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 Fred in the Springtime was originally annotated by Mark Hodson (aka The Efficient Baxter), with contributions from the late Terry Mordue [AGOL]. They have been reformatted somewhat and expanded by Neil Midkiff [NM] and others as credited below, but credit goes to Mark for his original efforts, even while we bear the blame for errors of fact or interpretation. Newly added notes are flagged with *; substantially revised notes are flagged with °.

The editor of the Saturday Evening Post asked Wodehouse for a much shorter and simpler serialization than the full-length manuscript that he submitted; the characters of Valerie Twistleton and Horace Pendlebury-Davenport were omitted, and some of their actions were assumed by other characters, with other significant adjustments made to cover the cuts. The resulting serial, which appeared from 22 April to 27 May 1939 in the magazine, is so much changed that only a few of the variants can be noted here without unnecessarily complicating this document.

The book was published at full length by Doubleday, Doran in the USA on 18 August 1939, and, very slightly cut, by Herbert Jenkins in the UK on the 25th of the same month. Somewhat unusually, the US book generally follows British spellings such as “realise” where the UK book has “realize”; the US book abbreviates “Mr” without a period, while the UK book has “Mr.” The US editor also seems to have omitted dozens of Wodehouse’s commas. See Neil Midkiff’s page on the Wodehouse novels for additional details on the variant versions.

Page references in these notes are based on the 1939 Herbert Jenkins edition.



Uncle Fred in the Springtime was published by Doubleday, Doran in the USA on 18 August 1939, and by Herbert Jenkins in the UK on the 25th of the same month. On the same day, Britain announced that it had entered into a formal alliance guaranteeing the security of Poland: a week later Hitler’s tanks crossed the Polish border, marking the beginning of the second World War. Uncle Fred in the Springtime is the fifth Blandings novel, and the first full-length novel to feature Uncle Fred. Since the publication of Heavy Weather (1933) there had also been two short story collections that included Blandings stories: Blandings Castle and Elsewhere (1935) and Lord Emsworth and Others/The Crime Wave at Blandings (1937). In story time, the present novel follows the action of Heavy Weather by less than a year.

Chapter 1

Runs from pp. 7 to 22 in the 1939 Herbert Jenkins edition.

Drones Club (Ch. 1; page 7)

The Drones is first mentioned in Jill the Reckless (1921). For more on the real background to this, the most celebrated fictional club in the Wodehouse world, see Murphy, Chapter VII.

[N.T.P. Murphy: In Search of Blandings (1986) Ch.VII]

form-fitting tweeds (Ch. 1; page 7) *

See Right Ho, Jeeves.

Pongo Twistleton (Ch. 1; page 7) °

Pongo first appeared in “The Luck of the Stiffhams” (1933), but his celebrated Uncle Fred is only introduced in “Uncle Fred Flits By” (1935). “Pong” is schoolboy slang for a smell; an alternative explanation of his nickname is the Latin name of the orangutan, Pongo pygmaeus. His given name is Reginald; his surname is variously given as ‘Twistleton’ and ‘Twistleton-Twistleton.’

Horace Pendlebury-Davenport (Ch. 1; page 7) °

This is his first appearance. He returns in the short story “The Shadow Passes” (1950) and links the Blandings, Jeeves and Uncle Fred worlds by appearing in Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit (1954).

His hyphenated surname is occasionally abbreviated to a mere “Davenport.”

As mentioned in the introduction above, Horace does not appear in the much-shortened magazine serialization of this story.

The only other Pendlebury is Gwladys, the artist in “Jeeves and the Spot of Art” (1929). The first Davenport mentioned is the synthetic gorilla of “Monkey Business” (1932), named Cyril Davenport in magazine appearances and Cyril Waddesley-Davenport in book collections; after Horace in the present book, there is a Eustace Davenport-Simms mentioned in “How’s That, Umpire?” (1950) and Joe Davenport as a major character in The Old Reliable (1951).

Both Pendlebury and Davenport are reasonably common British surnames. Pendlebury is a town in Lancashire, nowadays effectively swallowed up by its neighbour, Salford.

[Daniel H. Garrison & Neil Midkiff: Who’s Who in Wodehouse (2020)]

two hundred pounds (Ch. 1; page 7) *

The Bank of England inflation calculator suggests a multiplication factor of about 66 from 1939 to 2019.

Hay Hill, ... Berkeley Square , ... Mount Street, ... Park Lane (Ch. 1; page 7)

All real streets in the Mayfair district of London. This route, covering a distance of about 1.5 km — a rather brisk ten minutes! — makes perfect sense if the Drones is in Dover Street, as it seems to have been ever since Leave It to Psmith.

Murphy suggests the Bath Club at No. 34 as the most likely of the many clubs in Dover Street to be the geographical source for the Drones.

See the link below for a map of Mayfair, which opens in a new browser tab or window: the centered red-outlined arrow icon points to No. 34, but the Bath Club building has been replaced by a modern structure.

Bloxham House (Ch. 1; page 7) °

Seems to be fictitious. Many aristocratic families sold off their grand London houses in the 1930s, mostly for demolition and/or conversion into flats. Bloxham is also the name of a village near Banbury in Oxfordshire.

Oofy Prosser in “Sonny Boy” lives at Bloxham Mansions, Park Lane.

Stanwood Cobbold in Spring Fever, ch. 2, lives in a service flat at Bloxham House, Park Lane.

Lord Blotsam in “The Knightly Quest of Mervyn” lives on Berkeley Square, not Park Lane.

Webster (Ch. 1; page 7)

Rufus Bennett has a valet called Webster in The Girl on the Boat/Three Men and a Maid (1922), but the most celebrated Webster in the canon is indisputably the hero of “The Story of Webster” and “Cats will be Cats” (1932).

the Duke of Dunstable (Ch. 1; page 8) °

This is the first mention of the Duke in the canon. The ingenious schoolboy P. A. Dunstable appears in several of the early stories.

Duke is the highest rank in the British peerage; it was first introduced in England in the time of Edward III. Currently, there are 29 (non-royal) dukedoms held by 24 dukes, and a further 6 held by members of the royal family.

Dunstable is a town in Bedfordshire. The English composer John Dunstable (1389–1453) is probably the most famous person to have had this name.

Possibly Wodehouse chose this particular title because of the alliteration of “Duke of Dunstable” (cf. Dorothy L. Sayers and the Duke of Denver), or the association Dunstable/Unstable, or because there are real Dukes who take their titles from the nearby towns of Bedford and St Albans.

[Tim Riley points out that an earlier Duke of Dunstable appears in W. S. Gilbert’s libretto for Patience, or Bunthorne’s Bride, an 1881 comic opera with music by Sir Arthur Sullivan. No evidence is given regarding the specific family relationship between Gilbert’s Duke, a modest and aesthetically-inclined young soldier, and Wodehouse’s peevish and grasping Alaric, Duke of Dunstable. Indeed, Gilbert’s Duke selects the rapidly aging Lady Jane for his bride, so it is by no means certain that the ducal line will continue via his direct issue. Wodehouse’s Duke may well be a nephew or cousin or even a younger brother of Gilbert’s Duke, not necessarily the same man or his son. —NM]

Alaric (Ch. 1; page 8)

Presumably named after Alaric I (ca. 370–410), king of the Visigoths, who devastated Greece after the death of the emperor Honorius, and invaded Italy a number of times, laying siege to Rome itself.

ethereal mildness (Ch. 1; page 8) °

Wodehouse probably got this straight out of Bartlett, who quotes only the first line.

Come, gentle Spring, ethereal Mildness, come;
And from the bosom of yon dropping cloud,
While music wakes around, veil’d in a shower
Of shadowing roses, on our plains descend...

[James Thomson (1700–1748): The Seasons (1730) I.1]

[Wodehouse gave his views on the British spring climate as early as 1903, in a newspaper poem called “The Pessimist”; in Bill the Conqueror he noted that “there is something about the manner in which spring comes to England that reminds one of the overtures of a diffident puppy trying to make friends. It takes a deprecating step forward, scuttles away in a panic, steals timorously back and finally, gaining confidence, makes a tumultuous and joyful rush.” These two examples barely scratch the surface. —NM]

Noah ... drizzle (Ch. 1; page 8)

Having survived a flood that covered even the highest mountains for ten months, Noah might be expected to be contemptuous of any normal rain or drizzle.

And the Lord said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation. Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female. Of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and the female; to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth. For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth. And Noah did according unto all that the Lord commanded him.
And Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters was upon the earth.
And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him, into the ark, because of the waters of the flood. Of clean beasts, and of beasts that are not clean, and of fowls, and of every thing that creepeth upon the earth, there went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, the male and the female, as God had commanded Noah.
And it came to pass after seven days, that the waters of the flood were upon the earth.
In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.
12 And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights.

[Bible: Genesis 7:1–12]

young blizzard (Ch. 1; page 8) *

See Hot Water for more on this usage of “young.”

Valerie (Ch. 1; page 9)

Has not appeared before; she returns in “The Shadow Passes” (1950) as Horace’s fiancée and as his wife in Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit (1954).

As mentioned in the introduction above, Valerie does not appear in the much-shortened magazine serialization of this novel.

two hundred potatoes (Ch. 1; page 9) *

One of the OED definitions for potatoes is chiefly US slang for money, dollars (or pounds, in their citation of this sentence from Wodehouse). This is the only time so far found where Wodehouse uses the word in this sense. The earliest OED citation is from Damon Runyon in 1931.

Claude Pott (Ch. 1; page 9) °

Though there are dozens of Potters in the canon, the only onstage Pott besides Claude and his daughter (see below) is Edwin, pigman in Full Moon. [The late Sir Wandesbury Pott, J.P., is mentioned in “Tried in the Furnace” (1935), and in Hot Water (1932), Myrtle Blandish has run off to marry a man called Scott or Pott or Bott; Packy Franklyn couldn’t read her handwriting clearly in her letter.]

brought him up ... round ... turn (Ch. 1; page 9)

In nautical terms, a round turn is a loop around a winch or bollard used to brake and control a rope. So to bring someone up with a round turn is to stop them suddenly.

He was not in the habit of reading other people’s letters, but… (Ch. 1; page 9) *

Wodehouse mentions this near-universal human weakness several times. Flick Sheridan, in Bill the Conqueror, has “nice views about the sanctity of other people’s letters” and refrains from reading past the opening words of the one that blew out of her uncle’s study window. Terry Cobbold, in Spring Fever, “had no desire to read other people’s letters even when invited to.” But in contrast, in Summer Moonshine Joe Vanringham claims that he doesn’t (and that his brother Tubby does), but goes ahead and reads Adrian Peake’s letter to Jane Abbott when she asks him to.

It cannot be insisted on too strongly that import and export merchants as a class do not read other people’s letters. Few branches of commerce have a stricter code. Nevertheless, it must be stated that between Mr. Butterwick’s catching sight of this one and his leaping at it like a seal going after a slice of fish only a few seconds elapsed. It was bound, he felt, to contain passages relating to himself, and the urge to see what they were was too strong for him.

Pearls, Girls and Monty Bodkin, ch. 6.1 (1972)

Bertie Wooster makes an unconscious joke when the subject is literary letters:

 “I don’t suppose you have read Lord Chesterfield’s Letters To His Son?”
 . . . Well, of course I hadn’t. Bertram Wooster does not read other people’s letters. If I were employed in the post office, I wouldn’t even read the postcards.

Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen, ch. 10 (1974)

But for the real lowdown on the topic, we turn from Wodehouse to Dorothy L. Sayers:

Miss Climpson was one of those people who say: “I am not the kind of person who reads other people’s postcards.” This is clear notice to all and sundry that they are, precisely, that kind of person. They are not untruthful; the delusion is real to them. It is merely that Providence has provided them with a warning rattle, like that of the rattle-snake.

Unnatural Death, ch. 23 (1927)

Montreuil (Ch. 1; page 10)

Town in northern France, a few km inland from Le Touquet.

living the life of Riley (Ch. 1; page 10) *

See Summer Moonshine.

obscurity ... Browning (Ch. 1; page 10)

Robert Browning (1812–1889) was much-criticised by his contemporaries for the obscurity and inaccessibility of many of the references in his poems. To some extent these were due to his idiosyncratic education — he seems to have spent most of his childhood reading encyclopedias — but it was also inherent in his narrative technique, which involved seeing the world from the perspective of the often obscure historical characters he wrote about.

Euclid (Ch. 1; page 10)

Euclid was a mathematician who taught at Alexandria in the 4th century BCE. His Elements set out the rules of geometry with a logical progression of definitions, postulates and proofs, and have formed the basis of school mathematics teaching ever since.

that fellow Baxter, his secretary (Ch. 1; page 11) *

This is Rupert Baxter, the most efficient and the most irritating of all Lord Emsworth’s secretaries, beginning in Something New/Something Fresh (1915) and continuing until fired in Leave It to Psmith (1923). He returned to Blandings Castle as a visiting annoyance to Lord Emsworth in Summer Lightning/Fish Preferred (1929) and “The Crime Wave at Blandings” (1936) before once again playing that role in the present novel.

dance before him (Ch. 1; page 11) °

Could this be an allusion to David dancing before the Ark of the Covenant (2 Samuel 6:14)? See Biblia Wodehousiana for a note by Fr. Rob agreeing with this point of view.

David Rosenbaum suggests Samuel 2, Chapter 2, verse 14: In Hebrew, the word used for “play” could also mean dance, which is more in line with the intention here. Pongo says, “To dance... and generally entertain him?” David was dancing to honour God, not as entertainment. In the Abner case, it seems to be really entertainment.

And Abner said to Joab, Let the young men arise and play before us. And Joab said, Let them arise.

[Bible: 2 Samuel 2:14]

British Museum (Ch. 1; page 11)

As well as containing archaeological treasures looted from all over the world, until recently the British Museum in Bloomsbury also housed the British Library, one of the copyright libraries that hold a copy of every book published in Britain. (The library moved to Euston Road in the 1990s.)

Baxter is presumably not looking for the lost tomb of Alaric I, but working in the famous Reading Room in pursuit of printed references to rather more recent ancestors of the Duke.

that Family History (Ch. 1; page 11) *

See A Damsel in Distress for Lord Marshmoreton’s similar task, and for other efforts along the same lines in Wodehouse.

shirty (Ch. 1; page 11) *

This slang word for being ill-tempered or annoyed is cited in the OED beginning in 1846; Wodehouse’s use of it in Right Ho, Jeeves (1934) is one of the citations.

my cousin Ricky (Ch. 1; page 11) *

Later (see below) to be introduced more fully as the Duke’s nephew Alaric “Ricky” Gilpin, son of the Duke’s sister who married William Gilpin of the Connaught Rangers.

up popped a soufflé looking like a diseased custard (Ch. 1; page 11) *

A soufflé is far more likely to look like a diseased custard if it doesn’t “pop up”: that is, doesn’t rise in the oven.

dromedary with the staggers (Ch. 1; page 12)

Dromedaries are domesticated camels bred especially for riding, as opposed to load-carrying, usually (but not necessarily) of the single-humped type.

The staggers can be any of a number of diseases affecting domestic animals, which result in the animal walking unsteadily.

Bohemian Ball ... Albert Hall (Ch. 1; page 12)

As one of London’s largest entertainment venues, the Albert Hall was often used for big events like balls, which in Wodehouse’s younger days might have been held at Covent Garden.

Le Touquet (Ch. 1; page 12)

Le Touquet–Paris Plage is a seaside resort in northern France, about 15 km south of Boulogne. Wodehouse was living near Le Touquet at the time he wrote Uncle Fred in the Springtime, and remained there until interned by the Germans in 1940.

reading for the Bar (Ch. 1; page 12)

Formerly, the railing separating the Judge’s bench from the public area of the court was called the Bar. By extension, this came to mean the Court as a whole. Accused persons were tried at the bar, and lawyers practised there.

In modern British terminology, lawyers are divided into two groups: solicitors and barristers. Only the latter are allowed to appear as advocates at the Bar, before the higher courts.

The usual way to qualify as a barrister is to take an academic law degree at University, followed by a period of practical training in an Inn of Court, a process known as “reading for the bar.”

on velvet (Ch. 1; page 12) *

See Bill the Conqueror.

Messrs. Coke and Littleton (Ch. 1; page 12)

Sir Thomas Littleton (1422–1481) was the author of On Tenures, the first major legal treatise in something approaching the vernacular. It is written in an Anglo-Norman dialect peculiar to lawyers, now known as ‘law French,’ and is based on Anglo-Saxon common law, rather than the Roman legal tradition followed in Scotland and elsewhere in Europe. Littleton was a direct ancestor of the Victorian novelist Bulwer Lytton.

Sir Edward Coke (1552–1634) was an important parliamentarian, judge and legal theorist. His defence of the Common Law and opposition to Stuart abuses of the royal prerogative got him dismissed from the post of Chief Justice in 1616, but he remained an important figure in the development of constitutional theory in the build-up to the Civil War. He is best known today for the Reports and Institutes of the Laws of England (the latter includes his commentary on Littleton).

Some modern legal historians argue that his actual writings have been far less influential than the myth of Coke that developed in the 18th and 19th centuries, especially in the USA, where he was frequently invoked in defence of the colonists’ right to self-determination.

slice him in half and have two Horaces (Ch. 1; page 13) *

This is the only instance so far found where the idea of “one being enough to make two” refers to extreme height; typically the concept is used for someone massively overweight, or extremely muscular, as Ricky Gilpin is described in Chapter 13. See Summer Lightning for more instances. For the related concept of one person having enough of some emotional or intellectual quality for both parties to a situation, see Chapter 18, below.

Polly Pott, eh? Any relation to Claude Pott, private investigator? (Ch. 1; page 13) *

In the shortened magazine serial, Polly becomes Polly Halliday, stepdaughter of Claude Pott, for reasons too complicated to summarize here.

res (Ch. 1; page 13) *

Legal Latin for the thing in question, the point at issue.

A blinding light flashed upon Pongo (Ch. 1; page 13) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

He understood all and pardoned all. (Ch. 1; page 14) *

Based on a well-known French quotation; see The Code of the Woosters.

pursy (Ch. 1; page 15) *

The only instance of this fairly rare adjective so far found in Wodehouse. It can have several meanings; when applied to a mouth it can mean puckered or wrinkled like the mouth of a drawstring purse. But along with the other adjectives here a more typical meaning is merely “fat”: compare “A short pursy man, stooping and labouring at a bass viol, so as to show nothing but the top of a round bald head, like the egg of an ostrich.” from the Sketch Book of Washington Irving, cited in the OED for sense 2 of pursy, adj.1.

Silver Ring bookie (Ch. 1; page 15) *

At British racecourses, the areas for spectators and the bookmakers who deal with them are divided into up to three enclosures. The Club or Members ring is the most exclusive and expensive; the Tattersalls Ring is intermediate, most popular with the public, and most heavily stocked with bookmakers; the Silver Ring, despite its showy-sounding title, is the minor one of the three. A Los Angeles Times article compares the Silver Ring to the U.S. grandstand.

a life in which he had played many parts (Ch. 1; page 15) *

See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

loopy to the tonsils (Ch. 1; page 16) *

“Loopy” for “crazy” was fairly recent slang at the time; the OED cites a 1925 dictionary of military slang, as well as Evelyn Waugh’s use of it in Decline and Fall in 1928.

Wodehouse made frequent use of “to the tonsils” as a jocular variant of “up to the neck” for “completely.” He uses it again in Chapter 11 below.

“I am fed to the tonsils with the human race…”

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

It is not too much to say that I was piqued to the tonsils.

Right Ho, Jeeves, ch. 9 (1934)

He had finished the “Lady of Shalott” that morning and was stuffed to the tonsils with good material.

Freddie Widgeon, in “Trouble Down at Tudsleigh” (1935; in Young Men in Spats)

Someone has given Potter a shiner, and he’s fed to the tonsils.

Uncle Dynamite, ch. 14.2 (1948)

I am not saying that this woman’s words, with their underlying suggestion that I was fried to the tonsils, had not wounded me.

The Mating Season, ch. 6 (1949)

Already his manner was that of a man whom the society of Bertram Wooster had fed to the tonsils, and one more sight of the latter at his elbow might quite easily make him decide to take prompt steps through the proper channels.

Jeeves in the Offing/How Right You Are, Jeeves, ch. 6 (1960)

I could see that she was again asking herself if her favorite nephew wasn’t steeped to the tonsils in the juice of the grape.

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

It had obviously been designed by an architect steeped to the tonsils in spirituous liquor, as so many architects were in the days of the Regency.

Company for Henry/The Purloined Paperweight, ch. 5.3 (1967)

Hotel Picardy (Ch. 1; page 16)

Picardie (often spelled “Picardy” in English) is a region in northern France. Oddly enough, there seems to be an Hotel Picardy in Nice, but not in Le Touquet.

Hockey-knockers (Ch. 1; page 16) °

Informal way of referring to golf equipment. Also used by Legs Mortimer in “Farewell to Legs” (1935, in Lord Emsworth and Others).

Barmy ... Catsmeat (Ch. 1; page 17) °

Presumably (although it doesn’t really matter here) Cyril “Barmy” Fotheringay-Phipps (“Fate”, “Tried in the Furnace,” etc.) and Claude “Catsmeat” Potter-Pirbright, who first appeared in “The Masked Troubadour” in 1936 after several offstage mentions as a member of the Drones Club.

guillotine (Ch. 1; page 17)

The last execution by guillotine in France was on 10 September 1977; executions were public until 1939.

Dr Joseph-Ignace Guillotin proposed the use of a decapitation machine, similar to devices already in use since the middle ages in other countries including Scotland, to the National Assembly in December 1789, with the aim of removing the inequalities between common criminals and the nobility in the existing arrangements for executions. His idea was rejected and he abandoned it.

