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Sir P. G. Wodehouse

Wodehouse in 1904 (aged 23).
Born 15 October 1881(1881-10-15)
Guildford, Surrey, UK
Died 14 February 1975 (aged 93)
Southampton, NY, United States
Pen name Henry William-Jones
P Brooke-Haven
Pelham Grenville
Melrose Grainger
J Walker Williams
C P West
Occupation novelist, playwright and lyricist
Nationality British
United States (1955, aged 74)
Period 1902–1975
Genres comedy, romantic comedy

Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse, KBE (15 October 1881 – 14 February 1975) (pronounced /ˈwʊdhaʊs/) was an English writer whose body of work includes novels, collections of short stories, and musical theatre. Wodehouse enjoyed enormous popular success during a career of more than seventy years and his prolific writings continue to be widely read. Despite the political and social upheavals that occurred during his life, much of which was spent in France and the United States, Wodehouse's main canvas remained that of pre-war English upper-class society, reflecting his birth, education, and youthful writing career.

An acknowledged master of English prose, Wodehouse has been admired both by contemporaries such as Hilaire Belloc, Evelyn Waugh and Rudyard Kipling and by modern writers such as Douglas Adams, Salman Rushdie, Zadie Smith, and Terry Pratchett. Sean O'Casey famously called him "English literature's performing flea", a description that Wodehouse used as the title of a collection of his letters to a friend, Bill Townend. Journalist and writer Christopher Hitchens commented, "... there is not, and never will be anything to touch him."

Best known today for the Jeeves and Blandings Castle novels and short stories, Wodehouse was also a playwright and lyricist who was part author and writer of 15 plays and of 250 lyrics for some 30 musical comedies. He worked with Cole Porter on the musical Anything Goes (1934) and frequently collaborated with Jerome Kern and Guy Bolton. He wrote the lyrics for the hit song "Bill" in Kern's Show Boat (1927), wrote lyrics to Sigmund Romberg's music for the GershwinRomberg musical Rosalie (1928), and collaborated with Rudolf Friml on a musical version of The Three Musketeers (1928).

Contents

Early life

Wodehouse, called "Plum"[1] by most family and friends, was born prematurely to Eleanor Wodehouse (née Deane) while she was visiting Guildford.[2] His father, Henry Ernest Wodehouse (1845–1929), was a British judge in Hong Kong. The Wodehouse family had been settled in Norfolk for many centuries. Wodehouse's great-grandfather Reverend Philip Wodehouse was the second son of Sir Armine Wodehouse, 5th Baronet, whose eldest son John Wodehouse, 1st Baron Wodehouse, was the ancestor of the Earls of Kimberley. His godfather was Pelham von Donop, after whom he was named.[3]

When he was just three years old, Wodehouse was brought back to England and placed in the care of a nanny. He attended various boarding schools and, between the ages of three and 15 years, saw his parents for barely six months in total.[4] Wodehouse grew very close to his brother, who shared his love for art. Wodehouse filled the voids in his life by writing relentlessly. He spent quite a few of his school holidays with one aunt or another; it has been speculated that this gave him a healthy horror of the "gaggle of aunts", reflected in Bertie Wooster's formidable aunts Agatha and Dahlia, as well as Lady Constance Keeble's tyranny over her many nieces and nephews in the Blandings Castle series.

Wodehouse's first school was The Chalet School, Croydon (now Elmhurst School for Boys), which he attended between 1886 and 1889, together with his two older brothers. In 1889, the oldest brother, Peveril, was diagnosed as having a weak chest, and the three brothers were sent to Elizabeth College, Guernsey, where Peveril could benefit from the sea air. Wodehouse remained at Elizabeth College for two years, until, at age 10, it became time for him to move to a preparatory school. Wodehouse's first prep school was Malvern House, at Kearsney, near Dover, which specialised in preparing boys for entry to the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth. Wodehouse spent two unhappy years at Malvern House before finally persuading his father to send him to Dulwich College, where his elder brother Armine was already a student.

He enjoyed his time at Dulwich, where he was successful both as a student and as a sportsman: he was a member of the Classics VIth Form (traditionally, the preserve of the brightest students) and a School prefect, he edited the college magazine, The Alleynian, sang and acted leading roles in musical and theatrical productions, and gained his school colours as a member of the cricket First XI and rugby football First XV; he also represented the school at boxing (until barred by poor eyesight) and his house at athletics. The library at Dulwich is now named after him.

Wodehouse's elder brother, Armine, had won a classics scholarship to Oxford University (where he gained a first class degree) and Pelham was widely expected to follow in his brother's footsteps, but a fall in the value of the Indian rupee (in which currency his father's pension was expressed) forced him to abandon such plans. His father found him a position with the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank (now known as HSBC), where, after two years' training in London, he would have been posted to an overseas branch. However, Wodehouse was never interested in banking as a career and "never learned a thing about banking". (Some of his experiences in the bank were recounted in Psmith in the City.) He wrote part-time while working in the bank, and in 1902 became a journalist with The Globe (a now defunct newspaper), taking over the comic column from a friend who had resigned.

Wodehouse contributed items to Punch,[5] Vanity Fair (magazine, historical) (1903–1906), Daily Express (1904) and The World: A Journal for Men and Women (1906/1907). He also wrote stories for schoolboy's magazines (The Captain and Public School Magazine) that were compiled to form his first published novels and four playlets with his friend Bertram Fletcher Robinson.[6] During 1909, Wodehouse stayed in Greenwich Village and "sold two short stories to Cosmopolitan and Collier's for a total of $500 – much more than I had ever earned before." He then resigned from The Globe and stayed in New York, where he became a regular contributor (under a variety of pseudonyms) to the newly-founded Vanity Fair (1913). However "the wolf was always at the door", and it was not until The Saturday Evening Post serialised Something New in 1915 that he had his "first break". Around this time he began collaborating with Guy Bolton and Jerome Kern on (eventually eighteen) musical comedies.[7]

In 1914, Wodehouse married Ethel Wayman and gained a stepdaughter called Leonora. He had no biological children, and it is possible that he was rendered infertile after contracting mumps as an adolescent.[8]

During the 1930s, he had two brief stints as a screenwriter in Hollywood, where he claimed he was greatly overpaid. Many of his novels were also serialised in magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post and The Strand, which also paid well.

Life beyond Britain

Although Wodehouse and his novels are considered quintessentially English, from 1914 onward he shared his time between England and the United States. In 1934, he took up residence in France, to avoid double taxation on his earnings by the tax authorities in Britain and the U.S. He was also profoundly uninterested in politics and world affairs. When World War II broke out in 1939 he remained at his seaside home in Le Touquet, France, instead of returning to England, apparently failing to recognise the seriousness of the conflict. (One version says that his wife couldn't bear to leave their dog, Wonder). [9] He was subsequently taken prisoner by the Germans in 1940 and interned by them for a year, first in Belgium, then at Tost (now Toszek) in Upper Silesia (now in Poland). He is recorded as saying, "If this is Upper Silesia, one wonders what Lower Silesia must be like..."[10]

While at Tost, he entertained his fellow prisoners with witty dialogues. After being released from internment, a few months short of his 60th birthday, he used these dialogues as a basis for a series of radio broadcasts aimed at America (then not at war) that the Germans tricked him into making from Berlin. Wodehouse believed he would be admired as showing himself to have 'kept a stiff upper lip' during his internment.[11] Wartime England was in no mood for light-hearted banter, however, and the broadcasts led to many accusations of collaboration with the Germans and even treason. Some libraries banned his books. Foremost among his critics was A. A. Milne, author of the Winnie the Pooh books; Wodehouse took revenge in a short story parody where a character based on Milne wrote about his son, a ridiculous character named "Timothy Bobbin".[12] Among Wodehouse's defenders were Evelyn Waugh and George Orwell.[13] An investigation by the British security service MI5 concurred with Orwell's opinion, concluding that Wodehouse was naïve and foolish but not a traitor.[14] Documents declassified in the 1980s revealed that while living in Paris, his living expenses were paid by the Nazis.[15] However, papers released by the British Public Record Office in 1999 showed these had been accounted for by MI5 investigators when establishing Wodehouse's innocence.[11]

The criticism led Wodehouse and his wife to move permanently to New York. Apart from Leonora, who died during Wodehouse's internment in Germany, they had no children. He became an American citizen in 1955 and never returned to his homeland, spending the remainder of his life in Remsenburg, Long Island.

Later life

He was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) in the 1975 New Year Honours, six weeks before his death at the age of 93.[16] It is widely believed that the honour was not given earlier because of lingering resentment about the German broadcasts. In a BBC interview he said that he had no ambitions left now that he had been knighted and there was a waxwork of him in Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum. His doctor advised him not to travel to London to be knighted, and his wife later received the award on his behalf from the British consul.[17]

The Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize, given annually for the finest example of comic writing in the UK, was established and named in his honour in 2000.

