a 1907 serial story from the “By The Way” column of the Globe


The years 1907–1908 were a period of intense collaboration for Wodehouse and his friend, writer Herbert Westbrook. The two men, both born in 1881, had met in early 1903 and appear to have developed a fast friendship. Sometime after Wodehouse had been appointed editor of the Globe’s “By The Way” humor column in August 1904, he brought Westbrook on staff as junior editor, charged with assisting in the daily preparation of the column and writing paragraphs and perhaps an occasional verse. In October 1907, Not George Washington, Wodehouse’s partly autobiographical novel of his early free-lance days, was published with the two sharing authorship credit. Literary evidence strongly suggests that Westbrook did most of the writing, with Plum’s contributions limited to “color” related to James Cloyster’s job as a newspaperman and writer. (Wodehouse, as always, was writing at an incredible pace on his own. He published his fifth school novel, The White Feather, that month as well.)

In November, the pair’s short-lived play The Bandit’s Daughter was produced at the venerable Bedford Music Hall in northwest London to (in Wodehouse’s words) “a frost.” In June 1908, they produced The Globe By The Way Book—A Literary Quick-Lunch for People Who Have Got Only Five Minutes to Spare, a compendium of illustrated humorous topical features designed as an impulse buy for the railway book trade.

That Westbrook and Wodehouse also collaborated on For Love or Honour is apparent through an examination of the text, which contains not just numerous examples of Wodehouse’s known stylistic traits, but starkly un-Wodehousean elements as well—which, by default, are likely Westbrook’s. And, it only makes sense that given the serial’s “round robin” quality—the two may have taken turns writing chapters—that, rather than the polished, congruent product one would expect from the hand of Wodehouse, it’s a rather ragged episodic series of improvised “knockabout” scenes written off-the-cuff with little regard to plot or posterity.

For Love or Honour is a silly yet darkly humorous absurdist fantasy that melds and parodies elements of crime stories, adventure tales, and theatrical melodrama. At times it veers beyond the merely sensational into the purely bizarre. Laden with now-obscure social and cultural undercurrents, the various satires, ironies, and bits of contemporary humor that make up the story can be best understood in the context of the life and times of Edwardian England. The 1907 reader would have recognized that the authors set the characters’ residences and actions in the unlikeliest of places. The incongruity of an earl moving about a rough part of London’s East End known mainly for street crime and opium dens and dining on jellied eels with the lower dregs of society was surely a guffaw-inducing one for the readers of “By The Way.” The tale is full of such topical jokes and allusions, many of which have been footnoted here in order to bring them to life lo these 113 years later.

Wodehouse wrote of theatrical melodrama with knowledge and affection many times in The Globe’s “Notes of the Day” column and in “By The Way.” He first parodied the melodrama-cum-adventure genre in a December 1902 article for The Echo called “A Drama of Tomorrow.” In “A Novelist’s Day” (Punch, May 1906) he creates the fictional author “William le Curdler” (a thriller story was called a “blood-curdler”), whose name also echoes that of adventure-mystery writer William Le Queux. The fictive author of For Love or Honour is “E. Oppenheim le Curdler,” a nod to the prolific novelist and thriller-writer E. Phillips Oppenheim, who published The Secret in March 1907, a tale of “state secrets, mad adventures in a London hotel,” containing “thrilling incidents involving questions of life and death.” In October, a reviewer said of his newest book Conspirators: “a master of the sensational, a tale of mystery, crime and love triumphant [with an] intricate plot treated with consummate skill and [possessing] breathless interest.” Wodehouse admired Oppenheim’s ability to generate plots and sell books, and the two became friends and golfing partners in the early 1930s. Wodehouse dedicated the 1930 first British edition of Very Good, Jeeves to Oppenheim.

The apotheosis in the world of Wodehouse melodrama is “Women, Wine and Song!” which appeared, also in serial format, in The Globe By The Way Book. In that madcap fantasy, Wodehouse (with perhaps a wacky plot development or two from Westbrook) gives his readers a thoroughly delightful excursion into his young comic mind, and it is some of the most unusual writing he ever published. For Love or Honour can be regarded as a sort of preliminary effort for that story.

Readers should keep in mind that For Love or Honour was intended as nothing more than a disposable daily chuckle for regular readers of “By The Way,” and it’s highly doubtful that Wodehouse would ever have allowed it to appear in its present form under his name. He would have made it much better. Yet, as For Love or Honour takes its rightful place in the Wodehouse canon, we now have another marvelous, early example of his invention and comic sensibilities: signs of his handiwork are evident throughout. Delightfully, Wodehouse and Westbrook set the story in the London they knew and traversed every day. Their fantastic characters take us to real locations Wodehouse knew well, including his own Walpole Street apartment; the protagonists include his real-life friend Bill Townend and Westbrook himself as well.

Through the courtesy of the Wodehouse Estate and our friends at Madame Eulalie, the P.G.W. Globe Reclamation Project is honored to present this entirely new and unique look into the young comic mind of The Master.





By E. Oppenheim le Curdler.

Chapter I.—A Scream in the Night.

