by John Dawson
Women, Wine and Song! is extracted from The Globe By The Way Book — A Literary Quick-Lunch for People Who Have Got Five Minutes to Spare, by P. G. Wodehouse and Herbert Westbrook, published June 1908 by the Globe Publishing Company, 367 Strand, London. The GBTWB is a compendium of topical humor, jokes, silly games and farcial “features” — with emphasis on the sports, political and entertainment personalities of the day. The book is not to be confused with Wodehouse’s daily “By The Way” humor column at the Globe; contemporary advertisements for the book emphasize that it contained no material reprinted from the newspaper columns.
W. K. (William Kerridge) Haselden (1872–1953), English cartoonist and caricaturist, drew the illustrations for the GBTWB, including Women, Wine and Song! He originally started with political cartoons, but settled into gentle social commentary reflecting on middle class fashions and manners. His cartoons usually consisted of a single frame divided into a number of panels, for which he has been viewed as the “Father of the British strip cartoon.”
Women, Wine and Song! is a playful, madcap pastiche of Victorian melodrama and the cliff-hanging adventure serials of P. G. Wodehouse’s youth. Add to that the sparkling wordplay and crisp, inane dialogue for which Wodehouse was to become world-famous and we have one of his funniest early works. In this effort, he has great fun as he parodies the contrived theatricality of the mystery-drama and rubs elbows with a few personalities of the day. Wodehouse never wrote anything quite like it again.
(1. Brooklands by Night)
Subaltern: British commissioned army officer below the rank of captain; Junior-grade: inferior in rank or status.
The Blues: The Royal Horse Guards was a cavalry regiment of the British Army, founded in 1650 on the order of Oliver Cromwell. As the regiment’s uniform was blue in color it was nicknamed “the Oxford Blues,” from which was derived the nickname the “Blues.” Now known as The Blues & Royals, they are one of the two regiments of Household Cavalry. They mount guard at Whitehall alternately with The Life Guards who wear red uniforms.
Sparking plug: spark plug.
Makeweight(s): Something added to supply a lack; here, meaning minor characters to flesh out the drama.
Espiéglerie: Fr., mischief, frolicsomeness.
Brooklands: was a 2.75-mile (4.43 km) motor racing circuit and aerodrome built in 1907 near Surrey, England. It was the world’s first purpose-built motorsport venue, as well as one of Britain’s first airfields.
Daimler Vase: I can’t find any record of a Daimler Vase so I’m assuming this trophy is a Wodehouse invention. Mark Hodson points out that confusingly, Daimler cars were not built by the German Daimler-Benz company (who used the trade name “Mercedes”), but by a British company based in Coventry, established in 1896 by a friend of Gottfried Daimler’s who had acquired the right to use his patents in the UK. Daimler always specialised in large, luxurious cars. (Since the 1930s, the Daimler name has belonged to the company that makes Jaguar cars.)
Grieg’s famous Polka in H sharp: Edvard Grieg (1843–1907), Norwegian composer, never wrote a polka, and there is no key of “H sharp.”
Kent is a county in southeast England widely known as “the Garden of England.”
(2. Those in Peril on the Deep)
Licensing Bill: The Licensing Act was “An Act to amend the law relating to the sale of Intoxicating Liquors and to Drunkenness, and to provide for the Registration of Clubs.”
Palace Yard: The Palace of Westminster is where the House of Lords and the House of Commons meet; Old Palace Yard (now paved over and secured) contained the main entrance to the House of Commons.
Herbert M. Asquith (1852–1928), prime minister of England from 1908 to 1916; he dismissed suffragism as an unpopular movement with negligible support. He became an admirer of Wodehouse’s work, and Wodehouse mentions him repeatedly in The Globe By the Way Book as well as in The Intrusion of Jimmy (1910). PGW dedicated 1927’s Meet Mr. Mulliner to his fan: “To the Earl of Oxford and Asquith.”
Ealing (West) a suburban development situated 7.7 miles (12.4 km) west of Charing Cross; often referred to as the “Queen of the Suburbs.” [It is some two miles north of the Thames, so a steamboat is not the best way to get there. —NM]
Those in Peril on the Deep: The hymn Eternal Father, Strong to Save is the official hymn of the Royal Navy. The first three verses end with the line “For those in peril on the sea.” Wodehouse titled a 1927 golf story Those in Peril on the Tee.
