Tag Archives: Jane Hubbard

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

 

 

 

More Wodehouse Games

The Girl on the Boat by P.G. WodehouseRecently, over the morning eggs and b., I stumbled across a thoughtful piece by Alessandro Giuliani called Wodehouse Game. I was prompted to reply, but when my comments hit the 1200-word mark – and diverged substantially from the original piece,  I felt the decent thing to do was post it here, rather than infest someone else’s blog with my rambling.

The premise of Alessandro Giuliani’s piece is that men are repelled by women who are smarter or physically more dominant than them. P.G. Wodehouse’s Florence Craye is provided as an example:

The root of the trouble was that she was one of those intellectual girls, steeped to the gills in serious purpose, who are unable to see a male soul without wanting to get behind it and shove.

Joy in the Morning

Florence Craye is a well-chosen example that illustrates Alessandro Giuliani’s point. She is one of many characters from the world of fiction (male and female) who illustrate the adage that beauty is only skin deep. The premise gives Wodehouse some good plots involving Bertie Wooster and his fellow drones. They are the kind of chumps we can believe would idolise a woman’s exterior and find themselves entangled, without first taking due care to investigate her character.

But there are also examples from Wodehouse’s world that exemplify the opposite view – that men can and do fall in love with women who are their intellectual and physical equals, or betters.

Wodehouse created a diverse range of female characters in over 90+ published works, of whom Florence Craye is just one example. His heroines are frequently intelligent, without repulsing the men around them. Joan Valentine (Something Fresh) and Eve Halliday (Leave it to Psmith) spring to mind as two of my favourite examples, but there are many Wodehouse heroines, sympathetically written without censure from the author for being clever or dominant characters.

In The Girl On The Boat, feeble young Eustace Hignett falls in love with the stronger and more capable Jane Hubbard, an African explorer. Their mutual adoration and romance is delightfully drawn by Wodehouse. Jane’s strength and cool headedness is exactly what Eustace needs, and Wodehouse presents them as a perfect and natural fit for each other – there is no suggestion that Eustace has been trapped, or has any cause to resents his union with a dominant female.

…Eustace was lying in bed, listening to Jane Hubbard as she told the story of how an alligator had once got into her tent while she was camping on the banks of the Issawassi River in Central Africa. Ever since he had become ill, it had been the large-hearted girl’s kindly practice to soothe him to rest with some such narrative from her energetic past.

‘And what happened then?’ asked Eustace, breathlessly.

He had raised himself on one elbow in his bed. His eyes shone excitedly from a face which was almost the exact shape of an Association football; for he had reached the stage of mumps when the patient begins to swell as though somebody were inflating him with a bicycle -pump.

‘Oh, I jabbed him in the eye with a pair of nail-scissors, and he went away!’ said Jane Hubbard.

‘You know, you’re wonderful!’ cried Eustace. ‘Simply wonderful!’

Jane Hubbard flushed a little beneath her tan. She loved his pretty enthusiasm. He was so genuinely stirred by what were to her the merest commonplaces of life.

‘Why, if an alligator got into my tent,’ said Eustace, ‘I simply wouldn’t know what to do! I should be nonplussed.’

The Girl on the Boat

Most of the criticisms I read about Wodehouse’s portrayal of women are put forward by people who haven’t read much Wodehouse beyond the Jeeves stories. These stories are written in the wonderful, half-witted narrative voice of Bertie Wooster — a unique comedic creation who cannot seriously be considered a mouthpiece for his creator’s personal views. Nor are his relationships with women the only type of male-female relationships in Wodehouse’s fictional world.

I’ve read Wodehouse’s published works several times over and I find him a great egalitarian. His cast of characters includes heroes, heroines, blighters and stinkers –of all shapes and sizes, age and genders. The behaviour and opinions of his characters can be used to exemplify a wide range of contradictory world views. Provided we don’t take it too seriously, this ‘Wodehouse Game’ can be fun and instructive to play.

