The Circle, September 1908
A Letter with a Postscript
R. JEREMY GARNETIn Wodehouse’s 1921 revision, Garnet narrates the story in the first person from the start of the book. stood with his back to the empty grate, watching with a jaundiced eye the removal of his breakfast things.
“Mrs. Medley,” he said.
“Would it bore you if I became autobiographical?”
“Never mind. I merely wish to sketch for your benefit a portion of my life’s history. At eleven o’clock last night I went to bed, and at once sank into a dreamless sleep. About four hours later there was a clattering on the stairs which shook the house like a jelly. It was the gentleman in the top room—I forget his name—returning to roost. He was humming a patriotic song. A little while later there were loud crashes. He had removed his boots. All this while snatches of the patriotic song came to me through the ceiling of my bedroom. At about four-thirty there was a lull, and I managed to get to sleep again. I wish when you see that gentleman, Mrs. Medley, you would give him my compliments, and ask him if he could shorten his program another night. He might cut out the song for a start.”
“He’s a very young gentleman, sir,” said Mrs. Medley, in vague defense of her top room.
“And it’s highly improbable,” said Garnet, “that he will ever grow old if he repeats his last night’s performance.”
On the strength of the fact that he wrote for the newspapers and had published two novels, Mrs. Medley regarded Mr. Garnet as an eccentric individual, who had to be humored. She received his daily harangues in the same spirit as that in which a nurse listens to the outpourings of the family baby. She was surprised when he said anything sensible enough for her to understand.
being clear of breakfast and his room free from disturbing influences, the
exhilaration caused by his chat with his landlady left Mr. Garnet. Life seemed
very gray to him. He was a conscientious young man, and he knew that he ought
to sit down and do some work. On the other hand, his brain felt like
cauliflowerAn allusion to George Ade’s More Fables (1900), in “The Fable of the Author Who Was Sorry for What He Did to Willie”:
His Brain felt as if some one had played a Mean Trick on him and substituted a Side-Order of Cauliflower., and he could not think what to write about. This is one of the things which sour the young author even more than do those long envelopesPublishers returned rejected manuscripts in long envelopes. which so tastefully decorate his table of a morning. He felt particularly unfitted for writing at that moment. The morning is not the time for inventive work. An article may be polished then, or a half-finished story completed; but eleven a. m. is not the hour at which to invent.
Jerry Garnet wandered restlessly about his sitting-room. Rarely had it seemed so dull and depressing to him as it did then. The photographs on the mantelpiece irritated him. There was no change in them. They struck him as the concrete expression of monotony. His eye was caught by a picture hanging out of the straight. He jerked it to one side, and the effect became worse. He jerked it back again, and the thing looked as if it had been hung in a dim light by an astigmatic drunkard. Five minutes’ pulling and hauling brought it back to a position only a shade less crooked than that in which he had found it; and by that time his restlessness had grown like a mushroom.
He looked out of the window. The sunlight was playing on the house opposite. He glanced at his boots. At this point Conscience prodded him sharply.
“I won’t,” he muttered fiercely. “I will work. I’ll turn out something, even if it’s the worst rot ever written.”
With which admirable sentiment he tracked his blotting-pad to its hiding-place (Mrs. Medley found a fresh one every day), collected ink and pens, and sat down.
There was a distant thud from above, and shortly afterward a thin tenor voice made itself heard above a vigorous splashing. The young gentleman on the top floor was starting another day.
thee saw-ongs”“I’ll sing thee songs of Araby,
And tales of fair Cashmere,”
—Opening lines of an 1877 song lyric by William Gorman Wills, from the cantata Lalla Rookh, music by Frederic Clay.—(brief pause, then in a triumphant burst, as if the singer had just remembered the name)—“ovarraby.”
Mr. Garnet breathed a prayer and glared at the ceiling.
The voice continued:—
“Ahn—er—ta-ales of fa-arr Cahshmeerer.”
Sudden and gruesome pause. The splashing ceased. The singer could hardly have been drowned, but Mr. Garnet hoped for the best.
His hopes were shattered.
resumed the young gentleman persuasively, “into the garden, Maud, for ther
black batter nah-eet hath-er-florn.”“Come into the garden, Maud,
For the black bat, night, has flown,”
—Opening lines of Tennyson’s Maud (1855); the traditional musical setting is by Michael Balfe (1857).
Jerry Garnet sprang from his seat and paced the room.
