred Writ (p. 203)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

bona fides (p. 204)

Latin for ‘good faith, freedom from intent to deceive.’

looked at them with mild surprise (p. 204)

Can this be deliberate wordplay on one of Wodehouse’s favorite tags from Keats, “with a wild surmise”? See The Inimitable Jeeves.

how inky must be the hue of Frederick Pilcher’s soul (p. 205)

He brooded dully on this revelation of the inky depths of Lester Carmody’s soul.

Money for Nothing, ch. 10.2 (1928)

As for Percy, he was pure poison. Orange of body and inky-black of soul, he lay stretched out on the rug, exuding arrogance and hate.

“Cats Will Be Cats” (1932; in Mulliner Nights, 1933)

On the one hand, pride forbade me to crawl back to that inky-souled butler and tell him that I would accept his grimy money after all.

“Success Story” (1948; in Nothing Serious, 1950)

“sign off” (p. 206)

See Thank You, Jeeves.

all wet (p. 206)

See Hot Water.

the last man in the world (p. 206)

“If you were the last man in the world I wouldn’t allow my daughter to marry you!”

The Girl on the Boat/Three Men and a Maid, ch. 14 (1921/22)

“I wouldn’t marry Lord Hunstanton if he were the last man in the world.”

The Small Bachelor, ch. 5.2 (1927)

“Well, you can tell him from me,” said Clarice Fitch, “that if he was the last man in the world, I wouldn’t give him a second look.”

“There’s Always Golf” (1936; in US Young Men in Spats, 1936, and in Lord Emsworth and Others, 1937)

Something Squishy

First published without the Mr. Mulliner introduction in the Saturday Evening Post, December 20, 1924, and in the Strand magazine, January 1925. Our transcription of the SEP version has detailed end notes on the differences between the versions.

Hertfordshire … Skeldings Hall (p. 208)

See Blandings Castle and Elsewhere. Hertfordshire is a county not far north of London (the center of the county is less than thirty miles from central London).

Roberta (p. 208)

This is the first mention of Roberta “Bobbie” Wickham but by no means the last; she appears in novels and stories as late as Jeeves in the Offing (1960).

Mild-and-Bitter (p. 208)

The newcomer is drinking a mixture of two kinds of ale, one with less and one with more hops, to give an average level of bitterness.

Like all the Mulliners on the female side (p. 209)

See Meet Mr. Mulliner for more of the claims made for his whole family.

Algernon Crufts (p. 209)

First met in “Mr. Potter Takes a Rest Cure” (1926). We meet him again in “The Passing of Ambrose” later in this book.

outward and visible sign (p. 210)

The Church of England catechism defines a sacrament, such as baptism, as “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.”

wear the mask (p. 210)

See Laughing Gas.

fed to the eyebrows (p. 210)

Here, fed has the same sense as fed up: having had enough, or as much as one can stand, of a situation. The OED cites Wodehouse using the adjective alone in Indiscretions of Archie (1921):

I’ve never done anything much in England, and I fancy the family were getting a bit fed.

The intensifying phrase “fed to the back teeth” is cited in the OED, but not Wodehouse’s use with “to the eyebrows.”

When [the lights] went up some minutes later, they disclosed the Squire marching stiffly out at the head of his family, fed up to the eyebrows…

“The Metropolitan Touch” (1922)

See also Right Ho, Jeeves for uses of “to the eyebrows” in the sense of being completely drunk, with pickled and stewed.

waiting for the women to go (p. 210–11)

In Britain it used to be conventional for ladies to withdraw to the drawing room after the dessert, leaving the gentlemen free to smoke and drink port. [MH]

Miss Partlett (p. 211)

With the reference to hens earlier in the sentence, the choice of the secretary-companion’s name cannot be a coincidence. The OED says that Partlet or Dame Partlet is a name traditionally applied to a hen, the mate of Chanticleer the rooster, or figuratively to a woman.

spaniel eyes (p. 211)

Rather surprisingly, the other uses so far found refer to men, such as valets in the first quotation:

Wispy young men with spaniel eyes and deferential manners had been paraded before her in large numbers, all probably admirable at folding, brushing and pressing, but all obviously unfitted for the stern task of making Howard Steptoe see reason in the matter of stiff-bosomed shirts for evening wear.

Quick Service, ch. 4 (1940)

Joe Bishop’s spaniel eyes widened.

Ice in the Bedroom, ch. 21 (1961)

Ariadne (p. 211)

It should not be forgotten that Theseus had reason to be grateful to Ariadne in return, as she had supplied the ball of thread which allowed him to find his way out of the labyrinth of the Minotaur.

intelligentsia (p. 211)

The educated classes. The SEP editor apparently was responsible for the alternate spelling intelligentzia here.

decanter (p. 212)

Like many red wines, port accumulates a sediment in the bottle as it ages, and is carefully poured off that sediment into another container called a decanter, often a decorative crystal bottle, before it is served.

shingled (p. 212)

See Sam the Sudden.

Girls … will be girls (p. 212)

See under the longer discussion of “boys will be boys” in A Damsel in Distress.

endorsed (p. 212)

Literally, to have something written on the back of a document; the root word in Latin is the same as for a dorsal fin, also on the back. Presumably noting violations on the back of a driving license would lead to suspension after a certain number of offenses.

Grosvenor Square (p. 213)

See Piccadilly Jim.

Family Herald (p. 214)

A weekly “Domestic Magazine of Useful Information & Amusement” published from 1842 to 1940, originally selling for a penny, later for tuppence. Its stories appealed to the popular taste for sentiment rather than to a highbrow literary audience, so Roland is insulting his uncle’s taste in reading matter by suggesting this as a source.

Seven Dials (p. 214)

a road junction of seven streets near Covent Garden in London, and the neighborhood surrounding it; during the nineteenth and early twentieth century, a byword for urban poverty mentioned by Dickens, Keats, W. S. Gilbert, and even Agatha Christie.

five pounds (p. 215)

Roughly equivalent to £300 in 2023 in purchasing power.