HP

Wodehouse fans needed for Valentine series: The Great Wodehouse Romances

This Valentine’s Day, it will be 39 years since the death of P.G. Wodehouse. To mark the occasion, I am hoping to post a series of pieces on love and romance in the world of P. G. Wodehouse. It’s an ambitious task and I’m eager for other Wodehouse lovers to get involved.

Specifically, I’m keen to receive pieces on the theme of Wodehouse and love. I’m especially interested in covering the great romances of Wodehouse. Who are your favourite Wodehouse couples? What makes them special? I asked Fans of P G Wodehouse on Facebook – their favourites include:

  • Psmith and Eve Halliday (Leave it to Psmith)
  • Bingo Little and Rosie M Banks (The Inimitable Jeeves)
  • Dolly and Soapy Molloy
  • Madeline Bassett and Gussie Fink Nottle*
  • Madeline Bassett and Roderick Spode
  • Gussie Fink Nottle and Emerald Stoker
  • Stiffy Bing and Stinker Pinker
  • Archie and Lucille Moffam
  • Aunt Dahlia & Uncle Tom
  • Sally Fairmile and Joss Weatherby
  • Sally Nicholas and Lancelot ‘Ginger’ Kemp (The Adventures of Sally)
  • Ashe Marson & Joan Valentine
  • Ronnie Fish and Sue Brown
  • Anne Benedick & Jeff Miller
  • Pongo Twistleton and Sally Painter
  • Aunt Constance and Jimmy Schoonmaker
  • Lord Emsworth and the girlfriend
  • Lord Emsworth and the Empress of Blandings

* A contentious vote, as both end up with other mates.

What do you think?
Like many of you, Eve and Psmith are a favourite of mine. I also have a soft spot for Eustace Highnet and Jane Hubbard from The Girl on the Boat (1922).

If you would like to contribute a tribute to your favourite couple, or some other aspect of the theme of Wodehouse and love, please do send it to me. By all means write at length, but even a few paragraphs would suffice. You will naturally be attributed as the author, with much thanks and gratitude. Alternatively you could write on the theme at your own blog or webpage, and paste a link in the comments so I can reblog it here at Plumtopia.

This is an ambitious undertaking, but I think even a modest response will be a wonderful way to celebrate Plum this Valentine’s Day.

HP

Wodehouse’s women: in the eye of the beholder

girl on the boatWodehouse offers so much more to female readers than he is usually given credit for. A few months ago, I responded to criticism of Indian Summer of an Uncle by Janet Cameron (see my case for the defence). I feel sad that Cameron’s cursory appraisal of perceived gender issues has blinded her to the exquisite joys of his work. So today, I want to talk about why Wodehouse is a great writer of, and for, women.

First, Wodehouse presents readers with heroines who are full of pep and ginger;  independent, sometimes feisty, characters who frequently outsmart the men. What a refreshing change this makes from the kind of insipid, helpless females we so often see in romantic fiction (often created by women writers).

And I am thrilled to find other female readers who feel the same. In her excellent piece P.G. Wodehouse, Feminist’, Marilee Scot discusses Wodehouse heroine Joan Valentine, who appears in Something Fresh (1915). Marilee says,

“…the woman has already had an adventurous life: she’s worked a variety of jobs (including magazine-writing), lives alone in a London flat, introduces herself to the young man she’ll eventually marry, and has excellent ideas for scarab-stealing.”

My favourite Wodehouse heroine, Jane Hubbard (The Girl on the Boat, 1921) is a crack shot with an elephant gun. Nor are feminine youth and beauty prerequisites for romance in Wodehouse’s world. His women find love regardless of age, class, shape or size. ‘Plus-sized’ Maudie Stubbs is a widow of mature age, a butler’s niece, former barmaid, and Detective Agency proprietress. She is touchingly reunited with former flame ‘Tubby Parsloe’ (now Sir Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe) who returns her affection, preferring her to the young woman he’d been about to marry. In Galahad at Blandings (1964), Lord Emsworth’s nephew Wilfred Allsop falls in love with his Uncle’s ‘pig-girl’ Monica Simmons, whose solid build and agricultural occupation could hardly be less feminine. Wilfred Allsop objects strongly when his friend Tipton ‘Tippy’ Plimsoll points this out.