Writing style

Wodehouse took a modest attitude to his own works. In Over Seventy (1957) he wrote:

"I go in for what is known in the trade as 'light writing' and those who do that – humorists they are sometimes called – are looked down upon by the intelligentsia and sneered at."

However, he also lightly taunted his critics, as in the introduction to Summer Lightning[18]:

"A certain critic—for such men, I regret to say, do exist—made the nasty remark about my last novel that it contained `all the old Wodehouse characters under different names'. He has probably by now been eaten by bears, like the children who made mock of the prophet Elisha; but if he still survives he will not be able to make a similar charge against Summer Lightning. With my superior intelligence, I have outgeneralled the man this time by putting in all the old Wodehouse characters under the same names. Pretty silly it will make him feel, I rather fancy."

His writing style is notable for its unique blend of contemporary London clubroom slang with elegant, classically-informed drawing-room English. As in: "I once got engaged to his daughter Honoria, a ghastly dynamic exhibit who read Nietzsche and had a laugh like waves breaking on a stern and rockbound coast. "[19]

Literary tastes and influence

In the above-mentioned article, Wodehouse names some contemporary humorists whom he held in high regard. These include Frank Sullivan, A. P. Herbert, and Alex Atkinson. Two essays in Tales of St. Austin’s satirize modern literary criticism; "The Tom Brown Question" is a parody of Homeric analysts, and "Notes" criticizes both classical and English critics, with an ironic exception for those explicating the meaning of Browning. In "Work," Wodehouse calls the claim that "Virgil is hard" "a shallow falsehood," but notes that "Aeschylus, on the other hand, is a demon." Shakespeare and Tennyson were also obvious influences; their works were the only books Wodehouse brought with him in his internment.[20] He frequently quotes Kipling and Omar Khayyam. Wodehouse also seems to have enjoyed the traditional English thriller; in the 1960s he gave important praise for the debut novels of Gavin Lyall[21] and George MacDonald Fraser.[22] In later life, he read mysteries by Ngaio Marsh and Rex Stout, and unfailingly watched the soap opera The Edge of Night.[23] One of his characters declares "It is impossible not be thrilled by Edgar Wallace."[24]

Characters

Wodehouse's characters, however, were not always popular with the establishment, notably the foppish foolishness of Bertie Wooster. Papers released by the Public Record Office have disclosed that when Wodehouse was recommended in 1967 for the Order of the Companions of Honour, Sir Patrick Dean, the British ambassador in Washington, argued that it "would also give currency to a Bertie Wooster image of the British character which we are doing our best to eradicate."

Wodehouse's characters are often eccentric, with peculiar attachments, such as to pigs (Lord Emsworth), newts (Gussie Fink-Nottle), antique silver (Bertie's Uncle Tom Travers), golf-collectables (numerous characters) or socks (Archibald Mulliner). His "mentally negligible" good-natured characters invariably make their lot worse by their half-witted schemes to improve a bad situation.

Wodehouse's aristocrats embody many of the comic attributes that characterize buffoons. In many cases the classic eccentricities of Wodehouse's upper class give rise to plot complications. The very first Jeeves story ("Jeeves Takes Charge") concerns an attempt to prevent publication of an old man's memoirs, which contain embarrassing stories about aristocrats and other prestigious persons in their youth.

Relatives, especially aunts and uncles, are commonly depicted with an exaggerated power to help or impede marriage or financial prospects, or simply to make life miserable. (Bertie speaks of "Aunt Agatha getting after [someone] with her hatchet".) Several of the Jeeves stories involve helping a pal to deceive a wealthy relative on whom the pal depends financially ("The Aunt and the Sluggard", "Comrade Bingo"). When Bertie Wooster is first introduced ("Jeeves Takes Charge"), he is himself dependent upon his Uncle Willoughby, although without explanation he later becomes independently wealthy.

Children of both genders are invariably troublesome, annoying, and malicious. The most egregious is Edwin the Boy Scout, whose attempts at "acts of kindness" cause disasters of widely varying severity in several Jeeves novels and short stories.

Friends are often more a trouble than a comfort in Wodehouse stories: Bertie Wooster in particular is often obliged to put himself to trouble, and sometimes to endure considerable suffering, in order to help a friend. (The Code of the Woosters, in the novel of the same name, is "Never let a pal down.") Antagonists (particularly rivals in love) are frequently terrifying and just as often get their comeuppance in a gratifying fashion.

Policemen and magistrates are typically portrayed as threatening, yet easy to fool, often through the simple expedient of giving a false name. A recurring motif is the theft of policemen's helmets. One of the most dislikable characters in the entire opus is a magistrate, Sir Watkyn Bassett.

In a manner going back to the stock characters of Roman comedy (such as Plautus), Wodehouse's servants are frequently far cleverer than their masters. This is quintessentially true with Jeeves, who always pulls Bertie Wooster out of the direst scrapes by means of cunning and resource, often by deceptively manipulating him (e.g. "Bertie Changes his Mind", Right Ho, Jeeves) or by convincing him to sacrifice himself. It recurs elsewhere, such as the efficient (though despised) Baxter, secretary to the befogged Lord Emsworth.

Another recurring type is the successful, square-jawed, ruthless American business executive, most notably in Thank You, Jeeves and in the golf story "The Heel of Achilles" but also in later stories about the Mulliners in Hollywood.

Big bruisers who come and go unexpectedly, muttering threats, abound in Wodehouse, including first and foremost Roderick Spode and Tuppy Glossop but also any number of bookies' henchmen, jealous lovers, nosy neighbors, burglars, and what we now call animal-rights activists.

Perhaps the most disturbing, and most frequently recurring, character-type in Wodehouse is the strong-willed, independent, middle-aged (or older) female troublemaker. Examples include Bertie Wooster's Aunt Agatha; Lord Emsworth's many sisters, especially Lady Constance Keeble; Headmistress Mapleton in "Jeeves and the Kid Clementina"; Lady Bassett in the Mulliner short story "Strychnine in the Soup"; and the poisonous Princess von und zu Dworniczek in Summer Moonshine. Even Aunt Dahlia, the exceptional aunt who is a "good egg", makes plenty of troublesome demands on Bertie. Most abhorrent are the female writers, young and old, such as Ukridge's Aunt Julia, Bertie Wooster's cousin (and sometime fiancée) Florence Craye, and, when the evil fit is upon her, Bingo Little's wife Rosie M. Banks.

Plots

Even if the broad outlines of his plots were typically formulaic, Wodehouse was known for his consummate skill at their detailed construction and development. This did not come immediately to him; in the early Psmith novels Psmith In The City and Psmith, Journalist, the device by which the author rescues the protagonists from their mounting difficulties is a simple infusion of cash from Psmith's father. This would soon change, and by the 1920s his novels were already showing off his genius for creating multiple layers of comedic complications that the characters must endure to reach the invariable happy ending. Typically, a relative or friend makes some demand that forces a character into a bizarre situation from which it seems impossible to recover, only to resolve itself in a clever and satisfying finale. The layers pile up thickly in the longer works, with a character getting into multiple dangerous situations by mid-story. An outstanding example of this is The Code of the Woosters where most of the chapters have an essential plot point reversed in the last sentence, catapulting the characters forward into greater diplomatic disasters. A key figure in most Wodehouse stories is a "fixer" whose genius soars above the incompetent blather and crude bluster of most of the other characters, Jeeves being the best known example. Other characters in this vein are Lord Ickenham ("Uncle Fred") and Galahad Threepwood, who perform much the same role in the Blandings Castle stories—though never both at the same time—and Psmith, who does the same thing in the stories that bear his name.

Engagements are a common theme in Wodehouse stories. A man may be unable to become engaged to the woman he loves due to some impediment such as poverty, feelings of inferiority, or a relative's objection. Just as often, a protagonist unwillingly or unwittingly gets engaged to a woman he does not love, and must find some back-door way out other than breaking it off directly (which goes against a gentleman's code of honour and renders him vulnerable to a lawsuit for breach of promise). The most widely-read case in point is Bertie Wooster's engagement to the objectionable Madeline Bassett in Right Ho, Jeeves, which recurs in several subsequent novels.

Impersonations, and resulting confusion, are particularly common in the Blandings books, but also occur in other works. Often the impersonation is discovered, but the impersonator is able to silence the discoverer by means of bribery or blackmail, as in Leave it to Psmith and Uncle Fred in the Springtime.

Gambling often plays a large role in Wodehouse plots, typically with someone manipulating the outcome of the wager.

