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.

The Girl on the Boat was originally annotated by Mark Hodson (aka The Efficient Baxter). The notes have been reformatted, edited, and substantially extended by Neil Midkiff 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.

Page references and chapter titles in these notes are based on the Herbert Jenkins editions of the 1920s and 1930s, in which the text runs from page 11 to page 312. The US edition has no chapter titles.

A correspondence table showing the varying episode and chapter divisions and the pagination of several editions of the book is on this site (opens in a new window or browser tab).

Notes added in 2021 are flagged with *; substantially revised notes are flagged with °.



The story appeared in magazines under the title Three Men and a Maid, in the UK Pan from February to September 1921, and in shortened form in the US Woman’s Home Companion from October to December 1921. The Pan serial has a few passages which do not appear in either of the hardcover editions, and our transcription (linked above) is color-coded to show these.

The novel was published in the US, under the title Three Men and a Maid, by George H. Doran, New York, on 26 April 1922, and in a longer form in the UK, under the title The Girl on the Boat, by Herbert Jenkins Ltd. on 15 June 1922.

These notes are principally based on the UK book edition; only the more significant variants are noted here. The US edition is available as an etext from Project Gutenberg.

A film of the story was made in 1962 by Henry Kaplan. Slightly implausibly, it starred the comedian Norman Wisdom as Sam, together with British stalwarts Bernard Cribbins, Millicent Martin, Sheila Hancock, and Richard Briers.

Preface (p. v)

This Preface, titled “One Moment!”, does not appear in the US edition.

Herbert Jenkins (p. v)

Herbert Jenkins Limited published all Wodehouse’s books in the UK, from Piccadilly Jim (1918) onwards. The founder of the firm, Herbert Jenkins (1876–1923), moonlighted as an author, writing the Malcolm Sage detective stories and the Bindle comic novels as well as one or two serious books like a biography of George Borrow.

Pelham the Pincher (p. v)

A rare example of Wodehouse using one of his Christian names!

J. Storer Clouston’s The Lunatic at Large Again (p. v)

Joseph Storer Clouston (1870–1944), Scottish writer. The comic novel The Lunatic at Large (1893) seems to have been his best known work, and has been reprinted as recently as 1974 — The Lunatic at Large Again is presumably a sequel. Another book featuring some of the same characters, Count Bunker, is also available as a Project Gutenberg text.

at these cross-roads … no dirty work (p. vi) *

See The Luck of the Bodkins.

Constitutional Club, Northumberland Avenue (p. vi)

Norman Murphy (In Search of Blandings, 1986) makes a good case for identifying this club as the prototype of the Senior Conservative, which appears in many books from Psmith in the City onwards. This is the only place in the canon where it is mentioned by its real name, although there is plenty of evidence in other books to link the real and fictitious clubs.

Chapter 1 (pp. 11 – 26)
A Disturbing Morning

Mrs. Horace Hignett (p. 11)

Mrs. Hignett and her son are the only characters of this name in the canon.

Hignett may originally have been a Cheshire name. It could possibly be a reference to the British actor H. R. Hignett (1870–1959), who was prominent on the London stage before the First World War.

Dutch clock (p. 11)

The Zaan region north of Amsterdam is famous for clockmaking. Traditional Dutch clocks are usually weight-driven bracket clocks, often with a ceramic tile face.

ormolu clock (p. 11)

Ormolu (French: or moulu) is a material such as bronze or copper alloy covered with gold leaf. It was used especially in French furniture and clocks of the eighteenth century.

carriage clock (p. 11)

A spring-driven clock in a case with a handle, originally intended to be transportable.

Theosophy (p. 11)

A mystical philosophical system that takes the existence of God as its starting point, and seeks to deal with the presence of evil in the world. The Theosophical Society was founded by Mme. Blavatsky in 1875, although many of the ideas involved go back to Jakob Boehme and beyond.

Wodehouse’s brother Armine was a theosophist, and became head of the theosophical college at Benares, India.

Mrs. Hignett may be based loosely on the socialist and theosophist Annie Besant (1847–1933), who was Armine’s mentor in Benares.

About this time... (p. 12)

The US edition reads “The year 1921, it will be remembered, was a trying one for the inhabitants of the United States.” Presumably Herbert Jenkins advised against pinning the story to a specific date like this.

one of those great race movements (p. 12) *

“It’s like one of those great race movements you read about.”

Joy in the Morning, ch. 6 (1946)

“We don’t want the thing to look like one of those great race movements.”

Uncle Dynamite, ch. 9.2 (1948)

The exodus from the East, which had begun with the coming of sound to the motion pictures, was at its height. Already on the train the two had met a number of authors, composers, directors and other Broadway fauna with whom they had worked in the days before the big crash. Rudolf Friml was there and Vincent Youmans and Arthur Richman and a dozen more. It was like one of those great race movements of the middle ages.

Bring On the Girls, ch. 17.1 (1953)

This was in the ’twenties, when the flower of American youth was migrating to Paris in a manner reminiscent of the great race movements of the Middle Ages and all young men and women with souls and even the remotest ability to handle pen or paint brush went flocking to answer the call of the rive gauche.

French Leave, ch. 3 (1956)

“Odd how all these pillars of the home seem to be dashing away on toots these days. It’s like what Jeeves was telling me about the great race movements of the Middle Ages.”

Jeeves in the Offing, ch. 1 (1960)

With the result that the migration to Hollywood has been like one of those great race movements of the Middle Ages.

Letter to Bill Townend, June 26, 1930, in Author! Author! (1962)

“It’s like one of those great race movements of the Middle Ages I used to read about at school.”

Much Obliged, Jeeves, ch. 16 (1971)

Windles ... Hampshire (p. 12)

Many of the stately homes in Wodehouse, apart from Blandings Castle, are in Hampshire, where Wodehouse lived for some years before going to America.

The name Windles could perhaps be an allusion to The Vyne (home of the Sandys and later Chute families, near Basingtoke) or Broadlands (Lord Palmerston, the Mountbattens) — both of these more-or-less meet the description in the text, as would any number of other country houses in the area.

Windles was as the breath of life to her. (p. 13) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

did but hold it in trust for her son (p. 13)

Mrs. Hignett is obviously a widow. It was usual in English gentry families for the eldest son to inherit the house and estate, so that the family property would not be split up. Eustace would normally have come into full control of his inheritance on his 21st birthday, so we can assume that his mother’s trusteeship is a moral, rather than legal arrangement.

imitation coffee (p. 13) *

Health reformers in the late nineteenth century deprecated caffeine as a poison, and created substitute beverages; one of the first and most popular was Postum, created by C. W. Post in 1895, made from roasted grains and molasses.

What passed for brain in him was to genuine grey matter what just-as-good imitation coffee is to real Mocha.

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

Her day always began with a light but nutritious breakfast, at which a peculiarly uninviting cereal, which looked and tasted like an old straw hat that had been run through a meat chopper, competed for first place in the dislike of her husband and son with a more than usually offensive brand of imitation coffee. Mr. McCall was inclined to think that he loathed the imitation coffee rather more than the cereal, but Washington held strong views on the latter’s superior ghastliness.

“Washy Makes His Presence Felt” (1920; as ch. 22 of Indiscretions of Archie, 1921)

Wodehouse was given imitation coffee as a wartime internee, as recounted in “Huy Day by Day” in Performing Flea (1953).

Sir Mallaby Marlowe (p. 14) °

Mallaby is a moderately common surname, but there doesn’t seem to be any obvious Wodehouse link. The only other Mallaby in the canon is Clarice, the young lady with a craving for strawberries (“The Knightly Quest of Mervyn” in Mulliner Nights, 1933).

Marlowe is of course the name of the great Elizabethan playwright (and a town on the Thames). Besides Sir Mallaby’s son Sam, the only other Marlowes listed in Who’s Who in Wodehouse are George and Grace Marlowe in “Parted Ways” and Peggy Marlowe, a chorus girl in Barmy in Wonderland.

Wodehouse’s near-contemporary at Dulwich, Raymond Chandler, also seems to have been fond of the name Marlowe.

about thirteen stone (p. 15) *

About 182 pounds, or about 82.5 kilograms.

a cat in a strange alley (p. 15) *

See Uncle Fred in the Springtime.

Aunt Adeline (p. 15)

The name Adeline seems to have become popular in English through Mrs. Radcliffe’s gothic novel The Romance of the Forest (1791). Just possibly, Wodehouse is having a little dig at Virginia Woolf, whose middle name was Adeline.

put off childish things (p. 15) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

swallowed some drug which had caused him to swell unpleasantly, particularly about the hands and feet (p. 15) *

Wodehouse himself apparently had this feeling in embarrassing situations:

…those who, like myself, get elephantiasis in the hands and feet and can do nothing but gargle when called upon to utter three words in public…

“The Season-End Productions” (1920)

Several of his fictional characters have the same sensation:

But no hands and feet outside of a freak museum could have been one half as large as his seemed to be in the earlier days of his acquaintanceship with Keggs.

“Love Me, Love My Dog” (1910)

…the sensation of being a strange, jointless creature with abnormally large hands and feet…

“The Man With Two Left Feet” (1916)

Some kind of elephantiasis seemed to have attacked his hands and feet, swelling them to enormous proportions.

A Damsel in Distress, ch. 1 (1919)

…once more was afflicted by that curious sensation of having swelled in a very loathsome manner about the hands and feet.

Corky Corcoran, in “Buttercup Day” (1925)

…the sense of being an alien in a community where everybody seemed extraordinarily intimate with everybody else had weighed upon [Pilbeam], inducing red ears and a general sensation of elephantiasis about the hands and feet.

Heavy Weather, ch. 6 (1933)

[Bill Lister] had tottered out feeling that his hands and feet had been affected by some sort of elephantiasis and that his outer appearance was that of a tramp cyclist.

Full Moon, ch. 3.2 (1947)

[Myrtle Shoesmith Prosser gave Freddie Widgeon] an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of the stomach and the illusion that his hands and feet had swelled unpleasantly.

Ice in the Bedroom, ch. 2 (1961)

It made [Sam Bagshott] feel as if his hands and feet had swollen in a rather offensive manner and that his clothes had ceased to fit him.

Galahad at Blandings, ch. 8.2 (1965)

thews and sinews (p. 17)

Muscular strength. ‘Thews’ by itself used to mean the physical strength of a person, and was used in that sense by Shakespeare: Laertes in Hamlet; Falstaff in King Henry IV, part II; Cassius in Julius Caesar.

‘That villain’, exclaimed the Dwarf, ‘that coldblooded, hardened, unrelenting ruffian, that wretch, whose every thought is infected with crimes, has thews and sinews, limbs, strength, and activity enough, to compel a nobler animal than himself to carry him to the place where he is to perpetrate his wickedness.

Sir Walter Scott: The Black Dwarf chap 6 (1816)

Washouts (p. 17) *

Failures; those who do not pass to a higher grade or rank in school or the military. See also The Inimitable Jeeves.

gas globes (p. 17)

The use of gas for lighting was still fairly common in Britain, even long after the invention of incandescent electric lights around 1900. Some installations survived until the introduction of natural gas in the early 1970s. A globe is a protective glass or mesh bowl surrounding the incandescent ceramic mantle.

Frank Tinney (p. 17)

American comedian and singer — like Al Jolson, he was best known for performing in black make-up.

Trinity smoker (p. 17)

Trinity is one of the smaller, quieter colleges of Oxford University, founded in 1555 by local businessman Sir Thomas Pope. Famous members have included the explorer Sir Richard Burton. Nowadays it is best known for sitting on top of the underground parts of Blackwell’s bookshop and the Bodleian.

A smoker, or smoking concert, was a private entertainment put on by the members of a club or similar institution (men only, hence smoking was allowed). Usually, the performers would be the members of the club itself. See Not George Washington for an account of the Barrel Club smoker.

come down from Oxford (p. 18)

Left the university, graduated. Undergraduates are said to be “up” at Oxford or Cambridge while in residence as members of a college. To be “sent down,” by contrast, is to be expelled from the university.

the Atlantic (p. 18) °

Presumably fictitious. The White Star line, which lost its independent identity in 1935, used names ending in ‘-ic’ for its postwar ships (Britannic, Majestic, etc.). The Atlantic also appears in “Life with Freddie”, Piccadilly Jim, Leave It to Psmith and The Luck of the Bodkins.

See Piccadilly Jim.

Mr. Bennett ... Mr. Mortimer (p. 19) °

The only other Bennetts in the canon appear in the story “Crowned Heads” (1915).

There are a few other minor characters with the surname Mortimer, not to mention the art critic Mortimer Bayliss in Something Fishy and the golfer Mortimer Sturgis in “Sundered Hearts” (1920) and “A Mixed Threesome” (1921).

Just possibly, Wodehouse might have been thinking of that archetype of long-suffering fathers of willful daughters, Jane Austen’s Mr. Bennett in Pride and Prejudice.

gassing away (p. 20) *

That is, speaking, especially at length or foolishly. The British still use “gas” as Americans use “hot air” in this sense; both are used to fill balloons.

Erin (p. 20)

Poetic name for Ireland

Bream Mortimer (p. 20)

A bream is a freshwater fish, although the word does appear occasionally as a surname.

cold fury (p. 20) *

Most of us would tend to think of fury as a hot emotion rather than a cold one, but “cold fury” begins to show up in literature about 1870. Wodehouse seems first to have used it in Uneasy Money, ch. 19 (1916):

A feeling of cold fury surged over her at the way Fate had tricked her.

looked … like a parrot (p. 21) *

Others who resemble parrots are Boko Fittleworth (Joy in the Morning, 1946) and Erbut/Herbert who has a cold grey eye like a parrot’s in “All’s Well With Bingo” (1937).

Little Church Round the Corner (p. 22)

The Church of the Transfiguration, off Madison Square on East 29th Street, where Wodehouse married Ethel on 30 September 1914. The song “The Church Round the Corner” featured in the Wodehouse/Bolton/Kern show Sally (1920).

The church was founded in 1848 by the Rev. G. H. Houghton, an American Episcopal follower of the ideas of Pusey, Keble, and Newman, the leaders of the Anglo-Catholic “Oxford Movement,” in the Church of England.