London! London by night! A July night. The snow had ceased to fall, and the stars shone out brightly as Rupert Trevelyan strolled back from the club to his Albany chambers. His heart was light. Had not Madeline Molyneux, the only and lovely daughter of the white-haired Earl of Pawtucket, promised that very day to be his? “Banzai!” said Rupert, as he turned the key. As he did so a wild scream rent the night, and almost simultaneously a thin stream of blood meandered underneath the door. He went in. Blood! Blood everywhere! Blood on the floor! Blood on the table! Blood on the what-not! Blood on the richly-framed picture postcards of actresses! Blood! “Tchah!” muttered Rupert, “If Perkins must shave himself, he must buy one of those safety razors. I shall speak to him about it in the morning.” And lighting a cigarette, he sat down, and thought no more of it.

(To be continued to-morrow).




By E. Oppenheim le Curdler.
Chapter 2.—The Secret Messenger.

At the moment when the shriek of agony rang through the marble halls of the Albany, the Earl of Pawtucket was taking his customary constitutional in the Mile End-road. Just as he was about to enter the celebrated restaurant at which his lordship every day when in town partook of his frugal repast of jellied eels and cream soda, a small boy looked steadfastly in his face and distinctly ejaculated, “What ho!” “Ghee-whiz!” replied the Earl, whose mother was a Cudjo of South Carolina, and who therefore understood the pass-words of the mysterious Obeah. “Toodle-oo!” said the young emissary, still wishing to secure himself against the possibility of a mistake. “Pip, pip,” whispered Pawtucket. Slipping a small package into his hand, the youngster sped away and was lost in the crowd.

(To be continued to-morrow.)




By E. Oppenheim le Curdler.
Chapter 3.—The Corpse in the Coal-Scuttle.

Rupert sat on in his chair smoking. At length he noticed that the fire was getting low. He opened the coal-scuttle, and whistled in a puzzled way. Stretched at full length inside it was a tall, burly man in a reach-me-down suit of dittoes with a dagger through the breast-pocket. Blood was streaming from the wound. Most of the coals were spoilt, and the rich enamel of the scuttle was stained, probably beyond repair. Rupert rang the bell sharply. Perkins, his valet, appeared. “Perkins,” said Rupert with a touch of impatience in his voice, “did you leave this here?” “No, sir,” said Perkins respectfully. “How did it get here, then? Was it in the scuttle when you filled it this morning?” “No, sir. I remember noticing particularly.” There was a pause. “If you will excuse me making a suggestion, sir,” said Perkins, “how would it be to carry it out into Piccadilly, and leave it there? Then you’d ’ave no more bother, sir.” “Excellent, Perkins. You take the head.” They had just crossed the room, carrying the corpse, when there was a sharp knock at the door.

(To be continued to-morrow.)




By E. Oppenheim le Curdler.
Chapter 4.—In a Clapham Criminals’ Den.

Night had fallen on Clapham. (This was about the time when night had fallen on the other parts of London, to which we have referred in previous chapters.) “Blinky Bill” Townend, the head of the notorious band of Apaches, known as the Clapham Reds, let himself into his underground den in the Old Town. Ostensibly an artist, Bill was in reality one of the most dangerous criminals in this modern Babylon. He painted better than he drew. He burgled better than he painted. He murdered better than he burgled. He was one of Nature’s Hot Potatoes. The police had long suspected him, but lacked proof. The Pickersgill atrocities showed evident signs of his master-hand. The Bickersdyke Thugging case was obviously his work. The burglary at Sir Michael Temple’s could have been the act of no other. He was Hot Stuff straight from the old original manufactory. A telegram was lying on the table by the stuffed policeman in the corner. He opened it with a vile oath (an oath which would have opened a tin of sardines). “Toodle-oo” (it ran), “game afoot and bus in full swing, but where are you? Call to-morrow.—Pawtucket.”

(To be continued to-morrow.)




By E. Oppenheim le Curdler.
Chapter 5.—A Procession in Piccadilly.

Bill Townend instantly took down Vol. VII. of the Criminal Code from the well-furnished shelves of his library and proceeded to unravel the cypher. As he had half suspected, it was an order from Pawtucket to see to the disposition of one of his numerous victims, and indicated Rupert’s chambers as the place in which the body would be found. Disguising himself as a policeman—his usual practice when on the job—Blinky Bill took a motor ’bus to the Albany, and arrived just too late to secure the corpse, but in time to see the arrangements made by the innocent Rupert for disposing of it. Then was seen a procession of a kind rarely witnessed in a main London street. In front walked Rupert and Perkins, bearing the still bleeding corpse. Next came Madeleine, whose unerring instinct had drawn her to her lover’s side, and whose exquisite picture hat attracted more attention than anything else in the procession. At the rear came Pawtucket himself, on a pair of stilts, so as to lose no details of the scene. Then a strange thing happened.

(To be continued to-morrow.)




By E. Oppenheim le Curdler.
Chapter 6.—Rupert in Peril.

Scarcely had the procession reached Park-lane, when Pawtucket, raising one leg in the air, and pointing with his stilt at Rupert, cried, in a voice of thunder, “Constable, arrest that man!” Blinky Bill instantly turned, and secured Rupert with a dexterous half-Nelson. “Here, what have I done?” asked our hero, querulously. “Murder most foul!” said his lordship. “Father!” shrieked Madeleine, “it cannot be true! Rupert, I will never leave you.” “Unhand her, sir,” said Pawtucket, with a dignity which sat well on his white hairs. “The whole thing’s off. Constable, remove your prisoner.” “The Walpole-street Lethal Chamber?” inquired Blinky Bill. “The same,” said the Earl. And, leading Madeleine by the hand, he left the scene. Blinky Bill hurried on with his prisoner. As they reached the Brompton-road, a masked curate suddenly emerged from Ovington-gardens.

