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.

Cocktail Time was originally annotated by Mark Hodson (aka The Efficient Baxter). Notes marked [AGOL] are from the late Terry Mordue, A Gentleman of Leisure. The notes have been reformatted somewhat and very slightly edited, with updated hyperlinks, and have been expanded in 2021 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. Notes newly added beginning in 2021 are flagged with *; significantly altered notes are flagged with °.

These annotations relate to the 1987 Penguin (UK) reprint (same page images) of the 1958 Herbert Jenkins first UK edition, with some attention to differences from the 1958 Simon & Schuster first US edition.


Chapter 1

Runs from pp. 7 to 14 in the 1958 Jenkins and 1987 Penguin editions

Cocktail Time (ch. 1; page 7) *

The dust jacket of the US edition has the explanatory phrase “A NOVEL ABOUT A NOVEL” beneath the title, but this is not used as a subtitle in the book itself. In any case, the reader soon learns of the difference between Wodehouse’s and Bastable’s books of the same title.

twelve shillings and sixpence (ch. 1; page 7) *

In decimal terms, 0.625 pounds. Unsurprisingly, 12/6 was the original price of the UK first edition in 1958 (an increase from the 10/6 price for Something Fishy in 1957). The equivalent in 1958 US dollars was $1.75; roughly the same purchasing power as $18 in 2021 US dollars.

The US first edition was priced at $3.50 in 1958.

alarm and despondency (ch. 1; page 7) *

See Ukridge.

Drones Club (ch. 1; page 7) °

See The Code of the Woosters.

An Egg and a Bean (ch. 1; page 7) *

See Uncle Fred in the Springtime.

Pongo Twistleton (ch. 1; page 7)

Pongo and his uncle, Lord Ickenham, first appear in the story “Uncle Fred Flits By” (1935, Young Men in Spats), then in Uncle Fred in the Springtime (1939), and Uncle Dynamite (1948). They appeared again in Service with a Smile (1961). See Murphy for a biographical sketch of Lord Ickenham.
 [Murphy, N. T. P., Reminiscences of the Hon. Galahad Threepwood (1993) ]

banner with the strange device (ch. 1; page 7)

The shades of night were falling fast,  
As through an Alpine village passed  
A youth, who bore, ’mid snow and ice,  
A banner with the strange device,  

His brow was sad; his eye beneath,  
Flashed like a falchion from its sheath,  
And like a silver clarion rung  
The accents of that unknown tongue,  

In happy homes he saw the light  
Of household fires gleam warm and bright;  
Above, the spectral glaciers shone,  
And from his lips escaped a groan,  

"Try not the Pass!" the old man said;  
"Dark lowers the tempest overhead,  
The roaring torrent is deep and wide!"  
And loud that clarion voice replied,  

"Oh, stay," the maiden said, "and rest  
Thy weary head upon this breast!"  
A tear stood in his bright blue eye,  
But still he answered, with a sigh,  

"Beware the pine-tree’s withered branch!  
Beware the awful avalanche!"  
This was the peasant’s last Good-night,  
A voice replied, far up the height,  

At break of day, as heavenward  
The pious monks of Saint Bernard  
Uttered the oft-repeated prayer,  
A voice cried through the startled air,  

A traveller, by the faithful hound,  
Half-buried in the snow was found,  
Still grasping in his hand of ice  
That banner with the strange device,  

There, in the twilight cold and gray,  
Lifeless, but beautiful, he lay,  
And from the sky, serene and far,  
A voice fell, like a falling star,  

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882): Excelsior

sitting on top of the world (ch. 1; page 7) *

See The Mating Season.

hat ... side of his head (ch. 1; page 7)

Perhaps alluding to a popular song of the day. "My Hat’s on the Side of my Head" is the title of a song from the 1934 musical film Jack Ahoy, directed by Harold Forde, music and lyrics by Claude Hulbert and Harry M. Woods. [AGOL]

bumps-a-daisy (ch. 1; page 7) *

See The Mating Season.

blue skies and ridges of high pressure... (ch. 1; page 7)

Sending up a bit of lyrical description by putting in technical language from the weather forecast is a favourite Wodehouse trick.

Eton and Harrow match (ch. 1; page 8) °

Two of the most prestigious boys’ public (i.e. private, see Thank You, Jeeves) schools in England. Eton is near Windsor, in Berkshire, and Harrow is at Harrow-on-the-Hill, in north London. The hotly contested annual cricket match has been held nearly every summer at Lord’s since 1805. Lord Byron played in the first Harrow team. Pongo was an Old Etonian, and it seems likely that Uncle Fred was too. Bertie Wooster and many of his old pals like Bingo Little, Chuffy Chufnell, and Kipper Herring were at Eton together.

Cheshire cat (ch. 1; page 8)

cf. Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland. When the Cheshire Cat disappears, only its grin remains.

Browning (ch. 1; page 8)

The year’s at the spring,
And day’s at the morn;
Morning’s at seven;
The hill-side’s dew-pearl’d;
The lark’s on the wing;
The snail’s on the thorn;
God’s in His heaven
All’s right with the world!

Robert Browning (1812–1889): Pippa Passes

loopiness (ch. 1; page 8) *

The OED cites Wodehouse, in Uncle Fred in the Springtime, ch. 16 (1939), as the first citation of this colloquial noun for craziness, derived from the slang meaning of “loopy” for crazy, first cited from a 1925 slang dictionary of military jargon and from Evelyn Waugh’s 1928 novel Decline and Fall.

Colney Hatch and Hanwell (ch. 1; page 8) °

The Middlesex County Lunatic Asylum at Colney Hatch, later Friern Hospital, opened in 1851 in the hamlet of Friern Barnet, in what is now the north London district of New Southgate.
Hanwell Lunatic Asylum, also in Middlesex, was opened in 1829–30 and extended in the 1880s.

the London air causing the sap to rise (ch. 1; page 8) *

The US first edition simplifies this to “the sap rising”.

The trouble with Pongo’s Uncle Fred... (ch. 1; page 8) °

This description is a set piece that recurs more or less verbatim in all the Uncle Fred stories. However, in the US first edition, the sentence on p. 9 beginning “It is as though” is omitted (a point made in the amended discussion in chapter 2) and after the word “metropolis,” the US edition has a mere “he” instead of “Pongo’s Uncle Fred.”

well stricken in years (ch. 1; page 9) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

dog races (ch. 1; page 9)

Like the story of Sir Gregory and the prawns, what happened at the dog races is a story Wodehouse never revealed. In Uncle Dynamite we meet the policeman who arrested them on that occasion.

the young Twistleton (ch. 1; page 9) *

Replaced by “Pongo” in the US edition.

Thames-side seminary (ch. 1; page 9)

Eton College is on the bank of the river Thames, near Windsor.

Brazil nuts (ch. 1; page 9)

A large, elongated nut in a very hard shell (castanha do Pará, the fruit of the Brazilian Bertholletia excelsa tree). Its shape probably makes for difficult aerodynamics. We first met the marksman Egbert in similar circumstances in the story “The Masked Troubadour” in 1936 (Lord Emsworth and Others). His education has not progressed very far in 22 years, it seems.

Barmy (ch. 1; page 9)

Barm is the froth that collects on top of fermenting beer, etc. “Barmy” as a nickname for someone of weak intellect dates back to the 1890s. Barmy Fotheringay-Phipps is of course the hero of Barmy in Wonderland (US: Angel Cake, 1952).
 [Oxford English Dictionary]

Not sitting Brazil nuts…? (ch. 1; page 10) *

In sporting circles, shooting a sitting bird is a breach of sportsmanship almost as dire as cheating at cards. Uncle Fred is referring to Brazil nuts as a target rather than a projectile here.

catapult (ch. 1; page 10) *

See A Damsel in Distress.

Annie Oakley (ch. 1; page 10)

Phoebe Ann Oakley Mozee (1860–1926), defeated the celebrated marksman Frank E. Butler (1850–1926) in a shooting contest in 1876. They later married, and Oakley joined Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West show in 1885.
According to his account of his misspent youth, Lord Ickenham must have been born around 1870 (cf. Murphy). Thus his childhood days would have been rather early for Annie Oakley to be famous in Britain.
 [Murphy, N. T. P., Reminiscences of the Hon. Galahad Threepwood (1993) ]

go through … like a dose of salts (ch. 1; page 10) *

A rather earthy simile, as the medicinal salts referred to had a laxative effect.

clocked socks (ch. 1; page 10) *

Socks with decorative embroidery at the ankles.

the shape of things to come (ch. 1; page 10) *

See Uncle Fred in the Springtime.

toppers being obligatory (ch. 1; page 11)

Gentlemen wore a silk top hat with a grey tailcoat and striped trousers as part of daytime dress on formal occasions. Nowadays this costume is limited to weddings and “court” events like Royal Ascot and Buckingham Palace garden parties.

spinneys and coverts (ch. 1; page 11)

Woodland areas where a hunter might expect to find game. This is a particularly British hunting image: Uncle Fred also makes parallels with Indian tiger hunting and African safaris.

Homburg (ch. 1; page 11)

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

fore-and-aft deerstalker (ch. 1; page 11) °

Fore-and-aft is a nautical expression for something aligned along the longitudinal axis of the ship.
The deerstalker has extended brims at front and rear to keep off rain. It fits close to the head, thus not revealing the stalker’s position to the deer. Conan Doyle never mentions it in the text of the Sherlock Holmes stories: it comes from the illustrations of Sidney Paget. The OED records the first use of the word for a hat as 1881.

safari (ch. 1; page 11) *

The US first edition substitutes “shikari” here; according to both US and UK dictionaries, this seems to be an error, as shikar refers to the sport of hunting, while shikari refers to a person: a hunter or a native guide to the hunt. The US magazine version agrees with the British text in having safari here.

Demosthenes Club (ch. 1; page 11)

Demosthenes was an Athenian orator, of course, so this is probably an allusion to the Athenaeum. See Murphy’s discussion of the location of the Drones Club.

Sir Raymond Bastable (ch. 1; page 11)

There is a Lady Bastable (a widow from Huddersfield) in “Ukridge and the Home from Home.” The most famous Bastables in literature are the Bastable children who appear in E. Nesbit’s novels. However, Wodehouse would have been a little old to have read them as a child (The Story of the Treasure Seekers appeared in 1899). Perhaps Leonora was a fan?

stap my vitals (ch. 1; page 11)

This expression of surprise seems to have been invented by Sir John Vanbrugh — it is said by Lord Foppington in the play The Relapse (1696). Foppington pronounces all his ‘o’s as ‘a’s: he means “Stop my vital [organ]s.”

a kid tethered (ch. 1; page 11) *

That is, a young goat, not a human child as suggested in the next sentence.

plumed helmet of Henry of Navarre (ch. 1; page 12) °

Henri of Navarre (1553–1610), later Henri IV, king of France. At the battle of Ivry (14 March 1590) he urged his troops to follow the white plumes on his helmet: "Mes amis, vous êtes Français, voilà l’ennemi. A eux! et si vous perdez vos cornettes, ralliez-vous à mon panache blanc, vous le trouverez toujours au chemin de l’honneur et de la victoire!"

[Variant versions of this speech are recorded in French books of history; a translation of this version is provided by Rebekah at The Annotated Psmith Project, note 13. —NM]

when he wanted a taxi-cab, ten thousand must have sprung from their ranks (ch. 1; page 12) °

If it is a quotation, I can’t identify it, but Scott’s “Lay of the Last Minstrel,” which I’d guess Wodehouse had read, refers to "ten thousand" Scots and, as a classical scholar, he was familiar with Xenophon’s Ten Thousand (cf. p.146 below). So perhaps it’s not so much a quotation, more a nod in the direction of such conventional usages? [AGOL]

David Leal, a political science professor, reminds us of a passage (still occasionally quoted) from Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790) on the death of Marie Antoinette:

I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult.

Draw that bead (ch. 1; page 12)

The bead is the front sight of a gun, so to draw a bead is to take aim. It is a US expression, going back to the mid-19th century.

till I can see the whites of his eyes (ch. 1; page 12) *

See Uncle Fred in the Springtime.

ticking bomb ... coat-tails (ch. 1; page 12)

In Bring On the Girls, Wodehouse repeats an anecdote allegedly told by him Chaliapin in a restaurant, about a man with a “bum” (bomb) in his overcoat.
 [Wodehouse, P. G., Wodehouse on Wodehouse (1980) 108]

brilliantined (ch. 1; page 12)

Brilliantine was a kind of early hair gel (ca. 1880). Only Wodehouse would manage to mix it in one sentence with Shakespeare.

making his toilet (ch. 1; page 12) *

That is, getting dressed and groomed; see Right Ho, Jeeves.

knotted and combined locks … porpentine (ch. 1; page 12) °

This is another old favourite, especially with Bertie Wooster.

I am thy father’s spirit,
Doom’d for a certain term to walk the night,
And for the day confined to fast in fires,
Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature
Are burnt and purged away. But that I am forbid
To tell the secrets of my prison-house,
I could a tale unfold whose lightest word
Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,
Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres,
Thy knotted and combined locks to part
And each particular hair to stand on end,
Like quills upon the fretful porpentine:
But this eternal blazon must not be
To ears of flesh and blood. List, list, O, list!
If thou didst ever thy dear father love—

William Shakespeare (1564–1616): Hamlet I.v

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

In the US book only, this is followed in the same paragraph by this sentence:

Youth, said Shakespeare, is full of pleasure, Age is full of care, and perhaps as a general rule there is truth in the statement, but in this particular instance it was the senior of the two members of the Twistleton family who was all gaiety and animation, while the spirits of his junior were manifestly low.

See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse for a discussion of the source of the quotation.

Henry the Fifth at Harfleur (ch. 1; page 12)

In August 1415, Henry V of England landed in France with a small force, intent on asserting his hereditary claim to the Duchy of Normandy. He soon became bogged down in a five week siege of the town of Harfleur, during which he lost many men to disease. Having taken Harfleur, he decided to retreat to England via Calais, but his army was stopped on the road at Agincourt by a much larger French force. The ensuing battle, on 25 October, was a surprise victory for the English, mainly due to their use of the longbow.

SCENE I. France. Before Harfleur.
Alarum. Enter King Henry, Exeter, Bedford, Gloucester, and Soldiers, with scaling-ladders
King Henry V:
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o’erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O’erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill’d with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height.

William Shakespeare (1564–1616): Henry V III,i

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

Anything William Tell could do... (ch. 1; page 13)

Legendary Swiss patriot, who was ordered by the Austrian Gessler to shoot an apple from his son’s head as a punishment for refusing to make obeisance to Gessler’s hat. This legend forms the subject of a drama by Schiller and an opera by Rossini. Wodehouse had written a children’s version of the story, William Tell Told Again (A. & C. Black, November 1904).
“Anything you can do, I can do better” is another reference to Annie Oakley (see p. 10 above): it is one of the songs from Irving Berlin’s 1946 musical Annie Get Your Gun.

Peasemarch (ch. 1; page 13)

Sir Raymond’s butler, Albert Peasemarch, is the same man we have previously met as the doleful ship’s steward in The Luck of the Bodkins. See p.57 below for Lord Ickenham’s account of how he became a butler.

Phoebe Wisdom (ch. 1; page 13)

The actor and comedian Norman Wisdom was to star in the film version of The Girl on the Boat in 1962, but Wodehouse probably didn’t know that in 1958. Perhaps Wodehouse had another motive for the choice of this name: see Chapter 12 for a possible explanation.

say it with thunderbolts (ch. 1; page 13)

The slogan “Say It with Flowers” was adopted by the Society of American Florists in 1918.
Cf. Hot Water, ch. 6: “shouting about the plumbing ... and not saying it with flowers, neither.” Baxter, of course, decides to “say it with flower-pots” in Chapter XI of Leave It to Psmith.

better, deeper, more lovable man. (ch. 1; page 13) *

In the US book only, this is followed by the sentence:

There was good in Raymond Bastable, he felt, and the Brazil nut would bring it out.

there he spouts (ch. 1; page 13)

Yet another metaphor of the chase, this time from whaling.

half a brother is better than no bread (ch. 1; page 13)

Proverbial: the more usual expression is “half a loaf.”

gone with the wind (ch. 1; page 13) °

This expression seems to be proverbial, although of course it has been set in stone by Margaret Mitchell’s romantic novel of 1936 and the 1939 film based on it. Just possibly, it originates in Psalm 103. Possibly there might also be a hunting reference here — cf. the quivering nostrils in the next sentence.

The wind passeth over it and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.

Bible: Psalms 103:16

Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations finds this:

I have forgot much, Cynara! gone with the wind,
Flung roses, roses riotously with the throng.

Ernest Dowson: Non Sum Qualis eram Bonae Sub Regno Cynarae, stanza 3.

printers and compositors (ch. 1; page 14)

Compositors set type, printers apply it to paper.

Milton ... Paradise Lost (ch. 1; page 14)

John Milton (1608–1674) started work on his great epic poem Paradise Lost around 1657 and finished it in 1665. It was published in 1667. He explained, in a sentiment that Wodehouse certainly approved, that he wanted to do “Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme” (I.16).

Cocktail Time (ch. 1; page 14)

In the prefaces to French Leave and Summer Lightning Wodehouse joked about the number of books with these titles, and hoped that his would be added to the list of “a hundred best books called ...”
The British Library and Library of Congress list only one other book called Cocktail Time, by Starr Wood (1933). There is also a show by Cole Porter (1922).

windage (ch. 1; page 14)

Allowance for the effect of crosswinds when shooting. Wodehouse may have picked the term up from golf — with his eyesight problems it is unlikely that he did much shooting.

Chapter 2

Runs from pp. 15 to 26 in the 1958 Jenkins and 1987 Penguin editions

The opening of Chapter 2 is so much rewritten for the UK edition that the only practical way to demonstrate the difference is to show the text in parallel columns. The condensed version in Ladies’ Home Journal is abridged from the US book text, so without other evidence one must assume the US text was Wodehouse’s initial version. The only evidence so far found in the biographies and books of letters is this, from Plum to his Simon & Schuster editor Peter Schwed, in a letter of October 21, 1957 (quoted in Jasen, A Portrait of a Master, and in Plum to Peter):

I hope you will like Cocktail Time. For some reason it was a difficult one to write, as my scenario let me down. I suddenly found that the middle of the story was all wrong and that what I had been relying on as big scenes wouldn’t write. The character of old Mr Saxby wasn’t in the scenario at all! But I think it all worked out well in the end. Scott [Meredith, US agent] seems to like it.

Annotations to words or phrases marked with † follow these parallel columns.

US book

UK book

Having finished his coffee and accepted the congratulations of friends and well-wishers with a modesty that became him well, the fifth Earl (“Old Sureshot”†) of Ickenham, accompanied by his nephew Pongo, left the club and hailed a taxi, directing the charioteer to convey them to Lord’s cricket ground.† As the cab rolled off, Pongo drew a deep breath and sat staring before him with unseeing eyes. The recent episode had stirred him to his depths, and he was looking white and shaken, like a dry martini.†
  “You seem pensive, my boy,” said Lord Ickenham, noting his preoccupation. “Something on your mind or what passes for it?”
Having finished his coffee and accepted the congratulations of friends and well-wishers with a modesty that became him well, the fifth Earl (“Old Sureshot”†) of Ickenham, accompanied by his nephew Pongo, left the club and hailed a taxi. As the cab rolled off, its destination Lord’s cricket ground,† Pongo, who had stiffened from head to foot like somebody in the Middle Ages on whom the local wizard had cast a spell, sat staring before him with unseeing eyes.
  “What’s the matter, my boy?” said Lord Ickenham, regarding him with an uncle’s concern. “You look white and shaken, like a dry martini.† Something on your mind or what passes for it?”
  Pongo spoke in a low, toneless voice. “I was thinking,” he said, of a problem that came up for discussion at the Drones the other night.”
  “Oh, yes?”
  “It was this. If you have a crazy uncle, are you better off if he lives in London or if he’s down in the country all the time and just blows into town for occasional visits?”
  “And what decision was arrived at?”
  “Well, some said one thing and some another. You see the point. If he lives in London, there he is, if you see what I mean.”
  “Always on tap, as it were.”
  “Exactly. But his loopiness is sort of spread out thin, if you follow me. Whereas, cooped up in the country with no way of working it off, he . . . what is it? Begins with a g.”
  “Generates is, I imagine, the word you are groping for. Cooped up in the country, you feel, he generates a store of loopiness which expends itself with terrific violence on his rare visits to the center of things. The same thing happens when people sit on safety valves.”
  “That’s right. Well, that’s the problem we were discussing. Pretty moot, don’t you think?”
Pongo drew a shuddering breath that seemed to come up from the soles of his feet.
  “How crazy can you get, Uncle Fred?” he said dully.
  Lord Ickenham could not follow him.
  “Very moot, indeed. I am not surprised that the Drones Club debating society was unable to be unanimous. But for you, of course, the question must have been a purely academic one. You fortunately do not possess a crazy uncle. I know your uncle well. He has a balanced a brain as you could shake a stick at in a month of Sundays.” Lord Ickenham paused. “Good heavens,” he said, for a bizarre thought had struck him, “can it be that you are thinking of what occurred in the smoking room just now?”
  “Yes, it jolly well can.”
  “Crazy? I don’t understand you. Good heavens,” he said, a bizarre thought occurring to him, “can it be that you are referring to what took place in the smoking-room just now?”
  “Yes, it jolly well can!”
  “It struck you as odd that I should have knocked off Raymond Bastable’s topper with a Brazil nut?”
  “It struck me as loopy.”
  “My dear boy, that was not loopiness, it was altruism. One has to do the decent thing and spread sweetness and light† as far as it lies within one, and I knew that he needed a Brazil nut in the topper. Such a nut would, I felt, change his whole mental outlook, causing a revised and improved Raymond Bastable to rise from the ashes of his dead self.†
[no paragraph break here]
  “It struck you as odd that I should have knocked off Raymond Bastable’s topper with a Brazil nut?”
  “It struck me as about as loopy a proceeding as I ever saw in my puff.”†
  “My dear boy, that was not loopiness, it was altruism. I was spreading sweetness and light† and doing my day’s kind act.† You don’t know Raymond Bastable, do you?”
  “Only by sight.”
  “He is one of those men of whom one feels instinctively that they need a Brazil nut in the topper, for while there is sterling stuff in them, it requires some sudden shock to bring it out. Therapeutic treatment the doctors call it, do they not? I am hoping that the recent nut will have changed his whole mental outlook, causing a revised and improved Raymond Bastable to rise from the ashes of his dead self.† Do you know what the trouble is in this world?”
  “You ought to. You’ve started most of it.”
You know, Pongo, the whole trouble in this world is the way fellows deteriorate as they grow older. Time, like an ever-rolling stream,† bears all their finer qualities away, with the result that the frightfully good chap of twenty-five is changed little by little into the stinker of fifty. Yes, yes, I know what you are going to say. ‘Absurd!’ you are about to protest. ‘Look at you, Uncle Fred. Every day in every way you have got better and better.† A saintly boy, you have grown into a saintly senior, revered and respected by all, and the brain reels at the thought of the heights you will reach when you are eighty.’ Quite true, but I am a rare exception. ‘Look,’ I say in my turn, at Raymond Bastable.’ There’s a case in point. Thirty years ago, when he came down from Oxford,† where he had been a prominent and popular member of the University Rugby football team, he was as bonhomous a young man as you could have wished to meet. The jovial way he would jump with both feet on the faces of opponents on the football field and the suavity of his deportment when chucked out of the Empire† on Boat Race night† won all hearts. Beefy, as we used to call him, was a fourteen-stone† ray of sunshine in those days. And what is he now? The passing of the years has turned him into what a mutual friend of ours—Elsie Bean, who once held office as housemaid under Sir Aylmer Bostock† at Ashenden Manor—would call an overbearing dishpot.† What he needs, of course, is a wife.”

