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.

Uncle Dynamite has been annotated by Neil Midkiff, with substantial contributions from others as credited below.

Uncle Dynamite was first published on 22 October 1948 by Herbert Jenkins Inc., London, and on 29 November 1948 by Didier, New York. It appeared in one-issue condensations in Liberty (US) and Toronto Star Weekly (CA) after book publication; see this page for details.

These annotations and their page numbers relate to the Didier first US edition, in which the text covers pp. 11–312. For those who are reading other editions, a table of correspondences between the page numbering of several published editions can be seen here (opens in new browser window or tab).


Part One

Runs from pp. 3 to 15 in US first edition.

Wockley Junction, Eggmarsh St. John, Ashenden Oakshott, Bishop’s Ickenham (p. 3)

Wodehouse once again shows his skill in making up place names reminiscent of real English towns and sites. Probably the largest one alluded to here is Bishop’s Stortford, a market town in Hertfordshire; other similar real names include Bury St. Edmunds and a hamlet called Oakshott in East Hampshire.

Wodehouse later tells us (p. 45, below) that Ashenden Oakshott is in Hampshire.

sons of the soil (p. 3)

See Very Good, Jeeves.

trouser (p. 3)

As a verb, a typically British colloquialism for putting money (etc.) into one’s pocket, generalized to taking or accepting money; the OED has citations since 1865, and the earliest are from British writers recording or simulating American turns of phrase. Wodehouse is cited in the OED for one use in Laughing Gas (1936).

third-class … first-class (p. 3)

See Something Fresh.

hat was on the side of his head (p. 3)

See The Mating Season.

bore his cigar like a banner (p. 3)

Not a certain reference, but the use of “bore” and “banner” together may be a glancing allusion to Longfellow’s “Excelsior!”; see Sam the Sudden.

usual decent silence of the traveling Englishman (p. 3)

Well-brought-up Britons apparently had a horror of speaking to someone to whom they had not been introduced, especially in trains and other public conveyances. The paragraph on p. 4 beginning “Well, if you hadn’t been—” takes this further.

Lord Ickenham (p. 4)

Introduced in “Uncle Fred Flits By” (1935; in Young Men in Spats, 1936) and Uncle Fred in the Springtime (1939), Frederick Altamont Cornwallis Twistleton is the fifth Earl of Ickenham, uncle of Pongo Twistleton-Twistleton.

five bob (p. 4)

Five shillings, one-fourth of a pound sterling. On the guess that the tip took place during Bill and Pongo’s school days some fifteen years before, roughly 1933, we can estimate an approximate equivalent in current purchasing power [2023] by multiplying by a factor of 60, so this would have the effect of something like £15 or US$20 in round figures today.

half a crown (p. 4)

A coin worth two shillings and sixpence, just half the value of the five bob mentioned above.

something to do with the bone structure of the head (p. 4)

“The fact of the matter is, sir, women haven’t got the heads men have got. I believe it’s something to do with the bone structure.”

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

“All women are like that,” said George Spenlow. “It’s something to do with the bone structure of their heads. They let their imagination run away with them. They entertain unworthy suspicions.”

“Birth of a Salesman” (1950; in Nothing Serious, 1950)

“All women are like that,” said Bill. “It’s something to do with the bone structure of our heads.”

Wilhelmina “Bill” Shannon in The Old Reliable, ch. 16 (1951)

The Duke, a clear-headed man, saw the objection to this immediately, and once again the inability of females to reason anything out impressed itself upon him. It was something, he believed, to do with the bone structure of their heads.

The Duke of Dunstable in A Pelican at Blandings, ch. 4.1 (1969)

she went of her own free will (p. 4)

Lord Ickenham pretends to have misunderstood “Jamaica?” as a slurred form of “Did you make her?” for the sake of wordplay.

Peter Stanford noted in the Facebook P. G. Wodehouse Book Club that even at the time of writing, this was “a hoary old Music Hall joke”; it was not original with Uncle Fred or with Wodehouse.

human tomato (p. 5)

Wodehouse compared a pink or red complexion to a tomato a few other times:

He started to get pink in the ears, and then in the nose, and then in the cheeks, till in about a quarter of a minute he looked pretty much like an explosion in a tomato cannery on a sunset evening.

Cyril Bassington-Bassington in “Jeeves and the Chump Cyril” (1918; in The Inimitable Jeeves, 1923)

There entered a small boy in an Eton suit, whose face seemed to the bishop vaguely familiar. It was a face that closely resembled a ripe tomato with a nose stuck on it…

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

“Ronald! Goes about behaving like a bereaved tomato.”

Galahad Threepwood referring to Ronnie Fish’s pinkness in Summer Lightning, ch. 8 (1929)

Aunt Dahlia’s face grew darker. Hunting, if indulged in regularly over a period of years, is a pastime that seldom fails to lend a fairly deepish tinge to the patient’s complexion, and her best friends could not have denied that even at normal times the relative’s map tended a little toward the crushed strawberry. But never had I seen it take on so pronounced a richness as now. She looked like a tomato struggling for self-expression.

Right Ho, Jeeves, ch. 20 (1934)

His eyes were rolling in their sockets, and his face had taken on the color and expression of a devout tomato. I could see that he loved like a thousand of bricks.

Stilton Cheesewright blushing when acknowledging his engagement in Joy in the Morning, ch. 3 (1946)

Inasmuch as Captain Biggar, as we have seen, had not spoken his love but had let concealment like a worm i’ the bud feed on his tomato-coloured cheek, it may seem strange that Mrs. Spottsworth should have known anything about the way he felt.

Ring for Jeeves/The Return of Jeeves, ch. 6 (1953/54)

Kirk Rockaway hesitated for a moment. He seemed to be blushing, though it was hard to say for certain, his face from the start having been tomatoesque.

“Stylish Stouts” (1965; in Plum Pie, 1966/67)

bestrides the world like a Colossus (p. 5)

A slight paraphrase from Julius Caesar: see Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

Moab is his washpot and over what’s-its-name has he cast his shoe (p. 5)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

face his tailor without a tremor (p. 5)

Apparently Pongo, like many of Wodehouse’s young men, has been dilatory about paying for his clothes.

unexpectedly wide vocabulary (p. 5)

That is, responding “Good” instead of “Fine.”

protégé (p. 5)

The UK edition has the feminine form protégée here, more correct when the person who is being sponsored, guided, or protected is female.

sense enough for two (p. 5)

See Uncle Fred in the Springtime.

something with a platinum head and an Oxford accent (p. 6)

The implication is that Pongo is likely to be ensnared by dyed pale-blonde hair and an acquired accent that implies more education or social standing than the young woman possesses.

flitting from flower to flower like a willowy butterfly (p. 6)

See The Code of the Woosters.

Little Lord Fauntleroy suits (p. 6)

See Uncle Fred in the Springtime, and be sure to follow the link to the illustration in the original book.

Can the leopard change his spots, or the Ethiopian his hue? (p. 6)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

sunburned (p. 6)

Wodehouse seems sometimes to use this to mean a deep brown tan acquired over time in the sun, as well as its more common modern use for the bright pink or red of an acute reaction to overexposure to the sun, as in sorer than a sunburned neck: see The Girl on the Boat. See also Meet Mr. Mulliner regarding the social history of tanning.

When I got back to Ebury Street, Bowles, my landlord, after complimenting me in a stately way on my sunburned appearance, informed me that George Tupper had called several times while I was away.

“No Wedding Bells for Him” (1923; in Ukridge, 1924)

Miss Angela Purdue … was one of these jolly, outdoor girls; and Wilfred had told me that what attracted him first about her was her wholesome, sunburned complexion. … “It’s such a pity,” said Miss Purdue, “that the sunburn fades so soon. I do wish I knew some way of keeping it.”

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

“How brown you are!”
“That’s Montego Bay. I worked on this sunburn for three months.”

Jill Wyvern to Monica Carmoyle in Ring for Jeeves, ch. 3/The Return of Jeeves, ch. 2 (1953/54)

Ashenden really belongs to me (p. 6)

Bill is in much the same situation as Spennie, Lord Dreever, at Dreever Castle:

The castle was now a very comfortable country-house, nominally ruled over by Hildebrand Spencer Poyns de Burgh John Hannasyde Coombe-Crombie, twelfth Earl of Dreever (“Spennie” to his relatives and intimates), but in reality the possession of his uncle and aunt, Sir Thomas and Lady Julia Blunt.

A Gentleman of Leisure, ch. 8 (1910)

bally (p. 6)

Rhymes with “tally”; a very slangy intensive adjective, usually used as an euphemism for bloody; it has the effect of a mild imprecation such as “confounded” or “blasted.”

a shoe like a violin case (p. 7)

See Laughing Gas.

moot (p. 8)

See Money for Nothing.

girding up your loins (p. 8)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

to rouse the emotions and purge the soul with pity and terror (p. 8)

See The Girl on the Boat.

penny-in-the-slot machine (p. 9)

See Thank You, Jeeves.

Silver Band (p. 9)

See Hot Water.

looking like a stag at bay (p. 10)

Alluding to the popular painting by Sir Edwin Landseer; see Right Ho, Jeeves.

a whoop and a holler (p. 10)

See Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit.

wolves … sleigh … Russian peasant (p. 10)

See Full Moon.

the chap in Damon Runyon’s story (p. 11)

Norman Murphy (A Wodehouse Handbook) found this in Runyon’s “A Nice Price” (1934); the chap is Sam the Gonoph. See the quotation in context, the second paragraph of p. 262, at the Internet Archive (login required to “borrow” the book).

spreading sweetness and light (p. 11)

See Sam the Sudden.

a first-class earl who keeps his carriage (p. 11)

Quoting Gilbert & Sullivan’s Patience, from Archibald Grosvenor’s poem about Gentle Jane. See the libretto at

durbar (p. 11)

See Carry On, Jeeves.

Clemenceau (p. 11)

Georges Benjamin Clemenceau (1841–1929); Prime Minister of France 1906–09 and 1917–20.

connected with the Brazil nut industry (p. 12)

Lord Ickenham would later himself be closely connected with a Brazil nut, the one he uses in Cocktail Time, ch. 1 (1958), to knock off the top hat of Sir Raymond Bastable. In Service With a Smile, chs. 2 and 3 (1961), he brings Cuthbert “Bill” Bailey to Blandings Castle under the alias of Meriwether, pretending that he is connected with the Brazil nut industry.

go to the Rocky Mountains and shoot grizzlies (p. 12)

See A Damsel in Distress.

I could have stuck on a lot of dog (p. 12)

See Spring Fever.

the sort of man whose bite spells death (p. 13)

“Is your sister Adela what is technically known as a tough baby?”
“None tougher. Her bite spells death.”

Spring Fever, ch. 9 (1948)

all-in wrestler (p. 13)

All-in is a type of wrestling without restrictions, with virtually every type of hold permitted. [JD]

kills rats with his teeth (p. 13)

Bertie Wooster claims that his Aunt Agatha chews broken bottles and kills rats with her teeth (The Mating Season, ch. 1, 1949).

governor of one of those crown colonies (p. 13)

Colonial governors and their widows appear in a few other stories:

As a Colonial governor [Sir Godfrey Tanner, K.C.M.G.] had just that taste of power and authority which is enough for the sensible man; more might have spoiled him for the simpler pleasures of life; less would have left him restless and unsatisfied.

“Creatures of Impulse” (1914)

The late Sir Rupert Lakenheath, K.C.M.G., C.B., M.V.O., was one of those men at whom their countries point with pride. Until his retirement on a pension in the year 1906, he had been Governor of various insanitary outposts of the British Empire situated around the equator, and as such had won respect and esteem from all.

“Ukridge Rounds a Nasty Corner” (1924; in Ukridge)

This father of Aurelia’s was not one of those mild old men who make nice easy insulting. He was a tough, hard-bitten retired Colonial Governor of the type which comes back to England to spend the evening of its days barking at club waiters.

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

It is only very rarely that there can exist a perfect fusion of soul between the widow of a British colonial governor, accustomed to associate with service people in a town like Cheltenham, and a girl who is not only American (always a suspicious thing to be) but who lives in Paris (of all cities the one with the most dubious reputation) and is probably a bohemian with loose friends who drink absinthe and play guitars in studios.

Frozen Assets/Biffen’s Millions, ch. 7 (1964)

Mugsy (p. 13)

The only other Mugsy in Wodehouse is Howard “Mugsy” Steptoe in Quick Service (1940), an ex-boxer with a squashed nose. The nickname may possibly derive from the slang sense of mug to mean an unattractive face; see Uncle Fred in the Springtime.

six of the juiciest with a fives bat (p. 13)

See Sam the Sudden and The Pothunters.

taking her on to Crewe (p. 14)

Alluding to the music-hall song “Oh! Mr. Porter” (1892) made famous by Marie Lloyd. Wikipedia article. Lyrics, with link to sheet music.

come Lammas Eve (p. 14)

July 31, the evening before Lammas, a religious celebration of the first fruits of the harvest. The name comes from the Anglo-Saxon for Loaf-Mass, a ceremony in which bread made from the first yield of grain is eaten.

See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse for the source in Romeo and Juliet and other references in Wodehouse to the phrase.

Gawd-help-us (p. 14)

See Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen.

cut by the county (p. 14)

See two adjacent notes to Laughing Gas.

behind the ear with a sock full of wet sand (p. 15)

Another way of describing a knockout blow to the base of the skull with a sandbag.

…he’ll drop as if you had hit him behind the ear with a sandbag.

“The Love-r-ly Silver Cup” (1915)

any interruption at such a moment would have affected him like a blow behind the ear from a sandbag…

Bill the Conqueror, ch. 16.2 of serial; ch. 14.2 of book (1924)

At this point, when everything was going as sweet as a nut and I was feeling on top of my form, Mrs. Pringle suddenly soaked me on the base of the skull with a sandbag.

“Without the Option” (1925; in Carry On, Jeeves!, 1925/27)

Blair Eggleston was looking as like a younger English novelist who has just stopped a sandbag with the back of his head as any younger English novelist had ever looked…

Hot Water, ch. 2.5 (1932)

gulping grunt, like that of a bulldog … while eating a mutton chop (p. 15)

Biffy made a sort of curious gulping noise not unlike a bulldog trying to swallow half a cutlet in a hurry so as to be ready for the other half.

“The Rummy Affair of Old Biffy” (1924; in Carry On, Jeeves!, 1925)

[Orlo Porter’s] voice was low and guttural, like that of a bull-dog which has attempted to swallow a chump chop and only got it down half-way.

Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen, ch. 2 (1974)


Runs from pp. 16 to 29 in US first edition.

Buffy-Porson (p. 16)

See Uncle Fred in the Springtime.

two-seater (p. 16)

A small, lightweight car with room for only the driver and one passenger. Typically a sporty car with a convertible top, bought by people who enjoy driving themselves rather than being driven by a chauffeur.

restoring his tissues (p. 16)

See Bill the Conqueror.

Goodwood Cup (p. 17)

Horse races have been held on the Duke of Richmond’s estate on the Sussex Downs since 1802. The Goodwood Cup takes place at the beginning of August, and is one of the classic summer events for the fashionable world. (cf. “Bingo Has a Bad Goodwood”, ch. 12 of The Inimitable Jeeves, originally part of the magazine story “Comrade Bingo” from 1922)

what you would do … if you found a dead body in your bath one morning with nothing on but a pair of spats (p. 17)

Probably a take-off on Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers (1923), in which Lord Peter Wimsey is introduced, detecting a case of a dead body found in a bath wearing nothing but a pair of pince-nez spectacles.

‘Peace, perfect peace, with loved ones far away’ (p. 17)

See Biblia Wodehousiana. The hymn, however, poses this line as a question, asking how one’s mind can be at rest when friends and family are not safe at home, and answering it with the assurance of divine protection. Wodehouse typically quotes it, as here, with a humorous alteration to its meaning: that it is more peaceful without the loved ones nearby.

Eustace became aware, as never before, of the truth of that well-known line—“Peace, perfect peace, with loved ones far away.” There was certainly little hope of peace with loved ones in his bedroom.

The Girl on the Boat, ch. 17.3 (1922)

He looked forward contentedly to a succession of sunshine days of peace, perfect peace with loved ones far away; days when he would be able to work in his garden without the fear, which had been haunting him for the last two weeks, of finding his niece drooping wanly at his side and asking him if he was wise to stand about in the hot sun.

“Company for Gertrude” (1928; in Blandings Castle and Elsewhere, 1935)

How right, he felt, the author of the well-known hymn had been in saying that peace, perfect peace, is to be attained only when loved ones are far away.

Service With a Smile, ch. 2.3 (1961)

 “This is very pleasant, Galahad,” he said, and Gally endorsed the sentiment.
 “I was thinking the same thing, Clarence. No Connie, no Dunstable. Peace, perfect peace with loved ones far away, as one might say.”

A Pelican at Blandings, ch. 14 (1969)

I had looked on Maiden Eggesford as somewhere where I would be free from all human society, a haven where I would have peace perfect peace with loved ones far away, as the hymnbook says, and it was turning out to be a sort of meeting place of the nations.

Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen, ch. 6 (1974)

Coggs (p. 17)

Lord Ickenham’s butler is first mentioned in Uncle Fred in the Springtime (1939). Coggs is a variant of Wodehouse’s favorite butler name, Keggs. [MH]

St. Anthony … temptation (p. 17)

See Bill the Conqueror.

one of our pleasant and instructive afternoons (p. 18)

So when, on the occasion to which I allude, he stood pink and genial on Pongo’s hearth-rug, bulging with Pongo’s lunch and wreathed in the smoke of one of Pongo’s cigars, and said: “And now, my boy, for a pleasant and instructive afternoon,” you will readily understand why the unfortunate young clam gazed at him as he would have gazed at two-penn’orth of dynamite, had he discovered it lighting up in his presence.

“Uncle Fred Flits By” (1935; in Young Men in Spats, 1936)

“No, sorry, three pangs. What caused one of them was the thought that, going off to stay with Johnny, I shall be deprived for quite a time of your society and those pleasant and instructive afternoons we have so often had together.”

Cocktail Time, ch. 7 (1958)

“I know,” said Pongo austerely. “One of our pleasant and instructive afternoons. Well, pleasant and instructive afternoons are off.”

Service With a Smile, ch. 2 (1961)

a thoughtful Crumpet had once said (p. 18)

The Crumpet (a member of the Drones Club; see Uncle Fred in the Springtime) uses very similar language to describe Uncle Fred and his “excesses” in “Uncle Fred Flits By” (1935; in Young Men in Spats, 1936) and the later novels in which he appears; see Uncle Fred in the Springtime.

step high, wide and plentiful (p. 19)

See Young Men in Spats.

well stricken in years (p. 19)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

Later, in ch. 6.2, Lord Ickenham’s age is established at sixty.

that day at the dog races (p. 19)

We never get the full story of what happened, but hints about the circumstances of being arrested are revealed later in this book, and the incident is mentioned at least obliquely in all the Uncle Fred stories.

losing dear gazelles (p. 19)

See Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit.

cloud … some sort of a silver lining (p. 19)

See Bill the Conqueror.

West End (p. 20)

See Bill the Conqueror.

up and doing with a heart for any fate (p. 20)

From the last stanza of an often-quoted Longfellow poem; see Leave It to Psmith.

with my hair in a braid (p. 20)

See The Mating Season.

Recording Angel (p. 20)

A personification of the heavenly record-keeping of one’s good and bad deeds. Wodehouse twice uses the term to refer to the angel in James Leigh Hunt’s poem “Abou Ben Adhem.”