(To be continued on Monday.)




By E. Oppenheim le Curdler.
Chapter 7.—The Masked Curate.

Neither Rupert nor his captor paid any attention to the newcomer. In London the sight of a curate in an inky mask is no novelty. The population of London is reputed to be about five millions. Practically it is ten millions, for every single man leads a double life. Most fashionable West-end clergymen are Thugs in their off-hours. Vicars are vicious. Bishops drink blood. Archbishops assassinate. Rupert and Townend merely thought that this particular curate was on some burgling expedition, and were passing him without a glance, when he moved swiftly to Rupert’s side, and, unseen by Blinky Bill, thrust a small piece of paper into his hand. This done, he glided away into the night. “Come up!” said Blinky Bill to Rupert, and they moved off. Passing through Ovington-gardens, Lennox-gardens, and the King’s-road, they reached Walpole-street. Blinky Bill laughed a fiendish laugh, and tightened his grasp on his captive’s thorax.

(To be continued to-morrow.)




By E. Oppenheim le Curdler.
Chapter 8.—The Mecca of Crime.

Walpole-street, Chelsea, is apparently a respectable thoroughfare. The majority of the denizens, indeed, reach a very high standard of respectability. But the whole average of the place is spoiled by Herbert Wottonbrook, who lives at the Burton Court end of the street. As Blinky Bill Townend is to the ordinary decent citizen, so is Herbert Wottonbrook to Blinky Bill. The idea of converting his sitting-room into a lethal chamber, which should act as a sort of clearing-house for murderers’ victims, was one of the smallest of his schemes. It was to this clearing-house that Blinky Bill was now urging his unwilling captive. He paused outside the darkened house, and whistled a low, penetrating whistle. From inside the house came a corresponding whistle, while simultaneously a furious barking from the basement showed that the bloodhound was on the alert. The front door swung open noiselessly.

(To be continued to-morrow.)




By E. Oppenheim le Curdler.
Chapter 9.—In Madeleine’s Boudoir.

With despair at her heart, Madeleine had witnessed the abduction of her lover. Bounding in a series of long and sinuous leaps to the family mansion in Ridgmont-gardens, she burst open the door of her boudoir. “Oh! Rupe, Rupe!” she moaned in agony of soul, “Thou wast the only pebble on my beach. Thou wast my peach, my cinch, my all.” At this moment Adelgetha, her maid, entered with the petite verre of mingled chartreuse and curaçoa, Madeleine’s invariable restorative. “Onions, miserable woman, onions,” wailed Madeleine, as she tore handfulls out of Adelgetha’s hair, “spring onions. How do you suppose I am going to cry properly without them?” As she spoke there was a tap at the door, a tap insistent, interrogative, and yet impressive. “Crikey,” whispered Adelgetha, “it’s ’im,” and she flung herself under the sofa as a round bullet head, fringed with scarlet hair, protruded itself through the doorway.

(To be continued to-morrow.)




By E. Oppenheim le Curdler.
Chapter 10.—The Lethal Chamber.

“All friends here and the password’s Portland,” muttered Blinky Bill. From the darkness beyond the door came the answer “Portland.” The two passed in. On the right of the hall was a massive, iron-studded door, with a placard over it on which was written in electric-light letters the words, “Lethal Chamber. Open day and night.” Blinky Bill took a master key from his pocket, and opened the door. Rupert’s heart stood still. It was the only part of him, however, which did; for, urged by a strong shove, he staggered against the opposite wall. Turning, he dashed back, but he was too late. As he reached the door, it slammed, and a clanking of bolts and bars told him that he was locked in. A fiendish chuckle filtered through the keyhole. At the same time a faint odour assailed his nostrils. They were turning on the gas.

(To be continued to-morrow.)




By E. Oppenheim le Curdler.
Chapter 11.—Rupert’s Predicament.

He was alone in the Lethal Chamber, and they had turned on the gas! Taking a match from his pocket, he lit the gas, and proceeded to examine his surroundings. It was a large room, plainly furnished with a wooden chair and two bleaching skeletons. There seemed to be no Emergency Exit. “Awkward in case of fire,” thought Rupert; and suddenly remembered the note which the masked curate had handed him in Ovington-gardens. He opened it, and read it by the now bright light of the gas. It was short but to the point. Rupert could not resist an exclamation of surprise as he read. It was written (naturally, perhaps) in a clerical hand. This was it. “Dear Sir,—”

(To be continued to-morrow.)




By E. Oppenheim le Curdler.
Chapter 12.—The Escape.

“Dear Sir,” ran the note, “I trust you will pardon my presumption in writing to you, but it occurs to me that you might like to know that a sharp pressure on the third knot in the lower wainscot of the Lethal Chamber (counting from the window) opens a secret door.”—Yours faithfully, a well-wisher who has been there.” Rupert uttered a cry of joy. To find the knot and press it was with him the work of a moment. A dark cavity appeared before his eyes. He crawled through and found himself in what appeared to be a back yard. As he paused, drinking in the night air, a hoarse baying roused him to action once more. Blinky Bill had let loose the gorgonzola!