Another subject which features strongly in Wodehouse's plots is alcohol, and many plots revolve around the tipsiness of a major character. In The Mating Season, he enumerated what many people consider as the definitive list of hangovers: the Broken Compass, the Sewing Machine, the Comet, the Atomic, the Cement Mixer and the Gremlin Boogie. Furthermore, he makes several references to a drink called the "May Queen",[25] described by Uncle Fred as "any good dry champagne, to which is added liqueur brandy, armagnac, kümmel, yellow liqueur, and old stout, to taste", which inspires several characters to acts of daring, such as proposing to their true loves. Sometimes, other psychoactive substances are featured, for instance in Laughing Gas and the short story "Mulliner's Buck-U-Uppo".

Writings

Wodehouse was a prolific author, writing 96 books in his remarkable seventy-three year long career (1902 to 1975). His works include novels, collections of short stories, and musical comedies. Many characters and locations appear repeatedly throughout his short stories and novels, leading readers to classify his work by "series":

  • The Blandings Castle stories (later dubbed "the Blandings Castle Saga" by Wodehouse[26]), about the upper-class inhabitants of the fictional rural Blandings Castle. Includes the eccentric Lord Emsworth, obsessed by his prize-winning pig, the "Empress of Blandings", and at one point by his equally prize-winning pumpkin ("Blandings' Hope", but, mockingly, "Percy" to Emsworth's unappreciative second son Freddie Threepwood).
  • The Drones Club stories, about the mishaps of certain members of a raucous social club for London's idle rich. Drones Club stories always involve unnamed club members known as "Eggs", "Beans" and "Crumpets" (after the habit of addressing each other as "old egg", "old bean" or "old crumpet"); in each story, a well-informed Crumpet will endeavour to tell an Egg or Bean of the latest exploits of another Drones Club member, most frequently Freddie Widgeon or Bingo Little. Also featured are a cast of recurrent bit players such as Club millionaire Oofy Prosser.
  • The Golf and Oldest Member stories. They are built around one of Wodehouse's passions, the sport of golf, which all characters involved consider the only important pursuit in life. The Oldest Member of the golf course clubhouse tells most of them, usually to unwilling listeners who would prefer to be elsewhere.
  • The Jeeves and Wooster stories, narrated by the wealthy, scatterbrained Bertie Wooster. A number of stories and novels that recount the improbable and unfortunate situations in which he and his friends find themselves and the manner in which his ingenious valet Jeeves is always able to extricate them. Collectively called "the Jeeves stories", or "Jeeves and Wooster", they are Wodehouse's most famous. The Jeeves stories are a valuable compendium of pre-World War II English slang in use.
  • The Mr Mulliner stories, narrated by a genial pub raconteur who can take any topic of conversation and turn it into an involved, implausible story about a member of his family. Most of Mr. Mulliner's stories involve one or another of his innumerable nephews. His listeners are always identified solely by their drinks, e.g., a "Hot Scotch and Lemon" or a "Double Whisky and Splash".
  • The School stories, which launched Wodehouse's career with their comparative realism. They are often located at the fictional public schools of St. Austin's or Wrykyn.
  • The Psmith stories, about an ingenious jack-of-all-trades with a charming, exaggeratedly refined manner. The final Psmith story, Leave it to Psmith, overlaps the Blandings stories in that Psmith works for Lord Emsworth, lives for a time at Blandings Castle, and becomes a friend of Freddie Threepwood. Psmith first appeared in the school novel Mike.
  • The Ukridge stories, about the charming but unprincipled Stanley Featherstonehaugh Ukridge, always looking to enlarge his income through the reluctant assistance of his friend in his schemes. Besides the short stories, there is one novel about him: Love Among the Chickens.
  • The Uncle Fred stories, about the eccentric Earl of Ickenham. Whenever he can escape his wife's chaperonage, he likes to spread what he calls "sweetness and light" and others are likely to call chaos. His escapades, always involving impersonations of some sort, are usually told from the viewpoint of his nephew and reluctant companion Reginald "Pongo" Twistleton. Several times he performs his "art" at Blandings Castle.
  • The stand-alone stories. Stories which are not part of a series (although they may contain overlapping minor characters), such as Piccadilly Jim, Quick Service, Summer Moonshine, Sam the Sudden, and Laughing Gas.

Almost all of these series overlap: Psmith appears in a "School" story and a Blandings novel; Bertie Wooster is a member of the Drones Club; Uncle Fred and Pongo Twistleton appear in both the Blandings Saga and the Drones club stories; Bingo Little is a regular character in the Jeeves Stories and the Drones Club stories, etc.

Adaptations

Considering the extent of his success, there have been comparatively few adaptations of Wodehouse's works. He was reluctant to allow others to adapt the Jeeves stories:

"One great advantage in being a historian to a man like Jeeves is that his mere personality prevents one selling one's artistic soul for gold. In recent years I have had lucrative offers for his services from theatrical managers, motion-picture magnates, the proprietors of one or two widely advertised commodities, and even the editor of the comic supplement of an American newspaper, who wanted him for a "comic strip". But, tempting though the terms were, it only needed Jeeves' deprecating cough and his murmured "I would scarcely advocate it, sir," to put the jack under my better nature. Jeeves knows his place, and it is between the covers of a book." (from Wodehouse's introduction to the compilation The World of Jeeves, 1967)

Doing his own adaptations for film did not attract him either. He had been retained by MGM in 1930 but little used: "They paid me $2,000 a week.... Yet apparently they had the greatest difficulty in finding anything for me to do."[27] He returned to MGM in 1937 to work on the screenplay of Rosalie, but even though he was now being paid $2,500 a week and living luxuriously in Hollywood, he said "I'm not enjoying life much just now. I don't like doing pictures."[28]

However, he formed a warm working relationship with Ian Hay, who adapted A Damsel in Distress as a stage play in 1928, with Hay, Wodehouse and A. A. Milne all investing in the production.[29] Wodehouse and Hay holidayed together in Scotland, finding "a lot of interests in common". Wodehouse went on to help dramatise Hay's story Baa Baa Black Sheep in 1929, and in 1930 they co-wrote the stage version of Leave it to Psmith.[30]

Wodehouse wrote the screenplay for the musical film A Damsel in Distress released in 1937, starring Fred Astaire, George Burns, Gracie Allen, and Joan Fontaine, with music and lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin. A 1962 film adaptation of The Girl On The Boat starred Norman Wisdom, Millicent Martin and Richard Briers.

Both the Blandings and Jeeves stories have been adapted as BBC television series: the Jeeves series has been adapted for television twice, once in the 1960s (for the BBC), with the title World of Wooster, starring Ian Carmichael as Bertie Wooster, and Dennis Price as Jeeves—and again in the 1990s (by Granada Television for ITV), with the title Jeeves and Wooster, starring Hugh Laurie as Bertie and Stephen Fry as Jeeves. David Niven and Arthur Treacher also starred as Bertie and Jeeves, respectively, in a short 1930s film that was a very loose adaptation of Thank You, Jeeves, and Treacher played Jeeves without Bertie in an original sequel, Step Lively, Jeeves.

In 1975, Andrew Lloyd Webber made a musical, originally titled Jeeves. In 1996, it was rewritten as the more successful By Jeeves, which made it to Broadway, and a performance recorded as a video film, also shown on TV.

A version of Heavy Weather was filmed by the BBC in 1995 starring Peter O'Toole as Lord Emsworth and Richard Briers, again, as Lord Emsworth's brother, Galahad Threepwood.

Piccadilly Jim was first filmed in 1936, starring Robert Montgomery. In 2004, Julian Fellowes wrote another screen adaptation which starred Sam Rockwell. This version was not successful.

There was also a series of BBC adaptations of various short works, mostly from the Mulliner series, under the title of Wodehouse Playhouse starring John Alderton and Pauline Collins, which aired starting in 1975. The first series was introduced by Wodehouse himself, aged 93.

Arthur, starring Dudley Moore and Sir John Gielgud, and its sequel Arthur II: On the Rocks, were also an adaptation of the characters of Bertie and Jeeves, although not officially acknowledged, and many of the lines and incidents from the movie, including the main plot involving an engagement, were directly influenced by Wodehouse's characters.[citation needed]

Wodehouse's involvement with film and television from around the world is chronicled in Brian Taves, P.G. Wodehouse and Hollywood: Screenwriting, Satires, and Adaptations (McFarland, 2006).

Czech author Zdeněk Jirotka based his Saturnin novel largely on the character of Jeeves.

Major characters

Major characters of primary importance

Wodehouse's work contains a number of recurring protagonists, narrators and principal characters, including:

Major characters of secondary importance

Certain of Wodehouse's less central characters are particularly well-known, despite being less critical elements of his works as a whole.