Sir William Treloar: (1843–1923), was a manufacturer and philanthropist known as the “Children’s Alderman” and Lord Mayor of the City of London in 1906.
Seccotine: popular brand of liquid fish glue patented in 1894.
The Serpentine: 28-acre recreational lake in Hyde Park, London, created in 1730.
Battersea: a district in South London located 2.9 miles (4.8 km) southwest of Charing Cross. Battersea runs south of the River Thames from Fairfield ward in the west to the ward of Queenstown in the east.
(3. In the Temple of Mammon)
Bodegia: Fictional names of exotic foreign countries like Wodehouse’s Bodegia have become fashionable for novelists since Anthony Hope’s Ruritania in The Prisoner of Zenda in 1894.
Temple of Mammon: term derived from the Bible, used to describe material wealth or greed, most often personified as a deity. Webster defines ‘mammon’ as the false god of riches and avarice.
Capel Court: home of the London stock exchange.
C. B. (Charles Burgess) Fry (1872–1956), English polymath; outstanding sportsman, politician, teacher, writer, editor and publisher. In sport, Fry was most noted for his cricketing achievements. At Oxford, he got his Blue for cricket, athletics, and Association football (soccer). He set a world long jump record when he was at Oxford, played as an amateur in the professional football Cup Final, and captained England at cricket. He was Athletics Editor at The Captain, a boys’ magazine in which dozens of pieces of Wodehouse’s early work appeared.
Baron Rothschild: Nathan Mayer Rothschild (1840–1915) was a British banker and politician from the international Rothschild financial dynasty.
Truth: Influential weekly founded by radical M.P. Henry Labouchère in 1877.
Women in Stock Exchange. Women were not allowed on the floor of the Stock Exchange until 1973, hence the uproar when Marjorie appears.
The mine is salted: In mineral exploration, salting is the process of adding gold or silver to an ore sample to change the value of the ore with intent to deceive, cheat or defraud.
Contango: On the London stock exchange, a fee paid by a buyer of securities to the seller for the purpose of deferring payment.
Bodegian wine-shop woman: Wodehouse puns here on the London chain of wine shops named Bodega specializing in sherries and ports.
(4. A Villain’s Wooing)
Society of the Black Hand: A Serbian secret society, implicated in the murder of Archduke Ferdinand in 1914, which led to the first World War.
Steeple Bampstead: A small town in Essex. Wodehouse used it later to create Steeple Bumpleigh for Joy in the Morning, 1946.
Ball’s Pond Triangle: Ball’s Pond was a small hamlet in the parish of Islington abutting the Newington Road. It was “very much resorted to by the lower orders of society from all parts of the metropolis.”
Cross-talk comedy duo business: Cross-talk comedy acts were a staple of the vaudeville and music hall scene, relying on appalling puns and jokes. The “Pat and Mike cross-talk act” featuring two Irish stereotypes is performed by a number of later Wodehouse characters.
Sticks: a violation of field hockey rules wherein one contestant strikes another with his stick.
The Blessed Damosél: Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s painting of the same name.
Infant Samuel: Victorian painter James Sant produced a portrait of an angelic child at prayer with the title Speak Lord for Thy Servant Heareth, which was reproduced as an engraving and renamed The Infant Samuel. Plaster busts followed, and Wodehouse, in a number of books, always seems to have one of them being broken somehow. Women, Wine and Song! is his first use of “The Infant Samuel.” Shown is Sir Joshua Reynolds’s The Infant Samuel from 1776.
Trocadero Grill Room: The Trocadero Grill Room still sits in the north-east corner of Piccadilly Circus, immediately behind the London Pavilion. It opened in 1896 as a highly popular restaurant providing all the luxury, waiters, music etc. of the more expensive restaurants such as the Ritz and Savoy, but at a much lower price. McCrum writes that Wodehouse dined there once a week during his early days in London. “The Trocadero grill-room, with its staircase of green and grey marbles, and its great room of grey marble and gold and buff plaster, with mirrors on the walls, with a grill large enough for an army, and with an orchestra led by Jacob.” From Dinners and Diners: where and how to dine in London, 1901.
(5. Limelight and Love)
Arthur Bingham Walkley (1855–1926) author and dramatic critic for the London Times. George Bernard Shaw dedicated Man and Superman to him.