(To be continued on Monday.)




By E. Oppenheim le Curdler.
Chapter 13.—The Pursuit.

Rupert thought with the speed of despair. To make a thorough examination of his surroundings was with him (as were most things) the work of a moment. He saw that there was but one road to safety. He must spring into the air, and, when five feet from the ground, swerve in from the off and take the middle stump of a tree that grew somewhere about half-way between the offing and the welkin. Swinging himself up by this, he must then turn a double back-somersault over the wire netting, leap the Virginia creeper, dodge the water-pipe, and clamber down the ivy of the adjoining wall. This done, he would be in the street. By a fortunate chance, Rupert had happened that very morning to pick up and skim through a shilling book called “Every Man His Own Acrobat,” in which a precisely similar feat was described with diagrams. He hesitated no longer. To leap from point A to point B, through dotted line C, was with him the work of a moment. A savage snarling showed him that he was only just in time. As he reached the street a side-door was flung open, and a hoarse cry rent the air.

(To be continued to-morrow.)




By E. Oppenheim le Curdler.
Chapter 14.—The Spider’s Web.

But let us leave those paltry villainies, and turn to the home of Crime. We refer to the abode of Mr. “John Brown.” The person whose identity this apparently honest name concealed, lived in a seemingly respectable house off Regent’s Park. But No. 1a, Lillington-street, had ruined more lives than any other double-fronted villa (garden back and front, of which more anon) is strictly entitled to do. For Mr. “John Brown” was accommodating. He lent you money. As much of it as you wanted. No unpleasant enquiries. No references. A mere scribble with the pen—a note of hand—and you had your fifty (or fifty thousand). But—but you were henceforth in the Web of the Spider. How well Society knew this! How well Pawtucket knew it! He is desperate at this moment, and is striding to the Web, with a strange, crafty glint in his bloodshot eye.

(To be continued to-morrow.)




By E. Oppenheim le Curdler.
Chapter 15.—Pawtucket’s Proposal.

Pawtucket was ushered into a plainly furnished room, in the middle of which was a sort of conning tower; and in this conning tower sat the repulsive form of Mr. “John Brown.” The unscrupulous usurer had adopted this method of receiving his clients after having been nearly kicked to death by a vicious viscount. The contrivance was armour-plated, and fitted with a small window of incredibly thick glass, a speaking-tube allowing the bloodsucker to communicate with his victim outside. The thing was new to Pawtucket. With a gesture of irritation, he threw down his revolver, bowie-knife and lady’s tormentor. He gnashed his teeth at the hideous face behind the glass, and screamed “Foiled! and I hope I’ve broken the drum of your ear” through the resounding tube. Mr. “John Brown’s” silky voice was full of concentrated passion as he rubbed his ear and said, “Pawtucket, you shall pay for this. Where is the fifteen shillings you borrowed last Friday? What about the mortgage on the Grange? The interest on—” “Stop!” said Pawtucket, “why not marry my daughter and call it quits.” Without a word Mr. “John Brown” crawled out of his retreat.

(To be continued to-morrow.)




By E. Oppenheim Le Curdler.
Chapter 16.—“Where is my Daughter?”

With Mr. “John Brown’s” words ringing pleasantly in his ears (“Marry me to Made­leine and I’ll burn your I O U’s and post-dated cheques,” was what the amorous, but rascally, financier had said) Pawtucket began feverishly to search the fashionable resorts of the Smart Set for his beautiful daughter. At the Burlington Arcade a smiling flâneur told him she had passed through that social hub, and had flitted into Piccadilly. “Try Lockhart’s, Tuckie,” drawled his informant. Too late. She has just finished one of those delicate luncheons which the cuisine of the establishment can alone attempt. Pocketing a sausage, the eager earl flew on. From one stately London mansion to another he sped. At last he was successful. Madeleine was at Claude Boston’s Radium Party. The Bachelors’ Club having been found too small for the entertainment, the Green Park (carefully protected from the rain by a roof awning) had been specially hired as a convenient annexe. And there, under a showy tropical tree, Gunters’ bonus in consideration of the gigantic supper, sat Madeleine, refusing offers of marriage at the rate of two a minute.

(To be continued to-morrow.)




By E. Oppenheim Le Curdler.
Chapter 17.—Madeleine Defies her Pa.

Pawtucket experienced a passing pang as he gazed upon the unspoilt ingénue. But he remembered that his I O U’s were in the grip of Mr. “John Brown,” and his mouth tightened. With a face like a fire-brick, he shouldered his way to his daughter’s side. “Her father!” were the whispers which were yelled from one gilded suitor to another. Savagely tearing up the pitch, the disappointed lordlings withdrew. Madeleine was alone with her father. “Have you ever considered the question of your marriage, my dear?” he enquired. “Yes,” she answered, “I have.” She had, that night, already lost count of the number of men she had refused. “I am glad,” went on Pawtucket, “I have found you the ideal husband.” “Rupert!” she cried, “Ah, father, say ’tis he!” “No,” said Pawtucket, “Mr. ‘John Brown.’ ” Madeleine drew herself up. She carried a portable trapeze for this purpose. Then she said, passionately, “Never!”

(To be concluded to-morrow.)



By E. Oppenheim Le Curdler.
Chapter 18.—Conclusion.