  “The trouble in this world,” said Lord Ickenham, ignoring the slur, “is that so many fellows deteriorate as they grow older. Time, like an ever-rolling stream,† bears all their finer qualities away, with the result that the frightfully good chap of twenty-five is changed little by little into the stinker of fifty. Thirty years ago, when he came down from Oxford,† where he had been a prominent and popular member of the University rugby football team, Raymond Bastable was as bonhomous a young man as you could have wished to meet. The jovial way he would jump with both feet on the faces of opponents on the football field and the suavity of his deportment when chucked out of the Empire† on Boat Race night† won all hearts. Beefy, as we used to call him, was a fourteen-stone† ray of sunshine in those days. And what is he now? I am still extremely fond of him and always enjoy his society, but I cannot blind myself to the fact that the passing of the years has turned him into what a mutual friend of ours—Elsie Bean, who once held office as housemaid under Sir Aylmer Bostock† at Ashenden Manor—would call an overbearing dishpot.† It’s being at the Bar† that’s done it, of course.”
  “How do you mean?”
  “Surely it’s obvious. A man can’t go on year after year shouting ‘Chops! Gracious heavens, gentlemen, chops and tomato sauce!’† and telling people that their evidence is a tissue of lies and fabrications without getting above himself. His character changes. He becomes a dishpot. What Beefy needs, of course, is a wife.”
  “Ah,” said Pongo, who had recently acquired one. “Now you’re talking. If he had someone like Sally—”
  “Or like my own dear Jane. There’s no real substitute for the holy state. When you get a wife, you’ve got something.† It was the worst thing that could have happened to Beefy when Barbara Crowe handed him his hat.”
  “Ah,” said Pongo, who had recently acquired one. “Now you’re talking. If he had someone like Sally——”
  “Or like my own dear Jane. You can’t beat the holy state, can you? When you get a wife, I often say, you’ve got something.† It was the worst thing that could have happened to Beefy when Barbara Crowe handed him his hat.”
  “Barbara Crowe? Isn’t she a movie star or something?”
  “Certainly not. She’s a partner in Edgar Saxby and Sons,† the literary agents. Ever heard of them?”
  “Well, I don’t suppose they have ever heard of you, which evens things up. I’ve known Barbara for years. She’s the widow of an old friend of mine, Jimmy Crowe, who was killed in the war. I introduced her to Beefy, and was delighted when she told me that they were planning to put up the banns. And then I heard that it was all off. Terrible pity. She’s lovely, she’s got a wonderful sense of humor, and her golf handicap is well in single figures. Just the wife for Beefy. In addition to improving his putting, always his weak spot, she would have made him human again. But it was not to be. What did you say?”
  “I said ‘Bad show.’ ”
  “Who’s Barbara Crowe?”
  “The one he let get away.”
  “I seem to know the name.”
  “I have probably mentioned it to you. I’ve known her for years. She’s the widow of a friend of mine who was killed in a motor accident.”
  “Isn’t she in the movies?”
  “Certainly not. She’s a junior partner in Edgar Saxby and Sons,† the literary agents. Ever heard of them?”
  “Well, I don’t suppose they have ever heard of you, which evens things up. Yes, Beefy was engaged to her at one time, and then I heard that it was all off. Great pity. She’s lovely, she’s got a wonderful sense of humour, and her golf handicap is well in single figures. Just the wife for Beefy. In addition to improving his putting, always his weak spot, she would have made him human again. But it was not to be. What did you say?”
  “I said ‘Bad show’.”
  “And you could scarcely have put it more neatly. It’s a tragedy. Still, there’s always a bright side. If things are not all that one could wish on the Bastable front, they’re fine in the Johnny Pearce sector. I see a bright and prosperous future for him.”
  “Who is this girl he’s marrying?”
  “I told you at lunch. Belinda Farringdon, commonly known as Bunny.”
  “No, I mean who is she? What does she do?”
  “She’s a commercial artist.”
  “Any money?”
  “I imagine not. Still, what’s money? You can’t take it with you.”
  “No, but you can do a lot with it here.”
  “True. And one of the things you can do with yours,” said Lord Ickenham, as they drew up at the entrance of Lord’s, “is to pay the cab.”
  “And you could scarcely have put it more neatly. It’s a tragedy. Still, let’s look on the bright side. There’s always a silver lining. If things are not all that one could wish on the Bastable front, they’re fine in the Johnny Pearce sector. How much did I tell you about Johnny at lunch? I can’t remember. Did I mention that your Aunt Jane, exercising her subtle arts, had talked Beefy Bastable into taking a five years lease on that Hammer Lodge place of his?”
  “Yes, you told me that.”
  “And that he’s engaged to a delightful girl? Belinda Farringdon, commonly known as Bunny?”
  “Then you’re pretty well up in his affairs, and you will probably agree with me that a bright and prosperous future lies before him. Far different from that which, if your young friends at the Drones are to be believed, confronts the athletes of Harrow-on-the-Hill. But here we are at the Mecca of English cricket,” said Lord Ickenham, suspending his remarks as the cab drew up at the entrance of Lord’s. “Golly!”
  “Now what?”
  “If only,” said Lord Ickenham, surveying the sea of top hats before him, “I had my catapult with me!”

Old Sureshot (ch. 2; page 15) °

This sounds like an allusion to James Fenimore Cooper, Karl May, Zane Grey, or the like, but I haven’t found a precise source. Sureshot has been used as the trade name for several types of camera.

Wodehouse also used the nickname for Brewster Gooch in “Back to the Garage” (1929) and, more famously, for Lord Emsworth in “The Crime Wave at Blandings” (1936, in Lord Emsworth and Others and The Crime Wave at Blandings).

Lord’s cricket ground (ch. 2; page 15)

Thomas Lord (1755–1832), cricketing entrepreneur, held his first match on the site of the modern Dorset Square, Marylebone, in 1787. The ground was moved to a new, then still rural site near St. John’s Wood in 1814. It remains the home of the Marylebone Cricket Club, and became the county ground of Middlesex in 1877. Eton and Harrow schools have rented the ground for their annual match since 1805.

shaken ... dry Martini (ch. 2; page 15)

Ian Fleming’s secret agent James Bond and his catchphrase “Shaken not stirred” first appeared in 1952 in Casino Royale.

in my puff (ch. 2; page 15) °

Slang, ca. 1920: “in my life,” from the association of “breath” and “life.” One of the earliest examples in the OED is from Mr. Mulliner Speaking (1929).

spreading sweetness and light (ch. 2; page 15)

See Uncle Fred in the Springtime.

doing my day’s kind act (ch. 2; page 15) *

See The Code of the Woosters.

rise from the ashes of his dead self (ch. 2; page 16)

The phoenix of classical mythology is said to do this. Just possibly there is an echo of In Memoriam (“stepping stones of our dead selves...”) here.

Time, like an ever-rolling stream (ch. 2; page 16)

Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
 Bears all its sons away:
They fly forgotten, as a dream
 Dies at the opening day.

Isaac Watts (1674–1748): Hymn (version of Ps. 90)  25–29

Every day in every way you have got better and better. (US versions only)

See auto-suggestion in Leave It to Psmith.

came down from Oxford (ch. 2; page 16)

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.

chucked out of the Empire (ch. 2; page 16)

The promenade of the Empire theatre, Leicester Square, was one of the main resorts of the Pelican set in the 1890s. Murphy describes the famous chuckers-out, Buncle and Bungay. Another confirmation that Ickenham and Bastable were born at the latest in the seventies.

N.T.P. Murphy: Reminiscences of the Hon. Galahad Threepwood (1993) 209–214

Boat Race night (ch. 2; page 16) °

The Oxford and Cambridge boat race takes place on a four and a half mile course on the Thames (between Mortlake and Putney), on a Saturday during the Easter vacation. It was first held in 1829. As it is in the vacation, it used to be an occasion for large numbers of students to gather and celebrate in London.

Additional details are in the notes to Laughing Gas and The Code of the Woosters.

fourteen-stone (ch. 2; page 16) *

That is, weighing 196 pounds.

Elsie Bean ... Sir Aylmer Bostock (ch. 2; page 16)

See Uncle Dynamite.

dishpot (ch. 2; page 16)


at the Bar (ch. 2; page 16)

Formerly, the railing separating the Judge’s bench from the public area of the court was called the Bar. By extension, this came to mean the Court as a whole. Accused persons were tried at the bar, and lawyers practised there.
In modern British terminology, lawyers are divided into two groups: solicitors and barristers. Only the latter are allowed to appear as advocates at the Bar, before the higher courts.

Chops! ... chops and tomato sauce! (ch. 2; page 16)

In Mrs Bardell’s breach of promise action against Mr Pickwick, Mr Serjeant Buzfuz, the barrister appearing for the plaintiff, somehow twists these innocent words into an ardent declaration of love.

They are covert, sly, underhanded communications, but, fortunately, far more conclusive than if couched in the most glowing language and the most poetic imagery--letters that must be viewed with a cautious and suspicious eye--letters that were evidently intended at the time, by Pickwick, to mislead and delude any third parties into whose hands they might fall. Let me read the first:--`Garraway’s, twelve o’clock. Dear Mrs. B.--Chops and Tomato sauce. Yours, PICKWICK.’ Gentlemen, what does this mean? Chops and Tomato sauce! Yours, Pickwick! Chops! Gracious heavens! and Tomato sauce! Gentlemen, is the happiness of a sensitive and confiding female to be trifled away, by such shallow artifices as these?

Charles Dickens: Pickwick Papers, ch. 34

When you get a wife … you’ve got something. (ch. 2; page 17) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

Edgar Saxby and Sons (ch. 2; page 17)

Saxby (presumably Danish for ‘Saxon town’) is a common place-name in the East of England. Wodehouse might have been thinking of Saxby’s meat pies, which have been made in Northamptonshire since the 1920s. Or perhaps Dickens:

‘...I have been in a devilish state of depression ever since; and said indeed to Long Saxby last night — man of six foot ten, with whom my friend Dombey is probably acquainted — that it had upset me in a confounded way, and made me bilious. It induces a man to reflect, this kind of fatal catastrophe,’ says Cousin Feenix, ‘that events do occur in quite a providential manner; for if my Aunt had been living at the time, I think the effect upon a devilish lively woman like herself, would have been prostration, and that she would have fallen, in point of fact, a victim.’

Charles Dickens: Dombey and Son, ch. 51

shied like a startled horse (ch. 2; page 18) *

US versions substitute “shivered a little” here.

at the Eton and Harrow match (ch. 2; page 18) *

US book has “by the patrons of the Eton and Harrow match” here.

a hundred and four (ch. 2; page 18)

If we were to ignore the rules of Wodehouse time for a moment and assume this story was really set in 1958, Ickenham would be approaching ninety himself.

flying saucer (ch. 2; page 19)

In similar circumstances, Lord Blicester assumed that he had been struck by “a small meteor.” See “The Masked Troubadour” (1936; in Lord Emsworth and Others).

Old Bailey ... wig and silk gown (ch. 2; page 19)

The Old Bailey, on the site of the London’s former Newgate prison, houses the Central Criminal Courts. Barristers wear a wig and gown when appearing before the courts. The fact that Bastable has a silk gown marks him as a Queen’s Counsel, a distinction awarded by the Lord Chancellor to senior barristers with a high reputation.

Dovetail Hammer (ch. 2; page 20)

There is nowhere in the UK called Dovetail, but there are several Dovedales, including one in Gloucestershire (near Chipping Campden), well within Wodehouse territory. Another possibile source is Doverdale, in Worcestershire.
Hammer is a fairly common placename element (e.g. Abinger Hammer in Surrey). The only village called Hammer by itself is in West Sussex. Could it be that a dovetail hammer is a carpenter’s tool?
Another possibility — cf. p.133 below — is that this is a reference to Mickey Spillane’s detective, Mike Hammer.

“Who was this fiend in human shape?” (ch. 2; page 20) *

For “fiend in human shape” see The Mating Season.

US book has Uncle Fred say “These are deep waters.” immediately before asking the question above. See Leave It to Psmith.

I put it to you (ch. 2; page 21)

Barristers always say this in sensational fiction.

Jael, the wife of Heber (ch. 2; page 22) °

For good reasons, there are no mentions of Brazil nuts in the Old Testament. This is one of Bertie’s favourite images, but it doesn’t appear so often in the non-Wooster stories.

17 Howbeit Sis'era fled away on his feet to the tent of Ja'el the wife of Heber the Kenite: for there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite.
18  And Ja'el went out to meet Sis'era, and said unto him, Turn in, my lord, turn in to me; fear not. And when he had turned in unto her into the tent, she covered him with a mantle.
19  And he said unto her, Give me, I pray thee, a little water to drink; for I am thirsty. And she opened a bottle of milk, and gave him drink, and covered him.
20  Again he said unto her, Stand in the door of the tent, and it shall be, when any man doth come and inquire of thee, and say, Is there any man here? that thou shalt say, No.
21  Then Ja'el Heber’s wife took a nail of the tent, and took a hammer in her hand, and went softly unto him, and smote the nail into his temples, and fastened it into the ground: for he was fast asleep and weary. So he died.
22  And, behold, as Barak pursued Sis'era, Ja'el came out to meet him, and said unto him, Come, and I will show thee the man whom thou seekest. And when he came into her tent, behold, Sis'era lay dead, and the nail was in his temples.

Bible: Judges 4:17–22

See also Biblia Wodehousiana.

You can’t write a strong letter to The Times. (ch. 2; page 22) *

US magazine and book omit “a strong letter” here.

Whitechapel (ch. 2; page 22) *

A working-class district in the East End of London; notorious for the activities of Jack the Ripper.

Bottleton East ... by-election (ch. 2; page 22)

A by-election is an election that takes place in a single constituency (voting district), to fill a seat that becomes vacant between general elections, usually as a result of the death, resignation, or ennoblement of the sitting member.
Bottleton (sometimes, as here, “Bottleton East”) is a fictitious working-class district of the East End of London that is mentioned in many of Wodehouse’s stories. The suffix — “East” — makes one suspect that Wodehouse might have had somewhere like Stratford East in mind. Interestingly, the victim of the Brazil nut in “The Masked Troubadour” was also involved in a by-election in Bottleton.

costermongering ... leaning-up-against-the-walls (ch. 2; page 23) °

A costermonger is a street seller of fruit and vegetables. Covent Garden was the site of London’s wholesale fruit and vegetable market until 1972, so the aftermath of a ball would inevitably bring guests into contact with early-rising market workers.
In other places, particularly “The Masked Troubadour”, we hear of another important activity of the East End – the eel-jellying industry.

[And in A Damsel in Distress we meet two shabby men engaged in non-essential industries, whose intent was to get to some public house and lean against the wall. —NM]

on velvet (ch. 2; page 23) *

See Bill the Conqueror.

Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies (ch. 2; page 23)

Vile Bodies appeared in 1930, at a time when Waugh was still very much a member of the generation he was satirising.

“You couldn’t write a novel if you tried for a hundred years.” (ch. 2; page 23) *

Jeeves is not the only character who considers the psychology of the individual! Lord Ickenham knows Bastable’s reaction to a challenge, as described in succeeding paragraphs.

Dante (ch. 2; page 24)

Dante Alighieri (1265–1321), Florentine poet. He composed his great Commedia in exile after backing the wrong side in the struggle between the Black and White Guelphs in Florence.

Juvenal (ch. 2; page 24)

Decimus Junius Juvenalis, Roman satirical poet of the 1st and 2nd centuries CE. It’s not known for certain what caused his embitterment, but he seems to have had something against the emperor Domitian.

Swinburne ... weariest river (ch. 2; page 24)

From too much love of living,
 From hope and fear set free,
We thank with brief thanksgiving
 Whatever gods may be
That no life lives for ever;
That dead men rise up never;
That even the weariest river
 Winds somewhere safe to sea.

Algernon Charles Swinburne: The Garden of Proserpine 81–89

Life of Talleyrand (ch. 2; page 24)

Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord (1754–1838), at various times bishop, prince, duke, foreign minister, ambassador, and real estate agent, was one of the most important and complex diplomatic figures of the period of the French revolutionary wars.
The British Conservative politician Alfred Duff Cooper (1890–1954) had written a celebrated biography of Talleyrand in 1932. As Minister for Information during the war, Duff Cooper was largely responsible for the attacks on Wodehouse over the Berlin broadcasts. Wodehouse has digs at him in a few other books — see Phelps, p. 230.
 [Barry Phelps: P. G. Wodehouse: Man and Myth (1992) 230]

Downing Street (ch. 2; page 24)

A side-street off Whitehall, famous as the site of “Number Ten,” the Prime Minister’s official residence. The Chancellor of the Exchequer (finance minister) lives next door at No. 11.
Wodehouse is exaggerating, of course. Britain has had at least one Prime Minister who wrote novels that were at least moderately racy — Benjamin Disraeli (1804–1881). More recently, there has been a positive plague of best-sellers written by ministers and ex-ministers.

poppet-valve (ch. 2; page 24)

A valve with a flat sealing element moved axially by an actuator rod (e.g. the valves in most motor-car engines). Wodehouse is having fun by being over-specific: it’s unlikely that there were enough specialist poppet-valve manufacturers to constitute an industry.

Forever Amber (ch. 2; page 25)

Kathleen Winsor’s historical romance — the book which established the “bodice-ripper” as a literary genre — was published in 1944, and sold 800,000 copies in the first year, largely on the strength of having been banned in Boston. The story concerns a young girl who becomes the mistress of Charles II. Otto Preminger made it into a film in 1947.

Bingley versus Bingley, Botts and Frobisher (ch. 2; page 27)

This style of citation for divorce cases (plaintiff vs. defendant and co-respondents) was normal before the reform of the English divorce law in 1969. Producing evidence of adultery was in practice the only way to get a divorce.
Bingley is one of Wodehouse’s favourite names. Bingley-on-Sea (or the similar Bramley-on-Sea) appears in many stories, most memorably in ‘Portrait of a Disciplinarian’ (Meet Mr. Mulliner). It is where the Drones have their golf tournament, and it is the setting for the first part of Doctor Sally. There is a Lancelot Bingley in Plum Pie, and Little Johnny Bingley in ‘The Nodder’. There are also villages called Upper and Lower Bingley in ‘The Great Sermon Handicap’.
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.

Chapter 3

Runs from pp. 27 to 34 in the 1958 Jenkins and 1987 Penguin editions

accommodation address (ch. 3; page 27) *

A business which provides customers with services to send or receive mail using an address which does not identify where they actually live. Some of these, like the private mail box services of today, have this as a principal line of business, while others do this as a sideline, like the sweets-and-tobacco shop mentioned later in the chapter (p. 30) as Cosmo Wisdom’s putative address as “Richard Blunt.”

Simms and Shotter (ch. 3; page 27)

Simon & Schuster were Wodehouse’s US publishers from 1953 onwards.
There are many Simms in the canon; Sam Shotter is the hero of Sam the Sudden.

Melville & Monks (ch. 3; page 27)


Popgood & Grooly (ch. 3; page 27) °

This is the most common name for a fictitious publisher in the canon. Cf. also “Popgood, Crooly and Co.” in A Damsel in Distress. Murphy points out that Wodehouse got the name from Sir Francis Burnand’s book Happy Thoughts. In Uncle Dynamite, Ch.10, we are told that the partners, Hermione Bostock’s former publishers, are Augustus Popgood and Cyril Grooly.
 [Murphy, N. T. P., In Search of Blandings (1986) 5]

[Burnand created the publishers Popgood and Groolly in the “More Happy Thoughts” series in Punch, beginning August 21, 1869; More Happy Thoughts came out in volume form in 1871 and was later often combined with reprints of the first volume of Happy Thoughts (1868). Wodehouse first used “Popgood and Grooly” in 1905 in “The Autograph Hunter”. —NM]

Bissett and Bassett (ch. 3; page 27)

Has Madeleine Bassett taken to publishing? Perhaps she could take on the output of Florence Craye. Bill Bissett (b. 1939) is a Canadian poet, but he was only just beginning to be well-known when Cocktail Time appeared.

Ye Panache Presse (ch. 3; page 27)

This also appears in some other stories. In Uncle Dynamite, Otis Painter is “the directing executive of Meriday House, formerly Ye Panache Presse” (ch.10, pt.2). There are, or were, a number of real printers or publishers called “Panache Press,” albeit without the “Ye.”

East-West-home’s-best (ch. 3; page 27) *

In its unhyphenated form, the saying is traced back in the Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs, 5th ed., to Proverbs of All Nations, W. K. Kelly (1859) which gives a German source.

Alfred Tomkins (ch. 3; page 27)

There were two other boarders, besides the gentleman in the back drawing-room — Mr. Alfred Tomkins and Mr. Frederick O’Bleary. Mr. Tomkins was a clerk in a wine-house; he was a connoisseur in paintings, and had a wonderful eye for the picturesque.

Charles Dickens: Sketches by Boz: Tales, “The Boarding House”

monocle ... rock ’n roll (ch. 3; page 27)

Although the young people Wodehouse had in mind may wear monocles and drink cocktails — as the comparison with Vile Bodies implies — there is a token acknowledgement here that fashions in youthful dissipation have moved on since the thirties.

step-ins (ch. 3; page 27) °

One of Wodehouse’s usual expressions for ladies’ underwear, either knickers or cami-knickers; cited in the OED from Money in the Bank (1942).

He often complains about publishers’ choice of cover art, but here it sounds entirely appropriate to the subject of the book.

Peebles Courier (ch. 3; page 27)

Peebles is a town in the Scottish Borders. The local paper there at present is the Peeblesshire News.

Basingstoke Journal (ch. 3; page 27)

Basingstoke is a town in Hampshire. W. S. Gilbert took it as a synonym for dullness in Ruddigore. The local paper is the Basingstoke and North Hampshire Gazette.

