Category Archives: Writers & Writing

Beyond Wodehouse

Joy in the Morning: Jonathan Cecil audiobook review

A review of the Joy in the Morning audiobook read by Jonathan Cecil (one of my favourites) from Fiction Fan:

“Forget the pasta and toilet roll – stockpile these in preparation for your social distancing. What better company could you possibly have?”

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FictionFan's Book Reviews

Knotted locks and knitted socks…

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

Bertie isn’t keen on visiting Steeple Bumpleigh, home to Aunt Agatha, the most terrifying of his aunts. But Jeeves is keen to do a spot of fishing and Uncle Percy needs Jeeves’ help in finding a way to pull off a big business deal, so Bertie gives in gracefully. After all, Aunt Agatha is off elsewhere on a visit, ex-fiancée Florence Craye can be no threat to his bachelorhood now that she’s engaged to D’Arcy “Stilton” Cheesewright, and while his young cousin Edwin is always a pestilence, how much harm could one Boy Scout possibly do? But when Florence and Stilton fall out over Stilton’s insistence on being the village policeman and Edwin burns down Bertie’s cottage whilst doing his daily act of kindness, things take a sinister turn. Meantime Uncle Percy is refusing to allow his ward Nobby Hopwood…

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New Wodehouse book: ‘This is jolly old Fame’ by Paul Kent hits the spot

It’s here we arrive at the main thrust of this Introduction: literary criticism – which is a significant branch of the Culture Industry – has thus far failed Wodehouse miserably; that is, when it has deigned to notice him. And this has long hindered a true appreciation of his achievements not just as a great comic writer, but as a great writer and Artist…

Paul Kent ~ This is jolly old Fame

Whenever I try to describe this blog to people who don’t read it and, let’s face it, probably didn’t ask and don’t want to know, they seem to come away with the impression that I write book reviews. But between ourselves, I find book reviews incredibly difficult and rarely attempt them.

I mean, it’s easy enough to write a ripping admonishment of a uniformly dreadful book, but who has the time to read dreadful books in these busy modern times, let alone make their authors feel any worse? So too, the kind of self-indulgent opinion sharing that routinely passes for review online, which I’m quite good at. Look me up on Twitter, Facebook or Goodreads and you’ll find no shortage of unsubstantiated literary opinions (at least unsubstantiated by me) along the lines of Jane Eyre was a tedious whiner and we’d all be a lot better off if everybody just stuck to reading Wodehouse.

But Paul Kent has written something worthy of more thoughtful review, and I’m dashed if I know how to go about it.

It’s not that I’m lacking in things to say about this book. On the contrary, if you’ll observe my reading copy below, each tag indicates a point on which I’ve been prompted to reflect and want to return to later — so many in fact, that about half way first reading I had to go back and start again with a colour coded system.

jolly

This is why, as far as I’m concerned, This is jolly old Fame hits the spot. In some places, Paul Kent makes points that I’ve always wanted to make, but never quite found the right time or had the wit to put into words. To pick just one instance: he says:

…reading even a few Wodehouse novels with reasonably careful attention, there appear scores of themes and recurring motifs which, considered together, add up to something that is both significant and, ultimately, revealing…

And he’s right!

More often, Kent makes points which had never occurred to me, setting my thoughts in a multitude of new directions. He draws on an impressive array of literary sources and opinions, but doesn’t hold back from giving his own – firmly, but respectfully questioning some of the ideas many of us seem to have accepted as lore when it comes to discussing Wodehouse and his work. This is the sort of thinking and writing the world of Wodehouse appreciation needs – and gives the rest of us plenty to talk about.

And this is just Volume 1, with two more volumes to yet come. The focus here is on Wodehouse’s early writing career, influences, and the development of his inimitable style and reputation. Kent begins with this quotation, from one of Wodehouse’s letters to his step-daughter Leonora:

I really am becoming rather a blood these days. . . [In] a review of a book in the Times, they say “The author at times reverts to the P.G. Wodehouse manner”. This, I need scarcely point out to you, is jolly old Fame. Once they begin to refer to you in that casual way as if everybody must know who you are all is well. P.G. Wodehouse

Kent, Jolly Old Fame

I could say more, but each of the many threads I’d like to unpick would lead us to another 1500 or so words of superfluous chattering, when all you really need to know is:

‘This is jolly old Fame’ hits the spot.

You can buy it — here.