When the Legislative Assembly again proposed in 1791 that all executions should be by decapitation, it was Dr Louis of the Academy of Surgeons who designed a workable protoype, differing in several important respects from Guillotin’s drawings, and the German piano builder Tobias Schmidt who constructed it. It was thus generally known as a louison or louisette - it was only later that it became associated in the public mind with the name of Guillotin. (Simon Schama, Citizens, 1989, Ch.15; Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish, 1977)

Contrary to common belief, Dr Guillotin was not executed during the Reign of Terror, but died in 1814.

rozzers (Ch. 1; page 18)

Police - British slang of the 1890s, still current. Possibly of Polari origins. One of the earliest citations in the OED is from the prominent Pelican, A. M. “Pitcher” Binstead.

trailing arbutus (Ch. 1; page 18) °

Epigaea repens or ground laurel, a creeping American woodland plant apparently much prized as an indication that Spring is on its way. Obviously the relevance here is simply the word trailing.

the French for ‘police’ (Ch. 1; page 18) *

The French for ‘police’ is police.

stand supinely by (Ch. 1; page 18) *

That would be quite a trick if taken literally, as “supinely” means lying on one’s back, not standing up. Figuratively, of course, the adverb can mean “taking it lying down”: in a manner lacking interest or effort; apathetically. So while not quite meaningless, the phrase still evokes a rather badly mixed image, and William Safire rightly chastised Senator Robert Byrd for using it in a 1988 New York Times column.

the whitest man I know (Ch. 1; page 19) *

See A Damsel in Distress.

a notice to that effect will appear in The Times (Ch. 1; page 19) *

Earlier, the Morning Post had been the proper place to announce upper-class engagements and terminations thereof, but that paper had merged with the Daily Telegraph in 1937. The Times then became the medium for such announcements, as here and in succeeding books. Engagements announced or anticipated to be printed in The Times include Sir Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe and Gloria Salt in Pigs Have Wings (1952); Pat Wyvern and Lord Rowcester in Ring for Jeeves (1953); Bertie Wooster and Bobbie Wickham in Jeeves in the Offing (1960)—a ruse to soften up Lady Wickham to make Kipper Herring seem a more appealing bridegroom; and Myra Schoonmaker and Archie Gilpin in Service With a Smile (1961). Announcements that “the wedding will not take place” include (potentially) Johnny Pearce and Bunny Farringdon in Cocktail Time (1958) as well as the present case.

Barmy to the back teeth (Ch. 1; page 20) *

Completely idiotic, weak-minded to an extreme; compare loopy to the tonsils above for a functional equivalent.

handing me the mitten (Ch. 1; page 20) *

See The Code of the Woosters.

for putting his fortune to the test (Ch. 1; page 21) *

See The Girl on the Boat.

when the recent Pott blew in (Ch. 1; page 21) *

The OED lists “to blow in” as an originally U.S. colloquial verb phrase for appearing or turning up unexpectedly, with citations beginning in 1895. It seems an appropriate phrase here with a connotation of bringing troubles, as if a storm cloud had arrived.

Buck up. (Ch. 1; page 21) *

See under “bucked” in The Inimitable Jeeves. Here the meaning seems to be more “Get on with it!” than “Cheer up!”

tinkerty-tonk (Ch. 1; page 22) *

A catch phrase among the well-to-do Edwardian youth of fashionable London, personified in the Knut (pronounced with a hard K), an indolent idler content to live beautifully and tranquilly with as few cares as possible. See “The Knuts o’ London.” Like “teuf-teuf” (onomatopoetic for the sound of a rubber-bulb auto horn), “tinkerty-tonk” was often used as a phrase upon departing. In Right Ho, Jeeves, ch. 19, Bertie takes his leave of his cousin Angela with a “tinkerty tonk” and tells us “And I meant it to sting.”

Buffy-Porson (Ch. 1; page 22)

Yet another in the apparently endless series of Wodehousian car-makers. Pongo previously had a somewhat unreliable Pommery Seven (“Uncle Fred Flits By”).

The Buffy-Porson has been realised as a pedal car design by American model-maker Peter Stevenson (The Buffy-Porson, a car you can build, Scribner, New York, 1973). It isn’t clear whether this is based on an entirely fictitious two-seater using the name from Wodehouse, or whether he and Wodehouse have a common source, but the former seems more likely.

Just possibly there is a reference to the eminent Greek scholar Richard Porson (1759–1808), who edited many of the texts Wodehouse would have studied at school. Buffy is nineteenth-century slang for ‘drunk.’ Garrison does not list either Buffy or Porson as the name of a Wodehouse character.

Ickenham, in Hampshire (Ch. 1; page 22)

Ickenham is near Uxbridge in Middlesex, on the western fringes of London. It thus has the unusual distinction among Wodehouse names of appearing on the famous London Underground diagram. Wodehouse has moved it to Hampshire (conventionally abbreviated “Hants.”), on the south coast.

Counties named in Uncle Fred in the Springtime:
map of UK counties named

Chapter 2

Runs from pp. 23 to 40 in the 1939 Herbert Jenkins edition.

Paddington (Ch. 2; page 23) °

Paddington station, the London terminus of the Great Western Railway, has been the station for Blandings since Something New/Something Fresh. It is only about ten minutes walk from Park Lane. The station was built in 1850–1854 by the GWR’s engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel. The great train-shed is an important early example of the structural use of iron.

2.45 (Ch. 2; page 23)

The 2.45 seems to be a new addition to the timetable: in Leave It to Psmith Freddie misses the 12.50 and has to wait until 5.00 for the next one. With a few exceptions, Wodehouse normally allows the railways about four hours to transport people between Paddington and Market Blandings.

Shropshire (Ch. 2; page 23) *

Wodehouse’s parents lived in Stableford, near Bridgnorth in Shropshire, from 1895 to 1902, and from Leave It to Psmith onward, Blandings Castle is explicitly set in the vicinity.

Clarence, ninth Earl of Emsworth (Ch. 2; page 23)

Has appeared in all the Blandings stories starting with Something New/Something Fresh.

Lady Constance Keeble (Ch. 2; page 23)

The most frequently seen of Lord Emsworth’s ten sisters, she has been resident as chatelaine of Blandings since Leave It to Psmith.

Rupert Baxter (Ch. 2; page 23)

The Efficient Baxter is Emsworth’s secretary in Something Fresh/Something New and Leave It to Psmith. In the course of the latter book, Psmith engineers his dismissal.

Baxter was present as a guest of Lady Constance in Summer Lightning/Fish Preferred and briefly revisited the Castle in “The Crime Wave at Blandings.”

forty-seven years (Ch. 2; page 23)

Probably it is best not even to attempt to work out where this figure comes from!

Lord Emsworth’s age seems to have been somewhere between about 55 and 70 for most of the 62 years between his first and last appearances on the printed page, so one reasonable guess might be that he first met Alaric as a boy at Eton.

this world or the next (Ch. 2; page 23) *

That is, on earth or in heaven. One possible influence may be Catherine Winkworth’s English translation of the hymn “Now Thank We All Our God”; the second stanza concludes with a prayer to “free us from all ills / In this world and the next.”

within an ace of (Ch. 2; page 24) *

See Leave It to Psmith.

shipped him abroad … too hot for him (Ch. 2; page 24) *

Fascinating hints about the Duke’s youth which are never explained in detail. We know that as a Guardsman he had a bigger allowance than was good for him, and that he was blackballed when attempting to join the old Pelican Club (A Pelican at Blandings).

a cipher in the home (Ch. 2; page 24) *

Here, instead of its usual modern meaning of “code,” cipher is an old-fashioned term for zero, and figuratively means someone of no importance, a nonentity.

Mr. Birdsey submitted to the worst bit of kidnapping since the days of the old Press Gang with that delightful amiability which made him so popular among his fellows and such a cipher in his home.

“Brother Fans” (1914)

He had been an inmate of the house long enough to know, with a completeness which would have embarrassed that gentleman, what a cipher Mr. Pett was in the home, and how little his championship would avail in the event of a clash with Mrs. Pett.

Piccadilly Jim, ch. 10 (1917)

[Bailey Bannister] had been a cipher in the firm of Bannister & Son.

The Coming of Bill, ch. 7 (1920)

When Sigsbee Waddington married for the second time, he to all intents and purposes sold himself down the river. To call him a cipher in the home would be to give a too glowing picture of his importance.

The Small Bachelor, ch. 1.4 (1927)

“I had nothing to do with it. I was a mere cipher in the affair.”

Joy in the Morning, ch. 11 (1946)

“I’m sick and tired of being a cipher in the home.”

Bill Oakshott, in Uncle Dynamite, ch. 13.3 (1948)

“You know what happens when you get married? You’re bossed. You can’t call your soul your own. You become just a cipher in the home.”

L. G. Trotter, in Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, ch. 20 (1954)

“From that to becoming a cipher in the home,” [Mr. Llewellyn] assured Monty, “is but a step.”

Pearls, Girls and Monty Bodkin (1972)

on the ground floor, because he is nervous of fire (Ch. 2; page 25) *

Compare Sir Roderick Glossop’s similar request in “Jeeves and the Yule-Tide Spirit’ (1927; collected in Very Good, Jeeves!) for a similar reason.

mauve-pajamaed (Ch. 2; page 25) *

For the artificial dye mauve, see Hot Water. Mauve pajamas are worn by Eustace Hignett in The Girl on the Boat/Three Men and a Maid and by Sir Claude Lynn in “Something Squishy” (1924). The “Emperor of Abyssinia” wears orange-and-mauve striped pyjamas beneath his mackintosh in “The Truth About George” (1926).

Bonny, bonny banks... (Ch. 2; page 26)

“Loch Lomond” is supposed to be an old Jacobite song, but the words generally used nowadays seem to have been written in the 19th century.

O you take the high road
And I’ll take the low road
And I’ll be in Scotland before ye,
For me and my true love
Will never meet again
On the bonny bonny banks of Loch Lomond

[Scott, Lady John (attrib.) Loch Lomond (chorus)]

potty (Ch. 2; page 27) *

In the sense of “crazy, mad, eccentric” the OED has citations beginning in 1920. So although the Duke is presumably in late middle age, he is using up-to-date slang to characterize nearly everyone he knows, here and again in Chapter 10.

certified (Ch. 2; page 27) *

See Thank You, Jeeves.

Ronald married a chorus girl (Ch. 2; page 28)

This is Ronnie Fish, of course, who drives off to the registry office with Sue Brown at the end of Heavy Weather. This seems to be confirmation that they got there safely.

my nephew Bosham (Ch. 2; page 28) *

This is Lord Emsworth’s son and heir; see below.

skrimshanking (Ch. 2; page 28) *

Slacking or shirking one’s duties; originally British military slang from Victorian times. The cat Edwin in Love Among the Chickens (1906/09) is compared to Corporal Bates, recalled by the Beales as a skrimshanker.

four-eyed (Ch. 2; page 28) *

A colloquial epithet for someone who wears spectacles; Green’s Dictionary of Slang has citations beginning in Australia in 1843.

sword of Damocles (Ch. 2; page 29) *

See The Code of the Woosters.

sticking straws in his hair (Ch. 2; page 30) *

See Bill the Conqueror.

Empress of Blandings (Ch. 2; page 30) °

The Empress first appeared in “Pig-hoo-o-o-o-ey” (1927, collected in Blandings Castle and Elsewhere) and is a significant figure in the plots of Summer Lightning/Fish Preferred (1929) and Heavy Weather (1933).

wear the mask (Ch. 2; page 30) *

See Laughing Gas.

stag at bay (Ch. 2; page 31) °

Painting by the celebrated Victorian animal painter Sir Edwin Henry Landseer, ARA (1803–1873), which became widely known as a result of the engraving by his brother Thomas. In Full Moon, Bill Lister visits Blandings Castle as another Landseer, painter of The Pig at Bée.

See Right Ho, Jeeves.

Bosham (Ch. 2; page 31) °

Viscount Bosham was mentioned in Leave It to Psmith and “The Crime Wave at Blandings” (where his young son George also appears).

As is usual, Lord Emsworth’s heir has a courtesy title as Viscount, one step lower in the peerage than the title of Earl that he will eventually inherit. (A courtesy title entitles the holder to be addressed and given precedence as if he held that rank, but does not give him any legal rights.) Bosham is a village in West Sussex, near Wodehouse’s former house at Emsworth.

Bridgeford races (Ch. 2; page 31)

Bridgeford and Shifnal were mentioned as the nearest larger towns in Leave It to Psmith. The name Bridgeford obviously comes from the real Shropshire town of Bridgnorth.

The main horse-racing venues in Shropshire are Shrewsbury and Ludlow. Possibly Wodehouse has simply moved Ludlow racecourse to Bridgnorth to avoid the need to populate the region around Blandings with yet another town.

brother Galahad (Ch. 2; page 32) °

Lord Emsworth’s younger brother, first introduced in Summer Lightning/Fish Preferred (1929).

You know my sow, Empress of Blandings... (Ch. 2; page 32)

Strictly speaking, Lord Emsworth is committing a faux pas: as a lady, the Empress should have the Duke introduced to her first.

pince-nez (Ch. 2; page 33)

Spectacles without earpieces, attached to the nose (French: nose-pincher). We know from Leave It to Psmith that Emsworth keeps his on a string, which sometimes falls down his back.

Derby (Ch. 2; page 34)

The Derby is a horse race, held on Epsom Downs each June. It was first run in 1779, and is named after one of the organizers, the Earl of Derby. (He tossed a coin for the honour with Sir Charles Bunbury.)

lock, stock, and barrel (Ch. 2; page 34) *

See Summer Moonshine.

in loco parentis (Ch. 2; page 35)

Latin: in the parent’s place. Normally used of e.g. schoolteachers who have temporary responsibility for the children under their care.

career through the castle (Ch. 2; page 36) *

The verb “career” (to gallop or run at full speed) is nearly obsolete today, having been superseded by a new sense of the verb careen, originally meaning to lean over or tilt but now often used for a headlong rush.

His heart was bowed down with weight of woe (Ch. 2; page 37) *

A poetic allusion; see Sam the Sudden.

Whiffle On The Care Of The Pig (Ch. 2; page 37) °

The classic pig-book consulted by Lord Emsworth. Augustus Whiffle/Whipple, a member of the Athenæum Club, makes an off-stage appearance in Galahad at Blandings (1965), exposing Sam Bagshott’s impersonation of him at the Castle.

Debrett’s Peerage (Ch. 2; page 38) °

Debrett’s Peerage of England, Scotland and Ireland, a directory of the peerage, originally compiled by John Debrett (1750–1822), which first appeared in 1803. The 1902 edition, online at Google Books, lists the family connections of John Wodehouse, first Earl of Kimberley, a third cousin of PGW.

boys who stood on burning decks (Ch. 2; page 38) °

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

Sir Roderick Glossop (Ch. 2; page 39) °

The prominent nerve specialist first appeared in “Sir Roderick Comes to Lunch” (1922; collected in The Inimitable Jeeves) — he forms another of the links between the Jeeves/Wooster and Blandings/Uncle Fred characters.

Glossop is a town in Derbyshire.

Lady Gimblett (Ch. 2; page 39)

No obvious Wodehouse connection. Gimblett is an unusual surname, but there do seem to be a few of them around.

trunk telephone call (Ch. 2; page 40)

This was long before the days of subscriber-dialled trunk calls, of course: to place a call to a subscriber in another district it was necessary to go via the operator. Notice that the castle has acquired its own branch exchange: Beach will be able to put the call through to the extension in Lord Emsworth’s room.

Chapter 3

Runs from pp. 41 to 51 in the 1939 Herbert Jenkins edition.

the journey from London to Hampshire (Ch. 3; page 41) *

We aren’t told just where Ickenham Hall is located in Hampshire. Wodehouse had rented a house called Threepwood in Emsworth, on the Channel coast of Hampshire, beginning in 1903 when he was 22; this is roughly seventy miles from central London by car.

far-off Shropshire (Ch. 3; page 41) *

See the map above.

Rolls (Ch. 3; page 41)

The Rolls-Royce company, based at Crewe in Cheshire, was for many years Britain’s best-known builder of luxury cars. In 1939, of course, they were also busy building aircraft engines.

luggage on its grid (Ch. 3; page 41) *

Many cars of the period had no “trunk” or “boot” built into the body, but had an external luggage rack above the rear bumper. A 1930s Rolls-Royce with such a rack (image opens in a new window or tab).

Frederick Altamont Cornwallis Twistleton (Ch. 3; page 41)

We did not discover Uncle Fred’s full names on his previous appearance in “Uncle Fred Flits By”. Altamont and Cornwallis are both titles of Irish peers — Lord Cornwallis was of course the British general defeated by George Washington; the Browne family of County Mayo were Earls of Altamont and later Marquesses of Sligo.

Jane, Countess of Ickenham (Ch. 3; page 42)

Only ever plays an off-stage part in the Uncle Fred stories.

Dog Races (Ch. 3; page 42)

This incident is never fully described, but we receive enough hints for Norman Murphy to have put a plausible (and very funny) version into his reconstruction of Gally’s Reminiscences.

[N.T.P. Murphy: Reminiscences of the Hon. Galahad Threepwood (1993) ]

all spooked up with zip and vinegar (Ch. 3; page 43) *

The combined phrase seems to be original with Wodehouse; indeed the OED’s first citation for spooked up is this sentence, with a definition of “excited, pepped up.” But Google Books finds a few earlier Western stories in which horses, cattle, or hounds are said to be “all spooked up” in the sense of frightened or ready to stampede.

making such heavy weather (Ch. 3; page 43) *

Wodehouse had titled his 1933 Blandings novel Heavy Weather, using the phrase both in its literal sense of gloomy, oppressive weather such as that preceding a thunderstorm and its figurative sense of an exaggerated emotional reaction, an unnecessary fuss over a situation. Interestingly, the OED’s first figurative citation is from PGW’s occasional collaborator Ian Hay.

chase ... across the ice with bloodhounds (Ch. 3; page 44)

In a famous incident in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), a runaway slave is chased in this way.

mugs enough to fall for it. (Ch. 3; page 45) *

At this point the UK edition of the book omits 91 words. Here is the text as it appears in the first American edition:

 “It isn’t rot. You shouldn’t mock at an old man’s daydreams. Every time I read one of those bits in the paper about Another Victim Of The Confidence Trick, I yearn to try it for myself, because I simply cannot bring myself to believe that there are people in the world mugs enough to fall for it. Would you trust a perfect stranger with your wallet?”
 “No, I’m dashed if I would.”
 “Well, there are apparently thousands who will. What did you think of Mustard?”
 “He seemed all right.”
 “He’s a splendid fellow. Saved my life once, when he was my batman in the war. It was outside Festubert, and there was a lot of heavy shelling going on, and we had sat down to lunch, and I was just about to dig into the tinned salmon, when Mustard whispered in my ear ‘I wouldn’t,’ and I didn’t.
Well, young Pongo, how much?”

batman: a military officer’s personal attendant

Festubert: a town in the Artois region of France, largely destroyed in a battle during May 15–27, 1915 on the Western Front of World War One.

to make a touch (Ch. 3; page 45) *

To ask for a gift or loan of money; touch in this noun sense is cited from 1896 onward in the OED; as a verb (sense 21c in the OED) it is much older, with a citation from 1760, and one from 1898 that sounds very Wodehousean: “Well, old boy, I’ve just touched Reggy for another tenner.”

a bit of a mucker at Lincoln (Ch. 3; page 45) °

To come a mucker is late nineteenth-century British slang for suffering a severe setback or calamity, making a ruinous mistake; a figurative adaptation from the mid-Victorian slang for a literal heavy fall, as into the mud or mire (the OED cites Kingsley as the first written use from 1851).

Probably through betting on the Lincolnshire Handicap, run in March, which marks the start of the flat racing season. Since the closure of Lincoln racecourse, it has also been run at Doncaster.

Hurst Park (Ch. 3; page 45)

Racecourse near the Thames in Surrey, also the scene of duels and prizefights in the 18th and 19th centuries, and motorcycle races in the early years of the 20th. Now a housing development. The former grandstand was moved to Mansfield Town’s football ground in the 1960s.

George Budd (Ch. 3; page 45) °

Budd is a common name: several people called George Budd have achieved prominence in their own fields, but none seems to be a likely source for Wodehouse. This bookie is the only Budd in the canon, other than the temporary alias “Berkeley Budd” in one episode of the spoof serial “Women, Wine and Song!”.

Bingo Little (Ch. 3; page 45)

First appeared in 1922 in the stories that were later combined as The Inimitable Jeeves. Reappears, now married to Rosie M. Banks and trying to hide his gambling debts from her, in several stories written about the same time as Uncle Fred in the Springtime. His usual bookie is Charlie Pikelet.

Erb (Ch. 3; page 45)

Probably short for Herbert.

In the 1937 story “All’s Well with Bingo,” Bingo Little inadvertently places a bet with Oofy Prosser’s bookie (not named). When Bingo hints that he may have difficulty paying, the bookie introduces him to his strong-arm man, but refers to him as Erbut (not Erb).

He reappears as Erb in “Ukridge Starts a Bank Account” (1967), now working for a bookie called Percy Stout.

shake-up in the Treasury department (Ch. 3; page 46)

Wodehouse liked to give the impression that he himself was a financial innocent, and that Ethel was the guardian of the purse-strings. However, Barry Phelps has argued convincingly that this is more Wodehouse disinformation, and that in reality it was the other way round.

turf commissioner (Ch. 3; page 47) *

Racetrack bookmaker.

the Safe Man (Ch. 3; page 47) *

Arthur “Pitcher” Binstead of the Pelican Club recalls a bookie called George Griffiths, the Safe Man, in Pitcher in Paradise (1903).

Coggs (Ch. 3; page 49)

Lord Ickenham’s butler is mentioned in three of the four Uncle Fred novels. This is his first appearance.

Coggs is a variant of Wodehouse’s favourite butler name, Keggs.

Share-The-Wealth movement (Ch. 3; page 50) °

The Share Our Wealth plan was a proposal by Louisiana Senator Huey Long in 1934, which aimed at removing the worst inequalities between rich and poor in the USA. The movement, promoted as an alternative to Roosevelt’s New Deal, gained widespread support, but collapsed when Long was assassinated after being accused of embezzling large sums of money from the movement’s funds.

the shape of things to come (Ch. 3; page 50) *

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.

step high, wide and plentiful (Ch. 3; page 50–51) *

See Young Men in Spats.

“excesses” ... invariably commits (Ch. 3; page 51) °

This description of Lord Ickenham by a member of the Drones Club appears with slight variations in all the Uncle Fred stories. In “Uncle Fred Flits By” (1935), a Crumpet tells the story in these terms, and in Uncle Dynamite (1948) and Cocktail Time (1958) it is “a thoughtful Crumpet” who is responsible for this characterization.