Times Literary Supplement (ch. 3; page 27)

The TLS has been Britain’s main weekly book review paper since 1902. As Wodehouse implies, it contains a listing of all newly-published books, even when they are not reviewed in detail.

laid an egg (ch. 3; page 27)

The OED suggests that this expression, in a theatrical sense, originated in the US in the twenties, but it still seems to have been current in 1958. (In the sense of scoring nothing at cricket it goes back to the 1860s at least.)

drape the chaplet (ch. 3; page 28)

The laurel wreath which symbolised distinction in poetry to the Ancient Greeks.

venerable (ch. 3; page 28)

In the Anglican hierarchy, archdeacons are conventionally addressed as “Venerable;” bishops are “Right Reverend.” In the Roman Church “Venerable” is a title for those on the first step of the ladder to sainthood. (Despite the fact that his daughter has an Irish name, one assumes that the Bishop must be an Anglican.)
Presumably Wodehouse is using the term here in a non-technical sense to mean “old and worthy of respect.”

Bishop of Stortford (ch. 3; page 28)

Bishops Stortford is a town in Hertfordshire, near the Essex border. There has never been a Bishop of Stortford: the name comes from the fact that the Bishops of London owned the town and its castle from 1060 to 1208.
Ring and Jaggard suggest that there must have been at least three Bishops of Stortford in Wodehouse: (a) Percy of “Buck-U-Uppo,” “The Bishop’s Move,” “Unpleasantness at Bludleigh Court” and “Gala Night”; (b) the late father of Hermione Brimble in “The Right Approach” and (c) the unnamed prelate of Cocktail Time.
 [Ring, Tony: Millennium Wodehouse Concordance (1995) ]

St. Jude the Resilient, Eaton Square (ch. 3; page 28)

Jude the brother of James, also known as Judas Thaddeus (which means hairy-chested, hearty), was one of the twelve disciples. In the 19th century he became regarded as patron saint of lost causes, so presumably he would need to be fairly resilient.
The real Anglican church on Eaton Square in London’s Belgravia district is called St. Peter’s. Wodehouse sets a scene there in Bill the Conqueror, ch. 20 (1924), and mentions it in passing in the story “The Letter of the Law” (1936). Built 1824–27 in the neoclassical style, rebuilt after an 1837 fire; extended in the 1870s. The Victorian interior was replaced by a modern building within the original Georgian exterior walls after a fire in 1987.

Ecclesiasticus (ch. 3; page 28)

This book is generally considered as apocryphal in the Protestant tradition, although the Roman church includes it in the Old Testament. It is supposed to have been written by Jesus the son of Sirach around 200 BCE, and is sometimes referred to as “Sirach” to avoid confusion with Ecclesiastes (which only has 12 chapters). Obviously the Bishop was stirred by the conjunction of 13th chapters into preaching on this uncanonical text.

13:1. He that toucheth pitch, shall be defiled with it: and he that hath fellowship with the proud, shall put on pride.

Bible (Apocrypha) Ecclesiasticus 13:1

jotting ... shirt cuffs (ch. 3; page 28)

It is very unlikely that the men in the congregation were still wearing disposable paper or celluloid cuffs in 1958 — Wodehouse’s mind has leapt back to the church services of his youth.

Pekinese (ch. 3; page 28)

Wodehouse was well into his Peke period by this time. He has his tongue fairly firmly in his cheek when mocking newspaper triviality — he got his professional start on the “By the Way” column of the London Globe. See also Over Seventy (1957) for some long digressions on newspaper stories.

Walthamstow High Street (ch. 3; page 28)

Walthamstow is a suburb in north-east London.

joy that morning (ch. 3; page 28) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

banned in Boston (ch. 3; page 28)

See the note on Forever Amber, p. 25 above.

Prestwick (ch. 3; page 29)

Name of an airport and a golf-links near Glasgow

Express ... Mail ... Mirror (ch. 3; page 29)

Three big, popular Fleet Street papers.

Esher (ch. 3; page 29)

Prosperous London suburb.

Ebenezer Flapton and Sons ... Worcester and London (ch. 3; page 29) °

Around this time, Wodehouse’s books in England were printed for Herbert Jenkins by Wyman and Sons of London, Fakenham and Reading, and by John Gardner (Printers) Ltd. of Liverpool. The name “Ebenezer” (from the name of the memorial stone set up by Samuel after Mizpeh) is particularly associated with religious nonconformists: printing was a trade in which they were traditionally very prominent (cf Arnold Bennett’s Clayhanger). The name Flapton is very rare, but I haven’t found a Wodehouse link yet.

stones the builder had refused (ch. 3; page 29)

The King James Bible has “rejected,” but most other versions of this Psalm (not least the song “This train is bound for glory”) have “refused.”

The stone the builders rejected is become the head stone of the corner.

Bible: Psalms 118:22

See also Biblia Wodehousiana.

saw them as through a glass darkly (ch. 3; page 29) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

the morrow and what it was going to bring forth (ch. 3; page 29) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

smoking a pipe and being kind to the dog (ch. 3; page 30)

This is precisely the way Wodehouse usually appears in photographs.

DICK, WHERE ART THOU? (ch. 3; page 30) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

Ouled Nail (ch. 3; page 30)

The Ouled Naïl are a Berber tribe from Algeria whose women traditionally earned their dowries by prostitution and a particularly refined form of belly dancing.

barrow boy calling attention to his blood oranges (ch. 3; page 30) *

In other words, a costermonger, a street seller of fruit and vegetables; here the implication is of a young one with a small portable cart (wheelbarrow) rather than one with a larger stall.

stag at bay (ch. 3; page 30) *

Subject of a popular painting by Landseer; see Right Ho, Jeeves.

US magazine and book instead have “stag heated in the chase” here. See p. 188, below for the probable source.

little grey cell (ch. 3; page 31) *

See Uncle Fred in the Springtime.

expanding bullet (ch. 3; page 31–32) *

Also known as a dum-dum bullet, one designed with a soft nose which broadens out on impact, inflicting a larger wound on the person or animal targeted.

cosh (ch. 3; page 32) *

A short, leather-covered club, consisting of a heavy head and a flexible handle, to be used as a weapon, especially to stun by hitting on the head. Same as US blackjack.

knuckles stood out white under the strain (ch. 3; page 32) *

For fully a minute, it seemed to him, Mrs. Fisher fiddled and pawed at the ball; while Bradbury, realising that there are eighteen tees on a course and that this Russian Ballet stuff was consequently going to happen at least seventeen times more, quivered in agony and clenched his hands till the knuckles stood out white under the strain.

“Keeping In with Vosper” (1926; in The Heart of a Goof)

And presently, as he prowled, there came to his ears from an upper window a sound that made him stiffen like a statue and clench his hands till the knuckles stood out white under the strain.

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

I played golf with the Right Hon. every day, and it was only by biting the Wooster lip and clenching the fists till the knuckles stood out white under the strain that I managed to pull through.

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

It was the scent of kippered herrings that was now wafted to me like a benediction, and I clenched my fists till the knuckles stood out white beneath the strain.

Thank You, Jeeves, ch. 18 (1934)

But he gripped the table till his knuckles stood out white under the strain.

Pongo, in “Tried in the Furnace” (1935; in UK Young Men in Spats, 1936, and The Crime Wave at Blandings)

And when I tell you that with this wistful gentleness went a pair of large blue eyes, a perfectly modelled chassis, and a soft smile which brought out a dimple on the right cheek, you will readily understand why it was that two seconds after she had slid into the picture I was clutching my pipe till my knuckles stood out white under the strain and breathing through my nose in short, quick pants.

Laughing Gas, ch. 2 (1936)

Clenching his fists till the knuckles stood out white under the strain, Sidney Chibnall drew back into the doorway of a ham-and-beef shop to think it over.

Quick Service, ch. 13 (1940)

Hermione gripped her motor licence till the knuckles stood out white under the strain.

Uncle Dynamite, ch. 12.2 (1948)

“I tell you I’ve seen her clench her hands till the knuckles stood out white under the strain, just because your name happened to come up in the course of conversation.”

Service with a Smile, ch. 10.2 (1961)

like the hero of an old-fashioned novel (ch. 3; page 32) *

The earliest so far found is Half a Million of Money by Amelia Ann Blanford Edwards, 1866.

Mr. Trefalden turned livid with rage, and grasped the arm of his chair so fiercely that the veins swelled upon his hand, and the knuckles stood out white beneath the skin.

The US book has “like the hero of a suspense novel” here instead.

Cosmo (ch. 3; page 32)

Perhaps the name was suggested by association of ideas with bishops — the Archbishop of Canterbury, Cosmo Gordon Lang, had died in 1945. Or perhaps it is a joke: Wodehouse would certainly remember that cosmos is Greek for order, organisation.

Magic Pen-Pencil (ch. 3; page 32) *

In a Punch essay on autographing books (“Something Clever,” October 6, 1954), Wodehouse noted: “When I am not typing I use one of these pen-pencil things which call for no blotting paper. The ink, or whatever the substance is that comes out at the top, dries as you write.” Presumably this refers to the ballpoint pen, invented long before but much improved and widely commercialized in the 1950s.

Boots & Brewer, St. Mary Axe (ch. 3; page 32)

St. Mary Axe is a street in the heart of the City of London; see Bill the Conqueror for more.

Boots and Brewer are minor characters in Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend, friends of the Veneerings.

For, it is by this time noticeable that, whatever befals, the Veneerings must give a dinner upon it. Lady Tippins lives in a chronic state of invitation to dine with the Veneerings, and in a chronic state of inflammation arising from the dinners. Boots and Brewer go about in cabs, with no other intelligible business on earth than to beat up people to come and dine with the Veneerings. Veneering pervades the legislative lobbies, intent upon entrapping his fellow-legislators to dinner.

Charles Dickens: Our Mutual Friend Ch. 50

two hundred pounds (ch. 3; page 32) *

The Bank of England inflation calculator suggests a factor of 24 from 1958 to 2020, so this would be roughly equivalent to £4,800 or US$6,400 in modern terms.

Chapter 4

Runs from pp. 35 to 40 in the 1958 Jenkins and 1987 Penguin editions

getting nosier every moment (ch. 4; page 35) *

The US edition concludes the first paragraph with an additional sentence:

He could almost feel their hot breath on the back of his neck.

Mariana at the Moated Grange (ch. 4; page 35)

The character Mariana, sent off to the moated grange, comes from Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure. The stage directions for Act IV begin:

SCENE I. The moated grange at St. Luke’s.
Enter MARIANA and a Boy

In Victorian times she was the subject of a famous painting by Millais and a poem by Tennyson.

With blackest moss the flower-plots
Were thickly crusted, one and all:
The rusted nails fell from the knots
That held the pear to the gable-wall.
The broken sheds look’d sad and strange:
Unlifted was the clinking latch;
Weeded and worn the ancient thatch
Upon the lonely moated grange.
She only said, ‘My life is dreary,
He cometh not,’ she said;
She said, ‘I am aweary, aweary,
I would that I were dead!’

Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892): Mariana ll. 1–12

rolling over on your back with all your paws in the air (ch. 4; page 36) *

Wodehouse, a confirmed dog-lover, knew that this was a sign that a dog felt comfortable and safe enough to expose its more vulnerable underbelly to affection rather than danger. The first usage so far found indeed refers to a dog, Lord Pershore’s bull terrier Rollo, under the influence of Jeeves:

What’s more, his magnetism or whatever they call it was such that the dashed animal, instead of pinning him by the leg, calmed down as if he had had a bromide, and rolled over on his back with all his paws in the air.

“Jeeves and the Unbidden Guest” (1917)

All further usages so far found are figurative, such as:

“When I told him about our engagement, he just came and rubbed his head against my leg and rolled over with his paws in the air.”

Sacheverell Mulliner, to Muriel Branksome speaking of her father in “The Voice from the Past” (1931; in Mulliner Nights, 1933)

Dance before her (ch. 4; page 37) *

Wodehouse had used a similar phrase for diverting or entertaining someone in Uncle Fred in the Springtime and several other books. See Biblia Wodehousiana for Fr. Rob’s comment on the scriptural background.

Arthur Murray … taught them dancing in a hurry (ch. 4; page 37)

“Arthur Murray taught me dancing in a hurry” was a song by Victor Scherzinger and Johnny Mercer from the 1942 show The Fleet’s In.
The American businessman Arthur Murray set up his first dancing classes in 1912. With the help of innovative techniques, such as dancing lessons by correspondence, radio broadcasts and franchising, he soon had a chain of dancing schools across the United States. The company still exists.

shimmied (ch. 4; page 37) *

See Leave It to Psmith.

to anyone who knows you as I do, it’s obvious (ch. 4; page 37) *

The US magazine and book substitute “it sticks out a mile” for the last two words above.

House of Commons … I wouldn’t mix with them (ch. 4; page 38)

Lord Ickenham’s title removes him from any risk of having to, of course. Peers cannot be elected to the Commons. A few years after Cocktail Time appeared, the law was changed to allow peers who renounced their titles to become MPs — Alec Douglas-Home became Prime Minister this way in 1963.

Baconians (ch. 4; page 39) °

Francis Bacon (1561–1626), philosopher, essayist and statesman, never held the post of Chancellor of the Exchequer (finance minister), although he was Lord Chancellor (justice minister) from 1618–1621, when he was dismissed for taking bribes. There has long been a theory that he was the true author of Shakespeare’s plays. A lot of the evidence Baconians cite in favour of their theory seems to hinge on implausible word-cyphers, and the arcana of kabbala and rosicrucianism.

See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse for more references to the Baconian theory.

old Howard Saxby (ch. 4; page 39) *

Wodehouse cleverly sets up old Mr. Saxby as a club bore even before Cosmo meets him in person in Chapter 12 (p. 101).

Sir Roderick Glossop (ch. 4; page 39)

This eminent brain specialist first appeared in The Inimitable Jeeves. In Uncle Fred in the Springtime, Lord Ickenham passes himself off as Sir Roderick.

the hour has produced the man (ch. 4; page 40) °

Seems to be a literary cliché; see Ice in the Bedroom.

Google Books finds the phrase in present tense in The Art-Journal, July 1, 1854, but there it is used as if already a cliché.

shimmy (ch. 4; page 40) °

A dance, similar to the foxtrot but with more shaking about, which was mainly popular in the 1920s. Wodehouse wrote the lyrics of “Shimmy with me” for the 1922 show The Cabaret Girl.

Start up the music and
Come out and shimmy with me!
Just try to feel
As if you’ve swallowed an eel;
You’ll find that helps a good deal!

P. G. Wodehouse: Shimmy with me

See also Leave It to Psmith.

Chapter 5

Runs from pp. 41 to 46 in the 1958 Jenkins and 1987 Penguin editions

nervously sucking the knob of his umbrella (ch. 5; page 41) *

This action of Wodehouse’s ineffectual characters started early:

Motty, who was sucking the knob of his stick, uncorked himself.

“Jeeves and the Unbidden Guest” (1917)

But see others at The Code of the Woosters and Laughing Gas.

Solomon in all his glory (ch. 5; page 41)

28  And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
29  and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

Bible: Matthew 6:28–29

fifteen shillings and threepence (ch. 5; page 41) *

Just over £0.76 in decimal terms, or less than four-tenths of one percent of the sum he needs.

tête-à-tête (ch. 5; page 41)

French: face to face — a one-to-one interview.

disembowelled by a clumsy novice who had learned his job through a correspondence school (ch. 5; page 41–42) *

In “Scoring Off Jeeves” (1922) Bertie Wooster considers lunch with his Aunt Agatha “practically the nearest thing to being disembowelled.” Here Wodehouse couples this figurative discomfort with one of his frequent jests about the learn-by-mail fad of the early and middle twentieth century.

go to the man who has got two hundred pounds (ch. 5; page 42)

See The Old Reliable.

stiffened the sinews, summoned up the blood (ch. 5; page 42) *

See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

Gordon Carlisle (ch. 5; page 42)

Possibly the name is related to that of the composer Ivan Caryll (‘Fabulous Felix’ Tilken) who is mentioned a number of times in Bring On the Girls. Gordon “Oily” Carlisle first appeared in Hot Water (1932).

silk gown (ch. 5; page 43) *

See p. 19, above.

Flaubert (ch. 5; page 43)

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

moustache (ch. 5; page 44)

We may have wondered about Cosmo before, but now we know that he has a moustache, we can be sure that it is not just Sir Raymond who is prejudiced against him. No Wodehouse hero ever had genuine facial hair.

a bit near the knuckle (ch. 5; page 44) *

The OED defines near the knuckle as “near the permitted limit (esp. in regard to decency)” with citations dating back to 1895. It seems to be far more common in Britain than in America; in Heavy Weather (1933) Lord Tilbury refers jestingly to Lady Wensleydale’s scandalous memoirs as Sixty Years Near the Knuckle in Mayfair in the UK edition, but merely Sixty Years in Mayfair in the US edition. But Wodehouse or his editors trusted by 1958 that American readers would know it, since the present sentence appears the same way in both editions of Cocktail Time.

no mathematician (ch. 5; page 45) *

Sir Raymond gives a good estimate anyway. Ten percent of twelve shillings and sixpence is one shilling and threepence, and ten thousand times that is £625 exactly. If doing it in one’s head, it might be easier to work it in pounds: the list price is 5/8 of a pound, so ten copies at 10% royalty would yield 5/8 of a pound, and ten thousand copies would yield 5/8 of a thousand pounds.

John Dawson’s 2021 book P. G. Wodehouse’s Early Years contains a transcription and audit of his early account book Money Received for Literary Work, which among other things proves that Wodehouse himself was no mathematician.

Chapter 6

Runs from pp. 47 to 54 in the 1958 Jenkins and 1987 Penguin editions

the work of an instant (ch. 6; page 47) *

See the work of a moment in the notes for A Damsel in Distress.

The first two sentences of this paragraph are different in US and UK books, though most of the change is in word order rather than content.

go and sin no more (ch. 6; page 47) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

come up and see them sometime (ch. 6; page 47) *

A takeoff on the catchphrase attributed to Mae West, “Come up and see me sometime.” (In She Done Him Wrong (1933) the line she actually spoke was “Why don’t you come up some time and see me?”)

The two short sentences (jarring note … uniformly pleasant) preceding this sentence in the UK book are omitted in the US versions.

In the US book and magazine, “capable” describes the hands of the Saxby organization. Following (Hollywood), the US text has a comma and continues “and this Cosmo, stirred by the Saxbys’ almost lyrical eloquence on the subject of American, French, German, Italian, Swedish, stage, film and television rights, decided to do.” The UK text’s phrases about “a fellow needs a friend” and “ten per cent commission” do not appear in the US versions.

Ava Rackstraw … Lana Cootes (ch. 6; page 47) °

Then as now, small children often seem to derive curiously-spelled names from film stars, in this case evidently Ava Gardner (1922–1990) and Lana Turner (1921–1996).
Ralph Rackstraw "the smartest lad in all the fleet" is the hero of Gilbert & Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore.

In US versions, Miss Rackstraw is named Marlene, presumably after Marlene Dietrich (1901–1992).

Herne Hill (ch. 6; page 47)

Suburb of south-east London.

In US versions, “He was invited to speak at the East Dulwich Debating Society. An anonymous donor sent him a tract.”

Ivor Llewellyn (ch. 6; page 48)

First appeared in The Luck of the Bodkins (1935).

Johnston office (ch. 6; page 48) °

Eric Johnston had succeeded Will Hays as the head of the Motion Picture Association, Hollywood’s de facto film censor. He was followed in 1966 by Jack Valenti, who served in that post until 2004.

The entire sentence is omitted in the US magazine condensation. The rest of the sentence differs between the book versions; instead of “excite the clientele” the US book has “give the customers a frisson”; other less significant changes are in the last clause.

something that sounded like “Cheese!” (ch. 6; page 48) *

Probably what she said was “Jeez!”—an abbreviated form of swearing by the name of Jesus. The US book has “cheese!” without the capital letter, probably to further euphemize the rendering of her exclamation. [Omitted in the US magazine condensation.]

“’Smatter” … “somef’n” (ch. 6; page 48) *

These elisions of pronunciation are intended to indicate the Carlisles are American and that their speech is slangy. The first recalls Ira Gershwin’s lyric “’Swonderful”; the second is spelled “somep’n” in the US book. [Both are omitted in the US magazine condensation.]

Gertrude (“Sweetie”) Carlisle (ch. 6; page 48)

Gordon and his Gertie were reunited in Hot Water (1932).

forty-dollar-a-week city clerks (ch. 6; page 49) *

US book and magazine capitalize City here, referring to the business district of London (see Leave It to Psmith); it seems odd that the UK book has it in lower case.

amour-propre (ch. 6; page 49)

French: self-esteem

dead pan (ch. 6; page 50) *

From “pan” for face (US slang from 1920 onward), the adjective form meaning having an impassive or expressionless face is recorded from 1928 onward in the OED; the noun form (a face without expression) has citations from 1933 on.

Wodehouse and Bolton use the one-word adjective “deadpan” in recounting a conversation from the 1910s in Bring On the Girls (1953), but this may well be an anachronism. In Wodehouse’s fiction, the only other example yet found, in which the two-word noun is in quotation marks indicating that it is theatrical jargon:

He had planned to conduct it throughout with the utmost austerity, preserving from start to finish what Miss Blossom would have called a “dead pan” and what he himself had been mentally labelling the frozen face.

Monty Bodkin in The Luck of the Bodkins, ch. 15 (1935)

old-fashioned (ch. 6; page 50) *

A cocktail made with rye or bourbon whiskey, sugar, bitters, and a bit of water, served with ice and often garnished with a slice of citrus and a maraschino cherry. Dates from the late nineteenth century in America.

Mariner … Coleridge (ch. 6; page 51)

It is an ancient Mariner,  
And he stoppeth one of three.  
‘By thy long beard and glittering eye,  
Now wherefore stopp’st thou me?  
The Bridegroom’s doors are opened wide,
And I am next of kin;  
The guests are met, the feast is set:  
May’st hear the merry din.’  
He holds him with his skinny hand,  
‘There was a ship,’ quoth he.
‘Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!’  
Eftsoons his hand dropt he.  
He holds him with his glittering eye—  
The Wedding-Guest stood still,  
And listens like a three years’ child:  
The Mariner hath his will.  
The Wedding-Guest sat on a stone:  
He cannot choose but hear;  
And thus spake on that ancient man,  
The bright-eyed Mariner.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge: (1772–1834): The Rime of the Ancient Mariner I:1-20

a hundred and fifty dollars or so (ch. 6; page 51) * gives an average exchange rate of £1 = US$2.81 for 1958; it seems that Gordon Carlisle has rounded this to $3 in doing his mental math.

You ain’t heard nothing yet. (ch. 6; page 52) *

Title and catchphrase of a 1919 song, lyrics by Al Jolson and Gus Kahn, music by Bud De Sylva, based on a phrase made famous by Jolson in his stage musical shows and encores from at least 1916. Made even more famous when Jolson used it in the Vitaphone part-talkie musical film The Jazz Singer in 1927. See Word Histories for more.

ramp (ch. 6; page 53) *

In the nineteenth century, slang for a street robbery, especially when made under the cover of the confusion of sudden violence or commotion. In the twentieth century, more often meaning a fraud or swindle, as here.

the moon of his delight (ch. 6; page 54) *

An allusion to the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, in the English version by Edward FitzGerald, stanza LXXIV:

Ah, Moon of my Delight who know’st no wane,
The Moon of Heav’n is rising once again:
 How oft hereafter rising shall she look
Through this same Garden after me—in vain!