Forty miles an hour (p. 216)

The present-day speed limit is twenty miles per hour.

swallowed his disappointment and a light lunch (p. 218)

An example of zeugma, a rhetorical device in which a single word is applied to two things in two different senses. Though it can have a comic effect, as here, Wodehouse uses it very rarely.

half-hose (p. 218)

Men’s socks reaching halfway to the knee, as is common for socks today.

Burlington Arcade (p. 218)

See Bill the Conqueror.

“Pop it on the table after the soup and be Society’s pet.” (p. 220)

Not every member of Society would agree; compare Lord Wetherby in Uneasy Money, ch. 7 (1916):

“I appeal to Miss Fenwick, if, as you say, she knows all the facts of the case, to say whether it is reasonable to expect a man of my temperament, a nervous, highly strung artist, to welcome the presence of snakes at the breakfast table.”

beak (p. 221)

See the notes to A Damsel in Distress for this sense. In Wodehouse beak can also mean a headmaster, or a nose.

five of the best (p. 221)

Here, five pounds, as noted above. Used also for pounds in “Archie and the Sausage Chappie”. But the phrase is also used when referring to other things, such as fried potatoes in “Sir Roderick Comes to Lunch” (1922).

out of the window (p. 221)

Reads as “out of window” in magazine versions. Compare another snake-and-window episode in “Dear Old Squiffy” (1920).

gone to earth (p. 222)

See The Inimitable Jeeves.

“Forty-three minutes … I can do better than that.” (p. 223)

Ian Michaud notes: We don’t know where in Hertfordshire Skeldings Hall is located but, according to Google, driving time today from Central London to the county ranges anywhere from 49 minutes to Watford in the south to 71 minutes to Letchworth in the north. And that’s with the aid of modern Motorways which weren't available to Miss Wickham in 1924. Bishop’s Stortford is one Hertfordshire community that may have a Wodehouse connection as the Bishop of Stortford appears in Cocktail Time and several Mulliner stories. Today it’s a 59-minute drive to get there from central London.

Forgotten Sports of the Past (p. 223)

Wodehouse had coined another of this series in The Little Warrior (1920): “Forgotten Sports of the Past—Splitting the Straw.”

D.S.O. (p. 225)

Distinguished Service Order, a British military decoration first awarded by Queen Victoria in 1886, recognizing meritorious service during wartime.

Member for East Bittlesham (p. 225)

That is, Member of Parliament. East Bittlesham is a Wodehouse invention, as is the title Lord Bittlesham for Bingo Little’s uncle and the Dean of Bittlesham who conducts the marriage service of Adrian Mulliner and Millicent Shipton-Bellinger in “The Smile that Wins” (1931).

cannon (p. 226)

A stroke in billiards in which the cue ball hits more than one other ball in succession. Wodehouse’s use of it in Uncle Fred in the Springtime (1939) is cited in the OED.

haven (p. 227)

Originally a safe harbor or port for a ship; figuratively a refuge or place of sanctuary. Not a typical descriptor for a guest bedroom, but quite an appropriate one in this case.

négligée (p. 227)

Spelled thus in both book editions, as in the French original word. The simpler spelling negligée is used in both magazine appearances, and is the spelling of the OED headword entry. In either case, it means a woman’s light dressing gown or nightgown.

calibre (p. 227)

Literally, the inside measurement of the bore of a gun; figuratively, a measurement of quality. One wonders if, when applied to a negligée, the finest in quality is the finest in measurement, that is, the thinnest.

a little whinnying sound (p. 228)

His lordship uttered a faint, whinnying sound and clenched his hands.

The Small Bachelor, ch. 14.1 (1926/27)

a very old horse a very long way away (p. 228)

It was that soft cough of Jeeves’ which always reminds me of a very old sheep clearing its throat on a distant mountain top.

Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves, ch. 23 (1963)

fear increases the secretory activity of the thyroid, suprarenal, and pituitary glands (p. 229)

Possibly Bobbie was reading “Elixirs of Life” by Hugh Elliot in The Sphere, 16 February 1924. After a discussion of the hormone secreted by the thyroid gland, the article continues: “Many other hormones fulfil other purposes. One is produced by the suprarenal bodies during states of stress, anger or fear. It has the effect of bracing up the individual and reinforcing his energies to meet the struggle. Others are produced by the pituitary body, a small organ in the brain....”

that schoolgirl complexion (p. 229)

See Sam the Sudden.

done quickly or not at all (p. 230)

See this and other allusions to “ ’twere well it were done quickly” from Macbeth at Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

slow-worm (p. 230)

A legless lizard, Anguis fragilis, native to Eurasia, with protected status in the UK since 1981 and found in heath and grasslands and woodland edges, as well as garden compost heaps. Neither a worm nor a snake, this reptile can attain a length of 40–50 cm, a weight of up to 100 grams, and can live up to twenty years.

He seemed twice his previous size as if the removal of constricting garments had caused him to bulge in every direction. (p. 232)

I had not supposed that it was possible for a man to be larger than was Mr. Billson when arrayed for the street, but in trunks and boxing shoes he looked like his big brother.

“The Début of Battling Billson” (1923; in Ukridge, 1924)

winkle (p. 233)

An edible sea snail, Littorina littorea, found on European seacoasts.

The UK first edition has the typesetting error “like like a winkle” here.

mauve (p. 233)

A bright pinkish-purple color, the first chemically-synthesized aniline dye in 1859.

drinking like a fish (p. 234)

Sir Claude is not the only Wodehouse character who recalls this cliché:

“No,” said Mrs. Cork. “I remember now noticing that there was a wild gleam in his eyes. No doubt he had been drinking like a fish all the afternoon.”

Money in the Bank, ch. 26 (1942)

Lady Wickham’s penetrating voice o’ertopped the rest (p. 236)

Diego Seguí found the likely source in “The Choir-Boy” in Punch, April 30, 1887, page 209. An excerpt:

Then I wrote a set of verses,
  Of a sickly sort of kind,
About a little choir-boy,
  Of a morbid turn of mind.
Of course he’d large blue eyes,
  And golden hair, that boy,
And of course he sang divinely,
  Did that “mother’s only joy,”
And when he sang on Sundays,
  His voice o’ertopped the rest—
Which was very inartistic,
  But the public like that best.

