Wodehouse Quotations

'One of the first things I remember my father saying to me, when he sent me out to battle with the world, was "Never give a sucker an even break," and until now I have always striven not to do so.

----------'No blessing?''No blessing.''And no money?''No money. The old boy ran entirely true to stable form. He listened to what I had to say, snorted in an unpleasant manner and threw me out. The old routine. But what I'm working round to is that the skies are still bright and the blue bird on the job. I have a scheme.'



His thoughts became less and less agreeable as the train rolled on. And what rendered his mental distress so particularly acute was the lack of detail in Annabel's telegram. It seemed to him to offer so wide a field for uncomfortable speculation.

'All lost,' for instance. A man could do a lot of thinking about a phrase like that. And 'Ruin stares face.' Why, he asked himself, did ruin stare face? While commending Annabel's thriftiness in keeping the thing down to twelve words, he could not help wishing that she could have brought herself to spring another twopence and be more lucid.

'You're sure? You didn't really love this blighted prestidigitator?'

'No, no. I was dazzled for a while, as any girl might have been when he sawed me in half, but then you came along and I saw that I had been mistaken, and that you were the only man in the world for me.'


Annabel's Uncle Joe seemed puzzled. He appeared not to know what to make of this conflict of opinion.


'Excuse me, my dear Bastable, for intruding on a private conversation, but I fancied ... and my friends fancied ...''We all fancied,' said the group.

'We have felt for a long time that our company was incomplete without you. So you will join us? Capital, capital! Perhaps you will look in there tonight? Mr Boffin, of course,' he went on deprecatingly, 'would, I am afraid, hardly condescend to allow himself to be entertained by so humble a little circle. Otherwise -'


She feeds me and buys me clothes, but for some reason best known to her own distorted mind it is impossible to induce her to part with a little ready cash.



For a man like me. Corky, may be down, but he is never out. So swift were my mental processes that the time that elapsed between the sight of that ruined hat and my decision to pop round to the Foreign Office and touch George Tupper for another fiver was not more than fifty seconds. It is in the crises of life that brains really tell.

tt ;-)

'It's very bad for you, all this messing about on borrowed money. It's not that I grudge it to you,' said Tuppy; and I knew, when [ heard him talk in that pompous. Foreign Official way, that something had gone wrong that day in the country's service. Probably the draft treaty with Switzerland had been pinched by a foreign adventuress. That sort of thing is happening all the time in the Foreign Office. Mysterious veiled women blow in on old Tuppy and engage him in conversation, and when he turns round he finds the long blue envelope with the important papers in it gone.

---'It's all very odd,' he said. 'I've never had it happen to me before.' 'One gets new experiences.'



At this moment, by the greatest bad luck, her vampire gaze fell on the mantelpiece. You know how it is when you are dressing with unusual care - you fill your pockets last thing. And I had most unfortunately placed my little capital on the mantelpiece. Too late I saw that she had spotted it. Take the advice of a man who has seen something of life. Corky, and never leave your money lying about. It's bound to start a disagreeable train of thought in the mind of anyone who sees it.


' Why, dash it, Mrs Beale,' I said warmly, 'you know as well as I do that in all financial transactions a certain amount of credit is an understood thing. Credit is the lifeblood of commerce. So bring the hat and coat, and later on we will thresh this matter out thoroughly.'

gs ;-)

It is only when you are in a situation like that, Corky, that you really begin to be able to appreciate the true hollowness of the world. It is only then that the absolute silliness and futility of human institutions comes home to you.


It's just that sort of thing that makes a fellow chafe at our modern civilization and wonder if, after all, Man can be Nature's last word.

;-) ce

So I didn't linger. I waved my hand as much as to say that all would come right in the future, and then I nipped at a fairly high rate of speed round the corner and hailed a taxi. It had been no part of my plans to incur the expense of a taxi, I having earmarked twopence for a ride on the Tube to Waterloo; but there are times when economy is false prudence.


As I looked at myself in the glass and then gazed out of the window at the gay sunshine, it seemed to me that God was in His Heaven and all was right with the world.

;-) gs

The thing seemed to me to have the makings of one of those great historic mysteries you read about. I saw no reason why posterity should not discuss for ever the problem of the bloke in the grey topper as keenly as they do the man in the iron mask.


Well, that's where the story ends. Corky. From the moment that pimply Baronet uttered those words, you might say that I faded out of the picture. I never went near Onslow Square again. Nobody can say that I lack nerve, but I hadn't nerve enough to creep into the family circle and resume acquaintance with that fearsome bloke. There are some men, no doubt, with whom I might have been able to pass the whole thing off with a light laugh, but that glimpse I had had of him as he bellowed out of the window told me that he was not one of them. I faded away. Corky, old horse, just faded away.