Chapter 4

Runs from pp. 52 to 65 in the 1939 Herbert Jenkins edition.

scientifically worked ... pay gold (Ch. 4; page 52)

Intended as a mining analogy. In mining terminology, pay-dirt, pay-rock, pay-gravel, etc. are materials in which gold has been found in sufficient quantity to make it profitable to extract. Thus ‘pay gold’ doesn’t really make sense as a mining term.

to mace (Ch. 4; page 52) *

Although the OED gives the slang verb sense only with the definition to cheat or swindle, Green’s Dictionary of Slang gives an American sense “to beg or demand [money] from” with citations from Damon Runyon and George Ade, known Wodehouse sources for American slang. The only other usage so far found in Wodehouse:

…if Oofy’s mother had crept to Oofy’s bedside at this moment and tried to mace him for as much as five bob, Oofy would have risen and struck her with the bromo-seltzer bottle.

“Quest” (Strand, 1931/07; collected as “The Knightly Quest of Mervyn” in Mulliner Nights)

Wailing Wall (Ch. 4; page 52)

The Western Wall or Wailing Wall is part of the retaining wall around the Temple Mount of Jerusalem’s old city. It is believed to be the only remaining part of the Second Temple, and is a place of prayer and pilgrimage for Jews.

David Rosenbaum points out that it is known as the Wailing Wall not because the wall was wailing (whereas it is western) but because those visiting the area were wailing, thus contributing to the overall depressing atmosphere. He adds:

Interestingly, Jewish sources don’t refer to it as wailing but as western. Also, I’m not sure if you’ve been there or seen pictures (there’s a webcam permanently trained on the Wall!), but the area today is totally different than what it was in Plum’s time. Up to 1967, there were houses in the whole area which is now a plaza. The houses were probably about 10 feet from the wall, so there was really only a small, narrow space in which to stand. There were also strict rules about the prayers held there. In general, the pictures that I’ve seen from pre–67 of the area are quite drab.

Western Wall webcam

chemin-de-fer (Ch. 4; page 52)

A version of baccarat. Cards are dealt from a “shoe” containing six packs of 52 cards each. The player who holds the bank (the dealer) plays against the remaining players at the table, acting together. Any of these players can challenge the current dealer and attempt to take over the bank, by matching the dealer’s stake and saying “banco.”

Eggs, Beans and Crumpets (Ch. 4; page 53) *

Wodehouse would use this phrase in 1940 as the title of two slightly different collections (US and UK) of short stories about members of the Drones Club. All were slang terms among the fashionable youth of Bertie’s generation, often with “old” or “good” or other familiar epithets for a friend, chap, fellow; each had been an earlier slang term for the head. As far as I know, Plum never explicitly defined the distinction between the categories. Some have speculated that it referred to their preferred breakfast fare, but as far as I know this is unsubstantiated. [NM]

risen to a sudden crescendo (Ch. 4; page 54) *

See Heavy Weather.

Homburgs (Ch. 4; page 55)

A soft felt hat with a curled brim and a dented crown, named after the spa near Wiesbaden. Made popular by Edward VII as Prince of Wales in the 1890s.

strike me pink (Ch. 4; page 55) *

One of a number of jocular oaths used as an expression of surprise or astonishment; a shortening and modification of “may I be struck [dumb, blind, etc.] if [something is true, I’ve ever seen this before, etc.]” The OED cites the first use of this version in E. Nesbit’s Five Children and It (1902), so it is indeed milder and more humorous than earlier variants.

This is the first usage so far found in Wodehouse; later ones include:

“Well, strike me pink!”

Freddie Widgeon to Prudence Garland in Full Moon, ch. 2 (1947)

“Strike me pink, Clarence,” he exclaimed, “you look like something out of a Russian novel.”

Galahad Threepwood to Lord Emsworth in Pigs Have Wings, ch. 1.5 (1952)

“Well, strike me pink!” he said to his immortal soul. “Cor chase my Aunt Fanny up a gum tree!”

George Cyril Wellbeloved in Service with a Smile, ch. 1 (1961)

“Strike me pink,” he said, awed.

Jerry Shoesmith to the Sergeant in Frozen Assets/Biffen’s Millions, ch. 1 (1964)

“Strike me pink, Clarence,” he exclaimed, “what’s bitten you?”

Galahad Threepwood to Lord Emsworth in The Brinkmanship of Galahad Threepwood/Galahad at Blandings, ch. 12.2 (1964/65)

“Why, strike me pink, I believe the cottage is on fire.”

Ukridge in “Ukridge Starts a Bank Account” in Plum Pie (1966/67)

She said, “Well, strike me pink!” or words to that effect.

Bertie Wooster, speaking of Vanessa Cook in Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen/The Cat-Nappers, ch. 7 (1974/75)

bounder (Ch. 4; page 55) *

See Bill the Conqueror.

brio (Ch. 4; page 56) *

An Italian term used by musicians (usually in the phrase con brio) to denote that a passage is to be played with animation and vivacity.

once in a blue moon (Ch. 4; page 57) *

Simply meaning “a rare event; happening once in a very long period of time” as explained in nineteenth-century annotations on the term. It has nothing to do, in this sense, with the actual color of the moon as seen through haze, nor are later definitions applicable which relate to four full moons in a season or two full moons in a calendar month; those seem to have been invented in 1937 and 1946 by American magazine writers without reference to the traditional sense.

Sunday-go-to-meetings (Ch. 4; page 57)

Best clothes — this expression seems to have originated among American Quakers in the late 18th century.

Serpentine (Ch. 4; page 57)

Ornamental lake in the middle of Hyde Park. Part of it is reserved for swimmers.

little bathing suit (Ch. 4; page 57) *

Fashions in men’s swimwear evolved during the 1930s; by 1939 some men would still be wearing swim trunks with tops to cover their chests, and others would be wearing shirtless trunks. A newsreel of a winter dip in the Serpentine showing this variety can be seen at YouTube.

Salvation Army (Ch. 4; page 57)

A Protestant religious organisation dedicated to social work and evangelism, founded by William and Catherine Booth in the late 19th century. Its members wear a military-style uniform, and although teetotal, often visit bars and restaurants to collect donations for their work. The presence of a Salvationist in the telephone booth of the Drones would thus be conceivable, if not very likely.

Blue Serge (Ch. 4; page 57)

Serge is a hard-wearing twilled (i.e. woven one-up-two-down) cloth, made from worsted or with a worsted warp and a woolen weft. Blue serge would probably have been the most common material for men’s suits for city wear at the time, as Pott’s odds would suggest.

Nine-to-four means that if someone stakes four pounds on blue serge and wins, he will receive nine pounds in winnings, plus his original stake, i.e. 2.25:1.

Pin-Striped Grey Tweed (Ch. 4; page 57)

Pin-stripes are fine stripes of a contrasting colour, nowadays most often seen on suits for formal or office wear.

Tweed is a twilled woolen cloth made from coarsely-spun thread with a rather rough texture, often used for clothing worn in the country.

Although tweed is traditionally made in the south of Scotland, it seems that the name is simply a contraction of ‘twilled’, and has nothing to do with the river Tweed.

Golf Coat and Plus-Fours (Ch. 4; page 57) °

Unlikely wear in central London, but conceivable for a member just on his way to or from a golfing engagement in the suburbs.

Plus-fours are knee-breeches (knickerbockers) made four inches too long at the knee, to give the wearer extra freedom of movement, e.g. for golf or cycling.

Wodehouse featured them famously in “The Magic Plus Fours” (1922/23).

Gymnasium Vest (Ch. 4; page 57) *

In modern terms, a sleeveless knitted shirt/undershirt; a tank top.

Court Dress (Ch. 4; page 57) °

Nowadays gentlemen attending official daytime functions at Buckingham Palace would probably dress in a morning suit, as for other formal daytime social events (tailcoat, striped trousers, top hat). See “spats” in Right Ho, Jeeves.

Mark Hodson’s original note here continued:

The separate reference to “Morning Suit” on p.59 below suggests that the code in the 1930s was more formal than this, but it seems unlikely that knee-breeches and stockings were still de rigueur then.

Actually they still were; the 1937 edition of Dress Worn at Court still prohibited long trousers; see Wikipedia on UK court dress. By the time of the 1953 Coronation, rules for those attending who were not in the formal procession in Westminster Abbey had been relaxed to allow “one of the forms of Court Dress as laid down in the Lord Chamberlain’s Regulations for Dress at Court, or evening dress with knee breeches or trousers, or morning dress, or dark lounge suits.”

the field (Ch. 4; page 57) *

That is, all other possibilities; in a horse race, this would mean any other entrant not specifically named with odds.

Follow the dictates of your heart and fear nothing (Ch. 4; page 58) °

“Follow the dictates of your heart” seems to be another of those literary clichés with no very clear source. Wodehouse is mocking the conventions of romantic literature by putting it into the mouth of a bookie.

It is possible that Wodehouse was influenced by W. S. Gilbert’s libretto for Ruddigore, in which Robin Oakapple and Richard Dauntless have sworn always to act upon their hearts’ dictates.

Herringbone Cheviot Lounge (Ch. 4; page 58)

Herringbone is a weaving technique that results in a pattern of fine chevrons.

The Cheviots are a range of hills in the Scottish Borders. The name Cheviot is used for cloth (normally a sort of tweed) made from Cheviot wool.

The term lounge suit (first used ca. 1901) describes a man’s suit with a short jacket, intended for indoor use, of the type that has now become universal for (semi-)formal daytime wear. Nowadays you only see it on invitations, where it means “wear a normal suit” (as opposed to a dinner jacket or evening dress).

Six halves (Ch. 4; page 58) *

In this jargon, six is the odds and halves means that his ten-bob (ten-shilling) bet is half of a pound sterling.

I’m not allowed by law (Ch. 4; page 58)

Gaming law is a complex area, in which I am not an expert and the rules have changed several times since Uncle Fred in the Springtime was written. As far as I know, the situation in Britain in the thirties was still that organised betting was legal only at racecourses and for cash.

Off-course betting and betting on credit were widely practiced, under the pretence that it was a question of a private bet between friends, but, as such a bet was not a legally-enforcable contract, bookies had to find their own ways of dealing with defaulting clients. Hence Erb and his like.

Brummel (Ch. 4; page 59)

George Bryan “Beau” Brummel (1778–1840), the most famously well-dressed man of the Regency period. Amongst other things, he helped to introduce the fashion for wearing trousers (rather than knee breeches) into polite society.

a skinner for the book (Ch. 4; page 60) *

Slang for an event which allows bookmakers to reap a large profit, to “skin” the bettors.

at the eleventh hour (Ch. 4; page 60) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

Wolf of Wall Street (Ch. 4; page 60) *

A 2007 book and 2013 film with this title referred to Jordan Belfort (1962– ), but the sobriquet had earlier been applied to another con man, David Lamar (c. 1877–1934), famous for swindling John D. Rockefeller Jr. out of $1 million and for many other crooked schemes. He was profiled in a 1929 silent film of the same title.

money for jam (Ch. 4; page 62) *

British military slang from World War One for easy pickings, a profitable return from little expense of effort or investment.

Tattersall’s (Ch. 4; page 62) *

See under Silver Ring above.

Bates (Ch. 4; page 63) °

Another favourite name for minor characters. The third edition of Who’s Who in Wodehouse has fifteen entries with this surname.

the costume of a Boy Scout … knickerbockers and bare knees (Ch. 4; page 64) *

Here Pongo makes a mistake; knickerbockers are gathered, as with a strap and button or buckle, around the leg, typically just below the knee. The Boy Scout uniform has always included ordinary short trousers, typically hemmed just above the knee but not gathered or buckled around the leg.

Nature hath framed strange fellows (Ch. 4; page 64)

[...] Now, by two-headed Janus,
Nature hath fram’d strange fellows in her time:
Some that will evermore peep through their eyes
And laugh like parrots at a bag-piper,
And other of such vinegar aspect
That they’ll not show their teeth in way of smile,
Though Nestor swear the jest be laughable.

[William Shakespeare (1564–1616): Merchant of Venice I:i,54–60] See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse for other references to the same passage.

assegai (Ch. 4; page 64)

The spear which is traditionally carried by Zulu warriors.

in-and-out running (Ch. 4; page 65) *

See The Inimitable Jeeves.

knuckleduster (Ch. 4; page 65) °

A metal implement worn over the fingers so as to do more damage when punching someone; “brass knuckles.”

Chapter 5

Runs from pp. 66 to 77 in the 1939 Herbert Jenkins edition.

scrubbed with butter (Ch. 5; page 66)

For more on the hazards associated with blacking up, see Thank You, Jeeves (1934).

goggle-eyed (Ch. 5; page 67) *

In some cases this means “pop-eyed” but here, since several references have been made to Horace’s tortoise-shell-rimmed spectacles, it clearly has the alternate sense of “wearing glasses.”

hewn from the living rock (Ch. 5; page 68) *

See Right Ho, Jeeves.

gave me the bird (Ch. 5; page 69) *

See Leave It to Psmith.

that would learn her (Ch. 5; page 69) *

Nonstandard usage of “learn” to mean “teach”; when used by a person who normally speaks standard English, it often has the emphatic sense of giving a warning of consequences, not merely imparting information. One wonders if Uncle Fred picked it up in his younger years in America.

This is the only instance so far found of “learn her” or “learn him”; in the second person it appears twice, once early and once late in Wodehouse’s career:

“I’ll learn you to break a poor man’s heart.”

Voules the valet, in “Rallying Round Old George” (1912; in My Man Jeeves)

It is a pleasure to me to expose this gauche person in print. Michael Rafferty (67) of 812 Myrtle Avenue, Brooklyn. That’ll learn you, Mike.

“Manners Makyth Man” in Over Seventy (1957)

Marlborough Street (Ch. 5; page 69) °

19–21 Great Marlborough Street was the site of one of the nine Police Courts (later called Magistrates’ Courts, and expanded to twelve by the 1880s) set up by the Metropolitan Police Courts Act of 1839. It was closed in March 1998; the Courthouse Hotel now occupies the building.

Map (opens in new browser tab or window) Close the sidebar to see the location of the Albert Hall, immediately south of Kensington Gardens.

Ricky Gilpin (Ch. 5; page 70) °

The first of the Gilpin family to appear. He and his brother Archie appear in Service with a Smile, while their sister Linda is in A Pelican at Blandings.

The most famous Gilpin is of course the linen-draper whose misadventures en route to his wedding anniversary lunch in Edmonton are recounted in William Cowper’s ballad “The Diverting Tale of John Gilpin” (1782).

costermongers (Ch. 5; page 70)

A costermonger is a street seller of fruit and vegetables. Covent Garden was the site of London’s wholesale fruit and vegetable market until 1972.

How different from the home life... (Ch. 5; page 71) °

Wodehouse is playing with the legendary remark “How different, how very different from the home life of our own dear Queen!” said to have been made by an (unnamed) lady-in-waiting of Queen Victoria after seeing a performance of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra.

Norman Murphy, in A Wodehouse Handbook, credited the anecdote to Irvin S. Cobb (A Laugh a Day Keeps the Doctor Away, 1923). But several earlier versions of the story have been researched at the Word Histories blog.

Lord Ickenham twists the phrase to refer to Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892), who was of course Queen Victoria’s favourite poet.

Little Lord Fauntleroy (Ch. 5; page 71)

Eponymous hero of the novel by Mrs. Frances Hodgson Burnett (1885). The book and its illustrations (by Roland Birch) started a craze among American mothers for dressing their small sons in romantic velvet suits with wide lacy collars.

Frontispiece illustration to the original edition.

onion soup bar (Ch. 5; page 71) °

There doesn’t seem to be any independent evidence that there was ever a craze for onion soup bars in London, but it has often been observed that young people on their way home from a night out on the town will eat anything.

A search in the British Newspaper Archive for “onion soup bar” returned only a review of this book.

Coventry Street (Ch. 5; page 71)

Lying between Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square, this would seem to be just about the ideal location for a business of this sort.

bottle party places (Ch. 5; page 71)

Dancing clubs which didn’t have a licence to sell alcohol: patrons either brought their own drink with them (hence ‘bottle party’) or sent a waiter to buy it from a nearby pub.

cheesed it (Ch. 5; page 72) *

See Leave It to Psmith.

Donald Duck (Ch. 5; page 74)

Although the Disney Corporation used the name “Donald Duck” for a character in a Mickey Mouse comic book in 1931, the familiar white duck in a blue sailor suit did not appear until 1934, when he had a small part in the film Little Wise Hen. He was very soon achieving top billing in his own right. The Donald Duck newspaper cartoon strips started to appear in 1938.

Don Juan (Ch. 5; page 74)

The fictional libertine Don Juan Tenorio, the subject of an epic poem by Byron and an opera by Mozart, made his first literary appearance in the play El Burlador de Sevilla (1630) by Tirso de Molina (Gabriel Téllez 1584–1648), although he is clearly derived from much older legends, which exist in many different cultures.

couldn’t say No to Charles the Second (Ch. 5; page 75)

Charles II (1630–1685) returned from exile to become king on the collapse of the Commonwealth in 1660. He was married to Catherine of Braganza, but had no legitimate children. On the other hand he seems to have considerable numbers of illegitimate children by his various mistresses. His known sons included the dukes of Cleveland, Monmouth, Richmond and St Albans. Statistically, there is thus a very strong chance that any English duke is descended from a mistress of Charles II.

strength is as the strength of ten (Ch. 5; page 75)

My good blade carves the casques of men,
My tough lance thrusteth sure,
My strength is as the strength of ten,
Because my heart is pure.

[Alfred, Lord Tennyson: Sir Galahad l.1–4]

Bricky Bostock (Ch. 5; page 76)

Could this be Lord Ickenham’s school contemporary Sir Aylmer (“Mugsy”) Bostock who appears in Uncle Dynamite? Perhaps it is his brother.

Senior Conservative (Ch. 5; page 76)

This London club first appeared in Psmith in the City.

Murphy identifies it convincingly as the Constitutional Club, formerly on Northumberland Avenue. Wodehouse became a member some time before 1908. It is mentioned by name in the preface to The Girl on the Boat.

[N.T.P. Murphy: In Search of Blandings (1986) 81–83]

Persian Monarchs (Ch. 5; page 77) *

See below.

Chapter 6

Runs from pp. 78 to 92 in the 1939 Herbert Jenkins edition.

ate a thoughtful cheese straw (Ch. 6; page 78) *

An example of a transferred epithet (see Right Ho, Jeeves). 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.

plus pig ... minus pig (Ch. 6; page 79)

Arguably, the situation Lord Ickenham is trying to create (or rather simulate) is not “minus pig” but “zero pig”.

old bit of trouble (Ch. 6; page 80)

Presumably husband in this context, although trouble and strife is usually rhyming slang for wife.

A.W.O.L. (Ch. 6; page 80)

Absent Without Leave (military jargon).

quite close ... Sloane Square (Ch. 6; page 81)

Lord Ickenham is obviously fairly sprightly — it would be at least half an hour’s walk (or four stops on the District Line) from Northumberland Avenue (near Charing Cross) to Sloane Square.

Wilbraham Place (Ch. 6; page 82)

One of the small side streets off Sloane Street, just north of Sloane Square. This is not far from Walpole Street, where Wodehouse lived in the early 1900s.

Map from

the needful (Ch. 6; page 82) *

See the last end note for long green at Kid Brady—Light-Weight for a list of turn-of-the-century slang terms for money including “the needful.”

Polonius’ speech... (Ch. 6; page 82) °

Wodehouse is pointing out the irony in the way people who have never seen Hamlet treat Polonius’s fatuous litany of impractical and contradictory advice as though it were sound common sense.

Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice;
Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgement.
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
And they in France of the best rank and station
Are most select and generous in that.
Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell; my blessing season this in thee!

[William Shakespeare: Hamlet I:iii 72–85] See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse for other references to this passage.

side ... swank (Ch. 6; page 83)

Schoolboy slang for excessive pride.

infra dig (Ch. 6; page 83)

Conventional abbreviation for infra dignitatem (Latin): beneath the dignity.

Pott’s fellow detective Percy Pilbeam raised similar objections when asked to investigate the theft of the Empress in Summer Lightning.

Harley Street (Ch. 6; page 84)

The traditional address for the grander sort of physicians and private clinics: those whose clients are wealthy enough to pay the rent. Harley Street runs between Oxford Street and Regent’s Park, close to University College and the main teaching hospitals, but some distance from Sloane Square. Lord Emsworth will certainly need a taxi, or have to make a longish trip on the Underground.

“…when I saw you last they were about eight feet long, like a colt’s.”
“I was at the awkward age.”
“You aren’t now, by George.” (Ch. 6; page 86) *

Reminiscent of Sinclair Hammond’s realization of Felicia Sheridan’s maturing into beauty in Bill the Conqueror, ch. 4: “…here a leg shortening to a decently human length, there a mop of amber hair miraculously tidying itself. He supposed vaguely that it was always this way with girls.” It seems clear to this annotator [NM] that Plum’s own experience with his stepdaughter Leonora is behind both of these passages.

UK first edition had misprint “there” instead of “they” in first line above.

an ostrich goggling at a brass door-knob (Ch. 6; page 86) *

See Ukridge.

alarm and despondency (Ch. 6; page 87) *

See Ukridge.

preux to the last drop (Ch. 6; page 88) *

A combination of preux chevalier (see The Code of the Woosters) and the Maxwell House Coffee slogan “good to the last drop”— part of their advertising since 1915.

Devil’s Island (Ch. 6; page 89)

One of three islands off the coast of French Guiana collectively known as the Îles du Salut (the ‘Salvation Islands’). Between 1852 and 1951, they were used by France as a penal colony. The largest, Île Royale, housed the administrative centre and less dangerous criminals; dangerous criminals were held on Île St Joseph; Île du Diable, the smallest (less than 2 sq km in area) and most isolated, was used to house political criminals, the most famous being Captain Alfred Dreyfus, who was confined on Devil’s Island in terrible conditions from 1895 to 1899. Devil’s Island achieved greater notoriety following the 1973 film Papillon, in which Steve McQueen portrayed Henri Charrière, said to be the only prisoner to escape successfully from the island, and the author of the 1969 book Papillon on which the movie was based. [AGOL/NM]

Borstal ... Broadmoor (Ch. 6; page 89)

Borstals (named after Borstal Prison in Kent, where the system originated in 1902) were detention and rehabilitation centres for young offenders. They were abolished in the 1980s.

A prison for the criminally insane was established at Broadmoor in Berkshire in 1865. It was redesignated as a hospital in 1948, but retains the same function.

