P. G. Wodehouse
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The Man Upstairs (1914)
- Routine is the death to heroism.
- It is a good rule in life never to apologize. The right sort of people do not want apologies, and the wrong sort take a mean advantage of them.
- Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, 'It might have been.' (quoting John Greenleaf Whittier)
Psmith, Journalist (1915)
- "Elementary, my dear Watson, elementary," murmured Psmith. (Earlier usage of the precise words "Elementary, my dear Watson" has been found in the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.)
- "Work, the what's-its-name of the thingummy and the thing-um-a-bob of the what d'you-call-it."
- So was victory turned into defeat, and Billy's jaw became squarer and his eye more full of the light of battle than ever.
Something Fresh (1915)
- His was a life which lacked, perhaps, the sublimer emotions which raised Man to the level of the gods, but it was undeniably an extremely happy one. He never experienced the thrill of ambition fulfilled, but, on the other hand, he never knew the agony of ambition frustrated. His name, when he died, would not live for ever in England's annals; he was spared the pain of worrying about this by the fact that he had no desire to live for ever in England's annals. He was possibly as nearly contented a human being can be in this century of alarms and excursions.
- The village of Market Blandings is one of those sleepy hamlets which modern progress has failed to touch... The church is Norman, and the intelligence of the majority of the natives palaeozoic.
The Man with Two Left Feet (1917)
- At five minutes to eleven on the morning named he was at the station, a false beard and spectacles shielding his identity from the public eye. If you had asked him he would have said that he was a Scotch business man. As a matter of fact, he looked far more like a motor-car coming through a haystack.
- ‘As a sleuth you are poor. You couldn’t detect a bass-drum in a telephone-booth.’
- Henry glanced hastily at the mirror. Yes, he did look rather old. He must have overdone some of the lines on his forehead. He looked something between a youngish centenarian and a nonagenarian who had seen a good deal of trouble.
- There are some things a chappie's mind absolutely refuses to picture, and Aunt Julia singing 'Rumpty-tiddley-umpty-ay' is one of them.
Piccadilly Jim (1918)
- He wore the unmistakable look of a man about to be present at a row between women, and only a wet cat in a strange backyard bears itself with less jauntiness than a man faced by such a prospect.
The Adventures of Sally (1922)
- And she's got brains enough for two, which is the exact quantity the girl who marries you will need.
- The fascination of shooting as a sport depends almost wholly on whether you are at the right or wrong end of the gun.
- A man's subconscious self is not the ideal companion. It lurks for the greater part of his life in some dark den of its own, hidden away, and emerges only to taunt and deride and increase the misery of a miserable hour.
- At the age of eleven or thereabouts women acquire a poise and an ability to handle difficult situations which a man, if he is lucky, manages to achieve somewhere in the later seventies.
- Boyhood, like measles, is one of those complaints which a man should catch young and have done with, for when it comes in middle life it is apt to be serious.
- Has anybody ever seen a drama critic in the daytime? Of course not. They come out after dark, up to no good.
- He trusted neither of them as far as he could spit, and he was a poor spitter, lacking both distance and control.
- It was one of those cold, clammy, accusing sort of eyes--the kind that makes you reach up to see if your tie is straight: and he looked at me as I were some sort of unnecessary product which Cuthbert the Cat had brought in after a ramble among the local ash-cans.
- It was a cold, disapproving gaze, such as a fastidious luncher who was not fond of caterpillars might have directed at one which he had discovered in his portion of salad...
The Girl on the Boat (1922)
- Dark hair fell in a sweep over his forehead. He looked like a man who would write vers libre, as indeed he did.
The Clicking Of Cuthbert (1922)
- Love has had a lot of press-agenting from the oldest times; but there are higher, nobler things than love.
- "The Clicking of Cuthbert" (The title-story; the book is a collection of short stories)
- He was not a man who prattled readily, especially in a foreign tongue. He gave the impression that each word was excavated from his interior by some up-to-date process of mining.
- "The Clicking of Cuthbert"
- ... "someone tried to assasinate Lenin with a revolver. That is our (Russia's) great national sport, you see."
- "The Clicking of Cuthbert"
- ... Vladimir Brusiloff proceeded to sum up. "No novelists any good except me. Sovietski--yah! Nastikoff--bah! I spit me of zem all. No novelists anywhere any good except me. P. G. Wodehouse and Tolstoi not bad. Not good, but not bad. No novelists any good except me."
- "The Clicking of Cuthbert"
- "What I want to know is what a fellow does when he plays golf. Tell me in as few words as you can just what it's all about."
--"You hit a ball with a stick until it falls into a hole."
- "The Heel of Achilles"
- [Millionaire-financier Vincent Jopp said:] "Go out and buy me a set of clubs, a red jacket, a cloth cap, a pair of spiked shoes, and a ball."
"Certainly. What need is there of more?"
--"It sometimes happens," I explained, "that a player who is learning the game fails to hit the ball straight, and then he often loses it in the rough at the side of the fairway."
"Absurd!" said Vincent Jopp. "If I set out to drive my ball straight, I shall drive it straight."
- "The Heel of Achilles"
The Inimitable Jeeves (1923)
- As a rule, you see, I'm not lugged into Family Rows. On the occasions when Aunt is calling 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. It's one of the advantages I get from being a bachelor - and, according to my nearest and dearest, practically a half-witted bachelor at that.
- It was my Uncle George who discovered that alcohol was a food well in advance of modern medical thought.
- I turned to Aunt Agatha, whose demeanour was now rather like that of one who, picking daisies on the railway, has just caught the down express in the small of the back.
- Jeeves lugged my purple socks out of the drawer as if he were a vegetarian fishing a caterpillar out of his salad.
