As is our custom, the person who proposed the next book for discussion should provide the meeting notes, and this month Member Janette has that privilege:
Galahad at Blandings—10 obscure facts
- The publishing house, Herbert Jenkins Limited, was sold after 47 years of publishing Wodehouse in England. When Barrie & Rockcliff took over, despite the fact that Herbert Jenkins Limited was one of the oldest and best-known names in publishing, the headline was: “Wodehouse Publishers are Sold”. Barrie & Rockcliff kept the imprint of Herbert Jenkins, mostly just for Wodehouse books.
Galahad at Blandings was published in America by Simon & Schuster in 1965 as The Brinksmanship of Galahad Threepwood, and 6 months later on August 26, 1965 in England as Galahad at Blandings. Wodehouse was 84.
- A letter to J.D. Grimsdick of Herbert Jenkins, from Wodehouse from November 27, 1964
The Galahad books arrived after I had written to you. Did you ever see a ghastlier jacket in your life? One would have thought that anyone reading the book would have gathered that Gally was a dapper elderly man, considering that he is full described, and this son of unmarried parents has made him look twenty-five and one of the Beatles at that. Taken in conjunction with the loathsome title, one feels that P. Schwed (Wodehouse’s American publisher at Simon & Schuster) ought to rent a padded cell in some not too choosy lunatic asylum.
— from P.G. Wodehouse, a Life in Letters, edited by Sophie Ratcliffe
- Galahad at Blandings was Plum’s refuge from pain, as he was writing it during the time of the diagnosis of Ethel’s cancer. But it did not go smoothly. “The flow of inspiration was not what it had been.” He confessed to his editor Grimsdick that, although he believed his new Blandings novel was one of the best of the series, he had cheated in its composition. “For the American version I have put in one or two passages from old books, because nobody over here will remember them.”
…has been called one of his “sunniest and funniest books”, which is particularly fascinating considering what was going on in his personal life when he wrote it.
— from Wodehouse, A Life by Robert McCrum
- It is the 9th full length novel to be set in Blanding Castle. Two books of Blandings short stories preceded it as well.
- On the Empress’s diet:
Wodehouse’s typescript for Sunset at Blandings reminds us of another problem: how much food did the Empress get? Lord Emsworth had always insisted on the Wolff-Lehmann diet as recommended by his favourite book, Whiffle’s The Care of the Pig on a daily intake of 57,000 or more calories. In three separate passages in earlier books Wodehouse had given it as 57,800 calories, in one passage 57,500 calories, and in others 57,000. But in Galahad at Blandings, he gave it twice as 5,700 calories, and this figure is repeated in the Sunset at Blandings typescript. I am assured by the Agricultural Press Ltd. Information Service that 5,700 is a far more realistic figure than 57,800, and that the Lehmann pig feeding system was essentially one in which boiled or steamed potatoes were used to replace barley meal on a 4 to 1 basis. The Berkshire was once a numerous breed: now, however, it is a ‘minor fancier’s pig’. All Berkshires are black, though sometimes white round the feet. Wodehouse refers to the Empress as a black Berkshire, but no illustrator took his word for it till after his death.
— Plum Sauce, a Wodehouse Companion
- Wodehouse and Homer
also from Plum Sauce by Richard Usborne
“The long entry on Homer in my edition of the Encyclopedia Brittanica is by the later Professor Gilbert Murray. In 1957, Murray said: ‘When I became ninety, many telegrams came to congratulate me or perhaps condone with me. The first was from the Prime Minister of Australia. The second from the Prime Minister of England. The third from P.G. Wodehouse. I have a great admiration for Wodehouse and the sequence gratified me.’
“Murray did not bring any references to Wodehouse into his Encyclopedia article on Homer, but I have heard Oxford dons elaborate a theory that, quite apart from Murray’s admiration for both, there is a mystical communion between the two authors so widely separated by centuries. These Senior Common Room scholiasts (the Oxford English Dictionary defines a scholiast as an ancient commentator upon a classical writer, so I have the mot juste) say that Homer and Wodehouse write, with deliberate, artistic purpose, about comparable societies, lordly or near-lordly, past, almost timeless, and yet in certain respects engagingly anachronistic; that each author writes a private language, rich in imagery, allusions, repetitions, formulaic expressions and suppressed quotations; that if the subtitle of The Iliad was The Wrath of Achilles, the subtitle of any Omnibus of Bertie Wooster’s writings could well be The Wrath of Aunt Agatha. And so on.
“Personally, I would add to the dons’ spot passages a quotation from T.E. (Lawrence of Arabia) Shaw’s Introduction to his translation of The Odyssey. Shaw was writing of the sort of man he deduced, from internal evidence, the author [Homer] to have been. The parallels are remarkable:
…a bookworm, no longer young, living from home, a mainlander, city-bred, domestic … a dog-lover… fond of poetry, a great if uncritical, reader … with limited sensuous range, but an exact eyesight which gave him all his pictures… tender charity of heart and head for serving-men …the associate of menials, making himself their friend and defender by understanding… loved the rural scene. No farmer, he has learnt the points of a good olive tree (for Wodehouse read “pig” or “Pumpkin” for olive tree) … He had sailed upon and watched the sea … seafaring not being his trade (Wodehouse had been destined for the Navy as a boy). Neither land-lubber nor stay-at-home nor ninny … He makes a hotch-potch of [historical] periods … pages steeped in a queer naivity .. sprinkled tags of epic across the pages.. very bookish, this house-bred man .. verbal felicity … recurring epithets… the tale was the thing.
It is at Blandings Castle that Wodehouse seems to offer his Homeric parallels most noticeably, particularly in the matters of trophies and counters of exchange.”
- American Novels also published in 1965 include In the Heat of the Night and The Sterile Cuckoo.
British Novels published in 1965 include At Bertram’s Hotel, The Emporer of Ice Cream, Hotel, The Looking Glass War and The Magus.
- There is no Norwegian edition of Galahad at Blandings, although there is of most of his other books.
- There is a map of the interior of Blandings Castle. I will bring a print-out to the meeting.
- In a write up called “Probable references to Gilbert & Sullivan in Wodehouse, sits the following:
Galahad at Blandings (US title: The Brinkmanship of Galahad Threepwood, 1965)
He was not quite sure what was the penalty for the crimes he had committed, but he had an idea that it was something lingering with boiling oil in it, and the thought depressed him. (Ch. 10.2)
Source: The Mikado
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The next meeting will be at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 8 at Pints Pub.