“Uncouth young wart hog.” (Ch. 6; page 90) *

See Bill the Conqueror.

mot juste (Ch. 6; page 90) *

See Right Ho, Jeeves.

play upon him like a stringed instrument (Ch. 6; page 91) *

See The Clicking of Cuthbert.

even unto half my kingdom (Ch. 6; page 91)

21 And when a convenient day was come, that Herod on his birthday made a supper to his lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee;
22 and when the daughter of the said Herodias came in, and danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him, the king said unto the damsel, Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee.
23 And he sware unto her, Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom.
24 And she went forth, and said unto her mother, What shall I ask? And she said, The head of John the Baptist.

[Bible: Mark 6:21–24]

See also Biblia Wodehousiana. A similar expression occurs in Esther 5:3 and 7:2.

Chapter 7

Runs from pp. 93 to 106 in the 1939 Herbert Jenkins edition.

the opening steps of a sort of tarantella (Ch. 7; page 93) *

A rapidly whirling peasant dance of southern Italy, named from the town of Taranto, or the music for such a dance, in a rapid 6/8 meter. Some etymologists relate the dance’s name to its supposed action as a remedy for the bite of a tarantula; others consider this a folk etymology.

Omitting … no detail, however slight (Ch. 7; page 94) °

This phrase recurs frequently throughout the canon  (e.g. Summer Moonshine, ch. 25; Money in the Bank, ch.18, Cocktail Time, Ch.8).   It is often assumed to have been inspired by Sherlock Holmes, though the great detective nowhere says this phrase.

[See Right Ho, Jeeves for a Holmes speech which may have influenced Wodehouse’s phrase, though.]

my brain is bespoke (Ch. 7; page 95) *

In other words, someone else has contracted with me for the use of my brain. Bespoke or bespoken applies to work done specifically to order for a particular client; a bespoke tailor makes custom-made suits, for instance.

Cyrano de Bergerac (Ch. 7; page 97)

In the play by Edmond Rostand (1897), the French 17th century writer Savinien Cyrano de Bergerac (1619–1655) is depicted chivalrously assisting his friend’s courtship of the woman he himself loves.

Wiltshire (Ch. 7; page 97) *

See the map above.

Ronnie Fish, Hugo Carmody and Monty Bodkin (Ch. 7; page 98) °

See Summer Lightning and Heavy Weather. Ronnie is a nephew of Lord Emsworth; Hugo and Monty have both, for different reasons, briefly been employed as Lord Emsworth’s secretary.

“He married her mother” … “You mean she’s his stepdaughter?” (Ch. 7; page 99) °

Wodehouse is poking a little gentle fun at himself: he acquired a much-admired daughter in precisely this way.

For reasons too complex to summarize here, in the shortened and much-revised magazine serial of this story, Polly Pott is replaced by Polly Halliday, who is indeed Mustard Pott’s stepdaughter.

the Aged Parent (Ch. 7; page 100) *

Reminiscent of the Aged Parent, father of John Wemmick in Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.

hart ... chase (Ch. 7; page 100)

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

[Nahum Tate and Nicholas Brady: Hymn, based on Psalm 42 (1696)] See also Biblia Wodehousiana.

single afternoon ... Valley Fields (Ch. 7; page 105) °

Lord Ickenham is referring to the hilarious events described in “Uncle Fred Flits By.” However, he has evidently confused things slightly in his mind: The Cedars, Mafeking Road, was in Mitching Hill, not Valley Fields. See Young Men in Spats. Uncle Fred repeats the Valley Fields reference near the end of Chapter 11 of the present book.

five o’clock train ... two forty-five (Ch. 7; page 105)

See p.23 above.

“What good trains have you?” (Ch. 7; page 105) *

The US first edition adds a sentence here: “The five, I take it, involves dinner on board, and I have long outlived any craving I may have had for lukewarm turbot covered with pink glue.”

in the soup (Ch. 7; page 105) *

See The Inimitable Jeeves.

Shakespeare drew Hamlet from him (Ch. 7; page 106) °

Shakespeare’s play concerns a young man who comes home from university, no doubt concerned only to get his laundry done and spend a few weeks drinking Carlsberg on the beach with Laertes and Ophelia. On arrival he finds that his father has been murdered and his mother has married her brother-in-law in very suspicious circumstances. He can surely be excused for feeling a little depressed and confused.

See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse for more references to the character of Hamlet (as opposed to specific lines from the play).

nip round to my club (Ch. 7; page 106)

We only seem to meet Uncle Fred at other people’s clubs (mainly the Drones or the Senior Conservative) — it isn’t clear which his own might be.

Chapter 8

Runs from pp. 107 to 122 in the 1939 Herbert Jenkins edition.

first stop Oxford (Ch. 8; page 107)

This suggests that the train will be taking the route through the Cotswolds via Moreton-in-Marsh and Evesham to Worcester Shrub Hill and Droitwich Spa (see Money for Nothing) and then the Severn Valley route via Kidderminster and Bridgnorth to Market Blandings, which we can presume to be somewhere between Bridgnorth and Shrewsbury.

The line from Kidderminster to Shrewsbury closed in the 1960s, although the section from Kidderminster to Bridgnorth is still operated with steam trains by a preservation society. By a minor miracle, the Cotswold line survives in normal service, despite being proposed for closure by Dr Beeching.

the difference between a pessimist and an optimist (Ch. 8; page 107) *

These two outlooks on life had been paired since the 1860s at least; the oldest “What is the difference” joke so far found is from Town Topics in 1893: a professor asks the difference, and a Vassar Girl replies “Generally a cocktail.” Google’s Ngram viewer shows a strong peak around 1920 in the usage of this phrase.

Niagara Falls ... Barrel (Ch. 8; page 107)

Annie Edson Taylor was the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel, on 24 October 1901. Four men had emulated her exploit — with varying success — before the publication of Uncle Fred in the Springtime.

county families (Ch. 8; page 107) *

See A Damsel in Distress.

Waterloo (Ch. 8; page 107) *

See The Inimitable Jeeves.

refined calm (Ch. 8; page 108)

This has often been remarked upon, and to some extent it remains true today. In part it may be due to the fact that Paddington serves the predominantly rural West Country, as Uncle Fred suggests. The building itself, more generously laid out than most of the other London termini, certainly plays a part, as does its inconvenient location on the western fringes of central London, which reduces its attractiveness for the short-distance commuters who make up the bulk of the clientèle at stations like Waterloo and London Bridge.

steel-rimmed spectacles (Ch. 8; page 108) *

In Rupert Baxter’s first appearance in Something New (1915), he had worn rimless spectacles.

Pongo … thought he looked a bit of a blister (Ch. 8; page 108) *

In the UK versions of “The Crime Wave at Blandings” (1937), George Threepwood, Lord Emsworth’s grandson, also had the same opinion of Rupert Baxter at first sight.

he wanted happy, smiling faces about him (Ch. 8; page 108) *

See Summer Lightning.

spreading sweetness and light (Ch. 8; page 108) °

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

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

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

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

Culture and Anarchy, ch. 1  (1869)

Culture is the passion for sweetness and light.

Literature and Dogma, Preface  (1873)

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

Debrett’s Peerage (1902 edition) and Wikipedia tell us that Matthew Arnold’s daughter Eleanor Mary Caroline (1861–1936) married Armine Wodehouse (1860–1901), third son of John Wodehouse, first Earl of Kimberley (1826–1902). Armine was a third cousin once removed of PGW.

Diego Seguí notes that Arnold was often called “the apostle of sweetness and light” by his contemporaries and afterwards. One 1888 article even mentions that he “called himself” that, but so far a source in his own writings has not been found.

See Sam the Sudden for instances of Wodehouse’s use of the phrase before the stories featuring Uncle Fred.

paled beneath his tan (Ch. 8; page 110) *

A striking image, whether or not it is physiologically sound. Wodehouse used it early and often:

He shunned his fellow-creatures. If addressed by any man,
He strove to speak, but gasped for breath, and paled beneath his tan.

“The Cynic” (1902)

There was very little of Osbert’s face visible behind his whiskers, but that little paled beneath its tan.

“The Ordeal of Osbert Mulliner” (1928)

“No wonder the man [Spode] pales beneath the tan a bit at the idea of the world knowing of that.”

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

Freddie, meanwhile, had paled beneath his tan.

Full Moon, ch. 9.3 (1947)

They had just reached the manor gates, when the uproar of an approaching car caused Bill [Oakshott] to turn his head: and, having turned it, he paled beneath his tan and tottered slightly.

Uncle Dynamite, ch. 6.2 (1948)

Barmy, who had risen agitatedly, sank back into his chair. He had paled beneath the tan which a summer in Sunny Maine had given him.

Barmy in Wonderland/Angel Cake, ch. 11 (1952)

Members who could sit without flinching through Sir Roderick Glossop’s stories about his patients or old Mr Lucas-Gore’s anecdotes of Henry James, paled beneath their tan when Howard Saxby senior started to tell the tale.

Cocktail Time, ch. 25 (1958)

I paled beneath my tan. “Who is it, Jeeves?”
“Mrs. Travers, sir.”
Precisely what I had feared.

Bertie Wooster in Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves, ch. 17 (1963)

Postmen paled beneath their tan when they saw him, and representatives of consumer research firms were equally affected.

The dog Percy, in Bachelors Anonymous, ch. 9.2 (1973)

And a couple of variants:

He had paled beneath his whiskers.

Edward Fothergill, in “Jeeves Makes an Omelette” (1959)

Oofy’s jaw dropped. His face paled beneath its pimples.

Ice in the Bedroom, ch. 19 (1961)

Plank was plainly shaken. He could not pale beneath his tan because he had so much tan that it was impossible to pale beneath it. … What I mean is that he may have paled, but you couldn’t see it because of his sunburn.

Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen, ch. 19 (1974)

fidgeting with a green flag (Ch. 8; page 111) *

The guard (UK equivalent of US “conductor”) is responsible for many duties, including signaling the engine driver that all passengers are on board, doors are closed, and that it is safe to depart. The traditional signal of waving a green flag has been replaced in most areas with light signals, buzzers, or two-way radio communication, but as recently as 2017 the use of a green flag was reported on a North Downs line, which the author had not seen for many years. Wikipedia article on Conductor (rail) says that the traditional green flags are still used during the day on trains in India to signal the locomotive pilot to depart; after dark, lamp signals are used.

something to view with suspicion (Ch. 8; page 111) *

Rupert Baxter, the Earl of Emsworth’s indefatigable private secretary, was one of those men whose chief characteristic is a vague suspicion of their fellow human beings.

Something New/Something Fresh (1915)

old buffer (Ch. 8; page 111) *

Buffer is British slang for a fellow, especially one regarded as foolish, elderly, or insignificant.

travelling cap (Ch. 8; page 111) *

A softer cloth headgear than the bowler/derby which was presumably Baxter’s London choice. It might even be a “deerstalker” as worn in the country by Sherlock Holmes; in “The Adventure of Silver Blaze” Watson describes “his sharp, eager face framed in his earflapped travelling cap” while original illustrator Sidney Paget portrays Holmes in a deerstalker cap in that scene.

ptarmigan (Ch. 8; page 112)

The ptarmigan is a grouse-like bird found in Scotland. (The ‘p’ is silent, as in Psmith.)

Charles and Herbert (Ch. 8; page 112) *

Footmen; see Leave It to Psmith for naming conventions.

Fred Astaire (Ch. 8; page 112)

American actor, the pre-eminent song and dance man of the Hollywood musicals of the 1930s (1899–1987, born Frederick Austerlitz). Appeared in the unsuccessful film version of A Damsel in Distress (1937). There are a number of references in Bring On the Girls to Fred and his sister Adele.

Warner Baxter (Ch. 8; page 112)

(1891–1951) American actor. Often played suave leading men in Hollywood ‘B’-pictures of the 1930s.

Hymns, Ancient and Modern (Ch. 8; page 112)

The standard hymnal of the Church of England, first published in 1861.

lorgnette (Ch. 8; page 113)

Spectacles (usually reading glasses) provided with a short, foldable handle, instead of earpieces. Wielded with devastating effect by many of Wodehouse’s dowagers, and before them by Oscar Wilde’s Lady Basildon, Mrs Allonby, and Gwendolen, but oddly enough not (in the text) by Lady Bracknell herself.

Gwendolen. [...] Cecily, mamma, whose views on education are remarkably strict, has brought me up to be extremely short-sighted; it is part of her system; so do you mind my looking at you through my glasses?

Cecily. Oh! not at all, Gwendolen. I am very fond of being looked at.

Gwendolen. [After examining Cecily carefully through a lorgnette.] You are here on a short visit, I suppose.

[Oscar Wilde: The Importance of Being Earnest II:ii]

Jabberwocky (Ch. 8; page 113)

Title of a poem in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass. The monster slain in the poem is called the Jabberwock.

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
   Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
   And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
   The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
   The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
   Long time the manxome foe he sought —   
So rested he by the Tumtum tree
   And stood a while in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
   The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood
   And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
   The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
   He went gallumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
   Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Calloh! Callay!”
   He chortled in his joy.

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
   Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
   And the mome raths outgrabe.

[Lewis Carroll (C. L. Dodgson): Jabberwocky ]

Sir Thomas Lipton (Ch. 8; page 113)

Sir Thomas Johnstone Lipton (1850–1931), Scottish grocery millionaire. He established his first shop in Glasgow in 1869, which suggests that Uncle Fred would have to be well over seventy in 1939, if he really encountered Lipton in his pre-grocery days.

In the twenties, Lipton was very well-known as a yachtsman, making five attempts to win the America’s Cup.

dome of St. Paul’s (Ch. 8; page 113) °

St. Paul’s cathedral in the City of London was rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren after the great fire of 1666. It is dominated by one of the largest cathedral domes in the world, which is 111.3 metres high, weighs approximately 65,000 tonnes and is supported by eight pillars.

Besides being compared to the head of Sir Roderick Glossop (here and in “Sir Roderick Comes to Lunch” [1922] and “Without the Option” [1925]), it is also suggested by Stilton Cheesewright’s head in Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, ch. 4 (1954), and mentioned in the brief description of Howard Saxby Jr. in Cocktail Time, ch. 15 (1958).

some strong swimmer in his agony (Ch. 8; page 113) *

From Byron’s Don Juan, canto II:

   …but at intervals there gush’d,
 Accompanied with a convulsive splash,
A solitary shriek, the bubbling cry
Of some strong swimmer in his agony.

to drum up trade (Ch. 8; page 114)

Like members of some other learned professions, senior doctors in Britain have always considered it beneath their dignity to advertise, and have strict rules to prevent their colleagues from taking advantage of this fact. (Although these rules have been somewhat relaxed in recent years.)

Loyal Sons of Hampshire (Ch. 8; page 115)

Possibly fictitious? (cf. “Loyal Sons of Worcestershire” in “The Luck of the Stiffhams”)

Nowadays “Loyal Sons of...” usually denotes either an Orange lodge in Northern Ireland or the alumni group of an American university. Perhaps it might have been a war veterans’ group. Obviously the only thing that is relevant to the story is that they had a dinner where Glossop overindulged.

straight from the stable (Ch. 8; page 116) *

No, Lord Emsworth hasn’t taken up horse-breeding too. Uncle Fred is using the jargon of the racetrack for a reliable tip, information directly from the source.

separate the sheep from the goats (Ch. 8; page 117) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood (Ch. 8; page 119) *

From Shakespeare, King Henry V.

We start out in life with more pimples than we know what to do with… (Ch. 8; page 119) *

Karen Shotting notes that Wodehouse uses the same words to describe his own adolescent case of pimples in chapter 1 of America, I Like You (1956).

Bevo (Ch. 8; page 119)

The word “Bevo” has been used for quite a number of different products: the most likely here seems to be a soft drink made ca. 1900–1929 by the Anheuser Busch brewing company of St. Louis (“Milk or water may contain bacteria — BEVO never does”). It gets a mention in Sinclair Lewis’s Babbitt.

butterscotch (Ch. 8; page 120)

The Market Blandings butterscotch machine first appeared in Leave It to Psmith. The station had previously had a chocolate machine.

Chapter 9

Runs from pp. 123 to 133 in the 1939 Herbert Jenkins edition.

“His name … is Bosham.” (Ch. 9; page 123) *

Uncle Fred means that he is addressed as “Lord Bosham.” His birth name is George Threepwood (he probably has other given names that we never learn); he is the elder son of Lord Emsworth, who besides being the ninth Earl of Emsworth is also Viscount Bosham. The heir-presumptive to a peerage is given a courtesy title from his father’s subsidiary titles, so since Lord Emsworth isn’t using the Viscount Bosham title, it is applied to his son.

Bosham is pronounced Boz’m; the -ham suffix means that it is a place name, with ham meaning village. Indeed there is a Bosham on the southern coast of West Sussex, with the civil parish having a 2001 population of 2,847. It is about four miles east of Emsworth, where Wodehouse leased a cottage called Threepwood beginning in 1904.

my own little dosshouse (Ch. 9; page 123) *

Uncle Fred is speaking ironically of his own Ickenham Hall, using the British slang term dating back to Victorian times for a cheap lodging house, one where a bed for a night (probably in a large room with many other sleepers) could be had for a few coins.

squeaking and gibbering ... Julius fell (Ch. 9; page 123)

This is Shakespeare proving that it isn’t just Wodehouse who occasionally recycles a good idea.

Hor. A mote it is to trouble the mind’s eye.
In the most high and palmy state of Rome,
A little ere the mightiest Julius fell,
The graves stood tenantless and the sheeted dead
Did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets.

[William Shakespeare: Hamlet I:i 125–129]

See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse for other references to this passage.

ran up to London for the day to get his hair cut (Ch. 9; page 123) *

Uncle Fred is implying that Bosham would be snobbish enough that he would avoid any barber in Market Blandings or even Shrewsbury, preferring one of the time-honored establishments catering to the aristocracy like Price’s in If I Were You (1931) or the real-life Truefitt’s mentioned in that book, established 1805, and still in business as Truefitt & Hill at 71 St. James’s Street.

to set about the chap (Ch. 9; page 124) *

British colloquial for “to attack the man.”

we bloods (Ch. 9; page 123) *

Here, Uncle Fred means “we of the aristocracy, we blue-bloods”; this is to be distinguished from its appearance in the school stories as the public-school and university slang usage of “a blood” to mean a student who is looked up to and emulated for his behavior, dress, athletic ability, etc.

Isaiah as a young man (Ch. 9; page 124)

On the basis of internal historical and stylistic evidence, most 19th and 20th century scholars agree that the book we know as Isaiah must have had at least three authors, writing ca. 700, 545 and 500 BCE. None of the three Isaiahs (known in the trade as Protero-, Deutero- and Trito-Isaiah) is uniformly pessimistic: besides the messages of doom there is the promise of redemption and the coming of a Messiah.

Perhaps Uncle Fred was thinking of Jeremiah?

till I can see the whites of his eyes (Ch. 9; page 124) *

The command “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes” was given by an American colonel, William Prescott (1726–1795) at the Battle of Bunker Hill, 1775, according to most historians; some attribute it to General Israel Putnam. Bartlett cites an earlier source, a command presumably originally in German, given by Frederick the Great at Prague in 1757.

backing and filling (Ch. 9; page 124)

Nautical expression: to back the sails of a square-rigged ship is to trim the yards so that the wind is blowing into the foreward side of the sail, slowing the ship down or moving it backwards; conversely to fill the sails is to trim the yards so that the wind is blowing into the after side of the sail, making the ship go forwards. Thus backing and filling is moving alternately backwards and forwards.

Sir Glossop (Ch. 9; page 124) *

A strange solecism; baronets and knights are addressed as “Sir [given name]” or “Sir [given name] [surname],” not as “Sir [surname].”

abaft the try-your-weight machine (Ch. 9; page 125)

Pongo seems to have been sailing, or at least reading sea-stories, recently: abaft is another nautical expression, meaning ‘behind’, or more strictly ‘in the rear half of the ship’. As it’s unlikely that Bosham is actually behind the weighing machine, Pongo is presumably thinking of the station platform as if it were the deck of a ship, and indicating that Bosham is further along the platform than the machine.

van (Ch. 9; page 126) *

On American passenger trains, this would be called the baggage car.

trying that one over on your bazooka (Ch. 9; page 127) °

This sounds like a variant of “play that one on your pianola,” i.e. go away and think that over.

The American musician and comedian Bob Burns (1890–1956) is supposed to have invented the word bazooka in the 1930s for his unique musical instrument, a sort of slide-trombone kazoo. The name of a musical instrument would fit the present context. (The word was later applied to a missile launcher, named for its supposed resemblence to Burns’s instrument.)

However, Wodehouse had used bazooka as a nonsense word in Psmith in the City, well before Burns became known, so the word must have been around before him.

Green’s Dictionary of Slang cites Wodehouse as the first user in the sense of “a metaphorical part of the body”:

had he not unfortunately dislocated the radius bone of his bazooka while training

Green gives the 1910 date of Psmith in the City in book form, but it was serialized as The New Fold in The Captain in 1908–09. An even earlier use:

“By Jingo, if you interrupt again I’ll give you a jab in the bazooka, which’ll make you see stars for the rest of the night.”

Tommy Armstrong to Jimmy Stewart in The Luck Stone, chapter 27, from Chums magazine, December 16, 1908.

...thinking makes it so (Ch. 9; page 127)

Guil. Prison, my lord!
Ham. Denmark’s a prison.
Ros. Then is the world one.
Ham. A goodly one; in which there are many confines, wards, and dungeons, Denmark being one o’ the worst.
Ros We think not so, my lord.
Ham. Why, then, ’tis none to you; for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so: to me it is a prison.

[Shakespeare Hamlet II:ii 227–232] See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse for another reference.

Old Home Week (Ch. 9; page 127) *

Old Home Week is a tradition originating in New England in the late nineteenth century, a festival celebrated in towns and villages either annually or every few years, in which former residents who grew up in the municipality are invited to return to their old home town during the festivities.

little grey cells suddenly turning blue (Ch. 9; page 128) *

Agatha Christie’s Belgian detective character Hercule Poirot probably did more than any other person or character to popularize the phrase “little grey cells” referring to the brain, beginning in 1920 with The Mysterious Affair at Styles. But Wodehouse had used “gray” or “grey matter” for the brain as early as 1910, in “The Matrimonial Sweepstakes” and The Intrusions of Jimmy.