- I once got engaged to his daughter Honoria, a ghastly dynamic exhibit who read Nietzsche and had a laugh like waves breaking on a stern and rockbound coast.
- Anybody can talk me round. If I were in a Trappist monastery, the first thing that would happen would be that some smooth performer would lure me into some frightful idiocy against my better judgment by means of the deaf-and-dumb language.
- ‘Alf Todd,’ said Ukridge, soaring to an impressive burst of imagery, ‘has about as much chance as a one-armed blind man in a dark room trying to shove a pound of melted butter into a wild-cat’s ear with a red-hot needle.’
- Whenever I meet Ukridge’s Aunt Julia I have the same curious illusion of having just committed some particularly unsavoury crime and—what is more—of having done it with swollen hands, enlarged feet, and trousers bagging at the knee on a morning when I had omitted to shave.
- He resembled a minor prophet who had been hit behind the ear with a stuffed eel-skin.
- He committed mayhem upon his person. He did everything to him that a man can do who is hampered with boxing gloves.
Carry On, Jeeves (1925)
- 'Yes, sir,' said Jeeves in a low, cold voice, as if he had been bitten in the leg by a personal friend.
- Honoria, you see, is one of those robust, dynamic girls with the muscles of a welterweight and a laugh like a squadron of cavalry charging over a tin bridge. A beastly thing to face over the breakfast table. Brainy, moreover.
- The light from the big window fell right on the picture. I took a good look at it. Then I shifted a bit nearer and took another look. Then I went back to where I had been at first, because it hadn't seemed quite so bad from there.
- "Well?" said Corky, anxiously.
- I hesitated a bit.
- "Of course, old man, I only saw the kid once, and then only for a moment, but -- but it *was* an ugly sort of kid wasn't it, if I remember rightly?"
- "As ugly as that?"
- I looked again, and honesty compelled me to be frank.
- "I don't see how it could have been, old chap."
The Heart of a Goof (1926)
- Dedication: To my daughter Leonora without whose never-failing sympathy and encouragement this book would have been finished in half the time.
- While they were content to peck cautiously at the ball, he never spared himself in his efforts to do it a violent injury.
- Blizzard was of the fine old school of butlers. His appearance suggested that for fifteen years he had not let a day pass without its pint of port. He radiated port and pop-eyed dignity. He had splay feet and three chins, and when he walked his curving waistcoat preceded him like the advance guard of some royal procession.
- Bradbury Fisher shuddered from head to foot, and his legs wobbled like asparagus stalks.
Mr Mulliner Speaking (1929)
- [of a character in "The Man Who Gave Up Smoking" who is suffering from a hangover] ... the noise of the cat stamping about in the passage outside caused him exquisite discomfort.
Summer Lightning (1929)
- A certain critic—for such men, I regret to say, do exist—made the nasty remark about my last novel that it contained ‘all the old Wodehouse characters under different names’. He has probably now been eaten by bears, like the children who made mock of the prophet Elisha: but if he still survives he will not be able to make a similar charge against Summer Lightning. With my superior intelligence, I have outgeneralled this man by putting in all the old Wodehouse characters under the same names. Pretty silly it will make him feel, I rather fancy. (From preface)
- At this moment, the laurel bush, which had hitherto not spoken, said "Psst!"
- This done, he felt a little—not much, but a little—better. Before, he would have gladly murdered Beach and James and danced on their graves. Now, he would have been satisfied with straight murder.
- When you have just been told that the girl you love is definitely betrothed to another, you begin to understand how Anarchists must feel when the bomb goes off too soon.
Very Good, Jeeves (1930)
- The Right Hon. was a tubby little chap who looked as if he had been poured into his clothes and had forgotten to say `When!'
- My Aunt Dahlia has a carrying voice... If all other sources of income failed, she could make a good living calling the cattle home across the Sands of Dee.
- She fitted into my biggest armchair as if it had been built round her by someone who knew they were wearing armchairs tight about the hips that season.
- Unseen, in the background, Fate was quietly slipping the lead into the boxing-glove.
- In one second, without any previous training or upbringing, he had become the wettest man in Worcestershire.
- 'The modern young man,' said Aunt Dahlia, 'is a congenital idiot and wants a nurse to lead him by the hand and some strong attendant to kick him regularly at intervals of a quarter of an hour.'
- One of the first lessons life teaches us is that on these occasions of back-chat between the delicately-nurtured a man should retire into the offing, curl up in a ball, and imitate the prudent tactics of the opossum, which, when danger is in the air, pretends to be dead, frequently going to the length of hanging out crêpe and instructing its friends to stand round and say what a pity it all is.
- I can't stand Paris. I hate the place. Full of people talking French, which is a thing I bar. It always seems to me so affected.
- He groaned slightly and winced, like Prometheus watching his vulture dropping in for lunch.
Thank You, Jeeves (1934)
- ’Oh, yes, he thinks a lot of you. I remember his very words. 'Mr Wooster, miss' he said 'is, perhaps, mentally somewhat negligible but he has a heart of gold’
Right Ho, Jeeves (1934)
- "You will agree with me that he is not everybody's money."
- "There may be something in what you say, sir."
- "Cleopatra wouldn't have liked him."
- "Possibly not, sir."
- You know how it is with some girls. They seem to take the stuffing right out of you. I mean to say, there is something about their personality that paralyses the vocal cords and reduces the contents of the brain to cauliflower.
- Scarcely had I entered the sitting-room when I found ... what appeared at first sight to be the Devil, A closer scrutiny informed me that it was Gussie Fink-Nottle, dressed as Mephistopheles.
- We do not tell old friends beneath our roof-tree that they are an offence to the eyesight.
- Gussie, a glutton for punishment, stared at himself in the mirror.
