June 10, 2003

Blandings Castle, by P.G. Wodehouse

This is Wodehouse, so you already know I think it's the most wonderful thing since sliced bread. The book includes a number of short stories set at Blandings Castle, including the first appearance of that majestic pig, the Empress of Blandings (I especially like "Lord Emsworth and the Girl Friend"); a Bobbie Wickham story I'm not sure I'd read before; and Mr. Mulliner's Hollywood stories.

Every so often I try to explain why Wodehouse is so good, and what makes him so funny; I don't believe I've ever done him justice. So I've decided to let him speak in his own words, with a few short extracts from this set of stories:

Lord Emsworth could conceive of no way in which Freddie could be of value to a dog-biscuit firm, except possibly as a taster; but he refrained from damping the other's enthusiasm by saying so.

* * * * *

It sounded to Lord Emsworth exactly like a snarl. It was a snarl. Chancing to glance floorwards, he became immediately aware, in close juxtaposition to his ankles, of what appeared to be at first sight to be a lady's muff. But, this being one of his bright afternoons, he realized in the next instant that it was no muff, but a dog of the kind which women are only too prone to leave lying about their sitting-rooms.

* * * * *

His recovery was hastened by...the spectacle of his son Frederick clasping in his arms a wife who, his lordship had never forgotten, was the daughter of probably the only millionaire in existence who had that delightful willingness to take Freddie off his hands which was, in Lord Emsworth's eyes, the noblest quality a millionaire could possess.

* * * * *

Now it has been well said that with nervous, highly-strung men like Montrose Mulliner, a sudden call upon their manhood is often enough to revolutionize their whole character. Psychologists have frequently commented on this. We are too ready, they say, to dismiss as cowards those who merely require the stimulus of the desparate emergency to bring out all their latent heroism. The crisis comes, and the craven turns magically into the paladin.

With Montrose, however, this was not the case. Ninety-nine out of a hundred of those who knew him would have scoffed at the idea of him interfering with an escaped gorilla to save the life of a child, and they would have been right.

Posted by Will Duquette at June 10, 2003 12:06 PM