Frequently set to music, including by Wodehouse’s collaborator Liza Lehmann (and famously recorded by tenor John McCormack).

Chapter 7

Runs from pp. 55 to 60 in the 1958 Jenkins and 1987 Penguin editions

high, wide and plentiful (ch. 7; page 55) *

See Young Men in Spats.

seven-and-sixpenny cigar (ch. 7; page 55) *

In the US book it is a five-shilling cigar; it is not mentioned in the US magazine condensation.

Chilled Steel Ickenham (ch. 7; page 55) *

See The Code of the Woosters.

reminiscent of Captain Bligh of the Bounty (ch. 7; page 56) °

The crew of the Bounty mutinied in the Pacific in 1789, apparently objecting to Captain Bligh’s harsh discipline. Frank Lloyd’s film version of the story, starring Charles Laughton and Clark Gable, appeared in 1935.

The US book and magazine read “modeled on Captain Bligh” here.

regardless of her age and sex (ch. 7; page 56) *

Wodehouse made this line famous in “Let’s Build a Little Bungalow in Quogue” in The Riviera Girl (1917) but he was apparently not the original coiner. The earliest instance of the phrase found in Google Books is by Canadian humorist Walt Mason, famous for rhyming, metrical prose, or to put it another way, poetry printed as solid paragraphs like prose—a habit that Wodehouse adopted himself, also mentioning Mason by name in The Girl on the Boat/Three Men and a Maid.

And then I see a window lift, and Uncle Henry, in his shift, pokes out his head and says, “By James! Doggone the birds and all their games! I try all night to get asleep, and just when dawn begins to peep, I drop into a gentle snooze,” here at a wren he throws his shoes, “and then these ding-donged songsters come, and knock my slumbers out of plum! They make me utter sinful words! If I could catch the blasted birds, I’d wring their blinky blanky necks, regardless of their age or sex!”

“Blessings and Things” by Walt Mason, in The Judge, July 22, 1916, p. 102

And if we find a snail or slug
Or weevil or potato bug
We’ll track them down and wring their necks
Regardless of their age or sex.

Wodehouse: second verse of “Let’s Build a Little Bungalow in Quogue” (1917)

In Wodehouse fiction:

“If that demon doesn’t stop writing her infernal letters and upsetting Millie, I shall strangle her with my bare hands, regardless of her age and sex.”

Ukridge, speaking of his wife’s Aunt Elizabeth, in Love Among the Chickens, ch. 15 (1921 edition)

Personally, if anyone had told me that a tie like that suited me, I should have risen and struck them on the mazzard, regardless of their age and sex…

“Jeeves in the Springtime” (1921; as Ch. 1 of The Inimitable Jeeves, 1923)

“I’d sock those mice, if I were you.”
“I will—to-morrow—with an iron hand. Regardless of their age and sex.”

Uncle Dynamite, ch. 9.4 (1948)

Cunard-White Star (ch. 7; page 57) °

See The Luck of the Bodkins.
The Cunard shipping line was set up by Samuel Cunard in 1839, and remained based in Liverpool until it was bought by Trafalgar House in 1971.
Cunard merged with their rivals, the White Star Line (originally Scottish, but by then owned by J. Pierpoint Morgan), in 1934, the year before The Luck of the Bodkins appeared. Their ships continued to carry the combined name until 1958, the year of publication of Cocktail Time.

US versions have “White Star-Cunard” instead.

Home Guard (ch. 7; page 57)

The Home Guard (originally Local Defence Volunteers) was formed in May 1940, and disbanded in November 1944. Its function was primarily to act as a first line of defence against the threat of paratroop landings in Britain. It drew its part-time members mostly from men over military age. It was, of course, immortalised in the BBC television series “Dad’s Army.”

to buttle (ch. 7; page 57) °

Surprisingly enough, Wodehouse did not invent this verb. In the sense of ‘to pour out drink,’ it goes back to the mid-19th century. However, in 1918 Wodehouse (in Piccadilly Jim) ties with Mrs Humphrey Ward for the honour of using it to mean ‘perform a butler’s duties.’ (Wodehouse has a 1918 OED citation for the participle, Mrs W the present tense.)

[The OED online now has an earlier citation, from one of Wodehouse’s favorite sources of American slang, George Ade. In Forty Modern Fables (1902), “The Family … engaged an Englishman with a petrified Face to Buttle for them.…” ]

Coggs (ch. 7; page 57)

Lord Ickenham’s butler has small parts in most of the Uncle Fred stories.

before Beefy moved to the country (ch. 7; page 57) *

The US book has a dialogue exchange which comes at this point, dividing the paragraph of the UK text. Lord Ickenham continues:

 …before Beefy moved to the country. You knew he had taken Johnny’s Hammer Lodge, didn’t you?”
 “Yes, you told me.”
 “Jane worked it. He was looking about for a place in the country not too far from London, and she saw that this was where she could help Johnny along. She gave him a sales talk, and the deal went through.”
 “Aunt Jane’s a great woman.”
 “None like her.”
 “Nice bit of luck for Johnny.”
 “And, let us hope, for Beefy also. Who knows that living in the country…

In the US magazine condensation, the middle five speeches are reduced to a mere “Yes; nice bit of luck for Johnny.”

caged skylark (ch. 7, p. 57) *

Probably alluding to “The Caged Skylark” (1879, published posthumously) by Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–1889). Both such a bird and “man’s mounting spirit” “wring their barriers in bursts of fear or rage” according to Hopkins.

Liberty Hall (ch. 7; page 58)

A place where one may do as one pleases. From Oliver Goldsmith’s play She Stoops to Conquer (1773).

leopards … change their spots (ch. 7; page 58)

Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.

Bible: Jeremiah 13:23

already have become a reformed character. (ch. 7; page 58) *

At this point in the US magazine and book, Pongo breaks in with “I doubt it.” and Lord Ickenham continues with “I don’t. I am convinced…”

Belinda Farringdon (ch. 7; page 58)

Apart from being the name of a street and a station in the City of London, Farringdon is the name of two villages (Upper and Lower) in Hampshire, and one in Devon. Any of these might be a source for Wodehouse.

Plunkett Mews, Onslow Square. (ch. 7; page 59)

Fictitious, of course, but there are plenty of Mews streets (back streets serving what used to be the stable blocks of grand houses and are now desirable residences in themselves) in this part of South Kensington. Murphy reminds us that Wodehouse lived at No.4, Onslow Square, for a while in 1922.

Wodehouse may also have been familiar with the name Plunkett from the opera Martha by Friedrich von Flotow (1812–1883). Although the hero and his best friend are known as Lyonel and Plumkett in the original German libretto, their names were changed to Lionel and Plunkett in the opera’s English translation. Although Martha has now pretty much disappeared from the rep (except in German speaking countries), it was extremely popular in the early decades of the twentieth century.
The most famous historical Plunkett is probably the 17th century Irish Roman Catholic archbishop Oliver Plunkett, executed for treason in 1681 and canonised in the 1970s. There’s no obvious Wodehouse connection in either case.

stately homes of England (ch. 7; page 59) *

See Leave It to Psmith.

costs the dickens of a lot to keep up (ch. 7; page 59) *

The US book says “a hell of a lot” and the US magazine says merely “a lot” here.

charabancs (ch. 7; page 59)

This old-fashioned word (from French char-à-bancs) had been superseded in general usage by “bus” or “coach” by this time. However, the slang term “chara” survived rather longer in some parts of the country.

half a crown (ch. 7; page 59) *

See A Damsel in Distress.

to flit like butterflies from flower to flower (ch. 7; page 59) *

See The Code of the Woosters.

Don Juan … Casanova (ch. 7; page 59)

The fictional Don Juan Tenorio, the subject of an epic poem by Byron and an opera by Mozart, made his first appearance in the play El Burlador de Sevilla (1630) by Tirso de Molina (Gabriel Téllez 1584–1648).
The Venetian Giacomo Girolamo Casanova (1725–1798) had a varied and complex career which he describes in his celebrated autobiography. Unlike the heartless Don Juan, his many relationships with women seem to have been emotional as well as physical in nature.
A piquant detail is that Casanova was in Prague in 1787 and met Mozart — there is a legend that he helped to revise the libretto of Don Giovanni.

jumping off the dock (ch. 7; page 60) *

See Love Among the Chickens.

Dutch godfather (ch. 7; page 60)

The more usual term is “…like a Dutch uncle.” — i.e. in an outspokenly strict and censorious way. The Dutch are noted for their frankness in criticism.

Juggernaut (ch. 7; page 60)

In Hinduism, Jagannatha (Lord of the World) is a title of Vishnu. At Puri in Orissa, a large image of Jagannatha is annually taken from the Lord Jagannatha Temple to the Gundicha Mandir, about 3km away, in a ceremonial procession. It is said that, in the past, ardent believers used to throw themselves under the wheels of the cart carrying the image. The term “juggernaut” in English has thus come to mean something that crushes everything in its path.

Chapter 8

Runs from pp. 61 to 73 in the 1958 Jenkins and 1987 Penguin editions

Beetle and Wedge (ch. 8; page 61) °

A common pub name. A beetle is a heavy hammer or mallet used especially by masons — the combination of beetle and wedge would be used for moving heavy stones into position.
An less plausible alternative theory links “wedge” to the Old English “wicga,” an earwig.

The US book has the Green Lion as the second pub named here, presumably thought less confusing for American readers; nevertheless, chapter 18 takes place at the Beetle and Wedge in all versions. Neither pub is mentioned at this point in the US magazine condensation.

the mile to the Hall (ch. 8; page 61) *

For unknown reasons, the US book says “two miles” here; the US magazine condensation omits the sentence.

a porter with no roof to his mouth (ch. 8; page 61) °

This was before the “reform” of the railway system under Dr. Beeching. [Richard Beeching, Baron Beeching, was chairman of British Railways 1961–65, and instituted cuts to stations, service, and staffing in order to stem operating losses.] A few years later, Oily would certainly have found such a small station unstaffed (if not closed altogether).

Wodehouse created several minor characters with this speech impediment: Comrade Prebble in Psmith in the City, ch. 17 (1909/15); an atheist in Hyde Park in “Comrade Bingo” (1922; in The Inimitable Jeeves, 1923); pigman Edwin Pott in Full Moon, ch. 10.5 (1947); and an offstage Phipps spoken to by phone in Barmy in Wonderland, ch. 8 (1952).

Oxford accent (ch. 8; page 61) °

Foreigners use this term to refer to the way members of the University of Oxford are popularly supposed to talk (or to have talked in the past). British people, however, are more likely to use it for the regional accent of local people in Oxfordshire, i.e. the way college porters and people on the line at Cowley motor works talk.

[Nevertheless, Wodehouse seems to be using it here in the sense of an affected upper-class accent, as he did with Prudence Whittaker in Summer Moonshine. In The Old Reliable, Bill Shannon uses it to refer to the Woosterish but true upper-class “dude” speech of Lord Topham.]

one-armed paperhanger with the hives (ch. 8; page 62) °

‘The hives’ is a popular term for nettle-rash and similar ailments. The phrase is intended to evoke an image of frantic activity. Wodehouse also uses it in Money in the Bank and in Uncle Dynamite. It is often referred to as a proverbial American expression.

[The earliest use so far found is in The Fighter, a 1909 novel by Albert Payson Terhune.]

young lady of Natchez (ch. 8; page 62)

Once again, Wodehouse slips a limerick into the text disguised as prose — a favourite trick.
Natchez, Mississippi, is the oldest European settlement on the Mississippi River, having been established by the French in 1716.

lumberers (ch. 8; page 63) °

This seems to be British racing slang of the 1890s, so it is unlikely that Uncle Fred picked it up in Arizona. Interestingly, the 1897 example in the OED comes from Wodehouse’s bête noire, Sir Henry Hall Caine. In the 19th century, “lumberer” sometimes also meant “pawnbroker.”

[Green’s Dictionary of Slang has UK and Australian sources from the 1880s for swindlers of various kinds, not necessarily racing tipsters.]

justified in asking a hundred pounds (ch. 8; page 64) *

Recall the inflation factor of 24 from 1958 to 2020.

In the US magazine and book, although Oily’s previous “I suppose it’s worth a hundred pounds or so” is the same as in the UK text, from this point on, fifty pounds is the price mentioned for the ring.

free from all this modern suggestiveness (ch. 8; page 65) *

See Money for Nothing.

folded its tents like the Arabs (ch. 8; page 65) °

And the night shall be filled with music,
And the cares, that infest the day,
Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,
And as silently steal away.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: The Day is Done

Master Jonathan (ch. 8; page 66) *

“Master” is a traditional form of address to a boy or young man not considered old enough to be called “Mister.” Nannie Bruce’s continued usage of it indicates that she considers Johnny Pearce still to be underage and in need of her supervision as governess.

light-heavyweight (ch. 8; page 66) *

At this time, a light-heavyweight professional boxer weighed over 160 pounds but not more than 175 lb. The weight classes have been more finely divided in recent years; since 1968 the range is 168–175 lb.

private in the Grenadiers (ch. 8; page 66)

The Grenadier Guards were traditionally selected for their physique.

Charley’s Aunt (ch. 8; page 66)

A celebrated comic play by Brandon Thomas, 1892. An Oxford undergraduate needs a chaperone to allow him to meet his sweetheart, Kitty. When his friend’s aunt fails to turn up, fellow undergraduate Lord Fancourt Babberley dresses up in drag to replace her.

gaby (ch. 8; page 66)

A fool. Came into standard English from northern dialect in the late 18th century.

jewel of gold in a swine’s snout (ch. 8; page 66)

This is from Proverbs, not Ecclesiastes.

As a jewel of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion.

Bible: Proverbs 11:22

See Biblia Wodehousiana

a fictional character to whom he was greatly addicted (ch. 8; page 67) *

This phrase is omitted in the US book and magazine.

poulet en casserole (ch. 8; page 67)

French: chicken stewed in the pot.

booterers (ch. 8; page 68)

The more usual word is “bootmakers.” Lord Ickenham is playing on the rhyme with “fruiterers,” a pretentious title when used by modern greengrocers, but perfectly respectable back in the 15th century when someone stuck an extra -er on the now-obsolete word fruiter.

Borgias (ch. 8; page 68)

Lucrezia Borgia (1480–1519), daughter of Pope Alexander VI, was notorious for participation in her family’s aristocratic intrigues, including a number of poison plots. Nothing has ever been proved against her, apparently, but it makes for great stories, as Victor Hugo and Donizetti found.

sleeve across the windpipe (ch. 8; page 68) *

See The Mating Season.

toad beneath the harrow (ch. 8; page 68)

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

Nannie Bruce (ch. 8; page 68)

Berry Conway in Big Money (1931) has similar trouble with his old retainer. Cf. also Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited.

called the rest of the watch together … knave (ch. 8; page 69)

WATCH: How, if a will not stand?
DOGBERRY: Why, then, take no note of him, but let him go; and presently call the rest of the watch together, and thank God you are rid of a knave.

William Shakespeare (1564–1616) Much Ado about Nothing III:iii, 12

See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse for a longer excerpt.

every single discreditable episode in my past (ch. 8; page 69) *

Bingo Little has a similar trouble with Nannie Byles and her memories in “The Shadow Passes” (1950, in Nothing Serious):

His had been a rather notably checkered childhood, full of incidents which it had taken him years to live down, and he trusted that it was not Nannie Byles’s intention to form an I-Knew-Him-When club and read occasional papers.

Five hundred pounds (ch. 8; page 70) *

US book and magazine substitute three hundred pounds for this amount at every mention, both Nannie Byles’s demand for a nest egg and Officer McMurdo’s winnings from the football pool.

Omitting … no detail, however slight (ch. 8; page 70) °

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

[But see Right Ho, Jeeves. —NM]

McMurdo (ch. 8; page 70) °

There is also a McMurdo, golfer Sidney George McMurdo in full, in the stories “Those in Peril on the Tee” (1927; in Mr. Mulliner Speaking); “Tee for Two” / “Scratch Man” (1940; in A Few Quick Ones, US edition, 1959); “Tangled Hearts” and “Feet of Clay” (both in Nothing Serious, 1950); and “Sleepy Time” (1965; in Plum Pie, 1966/67).

McMurdo Station is the name of an Antarctic research base, established in 1956.

football pool (ch. 8; page 71)

A kind of lottery in which players have to predict whether or not the results of football matches will be draws. For a long time this sort of competition was legal in Britain when lotteries based on purely random events were not. The first pools coupons were issued in 1920. With the introduction of the Idiocy Tax (“National Lottery”) in the 1990s, their popularity declined.

Derby … Ballymore … Moke the Second (ch. 8; page 72)

The Derby is a horserace, held on Epsom Downs each June. It was first run in 1779, and is named after one of the organisers, the Earl of Derby. (He tossed a coin for the honour with Sir Charles Bunbury.)
Ballymore is the name of several places in Ireland; there doesn’t seem to have been a famous racehorse with that name.
Moke is a colloquial term for a donkey or an inferior horse.

Great-Uncle Walter (ch. 8; page 72) *

In US versions, he is named Great-Uncle Rupert.

It might fetch a fiver. (ch. 8; page 72) *

That is, a five-pound note. In US versions, it might fetch a tenner, leaving him two hundred ninety pounds short, instead of the four hundred ninety-five of the UK text.

Have you ever robbed a bank? (ch. 8; page 72)

Ten years later, in Do Butlers Burgle Banks? an impoverished squire does attempt to rob a bank (his own).

certain features of interest (ch. 8; page 73) °

This seems to be another echo of Sherlock Holmes, though so far no instance of the full phrase above has been found.

In these cases, save for one rather intricate matter which has been referred to me from Marseilles, there is nothing which presents any features of interest.

“A Case of Identity”

“I must thank you,” said Sherlock Holmes, “for calling my attention to a case which certainly presents some features of interest.”

The Hound of the Baskervilles, ch. 2

The case was concerned with a will, and possessed some features of interest.

The Sign of the Four, ch. 1

I have noted of some half-dozen cases of the kind, of which the Affair of the Second Stain and that which I am now about to recount are the two which present the strongest features of interest.

“The Yellow Face”

Wodehouse was fond of the full phrase:

He had seen that the gathering consisted of Colonel Wedge, Lady Hermione Wedge, Beach, the butler, and a brace of footmen, and at any other time—for the affair undoubtedly presented certain features of interest—he would have paused to ask questions.

Tipton Plimsoll in Full Moon, ch. 10.3 (1947)

“I agree that the problem is one that presents certain features of interest, but all problems can be solved with a little earnest thought.”

Lord Ickenham in Uncle Dynamite, ch. 6.3 (1948)

It seemed to Bill that the home life of his host presented what Sherlock Holmes would have called certain features of interest.

Something Fishy/The Butler Did It, ch. 15 (1957)

One of his subjects for thought was of course the mystery of the sudden animosity of Ivor Llewellyn, which, as Sherlock Holmes would have said, undoubtedly presented certain features of interest.

Bachelors Anonymous, ch. 14

Wodehouse used the full phrase with the strongest Sherlockian connection in “From a Detective’s Notebook” (1959) in Adrian Mulliner’s narration:

Looking back over my years as a detective, I recall many problems the solutions of which made me modestly proud, but though all of them undoubtedly presented certain features of interest and tested my powers to the utmost, I can think of none of my feats of ratiocination that gave me more pleasure than the unmasking of the man Sherlock Holmes…

not to take any wooden nickels (ch. 8; page 73) *

See Ice in the Bedroom.

Chapter 9

Runs from pp. 74 to 82 in the 1958 Jenkins and 1987 Penguin editions

a cow … to do the civil thing (ch. 9; page 74) *

Usually Wodehouse refers to courteous actions between people when he writes of “the civil thing,” but kind attention to animals, as here, comes up a few other times:

“I am going to return to East Seventy-Ninth Street and I am going to ring the door-bell and I am going to go straight in and inquire after the dog. Hope it is none the worse for its adventure and so on. After all, it is only the civil thing.”

George Finch in The Small Bachelor, ch. 1.3 (1926)

Gally drove up. He was accompanied by a large pig.
  It was difficult to be sure in the uncertain light of the moon, but Jerry had the impression that the animal gave him a friendly nod, and the civil thing to have done, of course, would have been to return it.

Pigs Have Wings, ch. 10.3 (1952)

“There was no question, old ancestor, of my getting away with the cat. I was merely doing the civil thing by tickling its stomach.”

Bertie to Aunt Dahlia in Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen, ch. 5 (1974)

no wedding bells for Officer McMurdo (ch. 9; page 74) *

See A Damsel in Distress.

a captious critic (ch. 9; page 74) *

See Sam the Sudden.

California ... here I come (ch. 9; page 75)

Title of one of Al Jolson’s most famous songs, written in 1924 by Bud de Sylva and Joseph Meyer for Jolson’s show Bombo.

port ... port of heaven ... Dons (ch. 9; page 75) °

Port is a sweet, fortified red wine from Oporto in Portugal, normally drunk after dinner in British upper-class circles. In Wodehouse, it is the prerogative of butlers.
As usual, Uncle Fred is playing with words: Newbolt presumably didn’t mean to suggest that Drake was drinking port in Heaven — see the quotation below.
Dons was for a long time British military and naval slang for the Spanish (Don being the usual form of address for a Spanish gentleman).

Sir Henry Newbolt, Drake’s Drum (ch. 9; page 75)

Newbolt (1862–1938) was one of the most popular writers of rousing imperialist poetry of the late 19th century. Unlike Kipling, the lawyer Newbolt was very much an armchair imperialist. Like Sir Joseph Porter, KCB, he never, never went to sea, but stayed in Britain in a comfortable late-Victorian ménage-à-trois with his wife, Margaret Duckworth, and her lover, Ella Coltman. According to a recent biography (Susan Chitty, Playing the Game, 1997), he didn’t play cricket either. In later life he is said to have been somewhat embarassed by the fame of his early work.

Drake he’s in his hammock an’ a thousand mile away,
 (Capten, art tha sleepin’ there below?)
Slung atween the round shot in Nombre Dios Bay,
 An’ dreamin’ arl the time o’ Plymouth Hoe.
Yarnder lumes the island, yarnder lie the ships,
 Wi’ sailor lads a-dancing’ heel-an’-toe,
An’ the shore-lights flashin’, an’ the night-tide dashin’,
 He see et arl so plainly as he saw et long ago.

Drake he was a Devon man, an’ ruled the Devon seas,
 (Capten, art tha’ sleepin’ there below?)
Roving’ tho’ his death fell, he went wi’ heart at ease,
 A’ dreamin’ arl the time o’ Plymouth Hoe.
“Take my drum to England, hang et by the shore,
 Strike et when your powder’s runnin’ low;
If the Dons sight Devon, I’ll quit the port o’ Heaven,
 An’ drum them up the Channel as we drumm’d them long ago.”