“This is getting perfectly impossible,” he said to himself. “I must get out of this. A fellow can’t work in town. I’ll go down to some farmhouse in the country. I can’t think here. You might just as well try to work at a musical At Home.a party at the host’s home with musical entertainment”
Here followed certain remarks about the young man upstairs, who was now in lighter vein, putting in a spell at a popular melody from the Gaiety Theater.One of two London theaters, 1868–1903 or its replacement, 1903–1939. Under the management (1886–1915) of George Edwardes, the Gaiety shows were a major force in the development of modern musical comedy.
He resumed his seat, and set himself resolutely to hammer out something which, though it might not be Literature, would at least be capable of being printed. A search through his note-book brought no balm.
His thoughts wandered back to the idea of leaving London. London might have suited Dr. Johnson“When a man is tired of London he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” Cited in Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson as spoken in 1791., but he had come to the conclusion that what he wanted, to enable him to give the public of his best (as the reviewer of the AcademyA London weekly literary magazine, dealing with his last work, had expressed a polite hope that he would continue to do), was country air. A farmhouse by the sea somewhere . . . cows . . . spreading boughs . . . rooks . . . brooks . . . cream. In London the day stretches before a man, if he has no regular and appointed work to do, like a long, white, dusty road. It seems impossible to get to the end of it without vast effort. But in the country every hour has its amusements. Up with the lark. Morning dip. Cheery greetings. Local color. Huge breakfast. Long walks. Flannels. The ungirt loin. Good, steady spell of work from dinner till bedtime. The prospect fascinated him. His third novel was already in a nebulous state in his brain. A quiet week or two in the country would enable him to get it‘it’ omitted in magazine; present in 1909 book. into shape.
He took from the pocket of his blazer a letter which had arrived some days before from an artist-friend of his who was on a sketching tour in Devonshire and Somerset. There was a penciled memorandum on the envelope in his own handwriting.
“Mem. Might work K. L.’s story about M. and the W—S’s into comic yarn for one of the weeklies.”Reminiscent of Wodehouse’s own memoranda in his Phrases and Notes workbooks about story ideas; see N. T. P. Murphy’s annotated edition of the workbooks. [IM]
He gazed at this for a while, with a last hope that in it might be contained the germ of something which would enable him to turn out a morning’s work; but having completely forgotten who K. L. was, and, especially, what was his (or her) story about M., whoever he (or she) might be, he abandoned this hope, and turned to the letter in the envelope.
The earlier portions of the letter dealt tantalizingly with the scenery. “Bits,” come upon by accident at the end of disused lanes and transferred with speed to canvas, were described concisely, but with sufficient breadth to make Garnet long to see them for himself. There were brief résumés of dialogues between Lickford (the writer) and weird rustics. The whole letter breathed of the country and the open air. The atmosphere of Garnet’s sitting-room seemed to him to become stuffier with every sentence he read from his friend’s breezy message.
The postscript interested him.
“. . . By the way, at Yeovil I came across an old friend of yours. Stanley FeatherstonhaughProbably pronounced Fanshaw, though some family branches prefer it as spelled or as Feerstonhaw. UkridgePronounced Yewk-ridge, according to Wodehouse., of all people. As large as life—quite six foot two, and tremendously filled out. I thought he was abroad. The last I heard of him he had started for Buenos Ayres in a cattle-ship. It seems he has been in England some time. I met him at Yeovil station. As I opened the station-door I heard a huge voice in a more or less violent altercation; and there was S. F. U., in a villainous old suit of gray flannels (I’ll swear it was the same one that he had on last time I saw him), and a mackintosh, though it was a blazing hot day. His pince-nez were tacked on to his ears with wire as usual. He greeted me with effusive shouts, and drew me aside. Then after a few commonplaces of greeting, he fumbled in his pockets, looked pained and surprised.
“ ‘Look here, Licky,’ he said. ‘You know I never borrow. It’s against my principles. But I must have a shilling, or I’m a ruined man. I seem to have had my pocket picked by some scoundrelly blackguard. Can you, my dear fellow, oblige me with a shilling until next Tuesday afternoon at three-thirty? I never borrow, so I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll let you have this (producing a beastly little threepenny-bit with a hole in it) until I can pay you back. This is of more value to me than I can well express, Licky, my boy. A very, very dear friend gave it to me when we parted, years ago. It’s a wrench to part with it. But Grim Necessity“I am sworn brother, sweet, to grim Necessity”: Shakespeare, King Richard II, V, i. . . . I can hardly do it . . . Still, no, no, . . . you must take it, you must take it. Shake hands, my boy.’
“He then asked after you, and said you were the noblest man—except me—on earth. I gave him your address, not being able to get out of it, but if I were you I should fly while there is yet time.”