Attributed to Richard Corney Grain in Later Poems from Punch, 1887–1908. W. H. Auden quoted it in his 1970 anthology A Certain World, showing that its fame was long-lasting. Neil notes that Wodehouse remarked in “The Guardian” that Shearne’s hair was “almost indecently golden in one who was not a choir-boy,” suggesting another allusion to this poem.

salver (p. 239)

See the notes to Leave It to Psmith.

“He did leap, didn’t he?” (p. 241)

In the SEP version, Bobbie goes on to say:

“He reminded me of those hills in the Bible. ‘Why leap ye, ye high hills?’ ”

From Psalm 68:16: “Why leap ye, ye high hills? This is the hill which God desireth to dwell in; yea, the Lord will dwell in it for ever.”

No wedding bells (p. 241)

See A Damsel in Distress.

slate (p. 241)

To criticize a book or author severely; OED has citations from 1848 to 1890 in this sense.

milk-train (p. 242)

See Uncle Fred in the Springtime.

Kensington Gardens (p. 242)

See Blandings Castle and Elsewhere.

The Awful Gladness of the Mater

First published without the Mr. Mulliner introduction in the Saturday Evening Post, March 21, 1925, and in the Strand magazine, May 1925. Our transcription of the SEP version has detailed end notes on the differences between the versions.

mater (title of story, and on p. 253)

See A Damsel in Distress.

“And then,” said Mr. Mulliner (p. 245)

Other than the stories (e.g. “The Passing of Ambrose”) in which a simple (said Mr. Mulliner) is added to the non-Mulliner magazine text to create the book version, this is about as small a change to introduce the narrator as in any of the stories. Other than Mr. Mulliner’s glass, there is no hint that he is at the Anglers’ Rest, and there is no mention of any of the drinkers to whom he is talking. The magazine story begins with Dudley Finch heaving a plaintive sigh at Claridge’s, as in the third paragraph of the book version.

cousin’s daughter, Roberta (p. 245)

Mr. Mulliner had mentioned in “Something Squishy” that Lady Wickham was his cousin.

Saga (p. 245)

Wodehouse had used this term a few times in earlier stories when referring to a character who tells the story of his life at length, and in later writing about his own career would use it about a sequence of his connected stories and novels; the first so far found is from the Preface to Blandings Castle and Elsewhere (1935):

there is nothing an author to-day has to guard himself against more carefully than the Saga habit. The least slackening of vigilance and the thing has gripped him. He writes a story. Another story dealing with the same characters occurs to him, and he writes that. He feels that just one more won’t hurt him, and he writes a third. And before he knows where he is, he is down with a Saga, and no cure in sight.

The present story is the first so far found in which a character within the story uses the term for a sequence of tales about the same characters.

Claridge’s Hotel (p. 245)

See Summer Lightning.

Brook Street (p. 246)

Runs northeasterly from the northeast corner of Grosvenor Square; Claridge’s is at the corner of Brook Street and Davies Street.

gazing … like a male Lady of Shalott (p. 246)

In Tennyson’s poem, the Lady is cursed if she leaves her loom to gaze out the window toward Camelot, but in the most familiar stanza of the poem (see The Inimitable Jeeves) she does so.

brilliantined hair (p. 246)

See Leave It to Psmith.

Old Etonian (p. 246)

See The Inimitable Jeeves.

old man Claridge (p. 246)

William and Marianne Claridge began with a hotel in a single house at 51 Brook Street, bought five adjacent houses in 1854, and opened Claridge’s in 1856. The hotel was sold to Richard D’Oyly Carte in 1893 and substantially rebuilt, opening in 1898. So by the time of this story, “old man Claridge” had nothing to do with the hotel.

Harrow (p. 247)

A prestigious public school, at Harrow-on-the-Hill in north London; usually paired with, but mentioned as a close second to, Eton when discussing schools. See Cocktail Time.

the City (p. 247)

London’s financial district; see Leave It to Psmith.

sportsman (p. 247)

Here, used in the sense of an open-handed investor willing to take risks, a gambler. The OED has citations for this meaning beginning in 1835.

a few hundred quid (p. 247)

Multiply by roughly 50 to account for inflation from 1928 to 2023.

Australia … sheep-farming (p. 247–48)

A similar theme occurs in Wodehouse’s 1910 story “Out of School”; in that story James Datchett is not eager to emigrate, but for different reasons: he wants to be a literary man.

taking it by and large (p. 248)

See A Damsel in Distress.

topping (p. 248)

Though through its use by Wodehouse’s young men of the 1920s we may have inferred this to be modern slang, the OED has citations for this adjective dating back to the seventeenth century meaning “distinguished, highest in rank” and for its colloquial connotation of “excellent, first-rate” since the eighteenth century.

my native heath (p. 248)

My own homeland, the place of my birth.

My foot is on my native heath, and my name is MacGregor!

Sir Walter Scott: Rob Roy (1817)

shingled hair (p. 249)

See Sam the Sudden.

of a glorious red (p. 249)

See Piccadilly Jim.

once in a blue moon (p. 251)

See Uncle Fred in the Springtime.

chauffeuse (p. 251–52)

The French term chauffeur, with a root meaning of “one who heats” as in stoking the boiler of a steam-powered car, was adopted into English around the turn of the twentieth century for any automobile driver. The French feminine form chauffeuse is cited in English beginning in 1903, using the same feminine-gender ending as masseuse, chanteuse, and so forth.