Little more remains to be added. Blinky Bill never recovered from the shock of having his Academy picture rejected. Wottonbrook went completely to the bad, and now writes humorous paragraphs for an evening paper. The Earl of Pawtucket, whose brain had long been on the wobble, went raving mad one fine spring morning, and is now one of the show inmates of Hanwell. He spends his time writing last lines in Limerick competitions in weekly papers. Mr. “John Brown” does the same. His vast fortune has long since been dissipated in enclosing sixpenny postal orders. And what of Rupert and Madeleine? In a rose-covered cottage on the banks of the River Lea this happy pair may now be seen (on presentation of a visiting-card). The storm of their life is over. Now they are wallowing in the sunshine. And, as Madeleine smacks little Herbert or detaches Willie from his small sister’s back-hair, while Rupert, in his shirt-sleeves, tends the Virginia creeper or goes round to borrow his neighbour’s garden-roller, do they, we wonder, ever think of that awful night when Fate, in a voice of thunder, bade them choose between



Editors’ notes:


Feuilleton (Fr. feuillet, “little leaf”) is a term first used in French journalism in the 1830s to describe a section at the bottom part of a page devoted to light literature and criticism. By 1907 the term was seldom seen, and its use here is seen as at once quaint, arty, and faux-pretentious.

Rupert Trevelyan—Our hero, and possessor of a favorite Wodehouse surname for that class of character. See “Our Boys Again” and “Our Boys—III” in Punch, “The Gold Bat” in The Captain, and “A Drama of Tomorrow” in the London Echo.

Albany was (and is) an elegant 18th-century building in Piccadilly, built as apartment suites for single men. Lord Byron lived there in 1814, and Wodehouse later made it the home of the silly ass Freddie Rooke in The Little Warrior (1920).

Madeleine Molyneux—Our heroine. Her surname is of ancient and venerable Anglo-Norman origin, dating to the days of William the Conqueror.

The Earl of Pawtucket was a comedy by American playwright Augustus Thomas, produced by and starring the eminent English actor Cyril Maude as Lord Cardington (the Earl of Pawtucket). It opened to fine reviews on June 26, 1907, at the Playhouse in London. Why the name was chosen for For Love or Honour is a mystery. Wodehouse loved obscure American place names and he liked to publicize theatrical personalities he knew. He mentioned Maude fairly often in “By The Way” and “Notes of the Day,” but they never collaborated and there is no record of them ever having met. The show was a daily advertiser in The Globe—perhaps the authors simply saw the name, liked it, and decided to transport the character to their farcical feuilleton. At right: Miss Alexandra Carlisle and Mr. Cyril Maude in The Earl of Pawtucket at The Playhouse.

Banzai! is the Japanese battle cry, first appearing around the time of the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905). Its use here seems rather unexpected and out of place, but Wodehouse also used it in July 1907 in his serial novel “Jackson Junior” for The Captain.

Richly-framed picture postcards of actresses—British schoolboys collected photographs of their favorite actresses. In The Gold Bat from 1904, one such fellow has nineteen photographs of one actress, and Wodehouse himself indulged—his Dulwich scrapbook contained several photos of the lovely Gaiety Girl Ethel Haydon [right].

Tchah! an 1870s Dickensian interjection used to express annoyance or disgust; later used by B. Wooster and others.

King C. Gillette’s disposable-blade safety razor was patented in 1904.



Constitutional—a walk or mild exercise for the benefit of one’s health

Mile End-road, north of Whitechapel, was one of the more important roads in the squalid East End.

What ho! is a British exclamation from the 1860s used as a greeting or to call attention to something.

Ghee-whiz! “Gee whiz!” is American slang from the 1880s, an interjection usually signifying surprise or wonder. This inexplicable variant seems original, no other examples of it having been found.

Cudjo of South Carolina—Captain Cudjoe (c. 1680–1744) was a leader of African refugees in Jamaica, and “cudjo” became a term for persons of Jamaican and African ancestry. Its relevance, if any, is, is a mystery. An unusual, seemingly pointless reference for a Wodehouse production, and Westbrook’s hand is suspected.

Obeah is a term used in the West Indies to refer to folk magic, sorcery, and religious practices derived from West Africa. It is associated with magic, charms, and mysticism. The practice of Obeah in America had been in the news, and the writers of “By The Way” mentioned it a few times in the column.

Toodle-oo—The cockney version of the French “à tout à l’heure,” an expression of farewell, came into use about 1900. “Mr. G. R. Sims comments on the fact that several couples at parting say ‘Well, toodle-oo,’ instead of the usual ‘Good-bye,’ or the American parting salutation, ‘So long.’ ” (Yorkshire Evening Post, May 20, 1901)

Pip, pip is used to say farewell. It is thought to denote the sound of early car horns, and became part of the British vernacular through its use by the knuts of the late Victorian era.



Coal-scuttle—a bucket-like container for holding a small, intermediate supply of coal convenient to an indoor coal-fired stove or fireplace. Only in the vivid imagination of the storytellers could a body fit into one.

Reach-me-downs were ready-made clothes, bought at cheap shops where suits hung from the racks; the shopman would “reach up” to get a suit down; dittoes are suits of men’s clothes with coat, vest and trousers of an identical color and fabric. Also called a “sack suit,” the ensemble became the standard suit of clothes for men from about 1855.