HP

A Centenary of A Damsel in Distress

damsel montage

‘I’ve a headache.’
‘I thought you would have, laddie, when I saw you getting away with the liquid last night. An X-ray photograph of your liver would show something that looked like a crumpled oak-leaf studded with hob-nails. You ought to take more exercise, dear heart. Except for sloshing that policeman, you haven’t done anything athletic for years.’

A Damsel in Distress

A Damsel in Distress by P.G. Wodehouse was first published in the USA on 4 October 1919, having previously been serialised in the Saturday Evening Post in May-June of the same year. The first UK edition was published on 15 October 2019.

The story is set in England, featuring scenes in London and the fictional village of Belpher, based on the pretty coastal town of Emsworth, Hampshire, where Wodehouse once lived — a connection celebrated today by the local Emsworth Museum.

The bally Englishness of it all is rounded off with historic Belpher Castle and its inmates – the aristocratic Marshmoretons upstairs, and a below-stairs cast headed by Keggs the Butler. There’s little to like about the Marshmoretons, who are one of the scaliest gangs of invertebrates and inveritable snobs Wodehouse ever assembled. Even Lady Maud Marshmoreton, the Damsel in Distress of the title, is one of Wodehouse’s least likeable heroines (in my view).

These Marshmoretons need a good shake-up and Wodehouse gives it to them in the form of romantic entanglements with unsuitable Americans — Broadway composer George Bevan and chorus girl Billie Dore. The Americans inject much needed life and Broadway sparkle into the story. They steal all their scenes and render their stuffy English counterparts even more colourless.

‘You aren’t George Bevan!’


‘I am!’

‘But’ – Miss Plummer’s voice almost failed her – ‘But I’ve been dancing to your music for years! I’ve got about fifty of your records on the Victrola at home.’
George blushed. However successful a man may be he can never get used to Fame at close range.
‘Why, that trickly thing – you know, in the second act – is the darlingest thing I ever heard. I’m mad about it.’
‘Do you mean the one that goes lumty-lumty-tum, tumty-tumty-tum?’
‘No the one that goes ta-rumty-tum-tum, ta-rumty-tum. You know! The one about Granny dancing the shimmy.’
‘I’m not responsible for the words, you know,’ urged George hastily. ‘These are wished on me by the lyricist.’
‘I think the words are splendid. Although poor popper thinks it’s improper, Granny’s always doing it and nobody can stop her! …’

Perhaps this reflects Wodehouse’s own experience as an Englishman in New York. He had been living and working there for around five years when A Damsel in Distress was written, following previous visits in 1904 and 1909. It may also reflect good commercial sense. Upstairs-downstairs dramas and stories transplanting Americans into the British aristocracy may have already become clichéd by Wodehouse’s day (I’m guessing here), but even in 2019 they remain unaccountably popular. Or at least this popularity is unaccountable to me — when it comes to Downton Abbey, I’m with David Mitchell.

But I digress…

1919 Damsel in Distress ITALIAN
Una Damigella In Pericolo

A Damsel in Distress is a popular favourite among Wodehouse readers – it has a 4 and half star rating on Goodreads and has been translated into multiple languages, including five Italian translations.

The plot has also been adapted for film and stage several times, including a silent film released in October 1919 — when the ink on Wodehouse’s Saturday Evening Post original was barely dry.

Wodehouse himself was involved in developing the script for a 1937 film musical adaptation starring Fred Astaire, Joan Fontaine, George Burns and Gracie Allen – with a fabulous score by George Gershwin. Brain Taves has written about this film’s fascinating history for Plum Lines (Journal of the US Wodehouse Society):

“On the advice of George Ger­shwin, RKO producer Pandro Ber­man bought the screen rights to A Damsel in Distress in November 1936. Gershwin had collaborated in the theater with Wodehouse before he wrote the novel, and Gershwin believed that the character of the music writer named George Bevan in A Damsel in Distress was based on him. Gershwin’s nine songs for the film were composed before the script was written, and he died during production of the movie.”

Brian Taves: A Damsel in Distress: Novel, to Play, to Film
Plum Lines Vol. 2 2 No.3 Autumn 2001

Stage performances of A Damsel in Distress include a 1928 adaptation written by Wodehouse and Ian Hay, which ran at the New Theatre in London –with a young Joan Hickson among the cast. And in 2015, I was fortunate enough to see a wonderful adaptation by Rob Ashford at the Chichester Festival.