“That,” said Jerry Garnet, “is the soundest bit of advice I’ve heard. I will.”
“Mrs. Medley,” he said, when that lady made her appearance.
“I’m going away for a few weeks. You can let the rooms, if you like. I’ll drop you a line when I think of coming back.”
“Yes, sir,” said Mrs. Medley placidly.
“I’ll write you my address to-night. Give my love to that bright young spirit on the top floor, and tell him that I hope my not being here to listen won’t interfere in any way with his morning popular concerts.”
“And, Mrs. Medley, if a man named—”
Mrs. Medley had drifted silently away. During his last speech a thunderous knocking had begun on the front door.
Jerry Garnet stood, and listened, transfixed. Something seemed to tell him who was at the business end of that knocker.
He heard Mrs. Medley’s footsteps pass along the hall and pause at the door. Then there was the click of the latch. Then a volume of sound rushed up to him where he stood over his empty portmanteau.
“Is Mr. Garnet in?”
Mrs. Medley’s reply was inaudible, but apparently in the affirmative.
“Where is he?” boomed the voice. “Show me the old horse. First floor? Thank you. Where is the man of wrathIn Homer’s Odyssey, the name of Odysseus means “man of wrath.” Karen Shotting points out that in Dickens’s Pickwick Papers the term is used three times by Mr. Stiggins referring to Mr. Weller, father of Sam Weller.?”
There followed a crashing on the stairs such as even the young gentleman of the top floor had been unable to produce in his nocturnal rovings. The house shook.
And with the tramping came the thunderous voice as the visitor once more gave tongue:
“Garnet! Garnet!! GARNET!!!”
MR. Stanley Featherstonhaugh Ukridge dashed into the room, uttering a roar of welcome as he caught sight of Garnet still standing petrified athwart his portmanteau.
“My dear old man!” he shouted, springing at him and seizing his hand in a clutch that effectually woke Garnet from his stupor. “How are you, old buck? This is good. By Jove, this is good! This is fine, what?”
He dashed back to the door and looked out.
“Come on, Millie!” he shouted.
Garnet was wondering who in the name of fortune Millie could possibly be, when there appeared on the further side of Mr. Ukridge the figure of a young woman. She paused in the doorway and smiled pleasantly.
“Garnet, old horse,” said Ukridge with some pride, “let me introduce you to my wife. Millie, this is old Garnet. You’ve heard about him.”
“Oh, yes,” said Mrs. Ukridge.
Garnet bowed awkwardly. The idea of Ukridge married was something too overpowering to be assimilated on the instant. If ever there was a man designed by nature to be a bachelor, Stanley Ukridge was that man. Garnet could feel that he was not looking his best. He knew in a vague, impersonal way that his eyebrows were still somewhere in the middle of his forehead, whither they had sprung in the first moment of surprise, and that his jaw, which had dropped, had not yet resumed its normal posture.
“Buck up, old horse,” said Ukridge. He had a painful habit of addressing all and sundry by that title. On one occasion he had been heard to address even a bishop thus.
“Surprised to find me married, what? Garny, old boy”—sinking his voice to what was intended to be a whisper—“take my tip. You go and do the same. You feel another man. Give up this bachelor business. Go and get married, my boy, go and get married. By gad, I’ve forgotten to pay the cabby.”
He was out of the door and on his way downstairs before the echoes of his last remark had ceased to shake the window of the sitting-room. Garnet was left to entertain Mrs. Ukridge.
So far her share in the conversation had been small. Nobody talked very much when Ukridge was on the scene. She sat on the edge of Garnet’s big basket-chaircalled a wicker chair in America, looking very small and quiet.
Jerry Garnet felt very friendly toward her. He could not help pitying her. Ukridge was a very good person to know casually, but to be bound to him for life was not the ideal state for a girl.
“And she’s so young,” he thought, as he looked across at the basket-chair. “Quite a kid.”
“Isn’t he a wonderful man?” exclaimed the object of his pity, breaking the silence.
Not yet, to judge from her expression and the tone of her voice, had she had experience of the disadvantages attached to the position of Mrs. Stanley Ukridge.
Garnet could agree with her there.
“Yes, he is certainly wonderful,” he said.
“I believe he could do anything. Have you ever kept fowls?” she broke off, with apparent irrelevance.
“No,” said Garnet. “You see, I spend so much of my time in town. I should find it difficult.”
Mrs. Ukridge looked disappointed.
“I was hoping you might have had some experience. Stanley, of course, can turn his hand to anything; but I think experience is such a good thing, don’t you?”