In the late 19th century it started to be seen as the Broadway actors’ church, a role it retains today.

psycho-analysis (p. 23) *

This term for Freud’s therapeutic method for treating mental disorders was rarely used before 1920 outside of medical journals and textbooks, so it had only recently entered popular culture at the time of this writing. Mrs. Hignett is using it loosely rather than technically here, of course.

vibrate on the same plane (p. 24) *

Originally a term in physics, referring to mechanical oscillations which can be coupled or resonated from one body to another because of having freedom of movement in the same direction. The earliest reference so far found that figuratively applies this to two persons is from John Uri Lloyd in 1878; by the early twentieth century the term began to be used in popular literature for psychological or romantic affinity.

auras are not the same colour (p. 24) *

Those of us who first heard similar terms in the 1960s and 1970s may be surprised to see this reference in a 1922 book, but this was nothing new even then. A quick search has found references to colored auras as far back as 1871, in the Phrenological Journal.

spilled the beans (p. 25) *

Told a secret. US slang which was fairly fresh at the time; the OED has citations beginning in 1919.

threw a spanner into the machinery (p. 25) *

See Leave It to Psmith.

crabbed his act (p. 25) *

Slang for interfering with his plans, obstructing his success. The earliest OED citation for “crab my act” is from Carl Sandburg in 1922.

gummed the game (p. 25) *

The first OED citation for this phrase is in a sporting context, using tactics to delay a game. In a figurative sense, for spoiling someone’s plans, the first citation is from Wodehouse, quoted from Their Mutual Child in 1919, which first appeared in 1914 in a magazine as The White Hope, ch. 5 (1914):

“It would sure get my goat the worst way to have the old man gum the game for them.”

celebrated chewing-gum. The taste lingered. (p. 26) *

See Right Ho, Jeeves.

Chapter 2 (pp. 27 – 55)
Gallant Rescue by Well-dressed Young Man

Rivington Street (p. 28)

Formerly a slum area, on the fringes of the Bowery and Greenwich Village.

being seen off by detectives (p. 28)

Cf. Ukridge’s departure from Canada (“Ukridge Sees Her Through”).

his heart had been lying empty, all swept and garnished (p. 29) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

honking their wares (p. 30) *

An unusual use of this verb, and the first use of this phrase found in the Google Books corpus; the more typical term for selling items outdoors with loud cries is “hawking” as in “The Book-Hawkers” (1906).

companion-way (p. 31)

On a ship, a companion-way is a ladder or staircase leading from one deck to another.

vers-libre (p. 32)

Free verse: poetry that does not have a fixed rhythmic pattern or rhyme-scheme. T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, probably the most famous free-verse poem in English, was published the same year as The Girl on the Boat.

J. B. Midgeley (p. 33)

Seems to be the only Midgeley in the canon. The surname, in various spellings, is quite common, especially in Yorkshire and County Durham. There are two villages in Yorkshire called Midgley.

scratched the fixture (p. 35) *

See The Inimitable Jeeves.

bags (p. 35) *

British slang from mid-nineteenth century for trousers, especially loose-fitting ones.

Thomas Otway .. ‘Orphan’ (p. 37)

Happy a while in Paradise they lay;
But quickly woman longed to go astray:
Some foolish new adventure needs must prove,
And the first devil she saw, she chang’d her love:
To his temptations, lewdly she inclined
Her soul, and, for an apple, damn’d mankind.


What mighty ills have not been done by woman!
Who was ’t betrayed the Capitol?—A woman!
Who lost Mark Antony the world?—A woman!
Who was the cause of a long ten years’ war,
And laid at last old Troy in ashes?—Woman!
Destructive, damnable, deceitful woman!

Thomas Otway (1652–1685): The Orphan Act III

bar ... three-mile limit (p. 37)

The Volstead Act, enforcing the 18th Amendment and thus prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages, came into force — over President Wilson’s veto — in 1919. The 18th Amendment was repealed in 1933. The three-mile limit refers to the extent of a nation’s jurisdiction over international waters; once the boat is three miles from shore, Prohibition no longer is enforceable.

ray of sunshine (p. 38) *

See Bill the Conqueror.

mauve pyjamas (p. 38) *

See Uncle Fred in the Springtime.

sheep … separating from the goats (p. 38) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

excitement toward (p. 38) *

See Leave It to Psmith.

the work of a moment (p. 39) *

See A Damsel in Distress.

between sea and sky (p. 40) *

My sports were lonely, ’mid continuous roars,
And craggy isles, and sea-mew’s plaintive cry
Plaining discrepant between sea and sky.

Keats: Endymion, III:340–42 (1818)

leap from crag to crag like the chamois of the Alps (p. 40) *

See Sam the Sudden.

Oscar Swenson (p. 41)

Seems to be a generic Swedish name.

Svensk! (p. 42)

Svensk is of course the Swedish word for “Swedish.”

He travels … the fastest who travels alone (p. 42) *

From Kipling’s “The Winners” (1888).

scows, skiffs, launches,... (p. 45)

In this context, a scow is a flat-bottomed workboat like a large punt; a skiff is a light rowing boat, and a launch is a small motor boat.

North River (p. 45) °

An alternative name for the portion of the Hudson River between New Jersey and Manhattan Island.

The White Star Line used Pier 59, opposite West 17th Street. It is now part of the Chelsea Piers sports complex.

Reuben S. Watson (p. 46)

Tugs are often named after family members of the owners.

The only remotely celebrated Reuben Watson seems to have been the founder of R. Watson and Sons, which is now the British arm of the actuaries Watson Wyatt.

Or perhaps this is a buried Sherlock Holmes reference??

following a famous precedent (p. 46) *

It was the schooner Hesperus
 That sailed the wintry sea;
And the skipper had taken his little daughter
 To bear him company.

Longfellow: “The Wreck of the Hesperus” (1842).

played … like a public fountain (p. 46) *

A dripping figure rose violently in the stern of the boat, spouting water like a public fountain.

“Rodney Fails to Qualify” (1924)

He was in the middle of the Octagon, seated on the roof and spouting water like a public fountain.

“Jeeves and the Impending Doom” (1926; in Very Good, Jeeves, 1930)

Monty nodded, scattering water like a public fountain.

Heavy Weather, ch. 9 (1933)

“You sure are wet!” (p. 47) *

The reactions of those who see Sam’s dripping condition on this and the next few pages are reminiscent of other passages in Wodehouse where spectators can say only the most obvious observations.

“She says to me, ‘Why, whatever ’ave you been a-doing? You’re all wet.’ ”

Constable Butt in Jackson, Junior, ch. 9 (1907; later as the first half of Mike, 1909)

Of the fifteen who got within speaking distance of him, six told him that he was wet.

“Deep Waters” (1910)

“How wet you are!”

Honoria Glossop to Bertie in “Scoring Off Jeeves” (1922)

“By Jove, you are wet!” said Ronnie.

To Monty Bodkin in Heavy Weather, ch. 9 (1933)

do a Brodie (p. 47)

Steve Brodie (1863–1901) was a Brooklyn bookmaker famous for jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge and surviving the fall, on July 23, 1886, although there are those who say that it was merely a publicity stunt using a dummy.

berries … seeds (p. 49) *

For berries see Leave It to Psmith. For seeds see Green’s Dictionary of Slang.

Chapter 3 (pp. 56 – 68)
Sam Paves the Way

the vampire of a five-reel feature film (p. 56) *

For vampire see Summer Lightning. In the days of silent film, with varying film speeds in camera and projector, the length of films was given in feet, or in round numbers in reels containing up to 1000 feet of 35mm film. A five-reel film in the early 1920s would last approximately one hour.

coming down to brass tacks (p. 57) *

Originally American colloquial phrase for being concerned with the basic facts of a situation; dealing in realities rather than speculation. OED has citations beginning in 1897. This appears to be Wodehouse’s first usage of the phrase.

realising this at the eleventh hour (p. 57) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

party of the second part (p. 58) *

Legal terminology, used in contracts and the like, to mean “the second person named above” or, informally, “the other person involved.”

dime museum (p. 58) *

A popular type of institution in late 19th-century America, designed to appeal to the masses at low admission prices. These combined exhibits of strange and wonderful items (some real, some faked) with stage presentations by magicians, circus performers and freaks, musicians, and actors, with an emphasis on the sensational and bizarre.

the counter-irritation principle (p. 59) *

In medicine, a strategy for lessening pain by applying a substance to the skin that creates a mild irritant stimulus to the nerves as a distraction from more fundamental causes of pain. Many “hot-and-cold” arthritis or muscle ache relief remedies based on capsaicin (pepper essence), menthol, methyl salicylate, and/or camphor create a not-too-unpleasant tingle in the skin that overloads the sensory nerves and interferes with pain sensations from the joints or muscles.

Three shillings and sixpence (p. 61) °

The equivalent of 17.5p in decimal currency. The Bank of England inflation calculator suggests a factor of 50 in consumer price inflation from 1921 to 2020, so this would be the rough equivalent of £8.75 or US$11 in modern terms.

Limerick (p. 61)

A short humourous nonsense verse form, it consists of five anapestic lines with the rhyme scheme aabba. The third and fourth lines have two stresses each, and the others three. It has been around in various guises since medieval times, but only achieved serious popularity with the publication of Edward Lear’s first Book of Nonsense in 1846. The association of the name “Limerick” with the form is not very clear — the OED asserts that it comes from an old parlour game where each person had to improvise a verse, which was followed by a chorus of “Will ye come to Limerick”.

There was a Young Lady whose chin
Resembled the point of a pin:
 So she had it made sharp,
 And purchased a harp,
And played several tunes with her chin.

Edward Lear: There was a young lady whose chin

sonnet-sequence (p. 61)

A few pages back Wodehouse accused Eustace of writing free verse, but here he is talking about writing in sonnet form, probably the strictest and most challenging form in English poetry.

pencil ... cuff (p. 61)

Many men at this time, especially from the working and middle classes, wore shirts with detachable, disposable cuffs and collars made out of paper or celluloid. Such cuffs were a convenient place to jot down notes. This practice is the origin of the phrase “off the cuff.”

Tennyson ... Idylls of the King (p. 61)

Tennyson published his main collection of retellings of the Arthurian legends in 1859. Although extremely popular at the time, and catering to the mid-Victorian taste for all things medieval, these blank-verse epics full of cringe-makingly stilted pseudo-archaic language don’t really show Tennyson at his best, and are not much read these days. They would certainly have been the courtship-literature of choice for the generation of Wodehouse’s parents, but don’t seem a very likely preference for a young woman in the early 1920s (or for a poet who writes free verse).

morocco (p. 62) *

A fine grade of leather made from tanned goatskin, very flexible, often used in bookbinding.

Chesterfield (p. 63) *

See Blandings Castle and Elsewhere.

intervene ... dog-fights (p. 64)

All of Wodehouse’s young men-of-action seem to share a talent for stopping dog-fights.

craven (p. 64) *

See Leave It to Psmith.

raisin dropped in the yeast (p. 65)

This doesn’t seem to be a quotation (?) — it seems to be a rather odd way of going about inducing fermentation. Normally one adds yeast to the mixture one wants to ferment, rather than the other way around.

big-game hunter (p. 66) *

Other female big-game hunters include Lady Bassett in “Strychnine in the Soup” (1932; in Mulliner Nights, 1933) and Clarissa Cork in Money in the Bank (1941).

Worcester Sauce (p. 66) *

See Carry On, Jeeves!.

The US magazine serial omits the references to this proprietary sauce, both here and in ch. 7.

botts (p. 66) *

See Summer Lightning.

Chapter 4 (pp. 69 – 94)
Sam Clicks

In slang of the time, to click is to succeed, to make a hit. (Cf. “The Clicking of Cuthbert”)

...when this story is done in the movies (p. 69) °

Wodehouse, of course, didn’t know that talking pictures would be well-established before this happened (see above).

“Everybody wants a key to my cellar” (p. 70)

A comic song by Bert Williams from the early days of Prohibition.

Everybody wants a key to my cellar …
I’d like to see them get one; let them try,
You can have my money,
Take my car,
Take my wife if you want to go that far.
But nix on a key to open my cellar
If the whole darned world goes dry!

Bert Williams: Everybody wants a key to my cellar (1919)

Recording of Bert Williams singing it, at YouTube

the man who has had a cold bath (p. 70) *

See A Damsel in Distress.

put his fortune to the test, to win or lose it all (p. 70)

A paraphrase of lines from My Dear and Only Love, by James Graham, Marquess of Montrose (1612–1650):

He either fears his fate too much,
Or his deserts are small,
That puts it not unto the touch
To win or lose it all.

Montrose’s “touch” is in the oldest sense meaning “test” as in checking the purity of gold with a touchstone. Wodehouse’s paraphrase is clearer for modern readers, and he uses it in full in “The Fatal Kink in Algernon” (1916) and “The Ordeal of Osbert Mulliner” (1928), and in abbreviated form in A Damsel in Distress, ch. 12 (1919). [NM]

pour-parlers (p. 71)

Preliminary discussions (Old French pourparler, to discuss). For more on Victorian courtship rituals, see Spring Fever, Ch.15.

feelings deeper than those of ordinary friendship (p. 71) *

For two different comments on this phrase, see Laughing Gas and Thank You, Jeeves.

Alphonso (p. 72)

Wodehouse also refers to these lines (without quoting them) in A Damsel in Distress.

Alphonso, who in cool assurance all creation licks,
He up and said to Emmie (who had impudence for six),
Miss Emily, I love you—will you marry? Say the word!’
And Emily said, ‘Certainly, Alphonso, like a bird!’

W. S. Gilbert: Bab Ballads: ‘The Modest Couple’

Bruton Street, Berkeley Square (p. 72)

A street in London’s Mayfair district, only a bun’s toss from the Drones Club in Dover Street. Runs from the NE corner of Berkeley Square across to Bond Street.

Map from

wind and weather permitting (p. 72) *

See Thank You, Jeeves.

“I am the Bandolero” (p. 73)

Song, 1894, words and music by Thomas Augustine Barrett (1863–1928), who had a career as a classical pianist and wrote popular songs under the pseudonym ‘Leslie Stuart.’ He was best known for the hit show Florodora (1899) and would have been one of the biggest names in British musical theatre in Wodehouse’s youth.

