The Small Bachelor

By P.G. Wodehouse

A couple of quick notes, both because I’ve got a big stack of books I’ve read cluttering up my desk, table, floor and mind, and because I want to go on with learning C++.

  • Author: P.G. Wodehouse
  • Title: The Small Bachelor
  • Pages: 204
  • Published: 1987 (1927)
  • Publisher: Penguin
  • ISBN: 0-14-008506-8

Right, The Small Bachelor is a novelisation of a musical comedy Wodehouse wrote the book for, with Jerome Kern and Guy Bolton, namely Oh Lady.

This heritage shows in many of the characters, like the small bachelor of the title, George Finch, who needs a lot of description of his exterior to convey the impression he must have made on the stage.

The story is curiously rambling for a Wodehouse, but it’s an early one. And some characters, like Hamilton Beamish the author of the famous Beamish Booklets (Read Them And Make The World Your Oyster) are delightful. Still, it’s galling that this is one of the few Wodehouses that I simply cannot read straight through; I have to skip.

Big Money

You know, when you search for “big money” on Amazon, you get 90.975 results, and only one of those is for this paperback… What are people thinking of, nowadays? Anyway, the paperback Gutenberg offers is one of those nasty 1991 vintage Penguins with horrible ragged right margins and bad covers. I’ve got a nice Ionicus Penguin, which show Lord Biskerton to his best advantage…

  • Author: P.G. Wodehouse
  • Title: Big Money
  • Pages: 240
  • Published: 1980 (1931)
  • Publisher: Penguin

What do you mean — three Wodehouses in a row and what about your ‘reading now’ list? I’ve been a bit under the weather, caught a cold, and while sniffling don’t like to burden a
cotton-wool filled head with strong stuff like Dostoievsky. Or mangle my watery eyes with the small print of my ancient copy of Dickens. So it’s Wodehouse until I’ve perked up — just started on Ice in the Bedroom.

And, well, that’s a coincidence. Ice in the Bedroom and Big Money are very, very similar books. In fact, the master repeated his old trick of writing the same book with very similar characters. Ice in the Bedroom is the 1961 rewrite of Big Money. The most important difference is that the park-like grounds of Castlewood have grown from an eighth to a quarter of an acre, that’s all.

Oh, and some characters are a little different. But there’s the secretary who is going to fall in love and get rich, the stock scheme… And the main character of these two books, the suburb Wodehouse seems to have fallen in love with.

I might just prefer Big Money because of the superior qualities of Aunt Vera, or deprecate it because Ann Moon is such a dweeb. It’s a close call — perhaps I should postpone a decision until after another reread.

See also the Russian Wodehouse Society’s page on Big Money

Summer Moonshine

Summer Moonshine (a novel outside any of the famous Wodehouse sagas) has never been, despite the presence of several memorable characters, like the Princess Dwornitzchek and her stepson Joe, one of my favourite Wodehouse novels.

  • Author: P.G. Wodehouse<
  • Title: Summer Moonshine
  • Pages: 182
  • Published: 1991 (1937)
  • Publisher: Penguin

A large part of that dislike can be attributed to the boneheaded cussedness of the stupid, retarded offspring of an unmarried eel who got hired by Penguin to design this particular series of reissues. The text is set with ragged right edges, which, as I’ve noted before, makes reading a book that’s as dialogue-intensive as any Wodehouse, a really difficult undertaking.



As for the rest — I feel, but that may have been caused by the problems mentioned above, that this is one of the less thoroughly drafted among Wodehouse’s novels. There are many plot strands, and I tend to lose oversight when reading Summer Moonshine. However, the beginning of the ending is particularly worth the effort of reading the book. The ending of the ending is quite weak; a bit out of the blue, not that that’s a problem in comedy, but in a way that makes me think Wodehouse needed a hat-and-rabbit trick to end the book, instead of having the end produced organically, as it were, by the beginning and the middle.

No Gutenberg edition, and since this book was published in 1937, the Mickey Mouse Act that Disney bought from the American Government means that there never will be one.

See also the Russian Wodehouse Society’s page on Summer Moonshine.

Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit

My copy of this perfectly formed Jeeves and Wooster story has a very nice cover of Ian Carmichael and Dennis Price in the B.B.C. T.V. series “The World of Wooster”, or so it claims. I’ve never seen the television series — but the cover certainly is evocative, even though I rather think that Bertie Wooster — despite complaints about no longer revelling in the clubs like a cub — is a little younger.