“It is,” said Garnet, mystified. But—”
“I have bought a shilling-bookA book sold for a shilling would have been a modestly sized paperback rather than an exhaustive volume; this was the price of Wodehouse’s paperbound The Globe By the Way Book and The Swoop!, called ‘Fowls, and All About Them,’ but it is very hard to understand. You see, we—but here is Stanley.”
“Well, Garnet, old horse,” said Ukridge, re-entering the room after another energetic passage of the stairs, “settle down and let’s talk business. Lucky to find you in, because I’ve got a scheme for you, Garny, old boy. Yes, sir; the idea of a thousand years. Now listen to me for a moment.”
He sat down on the table, and dragged a chair up as a leg-rest. Then he took off his pince-nez, wiped them, readjusted the wire behind his ears, and, having hit a brown patch on the knee of his gray flannel trousers several times in the apparent hope of removing it, began to speak.
“About fowls,” he said.
“What about them?” asked Garnet. The subject was beginning to interest him.
“I want you to give me your undivided attention for a moment,” said Ukridge. “I was saying to my wife only the other day ‘Garnet’s the man. Clever man, Garnet. Full of ideas.’ Didn’t I, Millie?”
“Yes, dear,” said Mrs. Ukridge, smiling.
“Well?” said Garnet.
“The fact is,” said Ukridge, with a burst of candor, “we are going to keep fowls.”
He stopped and looked at Garnet in order to see the effect of the information. Garnet bore it with fortitude.
“Yes?” he said.
Ukridge shifted himself further on to the table and upset the inkpot.
“Never mind,” he said, “it’ll soak in. Don’t you worry about that; you keep listening to me. When I said we meant to keep fowls, I didn’t mean in a small sort of way—two cocks and a couple of hens, and a ping-pong ball for a nest-eggNot today’s figurative meaning of a reserve or starter sum of money, but an artificial egg (as of porcelain) left in a nest to induce a hen to lay more eggs there.. We are going to do it on a large scale. We are going to keep,” he concluded impressively, “a chicken-farm.”
“A chicken-farm,” echoed Mrs. Ukridge, with an admiring glance at her husband.
“I’ve thought it all out,” continued Ukridge, “and it’s as clear as mud. No expenses, large profits, quick returns. Chickens, eggs, and no work. By Jove, Sebastian, old man, it’s the idea of a lifetime. Just listen to me for a moment. You buy your hen—”
“One hen?” inquired Garnet.
“Call it one for the sake of argument. It makes my calculations clearer. Very well, then. You buy your hen. It lays an egg every day of the weekAn excessive estimate; an exceptionally productive hen that laid six eggs a week was mentioned in British newspapers in 1908. Three to five eggs per week would be a more reasonable expectation.. You sell the eggs, say, six for fivepence. Keep of hen costs nothing. Profit at least fourpence three farthings on every half-dozen eggs. What do you think of that, Bartholomew?”
Garnet admitted that it sounded an attractive scheme, but expressed a wish to overhaul the figures in case of error.
“Error!” shouted Ukridge, pounding the table with such energy that it groaned beneath him. “Error? Not a bit of it. Can’t you follow a simple calculation like that? The thing is, you see, you get your original hen for next to nothing. That’s to say, on tickon credit. Anybody will let you have a hen on tick. Now listen to me for a moment. You let your hen set and hatch chickens. Suppose you have a dozen hens. Very well, then. When each of the dozen has a dozen chickens, you send the old hens back with thanks for the kind loan; and there you are, starting business with a hundred and forty-four free chickens to your name. And after a bit, when the chickens grow up and begin to lay, all you have to do is to sit back in your chair and gather in the big checks. Isn’t that so, Millie?”
“Yes, dear,” said Mrs. Ukridge, with shining eyes.
“We’ve fixed it all up. Do you know Lyme Regis, in Dorsetshire? Quiet little fishing-village. Bathing. Sea air. Splendid scenery. Just the place for a chicken-farm. I’ve been looking after that. A friend of my wife’s has lent us a jolly old house, with large grounds. All we’ve got to do is to get in the fowls. That’s all right. I’ve ordered the first lot. We shall find them waiting for us when we arrive.”
“Well,” said Garnet, “I’m sure I wish you luck. Mind you let me know how you get on.”
“Let you know!” roared Ukridge. “Why, old horse, you’ve got to come, too. We shall take no refusal. Shall we, Millie?”
“No, dear,” murmured Mrs. Ukridge.