- The female in question was a sloppy pest
- There is enough sadness in life without having fellows like Gussie Fink-Nottle going about in sea boots.
- A slight throbbing about the temples told me that this discussion had reached saturation point.
- I consider that of all the dashed silly, drivelling ideas I ever heard in my puff this is the most blithering and futile. It won't work. Not a chance.
- And a moment later there was a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and the relative had crossed the threshold at fifty m.p.h. under her own steam.
- My Aunt Agatha, the curse of the Home Counties and a menace to one and all.
- She cried in a voice that hit me between the eyebrows and went out at the back of my head.
- "Have you ever heard of Market Snodsbury Grammar School?"
- "It's a grammar school at Market Snodsbury."
- I told her a little frigidly that I had divined as much.
- I goggled. Her words did not appear to make sense. They seemed the mere aimless vapouring of an aunt who has been sitting out in the sun without a hat.
- "You're pulling my leg."
- "I am not pulling your leg. Nothing would induce me to touch your beastly leg."
- "But why do you want me? I mean, what am I? Ask yourself that."
- "But why do you want me? I mean, what am I? Ask yourself that."
- "I often have."
- "I'm hopeless at a game like that. Ask Jeeves about the time I got lugged in to address a girls' school. I made the most colossal ass of myself."
- "And I confidently anticipate that you will make an equally colossal ass of yourself on the thirty-first of this month. That's why I want you. The way I look at it is that, as the thing is bound to be a frost, anyway,one may as well get a hearty laugh out of it."
- He had been looking like a dead fish. He now looked like a deader fish, one of last year's, cast up on some lonely beach and left there at the mercy of the wind and tides.
- It's only about once in a lifetime that anything sensational ever happens to one, and when it does, you don't want people taking all the colour out of it. I remember at school having to read that stuff where that chap, Othello, tells the girl what a hell of a time he'd been having among the cannibals and what not. Well, imagine his feelings if, after he had described some particularly sticky passage with a cannibal chief and was waiting for the awestruck "Oh-h! Not really?", she had said that the whole thing had no doubt been greatly exaggerated and that the man had probably really been a prominent local vegetarian.
- "It's the sort of thing you would do."
- "My scheme is far more subtle. Let me outline it for you."
- "No, thanks."
- "I say to myself----"
- "But not to me."
- "Do listen for a second."
- "I won't."
- "Right ho, then. I am dumb."
- "And have been from a child."
- "And, anyway, no matter how much you may behave like the deaf adder of Scripture which, as you are doubtless aware, the more one piped, the less it danced, or words to that effect, I shall carry on as planned. "
- In build and appearance, Tuppy somewhat resembles a bulldog, and his aspect now was that of one of these fine animals who has just been refused a slice of cake.
- The discovery of a toy duck in the soap dish, presumably the property of some former juvenile visitor, contributed not a little to this new and happier frame of mind. What with one thing and another, I hadn't played with toy ducks in my bath for years, and I found the novel experience most invigorating. For the benefit of those interested, I may mention that if you shove the thing under the surface with the sponge and then let it go, it shoots out of the water in a manner calculated to divert the most careworn. Ten minutes of this and I was enabled to return to the bedchamber much more the old merry Bertram.
- "I don't want to seem always to be criticizing your methods of voice production, Jeeves," I said, "but I must inform you that that 'Well, sir' of yours is in many respects fully as unpleasant as your 'Indeed, sir?' Like the latter, it seems to be tinged with a definite scepticism. It suggests a lack of faith in my vision. The impression I retain after hearing you shoot it at me a couple of times is that you consider me to be talking through the back of my neck, and that only a feudal sense of what is fitting restrains you from substituting for it the words 'Says you!'"
- "Oh? I didn't know that."
- "There isn't much you do know."
- "Tut!" I said.
- "What did you say?"
- "I said 'Tut!'"
- "Say it once again, and I'll biff you where you stand. I've enough to endure without being tutted at."
- "Any tutting that's required, I'll attend to myself. And the same applies to clicking the tongue, if you were thinking of doing that."
- "Far from it."
- And as for Gussie Fink-Nottle, many an experienced undertaker would have been deceived by his appearance and started embalming him on sight.
- He uttered a coarse expression which I wouldn't have thought he would have known. It just shows that you can bury yourself in the country and still somehow acquire a vocabulary. No doubt one picks up things from the neighbours -- the vicar, the local doctor, the man who brings the milk, and so on.
- I remember when I was a kid at school having to learn a poem of sorts about a fellow named Pig-something--a sculptor he would have been, no doubt--who made a statue of a girl, and what should happen one morning but that the bally thing suddenly came to life. A pretty nasty shock for the chap, of course.
- "Oh, look," she said. She was a confirmed Oh-looker. I had noticed this at Cannes, where she had drawn my attention in this manner on various occasions to such diverse objects as a French actress, a Provençal filling station, the sunset over the Estorels, Michael Arlen, a man selling coloured spectacles, the deep velvet blue of the Mediterranean, and the late mayor of New York in a striped one-piece bathing suit.
- When I was a child, I used to think that rabbits were gnomes, and that if I held my breath and stayed quite still, I should see the fairy queen." Indicating with a reserved gesture that this was just the sort of loony thing I should have expected her to think as a child, I returned to the point.
- Though never for an instant faltering in my opinion that Augustus Fink-Nottle was Nature's final word in cloth-headed guffins, I liked the man, wished him well.
- Then he rose and began to pace the room in an overwrought sort of way, like a zoo lion who has heard the dinner-gong go and is hoping the keeper won't forget him in the general distribution.
- Contenting myself, accordingly, with a gesture of loving sympathy, I left the room. Whether she did or did not throw a handsomely bound volume of the Works of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, at me, I am not in a position to say. I had seen it lying on the table beside her, and as I closed the door I remember receiving the impression that some blunt instrument had crashed against the woodwork, but I was feeling too pre-occupied to note and observe.