This song was later to be made famous by Albert Peasemarch (see The Luck of the Bodkins).

dresses that have to be hooked up... (p. 74)

This suggests a degree of intimacy that Eustace is unlikely to have reached with Miss Bennett: possibly his mother has made him hook up her dresses, or perhaps it is Wodehouse’s own experience of four years of marriage coming out?

miss in baulk (p. 75) *

An intentional avoidance; a term from English billiards. See Love Among the Chickens.

Romeo and Juliet ... pleasantness of the morning (p. 76)

Shakespeare makes it quite clear that the “balcony scene” (Act 2, Sc. 2) takes place at night, as Juliet is going to bed. Wodehouse is maybe thinking of Romeo’s famous opening lines comparing Juliet herself to the dawn.

But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun!
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief,
That thou her maid art far more fair than she:
Be not her maid, since she is envious;
Her vestal livery is but sick and green,
And none but fools do wear it; cast it off.
It is my lady; O! it is my love:
O! that she knew she were.

Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet II:ii, 4–12

See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse for other references to the balcony scene.

[The US magazine and book versions titled Three Men and a Maid omit the entire paragraph referring to Shakespeare, Romeo, and Juliet.]

tube station (p. 77) °

London’s first deep-level electric “tube” railway, the City and South London, opened in 1890. [Earlier Underground lines had been excavated below the streets using a cut-and-cover system, and initially were powered by steam engines.] By 1921, the system in central London was essentially complete (the Victoria and Jubilee lines are the only major parts to have been added since then).

In the US magazine and book versions, the reference is instead to “practically Fifth Avenue and Forty-second Street”—a busy intersection in Manhattan.

turning his face to the wall (p. 78) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

The time and the place and the girl—they were all present and correct (p. 80) *

Alluding to a popular number from Victor Herbert’s 1905 operetta Mademoiselle Modiste, “The Time and the Place and the Girl” with lyrics by Henry Blossom:

For the time may be morning or evening;
 The place may be distant or near;
And the maiden demure may have made you feel sure
 That she’ll be there without any fear.
But there’s always a hitch in it somewhere,
 And the thought sets your brain in a whirl;
For seldom, if ever, you find them together,
 The time, and the place, and the girl.

“The Rosary” (p. 82)

Song (1898), music by Ethelbert Woodbridge Nevin (1862–1901). With a name Wodehouse would have been proud to invent, he was one of the most famous American composers of his day but now largely forgotten; the words are by the justly obscure Robert Cameron Rogers. The song was a huge success at the time.

It also appears in the story “Lines and Business” (1912) (a.k.a. “Fixing it for Freddie”).

The hours I spent with thee, dear heart,
Are as a string of pearls to me;
I count them over, every one apart,
My Rosary, my Rosary.

Each hour a pearl, each pearl a prayer,
To still a heart in absence wrung;
I tell each bead unto the end,
And there a cross is hung.

O memories that bless and burn!
O barren pain and bitter loss!
I kiss each bead, and strive at last to learn
To kiss the cross;
Sweetheart!— to kiss the cross.

Ethelbert Woodbridge Nevin: The Rosary

Oh let the solid ground... (p. 83)

Sam seems to have picked up the wrong book — this is from Maud, not The Idylls of the King.

Perhaps not the happiest of choices, when one considers that the speaker of Maud is well on the wrong side of the line separating romantic love from serious mental illness by the time he gets to this point in the poem.

O let the solid ground
 Not fail beneath my feet
Before my life has found
 What some have found so sweet!
Then let come what come may,
 What matter if I go mad,
I shall have had my day.

Let the sweet heavens endure,
 Not close and darken above me
Before I am quite quite sure
 That there is one to love me!
Then let come what come may
 To a life that has been so sad,
I shall have had my day.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson: Maud Pt I, XI

It was like the gate of heaven opening. (p. 84) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

Walt Mason (p. 84)

Canadian-born poet and journalist (1862–1939), famous for his rhyming prose pieces, many of which appeared in the Detroit Free Press. Compare the piece below with the opening chapter of Ring for Jeeves or Hemingway’s “Short, Happy Life of Francis Macomber”...

Once a hunter met a lion near the hungry critter’s lair, and the way that lion mauled him was decidedly unfair; but the hunter never whimpered when the surgeons, with their thread, sewed up forty-seven gashes in his mutilated head; and he showed the scars in triumph, and they gave him pleasant fame, and he always blessed the lion that had camped upon his frame. Once that hunter, absent minded, sat upon a hill of ants, and about a million bit him, and you should have seen him dance! And he used up lots of language of a deep magenta tint, and apostrophized the insects in a style unfit to print. And it’s thus with worldly troubles; when the big ones come along, we serenely go to meet them, feeling valiant, bold and strong, but the weary little worries with their poisoned stings and smarts, put the lid upon our courage, make us gray, and break our hearts.

Walt Mason (1862–1939): Lions and Ants

the Princess and the Swineherd (p. 86) °

Title of a moral fable by Hans Christian Andersen. English translation from the Hans Christian Andersen Centre.

My love is like a glowing tulip... (p. 86)

Could well be an authentic Victorian ballad, but I haven’t been able to find any confirmation of this.

trying to hide your light under a bushel (p. 87) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

§4 (p. 88) °

Section 4 of Chapter IV is omitted in the US magazine and book editions, and a longer dialogue between Billie and Sam beginning “Suddenly, as he released her” and discussing Mr. Bennett and Bream Mortimer is inserted in its place. The magazine version of this inserted passage is very slightly abridged from the US book version.

The following notes refer to the UK edition of section 4.

Jane Hubbard (p. 88) °

One of Wodehouse’s most splendid women characters, and the only Hubbard in the canon. The other notable female elephant-gun exponents are the rather less attractive Mrs. Clarissa Cork in Money in the Bank and Lady Bassett in “Strychnine in the Soup.”

Jane’s first name must owe something to the heroine of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan stories, which appeared as a magazine serial in 1912, a book in 1914 and on film for the first time in 1918. Of course, Wodehouse was not to know that the most celebrated movie Jane, Maureen O’Sullivan (still a schoolgirl in 1921), would later become a family friend of the Wodehouses and dedicatee of Hot Water.

sweetness and light (p. 89) *

See Uncle Fred in the Springtime.

Boadicea (p. 89) *

See Right Ho, Jeeves.

eighty-five times round the promenade deck (p. 89) *

We don’t know the length of the fictional Atlantic, but other White Star liners of the era can be used as stand-ins for estimation. The Britannic was 883 feet in length; the Olympic and Titanic were about the same. The present-day Rotterdam of the Holland America Line is 984 feet long, and its promenade deck measures 3.5 laps to the mile, so a guess of four or five laps to the mile for the Atlantic seems reasonable. Jane Hubbard has then walked somewhere between seventeen and twenty-one miles; no wonder she is “pleasantly tired”!

go into Parliament (p. 90)

A limited number of women (those who were over thirty and were graduates, householders, or the wives of householders) were given the vote in the UK by the Representation of the People Act 1918. Constance Markiewicz was the only woman to be elected in the 1918 general election, but was a Sinn Fein member who refused to take her seat, so the first woman in Parliament was the Conservative, Nancy Astor, who won her husband’s old seat in a by-election in 1919 when he inherited a peerage.

the pictures of Lord Byron (p. 91) *

A set of portraits of Byron can be seen at Wikimedia.

ships that pass in the night (p. 91) *

This image for a brief meeting between people (especially potential lovers) who do not expect to encounter each other again comes from a Longfellow poem:

Ships that pass in the night, and speak each other in passing,
Only a signal shown and a distant voice in the darkness;
So on the ocean of life we pass and speak one another,
Only a look and a voice, then darkness again and a silence.

“The Theologian’s Tale: Elizabeth” from Tales of a Wayside Inn (1863)

refusing your oats (p. 91) *

By humorous analogy to a horse who is disinclined to eat, meaning having lost one’s appetite.

British East Africa (p. 91)

This term was used between 1886 and 1920 for — broadly-speaking — the British protectorate covering the area of the modern countries Kenya and Uganda.

Unless she was actually there during hostilities (possibly disguised as Katherine Hepburn??), she must have been there in 1919, before the name was changed to Kenya.

Annie Laurie (p. 92)

Annie Laurie (1682–1764) was the daughter of Sir Robert Laurie of Maxwelton House, in Dumfriesshire (SW Scotland). It’s not recorded whether Douglas did lay him doon and dee when Annie married someone else. According to Brewer, her son, Alexander Ferguson, was in turn the hero of a Robert Burns song, “the Whistler”.

Max Welton’s braes are bonnie
Where early falls the dew
And ’twas there that Annie Laurie
Gave me her promise true.
Gave me her promise true
That ne’er forgot shall be
And for Bonnie Annie Laurie
I’d lay me doon and dee.

Her brow is like the snowdrift
Her nape is like the swan
And her face it is the fairest
That ’ere the sun shone on.
That ’ere the sun shone on
And dark blue is her E’e
And for Bonnie Annie Laurie
I’d lay me doon and dee.

Like the dew on the Gowan Lion
Is the fall of her fairy feet
And like winds in the summer sighing
Her voice is low and sweet.
Her voice is low and sweet
And she’s all the world to me
And for Bonnie Annie Laurie
I’d lay me doon and dee.

William Douglas: Annie Laurie

the scales seemed to fall from my eyes (p. 93) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

I can’t forgive a man for looking ridiculous (p. 93) *

Billie Bennett in this respect is somewhat like other Wodehouse characters including Cora Bellinger, Lady Florence Craye, and Bertie’s Aunt Agatha; see the notes to Very Good, Jeeves for a discussion.

Chapter 5 (pp. 95 – 103)
Persecution of Eustace

father in the pigstye (p. 95) °

See Heavy Weather.

Note the rare spelling of pigstye with a final “-e” (a quick internet sample suggests that the other spelling is 65 times more common) – Wodehouse also spells it this way when he uses the same joke in Jill the Reckless.

burnt cork (p. 96)

A much safer way to black up than boot polish: cf. Thank You, Jeeves.

a different and a dreadful world (p. 96) *

See Very Good, Jeeves.

Titian (p. 98)

Veccelio Tiziano (1490–1576), known in the English-speaking world as Titian, is particularly known for painting women with the flowing red-blonde hair then fashionable in Venice. The work of Dante Gabriel Rossetti helped to revive the fashion for red hair in late-Victorian Britain.

Titian’s Flora (1515–20) in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence

toad beneath the harrow (p. 99)

The toad beneath the harrow knows
Exactly where each tooth-point goes;
The butterfly upon the road
Preaches contentment to that toad.

Rudyard Kipling: Pagett, MP

registering of emotion (p. 101) *

See Right Ho, Jeeves.

bounders (p. 101) *

See Bill the Conqueror.

Schopenhauer (p. 101)

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

Chapter 6 (pp. 104 – 110)
Scene at a Ship’s Concert

deep-sea fish ... haddocks ... shrimps (p. 104)

While there are some shrimps who live in deep water, they are crustaceans, not fish.

rival lady singers (p. 105)

For similar programme clashes, see The Luck of the Bodkins and “Jeeves and the Song of Songs”.

“Gunga Din” (p. 105)

’E carried me away
To where a dooli lay,
An’ a bullet come an’ drilled the beggar clean.
’E put me safe inside,
An’ just before ’e died,
“I ’ope you liked your drink”, sez Gunga Din.
So I’ll meet ’im later on
At the place where ’e is gone—
Where it’s always double drill and no canteen;
’E’ll be squattin’ on the coals
Givin’ drink to poor damned souls,
An’ I’ll get a swig in hell from Gunga Din!
Yes, Din! Din! Din!
You Lazarushian-leather Gunga Din!
Though I’ve belted you and flayed you,
By the livin’ Gawd that made you,
You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din!

Rudyard Kipling: Gunga Din (last stanza)

“Fuzzy-Wuzzy” (p. 105)

“Fuzzy-Wuzzy” is another of Kipling’s Barrack-room Ballads. Fuzzy-Wuzzy was the British soldiers’ name for their opponents in the Sudanese campaign.

So ’ere’s to you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, at your ’ome in the Soudan;
You’re a pore benighted ’eathen but a first-class fightin’ man;
An’ ’ere’s to you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, with your ’ayrick ’ead of ’air—
You big black boundin’ beggar—for you broke a British square!

Rudyard Kipling: Fuzzy-Wuzzy (refrain)

My Little Gray Home in the West (p. 105)

When the golden sun sinks in the hills
And the toil of a long day is o’er
Though the road may be long, in the lilt of a song
I forget I was weary before.
Far ahead, where the blue shadows fall
I shall come to contentment and rest;
And the toils of the day will be all charmed away
In my little grey home of the west.

There are hands that will welcome me in
There are lips I am burning to kiss
There are two eyes that shine just because they are mine,
And a thousand things other men miss.
It's a corner of heaven itself
Though it’s only a tumble-down nest,
But with love brooding there, why no place can compare
With my little grey home in the west.

Hermann Frederic Löhr and D. Eardley-Wilmot: My Little Grey Home in the West (song, 1911)

fair women and brave men (p. 105)

There was a sound of revelry by night,
And Belgium’s capital had gather’d then
Her beauty and her chivalry, and bright
The lamps shone o’er fair women and brave men.
A thousand hearts beat happily; and when
Music arose with its voluptuous swell,
Soft eyes look’d love to eyes which spake again,
And all went merry as a marriage bell.

Lord Byron (George Gordon Noel Byron, 1788–1824): Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage III:21

Keats ... knell (p. 105)

Wodehouse seems to have thought Keats wrote knell, not bell. He also uses this image in Money for Nothing, Ch.4.

... The same that oft-times hath
Charmed magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.
Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
To toll me back back from thee to my sole self!

John Keats: Ode to a Nightingale 68-72

Macbeth at the ghost of Banquo (p. 108) °

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 other references to this passage.

The Shakespeare reference is omitted in the US magazine serialization.

There was a rustle at Billie’s side (p. 109)

Thus in UK book; US magazine has “a rustle of taffeta” and US book has “a rustle of millinery” here.

Chapter 7 (pp. 111 – 125)
Sundered Hearts

Runs from pp 111 – 125 in the Herbert Jenkins edition.