Extremely minor, but ubiquitous, character
  • Lord Knubble of Knopp, mentioned in Mulliner stories and Golf Stories and other stories as well; references to him are always so brief and inconsequential that they may not be fully catalogued. Most often mentioned inconnection with other characters, without actually appearing. A thin, well-dressed, "horse-faced" man, who occasionally appears at house parties and loses at cards. Very wealthy in spite of this.

Notes

  1. ^ Try saying "Pelham" fast
  2. ^ The Russian Wodehouse Society Born at 1 Vale Place, now 59 Epsom Road.
  3. ^ Jasen (2002), p. 14.
  4. ^ McCrum (2004), pp. 14–15
  5. ^ Punch, or the London Charivari, volume 127 (July–December 1904), Index, page 468
  6. ^ – Book Review,– The Living Literature Society, The Observer (26 July 2009),Mid Devon Advertiser (21 August 2009), Western Morning News (15 September 2009), – The P G Wodehouse Society (UK)
  7. ^ "The Art of Fiction – P.G. Wodehouse" (pdf). The Paris Review. 2005 (reprint). pp. 20–21. http://www.theparisreview.com/media/3773_WODEHOUSE.pdf. Retrieved 2008-06-09. 
  8. ^ Thornton, Jim, "The sex life of P G Wodehouse", iGreens.org, 12 November 2005.
  9. ^ von Bodenhausen, Baroness Reihild. P. G. Wodehouse: The Unknown Years. Stamford Lake (PVT) LTD.
  10. ^ David Langton (Monday, 4 June 2007), "Letter reveals Wodehouse's pain at being branded a collaborator", The Independent, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/this-britain/letter-reveals-wodehouses-pain-at-being-branded-a-collaborator-451677.html 
  11. ^ a b Iain Sproat, "Wodehouse, Sir Pelham Grenville (1881–1975)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, September 2004; online edn, October 2007.
  12. ^ Simpson, John (31 August 1996). "Why A.A. had it in for P.G.". The Daily Telegraph (London). http://wodehouse.ru/dt310896.htm. 
  13. ^ see article by Orwell
  14. ^ Weale, Adrian (1994), Renegades: Hitler's Englishmen, ISBN 0-297-81488-5.
  15. ^ Higham, Charles (1985), American Swastika. Garden City, NY: Doubleday. ISBN 978-0-385-17874-7
  16. ^ London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 46444, p. 8, 31 December 1974.
  17. ^ McCrum (2004), p 414
  18. ^ http://www.drones.com/wodehouse/
  19. ^ Stephen Fry's essay on Wodehouse [1]
  20. ^ McCrum (2004), p. 276.
  21. ^ Williams, John, "Gavin Lyall: Thriller writer who really knew about the wrong side of the sky", The Guardian, London, 21 January 2003.
  22. ^ Hitchens, Christopher. "Farewell to Flashman: The singular creation of George MacDonald Fraser, 1925–2008", The Weekly Standard, Washington DC, 21 January 2008.
  23. ^ McCrum (2004), p. 405.
  24. ^ Very Good, Jeeves!, "The Spot of Art".
  25. ^ or more fully: "Tomorrow'll be of all the year the maddest, merriest day, for I'm to be the Queen of the May, mother, the Queen of the May"
  26. ^ Wodehouse, P. G. (1969). "Preface [new since the 1969 edition]". Something Fresh. "Something Fresh was the first of what I might call – in fact, I will call – the Blandings Castle Saga." 
  27. ^ Jasen (2002), p. 127.
  28. ^ Jasen (2002), p. 155.
  29. ^ Jasen (2002), p. 114.
  30. ^ Jasen (2002), p. 279.

References

  • Davis, Lee (1993). Bolton & Wodehouse & Kern: The Men Who Made Musical Comedy. James H. Heineman. ISBN 0-87008-145-4. 
  • Day, Barry (2004). The Complete Lyrics of P. G. Wodehouse. The Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0-8108-4994-1. 
  • McCrum, Robert (2004). Wodehouse: A Life. London: Viking. ISBN 0-670-89692-6. 
  • Usborne, Richard (2003). Plum Sauce: A P. G. Wodehouse Companion. New York: The Overlook Press. pp. 137–207. ISBN 1-58567-441-9. 
  • Jasen, David A. (2002). P.G. Wodehouse: A portrait of a master. New York: Schirmer. ISBN 0825672759. 
  • Spiring, Paul R. (2009). Bobbles & Plum: Four Satirical Plays by Bertram Fletcher Robinson and P.G. Wodehouse. London: MX Publishing. ISBN 1-90431-258-1. 

External links

Wodehouse societies
Wodehouse info
About Wodehouse
Online works in the public domain in the United States
Other links

Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

P. G. Wodehouse

Pelham Grenville Wodehouse KBE (15 October 188114 February 1975) (pronounced as WOOD-house) was an English comic writer who enjoyed enormous popular success during a career that lasted more than seventy years.

Contents

Sourced

The Man Upstairs (1914)

  • Routine is the death to heroism.
  • It is a good rule in life never to apologize. The right sort of people do not want apologies, and the wrong sort take a mean advantage of them.
  • Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, 'It might have been.'.(quoting John Greenleaf Whittier)

Psmith, Journalist (1915)

  • "Elementary, my dear Watson, elementary," murmured Psmith. (No earlier usage of the precise words "Elementary, my dear Watson" has yet been found, even in the works of Arthur Conan Doyle.)
  • "Work, the what's-its-name of the thingummy and the thing-um-a-bob of the what d'you-call-it."

Something Fresh (1915)

  • His was a life which lacked, perhaps, the sublimer emotions which raised Man to the level of the gods, but it was undeniably an extremely happy one. He never experienced the thrill of ambition fulfilled, but, on the other hand, he never knew the agony of ambition frustrated. His name, when he died, would not live for ever in England's annals; he was spared the pain of worrying about this by the fact that he had no desire to live for ever in England's annals. He was possibly as nearly contented a human being can be in this century of alarms and excursions.
  • The village of Market Blandings is one of those sleepy hamlets which modern progress has failed to touch... The church is Norman, and the intelligence of the majority of the natives palaeozoic.

The Man with Two Left Feet (1917)

  • At five minutes to eleven on the morning named he was at the station, a false beard and spectacles shielding his identity from the public eye. If you had asked him he would have said that he was a Scotch business man. As a matter a fact, he looked far more like a motor-car coming through a haystack.
  • ‘As a sleuth you are poor. You couldn’t detect a bass-drum in a telephone-booth.’
  • Henry glanced hastily at the mirror. Yes, he did look rather old. He must have overdone some of the lines on his forehead. He looked something between a youngish centenarian and a nonagenarian who had seen a good deal of trouble.
  • There are some things a chappie's mind absolutely refuses to picture, and Aunt Julia singing 'Rumpty-tiddley-umpty-ay' is one of them.

Piccadilly Jim (1918)

  • He wore the unmistakable look of a man about to be present at a row between women, and only a wet cat in a strange backyard bears itself with less jauntiness than a man faced by such a prospect.

The Adventures of Sally (1922)

  • And she's got brains enough for two, which is the exact quantity the girl who marries you will need.
  • The fascination of shooting as a sport depends almost wholly on whether you are at the right or wrong end of the gun.
  • It is a good rule in life never to apologize. The right sort of people do not want apologies, and the wrong sort take a mean advantage of them.
  • A man's subconscious self is not the ideal companion. It lurks for the greater part of his life in some dark den of its own, hidden away, and emerges only to taunt and deride and increase the misery of a miserable hour.
  • At the age of eleven or thereabouts women acquire a poise and an ability to handle difficult situations which a man, if he is lucky, manages to achieve somewhere in the later seventies.
  • Boyhood, like measles, is one of those complaints which a man should catch young and have done with, for when it comes in middle life it is apt to be serious.
  • Has anybody ever seen a drama critic in the daytime? Of course not. They come out after dark, up to no good.
  • He trusted neither of them as far as he could spit, and he was a poor spitter, lacking both distance and control.
  • It was one of those cold, clammy, accusing sort of eyes--the kind that makes you reach up to see if your tie is straight: and he looked at me as I were some sort of unnecessary product which Cuthbert the Cat had brought in after a ramble among the local ash-cans.
  • It was a cold, disapproving gaze, such as a fastidious luncher who was not fond of caterpillars might have directed at one which he had discovered in his portion of salad...

The Girl on the Boat (1922)

  • Dark hair fell in a sweep over his forehead. He looked like a man who would write vers libre, as indeed he did.

The Clicking Of Cuthbert (1922)

  • Love has had a lot of press-agenting from the oldest times; but there are higher, nobler things than love.
  • He was not a man who prattled readily, especially in a foreign tongue. He gave the impression that each word was excavated from his interior by some up-to-date process of mining.