Turning blue has nothing to do with obscenity here, as below, but could either mean “sad, dismal, depressed”; “pale with shock or lack of oxygen”; or mouldy as in “blue round the edges.”

to tell the tale (Ch. 9; page 129) *

To tell a false or exaggerated story in a plausible manner; to “con” someone. The OED calls this British colloquial and cites first a 1905 book by Arthur M. Binstead, known as “Pitcher” in the Pelican Club, so this slang would be familiar in the circles in which Gally Threepwood and Uncle Fred move.

who would say his name was Basil…? (Ch. 9; page 129) *

There are few characters named Basil in the Wodehouse canon: a Beverly Hills policeman in “The Rise of Minna Nordstrom” (1933); Basil Milbank, a lounge lizard and romantic threat in “The White Hope”/The Coming of Bill (1914/20); and George Basil Percival Stubbs, a baby in Uncle Dynamite (1948). Wodehouse and Bill Townend used the joint nom de plume Basil Windham for The Luck Stone (1908–09).

Agincourt ... Crecy ... Malplaquet ... Blenheim ... Waterloo (Ch. 9; page 130) °

Agincourt (1415) and Crècy (1346) were battles in the Hundred Years’ War; Blenheim (1704) and Malplaquet (1709) in the War of Spanish Succession; Waterloo (1815) was of course the battle that ensured the final collapse of Napoleon’s power in France. Wodehouse had a grandfather who fought at Waterloo.

This last may seem unusual for a man born in 1881, but it’s true; Colonel Philip Wodehouse was born in 1788, fought at Waterloo in 1815, and married in 1832, fathering nine children before his death in 1846. One of the sons was Henry Ernest Wodehouse (1845–1929), Plum’s father.

impedimenta (Ch. 9; page 130) *

A fancy way of saying “baggage”; a direct borrowing from Latin, where in the plural impedimenta it means baggage and in the singular impedimentum it means a hindrance or obstacle. So from classical times, luggage has been thought of as something that slows down or complicates traveling.

Mussolini (Ch. 9; page 131)

Benito Mussolini (1883–1945), leader of the Italian Fascist party, became Prime Minister in October 1922 and absolute dictator soon afterwards. He signed a formal alliance with Hitler in May 1939.

Mussolini would certainly fit the “head like the dome of St. Paul’s” category.

Shirley Temple (Ch. 9; page 131)

Uncle Fred is making a ludicrous juxtaposition of the dainty child-star with the fascist dictator. He could not have known that Ms. Temple (1928–2014) would later become a politician herself.

meet at Philippi (Ch. 9; page 132)

Brutus: There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat;
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.
Cassius: Then, with your will, go on;
We’ll along ourselves, and meet them at Philippi.

[Shakespeare: Julius Caesar IV:3,249–257]

For the history, see the notes to A Damsel in Distress; for many other Wodehouse references to this passage, see Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

Chapter 10

Runs from pp. 133 to 147 in the 1939 Herbert Jenkins edition.

To reach Blandings Castle... (Ch. 10; page 133)

For a detailed account of how this relates to the different sites that contributed to Wodehouse’s description of Blandings, see Murphy.

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

baldheaded old coot (Ch. 10; page 134) *

In biology, a coot is a water bird, a member of the rail family, and not “a sort of duck” as Gally has it in Summer Lightning, ch. 7. Its head is covered with black feathers, so it has no hair at all, but one would hardly call it “baldheaded” in the manner of a bald eagle. But there is one species, Fulica atra, the base of whose upper bill extends to make a white plate on the forehead, and it has become known as the Bald Coot. Photo at Wikimedia.

In colloquial usage, a “coot” can refer to a foolish or mad person, and no doubt the Duke’s eccentricities as well as his baldness are a better explanation for Horace’s description.

slightly blue in spots (Ch. 10; page 134)

The use of blue to mean indecent or smutty goes back to the early nineteenth century. Notice that Wodehouse also sometimes describes funny stories as ‘blue about the edges’ meaning that they are mouldy with age.

One puts on a bit of dog (Ch. 10; page 135) *

The OED defines “to put on (the) dog” as an originally American colloquial expression for making a stylish or flashy display, assuming pretentious airs. Wodehouse provides one of the OED’s examples, from “Bingo and the Peke Crisis” (1937, cited in the OED from Eggs, Beans and Crumpets, 1940):

…the idea of being an editor, with all an editor’s unexampled opportunities for putting on dog and throwing his weight about, enchanted him.

clean and sober (Ch. 10; page 135)

Traditionally these are qualities you would look for when interviewing a candidate for a post in your domestic staff (as opposed to examining a patient).

Freddie Threepwood ... sells dog biscuits (Ch. 10; page 136)

In “The Custody of the Pumpkin,” Freddie elopes with Aggie Donaldson, the gardener’s niece. She turns out to be the daughter of a dog-biscuit millionaire and, to Lord Emsworth’s undisguised joy, Freddie goes off to the US to work in the family firm.

The good man loves his pig (Ch. 10; page 136) *

This sounds like an alteration of a conventional phrase; see Leave It to Psmith for possible sources.

Waterloo Cup (Ch. 10; page 136)

The Waterloo Cup is the main event in the “sport” of hare coursing, where two greyhounds compete to chase a live hare across a field. The aim is for the dog to force the hare to change direction, but it often happens that the dogs catch and kill the hare. The event has been held at Great Altcar near Ormskirk in Lancashire since 1836, when it was established by William Lynn, landlord of Liverpool's Waterloo Hotel.

In recent years the event has become very controversial and is held against a background of demonstrations by anti-bloodsport campaigners. Supporters argue that to ban it would only serve to encourage unregulated illegal hare-coursing.

One would suspect that, however hard it might be to get the Empress to carry a jockey in the Derby, it would be even harder to persuade a fat pig to chase a hare across a field.

This seems to be a literary allusion, not yet discovered. See also these uses, regarding Mr. Schnellenhamer and Lord Bromborough respectively:

Now, the head of the Perfecto-Zizzbaum Motion Picture Corporation was not one of those men who can eat sandwiches aloofly and, as it were, surreptitiously. When he ate a sandwich there was no concealment or evasion. He was patently, for all eyes to see, all ears to hear, a man eating a sandwich. There was a brio, a gusto, about the performance which stripped it of all disguise. His sandwich flew before him like a banner.

“The Juice of an Orange” (1933; in Blandings Castle and Elsewhere, 1935)

There before him stood Lord Bromborough, but not a hair of his moustache was missing. It flew before him like a banner in all its pristine luxuriance.

“Buried Treasure” (1936; in Lord Emsworth and Others, 1937)

Colney Hatch (Ch. 10; page 137)

Colney Hatch, at New Southgate, Middlesex, has been the site, since 1851, of the Middlesex (later London) County Lunatic Asylum. In 1937, it was renamed as Friern Hospital, taking its new name from the nearby hamlet of Friern Barnet.

“Your nephew, you say?” “One of them.” (Ch. 10; page 137–138) *

Though the Duke’s reply (continuing with a mention of “the other”) would lead us to believe that he has only two nephews, a third one pops up in Service with a Smile (1961): Archibald Gilpin, younger brother of Alaric “Ricky” Gilpin. Also mentioned there is that the Duke’s late brother was named Rupert; oddly, Horace, Rupert’s son, is not mentioned in that passage.

Burns, I believe (Ch. 10; page 138)

Uncle Fred is wrong in this belief: see p. 26 above.

Of course, Burns wrote most of the identifiably “Scots” pieces known outside Scotland, so it’s always a reasonably safe guess when you don’t know who did write something.

to go on some toot (Ch. 10; page 138) *

In Scottish and US slang, “to go on a drunken spree.” Derived from the verb “tout” in Scots dialect (pronounced toot), meaning to take a large draught of liquor, to empty a drinking vessel.

Loch Lomond rhymes with ‘before ye’ (Ch. 10; page 140)

“Loch Lomond” differs from the majority of traditional songs in not having a regular rhyme scheme based on line-endings. There are internal rhymes (for example ‘low road’/’Lomond’), but their pattern varies from verse to verse.

Most versions of the text seem to have ‘afore ye’ rather then ‘before ye’.

bloomer (Ch. 10; page 140) *

See A Damsel in Distress.

the bathroom’s at the end of the passage (Ch. 10; page 141)

Normally, a visitor of Sir Roderick’s standing would be entitled to a private bathroom, but obviously (a) the Duke has appropriated the only one available and (b) Wodehouse needs a shared bathroom for plot purposes.

sublunary medulla oblongata diathesis (Ch. 10; page 141)

A nonsense collection of quasi-scientific terms:

Sublunary means ‘under the Moon’. It is most often used as a poetic word for ‘earthly’, as opposed to heavenly (like Donne’s ‘dull sublunary lovers’) but it did sometimes mean ‘under the influence of the Moon’ in 17th century English. Wodehouse (or Uncle Fred) is having a little joke at the expense of the medical establishment and its tendency to disguise ignorance by using obscure jargon: doctors used to believe that mental illness was affected by the phases of the Moon (hence ‘lunacy’), but a specialist of Sir Roderick’s generation would be horrified to be associated with such unscientific ideas.

The medulla oblongata is the part of the hind-brain that forms a connection with the spinal cord. It is responsible for controlling basic processes like respiration and blood circulation, thus it is one part of the brain that never goes to sleep. Medulla-Oblongata is also the name of a film company (president: Mr Glutz) in the Hollywood stories: cf. e.g. “The Rise of Minna Nordstrom.”

A diathesis is a physical condition (usually hereditary) that renders a person particularly susceptible to a certain illness. Wodehouse often uses this word in nonsense medical terms.

great sponge Joyeuse (Ch. 10; page 142)

This is also the name of one of the moustaches in “Buried Treasure”. It is obviously inspired by the medieval custom of naming swords: the original Joyeuse (French: joyous) was the sword of Charlemagne.

Hilsbury-Hepworth (Ch. 10; page 142)

Hilsbury seems to be a very rare name — the form ‘Hillsbury’ is rather more common. Or perhaps Wodehouse got it from Halsbury, the standard reference book on English legislation.

There are villages called Hepworth near Holmfirth (W. Yorks) and Bury St Edmunds (Suffolk).

Horace may perhaps be related to that celebrated actor Claude Hepworth (The Passing Rustic in Fangs of the Past) - see Leave It to Psmith.

The British abstract sculptor Barbara Hepworth (1903–1975) was already relatively well-known by the late 1930s, but this does not seem to be a particularly likely source for Wodehouse.

Macbeth ... Banquo’s ghost (Ch. 10; page 142) °

In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Act III, Scene iv, a dinner party is altogether ruined when the ghost of the murdered Banquo turns up uninvited and sits in Macbeth’s chair.

See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse for many other references to this passage.

schizophrenetic (Ch. 10; page 142)

A portmanteau word: Wodehouse has stuck together schizophrenic (suffering from schizophrenia) and phrenetic (frantic, agitated). The OED does not record this variant.

Interestingly, when Wodehouse referred to schizophrenia in Thank You, Jeeves, he used the obsolete nineteenth-century name for the illness, dementia praecox. Evidently he had some problems remembering the word schizophrenia.

“You and Lord Ickenham look exactly alike, don’t you?” (Ch. 10; page 144) *

Here is one of the funniest set pieces in the Uncle Fred saga, in my opinion [NM], so it seems odd that the British text has been shortened by over 500 words here; the four added words in red are hardly a satisfying substitute.

 “You and Lord Ickenham look exactly alike, don’t you?”
 His companion seemed surprised.
 “Well, that’s a thing nobody has ever said to me before. Upon my soul, young sir, you flatter me. I consider Lord Ickenham an extraordinarily handsome man. If we are speaking of the same fellow, of course. The one I mean lives in Hampshire, where he is universally beloved.”
 “Yes, that’s the chap. I should have said you were doubles.”
 Lord Ickenham frowned. It was as if he were telling himself that while he had no objection to delicate compliments, he did not like people to be fulsome.
 “It would be interesting to know what gives you that impression,” he said. “
Considering that Lord Ickenham is tall and slender—in fact, more like a Greek god than anything—while I am short and stout . . .”
 “Quite short.”
 “And stout?”
 “Extremely stout, I am sorry to say. Lord Ickenham has one of those keen, clean-cut, refined, sensitive, aristocratic faces.”
 “Haven’t you?”
 “My dear fellow, really!”

 A low gulp escaped Horace Davenport. It might have been the expiring gurgle of that feeble hope. The sound caused his companion to look at him sharply, and as he did so his manner changed. A little austere before, it now showed sympathy and understanding.
 “You really must forgive me,” he said. “I fear I missed the point of what you have been saying. Inexcusable of me, for your uncle gave me your case history. He told me how in the hall this evening you mistook my daughter and nephew for old acquaintances, and there was something about thinking that a man you saw at some ball in London was his secretary Mr Baxter. Was that the first time this sort of thing happened?”
 “I see. The delusion metabolis came on quite suddenly, as it so often does. Can you suggest anything that might account for it?”
 Horace hesitated. He shrank from putting his secret fears into words.
 “Well, I was wondering . . .”
 “Is loopiness hereditary?”
 “It can be, no doubt.”
 “Noses are.”
 “This beezer of mine has come down through the ages.”
 “So what I was wondering was, if a chap’s got a dotty uncle is he bound to catch it?”
 “I would not say it was inevitable. Still, how dotty is your uncle?”
 “Quite fairly dotty. He breaks the furniture with pokers and throws eggs at gardeners.
 “I see. Better, of course, than throwing eggs at the furniture and breaking gardeners with pokers. But only slightly better. Had your father any such structural weakness?”
 “No. No, he was all right. He collected Japanese prints,” said Horace, with an afterthought.
 “I attach little significance to that. Many of my best friends are devils among the Japanese prints. He didn’t think he was a Japanese print?”
 “Oh, no. Rather not.”
 “Then that is all right. I feel sure that in your case there need be no real anxiety. Tell me, do we feel a little heavy in the head at times?”
 “We do, rather.”
 “Do we see floating spots?”
 “We do, a few.”
 “But we do not hear voices and think we are being followed about by little men with beards?”
 “Then all is well. We have just gone off the rails a little, that is all. We must relax. We must take care of ourself. We must avoid rich foods and not go to too many Marx Brothers pictures.
I am convinced that all that we are suffering from is some minor nervous lesion, brought about possibly by worry. Have we been worried lately?”
 The question seemed to affect Horace Davenport much as it might have affected Job. He stared at his companion as at one who does not know the half of it.
 “Have we!”
 “We have?”
 “You bet we have. To start with, the girl we love has given us the air.
 “In addition to which, we were pinched by the constabulary at that ball where we thought we saw Baxter.”
 “I see.”
 “They hauled us to the jug in the costume of a Zulu warrior, and we appeared at Marlborough Street police station without being allowed to go home and change.”
 “A trying experience.”
 “A cousin of ours with muscles like iron bands is going about saying he intends to break our neck. And now this. If that’s not enough to make a fellow worry, we should be interested to know what is.”
 Lord Ickenham endeavoured to soothe his patient’s agitation with a kindly pat on the shoulder.
 “Courage!” he said. “We must bear up. We must not give way. We must reflect that these things are merely transient and that somewhere the sun is shining and will in due course shine on us. What we need above all else is quiet and tranquillity. We ought to take
Then what we need is a long sea voyage.”
 “But, dash it, we’re a rotten sailor.”
 “Ah? I was not aware of that.”
Would you mind awfully if we got a second opinion?”
 “By all means.”
 “The other chap might simply tell us to go to Bournemouth or somewhere.”
 “Bournemouth would be just as good. I merely proposed an ocean voyage because something in our manner—a sort of rollicking swagger—gave the impression that we were a man accustomed to striding decks and sniffing salt breezes. We came here in our car, did we not? Then directly after dinner I advise that we steal quietly off, without going through the strain of saying good-bye to anyone, and drive to London. Having reached London, we can pack anything that may be necessary and go to Bournemouth and stay there.”
 “And you think that that will put us right?”
 “Unquestionably. The great thing is to get us away from here.
 “And one other point. Would there be any medical objection to just one good, stiff, energetic binge in London? You see,” said Horace, with a touch of apology, “we do rather feel, what with one thing and another, as if we wanted taking out of ourself at the moment. We’re rather an abstemious chap, as a rule, but if you thought it would be all right just this once, it would be a great comfort to saunter out and get absolutely fried.
 Lord Ickenham patted his shoulder.
 “My dear boy, it is what any member of my profession would advise. Carry on, and let the sky be the limit. Do we by any chance know a beverage called May Queen? Its full name is ‘Tomorrow’ll be of all the year the maddest, merriest day, for I’m to be Queen of the May, Mother, I’m to be Queen of the May.’ A clumsy title, generally shortened for purposes of ordinary conversation. Its foundation is any good, dry champagne, to which is added liqueur brandy, armagnac, kummel, yellow chartreuse and old stout, to taste. It is a good many years since I tried it myself, but I can thoroughly recommend it to alleviate the deepest despondency. Ah!” said Lord Ickenham, as a mellow booming rose from below. “Dinner. Let us be going down. We do not want to be late for the trough our first night at a house, do we? Creates a bad impression.”

metabolis (Ch. 10; page 144)

Once again, Uncle Fred is making up scientific terms as he goes along. There is an extensive family of English terms derived from Greek metaballein, to change, but metabolis is not one of them. The closest genuine noun is metabolism, used to describe the ensemble of chemical processes that take place in an organism or a part of an organism.

Japanese prints (Ch. 10; page 145)

The (re-)opening of trade between Japan and the West in the late nineteenth century led to a great deal of interest in Japanese art and culture in Europe in the 1880s and 1890s.

Bournemouth (Ch. 10; page 146)

Resort on the Dorset coast, with a fairly staid reputation. About two hours from London by train.

May Queen (Ch. 10; page 146)

Only Wodehouse could get the inspiration for a cocktail from the most Victorian of Victorian poets!

You must wake and call me early, call me early, mother dear;
To-morrow ’ill be the happiest time of all the glad New-year;
Of all the glad New-year, mother, the maddest merriest day,
For I’m to be Queen o’ the May, mother, I’m to be Queen o’ the May.

[Tennyson, Alfred Lord (1809–1892) The May Queen l.1–4]

Chapter 11

Runs from pp. 148 to 160 in the 1939 Herbert Jenkins edition.

solitary cannons (Ch. 11; page 148)

In billiards, a cannon is a shot where the cue-ball strikes both the red ball and the opponent’s ball.

Solomon in all his glory (Ch. 11, page 148)

Compare Biblia Wodehousiana.

Agincourt ... Crispian (Ch. 11; page 149)

The day of the battle of Agincourt, 25 October, is the feast of Saints Crispin and Crispian, according to legend two brothers who mended shoes while converting the French to Christianity. Shakespeare seems to use the two names interchangeably.

Curiously, one never hears the expression “a load of old cobblers” in connection with this particular piece of fiction.

This day is call’d the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say, ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian:’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say, ‘These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.’
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words,
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember’d.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England, now a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,

[Shakespeare: Henry V IV:iii, 44–70]

pickled to the tonsils (Ch. 11, page 149) *

See loopy to the tonsils, page 16 above.

a twenty-minute egg (Ch. 11, page 150) *

That is, thoroughly and firmly hard-boiled.

Norman blood ... simple faith (Ch. 11; page 151)

Howe’er it be, it seems to me,
  ’T is only noble to be good. 
Kind hearts are more than coronets,
  And simple faith than Norman blood.

[Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892): Lady Clara Vere de Vere 7]

“we have set our hands to the plough, and we cannot sheathe the sword” (Ch. 11; page 151) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

Flaubert (Ch. 11; page 152) °

Gustave Flaubert (1821–1880), French writer, famous for the exactitude of his style and his quest for the perfect word (the mot juste). Wodehouse often uses him to stand for painstaking literary excellence.

bridegroom of Antigua (Ch. 11; page 154) °

A concealed limerick. There are a number of variations on this theme, most of which are rather improper. Notice that the rhyme doesn’t work if you’re Spanish.*

A lady there was in Antigua
Who said to her spouse, ‘What a pigua.’
 He answered, ‘My queen,
 Is it manners you mean?
Or do you refer to my figua?’

[Anonymous Limerick ]

* It doesn’t work for many North American dialects either. Only the British can so thoroughly Anglicize place-names to turn ahn-tee-g[w]ə into ann-tigg-you-ah.

He had been Lord Emsworth’s secretary several times (Ch. 11; page 155) *

We aren’t privileged to learn the details of the “several times”; we meet him in Something New/Something Fresh (1915) as Lord Emsworth’s “invaluable” secretary, and he is on the job in Leave It to Psmith, in which he is dismissed for throwing flower pots through his employer’s window. He returns to Blandings in Fish Preferred/Summer Lightning as Lady Constance’s guest, hoping to resume his job, but is unsuccessful; he is engaged as grandson George’s tutor in “The Crime Wave at Blandings” (1936) but leaves on his own when he is potted with an air gun; his next return is in the present novel as secretary to the Duke of Dunstable. So there must have been other dismissals from the secretaryship that take place between the stories recounted in the books.

Sir Ralph Dillingworth (Ch. 11; page 155)

The similarity to the name of the Yorkshire, Leicestershire and England cricket captain Ray Illingworth is obviously a coincidence: Illingworth was only seven years old when Uncle Fred In the Springtime was published.

Dillingworth is a very rare surname: the most plausible source for Wodehouse seems to be a minor character in Frank Godwin’s Connie comic strip of the twenties and thirties.

Illingworth is a small town or large village, a few miles north of Halifax (W Yorks). Presumably the Dillingworths were originally ‘d’Illingworth.’

Nemesis (Ch. 11; page 157)

The Greek personification of divine vengeance.

milk train (Ch. 11; page 157)

Before the days of refrigeration, the railways used to run an early-morning train to collect milk from rural stations and take it to dairies in the city. This was usually also the first passenger train of the day.

In Wodehouse, it is the traditional resource for those leaving country houses hurriedly.

stymie (Ch. 11; page 158)

Golfing expression: a situation where a putt is blocked by an opponent’s ball. The stymie has been obsolete since 1952 -- a player was ‘laid a stymie’ if, on the green, the opponent’s ball fell in the line of his path to the hole (providing the balls were not within 6 inches of one another). The player was not allowed to strike the opponent’s ball when putting his own ball.

it must follow as the night the day (Ch. 11; page 159) *

See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

Roi Pausole (Ch. 11; page 159)

King Pausole, hero of the novel Les Aventures du Roi Pausole (1902) by the French writer Pierre Louÿs (1870–1925).

[Elsie Bean/Anne-Marie Chanet adds:]

Well, I read Le roi Pausole (or perhaps “Les aventures du roi Pausole”, I can’t remember which) when I was quite young. My memory of the book is hazy, but I seem to remember that Good King Pausole had hundreds of wives (all of whom he vigorously kept happy), a kindly and tolerant disposition, and a daughter about whose chastity he was very anxious (compare innumerable folktales, such as “Peau d’âne”). I remember King P’s Law, too : (1) Do no wrong to your neighbour, (2) Otherwise, do as you please.” A joyous, pagan principle.

