Wodehouse Quotations

Preface to Omnibus Life at Blandings

when this book was first published - fifty-three years ago - writers in America, where I had been living since 1909, were divided into two sharply defined classes - the Swells who contributed regularly to the Saturday Evening Post and the Cannail or Dregs who thought themselves lucky if they landed an occasional story with Munsey's, the Popular or one of the other pulp magazines. I had been a chartered member of the latter section for five years when I typed the first words of Something Fresh.Half-way through it I got married (and have been ever since) to an angel in human form who had seventy-five dollars. As I had managed to save fifty, we were fairly well fixed financially, but we felt we could do with a bit more, and by what I have always looked on as a major miracle we got it. My agent, who must have been an optimist to end all optimists, sent the story to the Saturday Evening Post and George Horace Lorimer, its world-famous editor, bought it as a serial and paid me the stupefying sum of $3,500 for it, at that time the equivalent of seven hundred gleaming golden sovereigns. I was stunned. I had always known in a vague son of way that there was money like $3,500 in the world, but I had never expected to touch it. If I was a hundred bucks ahead of the game in those days, I thought I was doing well.I have always had the idea that Lorimer must have been put in a receptive mood the moment he saw the title page. My pulp magazine stories had been by 'P. G. Wodehouse', but Something Fresh was the work of: pelham grenville wodehouse, and I am convinced that that was what put it over.A writer in America at that time who went about without three names was practically going around naked. Those were the days of Richard Harding Davies, of James Warner Bellah, of Margaret Culkin Banning, of Earl Derr Biggers, of Charles Francis Coe, Norman Reilly Raine, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Clarence Buddington Kelland, and Orison Swett - yes, really, I'm not kidding - Marden. Naturally a level-headed editor like Lorimer was not going to let a Pelham Grenville Wodehouse get away from him.If you ask me to tell you frankly if I like the names Pelham Grenville, I must confess that I do not. I have my dark moods when they seem to me about as low as you can get. At the font I remember protesting vigorously when the clergyman uttered them, but he stuck to his point. 'Be that as it may,' he said firmly, having waited for a lull, 'I name thee Pelham Grenville.'Apparently I was called that after a godfather, and not a thing to show for it except a small silver mug which I lost in 1897.1 little knew how the frightful label was going to pay off thirty-four years later. (One could do a bit of moralizing about that if one wanted to, but better not for the moment. Some other time, perhaps.)Something Fresh was the first of what I might call - in fact, I will call - the Standings Castle Saga. Since then I have written nine novels and a number of short stories about that stately home of England. And I should like to give a warning to any young litterateur who is planning to go in for this Saga racket, and that is to be very careful in the early stages how he commits himself to dates and what is known as locale. When I wrote Something Fresh I rashly placed Blandings Castle in Shropshire because my happiest days as a boy were spent near Bridgnorth, overlooking the fact that to get to the heart of Shropshire by train takes four hours (or did in my time. No doubt British Railways by now have cut it down a lot). This meant that my characters were barred from popping up to London and popping back the same afternoon, which is so essential to characters in the sort of stories I write. Kent or Sussex would have served me better.And as to dates. I wrote Something Fresh in 1914, and not realizing that this was not an end but a beginning and wanting to make Lord Emsworth fairly elderly I stated that he had been at Eton in the Sixties. This becomes awkward nowadays, for while the ninth earl is not supposed to be in his first youth, I certainly do not intend to portray him as a centenarian.People are always asking me ... well, someone did the other day ... if I draw my characters from living originals. I don't. I never have, except in the case of Psmith. He was based more or less faithfully on Rupert D'Oyly Carte, the son of the Savoy Theatre man. He was at school with a cousin of mine, and my cousin happened to tell me about his monocle, his immaculate clothes, and his habit, when asked by a master how he was, of replying, 'Sir, I grow thinnah and thinnah.' I instantly recognized that I had been handed a piece of cake and I bunged him down on paper (circ. 1908). But none of the Blandings circle owes his or her existence to anyone but me. I thought them all up, starting from scratch.I have often felt that life at Blandings must have been a very pleasant affair, if not for Lord Emsworth and his pig, at any rate for visitors to the castle. Plenty of ridin', shootin', and fishin' for those sportively inclined, and the browsing and sluicing of course beyond criticism. I have always refrained from describing the meals there, not wishing to make my readers' mouths water excessively, but I can now divulge that they were of the best and rendered all the more toothsome by being presided over by butler Beach, who also never failed to bring the tray of beverages into the drawing-room at 9.30.The one thing that might be considered to militate against the peace of life at Blandings was the constant incursion of impostors. Blandings had impostors the way other houses have mice. I have recorded so far the activities of six of them, and no doubt more to come.

I am not certain who is the Empress's pig man now that La Simmons has left. I may be wrong, but I have a sort of idea that he will turn out to be the latest of that long line of impostors. It is about time that another was coming along. Without at least one impostor on the premises, Blandings Castle is never itself.

P. G. Wodehouse


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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)