Drake he’s in his hammock till the great Armadas come,
 (Capten, art tha sleepin’ there below?)
Slung atween the round shot, listenin’ for the drum,
 An’ dreamin arl the time o’ Plymouth Hoe.
Call him on the deep sea, call him up the Sound,
 Call him when ye sail to meet the foe;
Where the old trade’s plyin’ an’ the old flag flyin’
 They shall find him ware an’ wakin’, as they found him long ago.

Sir Henry Newbolt (1862–1938): Drake’s Drum

Anachronistic parasites on the body of the state (ch. 9; page 76)

This phrase doesn’t seem to occur in Marx, but it summarises his position.

blood flowing in streams down Park Lane (ch. 9; page 76) *

Compare Bingo Little’s speech in Hyde Park during his leftist pose in “Comrade Bingo” (1922; in The Inimitable Jeeves, 1923):

“The world won’t be a fit place for honest men to live in till the blood of Lord Bittlesham and his kind flows in rivers down the gutters of Park Lane!”

This meeting is tiled. (ch. 9; page 76) *

A reference from freemasonry; see A Damsel in Distress. For Wodehouse’s Masonic connections, see Very Good, Jeeves.

Bill the Lizard (ch. 9; page 76)

The unfortunate Bill appears briefly in Chapter IV of Alice in Wonderland (“The White Rabbit Sends in a Little Bill”), when Alice kicks him up the chimney of the White Rabbit’s house, then again as a juror in the trial scene of Chapters XI and XII. (Alice upsets the jury box, and he gets put back the wrong way up.) One of the Tenniel drawings shows him flying out of the chimney.

fixed him with a glittering eye (ch. 9; page 76) *

Alluding once again to Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner.

the most determined Romeo (ch. 9; page 77) *

For a list of Wodehouse’s frequent references to the Shakespearean lover, see Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

lazar house (ch. 9; page 78)

Medieval term for a hospital, revived as a deliberate archaism by 19th century writers. A lazar (from the name Lazarus) is a sick or destitute person, especially a leper.

read Agatha Christie to me (ch. 9; page 78) *

Wodehouse was a fan of Christie’s books and vice versa; she dedicated her 1969 novel Hallowe’en Party “To P. G. Wodehouse—whose books and stories have brightened my life for many years. Also, to show my pleasure in his having been kind enough to tell me he enjoyed my books.”

... a butler to fall in love with the chatelaine (ch. 9; page 78) °

In earlier books, this sort of love across the class divide was something to joke about — “Indian Summer of an Uncle;” Lord Bittlesham marrying his cook in The Inimitable Jeeves — but when it occurs in later books it is played straight (cf. Lord Shortlands’s rivalry with his own butler for the hand of the cook in Spring Fever). Evidently Wodehouse in his seventies had become more sympathetic to late-flowering romance.

For chatelaine see A Damsel in Distress.

the tree on which the fruit of his life hung (ch. 9; page 78-79) *

See Engaged in Gilbert & Sullivan References in Wodehouse.

Piccadilly Circus to ... Hyde Park Corner (ch. 9; page 79)

This is a favourite Woosterism too. Notice that Wodehouse carefully says “placed” rather than “laid” to avoid any hint of misunderstanding. Piccadilly runs in a straight line from Piccadilly Circus, in the heart of the West End theatre district, to Hyde Park Corner, where it turns into Knightsbridge.
The distance is 1600 meters, or approximately a mile, which would call for at least 400 reunited couples!

Bill Oakshott (ch. 9; page 79)

United with Hermione Bostock in Uncle Dynamite.

Pongo (ch. 9; page 79)

Re-united with Sally Painter in Uncle Dynamite.

the pink chap down at Mitching Hill (ch. 9; page 79) *

This is Wilberforce “Wilby” Robinson from “Uncle Fred Flits By” (1935; in Young Men in Spats, 1936).

Polly Pott and Horace Davenport (ch. 9; page 79)

United with each other in Uncle Fred in the Springtime.

Elsie Bean (ch. 9; page 79)

United with Constable Potter in Uncle Dynamite.

The Ickenham system (ch. 9; page 79) *

Introduced in Uncle Dynamite, ch. 11.2 etc. (1948); recurs in Service With a Smile (1961) and in “Life with Freddie” (1966, in Plum Pie). In the US magazine condensation and US book of Cocktail Time it is called the “Ickenham method” instead at this point, though in chapter 14 of the US book it is System again.

Other descriptions of this sort of wooing are listed under covering her upturned face with kisses in the end notes to “In Alcala” (1909).

“What’s all this in aid of?” (ch. 9; page 80) *

Omitted in US magazine; strengthened in US book to “What the hell’s all this in aid of”

base over apex (ch. 9; page 80) *

As with from base to apex, these are the technical terms in geometry for the bottom and the point of an upright pyramid or cone. So figuratively, this refers to the extent of an upright person, and is equivalent to the familiar phrase “head over heels” (which would make more sense if it were “heels over head”). A few examples of many:

…somebody barged into me and I went base over apex into a bush.

Laughing Gas, ch. 20 (1935)

[Ricky Gilpin, dealing with costermongers]: “sailed in and knocked them base over apex into a pile of Brussels sprouts.”

Uncle Fred in the Springtime, ch. 5 (1939)

the crushing blow which had befallen him, knocking his new-found happiness base over apex

Spring Fever, ch. 5 (1948)

“…a homicidal lunatic of a girl came blinding along at ninety miles an hour in her car and knocked me base over apex.”

Lord Plumpton in “How’s That, Umpire?” (1950, in Nothing Serious)

You might have supposed that having so recently seen him knocked base over apex by the Rev. H. P. Pinker and subsequently laid out cold by Emerald Stoker and her basin of beans I would have regarded him with contempt as pretty small-time stuff and rebuked him sharply for calling me a miserable worm, but the idea never so much as crossed my mind.

Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves, ch. 18 (1963)

“Aunt Dahlia says you’ve been knocking the voting public base over apex with your oratory in the Conservative interest.”

Bertie to Lord Sidcup in Much Obliged, Jeeves, ch. 7 (1971).

language of flowers (ch. 9; page 80)

See Hot Water.

caught an unexpected automobile in the small of the back (ch. 9; page 81) *

Variants on this calamity are frequent in Wodehouse; here are a few examples:

one who, picking daisies on the railway, has just caught the down express in the small of the back.

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

I rose to my feet with some of the emotions of a man who has just taken the Cornish Express in the small of the back.

Laughing Gas, ch. 22 (1935)

that disagreeable sensation which comes to those who, pausing to tie a shoelace while crossing a railway line, find themselves struck in the small of the back by the Cornish express.

Pigs Have Wings, ch. 9.3 (1952)

the momentary illusion of having been hit in the small of the back by the Twentieth Century Limited.

Ring for Jeeves, ch. 11 (1953)

judgment day set in with unusual severity (ch. 9; page 81-82) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

Chapter 10

Runs from pp. 83 to 92 in the 1958 Jenkins and 1987 Penguin editions

one of those gas explosions in London streets which slay six (ch. 10; page 83) *

For the gas explosions specifically, see Ice in the Bedroom; also used in The Code of the Woosters, ch. 2 (1938); Barmy in Wonderland, ch. 19 (1952); Ring for Jeeves, ch. 8 (1953); The Girl in Blue, ch. 1 (1970); Pearls, Girls and Monty Bodkin, ch. 6.1 (1972); and:

I had rather an individual laugh in those days, something like the explosion of one of those gas mains that slay six.

Over Seventy, ch. 4.1 (1957)

Other slayers of six include hatchet-wielding fiends mentioned in Big Money, ch. 3 (1931) and “The Juice of an Orange” (1933; in Blandings Castle and Elsewhere, 1935).

spiral staircases (ch. 10; page 83) *

See Leave It to Psmith.

When the fields are white with daisies (ch. 10; page 85)

See Sam the Sudden.

to glare at someone like a basilisk (ch. 10; page 85) *

See Ice in the Bedroom.

all was for the best in this best of all possible worlds (ch. 10; page 85) *

See Something Fresh.

a man who in his time had played many parts (ch. 10; page 86) *

See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

Gina Lollobrigida (ch. 10; page 86)

The Italian actress, famous for her “hourglass” figure, made her film debut in 1946 in a version of “Lucia di Lammermoor” after winning a beauty contest. In the fifties and sixties the press made much of a supposed “battle of the bosoms” with her compatriot Sophia Loren. Nowadays, Ms Lollobrigida is chiefly active as a photographer and has entered politics as a supporter of various humanitarian causes.

The Cedars, Mafeking Road (ch. 10; page 86)

See “Uncle Fred Flits By” and the note below.

when [inspectors] popped up just as he was concluding an important deal (ch. 10; page 86) *

The US book has “popped up out of a trap” here; see Bill the Conqueror. The US magazine omits this portion of the sentence entirely.

The burglar looks down on on the stick-up man (ch. 10; page 87) *

“I’ve gone down and down, as you might say.” Mr. Slattery hesitated. “Shall I tell you something, Oily? I even do stick-up work now.”
  “You do?” said Mr. Carlisle, and though he tried to keep the note of disapproval out of his voice it crept in. He hoped he was no snob, but there are social grades and degrees in the world of crime, and everybody knows that stick-up men are not quite.

Hot Water, ch. 1.3 (1932)

Peter Piper ... (ch. 10; page 87)

This is a famous example of the “tongue-twister.” There are at least four different versions around. It is sometimes claimed to have come from an alphabetical collection of similar rhymes.
A peck is an English measure of volume, equal to 8 quarts.

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers
How many pickled peppers did peter piper pick?
Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
Did Peter Piper pick a peck of pickled peppers?
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
Where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?
Peter Piper picked a peck of purple pippins.
Where’s the peck of purple pippins Peter Piper picked?
Peter Piper put the peck of purple pippins
On Poppy Pepper’s pewter platter.
Peter Prangle, the prickly prangly pear picker,
Picked three pecks of prickly prangly pears
From the prangly pear trees on the pretty pleasant prairies.

Unknown: Peter Piper

Sir Raymond, who blinked and said he had not (ch. 10; page 87) *

In the US book, after “blinked” there is a comma and this phrase:

for the intellectual pressure of the conversation was still too much for him,

See A Damsel in Distress.

one who specialized in the persuasive word (ch. 10; page 87) *

US book substitutes “the honeyed word” here; a phrase which Wodehouse employed frequently, first in “The Lost Lambs” (1908 serial; later the second half of Mike, 1909, and separately as Enter Psmith and Mike and Psmith), and at least as late as Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves, ch. 7 (1963). So one would lean toward assuming the US book version was Wodehouse’s preference.

a secret spot marked with a cross (ch. 10; page 88) *

That is, an X as on a pirate’s treasure map (a stereotype deriving from Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, 1883).

the quality of mercy (ch. 10; page 89) °

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 many other references to this passage.

Swaying a little on his base (ch. 10; page 89) *

For the geometrical analogy of a standing person to a cone or pyramid, see base over apex above.

Old Bailey (ch. 10; page 90) *

See p. 19, above.

excrescence (ch. 10; page 91) *

See Right Ho, Jeeves.

one of the less attractive fauna in the Book of Revelations (ch. 10; page 91) *

Lord Ickenham makes the common mistake of adding an ‘s’ to the name of the last book of the New Testament. See Biblia Wodehousiana for more.

cushat dove (ch. 10; page 91)

A cushat dove is a woodpigeon.
Perhaps from this poem, set to music by both Sir Hubert Parry and Sir Arthur Sullivan, and thus presumably inescapable in the Edwardian drawing room...

There sits a bird on yonder tree,
More fond than Cushat dove;
There sits a bird on yonder tree,
And sings to me of love.
Oh stoop thee from thine eyrie down,
And nestle thee near my heart,
For the moments fly and the hour is nigh,
When thou and I must part,
My love! when thou and I must part.

Thomas Barham (“Richard Ingoldsby”): There sits a bird on yonder tree


...or this, from Christina Rossetti?

She listened like a cushat dove
That listens to its mate alone;
She listened like a cushat dove
That loves but only one.

And downcast were her dovelike eyes
And downcast was her tender cheek
Her pulses fluttered like a dove
To hear him speak.

Christina Rossetti

the voice with the smile wins (ch. 10; page 91) *

See Ukridge.

the sword of ... (ch. 10; page 91-92)

Damocles. In classical mythology he was a courtier of Dionysius the first. At a dinner, Dionysius had a sword suspended over Damocles’s head by a single hair to show him the precarious nature of rank and power.

Chapter 11

Runs from pp. 93 to 100 in the 1958 Jenkins and 1987 Penguin editions

pennies from heaven (ch. 11; page 93) *

See Uncle Fred in the Springtime.

There was a sound of revelry by night (ch. 11; page 94)

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.

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

Constable Styles of C Division (ch. 11; page 94)

“C” Division of the Metropolitan Police had responsibility for the Mayfair and Soho areas.

hoosegow (ch. 11; page 94) °

Prison. US slang from Mexican Spanish juzgao, derived from juzgado, a tribunal. First recorded in English ca. 1911. Wodehouse uses it in Quick Service, ch.19 (1940); Full Moon, ch. 5.3 (1947); “Jeeves Makes an Omelet” (in A Few Quick Ones, 1959); and Galahad at Blandings, ch. 1.1 (1965).

gyves upon his wrists (ch. 11; page 94)

That very night while gentle sleep
The urchin’s eyelids kissed,
Two stern-faced men set out from Lynn,
Through the cold and heavy mist;
And Eugene Aram walked between,
With gyves upon his wrist.

Thomas Hood (1799–1845): The Dream of Eugene Aram (1829)

See also A Damsel in Distress.

Bosher Street (ch. 11; page 94)

See Summer Lightning.

jug (ch. 11; page 94)

Jug for prison was originally American slang (initially as stone-jug), but it was well-established in England by the mid-19th century, both as noun and as here as a verb.

Death of a Thousand Cuts (ch. 11; page 94)

A method of torture and execution traditional in pre-revolutionary China, which involved the victim being given many small sword cuts and allowed to bleed slowly to death.

Alma Mater (ch. 11; page 94)

Latin: beloved mother. A conventional term for one’s former school or university, here being used ironically.

the square meal he would have on getting out (ch. 11; page 94) *

Compare the elaborate dinner, planned out by Bertie Wooster in ch. 14 of The Code of the Woosters, to be prepared by Anatole after Bertie’s expected thirty days in the cooler.

Barribault’s (ch. 11; page 94) *

See Ice in the Bedroom.

Mario’s (ch. 11; page 94) *

See Bill the Conqueror.

Claridge’s (ch. 11; page 94) *

See Summer Lightning.

the Savoy (ch. 11; page 94) *

See Blandings Castle and Elsewhere.

Simpson’s in the Strand (ch. 11; page 94) °

For a detailed description of this famous carvery restaurant, we quote from Something Fresh/Something New, ch. 3 pt. 3:

There are all sorts of restaurants in London, from the restaurant which makes you fancy you are in Paris to the restaurant which makes you wish you were. There are palaces in Piccadilly, quaint lethal chambers in Soho, and strange food factories in Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road. There are restaurants which specialize in ptomaine and restaurants which specialize in sinister vegetable messes. But there is only one Simpson’s.
  Simpson’s, in the Strand, is unique. Here, if he wishes, the Briton may for the small sum of half a dollar stupefy himself with food. The god of fatted plenty has the place under his protection. Its keynote is solid comfort.
  It is a pleasant, soothing, hearty place—a restful temple of food. No strident orchestra forces the diner to bolt beef in ragtime. No long central aisle distracts his attention with its stream of new arrivals. There he sits, alone with his food, while white-robed priests, wheeling their smoking trucks, move to and fro, ever ready with fresh supplies.

Since 2005, Simpson’s has been run by Fairmont Hotels and Resorts.
See the Wikipedia entry.

Daily Gazette (ch. 11; page 95)


Yul Brynner (ch. 11; page 95)

Russian-born Hollywood actor (1915–1985), who started his professional career as a trapeze artist in France in the thirties. In 1956 he had made three of his most famous films: The King and I, The Ten Commandments, and Anastasia. He was celebrated, inter alia, for his lack of hair.

roly-poly pudding (ch. 11; page 95) *

See Very Good, Jeeves.

secrecy and silence (ch. 11; page 95) *

Another phrase with a possible Masonic influence; see Very Good, Jeeves.

Budge Street, Chelsea (ch. 11; page 95)

There is currently no Budge Street in London. There is a Budge’s Walk in Kensington Gardens. In his penniless youth, Wodehouse lived in lodgings in Markham Square and Walpole Street in Chelsea. In Uncle Dynamite, Pongo’s future wife, Sally Painter, has her studio in Budge Street.

a man who thought on his feet and did it now (ch. 11; page 96) *

See Leave It to Psmith.

ashes in his mouth (ch. 11; page 96) *

See The Code of the Woosters.

the blue bird (ch. 11; page 96)

The association of the “blue bird” with elusive happiness comes from Maeterlinck’s play L’Oiseau bleu (translated into English in 1909).
Although the expression had been in use for some time and Wodehouse had used it before (e.g. in “The Crime Wave at Blandings,” 1936), it would have been particularly well known in 1958 because of a popular song of that name. “The Bluebird of Happiness” was written by Art Mooney in 1948 and recorded at that time by Mooney and his Orchestra. But the ditty would later become a huge hit when covered by the Metropolitan Opera star tenor Jan Peerce (b. Jacob Pincus Perelmuth), probably in the mid-1950s.

sent empty away by a landlady (ch. 11; page 96) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

The US book editor apparently failed to recognize the Scriptural phrasing here, altering it to “sent away empty”; the US magazine has simply “sent away by a landlady” here.

heart leaped up ... rainbows (ch. 11; page 97)

My heart leaps up when I behold  
A rainbow in the sky:  
So was it when my life began;  
So is it now I am a man;  
So be it when I shall grow old,
   Or let me die!  
The Child is father of the Man;  
I could wish my days to be  
Bound each to each by natural piety.

William Wordsworth: Rainbows

a lost sheep reporting for duty (ch. 11; page 97) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

Thinking of the strain to which he had been subjected (ch. 11; page 97) *

The US book has “spiritual agonies” instead of “strain”; the US magazine condensation omits the entire sentence.

Wodehouse used “spiritual agonies” in a few books, including again in the third paragraph of Chapter 22 in this book, so it is plausible to suppose that the UK book editor changed this appearance to “strain” to avoid the repetition.

He turned to his wife. (ch. 11; page 97) *

The US book extends this sentence: “He turned to his wife and laughed a hollow, bitter, hacking laugh.” The US magazine condensation omits the paragraph.

The claims of prison are paramount. (ch. 11; page 98) *

A possible echo of “The sacred ties of Friendship are paramount” from W. S. Gilbert’s libretto for Iolanthe. Wodehouse had already altered this to “the claims of friendship are paramount” in “The Exit of Battling Billson” (1923).

Chapter 12

Runs from pp. 101 to 108 in the 1958 Jenkins and 1987 Penguin editions

married to immortal verse (ch. 12; page 101)

Here Wordsworth is talking about Milton, who was blind in later life: the tag “Married to immortal verse” comes from Milton’s L’Allegro. Is it too fanciful to assume that Wodehouse has made a connection between “Johnson’s learned sock” and the one that Mr Saxby is knitting? (Douglas Bush, editor of the Oxford Milton, glosses “sock” as “the light shoe of the ancient comic actors; symbol of comedy”).


Then to the well-trod stage anon,
If Johnson’s learned sock be on,
Or sweetest Shakespeare, Fancy’s child,
Warble his native wood-notes wild.
And ever, against eating cares,
Lap me in soft Lydian airs,
Married to immortal verse,
Such as the meeting soul may pierce,

   John Milton: L’Allegro, 131–138


And know we not that from the blind have flowed
The highest, holiest, raptures of the lyre;
And wisdom married to immortal verse?

William Wordsworth: The Excursion VII: 534–536

sleep ... ravelled sleave of care (ch. 12; page 102) °

Methought I heard a voice cry ‘Sleep no more!
Macbeth does murder sleep’, the innocent sleep,
Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleeve of care,
The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,
Chief nourisher in life’s feast,—

William Shakespeare (1564–1616) Macbeth II:ii

See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse for a discussion of sleave vs. sleeve, as well as many other references to this passage.

Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers (ch. 12; page 102)

Like the Wordsworth reference, this is in Bartlett.

Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers, and I linger on the shore,
And the individual withers, and the world is more and more.
Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers, and he bears a laden breast,
Full of sad experience, moving toward the stillness of his rest.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson: Locksley Hall 131–134

“I came about that serial.”
“When I was a young man … there were no cereals … Cute Crispies … Crunchy Whoopsies” (ch. 12; page 103)

“Cereal” and “serial” are pronounced alike.
These names appear to be invented. The fashion for breakfast cereals started with corn flakes, invented in 1896 by the American physician and dietary reformer Dr. John Harvey Kellogg at Battle Creek, Michigan and commercialised by his brother Will. The rapid success of the product led to many imitations being brought on the market — there is an entertaining fictionalised account in T. Corraghessan Boyle’s novel The Road to Wellville (1993).

four-minute mile (ch. 12; page 104)

Roger Bannister became the first person to run a mile in under four minutes (3 minute 59.4 seconds), on 6 May 1954. In 2021, the record, set by Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco in 1999, stood at 3:43.13.

Hell’s bells! (ch. 12; page 105) *

This nicely rhyming expletive is not found in early Wodehouse; the first example so far found is spoken by Sigsbee H. Waddington in The Small Bachelor, ch. 6.1 (1926). The OED has an American citation from 1847, so it was by no means new slang.

Wodehouse continued to use the exclamation in at least fourteen later books, from Big Money (1931) through Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen (1974).

The US magazine condensation of Cocktail Time omits this exclamation.

one of the Jukes family with two heads (ch. 12; page 105) *

A series of sociological studies in the late 1800s and early 1900s of a clan living in upstate New York hill country used “Jukes” as a pseudonym for a few related families, which were reportedly riddled with “crime, pauperism, and disease” either because of heredity or environment. The conclusions drawn at the time have since been debated often in scientific circles, but the name stuck in popular culture as a reference to genetically subnormal families, especially with respect to intelligence.

The first reference so far found in Wodehouse is in Pigs Have Wings, ch. 1.2, in which Lady Constance explains something to Lord Emsworth “with the strained sweetness of a woman striving to be patient while conversing with one of the less intelligent of the Jukes family.” The last one is in Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen, ch. 3 (1974), in which Bertie describes the telephone operators of Market Blandings as “recruited exclusively from the Worcestershire branch of the Jukes family.”

lions ... lambs (ch. 12; page 105)

Proverbially, the month of March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.

finding the mot juste (ch. 12; page 106) *

The exactly right word; see the note on Flaubert, p. 43 above.

the time Gutenberg invented the printing press (ch. 12; page 107)

Johannes Gensfleisch (ca. 1400–1468; he called himself Gutenberg after the house in Mainz where he was born) did not invent the printing press, contrary to popular belief. Printing from woodcuts using a press was already well-known.
Gutenberg’s major contribution, as a trained goldsmith, was the development of the tools and materials to make cast metal movable type. With his process, type could be made in large quantities and texts set up for printing much more rapidly than by engraving each page individually on wood. He printed his first book with movable type sometime before 1450, either in Strasburg or Mainz. The famous Bible — an example of which is in the Blandings Castle library — was printed at Mainz between 1452 and 1454.