Get thou behind me (p. 20)

Pongo isn’t quite tuned in to Elizabethan grammar here; the Authorized (King James) Version has “Get thee behind me.” See Biblia Wodehousiana.

get into an uncle’s ribs (p. 21)

See Lord Emsworth and Others.

along the primrose path (p. 21)

Alluding to Ophelia’s caution to Laertes in Hamlet; see Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

It’s no good saying ‘Ichabod’ (p. 21)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

sponge-bag trousers (p. 21)

Part of formal morning attire, appropriate for weddings; see The Code of the Woosters.

neither chick nor child (p. 22)

An archaic phrase for having no offspring; unlike the usage of twentieth-century slang, a chick referred to a boy and a child meant a girl, according to NTPM in A Wodehouse Handbook.

take a dekko (p. 22)

Take a look; British army slang from the 1890s, derived from Hindi dekho, imperative form of the verb “Look!”

photograph … of cabinet size (p. 22)

See Leave It to Psmith.

winter woolies (p. 23)

Long underwear made of wool.

lily-livered poltroon (p. 24)

See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

district messenger boy (p. 24)

See Leave It to Psmith.

put the lid on it (p. 25)

See Ukridge.

like a sheik (p. 25)

In a domineering manner, like the romantically captivating hero of Edith Maude Hull’s 1919 novel The Sheik, famously portrayed in a 1921 silent film by Rudolph Valentino. [MH/NM]

Take some jewelry … and smuggle it through the customs (p. 26)

Plum and Ethel Wodehouse had had an experience that may have informed this plot device:

On arriving in New York, we had a passing unpleasantness with the Customs people. Ethel had bought a necklace in London, and she filled up the form they give you to fill up before you land with “Nothing to Declare,” and the Customs people decided that here was the jewel smuggler they had been waiting for so long.

Letter to Bill Townend dated December 16, 1922 in Author! Author! (1962)

“Grayce has bought a peach of a pearl necklace in Paris, and she wants you, when you sail for home next week, to take it along and smuggle it through the Customs.”

Mabel Spence to Ivor Llewellyn in The Luck of the Bodkins, ch. 1.2 (1935). Note that when the story is recounted by a Whiskey Sour in Chapter 2 of Pearls, Girls and Monty Bodkin (1972), the jewelry is called “a very valuable diamond thingummy” rather than a pearl necklace.

 “Do you remember when she smuggled her pearls through the New York Customs?”
  “Inside a Mickey Mouse which she bought at the ship’s shop.”

Mr. Bunting and Mr. Satterthwaite, talking about Julia Cheever in “Life with Freddie” (in Plum Pie, 1966/67)

sheet anchor (p. 27)

From the former name for the largest of a ship’s anchors, to be used only in an emergency; figuratively, something upon which one relies in extreme circumstances.

commish (p. 27)

A shortening of “commission” as in the 1920s craze for shortened words, such as the Gershwin song “ ’S Wonderful” (1927), whose verse rhymes humble fash and tender pash.

whitest man I know (p. 27)

See A Damsel in Distress.

reminded me of Hamlet (p. 28)

See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse for other references to Hamlet’s character.

apple-pie bed (p. 28)

See Summer Lightning.

a couple for the tonsils (p. 28)

See Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen.

angel in human shape (p. 28)

See Full Moon.

about fifty-seven romances (p. 29)

See A Damsel in Distress.

George Eliot (p. 29)

Pen name of English author Mary Ann Evans (1819–1880).

Boadicea (p. 29)

See Right Ho, Jeeves.

the late Mrs. Carrie Nation (p. 29)

American reformer (1846–1911) known for radical advocacy of the temperance movement; notorious for smashing up taverns and bottles of alcoholic beverages with a hatchet.

twenty-minute egg (p. 29)

That is, thoroughly and firmly hard-boiled.

“Shall we join the ladies?” (p. 29)

At the time, according to British etiquette for a formal dinner, after the last course was finished, the hostess and female guests retired to the drawing room, allowing the host and his male guests to turn the conversation to more masculine topics, and to enjoy an after-dinner drink, typically port. This phrase would have been the conventional signal for the men to conclude their separate session and go to the drawing room themselves.


Runs from pp. 30 to 58 in US first edition.

tra-la-la (p. 30)

A conventional phrase representing the singing of a wordless melody or sequence of notes, often expressing joy or freedom from care.

Summer is here. (If I had been writing a lyric for musical comedy I should have added the words Tra-la-la, tra-la-la, but in a serious and technical article these would, of course, be out of place.)

“A Timely Chat About Gardens” (1916)

“Tra-la-la!” I said.
“Precisely, sir.”

“Aunt Agatha Takes the Count” (1922; in ch. 3 of The Inimitable Jeeves, 1923)

“Gentleman, eh?” said Mr. Slingsby, almost adding “Tra-la-la!”

Bill the Conqueror, ch. 18 (1924)

It was, indeed, practically with a merry tra-la-la on my lips that I latchkeyed my way in and made for the sitting room.

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

I marmaladed a slice of toast with something of a flourish, and I don’t suppose I have ever come much closer to saying “Tra-la-la” as I did the lathering, for I was feeling in mid-season form this morning.

Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves, ch. 1 (1963)

successfully resisted a Tempter (p. 30)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

tied the can (p. 30)

See Sam the Sudden.

“Faugh!” (p. 30)

See Very Good, Jeeves.

crust (p. 30)

See the discussion under immortal rind in Something Fresh.

old geezers (p. 31)

See The Code of the Woosters.

avuncular (p. 31)

Used here in its root sense of “of or from an uncle” without its usual connotation of being benign or kindly. Wodehouse uses it both ways:

Two weeks of poker had led to his writing to his uncle a distressed, but confident, request for more funds; and the avuncular foot had come down with a joyous bang.

The Intrusion of Jimmy/A Gentleman of Leisure, ch. 23 (1910)

The light of avuncular affection died out of the old boy’s eyes.

Bertie, breaking the news of Bingo’s engagement to a waitress to Bingo’s uncle Mortimer Little in “Bingo and the Little Woman” (1922; in The Inimitable Jeeves, 1923))

from soup to nuts (p. 31)

See Blandings Castle and Elsewhere.

Cheeryble Brother (p. 31)

See Hot Water.

grappling them to his soul with hoops of steel (p. 31)

Alluding to Polonius’s speech of advice in Hamlet; see Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

Ashenden Manor … a fortress to be defended against uncouth intruders (p. 31)

Compare the description of Dreever Castle as a haven of refuge from marauding invaders in The Intrusion of Jimmy/A Gentleman of Leisure, ch. 8 (1910).

French window (p. 32)

See Summer Lightning.

a different and a dreadful world (p. 32)

See Very Good, Jeeves.

whatnot (p. 32)

Here, an indefinite or undescribable object. See A Damsel in Distress for other meanings and uses of the term.

trade gin (p. 32)

Gin (a distilled spirit flavored with juniper berries) bottled for the purpose of bartering with indigenous peoples. No doubt this was not the highest quality liquor.

knobkerrie (p. 32)

(Afrikaans) A short weighted club or throwing stick. [MH]

Last Trump (p. 32)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

macédoine (p. 32)

See Ice in the Bedroom.

foot on the self-starter (p. 33)

See Bill the Conqueror.

a trapped cinnamon bear (p. 33)

See A Damsel in Distress.

looked like a horse (p. 34)

See Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit.

brightness enough for both of them (p. 34)

See Uncle Fred in the Springtime.

pot of cyanide (p. 34)

See Thank You, Jeeves.

the status of an ewe lamb (p. 35)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

Lower Barnatoland (p. 35)

A fictional British colony in Africa, whose name is derived from the real Lower Basutoland and from British diamond magnate Barney Barnato (1852–97). A. M. “Pitcher” Binstead of the Pelican Club had used the name “Barnatoland” by itself in “The Gents of the Garrison” (in Houndsditch Day by Day, 1899).

In Frozen Assets/Biffen’s Millions, ch. 7 (1964), Wodehouse tells us that the late Sir Hubert Blake-Somerset, Henry’s father, had been governor of Lower Barnatoland.

brilliantined hair (p. 35)

See Leave It to Psmith.

look for the silver lining and try to find the sunny side of life (p. 35)

Quoting the lyrics of a song; see Bill the Conqueror.

stewed to the gills (p. 36)

Very drunk; see Right Ho, Jeeves.

One fairly quick, followed by another rather slower (p. 36)

See The Inimitable Jeeves.

clicking noise, like a wet finger touching hot iron (p. 37)

Somewhat inconsistent with another mention:

Occasionally he would draw in his breath with a sharp hissing sound like somebody putting a wet finger on a hot stove lid…

“My Bridge Career” (in Cavalier, March 1965)

young toad (p. 37)

The Hon. Galahad listened with fire smouldering behind his monocle.
“The young toad!” he cried. “Monty Bodkin.”

Heavy Weather, ch. 9 (1933)

“Half-witted, I’d call him—if that. Besides being the most offensive-looking young toad I’ve ever seen on the premises.”

Sir Mortimer Prenderby, speaking of Freddie Widgeon in “Good-Bye to All Cats” (1934; in Young Men in Spats, 1936)

Jane, the parlormaid (p. 38)

In many households, servants were addressed by names not their own; the parlormaid might be called Jane, no matter what she had been christened, as if she were taking on a role in a play.

deleterious slab of damnation (p. 38)

The phrase “slab of damnation” appears to be original with Wodehouse; Google Books search finds no instance prior to the first of these:

“Well, he looks a pretty frightful young slab of damnation to me.”

Sir Mortimer Prenderby, speaking of Freddie Widgeon in “Good-Bye to All Cats” (1934; in Young Men in Spats, 1936)

“That slimy, slithery, moustache-twiddling young slab of damnation?”

Lord Uffenham speaking of Lionel Green in Money in the Bank, ch. 7 (1942)

“Who invited Cheesewright here? Dahlia, I suppose, though why we shall never know. A deleterious young slab of damnation, if ever I saw one.”

Uncle Tom Travers in Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, ch. 11 (1954)

“When the wench … sprang it on me as calm as a halibut on ice that she was going to marry Stanhope Twine, I nearly swooned where I sat. ‘What!’ I said. ‘That young slab of damnation? Yer kiddin.’ ”

Lord Uffenham in Something Fishy/The Butler Did It, ch. 13 (1957)

“There was a young slab of damnation with a criminal face round at my place only yesterday trying to sell it to me.”

Major Plank in Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves, ch. 23 (1963)

“You mean you seriously intend to marry that pop-eyed young slab of damnation?”

Colonel Pashley-Drake speaking of Lancelot Bingley in “A Good Cigar Is a Smoke” (in Plum Pie, 1966/67)

coo to him like a turtledove (p. 38)

Practically a coo. As it might have been one turtledove addressing another turtledove.

Joy in the Morning, ch. 2 (1946)

“I’ll be like a turtledove cooing to a female turtledove.”

Ring for Jeeves/The Return of Jeeves, ch. 6 (1953/54)

Stiffy … had spoken of Stinker cooing to Spode like a turtledove, and if memory served me aright that was just how he had cooed, and it was of a cooing turtledove that she now reminded me.

Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves, ch. 19 (1963)

see each other steadily and see each other whole (p. 39)

A paraphrase from a Matthew Arnold poem: see The Clicking of Cuthbert.

top dressing of mustache (p. 39)

Top dressing is an agricultural term for mulch, compost, or fertilizer spread on the surface of garden soil. Wodehouse often uses it for such things as books and papers spread over a desk; this is the only instance so far found applying it to facial hair as itself being spread upon a face, though once it is used for Chimp Twist waxing his mustache (Money in the Bank, ch. 5, 1942), and once Bertie contemplates fertilizing his mustache in these terms:

I had hoped to nurse it through the years with top dressing till it became the talk of the town.

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

gumboil (p. 39)

An infected sore or inflammation on the gums in the mouth; figuratively, an annoying or irritating person.

clocked socks (p. 39)

Socks with decorative embroidery at the ankles.

“It’s priceless.”
“Really? How priceless!” (p. 40)

Sir Aylmer uses the word in its usual sense of having an inestimable value; Pongo’s response is in the colloquial sense of being original, amusing, or absurd, as Bertie and his pals often use it:

It wasn’t as if there was anything wrong with that Broadway Special hat. It was a remarkably priceless effort, and much admired by the lads.

“Jeeves and the Unbidden Guest” (1916; in Carry On, Jeeves, 1925)

like breath off a razor blade (p. 40)

Apparently also an original Wodehouse simile; a Google Books search finds no earlier usage.

There was a light breeze blowing in through the open window, and so musical a rustling did it set up as it played about the heaped-up wealth that Mr. Nickerson’s austerity seemed to vanish like breath off a razor-blade.

“Ukridge’s Dog College” (1923; in Ukridge, 1924)

And then his eye fell on the slip of paper, and pomposity slipped from him like breath off a razor blade.

Money for Nothing, ch. 14.2 (1928)

Lord Emsworth had been smirking. He now congealed, and the smile passed from his lips like breath off a razor blade, to be succeeded by a tense look of anxiety and alarm.

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

The puzzled frown that had begun to gather on Lord Emsworth’s forehead vanished like breath off a razor blade.

A Pelican at Blandings, ch. 1.1 (1969)

“Gorbl . . .!” (p. 40)

Gorblimey: a Cockney contraction of “God blind me” to express surprise, anger, etc. [IM/LVG]

Sir Aylmer was one of them (p. 40)

See Hot Water.

like Marius among the ruins of Carthage (p. 41)

See Something Fresh.

whirring sound without (p. 41)

For this sense of “without” see confused noise without in Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

some solid body was passing down the hall at a high rate of m.p.h. (p. 41)

See The Girl on the Boat.

measles (p. 41)

Measles was a highly infectious virus for which no vaccine was available until 1963.

bravest and fairest (p. 42)

See Mr. Mulliner Speaking.

Belshazzar’s Feast (p. 42)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

to judge the babies (p. 42)

See Bill the Conqueror for other Wodehouse references to baby-judging contests.

lumbago (p. 42)

Pain in the muscles of the lower back.

dashed (p. 43)

See A Damsel in Distress.

eye, rolling in a fine frenzy from heaven to earth (p. 43)

See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

soul in torment (p. 43)

See Sam the Sudden.

blinding and stiffing (p. 44)

See The Mating Season.

went on toots (p. 45)

See Uncle Fred in the Springtime.

the pure Hampshire breezes (p. 45)

Hampshire is a ceremonial county on England’s southern coast, containing the cities of Southampton and Portsmouth.

awful majesty of the law (p. 46)

See Ice in the Bedroom.

Potter, the Romeo (p. 46)

For similar references, see Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

a fair cop (p. 46)

An arrest when the perpetrator has been caught dead-to-rights, in the act. [JD]

Boat Race Night (p. 47)

See Laughing Gas and The Code of the Woosters.

“What’s all this?” (p. 47)

Policemen in Wodehouse always say “What’s all this?” and “Ho!” This is a running joke throughout the canon, presumably sending up the way the walk-on policemen in plays of the time talk. [MH]

enclosed premises (p. 47)

Under the Vagrancy Act 1824, “being found on enclosed premises” was grounds for arrest on suspicion of being there for unlawful purposes. The text of the law actually read “being found in or upon any Dwelling House, Warehouse, Coach-house, Stable, or Outhouse, or in any inclosed Yard, Garden, or Area,” but the shorter phrase was the usual abbreviated reference.

tête-à-tête (p. 47)

A face-to-face meeting (from French: “head to head”).

turned-up nose (p. 47)

According to the OED, this means the same as Wodehouse’s more usual adjective tip-tilted: see A Damsel in Distress.

chewing the fat (p. 48)

To discuss or complain about something, especially at length. One of the OED citations for this phrase is from Money in the Bank, ch. 12 (1942).

mooch along (p. 49)

To move, especially in an aimless or uncertain fashion.

I was mooching slowly up St. James’s Street…

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

“R.” (p. 50)

Wodehouse doesn’t otherwise seem to characterize Elsie’s dialectal pronunciations, but spelling “Ah” as “R” gives a hint as to her manner of speech.

Others thus characterized include the woman in the cricket cap in Summer Moonshine, ch. 19 (1937); Augustus Robb in Spring Fever, ch. 8 (1948); Constable Ernest Dobbs in The Mating Season, ch. 26 (1949); George Cyril Wellbeloved in Pigs Have Wings, ch. 5.6 (1952); and an employee of Pop Cook in Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen, ch. 17 (1974). This does not purport to be a complete list.

Bottleton East (p. 50)

See Young Men in Spats.

spliced to a copper (p. 50)

Married to a policeman. Spliced as slang for married is cited as early as 1751, from Smollett; copper for policeman has OED citations since 1846.

a blot on the Bean escutcheon (p. 51)

See Heavy Weather. Using terms of heraldry for Elsie’s Bottleton East family is a humorous misapplication.

resigned his portfolio (p. 51)

See Lord Emsworth and Others. A term from high diplomatic and government circles, also humorously misapplied.

three hundred pounds (p. 51)

The Bank of England inflation calculator suggests a factor of roughly thirty to account for purchasing-power change from 1948 to 2023, so in modern terms this would be on the order of nine thousand pounds. I doubt if any pubs can be bought for that sum today, of course.

overbearing dishpot (p. 52)

Wodehouse never explains Elsie’s term; presumably we are to conclude that she really means “despot.”

good egg (p. 52)

The term is usually applied to a person of reliable character in Wodehouse, but here it seems to refer to the scheme of getting married to Hermione.

The Boy Explorers Up The Amazon (p. 53)

Apparently fictitious.

liver wing (p. 53)

The right wing of a chicken or other fowl, with the liver tucked into it before cooking. OED has quotations dating from 1796.

kick the bucket (p. 53)

See Thank You, Jeeves.

‘Coo!’ (p. 53)

An exclamation of surprise or amazement; often a verbal marker for those of humbler origins. When Elsie later in this chapter (p. 58) quotes Pongo as saying “Coo! I think I’ll go to London” we are intended, I think, to regard the exclamation as Elsie’s own interpolation rather than a direct quote from Pongo.

His Nibs (p. 53)

See A Damsel in Distress.

one of those peculiar puddings (p. 54)

Pudding is here used in the British sense of any dessert; the description is of “baked Alaska”: a block of ice cream on a base of cake, the whole covered in meringue and briefly oven-baked to crisp and brown the surface of the meringue, while the ice cream insulated inside stays frozen.

nice bit of box fruit (p. 55)

See Laughing Gas.

a dozen miles … in about three minutes and a quarter (p. 55)

Taken literally, this works out to just over 221.5 miles per hour.

understudy (p. 55)

Theatrical jargon for an actor who prepares to play a role in the absence or illness of the actor who normally portrays that part.

the fate that is worse than death (p. 56)

See Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit.

goggle-eyed (p. 56)

See Piccadilly Jim.

lip fungus (p. 56)

See Right Ho, Jeeves.

in the soup (p. 56)

See The Inimitable Jeeves.

going down for the third time (p. 56)

See The Code of the Woosters.

kissing her in a grateful and brotherly manner (p. 56)

Consequently James stooped, and—in a purely brotherly way—kissed Violet.

“Out of School” (1910)

everybody kisses everybody else … like the early Christians (p. 57)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

Can the leopard change his spots (p. 57)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

non compos (p. 58)

See Cocktail Time.


Runs from pp. 59 to 73 in US first edition.