Clapham—Throughout the 18th and early 19th century the Clapham district was favoured by the wealthy, who built large and gracious houses and villas around Clapham Common and in the Old Town. By 1907, the district had become populated by the lower-middle classes, such as shop assistants, bank clerks and, in 1910, the Socialist Mr. Waller, head cashier of the New Asiatic Bank in Psmith in the City.

“Blinky Bill” Townend—The Belle of New York was an American musical comedy by Hugh Morton and Gustave Kerker. Transported to London in April 1898, it became a huge success. One of its popular characters was “Blinky Bill” McGuirk, a disreputable American pugilist. Thereafter, the sobriquet “Blinky Bill” came into general use to describe a type of low-class criminal. In “The Polite Pilferer” (Punch, September 28, 1904) a Wodehouse burglar refers to a professional rival as “Blinky Bill” Smith. Bill Townend (1881–1962), an artist and writer, was a lifelong friend of Wodehouse’s from his Dulwich days, and occasionally filled in for him at the Globe. For complete information on Townend and Wodehouse, see N. T. P. Murphy’s A Wodehouse Handbook, Vol. 1, pp 367–374.

Apache (ə päsh′)—A Parisian gangster, hooligan or ruffian; the term was first used in the mid-eighteenth century.

Clapham Reds—Socialists were often referred to as “Reds,” from their use of the red flag, a symbol of socialism or communism since the French Revolution. The joke is the incongruity of a chapter of Radical socialists meeting in the respectable Clapham district.

Nature’s Hot Potatoes—“hot potato,” a term first used in the 1830s, is a controversial issue or situation that is awkward or unpleasant to deal with. The capitalization, although a device not exclusive to Wodehouse, was to become one of his trademarks.

Pickersgill atrocities—Edward Pickersgill was an English Liberal Party politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1885 to 1911. He was regarded as being on the Radical wing of the Liberal Party. There were no real “atrocities” related to him; the use here suggests a typical lampooning of Radical politicians by The Globe, and “atrocities” may be a sly allusion to his political positions. Of course, Wodehouse couldn’t resist a name like Pickersgill. 

Bickersdyke Thugging—Bickersdyke is an uncommon British surname, and I suspect Wodehouse simply liked the sound of it. There is no reference in British newspapers of the day to anyone so-named. It reappears in Psmith in the City in 1910.

Sir Michael Temple—Apparently fictitious.

Game afoot—From Shakespeare’s King Henry V: “Before the game is afoot, thou still let’st slip.” Popularized by Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, first in “The Adventure of the Abbey Grange” in 1904. Bus in full swing probably means business (bus.) well underway, with the period lost in typesetting.



Criminal Code—A lovely pun with a possible secondary meaning. The telegram Blinky Bill opens is written in cypher, or code; thus, to unravel the code, he takes down a volume of the “Criminal Code” itself. What could be more natural in this silly story? (To make matters more interesting, England has never had a national criminal code, or codification of criminal law; Blinky Bill has pulled down a volume that English readers would know did not exist.)

Picture hat—A large, broad-brimmed hat, usually rather elaborately trimmed in feathers, flowers, or the like. The term is said to have come from the way the hat frames the face, like a round picture frame, and stems from their depiction in the paintings of Gainsborough and others. The picture hat had a revival in the early Edwardian era, and was the subject of much consternation among theatre-goers, who complained that the hats obstructed their view. “By The Way” commented: “One can always prevent women standing up in a crowd by shouting ‘Will the pretty young lady in front please sit down?’” (January 12, 1905). At right: Gaiety Girl Camille Clifford in a picture hat.

Stilts—Upright poles with supports for the feet enabling the user to walk at a distance above the ground. They were (and are) popularly used in parades and circuses and were quite popular in the 1870s. Their introduction and fantastical use here is dreamlike.



Park-lane—A major road in Mayfair overlooking the eastern side of Hyde Park, Park Lane has been a fashionable residential address, lined with mansions of the wealthy, from the eighteenth century onwards.

Half-Nelson—The half nelson wrestling hold is done by passing a hand under the arm of the opponent and locking the hand at the opponent’s neck.

Murder most foulHamlet: “Murder most foul, as in the best it is, But this most foul, strange, and unnatural.”

Walpole-street—a residential street off of King’s Road in Chelsea. Wodehouse’s letters of the time place him living at No. 23 Walpole in late 1902 to early 1903, but there are other letters that show him at No. 22 Walpole both before and after 1903. Biographer David Jasen states Wodehouse occupied a “top-floor sitting room.”

Lethal chamber—a room or enclosure where animals such as stray dogs were killed by exposure to poison gas.

Brompton-road is a street in Knightsbridge, London, in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. [Map] It runs south-west through a wealthy residential area.

Ovington-gardens, just south of Brompton Road [Map], was a fashionable residential area, in Wodehouse’s time home to Sir Wilfrid Lawson, the Countess of Guildford, and the Marchioness of Anglesby. Just to the south lies Ovington Square, then the home of Wodehouse’s friend Isobel Hester Bowes-Lyon and her three daughters, whom Wodehouse knew well and visited often.



Lennox-gardens is a luxury residential area just northeast of Ovington Gardens.

King’s-road is a 3-mile-long street extending through Chelsea west London, with Sloane Square to the east.

Thorax—the chest.