- "Goodbye, Bertie," he said, rising.
- I seemed to spot an error.
- "You mean 'Hullo,' don't you?"
- "No, I don't. I mean goodbye. I'm off."
- "Off where?"
- "To the kitchen garden. To drown myself."
- "Don't be an ass."
- "I'm not an ass.... Am I an ass, Jeeves?"
- "Possibly a little injudicious, sir."
- "Drowning myself, you mean?"
- "Yes, sir."
- "You think, on the whole, not drown myself?"
- "I should not advocate it, sir."
- "Very well, Jeeves. I accept your ruling. After all, it would be unpleasant for Mrs. Travers to find a swollen body floating in her pond."
- "Jeeves," I said, and I am free to admit that in my emotion I bleated like a lamb drawing itself to the attention of the parent sheep, "what the dickens is all this?"
- I wouldn't have said off-hand that I had a subconscious mind, but I suppose I must without knowing it, and no doubt it was there, sweating away diligently at the old stand, all the while the corporeal Wooster was getting his eight hours.
- If you can visualize a bulldog which has just been kicked in the ribs and had its dinner sneaked by the cat, you will have Hildebrand Glossop as he now stood before me.
- "I've been through hell, Bertie."
- "Through where?"
- "Oh, hell? And what took you there?"
- "Beginning with a critique of my own limbs, which she said, justly enough, were nothing to write home about, this girl went on to dissect my manners, morals, intellect, general physique, and method of eating asparagus with such acerbity that by the time she had finished the best you could say of Bertram was that, so far as was known, he had never actually committed murder or set fire to an orphan asylum."
- "The boy is the father of the man."
- "What are you talking about?"
- "I'm talking about this Glossop."
- "I thought you said something about somebody's father."
- "I said the boy was the father of the man."
- "What boy?"
- "The boy Glossop."
- "He hasn't got a father."
- "I never said he had. I said he was the father of the boy--or, rather, of the man."
- "What man?"
- I saw that we had reached a point where, unless care was taken, we should be muddled.
- Besides, isn't there something in the book of rules about a man may not marry his cousin? Or am I thinking of grandmothers?
- "My dear Tuppy, does one bandy a woman's name?"
- "One does if one doesn't want one's ruddy head pulled off."
- I saw that it was a special case.
- I was reading in the paper the other day about those birds who are trying to split the atom, the nub being that they haven't the foggiest as to what will happen if they do. It may be all right. On the other hand, it may not be all right. And pretty silly a chap would feel, no doubt, if, having split the atom, he suddenly found the house going up in smoke and himself torn limb from limb.
- He expressed the opinion that the world was in a deplorable state. I said, 'Don't talk rot, old Tom Travers.' 'I am not accustomed to talk rot,' he said. 'Then, for a beginner,' I said, 'you do it dashed well.' And I think you will admit, boys and ladies and gentlemen, that that was telling him."
- [Anatole, the French chef, is angry.]
He spoke, in part, as follows:
"Hot dog! You ask me what is it? Listen. Make some attention a little. Me, I have hit the hay, but I do not sleep so good, and presently I wake and up I look, and there is one who make faces against me through the dashed window. Is that a pretty affair? Is that convenient? If you think I like it, you jolly well mistake yourself. I am so mad as a wet hen. And why not? I am somebody, isn't it? This is a bedroom, what-what, not a house for some apes? Then for what do blighters sit on my window so cool as a few cucumbers, making some faces?"
"Quite," I said. Dashed reasonable, was my verdict.
He threw another look up at Gussie, and did Exercise 2—the one where you clutch the moustache, give it a tug and then start catching flies.
"Wait yet a little. I am not finish. I say I see this type on my window, making a few faces. But what then? Does he buzz off when I shout a cry, and leave me peaceable? Not on your life. He remain planted there, not giving any damns, and sit regarding me like a cat watching a duck. He make faces against me and again he make faces against me, and the more I command that he should get to hell out of here, the more he do not get to hell out of here. He cry something towards me, and I demand what is his desire, but he do not explain. Oh, no, that arrives never. He does but shrug his head. What damn silliness! Is this amusing for me? You think I like it? I am not content with such folly. I think the poor mutt's loony. Je me fiche de ce type infect. C'est idiot de faire comme ça l'oiseau.... Allez-vous-en, louffier.... Tell the boob to go away. He is mad as some March hatters."
I must say I thought he was making out a jolly good case, and evidently Aunt Dahlia felt the same. She laid a quivering hand on his shoulder.
"I will, Monsieur Anatole, I will," she said, and I couldn't have believed that robust voice capable of sinking to such an absolute coo. More like a turtle dove calling to its mate than anything else. "It's quite all right."
She had said the wrong thing. He did Exercise 3.
"All right? Nom d'un nom d'un nom! The hell you say it's all right! Of what use to pull stuff like that? Wait one half-moment. Not yet quite so quick, my old sport. It is by no means all right. See yet again a little. It is some very different dishes of fish. I can take a few smooths with a rough, it is true, but I do not find it agreeable when one play larks against me on my windows. That cannot do. A nice thing, no. I am a serious man. I do not wish a few larks on my windows. I enjoy larks on my windows worse as any. It is very little all right. If such rannygazoo is to arrive, I do not remain any longer in this house no more. I buzz off and do not stay planted."
- "The fellow with a face rather like a walnut."
- Nature, when planning this sterling fellow, shoved in a lot more lower jaw than was absolutely necessary and made the eyes a bit too keen and piercing for one who was neither an Empire builder nor a traffic policeman.
- "She loves this newt-nuzzling blister."
