‘The only one of the family I really know is the girl.’ I had hardly spoken these words when the most extraordinary change came over young Bingo’s face. His eyes bulged, his cheeks flushed, and his Adam’s apple hopped about like one of those india-rubber balls on the top of the fountain in a shooting gallery.
‘Oh, Bertie!’ he said, in a strangled sort of voice.
I looked at the poor fish anxiously. I knew that he was always falling in love with someone, but it didn’t seem possible that even he could have fallen in love with Honoria Glossop.
This is our introduction to Honoria Glossop, in Chapter Five of The Inimitable Jeeves, and our second encounter with young Bingo, who in Chapter Two was in love with a waitress named Mabel.
Bertie Wooster is astonished that Bingo could love Honoria (daughter of noted ‘nerve specialist’ Sir Roderick Glossop), whom he describes as:
One of those dashed large, brainy, strenuous, dynamic girls you see so many of these days. She had been at Girton, where, in addition to enlarging her brain to the most frightful extent, she had gone in for every kind of sport and developed the physique of a middle-weight catch-as-can wrestler. I’m not sure she didn’t box for the ‘Varsity while she was up. The effect she had on me whenever she appeared was to make me want to slide into a cellar and lie low till they blew the All-Clear.
Honoria Glossop is no model of delicate femininity. She excels in sports and has a serious, educated sort of mind that she’s not afraid to use. Poor Bertie quivers in her presence, no doubt scarred from his former engagement to Lady Florence Cray, who made him read Types of Ethical Theory and was about to start him on Nietzsche.
Whatever his faults, Bingo Little does not share Bertie’s prejudices. He has the endearing capacity to appreciate the merits in any woman. Bertie shrinks from Honoria’s Amazonian qualities, Bingo admires them.
‘Have you told her?’
‘No. I haven’t the nerve. But we walk together in the garden most evenings, and it sometimes seems to me that there is a look in her eyes.’
‘I know that look. Like a sergeant-major.’
‘Nothing of the kind! Like a tender goddess.’
‘Half a second, old thing,’ I said. ‘Are you sure we’re talking about the same girl? The one I mean is Honoria. Perhaps there is a younger sister or something I’ve not heard of?’
‘Her name is Honoria,’ bawled Bingo reverently.
‘And she strikes you as a tender goddess?
‘God bless you!’ I said.
‘She walks in beauty like the night of cloudless climes and starry skies; and all that’s best of dark and bright meet in her aspect and her eyes. Another bit of bread and cheese,’ he said to the lad behind the bar.
I include Bingo’s poetic testimony here because Bertie’s assessment of Honoria is so often accepted as the only plausible one. Considered objectively, Honoria has her good points; she is bright, capable and jolly. Her characteristic laugh — ‘like a train going into a tunnel’ or ‘the Scotch express going under a bridge’ — may delight her pals and admirers. Fond as I am of Bertie, we should remember that he is an unreliable narrator whose view is prejudiced by his own character and tastes, just as Bingo’s assessment is blinded, if briefly, by love.
And I mean briefly — Bingo’s love for Honoria lasts exactly ten pages in my old Penguin edition. The spell is broken not by any action on her part, but by the appearance of another eligible female on the premises:
Walking across the lawn I saw the most radiant, the most beautiful girl in the world. There is none like her, none. Bertie, do you believe in love at first sight? You do believe in love at first sight, don’t you Bertie, old man? Directly I saw her, she seemed to draw me like a magnet. I seemed to forget everything. We two were alone in a world of music and sunshine. I joined her. I got into conversation. She is a Miss Braythwayt, Bertie—Daphne Braythwayt. Directly our eyes met, I realized that what I had imagined to be my love for Honoria Glossop had been a mere passing whim. Bertie, you do believe in love at first sight, don’t you? She is so wonderful, so sympathetic. Like a tender goddess——”
If Bingo’s endearing capacity to fall in love with any woman has a down-side, it’s his lack of constancy. We hear nothing further of Miss Braythwayt, and when we meet ‘Comrade Bingo’ again in Chapter 11 he in love with someone new (I look forward to discussing that particular romance another day).
Meanwhile, Bingo thinks nothing of leaving Bertie with the unpleasant task of disengaging himself from Honoria Glossop, a feat he has to perform again in ‘Jeeves and the Greasy Bird’ (Plum Pie). Bertie also saves old pal ‘Biffy’ Biffen from marrying Honoria in ‘The Rummy Affair Of Old Biffy’ (in Carry On, Jeeves):
Of course, there are probably fellows in the world — tough, hardy blokes with strong chins and glittering eyes — who could get engaged to this Glossop menace and like it; but I knew perfectly well that Biffy was not one of them.