While A Damsel in Distress is not one of my own favourite Wodehouse novels, I give it a solid 3 stars (if I rated everything Wodehouse wrote as equally excellent, I’d have no credibility). I suspect I’m in a minority among Wodehouse fans on this one, however, and I have no wish to detract from the pleasure this work brings to others. It remains a ‘must-read’ for Wodehouse fans, particularly for Wodehouse’s Broadway insights.

And the glimmer of his genius is present, as always.

‘A cat, on its way back from lunch, paused beside him in order to use his leg as a serviette.’

And

‘The furniture had been constructed by somebody who would probably have done very well if he had taken up some other line of industry…’

And

His pause was more eloquent than his speech and nearly as eloquent as his eye.

So don’t take my word for it — if you haven’t read A Damsel in Distress, grab a copy and decide for yourself. The 1937 musical is also available on DVD — here’s a snippet to whet your whistle.

Pip pip to old man trouble
And a toodly-oo too

HP

Further reading

Madam Eulalie: Source of the original Saturday Evening Post header image (above). You’ll also find the original Saturday Evening Post text, illustrations, and annotations.

Reviews of A Damsel in Distress

Tales from the Junior Lipstick: the F. of the S. — Part III

…when an impressionable young girl saves a chap from drowning, she naturally takes a proprietorial interest in his progress.

Our story continues, narrated by Hilda Gudgeon from her comfortable chair in the smoking room of the Junior Lipstick: Eustacia Bellows is in love after a chance encounter with her childhood chum Cyril Pomfrey-Waddelow (and his near encounter with a No. 37 bus). Unfortunately for Eustacia (Stacey to her friends) Cyril is currently under the spell of  Angelica Blake – a poet.

Start at the beginning or read on for the latest installment in my P.G. Wodehouse homage (everyone else is doing it…)

* * *

The Wimbledon Ladies Literary Society are a formidable gang of females who take their literature seriously. At the last meeting I attended, they were panning Thomas Hardy for being too frivolous. If Angelica Blake had got her name on the programme it was either because she wrote dashed good poetry, or the inquisitors hadn’t eaten a poet in weeks. Stacey’s money was on the latter and she wanted to be in at the kill.

She also wanted a first-hand look at this Blake exhibit. If Angelica turned out to be a hearty, sensible sort of girl, Stacey was resolved not to interfere. She’d buzz off and become an African explorer or join the Canadian Mounties, or whatever it is that robust young female half-props do when their hearts are broken.

A weaker rival might have dashed off to the Ogoouė River on first sight of Angelica Blake, for in supposing her to be a mere pippin Stacey had underestimated her rival’s charms. Angelia was long, lean and extraordinarily elegant in a doeful sort of way. The impression she gave on entering the room was that the Wimbledon Ladies Literary Society had not gained a poet, so much as a giraffe.

The effect she had on the gathered assembly was remarkable. Lorgnettes returned to their holsters, lips unpursed, steely-eyed expressions softened. Angelica’s first poem about a timid mouse, arguably the second most astonishing new work since The Tay Bridge Disaster, sent them into raptures.

When Angelica had finished her recital, the chairwoman thanked her in gushing terms and invited her to join the ladies for tea in the drawing room. Stacey waited patiently among the throng of admirers who surrounded Angelica, pawing her like a zoological exhibit and offering her lumps of sugar.

Angelica may have impressed the crowd, but as the future mate of a feeble poet incapable of crossing the street without close supervision, Stacey found her unsuitable. It would be an act of sisterly kindness, she felt, to warn her off. The only problem was how to broach the subject. Stacey had the mind of a great general, and like all great generals she lacked subtlety. She preferred to charge.

“Hello, hello,” Stacey said at last, advancing into a gap at Angelica’s left elbow, vacated by an octogenarian in mauve. “The future Mrs Cyril Pomfrey-Waddelow, I presume?”

The poet winced. The prospect of answering to the name Mrs Cyril Pomfrey-Waddelow was a definite blow for a girl accustomed to signing herself ‘Angelica Blake’ inside attractively bound volumes of poetry.

“Our engagement has not been announced,” said Angelica, a little stiffly.

“Never mind about that,” said Stacey, giving the poet a friendly slap on the back. “I won’t tell a soul. Pompy and I are childhood pals, you know. He tells me everything.”

“I see. Who are you?”

“Didn’t I say? I’m Eustacia Bellows. I expect Cyril’s always mentioning me.”

“Not that I recall.”

“Well that’s gratitude!” said Stacey, cheerfully. “You save a man’s life, the least you’d expect is an honorable mention.”

“You saved his life?”