'And want it quick. The truest saying in this world is that you can't accumulate if you don't speculate. But how the deuce are you to start speculating unless you accumulate a few quid to begin with?'

A man of greater strength of mind would, no doubt, have asked what Buttercup Day was, but I have a spine of wax.


'Corky, old horse,' said Ukridge, motioning me to a chair, 'the great thing in this world is to have a good, level business head. " Many men in my position wanting capital and not seeing where they were going to get it, would have given up the struggle as a bad job. Why? Because they lacked Vision and the big, broad, flexible outlook. But what did I do? I sat down and thought. And after many hours of concentrated meditation I was rewarded with an idea.


'Well, laddie, it suddenly flashed upon me like an inspiration from above that nobody ever does know what they are coughing up for when they meet a girl with a tray of flags. I hit upon the great truth, old horse - one of the profoundest truths in this modern civilization of ours - that any given man, confronted by a pretty girl with a tray of flags, will automatically and without inquiry shove a coin in her box.'


'You persist in looking on the gloomy side. Corky. A little more of the congratulatory attitude is what T would wish to see in you, laddie. You do not appear to realize that your old friend's foot is at last on the ladder that leads to wealth.'

;-) ;-) ex, (cq)

There are certain people in this world in whose presence certain other people can never feel completely at their ease. Notable among the people beneath whose gaze I myself experience a sensation of extreme discomfort and guilt is Miss Julia Ukridge, author of so many widely-read novels, and popular after-dinner speaker at the better class of literary reunion. This was the fourth time we had met. and on each of the previous occasions I had felt 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.


I began to feel like Horatius at the Bridge. It seemed to me that, foe of the human race though Ukridge was in so many respects, it was my duty as a lifelong friend to prevent this woman winning through to him until the curate was well out of the way. I have a great belief in woman's intuition, and I was convinced that, should Miss Julia Ukridge learn that there was a girl in her grounds selling paper buttercups for a nonexistent charity, her keen intelligence would leap without the slightest hesitation to the fact of her nephew's complicity in the disgraceful affair. She had had previous experience of Ukridge's financial methods.

'Did you tell me, Mr Corcoran,' said the woman in that quiet, purring voice which must lose her so many friends, not only in Wimbledon but in the larger world outside, 'that ...'


'I think,' I said, being in the frame of mind when one does say silly things of that sort, 'I think he's asleep.'

;-) ;-)

'Stuttering Sam!' I cried, and Mr Dawson eyed me keenly once more, this time almost as intently as if I had been the blunt instrument with which the murder was committed.

It is curious how differently the same phenomenon can strike different people. Miss Ukridge was a frozen statue of grief. Mr Dawson, on the other hand, seemed pleased. He stroked his short moustache with an air of indulgent complacency, and spoke of neat jobs.


---'I don't seem able to get the door open,' I explained meekly. -Tchah!' said Miss Ukridge, swooping down. One of the ^ rooted convictions of each member of the human race is that he or she is able without difficulty to open a door which has baffled their fellows.



This appeared to confirm my hostess in the opinion, long held by her, that I was about the most miserable worm that an inscrutable Providence had ever permitted to enter the world.


-----She did not actually say as much, but she sniffed, and I interpreted her meaning exactly. 'Ring the bell!' I rang the bell.'Ring it again!'I rang it again.'Shout!'I shouted.'Go on shouting!'I went on shouting. I was in good voice that day. T shouted Hi!'; I shouted 'Here!'; I shouted 'Help!'; I also shouted in a broad, general way. It was a performance which should have received more than a word of grateful thanks. But all Miss Ukridge said, when 1 paused for breath, was:'Don't whisper!'I nursed my aching vocal cords in a wounded silence.'Help!'cried Miss Ukridge.

Considered as a shout, it was not in the same class as mine. It lacked body, vim, and even timbre. But, by that curious irony which governs human affairs, it produced results.


A raconteur with a story as interesting as his to tell might reasonably have expected to be allowed to finish it, but butler Barter at this point ceased to grip his audience.

;-) (!) tt

---'Words passed, old horse, and in the end we decided that we were better apart.''I don't see why she should blame you for what happened.''A woman like my aunt. Corky, is capable of blaming anybody for anything. And so I start life again, laddie, a penniless man, with no weapons against the great world but my vision and my brain.'

I endeavoured to attract his attention to the silver lining.