When a man’s afraid... (p. 111)

The bard in question being W. S. Gilbert, of course — this is from the wonderful scene where Ko-Ko, Pooh-Bah and Pitti-Sing introduce a certain amount of corroborative detail, intended to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative in describing the (wholly imaginary) execution of Nanki-Poo.

Pitti-Sing: He shivered and shook as he gave the sign
 For the stroke he didn’t deserve;
When all of a sudden his eye met mine,
 And it seemed to brace his nerve;
For he nodded his head and kissed his hand,
 And he whistled an air, did he,
As the sabre true
Cut cleanly through
 His cervical vertebrae, his vertebrae!
When a man’s afraid,
A beautiful maid
 Is a cheering sight to see;
And it’s oh, I’m glad
That moment sad
 Was soothed by sight of me!

W. S. Gilbert and A. Sullivan: The Mikado, or The Town of Titipu Act II

You have to use butter (p. 113) *

As Bertie Wooster and Sir Roderick Glossop learn when removing their own black-face makeup (this time accomplished with boot polish) in Thank You, Jeeves.

O woman, in our hours of ease (p. 115)

O woman! in our hours of ease
Uncertain, coy, and hard to please,
And variable as the shade
By the light quivering aspen made;
When pain and anguish wring the brow,
A ministering angel thou!

Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832): Marmion vi:30

feet of clay (p. 115) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

Bert Williams (p. 115)

Egbert Austin Williams (1875–1922). The celebrated Antiguan-born comedian died in March 1922, shortly before The Girl on the Boat appeared in book form, but Billie was presumably not aware of this. Charitably, one could assume that Sam is offended here because Billie assumed that he was imitating a black person (Williams), as opposed to imitating a white person (Tinney) imitating a black person, though this is probably reading far too much into the text.

(Note also the reference to Williams’s song “Everybody wants a key to my cellar” on p.70 above.)

small black golliwog (p. 116)

A doll representing a minstrel-show character, nowadays regarded by many as offensive to black people. The name was first used by Florence and Bertha Upton in the children’s book The Adventures of Two Dutch Dolls (1895). Enid Blyton and the jam makers James Robertson and Sons used golliwogs extensively.

Cf. the Mickey Mouse in The Luck of the Bodkins.

captious critic (p. 119) *

See Sam the Sudden.

I fee-er naw faw in shee-ining arr-mor... (p. 119)

"I fear no foe in shining armour" is a drawing-room ballad with words by Edward Oxenford (1847–1929) and music by Ciro Pinsuti (1829–1888).

The sheet music is online.

linnet (p. 119) *

See Summer Moonshine.

fine-mesh underwear (p. 120) *

See Bill the Conqueror.

Sigsbee’s Superfine Featherweight (p. 120)

A golfer called Sigsbee appears in the early story “Archibald’s Benefit” (1910).

Cf. also Slingsby’s Superb Soups (“The Spot of Art”) and a number of other minor Slingsbys in the canon.

a rag and a bone and a hank of hair (p. 122)

A fool there was and he made his prayer
(Even as you and I!)
To a rag and a bone and a hunk of hair
We called her the woman who did not care)
But the fool he called her his lady fair
(Even as you and I!)

Oh, the years we waste and the tears we waste
And the work of our head and hand
Belong to a woman who did not know
(And now we know that she never could know)
And did not understand!

Rudyard Kipling: The Vampire ll.1–11

commination service (p. 122) *

See Summer Lightning.

Borneo wire-snake (p. 123)

There doesn’t seem to be such a thing as a wire snake – perhaps Eustace is getting them confused with whip snakes or pipe snakes, both of which are found in Asia, but are said to be harmless to humans.

Worcester Sauce (p. 124) *

See above, p. 66.

The description, later on the same page, of the efficacy of Jane Hubbard’s mixture reminds us that Worcester Sauce is one of the ingredients of Jeeves’s pick-me-up, as described in “Jeeves Takes Charge” (“dark meat-sauce” in 1916/1923 magazine versions; revised in Carry On, Jeeves, 1925).

staggers (p. 124) *

See Very Good, Jeeves.

Chapter 8 (pp. 126 – 143)
Sir Mallaby Offers a Suggestion

This chapter is very different in the US edition – see the note to Chapter 9 below.

Southampton (p. 126)

Most transatlantic liners between the wars docked at Southampton (White Star) or Liverpool (Cunard).

Bingley-on-the-Sea (p. 126)

Bingley is one of Wodehouse’s favourite names, for both people and places. Bingley-on-[the-]Sea (or the similar Bramley-on-Sea) appears in many stories, most memorably in “Portrait of a Disciplinarian”. It is where the Drones have their golf tournament (“Jeeves and the Kid Clementina”), and it is the setting for the first part of Doctor Sally.

Sam seems to be the only visitor to take against it in this way — Bertie describes it as a place “where every prospect pleases” — his only objection to it is the presence of a school run by Aunt Agatha’s friend, Miss Mapleton.

There are also villages called Upper and Lower Bingley in “The Great Sermon Handicap”. Horace Davenport’s car in Uncle Fred in the Springtime is “a rakish Bingley” (Ch.15).

There is Bingley Crocker (Piccadilly Jim), Little Johnny Bingley (“The Nodder”), Elsa Bingley (secretary in 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 ( Brinkley). In Cocktail Time, Bingley vs. Bingley, Botts & Frobisher is the name of a divorce case.

In real life, there is a tiny Bingley in Denbighshire and a rather larger one in Airedale, West Yorkshire, but neither of them is anywhere near the sea. Murphy guesses that the most likely prototype is the south coast resort Bexhill-on-Sea, where Wodehouse’s parents lived in retirement.

Swiss waiters (p. 126) *

To those of us who have traveled in Switzerland in modern times and have been impressed by the service in Swiss hotels, Wodehouse’s disparaging references to Swiss waiters are difficult to understand, unless Switzerland made a point of exporting their less-competent staff to work in other countries. To be sure, the Swiss waiters at the Hotel Superba in Bingley-on-Sea in chapter 2 of Doctor Sally (1931) are merely mentioned as prowling among potted palms.

Owners of large private houses find it’s too much of a sweat to keep them up, so they hire a couple of Swiss waiters with colds in their heads and advertise in the papers that here is the ideal home for the City man. [...] No Swiss waiters here, but a butler…

“Ukridge and the Home from Home” (1931; in Lord Emsworth and Others, 1937)

“He did yodel a good deal,” admitted Evangeline. “He yodelled to the waiters.”
“Why to the waiters?”
“They were Swiss, you see.”

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

Hotel Magnificent (p. 126)

Perhaps this choice of hotel was Sam’s error – Bertie Wooster seemed to be very happy with the food at the Splendide in Bingley-on-Sea (see “Jeeves and the Kid Clementina”).

shingle (p. 127) *

A beach paved with small roundish pebbles rather than sand.

ozone-swept (p. 127)

It used to be believed that the air at seaside resorts was particularly healthy because it was rich in ozone. In fact, of course, ozone is a harmful pollutant, found in significant quantities only in big cities and in photocopier rooms. The “ozone” smell in the seaside air actually turns out to come from iodine in decaying seaweed.

Gehenna (p. 127) °

New Testament name for hell, deriving from the Vale of Hinnom, a valley south of Jerusalem. Occurs eight times in the NT (Matt. v. 22, 29, x. 28, xiii. 15, xviii. 9, xxiii. 15, 33; James iii. 6); the word Hades is slightly more popular, appearing nine times. (source: Brewer)

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

Archilochum ... proprio rabies armavit iambo (p. 127) °

See Horace, Epistles II,iii (“Ars Poetica”), line 79. Among Greek poets whose work survives to any significant extent, Archilochus of Paros (fl. ca. 650 BCE) is the earliest to have written lyric poetry about his own experiences and emotions. The Greeks seem to have regarded him as one of their greatest poets, and Horace was a big fan. He probably didn’t actually invent the iambic trimeter, as Horace suggests, but he was certainly one of the first people to use it effectively.

The lady who rejected him was called Neobule, and comes in for some pretty strong criticism in his verses. As well as making him write satirical verse, his rejection by Neobule seems to have been the reason for his going off to become a soldier of fortune.

[Omitted in UK and US magazines and US book edition. These also omit the John Simmons case in the next paragraph of the UK book.]

to go off to the Rockies to shoot grizzlies (p. 128) *

See A Damsel in Distress.

[In US magazine, “grizzly bears”; in US book, “grizzly-bears.” Omitted in UK magazine.]

trains ... two hours (p. 128) °

Two hours is about the time it would take to travel from the Sussex coast to Charing Cross and walk to Fleet Street.

The UK magazine serial and UK book have a major cut here. The US magazine and book have a scene between Eustace Hignett and Sam in the hotel lobby in which Eustace tells Sam about his private arrangement with Mr. Bennett and Mr. Mortimer to lease Windles to them for the summer, and some of the complications that arise there with the rain, the bulldog Smith, the orchestrion, and Mr. Bennett’s plan to take legal advice from Sam’s father. This constitutes the remainder of Chapter 8 of the US book; a slightly shortened version is in episode 2 of the US magazine serial. Most of these complications are set out in Chapter 10 of the UK book, and are annotated below at that point.

Marlowe, Thorpe, Prescott, Winslow and Appleby (p. 128) °

In Leave It to Psmith there is a coal merchant in Dover Street called Thorpe & Briscoe. Thorpe & Widgery (see below for the latter) is the grocer’s shop in “Tried in the Furnace.”

Prescott is the name of a number of minor characters, the most memorable perhaps being Mabel, who collects for the Temple of the New Dawn in Laughing Gas.

The name Winslow appears elsewhere in the canon only in a reference to Claudia Winslow, an actress whose part Claire Fenwick is supposed to take over in Uneasy Money, ch. 1 (1916). It is the name of several towns in the US, while Winslow Homer (1836–1910) was a celebrated American artist.

Appleby is a name that pops up throughout the canon, from a master at Wrykyn in 1904 to a bank-burgling butler in 1968. It is the name of a town in Westmoreland, of course.

Ridgeway’s Inn (p. 128) °

Fictitious: presumably represents one of the ten Inns of Chancery: Barnard’s Inn, Clement’s Inn, Clifford’s Inn, Furnival’s Inn, Lyon’s Inn, New Inn, Staple Inn, Strand Inn, and Thavie’s Inn. These originally functioned as a sort of preparatory school for the Inns of Court, where barristers are trained, but by the nineteenth century had lost their educational function and simply provided “chambers”, i.e. office space, for law firms.

The Ridgeway is the ancient track that runs along the top of the North Downs in Berkshire and Wiltshire.

not far from Fleet Street (p. 128)

Very little connected with the legal profession is more than a few hundred yards from Fleet Street. The Temple (one of the Inns of Court) is on the southern side of Fleet Street, so perhaps Sir Mallaby’s firm is in one of the Inns associated with the Temple.

The brass plate… (p. 128) *

The UK book continues here immediately following “Fleet Street” in the preceding note. The UK and US magazines and US book continue the Fleet Street sentence with a longish paragraph about the grubbiness of the entry, stairs, and passage leading to the dark and grimy door of the law firm offices, which is “the gauge of a lawyer’s respectability.”

demurrer (p. 129)

A demurrer is an objection that the plaintiff is not legally entitled to relief, even if the facts are as claimed.

replevin (p. 129)

Replevin is something like bail, but for property, not people: When, in the course of a dispute, goods have been seized, the defendant can attempt to get them back until the case is decided, by lodging equivalent security with the court.

John Peters (p. 129) *

In both magazine versions, his given name is abbreviated “Jno.” here.

The People v. Schultz and Bowen (p. 131)

Criminal cases in the US are conducted on behalf of the People; in Britain it is the Crown that prosecutes (“R. v. Schultz and Bowen”).

There doesn’t seem to be any obvious Wodehouse connection in the names.

Rupert Street Rifle Range (p. 131)

Rupert Street is in Soho, just east of Piccadilly Circus, maybe 15 minutes’ walk from Fleet Street. Nowadays it’s known mostly for gay bars, but there’s no reason why there shouldn’t have been a shooting range there in the 1920s.

a film called ‘Two-Gun-Thomas’ (p. 131) * lists a 1918 feature called Two-Gun Betty and several short films from 1911 to 1919 called The Two-Gun Man, Two-Gun Hicks, The Two-Gun Bad Man, The Two-Gun Parson, Two-Gun Girl, Two-Gun Gussie, and Two Gun Trixie. Later Disney short cartoons kept up the tradition: Two-Gun Mickey (1934) and Two Gun Goofy (1952).

speaking-tube (p. 132) *

See Leave It to Psmith.

blew down it (p. 132) *

Some speaking tubes were fitted with a whistle at each end to serve as a signal that a communication was about to start.

Miss Milliken (p. 132)

Letter-writing was a lot easier in the days before PCs and “standard” clauses (provided you had an intelligent and experienced secretary)...

Sir Mallaby’s stenographer seems to be the only Milliken in the canon, although there are a couple of Mulligans.

(The physicist who measured the electron charge in 1909 was called Millikan, not Milliken.)

Brigney, Goole and Butterworth (p. 132)

Brigney is a mystery – it seems to be very rare as a name, although rather common on the internet as a spelling mistake.

Goole is a town in East Yorkshire, developed as an inland port by the Aire and Calder Canal Company from 1826 onwards.

Butterworth is a fairly common English name (e.g. the name of a well-known publisher of legal textbooks).

None of these names features elsewhere in the canon, but there are quite a few Brinkleys, Gooches and Butterwicks.

Mr. Wibblesley Eggshaw (p. 132)

This name seems to stand alone! There are a few placenames of the Wibbsleigh/Wobbley type in the canon.

Hyacinth (p. 133)

The original Hyacinth was a Greek youth, loved by Apollo, and killed in a sports accident. St. Hyacinth (1185–1257), the “Apostle of the North,” was a Polish Dominican who did extensive missionary work in the countries around the Baltic.

The short story “Hyacinth” (1906) by Saki (H. H. Munro) features an evil small boy of that name.

Wodehouse, with good personal reasons, often makes little jokes about “dirty work at the font.” To be called Hyacinth would have been bad enough for a young man, even without the fashion for “flower names” (Rose, Daisy, Marigold, etc.) for girls, that led to the name Hyacinth swapping genders in the course of the 20th century.