“Twice. The poor chump can’t take a step without me. I expect I shall always be popping in when you are married. A delicate creature with a poetic soul like yours can’t be expected to be wading in and out of ponds all the time.”

“Cyril is not a chump,” said Angelica, rising to her full magnificence. She looked like a female giraffe, patiently demonstrating the en pointe maneuver to a remedial elephant.

“Why of course he’s a chump!” said Stacey. “What other sort of fellow would stuff himself with sweets until he was fit to burst and then jump in a pond? Or walk in front of an omnibus in Piccadilly Circus. As chumps go, he’s one of the best, but he’s a chump just the same.”

Angelica was too stately to recoil in horror. She merely widened her eyes and blinked.

“Cyril walked in front of an omnibus?”

“This very AM. If I hadn’t been there, they’d be sweeping up the remains now.”

The giraffe wilted slightly, looked thoughtful for a moment, and then reached for Stacey’s hand.

“My dear Miss Bellows, I am so grateful to you. There must be some way for Cyril and I to thank you properly. Cyril will be joining us this weekend at Grateley Towers. The honeysuckle is so beautiful at this time of year, and…”

“Cyril’s allergic to bees, you know.”

“Won’t you join us? I would love to show you the gardens, and the lake.”

“Lake, you say?” Stacey grinned. It was the sort of grin Napoleon might have grinned before a big day out in Austerlitz. “How splendid!”

The whole thing couldn’t have been chummier, Stacey tells me, and she was feeling rather rotten about having to deprive this gentle soul of her mate. But still, the thing had to be done.

To be continued…

HP

The Clicking of Cuthbert by P.G. Wodehouse

Tales from the Junior Lipstick: the F. of the S. — Part II

Back by popular demand, if a broad definition of the word popular is applied, Part II of my homage to P.G. Wodehouse, a Junior Lipstick Club story

The F. of the S.

Here’s Part I if you missed it.  

* * *

Eustacia Bellows and Cyril Pomfrey-Waddelow (said Hilda Gudgeon) had been pals since childhood. When Stacey was nine she saved Cyril from drowning in the village pond, and when an impressionable young girl saves a chap from drowning, she naturally takes a proprietorial interest in his progress. When Cyril was lying-in with mumps, she read him Pickwick. In the holidays she took him for bracing walks and corrected his square cut.

They met again by chance in London last spring. Cyril had just stepped in front of an omnibus, and Stacey, who happened to be on hand, dashed into the road and pushed him aside.

When Cyril had finished gulping like a stranded goldfish, she deposited him in a neighbouring tea and bun shop and got to work on rekindling the friendship. For love had hit her, as surely as the number 37 omnibus hadn’t hit Cyril. Stacey could see the poor lamb was lost without her. It had been almost two years since they’d last met — how Cyril had managed to survive all that time in London without her was a mystery.

“Fancy running into you again, Pompy old pet,” said Stacey, opening proceedings with her trademark cheerfulness.

Cyril blinked like a bewildered rabbit. I don’t know what kind of shove she gave him, but Stacey was our school’s half-prop — Rosie Benger’s shoulder still gives her trouble after being on the receiving end of one of Stacey’s tackles. Given the choice between colliding with an omnibus or Stacey Bellows, I’m not sure I wouldn’t take my chances with the bus. I dare say Cyril, who was always on the delicate side, was feeling it.

“How’s the metrop treating you?”

“Fine, fine,” Cyril gurgled.

“You’re looking well,” said Stacey, proving the adage that love is blind, for Cyril Pomfrey-Waddelow was not one of nature’s greatest hits. His closest friends might, after a good meal and some financial inducement, be persuaded to call him Byronic, but a consumptive Byron at best, with some sort of wasting sickness thrown in.

Cyril sniffed his tea.

“So, no secret troubles then?”

“Eh?”

“One merely wonders. Chaps don’t usually go about flinging themselves at omnibuses, you know. I suppose the odds are lower for poets. Some worm criticises your latest effort, and just as you’re pondering whether life is worth living, along comes the number 37. I expect it’s an occupational hazard.”

Cyril bristled –- or tried to. Weakened by his ordeal, Cyril’s bristling was on par with that of an existential hedgehog who has given up on life.

“The critics were very complimentary about my last volume.”

“Were they? That’s terrific! I’m dashed sorry I haven’t read it. The only thing of yours I’ve read is that collection you sent at Christmas. Something about butterflies, wasn’t it?”

“Yes, that’s it. Where Doth the Moth?: Prose studies of the anthropomorphic condition.”