Mr. Hicks: Seymour Hicks (1871–1949) Actor, music hall performer, playwright, screenwriter, theatre manager and producer; married actress Ellaline Terriss in 1893. Hicks co-wrote The Beauty of Bath in 1906 which included an interpolation by Wodehouse and Jerome Kern, their first collaboration. Wodehouse portrays Hicks as the character Higgs in The Head of Kay’s in 1905, and as Stanley Briggs in Not George Washington in 1907. Wodehouse would dedicate his 1912 novel The Prince and Betty to Ellaline Terriss.
Maxim gun: Type of early machine gun invented in 1884 by Hiram Maxim.
Chippendale Nest for Rest: Chippendale, the furniture maker; “nest for rest” refers to a bird returning to its nest after hunting food, and was used as a term for a reclining chair.
Hall Caine: (1853–1931) novelist and playwright of the late Victorian and the Edwardian eras; was exceedingly popular and at the peak of his success his novels enjoyed huge sales. In appearance Caine was a short man who tended to dress in a striking fashion. His eyes were slightly protuberant, giving him an intense stare. He had red-gold hair and a dark red beard which he trimmed to appear like the Stratford bust of Shakespeare; indeed if people did not notice the likeness he was inclined to point it out to them. His friend Bram Stoker dedicated the iconic 1897 book Dracula to him. Wodehouse, who detested pretense in any form, but especially among writers, lampooned Caine mercilessly throughout The Globe By the Way Book, portraying him as a self-absorbed, self-promoting know-it-all. “Beerbohm claimed that Caine was so ridiculous that at Edwardian parties you could raise a laugh simply by pronouncing his name.” Wodehouse’s selection of the nom de plum of “Paul Vane” for the serial is most certainly a rhyming reference to Caine.
Mr. William Gillett brought her a bracelet of radium. American actor William Gillette (1853–1937) dramatized Sherlock Holmes, with Conan Doyle’s permission, and played Holmes on stage over 1,300 times in the USA and the UK. Radium was big news back then, having only been discovered a few years earlier.
Keble Howard: author and editor of the illustrated weekly The Sketch from 1902 to 1905.
Stage-wait: an unintentional pause during a performance, usually caused by a performer missing a cue.
Iron curtain: The first recorded use of the term was derived from the safety curtain used in theatres to prevent the possibility of fire from spreading from the stage to the rest of the theater.
Flipping-the-Flap at Shepherd’s Bush: The Franco-British Exhibition (1908) was a large public fair held in an area of West London near Shepherd’s Bush which is now called White City. The area acquired its name from the exhibition buildings which were all painted white. The exhibition attracted 8 million visitors and celebrated the Entente Cordiale signed in 1904 by the United Kingdom and France. The “Flip-Flap,” shown here on a period postcard, was a large iron ride consisting of a pair of arms 186 feet long working on a pivot, pinioned together near their bases, and swinging vertically like a gigantic pair of shears. On the outer end of each was a cage with seats for forty eight persons arranged in tiers so that each passenger could have an unobstructed view. From the English Illustrated magazine 1908: “The sensation of a trip in the flip-flap can scarcely be so thrilling as that of being wrecked on the rocks, but it is said to be very like that of going up in a balloon. At any rate it has pleased so many people that they stand in line all day waiting for their turns to ride in the cars, and hence the projectors are coining money from this device, which was so expensive to build.”
(6. The Blue Ribbon of the Turf. Derby Day!)
Mincing Lane: London street stretching from Fenchurch Street south to Great Tower Street. It was for some years the world’s leading center for tea and spice trading.
Waterloo Bridge: road and foot traffic bridge crossing the River Thames named in memory of the British victory at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.
Chinese coolie: manual labourers from Asia, particularly China and India, in the 19th and early 20th century.
Epsom Downs: racecourse near Epsom, Surrey, England; best known for hosting the Epsom Derby, the United Kingdom’s premier thoroughbred horse race for three-year-old colts and fillies. PGW was mocking here—The Derby is a flat race, not a steeple-chase.
Woolgatherer: to woolgather is to engage in fanciful dreaming.
Thimble-and-pea: the early version of the shell game con, in which a dexterous manipulator of three half-walnut shells places a small object under one of the shells, rearranges them, and challenges a bettor to select the shell with the object.