Superba-Llewellyn (ch. 12; page 108) °

We first met the Sam Goldwyn lookalike Ivor Llewellyn in The Luck of the Bodkins (1935).

The US magazine and book do not mention at this point which studio made the offer; the Superba-Llewellyn is first mentioned in the third paragraph of Chapter 13.

Chapter 13

Runs from pp. 109 to 115 in the 1958 Jenkins and 1987 Penguin editions

The first paragraph of Chapter 13 differs significantly between the two book versions, as shown here. In the US magazine condensation, the paragraph is only two sentences: the first sentence, like the UK book, skips the “mind in a whirl” digression, followed by a shortened version of the US second sentence, ending at “blunt instrument.”

US book

UK book

It was a stunned and dizzy Cosmo Wisdom, a Cosmo with his mind, as the expression is, in a whirl, who some quarter of an hour later tottered from the premises of the Edgar Saxby Literary Agency, hailed a cab and tottered into it. He was feeling rather like a private eye in a novel of suspense who has recently been hit over the head with a blunt instrument by one of those undesirable characters who talk out of the side of their mouths and are always doing that sort of thing in the interests of the Big Shot. But whereas the private eye derives little enjoyment from the experience, infinitely preferring to be closeted with a blonde and drinking bourbon from the bottle in the office desk, the mental condition of Cosmo, as he drove to Budge Street, Chelsea, could only have been described as ecstatic. It is not easy to drive in a taxicab of the 1947 vintage and feel that you are floating on a pink cloud high up in the empyrean, but he did it. And this in spite of the fact that his head was still paining him quite a good deal. It was a stunned and dizzy Cosmo Wisdom who some quarter of an hour later tottered from the premises of the Saxby literary agency, hailed a cab and tottered into it. He was feeling very much as his Uncle Raymond had felt on that faraway afternoon at Oxford when he had taken the Welsh forward to his bosom. But whereas Sir Raymond’s emotions on that occasion had been of a sombre nature, those of Cosmo, as he drove to Budge Street, Chelsea, can best be described by the adjective ecstatic. It is not easy to drive in a taxi cab of the 1947 vintage and feel that you are floating on a pink cloud high up in the empyrean, but he did it. And this in spite of the fact that his head was still hurting him quite a good deal.

empyrean (ch. 13; page 109)

The sky, or Heaven. In some accounts (e.g. Dante), the empyrean is the highest, non-moving level of the Heavens, the abode of peace and the seat of the divine. A favourite word of Wordsworth’s.

occipital bone (ch. 13; page 109)

The large bone forming the lower, rear part of the skull. Presumably Cosmo had turned his chair to face away from Saxby’s desk when Barbara came in.

oblectation (ch. 13; page 109)

Rare indeed. The OED lists this and the corresponding verbs “oblect” and “oblectate” as obsolete. They all seem to have come and gone in the seventeenth century, although Bulwer Lytton used “oblectation” in his novel Eugene Aram.

PLEASURE, gratification, enjoyment, fruition, delectation, oblectation [rare]; relish, zest; gusto &c. (physical pleasure) [See Physical Pleasure]; satisfaction (content) [See Content]; complacency.

Mawson, C.O.S., ed. (1870–1938) Roget’s International Thesaurus. (1922)

went from strength to strength (ch. 13; page 109) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

that S-L were offering (ch. 13; page 109-110) *

US magazine and UK book agree on the plural verb “were” to go with a corporate noun subject. The US book has “that S-L was offering” here, probably a choice by the US book editor to go along with American practice of construing corporate nouns as singular.

ministering angel (ch. 13; page 110)

Though most often associated with Scott’s “woman, in our hours of ease..,” the phrase was first used by Laertes of his late sister, Ophelia.

Laertes:    Lay her i’ the earth;  
And from her fair and unpolluted flesh  
May violets spring! I tell thee, churlish priest,
A ministering angel shall my sister be,  
When thou liest howling.

William Shakespeare (1564–1616) Hamlet V:i, 118–122

you can’t take it with you (ch. 13; page 110) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

return to the fold (ch. 13; page 111) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

“Tuberculosis” … brightening a little (ch. 13; page 111) *

Reminiscent of other landladies and caretakers in Wodehouse:

Mrs. Meecher … enjoyed the tragedies of life.
 “There’s a lot of this Spanish influenza about. It might be that. Lots o’ people been dying of it, if you believe what you see in the papers,” said Mrs. Meecher buoyantly.

The Adventures of Sally (1922)

Mrs. Platt, for instance. A gray, depressed woman of middle age, she had seemed hitherto to have but few pleasures beyond breaking dishes and relating the symptoms of sick neighbors who were not expected to live through the week.

A Damsel in Distress, ch. 20 (1919)

King’s Road ... Kensal Green (ch. 13; page 111)

The King’s Road (A308) is the main road running north-east to south-west through Chelsea, from Sloane Square to Putney Bridge.
Kensal Green is a cemetery in west London, about five miles from Chelsea.

Bournemouth (ch. 13; page 112)

Seaside town in Dorset. A safe distance from Berkshire, and a plausible place for a few days’ holiday.

It was nonchalantly that he now replied (ch. 13; page 113) *

The US book has “It was nonchalantly—Roget would have added airily and glibly—that he now replied”; the US magazine condensation omits the sentence entirely.

Georgina, Lady Witherspoon (ch. 13; page 113) °

Other aristocratic Witherspoons had appeared earlier: Sir Reginald Witherspoon, Bart., and his wife Katherine, younger sister of Bertie’s Uncle Tom Travers, in “Tuppy Changes His Mind” (1930; also called “The Ordeal of Young Tuppy” in UK editions of Very Good, Jeeves).

Wodehouse re-used this name a few years later in Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves (1963): Jeeves passes himself off as Chief Inspector Witherspoon of the Yard to get Bertie out of a tight spot.

And Claude Witherspoon proposes unsuccessfully to Gertrude Butterwick in Pearls, Girls and Monty Bodkin (1972).

Rachel Wilson’s romance novel Spirit of Love (1999) has a heroine called Georgina Witherspoon. Is she a Wodehouse fan?

oompus-boompus (ch. 13; page 114) °

Also a favourite expression of Dolly Molloy. Cf. Money in the Bank, where it appears both in the sense of sexual misconduct and in the present sense of any sort of underhand or shady dealing.

The US book has the apparently unique “an oompus boompus” here, with indefinite article and no hyphen; this must be an editor’s choice rather than the way it always appears elsewhere in Wodehouse. The US magazine simplifies Gertie’s sentence to “There’s something going on,” perhaps easier on the reader but far less characteristic.

get it and destroy it (ch. 13; page 114) *

Both US magazine and US book have “get his hooks on it and destroy it” here, which must be Wodehouse’s original; he used this slang for “hands” often, as in The Code of the Woosters.

sitting pretty (ch. 13; page 114) *

See Sam the Sudden, as well as the last line of the Thurber quotation in the next note.

catbird seat (ch. 13; page 114)

The catbird is an American thrush, Mimus carolinensis. The expression “sitting in the catbird seat” seems to come from the American South, and means an advantageous position. The catbird was thought to choose the highest branch of the tree to sit on. The OED cites this passage, and the Thurber story “The Catbird Seat.” (For evidence that Wodehouse read Thurber, see p. 145 below.)

It was Joey Hart, one of Mr. Martin’s two assistants, who had explained what the gibberish meant. “She must be a Dodger fan,” he had said. “Red Barber announces the Dodger games over the radio and he uses those expressions--picked ’em up down South.” Joey had gone on to explain one or two. “Tearing up the pea patch” meant going on a rampage; “sitting in the catbird seat” means sitting pretty, like a batter with three balls and no strikes on him.

James Thurber: The Catbird Seat (1942)

Chapter 14

Runs from pp. 116 to 124 in the 1958 Jenkins and 1987 Penguin editions

the vultures had decided to muster (ch. 14; page 116) *

See The Code of the Woosters.

Q.C. (ch. 14; page 116)

Queen’s Counsel (see silk, p. 19 above).

cocker spaniel Benjy (ch. 14; page 116)

Cocker Spaniels do not feature in the extensive list of Wodehouse dogs Murphy has identified, so presumably Benjy is fictititious.
 [Murphy, N. T. P., In Search of Blandings (1986) Ch.5]

Mr. Spurrell (ch. 14; page 116)

Spurrell is a fairly common name in Norfolk. Wodehouse may have picked it up on one of his visits to Hunstanton.

mustard and water (ch. 14; page 116) *

Dry powdered mustard mixed in water is still recommended as an emetic (inducing vomiting) in human cases of poisoning with non-corrosive substances.

photographically lined on the tablets of his memory (ch. 14; page 116) *

A slight misquotation from one of the Bab Ballads:

Oh! that day of sorrow, misery, and rage,
I shall carry to the Catacombs of Age,
  Photographically lined
  On the tablet of my mind,
When a yesterday has faded from its page!

W. S. Gilbert: “The Story of Prince Agib” (1868)

Ickenham System (ch. 14; page 116) *

In the US magazine condensation, this is the Ickenham method once again, but both US and UK books have System here.

James Graham, Marquis of Montrose (ch. 14; page 118) °

James Graham, 5th Earl and 1st Marquis of Montrose (1612–1650). He was a staunch Calvinist, and became one of the chief military leaders of the Covenanters when Charles I tried to impose bishops on the Scots in 1637. Montrose occupied the town of Aberdeen in 1639, and Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1640.
After the Solemn League and Covenant of 1643, by which the Scottish army joined the Parliamentary side in the English Civil War, Montrose took the Royalist side. Charles made him a Marquis in 1644 in gratitude for his support, but in 1646 he was forced to go into exile after a defeat near Selkirk. He returned to Scotland in 1650 with a small force in an attempt to subvert the Commonwealth, but was caught and executed. The execution was the subject of a poem by William McGonagall, a rather better poet than Montrose on the evidence of this piece...
The excerpt quoted (the quatrain which appears in Bartlett, the last half of the second stanza) comes from a poem in which the central conceit is that the poet addresses his love in the terms of a ruler to a subject. Perhaps fitting for a man who is said to have spent his wedding night playing golf.

My dear and only Love, I pray
 This noble world of thee
Be govern’d by no other sway
 But purest monarchy;
For if confusion have a part,
 Which virtuous souls abhor,
And hold a synod in thy heart,
 I’ll never love thee more.

Like Alexander I will reign,
 And I will reign alone:
My thoughts shall evermore disdain
 A rival on my throne.
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.

But I must rule and govern still,
 And always give the law,
And have each subject at my will,
 And all to stand in awe.
But ’gainst my battery, if I find
 Thou shunn’st the prize so sore
As that thou sett’st me up a blind,
 I’ll never love thee more.

Or in the empire of thy heart,
 Where I should solely be,
Another do pretend a part
 And dares to view with me;
Or if committees thou erect,
 And go on such a score,
I’ll sing and laugh at thy neglect,
 And never love thee more.

But if thou wilt be constant then,
 And faithful of thy word,
I’ll make thee glorious by my pen
 And famous by my sword:
I’ll serve thee in such noble ways
 Was never heard before;
I’ll crown and deck thee all with bays,
 And love thee evermore.

James Graham, 1st Marquis of Montrose: My Dear and Only Love

Both original book editions of Cocktail Time have errors in the fourth line quoted. The UK first edition has “To win or lose at all.” (at should be it). The US first edition has “To gain or lose it all.” The alternate reading “gain” at least dates from late eighteenth-century secondary sources, but modern editions seem to agree with the earliest ones available at Google Books in preferring “win” here.

nor was he expecting to (ch. 14; page 118) *

US book and magazine say “nor was he expecting to catch anything” here.

working together for the good of the show (ch. 14; page 119) *

Wodehouse often refers to this ideal state of a company of actors, which is often endangered by professional jealousies, as he well knew from his experiences in the theater.

“Working for the good of the show all the time. That’s me.”

The Adventures of Sally, ch. 6.2 (1921/22)

“If you will allow me to make a suggestion—we’re all working for the good of the show—I’d say let me be someone unspotted who’s bringing a breach of promise action against you.”

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

“Here’s a suggestion, boys. May be nothing in it, but we’re all working for the good of the show. Why don’t you marry Ann?”

Laughing Gas, ch. 28 (1935)

“Now, boys, boys,” said the Fuehrer indulgently. “Cut out the cracks. We’re all working for the good of the show. Here’s a thought that crossed my mind as I was coming here. Let’s destroy Britain.”

“The Big Push” in Punch, December 13, 1939

“Stick around and play ball. We’re all working for the good of the show.”

Money in the Bank, ch. 21 (1941)

“We’re all working for the good of the show,” said Fanny virtuously.

Barmy in Wonderland, ch. 14 (1952)

“Sure he knows you know, Bill,” interposed Burbage soothingly. “Don’t get your shirt out. We’re all working for the good of the show.”

“Francis Bacon and the Play Doctor” in America, I Like You (1956)

And until recently such a sympathy had existed between Porky Jupp and Plug Bosher in abundant measure, each helping each and working unselfishly together for the good of the show.

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

“We’re all working for the good of the show, he reminded me austerely. “You want the scene to carry conviction, and there’s nothing like a sight gag.”

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

Le Touquet (ch. 14; page 119) °

Le Touquet–Paris Plage is a seaside resort in northern France, about 15km south of Boulogne. Still very fashionable in the twenties, although it declined in popularity with the upper classes when they started going to the Riviera in summer as well as winter. The Wodehouses bought a house there called Low Wood, and were living there when the German army invaded France in 1940.

It reminded him of that of women he had seen at Le Touquet groping their way out into the morning air after an all-night session at the Casino. (ch. 14; page 119) *

Wodehouse wrote from Le Touquet to his stepdaughter Leonora (August 24, 1934) that after a brief evening visit to the Casino, winning three mille (three thousand francs) in two minutes, he had gone home, but that when he took his dog Winky for a walk the next morning at 7 a.m. “we had been out about ten minutes when Mummie arrived, having been at the Casino all night and lost three mille.”

P. G. Wodehouse: A Life in Letters, ed. Sophie Ratcliffe (2011), p. 248

coming apart at the seams (ch. 14; page 119) *

This very expressive figure of speech seems to be unique in Wodehouse’s writing.

George Winstanley (ch. 14; page 120)

Could this be the author of Under two flags in Africa: recollections of a British administrator in Bechuanaland and Botswana, 1954 to 1972? Sadly, it seems unlikely.
There is a George Winstanley Murgatroyd mentioned in Louder and Funnier.

off his onion (ch. 14; page 120) *

See The Inimitable Jeeves.

Stalin’s nephew (ch. 14; page 120)

Stalin had died in 1953.

has not got all his marbles (ch. 14; page 120) *

US book and magazine read “has not his full collection of marbles” here. One can imagine a UK book editor changing this to “has not got all”; surely no editor would have made the opposite change, so the US reading is probably Wodehouse’s original.

Although OED citations for similar phrases date from 1902, with a cited definition of “mentally deficient” in a reference book of 1927, Wodehouse did not apparently use this colloquial sense until this book. The OED cites his use of the phrase in Chapter 17 of this book.

“You have held me up at the bar of world opinion as a man who has not got all his marbles.”

Bertie to Jeeves, about the resolution of Jeeves in the Offing/How Right You Are, Jeeves, ch. 21 (1960)

There was an expression she had heard her husband James Schoonmaker use to describe an acquaintance of whose mentality his opinion was low, which seemed to her to fit the ninth Earl of Emsworth like the paper on the wall. It was the expression “He has not got all his marbles.”

A Pelican at Blandings, ch. (1969)

non compos (ch. 14; page 120)

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.

“Frederick, … he sends me flowers!” (ch. 14; page 121) *

In the US book and magazine, Uncle Fred interjects “Flowers?” here, before Phoebe goes on to say “Every morning.”

I see no objection to flowers in moderation. (ch. 14; page 121) *

An allusion to W. S. Gilbert’s libretto for Iolanthe, in which the Fairy Queen says “I see no objection to stoutness in moderation.”

Sir Roderick Glossop (ch. 14; page 121)

See p. 39 above.

a floater of the worst description (ch. 14; page 121)

See The Code of the Woosters.

Whoso findeth a butler... (ch. 14; page 122)

Once again, not Ecclesiastes but Proverbs. Does this say something about Ickenham’s (or the author’s) attitude to butlers, or is he giving Phoebe a broad hint?

Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord.

Bible: Proverbs 18:22

You wouldn’t have seen him for dust (ch. 14; page 122) *

In other words, he would have left so speedily as to kick up a cloud of dust that would obscure his departure. The phrase has not so far been found in slang dictionaries; Google Books finds it in an 1897 play. The first usage in Wodehouse seems to be:

“Wotwotleigh, on hearing the news, would have edged out.”
“I should say so. You wouldn’t have been able to see him for dust.”

Thank You, Jeeves, ch. 20 (1934)

only a synthetic butler (ch. 14; page 122) °

Wodehouse isn’t being quite as radical as we might have thought — the corollary of Ickenham’s argument here is that it would not be acceptable for Peasemarch to court Phoebe if he had only his butler’s salary.

[It seems to me rather that Ickenham is relying on his “vivid imagination” to construct a story that will appeal to Phoebe’s sense of romance. His earlier explanation to Pongo in chapter 7 (page 57) was that despite Peasemarch’s retiring with income from property, he was bored (“ennui”) in retirement and wanted some activity similar to his earlier career as a steward. Nothing was said there about his wanting to be near Phoebe. —NM]

Haryer, haryer (ch. 14; page 123)

i.e. “How are you?”

Johnny ... on the spot (ch. 14; page 123)

This phrase seems to be American 19th century slang. Its origins are obscure, but it is clearly related to a lot of other colloquial phrases in which “Johnny” or “Charlie” stands for “a person.” The OED cites a US source from 1880. Wodehouse used it in “The Man Who Disliked Cats” (1912). More recently it has become the trade name of an American supplier of portable toilets.

sticketh closer than a brother (ch. 14; page 123)

More from Proverbs, Chapter 18.

A man that hath friends must show himself friendly; and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.

Bible: Proverbs 18:24

great lovers through the ages (ch. 14; page 123) *

See If I Were You.

course of true love ... smooth (ch. 14; page 123)

Lys.  Ay me! for aught that ever I could read,  
   Could ever hear by tale or history,  
   The course of true love never did run smooth;
   But, either it was different in blood,—
Her. O cross! too high to be enthrall’d to low.  
Lys.  Or else misgraffed in respect of years,—  
Her. O spite! too old to be engag’d to young.  
Lys.  Or else it stood upon the choice of friends,—  
Her. O hell! to choose love by another’s eye.

William Shakespeare (1564–1616) A Midsummer Night’s Dream I:i,137–145

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

rift within the lute (ch. 14; page 124)

In Love, if Love be Love, if Love be ours,
Faith and unfaith can ne’er be equal powers:
Unfaith in aught is want of faith in all.
It is the little rift within the lute,
That by and by will make the music mute,
And ever widening slowly silence all.
The little rift within the lover’s lute
Or little pitted speck in garner’d fruit,
That rotting inward slowly moulders all.
It is not worth the keeping: let it go:
But shall it? answer, darling, answer, no.
And trust me not at all or all in all.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson: Vivien’s Song

Chapter 15

Runs from pp. 125 to 131 in the 1958 Jenkins and 1987 Penguin editions

you appear on your travels to have picked up some luggage (ch. 15; page 125) *

The US book moves “on your travels” to the end of this sentence; the US magazine condensation omits these three words.

a fellow in the early forties with a jutting chin and a head like the dome of St. Paul’s (ch. 15; page 125) *

Other than Barbara Crowe’s description of him as the active partner, this is about all we learn about Howard Saxby Jr.; the US magazine condensation omits the comparison to the dome.

For “dome of St. Paul’s” see Uncle Fred in the Springtime.

Lord Beaverbrook (ch. 15; page 126) °

William Maxwell Aitken (1879–1964), 1st Baron Beaverbrook. Canadian stockbroker who made a fortune in cement before moving to Britain and becoming a Conservative MP in 1911. Lloyd George made him a peer (cf. Lord Bittlesham) for his help in removing Asquith from power.
During the War, he bought the Daily Express and built up its circulation to become one of the biggest-selling newspapers anywhere. He later set up the Sunday Express, and added a number of other papers including the London Evening Standard to his empire. He served as a minister during both the first and second world wars. I have not found anything to suggest that he played the trombone.

The US magazine condensation omits this reference entirely.

Flannery (ch. 15; page 126)

Wodehouse was interviewed by a CBS journalist called Harry W. Flannery at the Adlon Hotel in Berlin on 26 June, 1941. Flannery later admitted that he had written the whole interview, including Wodehouse’s answers, himself. He clearly took against Wodehouse, and his account was subsequently cited by many in Britain and America as evidence that Wodehouse was pro-German and a collaborator.
 [Phelps, Barry, P. G. Wodehouse: Man and Myth (1992) p.211 ff.]

who on earth Flannery is (ch. 15; page 126) *

US book says “who the hell Flannery is”; US magazine says “who Flannery is” here.

Every little bit added to what you’ve got makes just a little bit more. (ch. 15; page 126) *

Title of a 1907 song by William A. Dillon and Lawrence M. Dillon; lyrics and downloadable sheet music and recording online.

”How was she? Gay? Sparkling?” (ch. 15; page 126) *

US book and magazine have “Gay? Cheery? Sparkling?” here.

let your yea be yea and your nay be nay (ch. 15; page 127) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

Norbury-Smith (ch. 15; page 127)

There is a Norbury in Shropshire, but it is at the southern end of the Long Mynd, at the opposite side of the county from Stableford.

painted on the back drop (ch. 15; page 127) *

Wodehouse’s theatrical experience comes to the forefront again. Of course, in the theater the backdrop is usually painted with scenery, landscape, or an interior setting, not with characters. So this is a very expressive figure of speech for feeling left out of the action.

Consider for a moment what his position would have been, had he agreed to your proposal. The spaniel would have hogged all the comedy, leaving him to all intents and purposes painted on the back drop.

“The Shadow Passes” (in Nothing Serious, 1950)

…it has been necessary to devote so much space to Jerry Vail, Penny Donaldson, Lord Emsworth and the rest of them that George Cyril Wellbeloved, we are fully aware, has been neglected almost entirely. Except for one brief appearance early in the proceedings, he might as well, for all practical purposes, have been painted on the back drop.

Pigs Have Wings, ch. 5 (1952)

This duologue had, of course, left Wilbert Cream a bit out of it, just painted on the backdrop as you might say, and for some moments, knitting his brow, plucking at his moustache, shuffling the feet and allowing the limbs to twitch, he had been giving abundant evidence that in his opinion three was a crowd and that what the leafy glade needed to make it all that a leafy glade should be was a complete absence of Woosters.