“And they liked it, you say?”

“One critic,” said Cyril proudly, “called it the most astonishing new work since The Tay Bridge Disaster.”

Well, love may be blind, but even love could not overlook the fact that Where Doth the Moth? contained some of the worst bilge ever flung at the poetry-loving public. To give you just one example:

Love, love, and thirst.

Fools endure like true honey.

Wishes flap!

Rotting hide.

Digestion is a torpid bride.

Hero holds the highest grape.

Bounder laps the rotting pool.

The flounder is a fool.

 

It goes on like that for another thirty-seven stanzas.

“I’m just putting the finishing touches on my next volume,” said Cyril. “I’ll send you a copy.”

“Please do.”

“And you’ll be invited to the wedding.”

“Is someone getting married?”

“I am,” said Cyril, brightening a little. “Angelica Blake has just agreed to marry me. I was on my way to speak to her father when you… err… ran into me. My mind was dwelling on Angelica’s tender face.”

“Your mind, such as it is, was very nearly dwelling all over Piccadilly Circus. I don’t like the sound of it. Are you sure this female is a good influence?”

“Angelica is my ideal,” said Cyril, filling himself with air. “She walks in beauty like the night…”

“So she’s a pippin,” said Stacey. “But is she fit to handle the business of being Mrs Pomfrey-Waddelow? The woman who marries you will need nerves of steel and the biceps of an all-in wrestler. Can she do the Australian crawl with one arm, and lug a kicking boy in the other — that’s what I want to know.”

Cyril shuddered. “I haven’t fallen in a pond in years.”

“No, you’ve moved on to omnibuses. What would this Blake female have done if she’d been the woman on the spot today?”

“Oh, Angelica,” said Cyril with feeling. “To see her beloved, as I hope I may now call myself, stricken before her eyes would haunt her delicate soul forever.”

“Sensitive girl, is she?”

“Naturally. She’s a poet too, you know. This afternoon, she’s reading her Sonnets of Sincerity to the Wimbledon Ladies Literary Society.”

Stacy was renown at school for her quick thinking, and her wits did not desert her at the crucial moment.

“I’d like to see that. A pal of mine is on the committee. I’m sure she wouldn’t mind if I buzzed down to Wimbledon and joined the festivities.”

“I wish I could join you,” said Cyril. “I have to catch Angelica’s father before he leaves for the country.” Cyril’s brow, by the despairing light of the tea-shop, wore an unearthly aspect. “She says she can’t marry me unless he gives his consent.”

“What? In these enlightened times?” asked Stacey, brightening.

“Her father is Sir Igneous Blake, the gravel magnate. He’s about eight feet tall and looks like Grendel on one of his bad days. He bullies poor Angelica terribly.”

“Well, don’t let him bully you, old thing. Make a good impression, and if he gives you any trouble, be firm.”

“I’m wearing my best suit,” said Cyril.

Stacey inspected Cyril’s costume. His morning coat was covered in dust and there was a hole in one trouser leg. His hat was intact, but it was a filthier, more misshapen hat than strictly fashionable. Cyril looked less like something the cat had dragged in, than something a discerning cat would give a wide berth to. It occurred to Stacey that a prospective father-in-law might feel the same way.

“On second thoughts,” said Cyril, “perhaps it can wait until I go down there on Friday.”

“Why put it off?” Said Stacey. “I’d do it now if I were you.”

“Do you really think so?”

“I do. Show old Pop Blake that an omnibus can’t keep a good Pomfrey-Waddelow down. Besides, you don’t want to keep a dear girl like Angelica waiting for an answer.”

“No. I suppose you’re right.”

“That’s settled then,” said Stacey. “Sit tight and finish your tea while I pop out and get you a taxicab.”

* * *

Continue to Part III

HP

Tales from the Junior Lipstick: the F. of the S.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again–girls are rummy. Old Pop Kipling never said a truer word than when he made that crack about the f. of the s. being more d. than the m.

P.G. Wodehouse ~ Right Ho, Jeeves

With Ben Schott‘s recent homage to Wodehouse, Jeeves and the King of Clubs, so well received by the critics, the time seems right to tell you about a little homage of my own invention, which I’ve been threatening to share for some time. Unlike most Wodehouse fan-fiction, it does not feature Jeeves or Bertie Wooster. I’ve chosen to set my homage within the inner sanctum of one of Wodehouse’s lesser known fictional clubs — The Junior Lipstick.