Liverpool Street Station (p. 252)

Opened in 1874 as the London terminus of the Great Eastern Railway, which became part of the London and North Eastern railway grouping in 1923. Trains depart from Liverpool Street to the north and east of London to destinations such as Cambridge and Norwich. A branch line from the West Anglia Main Line serves Hertfordshire, ending at the Hertford East station.

rather imprudently stepped in at the Drones Club (p. 252)

The Saturday Evening Post version of the story has stopped in here.

all-righto (p. 252)

The OED does not mention this slangy variant of “all right”; Bertie Wooster uses it once in “Jeeves and the Dog McIntosh” (1929; titled “Episode of the Dog McIntosh” in UK edition of Very Good, Jeeves, 1930):

I straightened the tie. I pulled down the waistcoat. I shot the cuffs. I felt absolutely all-righto.

a changeling (p. 254)

Someone substituted for another person, especially by magical means as in a fairy story.

The magazine versions of the story have an additional sentence at the start of the following paragraph:

In those amiable, gossipy Memoirs of the late Bingley Fox, Esq. (“Sixty Years of Society,” Cook and Butterfield, 18s.), you will find it recorded that the widow of the eminent politician and Master of Hounds, Sir Apsley Wickham, was “one of three beautiful Miss Debenhams.” But beauty….

combination of gimlet and X-ray (p. 254)

A gimlet is a hand tool used for boring holes in wood, in the shape of a T with a screw tip, grooved shank, and cross handle. An eye so characterized must be a penetrating one.

chins … battleship (p. 254)

the firm jaw, protruding like the ram of a battleship

“How to be a Journalist Though Jugged” (1904)

Everything about him was large—his hands, his feet, his shoulders, his chest, and particularly his jaw—which even in his moments of calm was aggressive, and which stood out, when anything happened to ruffle him, like the ram of a battleship.

Mr. McEachern in A Gentleman of Leisure/The Intrusion of Jimmy, ch. 3 (1910)

Why, when he came back from Oxford College the time the old man sent for him—what I’m going to tell you about soon—he had a jaw on him like the ram of a battleship.

“The Making of Mac’s” (1915)

I seem at this point to see the reader—a great brute of a fellow with beetling eyebrows and a jaw like the ram of a battleship, the sort of fellow who is full of determination and will stand no nonsense—rising to remark that he doesn’t care what happened to Samuel Marlowe and that what he wants to know is, how Mrs. Hignett made out on her lecturing-tour.

The Girl on the Boat, ch. 17.1 (1922)

…the chin was more than resolute. It looked like the ram of a very small battleship.

Jane Oliphant in “Portrait of a Disciplinarian” (1927; in Meet Mr. Mulliner, 1927/28)

The policeman fingered a chin modelled on the ram of a battleship.

Galahad at Blandings, ch. 1.2 (1965)

Milady’s Boudoir (p. 256)

The women’s paper run by Bertie Wooster’s Aunt Dahlia.

old Madame Lafarge (p. 258)

Marie Lafarge was a famous French murderess (see Wikipedia). The SEP version substitutes Madame Defarge here: the character in Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities who knits at the guillotine; it seems likely that “Defarge” suggested itself to a SEP editor more acquainted with Dickens than with 19th century crime news.
A side note for Agatha Christie’s readers: a confusion between “Defarge” and “Lefarge” appears in her 1951 novel They Came to Bagdad.

H.M.S. See-Sik (p. 259)

In both magazine versions, the ribbon is imprinted with H.M.S. Indefatigable instead. The reference is probably to the 1909 battlecruiser sunk in 1916. See this page for an actual tally (the ribbon hatband showing the name of the ship) from the Indefatigable.

A bright light shone upon Dudley (p. 260)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

suit-case … fancy-dress (p. 260)

Wodehouse apparently thought enough of this plot complication to reuse it in Joy in the Morning (1946), in which Boko Fittleworth stops in at the Drones for a quick drink and switches suitcases with Catsmeat Potter-Pirbright, though in that case both suitcases contain costumes; the one Boko intended to bring for Bertie was a Pierrot, mentioned in both stories as a safe choice for a fancy-dress ball.

As early as The Pothunters (1902), Allen Thomson is about to change into boxing costume, and remarks “Good, I’ve not brought evening dress or somebody else’s footer clothes, as usually happens on these festive occasions.” One wonders if Wodehouse himself had experienced a similar surprise on unpacking.

Pierrot (p. 260)

See Right Ho, Jeeves.

A number of guests are expected (p. 261)

If the dinner was to be the family circle only, semi-formal evening dress (black tie with dinner jacket, equivalent to US tuxedo) would have been appropriate, but with guests coming to dinner, the full soup-and-fish (white tie and waistcoat with black tailcoat) would be expected. Chapter 6 of Heavy Weather (1933) clearly sets out these rules.

Thomas (p. 263)

A conventional name for a footman; see Leave It to Psmith.

Great What-is-it (p. 263)

Showman P. T. Barnum (1810–1891) exhibited William Henry Johnson (ca. 1842–1926), an African-American man with an unusually tapered head, wearing a fur suit and making ape-like grunts and movements, under the name of “What Is It?”   By some accounts, Johnson did not mind posing as a freak of nature; after Barnum’s death, he appeared as “Zip, the Pinhead” in later years on stage, in circuses, and at Coney Island.

tripped over a chair … upset a large screen (p. 268)

Bertie Wooster has a similar mishap in Chapter Eight of Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves (1963), in which his late-night hungers after a troubled dinner urge him toward the remains of a steak-and-kidney pie in the kitchen of Totleigh Towers. Bertie collides in the dark first with Gussie Fink-Nottle, then with a grandfather clock which topples and smashes.

gave him the pip (p. 271)

See The Code of the Woosters.

Radishes. Baked apples, with cream… (p. 273)

The complete list from A Tramp Abroad, almost twice as long, can be seen at Google Books.

a man recks not (p. 274)

The verb reck, meaning to care or be concerned, has been in the language since Old English, and the OED explains that it has been almost exclusively used in a negative or diminuitive sense, with nothing, little, and so forth. It now has an archaic or high-flown feeling; only the derived adjective reckless is in common use.

off his onion (p. 276)

See Sam the Sudden.

whacking great cannon (p. 276)

See If I Were You.

dray (p. 277)

A stout cart, usually horse-drawn, intended for heavy goods. Some London breweries maintained working dray-horses for publicity purposes as late as the 1980s.

