Wodehouse Quotations


I want you to follow me very closely here. As far as the excusing of James's conduct is concerned, it is now or never. If I fail at this point to touch you, I have shot my bolt.
  Let us marshal the facts.




From my list of contributory causes I find that I have omitted one item - viz., that there did not appear to be anybody else about.

James looked meditatively at Violet. Violet looked smilingly at James. The morning was just as ripping as it had been a moment before. James was still twenty-two. And the editor's letter had not ceased to crackle in his breast-pocket. Consequently James stooped, and - in a purely brotherly way - kissed Violet.


;-) The new-comer was Adolf. Adolf was one of that numerous band of Swiss and German youths who come to this country prepared to give their services ridiculously cheap in exchange ^ for the opportunity of learning the English language. Mr \ Blathcrwick held the view that for a private school a male front-door opener was superior to a female, arguing that the parents of prospective pupils would be impressed by the sight of a man in livery. He would have liked something a bit more imposing than Adolf, but the latter was the showiest thing that could be got for the money, so he made the best of it, and engaged him. After all, an astigmatic parent, seeing Adolf in a dim light, might be impressed by him. You never could tell.
  All that James had ever heard or read about the wonderful devotion to study of the modern German young man came home to him during the next two weeks. Our English youth / fritters away its time in idleness and pleasure-seeking. The German concentrates. Adolf concentrated like a porous plaster.
  Meanwhile, in the study, leaning against the mantelpiece in moody reflection, Mr Blatherwick was musing sadly on the hardships of the schoolmaster's life. The proprietor of Harrow House was a long, grave man, one of the last to hold out against the and-whiskcr crusade. He had expressionless hazel eyes, and a general air of being present in body but absent in spirit. Mothers who visited the school to introduce their sons put his vagueness down to activity of mind. 'That busy brain,' they thought, 'is never at rest. Even while he is talking to us some abstruse point in the classics is occupying his mind.'
gs Mr Blathcrwick's dreamy hazel eye rested pensively upon her. The major portion of his mind was far away in the future, dealing with visions of a school grown to colossal proportions, and patronized by millionaires. The section of it which still worked in the present was just large enough to enable him to understand that he felt kindly, and even almost grateful, to Violet. Unfortunately it was too small to make him sec how wrong it was to kiss her in a vague, fatherly way across the coffee tray Just as James Datchett walked into the room.
gs 'Yes. After you had left me last night he came to my study with a malicious - cr - fabrication respecting yourself which I need not - ah - particularize.'
/Three from Dunstreville/
Cool! Three years before, at a church festival, he had stated specifically that he would die tor her. Perhaps he was still willing to do that - she had not inquired - but, at any rate, he did not sec his way to employing her as a secretary. He had been very nice about it. He had smiled kindly, taken her address, and said he would do what he could, and had then hurried off to meet a man at lunch. But he had not given her a position.
QQ 'Dismiss you? Not much. The thing has simply confirmed my high opinion of your qualifications. The ideal secretary must have two qualities: she must be able to sec. and she must think her employer a pig. You fill the bill.
gt! Dignity fought with curiosity in Mary for a moment. The latter won.


It was a bomb in a blue dress that Joe found waiting for him at the office next morning. He surveyed it in silence, then raised his hands over his head.

'Don't shoot,' he said. 'What's the matter?'



/The Twopenny Millionaire/



What is it that makes men do perilous deeds ? Why does a man go over Niagara Falls in a barrel ? Not for his health. Half an hour with a skipping-rope would be equally beneficial to his liver. No; in nine cases out of ten he docs it to prove to his friends and relations that he is not the mild, steady-going peron they have always thought him. Observe the music-hall acrobat as he prepares to swing from the roof by his eyelids. His gaze sweeps the house. 'It isn't true,' it seems to say. "I'm not a jelly-fish.'
gexp But all the while his mind, knocked head over beds, was lying in a limp heap, wondering what had struck it.