- "I hadn't heard the door open, but the man was on the spot once more. My private belief, as I think I have mentioned before, is that Jeeves doesn't have to open doors. He's like one of those birds in India who bung their astral bodies about--the chaps, I mean, who having gone into thin air in Bombay, reassemble the parts and appear two minutes later in Calcutta. Only some such theory will account for the fact that he's not there one moment and is there the next. He just seems to float from Spot A to Spot B like some form of gas.
- "Angela," I said, "this is all perfect drivel."
- She seemed to come out of a reverie. She looked at me inquiringly.
- "I'm sorry, Bertie, I didn't hear. What were you talking drivel about?"
- "I was not talking drivel."
- "Oh, sorry, I thought you said you were."
- "Is it likely that I would come out here in order to talk drivel?"
- "Very likely."
I thought it best to haul off and approach the matter from another angle.
- It isn't often that Aunt Dahlia, lets her angry passions rise, but when she does, strong men climb trees and pull them up after them.
- Even at normal times Aunt Dahlia's map tended a little towards the crushed strawberry. But never had I seen it take on so pronounced a richness as now. She looked like a tomato struggling for self-expression.
- If the prophet Job were to walk into the room at this moment, I could sit swapping hard-luck stories with him till bedtime."
- I charged into something which might have been a tree, but was not--being, in point of fact, Jeeves.
- "Jeeves, I'm engaged."
- "I hope you will be very happy, sir."
- "Don't be an ass. I'm engaged to Miss Bassett."
- There is about him something that seems to soothe and hypnotize. To the best of my knowledge, he has never encountered a charging rhinoceros, but should this contingency occur, I have no doubt that the animal, meeting his eye, would check itself in mid-stride, roll over and lie purring with its legs in the air.
- "Bertie, do you read Tennyson?"
- "Not if I can help."
- "Tuppy, old man, the Bassett's going to marry Gussie Fink-Nottle."
- "Tough luck on both of them, what?"
Blandings Castle (1935)
- It is never difficult to distinguish between a Scotsman with a grievance and a ray of sunshine.
- A sort of gulpy, gurgly, plobby, squishy, wofflesome sound, like a thousand eager men drinking soup in a foreign restaurant.
The Luck of the Bodkins (1935)
- Into the face of the young man who sat on the terrace of the Hotel Magnifique at Cannes there had crept a look of furtive shame, the shifty, hangdog look which announces that an Englishman is about to talk French. One of the things which Gertrude Butterwick had impressed on Monty Bodkin when he left for his holiday on the Riviera was that he must be sure to practise his French, and Gertrude’s word was law. So now, though he knew that it was going to make his nose tickle, he said:
‘Er, garçon, esker-vous avez un spot de l’encre et une piece de papier—note papier, vous savez—et une envelope et une plume.’
The strain was too great. Monty relapsed into his native tongue.
‘I want to write a letter,’ he said. And having, like all lovers, rather a tendency to share his romance with the world, he would probably have added ‘to the sweetest girl on earth’, had not the waiter already bounded off like a retriever, to return a few moments later with the fixings.
‘V’la, sir! Zere you are, sir,’ said the waiter. He was engaged to a girl in Paris who had told him that when on the Riviera he must be sure to practise his English. ‘Eenk—pin—pipper—enveloppe—and a liddle bit of bloddin-pipper.’
‘Oh, merci,’ said Monty, well pleased at this efficiency. ‘Thanks. Right-ho.’
‘Right-ho, m’sieur,’ said the waiter.
- He had never acted in his life, and couldn't play the pin in Pinafore.
- A young man with dark circles under his eyes was propping himself up against a penny-in-the-slot machine. An undertaker, passing at that moment, would have looked at this young man sharply, scenting business. So would a buzzard.
Laughing Gas (1936)
- 'Didn't Frankenstein get married?'
'Did he?' said Eggy. 'I don't know. I never met him. Harrow man, I expect.'
- If Eggy wanted to get spliced, let him, was the way I looked at it. Marriage might improve him. It was difficult to think of anything that wouldn’t.
- I shuddered from stem to stern, as stout barks do when buffeted by the waves.
- It was a harsh, rasping voice, in its timbre not unlike a sawmill.
Young Men in Spats (1936)
- ‘Do you know,’ said a thoughtful Bean, ‘I’ll bet that if all the girls Freddie Widgeon has loved were placed end to end—not that I suppose one could do it—they would reach half-way down Piccadilly.’
‘Further than that,’ said the Egg. ‘Some of them were pretty tall.’
- ’You must remember, Father,’ said Mavis, in a voice which would have had an Eskimo slapping his ribs and calling for the steam-heat, ‘that this girl was probably very pretty. So many of these New York girls are. That would, of course, explain Frederick's behaviour.’
- He then gave a hideous laugh and added that, if anybody was interested in his plans, he was going to join the Foreign Legion, that cohort of the damned in which broken men may toil and die and dying, forget. ‘Beau Widgeon?’ said the Egg, impressed. ‘What ho!’
Lord Emsworth and Others (1937)
- ‘Oh Brancepeth,’ said the girl, her voice trembling, ‘why haven’t you any money? If only you had the merest pittance - enough for a flat in Mayfair and a little weekend place in the country somewhere and a couple of good cars and a villa in the South of France and a bit of trout fishing on some decent river, I would risk all for love.’
The Code of the Woosters (1938)
- I could see that, if not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled.
- Aunt Agatha, who eats broken bottles and wears barbed wire next to the skin.
- [of Spode] He was, as I had already been able to perceive, a breath-taking cove. About seven feet in height, and swathed in a plaid ulster which made him look about six feet across, he caught the eye and arrested it. It was as if Nature had intended to make a gorilla and had changed its mind at the last moment.
