Although right now, it’s not springtime, this book is definitely the best one to devour during this globally uncertain climate, and so are the other Plum’s works. One of my favourite quotes is this one, when a character, Horace Davenport, intends to get funds to run an onion soup bar on the street of Piccadilly Circus. Such imagery!
And let me tell you, Mr Pott, the potentialities of that bar are stupendous. I’ve stood there night after night and watched the bottle-party addicts rolling up with their tongues out. It was like a herd of buffaloes stampeding for a water-hole.
“The risk you run, when you impersonate another man, is that you are apt to come up against somebody to whom his appearance is familiar.” – Efficient Baxter
I often think Wodehouse is the counterpart of another favourite, Wilkie Collins. Despite the fact that they shine in different spectrum, both writers have their charms in ingeniously entertaining their readers with such fascinating elements of dissimulation and disguises. The characters of Wilkie Collins’ are in disguise because they are forced to do so without a secure foothold amidst their straitened circumstances and social prejudices. With such engaging plots, Wilkie Collins always scrutinises and experiments in his novels without sacrificing his mission to convey the didactic messages that morality, equality, and individuality prevail and matter. Wodehouse, on the other hand, as a benign old bird and being sympathetic towards his chums’ love lost and bookies’ debts, he laboriously helps out and assigns guests of his country castles to assume different garments and deportment; at the same time, how Wodehouse weaves the plot so seamlessly and beautifully purely for joy is beyond me. Not only the guests in disguise are effervescent in their respective brilliance and eccentricity, but the recurring victims who fall into their traps also find a voice of their own in his stories.
To most people at whom the efficient Baxter directed that silent, steely, spectacled stare of his there was wont to come a sudden malaise, a disposition to shuffle the feet and explore the conscience guiltily: and even those whose consciences were clear generally quailed a little.
In my opinion, reading some of the Wilkie Collins’s later novels with characters in disguise, the fascination mainly centers on the protagonists’ sole helplessness, reflection and vulnerability after he or she is tempted to assume the identity without anyone to turn into when in need, and finally culminating in being self-enlightened. Dead stymies propelled majorly by fate would force to have their forlorn and regrettable pasts confessed and unveiled in the end.
Reading Blandings is an extremely different experience – a lighthearted matter. The lovelorn and helpless chums and girls are not tempted to assume identities calculated by their own decisions but rather being cajoled to do so. They often they have partners in crime and other lurkers on the grounds as well, which makes the whole situation much less lonelier and helpless. In Blandings, the characterisation is very much the same but would never be bland. Because the hosts and guests have their respective satellites and are living in prime of their lives, we extract so much farce in them. The clever ones are always the cleverest; the absent-minded could at one time be the shrewdest but constantly end up sustaining puzzled and unresponsive; the overbearing disciplinarians are the most irritated; the cheerless and suspicious ones who think of themselves as Sherlock Holmes are doomed to be victims and being rubbed in the nose now and then as the laughing stocks in the human nature of schadenfreude. Even the Empress of Blandings has her all-the-year-round innocence to fit into.
In the confined space the report sounded like the explosion of an arsenal, and it convinced the Empress, if she had needed to be convinced, that this was no place for a pig of settled habits. Not since she had been a slip of a child had she moved at anything swifter than a dignified walk, but now Jesse Owens could scarcely have got off the mark more briskly. It took her a few moments to get her bearings, but after colliding with the bed, the table and the armchair, in the order named, she succeeded in setting a course for the French window and was in the act of disappearing through it when Lord Emsworth burst into the room, followed by Lady Constance.
Reaching the solutions in Blandings, the answers and revelations are so far-fetched, the ways how those conspirators achieve their purposes and find the excuses of running away from the crime scenes always leave me fruitfully gobsmacked. In Uncle Fred in the Springtime, the mastermind Uncle Fred tries to secure £250 twice from different persons. I cannot help myself admiring him in the story!
“Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood.” – Lord Ickenham (Uncle Fred) / Shakespeare
Although the young have flights of fancy and fantasy, for instance, sons of Lord Emsworth – Freddie Threepwood and Lord Bosham – who are accorded with their cheeky spirits and hearty ways, they are often thwarted by difficulties ahead. In contrast, uncles like Galahad and Lord Ickenham always sustain the lighthearted avuncular vibe of resisting affronts and instituting reprisals. They are more adventurous to do the confidence-tricks, pinching and sneaking, and disapprove of nephews’ defeatist attitudes and streaks of pessimism. Sometimes Uncle Fred would also supply some piece of advice to their nieces regarding love and pursuits,
You would have flung yourself into his arms, and he would have gone on thinking he was the boss. As it is, you have got that young man just where you want him. You will accept his chocolates with a cool reserve which will commit you to nothing, and eventually, after he has begun running around in circles for some weeks, dashing into his tailors from time to time for a new suit of sackcloth and ashes and losing pounds in weight through mental anguish, you will forgive him – on the strict understanding that this sort of thing must never occur again. It doesn’t do to let that dominant male type of chap think things are too easy.
Indeed, the uncles and aunts constantly find their nephews and nieces too socialistic, irritating, melancholic, being a slip of striplings; vice versa the young blooms find their elders and guv’nors too patrician, potty, cheeseparing, frigid, and redoubtable; but both parties are equally harmless and endings always consummating and satisfying. When consuming Wodehouse, you realise that it is not everything that might need to be taken into account too seriously, and the joy you get habitually from Wodehouse’s writing will be that, as Phil Collins now and then serenades, every day is “another day in paradise”.