Wodehouse Quotations


Her solitary life in the big city had forced upon Elizabeth the ability to form instantaneous judgements on the men she met. She Hashed a glance at the young man and decided in his favour.


Elizabeth was one of those persons who like to begin a friendship with a full statement of their position, their previous life, and the causes which led up to their being in this particular spot at this particular time.


Their relations, she told herself, were so splendidly unsentimental. There was no need for that silent defensiveness which had come to seem almost an inevitable accompaniment to dealings with the opposite sex. James Boyd, she felt, she could trust; and it was wonderful how soothing the reflexion was.


Imagine how Napoleon felt after Austerlitz, picture Colonel Gcethale contemplating the last spadeful of dirt from the Panama Canal, try to visualize a suburban householder who sees a flower emerging from the soil in which he has inserted a packet of guaranteed seeds, and you will have some faint conception how Elizabeth felt as those golden words proceeded from that editor's lips.


One can dimly reconstruct James's train of thought. He is in despair; things are going badly at the theatre, and life has lost its savour. His eye, as he sits, is caught by Elizabeth's profile. It is a pretty - above all, a soothing - profile. An almost painful sentimentality sweeps over James Boyd. There she sits, his only friend in this cruel city. If you argue that there is no necessity to spring at your only friend and nearly choke her, you argue soundly; the point is well taken. But James Boyd was beyond the reach of sound argument. Much rehearsing had frayed his nerves to ribbons. One may say that he was not responsible for his actions.

ge! Cool!

The broad fact that she would never forgive him was for a while her only coherent thought. To this succeeded the determination that she would never forgive herself. And having thus placed beyond the pale the only two friends she had in New York, she was free to devote herself without ' hindrance to the task of feeling thoroughly lonely and wretched.

It took her two seconds to realize that the 'One in Authority' was a miserable incompetent, incapable of recognizing merit when it was displayed before him. It took her five minutes to dress. It took her a minute to run downstairs and out to the news-stand on the corner of the street. Here, with a lavishness which charmed and exhilarated the proprietor, she bought all the other papers which he could supply


Heavy footsteps came down the passage; crushed, disheartened footsteps; footsteps that sent a chill to Elizabeth's heart. The door opened. James Boyd stood before her, heavy-eyed and haggard. In his eyes was despair, and on his chin the blue growth of beard of the man from whom the mailed ^t fist of Fate has smitten the energy to perform his morning shave.


'If you'll marry me,' he said hoarsely, 'I don't care a hang.'

cq? gs

Constable Plimmer looked up. On the kitchen balcony of a second-floor flat a girl was standing. As he took her in with a slow and exhaustive gaze, he was aware of strange thrills. There was something about this girl which exdted Constable Plimmer. I do not say that she was a beauty; I do not claim that you or I would have raved about her; I merely say that Constable Plimmer thought she was All Right.


Constable Plimmer did not reply. He was busy silently hating the milkman. He knew him - one of those good-looking blighters; one of those oiled and curled perishers; one of those blooming fascinators who go about the world making things hard for ugly, honest men with loving hearts. Oh, yes, he knew the milkman.

If all milkmen were like Alt Brooks the phrase was meaningless.


The unfairness of Fate was souring him. A man expects trouble in his affairs of the heart from soldiers and sailors, and to be cut out by even a postman is to fall before a worthy foe; but milkmen - no!

;-) ;-)

Constable Plimmer's wrath faded into a dull unhappiness. Yes, she was right. That was the correct description. That was how an impartial Scotland Yard would be compelled to describe him, if ever he got lost. 'Missing. A great, ugly, red-faced copper with big feet and a broken nose.' They would never find him otherwise.



She threw in the last suggestion entirely in a sporting spirit. She loved battle, and she had a feeling that this one was going to finish far too quickly. To prolong it, she gave him this opening. There were a dozen ways in which he might answer, each more insulting than the last; and then, when he had finished, she could begin again. These little encounters, she held, sharpened the wits, stimulated the circulation, and kept one out in the open air.

'Yes,' said Constable Plimmer.

It was the one reply she was not expecting. For direct abuse, for sarcasm, for dignity, for almost any speech beginning, 'What 1 Jealous of you. Why - ' she was prepared. But this was incredible. It disabled her, as the wild thrust of an unskilled fencer will disable a master of the rapier. She searched in her mind and found that she had nothing to say.



A little, bald, nervous man in spectacles appeared as if out of a trap. As a matter of fact, he had been there all the time, standing by the bookcase; but he was one of those men you do not notice till they move and speak.


When he said three o'clock, he meant three o'clock. It was now three-fifteen, and she had not appeared. Alt Brooks swore an impatient oath, and the thought crossed his mind, as it had sometimes crossed it before, that Ellen Brown was not the only girl in the world.

Constable Plimmer's scowl was of the stuff of which nightmares are made.