The Inimitable Jeeves (1923)

  • As a rule, you see, I'm not lugged into Family Rows. On the occasions when Aunt is calling Aunt like mastodons bellowing across premieval swamps and Uncle James's letter about Cousin Mabel's peculiar behaviour is being shot round the family circle ('Please read this carefully and send it on Jane') the clan has a tendency to ignore me. It's one of the advantages I get from being a bachelor - and, according to my nearest and dearest, practically a half-witted bachelor at that.
  • It was my Uncle George who discovered that alcohol was a food well in advance of modern medical thought.
  • I turned to Aunt Agatha, whose demeanour was now rather like that of one who, picking daisies on the railway, has just caught the down express in the small of the back.
  • Jeeves lugged my purple socks out of the drawer as if he were a vegetarian fishing a caterpillar out of his salad.
  • I once got engaged to his daughter Honoria, a ghastly dynamic exhibit who read Nietzsche and had a laugh like waves breaking on a stern and rockbound coast.
  • Anybody can talk me round. If I were in a Trappist monastery, the first thing that would happen would be that some smooth performer would lure me into some frightful idiocy against my better judgment by means of the deaf-and-dumb language.

Ukridge (1924)

  • ‘Alf Todd,’ said Ukridge, soaring to an impressive burst of imagery, ‘has about as much chance as a one-armed blind man in a dark room trying to shove a pound of melted butter into a wild-cat’s ear with a red-hot needle.’
  • Whenever I meet Ukridge’s Aunt Julia I have the same curious illusion of having just committed some particularly unsavoury crime and—what is more—of having done it with swollen hands, enlarged feet, and trousers bagging at the knee on a morning when I had omitted to shave.
  • He resembled a minor prophet who had been hit behind the ear with a stuffed eel-skin.
  • He committed mayhem upon his person. He did everything to him that a man can do who is hampered with boxing gloves.

Carry On, Jeeves (1925)

  • 'Yes, sir,' said Jeeves in a low, cold voice, as if he had been bitten in the leg by a personal friend.
  • Honoria, you see, is one of those robust, dynamic girls with the muscles of a welterweight and a laugh like a squadron of cavalry charging over a tin bridge. A beastly thing to face over the breakfast table. Brainy, moreover.

The Heart of a Goof (1926)

  • Dedication: To my daughter Leonora without whose never-failing sympathy and encouragement this book would have been finished in half the time.
  • While they were content to peck cautiously at the ball, he never spared himself in his efforts to do it a violent injury.
  • Blizzard was of the fine old school of butlers. His appearance suggested that for fifteen years he had not let a day pass without its pint of port. He radiated port and pop-eyed dignity. He had splay feet and three chins, and when he walked his curving waistcoat preceded him like the advance guard of some royal procession.
  • Bradbury Fisher shuddered from head to foot, and his legs wobbled like asparagus stalks.

Mr Mulliner Speaking (1929)

[of a character in "The Man Who Gave Up Smoking" who is suffering from a hangover] ... the noise of the cat stamping about in the passage outside caused him exquisite discomfort.

Summer Lightning (1929)

  • A certain critic—for such men, I regret to say, do exist—made the nasty remark about my last novel that it contained ‘all the old Wodehouse characters under different names’. He has probably now been eaten by bears, like the children who made mock of the prophet Elisha: but if he still survives he will not be able to make a similar charge against Summer Lightning. With my superior intelligence, I have outgeneralled this man by putting in all the old Wodehouse characters under the same names. Pretty silly it will make him feel, I rather fancy. (From preface)
  • At this moment, the laurel bush, which had hitherto not spoken, said "Psst!"
  • This done, he felt a little—not much, but a little—better. Before, he would have gladly murdered Beach and James and danced on their graves. Now, he would have been satisfied with straight murder.
  • when you have been just told that the girl you love is definitely betrothed to another, you begin to understand how Anarchists must feel when the bomb goes off too soon.

Very Good, Jeeves (1930)

  • The Right Hon. was a tubby little chap who looked as if he had been poured into his clothes and had forgotten to say `When!'
  • My Aunt Dahlia has a carrying voice... If all other sources of income failed, she could make a good living calling the cattle home across the Sands of Dee.
  • She fitted into my biggest armchair as if it had been built round her by someone who knew they were wearing armchairs tight about the hips that season.
  • Unseen, in the background, Fate was quietly slipping the lead into the boxing-glove.
  • In one second, without any previous training or upbringing, he had become the wettest man in Worcestershire.
  • 'The modern young man,' said Aunt Dahlia, 'is a congenital idiot and wants a nurse to lead him by the hand and some strong attendant to kick him regularly at intervals of a quarter of an hour.'

Big Money (1931)

  • I can't stand Paris. I hate the place. Full of people talking French, which is a thing I bar. It always seems to me so affected.
  • He groaned slightly and winced, like Prometheus watching his vulture dropping in for lunch.

Thank You, Jeeves (1934)

  • ’Oh, yes, he thinks a lot of you. I remember his very words. 'Mr Wooster, miss' he said 'is, perhaps, mentally somewhat negligible but he has a heart of gold’

Right Ho, Jeeves (1934)

"You will agree with me that he is not everybody's money."
"There may be something in what you say, sir."
"Cleopatra wouldn't have liked him."
"Possibly not, sir."

  • You know how it is with some girls. They seem to take the stuffing right out of you. I mean to say, there is something about their personality that paralyses the vocal cords and reduces the contents of the brain to cauliflower.
  • Scarcely had I entered the sitting-room when I found ... what appeared at first sight to be the Devil, A closer scrutiny informed me that it was Gussie Fink-Nottle, dressed as Mephistopheles.
  • We do not tell old friends beneath our roof-tree that they are an offence to the eyesight.
  • Gussie, a glutton for punishment, stared at himself in the mirror.
  • The female in question was a sloppy pest
  • There is enough sadness in life without having fellows like Gussie Fink-Nottle going about in sea boots.
  • A slight throbbing about the temples told me that this discussion had reached saturation point.
  • I consider that of all the dashed silly, drivelling ideas I ever heard in my puff this is the most blithering and futile. It won't work. Not a chance.
  • And a moment later there was a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and the relative had crossed the threshold at fifty m.p.h. under her own steam.
  • My Aunt Agatha, the curse of the Home Counties and a menace to one and all.
  • She cried in a voice that hit me between the eyebrows and went out at the back of my head.

"Have you ever heard of Market Snodsbury Grammar School?"
"Never."
"It's a grammar school at Market Snodsbury."
I told her a little frigidly that I had divined as much.

  • I goggled. Her words did not appear to make sense. They seemed the mere aimless vapouring of an aunt who has been sitting out in the sun without a hat.

"You're pulling my leg."
"I am not pulling your leg. Nothing would induce me to touch your beastly leg."

  • "But why do you want me? I mean, what am I? Ask yourself that."

"I often have."
"I'm hopeless at a game like that. Ask Jeeves about the time I got lugged in to address a girls' school. I made the most colossal ass of myself."
"And I confidently anticipate that you will make an equally colossal ass of yourself on the thirty-first of this month. That's why I want you. The way I look at it is that, as the thing is bound to be a frost, anyway,one may as well get a hearty laugh out of it."

  • He had been looking like a dead fish. He now looked like a deader fish, one of last year's, cast up on some lonely beach and left there at the mercy of the wind and tides.
  • It's only about once in a lifetime that anything sensational ever happens to one, and when it does, you don't want people taking all the colour out of it. I remember at school having to read that stuff where that chap, Othello, tells the girl what a hell of a time he'd been having among the cannibals and what not. Well, imagine his feelings if, after he had described some particularly sticky passage with a cannibal chief and was waiting for the awestruck "Oh-h! Not really?", she had said that the whole thing had no doubt been greatly exaggerated and that the man had probably really been a prominent local vegetarian.

"It's the sort of thing you would do."
"My scheme is far more subtle. Let me outline it for you."
"No, thanks."
"I say to myself----"
"But not to me."
"Do listen for a second."
"I won't."
"Right ho, then. I am dumb."
"And have been from a child."

  • "And, anyway, no matter how much you may behave like the deaf adder of Scripture which, as you are doubtless aware, the more one piped, the less it danced, or words to that effect, I shall carry on as planned. "
  • In build and appearance, Tuppy somewhat resembles a bulldog, and his aspect now was that of one of these fine animals who has just been refused a slice of cake.
  • The discovery of a toy duck in the soap dish, presumably the property of some former juvenile visitor, contributed not a little to this new and happier frame of mind. What with one thing and another, I hadn't played with toy ducks in my bath for years, and I found the novel experience most invigorating. For the benefit of those interested, I may mention that if you shove the thing under the surface with the sponge and then let it go, it shoots out of the water in a manner calculated to divert the most careworn. Ten minutes of this and I was enabled to return to the bedchamber much more the old merry Bertram.
  • "I don't want to seem always to be criticizing your methods of voice production, Jeeves," I said, "but I must inform you that that 'Well, sir' of yours is in many respects fully as unpleasant as your 'Indeed, sir?' Like the latter, it seems to be tinged with a definite scepticism. It suggests a lack of faith in my vision. The impression I retain after hearing you shoot it at me a couple of times is that you consider me to be talking through the back of my neck, and that only a feudal sense of what is fitting restrains you from substituting for it the words 'Says you!'"