  • Author: P.G. Wodehouse
  • Title: Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit (Bertie Wooster Sees it Through)
  • Pages: 191
  • Published: 1967 (1954)
  • Publisher: New English Library

This is a relatively late Wodehouse, but not too late. I mean — all the story elements are familiar, all are finely polished, but haven’t been polished to a thin sliver, as they are in the latest books.

Let’s see, what do we have here? Bertie has a moustache, which Jeeves deprecates. Florence Craye returns her fiancee, Stilton, to store and decides once again to mould Bertie into an intellectual, which Bertie deprecates. Guests at Aunt Dahlia’s country residence, Brinkley Court, include a woman who tries to nobble Anatole. There’s a pearl necklace that needs to get stolen; and another that doesn’t need to get stolen, but does. And Spode, alias Lord Sidcup, the waistcoat-pocket dictator makes an appearance, but, since it’s after the war, has sold his stake in Eulalie Soers. And all the elements are mixed so together that suspense is stiff, but in the end, the moustache is shorn, and all is well.

See also The Russian Wodehouse Society page on Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, for a full cast of characters.

Quick Service

P.G. Wodehouse

Another of those delightful standalone novels in the vein of Uneasy Money, even though written 23 years later, about a young, likeable man who meets a young, capable girl.

  • Author: P.G. Wodehouse
  • Title: Quick Service (also: Service with a Smile)
  • Pages: 191
  • Published: 1974 (1940)
  • Publisher: Penguin

Here we have the very impetuous artist Josh Weatherby, who has a high opinion of himself, and who is in the employment of the well-known (to Wodehouse readers) J.B. Duff, the Duff of Duff and Trotter, purveyors of eatables worth eating and drinkables worth drinking.

And there’s Sally Fairmile, the impecunious fiance of Lord Holbeton. When she meets Josh in the office of J.B. Duff, they start quaffing sherry, and Josh falls in love with Sally.

Getting to the end of the book is a pleasure leavened by an extra romance or two, namely between a Beatrice Chavender and Duff and between a butler and a barman. And there’s a picture to be swiped, of course, and a pot of money to be wheedled from a trustee and other, good dependable Wodehouse fare. And in his use of the language, the master is at peak form.

Since this book dates from 1940, you won’t find a Gutenberg edition until Disney goes bust.

Uneasy Money

Uneasy Money is a Wodehouse novel that I find myself returning to time and again. It is an early novel, written 1917, and therefore available from Project Gutenberg, and isn’t part of any of the sagas Wodehouse is famous for.

  • Author: P.G. Wodehouse
  • Title: Uneasy Money
  • Pages: 190
  • Published: 1978 (1917)
  • Publisher: Penguin

Instead, we have the very sympathetic Bill Chalmers, Lord Dawlish, who is the impecunous secretary of a London club but who secretly wants  nothing better than to become an apiarist. His is affianced to a rather demanding — even mercenary — woman, and the book starts with him waiting for her for a lunch date and getting soaked for a bob; the eleventh that morning.

Uneasy Money has less of the exuberance of language that characterizes Wodehouse’s later novels, especially the Jeeves saga. But that is not to say that this is not very polished. There is maybe a lack of balance in the plot itself; some sections are too silly for words, like the Dudley Pickering scenes, others are plain touching, And, well, it is a book from 1917 and its age is starting to show a bit; nowdays introducing characters with a page or so of detailed description is no longer done (probably because books, in competition with television, have dropped the descriptive narrative in favour of the psychological investiation or something like that), and some of Elizabeth’s qualms are quaint, if nice.

Anyway, a book I read and reread if only for the pleasure of Bill’s and Elizabeth’s company; the fun of reading about lady Polly Weatherby and her zoo are a nice bonus.

Cocktail Time

By P.G. Wodehouse

Lord Ickenham is a Wodehouse character who can be counted upon to spread a bit of lightness around whenever he can escape from the stranglehold of his wife to the vast wildernesses of London.

  • Author: P.G. Wodehouse
  • Title: Cocktail Time
  • Pages: 222
  • Published: 1987 (1958)
  • Publisher: Penguin
  • ISBN: 0-14-008505-x

And by potting a particular fine topper with a brazil nut, Lord Ickenham, the antithesis of woolly Emsworth, starts a chain of events that includes the writing of a scandalous novel, several marriages, crime and general excitement. A notable book, not in the least because it presents a candid insight in the process of writing a novel (summary: it’s hard work), and publishing a novel (summary: it’s not hard work).