“Of course not,” said Ukridge. “No refusal of any sort. Pack up to-night, and meet us at WaterlooA railway station in London, near the south bank of the Thames in the Borough of Lambeth; it was originally built by the London and South West Railway, and its replacement, opened in 1922, still serves trains to Surrey, Hampshire, and Dorset. to-morrow.”
“It’s awfully good of you—” began Garnet a little blankly.
“Not a bit of it, not a bit of it. This is pure business. I was saying to my wife when we came in that you were the very man for us. You see, I’m one of these practical persons. I go straight ahead, following my nose. What you want in a business of this sort is a touch of the dreamer to help out the practical mind. We look to you for suggestions, Montmorency. Of course, you take your share of the profits. That’s understood. Yes, yes, I must insist. Strict business between friends. We must arrange it all when we get down there. My wife is the secretary of the firm. She has been writing letters to people, asking for fowls. So you see it’s a thoroughly organized concern. There’s money in it, old horse. Don’t you forget that.”
“We should be so disappointed if you did not come,” said Mrs. Ukridge, lifting her childlike eyes to Garnet’s face.
Garnet stood against the mantelpiece and pondered. In after years he recognized that that moment marked an epoch in his life. If he had refused the invitation he would not have—but, to quote the old novelists, we anticipate. At any rate, he would have missed a remarkable experience. It is not given to every one to see Mr. Stanley Ukridge manage a chicken-farm.
“The fact is,” he said at last, “I was thinking of going where I could get some golf.”
Ukridge leaped on the table triumphantly.
“Lyme Regis is just the place for you then. Perfect hotbed of golf. Fine links. Bring your clubs.”
“You know,” Garnet urged, “I am absolutely inexperienced as regards fowls.”
“Excellent!” said Ukridge. “Then you’re just the man. You will bring to the work a mind entirely unclouded by theories.”
“Er—yes,” said Garnet.
“I wouldn’t have a professional chicken-farmer about the place if he paid to come. Natural intelligence is what we want. Then we can rely on you.”
“Very well,” said Garnet slowly. “It’s very kind of you to ask me.”
“It’s business, Cuthbert, business. Very well, then. We shall catch the eleven-twenty at Waterloo. Don’t miss it. You book to Axminster. Look out for me on the platform. If I see you first I’ll shout.”
Garnet felt that that promise rang true.
“Then good-by for the present. Millie, we must be off. Till to-morrow, Garnet.”
Some Fellow Travelers and a Girl with Brown Hair
THE gloom of Waterloo station was lightened on the following morning at ten minutes to eleven, when Mr. Garnet arrived to catch the train to Axminster, by several gleams of sunshine and a great deal of bustle and movement on the various platforms. A cheery activity pervaded the place.
An optimistic porter had relieved him of his portmanteau and golf-clubs, as he stepped out of his cab, and had arranged to meet him on No. 6 platform, from which he asserted with the quiet confidence which has made Englishmen what they are, the eleven-twenty would start on its journey to Axminster. Unless, he added, it went from No. 4.Waterloo Station was then notoriously confusing, having been expanded haphazardly in stages over the years. See end note 1 for further references and links.
Garnet, having bought a ticket, made his way to the book-stall. Here he inquired in a loud, penetrating voice if they had got “Mr. Jeremy Garnet’s last novel, ‘The Manoeuvers of Arthur.’Wodehouse’s long school story “The Manœuvres of Charteris” had greatly contributed to his reputation among schoolboys; IM notes the similarity of titles. ” Being informed that they had not, he clicked his tongue cynically, advised the man in charge to order that work, as the demand for it might be expected shortly to be large, and spent a shilling on a magazine and some weekly papers. Then, with ten minutes to spare, he went off in search of Ukridge.
He found him on platform No. 6. The porter’s first choice was, it seemed, correct.
“Here you are!” shouted Ukridge. “Good for you. Thought you were going to miss it.”
Garnet shook hands with the smiling Mrs. Ukridge.
“I’ve got a carriage,” said Ukridge, “and collared two corner seats. My wife goes down in another. She dislikes the smell of smoke when she’s traveling. Let’s pray that we get the carriage to ourselves. All London seems to be here this morning. Get in, old horse. I’ll just see her ladyship into her carriage.”
Garnet entered the compartment, and stood at the door looking out, in order, after the friendly manner of the traveling Briton, to thwart an invasion of fellow travelers. Then he withdrew his head suddenly and sat down. An elderly gentleman, accompanied by a girl, was coming toward him. It was not this type of fellow traveler whom he hoped to keep out. He had noticed the girl at the ticket-office. She had waited by the side of the line, while the elderly gentleman struggled gamely for the tickets, and he had had plenty of opportunity of observing her appearance. For five minutes he had debated with himself as to whether her hair should rightly be described as brown or golden. He had decided finally on brown. It then became imperative that he should ascertain the color of her eyes. Once only had he met them, and then only for a second. They might be blue. They might be gray. He could not be certain. The elderly gentleman came to the door of the compartment and looked in.