Dante (p. 133)

Dante Alighieri (1265–1321), Florentine poet. In his Inferno, he describes a visit to Hell.

Life is real! (p. 134)

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
 Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
 And things are not what they seem.

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

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
 Is our destin’d end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
 Find us farther than today.

Art is long, and time is fleeting,
 And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
 Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
 In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
 Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
 Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act—act in the glorious Present!
 Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
 We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
 Footsteps on the sands of time.

Footsteps, that, perhaps another,
 Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
 Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us then be up and doing,
 with a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
 Learn to labor and to wait.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882): A Psalm of Life

 [Knickerbocker Magazine, September 1838, vol. 12, p. 189; updated 2015-12-08 NM; thanks to Dirk Laurie for spotting missing stanza]

Margate is too bracing (p. 135) °

Margate is on the north coast of Kent, and as such is probably a little windier than Sussex resorts like “Bingley”/Bexhill.

The phrase ‘ so bracing’ was originally used by the Great Northern Railway on its posters to advertise trains to the Lincolnshire resort of Skegness. The town later adopted the phrase ‘Skegness is so bracing’ (and the jolly fisherman depicted on the railway poster) for its own publicity purposes.

in a cleft stick (p. 135) *

See The Code of the Woosters.

The girl is suing him... (p. 136)

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. An action for breach of contract was a civil law matter.

In an action for breach of promise, 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’).

torts and misdemeanours (p. 137)

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.

Vic. I. cap. 3’s (p. 137)

Statutes in Britain were formerly cited by the year of the sovereign’s reign in which they were given the Royal Assent (like the “Emperor Years” used for official documents in Japan). Nowadays calendar years are used for most purposes.

However, Sam doesn’t have the format quite right: conventionally, statutes from the first year of Queen Victoria’s reign (1837) should be cited as “1 Vict., c. 3” (etc.).

The statute in question is: An Act to carry into further Execution the Provisions of an Act for completing the full Payment of Compensation to Owners of Slaves upon the Abolition of Slavery.

pianola (p. 141) °

In later popular usage, “pianola” was often used as a generic name for player pianos, but the original device marketed under that name was an external attachment which could be wheeled up to the keyboard of an ordinary piano to play it automatically from a paper roll in a manner more familiar today from integrated player pianos. Invented in 1896 by Edwin Votey of Detroit, USA, it was a popular form of home entertainment until the 1930s, when the significantly cheaper gramophone began to replace it. The device was powered by two foot pedals, which generated suction to drive a paper roll (a ‘piano roll’) across a pneumatic reading device. Perforations in the piano roll represented the music to be played, the individual perforations triggering a pneumatic motor, which caused the appropriate piano keys to be struck by felt-covered wooden ‘fingers’ – one for each of the 88 keys of the piano.

snowy white tie ... dinner jacket (p. 141) °

In most houses at this time, formal evening dress (with a tail-coat and a white tie) would only have been worn on particularly grand or formal occasions. Here, Sir Mallaby is having guests, so has put on white tie and a tailcoat. On less formal occasions (but these included family dinners), gentlemen would wear the less formal dinner-jacket (US: “tuxedo”), which came into fashion in the 1890s, with a black tie. In this case, Sam’s father doesn’t consider that his party is so grand that the black-tie outfit that Sam is already wearing will be out of place.

The UK serialization in Pan makes this more explicit; following “in some consternation” the paragraph continues:

Sir Mallaby’s neat little barrel of a stomach was sheathed in a waistcoat of white and gleaming as his tie. The tails of his well-cut coat flapped to his knees. Sam himself, with his dinner-jacket and black tie, felt in comparison almost like a tramp cyclist.

I can hear them on the stairs (p. 143)

In larger town-houses, the main reception rooms would typically be on the first floor (US: second floor).

Chapter 9 (pp. 144 – 158)
Rough Work at a Dinner Table

In the US edition, there is a meeting between Eustace and Sam at Bingley at the end of Chapter 8, while Chapter 9 contains Sam’s return to his father’s office (the second half of Chapter 8, pt.1, in the UK edition). The dinner party scene is not in the US edition at all.

cold fury (p. 144) *

See above.

toy of Fate (p. 144) *

Of Mike he took no further notice, leaving that toy of Fate standing stranded in the middle of the room.

Psmith in the City (serialized as The New Fold), ch. 4 (1908/10)

He was thinking of Beefy Bastable, that luckless toy of Fate who … would shortly be parting with several hundred pounds for an imitation walnut cabinet worth perhaps fifty shillings.

Cocktail Time, ch. 22 (1958)

five-reel film scenario (p. 144) *

The plot outline of an ordinary feature film of that era, of average length rather than being anything spectacular. See p. 56, above.

slow fade-out on the embrace (p. 145) *

See Bill the Conqueror.

“When I took my temperature at twenty minutes to six…” (p. 147) *

The UK serial in Pan has a longer passage instead of this sentence and the next one. Following “cancel this dinner engagement” Mr. Bennett continues:

I had shooting pains in the small of my back, my tongue was furry, and there were distinct indications of fever. Fortunately, I pulled round a little subsequently, but I am still a sick man. When I prod myself sharply in the side, there is pain. I don’t know what to do about it.”
 “Abstain from prodding yourself,” said Mr. Mortimer, Senior, judicially. He gave out his lightest utterances as if he were administering professional advice to an anxious client. Just as few parrots have ever looked so parrot-like as Bream, few lawyers have ever looked so like lawyers as Mr. Mortimer. In repose he had always an air of waiting to be consulted on some point of legal interest.
 “Capital suggestion!” said Sir Mallaby cheerily. “You are among friends, Bennett. If you don’t prod yourself, nobody here will prod you.”

The UK serial continues with “Sir Mallaby’s dinner table…”

Ouseley v. Ouseley, Figg, Mountjoy, Moseby-Smith and others (p. 147) °

The style of citation – plaintiff and respondent with the same surname – suggests that this is a complicated divorce case. The other parties named would be co-respondents, i.e. people alleged to have been involved in adultery with the respondent. Until the reform of the divorce laws in the 1960s, to prove adultery was in practice the only straightforward way to obtain a divorce.

Ouseley is an Irish name: Sir William Ouseley (1762–1849) was a great oriental scholar, who did a lot of field work in Persia, where his brother, Sir Gore Ouseley, was British ambassador. Sir Gore’s son, Sir Frederick Arthur Gore Ouseley (1825–1889) was a noted music educator and composer of English church music.

Gideon Ousely (no relation: 1762–1842) was a celebrated evangelical preacher in Ireland.

James Figg (1695–1734) was a celebrated boxer, usually credited as Britain’s first heavyweight champion.

William Blount, 8th and last Baron Mountjoy (1563–1606) was Queen Elizabeth’s Lord Lieutenant in Ireland. He was later created Earl of Devonshire.

The name Moseby seems to be more common in Denmark than in the English-speaking world, but it does appear occasionally.

[The UK serial omits mentioning the discussions among the older generation, ending this paragraph at “impossible.”]

crumbling bread (p. 148) *

A frequent indication of nervousness at the dinner table:

“It suddenly came to me,” said the inspired one, modestly crumbling bread.

“The Matrimonial Sweepstakes” (1910)

Leaning forward, he addressed the bearded man, who was crumbling bread, with an absent look in his eyes.

“Brother Fans” (1914)

He had filled in the time mostly by crumbling bread, staring wildly and jumping like a galvanized frog when spoken to.

Ring for Jeeves, ch. 17 (1953)

It was at this point that Freddie, who had been crumbling bread, started as if electrified.

French Leave, ch. 8.3 (1956)

…admirable though the dinner was that Willoughby’s cook had served up, it is not too much to say that it turned to ashes in Homer’s mouth. He sat crumbling bread and fearing the shape of things to come.

The Girl in Blue, ch. 5.3 (1970)

tarn (p. 148) *

A small mountain lake. This is apparently Wodehouse’s only usage of this specific geographical term, derived from North British dialect.

corn-on-the-cob (p. 149) *

See Piccadilly Jim.

hock (p. 149) *

See Something Fresh.

the sex (p. 150) *

“The sex” as shorthand for “the female sex” dates from 1589 but is no longer in common use.

work … was becoming raw (p. 150) *

See Money for Nothing.

heir of the Mortimers (p. 150) *

See Bill the Conqueror.

absently balancing his wine glass on a fork (p. 150) *

“The way she looked at me when I was doing that balancing trick with the nut crackers and the wineglass.”

Summer Moonshine, ch. 17 (1937)

It was [Tipton Plimsoll] who, in between the soup and fish courses, entertained the company with a diverting balancing trick with a fork and a wineglass.

Full Moon, ch. 4.2 (1947)

“Chronic dyspepsia,” said Mr. Bennett authoritatively (p. 154) *

Like many hypochondriacs, Mr. Bennett considers himself well-educated in medical matters, and thinks that he can diagnose persistent indigestion in others by merely looking at them.

orchestrion (p. 155) °

Orchestrion is a generic term for automatic musical devices that imitate an orchestra by playing a variety of instruments controlled by a punched paper roll. They were usually based around a piano and/or organ mechanism. They could be fitted with an automatic roll-changer, allowing them to be used as coin-operated “jukeboxes” but playing their own contained instruments rather than recordings. Most seem to have been built in Germany.

A 1914 Weber orchestrion, demonstrated on YouTube

unhitched your brain (p. 157) *

See Bill the Conqueror.

See also below, p. 294.

Trappist monk (p. 157) *

See Right Ho, Jeeves.

Chapter 10 (pp. 159 – 179)
Trouble at Windles

Chapter 10 is much shorter in the US edition – it goes straight from Mr. Bennett looking out at the rain to his interview with Billie, omitting most of the incidents in the UK version (some of which had been recounted by Eustace to Sam in chapter 8 of the US book).

Flood ... Noah (p. 160)

As anyone who has lived in the North-West of England will confirm, it hardly rains at all in the South-East.

See also Biblia Wodehousiana.

bridge (p. 161)

This was presumably “Auction Bridge,” introduced into the English-speaking world in the 1890s, apparently from Russia or the Ottoman Empire (there seem to be many theories as to its precise origins). The modern form of “Contract Bridge,” which incorporates elements of the French game “plafond,” was developed by Harold S. Vanderbilt in 1925, some years after the first publication of The Girl on the Boat. (Bridge is also mentioned in Psmith in the City.)

fourteen cards (p. 161)

In both forms of bridge, a 52-card pack is dealt to four players, so Mortimer should have thirteen cards.

bulldog (p. 161)

Norman Murphy (In Search of Blandings, 1986, ch. V) traces Wodehouse’s bulldog period to a dog named Sammy (itself named after the bull-terrier in Mike) that Wodehouse was given in 1917.

plug-ugly (p. 161) *

See The Inimitable Jeeves.

what he wanted was cake (p. 161) *

See Very Good, Jeeves.

Robinson Crusoe staring at the footprint (p. 163) *

I was greatly surprised with the print of a man’s naked foot on the shore, which was very plain to be seen in the sand. I stood like one thunderstruck, or as if I had seen an apparition.

Daniel Defoe: Robinson Crusoe (1719)

Webster (p. 164)

Horace Pendlebury-Davenport also has a valet called Webster (Uncle Fred in the Springtime), but the most celebrated Webster in the canon is indisputably the hero of “The Story of Webster” and “Cats will be Cats” (1932). Wodehouse probably got the name from the spine of his dictionary.

panama hat (p. 164)

“Panama” hats are traditionally made in Ecuador(!) from the leaves of the screw-palm; the name comes from the fact that they were exported in large quantities to supply workers building the Panama Canal. They are undyed straw hats with a shape similar to a conventional trilby or Homburg, though usually with a slightly wider brim.

insects ... extra pairs of legs (p. 166)

Not being a taxonomist, Mr. Bennett can be forgiven for not knowing that insects always have six legs. Creepy-crawlies with extra legs belong to the other classes of arthropods: crustaceans, arachnids, or myriapods.

dropping like the gentle dew upon the place beneath (p. 166)

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.

William Shakespeare (1564–1616): Merchant of Venice IV:i
See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse for other references to this passage.

tam o’shanter (p. 167)

A round Scottish bonnet with a bobble. Named, for unclear reasons, after the gloriously drunken hero of Robert Burns’s ballad.

caracoling (p. 167) *

See Bill the Conqueror.

Southampton ... twenty miles (p. 168)

Southampton, as well as being a port, is the largest town in Hampshire. The distance of twenty miles would be consistent with Emsworth, where Wodehouse lived for a while. In this case, as Norman Murphy (In Search of Blandings, 1986, p.185) suggests, Windles might be based in part on one of the big houses near Emsworth, e.g. Southleigh Park or Southwick House.

Of course, this begs the question of why Billie and the Mortimers went shopping in Southampton when they could have gone to the much nearer towns of Havant or Portsmouth, but presumably Wodehouse’s local knowledge told him that no self-respecting person would buy a Panama hat in Portsmouth.

plenipotentiary (p. 169) *

An ambassador or diplomat entrusted with full authority to make treaties, contracts, and the like on behalf of a ruler or nation.

Wilberforce v. Bayliss (p. 171)

Wilberforce is the first name of Battling Billson, and the middle name of Bertie Wooster, as well as appearing as family name of a few minor characters. Bayliss seems to have been another name Wodehouse liked and kept coming back to. Note that the association with Mortimer stuck, and gave him the name of the art critic in Something Fishy.

Notice too how Wodehouse subtly distinguishes the lawyer Mortimer from the layman Bennett by exploiting the lawyers’ convention that v. [for versus] in the name of a case is pronounced “and”.

green baize door (p. 171) *

See p. 263, below.

fragment of lobster shell (p. 172) *

The vividness of the description in the following chapter of Mr. Bennett’s pain leads one to suppose that the same thing had happened to Wodehouse himself at some point.

impulsive (p. 173) *

Consistent with Wodehouse’s descriptions of most of his red-haired characters; see Piccadilly Jim.

mumps (p. 175) *

See Right Ho, Jeeves.

The US editions of the story omit Eustace’s bout with mumps; instead he is later described as incapacitated by a sprained ankle.

lazar-house (p. 175) *

See Ice in the Bedroom.