Now, all through the day George had been assailed by a steady stream of determined car-biters. Again and again he had been staked out as an ore-producing claim by men whom it would have been impolitic to rebuff. He was tired of lending, and in a mood to resent unauthorized demands. Harold Flower's struck him as particularly unauthorized. He said so.

It took some little time to convince Mr Flower that he really meant it, but, realizing at last the grim truth, he drew a long breath and spoke.


The George who strolled that pleasant morning on the Promenade dcs Strangers differed both externally and inter≠nally from the George who had fallen out with Harold Flower in the offices of the Planet Insurance Company. For a day after his arrival he had clung to the garb of middle-class England. On the second he had discovered that this was un≠pleasantly warm and, worse, conspicuous. At the Casino Municipalc that evening he had observed a man wearing an arrangement in bright yellow velvet without attracting at≠tention. The sight had impressed him. Next morning he had emerged from his hotel in a flannel suit so light that it had been unanimously condemned as impossible by his Uncle Robert, his Aunt Louisa, his Cousins Percy, Eva, and Gcraldine, and his Aunt Louisa's mother, and at a shop in the Rue Lasalle had spent twenty francs on a Homburg hat. And Roville had taken it without blinking.
  Internally his alteration had been even more considerable. Rovillc was not Monte Carlo (in which gay spot he had re≠mained only long enough to send a picture post-card to Harold Flower before retiring down the coast to find something cheaper), but it had been a revelation to him. For the first time in his life he was seeing colour, and it intoxicated him. The silky blucness of the sea was startling. The pure white of the great hotels along the promenade and the Casino Municipale fascinated him. He was dazzled.
Wow! George, from boyhood up, had been raised in that school of thought whose watchword is 'Findings arc keepings', and, having ascertained that there was no address attached to the name, he was on the point, I regret to say, of pouching the volume, which already he looked upon as his own, when a figure detached itself from the crowd, and he found himself J gazing into a pair of grey and, to his startled conscience, accusing eyes.
  He dropped the paper and hobbled on to his hotel. His boots had begun to hurt. him again, for he no longer walked on air.
gs! At Roville there arc several institutions provided by the municipality for the purpose of enabling visitors temporarily to kill thought. Chief among these is the Casino Municipalc, where, for a price, the sorrowful may obtain oblivion by means of the ingenious game of boule. Disappointed lovers at Roville take to boule as in other places they might take to drink.
tt! ;-) The game of boule demands undivided attention from its devotees. To play widi a mind full of other matters is a mistake. This mistake George made. Hardly conscious of what he was doing, he flung the coin on the board. She had asked him to place it on eight, and he thought that he had placed it on eight. That, in reality, blinded by emotion, he had placed it on three was a fact which came home to him neither then nor later.
te The croupier was a man with a pointed moustache and an air of having seen all the sorrow and wickedness that there had ever been in the world. He twisted the former and permitted a faint smile to deepen the melancholy of the latter, but he did not speak.



To the normal George, as to most Englishmen of his age, the one cardinal rule in life was at all costs to avoid rendering himself conspicuous in public. Than George normal, no violet that ever hid itself in a mossy bank could have had a greater distaste for scenes. But tonight he was not normal. Rovillc and its colour had wrought a son of fever in his brain. Boule had increased it. And love had caused it to rage. If this had been entirely his own affair it is probable that the croupier's frigid calm would have quelled him and he would have retired, fermenting but baffled. But it was not his own affair. He was fighting the cause of the only girl in the world. She had trusted him. Could he fail her? No, he was dashed if he could. He would show her what he was made of. His heart swelled within him. A thrill permeated his entire being, starting at his head and running out at his heels. He felt tremendous - a sort of blend of Oliver Cromwell, a Berserk warrior, and Sir Galahad.