CQ ;-)

'Women are an unstable, emotional sex, laddie. Have as little to do with them as possible. And, for the moment, give me a drink, old horse, and mix it fairly strong. These are the times that try men's souls.'


'Corky, old horse,' said Stanley Featherstonehaugh Ukridge in a stunned voice, 'this is the most amazing thing 1 have heard in the whole course of my existence. I'm astounded. You could knock me down with a feather.'

'I wish I had one.'


These were deep waters, into which I was not prepared to plunge.


Fate (said Ukridge) is odd. Rummy. You can't say it isn't. Lots of people have noticed it. And one of the rummiest things about it is the way it seems to take a delight in patting you on the head and lulling you into security and then suddenly steering your foot on to the banana-skin. Just when things appear to be going smoothest, bang comes the spanner into the machinery and there you are.

He was, moreover, a great admirer of my aunt's novels, and she told me in a few and, in parts, tactless words that what I was going down there for was to ingratiate myself with him and land a job. Which, she said - and this was where I thought her remarks lacked taste - would give me a chance of doing something useful and ceasing to be what she called a wastrel and an idler.


I don't want to boast. Corky - and, of course, I'm speaking now of some years ago, before Life had furrowed my brow and given my eyes that haunted look - but I may tell you frankly that at the time when these things happened I was a rather dazzling spectacle.


I don't suppose anybody with a pointed white beard has ever received a heartier welcome. I don't know if you have any pet day-dream. Corky, but mine had always been the sudden , appearance of the rich uncle from Australia you read so much about in novels. The old-fashioned novels, I mean, the ones where the hero isn't a dope-fiend. And here he was, looking as I had always expected him to look. You saw his spats just now, you observed his gardenia. Well, on the afternoon of which I'm speaking, he was just as spatted, fully as gar-denia-ed, and in addition wore in his tie something that looked like a miniature Koh-i-noor.

cs ;-)

Apparently he had once met a teetotal O.B.E. in Sydney and was prejudiced. However, he was most sympathetic when I told him about Myrtle. He said that, though he wasn't any too keen on matrimony as an institution, he was broad-minded enough to realize that there might quite possibly be women in the world unlike his late wife. Concerning whom, he added that the rabbit was not, as had been generally stated, Australia's worst pest.


It all seemed to me more like magic than anything, and I began to feel like Aladdin. Apparently my job from now on was simply to rub the lamp and the Stepper would do the rest.


I'm an old campaigner now, Corky, and Fate has to take its coat off and spit on its hands a bit if it wants to fool me. Today, when Fate offers me something apparently gilt-edged, I look it over coldly and assume, till it has been proved otherwise, that attached to it somewhere there is a string. But at the time of which I am speaking I was younger, more buoyant, more credulous; and I honestly supposed that this tea-party of mine was going to be the success it seemed at the start.

From the moment the first drop of tea was poured everything went as smooth as oil. In recent years. Corky, affairs have so shaped themselves that you have had the opportunity of seeing me mainly in the capacity of a guest; but you can take it from me that, vouchsafed the right conditions, I can be a very sparkling host. Give me a roof over my head, plenty of buttered toast, and no creditors in sight, and I shine with the best of them.


'Yes.' I said. I stroked my chin thoughtfully and tried to look as much as possible like Charles M. Schwab being approached hy the President of the United States Steel Corporation with a view to a merger. You've got to show these birds that you've a proper sense of your own value. Start right with them, or it's no use starting at all. 'I might accept commercial employment if the salary and prospects were undeniable.'

gs ;-)

He switched an eye round and let it play on me like an oxyacetylene blowpipe. I don't know what the treatment for liver is at Harrogate, but they ought to change it. It's ineffective. It had obviously done this man no good at all.


'I tell you the man ought not to be at large. He's a menace. Good God! When I was in Africa during the Boer War a platoon of Australians scrounged one of my cast-iron sheds one night, but I never expected that that sort of thing happened in England in peace-time.'

/The Man with Two Left Feet and Other Stories/

Would you have suspected for one instant that each of these widely differing personalities was in reality one man ?

Henry rose and made for the door. His feelings were too deep for words.


A detective is only human. The less of a detective, the more human he is. Henry was not much of a detective, and his human traits were consequently highly developed. From a boy, he had never been able to resist curiosity. If a crowd collected in the street he always added himself to it, and he would have stopped to gape at a window with 'Watch this window' written on it, if he had been running for his life from wild bulls. He was, and always had been, intensely desirous of some day penetrating behind the scenes of a theatre.

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