"Oh? I didn't know that."
"There isn't much you do know."

"Tut!" I said.
"What did you say?"
"I said 'Tut!'"
"Say it once again, and I'll biff you where you stand. I've enough to endure without being tutted at."
"Quite."
"Any tutting that's required, I'll attend to myself. And the same applies to clicking the tongue, if you were thinking of doing that."
"Far from it."
"Good."

  • And as for Gussie Fink-Nottle, many an experienced undertaker would have been deceived by his appearance and started embalming him on sight.
  • He uttered a coarse expression which I wouldn't have thought he would have known. It just shows that you can bury yourself in the country and still somehow acquire a vocabulary. No doubt one picks up things from the neighbours -- the vicar, the local doctor, the man who brings the milk, and so on.
  • I remember when I was a kid at school having to learn a poem of sorts about a fellow named Pig-something--a sculptor he would have been, no doubt--who made a statue of a girl, and what should happen one morning but that the bally thing suddenly came to life. A pretty nasty shock for the chap, of course.
  • "Oh, look," she said. She was a confirmed Oh-looker. I had noticed this at Cannes, where she had drawn my attention in this manner on various occasions to such diverse objects as a French actress, a Provençal filling station, the sunset over the Estorels, Michael Arlen, a man selling coloured spectacles, the deep velvet blue of the Mediterranean, and the late mayor of New York in a striped one-piece bathing suit.
  • When I was a child, I used to think that rabbits were gnomes, and that if I held my breath and stayed quite still, I should see the fairy queen.". Indicating with a reserved gesture that this was just the sort of loony thing I should have expected her to think as a child, I returned to the point.
  • Though never for an instant faltering in my opinion that Augustus Fink-Nottle was Nature's final word in cloth-headed guffins, I liked the man, wished him well.
  • Then he rose and began to pace the room in an overwrought sort of way, like a zoo lion who has heard the dinner-gong go and is hoping the keeper won't forget him in the general distribution.
  • Contenting myself, accordingly, with a gesture of loving sympathy, I left the room. Whether she did or did not throw a handsomely bound volume of the Works of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, at me, I am not in a position to say. I had seen it lying on the table beside her, and as I closed the door I remember receiving the impression that some blunt instrument had crashed against the woodwork, but I was feeling too pre-occupied to note and observe.

"Goodbye, Bertie," he said, rising.
I seemed to spot an error.
"You mean 'Hullo,' don't you?"
"No, I don't. I mean goodbye. I'm off."
"Off where?"
"To the kitchen garden. To drown myself."
"Don't be an ass."
"I'm not an ass.... Am I an ass, Jeeves?"
"Possibly a little injudicious, sir."
"Drowning myself, you mean?"
"Yes, sir."
"You think, on the whole, not drown myself?"
"I should not advocate it, sir."
"Very well, Jeeves. I accept your ruling. After all, it would be unpleasant for Mrs. Travers to find a swollen body floating in her pond."

  • "Jeeves," I said, and I am free to admit that in my emotion I bleated like a lamb drawing itself to the attention of the parent sheep, "what the dickens is all this?"
  • I wouldn't have said off-hand that I had a subconscious mind, but I suppose I must without knowing it, and no doubt it was there, sweating away diligently at the old stand, all the while the corporeal Wooster was getting his eight hours.
  • If you can visualize a bulldog which has just been kicked in the ribs and had its dinner sneaked by the cat, you will have Hildebrand Glossop as he now stood before me.

"I've been through hell, Bertie."
"Through where?"
"Hell."
"Oh, hell? And what took you there?"

  • "Beginning with a critique of my own limbs, which she said, justly enough, were nothing to write home about, this girl went on to dissect my manners, morals, intellect, general physique, and method of eating asparagus with such acerbity that by the time she had finished the best you could say of Bertram was that, so far as was known, he had never actually committed murder or set fire to an orphan asylum."

"The boy is the father of the man."
"What are you talking about?"
"I'm talking about this Glossop."
"I thought you said something about somebody's father."
"I said the boy was the father of the man."
"What boy?"
"The boy Glossop."
"He hasn't got a father."
"I never said he had. I said he was the father of the boy--or, rather, of the man."
"What man?"

  • Besides, isn't there something in the book of rules about a man may not marry his cousin? Or am I thinking of grandmothers?

"My dear Tuppy, does one bandy a woman's name?"
"One does if one doesn't want one's ruddy head pulled off."
I saw that it was a special case.

  • I was reading in the paper the other day about those birds who are trying to split the atom, the nub being that they haven't the foggiest as to what will happen if they do. It may be all right. On the other hand, it may not be all right. And pretty silly a chap would feel, no doubt, if, having split the atom, he suddenly found the house going up in smoke and himself torn limb from limb.
  • He expressed the opinion that the world was in a deplorable state. I said, 'Don't talk rot, old Tom Travers.' 'I am not accustomed to talk rot,' he said. 'Then, for a beginner,' I said, 'you do it dashed well.' And I think you will admit, boys and ladies and gentlemen, that that was telling him."
  • "The fellow with a face rather like a walnut."
  • Nature, when planning this sterling fellow, shoved in a lot more lower jaw than was absolutely necessary and made the eyes a bit too keen and piercing for one who was neither an Empire builder nor a traffic policeman.
  • "She loves this newt-nuzzling blister."
  • "I hadn't heard the door open, but the man was on the spot once more. My private belief, as I think I have mentioned before, is that Jeeves doesn't have to open doors. He's like one of those birds in India who bung their astral bodies about--the chaps, I mean, who having gone into thin air in Bombay, reassemble the parts and appear two minutes later in Calcutta. Only some such theory will account for the fact that he's not there one moment and is there the next. He just seems to float from Spot A to Spot B like some form of gas.

"Angela," I said, "this is all perfect drivel."
She seemed to come out of a reverie. She looked at me inquiringly.
"I'm sorry, Bertie, I didn't hear. What were you talking drivel about?"
"I was not talking drivel."
"Oh, sorry, I thought you said you were."
"Is it likely that I would come out here in order to talk drivel?"
"Very likely."
I thought it best to haul off and approach the matter from another angle.

  • It isn't often that Aunt Dahlia, lets her angry passions rise, but when she does, strong men climb trees and pull them up after them.
  • Even at normal times Aunt Dahlia's map tended a little towards the crushed strawberry. But never had I seen it take on so pronounced a richness as now. She looked like a tomato struggling for self-expression.
  • If the prophet Job were to walk into the room at this moment, I could sit swapping hard-luck stories with him till bedtime."
  • I charged into something which might have been a tree, but was not--being, in point of fact, Jeeves.

"Jeeves, I'm engaged."
"I hope you will be very happy, sir."
"Don't be an ass. I'm engaged to Miss Bassett."

  • There is about him something that seems to soothe and hypnotize. To the best of my knowledge, he has never encountered a charging rhinoceros, but should this contingency occur, I have no doubt that the animal, meeting his eye, would check itself in mid-stride, roll over and lie purring with its legs in the air.

"Bertie, do you read Tennyson?"
"Not if I can help."

"Tuppy, old man, the Bassett's going to marry Gussie Fink-Nottle."
"Tough luck on both of them, what?"

Blandings Castle (1935)

  • It is never difficult to distinguish between a Scotsman with a grievance and a ray of sunshine.
  • A sort of gulpy, gurgly, plobby, squishy, wofflesome sound, like a thousand eager men drinking soup in a foreign restaurant.