Herbert Wottonbrook—a play on Herbert Wotton Westbrook (1881–1959), Wodehouse’s friend and collaborator on For Love or Honour. For a full description of Westbrook and Wodehouse, see Murphy’s A Wodehouse Handbook, Vol. 1.

Burton Court is a park in Chelsea south of King’s Road. One of the roads coming in from the north of Burton Court is Walpole Street, where Wodehouse lived.



Ridgmount-gardens, on the west side of Bloomsbury, is one of London’s premier blocks of Victorian mansions; but, as it wasn’t constructed until about 1870, it could hardly have been Madeleine’s ancestral home.

Adelgetha—a girls’ name in use in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, hopelessly old-fashioned in 1907.

Petite verre—commonly petit verre, a delicate, transparent water or wine glass; Chartreuse is a yellow-green French liqueur; Curaçao is citrus-flavored liqueur from the Caribbean island of the same name.

Spring onions—possibly a reference to “The Thames Police Court poet” known as “Spring Onions” (W. G. Waters), for many years a vagrant minstrel of London. Wodehouse quoted a few of his charming poems in “By The Way.”

Crikey—a British exclamation of surprise, amazement, or dismay, in use since around 1830.



Portland—Refers to Portland Prison in Dorset. Wodehouse also used it as a password in his June 1905 cricket story for Grand Magazine, “Tom, Dick and Harry.”

Following the tenth episode of For Love or Honour on July 18, 1907, the authors, as they often did in “By The Way,” asked for reader suggestions—in this case, their own endings for the story. Unfortunately, none of the reader responses were ever printed or mentioned again.

Pourparlers having been exchanged between Mr. Le Curdler and ourselves as to the issue of our feuilleton, we have the great novelist’s permission to ask our readers whether they prefer that Love or Honour should be ultimately victorious. He informs us that he has in prospect alternative endings, each of which is the most powerful he has ever conceived. We shall be glad of our readers’ views on this vital point.

Pourparlers—French from about 1795, a discussion preliminary to negotiations.



Bleaching skeletons—refers to animal bone remains, esp. those left out in the open.



Wainscot—the wooden paneling of the lower part of an interior wall

The Gorgonzola appears to be some kind of baying beast, which might relate it to Medusa, the gorgon, or monster, of Greek mythology, in a bit of cheesy wordplay. Or, it could be a tribute to the mold-veined Italian cheese of the same name which, like some foreign cheeses, were viewed with suspicion; some of them, according to British comics, were “so fierce (odiferous) they had to be chained up.” Or, it could simply be that Wodehouse loved the sound and look of the word, as he did so many other funny-sounding names and places. Perhaps he had another mythical beast, the gazeka, in mind as he created the Gorgonzola. His later uses of the term included its application to certain newt-fanciers: “Spink-Bottle, you ghastly goggle-eyed piece of gorgonzola,” and it’s doubtful anyone else but Wodehouse could have coined the term “Gorgonzolaesque” as he did in 1910’s Psmith in the City.



Swerve in from the off and take the middle stump: the movement of a cricket bowler’s trick ball; of a tree that grew somewhere about half-way between the offing (a short distance away but within view) and the welkin (the poetic sky). The image is of a cartoonish, impossible feat of athleticism.



Regent’s Park—one of the Royal Parks of London, covering 410 acres in northwest London, partly in the City of Westminster, has always been upper-class and respectable.

Lillington-street—To place the scruffy, down-market Lillington Street (actually in Pimlico in Westminster) in Regent’s Park is another wild geographical incongruity from the authors.



Conning tower—A raised observation platform on a ship or submarine, used here to indicate an elevated, protected structure from which one could observe.

Lady’s tormentor—a tube used for the purpose of squirting water or other fluid in the faces or on the person of inoffensive passers-by, esp. at holiday times. Their sale began to be restricted around 1894. From the Sheffield Daily Telegraph, May 28, 1901: “that nauseous instrument of torture, the penny squirt, which is known to ’Arry and ’Arriet by the name of ‘lady’s tormentor,’ is forbidden, under threat of prosecution.” By 1907 they were all but obsolete.

Foiled!—the bitter ejaculation of a defeated villain, esp. in melodrama. Often seen as “Curses, foiled again!”

Grange—an English country house, usually with its own estate, synonymous with “the Hall” or “the Manor.”



Smart Set—Fashionable, rich, and often artistic or well-educated high society; the term came into use around 1885. Anecdotes of the “decadent” Smart Set were a regular feature of “By The Way.”

Burlington Arcade—a covered shopping arcade opened in 1819, it runs parallel to Bond Street from Piccadilly to Burlington Gardens.

Flâneur—A literary type from 19th century France; associated with the man of leisure, the idler, the urban explorer, the connoisseur of the street; a saunterer.

Lockhart’s—“Cocoa rooms, and especially Lockhart’s cocoa rooms, have been an important factor in the life of the people. Lockhart’s are the best and most numerous.” (Life and Labour of the People of London, 1902). In fact, Lockhart’s was notorious as the cheapest café chain in London. Comedians always got a laugh when they spoke of “a big night out at Lockhart’s.”

Claude Boston appears to be a fictional name, but “Radium Parties” were popular with the Smart Set after the discovery of radium in 1898. They featured parlour games with iridescent favours coated with phosphorous and other “glow-in-the-dark” pastimes. A favourite game was to print the word “radium” on sheets of paper and hide them; during the hunt, those who “discovered radium” were awarded with prizes.