As a women’s club, Wodehouse could never comfortably enter this world (in life, or in fiction), but he provides a fleeting glimpse in ‘Came the Dawn’ (Meet Mr Mulliner) when Angela Biddlecombe is fetched ‘from the billiard-room, where she was refereeing the finals of the Debutantes’ Shove-Ha-penny Tournament…. She was smoking a cigarette in a long holder, and as she approached she inserted a monocle inquiringly in her right eye.’  

I thought it might be fun to take a closer look into this world in a series of short stories, while also having a pop at the Wodehouse style (the tricky bit). I won’t thrust the whole bally lot upon my poor blameless readers here, just my introduction to the first story. It’s not perfect, but it was terrific fun to write.

THE F. OF THE S.

Into the atmospheric pea-souper of the Junior Lipstick Club smoking room, Daphne Dinmont made an appearance.

“What beasts men are,” she said, attacking a blameless armchair. “They toy with our hearts, and flit and sip like butterflies on a toot.”

“Does this mean all bets are off on an early union between yourself and Jerry Noble?” asked Trixie Steggles, who liked to keep abreast of the form.

“You bet it does!” said Daphne.

“For three weeks, he gave me the rush of a lifetime. Dinner at the Carlton, dancing at Mario’s, boating on the Serpentine. Then last Tuesday, he cancelled our lunch to visit a dying aunt in Aberdeen and I haven’t heard from him since, but Mavis Stubbs saw him at the Scarlet Centipede, dancing like a gigolo on shore leave. And now I’ve just seen him lunching at the Berkeley with Felicia Koops and that idiotic Pekingese of hers — staring lovingly into her eyes.”

“The peke’s?”

“No, the Koops’.”

“Look on the bright side,” said Lettice Albright, who, unlike the poet Blake, could happily see another’s woe and not be in sorrow too. “Perhaps the Peke will bite him.”

“Do you suppose it’s possible to bribe a Peke?” asked Daphne.

“Too unreliable,” said Trixie. “I remember at school, Veronica Turbington persuaded Miss Whemper’s Basset Hound to eat her Thucydides paper. It gorged itself on the best bits, refused to touch the worst passages, and regurgitated the remains on Miss Whemper’s mauve slippers.”

“Quite right,” said Jane Hubbard, puffing on a congenial pipe. “Nothing beats a snake. Slip one into his bedroom after dinner, let the snake do the rest.”

“Don’t be an ass,” said Trixie. “How does she get the snake into his bedroom?”

“That depends on what floor he sleeps on,” said Jane. “I met a man at Aswan who shimmied up the Old Cataract Hotel with a live cobra stuffed down his trousers.”

“That’s just the sort of low trick I’d expect from a man,” said Daphne. “Men can do whatever they like. They flit and sip, and scale walls with their trousers full of snakes. And what can we women do about it? Nothing!”

The shapely eyebrows of the smoking room rose in unison.

Jane Hubbard snorted. Hilda Gudgeon looked up from the letter she’d been writing to the MCC on proposed changes to the Leg-Before-Wicket rule. Ordinarily content to let girls be girls, she knew when a firm hand was needed.

“What rot!” said Hilda. “That sort of talk will get you struck from the club register.” The girls in the smoking room nodded in approval, eyebrows restored to normal service.

“But, what can I do about Jerry?” said Daphne, looking slightly ashamed.

“Plenty,” said Hilda. “I’d have created a scene at the Berkeley if I were you. If you can break windows, break ’em! You could try and get him back if you really want to, but he sounds like a bit of a worm to me.”

“I… I suppose he is a worm, but I thought he was my worm.”

Daphne’s lower lip trembled like an infant violinist, and Hilda gave her a commiserating wink. As one of the Junior Lipstick’s less junior members, she’d seen this sort of thing before.

“Women are just as capable as men,” said Hilda. “Remember what Kipling says about the female of the species?”

“That’s just poetry.”

“Not just poetry. I can think of at least a dozen real examples without trying.” Hilda paused thoughtfully for a while before continuing.

“Did you ever meet Eustacia Bellows? Stacey to her friends and admirers. She was always popping into the club at one time, before her troubles with Cyril Pomfrey-Waddelow.”

“Is that a person?”

“Certainly. The Shropshire Pomfrey-Waddelows are an old family. Cyril is currently making a name for himself as a poet.”

“Good for him.”

“And if you stop interrupting me, I will tell you about them.”

“Oh, go on then,” said Daphne.  

***

Fancy more f. of the s.?

Read Part II of the story here

***

I’d love to know what you think of it.