The Luck of the Bodkins (1935)

  • Into the face of the young man who sat on the terrace of the Hotel Magnifique at Cannes there had crept a look of furtive shame, the shifty, hangdog look which announces that an Englishman is about to talk French. One of the things which Gertrude Butterwick had impressed on Monty Bodkin when he left for his holiday on the Riviera was that he must be sure to practise his French, and Gertrude’s word was law. So now, though he knew that it was going to make his nose tickle, he said:
    ‘Er, garçon.’
    ‘M’sieur?’
    ‘Er, garçon, esker-vous avez un spot de l’encre et une piece de papier—note papier, vous savez—et une envelope et une plume.’
    The strain was too great. Monty relapsed into his native tongue.
    ‘I want to write a letter,’ he said. And having, like all lovers, rather a tendency to share his romance with the world, he would probably have aded ‘to the sweetest girl on earth’ , had not the waiter already bounded off like a retriever, to return a few moments later with the fixings.
    ‘V’la, sir! Zere you are, sir,’ said the waiter. He was engaged to a girl in Paris who had told him that when on the Riviera he must be sure to practise his English. ‘Eenk—pin—pipper—enveloppe—and a liddle bit of bloddin-pipper.’
    ‘Oh, merci,’ said Monty, well pleased at this efficiency. ‘Thanks. Right-ho.’
    ‘Right-ho, m’sieur,’ said the waiter.
  • A young man with dark circles under his eyes was propping himself up against a penny-in-the-slot machine. An undertaker, passing at that moment, would have looked at this young man sharply, scenting business. So would a buzzard.

Laughing Gas (1936)

  • 'Didn't Frankenstein get married?'
    'Did he?' said Eggy. 'I don't know. I never met him. Harrow man, I expect.'
  • If Eggy wanted to get spliced, let him, was the way I looked at it. Marriage might improve him. It was difficult to think of anything that wouldn’t.
  • I shuddered from stem to stern, as stout barks do when buffeted by the waves.
  • It was a harsh, rasping voice, in its timbre not unlike a sawmill.

Young Men in Spats (1936)

  • ‘Do you know,’ said a thoughtful Bean, ‘I’ll bet that if all the girls Freddie Widgeon has loved were placed end to end—not that I suppose one could do it—they would reach half-way down Piccadilly.’
    ‘Further than that,’ said the Egg. ‘Some of them were pretty tall.’
  • ’You must remember, Father,’ said Mavis, in a voice which would have had an Eskimo slapping his ribs and calling for the steam-heat, ‘that this girl was probably very pretty. So many of these New York girls are. That would, of course, explain Frederick's behaviour.’
  • He then gave a hideous laugh and added that, if anybody was interested in his plans, he was going to join the Foreign Legion, that cohort of the damned in which broken men may toil and die and dying, forget. ‘Beau Widgeon?’ said the Egg, impressed. ‘What ho!’

Lord Emsworth and Others (1937)

  • ‘Oh Brancepeth,’ said the girl, her voice trembling, ‘why haven’t you any money? If only you had the merest pittance - enough for a flat in Mayfair and a little weekend place in the country somewhere and a couple of good cars and a villa in the South of France and a bit of trout fishing on some decent river, I would risk all for love.’

The Code of the Woosters (1938)

  • I could see that, if not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled.
  • Aunt Agatha, who eats broken bottles and wears barbed wire next to the skin.
  • [of Spode] He was, as I had already been able to perceive, a breath-taking cove. About seven feet in height, and swathed in a plaid ulster which made him look about six feet across, he caught the eye and arrested it. It was as if Nature had intended to make a gorilla and had changed its mind at the last moment.
  • It is no use telling me there are bad aunts and good aunts. At the core, they are all alike. Sooner or later, out pops the cloven hoof.
  • 'Have you ever seen Spode eat asparagus?'
    'No.'
    'Revolting. It alters one's whole conception of Man as Nature's last word.'
  • Prismatic is the only word for those frightful tweeds and, oddly enough, the spectacle of them had the effect of steadying my nerves. They gave me the feeling that nothing mattered.
  • The trouble with you, Spode, is that just because you have succeeded in inducing a handful of half-wits to disfigure the London scene by going about in black shorts, you think you're someone. You hear them shouting ‘Heil, Spode!’ and you imagine it is the Voice of the People. That is where you make your bloomer. What the Voice of the People is saying is: ‘Look at that frightful ass Spode swanking about in footer bags! Did you ever in your puff see such a perfect perisher?
  • 'There are moments, Jeeves, when one asks oneself, "Do trousers matter?"'
    ‘The mood will pass, sir.’
  • Stiffy was one of those girls who enjoy in equal quantities the gall of an army mule and the calm insouciance of a fish on a slab of ice.
  • There came from without the hoof-beats of a galloping relative and Aunt Dahlia whizzed in.
  • 'You can't be a successful Dictator and design women's underclothing.'
    'No, sir.'
    'One or the other. Not both.'
    'Precisely, sir.'
  • ’You know your Shelley, Bertie!’
    ‘Oh, am I?’
  • I don’t know if you have had the same experience, but a thing I have found in life is that from time to time, as you jog along, there occur moments which you are able to recognize immediately with the naked eye as high spots. Something tells you that they are going to remain etched, if etched is the word I want, for ever on the memory and will come back to you at intervals down the years, as you are dropping off to sleep, banishing that drowsy feeling and causing you to leap on the pillow like a gaffed salmon.
  • 'I want to know what the devil you mean by keeping coming into my private apartment, taking up space which I require for other purposes and interrupting me when I am chatting with my personal friends. Really one gets about as much privacy in this house as a strip-tease dancer.'
  • ...his head emerged cautiously, like that of a snail taking a look around after a thunderstorm.
  • I don’t suppose she would recognize a deep, beautiful thought if you handed it to her on a skewer with tartare sauce.
  • She snorted with a sudden violence which twenty-four hours earlier would have unmanned me completely. Even in my present tolerably robust condition, it affected me like one of those gas explosions which slay six.

Summer Moonshine (1938)

  • Like so many substantial citizens of America, he had married young and kept on marrying, springing from blonde to blonde like the chamois of the Alps leaping from crag to crag.
  • Directing an austere look at Tubby’s receding back, she spoke in a cold crisp voice which sounded in the drowsy stillness like ice tinkling in a pitcher.
  • Whatever may be said in favour of the Victorians, it is pretty generally admitted that few of them were to be trusted within reach of a trowel and a pile of bricks.

Uncle Fred in the Springtime (1939)

  • 'Don't blame me, Pongo,' said Lord Ickenham, 'if Lady Constance takes her lorgnette to you. God bless my soul, though, you can't compare the lorgnettes of today with the ones I used to know as a boy. I remember walking one day on Grosvenor Square with my aunt Brenda and her pug dog Jabberwocky, and a policeman came up and said the latter ought to be wearing a muzzle. My aunt made no verbal reply. She merely whipped her lorgnette from its holder and looked at the man, who gave one choking gasp and fell back against the railings, starting eyes as if he had seen some dreadful sight. A doctor was sent for, and they managed to bring him round, but he was never the same again. He had to leave the Force, and eventually drifted into the grocery business. And that is how Sir Thomas Lipton got his start.'
  • It began to be borne in upon Lord Ickenham that in planning to appeal to the Duke’s better feelings he had omitted to take into his calculations the fact that he might not have any.
  • The cosy glow which had been enveloping the Duke became shot through by a sudden chill. It was as if he had been luxuriating in a warm shower-bath, and some hidden hand had turned on the cold tap.
  • The Duke’s moustache was rising and falling like seaweed on an ebb-tide.

Eggs, Beans and Crumpets (1940)

  • He felt like a man who, chasing rainbows, has had one of them suddenly turn and bite him in the leg.
  • Bingo swayed like a jelly in a high wind.
  • His whole aspect was that of a man who has unexpectedly been struck by lightning.

Quick Service (1940)

  • Mere abuse is no criticism.

Joy in the Morning (1947)

  • Aunt Agatha is like an elephant—not so much to look at, for in appearance she resembles more a well-bred vulture, but because she never forgets.
  • His eyes were rolling in their sockets, and his face had taken on the colour and expression of a devout tomato. I could see he loved like a thousand bricks.
  • I suppose this was really the moment for embarking upon an impassioned defence of Boko, stressing his admirable qualities. Not being able to think of any, however, I remained silent.
  • On his good mornings, I don't suppose there are more than a handful of men in the W. 1 postal district of London swifter to spot oompus-boompus than Bertram Wooster, and this was one of my particularly good mornings. I saw the whole hideous plot.
  • I don’t say I’ve got much of a soul, but, such as it is, I’m perfectly satisfied with the little chap. I don’t want people fooling about with it. ‘Leave it alone,’ I say. ‘Don’t touch it. I like it the way it is.’
  • He vanished abruptly, like an eel going into mud.
  • However devoutly a girl may worship the man of her choice, there always comes a time when she feels an irresistible urge to haul off and let him have it in the neck.
  • She laughed - a solo effort. Nothing in the prevailing circumstances made me feel like turning it into a duet.
  • There was a sound in the background like a distant sheep coughing gently on a mountainside. Jeeves sailing into action.
  • We exchanged a meaning glance. Or, rather, two meaning glances, I giving him one and he giving me the other.
  • When news had reached me through well-informed channels that my Aunt Agatha for many years a widow, or derelict, as I believed it is called, was about to take another pop at matrimony, my first emotion, as was natural in the circumstances, had been a gentle pity for the unfortunate goop slated to step up the aisle with her - she, as you are aware, being my tough aunt, the one who eats broken bottles and conducts human sacrifices by the light of the full moon.