“This seems tolerably empty, my dear Phyllis,” he said.
Garnet, his glance fixed on his magazine, made a note of the name. It harmonized admirably with the hair and the eyes of elusive color.
“You are sure you do not object to a smoking-carriage, my dear?”
“Oh, no, father. Not at all.”
Garnet told himself that the voice was just the right sort of voice to go with the hair, the eyes and the name.
“Then I think . . .” said the elderly gentleman, getting in. The inflection of his voice suggested the Irishman. It was not a brogue. There were no strange words. But the general effect was Irish. Garnet congratulated himself. Irishmen are generally good company. An Irishman with a pretty daughter should be unusually good company.
The bustle on the platform had increased momentarily. The sudden snorting of the engine, as if it were eager to be off, threw the crowd into a panic. Shrill cries echoed down the platform. Lost sheep, singly and in companies, rushed to and fro, peering eagerly into carriages in the search for seats. Piercing cries ordered unknown “Tommies” and “Ernies” to “keep by aunty, now.” Just as Ukridge returned the dreaded “Get in anywhere” began to be heard, and the next moment an avalanche of warm humanity poured into the carriage. A silent but bitter thought framed itself on Garnet’s lips. His chance of pleasant conversation with the lady of the brown hair and the eyes that were either gray or blue was at an end.
The newcomers consisted of a middle-aged lady, addressed as Aunty. A youth called Albert, subsequently described by Garnet as the rudest boy on earth—a proud title, honestly won. Lastly a niece of some twenty years. Stolid and seemingly without interest in life.
Ukridge slipped into his corner, adroitly foiling Albert, who had made a dive in that direction. Albert regarded him fixedly for a space, then sank into the seat beside Garnet, and began to chew something gruesome that smelt of aniseed.
Aunty, meanwhile, was distributing her weight evenly between the toes of the Irish gentleman and those of his daughter, as she leaned out of the window to converse with a lady friend in a straw hat and hair-curlers, accompanied by three dirty and frivolous boys. It was, she stated, lucky that they had caught the train. Garnet could not agree with her. Phyllis, he noticed, was bearing it with angelic calm. Her profile, when he caught sight of it round Aunty, struck him as a little cold, even haughty. That, however, might be due to what she was suffering. It is unfair to judge a lady’s character from her face at a moment when she is in a position of physical discomfort. The train moved off with a jerk in the middle of a request on the part of the straw-hatted lady that her friend would “remember that, you know—about him,” and Aunty, staggering back, sat down on Albert’s lunch.
“Clumsy!” observed Albert tersely.
“Albert, you mustn’t speak to Aunty so.”
“Wodyer sit on my bag for then?” inquired Albert.
They argued the point.
who should have been busy studying character for a novel of the lower classes,
took up his magazine and began to read. The odor of aniseed became more and more painful. Ukridge
had lighted a cigar, and Garnet understood why Mrs. Ukridge preferred to travel in another
compartment. For “in his hand he bore the brand which none but he might smoke.”An allusion to Macaulay’s poem “Horatius at the Bridge” from Lays of Ancient Rome (1842):
“And in his hand he shakes the brand
Which none but he can wield.”
[“brand” here is an old poetic term for a sword; Wodehouse plays on two other meanings: a burning torch and Ukridge’s presumably cheap brand of tobacco, tolerable only to himself. Thanks to Shreevatsa R for this citation and to Karen Shotting for the definition.]
Garnet looked stealthily across the carriage to see how his lady of the hair and eyes was enduring this combination of evils, and noticed that she, too, had begun to read. And as she put down the book to look out of the window at the last view of London, he saw with a thrill that it was “The Manoeuvers of Arthur.” Never before had he come upon a stranger reading his work.
And if “The Manoeuvers of Arthur” could make the reader oblivious to surroundings such as these, then, felt Garnet, it was no common book. A fact which he had long since suspected.
The train raced on toward the sea. It was a warm day, and a torpid peace began to settle down on the carriage. Soon only Garnet, the Irishman and the lady were awake.
“What’s your book, me dear?” asked the Irishman.
“ ‘The Manoeuvers of Arthur,’ father,” said Phyllis. “By Jeremy Garnet.”
Garnet would not have believed without the evidence of his ears that his name could possibly have sounded so well.
