The Annotated Wodehouse
Around a hundred years later, I am puzzling out for myself those little details that the contemporary readers of P.G. Wodehouse would have understood instantly.
Monday, July 8, 2013
A Wodehouse publication enthusiast
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
- In this restawrong
- Reckless Rudolf
- a Wellington nose
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.
Jack Roach (the waiter)'s rendition of the French pronunciation of restaurant.
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.
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
- ‘Farewell, Evelina, fairest of your sex.’
- on the Wiggle-Woggle
- the Hairy Ainus
- the Uji Village
- they moved slowly towards the Flip-Flap
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.’
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.’
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 http://www.100scooter.com/whohaveresearchedBrooklyntoth.htm
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 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.
This village was part of the 1910 Japan/British Exhibition at White City. Today, Uji is a city on outskirts of Kyoto.
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 ride lasted three minutes and twenty seconds, and cost sixpence.
The Flip-Flap, White City, London
Another Wodehouse annotation site
Monday, August 20, 2012
"Deep Waters" (short story)
Publication notes: First appeared in the 28 May 1910 issue of Collier’s Weekly, subsequently in the June 1910 issue of The Strand Magazine. Each magazine appearance set the story in its country of publication: Ocean City for American readers, and Marvis Bay for British readers. It was published in book form as part of The Man Upstairs collection in 1914 by Methuen & Co. As published in book form, the setting is Marvis Bay.
- Marvis Bay
- The American publication in the Illustrated Sunday Magazine of March 1916 sets ‘Wilton's Vacation’ in Rockport (perhaps a reference to the harbour town in Massachusetts). The narrator is from New York.
- 'Twas ever thus.
Wodehouse's favourite fictional British seaside resort, Marvis Bay, was an echo of the real Carbis Bay, near St Ives, Cornwall (cf. Roville-sur-Mer, which echos Colleville-sur-Mer in name and Deauville in spirit). Marvis Bay sees visits by George Callender in this story (1910), by Reggie Pepper in ‘Helping Freddie’ (1911) and by Bertie Wooster and Jeeves in the not-dissimilar ‘Fixing it for Freddie’, both of which move Marvis Bay east to Dorset; by Lord Dawlish before the start of the novel Uneasy Money (1916), which moves Marvis Bay back to Cornwall; and by the Oldest Member in ‘Ordeal by Golf’ (1919) and ‘The Heart of a Goof’ (1923).
When the short story ‘Wilton's Holiday’ (1915) was published in The Strand Magazine, it was set in Marvis Bay as well,1 transformed into Marois Bay when published in book form in the British edition of The Man With Two Left Feet (1917)—that locale's sole appearance. The change of a single letter likely represents some form of editorial second-guessing.
As mentioned in the entry for "Something to Worry About", Thomas Moore's poem ‘The Fire Worshippers’ (1817) contains the line ‘Oh! Ever thus from childhood's hour’. Wodehouse is likely quoting Charles Dickens's parody in the The Old Curiosity Shop.
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
An explanation of the hiatus
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
"Something to Worry About" (short story)
Something to Worry About
Publication notes: First appeared in the United Kingdom in the February 1913 issue of The Strand Magazine, and subsequently in the United States in the March 1913 issue of Metropolitan. It was published in book form as part of The Man Upstairs collection in 1914 by Methuen & Co.
- taken his seat in the brake for the annual outing
- 'Twas ever thus.
A brake is an open, horse-drawn, four-wheeled carriage designed for country use. The commonest form, the shooting brake, was designed to carry the driver and a footman or gamekeeper on a bench at the front facing forward, and up to six sportsmen on longitudinal benches, with their dogs, guns and game along the sides in slatted racks. The brake would evolve to become the estate wagon (UK) or station wagon (US).
Thomas Moore's poem ‘The Fire Worshippers’ (1817) contains the lines ‘Oh! Ever thus from childhood's hour / I've seen my fondest hopes decay.’ Charles Dickens in the The Old Curiosity Shop has Dick Swiveller parody the poem: ‘“It has always been the same with me,” said Mr Swiveller, “always. 'Twas ever thus—from childhood's hour I've seen my fondest hopes decay, I never loved a tree or flower but 'twas the first to fade away; I never nursed a dear Gazelle, to glad me with its soft black eye, but when it came to know me well, and love me, it was sure to marry a market-gardener.”’ Wodehouse was fond of the amended version of the phrase and used it frequently.