The Clutching Hand (p. 282)

Although there was a fifteen-part serial of this name produced in 1936, it was based on a 1934 novel by Arthur B. Reeve, so the similarity of title to the film named in this 1925 story must be a coincidence.

nearly said “Forsooth”! (p. 282)

UK magazine and book have the exclamation point outside the quotation marks as shown above; US magazine and book have the exclamation point inside, applying only to the word ‘Forsooth’ itself, which seems a better choice.

slouching slowly along a beaten and jaded man (p. 285)

Thus in both book first editions, but both magazine versions have a comma after ‘along’ here, which seems necessary.

lowered the amateur record (p. 285)

See a note on Wodehouse’s use of lowered in the annotations for A Damsel in Distress.

standing broad jump (p. 285)

Unlike “sitting high jump,” used humorously in “Jeeves Takes Charge” (1916) and other stories, the standing broad jump, also called the standing long jump, was an Olympic event until 1912. Ray Ewry of the USA set the record at 3.47 m (11 ft 4.5 in) at the 1904 Games.

best professional time for the hundred-yard dash (p. 285)

Set in 1910 by Jack Donaldson (1886–1933) of Australia, at 9⅜ seconds, a record which would stand until 1948.

Jermyn Street (p. 285)

See A Damsel in Distress.

snootered (p. 286)

See Thank You, Jeeves.

head on a charger (p. 286)

A charger is a large dish or serving platter; see Biblia Wodehousiana for the Scripture allusion here.

Wickham Arms (p. 287)

By its name, this must be a pub near Skeldings Hall which uses Lady Wickham’s family coat of arms as the emblem on its pub sign. Clearly Bobbie doesn’t want to risk being caught telephoning to Dudley from her own home.

thinking imperially (p. 287)

Australia had become a Commonwealth in 1901 under a federal government, and recognized as a Dominion, an autonomous community within the British Empire, in 1926, so “imperially” is still correct here, rather than “colonially” as would have been the case earlier.

Bertie Wooster’s cousin Claude is “all for thinking imperially” with respect to South Africa in “The Delayed Exit of Claude and Eustace” (1922; in The Inimitable Jeeves, 1923).

The Passing of Ambrose

First published with an unnamed narrator in the Strand magazine, July 1928, and with a few extra words in Cosmopolitan, August 1928. “(said Mr. Mulliner)” added to Strand text for book version.

“Right ho” (p. 288)

In the Strand magazine appearance only, this is hyphenated as Right-ho each time.

the conscientious narrator (p. 288)

Thus in both book versions; in both magazine appearances, historian here and in the next paragraph. See Bill the Conqueror.

to go off to Monte Carlo (p. 289)

In both magazine appearances, to buzz off to Monte Carlo. I have no idea why the slangy verb was toned down for the book editions.

boat-train (p. 289)

Trains left London from Victoria Station to reach Dover for the Channel ferries crossing to Calais, from which one would take The Blue Train to Monte Carlo: see Right Ho, Jeeves.

brushed his top-hat the wrong way (p. 289)

Top hats of the period were made with hatters’ plush, a silk fabric with a very long, velvety nap, which could be smoothed down to a glossy finish.

Roland Attwater … snake (p. 290)

As recounted in “Something Squishy”.

Dudley Finch (p. 291)

As recounted in “The Awful Gladness of the Mater”.

the Dog Show (p. 291)

One wonders if Wodehouse had made a connection between the name of Algy Crufts and Cruft’s Dog Show (see Sam the Sudden). Though the Kennel Club now runs it under the name Crufts, in 1928 when this story appeared, newspaper references to the dog show retained the original apostrophe as Cruft’s.

immortal crust (p. 291)

Compare immortal rind: see Carry On, Jeeves.

Eaton Square (p. 292)

Eaton Square is a garden square and exclusive residential neighbourhood in London’s Belgravia district, a short stroll from Buckingham Palace. In shape, the green-space is more of a narrow, three-block long rectangle than a square and is dominated by the 16th-century St. Peter’s Church at one end. [IMLVG]

bring a little sunshine (p. 293)

“I think of all those millions of drab lives, and I say to myself what does all the hard work and the distasteful publicity matter if I can bring a little sunshine into their drab round.”

April June in Laughing Gas, ch. 4 (1936)

“I’ll be off, then, to try to bring a little sunshine into Queenie’s life.”

Catsmeat Potter-Pirbright in The Mating Season, ch. 13 (1949)

“I was trying to cheer up my friend over there and bring a little sunshine into his life.”

Tipton Plimsoll in Galahad at Blandings, ch. 1.2 (1965)

“He should have been rejoicing to think that his money had been instrumental in bringing a little sunshine into a fellow creature’s life.”

Prof. Pepperidge Farmer in “Sleepy Time” (1965; in Plum Pie, 1966/67)

See also p. 320, below.

Eton suit (p. 293)

The uniform of boys at Eton College, with a waist-length jacket, waistcoat and long tie, and a large stiff shirt collar overlapping the collar and upper lapels of the jacket. Often worn with a top hat. See this photo of the Duke of Alba at Eton (opens in new window or tab).

pavement (p. 293)

What North Americans usually call a sidewalk, although both US magazine and book versions retain the British term pavement here.

the iron was entering deeply into her soul (p. 293)

See Sam the Sudden.

sock-clocks (p. 294)

Decorative embroidery at the ankles of socks.

Stacombed hair (p. 294)

Stacomb was a hairdressing product made by the Standard Laboratories of New York, St. Louis, and Los Angeles; its trademark was registered in 1923. “Makes obstinate hair stay combed. Prevents brittleness. Keeps it soft and glossy. Ideal for pompadours. Not sticky. Not greasy.” Images of package at the Smithsonian Institution.