Budge Street (p. 59)

Apparently fictitious; the 1915 London directory lists a Budge Row in the City of London (E.C.), and Google Maps shows a Budge Lane in Mitcham, but these are nowhere near Chelsea.

the Enclosure at Ascot on Cup Day (p. 59)

In full, the Royal Enclosure at the Ascot Racecourse, the most formal members-only-by-invitation section of the most prestigious racing venue in the United Kingdom, founded in 1711 by Queen Anne. Formal morning dress is mandatory for gentlemen.

King’s Road (p. 60)

When Wodehouse moved to London in 1900 to begin working at the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, he first rented rooms in Markham Square, Chelsea, then in Walpole Street. Both were just off the King’s Road, so he knew the neighborhood well. In The Girl in Blue, ch. 10 (1970), Jerry West lives “in one of the streets off the King’s Road.”

Columbine (p. 60)

A young female character from the Italian commedia and English pantomime, the girlfriend of Harlequin.

the secret of a happy and successful life (p. 60)

Many of Wodehouse’s characters use similar phrases when giving advice:

“Always pop across streets. It is the secret of a happy and successful life.”

Psmith in Leave It to Psmith, ch. 6.5 (1923)

But it so happened that Rollo’s mother had recently been reading a medical treatise in which an eminent physician stated that we all eat too much nowadays, and that the secret of a happy life is to lay off the carbohydrates to some extent.

“The Awakening of Rollo Podmarsh” (1923; in The Heart of a Goof, 1926)

“If you want to know the secret of a happy and successful life, Barmy, old man, it is this: Keep away from parsons’ daughters.”

Pongo in “Tried in the Furnace” (1935; in Young Men in Spats, UK edition, 1936)

“The secret of a happy and successful life is to know when things have got too hot and cut your losses.”

Galahad Threepwood in Pigs Have Wings, ch. 10.2 (1952)

“Cut women out of your life, Phipps, and you will be a better, brighter man. It is the secret of a happy and prosperous career.”

Mervyn Potter in Barmy in Wonderland, ch. 13 (1952)

It was a favourite dictum of the late A. B. Spottsworth … that the secret of a happy and successful life was to get rid of the women at the earliest possible opportunity.

Ring for Jeeves/The Return of Jeeves, ch. 8 (1953/54)

“Always watch snails,” said Mortimer Bayliss approvingly. “It is the secret of a happy and successful life. A snail a day keeps the doctor away.”

Something Fishy/The Butler Did It, ch. 20 (1957)

I had long since learned that the secret of a happy and successful life was to steer clear of any project masterminded by that young scourge of the species.

Bertie speaking of Stiffy Byng in Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves, ch. 5 (1963)

A.W.O.L. (p. 60)

A military abbreviation for Absent Without Leave.

Barribault’s (p. 61)

See Ice in the Bedroom.

grillroom (p. 61)

An informal restaurant, specializing in steaks, chops, and the like.

you look like Helen of Troy (p. 61)

Others whose beauty is compared to “the face that launched a thousand ships” (see The Girl in Blue):

This girl before him was marvellous. Helen of Troy could have been nothing to her.

Sam Shotter’s opinion of Kay Christopher in Sam the Sudden, ch. 12.3 (1925)

Confronted with this girl, Cleopatra would have looked like Nellie Wallace, and Helen of Troy might have been her plain sister.

Lancelot Mulliner’s opinion of Angela, daughter of the Earl of Biddlecombe, in “Came the Dawn” (1927; in Meet Mr. Mulliner, 1927/28)

“Oh, Gertrude. … She begins where Helen of Troy left off.”

Catsmeat speaking of Gertrude Winkworth in The Mating Season, ch. 7 (1949)

“My wife,” A. B. Spottsworth had said, indicating the combination of Cleopatra and Helen of Troy by whom he was accompanied…

Ring for Jeeves, ch. 1/The Return of Jeeves, ch. 5 (1953/54)

“You’re more the Helen of Troy type. Not that Helen of Troy was in your class. You begin where she left off.”

Biff Christopher to Gwendoline Gibbs in Frozen Assets/Biffen’s Millions, ch. 4.2 (1964)

“…why, you begin where Helen of Troy left off.”

Bill Hollister to Jane Benedick in Something Fishy/The Butler Did It, ch. 11 (1957)

 “Dash it all, Johnny, Linda Gilpin isn’t the Queen of Sheba.”
 “Yes, she is.”
 “Or Helen of Troy.”
 “Yes, she is, and also Cleopatra.”

A Pelican at Blandings, ch. 8.2 (1969)

anachronistic parasite on the body of the state (p. 61)

“We know what lords are. Anachronistic parasites on the body of the state, is the kindest thing you can say of them.”

Lord Ickenham, in Cocktail Time, ch. 9 (1958)

bloodsuckers (p. 61)

Various characters use this term to describe creditors, sponging relatives, and tax collectors, but the Communist perspective on the aristocracy brings this to mind:

“Look at the tall thin one with the face like a motor-mascot. Has he ever done an honest day’s work in his life? No! A prowler, a trifler, and a blood-sucker!”

Bingo Little (in disguise) haranguing Bertie in “Comrade Bingo” (1922; in The Inimitable Jeeves, 1923)

five Christian names (p. 62)

As far as I am aware, we only learn three of them: Frederick Altamont Cornwallis.

coronet hanging on a peg (p. 62)

A small crown made of gilt silver with a cap of crimson velvet trimmed with ermine, part of the official regalia of an earl; the golden band is decorated with eight tall points with ball finials and with strawberry leaves between the points. Lord Ickenham would no doubt have treated it with more care than to hang it on a hat rack.

a younger son, a mere honorable (p. 62)

The style “The Honourable” is given to younger sons of earls, as well as the sons and daughters of viscounts and barons. Informally abbreviated “hon.” and used as a noun in his next speech here, also in ch. 12 (p. 257).

Debrett (p. 62)

See Lord Emsworth and Others.

go into dinner behind the Vice-Chancellor (p. 62)

The rules of precedence for social events are complicated enough that reference books such as Debrett’s are essential tools for those in society.

I see no objection to earls. A most respectable class of men they seem to me. And one admires their spirit. I mean, while some, of course, have come up the easy way, many have had the dickens of a struggle starting at the bottom of the ladder as mere Hons., having to go in to dinner after the Vice-Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and all that sort of thing. Show me the Hon. who by pluck and determination has raised himself from the depths, step by step, till he has become entitled to keep a coronet on the hat peg in the downstairs closet, and I will show you a man of whom any author might be proud to write.

“Put Me Among the Earls” (in Punch, June 9, 1954, and in America, I Like You, 1956; also as “Bring On the Earls” in Over Seventy, 1957)

jerked soda (p. 62)

The verb jerk, a colloquial Americanism for dispensing drinks by pulling a lever handle, dates from 1868. The noun soda-jerker is cited from 1883 in the OED and defined as one who mixes and sells soft drinks. Wodehouse is cited from Louder and Funnier (1932) as using the hyphenated noun.

Horatio Alger (p. 63)

See Ice in the Bedroom.

SOS (p. 63)

A telegraphic distress call; see Summer Lightning. The US edition has it properly spelled without periods as above; the UK first edition (p. 55) has it as “S.O.S.” which is incorrect.

truite bleue (p. 64)

A French dish of very fresh trout cooked with vinegar, which turns the fish’s skin a metallic blue in color. [IM/LVG]

part brass rags (p. 65)

See Very Good, Jeeves.

Hants (p. 66)

Classical abbreviation for Hampshire, used in postal addresses. Derives from Old English Hantescire as used in the Domesday Book.

Tatler (p. 66)

A glossy British monthly magazine emphasizing society, fashion, lifestyle, and entertainment; founded 1901, and since the 1980s owned by Condé Nast Publications. It takes its name from an 18th-century journal published by Richard Steele with Jonathan Swift and Joseph Addison, but has no direct connection to it.

under the ether (p. 66)

See Right Ho, Jeeves.

Reminiscences … to pay for their publication (p. 67)

Unlike Galahad Threepwood’s reminiscences, which promised to be a moneymaker for Lord Tilbury until withdrawn by their author, Sir Aylmer seems to have needed to use a “vanity press” arrangement. In Summer Moonshine (1937), Sir Buckstone Abbott’s My Sporting Memories are similarly published at his expense.

head on a charger (p. 68)

Here a charger is a large service plate; see Biblia Wodehousiana for the Scriptural allusion to John the Baptist.

persona grata (p. 68)

Latin: a welcomed or acceptable person.

a cat on hot bricks (p. 69)

See The Girl in Blue.

Edwin Smith of 11 Nasturtium Road, East Dulwich (p. 69)

See Very Good, Jeeves.

the big four (p. 70)

A nickname for the superintendents of the Criminal Investigation Department at Scotland Yard.

wandered into a Turkish bath on ladies’ night (p. 70)

I should imagine that if you happened to wander by accident into the steam room of a Turkish bath on Ladies’ Night, you would have emotions very similar to those I was experiencing now.

Much Obliged, Jeeves/Jeeves and the Tie That Binds, ch. 13 (1971)

It had Alice’s jewels in it (p. 71)

Reminiscent of the plot device of “The Adventure of the Six Napoleons” by Arthur Conan Doyle (1904; in The Return of Sherlock Holmes, 1905).

“dash my wig and buttons” (p. 71)

A phrase used to give the effect of swearing without using profane language. See Brewer, Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1898 edition, p. 332).

“Well, dash my wig and buttons!” exclaimed Lord Uffenham, looking like a sibyl about to prophesy.

Money in the Bank, ch. 24 (1942)

the boys in the back room (p. 72)

See Heavy Weather. That note was written for a book published before 1939; for the present book, the allusion might be to the 1939 song or to the older popular phrase.

when Pongo and I started out last spring for Blandings Castle in the roles of Sir Roderick Glossop, the brain specialist, and his nephew Basil (p. 72)

Recounted in Uncle Fred in the Springtime (1939).

Part Two

Runs from pp. 77 to 92 in US first edition.

deserving poor (p. 77)

A very Victorian concept of charity, requiring adherence to “middle-class morality” among the impoverished in order that they deserve to receive charity. Shaw lampoons this in Pygmalion in the voice of Alfred Doolittle.

“No,” I said, “take it away; give it to the deserving poor. I shall never wear it again.”

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

wearing as he did a pink shirt and a slouch hat which should long ago have been given to the deserving poor, Mr. Carmody was not much of a spectacle…

Money for Nothing, ch. 10.1 (1928)

“And I,” said Myrtle, “have got to take a few pints of soup to the deserving poor.”

“Anselm Gets His Chance” (1937; in Eggs, Beans and Crumpets, 1940)

Swooping down on Horace’s flat … Valerie Twistleton had scooped up virtually his entire outfit and borne it away in a cab, to be given to the deserving poor.

Uncle Fred in the Springtime, ch. 4 (1939)

“Lady Constance has pinched [Lord Emsworth’s] favorite hat and given it to the deserving poor, and he lives in constant fear of her getting away with his shooting jacket with the holes in the elbows.”

Service With a Smile, ch. 2.3 (1961)

mignonette (p. 77)

A garden plant, Reseda odorata, with fragrant yellow-white flowers, native to North Africa. Wodehouse mentions it one other time:

There came to Bingo, listening to these words, the illusion that a hidden orchestra had begun to play soft music, while somewhere in the room he seemed to smell the scent of violets and mignonette.

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

but the word also refers to one of Anatole’s classic dishes, Mignonette de Poulet Petit Duc, named in several books beginning with The Code of the Woosters, and the houseboat in Summer Moonshine (1937) is named the Mignonette as well.

counting her blessings one by one (p. 77)

This could allude to one of several popular hymns and spiritual songs using this phrase.

Cheltenham with its gay society (p. 77)

Almost certainly meant ironically. Wodehouse’s parents had retired there in 1905, and it is mentioned in Something Fishy/The Butler Did It, ch. 2 (1957) and in Frozen Assets/Biffen’s Millions, ch. 7 (1964) as the home of couples retired from government or military service.

a consummation always devoutly to be wished (p. 78)

Paraphrasing Hamlet’s most famous soliloquy: see Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

his wealth being a burly spear and brand… (p. 78)

From the song “Hybrias the Cretan” (lyric by Thomas Campbell, translated from Greek; music by J. W. Elliott).
Campbell’s lyric at Google Books.
Sheet music online at the National Library of Australia.

Wodehouse himself sang this song at a Dulwich College concert in 1899, and in the UK edition of The Prince and Betty, ch. 5 (1912), John Maude says:

I haven’t felt such a fool since I sang ‘Hybrias the Cretan’ at the school concert.

a bit of goose (p. 78)

See Lord Emsworth and Others.

the sleeve across the windpipe (p. 78)

See The Mating Season.

smoking a somber pipe (p. 79)

An example of one of Wodehouse’s favorite literary devices, the transferred epithet.

unpleasant things to an odalisque with a bowstring (p. 79)

“I don’t know if you happen to know it, but in Turkey all this insubordinate stuff, these attempts to dictate to the master of the house and the head of the family, would have led long before this to you being strangled with bowstrings and bunged into the Bosporus.”

Esmond Haddock to his aunts in The Mating Season, ch. 26 (1949)

Barmy was robbed of speech, and Mr. Lippincott, his task completed, was now preparing to relax, like an executioner in some Oriental court taking a breather after strangling a few Odalisques with his bowstring.

Barmy in Wonderland, ch. 19 (1952)

He realized how a good-hearted executioner at an Oriental court must feel after strangling an odalisque with a bowstring.

Pigs Have Wings, ch. 4.3 (1952)

drooping his lower jaw (p. 81)

Only instances of drooping are listed here; there are many other places where lower jaws have fallen or are hitched up.

His lower jaw drooped feebly, like a dying lily.

Blair Eggleston in Hot Water, ch. 2.4 (1932)

He polished his shoes with one of the sofa-cushions, and took his hat from the table where he had placed it and gave it another brush: but after that there seemed to be nothing in the way of intellectual occupation offering itself, so he just leaned back in a chair and unhinged his lower jaw and let it droop, and sank into a sort of coma.

Mervyn Mulliner in “The Knightly Quest of Mervyn” (in Mulliner Nights, 1933)

Lord Shortlands, allowing his lower jaw to droop restfully, gave himself up to meditation.

Spring Fever, ch. 5 (1948)

“Gussie gave me that same sense of hopeless desolation. He sat there with his lower jaw drooping, goggling at me like a codfish—”

Catsmeat in The Mating Season, ch. 3 (1949)

Mr. Anderson … was regretting that the latter’s extraordinary wealth made it impossible for him to hurl at Barmy’s head the silver presentation inkpot on his desk, to teach him not to let his lower jaw droop like that.

Barmy in Wonderland, ch. 2 (1952)

He stood staring, his lower jaw drooping on its hinge.

Jerry Vail in Pigs Have Wings, ch. 10.3 (1952)

“Even today I’m about as announced an oaf as ever went around with his lower jaw drooping and a glassy look in his eyes, but you have literally no conception what I was like in my early twenties.”

Wodehouse speaking in Bring On the Girls, ch. 14.5 (US edition, 1953)

“Yes, I distinctly recall a greenish pallor and a drooping lower jaw.”

Monica Carmoyle, about Bill Belfry in Ring for Jeeves/The Return of Jeeves, ch. 9 (1953/54)

All you can do is stand with your lower jaw drooping like a tired lily, looking a priceless ass, and that is what Stilton was doing now.

Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, ch. 17 (1954)

…it was through a sort of mist that he stared pallidly at his companion, his eyes wide, his lower jaw drooping, perspiration starting out on his forehead as if he were sitting in the hot room of a Turkish bath.

Sir Raymond Bastable in Cocktail Time, ch. 4 (1958)

At an early point in these remarks Oofy’s lower jaw had drooped like a tired lily.

“The Fat of the Land” (in A Few Quick Ones, 1959)

“Why, hullo,” she proceeded, seeing that Kipper was slumped back in his chair trying without much success to hitch up a drooping lower jaw.

Aunt Dahlia in Jeeves in the Offing, ch. 13 (1960)

By standing on one leg and allowing his lower jaw to droop Freddie indicated that he would be delighted to do so.

Ice in the Bedroom, ch. 2 (1961)

He would, as he had rather suspected he would, congeal in every limb like a rabbit confronted with a boa constrictor and stand staring with his lower jaw drooping to its fullest extent, fearing the worst.

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

Though of a dreamy temperament and inclined in most crises to sit still and let his lower jaw droop, he could on occasion be the man of action.

Lord Emsworth in A Pelican at Blandings, ch. 10.1 (1969)

trinitrotoluol (p. 82)

See A Damsel in Distress.

as if he had been stuffed by a good taxidermist (p. 83)

See Summer Lightning.

beat about bushes (p. 83)

To circle round an uncomfortable topic rather than bringing it up directly.

against the public weal (p. 83)

Causing harm to the general welfare of a country or society.

Giuseppe … looked like one of the executive staff of the Black Hand plotting against the public weal.

The Small Bachelor, ch. 16.1 (1927)

Lady Bostock’s eyes were already bulging … protrude a little further. (p. 83)

See Thank You, Jeeves.

the sixteenth inst. (p. 84)

The sixteenth day of the present month; short for instant. An abbreviation commonly used in commercial correspondence as well as legal testimony.

Mark the sequel (p. 85)

Wodehouse often quoted this phrase from Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor; see Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

bona fides (p. 85)

Bona fides, treated as a plural noun, has acquired the meaning “proofs of good faith” in English. [MH]

gasper (p. 86)

Slang for a cigarette, especially an inexpensive or harsh one. First OED citation is from Isis, an Oxford University student magazine, in 1914.

dog races down Shepherd’s Bush way (p. 86)

In West London, between Hammersmith and North Kensington. Greyhound racing began in 1926 at the White City Stadium there, originally built for the 1908 Summer Olympics.

lighted matches between his toes (p. 88)

The first of many speculations of this nature in Wodehouse; see The Old Reliable.

young poop (p. 89)

See Summer Lightning.


Runs from pp. 93 to 123 in US first edition.

boomps-a-daisy (p. 93)

See The Mating Season.

pie-faced (p. 93)

See Very Good, Jeeves.

looked sweet in a sailor suit (p. 94)

That could certainly be said of the young Plum, age about seven, in the image at right.

mangoldwurzel (p. 94)

Spelled mangel-wurzel in UK editions. See Young Men in Spats.

our afternoon at The Cedars (p. 95)

Recounted in “Uncle Fred Flits By” (1935; in Young Men in Spats, 1936).

a super supporting a star (p. 97)

Short for “supernumerary”—theatrical term for what in films is called an extra: a player who fills out a crowd scene, but has no individual lines to speak nor a character name. [MH]

a pippin of a girl (p. 97)

From the sense of “pippin” as a sweet dessert apple, the further meanings of “a dear young girl” and “an excellent thing, a pleasing example of its kind” were derived.

“We are amused?” (p. 98)

The use of the “royal we” may be an allusion to a phrase often attributed to Queen Victoria: “We are not amused.” See The Girl in Blue.

“Nerves vibrating?” (p. 98)

See the discussion of vibrating ganglions in Sam the Sudden.

like a watered flower (p. 101)

Claude had revived like a watered flower, but he nearly had a relapse when he saw his bally brother goggling at him over the bed-rail.

“The Delayed Exit of Claude and Eustace” (1922; in The Inimitable Jeeves, 1923)

It was as good a dinner as I have ever absorbed, and it revived Uncle Thomas like a watered flower.

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

He paused, and in the background Pongo revived like a watered flower.