Tosti’s ‘Goodbye’ (p. 176)

Sir Francesco Paolo Tosti (1846–1916): Italian-born composer and music teacher, a prominent member of the London musical establishment in the late 19th and early 20th century. ‘Goodbye’ (1881) is one of his most famous songs. The words were by George John Whyte-Melville. Also mentioned in A Damsel in Distress and Something Fishy.

Consul, the Almost-Human (p. 176)

Also appears as the nickname of one of the elderly golfers in “The Letter of the Law”.
Update: Consul was a performing chimpanzee trained by Frank Bostock, interviewed under the title “The King of Wild Animal Trainers” in The Captain for August 1908, p. 407–09. A 1913 newspaper advertisement of Consul’s upcoming appearance at the Exeter Hippodrome describes him as the “almost human” chimpanzee. [NM, 2014-06-20]

Savoy (p. 178)

The Savoy Hotel was opened by Richard D’Oyly Carte in 1889. He employed César Ritz as hotel manager and Auguste Escoffier in the restaurant; it was legendary for its phenomenal number of bathrooms, and for being one of the first large scale applications of electric lighting in London.

Chapter 11 (pp. 180 – 192)
Mr. Bennett has a Bad Night

Chapter 11 is omitted altogether in the US edition.

blew out his candle (p. 180); lighting system (p. 181)

Windles obviously has electricity to run the orchestrion, so the use of candles in the bedrooms must be a matter of choice, rather than necessity, on Mrs. Hignett’s part.

his number was up (p. 181) *

Colloquial phrase meaning that it was his time for death; OED finds early nineteenth-century uses of the phrase relating to the number on a lottery ticket, and has an 1899 citation with the sense of an impending calamity.

from soup to nuts (p. 182) *

See Blandings Castle and Elsewhere.

the iron entered into his soul (p. 182) *

See Sam the Sudden.

Do It Now had ever been his motto (p. 182) *

See Leave It to Psmith.

registry-office (p. 183) *

In this sense, an employment agency. (Somewhat confusingly, Wodehouse also uses this term for a registrar’s office, where civil marriages can be performed and recorded.)

elephant gun (p. 187)

The term “elephant gun” is used loosely by firearms enthusiasts for any excessively large weapon.

At this period, hunters often used specially-built double .600 calibre rifles against harmless elephants and rhinos. One reason for Jane carrying it with her at all times might be that such a weapon would have cost about as much as a largish house or a diamond necklace. Firing one indoors might have had rather spectacular consequences, too...

a girl’s best friend (p. 187) *

Even before the 1949 Broadway musical Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, in which Lorelei Lee assures us that diamonds are a girl’s best friend, Wodehouse proposed other candidates for this honored position:

Then she drew from the recesses of her kimono a packet of chewing gum, a girl’s best friend.

“The Spring Suit” (1919)

There was no doubt about it—a girl’s best friend was the movies.

The Little Warrior/Jill the Reckless, ch. 14 (1920)

Her mother — a girl’s best friend — was strolling on the terrace.

Full Moon, ch. 6.3 (1947)

She was feeling in her bag for her blackjack, a girl’s best friend.

Ice in the Bedroom, ch. 24 (1961)

“This is blackmail!”
“With the possible exception of diamonds,” said Gladys, “a girl’s best friend.”

“A Good Cigar Is a Smoke” (1967; in Plum Pie)

...with the object of murdering her (p. 187)

Does it tell us more about Jane or about Wodehouse that this seems to be the only motive men can have for entering her tent?

the valley of the shadow of death (p. 189) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

Chapter 12 (pp. 193 – 206)
The Lurid Past of Jno. Peters

Jno. is a conventional abbreviation for “John”; indeed the Autograph Edition and Barrie & Jenkins reissues have “John Peters” in the chapter title.
This chapter corresponds to Chapter 11 of the US edition.

Widgery on Nisi Prius evidence (p. 193) °

Widgery is a Devon surname. Other Widgerys in the canon include a grocer in “Tried in the Furnace” (1935) and one of Adrian Mulliner’s employers in “The Smile that Wins” (1931).

Nisi Prius is Latin for “unless before”. A court of nisi prius is a local court that is used by consent of the parties instead of a Court of Record — the term comes from the old practice of issuing summonses to a hearing at the King’s Bench in Westminster when in practice the case would be heard before the stated date at the county Assize sessions. Due to various reforms in the court system, the term is largely obsolete in English law, although it still seems to be current in the US.

The standard text on nisi prius evidence seems to have been Isaac Espinasse, Practical Treatise on the Settling of Evidence for Trials at Nisi Prius; and on the preparing and arranging the necessary proofs, London; Joseph Butterworth and Son; 1825.

The most celebrated book on nisi prius law was by Francis Buller (1785).

Wodehouse may well have picked the term up from Ko-Ko’s little list — we have already had one reference to The Mikado, after all.

Lord Chief Justice Widgery (b.1911, LCJ 1971–1980), famous for his role in the “Bloody Sunday” report, the Oz case, Malone v. Metropolitan Police Commissioner, etc., seems to have been the only well-known English lawyer of this name, and of course was still a small child when this was written. However, it is a strange coincidence — the Lord Chief Justice, as President of the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court, the successor to the Assize courts, is probably the person best qualified to comment on nisi prius evidence!

And that Nisi Prius nuisance, who just now is rather rife,
The judicial humourist – I’ve got him on my list!

W. S. Gilbert and A. Sullivan: The Mikado, or the Town of Titipu Act I (Ko-Ko’s patter song)

Copyhold and Customary Estates (p. 193)

A form of tenure of land based on the customs of a manor and possession of a copy of the rolls of the manorial court. Copyhold was abolished by statute in 1922, so Sam’s efforts, should he get that far in the book, would have been of only rather short-term use.

It isn’t obvious why a book on court practice would deal with land-law.

mashie (p. 193)

An iron golf club, like a niblick but with a straight face. Notice how Sam and Sir Mallaby have had their roles reversed here!

Walton Heath (p. 194) °

A golf club in Surrey, about 25km south of London. The course was designed by Herbert Fowler in 1903.

Bertie Wooster mentions it in “Extricating Young Gussie” (1915), and Jerry Nichols refers to it in Uneasy Money, ch. 4 (1915/16).

tubby (p. 194) *

See Hot Water.

Raptu Haeredis ... holding in socage (p. 194)

More properly de raptu haeredis – a writ by means of which a guardian could get his ward back after she had been abducted. Became obsolete somewhere around the fourteenth century, when such matters were taken over by the Court of Chancery.

Socage is an obsolete term for the feudal tenure of land other than by knight-service – clearly a word Wodehouse liked, as he has Uncle Fred use it whenever he needs a bit of obscure legal terminology. It has nothing to do with the abduction of heirs.

Again, unlikely topics to find in a book on nisi prius evidence.

Since they had last met, at Sir Mallaby’s dinner-table (p. 195) *

US editions omit the dinner-table scene of Chapter 9 entirely, so “at Sir Mallaby’s dinner-table” is omitted here in US book; US magazine omits the entire sentence and the next one.

crouched like a hare in its form (p. 196) *

The OED gives an older definition of form as “the nest or lair in which a hare crouches.” Wodehouse used it in The Small Bachelor, ch. 14 (1927) for Mrs. Waddington’s hiding place behind the chesterfield in Lancelot Biffen’s apartment, but the editor of the Liberty magazine serial changed the word to “retreat,” apparently considering the definition too obscure for his readers.

See also Uncle Dynamite.

Like stars! Like two bright planets… (p. 197) *

Compare “twin stars” in the notes to Money for Nothing.

[Omitted in US magazine serial.]

like something the cat had brought in (p. 198) *

Cat owners will recognize the reference, alluding to the dead (or nearly-dead) mice and birds that cats will present to their owners as if these were valuable gifts.

“I may be publicly rebuked by the butler and have the head stillroom maid looking at me as though I were something the cat had brought in.”

Something Fresh/Something New, ch. 5 (1915)

George was not vain, and if Molly’s stepmother had been content to look at him simply as if she thought he was something the cat had dragged out of the dust-bin, he could have borne up.

The Small Bachelor, ch. 8 (1927)

“You look like something the cat brought in.”

The Mating Season, ch. 18 (1949)

You look like something the cat brought in.

Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves, ch. 24 (1963)

“Well, he doesn’t look to me like a baa-lamb. More like something the cat brought in, and not a very fastidious cat at that.”

“A Good Cigar Is a Smoke” (1967; in Plum Pie)

“I’m trying to decide what you look like.”
“Something the cat brought in?”

Company for Henry, ch. 1.4 (1967)

“Instead of which you just sat there and looked at him as if he were something the cat had brought in.”

Do Butlers Burgle Banks?, ch. 8.3 (1968)

“So that’s why you’ve got that horrible pasty look,” said the Duke, glad to have solved a mystery. “You look like something the cat brought in. Always that way if you don’t get your proper sleep.”

A Pelican at Blandings, ch. 10.3 (1969)

Paraphrasing the Bishop, he says that if you sin, you will inevitably feel like something the cat brought in, and that was how Crispin felt.

The Girl in Blue, ch. 9.3 (1970)

Summer visitors. … Unquestionably they stimulate trade, but with a few exceptions they look like something the cat brought in, and not a very discriminating cat at that.

“Dogs and Cats and Wodehouse”: New York Times, October 3, 1971

“Then why aren’t you out canvassing? And why are you looking like something the cat brought in?”

Much Obliged, Jeeves/Jeeves and the Tie That Binds, ch. 9 (1971)

He sat motionless in his chair, looking like something the cat had brought in.

Bachelors Anonymous, ch. 10 (1973)

a tort or a malfeasance (p. 200)

For tort see p. 137 above.

Malfeasance is the doing of a wrongful act, whether a tort or a crime, where the act itself is unlawful, as opposed to nonfeasance which is the omission of an act that a person is under a legal duty to do.

Putney (p. 201)

A suburb on the south bank of the Thames, about 5km to the south-west of central London. Putney Bridge is familiar to Wodehouse fans as the finishing line of the Boat Race.

Ealing West (p. 202)

More usually “West Ealing” – a suburb about 10km west of central London.

off his onion (p. 202) *

See Sam the Sudden.

Home Whispers (p. 203)

Seems to be fictitious – probably a reference to the title of Dickens’s magazine Household Words.

a small handbag (p. 204) °

This is obviously a handbag in the Importance of Being Earnest sense, i.e. a small piece of luggage with carrying handles, rather than a lady’s purse.

in the next court (p. 204)

The Inns where old law firms like Sir Mallaby’s have their chambers are traditionally laid out rather like colleges, with staircases opening off a series of courtyards.

Chapter 13 (pp. 207 – 216)
Shocks All Round

This chapter corresponds to Chapter 12 of the US edition, which omits the last two words.

The Dangers of Diana (p. 207)

Obviously a reference to the famous 1914 silent film serial The Perils of Pauline, in which Pearl White was forever being tied to railway tracks.

idée fixe (p. 209)

French: fixed idea, obsession. The concept of the idée fixe is particularly associated with nineteenth century Romanticism, cf. for example Berlioz and his Symphonie Fantastique. [Or, for those who like to follow the more abstruse manifestations of French intellectualism, cf. Obélix’s dog, which is called Idéfix in French and Dogmatix in English...]

equal to the intellectual pressure of the conversation (p. 210) *

See A Damsel in Distress.

the guv’nor (p. 211) *

British slang for a person in authority over the speaker; often referring to one’s father or one’s employer.

he had gone some (p. 212) *

Originally US slang for having accomplished something, done well, worked or played hard. OED has citations beginning in 1911, including one from Wodehouse (cited from book edition of 1915, but first appearing in serial form in 1909):

“I guess we’re making a hit. Cosy Moments is going some now.”

Psmith, Journalist, ch. 10 (1909/15)

gall of an Army mule (p. 215) *

See Ice in the Bedroom.

out of evil cometh good (p. 215) *

See Summer Lightning.

“Great Godfrey!” (p. 215) *

See Piccadilly Jim.

“Number four!” (p. 216) *

Not yet realizing that Sam is one of the three men that Billie has been engaged to in the past three weeks, Mr. Bennett thinks he is seeing the fourth such entanglement.

Omitted in US magazine and book editions.

Chapter 14 (pp. 217 – 226)
Strong Remarks by a Father

This chapter corresponds to Chapter 13 of the US edition, which has a little more at the beginning to explain Mr. Bennett’s change of heart. Some of that material (patch of sunshine; superb morning; distilled scent of grass, trees, flowers, and hay) also appears in ch. 10 §2 of the UK text, p. 163 of the Jenkins original UK edition.

effecting (p. 217)

Presumably a misprint for affecting.

Waterloo ... Savoy (p. 218)

If he was fit enough to walk the two miles to the local station, one wonders why Mr. Bennett took a cab for the brief trip across Waterloo Bridge, which wouldn’t take much more than ten minutes on foot. From the Savoy to Fleet Street would be at most another five minutes’ walk.

puffing like a seal (p. 218) *

Uncle Jasper … rounded on Mr. Paradene, puffing like a seal.

Bill the Conqueror, ch. 4 (1924)

which I think beautiful (p. 222) *

A rare instance of Wodehouse-as-narrator using the first person pronoun.

“You and I have Henry Mortimer’s number.” (p. 222) *

The OED defines this as having “an accurate assessment of a person’s true character, motives, weaknesses,” with nineteenth-century citations from Dickens and Twain.

Six-and-eightpence (p. 223) *

Six shillings and eightpence turns out to be exactly one-third of a pound sterling; the rough equivalent in modern terms after adjusting for inflation would be £17 or US$21.

Pure Food Committee (p. 223) *

The General Federation of Women’s Clubs set up a Pure Food Committee in 1904, which publicized the need for Federal legislation against tainted and adulterated food with circulars, letters, talks, exhibits, and magazine and newspaper articles; their efforts led to increased interest in the subject, which was instrumental in getting the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 through Congress.

Be careful, sir... (p. 224) *

 “…Answer me that. Be very careful.”
 “What do you mean, be very careful?”
 Well, as a matter of fact, I didn’t quite know myself. It was what the magistrate had said to me on the occasion when I stood in the dock as Eustace Plimsoll, of The Laburnums: and as it had impressed me a good deal at the time, I just bunged it in now by way of giving the conversation a tone.

