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ashokbhatia

The World Health Organisation, as the directing and coordinating authority on international health within the United Nations system, adheres to the UN values of integrity, professionalism and respect for diversity. It upholds such values as human rights, universality and equity established not only in WHO’s Constitution but also in its ethical standards.

In order to further strengthen the team of medical as well as paramedical professionals associated with us, we are hereby pleased to announce the immediate empanelment of the following experts drawn from Plumsville.

Sir Roderick Glossop

The high-priced loony doctor, with a bald head resembling the dome of St. Paul’s cathedral and two ferocious eyebrows which give his eyes a piercing look, has a pleasant baritone voice. He is expected to counsel all those who happen to be in quarantine to make creative use of their time while curbing their tendency to indulge in gambling, getting otherwise…

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What ho!

To the best of my knowledge and belief, P. G. Wodehouse never set foot on Indian soil. But he has often alluded to its exotic temples, its wildlife, its royalty, its fakirs and mystics with magical powers, and even its love lyrics. Many times he has vividly captured facets of my beautiful country, serving up a delectable curry spiced with uniquely Indian condiments.

In the essay under reference, the reader will find a random sample of references to India in Wodehouse’s novels and short stories. Such references are found across all his narratives, whether he is writing a Jeeves and Bertie story, a tale of Blandings, or a stand-alone novel. What I present here is merely a synopsis.

The Indian Curry: A Brief

  • In some of his novels, jewels associated with idols of gods in Indian temples get stolen, with overzealous priests chasing the villains.
  • Indian fauna such as spiders, scorpions, cobras, elephants, tigers, cheetahs and lions regale the reader across many of Plum’s narratives. Walking butlers like Beach get described as elephants sauntering through an Indian jungle. Princes and maharajas of yore also find a mention occasionally.
  • Plum suggests a link between the Indian Civil Disobedience movement and the dietary and fasting habits of Mahatma Gandhi. Bertie Wooster motivates Tuppy Glossop to forsake pleasures of the table by quoting Mahatma’s example. The Cawnpore (now Kanpur) Mutiny gets referred to in at least two places.
  • Military men who had served in India as part of their duties tell us interesting anecdotes about that distant land, including about their time in the North Western Frontier Province. Some of you may recall that the latter was a province of British India from 1901 to 1947, when it was ceded to Pakistan.
  • When Bobby Wickham takes umbrage, she ticks off Kipper like a typhoon on the Indian Ocean. Elsewhere, to impress a heart throb, the hero claims to have used a Boy Scout pocket knife to teach the sharks there a lesson or two.
  • Indian scriptures often use the Sanskrit term ‘siddhi’ to signify either a remarkable accomplishment or a singular proficiency attained by an aspirant. These could be material, paranormal, supernatural or magical in nature, attained by such practices as meditation, yoga and intense ‘tapas’ (austere practices).

Like much else, this facet of India is also used by Plum to amuse, elevate and entertain his readers. Jeeves, for instance, gets repeatedly portrayed as someone who possesses the property of a gas floating from Spot A to Spot B without much ado. Some characters undergo an experience akin to that of curling up on spikes while others are found contemplating the infinite.

  • Wherever Plum is, love cannot be far behind. India has gifted the world with the Kama Sutra, but it is not surprising that Plum never alludes to this unique treatise, because he never used sex as a ploy to popularize his narratives. All of his male characters are steeped in chivalry, strictly bound by Victorian norms.

In his narratives, Wodehouse appears to have instead based his observations on The Garden of Kama, a collection of lyrical poetry of Indian origin published in 1901, which makes liberal use of imagery and symbols from the poets of the North-West Frontier of India and the Sufi poets of Persia (Iran). The poems, written by Laurence Hope, a pseudonym of Violet Nicholson, are typically about unrequited love and loss. One of her famous compositions, known as a ‘Kashmiri Song’, appears in at least two of Plum’s narratives. 

  • India rubber is one name for the natural rubber that comes from the sap of certain trees. Rubber trees that grow in South America and India produce the majority of India rubber. Plum uses its properties of agility, elasticity, flexibility and robustness to cover a wide range of physical endeavours of the characters in many of his narratives.
  • Some characters have a fetish for remaining as fit as a fiddle. One of the instruments which they happen to depend upon to do so is a pair of Indian clubs.
  • Some of his characters have either visited India or plan to do so. While Lady Malvern whips up a book relating to Indians, Crispin Blakeney goes off there to deliver a series of lectures. Some of us may recall that in ‘Bertie Changes His Mind’, Carry On, Jeeves, Bertie Wooster tells Jeeves that he has a sister in India.
  • Indian handicrafts come up for a mention. So does Taj Mahal. Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore’s dietary habits get commented upon. Some behavioural traits of Indians get covered. The age old sordid custom of ‘sati’ gets touched upon, as do the Indian Civil Services. Stilton Cheesewright has the unique distinction of having come under the spell of Buddhism briefly.
  • The Luck Stone, a concoction whipped up by Plum under the pseudonym Basil Windham, was serialized in a magazine known as ‘Chums: An Illustrated Paper for Boys’ during 1908-1909. It touches upon Indian Vedas, mythology and superstitions.