The name Pausole seems to have been invented by Pierre Louys. I feel quite sure that he was thinking of Greek pausolè (sorry for the awful transliteration), a rare word (Iliad, 2.386) meaning “rest” (from well-known root paw(s)- “stop”, cf. English ‘pause’).

The book is full of beautiful young women who (I think) go about naked all the time (P’s island kingdom being blessed with a wonderful climate, presumably) — hence the “erotic illustrations” in those limited editions for which collectors pay the earth (just losts of chastely drawn unclothed girls — like a nice nudists’ beach). And in the final chapters P’s daughter, Princess Aline, elopes with a young man ... who turns out to be female.

Pierre Louÿs obviously enjoyed hinting at Lesbian love (a taboo subject at the time, of course). See his “Chansons de Bilitis”, a famous spoof : they were supposed to be translations (from ancient Greek) of love poems composed by a Sappho-like poetess (and the funny thing is that a few so-called “serious” scholars are said to have been taken in at first!)

Now, in my opinion, Le roi Pausole is not pornography — no comparison with the crude “sexy” novels that have been available everywhere for about thirty years. But yes, it is (midly) erotic, and certainly “naughty”, and it was much more so at the time of publication (very beginning of XXth C.). I think Louÿs enjoyed baiting the censors. For instance, the title of Book One, ch. 7, is: Qui est considérablement écourté, eu égard aux lois en vigueur [i.e. “(Chapter) which is drastically shortened because of existing legislation” (i.e. anti-pornography laws)]. Compare PGW’s own humorous aposiopesis in Big Money, end of ch. 8.

How could PGW know about King Pausole? Of course, he may just have heard of the Law (see above), especially since it echoes the famous motto in Rabelais’s “Abbey of Thelema” (viz. “Fais ce que voudras”, i.e. “Do what you like”) [see Piccadilly Jim, ch. 6]. However, I wouldn’t think it impossible that he had actually read the book. He was no prude as a reader, I think, especially when he was a young man (see for instance references he made to that “naughty” illustrated periodical, La Vie parisienne, to Colette’s novels, etc. — he says he read them). And he knew all about what he called “French farce” — cf. “The Purification of Rodney Spelvin”, French Leave, The Play’s the Thing, etc.

Ne nuis pas à ton voisin (Ch. 11; page 159)

French: Do not harm your neighbour (see Elsie’s comment above).

Valley Fields (Ch. 11; page 160) *

See above, p. 105.

spread sweetness and light (Ch. 11; page 160)

See above, p. 108.

Chapter 12

Runs from pp. 161 to 178 in the 1939 Herbert Jenkins edition.

Baxter’s hat was still in the ring (Ch. 12; page 161) *

Norman Murphy tells us (A Wodehouse Handbook) that “this stems from the early days of boxing when it indicated a willingness to fight on. Theodore Roosevelt indicated his willingness to stand again for the presidency in 1912 by using the phrase.”

boudoir (Ch. 12; page 161)

A lady’s private sitting-room; the counterpart of a gentleman’s study.

the quick take ’um (Ch. 12; page 162) *

I can find no reference to this phrase with respect to film acting in an online search. [NM]

chorus girl ... American heiress (Ch. 12; page 163)

See Summer Lightning — Sue Brown was pretending to be Myra Schoonmaker.

the Duke’s man of affairs (Ch. 12; page 163) *

In other words, his business manager or agent.

acutely alive to the existence of class distinctions (Ch. 12; page 165) *

Not the first nor the last time that Wodehouse uses this phrase:

“As his lordship’s page boy, Harold does not mix with the village lads.”
“Bit of a snob, what?”
“He is somewhat acutely alive to the existence of class distinctions, sir.”

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

“I wouldn’t say a word against Aunt Dora, so I won’t call her England’s leading snob.”
“Mother’s a darling.”
“A darling, maybe, though I confess I’ve never seen that side of her. But you can’t say she isn’t a bit acutely alive to the existence of class distinctions.”

Freddie Threepwood to Prudence Garland in Full Moon, ch. 2 (1947)

the ‘Voice That Breated O’er Eden’ (Ch. 12; page 166)

A popular hymn for wedding services, text by John Keble (1792–1866); sung to a number of different tunes. In Hymns Ancient and Modern (1861 edition) it is number 212, to the tune “St. Alphege” by Henry J. Gauntlett (1805–1876). Other tunes include “Blairgowrie” by John B. Dykes, often seen in American hymnals, and “St. Giles” by John Stainer, which was paired with this text in the 1889 edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern.

Garden Suite (Ch. 12; page 167) °

This seems to be a new name for a group of rooms on the ground floor. When Sue Brown stayed at Blandings in Summer Lightning, her “Garden Room” was upstairs, with a balcony overlooking the garden.

Trotsky (Ch. 12; page 169)

Lev Davidovich Bronstein (1879–1940). Member of the Central Committee of the Bolshevik party during the Russian revolution, Commissar for Military and Naval Affairs and founder of the Red Army. His ideas for spreading the revolution beyond Russia’s borders were opposed by Stalin, and he found himself squeezed out of power after 1922, eventually being forced into exile in 1927 and murdered in 1940. In “Without the Option” Sippy gives his name to the Court as “Leon Trotzky.”

say it with eggs (Ch. 12; page 170)

In Leave It to Psmith, Baxter, of course, says it with flower-pots.

the tumult and the shouting ... died (Ch. 12; page 172)

The tumult and the shouting dies—
The captains and the kings depart—
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget, lest we forget!

[Rudyard Kipling: Recessional, 7–12]

Sing like the birdies sing (Ch. 12; page 173)

Let’s all sing like the birdies sing,
Tweet, tweet tweet, tweet tweet.
Let’s all sing like the birdies sing,
Sweet, sweet sweet, sweet sweet.
Let’s all warble like nightingales,
Give your throat a treat.
Take your time from the birds,
Now you all know the words,
Tweet, tweet tweet, tweet tweet.

[Robert Hargreaves, Stanley J. Damerell and Tolchard Evans: Let’s all sing like the birdies sing (1932) v.1]

raconteuse (Ch. 12; page 173)

French: [female] story-teller. In English raconteur normally has the sense of someone (like Uncle Fred or Gally) good at telling improper stories, so it is comically incongruous when used of Lady Constance.

He-and-She jokes (Ch. 12; page 174)

Jokes of a sort popular in the late-Victorian and Edwardian period, which take the form of a dialogue between two people, and usually rely on a terrible pun. Often seen, for example, as the captions to old Punch cartoons. They were written out in the form of speeches from a play, the characters usually being called simply ‘HE:’ and ‘SHE:’ — hence the name. Wodehouse started his literary career writing this sort of material as newspaper fillers (see the example he quotes in Ch.1 of Over Seventy).

a detective here last summer (Ch. 12; page 177) *

The story of Percy Pilbeam’s visit to Blandings is told in Summer Lightning/Fish Preferred (1929), so we know that the present novel follows it and Heavy Weather by less than a year.

Chapter 13

Runs from pp. 179 to 196 in the 1939 Herbert Jenkins edition.

ultimatum ... mobilize (Ch. 13; page 179)

Remember, Uncle Fred in the Springtime was published in August, 1939. There are a remarkable number of military words and images in this chapter: clearly Wodehouse was not entirely isolated from worries about a coming war when he wrote this.

enough muscle to have fitted out two sons (Ch. 13; page 180) *

See p. 13 above.

feeling a sort of universal benevolence towards all created things (Ch. 13; page 180) *

The earliest source so far found for the phrase is in an English translation by F. Eden Partiger, published in 1904 in Calcutta, of a Hindu religious text, the Mārkaṇḍeya Purāṇa:

And a learned man should be devoid of malice and shew benevolence towards all created things; he should discard evil speech and also outrageous words.

One suspects the influence of Wodehouse’s elder brother Ernest Armine Wodehouse (1879–1936), who went to India as a teacher in 1905 and joined the Theosophy movement, eventually becoming a professor at Deccan College.

In any event, the phrase took hold in Plum’s mind:

It was a crisp and exhilarating morning, and he appeared to be feeling a universal benevolence towards all created things.

“The Best Sauce” (1911)

My feeling of benevolence toward all created things, the result of my successful handling of the Little Nugget, embraced Sam.

The Little Nugget, ch. 21 (1913)

And there can be nothing like a first-night success for filling a man with a feeling of quiet benevolence towards all created things.

“Dramatizitis” (1914)

In the course of dinner he had had a bit of good news which was occupying his thoughts to the exclusion of all other matters. It had left him in a comfortable, if rather dizzy condition of benevolence to all created things.

“The Wigmore Venus” (1921; collected in Indiscretions of Archie, 1921, chs. 25–26)

Filled as he was nowadays with an almost maudlin benevolence toward all created things, Judson wanted to have smiling faces around him.

Bill the Conqueror, ch. 13.1 in books, ch. 15 in magazine serial (1924)

His happiness swelled into a feeling of universal benevolence toward all created things.

John Carroll in Money for Nothing, ch. 9.1 (1928)

I don’t know that I can give you a better idea of the state of my feelings than by saying that as I started to cross the hall I was conscious of so profound a benevolence toward all created things that I found myself thinking kindly thoughts even of Jeeves.

Right Ho, Jeeves, ch. 23 (1934)

He was in a mood of overflowing benevolence toward all created things.

Joe Cardinal, in “Life with Freddie” (in Plum Pie, 1966)

A child could have played with him (Ch. 13; page 180) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

Cheeryble brother (Ch. 13; page 180)

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

playthings of an idle hour (Ch. 13; page 181) *

Simply companions for a pleasant time, as here; also sometimes applying to leading someone into intimacy or feelings of love without returning a serious romantic attachment. The phrase can be found, with pre-Victorian-era overtones of illicit dalliance, in an 1812 volume of verse (reviewed here) but Wodehouse is far more likely to have run across it in James Fenimore Cooper’s The Deerslayer.

In the singular, Wodehouse returned to it a few times:

“To watch over her like an elder brother and protect her and see that no smooth bird comes along and treats her as the plaything of an idle hour.”

Bill Oakshott, speaking of Hermione Bostock in Uncle Dynamite, ch. 8.2 (1948)

“For reasons into which we need not go, you have recently been making Augustus Fink-Nottle the plaything of an idle hour, and it has got to stop.”

Bertie to Corky Pirbright in The Mating Season, ch. 12 (1949)

“The impression I received was that he resented your having made his daughter the plaything of an idle hour.”

Mavis Peasemarch to Freddie Widgeon in “Bramley Is So Bracing” (1939)

“Ho!” said Porky. “Making her the plaything of an idle hour, are you? Well, stand still while we break you in half.”

Porky Jupp to Oofy Prosser, about Myrtle Cootes, in “Freddie, Oofy and the Beef Trust” (1949)

“Do you intend to do right by our Nell, or are you regarding this innocent girl as the mere plaything of an idle hour…?”

Leila Yorke to Freddie Widgeon, about Sally Foster in Ice in the Bedroom, ch. 18 (1961)

“A girl to you is just the plaything of an idle hour, and anything in the nature of a grand passion is beyond you.”

Gussie Fink-Nottle to Bertie in Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves, ch. 14 (1963)

And once earlier, also in the plural:

He had always liked girls. But they had been, as it were, the mere playthings, so to speak, of a financial giant’s idle hour.

Hugo Carmody, in Summer Lightning, ch. 1.4 (1929)

a hamlike hand outstretched (Ch. 13; page 182) *

See Bill the Conqueror.

Anything goes. (Ch. 13; page 184) *

Title of a 1934 musical comedy, with a book originally written by Guy Bolton and Wodehouse, revised by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, with music and lyrics by Cole Porter. Wodehouse also adapted some of the American topical references in the song lyrics for the London production in 1935.

rough notes for a ballade (Ch. 13; page 184)

A complex medieval French verse form, revived in English poetry in the nineteenth century under the influence of Swinburne and W.E. Henley. A ballade has three eight-line stanzas with an ababbcbc rhyme-scheme and an envoi rhyming bcbc. It uses a repeated refrain as the last line of each stanza.

In Leave It to Psmith, Psmith accuses Miss Peavey of being in the process of composing a rondel or ballade.

[J. A. Cuddon: Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory (1992) ]

G.H.Q. stuff (Ch. 13; page 186) *

General Headquarters; a military term apparently dating back to the Crimean War.

with a flea in her ear (Ch. 13; page 186) *

With a rebuke that will leave her ear buzzing as if there actually was a flea in it. The phrase is cited in the OED beginning in the sixteenth century.

On my head (Ch. 13; page 187) *

A shortened version of “I could do that standing on my head”—in other words, I can do it easily.

in the bag (Ch. 13; page 187) *

See Hot Water.

Work of national importance (Ch. 13; page 187)

Men who were doing work judged to be “of national importance” were exempt from conscription, so this term was often used contemptuously to mean “avoiding military service”. That is obviously how we are supposed to understand it here.

Thank God ... Navy (Ch. 13; page 187)

The expression “Thank God we have a Navy” seems to have originated in the British army during the First World War as a ritualised ironic reaction to displays of military incompetence. It doesn’t appear to be a specific quotation.

a sonnet ... Poetry Review (Ch. 13; page 187)

The sonnet is probably the best-known and longest-lived of the strict forms used in English poetry, and also one of the most difficult to write. All sonnets have 14 lines, and most are in iambic pentameters, but within these limits there are several variants. The most common in English is the ‘Shakespearean’, which has a twelve-line main part followed by a two-line envoi, the rhyme scheme being abab cdcd efef gg. One of the poems Wodehouse quotes most frequently, Keats’s “On first looking into Chapman’s Homer” (see p.199 below) is a Petrarchan sonnet, the other common variant of the form.

Poetry Review is the monthly magazine published by the Poetry Society in London since 1909 (it still exists under the same title). It was initially associated with the ‘Georgian’ poets, and has always had a rather conservative reputation, but remains one of the most prestigious places for a British poet to be published.

Wodehouse wants to make it clear that Ricky is not an avant garde poet, but a man who has mastered technically difficult forms and is accepted by the establishment.

love-feast (Ch. 13; page 188)

In the early Christian church, a love-feast (Greek: agape) was a meal eaten together by members of a church as a eucharistic celebration. The idea was revived by some British nonconformist sects in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, especially the Primitive Methodists (and is still to be found in some modern Christian groups). By the late nineteenth century, the term was also starting to be used (esp. ironically) of other occasions, as here.

Shakespeare ... poet’s eye (Ch. 13; page 188)

This is from the speech where Duke Theseus compares the lunatic, the lover and the poet.

The poet’s eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
And, as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.

[Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night’s Dream V:i]

See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse for other references to this passage.

pound ... guinea (Ch. 13; page 188)

The guinea had ceased to exist as a coin long before, but the term remained in use until the introduction of decimal coinage, to describe a sum of 21 shillings (one pound and five pence, in decimal terms). Many luxury goods were priced in guineas, and professional fees were also usually quoted in guineas, as though, if you were forced to deal with money, it was somehow less sordid to use a unit that existed only conceptually.

Phelps tells us that Wodehouse shared Gilpin’s attention to detail when it came to contracts with publishers.

morceau (Ch. 13; page 188) *

French for a morsel or fragment: either a tidbit of food or a short musical, literary, or poetic composition.

two hundred and fifty pounds (Ch. 13; page 189) *

Using the inflation factor mentioned above, this would be the rough equivalent of £16,500 in 2019.

stern and rockbound coast (Ch. 13; page 189) *

See Blandings Castle and Elsewhere.

wrenched from the lips of a starving proletariat (Ch. 13; page 194) *

It sounds as if Ricky has heard Comrade Butt speaking in Hyde Park, as this is reminiscent of his reaction to the tea that Bertie hosts:

“Eggs! Muffins! Sardines! All wrung from the bleeding lips of the starving poor!”

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

ballet girl or whatever she might be (Ch. 13; page 195) *

In Heavy Weather, Lady Constance, Lord Emsworth, and Galahad Threepwood have various discussions about nephew Ronnie Fish’s girlfriend Sue Brown. Lady Constance fears that she is a ballet girl; Clarence and Galahad assure her that a chorus girl is quite a different thing. So it is not surprising that the Duke, Lady Constance’s frequent ally and companion in snobbery, has similar fears about his own nephew’s romantic entanglement.

He was a man who wanted what he wanted when he wanted it (Ch. 13; page 195) *

Allusion to a song, “I Want What I Want When I Want It,” from Victor Herbert’s Mademoiselle Modiste (1905), lyric by Henry Blossom. Performed (piano and voice, an amateur but very clear singer), with video of the sheet music following along, on YouTube.

Chapter 14

Runs from pp. 197 to 217 in the 1939 Herbert Jenkins edition.

Ed. Robinson (Ch. 14; page 197) °

It looks as if Ed. must have been filling in temporarily for his brother Jno. [a conventional abbreviation for John], who first appeared in Heavy Weather, and returns in all the subsequent Blandings books.

when knights were bold (Ch. 14; page 197) *

This is such a classic of romantic fiction that it is somewhat surprising to find it elsewhere so far only three times in Wodehouse, the second one being a quotation of an early song lyric.

The days of Chivalry are dead,
Of which in stories I have read,
When knights were bold and acted kind of scrappy;
They used to take a lot of pains
And fight all day to please the Janes,
And if their dame was tickled they was happy.

“Sir Galahad” from Leave It to Jane (1917), quoted in “The Knightly Quest of Mervyn” in Mulliner Nights (1933)

In the days when knights were bold, as you probably know, girls used to hound fellows into going out and fighting dragons. I expect your old pal Childe Roland had it happen to him a dozen times. But dragons are one thing, and aunts are another.

Bertie to Jeeves in The Mating Season, ch. 8 (1949)

Persian Monarchs (Ch. 14; page 197, 198) *

See below.

king of the mugs (Ch. 14; page 198) *

For mug, see Heavy Weather. A different slang sense is used by the Duke in Chapter 20, below.

ships that pass in the night (Ch. 14; page 198) *

See A Damsel in Distress.

stout Cortez ... new planet (Ch. 14; page 199) °

Interestingly, Master Edward Waller asserts (on no evidence, as far as we can tell) in Psmith in the City (serialized as The New Fold) that it was Cortés who introduced mustard into Peru.

It is rare that Wodehouse manages 199 pages without alluding to this famous sonnet.

Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told    
That deep-brow’d Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;    
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star’d at the Pacific—and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

[John Keats (1795–1821): On first looking into Chapman’s Homer ]

Scotland Yard (Ch. 14; page 199) °

The headquarters of the Metropolitan Police was at Scotland Yard (a small side-street off Whitehall where medieval kings of Scotland used to stay when in London) from 1829 until 1890, when they moved to a building on the Thames Embankment referred to as New Scotland Yard. (They moved again in 1967, taking the name with them.)

Percy Pilbeam (Biffen’s Millions/Frozen Assets, ch. 6.3) and Chimp Twist (in his role as J. Sheringham Adair, in Sam the Sudden, ch. 19.2) also invent consultations with Scotland Yard to impress clients.

Official Secrets Act (Ch. 14; page 200)

The first Official Secrets Act was introduced in England and Wales in 1911. It has been amended by several subsequent acts. As a piece of legislation that gives governments wide powers to suppress embarassing information and impose draconian penalties on anyone who questions this right, it is often cited as evidence of the weakness of Britain’s lack of a written constitution.

Any information about the activities of public bodies not explicitly cleared for publication could fall under the Act, so Pott’s claim is not necessarily false. I had to sign the act when working as a temporary postman during university vacations, for example, and was very disappointed when no-one offered me large sums of money to disclose the recipients of the Christmas cards I delivered.

Buxton Black ... Drake Denver (Ch. 14; page 200) °

These names are probably meant to echo the two most published pulp detectives Sexton Blake (ca. 3800 stories, first appearance 1893) and Dixon Hawke (ca.5500 stories, first appeared 1911). Both of these looked like Sherlock Holmes. Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot could probably be said to look like a solicitor.

Dorothy L. Sayers’s Lord Peter Wimsey, another rather more literary creation of the 1930s, is a pleasure-loving young man about town, and his father was (and elder brother is) Duke of Denver.

gyves upon their wrists (Ch. 14; page 202)

That very night while gentle sleep
The urchin’s eyelids kissed,
Two stern-faced men set out from Lynn,
Through the cold and heavy mist;
And Eugene Aram walked between,
With gyves upon his wrist.

[Thomas Hood (1799–1845): The Dream of Eugene Aram (1829) ]

rural meeting … Bridgeford races (Ch. 14; page 203) *

A horse race, especially one attracting a local rather than a national crowd of spectators and bettors. See above for Bridgeford.

Deep had spoken to deep. (Ch. 14; page 204) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

nothing barred except biting and bottles (Ch. 14; page 205)

An echo of the language of old-style bare-knuckle boxing.

my breach-of-promise case (Ch. 14; page 205) *

See Something Fresh for the legal definition. This seems to be the only reference to Lord Bosham’s case, but his cousin Lord Stockheath’s case is mentioned several times in Something Fresh/Something New (1915).

Snap (Ch. 14; page 206) *

A simple card game for children age four and up, in which the point is to quickly recognize that a turned-up card matches another card already face up on the table; the first player to call “Snap!” gets to add cards to his pile. Rules.

Animal Grab (Ch. 14; page 206) *

Another children’s card game, a variant of Snap using a special deck with illustrations of birds and animals; the players make the appropriate animal or bird cry instead of saying “Snap!”

Persian Monarchs (Ch. 14; page 206)

It is entirely possible that Wodehouse invented this name. If so, it might well be a joke — the game usually associated with Persia and with monarchs is chess, which lies at the opposite end of the intellectual spectrum from the game described here.

Blind Hooky (Ch. 14; page 206)

(More usually “Blind Hookey”) — the principle is exactly the same as Bosham describes, the only difference being that instead of cutting, each player is dealt a stack of cards and has to gamble on the bottom one being higher than the bottom card in the dealer’s stack. Pott’s version presumably allows a little more scope for cheating if you are playing with your own pack.

The expression blind hookey means “a leap in the dark,” but it’s not clear whether it pre-dates the card game.