“I’m sorry you think she looks like an all-in wrestler,’ he said stiffly. ‘To me she seems to resemble one of those Norse goddesses. However , be that as it may, I love her, Tippy. I fell in love with her at first sight.’ Recalling the picture of Miss Simmons in smock and trousers with a good deal of mud on her face, Tipton found this difficult to believe, but he was sympathetic.”

In Wodehouse’s art, as in life, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This puts him above most writers I know, male or female. who rarely take the trouble to create ‘unattractive’ female characters, let alone make them central figures in romance. Of course Wodehouse offers plenty of attractive women too. All this makes Wodehouse a terrific writer of, and for, women (Terry Pratchett is another) and it’s hardly surprising to learn that he has a large and enthusiastic female following. His fans include Dr Sophie Ratcliffe from the University of Oxford, who edited P. G. Wodehouse: A life in Letters. Fittingly, she dedicated the book:

For all Wodehouse’s heroines,

imaginary and real, especially Leonora.

The desert island pickings of a quadragenarian

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.

The Man with Two Left Feet (1917)

I feel much like Henry did, as I glance in the mirror to inspect the remains of my former self on the eve of what I’ll just call a ‘significant’ birthday.  But I shall resist the urge to impersonate the great Russian novelists, and reflect instead upon some of my favourite Wodehouse moments. I have selected five favourite novels to share, representing one for each completed decade, and one for the future. I do hope you will indulge me.

1953 Mike and Psmith (second story from the original Mike)My first choice is a school story, originally published in The Captain, and then in book format under aliases including Mike, The Lost Lambs, Enter Psmith, and Mike and Psmith. Despite my disinclination for the genre, I’ve read it over 20 times and it never fails to grip. It also introduces my favourite Wodehouse hero –  a specimen so close to my ideal man it’s as though I’d drawn up the specifications myself.  His comrades call him Psmith. The P is silent, as in Pshrimp.

A very long, thin youth, with a solemn face and immaculate clothes, was leaning against the mantelpiece. As Mike entered, he fumbled in his top left waistcoat pocket, produced an eyeglass attached to a cord, and fixed it in his right eye. With the help of this aid to vision he inspected Mike in silence for a while, then, having flicked an invisible speck of dust from the left sleeve of his coat, he spoke.

“Hullo,” he said. He spoke in a tired voice.

Mike and Psmith (1908)

Leave it to Psmith

If forced at knifepoint to select my favourite Wodehouse work, I would chose  Leave it to Psmith. Most critics would agree that, in 1923, Wodehouse’s greatest writing was still ahead of him, but Leave it to Psmith holds a special place in my heart for delivering Psmith (in his last appearance) to Blandings Castle – under an alias of course – to match wits with The Efficient Baxter.

“I don’t like poets as a rule. But this fellow’s so different from the other poets I’ve met. Different altogether. And,” said Lord Emsworth with not a little heat, “I strongly object to Baxter throwing flower-pots at him. I won’t have Baxter throwing flower-pots at my guests,” he said firmly; for Lord Emsworth, though occasionally a little vague, was keenly alive to the ancient traditions of his family regarding hospitality.

Leave it to Psmith (1923)

The Mating Season by PG Wodehouse

It is impossible to overlook the priceless characters and concatenations of Jeeves and Wooster, but making a choice is very difficult. The Inimitable Jeeves well deserves its place as a classic, and I recommend it as an excellent starting place for anyone looking to discover Wodehouse. With much difficulty, I have opted for The Mating Season, which sees Bertie impersonating Gussie Fink-Nottle at Deverill Hall, home of Esmond Haddock and his five aunts.

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 which one brings to them, I pulled myself together.