The US magazine version substitutes slicked-back hair here, probably to avoid mentioning a product by name.

details of his toilet (p. 294)

Referring to his clothing and grooming; see Right Ho, Jeeves.

his hat was right… (p. 294)

Wodehouse usually uses a litany of approval like this for women’s outfits; see Summer Lightning for some examples.

queen of her species (p. 294)

See If I Were You.

a frog in his bed (p. 296)

At the least, somewhat less unpleasant than a snake in one’s bed; compare “Something Squishy”.

low down over his prominent ears, a bowler hat (p. 296)

A hat with a firm, rounded crown; called a Derby hat in America. Aunt Marcia has apparently thought ahead to Wilfred’s growth and bought a hat a bit too large for him at present.

tête-à-tête (p. 196)

French for a head-to-head (face-to-face) conversation. Wodehouse’s publishers and editors did not always italicize this term, and indeed in the US magazine appearance it is printed without italics.

piece of cheese (p. 297)

See Hot Water.

Old Stinker (p. 297)

Esmond Bates gets this sobriquet as his own, as far as has been found. But others nicknamed Stinker include Cuthbert de la Hay Horace in “Archie and the Sausage Chappie” (1920; in Indiscretions of Archie, 1921); Lionel Green in Money in the Bank (1942); Rev. Harold Pinker in The Code of the Woosters (1938), Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves (1963), and Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen (1974); Ellabelle Prebble in “Dudley Is Back to Normal” (1940); George Pyke, Lord Tilbury in Heavy Weather (1933) and Service With a Smile (1961); and a schoolmate of Young Thos, the intended target of his cosh in The Mating Season (1949).

goggle-eyed (p. 297)

This can have either of two meanings in Wodehouse: having protruding eyes, or wearing spectacles.

six of the best with a fives-bat (p. 297)

Six swats with a willow paddle: see Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen and The Pothunters.

taxi’s clock … figures on it (p. 297)

This is not a time-of-day clock, but refers to the fare indicated by the taxi’s meter, which shows the charges both for distance traveled and for elapsed time, even when waiting.

Ten Thousand Greeks on beholding the sea (p. 298)

As described by Xenophon in his book Anabasis, after a failed attempt by Cyrus the Younger to overthrow his brother Artaxerxes II, king of Persia. Cyrus’s mercenary army of ten thousand Greeks, mostly from Sparta, was left stranded in enemy territory after Cyrus was killed, and their retreat lasted over a year. Upon sighting the Black Sea coast and the Greek city of Trapezous (modern Trabzon in Turkey), their shout of “Thalatta! Thalatta!” (“The Sea! The Sea!”) is recorded in Book IV of Xenophon’s book, as an expression of their joy in sighting friendly territory.

“Thalatta” is Attic Greek; some readers may be more familiar with the form “thalassa” as in Ionic, Doric, Koine (New Testament) and modern Greek.

a stout man in the uniform of a Czeko-Slovakian Rear-Admiral (p. 299)

Czechoslovakia was created in 1918, when it declared its independence from Austria-Hungary; its official name was Česko-Slovensko, and various English spellings were used in its early years.

The US magazine appearance in Cosmopolitan has a Czecho-Slovakian rear-admiral; the UK magazine version in Strand has a Czecho-Slovakian Rear-Admiral. In the US book, it appears as a Czech-Slovakian Rear-Admiral.

References to doormen and commisionaires in gaudy uniforms such as this include:

In a glass case behind the inner door, reading a newspaper and chewing gum, sat a dignified old man in the rich uniform of a general in the Guatemalan army.

Jill the Reckless/The Little Warrior, ch. 9.1 (1920)

…there stood on the pavement outside a vast commissionaire, brilliantly attired in the full-dress uniform of a Czecho-Slovakian field-marshal and wearing on his head a peaked cap circled by a red band, which bore in large letters of gold the words “Angry Cheese”.

Sam the Sudden/Sam in the Suburbs, ch. 4 (1925)

“Quite awe-inspiring, all that ritual on the threshold. Admirals in the Swiss Navy making you fill up forms with your name and business…”

Lady Julia Fish at Tilbury House in Heavy Weather, ch. 1 (1933)

And when he reached the swing doors which led to the street, there, standing on the sidewalk, was the uniformed exquisite who looked like an ex-King of Ruritania and who had glanced at him as he came in with such an obvious sneer.

Bill Lister at Barribault’s in Full Moon, ch. 3.2 (1947)

On the sidewalk outside the main entrance of Barribault’s Hotel there is posted a zealous functionary about eight feet in height, dressed in what appears to be the uniform of an admiral in the Ruritanian navy, whose duty it is to meet cars and taxis, open the door for their occupants and assist them to alight.

Spring Fever, ch. 20 (1948)

He had the feeling that all he needed to make him a commissionaire was a peaked cap and the uniform of a Ruritanian admiral…

Barmy in Wonderland, ch. 15 (1952)

[Freddie Carpenter] perceived a small boy in the uniform of a Ruritanian Field-Marshal.

French Leave, ch. 9.3 (1956)

It was a relief to him when his guest rose to go and he was able to escort him to the swing doors and leave him there in the care of the Ruritanian Field-Marshal who gets taxis for Barribault’s clientele.

Something Fishy, ch. 9 (1957)

sorrow’s crown of sorrows (p. 299)

See Something Fresh.

the worse moment of his career (p. 299)

Thus in both US and UK first editions, but this must be an error; in both original magazine appearances it is the worst moment of his career which makes much more sense in context.

“Here’s your rat.” (p. 299)

The Admiral drops his aitches and connects words beginning with a vowel sound to the final consonant of the previous word. Wodehouse chooses the humorous spelling “your rat” to show this, where another author might merely write “your ’at.” Similar transformations are made on “this ’at,” “an ’at,” “that ’at,” and “the ’at.”

in my puff (p. 301)

Slang: in all my life; from the association of “breath” with “life.”

“let’s beef in” (p. 301)

From context, this must be schoolboy slang for “shove in” or “push in”: to enter, as with force. This has not so far been confirmed in slang dictionaries or by parallel references; this seems to be its only use in Wodehouse.

educational two-reel comic (p. 301)

Educational Pictures was founded in 1916 in America to produce instructional films for schools, but soon diversified to making short comedy films for general release, with silent-film comedians such as Al St. John, Lupino Lane, and Lloyd Hamilton, while keeping the Educational trade name. In the silent era, when this story was first published, a two-reel film would typically run for from 20 to 25 minutes.

wash his hands of the whole business (p. 302)

See the comment on a similar phrase at Biblia Wodehousiana.