- It is no use telling me there are bad aunts and good aunts. At the core, they are all alike. Sooner or later, out pops the cloven hoof.
- 'Have you ever seen Spode eat asparagus?'
'Revolting. It alters one's whole conception of Man as Nature's last word.'
- Prismatic is the only word for those frightful tweeds and, oddly enough, the spectacle of them had the effect of steadying my nerves. They gave me the feeling that nothing mattered.
- The trouble with you, Spode, is that just because you have succeeded in inducing a handful of half-wits to disfigure the London scene by going about in black shorts, you think you're someone. You hear them shouting ‘Heil, Spode!’ and you imagine it is the Voice of the People. That is where you make your bloomer. What the Voice of the People is saying is: ‘Look at that frightful ass Spode swanking about in footer bags! Did you ever in your puff see such a perfect perisher?
- 'There are moments, Jeeves, when one asks oneself, "Do trousers matter?"'
‘The mood will pass, sir.’
- Stiffy was one of those girls who enjoy in equal quantities the gall of an army mule and the calm insouciance of a fish on a slab of ice.
- There came from without the hoof-beats of a galloping relative and Aunt Dahlia whizzed in.
- 'You can't be a successful Dictator and design women's underclothing.'
'One or the other. Not both.'
- ’You know your Shelley, Bertie!’
‘Oh, am I?’
- I don’t know if you have had the same experience, but a thing I have found in life is that from time to time, as you jog along, there occur moments which you are able to recognize immediately with the naked eye as high spots. Something tells you that they are going to remain etched, if etched is the word I want, for ever on the memory and will come back to you at intervals down the years, as you are dropping off to sleep, banishing that drowsy feeling and causing you to leap on the pillow like a gaffed salmon.
- 'I want to know what the devil you mean by keeping coming into my private apartment, taking up space which I require for other purposes and interrupting me when I am chatting with my personal friends. Really one gets about as much privacy in this house as a strip-tease dancer.'
- ...his head emerged cautiously, like that of a snail taking a look around after a thunderstorm.
- I don’t suppose she would recognize a deep, beautiful thought if you handed it to her on a skewer with tartare sauce.
- She snorted with a sudden violence which twenty-four hours earlier would have unmanned me completely. Even in my present tolerably robust condition, it affected me like one of those gas explosions which slay six.
Summer Moonshine (1938)
- Like so many substantial citizens of America, he had married young and kept on marrying, springing from blonde to blonde like the chamois of the Alps leaping from crag to crag.
- Directing an austere look at Tubby’s receding back, she spoke in a cold crisp voice which sounded in the drowsy stillness like ice tinkling in a pitcher.
- Whatever may be said in favour of the Victorians, it is pretty generally admitted that few of them were to be trusted within reach of a trowel and a pile of bricks.
Uncle Fred in the Springtime (1939)
- 'Don't blame me, Pongo,' said Lord Ickenham, 'if Lady Constance takes her lorgnette to you. God bless my soul, though, you can't compare the lorgnettes of to-day with the ones I used to know as a boy. I remember walking one day in Grosvenor Square with my aunt Brenda and her pug dog Jabberwocky, and a policeman came up and said the latter ought to be wearing a muzzle. My aunt made no verbal reply. She merely whipped her lorgnette from its holster and looked at the man, who gave one choking gasp and fell back against the railings, without a mark on him but with an awful look of horror in his staring eyes, as if he had seen some dreadful sight. A doctor was sent for, and they managed to bring him round, but he was never the same again. He had to leave the Force, and eventually drifted into the grocery business. And that is how Sir Thomas Lipton got his start.'
- It began to be borne in upon Lord Ickenham that in planning to appeal to the Duke’s better feelings he had omitted to take into his calculations the fact that he might not have any.
- The cosy glow which had been enveloping the Duke became shot through by a sudden chill. It was as if he had been luxuriating in a warm shower-bath, and some hidden hand had turned on the cold tap.
- The Duke’s moustache was rising and falling like seaweed on an ebb-tide.
Eggs, Beans and Crumpets (1940)
- He felt like a man who, chasing rainbows, has had one of them suddenly turn and bite him in the leg.
- Bingo swayed like a jelly in a high wind.
- His whole aspect was that of a man who has unexpectedly been struck by lightning.
Quick Service (1940)
- Mere abuse is no criticism.
Wodehouse on Golf (1940)
- [Hemmingway] seemed disposed to conversation. "A lot of wasps there are about this summer," he said. "One sang right past my ear just then."
--"I wish it had bitten you," said Poskitt.
"Wasps," replied Hemmingway, who had dabbled in natural history, "do not bite. They sting. You are thinking of snakes."
--"Your society would make anyone think of snakes."
"Gentlemen," I said. "Gentlemen!"
- Short story: "The Letter of the Law"
Joy in the Morning (1947)
- Aunt Agatha is like an elephant—not so much to look at, for in appearance she resembles more a well-bred vulture, but because she never forgets.
- His eyes were rolling in their sockets, and his face had taken on the colour and expression of a devout tomato. I could see he loved like a thousand bricks.
- I suppose this was really the moment for embarking upon an impassioned defence of Boko, stressing his admirable qualities. Not being able to think of any, however, I remained silent.
- On his good mornings, I don't suppose there are more than a handful of men in the W. 1 postal district of London swifter to spot oompus-boompus than Bertram Wooster, and this was one of my particularly good mornings. I saw the whole hideous plot.
- I don’t say I’ve got much of a soul, but, such as it is, I’m perfectly satisfied with the little chap. I don’t want people fooling about with it. ‘Leave it alone,’ I say. ‘Don’t touch it. I like it the way it is.’
- He vanished abruptly, like an eel going into mud.
