Something snapped in him. It was his collar-stud. His neck, normally a fifteen and an eighth, had suddenly swelled under the pressure of uncontrollable emotion into a large seventeen. For an instant he stood gurgling wordlessly like a bull-pup choking over a chicken-bone: then, darting forward, he clasped her in his arms and began to murmur all those words of love which until now he had kept pent up in his heart.Blandings Castle (The Castaways)
PG Wodehouse died on St Valentine’s Day 1975 and each year I put a commemorative piece together to mark the occasion. This year, I’m following the course of love in Wodehouse’s writing, through selected quotations.
Falling in Love
In Wodehouse’s world, as in life, love can be difficult to find.
No girl wants a potty husband, though it’s dashed hard not to get one nowadays.Uncle Fred in the Springtime
I have no doubt that you could have flung bricks by the hour in England’s most densely populated districts without endangering the safety of a single girl capable of becoming Mrs. Augustus Fink-Nottle without an anaesthetic.Right Ho, Jeeves
Some fall in love easily and often.
“Don’t tell me you’re in love again.”
He seemed aggrieved.
“What do you mean– again?”
“Well, to my certain knowledge you’ve been in love with at least half a dozen girls since the spring, and it’s only July now.”The Inimitable Jeeves
He spoke a little huskily, for he had once more fallen in love at first sight. The heart of Pongo Twistleton had always been an open door with ‘Welcome’ clearly inscribed on the mat, and you never knew what would walk in next.Uncle Fred in the Springtime
“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.”Young Men in Spats
Once it hits, the symptoms of love are universally recognisable.
His face had taken on the colour and expression of a devout tomato.Joy in the Morning
I could see he loved like a thousand bricks.
It was as he was passing the Houses of Parliament that the realisation came to him that the strange bubbly sensation that seemed to start from just above the lower left side-pocket of his waistcoat was not, as he had at first supposed, dyspepsia, but love.Meet Mr Mulliner (The Romance of a Blub Squeezer)
He walked pensively and in a manner more suggestive of a somnambulist than of a vigorous young man in full control of his limbs. Pedestrians with whom he collided nursed bitter thoughts of him, but had they had the full facts at their disposal, they would have realised that he was more to be pitied than censured, for on waking on Sunday morning he had discovered that on the previous night he had fallen in love at what virtually amounted to first sight, and this naturally disturbed his mind and affected his steeringBachelors Anonymous
When it comes to love on the links, results vary according to the psychology of the individual.
Reggie’s was a troubled spirit these days. He was in love, and he had developed a bad slice with his mid-iron. He was practically a soul in torment.A Damsel in Distress
He had never seen her before, for she had only arrived at her aunt’s house on the previous day, but he was perfectly certain that life, even when lived in the midst of gravel soil, main drainage, and company’s own water, was going to be a pretty poor affair if he did not see her again. Yes, Cuthbert was in love: and it is interesting to record, as showing the effect of the tender emotion on a man’s game, that twenty minutes after he had met Adeline he did the short eleventh in one, and as near as a toucher got a three on the four-hundred-yard twelfth.The Clicking of Cuthbert
The bumpy road to love
There is, of course, nothing to be said against love at first—or even second—sight, but if one is going to indulge in it, it is as well to know the name and address of the object of one’s devotion. Sally’s address was a sealed book to Joe, and though he remembered the Sally part, what followed after that he had completely forgotten.Bachelors Anonymous
The Wodehouse treatment provides potential lovers with plenty of stumbling blocks along the way to romantic happiness—everything from money troubles to lovers’ quarrels, aliases and imposters, misunderstandings, prior engagements, love rivals and tricky relations.
“Will you please tell me who is the girl my misguided son wishes to marry?”
“I don’t know that I’d call him misguided,” said Mr. Mortimer, as one desiring to be fair, “I think he’s a right smart picker! She’s such a corking girl, you know. We were children together, and I’ve loved her for years. Ten years at least. But you know how it is–somehow one never seems to get in line for a proposal. I thought I saw an opening in the summer of nineteen-twelve, but it blew over. I’m not one of these smooth, dashing guys, you see, with a great line of talk…”The Girl on the Boat
Love is a delicate plant that needs constant tending and nurturing, and this cannot be done by snorting at the adored object like a gas explosion and calling her friends lice.Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit
He was silent for a moment. When he spoke, it was on a note of hope.