HP

 

 

 

P.G. Wodehouse recommends: A Reading List for World Book Day

‘The two twin souls gazed into each other’s eyes. There is no surer foundation for a beautiful friendship than a mutual taste in literature.’

P.G. Wodehouse

‘Strychnine In The Soup’ (Mulliner Nights)

To celebrate World Book Day, I’ve put together a little reading list of some of the books featured in Wodehouse’s writing.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

dickensGE

‘… I’m in the middle of a rather special book. Ever read Great Expectations? Dickens, you know.’

‘I know. Haven’t read it, though. Always rather funk starting on a classic, somehow. Good?’

‘My dear chap! Good’s not the word.’

The Pothunters (1902)

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

adventures_of_sherlock_holmes

‘Mr. Downing had read all the Holmes stories with great attention, and had thought many times what an incompetent ass Doctor Watson was; but, now that he had started to handle his own first case, he was compelled to admit that there was a good deal to be said in extenuation of Watson’s inability to unravel tangles.’

Mike and Psmith (1909)

‘His book was The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and the particular story, which he selected for perusal was the one entitled, “The Speckled Band.” He was not a great reader, but, when he read, he liked something with a bit of zip to it.’

Indiscretions Of Archie (1921)

Tennyson’s Idylls of the King 

She looked down. “Have you been reading? What is the book?”

“It’s a volume of Tennyson.”

“Are you fond of Tennyson?”

“I worship him,” said Sam reverently. “Those–” he glanced at his cuff–“those Idylls of the King! I do not like to think what an ocean voyage would be if I had not my Tennyson with me.”

“We must read him together. He is my favourite poet!”

“We will! There is something about Tennyson….”

“Yes, isn’t there! I’ve felt that myself so often!”

The Girl on The Boat (1922)

A Tramp Abroad by Mark Twain

‘Out of a library which was probably congested with the most awful tosh, he had stumbled first pop upon Mark Twain’s Tramp Abroad, a book which he had not read since he was a kid but had always been meaning to read again; just the sort of book, in fact, which would enable a fellow to forget the anguish of starvation until that milk-train went.’

Mr Mulliner Speaking (1929)

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

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‘You cannot copyright an idea, and times have become so hard for thriller-writers that they are after any possible new murderer like a pack of wolves.

You see, the supply of murderers is giving out. They have all been used so often. You cannot even be sure of the detective’s friend flow. Ever since Agatha Christie’s Roger Ackroyd we keep a very sharp eye on that friend. It is very lucky for Doctor Watson that he belonged to the pre-Christie era.’

Louder and Funnier (1932)

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

frank

What does a fellow’s face matter anyway?’ said Joey Cooley.

‘Exactly.’

‘Looks don’t mean a thing. Didn’t Frankenstein get married?’

‘Did he?’ said Eggy. ‘I don’t know. I never met him. Harrow man, I expect.’

Laughing Gas (1936)

Das Kapital by Karl Marx

What a curse these social distinctions are. They ought to be abolished. I remember saying that to Karl Marx once, and he thought there might be an idea for a book in it.

Quick Service (1940)

Spinoza’s Ethics

‘Bertie! This is amazing! Do you really read Spinoza?’

It’s extraordinary how one yields to that fatal temptation to swank. It undoes the best of us. Nothing, I mean, would have been simpler than to reply that she had got the data twisted and that the authoritatively annotated edition was a present for Jeeves. But, instead of doing the simple, manly, straightforward thing, I had to go and put on dog.

‘Oh, rather,’ I said, with an intellectual flick of the umbrella. ‘When I have a leisure moment, you will generally find me curled up with Spinoza’s latest.’

Joy in the Morning (1947)

And not forgetting:

The complete works of William Shakespeare

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‘Beginning by quoting from Polonius’s speech to Laertes, which a surprising number of people whom you would not have suspected of familiarity with the writings of Shakespeare seem to know, Mr Pott had gone on to say that lending money always made him feel as if he were rubbing velvet the wrong way, and that in any case he would not lend it to Pongo, because he valued his friendship too highly.’

Uncle Fred in the Springtime (1939)

‘From start to finish of every meal she soliloquized. Shakespeare would have liked her.’

The Mating Season (1949)

‘His blood pressure was high, his eye rolled in what they call a fine frenzy, and he was death-where-is-thy-sting-ing like nobody’s business.’

Jeeves in the Offing (1960)

This little compilation merely scratches the surface of literary reference in Wodehouse’s work, providing further proof, if further proof is needed, that the great comic master offers much more than a light read — he’s educational!

