Wodehouse Quotations

Henry eyed him inscrutably. He could look inscrutable at times.


That is to say, he felt like a cat which has strayed into a strange hostile back-yard. He was in a new world, inhabited by weird creatures, who flitted about in an eerie semidarkness, like brightly coloured animals in a cavern.


Musical comedy is the Irish , stew of the drama. Anything may be put into it, with the certainty that it will improve the general effect.


Henry, awed by authority, relapsed into silence. From the unseen stage came the sound of someone singing a song about the moon. June was also mentioned. He recognized the song as one that had always bored him. He disliked the woman who was singing it - a Miss Clarice Weaver, who played the heroine of the piece to Sidney Crane's hero.

She sang badly, acted indifferently, and was uncertain what to do with her hands. All these things might have been forgiven her, but she supplemented them by the crime known in stage circles as 'throwing her weight about'. That is to say, she was hard to please, and, when not pleased, apt to say so in no uncertain voice. To his personal friends Walter Jelliffe had frequently confided that, though not a rich man, he was in the market with a substantial reward for anyone who was man enough to drop a ton of iron on Miss Weaver.


Henry nodded moodily. He was depressed. He had the feeling, which comes so easily to the intruder behind the scenes, that nobody loved him.



The plot of 'The Girl From Brighton' had by then reached a critical stage. The situation was as follows: The hero, having been disinherited by his wealthy and titled father for falling in love with the heroine, a poor shop-girl, has disguised himself (by wearing a different coloured necktie) and has come in pursuit of her to a well-known seaside resort, where, having disguised herself by changing her dress, she is serving as a waitress in the Rotunda, on the Esplanade. The family butler, disguised as a Bath-chair man, has followed the hero, and the wealthy and titled father, disguised as an Italian opera-singer, has come to the place for a reason which, though extremely sound, for the moment eludes the memory. Anyhow, he is there, and they all meet on the Esplanade. Each recognizes the other, but thinks he himself is unrecognized. Exeunt all, hurriedly, leaving the heroine alone on the stage.

It is a crisis in the heroine's life. She meets it bravely. She sings a song entitled 'My Honolulu Queen', with chorus of Japanese girls and Bulgarian officers. Alice was one of the Japanese girls.



It is practically impossible for a novice, suddenly introduced behind the scenes of a musical comedy, not to fall in love with somebody; and, if he is already in love, his fervour is increased to a dangerous point.


A man in Henry's position and frame of mind is not responsible for his actions. He saw nothing but her; he was blind to the fact that important manoeuvres were in progress. All he understood was that she was going from him, and that he must stop her and get this thing settled.

cq! Wow!

The advice that should be given to every young man starting life is - if you happen to be behind the scenes at a theatre, never spring forward. The whole architecture of the place is designed to undo those who so spring. Hours before, the stage-carpenters have laid their traps, and in the semidarkness you cannot but fall into them.


Then he staggered with it into the limelight, tripped over a Bulgarian officer who was inflating himself for a deep note, and finally fell in a complicated heap as exactly in the centre of the stage as if he had been a star of years' standing.

It went well; there was no question of that. Previous audiences had always been rather cold towards this particular song, but this one got on its feet and yelled for more. From all over the house came rapturous demands that Henry should, go back and do it again.

But Henry was giving no encores.



Bulgarian officers and Japanese girls alike seemed unequal to the situation. They stood about, waiting for the next thing to break loose. From somewhere far away came faintly the voice of the stage-manager inventing new words, new combinations of words, and new throat noises.

'My dear fellow, don't apologize. You have put me under lasting obligations. In the first place, with your unerring sense of the stage, you saw just the spot where the piece needed livening up, and you livened it up. That was good; but far better was it that you also sent our Miss Weaver into violent hysterics, from which she emerged to hand in her notice. She leaves us tomorrow.'


Henry was appalled at the extent of the disaster for which ' he was responsible.


'My boy, I can go down the Strand and pick up a hundred fellows who can sing and act. I don't want them. I turn them away. But a seventh son of a seventh son like you, a human horseshoe like you, a king of mascots like you - they don't make them nowadays. They've lost the pattern.'

ir. ;-)

Before Henry's eyes there rose a sudden vision of Alice:

Alice no longer unattainable; Alice walking on his arm down the aisle; Alice mending his socks; Alice with her heavenly hands fingering his salary envelope.