“There’s one thing, of course. She used to love me. As recently as this afternoon. Dearly. She said so. One’s got to remember that.”
“She still does.”
“You really feel that, do you?”
“In spite of calling me a miserable fathead?”
“Certainly. You are a miserable fathead.”
“You can’t go by what a girl says, when she’s giving you the devil for making a chump of yourself. It’s like Shakespeare. Sounds well, but doesn’t mean anything.”Joy in the Morning
“No wonder Pongo loves you.”
“Not any more.”
“More than ever. I was noticing the way his eyes came popping out last night every time they rested on you. Did you ever see a prawn in the mating season? Like that.”Uncle Dynamite
Overcoming these challenges can’t be taken for granted by the reader. While many Wodehouse romances work out, others are doomed to fail.
“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.”Lord Emsworth and Others
“I wish I had a quid for every girl Freddie Widgeon has loved and lost,” sighed an Egg wistfully. “If I had, I shouldn’t be touching you for a fiver.”Young Men in Spats
“Marriage is not a process for prolonging the life of love, sir. It merely mummifies its corpse.”The Small Bachelor
In Wodehouse, as in life, an engagement or marriage is no guarantee of a happy ending.
The discovery that he was engaged to a girl who habitually got up at six in the morning, and would presumably insist on him getting up at that hour also, had definitely shaken him.Uncle Dynamite
She, poor child, stared down the years into a bleak future, in which she saw herself parted for ever from the man she loved, and the golf-widow of another for whom–even when he won a medal for lowest net at a weekly handicap with a score of a hundred and three minus twenty-four–she could feel nothing warmer than respect.The Clicking of Cuthbert (A Mixed Threesome)
But Wodehouse also gives us many glimpses of happily ever afters
“Cynthia advised me,” proceeded Eve, “if ever I married, to marry someone eccentric. She said it was such fun . . . Well, I don’t suppose I am ever likely to meet anyone more eccentric than you, am I?”
“I think you would be unwise to wait on the chance.”Leave it to Psmith
Unlike the rest of the female members of her family, who were tall and stately, Lady Herimone Wedge was short and dumpy and looked like a cook – in her softer moods, a cook well satisfied with her latest soufflé; when stirred to anger, a cook about to give notice; but always a cook of strong character. Neverthless for the eye of love is not affected by externals, it was with courtly devotion that her husband, avoiding the face cream, bent and kissed the top of her boudoir cap. They were a happy and united couple.Full Moon
Lord Wetherby sighed.
“When I led you to the altar,” he said, reproachfully, “you promised to love, honour, and obey me. I thought at the time it was a bit of swank!”
Lady Wetherby’s manner thawed. She became more friendly.
“When you talk like that, Algie, I feel there’s hope for you after all. That’s how you used to talk in the dear old days when you’d come to me to borrow half-a-crown to put on a horse! “Uneasy Money
The only way of ensuring a happy married life is to get it thoroughly clear at the outset who is going to skipper the team. My own dear wife settled the point during the honeymoon, and ours has been an ideal union.Uncle Fred in the Springtime
“…Lady Lakenheath was doing stunts with proverbs–“
“I beg your pardon?”
“Quoting proverbs, you know, bearing on the situation. ‘Ah, my dear,’ she said to Millie, ‘marry in haste, repent at leisure!’ ‘I’m afraid that proverb doesn’t apply to us,’ said Millie, ‘because I haven’t repented.’ What do you think of that, old horse?”Love Among The Chickens
As ever, these snippets barely scratch the surface of what Wodehouse has to offer on the subject –if I’ve left out your favourites, please let me know. But there are only so many Wodehouse quotations one can bung on a page before the urge to gambol off in search of a Wodehouse book and encounter them for ourselves—takes its irresistible hold.
Happy reading! And best wishes for an unrepentant happy ending of your own.