The Bachelors’ Club, at the west end of Piccadilly, was a gentlemen’s club in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Membership was only open to bachelors. It was considered the club for London’s young men and had a reputation for the high-spirited antics which often ensued on the premises. It has been cited (along with Buck’s Club) as an inspiration for Wodehouse’s Drones Club; in fact, several characters in his early stories refer to it. A 1904 account of a Radium Party: “We have no doubt that the ‘Radium Party’ at the Bachelor’s Club the other day was a very attractive affair. Concerning the pretty feathered boas and the big plumed hats and the sable coats of the lady visitors, there is an abundance of information, but of radium itself—hardly a syllable.” (The Outlook, January 30, 1904)

Green Park—47 acres in central London, between Hyde Park and St. James’s Park, landscaped in 1820.

Gunters’ bonus—Gunter’s in Berkeley Square was London’s most famous caterer for nearly 200 years. Here, they have brought along a “showy tropical tree” to the party in appreciation of the large order.



Fire-brick—a brick made to withstand the high temperatures of furnaces, kilns and fireplaces, produced in varying shades of orange.

Lordling—An unimportant or petty lord who is regarded as immature or insignificant.



Academy—The Royal Academy of Arts was founded by King George III in 1768 and is based in Burlington House on Piccadilly in London. Wodehouse references the Academy numerous times in his early writings (see “Academy Notes” from Books of To-day, June 1904), and he was sure to have attended exhibitions at which his Aunt Emmeline Deane’s and her friends’ paintings were shown. Whether the real-life artist/writer Bill Townend ever submitted a picture of his own to the Academy isn’t known, although it seems quite unlikely, and this reference is an “in-joke” between Wodehouse and Townend, making wry fun of the latter’s artistic career to date.

Humorous paragraphs for an evening paper—A lovely reference to “By The Way.”

Show inmates of Hanwell—The Middlesex County Asylum at Hanwell [right], renamed London County Asylum in 1899, was chartered “during the reign of George III to improve and ameliorate the condition of lunatics, by rescuing them from the neglect and inattention of the workhouse, or the cupidity, ignorance, and cruelty too often practised by those who farmed them in private asylums.” (Manchester Courier, January 20, 1883.) A show inmate is a long-term resident of an institution, to whom visitors are shown, ostensibly to demonstrate the good care they had received. “Mrs. Mary Lindsey Heaven, who has just celebrated her one hundred and third birthday, is the ‘show inmate’ of St. John’s Road (Islington) Workhouse. She has seen three monarchs prior to Queen Victoria.” (Western Daily Press, May 9, 1902.)

Limerick competitions and sixpenny postal orders are inside jokes with “By The Way” readers. A “limerick mania” overtook London in the middle years of the decade, and several papers had reader competitions—one of them advertised that it would consider reader submissions only on enclosure of a sixpenny postal order, which led to a series of jokes about the scam in the column. “By The Way” also invited readers to complete the last lines of a limerick which would be supplied by the writers, and it printed many original limericks during 1906–1907 (some by Wodehouse) as well as the best of those submitted by readers.

Borrows his neighbour’s garden-roller relates to a common joke about neighbours who borrow and fail to return garden equipment. A “By the Way” snip from July 1907 refers to a man who was afraid to confront a burly neighbour over a non-returned garden roller, so he sent his wife. Wodehouse revisits the theme in Sam the Sudden (Ch. 14), in which Kay Derrick is told by her uncle that Sam Shotter has suggested borrowing their garden roller as a first step in suburban neighbourliness.

The River Lea originates in the Chiltern Hills and flows to London where it meets the Thames. It was a squalid, smelly stream with factories on one side, slums on the other, and renowned for the smelly rubbish and old bicycles and worse dumped in it. From May to July 1907, English papers carried stories about the body of a woman found floating in it, a boating accident involving the drowning of two women, and a large fire resulting from oil spillage from a factory, all of which suggest that the location of the “rose-covered cottage” of Rupert and Madeleine was less than idyllic—a not-so-happily-ever-after, fitting last absurdity from our authors.

Three months later:






A Calcutta paper is republishing our feuilleton, “For Love or Honour.” The unrest in India is explained.

Acknowledgments: For Love or Honour was discovered by Karen Shotting, who scanned and transcribed it and provided initial research. Ananth Kaitharam processed, indexed, and archived the scans. Ian Michaud and Neil Midkiff proofread the transcription, and Neil converted and formatted the text and illustrations. Norman Murphy, Tony Ring, and Neil and Karen shared their invaluable insights in the construction of the accompanying notes, which are far better for their unselfish and knowledgeable contributions than they would have been otherwise. Norman’s A Wodehouse Handbook has been sourced for this article. To Raja Srinivasan, Ananth, and Neil go my thanks for hosting our pages, and to Raja especially for underwriting an important part of research costs for the P.G.W. Globe Reclamation Project.

—John Dawson, January 2014

For Love or Honour should not be reproduced or republished in any form without permission due to existing copyrights in some countries. To the extent that For Love or Honour is shown to have been written by P. G. Wodehouse, it should be treated as © by the Trustees of the Wodehouse Literary Estate in appropriate territories.