- However devoutly a girl may worship the man of her choice, there always comes a time when she feels an irresistible urge to haul off and let him have it in the neck.
- She laughed - a solo effort. Nothing in the prevailing circumstances made me feel like turning it into a duet.
- There was a sound in the background like a distant sheep coughing gently on a mountainside. Jeeves sailing into action.
- We exchanged a meaning glance. Or, rather, two meaning glances, I giving him one and he giving me the other.
- When news had reached me through well-informed channels that my Aunt Agatha for many years a widow, or derelict, as I believed it is called, was about to take another pop at matrimony, my first emotion, as was natural in the circumstances, had been a gentle pity for the unfortunate goop slated to step up the aisle with her - she, as you are aware, being my tough aunt, the one who eats broken bottles and conducts human sacrifices by the light of the full moon.
- "I suppose it's her profile that does it. She has a lovely profile."
- "Seen from the left."
- "Seen from the right, too."
- "Well, yes, in a measure, seen from the right, too. But would that account for it? I mean, in these busy days you can't spend your whole time dodging round a girl, trying to see her sideways. I still maintain that this tendency on the part of the populace to get engaged to Florence is inexplicable."
Spring Fever (1948)
- Breakfast had been prepared by the kitchen maid, an indifferent performer who had used the scorched earth policy on the bacon again.
- It seemed to me, thinking quick, that the only way of solving the am-parce [impasse] was to sacrifice Shorty. Like Russian peasants with their children, you know, when they are pursued by wolves and it becomes imperative to lighten the sledge.
Uncle Dynamite (1948)
- The stationmaster’s whiskers are of a Victorian bushiness and give the impression of having been grown under glass.
The Mating Season (1949)
- On the cue 'five aunts' I had given at the knees a trifle, for the thought of being confronted with such a solid gaggle of aunts, even if those of another, was an unnerving one. Reminding myself that in this life it is not aunts that matter, but the courage that one brings to them, I pulled myself together.
- As far as the eye could reach, I found myself gazing on a surging sea of aunts. There were tall aunts, short aunts, stout aunts, thin aunts, and an aunt who was carrying on a conversation in a low voice to which nobody seemed to be paying the slightest attention.
Pigs Have Wings (1952)
- For an author Jerry Vail was rather nice-looking, most authors, as is widely known, resembling in appearance the more degraded types of fish, unless they look like birds, when they could pass as vultures and no questions asked.
- The junior partner of Caine and Cooper, though a man of blameless life, had one of those dark, saturnine faces which suggest a taste for the more sinister forms of crime, and on one cheek of that dark, saturnine face was a long scar. Actually it had been caused by the bursting of a gingerbeer bottle at a Y.M.C.A. picnic, but it gave the impression of being the outcome of battles with knives in the cellars of the underworld.
- Ice formed on the butler's upper slopes.
- For some moments after silence had come like a poultice to heal the blows of sound, all that occupied his mind was the thought of what pests the gentler sex were when they got hold of a telephone. The instrument seemed to go to their heads like a drug. Connie Keeble, for instance. Nice sensible woman when you talked to her face to face, never tried to collar the conversation and all that, but the moment she got on the telephone, it was gab, gab, gab, and all about nothing.
Ring for Jeeves (1953)
- It was a confusion of ideas between him and one of the lions he was hunting in Kenya that had caused A. B. Spottsworth to make the obituary column. He thought the lion was dead, and the lion thought it wasn't.
Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit (1954)
- I agreed the situation was sticky. Indeed, offhand it was difficult to see how it could have been more glutinous.
- As plainly as if it had been the top line on the oculist’s chart I could see what the future held for Bertram.
- Before my eyes he wilted like a wet sock.
- And as he, too, seemed disinclined for chit-chat, we stood for some moments like a couple of Trappist monks who have run into each other at the dog races.
- Oh, Bertie, if I ever called you a brainless poop who ought to be given a scholarship at some lunatic asylum, I take back the words.
- I don't know if you have ever seen a tiger of the jungle drawing a deep breath preparatory to doing a swan dive and landing with both the feet on the backbone of one of the minor fauna. Probably not, nor, as a matter of fact, have I.
Cocktail Time (1958)
- Nannie Bruce, a tall, gangling light-heavyweight with a suggestion in her appearance of a private in the Grenadiers dressed up to play the title role in Charley’s Aunt, was one of those doggedly faithful retainers who adhere to almost all old families like barnacles to the hulls of ships...She was as much a fixture as the stone lions or the funny smell in the attic.
- He had that self-reproachful feeling of having been remiss which comes to Generals who wake up one morning to discover that they have carelessly allowed themselves to be outflanked.
- Never put anything on paper, my boy, and never trust a man with a small black moustache.
- It has been well said that an author who expects results from a first novel is in a position similar to that of a man who drops a rose petal down the Grand Canyon of Arizona and listens for the echo.
A Few Quick Ones (1959)
- Attila the Hun might have broken off his engagement to her, but nobody except Attila the Hun, and he only on one of his best mornings.
- Oofy, thinking of the tenner he had given Freddie, writhed like an electric fan.
Jeeves in the Offing (1960)
- ...I mean to say, when a girl, offered a good man’s heart, laughs like a bursting paper bag and tells him not to be a silly ass, the good man is entitled, I think, to assume that the whole thing is off.
- Whenever there is a job to be taken on of a kind calculated to make Humanity shudder, the cry goes up, ‘Let Wooster do it.’
- ‘Are you sure?’ I said that sure was just what I wasn’t anything but.
- She’s all for not letting the sun go down without having started something calculated to stagger humanity.
- ‘Suppose your Aunt Dahlia read in the paper one morning that you were going to be shot at sunrise.’
‘I couldn’t be, I’m never up so early.’