Love conquers all (p. 302)

Virgil, in his Eclogues, x, 69, wrote Omnia vincit amor; the English translation has become proverbial.

the Queen could do no wrong (p. 302)

See Hot Water.

Based on Wordsworth’s well-known poem “We are Seven” (p. 303)

Wodehouse is skewering the Hollywood tradition of buying the rights to a book or play and then changing it beyond all recognition in adapting it to the screen. Wordworth’s poem is a sentimental account of a conversation with a young girl who, in totaling the number of her siblings, includes a brother and a sister who are dead.

“Where Passion Lurks” (p. 303)

Hollywood has always been fond of using words like Passion in titles and publicity; the 1919 Passion starring Pola Negri and Emil Jannings is just one prominent example from the silent era. Even before his own stints in Hollywood as a screenwriter (1930–31 and 1936–37), Wodehouse picked up on this, and continued to lampoon it through his career.

 “Didn’t you see ‘Passion’s Slaves’?”
 “I did not.”
 “Nor ‘Silken Fetters’?”
 “Nor ‘Purple Passion’?”

“Lord Emsworth Acts for the Best” (1926; in Blandings Castle and Elsewhere, 1935)

As a prominent member of the Bolsover Watch Committee, it had recently been his distasteful duty to be present at a private showing of the super-super-film, “Palettes of Passion”…

“The Story of Webster” (1932; in Mulliner Nights, 1933)

At the Perfecto-Zizzbaum this position was held by Hortensia Burwash, the Empress of Molten Passion.

“The Juice of an Orange” (1933; in Blandings Castle and Elsewhere, 1935)

‘You were swell in Passion In Paris.’

Dolly Molloy to Grayce Llewellyn in Pearls, Girls and Monty Bodkin, ch. 9.3 (1972)

“When I married her, she was known as the Empress of Stormy Emotion, and believe me the title was well-earned. In a single picture, Passion in Paris, she used up three directors, two assistant directors and a script girl, and her stormy emotion spilled over into the home.”

Ivor Llewellyn speaking of his former wife Grayce in Bachelors Anonymous, ch. 7 (1973)

Laurette Byng (p. 303)

Wodehouse uses this surname for a few of his characters: Lady Caroline Byng and her son Reggie Byng in A Damsel in Distress (1919), Stiffy Byng in The Code of the Woosters (1938), and Wilmot Byng in “The Law of the Land” (1936). In addition to Laurette, two other film stars are given this surname: Orlando Byng in “The Rise of Minna Nordstrom” (1933) and Otto Byng, star of Young Hearts Adrift in “Company for Gertrude” (1928; both in Blandings Castle and Elsewhere, 1935).

Oscar the Wonder-Poodle (p. 303)

Also mentioned in “The Rise of Minna Nordstrom” (1933; in Blandings Castle and Elsewhere, 1935) as being under contract to the Perfecto-Fishbein company.

Professor Pond’s Educated Sea-Lions (p. 303)

Professor Pond had apparently diversified. In the first of the two stories narrated by a dog named “The Mixer” (1915), one of the dog’s grandfathers “had an established reputation on the music-hall stage as one of Professor Pond’s Performing Poodles.”

the Babylonian Banquet scene (p. 304)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

bitter cup (p. 304)

See The Code of the Woosters.

drained it to the lees (p. 304)

See Sam the Sudden.

face to face with his soul (p. 304)

“Tempests may lower and a strong man stand face to face with his soul, but hope, like a healing herb, will show the silver lining where beckons joy and life and happiness.”

“Came the Dawn” (1927; in Meet Mr. Mulliner, 1927/28)

…there on the mat was young Tuppy. He looked like a man who has passed through some great experience and stood face to face with his soul. He had the beginnings of a black eye.

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

In a moment of absentmindedness he had backed against the shaving-chair and was evidently standing face to face with his soul.

If I Were You, ch. 18 (1931)

blister (p. 304)

The slang usage of this word to mean an annoying person is cited as early as 1806 in the OED. Wodehouse is cited for a use in “Tuppy Changes His Mind”/“The Ordeal of Young Tuppy” (1930; in Very Good, Jeeves, 1930) in which Tuppy Glossop describes women as “Blisters, all of them.”

lid (p. 304)

Slang for hat. The earliest citation in the OED is from George Ade in 1896, a known source for Plum’s knowledge of American slang. The OED also includes this sentence from Wodehouse in its citations for “lid,” along with another from Jeeves in the Offing, ch. 12 (1960):

It is almost as foul as Uncle Tom’s Sherlock Holmes deerstalker, which has frightened more crows than any other lid in Worcestershire.

feet of clay (p. 305)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

reading out the sub-titles (p. 305)

We are still in the silent film era, in which dialogue and explanatory remarks are shown on title cards interpolated among the action scenes. These were termed sub-titles because they were subsidiary to the main titles at the start of the picture giving the film’s title and crediting the cast and production crew.

The curse of the motion-picture industry is that in every audience there are from six to seven young women with adenoids who will insist on reading out the titles as they are flashed on the screen, filling the rest of the customers with harsh thoughts and dreams of murder.

“Came the Dawn” (1927; in Meet Mr. Mulliner, 1927/28)

Abysmal Brute (p. 305)

The title of a 1913 novel by Jack London about an uncivilized man who becomes a professional boxer.

I think he must be one of those cave-men you read about, or Abysmal Brutes, or whatever you call them. […] An Abysmal Brute is bad enough, but an Abysmal Brute who is also an apparently incurable bonehead is a combination which few wives have been called upon to love, honor, and obey.

“Diary of a War-Time Honeymoon” (1916)

a human document, entitled “The Soul of the Abysmal Brute,”

“The Début of Battling Billson” (1923; in Ukridge, 1924)

Old Bailey (p. 306)

Colloquial name for London’s Central Criminal Court.

desire to be elsewhere (p. 306)

It was not immediately, therefore, that Bill recovered from the first stark desire to be elsewhere as quickly as possible and began to turn on to the situation the searchlight of clear reason.

