Tag Archives: Rosie M Banks

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

The Inimitable Jeeves (1923)

I’m not much of a ladies’ man, but on this particular morning it seemed to me that what I really wanted was some charming girl to buzz up and ask me to save her from assassins or something. So that it was a bit of an anti-climax when I merely ran into young Bingo Little, looking perfectly foul in a crimson satin tie decorated with horseshoes.

9780099513681The Inimitable Jeeves is a great place for new Wodehouse readers to discover Wodehouse’s best known characters, Bertie Wooster and his valet (or gentleman’s gentleman) Jeeves. Although it doesn’t include the first Jeeves and Wooster short story (Extricating Young Gussie) The Inimitable Jeeves is one of the earliest and best collections in the saga. It is also where we meet key personnel including Bingo Little, Honoria Glossop, her father Sir Roderick Glossop, and the romantic novelist Rosie M Banks. 

A collection of connected stories rather than a conventional novel, The Inimitable Jeeves is a book Wodehouse fans return to, dipping into favourite chapters when our troubled souls require soothing. The thirteenth chapter,  The Great Sermon Handicap, is particularly revered by readers, and compulsory inclusion in any ‘Best of Wodehouse’ collection.

In The Inimitable Jeeves, Bertie goes through a series of personal ordeals, as well as acting as confidant in the affairs of his pal, Bingo Little.

‘Is Mr Little in trouble, sir?’

‘Well, you might call it that. He’s in love. For about the fifty-third time. I ask you, Jeeves, as man to man, did you ever see such a chap?’

‘Mr Little is certainly warm-hearted, sir.’

‘Warm-hearted! I should think he has to wear asbestos vests….’

An alternative title for The Inimitable Jeeves might have been ‘The Romances of Bingo Little’.  Although Bingo does not feature in all of the episodes, his quest for a soul mate is a recurring theme throughout the book. Wodehouse opens proceedings with Bingo’s ill-fated romance with a waitress named Mabel and, after further disappointments, closes with his eventual happy union.

Bertie has matrimonial problems of his own in The Inimitable Jeeves, thanks to the interference of Aunt Agatha, who feels her nephew requires improvement. Aunt Agatha had appeared previously in ‘Extricating Young Gussie’ and she remains a force throughout the saga as one of Wodehouses’s most serious-minded characters.

‘It is young men like you, Bertie, who make the person with the future of the race at heart despair. Cursed with too much money, you fritter away in idle selfishness a life which might have been made useful, helpful and profitable. You do nothing but waste your time on frivolous pleasures. You are simply an anti-social animal, a drone. Bertie, it is imperative that you marry.’

‘But, dash it all . . .’

‘Yes! You should be breeding children to . . .’

‘No, really, I say, please!’ I said, blushing richly. Aunt Agatha belongs to two or three of these women’s clubs and she keeps forgetting she isn’t in the smoking room.

Aunt Agatha first selects Aline Hemmingway, a curate’s sister she meets while on holiday in France. Her next candidate for the future Mrs Wooster is the formidable Honoria Glossop, who proves more difficult to shake off. During their brief engagement, Bertie is fed on a diet of serious art and literature until his eyes bubble.

…She looked at me in a proprietary sort of way. ‘I think,’ she said, ‘I shall be able to make something of you, Bertie. It is true yours has been a wasted life up to the present, but you are still young , and there is a lot of good in you.’

‘No, really there isn’t.’

‘Oh, yes, there is. It simply wants bringing out…’

Jeeves finds a way to disentangle Bertie from these affairs. In the case of Honoria Glossop, he convinces Honoria’s father, Sir Roderick Glossop (the noted nerve specialist), that Bertie is mentally unhinged. This particular story was one of the best adaptations of the Jeeves and Wooster television series starring Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie. Although the series created additional scenes, characters (there is no Lady Glossop in the book) and dialogue (often erroneously attributed to Wodehouse), their adaptation was in keeping with the original, and expertly handled by Fry and Laurie.

Not all Wodehouse adaptations have been so well made, causing some people to feel that Wodehouse simply cannot be adapted. I disagree, although I appreciate the difficulty of adapting a humourist whose prose style is so integral to his comedy.  Take, for example,  this much quoted passage from The Inimitable Jeeves:

As a rule, you see, I’m not lugged into Family Rows. On the occasions when Aunt is calling to Aunt like mastodons bellowing across primeval 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.

How do you translate the joy of reading this passage on the screen? In the case of Jeeves and Wooster, they had a distinct advantage in that Bertie’s narrative could be turned into authentic dialogue. Adapting Wodehouse’s other works, predominantly written in the third-person, is more challenging and a delicate touch is required. Certainly nothing brings greater despair to the optimistic Wodehouse lover than a misguided adaptation, but we can’t expect Wodehouse adaptations to match the pleasure of reading the original. Nonetheless, it is possible to adapt Wodehouse’s marvellous plots and dialogue very successfully.

