Monday, July 8, 2013

A Wodehouse publication enthusiast

It would be difficult to overpraise Neil Midkiff for his efforts in tracking the publication of the Wodehouse short stories and novels. I discovered this resource this weekend just past, and am grateful for its existence. As soon as I had discovered it, I used it to correct the impression that ‘Wilton's Holiday’ existed only in a British locale. I'm sure it will prove even more useful in the future.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

"By Advice of Counsel" (short story)

By Advice of Counsel

Publication notes: First appeared in the United Kingdom in the July 1910 issue of The Strand Magazine and subsequently in the United States in the September 1910 issue of Pictorial Review. It was published in book form as part of The Man Upstairs collection in 1914 by Methuen & Co.

  • Lord Percy
  • Wodehouse didn’t choose the existing expression ‘Lord Muck’ for an ordinary man with aristocratic pretensions, perhaps because it was too earthy for him, or perhaps because it was too well-worn. But why Percy? It seems that Wodehouse associated the name with the aristocratically ridiculous (cf. Percy FitzMoatygrange, Lord Percy Whipple, and most particularly the reference to Lord Percy Something in the 1917 short story ‘Jeeves and the Hard-boiled Egg’ and perhaps also Sir Percival Something in "Something to Worry About").
    It is just barely possible that Percy (as a surname rather than a given name) holds this association for Wodehouse because of the title Baron Percy, one of a very few baronies created by error—in this case, in 1722. Therefore the term here may refer to someone who believes himself entitled to preferential treatment but who is not a ‘real’ lord. On the other hand, it may be a sarcastic use of the name of someone generally admired as worthy of preferential treatment—such as General Lord Henry Hugh Manvers Percy, VC, KCB (1817–1877)—to refer to someone much less worthy.
  • In this restawrong
  • Jack Roach (the waiter)'s rendition of the French pronunciation of restaurant.
  • Reckless Rudolf
  • I take this to be the sort of name used in popular entertainment such as music hall sketches, melodramas, Punch cartoons, or possibly even advertisements. Not to be confused with Sensible Sam's nemesis Reckless Rudolph, both of the 1936 American driving safety film “We Drivers”, not that anyone ever would.
  • a Wellington nose
  • That is to say, a long or large nose—comically so, in the case of a parrot—presumably after Field Marshall Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington (1769–1852), whose nicknames included ‘Old Nosey’ and ‘the Iron Duke’. I am unable to cite a formal definition, but note that the term was used by Virginia Woolf in her 1922 novel Jacob's Room. The phrase's earliest recorded use may be the 1833 entry from the journal of Jane Maria Barlow, whose description of the 26-year-old Marquis of Douro reads in part ‘he is handsome, between dark and fair with a Wellington nose’. This comment is perhaps not to be wondered at given that the Marquis of Douro is better known as Major (later Lieutenant-General) Arthur Richard Wellesley, later second Duke of Wellington—that is, the eldest son of the Iron Duke.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

"When Doctors Disagree" (short story)

When Doctors Disagree

Publication notes: First appeared in the December 1910 issue of The Strand Magazine. It was published in book form as part of The Man Upstairs collection in 1914 by Methuen & Co.

The first half of the story is set in the fictional Hotel Belvoir (pronounced ‘Beever’—and we might as well claim that Wodehouse named it for Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire; who's to stop us?). The latter half of the story is set in the White City area of London, near Shepherd’s Bush, at the time of the 1910 Japan/British Exhibition there, which ran from May to October.

  • Welsh revival meetings
  • The Welsh Christian revival lasted from 1904 to 1905, and is associated chiefly with Evan Roberts. Revival meetings were enough part of the British common memory for Wodehouse to reference them at least as late as 1923, with the publication of ‘The Exit of Battling Billson.’
  • ‘Farewell, Evelina, fairest of your sex.’
  • In Frances Burney's 1778 novel, Evelina: Or The History of A Young Lady's Entrance into the World, Evelina records that Lord Orville writes her a note calling her ‘most charming of thy sex’ and, later, Sir Clement Willoughby addresses her as ‘Loveliest of thy sex.’
  • on the Wiggle-Woggle
  • An amusement ride, as is reasonably obvious from context. A postcard from the Japan/British Exhibition at White City shows the Wiggle-Woggle to be an enormous incline. Two to four people climbed into a vehicle like an oversized bucket, and rode in that to the bottom, being buffeted along the descent by curved guide rails.
    Wiggle Woggle, Japan-British Exhibition
    Fans of the American television game show ‘The Price Is Right’ can picture the Wiggle-Woggle as a less jarring version of the prize game Plinko, with a much gentler incline, and guide rails instead of guide pegs. I make the American reference because it is possible the ride was imported from Coney Island in New York; there is a 1907 reference to the ride at
    The Grey River Argus of 14 September 1911 noted on page 8 in an article titled ‘Eton and Harrow. Old Boys at the White City’ that ‘One elderly man insisted on going on the Wiggle-Woggle with his two sons seven consecutive times, and it was they who, shaked by so much “woggling,” persuaded him at last to desist.’ This elderly man is clearly a spiritual cousin of Arthur, who shares the same ‘light-hearted abandon on the Wiggle-Woggle,’ and it pleases me to think that the elderly man's pleasure might have won him the supreme accolade of the approval of Gally Threepwood and Uncle Fred (or to give him his full title, Frederick Altamont Cornwallis Twistleton, fifth Earl of Ickenham).
  • the Hairy Ainus
  • The Ainu are indigenous Japanese people. The men were noted among Japanese for their comparatively abundant facial and body hair. Representative members were on display as part of the Ainu home village at the 1910 Japan/British Exhibition at White City.
  • the Uji Village
  • This village was part of the 1910 Japan/British Exhibition at White City. Today, Uji is a city on outskirts of Kyoto.
  • they moved slowly towards the Flip-Flap
  • An amusement ride, as is (again) reasonably obvious from context. Norman Anderson’s 1992 book Ferris Wheels: An Illustrated History describes the Flip-Flap as being ‘a combination Ferris Wheel and tower.’ A 1908 postcard of Franco-British Exhibition at White City (two years before the story was published) shows the Flip-Flap to be a ride with two separate arms with large covered platforms.
    Flip-Flap, Franco-British Exhibition, London, 1908 []
    These platforms lifted riders up and then down in a semi-circle, giving them views while at the top of the arc of Windsor Castle and Crystal Palace.
    View from Flip Flap, Japan-British Exhibition, London, 1910
    The motion of the ride can be deduced from its name but a clearer idea of its path can be had by contrasting the position of the ride in a second image.
    The Flip-Flap, White City, London
    The ride lasted three minutes and twenty seconds, and cost sixpence.

Another Wodehouse annotation site

What say we ignore the fact that I showed up late to the party and embrace the fact that I showed up at all? It is with considerable relief that I learned of another Wodehouse annotation website, Madame Eulalie’s Pelham Eulogy. Not only does it save me the trouble of annotating 31 of the master's titles, but it points up the fact that this is a job for more than one person.