qq? ct gs It is a remarkable fact in life that the scenes which we have rehearsed in our minds never happen as we have pictured them happening. In the present case, for instance, it had been George's intention to handle the subsequent stages of this little dispute with an easy dignity. He had proposed, the money obtained, to hand it over to its rightful owner, raise his hat, .and retire with an air, a gallant champion of the oppressed, a was pro≠bably about one-sixteenth of a second after his hand had closed on the coins that he realized in the most vivid manner that these were not the lines on which the incident was to develop, and, with all his heart, he congratulated himself on having discarded those brown boots in favour of a worn but roomy pair of gent's Oxfords.
jgt! For a moment there was a pause and a silence of utter astonishment, while the minds of those who had witnessed the affair adjusted themselves to the marvel, and then the world be≠came full of starting eyes, yelling throats, and clutching hands. From all over the casino fresh units swarmed like bees to swell the crowd at the centre of things. Promcnadcrs ceased to promenade, waiters to wait. Elderly gentlemen sprang on to tables.
;-) A paper-seller on the pavement, ever the man of business, stepped forward and offered him the Paris edition of the Daily Mail, and, being in the direct line of transit, shot swiftly into the road and fell into a heap, while George, shaken but going well, turned off to the left, where there seemed to be rather more darkness than anywhere else.
  Panic makes Harlequin three-quarters of us all. For one who had never played Rugby football George bandied the situation well. He drew the defence with a feint to the left, then, swerving to the right, shot past into the friendly darkness. From behind came the ringing of feet and an evergrowing din.
  In the little regi≠ment that pounded at his heels it is probable that there were many taster runners than George. On the other hand, there V were many slower, and in the early stages of the chase these impeded their swifter brethren. At the end of the first half-minute, therefore, George, not sparing himself, had drawn well ahead, and for the first time found leisure for connected thought.
;-) His brain became prctcrnaturally alert, so that when, round≠ing a corner, he perceived entering the main road from a side-street in front of him a small knot of pedestrians, he did .1 not waver, but was seized with a keen spasm of presence of mind. Without pausing in his stride, he pointed excitedly before him, and at the same moment shouted the words, 'La! La! Vite! Vite!'
qq? gs! It is convincing evidence of the extent to which love had triumphed over prudence in George's soul that the advisability of lying bid in his hotel on the following day did not even cross his mind.
/Ahead of Schedule/


Wilson stropped his master's razor thoughtfully.

'A trifle elaborate, sir, is it not?' he said.


tt ge! He gave the impression of a man who does not depend on idle rumour for his facts. His eye gleamed unprofcssionally for a moment before resuming its habitual expression of quiet introspection.
;-) tt Rollo Finch - in the present unsatisfactory state of the law parents may still christen a child Rollo - was a youth to whom Nature had given a cheerful disposition not marred by any superfluity of brain. Everyone liked Rollo - the great majority - on sight, the rest as soon as they heard that he would be a millionaire on the death of his Uncle Andrew. There is a subtle something, a sort of nebulous charm, as it were, about young men who will be millionaires on the death of their Uncle Andrew which softens the ruggedest misanthrope.
gcomp He was, moreover, as has been stated, by birth and residence a Pittsburgh man. And the ten≠dency of middle-aged Pittsburgh millionaires to marry chorus-girls is notoriously like the homing instinct of pigeons.
  Even as a boy, hardly capable of connected thought, he had been convinced that his speciality, the one thing he could do really well, was to inherit money. All he wanted was a chance. It would be bitter if Fate should withhold it from him.
jgs! It would be absurd to say that Rollo looked at his uncle ' keenly. He was not capable of looking keenly at anyone. But certainly a puzzled expression came into his face.
  When they had met before during the last few years Mr Galloway had been practically sixteen stone five of blood and iron - one of those stern, soured men. His attitude had been that of one for whom Life's music had ceased. Had he then inserted another record? His manner conveyed that idea.
tt Mr Galloway was a good trencherman. At a very early date he had realized that a man who wishes to make satisfactory braces must keep his strength up. He wanted a good deal here below, and he wanted it warm and well cooked. It was, therefore, not immediately that his dinner with Rollo became a feast of reason and a flow of soul. Indeed, the two revellers had lighted their cigars before the elder gave forth any remark that was not purely gastronomic.


'My boy,' he Said, 'I feel young tonight for the first dmc in years. And, hang it, I'm not so old I Men have married at twice my age.'

