Wodehouse Quotations



French Leave

Preface French Leave puzzles me a bit. As a rule I can remember clearly how each of my books came to be writtenhow I got the central idea and so onbut this one baffles me. I wrote it in 1956 after I had been setled in Remsenburg for several years, and why in these American surroundings I suddenly decided that my next one was to have a French setting and a good many French characters is a mystery. The book ought to belong to the period 1930-1935, when I was living near Cannes and trying to learn French by going to the local Berlitz School and reading the novels of Colette, the plays of Georges Courteling and the sprightly contents of "La Vie Parisienne".

I never succeeded in speaking French, but I learned to read it all right, which is all I need, for now that I am 92 and never leave my Long Island home it is improbable that I shall have the opportunity of kidding back and forth with a Frenchman, and my views on pencils will remain unspoken.

Pencils, owing to my instructress at Berlitz, were the only subject on which I was able to speak with authority. She taught me all I know today about pencils (or crayons as we call them in France). 'Le crayon est jaune', I learned to say. 'Le crayon est bleu'. 'Donnez-moi le crayon de ma tante', and lots more on this fascinating topic. If some French manufacturer of pencils had happened along, I would have held him spellbound with my knowledge of his business, but in general society the difficulty of working pencils into the conversation was too much for me and after a while I gave it up and stuck to the normal grunts and gurgles of the foreigner who finds himself cornered by anything Gallic.

The thing I remember best about this book is that somebody gave it a nasty review in one of the weeklies, and Evelyn Waugh rushed to my defence and attacked the blighter with tooth and claw, starting a controversy which lasted for months. I have often wondered why this sort of thing is not done more often, for it brightens up whole issues of periodicals which badly need brightening up, besides giving the recipient of the stinker the comfortable feeling that he is not without friends and allies.

Was the fellow right ? (Not Evelyn Waugh, the other fellow.) Very possibly. I am lucky in not being able to detect anything wrong with my stuff. I always think it is just like mother made. Others may not, but I do. When I have finished a novel and rewritten it and written it all again and polished up the spots that still want polishing, I get a son of cosy glow and the feeling that it's all right. I have this feeling on re-reading French Leave. It seems to me that Nicolas Jules St Xavier Auguste, Marquis de Maufringneuse et Valerir-Moberanne is pretty good. I don't say he doesn't owe something to Georges Courteline, but even Shakespeare had his sources. He is not perhaps an admirable character, but we can't all be admirable characters, and he ends up well. I also like Mr Clutterbuck, the publisher, though he is much too fond of food.

A word on the title. I have not actually come across them, but I assume that everybody who has written a novel with a French setting must have called it what I have called mine. I wonder my American publisher did not change it. Changing titles is an occupational disease with American publishers. As A. A. Milne (about Milne see also Vintage and Milne's words abput publishers - here) said when they altered the title of his Autobiography from It's Too Late Now to What Luck, 'This is a habit of American publishers. I fancy that the Order of Installationtaken (as I see it) in shirt sleeves, with blue pencil upheld in right hand, ends "And I do solemnly swear that whatsoever the author shall have called any novel submitted to me, and however suitable his title shall be, I will immediately alter it to one of my own choosing, thus asserting by a single stroke the dignity of my office and my own independence."

For some reason my French Leave got by and joined all the other French Leaves. I can only hope it will be found worthy to be included in the list of the Best Hundred Books Entitled French Leave.

P. G. Wodehouse




to Blandings Castle

EXCEPT for the tendency to write articles about the Modern Girl and allow his side-whiskers to grow, there is nothing an author to-day has to guard himself against more carefully than the Saga habit. The least slackening of vigilance and the thing has gripped him. He writes a story. Another story dealing with the same characters occurs to him, and he writes that. He feels that just one more won't hurt him, and he writes a third. And before he knows where he is, he is down with a Saga, and no cure in sight.

This is what happened to me with Bertie Wooster and Jeeves, and it has happened again with Lord Emsworth, his son Frederick, his butler Beach, his pig the Empress and the other residents of Blandings Castle. Beginning with SOMETHING FRESH, I went on to LEAVE IT TO PSMITH, then to SUMMER LIGHTNING, after that to HEAVY WEATHER, and now to the volume which you have just borrowed. And, to show the habit-forming nature of the drug, while it was eight years after SOMETHING FRESH before the urge for LEAVE IT TO PSMITH gripped me, only eighteen months elapsed between SUMMER LIGHTNING and HEAVY WEATHER. In a word, once a man who could take it or leave it alone, I had become an addict.

The stories in the first part of this book represent what I may term the short snorts in between the solid orgies. From time to time I would feel the Blandings Castle craving creeping over me, but I had the manhood to content myself with a small dose.

In point of time, these stories come after LEAVE IT TO PSMITH and before SUMMER LIGHTNING. PIG-HOO-O-O-O-EY, for example, shows Empress of Blandings winning her first silver medal in the Fat Pigs class at the Shropshire Agricultural Show. In SUMMER LIGHTNING and HEAVY WEATHER she is seen struggling to repeat in the following year.

THE CUSTODY OF THE PUMPKIN shows Lord Emsworth passing through the brief pumpkin phase which preceded the more lasting pig seizure.

And so on.

Bobbie Wickham, of MR POTTER TAKES A REST CURE, appeared in three of the stories in a book called MR MUL-LINER SPEAKING.

The final section of the volume deals with the secret history of Hollywood, revealing in print some of those stories which are whispered over the frosted mailed milk when the boys get together in the commissary.


to list of books



page 1 | page 2 | page 3 | page 4 | page 5 | page 6 | page 7 | page 8 | page 9 | page 10 | page 11 | page 12 | page 13 | page 14 | page 15 | page 16 | page 17 | page 18 | page 19 | page 20 | page 21 | page 22 | page 23 | page 24 | page 25 | page 26 | page 27 | page 28 | page 29 | page 30 | page 31 | page 32 | page 33 | page 34 | page 35

Quotaions from: Michel | Alla | Masha | "Russian" Quotes Articles: Stephen Fry | Hugh Laurie | Sound Quotations on pgw.ru

Quotes - By books

Index from book Wodehouse on Wodehouse. | Article "About Stories" | Dedications1 | Dedications 2 | Prefaces1 | Prefaces2 | Prefaces3 | Prefaces4 | "Facts from Usborn" (forewords from Vintage Wodehouse)