There had been moments, in the interval which had elapsed between the first inception of the idea and his present state of fixed determination, when he had wavered. In these moments he had debated, with Hamlet, the question whether it was nobler in the mind to suffer, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them. But all that was over now. He was resolved.


As he was also devoted to the pleasures of the table, life had become for him one long battle, in which, whatever happened, he always got the worst of it.


He was sick of it. He looked back down the vista of the years, and found therein no hope for the future. One after the other all the patent medicines in creation had failed him. Smith's Supreme Digestive Pellets - he had given them a more than fair trial. Blenkinsop's Liquid Life-Giver - he had drunk enough of it to float a ship. Perkins's Premier Pain-Preventer, strongly recommended by the sword-swallowing lady at Barnum and Bailey's - he had wallowed i in it. And so on down the list. His interior organism had simply sneered at the lot of them.

'Death, where is thy sting?' thought Mr Meggs, and forthwith began to make his preparations.

Those who have studied the matter say that the tendency to commit suicide is greatest among those who have passed their fifty-fifth year, and that the rate is twice as great for unoccupied males as for occupied males. Unhappy Mr Meggs, b accordingly, got it, so to speak, with both barrels. He was fifty-six, and he was perhaps the most unoccupied adult to be found in the length and breadth of the United Kingdom. He toiled not, neither did he spin. Twenty years before, an unexpected legacy had placed him in a position to indulge a natural taste for idleness to the utmost.


;-) ;-)

It had not been without considerable thought that Mr Meggs had decided upon the method of his suicide. The knife, the pistol, the rope - they had all presented their charms to him. He had further examined the merits of drowning and of leaping to destruction from a height. There were flaws in each. Either they were painful, or else they were messy.


That is to say, on the rare occasions when Mr Meggs's conscience overcame his indolence to the extent of forcing him to resume work on his British Butterflies, it was to Miss Pillenger that he addressed the few rambling and incoherent remarks which constituted his idea of a regular hard, slogging spell of literary composition.


Mr Meggs went on smiling. You cannot classify smiles. Nothing lends itself so much to a variety of interpretations as a smile. Mr Meggs thought he was smiling the sad, tender smile of a man who, knowing himself to be on the brink of the tomb, bids farewell to a faithful employee. Miss Pillenger's view was that he was smiling like an abandoned old rip who ought to have been ashamed of himself.


He rose and handed them to her. He eyed her for a moment with all the sentimentality of a man whose digestion has been out of order for over two decades. The pathos of the situation swept him away. He bent over Miss Pillenger, and kissed her on the forehead.


He stopped suddenly in his stride, partly because his shin had struck a chair, partly because an idea had struck his mind.


Hopping madly, he added one more parallel between himself and Hamlet by soliloquizing aloud.



She looked for one brief instant up and down the street Nobody was in sight. With a loud cry she began to run.


It was the fierce voice of her pursuer. Miss Pillenger increased to third speed. As she did so, she had a vision of headlines.

'Stop!' roared Mr Meggs.



'CRAZED WITH LOVE HE SLAYS BEAUTIFUL blonde,' flashed out in letters of crimson on the back of Miss Pillenger's mind.



To touch the ground at intervals of twenty yards or so that was the ideal she strove after. She addressed herself to it with all the strength of her powerful mind.



The ordinary man who is paying instalments on the Encyclopaedia Britannica is apt to get over-excited and to skip impatiently to Volume xxvin (vet-zym) to see how it all comes out in the end. Not so Henry. His was not a frivolous mind. He intended to read the Encyclopaedia through, and he was not going to spoil his pleasure by peeping ahead.


It would seem to be an inexorable law of Nature that no man shall shine at both ends. If he has a high forehead and a thirst for wisdom, his fox-trotting (if any) shall be as the staggerings of the drunken; while, if he is a good dancer, he is nearly always petrified from the ears upward.


And then one evening he met her on the shores of the silvery lake. He was standing there, slapping at things that looked like mosquitoes, but could not have been, for the advertisements expressly stated that none were ever found in the neighbourhood of Yo Bonnie Briar-Bush Farm, when along she came. She walked slowly, as if she were. tired. A strange thrill, half of pity, half of something else, ran through Henry. He looked at her. She looked at him.


Henry's soul was expanding like a flower and purring like a well-tickled cat. Never in his life had he been admired by a woman. The sensation was intoxicating.


Silence fell upon them. They started to walk back to the farm, warned by the distant ringing of a bell that supper was about to materialize. It was not a musical bell, but distance and the magic of this unusual moment lent it charm. The sun was setting. It threw a crimson carpet across the silvery lake. The air was very still. The creatures, unclassified by science, who might have been mistaken for mosquitoes had their presence been possible at Ye Bonnie Briar-Bush Farm, were biting harder than ever. But Henry heeded them not. He did not even slap at them. They drank their fill of his blood and went away to put their friends on to this good thing; but for Henry they did not exist. Strange things were happening to him. And, lying awake that night in bed, he recognized the truth. He was in love.