(7. The Vault at Midnight)
Puce-Drortlands at Belweck: William John Cavendish-Bentinck-Scott was 5th Duke of Portland (1800–1879); his estate was named Welbeck Abbey. After his death in 1896 an application was made by the widow of Walter Thomas Druce for his body to be exhumed from the Druce family vault at Highgate Cemetery. (It became known as the Druce-Portlands case). She claimed that her father-in-law T. C. Druce was in fact the 5th Duke of Portland, who had worked as an upholsterer for some years then staged a sham burial as Druce in 1864. The coffin would, therefore, be empty. The case to claim the Portland inheritance was continued by members of the Druce family for some years after Mrs. Druce was admitted to a mental home in 1903. The coffin was finally opened in 1907 and was found indeed to contain the body of T. C. Druce.
Jeape’s Bioscope at Poole’s Myriorama: The bioscope was an early form of motion picture projector; I found one reference to a “Jeape” in connection with early animated graphics, but was unable to locate any further information. The moving panorama was an enormous painted canvas with contiguous views of passing scenery, as if seen from a boat or a train window. Installed on immense spools, they were scrolled past the audience behind a cut-out drop-scene or proscenium which hid the mechanism from public view. In the early nineteenth century, traveling panorama shows had been operated by several firms, notably that of Moses Gompertz, who with his assistants the Poole brothers traveled the length and breadth of Britain. His business was taken over by the Pooles in 1880. To distinguish theirs from rival shows, they started to use the name Myriorama, and by 1900 they had seven separate shows touring for 40 weeks of the year. They added elaborate effects to the scrolling paint-and-cloth panoramas: cut-out figures moving across the scene, accompanied by music, lighting and sound effects. The narrator, often one of the Poole brothers in evening dress, would describe and interpret. “Poole’s Myriorama” was well-known and is even mentioned in James Joyce’s Ulysses.
Plowden: Alfred Chichele Plowden (1844–1914) was presiding magistrate at the Marylebone Police Court from 1893; his pithy and ironic comments from the bench were widely quoted in newspapers, including the “By the Way” column.
Woodbine was a brand of cigarette made in England noted for its strong unfiltered cigarettes. The brand was popular in the early 20th century, especially with soldiers during World War I.
Sunbeam bicycle: Sunbeam bicycles (Always ‘The Sunbeam’) were made in Wolverhampton from 1887 to 1937.
little oil bath: From 1897 the chain and gears of Sunbeam bicycles were encased in an oil-filled housing called “The Little Oil Bath” in their advertising.
King of the Road duplex lamp: Joseph Lucas called his best quality lamps “King of the Road.”
Poltroon: a wretched coward [1520–30].
Legion of Frontiersmen: The Legion of Frontiersmen were a patriotic organisation formed in Britain in 1905 and designed to bolster the defensive capacity of the British Empire. Prompted by pre-war fears of a pending invasion of Britain, the organisation was founded on a romanticized conception of the “frontier” and imperial idealism. Branches were formed throughout the empire to prepare patriots for war and to foster vigilance in peacetime. The Legion raised battalions and its members enlisted en masse at the onset of the First World War. Wodehouse mentions the League in The Swoop! from 1909.
La Milo: was an Australian vaudeville performer named Pansy Montague who specialized in creating “living statues.” She reenacted Lady Godiva’s ride through Coventry in August 1907, clad in flesh-colored, tight fitting apparel, much to the scandal of the countryside.
Coventry: see above.
(8. Europe’s Plague Depot)
Shepheard’s Hotel: was the leading hotel in Cairo and one of the most celebrated hotels in the world between the middle of the 19th century and 1952. It was famed for its grandeur and opulence.
Tivoli: Jardin de Tivoli, Paris, a garden and park made to resemble the gardens of the Villa d’Este in Tivoli, Italy.
Catesby’s Linoleum: Popular carpet and linoleum store located at 64–67 Tottenham Court Road.
Streatham is in the London Borough of Lambeth 5.5 miles (8.8 km) south of Charing Cross. Development accelerated after the opening of Streatham Hill railway station in 1856.
Santos Dumont: (1873–1932) was an early pioneer of aviation and designed, built, and flew the first practical dirigible balloons. This “conquest of the air,” in particular winning the Deutsch de la Meurthe prize on October 19, 1901, on a flight that rounded the Eiffel Tower, made him one of the most famous people in the world during the early 20th century.