Jeeves in the Offing/How Right You Are, Jeeves, ch. 3 (1960)

It was that the hawk got all the fun and applause, while the human being who had put it through college and was paying its board and lodging was merely an extra, supporting the star. To all intents and purposes he might just as well have been painted on the backdrop.

“Falconry: Who Needs It?” (in Playboy, January 1968)

…anyone following the dialogue would have noted that Miss Dalrymple seemed to be getting all the good lines. And such a criticism would have been justified. The actor who was performing with her now had been known to complain that when you played a scene with Miss Dalrymple you might just as well be painted on the back drop.

Bachelors Anonymous, ch. 2 (1973)

Arab steed (ch. 15; page 128) *

John Carroll, in Money for Nothing, ch. 13.4 (1928), and Bertie Wooster, in The Mating Season, ch. 5 (1949), Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves, ch. 5 (1963), and other books, refer to their two-seater automobiles as Arab steeds; Jno. Robinson’s station taxi in A Pelican at Blandings, ch. 11 (1969) is also called an Arab steed. This is the only instance so far found where the moniker is applied to a bicycle. See The Mating Season for notes on the breed of horse so named.

Officer McMurdo (ch. 15; page 128)

Once again, Uncle Fred’s vocabulary is influenced by his American youth.

deaf adder (ch. 15; page 128)

3  The wicked are estranged from the womb:    
they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.
4  Their poison is like the poison of a serpent:    
they are like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear;
5  which will not hearken to the voice of charmers,
charming never so wisely.

Bible: Psalms 58:3-5

dying duck (ch. 15; page 129)

See The Mating Season.

scrag (ch. 15; page 129)

In 18th century slang, to scrag someone is to hang them. Damon Runyon uses ‘scrag’ in the sense of murder. However, the more usual sense in Britain by the 19th century, especially in schoolboy slang, is to attack someone, or treat them roughly. This is clearly what is intended here.
Johnny’s use of this expression — more reminiscent of the schoolyard or sports field than the courts of romance — reflects the way he sees Nanny Bruce as a quasi-parental figure.

Damon and Pythias (ch. 15; page 131)

Two friends in ancient Syracuse. According to legend, when Pythias was condemned to death for plotting against the Tyrant, Dionysius I, he asked permission to go and wind up his affairs first. His loyal friend Damon agreed to stand as a hostage for his safe return. When Pythias came back to be executed, Dionysius was so touched by their devotion to each other that he pardoned Pythias.
Brewer says that it was Damon who was condemned, and Pythias who stood bail, but he seems to be in a minority; Valerius Maximus doesn’t distinguish between the two.
Shakespeare got the plot for Two Gentlemen of Verona from Richard Edwards’s play Damon and Pythias.

clouded cane (ch. 15; page 131)

A malacca cane with a mottled pattern, popular, as Wodehouse suggests, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Sir Plume, of amber snuff-box justly vain,
And the nice conduct of a clouded cane.

Alexander Pope: The Rape of the Lock iv:123

Chapter 16

Runs from pp. 132 to 137 in the 1958 Jenkins and 1987 Penguin editions

one of the times that try men’s souls (ch. 16; page 132) *

An echo of the opening line of Thomas Paine’s The American Crisis, pamphlet number 1 (1776):

These are the times that try men’s souls.

Abou ben Adhem (ch. 16; page 132)

Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:—
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the presence in the room he said,
“What writest thou?”—The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered, “The names of those who love the Lord.”
“And is mine one?” said Abou. “Nay, not so”
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerily still; and said, “I pray thee, then,
Write me as one who loves his fellow men.”

The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blest,
And lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest.

James Leigh Hunt (1784–1859): "Abou Ben Adhem" (1835)

Mickey Spillane (ch. 16; page 133)

Frank Morrison Spillane (1918–2006), celebrated writer of hard-boiled mystery stories, occasionally controversial for their violence. His character Mike Hammer, who first appeared in I the Jury (1947), may have inspired the name of Johnny’s house.

sum’pn (ch. 16; page 133) *

This rendering of Gertie’s dialect for “something” is different from “somef’n” on p. 48 above, for unknown reasons.

In the US book it was “somep’n” in chapter 6 and “sump’n” here, so we have our pick of four spellings. In ch. 20, p. 169, both US and UK book have “somep’n” in Gertie’s “Like as if somep’n had gone wrong with the works.” US magazine condensation omits all these instances.

simple faith ... Norman blood (ch. 16; page 134)

Lord Ickenham, of course, has a coronet and has several times asserted that he has Norman blood.

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

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

ju-jitsu (ch. 16; page 134)

“The Gentle Art” — a Japanese system of wrestling, the primary unarmed combat method of the Samurai, introduced into the West around 1900. The Ju-jitsu instructor Shinzo Harade was in the USA from 1904–1910, explaining the technique to the US military and others, by which time Ickenham would have been in his thirties. Of course, it’s not out of the question that he had visited Japan sometime in his wild youth, or learnt the technique informally from a Japanese-Californian.

slew the Jabberwock (ch. 16; page 134)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lewis Carroll (C. L. Dodgson): Jabberwocky

you cannot keep a good man down (ch. 16; page 135) *

See Leave It to Psmith.

United States Marines (ch. 16; page 135)

Is Uncle Fred perhaps thinking rather of the US Cavalry, who tend to turn up in just the sort of situation he mentions in the last reel of Westerns? In the aftermath of the Korean war, the Marines might have been rather more prominently in his imagination, of course.

darkness, disillusionment and despair (ch. 16; page 135) *

The US book has “disaster, disillusionment and despair” here. The US magazine condensation omits the sentence. The later appearance in Chapter 19 is more consistent among the versions.

feeling like thirty cents (ch. 16; page 135) *

The earliest citation found in Google Books for this phrase is a lyric in George Ade’s 1902 musical comedy The Sultan of Sulu: “R-E-M-O-R-S-E! / Those dry Martinis did the work for me; / Last night at twelve I felt immense, / To-day I feel like thirty cents.”

Wodehouse used it several times, first in 1910:

“If the Giants win to-day, it means that I shall be able to hold up my head again and look my fellow man in the face, instead of crawling around on my stomach and feeling like thirty cents.”

“The Pitcher and the Plutocrat”

‘Cheese it, the cops!’ (ch. 16; page 136) *

See The Inimitable Jeeves.

she busted you one (ch. 16; page 136)

i.e. hit you. The OED describes the verb “bust” in the sense of beat or strike as obsolete except dialect, the last example cited being from 1400. Other dictionaries, including Green, suggest that this usage is a US dialect variant of “burst”, and date the meaning “to strike with the fist” as late 19th century.
Policemen in Wodehouse generally have to suffer for their art, and McMurdo is clearly no exception.

Chapter 17

Runs from pp. 138 to 148 in the 1958 Jenkins and 1987 Penguin editions

Kiss the hem of his garment. (ch. 17; page 138) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

Scriventhorpe (ch. 17; page 139) °

This name seems to be unknown to all the usual search tools. Scriven appears occasionally as a surname (e.g. Joseph Medlicott Scriven, 1819–1886, author of the well-known hymn “What a friend we have in Jesus”), and is the name of villages in Kent and North Yorkshire. The Danish suffix “-thorpe,” meaning village, is common in place-names in the North-East.
Perhaps a coincidence, but Scriven Park, near Knaresborough, was the seat of the Slingsby family. The name Slingsby appears in several places in Wodehouse — including Horatio Slingsby, author of Strychnine in the Soup in the short story of the same title ... and Slingsby of the Superb Soups in “Jeeves and the Spot of Art” (1929; in Very Good, Jeeves, 1930).

going down for the third time (ch. 17; page 139) *

See The Code of the Woosters.

Spanish Main (ch. 17; page 140)

Usually refers to the mainland of South America from Panama to the Orinoco, or to the part of the Caribbean immediately adjacent to it. As this was the route of the Spanish treasure fleets sailing back from Central America, it was a region notoriously infested with pirates.

Brutus ... tide in the affairs of men (ch. 17; page 140)

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

William Shakespeare (1564–1616): Julius Caesar IV:3,249-257

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

choir boys’ hundred yard race (ch. 17; page 141)

Cf. “The Purity of the Turf”

whose voices had not broken (ch. 17; page 141) *

See The Inimitable Jeeves.

Second Sunday in Epiphany (ch. 17; page 141)

More usually Second Sunday after Epiphany.
Epiphany is 6 January, the day which western Christians associate with the arrival of the Magi. It marks the end of the festival of Christmas.

the salt of the earth (ch. 17; page 141) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

swan (ch. 17; page 141) °

This sounds as though it must be the same swan which threatened Bertie and A. B. Filmer on an island in “Jeeves and the Impending Doom” (1926; in Very Good, Jeeves, 1930). Norman Murphy has suggested that the prototype for that island is to be found in the grounds of Hunstanton Hall.
See “The Primal Piggery” for more.

sand martin (ch. 17; page 143) °

Riparia riparia, a member of the swallow family. Nests in holes it excavates in closely-packed sand, often on the banks of rivers or lakes. (The Latin name is derived from ripa: “riverbank”)

The US book has “sand marten” here; the US magazine matches the UK book as above.

Edwardian relic (ch. 17; page 143) *

Assuming that the action of the book takes place in its year of publication (always a tricky assumption with Wodehouse fiction!) old Saxby, at 75, would have been born in 1883 (and thus would have been a couple of years younger than Wodehouse himself). One wonders why he is not described as a Victorian relic here. Even Phoebe Wisdom, who admits to being “nearly fifty” in chapter 23 (page 188), might qualify as a product of the Edwardian era (King Edward VII reigned 1901–1910), and Sir Raymond at fifty-two (ch. 10, page 88) and Lord Ickenham in his sixties (sixty in Uncle Dynamite, 1948) would certainly be Edwardian in their upbringing.

Thurber bloodhound (ch. 17; page 145)

The American humourist James Thurber (1894–1961) often illustrated his New Yorker pieces with drawings featuring miserable-looking bloodhounds.

I began to draw a bloodhound, but he was too big for the page. He had the head and body of a bloodhound; I gave him the short legs of a basset.

James Thurber: “Mr. Thurber Observes a Serene Birthday” (interviewed by Harvey Breit, New York Times Magazine, December 4, 1949)

Xenophon’s Ten Thousand (ch. 17; page 146)

In 401 BCE, the Persian king Artaxerxes defeated his brother Cyrus at the battle of Cunaxa, on the Euphrates. Cyrus’s force included ten thousand Greek mercenaries, led by the Athenian general and historian Xenophon. He describes their retreat to the Black Sea in his book Anabasis. There is a famous moment when after a long journey through the mountains they first catch sight of the sea from the top of a mountain and cry out ‘thalassa, thalassa’ (the sea, the sea!).

Tennyson … shining levels of the lake (ch. 17; page 146) *

From his Mort d’Arthur, line 51.

When it set its hand to the plough, it did not readily sheathe the sword (ch. 17; page 146) *

See Right Ho, Jeeves for an earlier instance where Bertie Wooster had combined two quotations in this way.

chronicler (ch. 17; page 147) *

Wodehouse sometimes described his role as narrator in this way, a synonym for the more frequently used “historian” (see Bill the Conqueror). Both give a sense that actual events are being recorded in these stories.

feelings deeper and warmer than those of ordinary friendship (ch. 17; page 147) *

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

the apple of her eye (ch. 17; page 147) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

a seal was there (ch. 17; page 147)

Could this perhaps be another association with Thurber? — The famous “Seal in the Bedroom” cartoon had appeared in the New Yorker on 30 January 1932.

Do men who have got all their marbles go swimming in lakes with their clothes on? (ch. 17; page 148) *

For marbles see above. Compare Service with a Smile, ch. 4 (1961), in which Lord Emsworth is tricked into jumping into the Blandings lake fully clothed.

US book has “with all their clothes on?” here.

Chapter 18

Runs from pp. 149 to 158 in the 1958 Jenkins and 1987 Penguin editions

Rupert Morrison ... licensed to sell ales, wines and spirits (ch. 18; page 149)

English pubs are obliged by law to have a board over the door identifying the licensee.
The name might perhaps be a reference to the Labour politician Herbert Morrison (1888–1961), who had been leader of the London County Council in the thirties and Home Secretary during the Second World War. There is another Rupert Morrison in “The Man Upstairs” (1910), though — well before Herbert Morrison became well-known.

Beetle and Wedge (ch. 18; page 149) *

See above; this is the first mention of the pub in the US book and magazine versions.

home-brew (ch. 18; page 149)

Beer brewed on the premises. Common in rural pubs when Wodehouse lived in England, but a real rarity by the 1950s, when most pubs had been bought by big industrial brewing conglomerates who obliged tenants to sell the brewery’s own beer. The Campaign for Real Ale only started to reverse this trend in the 1970s.

television (ch. 18; page 149) °

By 1958, television signals could be received in about 95% of the UK. In most areas there was still only one (BBC) channel, but a second, commercial, channel was available in London, the Midlands, and the North-West. Many people had bought (or, more commonly, rented) receivers for the coronation in 1953, but they were still something of a luxury. Consequently, many pub owners bought a television set as another attraction for their customers.

lantern slides (ch. 18; page 149) *

By “lantern” is meant what we now call a slide projector (originally “magic lantern”). At this period such a lecture would be likely to use glass slides of a larger size than the ones produced by small roll-film cameras in later years of the century.

heavy snowstorm (ch. 18; page 149) *

At this time, the video signal of broadcast television was analog and amplitude-modulated, so in areas where the received signal was weak, other sources of electrical noise (motors, generators, automobile engines, to name just a few) could create random brighter spots overlaying the picture, giving the effect of “snow.”

sentry-go (ch. 18; page 149) *

British military jargon from the 1880s for a turn of duty by a soldier assigned as a guard to prevent intrusion of outsiders. Wodehouse probably knew it from Private Willis’s song “When all night long a chap remains / On sentry-go…” from Gilbert & Sullivan’s Iolanthe (1882).

the sphere of practical politics (ch. 18; page 149) *

The phrase first became popular in the 1880s, and no single source has yet been found for its coinage; it received another burst of popularity in the first decades of the twentieth century when advocates of women’s suffrage such as Christabel Pankhurst used it in speeches. Wodehouse used it frequently, though in a non-political sense, using the positive sense as a synonym for “feasible”; conversely, “not within the sphere of practical politics” refers to something impossible, or too dangerous or too distasteful to attempt.

Some examples:

And Ruth had brought this absurd situation into the sphere of practical politics only a few days ago.

The White Hope, ch. 7 (1914; in book form as The Coming of Bill, 1920)

“Not within the sphere of practical politics, laddie. Unless you can sneak out without paying…”

“First Aid for Dora” (1923; in Ukridge, 1924)

And what he was thinking was that, conditions having placed such an action within the sphere of practical politics, it would be silly not to kiss this girl.

Doctor Sally, ch. 2 (1932)

Her face flushed a deeper shade, she registered anguish, and I saw that it was no longer within the sphere of practical politics to try to confine the conversation to neutral topics like cold boiled salmon.

Bertie Wooster, speaking of Madeline Bassett, in ch. 21 of Right Ho, Jeeves (1934).

I, too, felt that a touch of boiling in oil would do the young hell-hounds good, and regretted that it was not within the sphere of practical politics.

Laughing Gas, ch. 23 (1936)

Although he had never mentioned it to anybody, feeling that it was but an idle daydream and not within the sphere of practical politics, the idea of having a Fat Uncles sweepstake at the Drones Club had long been in Freddie Widgeon’s mind, such as it was.

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

[Gally] would have preferred to postpone the revelation till he had had his dinner, but this did not appear to be within the sphere of practical politics.

A Pelican at Blandings, ch. 9.3 (1969)

Another man in Jaklyn’s position would no doubt have explained that owing to his having been the victim of what amounted to a shotgun wedding, marriage to Sally was no longer in the sphere of practical politics, but his native prudence restrained him.

Bachelors Anonymous, ch. 13 (1973)

And a similar phrase:

I would have given ten quid to have been able to sneeze, but this of course was outside the range of practical politics.

Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves, ch. 23 (1963)

The suggested procedure was not within the range of practical politics.

“Bingo Bans the Bomb” (1965; in Plum Pie, 1966/67)

See also Heavy Weather.

troops of Midian (ch. 18; page 149)

A Wodehouse favourite!

Christian! dost thou see them
 On the holy ground,
How the troops of Midian
 Prowl and prowl around?

John Mason Neale (after St. Andrew of Crete): Hymn: Christian, dost thou see them?

one of those spy pictures (ch. 18; page 150)

On British TV in those days, one would have been more likely to see “The Good Old Days,” “Dixon of Dock Green,” or “The Black and White Minstrel Show.” Cinema films were only shown very rarely, and shows like “The Avengers” and “The Saint” were still a year or two in the future.

D’Arcy Standish (ch. 18; page 150) *

In US book and magazine, the name is D’Arcy Scriven.

Fly like a youthful hart or roe… (ch. 18; page 151)

Hark! the Redeemer from on high,
Sweetly invites His fav’rites nigh,
From caves of darkness and of doubt,
He gently speaks and calls us out.
Come, my beloved, haste away,
Cut short the hours of thy delay;
Fly like a youthful hart or roe,
Over the hills where spices grow.

Isaac Watts: Hymns and Spiritual Songs (1709) Hymn 79

Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party (ch. 18; page 151)

See The Code of the Woosters.

Cor lumme, stone the crows (ch. 18; page 153)

Cor lumme is a (Cockney?) corruption of “God love me.”
“Stone the crows” (sometimes “Stiffen the crows”) is an Australian expression of surprise, which seems to have appeared in British English after the First World War.

Professor Moriarty (ch. 18; page 154)

The Napoleon of Crime. Sherlock Holmes’s most celebrated adversary only appears in two stories, “The Final Problem” (1893) and The Valley of Fear.

Doctor Fu Manchu (ch. 18; page 154)

Sax Rohmer’s sinister Chinese villain first appeared in book form in The Mystery of Dr Fu Manchu (UK) / The Insidious Dr Fu Manchu (US) in 1913. The last two books appeared in 1957 and 1959.

The Ace of Spades (ch. 18; page 154)

Comic strip villain?

Drop cobras down your chimney (ch. 18; page 154) °

Probably a reference to the Sherlock Holmes story “The Speckled Band.” Lucius Pim is reading a story with a similar theme in “Jeeves and the Spot of Art” (1929; in Very Good, Jeeves, 1930).

But see also Murphy’s discussion of snakes in Wodehouse.
 [Murphy, N. T. P., In Search of Blandings (1986) pp. 58–59]

res (ch. 18; page 154)

res judicata (Latin: the thing judged): Legal expression for the part of a judge’s decision that refers directly to the case in hand, and thus constitutes a binding precedent (other remarks of the judge are considered to be obiter dicta). Hence Wodehouse uses it to mean “the real issue.”

plain manilla envelope (ch. 18; page 155) *

More properly called a “Manila” envelope in the US versions. The heavy, durable tan-colored paper from which large office envelopes are made was traditionally made from pulp containing fibers of Manila hemp, derived from a Philippine plant of the banana family. (Office envelopes today are much more likely to be made of brown kraft paper, derived from wood pulp, even though sometimes called “manila”.)

the dynamic properties of the Beetle and Wedge home-brew (ch. 18; page 156) *

Reminiscent of another tribute to the specialty of the house:

…the beer purveyed by G. Ovens, proprietor of the Emsworth Arms, unquestionably does its best. The Ovens home-brewed is a liquid Pollyanna, for ever pointing out the bright side and indicating silver linings. It slips its little hand in yours and whispers “Cheer up!”

Uncle Fred in the Springtime, ch. 15 (1939)

E. Phillips Oppenheim (ch. 18; page 156) °

E. Phillips Oppenheim (1866–1946), British author of over 150 novels, mostly mysteries or spy stories.

Wodehouse dedicated the UK edition of Very Good, Jeeves to him in 1930.

as if along a chalk line (ch. 18; page 158) *

A rough-and-ready test for sobriety was for a policeman to draw a chalk line on the pavement and ask the suspect to walk steadily along it. Ukridge suffers this indignity in “A Tithe for Charity” (1955; in UK edition of A Few Quick Ones, 1959).

Chapter 19

Runs from pp. 159 to 165 in the 1958 Jenkins and 1987 Penguin editions

as much use … as a cold in the head (ch. 19; page 159) *

The US book has “as a pain in the neck” here; the US magazine condensation omits the sentence.

a broken reed (ch. 19; page 159) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

one over the eight (ch. 19; page 159)

Drunk. British military slang, apparently deriving from the old idea that eight pints of beer was the maximum a soldier could safely drink without impairing his efficiency. In the previous chapter we were told that Peasemarch had had “four goes” (presumably pints) of the home-brew.

cleansing his bosom of the perilous stuff which was weighing on his heart (ch. 19; page 159) *

See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

…lets “I dare not” wait upon “I would” (ch. 19; page 163)

According to Brewer, the adage Lady Macbeth refers to is, “the cat loves fish, but does not like to wet her paws.”

Lady Macbeth:    Was the hope drunk,  
Wherein you dress’d yourself? hath it slept since,  
And wakes it now, to look so green and pale  
At what it did so freely? From this time
Such I account thy love. Art thou afeard  
To be the same in thine own act and valour  
As thou art in desire? Wouldst thou have that  
Which thou esteem’st the ornament of life,
And live a coward in thine own esteem,  
Letting ‘I dare not’ wait upon ‘I would,’  
Like the poor cat i’ the adage?

William Shakespeare (1564–1616) Macbeth I:vii, 41-51

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

great globe … leave not a wrack (ch. 19; page 163) °

As is obvious from the context, Shakespeare was using the now obsolete sense of rack to mean ‘mist or fog,’ but in some editions of the play the word ‘wrack’ (ruin, remains) was substituted. It is this garbled version of the phrase that has entered the language.

US book and magazine have rack here, so the change to wrack was presumably the work of the UK book editor at Herbert Jenkins Ltd.

        Be cheerful, sir,
Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air;
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

William Shakespeare (1564–1616) The Tempest iv. i. 146–157

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

darkness, disillusionment and despair (ch. 19; page 163) *

All three sources agree on this reading; compare the earlier appearance.

fought the good fight (ch. 19; page 163) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

Well met by moonlight, proud Wisdom (ch. 19; page 164)

Evidently Saxby does not confine himself to jokes on the name “Wisdom.”

Enter Oberon from one side, with his Train; and Titania from the other, with hers.
Obe. Ill met by moonlight, proud Titania.
Tita. What! jealous Oberon. Fairies, skip hence:  
   I have forsworn his bed and company.

William Shakespeare (1564–1616) A Midsummer Night’s Dream II:i, 64-66

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

aficionado (ch. 19; page 165)

enthusiast (Spanish)

Chapter 20

Runs from pp. 166 to 171 in the 1958 Jenkins and 1987 Penguin editions

one damn thing after another (ch. 20; page 166) *

See The Code of the Woosters.