Similar problems are faced when quoting Wodehouse. A joyful passage or witty one-liner shoved out into the online universe falls pitifully short of the joy of reading the words in situ. I often struggle to select quotations to include in this blog, because a passage I love on the page often seems to lose a little of its sparkle in isolation. It seems a shame to quote a mere three sentences when the preceding seven paragraphs are full of ripping stuff. Where does one draw the line? It’s rather like hacking off a piece of Michelangelo‘s David and plopping it on the table for inspection – without the rest of him.

But quote and adapt we do, because of the joy Wodehouse brings us.

I’ve digressed rather a lot, as usual. There’s much more to The Inimitable Jeeves that I haven’t mentioned, like Bertie’s period of exile in America, and Comrade Bingo’s brief membership of the Heralds of the Red Dawn.

‘Hospitality?’ snorted the man Butt, going off in my ear like a depth-charge. He was scowling in a morose sort of manner at young Bingo and the girl, who were giggling together by the window. ‘I wonder the food didn’t turn to ashes in our mouths! Eggs! Muffins! Sardines! All wrung from the bleeding lips of the starving poor!’

‘Oh, I say! What a beastly idea!’

‘I will send you some literature on the subject of the Cause,’ said old Rowbotham. ‘And soon, I hope, we shall see you at one of our little meetings.’

Jeeves came in to clear away, and found me sitting among the ruins. It was all very well for Comrade Butt to knock the food, but he had pretty well finished the ham; and if you had shoved the remainder of the jam into the bleeding lips of the starving poor it would hardly have made them sticky.

And then there’s the incomparable ‘Purity of the Turf’, but…  I’m not going to do all the heavy spade work for you. If you haven’t read about them, you’ll just have to buzz off and read The Inimitable Jeeves for yourself. And if you have already done so, I can do no better than leave you to reflect on happy memories.

HP

An Egg, A Bean and a Crumpet

A Bean and a Crumpet were in the smoking room of the Drones Club having a quick one before lunch, when an Egg who had been seated at the writing table in the corner rose and approached them.

‘How many “r’s” in “intolerable”? he asked.

‘Two,’ said the Crumpet. ‘Why?’

‘I am writing a strong letter to the Committee,’ explained the Egg, ‘drawing their attention to the intolerable … Great Scott!’ he cried, breaking off. ‘There he goes again!’

‘All’s Well with Bingo’

from Eggs, Beans and Crumpets

Eggs, Beans and Crumpets by P.G. Wodehouse

When I started this Weekly Wodehouse wheeze, I had a vague idea of quoting a little bit of ‘his master’s voice’, to share with Plum lovers and newcomers alike, followed by a few short words of my own, expanding on the theme – a chance to develop my own writing.

But.

Re-reading Wodehouse for suitable quotes, I’m struggling to contain myself to quoting just a paragraph… or two. Wodehouse may be quotable, but it’s infernally difficult to draw a firm line and stop quoting. Today for example, I have been reading ‘All’s Well with Bingo’ from Eggs, Beans and Crumpets, which opens as quoted above. It continues as follows:

A spasm contorted his face. Outside in the passage a fresh young voice had burst into a gay song with a good deal of vo-de-o-de-o about it. The Bean cocked an attentive ear as it died away in the direction of the dining room.

‘Who is this linnet?’ he inquired.

Bingo Little, blast him. He’s always singing nowadays. That’s what I’m writing my strong letter to the Committee about – the intolerable  nuisance of this incessant heartiness of his. Because it isn’t only his singing. He slaps backs. Only yesterday he came sneaking up behind me in the bar and sloshed me between the shoulder blades, saying “Aha!” as he did so. Might have choked me. How many “s’s ” in “incessant”?’

‘Three,’ said the Crumpet.

‘Thanks,’ said the Egg.

He returned to the writing table. The Bean seemed perplexed.

“Odd,’ he said. ‘Very odd. How do you account for young Bingo carrying on like this?’

‘Just joie de vivre.

‘But he’s married. Didn’t he marry some female novelist or other?’

‘That’s right. Rosie M. Banks, authoress of Only a Factory Girl, Merveyne Keene, Clubman,Twas Once in May, and other works. You see her name everywhere. I understand she makes a packet with the pen.

‘I didn’t know married men had any joie de vivre.’

And this is just the beginning.What can I add to the conversation, once Wodehouse has woven his magic? Better to sit back and enjoy.

HP