Honoria, you see, is one of those robust, dynamic girls with the muscles of a welter-weight and a laugh like a squadron of cavalry charging over a tin bridge. A beastly thing to have to face over the breakfast table. Brainy, moreover. The sort of girl who reduces you to pulp with sixteen sets of tennis and a few rounds of golf, and then comes down to dinner as fresh as a daisy, expecting you to take an intelligent interest in Freud.
After some rough treatment from these flitting and sipping Drones, Honoria Glossop’s friends and well-wishers will be pleased to hear that she seems set to marry the ‘angry young novelist’ Blair Eggleston at the conclusion of ‘Jeeves and the Greasy Bird’. The news was certainly a great relief to Bertie Wooster.
26 thoughts on “The romances of Bingo Little: Honoria Glossop”
This is very interesting – I love your point about Bertie’s partiality, I’ve never thought of it in that way before, but you’re absolutely right. Honoria’s talents would be wasted on any of the Drones Club members, but Blair Eggleston’s intellectualism would probably suit her nicely!
I think it only dawned on me because people often ask me why I chose the name Honoria. They are aghast that I’d self-select to align myself with such a ghastly specimen. This put me in the unintended position of championing her a bit. I can’t recall why I chose the name actually. Perhaps it’s because I think the awful characters in Wodehouse, or any comedy, would be the most fun to play as an actor. Whatever the reason, I’ve come around to being an Honoria Glossop fan.
Great post. The casanova amongst Plum’s works eventually ties the knot with Rosie M Banks!
Yes indeed. Although he’s not much of a Cassanova.
Sorry. My reply sent itself before I’d finished. I was about to say…. He’s not much of a Cassanova as he never gets very far with these romances before moving on — or being encouraged to move on.
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Right you are!
I wonder who the Drones Club’s resident Cassanova would be…. Any thoughts Ashok?
Jeeves might know. I doubt if Plum ever created a character modelled on those lines!
Not one I can think of, Ashok.
Since I am currently re-reading The Inimitable Jeeves this is familiar territory. I have forgotten just when Bingo ties the knot with Rosie M. Banks, but I’m certain I will find out soon enough.
Well, what do you know! I rounded the bend and on the way to the finish I discovered the event was in the book I was reading all along!
Great news. It’s one of my favourite books, as I love the Bingo Little stories, although I must say Bingo is a bit of stinker as a chum. If I were Bertie, I’d have punched him on the mazzard.
Of course the two of them went to school together. This is something of which Bingo continues to remind Bertie. Even that constant reminder should have caused Bertie to punch him one.
Exactly so. I still like Bingo though. Bertie has even more troublesome, less grateful pals.
Yes. One of the advantages of adulthood is surely not having to associate oneself with the dregs of the former classroom.
Bertie is certainly beset by troublesome pals. Bingo is one of my favorites as well, even if being married to Rosie M. Banks didn’t quite reform him. The descriptive phrase “he’s a baa lamb” just popped into my head. Does that refer to Bingo Little or some other character in the Saga? Maybe I’m thinking of another series altogether.
Reblogged this on ashokbhatia and commented:
The romances of Bingo Little are legendary. Before he settles down with Rosie M Banks to nibble some lettuce, he is perpetually falling in and out of love with some of the finest specimens of the delicately nurtured.
Bertie an unreliable narrator? Eh, I don’t know. Bertie knows what he wants, knows when he has it, and how he wants to live. And he knows when someone, usually a woman, threatens him on that score. Honoria, as well that other siren seeking to lure him to his death, La Craye, do exactly that. The problem isn’t with Bertie. It’s coming from the girls and their leveraging their appeal to impress the suitors or those they view as suitors with horrible demands and expectations that threaten their happiness. Bertie knows if he falls prey to the false allure of the sirens they’ll lead to the devastation of Scylla and Charydbis.
Thanks for the comment – it has nicely stirred my little grey cells into action for the day. Yours is an interesting view, though not one I can agree with.
Bertie is reliable in terms of relating his own preferences and opinions (as you point out) and we can take him at his word on those. That doesn’t make his narrative reliable — his perceptions and decisions are frequently misjudged (hence the need for Jeeves’ frequent assistance).
To take the case in point, consider the facts from Honoria’s point of view: Bertie appears at her home. He requests her company in the garden, and babbles to her about ‘someone’ who loves her. He then pushes Oswald into the water, and leaps in to save him. It is entirely Bertie’s actions that lead Honoria to the mistaken belief that her cares for her. And Bertie never attempts to correct her mistaken view.
