The Den(ver) of the Secret Nine was reduced to six at our Jan. 12th meeting, but hopefully this Agatha Christie trend is just a reflection of the Denver Broncos playoff game and the inclement mountain weather that may have deterred some.
We did, however, welcome new member Mike to the group and our discussion of Love Among the Chickens, one of Wodehouse’s earliest works and, I think, his first non-boarding school influenced novel. I think most of us enjoyed reading the novel, although original Mike found the shocking treatment of poultry hard to overlook, and confessed to having finished the book through sheer dedication.
Opinion was more divided on the character of Stanley Featherstonhaugh Ukridge. Is he a likable character or not? I did not care for him at first, but he did grow on me. Member Shawn said the book motivated him to read Wodehouse’s earliest novels. Member Ed, who was unable to make the meeting, sent me a message on facebook to say that Ukridge was the first Wodehouse hero he did not like, which made me wonder if Ukridge is really the hero of the story. Ukridge is, to a certain extent, just an elemental force who propels the hero James Garnet into The Situation.
Original Mike thought he might like Ukridge based on that man’s introduction of his wife Millie: “Garny, old horse,” said Ukridge with some pride, “this is her! The pride of the home. Companion of joys and sorrows and all the rest of it. In fact,” in a burst of confidence, “my wife.” Mike thought Ukridge sounded like Dicken’s Micawber, but subsequent reading disappointed him.
Mike’s quotation, however, allowed me to comment on that fact that I had read the original 1906 edition of the story, while the others had read the revised 1921 edition (identifiable by the letter to Bill Townend in the dedication). The 1906 edition merely reads: “Garnet, old horse,” said Ukridge with some pride, “let me introduce you to my wife. Millie, this is old Garnet. You’ve heard me talk about him.”
I had worried before the meeting that we had not specified what edition to read (this, of course, is always a danger with Wodehouse), but as it turns out, it was quite enjoyable to have a mix.
New Mike, who arrived just a little late, asked a question that had already been discussed: the pronunciation of Featherstonhaugh Ukridge. Member Shawn had done some research and found that Debrett’s pronunciation guide mentioned that Featherstonhaugh should be pronounced as written, even though many people say it as “Fanshaw.” Shawn also mentioned that Garrison’s Who’s Who in Wodehouse says Ukridge should be pronounced to rhyme with Duke-ridge.
New Mike, by the way, told us a delightful tale of being introduced to Wodehouse while a young man traveling in Europe. He encountered two Dutch men who spoke in the fashion of Wodehouse characters, with lots of “What hos!” and other Bertie-isms, and lent Mike a copy of a Wodehouse novel.
Member Larry suggested our next novel. Although he enjoyed LATC, he wanted to return to Jeeves and Wooster, and so our next book to read is Joy in the Morning, appropriate for we had earlier read The Code of the Woosters. The date for the next meeting is March 9 at 12:30 p.m. and will be, as usual, at Pints Pub in downtown Denver. Remember to jot down your favorite quotes and have two trivia questions to ask.
We did use this meeting to institute our new policy of each person providing two trivia questions about the novel and I wish I could remember them. We did not systematically ask the questions, but each person offered one when it seemed appropriate. I think this method worked well, although none of us was unable to answer this question: What is a crackling Bradbury’s? And as the asker didn’t know, it remains unanswered, along with the details of the drinks exchanged between the governors of North and South Carolina.
It was also proposed that we have a Wodehouse movie meeting, perhaps as an extra meeting. Original Mike has offered us the use of his home and perhaps members could indicate what day would be convenient for them. The first and second Sunday afternoons of February are inconvenient for me, but the world does not revolve around me.
Finally, it was mentioned (by me) that the Arvada Center is presenting Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, from Jan. 28 through Feb. 23. We may make up a party and I hope my fellow Sherlockians and Janeites may also find this interesting. Admittedly the timing of this may conflict with plans for a movie night.