Uncle Fred in the Springtime, ch. 11 (1939)

Bill revived like a watered flower.

Ring for Jeeves/The Return of Jeeves, ch. 6 (1953/54)

During this halcyon period, if halcyon is the word I want, it would not be too much to say that I revived like a watered flower.

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

Horace revived like a watered flower.

Do Butlers Burgle Banks?, ch. 9.2 (1968)

tidings of great joy (p. 101)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

skip like the high hills (p. 101)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

somnambulist (p. 102)


Well met by moonlight (p. 102)

Adapted from A Midsummer Night’s Dream: see Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

Bloody awful (p. 102)

The adjective bloody used as an intensifier has long been considered impolite or sacrilegious in Britain; Shaw created a minor furore by putting “Not bloody likely!” in Eliza Doolittle’s mouth in Pygmalion (1914).

In his earlier works, Wodehouse often used euphemistic substitutes such as ruddy or crimson for it; the word begins appearing in his works in Money in the Bank (1942). Richard Usborne (A Wodehouse Companion) suggests that Wodehouse’s exposure to the all-male environment of the internment camp accounts for the occurrence of such phrases as “bloody awful” and “too bloody much” in this and later books.

See also to hell with below.

roses, roses all the way (p. 103)

See Bill the Conqueror.

old buster (p. 103)

See Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen.

off his onion (p. 103)

See Sam the Sudden.

sticking straws in his hair (p. 103)

See Bill the Conqueror.

potty (p. 104)

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

one of those hollow, mirthless laughs (p. 104)

See A Damsel in Distress.

singing like a lark (p. 104)

Bill’s attitude is opposite of that of Mr. Duff:

“And when she bust our engagement I went around singing like a lark.”

Quick Service, ch. 18 (1940)

Casanova (p. 105)

See The Luck of the Bodkins.

the head upon which all the sorrows of the world have come (p. 105)

See Summer Lightning.

hideous vengeance (p. 106)

See Very Good, Jeeves.

forty-two years (p. 106)

Lord Ickenham’s age is established here at sixty years.

the milk of human kindness (p. 107)

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

chew broken glass (p. 107)

“…the Rev. J. G. Smethurst, the ruling spirit of Harborough, was a man who chewed broken bottles and devoured his young.”

“The Voice from the Past” (1931; in Mulliner Nights, 1933)

“There’s a fellow who chews broken glass and drives nails into the back of his neck instead of using a collar stud!”

Bertie speaking of Pop Stoker in Thank You, Jeeves, ch. 13 (1934)

[Sir Rackstraw Cammarleigh] “is a man who chews tenpenny nails and swallows broken bottles”

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

Aunt Agatha, who eats broken bottles and wears barbed wire next to the skin…

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

“Abe Erlanger … eats broken bottles and conducts human sacrifices at the time of the full moon, but he’s a thoroughly good chap.”

Bring On the Girls, ch. 3 (US edition, 1953)

“If he eats chocolate bars, he can’t be the type of employer who chews broken glass and tenpenny nails and is ferocious with those on his payroll.”

Company for Henry, ch. 9.3 (1967)

conduct human sacrifices at the time of the full moon (p. 107)

“I strongly suspected my headmaster of conducting human sacrifices behind the fives-courts at the time of the full moon,” said the Tankard.

“The Voice from the Past” (1931; in Mulliner Nights, 1933)

“Monty Bodkin strongly suspects that she [Lady Constance] conducts human sacrifices at the time of the full moon.”

Uncle Fred in the Springtime, ch. 8 (1939)

…aunt Agatha … being my tough aunt, the one who eats broken bottles and conducts human sacrifices by the light of the full moon.

Joy in the Morning, ch. 1 (1946)

my Aunt Agatha, who is known to devour her young and conduct human sacrifices at the time of the full moon

Jeeves in the Offing, ch. 12 (1960)

Brabazon-Plank (p. 108)

This is the first time we hear the full hyphenated surname of Major Plank. The name Brabazon carries aristocratic overtones, as in a line of Barons of the UK and a line of Irish Baronets. Wikipedia has links to more notables of this name.

broad in the beam (p. 108)

Derived from nautical terminology, in which a boat’s beam is its widest side-to-side measurement; figuratively applied to a person’s width of the hips or buttocks. The earliest OED citation of the phrase in this sense is from 1944; the present sentence seems to be Wodehouse’s only use of it.

Bimbo (p. 108)

See Leave It to Psmith.

pluck the gowans fine (p. 108)

See The Code of the Woosters.

the intellectual pressure of the conversation (p. 109)

See A Damsel in Distress.

resemblance to a fish on a slab (p. 109)

See Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen.

“at The Cedars … I impersonated” (p. 110)

Recounted in “Uncle Fred Flits By” (1935; in Young Men in Spats, 1936).

a young man’s crossroads (p. 110)

A point in life where a significant decision is required.

“The old choice between Pleasure and Duty, Comrade Adair. A Boy’s Cross-Roads.”

“The Lost Lambs”, ch. 7 (1908; later in Mike, 1909, and Mike and Psmith, 1953)

And yet he hated the idea of meekly allowing that two thousand pounds to escape from his clutch.
A young man’s crossroads.

Leave It to Psmith, ch. 1.4 (1923)

I didn’t like the prospect of being collared by Aunt Agatha, but on the other hand I simply barred the notion of leaving Roville by the night-train and parting from Aline Hemmingway. Absolutely a man’s cross-roads, if you know what I mean.

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

Roscoe plucked at his double chin, debating within himself what to do for the best. And as he sat there at a young man’s crossroads, Mortimer Bayliss sauntered in.

Something Fishy/The Butler Did It, ch. 4 (1957)

I had never gone much into the family history, but I assumed that my ancestors, like everybody else’s, had done well at Crecy and Agincourt, and nobody likes to be a degenerate descendant. I was at a young man’s crossroads.

Over Seventy, ch. 2 (1957), and in PGW’s commentary to a letter dated October 12, 1949 in Author! Author! (1962)

to call myself Robinson (p. 110–111)

George Robinson, Uncle Fred’s alias at the dog races, as mentioned in chapter 4 (p. 69 of the US edition).

cynosure of all eyes (p. 111)

Cynosure (Greek “tail of the dog”) originally referred to the constellation of Ursa Minor in the northern sky, around whose tail tip (Polaris, the North Star) all other stars appear to revolve. The figurative sense of “center of all attention” derives from this.

in the bag (p. 111)

See Hot Water.

the shape of things to come (p. 111)

This phrase about the future was originally the title of a 1929 book of science fiction by H. G. Wells, the basis for the 1936 British film Things to Come.

paled beneath his tan (p. 112)

See Uncle Fred in the Springtime.

Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood. (p. 112)

From King Henry V: see Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

passed through the furnace (p. 112)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

frigidaire (p. 112)

Wodehouse is using a trademark (see Summer Moonshine) as if it were a generic name for a refrigerator.

A man so recently come from the society of that Spirit of Frigidaire was not easily to be frozen by lesser freezers; and though Jane’s eye was keen, it was not in the Whittaker class.

Summer Moonshine, ch. 12 (1937)

Chatting with Augustus Fink-Nottle without Corky was like getting the inside from Mark Antony on the topic of Cleopatra, and every second he spent out of the frigidaire was fraught with peril.

The Mating Season, ch. 14 (1949)

“No, I won’t,” she replied in a voice straight from the frigidaire, “because I’m jolly well not going there.”

Jill Wyvern in Ring for Jeeves/The Return of Jeeves, ch. 19 (1953/54)

“Bertie,” she said in a voice straight from the frigidaire, “will you do me a favour?”

Jeeves in the Offing, ch. 12 (1960)

It was as though he had been for an extended period shut up in a frigidaire with the first Queen Elizabeth.

A Pelican at Blandings, ch. 8.2 (1969)

It is one thing to take down letters in shorthand, with her skill at which he had long been familiar, and quite another to raid your employer’s frigidaire for Bavarian cream after dark.

Pearls, Girls and Monty Bodkin, ch. 5.2 (1972)

an eye like that of a codfish (p. 113)

“Ike Goble … has a greasy soul, a withered heart, and an eye like a codfish.”

Jill the Reckless/The Little Warrior, ch. 15.2 (1920)

His eyes, peering through gold-rimmed glasses, protrude slightly, giving him something of the dumb pathos of a codfish.

Bailey Bannister in The White Hope/The Coming of Bill, ch. 2 (1914/20)

protecting juju (p. 113)

In some spiritual or religious traditions of Africa, an object with magical powers, or the supernatural powers which can be called upon with the aid of that object.

made of sterner stuff (p. 113)

Alluding to Marc Antony in Julius Caesar; see Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

bright and bounding (p. 113)

“The top of the morning to you, my bright and bounding J. G.”

Barmy in Wonderland, ch. 1 (1952)

“Tell me all your news, my bright and bounding barrister.”

Lord Ickenham in Cocktail Time, ch. 2 (1958)

“Hello, my bright and bounding Phipps,” she said.

The Old Reliable, ch. 21 (1951)

pourparlers (p. 114)

French: informal discussions preliminary to actual negotiations. [TM]

giving up his water ration to the sick and ailing (p. 115)

Wodehouse usually invokes the story of Sir Philip Sidney regarding this action; see Sam the Sudden.

encouraging … the weaker brethren (p. 115)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

Chilled-Steel Oakshott (p. 115)

See The Code of the Woosters.

Slimmo (p. 115)

Slimmo will return as a significant plot point in Pigs Have Wings (1952).

callipygous (p. 115)

Having prominent or beautifully-shaped buttocks; a borrowing from Greek. Though the term has a classical sound, the OED cites its first English use in Aldous Huxley’s Antic Hay (1923); the next citation is the present sentence from Wodehouse.

given me the office (p. 115)

From the use of “office” as a term for a liturgy in Christian churches, often including statements from the celebrant and responses by the congregation, the figurative colloquial meaning has arisen, meaning to give a hint or a cue that calls for a response.

“Good evening, miss,” said Jeeves in his suave way. “Miss Pirbright, sir,” he added, giving me the office in an undertone.

The Mating Season, ch. 24 (1949)

tidings of great joy (p. 116)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

swept and garnished (p. 117)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

We shall all meet, then, at Philippi (p. 117)

Alluding to Cassius in Julius Caesar; see Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

Something attempted, something done (p. 118)

See Right Ho, Jeeves.

the easy repose of a red Indian at the stake (p. 118)

See Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen.

like Caesar in his tent the day he overcame the Nervii (p. 118)

Alluding to Marc Antony in Julius Caesar; see Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

look for the silver lining (p. 119)

See Bill the Conqueror.

Paynim (p. 119)

A general term for the pagans/Mohammedans etc. against whom the Crusaders fought from the 11th to 13th centuries. [NTPM]

life-giving fluid (p. 120)

Beer, here and in Pigs Have Wings, but sometimes something stronger.

The suggestion he conveyed was that just one more whack at the life-giving fluid would have had him balancing the weapon on the tip of his nose.

Soapy Molloy, after a couple of shots of brandy in Money in the Bank, ch. 27 (1942)

“Hey!” said Sir Gregory, when a few minutes later the butler returned with the life-giving fluid.

Pigs Have Wings, ch. 6.2 (1952)

one of the Sitwells (p. 121)

Edith, Osbert, and Sacheverell Sitwell, sibling authors who formed a literary and artistic circle in the 1910s and 1920s in London. See Wikipedia.

certain features of interest (p. 121)

See Cocktail Time.

Knatchbull-Huguessen (p. 121)

See Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit.

“Of course, he comes back sometimes.” (p. 122)

One of the very few glancing references to the facts of life to be found in Wodehouse’s fiction.

giving him beans (p. 122)

Schoolboy slang for a beating or whipping; here the punishment appears to be verbal only.


Runs from pp. 124 to 145 in US first edition.

high tea (p. 124)

Meat tea (also known as high tea) is the evening meal or dinner of the British working class, typically eaten between 5 pm and 7 pm. It typically consists of a hot dish such as fish and chips, shepherd’s pie, or macaroni cheese, followed by cakes and bread, butter and jam. [JD]

Most Americans seem to think of “high tea” as the fancy afternoon meal as served in expensive hotels or on the lawn at Blandings Castle, but Wodehouse never uses the term in that sense. See the first episode of A Man of Means for the high tea of the Coppin family, with sardines, haddock, and bread and jam. We learn later in the present chapter (p. 126) that Constable Potter has eaten three kippered herrings, four boiled eggs and half a loaf of bread for his high tea.

Compare the “cucumber sandwiches, muffins, strawberries and everything” of teatime at Ashenden Manor in chapter 13 of the present book (p. 285).

if not his best friend, had always been his severest critic (p. 124)

See Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen.

cowardy custard (p. 125)

A children’s taunt, meaning one who is overly afraid or timid.

“You haven’t told him of this ghastly entanglement of yours?”
“Cowardy custard.”

Joe Vanringham to Jane Abbott in Summer Moonshine, ch. 5 (1937)

“It would take more than long-stemmed roses to change my view that you’re a despicable cowardy custard and a disgrace to a proud family.”

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

kippered herring (p. 126)

A whole herring split, gutted, salted and then cold-smoked. [MH]

Edward G. Robinson (p. 126)

Broadway and Hollywood actor (1893–1973), known mostly for gangster roles in films such as Little Caesar and Key Largo. The Wodehouses knew him in Hollywood, attending parties at his home in 1937.

“Because if ever I saw a baby that looked like something that was one jump ahead of the police,” said the Pieface, “it is this baby of Bingo’s. Definitely the criminal type. It reminds me of Edward G. Robinson.”

“Sonny Boy” (1939; in Eggs, Beans and Crumpets, 1940)

“There’s a rising demand in pictures for fellows with maps like mine. Look at Wallace Beery. Look at Edward G. Robinson.”

Howard Steptoe in Quick Service, ch. 8 (1940)

This Thos is one of those tough, hardboiled striplings, a sort of juvenile James Cagney with a touch of Edward G. Robinson.

The Mating Season, ch. 18 (1949)

Recalling what Gally had told him about her being the wife of an American named Schoonmaker, he could not but feel that this Schoonmaker must be a rugged composite of Humphrey Bogart and Edward G. Robinson, who talked out of the side of his mouth and fed on raw meat.

A Pelican at Blandings, ch. 8.1 (1969)

in excelsis (p. 126)

In the highest degree. A Latin phrase most often found in religious contexts, referring to heaven. This is the only use so far found in Wodehouse.

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

without a collar (p. 126)

And on one of these rambles down swooped Constable Cobb, the village policeman, pointing out that, contrary to regulations, the puppy had no collar.

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

On no fewer than three occasions in the last ten days he has served summonses upon Miss Sipperley—for exceeding the speed limit in her car; for allowing her dog to appear in public without a collar; and for failing to abate a smoky chimney.

“Without the Option” (1925; in Carry On, Jeeves, 1925/27)

…in Market Blandings you were lucky if you got an occasional dog without a collar or Saturday night drunk and disorderly.

Constable Evans’s thoughts in Galahad at Blandings, ch 5.2 (1965)

Brabazon-Plank, majorminor (p. 127)

These Latin adjectives would be used at school to refer to the elder and younger of two brothers.

Simpson major, wearing the colours of Perkins’ House on his manly bosom, was leading.

The Pothunters, ch. 14 (1902)

a lioness hastening to the aid of an imperiled cub (p. 128)

If he was only a collector by proxy, he had nevertheless the collector’s devotion to his curios, beside which the lioness’s attachment to her cubs is tepid…

Something Fresh/Something New, ch. 6.1 (1915)

And, as he did so, there came from behind him a roar like that of a more than usually irritable lioness witnessing the theft of one of her cubs.

Big Money, ch. 6.2 (1931)

had come in like a lioness … going out like a lamb (p. 128)

For the more common form of the phrase and its derivation, see Summer Moonshine.

She saw that she had been taking the wrong attitude, and that if the conversation were allowed to proceed along these lines she was in danger, after having come in like a lioness, of going out like a lamb.

Anne Benedick in Money in the Bank, ch. 21 (1942)

to hide his light under a bushel (p. 129)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

hocks … pasterns (p. 129)

Parts of the lower legs of horses; Lord Ickenham is adopting the terms of a horse-show judge (as in “classic yearling” in the previous sentence) rather than a baby-show judge.

waking, like Abou ben Adhem, from a deep dream of peace (p. 129)

See A Damsel in Distress.

split the welkin (p. 129)

See Money in the Bank.

putting his shirt on (p. 129)

See The Inimitable Jeeves.

“Gone without a cry!” (p. 130)

“Gone,” said Prudence, through a bitter mouthful of buttered toast. “Gone without a cry. Driven into the snow before I could so much as set eyes on him.”

Full Moon, ch. 9 (1947)

If that gasp had had words, those words would have been “Gone! Gone without a cry!”

Pigs Have Wings, ch. 5.5 (1952)

“The maid, they think it must have been, because when the alarm was raised and the cops charged in, they found she had gone without a cry.”

Ice in the Bedroom, ch. 1 (1961)

“He’s disappeared. Vanished into thin air. Gone without a cry and been gone two days.”

Frozen Assets/Biffen’s Millions, ch. 2.2 (1964)

Experience has taught me that except in vital matters like playing Santa Claus at children’s parties it’s impossible to defy Aunt Dahlia, and apparently Jas Waterbury realized this, for a moment later I heard the front door slam. He had gone without a cry.

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

bung-oh (p. 131)

See Summer Lightning.

Murder In The Fog (p. 131)

Capitalized thus in the US edition; the UK edition has the more correct Murder in the Fog. This seems to be the only fictive title beginning Murder in the… among the many thrillers read by Wodehouse’s characters.

all of a twitter (p. 132)

See The Inimitable Jeeves.

quivering ganglions (p. 132)

See Sam the Sudden.

midseason form (p. 132)

See Full Moon.

one of those Faceless Fiends (p. 132)

 “I had just got to the bit where Inspector Mould is trapped in the underground den of the Faceless Fiend.”
 Cyril quivered.
 “Is there a Faceless Fiend?” he cried.
 “There are two Faceless Fiends,” said Lady Bassett.

“Strychnine in the Soup” (1932; in Mulliner Nights, 1933)

(Drexdale Drew, it will be remembered, was guilty of this imprudence on the occasion to which we have referred, and it was that that led to all the subsequent unpleasantness with the Faceless Fiend and the Thing in the Cellar.)

Quick Service, ch. 18 (1940)

But Lord Emsworth was in no mood for Faceless Fiends and Things In The Night.

Pigs Have Wings, ch. 7.3 (1952)

joy might be expected to be unconfined (p. 132)

See Summer Lightning.

The burned child fears the fire (p. 132)

See The Girl in Blue.

the words, quoted in a previous chapter, of the thoughtful Crumpet (p. 132)

A quick reader might mistakenly assume this refers to the following sentence beginning “Good Lord”; that, however, is a continuation of Pongo’s ejaculation which began this paragraph. See p. 18, above for the Crumpet.

a tale to unfold whose lightest word would harrow up his nephew’s soul and make his two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres (p. 132)

Quoting the ghost of Hamlet’s father; see Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

what Pongo would have called the nub (p. 133)

The heart of the matter; the central point. The OED has citations for this sense of nub since 1833, including one from Wodehouse’s Heavy Weather, ch. 8 (1933). It is not clear why Pongo is referenced here, as the word is used elsewhere without mentioning him; perhaps Pongo’s studies for the Bar might explain it.

open for being pottered in at this hour (p. 133)

See Piccadilly Jim.

relief poured over Pongo in a healing wave (p. 134)

See Sam the Sudden.

nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so (p. 136)

See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

noblesse oblige (p. 136)

French: nobility has its obligations.