Henry, catching sight of himself in a mirror, was surprised to find that his hair was not white.


Being of a literary turn of mind and also economical, Henry's first step towards his new ambition was to buy a fifty-cent book entitled The ABC of Modem Dancing, by 'Tango'. It would, he felt - not without reason - be simpler and less expensive if he should leam the steps by the aid of this treatise than by the more customary method of taking lessons. But quite early in the proceedings he was faced by complications. In the first place, it was his intention to keep what he was doing a secret from Minnie, in order to be able to give her a pleasant surprise on her birthday, which would be coming round in a few weeks. In the second place. The ABC of Modem Dancing proved on investigation far more complex than its title suggested.


Physically, his new experience caused Henry acute pain. Muscles whose existence he had never suspected came into being for - apparently - the sole purpose of aching. Mentally he suffered even more.

/The Man Upstairs and other stories/

Annette rose. Her face was pink, her chin tilted. Her eyes sparkled with the light of battle. She left the room and started to mount the stairs. No spectator, however just, could have helped feeling a pang of pity for the wretched man who stood unconscious of imminent doom, possibly even triumphant, behind the door at which she was on the point of tapping.


How reckless is Nature in the distribution of her gifts I Not only had this black-hearted knocker on floors a pleasant voice, but, in addition, a pleasing exterior. He was slightly dishevelled at the moment, and his hair stood up in a disordered mop; but in spite of these drawbacks, he was quite passably good-looking. Annette admitted this. Though wrathful, she was fair.


'I am sorry,' she said, in a this-is-where-you-get-yours voice, 'if my playing disturbed you.'


She stopped. He was surveying her with a friendly smile. She noticed most reluctantly that he had a nice smile. His composure began to enrage her more and more. Long ere this he should have been writhing at her feet in the dust, crushed and abject.

;-) gs

A look of such unqualified admiration overspread the young man's face that the last remnants of the ice-pack melted. For the first time since they had met Annette found herself positively liking this blackguardly floor-smiter.

cq? ;-)

Annette belonged to that large section of the public which likes or dislikes a picture according to whether its subject happens to please or displease them. Probably there was not one of the million or so child-and-cat eyesores at present in existence which she would not have liked. Besides, he had been very nice about her music.


'Do you really?' he said. 'Then I can die happy - that is, if you'll let me come down and listen to those songs of yours first.'

;-) ;-)

'I'll never knock on another floor as long as I live,' said the ex-brute, reassuringly. 'I hate knocking on floors. I don't sec what people want to knock on floors for, anyway.'


From the very beginning of their talk he pleased her. She found him an absolutely new and original variety of the unsuccessful painter. Unlike Reginald Sellers, who had a studio in the same building, and sometimes dropped in to drink her coffee and pour out his troubles, he did not attribute his non-success to any malice or stupidity on the part of the public. She was so used to hearing Sellers lash the Philistine and hold forth on unappreciated merit that she could hardly believe the miracle when, in answer to a sympathetic bromide on the popular lack of taste in Art, Beverley replied that, as far as he was concerned, the public showed strong good sense.


Though she invariably listened with a sweet patience which encouraged them to continue long after the point at which she had begun in spirit to throw things at them, Annette had no sympathy with men who whined.



You see, a song doesn't sell unless somebody well known sings it. And people promise to sing them, and then don't keep their word. You can't depend on what they say.'

'Give me their names,' said Beverley, 'and I'll go round tomorrow and shoot the whole lot. But can't you do anything?'

'Only keep on keeping on.'



A particularly maddening hour with one of her pupils drove her up the very next day. Her pupils were at once her salvation and her despair. They gave her the means of supporting life, but they made life hardly worth supporting. Some of them were learning the piano. Others thought they sang. All had solid ivory skulls. There was about a teaspoonful of grey matter distributed among the entire squad, and the pupil Annette had been teaching that afternoon had come in at the tail-end of the division.



For the first time Beverley seemed somewhat confused.

'I - er - why - ' he began.

'Oh, but of course you do,' she went on, sweetly. 'It's in all the magazines.'

Beverley looked at the great man with admiration, and saw that he had flushed uncomfortably. He put this down to the modesty of genius.

'In the advertisement pages,' said Annette. 'Mr Sellers drew that picture of the Waukeesy Shoe and the Restawhile Settee and the tin of sardines in the Little Gem Sardine advertisement. He is very good at still life.'

There was a tense silence. Beverley could almost hear the voice of the referee uttering the count.


Beverley picked up a duster and began slowly to sweep the floor with it.

'What are you doing?' demanded Annette, in a choking voice.

'The fragments of the wretched man,' whispered Beverley. 'They must be swept up and decently interred. You certainly have got the punch, Miss Brougham.'

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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)