Follow the dictates of your heart and fear nothing (Ch. 14; page 207)

See p. 58 above.

roll, bowl or pitch ... bad nuts returned (Ch. 14; page 207)

Roll, bowl or pitch seems to be a traditional cry of showmen operating coconut shies. It occurs (for example) a few times in John Galsworthy’s Forsyte Saga, and in the form “roll or bowl a ball a penny a pitch” in the chorus of the comic song “I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts” (Fred Heatherton, 1944).

Pott’s other remarks make sense in this context: ladies would be allowed to stand nearer the target when throwing, and the showman would offer to replace any nuts that turned out to be past their best.

If you don’t speculate, you can’t accumulate. (Ch. 14; page 207) *

See Bill the Conqueror.

Ben Bolt ... Sweet Alice... (Ch. 14; page 212)

DON’T you remember sweet Alice, Ben Bolt,—
Sweet Alice whose hair was so brown,
Who wept with delight when you gave her a smile,
And trembled with fear at your frown?
In the old church-yard in the valley, Ben Bolt,
In a corner obscure and alone,
They have fitted a slab of the granite so gray,
And Alice lies under the stone.

[Thomas Dunn English: Ben Bolt ll. 1–8]

Greece ... Turkey (Ch. 14; page 212)

Pott’s surprising outburst of feminism is probably not directed at Ataturk’s Turkish Republic (where women were, theoretically at least, emancipated), but comes rather from anti-Ottoman sentiment of the late 19th century and the period leading up to the first world war. The reference to Greece suggests that it might even be a relic of the pro-Hellenism inspired by Byron.

as the beasts that perish (Ch. 14; page 214)

For he seeth that wise men die,
likewise the fool and the brutish person perish, and leave their wealth to others.
Their inward thought is, that their houses shall continue for ever,
and their dwelling places to all generations; they call their lands after their own names.
Nevertheless man being in honour abideth not:
he is like the beasts that perish.
This their way is their folly:
yet their posterity approve their sayings.

[Bible: Psalm 49:10–13]

trousseau (Ch. 14; page 215)

Traditionally, a bride brought into the married home a collection of clothing, bedding, table-linen, etc., that she had been stitching away at for the past few years. In more recent times most of these items have been bought, rather than made, but Uncle Fred could hardly expect Pott to believe that Polly would spend the enormous sum of 250 pounds (enough, as we know, to buy a prosperous business in the West End) on sheets and underwear.

camisoles and slips (Ch. 14; page 216) °

Since words commonly used as names of items of clothing can mean radically different things at different times and places, it is probably worth saying that in mid–20th century Britain a camisole was an under-bodice, and a slip an underskirt. Although both are garments not normally worn visibly, they are not so intimate that mentioning them to a fiancé would be likely to cause Polly any embarassment.

I don’t know whether a woman of Polly’s age in 1939 would wear a camisole.

[As a comparison, in Dorothy L. Sayers’s 1927 novel Clouds of Witness, Inspector Parker, still a bachelor, while in Paris wants to buy a gift for his unmarried elder sister. “He remembered that a learned judge had one day asked in court what a camisole was, and recollected that there had seemed to be nothing particularly embarrasing about the garment when explained.”]

in one sense he was touched, but not … in another (Ch. 14; page 216) *

Yes, touched in the sense of emotionally sympathetic, but not in the colloquial sense defined earlier.

private bar (Ch. 14; page 217)

A small bar-room, separated from the public bar or tap-room, and offering more comfort and privacy, usually in return for a small surcharge on the price of drinks.

feast of reason and the flow of soul (Ch. 14; page 217)

There St. John mingles with my friendly bowl
The feast of reason and the flow of soul;

[Alexander Pope: Horace: Odes, Epistles and Satires, 1st Satire, ll. 127–128]

Chapter 15

Runs from pp. 218 to 231 in the 1939 Herbert Jenkins edition.

G. Ovens (Ch. 15; page 218)

Although the Emsworth Arms has always been there, this seems to be the first time that Mr. Ovens is mentioned by name. Garrison lists him as reappearing in Pigs Have Wings, Service with a Smile, and Sunset at Blandings.

Ovens seems to be a surname associated with the West Midlands and the Welsh border, probably as a variant of the Welsh name Owens.

Schopenhauer ... Pollyanna (Ch. 15; page 218)

The eponymous heroine of the children’s story Pollyanna, by Eleanor Hodgman Porter (1868–1920), was noted for her naïve optimism. Mary Pickford starred in the film version released in 1919.

King Lear ... ‘Blow winds...’ (Ch. 15; page 218) °

A reference to the ‘blasted heath’ scene, where Lear, homeless and alone with the Fool after having quarrelled with all three of his daughters, calls on the elements to do their worst.

LEAR: Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drench’d our steeples, drown’d the cocks!
You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Smite flat the thick rotundity o’ the world!
Crack nature’s moulds, an germens spill at once,
That make ingrateful man!

[Shakespeare: King Lear III:ii, 1–9] See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse for other references to this passage.

down among the wines and spirits (Ch. 15; page 219) *

I had always thought this referred to one’s spirits being “down in the cellar” where the drinking spirits were stored, but Norman Murphy discovered that this phrase has its origin in the programs of vaudeville entertainments. See The Mating Season.

something is sure to turn up (Ch. 15; page 219) *

A point of view famously advocated by Wilkins Micawber in Dickens’s David Copperfield (1850).

as if the scales had suddenly fallen from Ricky Gilpin’s eyes (Ch. 15; page 219) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

He had once rescued Mr. Pott from an infuriated mob (Ch. 15; page 219) *

Polly tells the story to Lord Ickenham in Chapter 6 (page 89 of the Jenkins UK first edition). [Thanks to Smriti Nevatia for pointing out the source of the backstory.]

Include me out (Ch. 15; page 222) °

Usually attributed to the film mogul Sam Goldwyn. Also used as the title of a poem by Robert Service, and recently (2008) as the title of a memoir by actor Farley Granger.

[Earlier versions of this page described Goldwyn as “Wodehouse’s former employer”; this may be based on an error in McCrum’s biography Wodehouse: A Life. Samuel Goldwyn had already been forced out of Goldwyn Pictures (about 1922) before the Loews–Metro Pictures–Goldwyn Pictures–Louis B. Mayer Pictures merger of 1924 that formed Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Wodehouse worked for M-G-M in two stints in the early and late 1930s, never for Sam Goldwyn, who never was a part of the M-G-M combination despite his name being in the title of the company.]

hair’s not everything (Ch. 15; page 223)

Wodehouse is having another little joke against himself — he had lost most of his own hair by this time.

Absolom (Ch. 15; page 223) °

King David’s son in the Old Testament. The name is usually written Absalom in English, and the US first edition has it that way.

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

25 But in all Israel there was none to be so much praised as Ab’salom for his beauty: from the sole of his foot even to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him.
26 And when he polled his head, (for it was at every year’s end that he polled it; because the hair was heavy on him, therefore he polled it:) he weighed the hair of his head at two hundred shekels after the king’s weight.

[Bible: 2 Samuel 14:25–26]

See Biblia Wodehousiana for further commentary on Absalom by Fr. Rob, including why Mr. Pott says that Absalom might have been better off bald.

ink-slinger (Ch. 15; page 223) *

The only other occurrence of this epithet so far found in Wodehouse is in “The Shadow Passes” (in Nothing Serious, 1950) in which Rosie M. Banks, “like so many female ink-slingers, is dripping with sentiment.”

om seerioo (Ch. 15; page 223)

A phonetic rendering of homme sérieux (French – literally: a serious man). Generally means more or less what Pott suggests — it’s a phrase one very often sees in personal ads (“Jeune femme cherche homme sérieux...”), probably as meaningless as the invariable requirement in English that the prospective partner “must have good sense of humour.”

on that last awful day when we all have to render account (Ch. 15; page 224) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

“…he was her Prince Charming.” (Ch. 15; page 225) *

From the conventional romantic hero in several fairy tales, this has become a metaphor for a young woman’s ideal sweetheart. Shortly before this book appeared, in the Disney animated film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Snow White says “Anyone could see that the prince was charming, the only one for me.”

The American first edition has a longer version of Mustard Pott’s speech following the sentence above; the British text concludes it with “And this has since been confirmed by a reliable source.” The US text continues his speech:

I have absolute stable information that she loves him and is going to be his bride. You can’t compete with a fellow like that, young G. Reason it out for yourself. Look here upon this picture and on this, as Shakespeare says. You a humble poet, him a splendid young fellow that’s rolling in riches and is going to be a duke any day now, if all goes well and his uncle kicks the bucket. Do you suppose Polly hasn’t figured it out and seen that Horace is a classic horse and you’re just a selling plater? Of course she has.

Look here upon this picture and on this: See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.
selling plater: See Laughing Gas.

as straight as a die (Ch. 15; page 226) *

That is, one of a pair of dice, at least when well made: honest manufacturers take pains to mill and drill them accurately so that the rolls will give truly random results.

garden of the Emsworth Arms (Ch. 15; page 226)

A famous place for plotting: see for example Heavy Weather. The river seems to be the Severn.

a rakish Bingley (Ch. 15; page 227)

Bingley is one of Wodehouse’s favourite names, for both people and places. Bingley-on-Sea (or the similar Bramley-on-Sea) appears in many stories, most memorably in ‘Portrait of a Disciplinarian’ (Meet Mr. Mulliner). It is where the Drones have their golf tournament, and it is the setting for the first part of Doctor Sally. There are also villages called Upper and Lower Bingley in ‘The Great Sermon Handicap’.

There is Bingley Crocker (Piccadilly Jim) Little Johnny Bingley (“The Nodder”), Elsa Bingley (secretary in [The] Ice in the Bedroom), Gladys Bingley (Lancelot Mulliner’s fiancée), Lancelot Bingley (engaged to Gladys Wetherby(!) in “A Good Cigar is a Smoke”), Marcella Bingley (golfer), and Bertie’s ex-valet Rupert Bingley (né Brinkley). In Cocktail Time, Bingley vs. Bingley, Botts & Frobisher is the name of a divorce case.

There is a tiny Bingley in Denbighshire and a rather larger one in Airedale, West Yorkshire.

Probably the association of Bingley with cars comes from Bentley, the pre-eminent British racing car builder of the thirties, and the sort of car a man of Horace’s means might well be able to afford. Unlike the small two-seaters favoured by most Wodehouse young men, a Bentley would be big enough for a stowaway like Ricky to cling to its rear unobserved.

angel wrestled with Jacob (Ch. 15; page 229)

And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.

[Bible: Genesis 32:24–28]

See Biblia Wodehousiana for Fr. Rob’s commentary on the passage.

her need is greater than yours (Ch. 15; page 229) *

An allusion to the story of the generosity of the dying Sir Philip Sidney; see The Mating Season.

boodle (Ch. 15; page 230)

American 19th century slang for the proceeds of a robbery (also used in various other senses, which may or may not have a common origin). Probably comes from Dutch boedel (estate, possessions).

crackling fire (Ch. 15; page 230)

Most English houses at the time were still heated by open coal fires in all rooms. Burning coal was felt to be a patriotic activity, and Lord Emsworth’s comfortable financial position in an age when many landed proprietors were in difficulties suggest that his Victorian ancestors must have owned land in the Shropshire and Warwickshire coalfields.

a little folding of the hands in sleep (Ch. 15; page 231)

I went by the field of the slothful,
and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding;
and, lo, it was all grown over with thorns,
and nettles had covered the face thereof,
and the stone wall thereof was broken down.
Then I saw, and considered it well:
I looked upon it, and received instruction.
Yet a little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to sleep:
so shall thy poverty come as one that traveleth;
and thy want as an armed man.

[Bible: Proverbs 24:30–34]

Chapter 16

Runs from pp. 232 to 244 in the 1939 Herbert Jenkins edition.

pantomime ... Demon King (Ch. 16; page 232) °

British pantomime shows are not silent mime, but are popular family musical entertainments for the holiday season, typically based on fairy tales and folk legends, with added topical gags and slapstick comedy. Cross-dressing is a panto tradition, with older female roles played by male comedians (pantomime dames) and leading boy characters such as Aladdin or Dick Whittington played by young women in tights.

The show often “breaks the fourth wall” (stops the plot and addresses the audience directly), and supernatural characters such as a Good Fairy and a Demon King often direct the course of the action or ask for audience response.

pops up out of a trap (Ch. 16; page 232) *

See Bill the Conqueror.

one who has passed through the furnace (Ch. 16; page 232) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

auxiliary engine (Ch. 16; page 232) *

A secondary engine; for instance, on a ship the main engine provides power for propulsion, and one or more auxiliary engines would serve other functions such as driving an electrical generator and running pumps, ventilators, compressors, and the like.

bally (Ch. 16; page 233) *

See The Inimitable Jeeves.

shirty (Ch. 16; page 234) *

See above.

forbid the banns (Ch. 16; page 234)

To object to a proposed marriage. From the custom of ‘reading the banns,’ i.e. announcing the forthcoming marriage on three consecutive Sundays before the wedding, in the church of the parish where the couple live. This custom still exists in the Church of England.

Stop Press situation (Ch. 16; page 235) *

News of such importance that it is worth interrupting the printing of a newspaper to allow the story to be incorporated into the current edition, typically by revising the layout of the front page. A common cliché of plays and movies with a setting or subplot involving journalism.

The curse has come upon me (Ch. 16; page 235)

She left the web, she left the loom,
She made three paces thro’ the room,
She saw the water-lily bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
She look’d down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack’d from side to side;
“The curse is come upon me!” cried
The Lady of Shalott.

[Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892): The Lady of Shalott 109–117]

Delphic Oracle (Ch. 16; page 235)

The priestesses of Apollo who ran the Oracle at Delphi, where ancient Greeks were in the habit of going for advice when in difficulties, gave famously obscure and ambiguous answers to the questions posed to them. As a result they were almost always proved right by subsequent events.

let your Yea be Yea and your Nay be Nay (Ch. 16; page 235)

This verse is one particularly associated with George Fox and the Society of Friends (Quakers).

But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.

[Bible: James 5:12]

For a while it makes you feel as if you were sitting on top of the world. But, as you progress, a great sorrow starts to fill you. (Ch. 16; page 236) *

Smaller quantities of alcohol can seem like a stimulant in some persons, as it provides quick energy and can lower inhibitions, but in larger doses its depressant effect is even more powerful. See Bill the Conqueror.

Quart One—fine. … Quart Two… (Ch. 16; page 236–237) *

Looking back at Uncle Fred’s recipe in Chapter 10, the beverage called May Queen starts out with a base of champagne, typically about 12% alcohol, but whose potency is increased by adding brandy and armagnac (each about 40%), kümmel (one brand is 38%), and yellow Chartreuse (40–43%), and only slightly diluted by the addition of old stout (typically 6–9%). Not knowing the proportions involved, let us take 15% (30 proof) as an estimate for the mixed drink. If the quart is the British Imperial quart, a hair over 1.2 US quarts, then this is about 38 US fluid ounces. The California DMV Blood Alcohol Content chart suggests that one drink=1.5 oz. 80 proof liquor, so one drink=4 oz. May Queen, and thus a quart would be about nine and a half drinks.

Horace is described as very tall but very slender (see “length without breadth” at the Euclid reference in Chapter One), so his capacity for drink is probably not much greater than that of a man of 200 lb.; three or four drinks would put him over the 0.08% legal limit of blood alcohol for California drivers. It seems surprising that he wouldn’t have passed out before finishing the first quart.

a simple posy of white violets (Ch. 16; page 238) *

White violets play an important role in “Jane Gets Off the Fairway” (1924; in The Heart of a Goof, 1926): “This was his poetic way of showing her that he had not forgotten.”

Bertie Wooster uses this story to try to soften Lady Florence Craye toward Stilton Cheesewright in Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, ch. 5 (1954), although he remembers the woman as resembling a breeder of cocker spaniels rather than Pekinese.

“It might have been.” (Ch. 16; page 238) *

A rare allusion to this phrase without a mention of tongue or pen; see Leave It to Psmith.

the quality of mercy was not strained but dropped like something or other on something I didn’t catch (Ch. 16; page 238) *

See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

leading me up the garden path (Ch. 16; page 239) *

Colloquial phrase for misleading or deceiving a person; the OED’s first citation, from Australia in 1923, quotes a phrase from a song, so it may well be older in popular culture.

first crack out of the box (Ch. 16; page 240) *

See The Inimitable Jeeves.

stagger humanity (Ch. 16; page 241) *

Wodehouse was very fond of this phrase:

“And now let us concentrate ourselves tensely on this very entertaining little journal of ours and see if we cannot stagger humanity with it.”

The Prince and Betty, ch. 13 (US edition, 1912)

He had actually absented himself from the wedding of his only child after having been specifically instructed to give her away at the altar: and if on a theme like this his wife did not extend herself in a fashion calculated to stagger Humanity — well, all Sigsbee H. could say was that past form meant nothing, and could be ruled out as a guide completely.

The Small Bachelor, ch. 12 (1926)

Pongo had assured me, while chatting of the affair on the previous night, that this birthday binge of his was to be on a scale calculated to stagger humanity, and I must say I have participated in less fruity functions.

Right Ho, Jeeves, ch. 3 (1934)

“And one Brinkley coming into this room at nine o’clock to-morrow morning and finding you in that bed will be enough to start a scandal which will stagger humanity.”

Thank You, Jeeves, ch. 7 (1934)

“This is no careless saunter on which you find me engaged, Jeeves, but an enterprise whose consequences may well stagger humanity.”

Joy in the Morning, ch. 14 (1946)

“Another instant, and womanly intuition would have been doing its stuff, with results calculated to stagger humanity.”

Ring for Jeeves, ch. 5 (1953)

In a matter of seconds by Shrewsbury clock, as Aunt Dahlia would have said, I could see that she was going to come out with one of those schemes or plans of hers that not only stagger humanity and turn the moon to blood but lead to some unfortunate male—who on the present occasion would, I strongly suspected, be me—getting immersed in what Shakespeare calls a sea of troubles, if it was Shakespeare.

Jeeves in the Offing/How Right You Are, Jeeves, ch. 7 (1960)

For an eternity, it seemed to him, he had kept pent in what Shakespeare would have called his stuffed bosom a secret calculated to stagger humanity or at least that portion of humanity with the interests of the Bender Gallery at heart, and it came out with the abruptness of a cork leaving a champagne bottle.

A Pelican at Blandings/No Nudes Is Good Nudes, ch. 6 (1969)

Arabs ... fold their tents (Ch. 16; page 241) °

And the night shall be filled with music,
And the cares, that infest the day,
Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,
And as silently steal away.

[Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: The Day Is Done, last stanza ]

Columbus (Ch. 16; page 244)

Cristoforo Colombo (1451–1506), Genoese sailor, who sailed from Spain to the Bahamas and Hispaniola in 1492. He reached the continent of South America on a later voyage, but he never found or suspected the presence of North America, although his voyages did mark the start of regular European commercial activity in the Americas, so they could be said to have been of some use.

Chapter 17

Runs from pp. 245 to 258 in the 1939 Herbert Jenkins edition.

Connaught Rangers (Ch. 17; page 247)

The 88th (and 94th) Regiment of Foot, recruited in the west of Ireland, which earned a reputation as “the Devil’s Own” in Wellington’s Peninsular campaign, and popularised the song “It’s a long way to Tipperary” during the First World War. The regiment was disbanded in 1922.

During the years 1891–1899, presumably the period Uncle Fred is talking about, the 1st Battalion was stationed in England and the 2nd in Malta. One would imagine that an officer called “Billy” would have to be fairly tough to survive in a regiment whose soldiers were almost all Irish Catholics.

In Summer Lightning, Sue Brown’s father was said to have been in the Irish Guards.

a sufficiently humble and contrite spirit (Ch. 17; page 250) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

humble, remorseful chocolates (Ch. 17; page 250) *

A double transferred epithet: see Right Ho, Jeeves.

sackcloth and ashes (Ch. 17; page 251) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

Marriage is a battlefield ... Who said that? (Ch. 17; page 251)

It doesn’t seem to be a specific quotation, although the phrase is a commonly repeated one.

His fair large front ... absolute rule (Ch. 17; page 252) °

This is Milton, not a noted feminist, describing Adam and Eve.

Two of far nobler shape, erect and tall,
Godlike erect, with native honour clad,
In naked majesty seemed lords of all,
And worthy seemed; for in their looks divine
The image of their glorious Maker shone,
Truth, wisdom, sanctitude severe and pure,
(Severe, but in true filial freedom placed,)
Whence true authority in men: though both
Not equal, as their sex not equal seemed;
For contemplation he and valour formed,
For softness she and sweet attractive grace;
He for God only, she for God in him.
His fair large front and eye sublime declared
Absolute rule; and hyacinthine locks
Round from his parted forelock manly hung
Clust’ring, but not beneath his shoulders broad:
She, as a veil, down to the slender waist,
Her unadornèd golden tresses wore
Dishevelled, but in wanton ringlets waved
As the vine curls her tendrils, which implied
Subjection, but required with gentle sway,
And by her yielded, by him best received,
Yielded, with coy submission, modest pride,
And sweet reluctant amorous delay.

[John Milton: Paradise Lost IV:288–311]

anæsthetic and forceps (Ch. 17; page 254) *

Uncle Fred speaks of extracting the money from Pongo in terms of a surgical operation.

“Oh, my sainted bally aint!” (Ch. 17; page 256) °

Obviously a misprint for ‘aunt’ (in the 1st UK edition only).

tarnish the Ickenham escutcheon (Ch. 17; page 257) *

An escutcheon, in heraldry, is the emblem (most often in the shape of a shield) upon which the elements of one’s family coat of arms are displayed. Figuratively, Uncle Fred means that this action is a blot on his family’s noble reputation.

Chapter 18

Runs from pp. 259 to 276 in the 1939 Herbert Jenkins edition.

a cat in a strange alley (Ch. 18; page 259) *

A common image in Wodehouse’s writing:

He had a brown and amiable face, marred at the moment by an expression of discomfort somewhat akin to that of a cat in a strange alley.

Sam Marlowe, in The Girl on the Boat/Three Men and a Maid, ch. 1 (1922)

I moved warily about the room, keenly alert, like a cat that has wandered into a strange alley and sees in every shadow the potential hurler of a half-brick.

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

His mental attitude might be compared to that of a cat entering a strange alley whose resident population may or may not be possessed of half-bricks and inspired with the urge to heave them.

Bill Lister in Full Moon, ch. 8.2 (1947)

I don’t mind admitting that at this particular juncture, with the troops of Midian prowling around, my emotions were those of a cat in a strange alley, and I was anxious to get away from it all.