Ouled-Nail muscle dance (p. 137)

A type of belly dance originated by a native tribe living in the Ouled Naïl Mountains of Algeria. [IM/LVG]

Pongo’s hands, which he had clasped on either side of his head, as if to prevent it from dividing itself into two neat halves (p. 138)

He merely lay perfectly still, concentrating all his powers on the difficult task of keeping his head from splitting in half.

John Carroll in Money for Nothing, ch. 11.1 (1928)

It would have pained the efficient young secretary, now lying on his bed with both hands pressed to his temples in a well-meant but unsuccessful attempt to keep his head from splitting in half, could he have known the black thoughts his employer was thinking of him.

Baxter in Uncle Fred in the Springtime, ch. 19 (1939)

Then, as if a bomb had suddenly exploded inside the bean, he shot up with a stifled cry, clasping his temples, and I began to see daylight. His deportment, so plainly that of a man aware that only prompt action in the nick of time has prevented his head splitting in half, told me that we had been mistaken in supposing that this living corpse had got that way purely through disappointed love.

Catsmeat in The Mating Season, ch. 3 (1949)

He was sitting with his head between his hands, probably feeling that if he let go of it it would come in half, for when I spoke his name and he looked up, it was plain to see that he was in the grip of a severe hangover.

George Mulliner in “George and Alfred” (1967; in Plum Pie, 1967)

See also p. 196, below.

above the Plimsoll mark (p. 138)

See Heavy Weather.

the chronicler (p. 139)

That is, Wodehouse as narrator. See Cocktail Time.

the goods (p. 139)

Originally a term for stolen items found in someone’s possession (in use since the eighteenth century); colloquially, by extension, any incriminating evidence. The OED’s first citation in the broader sense is from More Fables in Slang by George Ade (p. 94 of 1900 edition), known to be one of Wodehouse’s sources for American slang.

gimletlike eye (p. 139)

See Piccadilly Jim.

moving pigs without a permit (p. 140)

See Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen.

some strong swimmer in his agony (p. 140)

See Uncle Fred in the Springtime.

lovers who have met at journey’s end (p. 140)

See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

failures to abate smoky chimneys (p. 140)

See Summer Lightning.

the Muster of the Vultures (p. 141)

See The Code of the Woosters.

crush them to earth, and they rise again (p. 143)

See A Damsel in Distress.

their helmets still in the ring (p. 143)

An adaptation of having one’s hat in the ring; see Uncle Fred in the Springtime.

a mirthless laugh … Bill Oakshott, a specialist in that line (p. 143)

See p. 104, above.

one ack emma (p. 143)

One a.m., using the phonetic alphabet used by radio signalers in the First World War. [NTPM]

“Dam fool!” (p. 144)

The UK edition adds an apostrophe: “Dam’ fool!”

Dick Deadeye in Pinafore … to warn him his daughter is going to elope (p. 144)

From Act 2 of Gilbert & Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore. The lyrics and music files are at the G&S Archive.

Mystic (p. 144)

A reference to the Pinafore lyric cited above:

Good fellow, in conundrums you are speaking,
Sing hey, the mystic sailor that you are…

Part Three

Runs from pp. 149 to 169 in US first edition.

Curfews had tolled the knell of parting day, lowing herds wound slowly o’er the lea (p. 149)

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd winds slowly o’er the lea,
The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

Thomas Gray, “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” (1751)

Now slept the crimson petal and the white (p. 149)

Adapted from a sonnet in The Princess (1847) by Alfred, Lord Tennyson:

Now sleeps the crimson petal, now the white;
Nor waves the cypress in the palace walk;
Nor winks the gold fin in the porphyry font:
The fire-fly wakens: waken thou with me.

the balloon was due to go up (p. 149)

See The Luck of the Bodkins.

tremble like an aspen (p. 150)

See Right Ho, Jeeves.

nerves were sticking two inches out of his body and curling at the ends (p. 150)

See Thank You, Jeeves.

start at the soles of the feet and get worse all the way up (p. 150)

“I have a headache which starts at the soles of my feet and gets worse all the way up.”

Jimmy Crocker in Piccadilly Jim, ch. 5 (1917)

I got a headache early in the proceedings which started at the soles of my feet and got worse all the way up.

“Aunt Agatha Makes a Bloomer” (1922; in ch. 3 of The Inimitable Jeeves, 1923)

I have rather a severe headache. It starts somewhere down at the ankles and gets worse all the way up.

The Luck of the Bodkins, ch. 2 (1935)

Sufficient to say that on this occasion, though hampered by shooting pains that started at the soles of his feet and got worse all the way up, he placed the facts before Bill and Jane as lucidly as some days earlier he had placed them before Roscoe Bunyan.

Augustus Keggs in Something Fishy/The Butler Did It, ch. 22 (1957)

like so many stags at eve (p. 150)

See Heavy Weather.

barley water (p. 150)

A soothing nonalcoholic drink prepared by steeping pearl barley in boiling water, straining, and cooling, often with lemon and/or sugar to taste.

The Soul’s Awakening (p. 151)

See The Inimitable Jeeves.

snifter (p. 151)

See Thank You, Jeeves.

His knotted and combined locks parted … like quills upon the fretful porpentine (p. 151)

Paraphrasing the ghost of Hamlet’s father; see Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

his heart … crashed with a dull thud against his front teeth (p. 151)

Mr. Waddington stopped in mid-sentence, and George’s heart did three back-somersaults and crashed against his front teeth.

The Small Bachelor, ch. 3.2 (1926/27)

“Oh, it’s you, Mr. C.,” he gasped, as his heart, which had crashed against his front teeth, returned slowly to its base.

Albert Peasemarch in Cocktail Time, ch. 19 (1958)

His heart did three somersaults and dashed itself against his front teeth.

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

My heart had leaped in the manner popularized by Kipper Herring and Scarface McColl, crashing against my front teeth with a thud which must have been audible in Market Snodsbury.

Jeeves in the Offing, ch. 15 (1960)

Replacing his heart, which had bumped against his front teeth, he said: “Oh, hullo, there you are.”

Freddie Widgeon in Ice in the Bedroom, ch. 15 (1961)

Nevertheless, when the door suddenly flew open without warning, he leaped several inches in the direction of the ceiling with a distinct impression that his heart had crashed against his front teeth, nearly dislodging them from their base.

John Halliday in A Pelican at Blandings, ch. 9.1 (1969)

He had an odd illusion that his heart had leaped from its moorings and crashed against his front teeth.

Jerry West in The Girl in Blue, ch. 11.3 (1970)

a warm gush of the milk of human kindness (p. 152)

Again alluding to Lady Macbeth: see Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

his tongue, which had got entangled with his uvula (p. 152)

The uvula is a small flap of flesh at the back of the mouth, hanging from the center of the soft palate above the back of the tongue.

His tongue tied itself in a bow knot round his uvula, and he could say no more.

Ramsden Waters in “The Rough Stuff” (1921; in The Clicking of Cuthbert, 1922)

I tried to utter, but could not. The tongue had got all tangled up with the uvula, and the brain seemed paralyzed.

Joy in the Morning, ch. 18 (1946)

It is true that all I said was “Jeeves!” but that wasn’t such bad going for one whose tongue had so recently been tangled up with the uvula, besides cleaving to the roof of the mouth.

The Mating Season, ch. 8 (1949)

At last managing to free my tongue from the uvula with which it had become entangled, I found speech, as I dare say those Darien fellows did eventually.

Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen, ch. 10 (1974)

to hell with all dishpots (p. 152)

I can find only one instance, “To hell with verbal agreements,” spoken by Ivor Llewellyn in The Luck of the Bodkins, ch. 14 (1935), of this sort of phrasing in Wodehouse’s fiction before the Second World War. After Wodehouse’s wartime experiences in the internment camp, there are at least twenty instances. Compare bloody above.

demon lover for whom women might excusably go wailing (p. 153)

A paraphrase from Coleridge’s Kubla Khan; see Hot Water for the poem.

perisher (p. 153)

See Heavy Weather.

being bopped on the nose (p. 154)

The OED defines this sense of bop as “to hit, strike, or punch” as an American colloquialism, first cited from Damon Runyon in 1931, and the OED also cites Wodehouse:

I’ll bop you over the head with this chair.

Mr. Bulpitt (an American) in Summer Moonshine, ch. 15 (1937)

flatty (p. 154)

A colloquial alteration of flatfoot for a policeman. The OED cites the first usage from 1899, and includes Wodehouse’s use in The Mating Season, ch. 19 (1949).

rozzer (p. 154)

Another slang term for a policeman; first cited in the OED from 1888. Wodehouse’s use in Money in the Bank, ch. 14 (1942) is also given as a citation there.

I shall follow your future career with considerable interest (p. 153)

See A Damsel in Distress.

sloshed a slop (p. 155)

See A Damsel in Distress.

on the napper (p. 155)

The OED gives citations for “napper” meaning “head” as far back as 1724.

the blue bird (p. 155)

An emblem of happiness; see The Girl in Blue.

“Turkish this side, Virginian that” (p. 156)

See Money for Nothing.

characteristic of great minds, that of thinking alike (p. 156)

Reece nodded again. “Great minds think alike.”

A Prefect’s Uncle, ch. 13 (1903)

Psmith had acknowledged with an easy grace that possibly Shakespeare had got on to it first, and that it was but one more proof of how often great minds thought alike.

The New Fold/Psmith in the City, ch. 22 (1909/1910)

“Great minds,” said Jimmy. “I shouldn’t be surprised if we thought alike on all sorts of subjects.”

The Intrusions of Jimmy/A Gentleman of Leisure, ch. 26 (1910)

She had placed the same construction on Mamie’s departure with Kirk as had Mr. Penway, showing that it is not only great minds that think alike.

The White Hope/The Coming of Bill, ch. 11 (1914/1920)

“Great minds think alike! We are hopping it, too.”

Jill the Reckless/The Little Warrior, ch. 3.1 (1920)

Great minds think alike. Beach, intent on an unobtrusive glass of beer, and Lord Tilbury, loath to have intimate private matters discussed in an hotel lounge, had both come to the conclusion that true solitude was best to be obtained at the bottom of the garden.

Heavy Weather, ch. 8 (1933)

snootful (p. 156)

See Hot Water.

Scotch express (p. 156)

See The Inimitable Jeeves.

mincingly, like Agag (p. 157)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

touched in the wind (p. 157)

See The Code of the Woosters.

licentious clubman (p. 157)

A stock character in silent melodramas, a libertine and bon vivant.

Why, last night, he recalled, Judson had behaved for all the world like a Licentious Clubman in a super-film being the life and soul of one of those parties out of which the Censor cuts three thousand feet the moment he sees it.

Bill the Conqueror, ch. 2.1 (1924)

Johnny was thinking hard thoughts about his old school-fellow, Norbury-Smith, whose attitude toward Belinda Farringdon at lunch had seemed to him far too closely modelled on that of a licentious clubman of the old silent films.

Cocktail Time, ch. 18 (1958)

“Twice I heard Plug call Porky ‘cully,’ and there was an affectionate look in Porky’s eye when Plug said you reminded him of a licentious clubman in the films which it would have done you good to see.”

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

operating on all twelve cylinders (p. 157)

A figurative expression, referring to the maximum effort of the largest of luxury automobile engines. Compare references to smaller engines in Bill the Conqueror and another twelve-cylinder reference in Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen.

all-in Lothario (p. 157)

Combining a term for type of wrestling without restrictions, with virtually every type of hold permitted [JD], and a literary allusion to a libertine or rake: see A Damsel in Distress.

off his onion (p. 158)

See Sam the Sudden.

Emily Post (p. 158)

See Summer Moonshine.

his eyes to protrude like a snail’s (p. 159)

See Thank You, Jeeves.

like King Arthur brandishing his sword Excalibur (p. 160)

Here was where he could use his niblick, and Joe Stocker, armed with his niblick, was like King Arthur wielding his sword Excalibur.

“Rodney Has a Relapse” (1949; in Nothing Serious, 1950)

His eye was bright, his walk lissome, and he swung his driver like whoever it was who used to swing the sword Excalibur.

“Joy Bells for Walter” (in A Few Quick Ones, 1959)

As he left the library, brandishing the paper knife as King Arthur had once brandished the sword Excalibur, a sudden hollowness in his interior reminded him that he had not had his morning cup of tea.

Lord Emsworth in Service With a Smile, ch. 6 (1961)

hooks (p. 161)

Hands; see The Code of the Woosters.

the Chevalier Bayard (p. 161)

See The Girl in Blue.

minds like sinks (p. 161)

The OED has citations for “mind like a sink” beginning in 1920, and includes the present sentence among its citations. Their definition is “an imagination that tends to put an indecent construction on events.”

to the pure all things were pure (p. 161)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

your head pulled off at the roots (p. 162)

Hugo’s fingers twitched. He regarded his companion with a burning eye, and wondered why he was wasting time talking instead of at once proceeding to the main business of the day and knocking the fellow’s head off at the roots.

Regarding Percy Pilbeam in Summer Lightning, ch. 13.3 (1929)

“He’ll immediately start chewing your ugly little head off at the roots, same as he was planning to do before.”

Dolly Molloy to Chimp Twist about Jeff Miller in Money in the Bank, ch. 12 (1942)

“I wished to pull your head off at the roots and make you swallow it.”

Stilton Cheesewright to Bertie in Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, ch. 17 (1954)

“Is it not probable that a man with a mind like that will think it droll to knock your fat head off at the roots?”

PGW’s commentary to a letter dated October 12, 1949 in Author! Author! (1962), and in ch. 2 of Over Seventy (1957).

“I shall twist his head off at the roots.”

Sir Raymond Bastable speaking of Albert Peasemarch in Cocktail Time, ch. 25 (1958)

The next moment he had hurled himself at the greasy bird and was trying to pull his head off at the roots.

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

Instead of merely strangling his old associate, George noticed that he now appeared to be trying to pull his head off at the roots, and it seemed to him that the time had come to intervene.

Soapy Molloy attacking Chimp Twist in Ice in the Bedroom, ch. 24 (1961)

‘And let me add,’ he said, ‘that I am about to get my gun and count ten, and if the animal’s still around when I reach that figure, I shall blow his head off at the roots and the Lord have mercy on his soul.’

“Sticky Wicket at Blandings” (in Plum Pie, 1966/67)

“I shall go to him and say ‘Trout, you have three seconds to produce that reclining nude,’ and if he raises the slightest objection, I shall twist his head off at the roots and make him swallow it,” he said, and Gally agreed that nothing could be fairer than that.

The Duke of Dunstable in A Pelican at Blandings, ch. 7.5 (1969)

butterfly stuff … flitting from flower to flower and sipping (p. 162)

See The Code of the Woosters.

hand … as large as a ham (p. 162)

See Bill the Conqueror.

the plaything of an idle hour (p. 163)

See Uncle Fred in the Springtime.

bringing white mice into the classroom (p. 164)

“Who put the white mouse in the French master’s desk?”

“Mulliner’s Buck-U-Uppo” (1926; in Meet Mr. Mulliner, 1927/28)

The Tankard said we had missed his point, which was that he could remember young Scrubby Benger in an Eton collar with jam on it, getting properly cursed by the Mathematics beak for bringing white mice into the form-room.

“The Voice from the Past” (1931; in Mulliner Nights, 1933)

Pop Bassett, like the chap in the poem which I had to write out fifty times at school for introducing a white mouse into the English Literature hour, was plainly feeling like some watcher of the skies when a new planet swims into his ken.

The Code of the Woosters, ch. 14 (1938)

“Accoutered as he was, he plunged in,” said George, who in the preceding term at his school had had to write out a familiar passage from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar fifty times for bringing a white mouse into the classroom.

Service with a Smile, ch. 4.2 (1961)

two-timing (p. 164)

Two-timing for deceiving, or being unfaithful (to a lover) is US slang: the earliest examples in print seem to be from around 1922. [MH]

crouched in his armchair like a hare in its form (p. 165)

See The Girl on the Boat.

pour oil on troubled waters (p. 165)

See Laughing Gas.

impersonation of Nijinsky (p. 165)

Leaping; see The Girl in Blue.

stimulant (p. 166)

See Bill the Conqueror.

death rattle of a soda water syphon (p. 166)

See The Mating Season, especially the later portion of the annotation.

the Chamber of Horrors at Madame Tussaud’s (p. 166)

In London’s most famous wax museum, founded in 1835: a gallery featuring murderers, other notorious criminals, and victims of the guillotine in the French Revolution.

Imagine the reading-room at the British Museum deadly quiet, heated up to about the temperature of the second room in a Turkish bath, and peopled with the inmates of the Chamber of Horrors at Madame Tussaud’s come to life. That’s the gaming-room at Monte Carlo.

“The Small Gambler” (1913; also in Louder and Funnier, 1932)

“Then Madame Tussaud’s is the spot he wants. They’ve got all the murderers.”

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

With a flight of imagery of which few would have thought him capable he compared the Blandings Castle portrait gallery to the Chamber of Horrors at Madame Tussaud’s.

The Duke of Dunstable in A Pelican at Blandings, ch. 4.1 (1969)

Postman’s Knock (p. 167)

See The Luck of the Bodkins.

the Gorgon (p. 167)

See The Girl in Blue.

“Either a man is an African curio, or he is not…” (p. 167)

Either a man is a Gallant Rescuer, or he is not a Gallant Rescuer.

Love Among the Chickens, ch. 19 (1906; also in later editions)

“Either a man is Grover Whalen or he is not Grover Whalen.”

Quick Service, ch. 10 (1940)

“Either a man is an old friend or he is not an old friend.”

Barmy in Wonderland, ch. 13 (1952)

zero hour (p. 168)

Military jargon for the time set for the start of an operation. First citations are from World War I.

knockout drop … Mickey Finn (p. 169)

Hyphenated as knock-out drop in the UK edition. See Money for Nothing.

Mariana at the moated grange (p. 169)

See Cocktail Time.

as if someone had placed a large, fat thumb on the button and was keeping it there (p. 169)

A long and sustained peal had sounded from the front door, as if an aunt had put her thumb on the button and kept it there.

The Code of the Woosters, ch. 2 (1938)

It gave the impression that somebody with a powerful thumb had placed that thumb on the button and kept it there.

Quick Service, ch. 7 (1940)


Runs from pp. 170 to 212 in US first edition.

“Duty, stern daughter of the voice of God” (p. 170)

See The Old Reliable.

Romeo and Juliet scene (p. 170)

For similar references, see Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

Owls tu-whitted, other owls tu-whooed. (p. 171)

“The popular idea that owls say ‘Tu-whit, tu-whoo’ is all wrong. The actual noise they make is something far more difficult and complex, and it was beyond me.”

Clarence Mulliner in “The Romance of a Bulb-Squeezer” (1926; in Meet Mr. Mulliner, 1927/28)

another policeman-poet (p. 171)

Wodehouse may be casting his mind back to the start of his career, when he celebrated in verse a poetic policeman; see “To a Policeman Poet” (1902).

leaped some six inches into the air (p. 172)

See Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit.

Grand National (p. 172)

See The Inimitable Jeeves.

built for endurance rather than speed (p. 172)

The bishop was a large, burly bishop, built for endurance rather than speed; but he was making excellent going.

“Mulliner’s Buck-U-Uppo” (1926; in Meet Mr. Mulliner, 1927/28)

Although he was a man built for endurance rather than speed, few athletes specializing in the shorter distances could have been out of the grillroom and at the telephone more quickly.

