Gems from a rich vein

In responding to a comment of Barry’s, I used one of my best-loved old Wodehouse quotes. Naturally, that got me to looking around for more of that good, good stuff, which as always I can’t resist sharing with y’all.

1. “It is a good rule in life never to apologize. The right sort of people do not want apologies, and the wrong sort take a mean advantage of them.”
(from The Man Upstairs and Other Stories)

2. “I could see that, if not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled.”
(from The Code of the Woosters)

3. “There are moments, Jeeves, when one asks oneself, ‘Do trousers matter?’”
“The mood will pass, sir.”
(from The Code of the Woosters)

4. “Well, there it is. That’s Jeeves. Where others merely smite the brow and clutch the hair, he acts. Napoleon was the same.”
(from Joy in the Morning)

5. “I’m not absolutely certain of the facts, but I rather fancy it’s Shakespeare who says that it’s always just when a fellow is feeling particularly braced with things in general that Fate sneaks up behind him with the bit of lead piping.”
(from the short story Jeeves and the Unbidden Guest)

10. “It isn’t often that Aunt Dahlia lets her angry passions rise, but when she does, strong men climb trees and pull them up after them.”
(from Right Ho, Jeeves)

13. “Love is a delicate plant that needs constant tending and nurturing, and this cannot be done by snorting at the adored object like a gas explosion and calling her friends lice.”
(from Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit)

14. “An apple a day, if well aimed, keeps the doctor away.”
(from Carry on, Jeeves)

15. “Into the face of the young man who sat on the terrace of the Hotel Magnifique at Cannes there had crept a look of furtive shame, the shifty hangdog look which announces that an Englishman is about to speak French.”
(from The Luck of the Bodkins)

16. “You’re one of those guys who can make a party just by leaving it. It’s a great gift.”
(from The Girl in Blue)

22. “For an author Jerry Vail was rather nice-looking, most authors, as is widely known, resembling in appearance the more degraded types of fish, unless they look like birds, when they could pass as vultures and no questions asked.”
(from Pigs Have Wings)

23. “It was a confusion of ideas between him and one of the lions he was hunting in Kenya that had caused A. B. Spottsworth to make the obituary column. He thought the lion was dead, and the lion thought it wasn’t.”
(from Ring for Jeeves)

26. “He wore the unmistakable look of a man about to be present at a row between women, and only a wet cat in a strange backyard bears itself with less jauntiness than a man faced by such a prospect.”
(from Piccadilly Jim)

28. “Every day you seem to know less and less about more and more.”

47. “Prismatic is the only word for those frightful tweeds and, oddly enough, the spectacle of them had the effect of steadying my nerves. They gave me the feeling that nothing mattered.”
(from The Code of the Woosters)

58. “He had the look of one who had drunk the cup of life and found a dead beetle at the bottom.”

60. “She looked as if she had been poured into her clothes and had forgotten to say ‘when’.”
(from The Inimitable Jeeves)

61. “I always advise people never to give advice.”

73. “The drowsy stillness of the afternoon was shattered by what sounded to his strained senses like G.K. Chesterton falling on a sheet of tin.”

I’ve commended PG Wodehouse to CF readers’s attention here many times over the years, thereby learning to my mild surprise that a lot of you folks are also fans yourselves. I consider him one of the most gifted writers ever; he’s been right at the top of my personal-favorites list since the day my Aunt Ruth loaned me her copy of Laughing Gas and I ripped through it in a day, laughing myself silly all the way through it. I was only nine or ten years old at the time, and had never been to Old Blighty at all, much less the 20’s-era Blighty in which much of PG’s finest work is set. I was wholly innocent of any association with, or personal knowledge of, the habits and pursuits of England’s idle-aristocrat class who populate his books—a lack of familiarity which assumably would sabotage my ability to find anything I could relate to or give a damn about in his writing. But somehow Wodehouse really hit me where I lived just the same, and over the years I’ve gobbled his stuff up like a kid eating candy, all of it I could possibly get.

I think I may still have that old copy of Laughing Gas around here someplace, battered and shopworn though it now is after so many decades of re-reading, travel, changes of address, etc. Aunt Ruth never asked for it back, although I offered to bring it over to her many times. I sure hope I still have it, anyway. Ruth is gone now, and the book would make a perfect memento of the gift she gave her young nephew when she introduced me to a writer whose acquaintance I’ve cherished my entire life.

If you haven’t read him before and would like to give him a try, Project Gutenburg has most of PG Wodehouse’s catalog available for free download, bless them. I have almost all of ’em on my phone; if you need an eBook reader, Moon Reader (also available free) is the one I use, and it’s top-notch. Be warned: Wodehouse isn’t everyone’s cup of Earl Grey. No matter what you may expect, Wodehouse will still surprise you. Some readers find his characters and the world in which they live too alien or archaic, while others simply don’t know what to make of him at all. But for those of us who find ourselves at home in his world, Wodehouse is literally incomparable; there’s never been anyone else quite like him, and never will be again.

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