Ukridge, in “Success Story” (in Nothing Serious, 1950)

A cat in a strange alley would have been more at its ease.

Ring for Jeeves, ch. 17 (1953)

If, as you walk along the streets of any city in America nowadays you see a furtive-looking man who slinks along, starting at sudden noises and behaving generally like a cat in a strange alley which is momentarily expecting to receive a half brick in the short ribs, don’t be misled into thinking into that it is Baby-Face Schultz, the fellow for whom the police of thirty States are spreading a dragnet. He is probably a humorist.

“Up the Humorists!” (Punch, 9 December 1953); also substantially the same in “Some Thoughts on Humorists” in Over Seventy (1957)

He was looking a little like a cat in a strange alley which is momentarily expecting a half-brick in the short ribs, but his voice, though low, was firm.

Percy Gorringe, in Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, ch. 21 (1954)

See also Piccadilly Jim for similar phrases of apprehensiveness.

his toilet (Ch. 18; page 259) *

That is, his dressing and grooming. See Right Ho, Jeeves.

Ronald Colman (Ch. 18; page 260)

British Hollywood star. Colman (1891–1958) had recently starred in the film version of Anthony Hope’s The Prisoner of Zenda (1937).

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

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

at the eleventh hour (Ch. 18; page 260) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

bearer of glad tidings (Ch. 18; page 260) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

forgot to pull the knees of his trousers up (Ch. 18; page 261) *

See Summer Lightning.

its bed had not been slept in (Ch. 18; page 262) *

See Summer Lightning for other Wodehouse allusions to this Sherlockian phrase.

Man in the Iron Mask (Ch. 18; page 262)

An unknown man imprisoned in the Bastille from 1679 until his death in 1703, and said to have been made to wear an iron mask to conceal his identity. There are many more or less convincing theories as to his identity: the only reasonably certain thing is that he must have done something to upset Louis XIV.

Marie Celeste (Ch. 18; page 262)

The brigantine Mary Celeste was found abandoned, drifting near the Azores in December 1872. There was no trace of her occupants (who had included the captain’s wife and baby daughter). A routine Vice-Admiralty Court inquiry in Gibraltar concluded that it was most likely that the crew had abandoned ship in heavy weather mistakenly believing her to be sinking.

Apart from this, there was no great public interest in the case until 1883 when Conan Doyle published a story, “J. Habakuk Jephson’s Statement,” which was inspired by reports of the case, but otherwise entirely fictional (although at the time some readers did not realise this). Doyle obviously thought the name Mary Celeste inelegant, and changed it to Marie Celeste. Since then there have been many involved explanations of what might have happened to the missing crew, few of them based on the known facts.

pure science (Ch. 18; page 263) *

Wodehouse usually uses “science’ in an approving way for technical skill in the boxing ring, as opposed to brute strength and endurance.

tort or misdemeanour ... barratry or socage in fief (Ch. 18; page 266)

Uncle Fred uses exactly the same legal terms in similar circumstances in “Uncle Fred Flits By.”

A tort is a civil, as opposed to criminal, wrong.

Misdemeanour no longer has a technical meaning in English law, but before 1967 referred to criminal offences of types considered less serious than felonies.

Barratry is a name for various arcane offences, in particular: (i) fraud, theft or malicious damage to a ship or its cargo by the captain or crew without the owner’s consent; (ii) travelling abroad to purchase ecclesiastical offices (simony) from the Bishop of Rome; and (iii) persistently indulging in vexatious litigation. In Scotland it can also mean attempting to bribe a judge.

Socage is an obsolete term for the feudal tenure of land other than by knight-service; land held in fief was held by service to a feudal overlord, so socage in fief is almost a contradiction in terms.

Lily Pons (Ch. 18; page 267)

The French-born soprano Lily Pons (1904–1976) was the star coloratura at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in the 1930s.

Lorelei (Ch. 18; page 268) °

According to Heinrich Heine, the Lorelei was a kind of Siren, a maiden accustomed to sit on a rock in the Rhine combing her hair and luring sailors to their doom by singing. Heine’s poem has become so much a part of the folklore of tourism that it is easy to forget that the entire “legend from ancient times” goes no further back than the poem “Lore Lay” written by another German romantic poet, Clemens Brentano, twenty-five years earlier.

The real Lorelei is just a projecting cliff at an awkward bend in the Rhine gorge near St Goarshausen. The name Lorelei comes from old German words meaning “nasty rock.”

The narrator of Anita Loos’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes — another blonde who lures men to their doom — is called Lorelei Lee.

[If you can’t read German, the link below will take you to the celebrated translation of Heine’s poem by that eminent German scholar and romantic poet, S. Langhorn Clemens.]

Ich weiß nicht, was soll es bedeuten,
Daß ich so traurig bin,
Ein Märchen aus uralten Zeiten,
Das kommt mir nicht aus dem Sinn.
Die Luft ist kühl und es dunkelt,
Und ruhig fließt der Rhein;
Der Gipfel des Berges funkelt,
Im Abendsonnenschein.

Die schönste Jungfrau sitzet
Dort oben wunderbar,
Ihr gold’nes Geschmeide blitzet,
Sie kämmt ihr goldenes Haar,
Sie kämmt es mit goldenem Kamme,
Und singt ein Lied dabei;
Das hat eine wundersame,
Gewalt’ge Melodei.

Den Schiffer im kleinen Schiffe,
Ergreift es mit wildem Weh;
Er schaut nicht die Felsenriffe,
Er schaut nur hinauf in die Höh’.
Ich glaube, die Wellen verschlingen
Am Ende Schiffer und Kahn,
Und das hat mit ihrem Singen,
Die Loreley getan.

[Heinrich Heine: Die Lorelei (1823) ]

Will-o’-the-Wisp (Ch. 18; page 268)

Also called ignis fatuus, a flickering light sometimes seen over marshland at night, and once thought to be a malevolent spirit luring travellers to their doom. More recently it has been ascribed to phosphorus-containing gases released by the decay of organic matter.

Mickey Finn (Ch. 18; page 268) °

Supposedly, Mickey Finn was a Chicago barman who developed chemical means of dealing with rowdy customers and/or robbing them. There was apparently a real Chicago bar owner called Michael Finn whose bar was shut down after a robbery in 1903, but there don’t seem to be any further details, and Michael Finn is a very common Irish name.

The OED gives the first use in print as 1928, where it refers not to a knockout drop but to an extra-strong drink. Another citation suggests that the original Mickey Finn was croton oil, a powerful laxative. In later use, the term seems to refer mostly to chloral hydrate, which is a sedative.

in his little flock (Ch. 18; page 268) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

Zero hour (Ch. 18; page 269) *

See The Mating Season.

With Baxter, as with Napoleon, it was his stomach (Ch. 18; page 269) *

See the second quotation in the next item.

wild cats … in his interior (Ch. 18; page 269) *


The vista which this doctor had opened up struck him as bleak to a degree, and I think that, had not a couple of wild cats at this moment suddenly started a rather ugly fight inside him, he would have abandoned the whole project.

“The Juice of an Orange” (1933; in Blandings Castle and Elsewhere, 1935)

And Napoleon. He suffered from chronic dyspepsia. Couldn’t digest a thing. Every time he got up from dinner he felt as if a couple of wild cats were fighting for the wild cat welterweight championship inside him. And Waterloo on top of that.

Bachelors Anonymous, ch. 3 (1973)

affability enough for two, which was the amount required (Ch. 18; page 270) *

Wodehouse often has one party to a situation supply all of some emotional or intellectual quality or financial resource needed for both participants. This is a separate category from the “enough to make two” concept dealing with physical size or strength.

Jim, however, had never taken to the art of boxing very kindly, but, by way of compensation, Allen had skill enough for two.

The Pothunters, ch. 1 (1902)

Be fair, sweet maid, and let who will be clever;
 If brains are wanted, I’ve enough for two.

“ ’Tis Folly to Be Wise” (1902)

Still, it didn’t matter, his being silent. His father made up for it. Between them, they talked just enough for two.

“Against the Clock” (1909)

“And she’s got brains enough for two, which is the exact quantity the girl who marries you will need.”

Sally to Fillmore, in The Adventures of Sally, ch. 6.3 (1922)

“I shall go to her and in a few simple words ask her to be my wife. I shall point out that my income is sufficient for two, that my morals are above reproach, that…”

Hamilton Beamish in The Small Bachelor, ch. 4.1 (1927)

It was quite obvious, as he came up, that the powerful young novelist was not in sunny mood. But this did not it deter Packy from engaging him in conversation. He had sunniness enough for two.

Blair Eggleston and Packy Franklyn, in Hot Water, ch. 14.3 (1931)

 “Hello, Joe,” he said somberly.
 Joe, to whom recent events had given animation enough for two, barked like a seal.

Tubby and Joe Vanringham, in Summer Moonshine, ch. 7 (1937)

 “He may be broke, having given up his job at the Admiralty and all that, but you’ve enough for two, what?”
 “I’ve enough for twenty. But what good is that? Ambrose won’t live on my money. He wouldn’t marry me on a bet now.”

Reggie Tennyson and Lottie Blossom, in The Luck of the Bodkins, ch. 15 (1935)

“I have decided that she is the girl you shall marry. Excellent family, plenty of money of her own, and sense enough for two—which is just the right amount.”

Lord Blicester to Freddie Widgeon, about Dora Pinfold, in “The Masked Troubadour” (1936; in Lord Emsworth and Others, 1937)

“Among other advantages which she possesses is sense enough for two, which, it seems to me, is just the amount the wife of Reginald (‘Pongo’) Twistleton will require.”

Lord Ickenham, speaking of Sally Painter in Uncle Dynamite, ch. 1 (1948)

In conversation with her consort she was nearly always obliged to provide brightness enough for both of them.

Lady Bostock, in Uncle Dynamite, ch. 3.2 (1948)

He was not yet equal to giving tongue, and he continued silent as Gally led him to the house. Fortunately Gally, as always, was able to provide conversation enough for two.

Sam Bagshott, in Galahad at Blandings, ch. 8.3 (1965)

Fortunately for the success of the party Charlie had cheerfulness enough for two.

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

Crispin did not fail to notice the absence of bonhomie, and bearing in mind the urgency of conciliating his only ally he set himself to supply bonhomie enough for two.

Crispin Scrope with Jerry West in The Girl in Blue, ch. 12.2 (1970)

Charlie, it seemed, who made quite enough for two in a stockbroker’s office, wished her to retire and concentrate on the home, but she wavered because she liked being a secretary.

Mabel Potter, in Bachelors Anonymous, ch. 4 (1973)

Fortunately his friend Jerry, an exuberant young man who always had cheerfulness enough for two, now seemed to be in even better spirits than usual.

Bachelors Anonymous, ch. 5 (1973)

collywobbles (Ch. 18; page 270) *

Colloquial coinage (from colic and wobble) for indigestion, rumbling of the digestive tract, or figurative butterflies in the stomach. OED citations from 1823 onward.

on a plate with watercress round it (Ch. 18; page 271) *

See Leave It to Psmith.

beating his breast ... wedding guest (Ch. 18; page 273)

‘The Sun came up upon the left,
Out of the sea came he!
And he shone bright, and on the right
Went down into the sea.

Higher and higher every day,
Till over the mast at noon—’
The Wedding-Guest here beat his breast,
For he heard the loud bassoon.

The bride hath paced into the hall,
Red as a rose is she;
Nodding their heads before her goes
The merry minstrelsy.

The Wedding-Guest he beat his breast,
Yet he cannot choose but hear;
And thus spake on that ancient man,
The bright-eyed Mariner.

[Samuel Taylor Coleridge: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner I:25–40]

shackles ... fallen from me (Ch. 18; page 274)

This sounds as though it ought to be a biblical phrase, but I haven’t found anything earlier than Cowper so far. It is a phrase often used in connection with emancipation of slaves.

Slaves cannot breathe in England; if their lungs
Receive our air, that moment they are free!
They touch our country, and their shackles fall.

[William Cowper (1731–1800): The Task ]

with a hey nonny nonny and a hot cha-cha (Ch. 18; page 274) *

Norman Murphy (A Wodehouse Handbook) cites the OED, which credits it to George S. Kaufman [and Morrie Ryskind] in Of Thee I Sing. But the OED took it from a book of collected plays, not realizing that this is part of a song lyric (“Trumpeter Blow Your Golden Horn”) and that the lyrics of the show were written by Ira Gershwin. (I have alerted the OED to their error.) Murphy thanked Catherine Bott, who cited a song in Singin’ in the Rain, but claimed that was too late a source. Actually most of the songs in that 1952 film were first written for early talkie musicals and stage shows of the same era, and the lyric for “Fit As a Fiddle” was written by Arthur Freed for “George White’s Music Hall Varieties” in 1932. So Wodehouse could have learned it from either of his brother lyricists.

like a two-year-old (Ch. 18; page 276) *

Not a human toddler, but a racehorse, one just coming into its adult strength and vigor.

Chapter 19

Runs from pp. 277 to 294 in the 1939 Herbert Jenkins edition.

priests of Baal (Ch. 19; page 277)

The famous contest on Mount Carmel, in which Elijah demonstrates that the priests of Baal are helpless without matches.

And Eli'jah said unto the prophets of Ba'al, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under. And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Ba'al from morning even until noon, saying, O Ba'al, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made. And it came to pass at noon, that Eli'jah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked. And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them.

[Bible: 1 Kings 18:25–28]

Commentary at Biblia Wodehousiana.

a broken reed (Ch. 19; page 278) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

the quality of mercy (Ch. 19; page 280)

The quality of mercy is not strain’d,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
’T is mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway,
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s,
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That in the course of justice none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy.

[Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice IV:i]

See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse for other Wodehouse references to this passage.

the halma table (Ch. 19; page 281) *

Halma is a board game for two or four players; the board is divided into 16x16 squares, and play involves moving one’s own counters to empty squares, either an adjacent empty square or by jumping an opponent’s piece to an empty square on the other side of it. The object is to get one’s own pieces from a cluster in one corner of the board to the opposite corner of the board, before the opponents do. A similar game on a star-shaped grid of triangular cells was developed from it and called Chinese Checkers. Wikipedia article.

Young blood! (Ch. 19; page 281) *

See Very Good, Jeeves.

Slippery Joe (Ch. 19; page 282)

There is a card game called Slippery Sam, where players are dealt three cards and bet, without looking at them, on having a card in the same suit as and higher than the cards turned up by the dealer.

The nickname “Slippery” often seems to be attached to people called either Joe or Sam, particularly in America, so it would not be surprising if Wodehouse simply mixed the name up by accident: there is no particular need for the card game to be Pott’s own invention in this case.

Moses ... Pisgah (Ch. 19; page 284)

1 And Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto the mountain of Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, that is over against Jericho: and the Lord showed him all the land of Gil’e-ad, unto Dan,
2 and all Naph’tali, and the land of E’phra-im, and Manas’seh, and all the land of Judah, unto the utmost sea,
3 and the south, and the plain of the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, unto Zo’ar.
4 And the Lord said unto him, This is the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, saying, I will give it unto thy seed: I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither.
5 So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord.

[Bible: Deuteronomy 34:1–5]

Commentary at Biblia Wodehousiana.

poem ... followed the gleam (Ch. 19; page 286)

The character in question was Merlin, the wizard.

Not of the sunlight,
Not of the moonlight,
Not of the starlight!
O young Mariner,
Down to the haven,
Call your companions,
Launch your vessel,
And crowd your canvas,
And, ere it vanishes
Over the margin,
After it, follow it,
Follow The Gleam.

[Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892): Merlin and the Gleam, IX]

Coo! … Cor! (Ch. 19; page 287) *

See Laughing Gas.

to quiver like an aspen (Ch. 19; page 287) *

See Right Ho, Jeeves.

restorative (Ch. 19; page 287) *

See Sam the Sudden.

Time, the great healer (Ch. 19; page 288)

See Right Ho, Jeeves.

nil admirari (Ch. 19; page 290)

Latin: Be astonished at nothing. (In Tom Jones, Fielding translates it literally as “Stare at nothing”)

In Money for Nothing we learn that this is also the motto of the dog Emily.

Nil admirari, prope res est una, Numici
Solaque, quae possit facere et servare beatum

(To be astonished at nothing, Numicius, is the only way to become and remain happy)

[Horace: Epistles Bk. I, Ep. VI, V. 1]

Jesse Owens (Ch. 19; page 291)

J.C. Owens (1913–1980), the African-American athlete who established a number of world records at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, to the consternation of the Nazis.

raspberry (Ch. 19; page 293) *

See A Damsel in Distress.

somewhat expert with an airgun (Ch. 19; page 293)

See “The Crime Wave at Blandings” (1936).

skipped like the high hills (Ch. 19; page 293)

When Israel went out of Egypt,
the house of Jacob from a people of strange language;
Judah was his sanctuary,
and Israel his dominion.
The sea saw it, and fled:
Jordan was driven back.
The mountains skipped like rams,
and the little hills like lambs.
What ailed thee, O thou sea, that thou fleddest?
thou Jordan, that thou wast driven back?
ye mountains, that ye skipped like rams;
and ye little hills, like lambs?
Tremble, thou earth, at the presence of the Lord,
at the presence of the God of Jacob;
which turned the rock into a standing water,
the flint into a fountain of waters.

[Bible: Psalm 114]

See Biblia Wodehousiana for Fr. Rob’s commentary on the passage.

terra firma (Ch. 19; page 293)

Latin: solid ground

Chapter 20

Runs from pp. 295 to 311 in the 1939 Herbert Jenkins edition.

There you take me into deep waters (Ch. 20; page 298)

“These are deep waters, Mr. Mason; deep and rather dirty.”

[Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: “The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place” (1927)]

as mad as a hatter. (Ch. 20; page 298)

The phrase 'mad as a hatter' seems to date from the early 19th century; Thomas Chandler Haliburton, a Canadian author, used it in his comic work, The Clockmaker; or the Sayings and Doings of Samuel Slick of Slickville (1836); in Britain, it first appeared in William Makepeace Thackeray's Pendennis (serialised between 1848–50) and Thomas Hughes's Tom Brown's Schooldays (1857), before being popularised by Lewis Carroll in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865). Unlike Hughes, Carroll (and Wodehouse), the earlier writers used 'mad' in the sense of angry, enraged.

The phrase had its origins in a disease that was an occupational hazard of workers making felt hats (such as top hats, bowlers, etc). These workers frequently suffered from what came to be known as mad hatter syndrome, exhibiting physical symptoms such as trembling, loss of co-ordination and slurred speech, and mental symptoms that included irritability, loss of memory, depression and anxiety. It is now known that these symptoms resulted from an accumulation of mercury in the workers' bodies — the felt for hats was made by treating fur with a solution of a mercury compound. [AGOL]

Whoso findeth a wife (Ch. 20; page 301)

In Pigs Have Wings, Ch.11, Gally also attributes this to Solomon, who is traditionally considered the author of the Book of Proverbs, but when Uncle Fred uses it again in Cocktail Time he mistakenly attributes it to Ecclesiastes.

Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord.

[Bible: Proverbs 18:22]

an Indian Summer of the affections (Ch. 20; page 305) *

Bertie Wooster’s Uncle George, Lord Yaxley, has a similar experience of romantic quickening in “Indian Summer of an Uncle” (1930; in Very Good, Jeeves!, 1930).

“I didn’t know the guv’nor ever stirred from the old home.” (Ch. 20; page 305) *

And yet we have seen him at the Hotel Guelph in Piccadilly, pottering around the streets of London, lunching at the Senior Conservative Club, at J. Preston Peters’s town house—and that is just in the first serial episode of Something New (1915). In the third serial episode of Leave It to Psmith, he is back at the Senior Conservative Club, and twice visits the flower shop across the street from it. In “The Custody of the Pumpkin” he visits Kensington Gardens. Presumably he attends the Shropshire Agricultural Show at Shrewsbury regularly to accept prizes for roses, pumpkins, and his Fat Pig. So it seems that Lord Bosham doesn’t know his own father’s interests and movements very well.

“Dashed ugly set of mugs.” (Ch. 20; page 307) *

Here the Duke is using a different slang sense for “mug”: a face, especially an unattractive one. The OED has citations in this sense dating as far back as 1708.

The scales fell from his eyes. (Ch. 20; page 308) *

See above.

breach of promise (Ch. 20; page 308)

Under English law, an engagement to marry was regarded as a binding contract and the party who repudiated the engagement was liable to be sued for ‘breach of promise.’ As a consequence of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1970, actions for breach of promise were abolished as from 1 January 1971.

In an action for breach of promise, which was a civil law matter, the plaintiff (man or woman) could sue for restitution of any pecuniary loss arising from outlay in anticipation of marriage. In some circumstances, a woman could also hope to be awarded substantial damages (‘heart-balm’).

A surprising number of characters seem to have got involved in such actions with girls from Oxford: perhaps this happened to one of Wodehouse’s friends or relations.

roll the money about in front of them in solid cash (Ch. 20; page 309) *

Compare the golden sovereigns rolled about in front of Muriel Coppin in “The Bolt from the Blue” (1914).

Take it and see what you can do (Ch. 20; page 309)

The Duke’s apparently uncharacteristic generosity here has led to some discussion: Is he simply acting as Connie’s banker, assuming that she will reimburse him for the outlay, or does class solidarity overcome his parsimonious streak? Wodehouse does not give us many clues.

March hare (Ch. 20; page 309)

Male hares are often seen to be acting strangely during their mating season in March. The expression “mad as a March hare” was already proverbial by the time Lewis Carroll brought the March Hare and the Mad Hatter (see p.298 above) together for a tea-party in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

the county (Ch. 20; page 310)

In this context refers to members of the local gentry and aristocracy who would be on social calling terms with Lord Emsworth and Lady Constance.

alarm and despondency (Ch. 20; page 310) *

See Ukridge.

pennies from heaven (Ch. 20; page 311)

This song, from the film musical of the same title, was a big hit for Bing Crosby in 1936, but the expression pennies from heaven seems to go back further. It was for example the name of a charity associated with the Fitzroy Tavern and started in 1923. Dennis Potter’s innovative television drama of 1978 takes its title from the Bing Crosby song, of course.

Every time it rains,
It rains pennies from heaven
Don't you know each cloud contains
Pennies from heaven

[Johnnie Burke & Arthur Johnston: “Pennies from Heaven” ]

disburse (Ch. 20; page 311)

Wodehouse is slipping in a last little gem of incongruous vocabulary: normally this word is only used by lawyers, who use it for “spending [the client’s] money.”


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