Psmith – P.G. Wodehouse

I’m way behind with writing about the books I’ve been reading lately so I’m just going to mention that I really enjoyed reading P.G. Wodehouse’s books featuring his character Psmith. I can’t remember which bloggers mentioned enjoying these books fairly recently, was it you?

Anyway, I downloaded them from Project Gutenberg onto my Kindle because I suspected they might be perfect holiday reading- and they were. The first one Mike and Psmith kept me entertained on the ferry journey from Harwich to the Hook of Holland and I read the others whilst in Holland. Psmith in the City and Psmith Journalist, they’re a hoot.

P. G. Wodehouse’s books are available for download here.

Wodehouse said that he got the idea for his character Psmith when he heard that a schoolmaster had asked a pupil of his how he was and the pupil had answered that he ‘just kept getting thinnah and thinnah’ and so the character Psmith was born. I always get a clear view of anybody I’m reading about, usually completely imaginary people depending on their descriptions but as soon as I read the ‘thinnah and thinnah’ bit it was a schoolboy version of the Tory M.P. Jacob Rees-Mogg who appeared in my mind. He’s only missing a monocle as far as I’m concerned.

jacob rees-mogg

Psmith to a T – for me anyway.

Jeeves in the Offing by P.G. Wodehouse and a Cathedral Courtship by Kate Douglas Wiggins

Just a couple of quickies: After the shocking news of David Bowie’s death which was swiftly followed by Alan Rickman’s, I was in need of something a bit cheery to read. Luckily I had got Jeeves in the Offing by Wodehouse from the library a few days before. It was published in 1960 and sometimes it’s titled – How Right You Are, Jeeves.

Bertie Wooster is amazed to read in The Times that he has become engaged to Roberta Wickham. She is a young lady with bright red hair whom he had previously had a dalliance with, but she was too much for him to handle. Jeeves had cautioned him: Miss Wickham lacks seriousness. She is volatile and frivolous. I would always hesitate to recommend as a life partner a young lady with quite such a vivid shade of red hair. (Jack might well agree with him on that!!) Bertie is perplexed, but worse than that – Jeeves is on holiday in Herne Bay, so Bertie is going to have to sort it out himself. This was the usual Wodehouse fare and went some way to lightening my mood, but not much.

When you were wee, did you read the Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm books by Kate Douglas Wiggin? I certainly did, but more recently I’ve read her Penelope’s Experience books.

A Cathedral Courtship

My edition of A Cathedral Courtship is from 1893 and it’s in astonishingly good condition, has very thick pages which are completely pristine, it looks like nobody has ever read it. Katharine Schuyler is a young American girl and she goes on a tour of English cathedral cities with her Aunt Celia. It’s quite entertaining and amusing, my copy also contains Penelope’s Experiences in England, an enjoyable read. You can obtain a lot of Kate Douglas Wiggin’s books from Project Gutenberg here if you’re interested.

Book Purchases

books

We were walking down that steep hill which leads to Linlithgow Palace, after enjoying another visit there, this time accompanied by Peggy from PA when I spotted a sign in the doorway of one of the shops.

Don’t look now I said to Jack but that sign says BOOK SALE!

We tried to get past it. Honestly, especially as Peggy has bought so many books over the past three weeks she has been staying with us that she will have to pack them up in a couple of boxes and send them home to the US the long way over the pond.

Anyway, we got dragged through that doorway just by the thought that there might be some books in there which we’ve been wanting for years and as you can see from the photo above I did find more than a couple which I couldn’t bypass. The sale was something to do with World Book night.

1. The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell
2. The Perfect Murder by Peter James
3. Picadilly Jim by P.G. Wodehouse
4. A Desert in Bohemia by Jill Paton Walsh
5. No Fond Return of Love by Barbara Pym
6. Revenge of the Middle Aged Woman by Elizabeth Buchan
7. Garden Herbs – The Garden Handbooks

I read the Barbara Pym book yonks ago and gave my copy away but I feel it’s time for a re-read. The only book by Jill Paton Walsh which I’ve previously read was the one which was begun by Dorothy Sayers and Walsh finished it off. I couldn’t resist the Elizabeth Buchan book, just because of the title. Wodehouse just hits the spot at times when you can’t face reading anything too taxing on the brain. The Maggie O’Farrell book was recommended by Peggy. I haven’t read anything by Peter James before so I thought I’d give him a go, and lastly I bought the Garden Herbs book as it’s so comprehensive – in fact if I ever fancy becoming a white witch this one will be my bible. I have a feeling that Jack might think I already am a white witch, but that’s husbands for you!