Right Ho, Jeeves, ch. 15 (1934)

Spode gave me a warning look. “Be careful, Wooster, be very careful,” he said as we went out.

Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves, ch. 6 (1963)

Chapter 15 (pp. 227 – 241)
Drama at a Country House

Corresponds to Chapter 14 in the US edition.

Aristotle ... pity and terror (p. 227)

This is an allusion to Aristotle’s famous definition of tragedy as catharsis, or purging of the emotions.

Tragedy is an imitation of an action of high importance, complete and of some amplitude; in language enhanced by distinct and varying beauties; acted not narrated; by means of pity and terror effecting its purgation of these emotions.

Aristotle: Poetics Ch.6

See The Old Reliable for a listing of Wodehouse’s references to this concept.

sarabands (p. 228)

A slow Spanish dance in triple time (zarabanda).

sketching-block (p. 228) *

A pad of artist’s paper, often contained in a firm cover.

white flannels and buckskin shoes (p. 228) *

In other words, dressed for a summer day in the country.

the lion lying down with the lamb (p. 229) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

pot-pourri (p. 232) *

See The Code of the Woosters.

not compos (p. 232)

non compos mentis – Latin: not of sound mind. A legal term, meaning that a person is not considered competent to transact legal business on his own behalf.

the pot calling the kettle black (p. 232) *

A proverb describing someone who accuses others of faults that he himself possesses. The earliest appearance in English of a similar turn of phrase is in Thomas Shelton’s 1620 English translation of Don Quixote, and by the later seventeenth century it had found its present wording. At the time, both cooking vessels would have been made of cast iron, which gains a black seasoned surface with use. Only one other usage has so far been found in Wodehouse:

I uttered a joyful cry, and she said if I did it again, she would sue me, it having nearly cracked her eardrum. A notable instance of the pot calling the kettle black, as the old saying has it, she having been cracking mine since the start of the proceedings.

Bertie and Aunt Dahlia in Much Obliged, Jeeves, ch. 2 (1971)

Sweet spirits of nitre! (p. 233) °

A solution of ethyl nitrite in alcohol, formerly commonly used for treating colic in infants, but which has fallen out of favour in recent years. [The US FDA has banned over-the-counter sales since 1980.]

Not recorded outside Wodehouse as an exclamation...!

“Sweet spirits of nitre!” cried the old relative passionately.

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

By the great horn spoon, number five! (p. 233) *

The World Wide Words blog has the best discussion so far found for this American oath. Number five is Mr. Bennett’s count of suspected engagements of his daughter, though this one was not real.

[Omitted from US magazine and book texts.]

Suffering cats! (p. 234) *

Any number of names and nouns have been combined with “suffering” to create this mild oath of surprise or annoyance. The earliest OED citation is “The suffering Moses!” from Mark Twain, in The Innocents Abroad (1869); “suffering cats” is first cited from 1907.

Blue Boar (p. 236)

The White Boar was the badge of Richard III. After his defeat at the Battle of Bosworth, many pub landlords considered it politically advisable to repaint their signs a different colour (but why blue???).

bitter mixed with the sweet (p. 237) *

But even to Keggs there was bitter mixed with the sweet.

A Damsel in Distress, ch. 8 (1919)

Havant ... Cosham (p. 238)

As Murphy (In Search of Blandings, 1986) points out, this suggests Southwick House, which lies just west of Havant and north of Cosham.

Southwick House on Google Maps

Miss Trimblett (p. 238)

There don’t seem to be any other Trimbletts in the canon, but there are a number of Trimbles, notably Miss Trimble, the detective in Piccadilly Jim.

scullery-maid (p. 240)

Scullery maids did the dirty work of the kitchen – washing-up, preparing vegetables, etc. The scullery is the annex to the kitchen where washing-up is done.

“Chronic!” (p. 240) *

Originally an adjective applied to long-lasting diseases and the like, by late Victorian times this became an adjectival interjection of disapproval, especially an ongoing action, a continuing irritation. So the scullery-maid is rightly coupling this with “the way they go on.”

Mrs. Withers (p. 240) °

Cooks traditionally get an honorific “Mrs.” ex officio – whether married or not. The only other Witherses in the canon are Henry and Irma Withers, Americans honeymooning in London in “Diary of a War-Time Honeymoon” (1916); but there are a number of Witherspoons (genuine and otherwise!) in the later books.

raspberry (p. 240)

Putting the tongue firmly between the lips and blowing, making a rude sound. From rhyming slang “raspberry tart.”

Wodehouse seems to have been the first to use this (and the US equivalent “Bronx cheer”) to mean a refusal or dismissal. Previously it was used for the noise itself, and more generally in the theatre for the booing of a play or act.

give it … in the neck (p. 240) *

To assault or reprimand severely; OED has US slang citations beginning in 1882, and one (later) one from Wodehouse:

I mean the way something nearly always comes along to give it to you in the neck at the very moment when you’re feeling most braced about things in general.

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

Montagu Webster (p. 240)

Could his first name be an ironic reference to Romeo and Juliet?

to hand the humble suitor the mitten (p. 240) *

See The Code of the Woosters.

‘Cupid or Mammon’ (p. 240) *

Mythic personifications of Love and Wealth respectively.

Nosegay Novelette (p. 240)

A novelette is a short novel written for the popular market (as opposed to a novella, which is the same thing but with literary pretensions...). In “No Wedding Bells for Him” (1923) there is some talk of Primrose Novelettes.

obey the dictates of her own heart (p. 241) *

See Uncle Fred in the Springtime.

the stuff (p. 241) *

See Something Fishy.

Chapter 16 (pp. 242 – 256)
Webster, Friend in Need

Corresponds to Chapter 15 in the US edition.

full of optimism and cold beef (p. 242) *

Wodehouse only rarely uses this rhetorical device, called zeugma, in which two dissimilar items are treated as if they were parallel and share a common verb or prepositional phrase.

all Nature smiled (p. 242) *

See A Damsel in Distress for a literary source.

In short, as he went for his morning constitutional through the hall he felt that all nature smiled.

“The First Paying Guest” (1905)

You would have said that all Nature smiled.

“Misunderstood” (1915)

Also in Psmith, Journalist, ch. 19 (1915 book version)

Butterflies flitted to and fro; birds sang merrily. In short, all Nature smiled.

“A Woman Is Only a Woman” (1919; in The Clicking of Cuthbert, 1922))

The sun was setting and chill little winds had begun to stir the lily pads, giving a depressing air to the scene; but to Maud it seemed as if all nature smiled.

A Damsel in Distress, ch. 9 (1919)

In a word, all Nature smiled.

Bill the Conqueror, ch. 12 (1924)

It was an afternoon on which one would have said that all Nature smiled.

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

Fully as tasteless and intolerable to Monty’s mind was the way in which, on the morning following these cataclysmic events, all Nature smiled.

The Luck of the Bodkins, ch. 14 (1935)

But though all Nature smiled, there was, as I have indicated, no disposition on the part of Bertram to follow its example.

Joy in the Morning, ch. 20 (1946)

The following day dawned bright and clear. The skies were blue, the birds twittered, all Nature smiled. But Nature’s example was not followed by Lord Emsworth.

Pigs Have Wings, ch. 6 (1952)

It was a beautiful afternoon. The sky was blue, the sun yellow, butterflies flitted, birds tooted, bees buzzed and, to cut a long story short, all Nature smiled.

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

It was a lovely day of blue skies and gentle breezes. Bees buzzed, birds tootled, and squirrels bustled to and fro, getting their suntan in the bright sunshine. In a word, all Nature smiled, but not so broadly as did Chimp as he sauntered to the garage to smoke a cigarette.

Pearls, Girls and Monty Bodkin, ch. 10.2 (1972)

ragged-robins (p. 242)

A small wild flower, also known as cuckooflower or marsh-gillyflower (Lychnis floscuculi).

personal gentleman’s gentleman (p. 243) *

An elevated way of referring to a manservant or valet; perhaps deriving from the “gentlemen of the bedchamber” who were personal servants to kings. First OED citation is from Steele in 1704; the first Wodehouse usage so far found:

If he told the truth, and confessed that this was his maiden effort in the capacity of gentleman’s gentleman, what would the butler think?

Ashe Marson in Something New/Something Fresh, ch. 5 (1915)

…as for resource, I think I may say that I have usually contrived to show a certain modicum of what I might call finesse in handling those little contretemps which inevitably arise from time to time in the daily life of a gentleman’s personal gentleman.

Jeeves, narrating “Bertie Changes His Mind” (1922; in Carry On, Jeeves, 1925)

See also Very Good, Jeeves.

the cervical operation (p. 244) *

That is to say, getting it in the neck; see p. 240, above.

Lady Blanche Trefusis (p. 247)

The passionate affair between Violet Trefusis (née Keppel, 1894–1972) and Vita Sackville-West attracted scandal when they eloped to Paris in 1920, with their respective husbands in hot pursuit in a private plane. Wodehouse presumably didn’t intend the similarity of the names – if he had wanted to refer to Mrs. Trefusis, he would have covered his tracks a little better – but still, the resemblance seems too close to be a complete coincidence. Probably he had filed away the name in the back of his mind for future use when he read the newspaper stories, but later forgot where he got it from.

without a character (p. 249) *

That is, without a letter of recommendation to a future employer.

“It’s no good my making suggestions, if you have some frivolous objection to all of them.” (p. 251) *

Somewhat reminiscent (though with the roles of gentleman and servant reversed) of the dialogue between Robin Oakapple and Old Adam in W. S. Gilbert’s libretto for Ruddigore:

Old Adam: “It’s no use my making suggestions if you don’t adopt them.”

“Mr. Hignett has the mumps” (p. 254)

In the US book and magazine, this is “Mr. Hignett sprained his ankle this morning” instead.

“It’s a bird!” (p. 254)

In the sense “a first-rate thing” the OED has slang citations from the mid-nineteenth century.

Chapter 17 (pp. 257 – 312)
A Crowded Night

Corresponds to Chapter 16 of the US edition. Section 2 (the bedroom scene between Jane and Eustace) is omitted in the US edition, where Eustace has twisted his ankle, rather than contracting mumps.

story-teller … chronicles (p. 257) *

Wodehouse is adopting the pose of a historian here, as he often does in recounting tales that he intends to be taken as fact. See chronicler in the notes to Cocktail Time.

Buffalo … Schenectady (p. 258) *

Respectively the second-largest and the ninth-largest cities in the state of New York at present.

Chicago … St. Louis (p. 258) *

Respectively the third-largest and the seventh-largest cities in the United States of America at present; respectively in Illinois and Missouri.

Bennett, Mandelbaum & Co. (p. 258)

Cf. Monty Bodkin’s prospective father-in-law, whose firm is called Butterwick, Price and Mandelbaum.

the inflammable Eustace (p. 259) *

The only instance of this adjective so far found in Wodehouse, with a sense of “liable or easily attracted to fall in love.”

Nuronia (p. 259)

While the White Star Line stuck to names ending in ‘-ic’, Cunard preferred names in ‘-ia’: Lusitania, Mauretania, Carpathia, Franconia, etc. Nearest to the fictitious Nuronia is probably the first RMS Caronia, launched in 1904, refitted after war service in 1919, and used on the Atlantic route until 1932. (Caronia is a town in Southern Italy.)

made of sterner stuff (p. 260) *

A frequent Wodehouse allusion to Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar; see Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

Windlehurst (p. 260) *

The US magazine and book editions of this story call the nearby town “Windleshurst.” British place-names ending in “-hurst” often refer to a wooded hill or grove of trees.

French windows (p. 261) *

See Summer Lightning.

spell-bound (p. 262) *

Struck still, as if with a magic spell.

pas seul (p. 262)

Ballet term: a dance performed by a single dancer.

subscription ball (p. 262) *

A dancing party to which ticket were sold in advance.

dancing-pump (p. 262) *

a low-heeled formal shoe, usually of patent leather and fitted to the foot like a slipper rather than laced like a boot, worn with evening dress.

half-a-crown (p. 263) *

See Summer Lightning.

green baize door (p. 263)

The traditional separation between the public part of the house and the servants’ quarters: the green baize (the same material used to cover billiard tables) acted as sound insulation.

a time for dancing (p. 263) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

culminate in cake (p. 264) *

See Very Good, Jeeves.

terpsichorean (p. 264)

Dancing – in Greek myth, Terpsichore is the Muse of dance.

Marathon runner (p. 264) *

In ancient times, referring to Pheidippides, who according to Plutach expired after carrying the news of the Greek victory at Marathon to Athens; in modern times. referring to an Olympic event, a race inspired by his run, since the 1908 Olympics settled at 26.2 miles based on the distance from Windsor Castle to the White City stadium in London.

Issawassi River (p. 264)

Fictitious: presumably the name is inspired by the Irrawaddy, the main river of Myanmar (Burma).

The principal river of central Africa is the Congo, of course – cf. p.269 below.

an Association football (p. 265)

Association football (soccer) uses a spherical ball.

flushed beneath her tan (p. 265) *

The usual phrase in Wodehouse is “paled beneath [one’s] tan” see The Mating Season.

Othello ... Desdemona (p. 266)

Notice how, even though the roles of the sexes here are reversed compared to the situation Shakespeare describes, Jane cannot depart from Wodehouse convention by proposing to Eustace!

Wherein I spake of most disastrous chances,
Of moving accidents by flood and field,
Of hair-breadth ’scapes i’ the imminent deadly breach,
Of being taken by the insolent foe
And sold to slavery, of my redemption thence
And portance in my travel’s history;
Wherein of antres vast and desarts idle,
Rough quarries, rocks and hills whose heads touch heaven,
It was my hint to speak, such was the process;
And of the Cannibals that each other eat,
The Anthropophagi, and men whose heads
Do grow beneath their shoulders. This to hear
Would Desdemona seriously incline;
She swore, in faith, ’twas strange, ’twas passing strange,
’Twas pitiful, ’twas wondrous pitiful;
She loved me for the dangers I had passed,
And I loved her that she did pity them.

Shakespeare: Othello I:iii, 133–167
See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse for other references to this passage.

“after-taking” (p. 266) *

See The Mating Seaon.