Lord Tilbury in Frozen Assets/Biffen’s Millions, ch. 9.3 (1964)

playing to a gratifyingly full house … absolute capacity (p. 173)

Theatrical terms for an audience filling every seat.

the manner of counsel (p. 174)

Capitalized as Counsel in the UK edition; referring to a barrister: a lawyer who is qualified to argue cases in court.

the bum’s rush (p. 175)

See Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen.

to read it, like a minor prophet (p. 175)

Both the UK and US first editions have read here, and both magazine condensations omit the passage. But it seems clear that Wodehouse intended rend here; the Everyman/Overlook reprint and the Penguin omnibus Uncle Fred correct it to rend. See Biblia Wodehousiana.

Also compare:

“You are a fiancée short, let’s face it, and your immediate reaction is, no doubt, a disposition to rend the garments and scatter ashes on the head.”

Sir Roderick Carmoyle in Ring for Jeeves, ch. 18 (1953)

and see Biblia Wodehousiana.

thingamajigs (p. 176)

See Heavy Weather.

the work of an instant (p. 177)

See A Damsel in Distress, especially the last section about this specific form of the phrase.

“What, all my pretty chickens at one fell swoop!” (p. 177)

See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

on their own hook (p. 178)

By themselves; depending only on their own resources or efforts. The first OED citations of this colloquialism are from America, beginning in 1812, but by 1850 it appears in Thackeray and becomes transatlantic. This is the only instance of the phrase “own hook” so far found in Wodehouse.

a jab in the trouser seat from a gimlet or bradawl (p. 178)

See two adjacent notes at The Code of the Woosters and, for gimlet, Piccadilly Jim.

last of the Twistletons (p. 178)

See Heavy Weather.

death ray (p. 178)

his eyes go through you like a couple of death rays

Sir Roderick Glossop in “The Rummy Affair of Old Biffy” (1924; in Carry On, Jeeves, 1925)

The door had opened, and he was aware of something like a death ray playing about his person. Rupert Baxter was there, staring at him through his spectacles.

Uncle Fred in the Springtime, ch. 11 (1939)

Captain Bradbury’s glare … scorched Freddie like a death ray.

“Trouble Down at Tudsleigh” (1935; in Young Men in Spats, UK edition, 1936)

a cat may look at a king (p. 178)

From the Proverbs (1546) of John Heywood. This appears to be Wodehouse’s only use of the phrase.

C division in the metropolis (p. 179)

See A Damsel in Distress.

the small half-crown or the larger three-and-sixpence bottle (p. 181)

The half-crown was an English coin worth two shillings and sixpence, one-eighth of a pound sterling (12.5p in decimal currency). The first were issued under Henry VIII, and the last in 1967. From 1919 through 1952 the coin had a 50% silver content.

“You should try Mulliner’s Raven Gipsy Face-Cream,” he said. “It comes in two sizes—the small (or half-crown) jar and the large jar at seven shillings and sixpence.”

They now have two bonny bairns—the small, or Percival, at a preparatory school in Sussex, and the large, or Ferdinand, at Eton.

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

one of the half-crown (or large) size pots of Sooth-o

Money for Nothing, ch. 1.1 (1928)

“Donaldson’s Dog-Joy,” said Freddie. “It may be obtained either in the small (or one-and-threepenny) packets or in the half-crown (or large) size.”

“The Go-Getter” (1931; in Blandings Castle and Elsewhere, 1935)

“Slimmo. It comes in the small bottles and the large economy size.”

Pigs Have Wings, ch. 2.3 (1952)

hypertrophy (p. 181)

Excessive growth.

“Started as a child with Congenital Pyloric Hypertrophy of the Stomach and never looked back.”

“Romance at Droitgate Spa” (1937; in Eggs, Beans and Crumpets, UK edition, 1940)

byre (p. 182)

A cow shed.

drawing pin (p. 183)

Called a thumbtack in America.

“He once put a drawing pin on Catsmeat’s chair.”

Young Thos Gregson in The Mating Season, ch. 3 (1949)

six of the best with a fives bat (p. 183)

See above.

an Assyrian coming down like a wolf on the fold (p. 183)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

instanter (p. 184)

In current use, meaning “immediately”; originally a legal term from Latin meaing “urgently.”

nood (p. 184)

The spelling here reinforces Constable Potter’s lower-class pronunciation; better-educated Britons would use a long-U vowel in “nude” which might be transcribed as “nyood.”

chaise longue (p. 185)

Hyphenated chaise-longue in the UK edition. A borrowing from the French for “long chair” or reclining couch. The modern term “chaise lounge” is a misreading and mispronunciation of this.

Bream Rockmeteller (p. 185)

Also mentioned in “Life with Freddie” (in Plum Pie, 1966/67) as a colleague of Freddie Threepwood at Donaldson’s Dog Joy in New York.

maroon (p. 185)

See Money for Nothing.

Bracing Bognor (p. 185)

“She told me, and naturally it bucked me up like a weekend at bracing Bognor Regis.”

Ice in the Bedroom, ch. 20 (1961)

For other seaside resorts called “bracing” in their publicity, see The Girl on the Boat.

legs once more shooting out in all directions … octopus (p. 185)

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)

ruin and desolation (p. 185)

“I was trying to think who you reminded me of. Somebody who went about strewing ruin and desolation and breaking up homes which, until he came along, had been happy and peaceful. Attila is the man.”

Aunt Dahlia to Bertie in Right Ho, Jeeves, ch. 20 (1934)

“When he was running that club of his, I’ve known him to go through the place like a devouring flame, leaving ruin and desolation behind him on every side.”

Lord Ickenham speaking of Mustard Pott in Uncle Fred in the Springtime, ch. 5 (1939)

“I’ll bet you’ve been spreading ruin and desolation on all sides.”

Bertie to Edwin Craye in Joy in the Morning, ch. 9 (1946)

“She’ll tell Madeline Bassett that Gussie has been at the steak and kidney pie, and ruin and desolation will ensue.”

Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves, ch. 10 (1963)

“Well, she’s one of those calm, quiet girls you’d think nothing would steam up, but she has this in common with a stick of trinitrotoluol, that, given the right conditions, she can explode with a deafening report, strewing ruin and desolation in all directions.”

Biff Christopher speaking of Linda Rome in Frozen Assets/Biffen’s Millions, ch. 3.2 (1964)

like a ruddy sower going forth sowing (p. 185)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (p. 185–86)

From the United States Declaration of Independence; see Money in the Bank.

Thomas Jefferson held these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Theatrical office-boys do not see eye to eye with Thomas.

Jill the Reckless/The Little Warrior, ch. 10.1 (1920)

After all, authors are people. They are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

“Slaves of Hollywood” (1929); also as “The Hollywood Scandal” (in Louder and Funnier, 1932)

“You see, our interests are bound up together, and only by the exercise of mutual toleration and the old give-and-take spirit can we both obtain our full helping of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Jeff Miller in Money in the Bank, ch. 9 (1942)

“I wish you life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and I shall give three hearty cheers if you come through, but I’m like the referee in a football game.”

Daphne Dolby in Bachelors Anonymous, ch. 6 (1973)

See also Piccadilly Jim.

Black Death (p. 186)

The epidemic of bubonic plague which struck Europe in 1346–1353, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 30 to 60 percent of the population.

“I, personally, consider that all times are good times for Mr. Pilbeam to have headaches. Not to mention botts, glanders, quartan ague, frog in the throat and the Black Death.”

Lady Julia Fish in Heavy Weather, ch. 13 (1933)

“To look at you, one would think you were just an ordinary sort of amiable idiot—certifiable, perhaps, but quite harmless. Yet, in reality, you are a worse scourge than the Black Death.”

Aunt Dahlia to Bertie in Right Ho, Jeeves, ch. 20 (1934)

It is like the Black Death, which, starting with occasional isolated cases in scattered villages, suddenly caught on and became such a popular craze that eventually there was scarcely a resident of the British Isles who did not look like the end man in a minstrel show asking Mister Bones why a chicken crossed the road.

“Looking Back” (in Punch, January 12, 1955)

What steps, he could not at the moment suggest, but if, say, something on the order of the Black Death were shortly to start setting about these young pests and giving them what was coming to them, it would have his full approval.

Sir Raymond Bastable in Cocktail Time, ch. 2 (1958)

Father Mariana … was particularly down on the Saraband, which he said did more harm than the Black Death.

“Our Man in America” (in Punch, November 15, 1961)

stout denial (p. 186)

See Summer Lightning.

stinker (p. 186)

See Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit.

cami-knickers (p. 187)

See The Code of the Woosters.

preux chevalier (p. 187)

See Lord Emsworth and Others and The Code of the Woosters.

a pair of number eleven boots (p. 187)

Size 11 on the British scale is a rather large shoe (equivalent to European size 46 and US men’s size 12). [MH]

one of those great race movements (p. 188)

See The Girl on the Boat.

who intends not to let a twig snap beneath his feet (p. 188)

See Summer Lightning.

a collection of gray cells (p. 188)

Spelled grey in the UK edition. See Uncle Fred in the Springtime.

elixir (p. 188)

Wodehouse usually uses “elixir” in its generic (and originally alchemical) sense of a liquid with transformative power, when referring to the seemingly magical effects of good alcoholic beverages.

one for the tonsils (p. 188)

See Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen.

his journey to the promised land (p. 189)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

fewer and better Twistletons (p. 189)

By the time the clocks were striking five, Mr. Waddington had come definitely to the decision that what the world wanted to make it a place fit for heroes to live in was fewer and better Mulcahys.

The Small Bachelor, ch. 12 (1926/27)

It seemed to her that what the world wanted was fewer and better Peasemarches.

Lottie Blossom in The Luck of the Bodkins, ch. 12 (1935)

“And, by George, that is what Bumpleigh Hall wants, to make it an earthly paradise—fewer and better Fittleworths.”

Lord Worplesdon in Joy in the Morning, ch. 22 (1946)

“What England needs is fewer and better Kegley-Bassingtons.”

Esmond Haddock in The Mating Season, ch. 25 (1949)

“The more I see of this joint, the more clearly do I realize that what Blandings Castle needs, to make it an earthly Paradise, is fewer and better Connies.”

Galahad Threepwood in Pigs Have Wings, ch. 1.3 (1952)

Our views on each other were definite. His was that what England needed if it was to become a land fit for heroes to live in was fewer and better Woosters, while I had always felt that there was nothing wrong with England that a ton of bricks falling from a height on Spode’s head wouldn’t cure.

Much Obliged, Jeeves, ch. 5 (1971)

sitting high jump (p. 189)

See Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit.

“What is wrong with this picture?” (p. 190)

Just before Emily Post’s Etiquette came out in 1922, Lillian Eichler’s The Book of Etiquette was published and sold widely; Eichler, an advertising copywriter, conceived a widely discussed series of ads with illustrations of someone committing a social faux pas along with the title question.

Still other advertisements carry cuts showing a man spilling soup over a lady’s gown, stepping on a lady’s foot or knocking over an upright piano, and inquiring archly, ‘What Is Wrong With This Picture?’ The inquiry being followed by the admonition that only by buying the Book of Good Manners and getting up on it can the reader learn what is the social mode and vogue.

The Smart Set, vol. 70, p. 55 (March 1923)

that inevitability which was such a feature of the best Greek tragedy (p. 191)

See The Girl in Blue.

“Yes, sir. I agree with you that the whole affair has something of the dark inevitability of Greek tragedy.”

Thank You, Jeeves, ch. 6 (1934)

“Events moved towards the big moment with the inevitability of Greek tragedy.”

Uncle Fred in the Springtime, ch. 12 (1939)

“Mark how it works out with the inevitability of Greek tragedy or whatever it was that was so bally inevitable.”

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

There was nothing coincidental in their meeting. One sees in it something of the inevitability which was such a feature of Greek tragedy.

The Girl in Blue, ch. 5 (1970)

“The whole affair had in it something of the inevitability of Greek tragedy.”

Bachelors Anonymous, ch. 12.2 (1973)

the gold cure (p. 193)

See Laughing Gas.

a one-armed paperhanger with the hives (p. 194)

See Cocktail Time.

reefer knot (p. 194)

See Money for Nothing.

“What will the harvest be?” (p. 194)

See Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit.

Pongo placed a hand on either side of his head to shore it up. (p. 196)

Compare p. 138, above.

a shakedown (p. 196)

An informal place prepared for sleeping; originally Scots dialect for a bed of straw spread on the floor (OED citation from 1754).

reach-me-downs (p. 197)

See Full Moon.

where she lists (p. 197)

Here list is a nearly archaic verb with the sense of “desire, choose, wish, please”; perhaps the best-known use is in the Authorized (King James) version of the Bible, from John 3:8:

The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

square (p. 197)

Here, a slang term meaning to gain someone’s assistance or non-interference by means of compensation; to bribe. The OED has citations beginning in 1859, referring to squaring a policeman.

Forgotten Sports of the Past (p. 197)

“Forgotten Sports of the Past—Splitting the Straw.”

Jill the Reckless/The Little Warrior, ch. 14.3 (1920)

“Forgotten Sports of the Past—Number Three, Meeting the Mater.”

“Something Squishy” (1924; in Mr. Mulliner Speaking, 1929/30)

(Forgotten Sports of the Past—Getting The Scenario)

“Genesis of a Novel” (in Punch, May 4, 1966)

Chingachgook … Fenimore Cooper (p. 198)

See Summer Lightning.

scared her out of a year’s growth (p. 199)

Watching the relative soar skywards with a wordless squeak, obviously startled out of a year’s growth, I was conscious of a distinct sensation of getting a bit of my own back.

Bertie speaking of Lord Worplesdon in Joy in the Morning, ch. 14 (1946)

“I don’t say she hadn’t scared me out of a year’s growth, because she had, but owing to this presence of mind I was speaking of I was enabled to up with my finger and put it to my lips and whisper ‘ ’Ush!’ ”

Chippendale in The Girl in Blue, ch. 11.5 (1970)

fiver … tenner (p. 200)

Five-pound or ten-pound notes. As above, multiply by approximately thirty to give modern equivalent purchasing power, accounting for inflation from 1948 to 2023.

“Well, I dunno” (p. 200)

Wodehouse uses this spelling of don’t know elsewhere only twice, for exasperatingly dimwitted characters.

Ma Price was bewildered.
“I dunno,” she said helplessly.

If I Were You, ch. 19 (1931)

“The Stoker is one of those dumb females whose impulse, if you ask them to do something, is to say ‘Well, I dunno’ and do the opposite, and there were times, I confess, when I felt like giving the thing up and getting what small consolation I could from beating her over the head with a bottle.”

Mike Cardinal speaking of Eileen Stoker in Spring Fever, ch. 22 (1948)

time is of the essence (p. 201)

See A Damsel in Distress.

Battle of Joppa (p. 202)

See Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen.

upas tree (p. 202)

A widely distributed tropical tree, Antiaris toxicaria, related to mulberry and fig trees. Its latex sap is highly toxic and is used to make poisoned arrows and darts in several Southeast Asian cultures; upas is one of the names given to the poison sap in Indonesia. Many exaggerated legends are told of the tree’s deadly influence on nearby animals and people; some say that no one can even walk up to the trunk and remain alive, and one eighteenth-century account had it destroying all animal life within miles. More at Wikipedia.

He was one of those delightful, irresponsible, erratic persons into whose heads thoughts of this kind do not enter, and who are about as deadly to those whose lives are bound up with theirs as a upas tree.

Mr. Warden in “Ruth in Exile” (1912; in The Man Upstairs, 1924)

 “What’s the tree I read about somewhere that does you in if you sit under it?”
 “The Upas tree, sir.”
 “She’s a female Upas tree. It’s not safe to come near her. Disaster on every side is what she strews.”

Speaking of Stiffy Byng in Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves, ch. 10 (1963)

King Claudius … The Mouse Trap (p. 203)

From Hamlet: see Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

Macbeth seeing the ghost of Banquo (p. 203)

See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

or it may have been “Goo!” (p. 204)

The UK edition has “Coo!” here, repeating the exclamation from earlier on the page, and probably a better reading.

blood will tell (p. 204)

See If I Were You.

commending his soul to God (p. 204)

See Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit.

the Regency (p. 205)

See Summer Lightning.

regardless of their age and sex (p. 206)

See Cocktail Time.

a bit of goose (p. 207)

See Lord Emsworth and Others.

“The berries?” (p. 207)

Pongo assumes that Bill is about to use the 1920s slang of “the berries” for something excellent, rather like “the cat’s pajamas” and similar phrases.

the lodestar of my life (p. 207)

A star that shows the way, something that serves as a guide or on which attention is fixed. [JD]

the bezuzus (p. 208)

An obscure word not found in the OED or Green’s Dictionary of Slang. Sinclair Lewis used it in Babbitt (1922):

“But there wouldn’t be any class to saying ‘got the degree of Stamp-licker from the Bezuzus Mail-order University!’ ”

Strikes a new note (p. 208)

See Spring Fever.

The parable of the talents crossed his mind. (p. 210)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

fifteen-stone policeman (p. 210)

Weighing 210 pounds, that is, or about 95 kg.

beezer (p. 210)

See Hot Water.

my great sponge, Joyeuse (p. 211)

See Uncle Fred in the Springtime.

streamlined body (p. 212)

Streamlined was originally a technical term for the design of vehicles with smooth contours intended to reduce air or water resistance; the earliest OED citation is from 1910 regarding airplanes. By the 1930s it became generalized to other objects, especially with the flowing outlines of Moderne or Art Deco styles. The Wodehouse quotation from Plum Pie below is among the OED citations.

Brandy, like port, has the disadvantage that it is not good for the figure, but Mr. Molloy, though a man whose constant aim it was to preserve the streamlined body, was prepared in consideration of the special circumstances to disregard this.

Money in the Bank, ch. 27 (1942)

At these frightful words, the spirit of the Woosters felt as if it had been sat on by an elephant. And not one of your streamlined, schoolgirl-figured elephants, either. A big, fat one.

The Mating Season, ch. 23 (1949)

This occurred after he had proceeded some hundred yards, the object into which he bumped being a slender, streamlined, serpentine female who looked like one of those intense young women who used to wreck good men’s lives in the silent films but seem rather to have died out since the talkies came in.

“Feet of Clay” (in Nothing Serious, 1950)

Beach the butler … was not the streamlined young under-footman he had been thirty years ago…

Pigs Have Wings, ch. 1 (1952)

 “He had put on weight terribly the last time I saw him. I suppose he’s worse than ever now.”
 “He is far from streamlined.”

Sir Raymond Bastable in Cocktail Time, ch. 24 (1958)

Faced with a choice between compartments filled with outsize adults and those where the adults were more streamlined but were accompanied by children, he chose one of the former.

Ice in the Bedroom, ch. 2 (1961)

Dieting continues to be all the go … and the number of those who hope to become streamlined by pushing their plates away untasted increases daily.

From the “Our Man in America” items (originally from Punch) in the UK edition of Plum Pie (1966), p. 75.

In appearance Kelly was on the buxom side. In her middle forties she still retained much of the spectacular beauty of her youth, but a carelessness these last years in the matter of counting the calories had robbed her figure of its old streamlined look.

Company for Henry, ch. 3 (1967)

Part Four

Runs from pp. 215 to 227 in US first edition.