My Man Jeeves and Ukridge by P.G.Wodehouse

I’ve been doing a lot of reading this summer and now have quite a backlog of books to blog about, so this is a short double whammy, mainly to remind myself of what I have read when I look back over the year. Most of my summer reads have been light ones, escapist books really because we had to have workmen in to sort out the house before putting the house up for sale and it’s all so stressful.

So My Man Jeeves is as you would expect, a collection of short stories which follow the usual pattern, with Jeeves always knowing better and coming to the rescue when things go pear-shaped. All jolly good fun and if you want to see what I mean you can download the book free from Project Gutenberg here.

The next Wodehouse book which I read was one I picked up at random from the library so is an actual book.

Titled Ukridge, the characters are new to me. To be precise we have Stanley Featherstonehaugh Ukridge plus Corky Corcoran who is a young chappie built along similar lines to Wooster but with more in the way of brains. His old school pal is Ukridge, a ne’er-do-weel who is always skint, in fact relies on Corky for just about everything, including socks and shirts. Ukridge always has a crazy money making scheme on the go and is full of energy and confidence, no matter how many times things go disastrously wrong for him. As you can imagine, Corky takes the brunt of it all financially. Ukridge’s high-handed manner with Corky’s ‘man’ Bowles ensures undying loyalty from Bowles himself, so Corky is battling against Ukridge and Bowles, an uneven contest.

‘Light as a feather, but fabulous’ – Ben Elton says on the front cover, and I agree.

Ukridge’s middle name Featherstonehaugh is of course one of those surnames which isn’t pronounced as it looks, it is pronounced Fanshaw.

Right Ho, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

I turned to P.G. Wodehouse when I very quickly decided to give up trying to read something heavier, I just wasn’t in the mood for reading something I had to concentrate on. I already had Right Ho, Jeeves on my Kindle, if you want to have a go at it you can get it free here.

You know what’s coming, which of course is part of their charm. Bertie Wooster has been in the south of France, spending a lot of time with his cousin Angela. On his return to Blighty, Bertie pays a visit to Angela’s mother, his Aunt Dahlia. A couple of Bertie’s friends are included in the house party, Augustus Fink-Nottle and (gosh I’ve forgotten the other chap’s name, that’s Kindles for you! ) are both in need of help. Their love lives are not going well and Bertie is determined to sort them out. He advises them on how to win the hearts of their girls, you can imagine how well that goes!

Jeeves does his best to rein in his young master but of course Bertie thinks he knows best.

The BBC recently aired Wodehouse in Exile, with Tim Pigott-Smith playing the part of Wodehouse and Zoe Wanamaker as his wife. It was really well done and if you are interested in Wodehouse I think you’ll enjoy it.

I hadn’t realised that Wodehouse had neglected to leave his home in Le Touquet, France before the Nazis got there in 1940. The upshot of which is that he was sent to a prison camp, but when the Germans realised that he was a famous author they decided get him to broadcast talks on the radio which could be interpreted as being pro-Nazi.

It makes you think that Wodehouse himself resembled Wooster far more than Jeeves – how he could have been stupid enough to get himself into such a situation, and not even realise it, beggars belief – but he did. Anyway, you can view the programme below if you’re interested. I hope people outside the UK are able to view this too, but it might be blocked.

Heavy Weather by P.G. Wodehouse

This is the third book which I’ve read recently about life at Blandings Castle and I did find it enjoyable although it didn’t have me laughing out loud as much as the first one did – Something Fresh.