Bill the Conqueror, ch. 11.1 (1924)

Packy, as he accompanied Mr. Slattery across the threshold, was strongly conscious of a desire to be elsewhere.

Hot Water, ch. 11.2 (1932)

Not even on the occasion when he had called upon Mr Duff and asked him for a thousand pounds so that he could go to Italy and have his voice trained had he been conscious of so urgent a desire to be elsewhere.

Lord Holbeton in Quick Service, ch. 11 (1940)

million trillion pounds (p. 307)

See Thank You, Jeeves.

the Black Hand (p. 307)

See Hot Water.

Even the weariest river (p. 308)

See Leave It to Psmith.

“Ladishion” (p. 308)

Phonetic spelling of l’addition, French for the total, the bill to be paid.

simpatico (p. 308)

Italian for “sympathetic” or “congenial, understanding.”

leaving the bottom button of your waistcoat unfastened (p. 310)

The usual explanation for this habit is that it arose in British court circles during the reign of King Edward VII (1901–10), who was so stout that he left his bottom waistcoat button undone for comfort; other members of the court imitated him and the habit spread to other British men of fashion.

ptomaine-poisoning (p. 311)

See Something Fresh.

the greater emotion swallows up the less (p. 312)

The earliest appearances for this phrase so far found:

“Yes, I know I could, and would were there necessity; not in callous disregard of danger, but because the greater emotion swallows up the less.”

Edward P. Roe: An Original Belle (serialized 1897; book 1900)

The greater emotion swallows up the lesser.

Proceedings of the American Medico-Psychological Association, v. 14, p. 276 (1907)

too dashed bad (p. 312)

See A Damsel in Distress.

wouldn’t hold water (p. 313)

A colloquial phrase dating back at least to the seventeenth century, figuratively meaning that there are “holes” in a story or argument, things not properly explained.

bally (p. 313)

See The Inimitable Jeeves.

ooze off (p. 313)

Using the verb ooze for a person moving surreptitiously or inconspicuously, rather than for moisture or mud, is first cited in the OED from Dickens in Dombey and Son (1847): “The young gentlemen oozed away.” This story seems to be Wodehouse’s first use of this sense, but by no means his last; here is one among many:

I nodded back, as much as to say ‘Chilled steel!’ and he [Jeeves] oozed out, leaving me to play the sparkling host.

“Episode of the Dog McIntosh” (1929; in Very Good, Jeeves, 1930)

septic (p. 313)

Early 20th-century slang used offhand for something or someone unpleasant or nasty; rare in Wodehouse, so far found only here and in If I Were You, ch. 2 (1931) and “Buried Treasure” (1936).

playing the game (p. 313)

Acting in accordance with the rules; playing fairly and honorably. Wodehouse had used this phrase as the title of a 1906 short story.

a bit thick (p. 313)

Edwardian slang, casually understating the difficulty or disagreeableness of a situation.

Hyde Park Corner … Eaton Square (p. 313)

Depending on the address on Eaton Square and the route taken, less than a mile in distance.

F.O.B. (p. 313)

Free on board: a term used in commercial delivery together with a specified location. Here the implication is that once the boys have been taken home, Ambrose will have no further responsibility for them.

dens (p. 313)

Alluding to the boys as wild animals.

his man (p. 313)

Ambrose’s valet or manservant.

rearing its ugly head (p. 314)

Wodehouse seems to have been fond of this phrase, as the quotations below demonstrate. Michael Quinion explains some of its history in World Wide Words. See also

The moment he entered the club-house Disaffection reared its ugly head.

“The Magic Plus Fours” (1922; in The Heart of a Goof, 1926)

…when Bill firmly declined to collaborate with him in that ante-dinner cocktail without which, as everybody knows, food can hardly be taken into the system, Tragedy definitely reared its ugly head.

Bill the Conqueror, ch. 3.2 (1924)

It is only when we come to Pat that we find Disapproval rearing its ugly head.

Money for Nothing, ch. 5.2 (1928)

…for some little while past disaffection had been rearing its ugly head among the hairdressing staff of the Hotel Northumberland, with the result that at precisely four o’clock that afternoon a lightning strike had been called and the rebels had downed scissors.

Hot Water, ch. 2.2 (1932)

“Unpleasantness is rearing its ugly head in Berkeley Mansions, W.”

Thank You, Jeeves, ch. 1 (1934)

The day on which Lawlessness reared its ugly head at Blandings Castle was one of singular beauty.

“The Crime Wave at Blandings” (1936; in Lord Emsworth and Others, 1937)

“We can’t have Sex rearing its ugly head in the butler’s pantry.”

Pigs Have Wings, ch. 1.3 (1952)

I knew that the clash of wills for which I had been bracing myself was about to raise its ugly head.

Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, ch. 1 (1954)

Then the economic factor reared its ugly head.

Letter to Bill Townend dated October 22, 1960, in Author! Author! (1962)

Disaffection is raising its ugly head in New York, and it is not too much to say that there is a good deal of sullen murmuring going on.

“Our Man in America” in Punch, January 11, 1961

He had never considered himself psychic, but he was conscious of a strong premonition that trouble was about to raise its ugly head.

Lord Ickenham in Service With a Smile, ch. 7.2 (1961)

Lady Constance was standing in the doorway, and one look at her told him that trouble was about to raise its ugly head.

A Pelican at Blandings, ch. 1.3 (1969)

what is toward (p. 314)

See Leave It to Psmith.

a man who has lunched (p. 315)

The strong implication is that he has had several drinks with his lunch.

that couple over the eight (p. 317)

See Young Men in Spats.

heart-stirring appeal to St. George … Agincourt (p. 317)

From Shakespeare, King Henry V, III, i:

Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’

wash-out (p. 318)

See The Inimitable Jeeves.

bring a litle sunshine (p. 320)

See p. 293, above.

under the clock at Charing Cross (p. 320)

See Bill the Conqueror.

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