Of course Bertie’s true feelings about Honoria are so far from love that their brief engagement makes for great comedy. But there is never any suggestion in the story that Honoria has lured him into it. Indeed, until Bertie appears at her home and starts talking to her about love, we have no reason to suspect that she has given him a moment’s thought in her life! Bertie is there at his Aunt’s bidding, not Honoria’s.
Bertie gets himself into these muddles because he’s an ass –a genial and loveable ass, but an ass just the same. He lives rigidly by silly codes that do not serve him well (the old school code about helping pals is another one that gets him into trouble).
When it comes to entanglements with women, Bertie lacks the maturity and intelligence to be open and honest with them.
We love him anyway, and so we ought. We may sympathise with his views of the various females in his life. But really, we should draw the line at inventing traits and motives for them that aren’t there.
Bertie’s impression of Honoria is one view. There are chaps who find her appealing –Bingo Little is smitten with her, and Blair Eggleston later falls madly in love with her. Some chaps happen like women who are intelligent, sporting, and hearty. Some don’t.
Bertie is reliable in presenting a true picture as to his character. We can take him on his word as to that. There is no evidence to the contrary when it comes to his Code. There is never any eventuation in any of the stories that contradicts Bertie’s presentation of his character. He may be wrong, but he’s not devious or hiding anything with the reader.
Honoria from the beginning makes gross self-serving assumptions about his attitude toward her on the merest pretext (as does Florence Craye). She is unreliable. Bertie’s Code keeps him from setting her straight.
He does concoct absurd plots on the behalf of his friends. But that doesn’t make him unreliable. It makes entirely predictable and reliable. And it’s entirely within the ambit of his universe.
Bertie is an innocent. A naif. Not an idiot. He’s Quixotic. He’s money and status protects him, as does Jeeves, who would not exist except for his money and status.
Still, he’s no more dumb and immature than many, if not most, people in the stories, including the women. Honoria’s assumptions hardly redound to her credit. Many other characters have the same views, as to women, and the women use it consciously as leverage against them. Bertie just takes their value more seriously.
I say, dash it all, Derryl old bean, this is meant to be fun. But let me get down and dark for a minute. Reliability in reporting is a moot point, as anybody in my trade will tell you. Ask 10 people about an incident they witnessed and you will get 10 different answers — similar but different. Everything is filtered through the observer’s own consciousness. If you want to know whether Bertie can be a reliable character witness for Honoria, sift the evidence, weigh the facts. Is he more reliable than, say, Bingo? You have to do that because there is nothing empirical about the answer. But look, Derryl old man, enough of this. Go comfort yourself with Kristin Thompson (look her up) — and, for Honoria’s sake, have a merry Christmas.
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Same to you. Happy Holidays.
What Ho, Noel. Thanks for adding another perspective on this. I have replied also. I think my blooper was not explaining the term unreliable narrator. I imagine that if you’re unfamiliar with it, it does sound like an insult. I’d never insult poor Bertie. He’s a baaa lamb.
What Ho, Derryl. Apologies –I think there has been some confusion because I have used the term ‘unreliable narrator’. This is not quite the slur on Bertie’s character I think you have taken it to be.
‘Unreliable narrator’ is a literary term that refers to first person narrators (in this case Bertie) whose telling of a story does not give the reader the full picture of what’s going on. As you have explained: ‘Bertie is an innocent. A naif. Not an idiot. He’s Quixotic.’ This is why his narration of the stories cannot be relied upon to give us the full story — because poor Bertie is himself unaware of it. Wodehouse does this very cleverly, so that the reader is often two steps ahead of Bertie in comprehending the true picture.
Many stories told in the first-person are like this. The long literary tradition of unreliable narrators dates back to the Classics and includes writers such as Chaucer, Thackery, Mark Twain, F Scott Fitzgerald and Henry James. To this list, we can add PG Wodehouse. In the case of the Bertie Wooster’s narrative, it adds to the comedy.
It is not a criticism of Bertie to call him an ‘unreliable narrator’. Nor is it a slur on his character.
I must apologise for not explaining the term more clearly from the outset. I should not have assumed that everyone would be familiar with it.
I confess I remain perplexed by your views of the female characters. They have their faults, to be sure (Florence Cray is particularly scaly), and one can readily understand why Bertie is keen to avoid marriage. But I’ve never found them vile to such an extent as to provoke the sort of strong feelings you seem to have about them.
But that’s the great thing about literature. We each bring our own perspectives to it and experience it in our own ways. There is no single correct method for responding to the female characters of PG Wodehouse. If you find them highly objectionable then by all means object! It will show all those people who accuse Wodehouse of being frivolous that he can touch the depths of the human soul after all.
Best wishes, HP.