“Dolly Strange gave it to me when I left the abbey,” continued Phyllis. “She keeps a shelf of books for her guests when they are going away. Books that she considers rubbish, and doesn’t want, you know.”
Garnet hated Dolly Strange without further evidence.
“And what do you think of it, me dear?”
“I like it,” said Phyllis decidedly. The carriage swam before Garnet’s eyes. “I think it is very clever. I shall keep it.”
“Bless you,” thought Garnet, “and I will write my precious autograph on every page, if you want it.”
“I wonder who Jeremy Garnet is?” said Phyllis. “I imagine him rather an old young man, probably with an eyeglass, and conceited. He must be conceited. I can tell that from the style. And I should think he didn’t know many girls. At least if he thinks Pamela Grant an ordinary sort of girl.”
“Is she not?” asked her father.
“She’s a cr-r-reature,” said Phyllis emphatically.
Which was a blow to Garnet, and demolished the self-satisfaction which her earlier criticisms had caused to grow within him. He had always looked on Pamela as something very much out of the ordinary run of feminine character-studies. That scene between her and the curate in the conservatory. . . . And when she finds Arthur in the meet of the Blankshire. . . . He was sorry she did not like Pamela. Somehow it lowered Pamela in his estimation.
“But I like Arthur,” said Phyllis, and she smiled—the first time Garnet had seen her do so.
Garnet also smiled—to himself. Arthur was the hero. He was a young writer. Ergo, Arthur was himself.
The train was beginning to slow down. Signs of returning animation began to be noticeable among the sleepers. A whistle from the engine, and the train drew up in a station. There was a general exodus. Aunty became instantly a thing of dash and electricity, collected parcels, shook Albert, replied to his thrusts with repartee, and finally headed a stampede out of the door.
To Garnet’s chagrin the Irish gentleman and his daughter also rose. Apparently this was to be the end of their brief acquaintanceship. They alighted and walked down the platform.
“Where are we?” said Ukridge sleepily, opening his eyes. “Yeovil? Not far now, old horse.”
With which remark he closed his eyes again and returned to his slumbers.
Garnet’s eye, roving disconsolately over the carriage, was caught by something lying in the far corner. It was the criticized “Manoeuvers of Arthur.” The girl had left it behind.
What follows shows the vanity that obsesses our young and rising authors. It did not enter into his mind that the book might have been left behind of set purpose, as being of no further use to the owner. It only occurred to him that if he did not act swiftly the lady of the hair and eyes would suffer a loss beside which the loss of a purse or a hand-bag were trivial.
He acted swiftly.
Five seconds later he was at the end of the platform, flushed but courteous.
“Excuse me,” he said, “I think . . . ?”
“Thank you,” said the girl.
Garnet made his way back to his carriage and lit his pipe. “They are blue,” he said.
(To be continued)
Wodehouse’s first novel aimed at an adult audience initially appeared in June 1906 in a hardcover edition published by George Newnes Ltd. in London. A transcription of the second printing, November 1906, is now online on this site. At some 42,200 words it is the fullest of the early editions and deserves to be taken as the canonical early text. According to David Jasen, numerous small changes were made for the American version, which appeared in the present somewhat abridged serialization (some 38,000 words compared to 39,000 for the book) in The Circle magazine from September 1908 through March 1909, and in a May 1909 hardcover edition at full length, published by the Circle Publishing Company. An annotated transcription of the 1909 American book is on this site. Wodehouse tells the story in America, I Like You of how his second trip to America in 1909 was made in part to collect the royalties for this book, which his American agent A. E. Baerman (called “Archie Fitzmaurice” in some retellings) had copyrighted in his own name. See also Wodehouse’s 1910 article “Abe”.
Wodehouse substantially revised the novel in 1920, and it was published in 1921 by Herbert Jenkins Ltd. in London; nearly all book reprints as well as one of the Project Gutenberg texts derive from the 1921 edition. The 1909 Circle hardcover edition is also available as a Gutenberg text. A presentation of the 1921 text (with some punctuation amended to the modern British fashion) edited and with annotations by the late Terry Mordue is available elsewhere on this site.
This new annotated presentation of the magazine serial features “dynamic footnotes” which appear at the bottom of the window when the reader hovers the mouse pointer (without clicking) over a word or phrase in purple type like thisThis is an example of a dynamic footnote.. Since these labels cannot contain links, some of them refer to the numbered endnotes. All the footnotes are repeated here for those who use touch-screen browsers (such as on some tablets and smartphones) that do not allow hovering.