Spring Fever (1948)

  • Breakfast had been prepared by the kitchen maid, an indifferent performer who had used the scorched earth policy on the bacon again.

Uncle Dynamite (1948)

  • The stationmaster’s whiskers are of a Victorian bushiness and give the impression of having been grown under glass.

The Mating Season (1949)

  • On the cue 'five aunts' I had given at the knees a trifle, for the thought of being confronted with such a solid gaggle of aunts, even if those of another, was an unnerving one. Reminding myself that in this life it is not aunts that matter, but the courage that one brings to them, I pulled myself together.
  • As far as the eye could reach, I found myself gazing on a surging sea of aunts. There were tall aunts, short aunts, stout aunts, thin aunts, and an aunt who was carrying on a conversation in a low voice to which nobody seemed to be paying the slightest attention.

Pigs Have Wings (1952)

  • For an author Jerry Vail was rather nice-looking, most authors, as is widely known, resembling in appearance the more degraded types of fish, unless they look like birds, when they could pass as vultures and no questions asked.
  • The junior partner of Caine and Cooper, though a man of blameless life, had one of those dark, saturnine faces which suggest a taste for the more sinister forms of crime, and on one cheek of that dark, saturnine face was a long scar. Actually it had been caused by the bursting of a gingerbeer bottle at a Y.M.C.A. picnic, but it gave the impression of being the outcome of battles with knives in the cellars of the underworld.
  • Ice formed on the butler's upper slopes.
  • For some moments after silence had come like a poultice to heal the blows of sound, all that occupied his mind was the thought of what pests the gentler sex were when they got hold of a telephone. The instrument seemed to go to their heads like a drug. Connie Keeble, for instance. Nice sensible woman when you talked to her face to face, never tried to collar the conversation and all that, but the moment she got on the telephone, it was gab, gab, gab, and all about nothing.

Ring for Jeeves (1953)

  • It was a confusion of ideas between him and one of the lions he was hunting in Kenya that had caused A. B. Spottsworth to make the obituary column. He thought the lion was dead, and the lion thought it wasn't.

Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit (1954)

  • I agreed the situation was sticky. Indeed, offhand it was difficult to see how it could have been more glutinous.
  • As plainly as if it had been the top line on the oculist’s chart I could see what the future held for Bertram.
  • Before my eyes he wilted like a wet sock.
  • And as he, too, seemed disinclined for chit-chat, we stood for some moments like a couple of Trappist monks who have run into each other at the dog races.
  • Oh, Bertie, if I ever called you a brainless poop who ought to be given a scholarship at some lunatic asylum, I take back the words.
  • I don't know if you have ever seen a tiger of the jungle drawing a deep breath preparatory to doing a swan dive and landing with both the feet on the backbone of one of the minor fauna. Probably not, nor, as a matter of fact, have I.

Cocktail Time (1958)

  • Nannie Bruce, a tall, gangling light-heavyweight with a suggestion in her appearance of a private in the Grenadiers dressed up to play the title role in Charley’s Aunt, was one of those doggedly faithful retainers who adhere to almost all old families like barnacles to the hulls of ships...She was as much a fixture as the stone lions or the funny smell in the attic.
  • He had that self-reproachful feeling of having been remiss which comes to Generals who wake up one morning to discover that they have carelessly allowed themselves to be outflanked.
  • It has been well said that an author who expects results from a first novel is in a position similar to that of a man who drops a rose petal down the Grand Canyon of Arizona and listens for the echo.

A Few Quick Ones (1959)

  • Attila the Hun might have broken off his engagement to her, but nobody except Attila the Hun, and he only on one of his best mornings.
  • Oofy, thinking of the tenner he had given Freddie, writhed like an electric fan.

Jeeves in the Offing (1960)

  • ...I mean to say, when a girl, offered a good man’s heart, laughs like a bursting paper bag and tells him not to be a silly ass, the good man is entitled, I think, to assume that the whole thing is off.
  • Whenever there is a job to be taken on of a kind calculated to make Humanity shudder, the cry goes up, ‘Let Wooster do it.’
  • ‘Are you sure?’ I said that sure was just what I wasn’t anything but.
  • She’s all for not letting the sun go down without having started something calculated to stagger humanity.
  • ‘Suppose your Aunt Dahlia read in the paper one morning that you were going to be shot at sunrise.’
    ‘I couldn’t be, I’m never up so early.’
  • ‘When I say “mind,”’ said the blood relation, ‘I refer to the quarter-teaspoonful of brain which you might possibly find in her head if you sank an artesian well.’
  • I started violently, as if some unseen hand had goosed me.
  • I’d always thought her half-baked, but now I think they didn’t even put her in the oven.

Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves (1963)

  • ‘Don't you like this hat?‘
    ‘No, sir.‘
    ‘Well, I do,‘ I replied rather cleverly, and went out with it tilted just that merest shade over the left eye which makes all the difference.
  • He’s engaged to be married to Stiffy Byng, and his long years of football should prove an excellent preparation for setting up house with her. The way I look at it is that when a fellow has had plug-uglies in cleated boots doing a Shuffle-off-to-Buffalo on his face Saturday after Saturday since he was a slip of a boy, he must get to fear nothing, not even marriage with a girl like Stiffy, who from early childhood has seldom let the sun go down without starting some loony enterprise calculated to bleach the hair of one and all.
  • ‘Stinko, is he?’
    'Not perhaps stinko, but certainly effervescent.’
  • 'I hate you, I hate you!' cried Madeline, a thing I didn't know anyone ever said except in the second act of a musical comedy.
  • ...as I felt my way along the wall I collided with what turned out to be a grandfather clock, for the existence of which I had not budgeted, and it toppled over with a sound like the delivery of several tons of coal through the roof of a conservatory. Glass crashed, pulleys and things parted from their moorings, and as I stood trying to separate my heart from the front teeth in which it had become entangled, the lights flashed on and I beheld Sir Watkyn Bassett.
  • I was expecting Pop Bassett to give an impersonation of a bomb falling on an ammunition dump, but he didn’t. Instead, he continued to exhibit that sort of chilly stiffness which you see in magistrates when they’re fining people five quid for boyish peccadilloes.
  • ‘And shove him into a dungeon with dripping walls and see to it that he is well gnawed by rats.’
  • I started back to the house, and in the drive I met Jeeves. He was at the wheel of Stiffy's car. Beside him, looking like a Scotch elder rebuking sin, was the dog Bartholomew.

Galahad at Blandings (1965)

  • As is so often the case with butlers, there was a good deal of Beach. Julius Caesar, who liked to have men about him who were fat, would have taken to him at once. He was a man who had made two chins grow where only one had been before, and his waistcoat swelled like the sail of a racing yacht.

A Pelican at Blandings {1969)

  • A man, to use an old-fashioned phrase, of some twenty-eight summers, he gave the impression at the moment of having experienced at least that number of very hard winters.

The Girl in Blue (1970)

  • To say that his conscience was clear would be inaccurate, for he did not have a conscience, but he had what was much better, an alibi...
  • His aspect was that of one who has been looking for the leak in a gas pipe with a lighted candle.
  • ‘You’re one of those guys who can make a party just by leaving it. It’s a great gift.’
  • It was one of the dullest speeches I ever heard. The Agee woman told us for three quarters of an hour how she came to write her beastly book, when a simple apology was all that was required.

Much Obliged, Jeeves (1971)

  • My Aunt Agatha, for instance, is tall and thin and looks rather like a vulture in the Gobi desert, while Aunt Dahlia is short and solid, like a scrum half in the game of Rugby football. In disposition, too, they differ widely. Aunt Agatha is cold and haughty, though presumably unbending a bit when conducting human sacrifices at the time of the full moon, as she is widely rumoured to do, and her attitude towards me has always been that of an austere governess, causing me to feel as if I were six years old and she had just caught me stealing jam from the jam cupboard: whereas Aunt Dahlia is as jovial and bonhomous as a dame in a Christmas pantomime.
  • I had not failed to interpret the significance of that dark frown, that bitten lip and those flashing eyes, nor the way the willowy figure had quivered, indicating, unless she had caught a chill, that she was as sore as a sunburned neck.
  • She had a beaky nose, tight thin lips, and her eye could have been used for splitting logs in the teak forests of Borneo.
  • It just showed once again that half the world doesn’t know how the other three quarters live.

Sunset at Blandings (1977 (posthumously published))

  • Many a man may look respectable, and yet be able to hide at will behind a spiral staircase.

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