The Mating Season (1940)

Every line of the Mating Season is a perfect slice of Wodehouse, every scene as fresh and snappy as the first time read. I have attempted several times to read aloud the chapter describing the village concert, but it always reduces me to an inaudible hysteria. The concert begins with the Rev. Sidney Pirbright, Uncle to Corky and Catsmeat, who is described as “(a) tall, drooping man, looking as if he had been stuffed in a hurry by an incompetent taxidermist…” Every act that follows is sheer delight.

Unlike her sister Muriel, who had resembled a Criterion barmaid of the old school, Poppy Kegley-Bassington was long and dark and supple, with a sinuous figure suggestive of a snake with hips; one of those girls who do rhythmic dances at the drop of a hat and can be dissuaded from doing them only with a meat-axe.

The Mating Season

And there are few things in this life that please me as much as the Pat and Mike knockabout cross-talk act of Gussie Fink-Nottle and Catsmeat Potter-Pirbright. As well as the book, I can thoroughly recommend the audiobook version narrated by the late Jonathan Cecil, a consummate professional who reads without hysterics.

The Girl on the Boat by P.G. WodehouseI have not touched on the delights of Ukridge, Mulliner, or the Oldest Member here. They are not forgotten, but I am compelled to select The Girl on the Boat as my fourth choice. It opens with the strong-willed theosophist Mrs Horace Hignett, who pinches her son’s trousers to prevent his elopement with Wilhelmina Bennett. And a good thing too, for it frees young Eustace to be wooed by the admirable Jane Hubbard (a special Wodehouse heroine).

…Eustace was lying in bed, listening to Jane Hubbard as she told the story of how an alligator had once got into her tent while she was camping on the banks of the Issawassi River in Central Africa…

“And what happened then?” Asked Eustace, breathlessly.

He had raised himself on one elbow in his bed. His eyes shone excitedly from a face which was almost the exact shape of an Association football; for he had reached the stage of mumps when the patient began to swell as though somebody were inflating him with a bicycle pump.

“Oh, I jabbed him in the eye with a pair of nail-scissors, and he went away!” said Jane Hubbard.

“You know, you’re wonderful!” cried Eustace. “Simply wonderful!”

Jane Hubbard flushed a little beneath her tan. She loved his pretty enthusiasm.  He was so genuinely stirred by what were to her the merest commonplaces of life.

“Why, if an alligator got into my tent,” said Eustace, “I simply wouldn’t know what to do! I should be nonplussed.”

“Oh, it’s just a knack,” said Jane, carelessly. “You soon pick it up.”

“Nail-scissors!”

“It ruined them unfortunately. They were never any use again. For the rest of the trip I had to manicure myself with a hunting spear.”

The Girl on The Boat (1921)

Although the romance of Eustace and Jane is not the central affair of The Girl on the Boat, they are one of my favourite Wodehouse couples, marvelously portrayed by Richard Briers and Sheila Hancock in a 1962 film adaptation. The film is worth watching, despite some inexcusable departures from the original – much funnier – plot.

FinallyHeavy Weather by P.G. Wodehouse, to Blandings. I love every word of the saga, so choosing a favourite is impossible. I’ve picked Heavy Weather because the 1995 television adaptation is my favourite Wodehouse adaptation (Richard Briers again, this time as Galahad, accompanied by Peter O’Toole as Lord Emsworth). Heavy Weather closes with the Empress of Blandings in her sty, in a state of simple contentment that epitomises the Plumtopian ideal – a relaxed mental state that I would do well to emulate.

Empress of Blandings stirred in her sleep and opened an eye. She thought she had heard the rustle of a cabbage-leaf, and she was always ready for cabbage-leaves, no matter how advanced the hour. Something came bowling across the straw, driven by the night breeze.

It was not a cabbage-leaf, only a sheet of paper with writing on it, but she ate it with no sense of disappointment. She was a philosopher and could take things as they came. Tomorrow was another day, and there would be cabbage-leaves in the morning.

Heavy Weather (1933)

In selecting just five works, I am committing the unpardonable sin of overlooking 90 or so others. It has been said, by a very wise bird in Facebook’s Wodehouse community, that choosing one’s favourite Wodehouse is like choosing between your children. But let me assure you that, like the male codfish, I love them all.

HP