Happy Reading!

HP

Cover Image: P.G. Wodehouse’s reading chair and library by Honoria Plum

P.G. Wodehouse: P.I. Writer

‘The effect on her of a dark, keen-eyed man like Adrian Mulliner, who spoke well and easily of footprints, psychology and the underworld, must have been stupendous.’

‘The Smile That Wins’ (Mulliner Nights)

Great piece on Private Investigators in P.G. Wodehouse’s writing from The New Thrilling Detective blog.

The New Thrilling Detective Web Site

By Rudyard Kennedy

“Consider the case of Henry Pifield Rice… I must explain Henry early, to avoid disappointment. If I simply said he was a detective, and let it go at that, I should be obtaining the reader’s interest under false pretences. He was really only a sort of detective, a species of sleuth. At Stafford’s International Investigation Bureau, in the Strand, where he was employed, they did not require him to solve mysteries which had baffled the police. He had never measured a footprint in his life, and what he did not know about bloodstains would have filled a library.”
— a typical Wodehouse sleuth, in “Bill the Bloodhound”

 

P.G. Wodehouse (1881-1975) wrote nearly 100 books, almost all of them comic novels. He’s best known, of course, for creating Jeeves, the ultimate valet (or as he would have it, the ultimate “gentleman’s gentleman”), as well as other memorable figures…

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Reading Wodehouse: a plea for help

What Ho, Wodehouse fans,

Robert Pimm needs your help.

Does he have a complete set of the Folio Society Wodehouse?

And what should he read when he’s finished them?

I’ll post my thoughts, once I’ve gathered them, but I know you’ll have some good advice on these important questions.

Pip Pip
HP

Robert Pimm: novels, short stories and more

I need help.

I need help from Wodehouse experts, or Kenner as we call them here in Austria.

For years, I have been relishing my father’s Folio Society collection of Jeeves and Wooster stories.  I have so far read 14 of them, as reported in my blogs Aunts aren’t gentlemen – 10 quotations, Jeeves and the feudal spirit: 20 delicious quotations, and Right ho, Jeeves – 14 fruity quotations (links in bold italics are to other posts on this site).

When I started reading Wodehouse, as reported in my blog How to read P G Wodehouse: a practical guide, I received invaluable practical advice from top Wodehouse specialist Plumtopia.  I recommend her.

I have now reached the final boxed set of my father’s collection, which I find comprises six volumes set at Blandings Castle: Summer Lightning (1929); Heavy Weather (1933); Uncle Fred in the Springtime (1939)…

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Wodehouse and the Romantic Novelist (Sophie Weston)

wodehouse romances

As you know, each February Plumtopia muses upon the romances of P.G. Wodehouse to mark the anniversary of his death on St Valentine’s Day 1975. This year, I’m on a quest to discover your favourite couples from the world of Wodehouse romance. Please help me by sharing your favourites via Plumtopia, Facebook and Twitter.

And while we’re on the subject of romance,  I’d like to draw your attention to a couple of recent pieces by romance writer and LibertaBooks blogger, Sophie Weston. Sophie clearly knows her stuff — about the romance genre, as well as Wodehouse

In PGW and the Romantic Novelist, Sophie ponders whether Wodehouse was ‘…out of sympathy with the romantic novelist.’ It’s an interesting question, and Sophie’s response is well worth reading and discussing further. Before reading it, I had always considered Wodehouse as a writer of romances, without considering whether readers and writers of the romance genre would classify him the same way.

Sophie Weston’s fun follow-up piece, Rosie M Banks Interview, lets Rosie M Banks answer the question of whether Wodehouse was ‘specially unkind to romantic novelists’.

As a reader, I’ve always had more affinity for Wodehouse’s fictional mystery writer James Rodman than any of his romance novelists.

He held rigid views on the art of the novel, and always maintained that an artist with a true reverence for his craft should not descend to goo-ey love stories, but should stick austerely to revolvers, cries in the night, missing papers, mysterious Chinamen, and dead bodies — with or without gash in throat.

Honeysuckle Cottage (Meet Mr Mulliner)

When I’m not curled up with Wodehouse’s latest, I generally read classic cloak and dagger adventures or non-fiction. However, Sophie Weston is one of several romance writers I’m aware of who have a strong appreciation for Wodehouse, which makes me curious to re-examine my ideas about the genre and explore it again as a reader. I’m starting to suspect there’s some good stuff I’m missing out on.

Happy reading!

HP