Connie Ediss: Comic actress who in 1901 scored a huge hit at the Gaiety Theater in The Toreador by Ivan Caryll and Lionel Monckton.
Keir Hardie: James Keir Hardie (1856–1915) Scottish socialist and labor leader; in the 1892 General Election he became the country’s first socialist M.P. The tradition at that time was for MPs to wear top hats and long black coats, and Hardie created a sensation by entering Parliament wearing a cloth cap and tweed suit. In Parliament he advocated a graduated income tax, free schooling, pensions, the abolition of the House of Lords, and the women’s right to vote.
(9. The Rigour of the Game)
“Linesman”: pseudonym of a cricket commentator and author, writing in Blackwood’s Magazine and elsewhere; his real name was Captain Maurice Harold Grant (1872–1962).
Rhodes: Wilfred Rhodes (1877–1973) was a leading professional cricketer who played for England 58 times and was so good he was recalled to play for his country in 1930 at the age of 52.
M.C.C.: Marylebone Cricket Club, one of the oldest and most revered in Britain.
Craig: Albert Craig, “the Surrey Poet” (1850–1909) attended cricket and football matches and wrote popular verses and short essays describing the players and events. He had them printed on broadsheets and sold them to the crowd.
Mr. Lacey: Sir Francis Eden Lacey (1859–1946) was the first man ever to be knighted for services to cricket, on retiring as Secretary of the M.C.C., a post which he held from 1898 to 1926.
Cotter: Albert “Tibby” Cotter (1884–1917), Australian cricketer who played in 21 Tests between 1904 and 1912.
Tyldesley: John Thomas “Johnny” Tyldesley (1877–1933) was one of the finest batsmen of his time.
(10. A Way They Have in the Army)
North Pole by airship: Walter Wellman’s attempts to fly over the Pole in an airship were big news in 1907–1909.
Guards Club: Established in 1810, a London Gentlemen’s club for officers of the Coldstream Guards, Grenadier Guards or Scots Guards, traditionally the most socially elite section of the British Army.
Woolwich Arsenal: often known as The Arsenal, one of the most successful clubs in English football, based in North London.
Wax vesta: matches that can be ignited by friction either on a prepared surface or on a solid surface.
Dulwich: Wodehouse puts in a plug for his old school.
Property nose: Prosthesis used in theater to reshape the nose, usually humorously.
Harry Tate: Ronald Macdonald Hutchinson (1872–1940), Scottish music hall comedian known for his erratic gag mustaches.
(11. The Stroke of Fate)
Pigmy-Mutiny-at-the-Earl’s-Court-Compound affair: Earls Court is a district in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and was (still is) a large exhibition venue. In 1899, six native African pygmies had been “coaxed” from the rain forests of the eastern Congo by big-game hunter Colonel James J. Harrison, where he put them on at the Hippodrome in a show called Savage South Africa. In 1907, still popular, they were exhibited at an attraction called The Balkan Village at Earl’s Court. I can’t find a record of a “mutiny,” but here’s an excerpt from Punch, August 28, 1907:
Inside the building, the double semi-circle of chairs are all occupied by spectators, most of whom are trying to attract some recognition from five Pygmies in the centre. The Pygmy Chief is sitting on a table at the back, gloomily nursing a bow and arrows; the second male Pygmy occasionally condescends to humour a pretty English girl by catching and returning the india-rubber ball she throws him. The youngest male is lying on his back sucking a piece of ice, with his head resting on a native drum, and his legs negligently crossed. The elder of the lady Pygmies, Princess Quauke, is squatting by a kind of brazier, while the younger is spasmodically accepting invitations to shake hands. Both ladies are in dark blue robes, with numerous bangles and bead necklaces.
Putney Bridge: bridge crossing of the River Thames in west London, linking Putney on the south side with Fulham to the north.
Mr. Pitman: Frederick Islay Pitman (1863–1942), British rower and stockbroker; president of the Cambridge Boat Club in 1886. From 1903 to 1926 he was umpire of the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race.
(12. The Voice of Marjorie)
Sloane Square: landscaped square on the boundaries of the fashionable London districts of Knightsbridge, Belgravia, and Chelsea, located 2.1 miles (3.4 km) southwest of Charing Cross, in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
Finsbury Circus: is an elliptical square in London and the largest public open space within the City’s boundaries.
Many thanks to Norman Murphy, whose suggestions inform and elevate these notes.