Waterloo (p. 215)

One of London’s main railroad stations; see Hot Water.

had what it takes (p. 215)

Something that enables one to achieve success or attain a desired end, as good looks, ability, or money. [JD]

look like a walrus (p. 215)

Most often this description is due to a large mustache; here is a sampling from many instances:

“Well, my old uncle—I’m not blaming him, don’t you know—more his misfortune than his fault—I can see that now—but he’s got a heavy moustache. Like a walrus, rather, and he’s a bit apt to inhale the stuff through it.”

Ginger Kemp speaking of his Uncle Donald in The Adventures of Sally, ch. 9 (1922)

“You have observed his walrus moustache, his double chin, his protruding eyes.”

“The Romance of a Bulb-Squeezer” (1926; in Meet Mr. Mulliner, 1927/28)

Peering through the golden mists which float about a lover, he perceived a rubicund little man of middle age with a walrus moustache and two chins.

Sir Herbert Bassinger in Big Money, ch. 7.2 (1931)

A bald-headed man with a walrus moustache was seated at the desk.

Jno. Philbrick in “The Voice from the Past” (1931; in Mulliner Nights, 1933)

The thought of the Perfecto-Zizzbaum cashier ceasing to be a fount of gold and becoming just a man with a walrus moustache had turned Wilmot’s spine to Jell-o.

“The Nodder” (1933; in Blandings Castle and Elsewhere, 1935)

“Lord Bromborough looks like a walrus, yes, but unfortunately not a funny walrus. That moustache of his is majestic rather than diverting.”

“Buried Treasure” (1936; in Lord Emsworth and Others, 1937)

I wouldn’t say the moustache softened his face, but being of the walrus or soup-strainer type it hid some of it, which was all to the good.

Aubrey Upjohn in Jeeves in the Offing, ch. 3 (1960)

The Duke of Dunstable … was a large, stout, bald-headed man with a jutting nose, prominent eyes and a bushy white mustache of the type favored by regimental sergeant majors and walruses.

Service with a Smile, ch. 1.2 (1961)

Alaric, Duke of Dunstable, … was an opinionated, arbitrary, autocratic man with an unpleasantly loud voice, bulging eyes and a walrus moustache which he was always blowing at and causing to leap like a rocketting pheasant…

A Pelican at Blandings, ch. 1.3 (1969)

Catterick Bridge (p. 216)

Both a bridge and a hamlet, but better known as the site of a horse racecourse in North Yorkshire, England. Racing has taken place there since 1783, and the permanent racetrack dates from 1813.

stirring up Bill Oakshott’s soul like an egg whisk (p. 216)

See The Old Reliable.

Barribault’s (p. 216)

See Ice in the Bedroom.

treating her nominee like a ewe lamb (p. 216)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

Augustus Popgood … Cyril Grooly (p. 217)

See Ice in the Bedroom.

cheese straw (p. 217)

A cheese straw is a cheese-flavored stick of baked pastry, usually well-shortened with butter to be intermediate in texture between a breadstick and a pie crust.

a tide in the affairs of men which taken at the flood leads on to fortune (p. 217)

Quoting Brutus in Julius Caesar; see Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

the book beautiful (p. 218)

In 1899 publisher John Lane advertised his firm as “publishers of the book beautiful” and the usage came into popular use. [NTPM]

an interior decorator and a seller of antiques (p. 219)

Wodehouse seems to have had a disparaging view of men in these occupations. Lionel P. Green and Orlo Tarvin (Money in the Bank, Company for Henry) and Cyril Mulliner (“Strychnine in the Soup”) are described in less than flattering terms.

Boulevard Raspail (p. 219)

In Paris, running north-south through the seventh, sixth, and fourteenth arrondisements.

old crumb (p. 219)

See Bill the Conqueror.

the apple of his eye (p. 219)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

spoiling the ship for a hap’worth of tar (p. 219)

See Right Ho, Jeeves.

hock (p. 220)

See Something Fresh.

adenoids (p. 220)

See Summer Lightning.

side whiskers (p. 220)

Hyphenated as side-whiskers in the UK edition. See Blandings Castle and Elsewhere.

the left bank of the Seine … rive gauche (p. 220)

The artistic quarter of Paris.

Ye Panache Presse (p. 220)

For Ye and the spelling with a final e, see Ye Cosy Nooke in A Damsel in Distress.

Panache, a borrowing from French, originally referred to a plume of feathers decorating the hat of an aristocrat or royalty; by transference, it can refer to flamboyance of style or manner. The earliest figurative use in English seems to be in an 1898 translation of Rostand’s play Cyrano de Bergerac.

the gaily appareled official (p. 220)

The doorman at Barribault’s Hotel is variously described:

the uniformed exquisite who looked like an ex-King of Ruritania

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)

the Ruritanian Field-Marshal who gets taxis for Barribault’s clientele

Something Fishy, ch. 9 (1957)

all the swing of a Babylonian orgy (p. 222)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

in a spirit of the utmost cordiality (p. 222)

See Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen.

“Oo-la-la” (p. 222)

A widely used French interjection with varying meanings, usually to express surprise or to point out something worth noticing. Many of Wodehouse’s characters know little French other than this.

“I don’t know any French myself except ‘oo la la!’ ”

The Adventures of Sally, ch. 2.4 (1921/22)

Packy, except for “Oo là là!” which he did not quite know how to bring in, had now shot his bolt.

Hot Water, ch. 10 (1932)

“What’s that French expression?”
Oo la la?”
Fait accompli.

Full Moon, ch. 2 (1947)

Terry was mystified. If she had been an international spy, with one eye always out for the police force of any country in which she happened to be, she would no doubt have taken this piece of information with a careless ‘Oo là là’ and a wave of a jewelled hand, but she was not an international spy.

French Leave, ch. 6.6 (1956)

“…what I know of it. Which is just that word ‘l’addition’ and, of course, ‘Oo là là!’.”

Bill Hollister in Something Fishy/The Butler Did It, ch. 10 (1957)

“L’audace, l’audace, et toujours l’audace.” (p. 223)

A quotation attributed (in slightly varying forms) to Georges-Jacques Danton (1759–1794), French revolutionary, in an address to the National Assembly in 1792. “Audacity, audacity, always audacity” is the literal translation of this version; “Always be bold and daring” is one paraphrase.

keeping the money in the old oak chest (p. 223)

See Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit.

the best of all possible worlds (p. 224)

See Something Fresh.

struck a minor chord (p. 224)

A figurative use of a musical term for a combination of musical notes including the flattened third degree of the scale, such as C - E♭ - G in the key of C minor. Like melodies based on such a scale, conventionally in Western music these chords are used to signify sadness, grief, or misfortune. See Leave It to Psmith for references to tunes and themes in a minor key.

wolves … sleighs … Russian peasant (p. 225)

See Full Moon.

all the illustrated papers (p. 227)

A probable allusion to W. S. Gilbert’s libretto to The Gondoliers (with Arthur Sullivan, 1889), in which Don Alhambra refers to Inez waiting in the torture chamber: “She’s all right. She has all the illustrated papers.”

commending his soul to God (p. 227)

See Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit.


Runs from pp. 228 to 255 in US first edition.

I’m biding my time. That’s the sort of man I’m, as the song says. (p. 229)

The song “Bidin’ My Time” was written by George and Ira Gershwin for Girl Crazy (1930). Ira Gershwin’s lyric has “kind of guy” where Lord Ickenham says “sort of man.”

one little rose from your hair (p. 230)

“He worships you, that boy. He adores you. He would die for one little rose from your hair. And does he get one? Not so much as a blasted petal.”

Bill Shannon, speaking to Kay Shannon about Joe Davenport in The Old Reliable, ch. 11 (1951)

“When you dived off the high board, I would look up at you from the shallow end and whisper ‘My hero!’ I would have died for one little rose from your hair.”

Jane Benedick to Bill Hollister in Something Fishy/The Butler Did It, ch. 11 (1957)

“She didn’t actually say she would die for one little rose from your hair, but that was the impression she conveyed.”

Tipton Plimsoll to Wilfred Allsop about Monica Simmons in Galahad at Blandings, ch. 6.3 (1965)

baa-lamb (p. 230)

Most often used in the sense of a romantic partner seen as sweet and cuddly, as here:

“He’s a baa-lamb,” said Jane.

Speaking of George Abercrombie in “The Crime Wave at Blandings” (1936)

It was enough for her, she said, that she was going to marry Joe, because Joe was a woolly baa-lamb.

Kay Shannon referring to Joe Davenport in The Old Reliable, ch. 17 (1951)

“He’s a baa-lamb. And you can’t say a baa-lamb isn’t a nice thing to have around the house.”

Penny Donaldson speaking of Jerry Vail in Pigs Have Wings, ch. 1.4 (1952)

“Jeff’s a baa-lamb.”

Terry Trent, speaking of Jefferson, comte d’Escrignon, in French Leave, ch. 12 (1956)

“Lancelot is a baa-lamb.”

Gladys Wetherby speaking of Lancelot Bingley in “A Good Cigar Is a Smoke” (in Plum Pie, 1967)

Also used for someone to whom the speaker has reason to be grateful:

“Well, you certainly are the most wonderful woolly baa-lamb that ever stepped.”

Stiffy Byng to Jeeves in The Code of the Woosters, ch. 8 (1938)

“You’ve saved my life. Do you think I want to be called sir by … a woolly baa-lamb the hem of whose garment I ought to be kissing.”

Mike Bond to Horace Appleby in Do Butlers Burgle Banks?, ch. 15 (1968)

Once used by Wodehouse for the intended victim of a swindle, someone about to be “fleeced”:

sticking poor trusting half-witted baa-lambs with dud oil stock

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

lets concealment like a worm i’ the bud feed on his damask cheek (p. 231)

From Twelfth Night: see Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

‘Oh, My Dolores, Queen Of The Eastern Sea’ (p. 232)

The refrain of the once-popular tenor solo “In the Shade of the Palm” from the 1899 hit musical Florodora.

Your annotator [NM] was musical director and arranger of a revival of Florodora in 2009; a video recording of this number sung by Nicholas Patton is on YouTube.

making such heavy weather (p. 232)

Allowing one’s emotions to be stormy; making a fuss about something. Wodehouse used Heavy Weather as the title of a 1933 Blandings Castle novel.

Boadicea (p. 232)

See Right Ho, Jeeves.

Jael, the wife of Heber (p. 233)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

to pinch-hit (p. 234)

To substitute at bat for another player in the game of baseball; figuratively, to take another’s place at a crucial time.

“It is a far, far better thing that I do than I have ever done.” (p. 234)

Quoting Sydney Carton at the end of A Tale of Two Cities (1859) by Charles Dickens.

notes, cash, or lima beans (p. 235)

The only other reference so far found to lima beans so far found in Wodehouse is also a pseudo-monetary one:

They played the game for lima beans at her house, and there were occasions when the loss of a hundred or so of these useful little adjuncts to fun in the home would lash her into a species of frenzy.

Mrs. Rastall-Retford in “The Dinner of Herbs” (1913).

stinko (p. 237)

The OED calls this American slang for being drunk, first cited from 1927. The earliest usage so far found in Wodehouse is by Eggy Mannering from chapter 9 of Laughing Gas (1936):

“Are you by any chance under the impression—have you allowed yourself to run away with the foolish notion—are you really such a poor judge of form as to imagine that I am stinko?”

tight as an owl (p. 237)

See Sam the Sudden.

Young Lochinvar (p. 238)

See Right Ho, Jeeves.

Hesperus (p. 239)

Even without the childish lisp, Lord Ickenham slightly misquotes the Longfellow poem; see Something Fresh.

on to your saddlebow (p. 239)

Alluding to the Lochinvar poem; see Right Ho, Jeeves.

stern and rock-bound coast (p. 239)

Alluding to a poem by Hemans: see Blandings Castle and Elsewhere.

Daily Dozen (p. 240)

Fitness exercises; see Laughing Gas.

roly-poly pudding (p. 240)

A dessert made by spreading jam or fruit on a rectangle of pastry dough, rolling it up into a cylinder, and steaming or baking it.

Ethel M. Dell (p. 240)

See Bill the Conqueror.

cut business (p. 241)

Theatrical jargon for “omit the action.”

shower kisses on her upturned face (p. 241)

See the comments on this phrase in the end notes to “In Alcala” (1909).

Cheshire cat (p. 241)

See A Damsel in Distress.

six ice creams in a quarter of an hour (p. 242)

Not quite a record; that seems to be held by Sir Raymond Bastable:

Years ago, when a boy at school, he had once eaten seven vanilla ice creams at a sitting because a syndicate of his playmates had betted him he couldn’t.

Cocktail Time, ch. 2 (1958)

adagio dancer (p. 243)

See Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen.

Buck-u-Uppo (p. 245)

A fictional tonic in three of Wodehouse’s stories told by Mr. Mulliner, beginning with “Mulliner’s Buck-U-Uppo” (1926).

Doctor Smythe’s Tonic Swamp Juice (p. 245)


“Blizzard’s hiccups. How are they? Suggest Doctor Murphy’s Tonic Swamp-Juice. Highly spoken of. Three times a day after meals. Try for week and cable result.”

“High Stakes” (1925; in The Heart of a Goof, 1926)

Little wonder, then, that Stiffy’s announcement had bucked him up like a dose of Doctor Somebody’s Tonic Swamp Juice, which acts directly on the red corpuscles and imparts a gentle glow.

Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves, ch. 16 (1963)

horrible, blasting voice (p. 246)

Thus in the US edition, but almost certainly a misprint for bleating as in the UK first edition.

any being erect upon two legs and bearing the outward semblance of a man (p. 246)

Before the bill had been in the parlor-window three days—three days, gentlemen—a Being, erect upon two legs, and bearing all the outward semblance of a man, and not a monster, knocked at the door of Mrs. Bardell’s house.

Sergeant Buzfuz’s testimony in ch. 34 of The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens (1837).

as if a gimlet had suddenly penetrated the cushions (p. 247)

See The Code of the Woosters.

the gamut of the emotions (p. 247)

See Heavy Weather.

his last summer but one at Eton (p. 248)

Approximately age seventeen.

the scent of the violets and roses which sprouted through the bedroom floor (p. 248–49)

The aroma of mouse and mildew had passed away. Violets seemed to be spreading their fragrance through the cottage. Violets and roses.

Summer Lightning, ch. 12.3 (1929)

And then, at seven fifty-seven, the whole aspect of affairs abruptly changed. Gloom vanished, hope dawned, soft music seemed to fill the air, and that air became suddenly languorous with the scent of violets and roses.

Full Moon, ch. 4 (1947)

they recked nothing (p. 249)

That is, they were not at all concerned. See Thank You, Jeeves.

some strong swimmer in his agony (p. 250)

See Uncle Fred in the Springtime.

quivering with gratitude to his helpmeet for her timely suggestion (p. 250)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

soaring ceilingwards … Pongo leaped an inch or two (p. 250–51)

See Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit.

barmy (p. 251)

British slang, from late nineteenth century, for being foolish or silly; derived from an earlier literal sense of the word meaning frothy (like beer). Capitalized as a nickname, Wodehouse uses it as a schoolboy epithet for Lord Ickenham (ch. 12, p. 256) as well as Barmy Fotheringay-Phipps in many Drones Club tales, Lord George “Barmy” Barminster in “Ways to Get a Gal” (1957), and even Major Plank (as recalled by E. Jimpson Murgatroyd in Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen, 1974).

bringing the good news from Aix to Ghent (p. 252)

See Right Ho, Jeeves.

all of a sudden—bing (p. 252)

A fascinating glimpse into the creative process. For bing see Thank You, Jeeves.

saloon bar (p. 252)

A separate room in a pub, more comfortable and with better service than the public bar.

Jno. Humphreys (p. 253)

A conventional abbreviation for John, as often seen on shop signs and the like. The landlord’s name is given as John Humphreys later in the same section of the chapter (p. 255 of US first edition).

reculer pour mieux sauter (p. 253)

French, literally to draw back in order to make a better leap; to make a strategic withdrawal or a pause in order to come back stronger.

however thin the house (p. 253)

Theatrical jargon: however sparse the audience may be.

to walk through his part (p. 253)

Theatrical jargon: to act a role with the minimum of energy or expression.

wet with unshed tears (p. 254)

See Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit.


Runs from pp. 256 to 271 in US first edition.

mahogany face (p. 256)

The only other instance so far found where a human is compared to this rich reddish tropical wood:

Cremorne, a mahogany derelict who had spent his youth on the sea when liners were sailing-ships

Not George Washington, ch. 6 (1907)

Barmy (p. 256)

See above.

loving cup (p. 258)

A drink shared as a sign of friendship, especially in a ceremonial sense, or the two-handled tall silver cup often used when passed from hand to hand in this way, as at a banquet.

a sandbagged silence (p. 258)

As if he had been knocked out with a blow to the head from a soft weapon; see Right Ho, Jeeves.

inked darts (p. 259)

See Right Ho, Jeeves.

my name will be mud (p. 259)

In other words, his reputation will be soiled.

look slippy (p. 259)

Act quickly; from a British word slippy first recorded in 1847 in a dictionary of provincial words. The phrase is cited from 1885 in the OED; Wodehouse is cited for “make it slippy” from Pearls, Girls and Monty Bodkin (1972).

a fool’s paradise (p. 260)

See A Damsel in Distress.

You will be for it. (p. 260)

Originally British military slang from the early twentieth century for being liable to punishment, or to have trouble coming upon one.

You might . . . . No, that’s no good (p. 261)

Here Lord Ickenham is probably pretending to consider alternatives, merely in order to persuade Plank that he is acting for the best on his behalf. In other similar passages, characters with less agile minds are speaking while they are pondering:

“Listen. This is what you say. No,” said Reggie, after a moment’s thought, “that’s no good. How about this? No, that’s no good, either.”

Reggie Tennyson in The Luck of the Bodkins, ch. 16 (1935)

“We might . . . No, that’s no good. Or . . . No, that’s no good, either.”

Soapy Molloy in The Ice in the Bedroom, ch. 16 (1961)

to shoot the works (p. 262)

Slang: at games of chance, to risk all on one play; hence, to make the maximum effort, to exert oneself to the fullest extent. [TM]

when the bells ring out in the little village church (p. 264)

“And never will the wedding bells have rung out more merrily in the little village church——”

Summer Moonshine, ch. 5 (1937)

“And when are the bells going to ring out in the little village church?”

Joy in the Morning, ch. 6 (1946)

The bells of the little village church—or, rather, the little Beak Street registry office—are soon to peal out in no uncertain manner.

Spring Fever, ch. 23 (1948)

“He’s been engaged to Bunny Farringdon for more than a year, but not a move on his part to set those wedding bells ringing out in the little village church.”

Cocktail Time, ch. 7 (1958)

“You will have to do some heavy pleading if those wedding bells are to ring out in the little village church or wherever you were planning to have them ring out.”

A Pelican at Blandings, ch. 4.4 (1969)

shifts the stuff (p. 266)

See also The Inimitable Jeeves.

“He can shift the stuff all night and never turn a hair.”

Frozen Assets/Biffen’s Millions, ch. 4.3 (1964)

a regular orgy (p. 266)

Following its classic definition as rites celebrating Bacchus, the term orgy for most of its history denoted drunken revelry; only in the latter part of the 20th century did connotations of licentious sexual activity become the most common use of the word.

a stevedore’s undervest (p. 266)

See The Old Reliable.

nursing a viper in her bosom (p. 266)

See The Pothunters.

certified (p. 267)

See Thank You, Jeeves.