“people’s people” (p. 267) *

Eustace is using the second “people” to refer to “family” here.

“I believe your people know my people?” said Spencer.

“The Guardian” (1908; in The Swoop and Other Stories and Tales of Wrykyn and Elsewhere)

counterpane (p. 269) *

A bedspread, quilt, or other ornamental top covering of bedclothes.

Somaliland (p. 269) *

Historically, a region in the Horn of Africa, at the time of writing a British Protectorate. At present a disputed region, considered by some to be a part of Somalia and self-declared to be an independent country.

a hunted melon (p. 269) *

A nifty verbal description, combining the swollen aspect of mumps with the persecuted feeling of one who is forced to answer Jane’s personal questions.

sorer than a sunburned neck (p. 272) *

Old Brewster’s name would come into it, and he could not disguise it from himself that his father-in-law, who liked his name in the papers as little as possible, would be sorer than a sunburned neck.

“Strange Experience of an Artist’s Model” (1921; in Indiscretions of Archie)

“And all she could think of was that she was as sore as a sunburnt neck because she had had her trip for nothing.”

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

“I venture to assert that, if you took a pin and jabbed it down anywhere in the pages of Debrett’s Peerage, you would find it piercing the name of someone who was going about the place with a conscience as tender as a sunburned neck.”

“The Smile That Wins” (1931; in Mulliner Nights, 1933)

“Well, be that as it may, Gussie said she made him sick, too, and Miss Bassett’s as sore as a sunburned neck.”

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

“I know just how you’re feeling, Clarence,” he said. “You’re as sore as a sunburned neck, and I don’t blame you.”

Galahad at Blandings, ch. 12.3 (1965)

“One can see how he would, he having a conscience as sore as a sunburned neck.”

Company for Henry, ch. 10.3 (1967)

He saw no reason to suppose that a man who had bent to his will tough eggs like Honest Jerry Judson and Tim Simms the Safe Man would be baffled by a mere girl, sore as a sunburned neck though she unquestionably was.

A Pelican at Blandings, ch. 9.1 (1969)

I had not failed to interpret the significance of that dark frown, that bitten lip and those flashing eyes, nor the way the willowy figure had quivered, indicating, unless she had caught a chill, that she was as sore as a sunburned neck.

Much Obliged, Jeeves, ch. 12 (1971)

But whereas Claude had been filled with a joy that threatened to unman him, he was as sore as a sunburned neck and as mad as a hornet.

Bachelors Anonymous, ch. 11 (1973)

“That must have made Miss Cook as sore as a sunburned neck.”

Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen, ch. 9 (1974)

peace, perfect peace... (p. 273)

Peace, perfect peace, in this dark world of sin?
The blood of Jesus whispers peace within.
Peace, perfect peace, by thronging duties pressed?
To do the will of Jesus, this is rest.
Peace, perfect peace, with sorrows surging round?
On Jesus’ bosom naught but calm is found.
Peace, perfect peace, with loved ones far away?
In Jesus’ keeping we are safe, and they.
Peace, perfect peace, our future all unknown?
Jesus we know, and he is on the throne.
Peace, perfect peace, death shadowing us and ours?
Jesus has vanquished death and all its powers.
It is enough: earth’s struggles soon shall cease,
And Jesus call us to heaven’s perfect peace.

Edward H. Bickersteth: Hymn (1875)

See also Biblia Wodehousiana.

aequam memento rebus in arduis servare mentem (p. 275)

(See Wodehouse’s translation in the text.)

Aequam memento rebus in arduis
servare mentem, non secus in bonis
ab insolenti temperatam
laetitia, moriture Delli !

Horace: Odes Bk. II, 3, ll.1-4

like myself, an expensive classical education (p. 275) *

Wodehouse greatly enjoyed his years at Dulwich College, a top-notch preparatory school in the South London suburbs, but due to reverses in his family’s finances, was unable to continue as planned to a University education at Oxford or Cambridge. He had already acquired a fine working knowledge of Latin and Greek language and literature, as demonstrated here.

come up through a trap (p. 275) *

See Bill the Conqueror.

basilisk (p. 276) *

See Ice in the Bedroom.

...some watcher of the skies (p. 277)

A new record – 277 pages without a reference to Keats’s sonnet – Uncle Fred In the Springtime, the previous record-holder, only manages 199.

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

Dempsey–Carpentier (p. 277)

A very topical reference: the American boxer Jack Dempsey fought the French Georges Carpentier on 2 July 1921 – the match was billed as “the fight of the century”, and was the first major event to be broadcast on live radio across the whole United States.

Girton (p. 277) °

Ladies’ college of Cambridge University. Founded at Hitchin in 1869, moved to a site two miles north of Cambridge in 1873. According to Norman Murphy (In Search of Blandings, 1986, Ch.17) Wodehouse’s cousin, the philosopher Dr. Helen Marion Wodehouse, was an undergraduate at Girton in 1898–1902, Professor of Education at Bristol University 1919–1931 as this book was written, and was Mistress (head) of Girton College from 1931 to 1942.

Wellington ... “When in doubt, ... retire” (p. 277)

Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington (1769–1852). I can’t find any evidence that he said this in so many words, but it certainly seems to have been the strategy that he followed when fighting numerically superior French forces in Spain.

sang-froid (p. 279) °

Nerve, calmness, presence of mind (French, literally: cold blood)

fifty miles an hour (p. 280) *

Trotting along at his ordinary pace—five miles an hour—would just suit him.

The Gold Bat, ch. 4 (1905)

“He passed me just now at eight miles an hour.”

Uneasy Money, ch. 14 (1916)

It was perfectly obvious—he was aware of this even in the novel excitement of the chase—that a chappie couldn’t hoof it at twenty-five miles an hour indefinitely along a main thoroughfare of a great city without exciting remark.

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

“You must have hit that barman pretty hard. He came out at about forty miles an hour.”

“The Return of Battling Billson” (1923; in Ukridge, 1925)

Hounds picked up the scent right away and started off in a bunch at fifty miles an hour. Cat and I doing a steady fifty-five.

“Ukridge’s Dog College” (1923; in Ukridge, 1925)

A hurrying pedestrian, bumping into him from behind, propelled him forward, and Sam, coming up at four miles an hour, bumped into him in front.

Sam the Sudden/Sam in the Suburbs, ch. 12 (1925)

The dog, knowing when he had had enough, removed himself at some forty-five m.p.h.

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

And a moment later there was a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and the relative had crossed the threshold at fifty m.p.h. under her own steam.

Right Ho, Jeeves, ch. 3 (1934)

To run Brinkley down the steps and up the drive, kicking him about every other yard, was with the fifth Baron Chuffnell the work of a moment. They passed my little clump of bushes at about forty m.p.h., and rolled away into the distance.

Thank You, Jeeves, ch. 14 (1934)

The stillness of the summer evening was shattered by a roar that sounded like boilers exploding, and Angus McAllister came out of the potting-shed at forty-five miles per hour.

“Lord Emsworth and the Girl Friend” (1928; in Blandings Castle and Elsewhere, 1935)

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

Uncle Dynamite, ch. 3.2 (1948)

He disappeared over the horizon at five m.p.h., and I stood there aghast.

The Mating Season, ch. 19 (1949)

She disappeared at some forty m.p.h., and Percy followed her retreating form with an indulgent eye.

Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, ch. 16 (1954)

Her departure — at, I should estimate, some sixty m.p.h. — left behind it the sort of quivering stillness you get during hurricane time in America, when the howling gale, having shaken you to the back teeth, passes on to tickle up residents in spots further west.

Much Obliged, Jeeves, ch. 12 (1971)

It had the effect of so startling Percy that he took to his heels and disappeared at some fifty m.p.h., while at the same time a woman came out of the house, plainly eager for explanations.

Bachelors Anonymous, ch. 9.2 (1973)

She started off at 75 m.p.h. thus:

Aunt Dahlia speaking, in Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen, ch. 11 (1974)

Muirfield, Hoylake, St. Andrew’s, Westward Ho, Hanger Hill, Mid-Surrey, Walton Heath, Sandwich (p. 282)

All celebrated golf courses: Muirfield (near Edinburgh) and St. Andrew’s Fife are two of the most famous Scottish courses.

Hoylake is in the Wirral, near Liverpool; Westward Ho! is in Devon, Sandwich is in Kent, and the other three are on the outskirts of London.

Bastille (p. 283)

Fortress in Paris, used as a prison in the 17th and 18th centuries. The storming of the Bastille on the 14th July 1789 was one of the great symbolic events of the French Revolution, although there were few if any political prisoners there at the time.

the table rocked... (p. 286)

Another record? Almost three hundred pages without the demise of any occasional china...

in his shirt-sleeves (p. 288) *

Idiomatic since the eighteenth century for not wearing a jacket or coat over one’s shirt. Mr. Mortimer is clearly wearing the entire shirt, not just the sleeves, and certainly his trousers as well. At this era, being in shirt sleeves in mixed company was very informal indeed. In Bill the Conqueror Bill goes to open the door of his flat without putting on his coat, collar, or shoes, thinking that his visitor is male, and is embarrassed to find a girl there instead; he has “orthodox views on costume” and considers himself “in the seminude” in shirt sleeves.

rented … let (p. 288) *

Wodehouse has the American Mr. Mortimer using the term “rented” and the British Mrs. Hignett saying “let”—another example of his careful attention to the transatlantic varieties of the language. The only character so far found who uses “leased” is the (presumably American) third officer of the United Fruit Line steamship Santa Barbara in The White Hope/The Coming of Bill.

“I believe I’ve caught the mumps…” (p. 289) *

The US editions omit this entire paragraph, and so avoid the need to alter this reference.

“I’m not quarrelling” (p. 289) *

Both magazine versions omit the argument about arguing.

sloped arms (p. 290) *

Placed her gun resting at an angle on her shoulder with the butt held somewhat forward.

missed a sitter (p. 291) *

That is, a stationary target, “a sitting duck.”

my position is merely that of a reporter (p. 292) *

A variant on Wodehouse’s usual self-description as a historian or chronicler.

making a noise like a piece of fluff (p. 293) *

Possibly in the midst of some Florida everglade, making a noise like a piece of meat in order to snare crocodiles.

Psmith, Journalist, ch. 8 (1909/15)

a penumbral mental condition (p. 293) *

The only prior usage of this phrase so far found is in W. O. McGeehan’s sporting column “In All Fairness” in the New York Tribune of August 16, 1920.

A Baltimore alienist advances the theory that the baseball fan is a nut and that he is suffering from a penumbral mental condition, which, perhaps, is a roundabout way of saying that there is something loose in his bean.

Wodehouse seems to be using it in the sense of semi-consciousness, just as the penumbra of a shadow or an eclipse is the partially-shaded, partly-illuminated area at the edges of the deeper central shadow.

the silence of a man who has unhitched his brain (p. 294)

See p. 157, above.

something accomplished, something done (p. 294) *

A slight misquotation from Longfellow, who wrote “attempted” here; see Right Ho, Jeeves.

cake hound (p. 294) *

See Very Good, Jeeves.

a white man (p. 297) *

Referring to purity of soul rather than to skin tone; the OED defines this sense as “a man of honourable character” but cautions that some now consider this term offensive, and it can easily be misunderstood, as Mrs. Hignett does in her next speech.

poor Eustace’s mumps (p. 298) *

The US editions have “poor Eustace’s ankle” instead.

put up a scrap (p. 298) *

That is, participate in a fight.

a chaffing auditor (p. 298) *

Probably a misprint in the UK book editions, as chaffing means amusingly bantering or teasing. US magazine and book read chafing here, meaning angered or irritated, which seems better here. Here auditor means a listener, not one who examines financial accounts.

foot on the self-starter (p. 300) *

See Bill the Conqueror.

a Galahad (p. 301) *

One of the Knights of the Round Table in the legends of King Arthur, renowned for gallantry and purity. Wodehouse wrote a lyric about “Sir Galahad” for the 1917 musical Leave It to Jane with music by Jerome Kern.

thingummy (p. 302) *

A colloquial word for an object whose actual name has been forgotten. A rare instance of it used in Wodehouse’s narration, rather than being spoken by one of the characters.

Edgar Allen Poe’s cheerful little tales (p. 302) *

Misspelled thus in US magazine and book and in UK first edition, but corrected in UK reprints to Allan. “The Premature Burial” is one of these cheerful little tales.

put the lid on it (p. 303) *

See Ukridge.

Lochinvar (p. 308) *

See Right Ho, Jeeves.

what the well-dressed man should wear (p. 308) *

This novel was written a few years before Bertie Wooster’s article for Milady’s Boudoir on “What the Well-Dressed Man Is Wearing” as told in “Clustering Round Young Bingo” (1925).

to reveal his true motive (p. 309) *

In the rush of events that have taken place this evening, the reader may forget that Sam entered the house according to Webster’s plan so that he could abduct Pinky-Boodles, later to return him to Billie to earn her gratitude. On the whole, I am just as glad that this plot thread has been dropped; indeed, the last mention of Pinky-Boodles seems to be in the beginning of Chapter 15. [NM]

Doctors’ Commons ... Court of Arches (p. 311)

Without going too far into the complexities of English canon law, Doctors’ Commons, near St. Paul’s, was the consistory court (court of first instance) for the Diocese of London, and gradually assumed the role of England’s main ecclesiastical court. Until the late 19th century, most matters relating to marriage would have been dealt with there, including the issue of special licences by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Vicar-General.

The Court of Arches acts as court of appeal for matters decided in the consistory courts.

special licence (p. 311)

This can mean two different things. In the Anglican church, a special licence may be granted by the Archbishop of Canterbury to allow a couple to marry in a church other than that of the parish where one of them lives.

A special licence from the Registrar allows a civil marriage to take place with only one day’s notice, instead of the usual three weeks.

Sam has got the two mixed up. In principle, if his home is with his father in London, they should be able to marry in the parish church there without a special licence. For a church wedding, they would need a licence from the registrar to dispense with the need for the reading of banns, however.

registrar’s (p. 311) *

See The Inimitable Jeeves.


Wodehouse’s writings are copyright © Trustees of the Wodehouse Estate in most countries;
material published prior to 1929 is in USA public domain, used here with permission of the Estate.
Our editorial commentary and other added material are copyright © 2012–2024