She was sitting bolt upright in a chair, staring into space. When I came in she looked at me in that darn critical way that always makes me feel as if I had gelatine where my spine ought to be.


My experience is that when Aunt Agatha wants you to do a thing you do it, or else you find yourself wondering why those fellows in the olden days made such a fuss when they had trouble with the Spanish Inquisition.


I was feeling like a badly wrapped brown-paper parcel. I'm never at my best in the early morning. I said so.


Do not lose sight of the fact that all this was taking place on an empty stomach, shortly after the rising of the lark.



'What's Gussie been doing?'

'Gussie is making a perfect idiot of himself.'

To one who knew young Gussie as well as I did, the words opened up a wide field for speculation.

'In what way ?'

'He has lost his head over a creature.'



On past performances this rang true. Ever since he arrived at man's estate Gussie had been losing his head over creatures. He's that sort of chap. But, as the creatures never seemed to lose their heads over him, it had never amounted to much.


Nobody was fonder of old Uncle Cuthbert than I was, but everybody knows that, where money was concerned, he was the most complete chump in the annals of the nation. He had an expensive thirst. He never backed a horse that didn't get housemaid's knee in the middle of the race. He had a system of beating the bank at Monte Carlo which used to make the administration hang out the bunting and ring the joy-bells when he was sighted in the offing.

'You are too vexing, Bertie. Have you no sort of feeling for the family ? You are too lazy to try to be a credit to yourself, but at least you can exert yourself to prevent Gussic's disgracing us.'

'What she meant was that, if I refused, she would exert the full bent of her natural genius to make life a Hades for me. She held me with her glittering eye. I have never met anyone who can give a better imitation of the Ancient Mariner.'


I put myself unreservedly into the hands of one of the white chappies. He was a friendly soul, and I told him the whole state of affairs. I asked him what he thought would meet the case.

;-) gt


The odd part of it was that after the first shock of seeing all this frightful energy the thing didn't seem so strange. I've spoken to fellows since who have been to New York, and they tell me they found it just the same. Apparently there's something in the air, either the ozone or the phosphates or something, which makes you sit up and take notice. A kind of zip, as it were. A sort of bally freedom, if you know what I mean, that gets into your blood and bucks you up, and makes you feel that

God's in His Heaven:

All's right with the world,

and you-don't care if you've got odd socks on. I can't express it better than by saying that the thought uppermost in my mind, as I walked about the place they call Times Square, was that there were three thousand miles of deep water between me and my Aunt Agatha.


'Well, you try calling yourself Augustus Mannering-Phipps over here, and see how it strikes you. You feel a perfect ass. I don't know what it is about America, but the broad fact is that it's not a place where you can call yourself Augustus Mannering-Phipps.'


The poor old nut looked at me in such a deuced cat-like way, standing with his mouth open, waiting to be congratulated, that I simply hadn't the heart to tell him that I knew all about that already, and had come over to the country for the express purpose of laying him a stymie.

So I congratulated him.

gs te

For centuries they have called kings by their first names and helped dukes with their weekly rent; and there's practically nothing a Mannering-Phipps can do that doesn't blot his escutcheon. So what Aunt Agatha would say - beyond saying that it was all my fault when she learned the horrid news, it was beyond me to imagine.

:-) ;-)

It was clear to me by now that Aunt Agatha had picked the wrong man for this job of disentangling Gussie from the clutches of the American vaudeville profession. What I , needed was reinforcements. For a moment I thought of cabling Aunt Agatha to come over, but reason told me that this would be overdoing it.


I was just going to close my eyes and try to forget till they put Gussie's name up when I discovered that I was sitting next to a deucedly pretty girl. No, let me be honest. When I went in I had seen that there was a deucedly pretty girl sitting in that particular seat, so I had taken the next one. What happened now was that I began, as it were, to drink her in. I wished they would turn the lights up so that I could see her better. She was rather small, with great big eyes and a ripping smile. It was a shame to let all that run to seed, so to speak, in semidarkness.

;-) ;-)

He sang this time as if nobody loved him. As a song, it was not a very pathetic song, being all about coons spooning in June under the moon, and so on and so forth, but Gussie handled it in such a sad, crushed way that there was genuine anguish in every line. By the time he reached the refrain I was nearly in tears. It seemed such a rotten sort of world with all that kind of thing going on in it.