It’s mainly about Gally, who I must admit is a great character, he’s Lord Emsworth’s younger brother and in his younger days he got up to all sorts of high jinks, such as only those in so-called ‘high society’ could. He has been writing his memoirs which are full of scurrilous stories involving people in respectable positions now, and although he had sold them to Lord Tilbury (a publisher) he has thought better of it and decided to destroy them. Lord Tilbury is determined to get his hands on the manscript though as he knows he would make a mint from their publication.

Meanwhile all is not well in the romance stakes where the young people are concerned, mainly because Ronnie is determined to marry a chorus girl called Sue but Lady Julia and Lady Constance are determined that he will not marry her.

And then there’s the Empress of Blandings, a magnificent pig who only cares about eating – as pigs do.

Silliness reigns in these books – but sometimes that just hits the spot.

Something Fresh by P.G. Wodehouse

I had only read some Jeeves and Wooster stories by Wodehouse previous to this, and that was way back, so long ago I can’t really remember them. Anyway I bought an omnibus edition of three Blandings books last year and then it immediately got lost in the stacks and resurfaced just before Christmas, just in time for me to read the first one before the BBC Blandings series was broadcast.

These books (I’ve just finished the second one Summer Lightning) are at the same time completely daft but vital antidotes to the cruel world, so essential reading if it’s all getting too much for you.

Wodehouse wrote for himself the perfect setting for loopy characters, mainly members of the Emsworth/Threepwood family, but the servants have their moments too. Lord Emsworth has an appalling memory and information seems to sail through his ears, bypassing his brain completely. This is fine for people who know him and realise that he has just pocketed the cutlery absent-mindedly and not nefariously.

Most men have an obsession apparently, for Lord Emsworth it’s his beloved pig the Empress of Blandings and her weight and welfare. However for the American millionaire Mr Peters it’s rare scarabs which get him excited, he’s the father of Aline Peters who has just become engaged to Freddie Emsworth, (not the heir but the spare). Imagine his reaction when he realises that his best scarab has disappeared, and he knows who has it! Mr Peters is determined to get his scarab back where it should be – in his collection.

This book is an absolute hoot and in parts I was actually laughing out loud, it’s not only silly slapstick but witty repartee too. The Efficient Baxter, Lord Emsworth’s hated secretary is hilarious and as I’ve been watching the BBC Blandings series too I have to say that for me anyway the casting of David Walliams as Baxter is just perfect.

This book is available free from Project Gutenbery under the name of Something New

If you want to read something different by P.G. Wodehouse have a look at what else is available on Project Gutenberg here.

Blandings by Wodehouse and the BBC

Timothy Spall at Blandings

I bought an omnibus of Blandings books last year and it almost immediately went AWOL and only surfaced when I was getting the house ready for Christmas. By that time the BBC was advertising their Blandings series which started last night, so I didn’t get a chance to read any of the book before viewing it.

I think it was well done though, and even if you just love pigs it was well worth watching just for the lovely big porkers featured in it. Jack even laughed out loud a few times, and that doesn’t happen too often!

Saturday’s Guardian review had an interesting article about Wodehouse and Blandings which you can read here.

Young Men In Spats by P.G. Wodehouse

Young Men in Spats cover

It’s such a long time since I read anything by P.G.Wodehouse, but I bought this lovely hardback at a National Trust booksale recently and although I have loads of books waiting in a queue to be read, this one jumped to the front because I was just in need of something really light and cheery.

It’s a book of short stories and I suppose you could say that the subject of most of them is cherche la femme as they’re all about young men trying to win the attention of bright young things.

They young men are all members of the Drones Club and most of the stories feature Freddie Widgeon, Wodehouse was economical about the other characters, most of whom are categorized as Beans, Crumpets or Eggs. The later stories feature a Pint of Bitter, a Small Bass, a Light Lager – you get the idea I’m sure. So there’s a lot of: A Crumpet said to a Bean…. And it was this mode of writing which made me stop and think – what does this remind me of and of course it was Damon Runyon‘s Tales on Broadway.

Do I hear you say That’s absurd? Fair enough, after all on the surface the only similarities are that they are both books of short stories. They’re set in different continents, the characters are from very different backgrounds but there’s the same sparkling wit, stupid men, fearsome as well as delectable women and lots of fun.