- ‘When I say “mind,”’ said the blood relation, ‘I refer to the quarter-teaspoonful of brain which you might possibly find in her head if you sank an artesian well.’
- I started violently, as if some unseen hand had goosed me.
- I’d always thought her half-baked, but now I think they didn’t even put her in the oven.
Service with a Smile (1961)
- "Wellbeloved," she said, ... "I have been making inquiries about you in Market Blandings, and everyone to whom I have mentioned your name tells me that you are thoroughly untrustworthy, a man without scruples of any sort, who sticks at nothing and will do anything for money. ... At the Emsworth Arms, for instance, I was informed that you would sell your grandmother for twopence."
George Cyril said that he did not have a grandmother, and seemed a good deal outraged by the suggestion that, if that relative had not long since gone to reside with the morning stars, he would have parted with her at such bargain-basement rates. A good grandmother should fetch at least a couple of bob.
Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves (1963)
- ‘Don't you like this hat?‘
‘Well, I do,‘ I replied rather cleverly, and went out with it tilted just that merest shade over the left eye which makes all the difference.
- He’s engaged to be married to Stiffy Byng, and his long years of football should prove an excellent preparation for setting up house with her. The way I look at it is that when a fellow has had plug-uglies in cleated boots doing a Shuffle-off-to-Buffalo on his face Saturday after Saturday since he was a slip of a boy, he must get to fear nothing, not even marriage with a girl like Stiffy, who from early childhood has seldom let the sun go down without starting some loony enterprise calculated to bleach the hair of one and all.
- ‘Stinko, is he?’
'Not perhaps stinko, but certainly effervescent.’
- 'I hate you, I hate you!' cried Madeline, a thing I didn't know anyone ever said except in the second act of a musical comedy.
- ...as I felt my way along the wall I collided with what turned out to be a grandfather clock, for the existence of which I had not budgeted, and it toppled over with a sound like the delivery of several tons of coal through the roof of a conservatory. Glass crashed, pulleys and things parted from their moorings, and as I stood trying to separate my heart from the front teeth in which it had become entangled, the lights flashed on and I beheld Sir Watkyn Bassett.
- I was expecting Pop Bassett to give an impersonation of a bomb falling on an ammunition dump, but he didn’t. Instead, he continued to exhibit that sort of chilly stiffness which you see in magistrates when they’re fining people five quid for boyish peccadilloes.
- ‘And shove him into a dungeon with dripping walls and see to it that he is well gnawed by rats.’
- I started back to the house, and in the drive I met Jeeves. He was at the wheel of Stiffy's car. Beside him, looking like a Scotch elder rebuking sin, was the dog Bartholomew.
- I've seen him a couple of times in the arena, and was profoundly impressed by his virtuosity. Rugby football is more or less a sealed book to me, I never having gone in for it, but even I could see he was good. The lissomness with which he moved hither and thither was most impressive, as was his homicidal ardour when doing what I believe is called tackling. Like the Canadian Mounted Police he always got his man, and when he did so the air was vibrant with the excited cries of the morticians in the audience making bids for the body.
Galahad at Blandings (1965)
- As is so often the case with butlers, there was a good deal of Beach. Julius Caesar, who liked to have men about him who were fat, would have taken to him at once. He was a man who had made two chins grow where only one had been before, and his waistcoat swelled like the sail of a racing yacht.
A Pelican at Blandings (1969)
- A man, to use an old-fashioned phrase, of some twenty-eight summers, he gave the impression at the moment of having experienced at least that number of very hard winters.
The Girl in Blue (1970)
- To say that his conscience was clear would be inaccurate, for he did not have a conscience, but he had what was much better, an alibi...
- His aspect was that of one who has been looking for the leak in a gas pipe with a lighted candle.
- ‘You’re one of those guys who can make a party just by leaving it. It’s a great gift.’
- It was one of the dullest speeches I ever heard. The Agee woman told us for three quarters of an hour how she came to write her beastly book, when a simple apology was all that was required.
Much Obliged, Jeeves (1971)
- My Aunt Agatha, for instance, is tall and thin and looks rather like a vulture in the Gobi desert, while Aunt Dahlia is short and solid, like a scrum half in the game of Rugby football. In disposition, too, they differ widely. Aunt Agatha is cold and haughty, though presumably unbending a bit when conducting human sacrifices at the time of the full moon, as she is widely rumoured to do, and her attitude towards me has always been that of an austere governess, causing me to feel as if I were six years old and she had just caught me stealing jam from the jam cupboard: whereas Aunt Dahlia is as jovial and bonhomous as a dame in a Christmas pantomime.
- I had not failed to interpret the significance of that dark frown, that bitten lip and those flashing eyes, nor the way the willowy figure had quivered, indicating, unless she had caught a chill, that she was as sore as a sunburned neck.
- She had a beaky nose, tight thin lips, and her eye could have been used for splitting logs in the teak forests of Borneo.
- It just showed once again that half the world doesn’t know how the other three quarters live.
Pearls, Girls and Monty Bodkin (1972)
- There are girls, few perhaps but to be found if one searches carefully, who when their advice is ignored and disaster ensues, do not say "I told you so". Mavis was not of their number.
Sunset at Blandings (1977 (posthumously published))
- Many a man may look respectable, and yet be able to hide at will behind a spiral staircase.
Quotes about Wodehouse
- Wodehouse is caught between the two poles of the modern age – mischievous but not vulgar, inoffensive but not anodyne. His gifts cannot be captured by the screen, the ultimate medium of the modern age, either. That’s not to say he’s outdated. His genius has been obscured, not promoted, by television exposure. Read him; don’t watch him. He is still timelessly funny.
- Mount, Harry (14 Jan 2013). "To grasp the genius of PG Wodehouse, read him". The Telegraph.