I was glad I had sent that cable to his mother. I was going to need her. The thing had got beyond me.


The difference between the two is that Aunt Agatha conveys the impression that she considers me personally responsible for all the sin and sorrow in the world, while Aunt Julia's manner seems to suggest that I am more to be pitied than censured.


There are some things a chappie's mind absolutely refuses to picture, and Aunt Julia singing 'Rumpty-tiddley-umpty-ay' is one of them.



'What is this about Gussie? Why did you cable for me, Bertie?'

'It's rather a long story,' I said, 'and complicated. If you don't mind, I'll let you have it in a series of motion pictures.


It's easy to see that, twenty-five years ago, she must have been something quite extraordinary to look at.

'Bertie, old man, I feel immense. I look round me, and everything seems to be absolutely corking. The change in the mater is marvellous.'

cq ;-)

Sex attraction is so purely a question of the taste of the individual that the wise man never argues about it. He accepts its vagaries as part of the human mystery, and leaves it at that. To me there was no charm whatever about Mary Campbell. It may have been that, at the moment, I was in love with Grace Bates, Heloise Miller, and Clarice Wembley - for at Marois Bay, in the summer, a man who is worth his salt is more than equal to three love affairs simultaneously - but anyway, she left me cold. Not one thrill could she awake in me. She was small and, to my mind, insignificant. Some men said that she had fine eyes. They seemed to me just ordinary eyes. And her hair was just ordinary hair. In fact, ordinary was the word that described her.


Girls love a tragedy. At least, most girls do. It makes a man interesting to them. Grace Bates was always going on about how interesting Wilton was. So was Heloise Miller. So was Clarice Wembley. But it was not until Mary Campbell came that he displayed any real enthusiasm at all for the feminine element of Marois Bay. We put it down to the fact that he could not forget, but the real reason, I now know, was that he considered that girls were a nuisance on the links and in the tennis-court. I suppose a plus two golfer and a Wildingesque tennis-player, such as Wilton was, does feel like that. Personally, I think that girls add to the fun of the thing. But then, my handicap is twelve, and, though I have been playing tennis for many years, I doubt if I have got my first serve - the fast one - over the net more than half a dozen times.

But Mary Campbell overcame Wilton's prejudices in twenty-four hours. He seemed to feel lonely on the links without her, and he positively egged her to be his partner in the doubles. What Mary thought of him we did not know. She was one of those inscrutable girls.


'You must risk it. At the worst, you lose nothing.'

He brightened a little.

'No, that's true,' he said. 'I've half a mind to do it.'

'Make it a whole mind,' I said, 'and you win out.'

I was wrong. Sometimes I am. The trouble was, apparently, that I didn't know Mary. I am sure Grace Bates, Heloise Miller, or Clarice Wembley would not have acted as she did. They might have been a trifle stunned at first, but they would soon have come round, and all would have been joy. But with Mary, no.



In affairs of love the strongest men generally behave with the most spineless lack of resolution.


Mary, in these days, simply couldn't see that he was on the earth. She looked round him, above him, and through him, but never at him; which was rotten from Wilton's point of view, for he had developed a sort of wistful expression - I am convinced that he practised it before the mirror after his bath - which should have worked wonders, if only he could have got action with it. But she avoided his eye as if he had been a creditor whom she was trying to slide past on the street.

te gs

But Wilton, whom grief had reduced to the mental level of an oyster, did not reason this out; and the sight of her deprived him of practically all his faculties, including speech. He just stood there and yammered.

Wilton really was elated at this. The construction he put on it was that she had relented and was coming back to fling her arms round his neck. He was just bracing himself for the clash, when he caught her eye, and it was as cold and unfriendly as the sea.

The wind had now grown simply freezing, and it came through his thin suit and roamed about all over him in a manner that caused him exquisite discomfort.


Wilton shrugged his shoulders. He was feeling at war with Nature and Humanity combined. The wind had shifted a few points to the east, and was exploring his anatomy with the skill of a qualified surgeon.


For a moment she looked at him without speaking. Then she uttered a cry in which relief, surprise, and indignation were so nicely blended that it would have been impossible to say which predominated.


Life's too short to bark at everybody who comes into our yard.

cq ;-)

'The first thing a dog has to learn,' mother used often to say, 'is that the whole world wasn't created for him to eat.'

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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)