There you take me into deep waters, constable (ch. 20; page 169) °

See Leave It to Psmith.

wild surmise (ch. 20; page 169)

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

Chapter 21

Runs from pp. 172 to 181 in the 1958 Jenkins and 1987 Penguin editions

eyeing it with professional intentness (ch. 21; page 172) *

US book has “eying it as if it had been a spot marked with a cross.”

moving pigs without a permit or failing to abate a smoky chimney (ch. 21; page 172) *

See Summer Lightning.

sanctum (ch. 21; page 174)

sanctum sanctorum (Latin): holy of holies. Inner chamber of a temple. By extension, a private room or office, forbidden to the general public.

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

Sir Raymond appeared to be choking. (ch. 21; page 174) *

The US book has another sentence continuing the paragraph:

Lord Ickenham formed the impression that it would take only a very little more to make the other curl up in a ball.

“Yes. It’s a lot of money.” (ch. 21; page 174) *

Using US consumer price index data, $150,000 in 1958 had a purchasing power roughly equal to $1.37 million in 2021.

The US book has a one-sentence paragraph of narration following this line:

Again Sir Raymond seemed to be on the verge of emulating Nannie Bruce’s Uncle Charlie.

one brushing flies off a sleeping Venus (ch. 21; page 175)

This also appears for instance in The Man Upstairs and The Indiscretions of Archie, but it seems to have been proverbial long before Wodehouse, even in the Navy.

The love goddess Venus, Roman equivalent of Aphrodite, is often depicted in art as a sleeping woman guarded by Cupids or putti (e.g. Giorgione, Titian, Poussin, etc.). Presumably one would not wish to arouse the anger of such a potent goddess by waking her.

“Boatswain’s mate,” roared the captain, “do your duty! or by G— I will have you up, and give you four dozen yourself. One would think, d—n your b—d, that you were brushing flies off a sleeping Venus, instead of punishing a scoundrel with a hide as thick as a buffalo’s, and be d—d to him. Do your duty, sir, d—n your soul.”

Capt. Frederick Marryat (1792–1848): Frank Mildmay Ch.16

Chevalier Bayard (ch. 21; page 175)

Pierre du Terrail (1476–1524) was regarded as the model of French chivalry, the “chevalier sans peur et sans reproche.” The Elizabethan courtier Sir Philip Sidney was sometimes referred to as “the English Bayard.” [Brewer]

asleep at the switch (ch. 21; page 175)

Proverbial, probably American. In the days before interlocking signal systems, railwayman were posted to control individual switches (i.e. point-levers). One who was asleep at the switch would be failing in his duty and putting the safety of trains at risk.

“The young reptile must have burned the thing by now.” (ch. 21; page 177) *

The US book has a much stronger statement, with a frankness rather surprising in Wodehouse:

“The young bastard”—here he wronged his sister Phoebe—“must have burned the thing by now.”

The US magazine condensation has a simpler clean-up of the sentence, and also omits the succeeding “hell and damnation” sentence:

“The young fellow must have burned the thing by now.”

gather some frogs (ch. 21; page 177) *

Frogs seen as slimy, or gathered for a surprise or practical joke, crop up several times in Wodehouse’s fiction; in “Something Squishy” (1925) it is mentioned that Roland Attwater’s schoolfellows had fondled frogs while he had not, so one might surmise that Wodehouse as a boy had been repulsed by frogs in one way or another.

Those dark, oily-looking depths suggested the presence of frogs, newts and other slimy things that work their way down a man’s back and behave clammily around his spine.

Money for Nothing, ch. 5 (1928)

“What young Algy wants is a frog in his bed.”
“Two frogs,” amended Ambrose.
“Two frogs,” agreed Bobbie.

“The Passing of Ambrose” (1928; in Mr. Mulliner Speaking, 1929/30)

The discovery of Miss Brinkwater’s gala costume laid out on the bed in her room, ready to be assumed for the evening’s binge, caused me to make some slight alteration in my plans. I placed a frog in each boot and distributed the remainder among the various objects of lingerie.

Laughing Gas, ch. 17 (1936)

“It occurred to Corky that if Dobbs were visited by a Plague of Frogs, it might quite possibly change his heart and make him let Sam Goldwyn go.”

The Mating Season, ch. 21 (1949)

Whereupon, after a few graceful words from Mr. Potter, who seemed to have constituted himself master of the ceremonies, Cyril Fotheringay-Phipps had pressed into Mr. Andersons hand a large, slimy, wriggling frog.

Barmy in Wonderland, ch. 1 (1952)

Scotsmen have their merry moods like all of us, and the thought must occasionally cross the cook’s mind that it would be a great joke to shove in a lot of newts and frogs and bats and dogs and watch the gang wading into them.

America, I Like You, ch. 1.3 (1956)

“…let us hunt around and see if we can’t find a few frogs, too.”

“The Right Approach” in A Few Quick Ones (1959)

We grab him and decant the frogs. (ch. 21; page 177) *

The US book and magazine omit this sentence.

all-day sucker (ch. 21; page 178)

A large sweet or lollipop. Given as a prize for one of the events in “The Purity of the Turf.”

F.O.B. (ch. 21; page 178)

Free on Board. Business expression, when a price is quoted including all charges for delivery to a specified point (originally to the purchaser’s ship).

all things were working together for good (ch. 21; page 179) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

leaping … like the chamois of the Alps from crag to crag (ch. 21; page 179) *

See Sam the Sudden.

Something attempted, something done, had earned a mild cigar (ch. 21; page 179) *

See Right Ho, Jeeves.

popped up through a trap (ch. 21; page 179) *

See Bill the Conqueror.

corner them again in a hurry, (ch. 21; page 180) *

The US book adds after this:

their emotions much the same as those of the Ancient Mariner on getting rid of the albatross,

Samuel Taylor Colerige’s narrative poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” goes on at great length about the evil consequences of having shot an albatross, and the story of how the Mariner was freed from having the dead bird slung from his neck.

a certain licence (ch. 21; page 181) *

The US book has three additional paragraphs to finish out this chapter:

 A pity, too, he felt, that when you started spreading sweetness and light, you too often found that there was not enough to go around. Somebody always had to be left out of the distribution, in this case poor old Beefy, whose pocketbook was in for a nasty punch. The thought depressed him for a moment.
 Then, reflecting that getting nicked for whatever it might be would do his semi-brother-in-law a world of good, making him more spiritual, he cheered up, and was in excellent spirits again and feeling once more that all was for the best in this best of all possible worlds, when he found that he had been joined by Phoebe. She was panting a good deal, like a white rabbit heated in the chase.
 “Frederick,” she said, “I want to speak to you. It’s about Raymond. I’m so terribly worried about him. He seems to be behaving more strangely every day. It’s an awful thing to have to say, but I’m sure he has not got all his marbles.”

There seems to have been something of an editorial mixup involved, as the bit from the first two sentences about distributing sweetness and light is repeated in the last sentence of the third paragraph of Chapter 22 (which is the same in both book versions), as well as a repetition of the description of Phoebe as a white rabbit heated in the chase (see second note below).

making him more spiritual (ch. 21 of US book only) *

Many disappointments, trials, and defeats are spoken of as being sent to make us more spiritual, as in chapter 24, below. Losing money is just one of the possibilities.

Was there not, he asked himself, a great deal to be said for this theory of hers that insurance companies had much too much money and would be better, finer, more spiritual insurance companies if somebody came along occasionally and took a bit of the stuff off them?

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

Roscoe has paid out half a million dollars he didn’t have to, in addition to a hundred thousand to Keggs, twenty thousand pounds to Stanhope Twine, and, I imagine, a princely sum to that minion with the pimples. A consummation devoutly to be wished, of course, for, as I have sometimes pointed out, it will make him more spiritual, and he is a man who needs all the spirituality he can get.

Something Fishy/The Butler Did It, ch. 26 (1957)

heated in the chase (ch. 21 of US book only) *

See p. 188, below.

Chapter 22

Runs from pp. 182 to 187 in the 1958 Jenkins and 1987 Penguin editions

fifty shillings (ch. 22; page 182) °

Two pounds and fifty pence in decimal currency. The Bank of England inflation calculator suggests a factor of 24 from 1958 to 2020, so this would be roughly equivalent to £60 or US$80 in modern terms.

highbinder (ch. 22; page 183)

In the early 19th century, this American expression meant something like “hellraiser” — a member of a rowdy New York mob. By the 1890s it was beginning to take on the sense of “swindler,” as here. Possibly it has links with the German word “Hochstapler”?

short end of the stick (ch. 22; page 183) *

See the discussion under nub in Money for Nothing.

Phoebe’s ewe lamb (ch. 22; page 184) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

The scales had fallen from his eyes. (ch. 22; page 184) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

biter of ears for ten bobs (ch. 22; page 184) *

Seeking loans of ten shillings (half a pound, something like £12 or US$16 in modern terms). For biting ears see Leave It to Psmith.

in the chips (ch. 22; page 184) *

Gambling jargon for having a big pile of chips on the table, hence having a good supply of money. The OED first cites the phrase from 1938 and quotes Wodehouse in Over Seventy (1957): “When I was in the chips and an employer of butlers,” but they missed a much earlier usage:

“When I painted that portrait I was in the chips. I had a private income—the young artist’s best friend.”

Quick Service, ch. 9 (1940)

filled to bursting with the right stuff (ch. 22; page 184) *

See The Inimitable Jeeves.

Volga boatman (ch. 22; page 184)

Possibly this is a reference to the painting “Boat-haulers on the Volga” (1872) by Ilya Efimovitch Repin (1844–1934). There is nothing in the usual text of the “Song of the Volga Boatmen” about bent head and leaden feet.

Nothing that can be shouted from the house tops (ch. 22; page 184) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

Chapter 23

Runs from pp. 188 to 194 in the 1958 Jenkins and 1987 Penguin editions

panting like a white rabbit heated in the chase (ch. 23; page 188)

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

Nahum Tate and Nicholas Brady: (hymn, based on Psalm 42) 1696

They don’t come any truer and stauncher than Bert. (ch. 23; page 188) *

The US text has the alternative spelling stancher, which in Wodehouse’s youth was nearly as common as stauncher but by the 1950s was found less than one-fourth as often. The US edition of Service With a Smile has stanch where the British text has staunch, so this may be a preference of the US book editor.

when Bert was handing the potatoes (ch. 23; page 189) *

The US text says “handling the potatoes” which is almost certainly a misreading. The butler Phipps in The Old Reliable says “I was handing the potatoes at the moment” in chapter 5 of that book.

Julius Caesar used to swim with all his clothes on (ch. 23; page 190) °

The evidence for this is not as strong as Lord Ickenham supposes: Cassius reports that he himself leapt in “accoutred as I was,” but there is nothing explicit in the text about how Caesar was dressed, or whether he removed any clothes before jumping in after Cassius.

I was born free as Caesar; so were you.
We both have fed as well, and we can both
Endure the winter’s cold as well as he.
For once, upon a raw and gusty day,
The troubled Tiber chafing with her shores,
Caesar said to me, ‘Dar’st thou, Cassius, now
Leap in with me into this angry flood
And swim to yonder point?’ Upon the word,
Accoutred as I was, I plungèd in
And bade him follow. So indeed he did.
The torrent roared, and we did buffet it
With lusty sinews, throwing it aside
And stemming it with hearts of controversy.
But ere we could arrive the point proposed,
Caesar cried, ‘Help me, Cassius, or I sink!’

William Shakespeare (1564–1616) Julius Caesar I:ii

See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse for another reference to this passage.

The ideal husband. (ch. 23; page 190) *

The US book inserts several sentences after this:

I’ve just remembered what it was that Ecclesiastes said about him, only it wasn’t Ecclesiastes, it was Shakespeare. He said, ‘His life was gentle, and the elements so mixed in him that Nature might stand up and say to all the world, “This was a man!” ’ A pretty striking tribute, don’t you think, but thoroughly well deserved.

See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse.

That was probably where Cyril McMurdo went wrong. (ch. 23; page 191) *

Omitted in US book and magazine.

Brigham Young (ch. 23; page 191)

Brigham Young (1801–1877) became the leader of the Mormon community after the murder of its founder, Joseph Smith, in 1844. He was responsible for the migration to the West and the establishment of the successful settlement at Salt Lake City in 1846–47. He followed the Mormon practice of plural marriage, as directed by Joseph Smith, and is believed to have married 27 times, having a maximum of 19 wives at once. He was tried on a federal charge of polygamy in 1871, but acquitted.

King Solomon (ch. 23; page 191)

Solomon, who reigned in Israel ca. 974–934 BCE, was an even more noted enthusiast for the married state than Brigham Young, although the writers of 1 Kings clearly didn’t approve:

1  But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zido'ni-ans, and Hittites;
2  of the nations concerning which the Lord said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon clave unto these in love.
3  And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart.
4  For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father.

Bible: 1 Kings 11:1-4

precisian (ch. 23; page 191) °

Originally meant someone who is strict and literalistic in religious observance (often used of Puritans). Later came to mean anyone who is strict in adhering to the rules, but seems to be rare nowadays except as a purist in grammar and language usage.

Time, the great healer (ch. 23; page 194) *

See Right Ho, Jeeves.

A thousand thanks. (ch. 23; page 194) *

US magazine and book have “A thousand thanks for your service and co-operation.” See Hot Water.

the County (ch. 23; page 194)

In this context refers to members of the local gentry and aristocracy who would be on social calling terms with Johnny as squire of Hammer Hall.

Chapter 24

Runs from pp. 195 to 208 in the 1958 Jenkins and 1987 Penguin editions

sports dress (ch. 24; page 195)

In the thirties, this term was used to describe a loosely-cut, sleeveless, woman’s dress for daytime wear (like a man’s sports jacket, it was not necessarily intended for athletic use).

my wife is in Scotland (ch. 24; page 195) *

The US book and magazine add “visiting some frightful people who knew her as a child” here.

dosshouse (ch. 24; page 196) °

A common lodging house, i.e. a place which provides cheap beds for homeless people. Uncle Fred uses the term ironically, of course, as he had in referring to his own Ickenham Hall that way in chapter 9 of Uncle Fred in the Springtime.

things don’t look so sticky after all (ch. 24; page 196) *

The US book has the obvious printer’s error stocky here.

sensitive plant (ch. 24; page 196) *

See Right Ho, Jeeves.

“I wouldn’t have thought Beefy would have objected…” (ch. 24; page 197) *

US book and magazine precede this speech with a short sentence beginning the same paragraph:

Lord Ickenham weighed this.

adventures by flood and field (ch. 24; page 199)

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;

William Shakespeare (1564–1616) Othello I:iii, 152–165

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

I should put an ‘ex’ before the word. (ch. 24; page 199) *

US book and magazine continue Lord Ickenham’s speech with an additional sentence: “He rather suggested that he was leaving.”

Mr. Saxby gave him a cold look. (ch. 24; page 199) *

US book and magazine continue the paragraph with an additional sentence: “It was never his habit to spoil a story by hurrying it.”

my niece Valerie (ch. 24; page 203)

See Uncle Fred in the Springtime.

let my Yea be Yea and my Nay be Nay (ch. 24; page 203)

This verse is one particularly associated with George Fox and the Society of Friends (Quakers).

But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.

Bible: James 5:12

Chase my aunt Fanny up a gum tree (ch. 24; page 204) °

Aunt Fanny appears in a range of colloquial expressions of surprise or — more often — incredulity. The presence of the gum tree suggests that this one is probably Australian. The expression “up a gum tree,” in a difficult situation, goes back to the early 19th century. However, it’s not impossible that Wodehouse invented this particular variant.

It also occurs in “Freddie, Oofy, and the Beef Trust” (A Few Quick Ones, 1959); Jeeves in the Offing/How Right You Are, Jeeves, ch. 7 (1960); Service With a Smile, ch. 1 (1961); and The Girl in Blue, ch. 9.2 (1970).

They carve it up in slices and sell it as rat poison. (ch. 24; page 205) *

Omitted in the US book and magazine versions.

too, too solid flesh … melt (ch. 24; page 205) °

O! that this too too solid flesh would melt,  
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew;  
Or that the Everlasting had not fix’d  
His canon ’gainst self-slaughter! O God! O God!
How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable  
Seem to me all the uses of this world.  
Fie on ’t! O fie! ’tis an unweeded garden,  
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely. That it should come to this!

William Shakespeare (1564–1616) Hamlet I:ii, 133–141

See Shakespeare Quotations and Allusions in Wodehouse for another reference to this passage.

that inland Garden of Eden (ch. 24; page 206) °

The biblical Garden of Eden is generally considered to have been in Mesopotamia (southern Iraq). There has been a good deal of argument as to where it was in relation to the Persian Gulf, but there is no direct indication that it was any nearer to the sea than Berkshire is.

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

a sower going forth sowing (ch. 24; page 206)

3  And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow;
4  and when he sowed, some seeds fell by the wayside, and the fowls came and devoured them up:
5  some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:
6  and when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.
7  And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:
8  but other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some a hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.
9  Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

Bible: Matthew 13:3-9

make us more spiritual (ch. 24; page 206) *

See above.

skipping like the high hills (ch. 24; page 207) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

Chapter 25

Runs from pp. 209 to 222 in the 1958 Jenkins and 1987 Penguin editions

The good man loves his wine (ch. 25; page 209) *

A possible echo of a copybook maxim; see Leave It to Psmith.

trembled like one stricken with an ague (ch. 25; page 210)

Seems to be a cliché of sensational fiction. An ague is an attack of fever, especially malaria.

There followed a dead silence. The Commissary felt that his senses were reeling. He trembled as if suddenly stricken with ague and sank into a chair to save himself from falling. The candle sent a stream of wax on the carpet; Chauvelin stamped on it viciously with his foot.

"Not the Scarlet Pimpernel?" Lacaune contrived to murmur at last.

Baroness Orczy: The Scarlet Pimpernel Ch.36

minute guns (ch. 25; page 211) °

Guns fired at regular intervals (e.g. by a ship) as a fog signal, or as a salute of honor at a military funeral.

“I shall kick his spine up through that beastly bowler hat he wears.” (ch. 25; page 211) *

See Hot Water.

“I shall twist his head off at the roots.” (ch. 25; page 211) *

“To get within arm’s length of the yam Pilbeam and twist his greasy neck till it comes apart in my hands.”

Summer Lightning, ch. 6 (1929)

He wanted to get hold of Jos. Waterbury and twist his head off and stuff it down his throat.

“The Masked Troubadour” (1936; in Lord Emsworth and Others, 1937)

“I propose to scoop out his insides with my bare hands and twist his head off and make him swallow it.”

Captain Biggar in Ring for Jeeves, ch. 1 (1953)

“…if he raises the slightest objection, I shall twist his head off at the roots and make him swallow it.”

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

Lucas-Gore … Henry James (ch. 25; page 212) °

Lucas-Gore also appears briefly in The Ice in the Bedroom.

The distinguished American-born novelist Henry James (1843–1916) spent his last years at Rye in Kent. Though he was somewhat reclusive, many British literary figures claimed acquaintance with him. One possible candidate might be E. F. Benson, who bought James’s former house in Rye, the setting for Mapp and Lucia.

Google Books finds a 1924 novel called The Author of “Trixie” by William Caine, with a snippet quote that is tantalizing:

(for old Mr. Lucas-Gore had started out upon an anecdote concerning Henry James, the point of which escaped him just as he got there)

It was even published by Herbert Jenkins Ltd., Wodehouse’s longtime UK publishers. When fuller scans become available, this may be an avenue for further research.

the end of all things (ch. 25; page 213) *

See Biblia Wodehousiana.

It is only an exceptionally mild and easy-tempered man … locked him in the wine cellar. (ch. 25; page 218) *

The US book follows this sentence with “Sir Raymond Bastable was not such a man.” In the next sentence, the US book has “his half-brother-in-law” instead of repeating “Sir Raymond Bastable.”

blessings on the falling out… (ch. 25; page 218)

   As through the land at eve we went,
     And plucked the ripened ears,
   We fell out, my wife and I,
   O we fell out I know not why,
     And kissed again with tears.
   And blessings on the falling out
     That all the more endears,
   When we fall out with those we love
     And kiss again with tears!
   For when we came where lies the child
     We lost in other years,
   There above the little grave,
   O there above the little grave,
     We kissed again with tears.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892): The Princess, Canto I

Alexandre Dumas (ch. 25; page 219)

Thanks to the huge success of his books, the name of Alexandre Dumas père (1802–1870) was worth a great deal. Taking advantage of the weaknesses of 19th century copyright law, Dumas himself, his publishers, and above all his fellow writers, shamelessly stuck the Dumas name on anything they could think of, especially in the American market.

the rough spadework (ch. 25; page 219) *

When Guy [Bolton] and I pitched in on a play, he would do the rough spadework—the writing—and I used to look in on him from time to time and say “How are you getting on?” He would say, “All right,” and I would say, “Fine,” and go off and read Agatha Christie. Giving it the Wodehouse Touch, I used to call it.

“Francis Bacon and the Play Doctor” in America, I Like You (1956)

refresher (ch. 25; page 220) *

US book and magazine have “sweetener” here.

Ichabod (ch. 25; page 221)

Inglorious. From the name of an Old Testament character (Eli’s grandson) who had the bad luck to be born at the moment that the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant, the same day that his father, uncle and grandfather died.

15  Now Eli was ninety and eight years old; and his eyes were dim, that he could not see.
16  And the man said unto Eli, I am he that came out of the army, and I fled today out of the army. And he said, What is there done, my son?
17  And the messenger answered and said, Israel is fled before the Philistines, and there hath been also a great slaughter among the people, and thy two sons also, Hophni and Phin'ehas, are dead, and the ark of God is taken.
18  And it came to pass, when he made mention of the ark of God, that he fell from off the seat backward by the side of the gate, and his neck brake, and he died: for he was an old man, and heavy. And he had judged Israel forty years.
19  ¶ And his daughter-in-law, Phin'ehas’ wife, was with child, near to be delivered: and when she heard the tidings that the ark of God was taken, and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she bowed herself and travailed; for her pains came upon her.
20  And about the time of her death the women that stood by her said unto her, Fear not; for thou hast borne a son. But she answered not, neither did she regard it.
21  And she named the child Ich'abod, saying, The glory is departed from Israel: because the ark of God was taken, and because of her father-in-law and her husband.
22  And she said, The glory is departed from Israel: for the ark of God is taken.

Bible: 1 Samuel 4:15-22

See also Biblia Wodehousiana.

when the mind dwelt on Pongo Twistleton (ch. 25; page 221) *

The US book ends the paragraph at this point, and begins the next paragraph with “This depressed Lord Ickenham for a moment.”

Chatsworth, Mafeking Road (ch. 25; page 221)

This address at once tells us a lot about the house: the streetname implies that it was built in the period shortly after the Boer War (1899–1902), and the name of the house indicates lower-middle-class delusions of grandeur (Chatsworth, near Bakewell in Derbyshire, is the seat of the Dukes of Devonshire). The scene of “Uncle Fred Flits By” is on another Mafeking Road. This is not so surprising: there are currently four Mafeking Roads as well as several Mafeking Avenues in the London area.

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