Strictly speaking, this was incorrect, unless one counted Methuselah; but perhaps Mr Galloway spoke figuratively.



'I hope you will meet her many more times at lunch, my boy. I hope you will come to look upon her as a second mother.'

This was where Rollo asked if he might have a little more brandy.


jgt! He breathed a long breath. A suspicion of silver lining had become visible through the clouds.
Cool! When you send a girl three bouquets, a bracelet, and a gold Billiken with ruby eyes, , you do not expect an entire absence of recognition. Even a penny-in-the-slot machine treats you better than that. It may give you hairpins when you want matches but at least it takes some notice of you.
/Sir Agravaine/


I have also condensed the title. In the original it ran, "How it came about diat ye good Knight Sir Agravaine ye Dolorous of ye Table Round did fare forth to succour a damsel in distress and after divers journcyings and perils by flood and by field did win her for his bride and right happily did they twain live ever afterwards," by Ambrose ye monk.'

It was a pretty snappy tide for those days, but we have such a high standard in tides nowadays that I have felt compelled to omit a few yards of it.


;-) ;-)

The man-at-arms retired. Around the table the knights were struggling into an upright position in their scats and twirling their moustaches. Agravainc alone made no movement. He had been dirough this sort of thing so often. What were distressed damsels to him ? His whole demeanour said, as plainly as if he had spoken the words, 'What's die use?'


Cool Place!

The knights gazed at her blankly. Those were the grand old I days of chivalry, when a thousand swords would leap from their scabbards to protect defenceless woman, if she were beauti≠ful. The present seemed something in the nature of a special case, and nobody was quite certain as to the correct procedure.

An awkward silence was broken by the king.

'Er - yes?' he said.

The damsel halted.

'Your majesty,' she cried, 'I am in distress. I crave help!'

'Just so,' said the king, uneasily, Hashing an apprehensive glance at the rows of perturbed faces before him. 'Just so. What - cr - what is the exact nature of the - ah - trouble? Any assistance these gallant knights can render will, I am sure, be - ah - eagerly rendered.'

He looked imploringly at the silent warriors. As a rule, this speech was the signal for roars of applause. But now there was not even a murmur.

'I may say enthusiastically,' he added.

Not a sound.

'Precisely,' said the king, ever tactful. 'And now - you were saying?'

'I am Yvonnc, the daughter of Earl Dorm of the Hills,' said the damsel, 'and my father has sent me to ask protection from a gallant knight against a fiery dragon that ravages the country≠side.'

'A dragon, gentlemen,' said the king, aside. It was usually a safe draw. Nothing pleased the knight of that time more than a brisk bout with a dragon. But now the tempting word was received in silence.

'Fiery,' said the king.

Some more silence.

The king had recourse to the direct appeal. 'Sir Gawain, this Court would be greatly indebted to you if -'

Sir Gawain said he had strained a muscle at the last tourna≠ment.

'Sir Pelleas.'

The king's voice was growing flat with consternation. The situation was unprecedented.

Sir Pelleas said he had an ingrowing toe-nail.

The king's eye rolled in anguish around the table. Suddenly it stopped. It brightened. His look of dismay changed to one of relief.

A knight had risen to his feet. It was Agravaine.

'Ah!' said the king, drawing a deep breath.

Sir Agravaine gulped. He was feeling more nervous than he had ever felt in his life. Never before had he risen to volunteer his services in a matter of this kind, and his state of mind was that of a small boy about to recite his first piece of poetry.

It was not only the consciousness that every eye, except one of Sir Balin's which had been closed in the tournament that afternoon, was upon him. What made him feel like a mild gentleman in a post-office who has asked the lady assistant if she will have time to attend to him soon and has caught her eye, was the fact that he thought he had observed the damsel Yvonnc frown as he rose. He groaned in spirit. This damsel, he felt, wanted the proper goods or none at all. She might not be able to get Sir Lancelot or Sir Galahad; but she was not going to be satisfied with a half-portion.



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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)