This serial omits the entire Tennis section of Chapter XIII of the book, “Tea and Tennis,” and includes the Tea in Chapter XII. Following that, Chapters XIII through XIX of the serial correspond to Chapters XIV through XX of the book. The serial has no Chapter XX, so that Chapters XXI through XXIII are numbered the same in both versions.
A new transcription of the full-length 1909 volume, annotated similarly to this edition, is available on this site; the text which was cut from the serial or otherwise differs between the two editions is in colored type for easy identification of the cuts and changes.
Mr. Jeremy Garnet: In Wodehouse’s 1921 revision, Garnet narrates the story in the first person from the start of the book.
brain felt like cauliflower: An allusion to George Ade’s More Fables (1900), in “The Fable of the Author Who Was Sorry for What He Did to Willie”: “His Brain felt as if some one had played a Mean Trick on him and substituted a Side-Order of Cauliflower.”
long envelopes: Publishers returned rejected manuscripts in long envelopes.
“Oi’ll—er—sing thee saw-ongs”:
“I’ll sing thee songs of Araby,
And tales of fair Cashmere,”
Opening lines of an 1877 song lyric by William Gorman Wills, from the cantata Lalla Rookh, music by Frederic Clay.
“Come into the garden, Maud, for ther black batter nah-eet hath-er-florn”:
“Come into the garden, Maud,
For the black bat, night, has flown,” Opening lines of Tennyson’s Maud (1855); the traditional musical setting is by Michael Balfe (1857).
a musical At Home: a party at the host’s home with musical entertainment
Gaiety Theater: One of two London theaters, 1868–1903 or its replacement, 1903–1939. Under the management (1886–1915) of George Edwardes, the Gaiety shows were a major force in the development of modern musical comedy.
London might have suited Dr. Johnson: “When a man is tired of London he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” Cited in Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson as spoken in 1791.
Academy: A London weekly literary magazine
enable him to get it into shape: ‘it’ omitted in magazine; present in 1909 book.
Mem. Might work K. L.’s story...: Reminiscent of Wodehouse’s own memoranda in his Phrases and Notes workbooks about story ideas; see N. T. P. Murphy’s annotated edition of the workbooks. [IM]
Featherstonhaugh: Probably pronounced Fanshaw, though some family branches prefer it as spelled or as Feerstonhaw.
Ukridge: Pronounced Yewk-ridge, according to Wodehouse.
Grim Necessity: “I am sworn brother, sweet, to grim Necessity”: Shakespeare, King Richard II, V, i.
man of wrath: In Homer’s Odyssey, the name of Odysseus means “man of wrath.” Karen Shotting points out that in Dickens’s Pickwick Papers the term is used three times by Mr. Stiggins referring to Mr. Weller, father of Sam Weller.
basket-chair: called a wicker chair in America
shilling-book: A book sold for a shilling would have been a modestly sized paperback rather than an exhaustive volume; this was the price of Wodehouse’s paperbound The Globe By the Way Book and The Swoop!
nest-egg: Not today’s figurative meaning of a reserve or starter sum of money, but an artificial egg (as of porcelain) left in a nest to induce a hen to lay more eggs there.
every day of the week: An excessive estimate; an exceptionally productive hen that laid six eggs a week was mentioned in British newspapers in 1908. Three to five eggs per week would be a more reasonable expectation.
on tick: on credit
Waterloo: A railway station in London, near the south bank of the Thames in the Borough of Lambeth; it was originally built by the London and South West Railway, and its replacement, opened in 1922, still serves trains to Surrey, Hampshire, and Dorset.
1 it went from No. 4: Waterloo Station was then notoriously confusing, having been expanded haphazardly in stages over the years. The 1909 hardcover edition, chapter 3, has further references to the confusion at Waterloo station. See the Wikipedia article on London Waterloo station for its history and for further literary references to books including Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat and Stevenson & Osbourne’s The Wrong Box.
‘The Manoeuvers of Arthur’: Wodehouse’s long school story “The Manœuvres of Charteris” had greatly contributed to his reputation among schoolboys; IM notes the similarity of titles.
“in his hand he bore the brand which none but he might smoke”: An allusion to Macaulay’s poem “Horatius at the Bridge” from Lays of Ancient Rome (1842):
“And in his hand he shakes the brand
Which none but he can wield.”
[“brand” here is an old poetic term for a sword; Wodehouse plays on two other meanings: a burning torch and Ukridge’s presumably cheap brand of tobacco, tolerable only to himself. Thanks to Shreevatsa R for the Macaulay citation and to Karen Shotting for the definition.]
—Notes by Neil Midkiff, with contributions from Ian Michaud and others as noted