Colney Hatch (p. 267)

See Love Among the Chickens.

loony bin (p. 267)

See Leave It to Psmith.

the knuckles stood out white under the strain (p. 267)

See Cocktail Time.

feet of clay (p. 267)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

Montgomery Ward (p. 267)

Shares of Montgomery Ward stock traded at 137⅞ on September 3, 1929, but dropped to a low of 49¼ on November 13, 1929.

Twistleton Preferred (p. 268)

As in Fish Preferred, the US title of Summer Lightning (1929), this is a metaphor for the varying reputation of Pongo, comparing his changing prestige to the fluctuations of the stock market. See Summer Lightning.

passed through the furnace (p. 269)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

pulled the beer handle (p. 270)

See the explanation of beer-engine in Heavy Weather.

all of a doodah (p. 270)

See The Code of the Woosters.


Runs from pp. 272 to 290 in US first edition.

big chief (p. 272)

See Hot Water.

bloodstained (p. 272)

See Heavy Weather.

scarlet woman (p. 274)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

a boy’s best friend is his mother (p. 275)

See Piccadilly Jim.

When skies are dark … sun smiling through (p. 275)

An altered allusion to the refrain of “I Want to Be Happy” from No, No, Nanette; see Meet Mr. Mulliner for the original lyric.

Who ran to catch me when I fell…? (p. 275)

A paraphrase of lines from “My Mother” by Ann Taylor (1782–1866), altered from help to catch following the version quoted by Dick Swiveller in Dickens’s The Old Curiosity Shop.

the policeman’s unhappy lot (p. 276)

Alluding to “A policeman’s lot is not a happy one”: a repeated line from a song by the Sergeant of Police in Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance.

froze on his mustache (p. 276)

A humorous alteration of the common phrase “froze on his lips”:

The word “back” froze on his lips.

Right Ho, Jeeves, ch. 18 (1934)

“Could be,” said Soapy, doubtfully, and would have spoken further, but before he could do so speech froze on his lips.

Ice in the Bedroom, ch. 22 (1961)

found the blue bird (p. 278)

An emblem of happiness; see The Girl in Blue.

hit by an atom bomb (p. 279)

Not surprisingly, this is the earliest reference so far found in Wodehouse to the atom bomb, first used in 1945.

reassembling the faculties (p. 279)

For some little time, safe on the opposite pavement, Ambrose was too busily occupied in reassembling his disintegrated nervous system to give any attention to the world about him.

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

When he had at length succeeded in reassembling his jolted faculties, he discovered that he was alone in a compartment with the one man he most desired to see—Monty Bodkin, to wit.

The Luck of the Bodkins, ch. 2 (1935)

bore the burden of the conversash (p. 279)

Took the largest part in the conversation.

Each helps each. (p. 280)

See Summer Lightning.

board of Lunacy Commissioners (p. 280)

An outdated term, even at the time of writing; see Something Fresh.

Mr. Johnston (p. 280)

Eric Johnston (1896–1963) was head of the Motion Picture Association of America from 1946 to 1963, succeeding Will Hays as the leader of Hollywood’s self-censoring trade association.

cutting a few hundred feet (p. 280)

In the sound era, at 24 frames per second, 35mm motion-picture film ran at 90 feet per minute, so this censorship would shorten the embrace by a few minutes.

The film code guidelines at the time restricted the length of kisses to a few seconds. Alfred Hitchcock had famously flouted that restriction in Notorious (1946) by having a nearly three-minute kissing scene between Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman frequently interrupted by snatches of dialogue, so that each individual kiss complied with the regulations but the overall effect was of an extended embrace.

turned into a pillar of salt (p. 281)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

mustache of the soup-strainer class (p. 282)

Things irritated him acutely which before he had accepted as inevitable—his Uncle Donald’s moustache, for instance, and its owner’s habit of employing it during meals as a sort of zareba or earthwork against the assaults of soup.
   “By gad!” thought Ginger, stopping suddenly opposite Devonshire House, “if he uses that damned shrubbery as a soup strainer tonight, I’ll slosh him with a fork!”

The Adventures of Sally, ch. 4 (1921/22)

In deference to his employer’s outspoken statement that he did not propose to have a valet hanging around him festooned with fungus and snorting at him all the time from behind a great beastly soup strainer (for thus coarsely had the Senator alluded to that neatest of little lip ornaments), he had regretfully shaved the treasured possession.

Blair Eggleston in Hot Water, ch. 8.5 (1932)

He was preceded by a flowing moustache of the outsize soup-strainer kind, and his eyes were of the piercing type which one associates with owls, sergeant-majors, and Scotland Yard inspectors.

“Open House” (1932; in Mulliner Nights, 1933)

This wizard of the cooking-stove is a tubby little man with a moustache of the outsize or soup-strainer type, and you can generally take a line through it as to the state of his emotions.

Anatole in Right Ho, Jeeves, ch. 20 (1934)

“Ah!” said Claude, who, before we go any further, was a tall, drooping bird with a red soup-strainer moustache.

“Uncle Fred Flits By” (1935; in Young Men in Spats, 1936)

What was causing it was the fact that Mr Duff was wearing on his upper lip a large moustache of the soup-strainer type.

Quick Service, ch. 10 (1940)

I wouldn’t say the moustache softened his face, but being of the walrus or soup-strainer type it hid some of it, which was all to the good.

Bertie speaking of Aubrey Upjohn in Jeeves in the Offing, ch. 3 (1960)

the perilous stuff that weighs upon the heart (p. 282)

Paraphrased from Macbeth: see Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

tooth and claw (p. 283)

See Heavy Weather.

can’t say Bo to a goose (p. 284)

See The Ice in the Bedroom.

…to do the honors.
“Who the hell are you?” (p. 285)

Wodehouse proves his mastery of effective word choices by juxtaposing the language of etiquette with postwar frankness of speech.

not unthankful (p. 285)

In addition to too many instances of “not unlike” and “not unusual” to list here, Wodehouse employed the apparent double negative not un- construction frequently, generally for comic or satiric effect. A sampling:

Monk had—perhaps not unnaturally—not forgotten the incident

A Prefect’s Uncle, ch. 12 (1903)

His researches in this field were not unprofitable.

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

Pilbeam heaved a not unmanly sigh and returned to his writing.

Bill the Conqueror, ch. 4.3 (1924)

“Er—well, yes,” said Lord Hoddesdon, not unembarrassed.

Big Money, ch. 3 (1931)

“Why don’t you?” rejoined Lord Tidmouth, not unreasonably.

Doctor Sally, ch. 11 (1932)

Packy turned on him with a touch of not unjustifiable annoyance.

Hot Water, ch. 18 (1932)

Monty admitted that he was not unblessed with this world’s goods, but said that that was not the point.

Heavy Weather, ch. 2 (1933)

His words alone would have been enough to inform a man of my quick intelligence that he was not unmixedly pro-Bertram, and as I climbed out and slid into the bathrobe he gave me a look which drove the thing home.

Joy in the Morning, ch. 24 (1946)

And Freddie, noting that the hands of the clock on the mantelpiece were now indicating half-past twelve, was forced to agree that his cousin’s failure to put in an appearance was not unrummy.

Full Moon, ch. 3.5 (1947)

The Peebles Courier called it not unpromising, the Basingstoke Journal thought it not uninteresting…

Cocktail Time, ch. 3 (1958)

To his surprise, Biff seemed to be in no hostile mood. His manner was grave, but not unfriendly.

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

It was a look which she was not unaccustomed to seeing in the eyes of the men she met, for when, as now, her dress was right and her hat was right and her shoes were right and her stockings were right, she seldom failed to appeal to the male eye, always excepting that of her brother Algernon.

Jane Martyn in Company for Henry, ch. 1.3 (1967)

Lady Constance might have retorted that men who invited themselves were not unknown to her, but she merely heaved a weary sigh.

A Pelican at Blandings, ch. 4.1 (1969)

He was not unintelligent, and he knew that in this world a young man has the choice between two forms of self-expression when dealing with an elder whose patronage he is seeking.

Bachelors Anonymous, ch. 7 (1973)

cutting the guff (p. 286)

Omitting the empty talk. The OED finds the slang sense of guff beginning in the USA in 1888.

The earliest use so far found in Wodehouse:

But, passing lightly over all that—er—guff, what seems to be the trouble?

“The Unexpected Clicking of Cuthbert” (1921)

“That’s what I got once in Peru” (p. 287)

This description of Major Brabazon-Plank’s experience and injury is almost identical to the account given by Major Plank in Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves, ch. 20 (1963); the simplest inference is that the two Majors are the same man, and that he has simplified his surname to Plank in the intervening years, as he does at first when introducing himself in the present scene.

his music was still in him (p. 287)

See the end note on a very similar phrase to “Chester Forgets Himself” (1923)

vitriol (p. 288)

See Summer Lightning.

cuckoo in the nest (p. 288)

See Money in the Bank.

the last straw (p. 288)

Alluding to the fable of “the straw that broke the camel’s back”: a small additional annoyance that, together with previous wrongs, triggers a reaction.

a cipher in the home (p. 289)

See Uncle Fred in the Springtime.

Bexhill (p. 289)

A resort town on the south coast of England, where Wodehouse’s parents had moved by 1905 from their earlier home in Cheltenham.

The appetite grows by what it feeds on. (p. 290)

Paraphrasing Hamlet: see Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

Joe Louis (p. 290)

In full, Joseph Louis Barrow (1914–81), American boxer, nicknamed the Brown Bomber. He was world heavyweight champion from 1934 to 1951, so would indeed have been a formidable opponent at the time of this book.

the war horse which said “Ha!” among the trumpets (p. 290)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.


Runs from pp. 291 to 312 in US first edition.

ants in his pants (p. 291)

See The Code of the Woosters.

Edith of the swan’s neck (p. 291)

Also known as Edith the Fair (c.1025–c.1086), who was either a mistress of King Harold Godwinson or his first wife; see Wikipedia for a discussion. According to legend and poetry, she identified Harold’s damaged body after his defeat at the Battle of Hastings.

Erbut (p. 202)

One of eight characters listed in the third edition of Who’s Who in Wodehouse whose given name of Herbert is phonetically spelled Erb, Erbert, or Erbut according to local dialect.

splitting the welkin (p. 293)

See Money in the Bank.

left the ground in an upward direction (p. 293)

See Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit.

desired—or, as a literate Sunday paper would have put it, desiderated (p. 293)

The verb desiderate was borrowed from a Latin verb form into English in the seventeenth century; citations in the OED continue only until an 1866 quotation from Trollope, so Wodehouse is using a word that had already acquired an archaic and scholarly sound.

“And in these restless times, my dear Wooster,” he said, “I fear that brevity in the pulpit is becoming more and more desiderated by even the bucolic churchgoer, who one might have supposed would be less afflicted with the spirit of hurry and impatience than his metropolitan brother.”

The Rev. Francis Heppenstall in “The Great Sermon Handicap” (1922; in The Inimitable Jeeves, 1923)

Packy too, was a little mystified. He had never heard of obesity as a quality to be desiderated in valets.

Hot Water, ch. 2.3 (1932)

Its interior, he presumed, would be stuffy and probably smelly, but these disadvantages were outweighed by the fact that it would be dry, and dryness was what he wanted—or, as he would have said when writing a review for one of the higher-browed weeklies, desiderated.

Galahad at Blandings, ch. 9.3 (1965)

He seemed to her like one of those men who never lay a hand upon a woman save in the way of kindness, and someone of that sort was what, if she had been a literary critic, she would have said that she most desiderated.

Do Butlers Burgle Banks?, ch. 11 (1968)

if placed end to end, they would reach scarcely any distance (p. 294)

Wodehouse is here parodying himself; see Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen.

Simon and Schuster … Knopf … Bobbs-Merrill, Dodd Mead and Lippincott (p. 294)

These American publishers are given as examples in the US edition of the book. Simon and Schuster would become Wodehouse’s American publisher with Bring On the Girls and The Return of Jeeves in 1954.

The UK edition substitutes British publishers, including Herbert Jenkins, who published most of Wodehouse’s books from 1917 onward:

Otis’s action was quite exceptional, and Hodder and Stoughton, had they observed it, would have looked askance. So would Jonathan Cape. And we think we speak for Heinemann, Macmillan, Benn, Gollancz and Herbert Jenkins Ltd. when we say that they, too, would have been sickened by the spectacle.

Farrar and Straus (p. 294)

The UK edition substitutes Faber and Faber here; they had published Louder and Funnier in 1932.

Random House (p. 294)

The UK edition has Eyre and Spottiswoode here.

the Rue Jacob, within easy reach of the Boul. Mich. (p. 294)

Streets in the Latin Quarter of Paris. The UK edition has Boul’ Mich’ for Boulevard Saint-Michel.

berserk (p. 295)

See A Damsel in Distress.

Quatz Arts Ball (p. 295)

See Full Moon.

curled up like carbon paper (p. 296)

See The Old Reliable.

the second mate of a tramp steamer (p. 296)

See Bill the Conqueror.

the sheep, casting off its clothing, had revealed itself as one of the wolves (p. 296)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

The Way of an Eagle (p. 296)

See Bill the Conqueror.

The indefinite article an is uncharacteristically capitalized in the US edition.

between clenched teeth (p. 296)

“It may interest you to know,” she said, shooting the words out like bullets from between clenched teeth, “that Gerald Foster is the man I am engaged to marry.”

The Adventures of Sally, ch. 10.2 (1921/22)

sensitive young impressionists from the artists’ colony up Holland Park way may sometimes be seen stumbling through it with hands over their eyes, muttering between clenched teeth, “How long? How long?”

Wallingford Street, West Kensington, in Leave It to Psmith, ch. 2.1 (1923)

“And I let him shoo me out as if I was a stray pup!” he muttered through clenched teeth. “Of all the bunk games!”

Ed Cootes in Leave It to Psmith, ch. 9.4 (1923)

“Jeeves!” I said, between clenched teeth.

Right Ho, Jeeves, ch. 7 (1934)

“Ah!” he said, speaking the word between clenched teeth and generally comporting himself in an unpleasant and disturbing manner.

Lord Chuffnell in Thank You, Jeeves, ch. 6 (1934)

“All right!” he said, between clenched teeth. “All jolly right!”

Monty Bodkin in The Luck of the Bodkins, ch. 16 (1935)

“Changed your mind! Coo!” said Pongo, speaking through tightly clenched teeth and borrowing from the powerful vocabulary of Claude Pott to give emphasis to his words.

Uncle Fred in the Springtim, ch. 5 (1939)

“I wish those Scotsmen had killed you,” she said, speaking between clenched teeth in a way which would have extorted the admiration of Mrs. Molloy, who was a specialist.

Anne Benedick in Money in the Bank, ch. 21 (1942)

“Tchah!” said Colonel Wedge. He spoke the word as it should be spoken, if it is to have its proper value, crisply and explosively from between clenched teeth.

Full Moon, ch. 6 (1947)

“Haddock!” said Catsmeat, speaking between clenched teeth and exhibiting other signs of emotion.

The Mating Season, ch. 2 (1949)

“The whole thing is due to the fact that D’Arcy Cheesewright is a low, mean, creeping, crawling, slinking, spying, despicable worm,” she proceeded, dishing out the words from between clenched teeth.

Lady Florence Craye in Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, ch. 10 (1954)

“Uncle George,” she said, speaking from between clenched teeth.

Jane Benedick in Something Fishy/The Butler Did It, ch. 16 (1957)

“You make me sick,” he said, speaking the words from between clenched teeth with no trace of an Oxford accent.

Oily Carlisle in Cocktail Time, ch. 8 (1958)

“Let me tell you something,” she said, speaking from between clenched teeth.

Amanda Biffen in “Big Business” (in A Few Quick Ones, US edition, 1959)

“Freddie,” she said, speaking from between clenched teeth, “go home!”

Sally Foster in Ice in the Bedroom, ch. 3 (1961)

‘So nice to see you again, Lord Ickenham. So glad you were able to come,’ she said, not actually speaking from between clenched teeth, but far from warmly.

Lady Constance Keeble in Service With a Smile, ch. 3.2 (1961)

“Very glad to be of help,” he said, speaking not perhaps actually from between clenched teeth but certainly the next thing to it.

Henry Blake-Somerset in Biffen’s Millions/Frozen Assets, ch. 3 (1964)

“Well?” he said briefly, speaking from between clenched teeth. “What do you want?”

Sam Bagshott in Galahad at Blandings, ch. 5.2 (1965)

Looking like George Raft and speaking from between clenched teeth, he said he wished Charlie had blown a hole in Basher.

Frank in Do Butlers Burgle Banks?, ch. 9.2 (1968)

He spoke from between clenched teeth, and that always tells the story.

Spode/Lord Sidcup in Much Obliged, Jeeves, ch. 14 (1971)

“Don’t get a nickel, don’t I?” she cried, speaking from between clenched teeth.

Dolly Molloy in Pearls, Girls and Monty Bodkin, ch. 10.2 (1972)

angels in human shape (p. 299)

See Full Moon.

Pippa … God being in His heaven (p. 299)

See Leave It to Psmith.

snatched up to heaven (p. 300)

And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.

Bible: 2 Kings 2:11

forty winks (p. 300)

A colloquialism for a short nap, cited since 1830 in the OED. This is the only use of the phrase so far found in Wodehouse’s mature fiction.

“Forty winks. It clears the brain.”

The Eighteen-Carat Kid, ch. 10 (1913)

a cherub or seraph on the point of singing Hosanna (p. 300)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

shiner (p. 301)

Colloquial for a black eye. The earliest OED citation is from 1904 in a glossary of American prison slang.

fed to the tonsils (p. 301)

Completely “fed up”: unable to take any more. See Uncle Fred in the Springtime.

going off like crackers (p. 302)

Cracker here means a small explosive bang, either from a firecracker or what is often called a Christmas cracker: a wrapped paper tube designed to be pulled apart by its ends during a party celebration, containing a tiny friction-activated explosive charge similar to that of a cap gun.

the final spasm of a musical comedy (p. 302)

Audiences expected happy endings in musical comedies, with all misunderstandings resolved and romantic couples joined as intended. Wodehouse wrote:

I believe there are two ways of writing novels. One is mine, making the thing a sort of musical comedy without music, and ignoring real life altogether.

Letter to Bill Townend dated January 23, 1935, in Performing Flea (1953).

I, too, have lived in Arcady (p. 302)

See Something Fresh.

that chap in the Bible, Methuselah (p. 304)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

summary justice (p. 304)

The power of a magistrate or justice of the peace to decide cases of minor misdemeanors and assign punishment without the formality of a court trial.

Colosseum lion … Christian martyrs (p. 305)

Alluding to persecutions for popular amusement in first-century Rome.

thirty days without the option (p. 306)

That is, without the choice to pay a fine in lieu of jail time.

Girls will be girls. (p. 306)

See the discussion under boys will be boys in A Damsel in Distress.

the quality of mercy (p. 306)

From The Merchant of Venice: see Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

bring the blush of shame to the cheek of modesty (p. 307)

See Leave It to Psmith.

Bond Street (p. 307)

See Money for Nothing.

Bust, clay, one (p. 310)

A style of describing inventory items by category in increasing order of specificity, common in both business and military jargon of the time.

Star Chamber (p. 311)

See The Code of the Woosters.

gyves … wrists (p. 312)

See Ice in the Bedroom.

held it truth … rise on stepping stones (p. 312)

An extended quotation from Tennyson; see Something Fresh.

Wodehouse’s writings are copyright © Trustees of the Wodehouse Estate in most countries;
material published prior to 1929 is in USA public domain, used here with permission of the Estate.
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