Anyway, head to for a full list of dramatis personae and a plot summary.

Right Ho, Jeeves

By P.G. Wodehouse

A Pelican at Blandings is the quintessential Blandings story; Right Ho, Jeeves is the quintessential Jeeves and Wooster story.

  • Author: P.G. Wodehouse
  • Title: Right Ho, Jeeves
  • Pages: 248
  • Published: 1953 (1934)
  • Publisher: Penguin

Because this is the one with the Prize-giving of Gussie Fink-Nottle. Need I say more?

Probably, because otherwise this is a very short notice, so I’ll add that this particular scene was chosen for the Oxford Book of Humor as the finest bit of writing done in the twentieth century, if I remember correctly. If I don’t no matter, since it is anyway. The finest bit of writing, I mean.

A Pelican at Blandings

By P.G. Wodehouse

A perfect gem of a Wodehouse, one of the Blandings stories I most often reread — I was surprised I hadn’t already read A Pelican at Blandings this year. But my Fading Memories log says not, so there…

  • Author: P.G. Wodehouse
  • Title: A Pelican at Blandings
  • Pages: 192
  • Published: 1980 (1969)
  • Publisher: Penguin
  • ISBN: 0 14 00 5033 7

A Pelican at Blandings is one of those soothing stories that make you wonder whether the impugnation of escapism isn’t true after all. It is a wonderful escape from a world where cabinet ministers try to pervert a consitution just to make it impossible for people to raise their children the way the Dutch constitution allows them to, a world, too, where people are told to work harder, earn less and pay more for everything they need. Anyway…

Back to the book. Disaster strikes at Blandings Castle just when everything seemed to fine, just when the snail seemed to have found its secure perch on the thorn again, and the lark its most comfortable wingbeat. Because Lady Constance returns, and she invites Alaric, Duke of Dunstable. Fortunately, Lord Emsworth has a mighty ally: his brother Galahad. Throw in some sundered hearts, a surprising impostor and a reclining nude and the cast is complete.

The alternative title, No Nudes is Good Nudes, is rare. See The Russian Wodehouse Society as usual for more details.

Jill the Reckless (The Little Warrior)

By P.G. Wodehouse

Jill the Reckless (UK title: The Little Warrior) is another of those  Wodehouses you can read for yourself with little or no trouble: it’s free on Gutenberg.

  • Author: P.G. Wodehouse
  • Title: Jill the Reckless (The Little Warrior)
  • Pages: N/A (e-text)
  • Published: 1920
  • Publisher: George H. Doran/Herbert Jenkins/Project Gutenberg
  • ISBN: N/A

Jill the Reckless is one of those early Wodehouse novels, now out of copyright, that show the master groping for his definitive form. There is a precursor of Bertie Wooster here, in the form of Freddy. There is a stuffed shirt, Derek, with a political career and a fiancee: the heroine.

This heroine is a rich girl who has all her money gambled away at a stock exchange by her guardian uncle. When her Derek obeys his mother and severs their engagement, she decides to leave London for America. There she has to earn money, and she decides to take a job in the chorus.

Naturally all ends well: Freddy marries a chorus girl, Jill marries an author (who might well be to Wodehouse what Judge Dee was to van Gulik) and Derek goes home, defeated, deserted even by the loyal Freddy.

In a sense, this book is a sequel to the much more polished Damsel in Distress (includes e-text). Jill the Reckless suffers from peripatheticity a bit though, with one third of the book set in various places in London, a few chapters in locations in the United States and the remainder in New York.

Also distracting is the ending; yes, I am glad Freddie and Maudie decide to get married, but we don’t get to see their reunion, while we do get to see Freddie spreading happiness and largesse to her in London. Besides, it is not clear whether Maudie knows Freddie hasn’t lost all his money as she thinks when he joins her theatre troupe. Means they’re marrying on false terms, to my mind.

Furthermore, one can see Wodehouse groping towards the kind of girl he fills his later work with: straightforward, intelligent (always excepting the Bassett), decisive, brave women. Jill is all that, until the ending, when she all of a sudden turns into a bit of a droopy drip.