Some Missing Ingredients

Plum’s works surely throw up several references to India. But if he had wanted to, he could have used a number of other Indian resources to further enrich his narratives.

Alas, we do not find any mention of such literary figures as Kalidasa, besides Aryabhata or Ramanuja, the famous mathematicians. The Vedas do find a solitary mention but any other references to India’s soft power comprising such aspects as spirituality, its multi-layered scriptures and various dance forms are sadly missing.

Above all, the mind-numbing diversity of the spirit of India is missing. Its wide spectrum of ethnicities, languages, beliefs, practices and cuisines is nowhere to be found. These are facets of India which have missed out on his wit and wisdom. It is indeed a delectable irony of sorts that this write up is labelled as The Indian Curry Dished Out by P G Wodehouse, even though it has not thrown up even a single reference to any specifically Indian dish!

As to a liberal use of many other resources of an Indian origin, imagine a distraught Gussie Fink-Nottle pining for Madeline Bassett and sending messages to her through clouds passing overhead, a la ‘Meghadut’, the classic poem penned by Kalidasa. Poets like Ralston McTodd would have been found drawing some inspiration from the creative outpourings of Tagore. To improve Bertie’s intellect, all Florence Craye had to do was to insist that he peruse at least one of the chapters of the ‘Bhagavad Gita’. Laura Pyke could have drawn some inspiration from the science of ‘Ayurveda’, the healthy-lifestyle system that people in India have used for more than 5,000 years. Anatole could have been found whipping up ‘chhole-bhature’ or ‘dosa’s!

Yoga could have helped someone like Ashe Marson to treat his clients suffering from acute dyspepsia to heal faster and better. Sir Roderick Glossop could have gone about advising his loonier patients to make meditation an essential part of their mundane lives. Vicars could have lived a happier Thos-infested life while brooding on spiritual tenets dished out by Indian scriptures, thereby becoming hotter at their jobs. George Bevan, while working on one of his next musical comedies, could have been drawing inspiration from the ‘Natya Shastra’ of Bharata Muni. Gentlemen aspiring for India rubber legs could have been practising such dance forms as ‘Kathak’ or ‘Bharatnatyam.’

The possibilities are endless. The mind boggles. But one would do well not to be concerned with what might have been. Instead, the focus needs to be on the rich legacy Plum has left behind for us to rejoice in.

In fact, it is befitting that quite a few of his works have been translated into some other languages – like Bengali, Kannada, Telugu and Sanskrit – forming a pale parabola of subtle humour across India.

Consistent Depiction, Despite 1947

The India that Plum would refer to belongs to an era which is long since bygone. India gained independence in 1947, but his works published during the period from 1947 (Joy in the Morning) till 1974 (Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen) do not reveal much change in his imagination. Astral bodies, scorpions and cobras continue to rule the roost.

From a global perspective, the devastation caused by the Second World War (1939–45) was then the main area of concern, rather than the fact of India gaining independence on 15 August 1947. Plum had personally suffered in his life owing to political developments then and had relocated from Europe to USA during April 1947, never to visit Europe again. Owing to his preoccupation with other matters then, perhaps the last thing on his mind would have been the British (or American) reaction to the events unfolding in India. Hence his storylines and characters never touched upon the emergence of an independent India.

Love sans Borders

The love for Plum’s oeuvre in the Indian subcontinent transcends any political considerations. Moreover, Plum sets a gold standard of pristine humour not only in English but also in many other languages into which his works have been translated, including in many regional ones in India.

Plum dished out his narratives in a pre-Internet era, when access to information was severely restricted. It is amazing that based mostly on secondary data, so to say, he could leave behind for us a spicy Indian curry, making India shine through in so many ways through a vast array of his novels and stories.

Pip pip!

Notes:

  1. The full text of this essay can be accessed at https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2021/08/31/the-indian-curry-dished-out-by-p-g-wodehouse.
  2. A version of this synopsis appears in the December 2021 issue of Jeeves, the annual journal of the Wodehouse Society in Sweden (WSS).
  3. Illustration courtesy Suvarna Sanyal.

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Here is an uplifting piece from the stable of Plumtopia which transports one to the idyllic world left behind for us by Plum! The Yuletide spirit prevails at Blandings, perhaps also because Lady Constance Keeble is not there!!

Plumtopia

Blandings Castle sparkled in the winter frost.

After a crisp, clear day, the sun was beginning to set and a tranquil calm descended upon the Castle and its inhabitants. Beach the Butler was in his pantry, enjoying a special drop of port, which he had been saving for the occasion. Lord Emsworth was dozing in a favourite armchair with Whiffle’s ‘Care of the Pig‘ across his lap.

Somewhere outside, amongst the evergreen shrubberies – or perhaps the kitchen garden, where bare fruit trees created a romantic silhouette in the fading light – an assignation between lovers was taking place. And in the warmth of her sty, the Empress of Blandings lay in contented majesty after feasting on her Christmas provisions.

Off in the distance, the twinkling lights of Market Blandings had begun to flicker, and a hum of woozled carolling from the Beetle and Wedge drifted upon the…

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The day was mildly cold, so fair, so magically a thing of sunshine and greyish-blue skies and bird-song that anyone acquainted with Clarence, the ninth Earl of Emsworth, and aware of his liking for fine weather, would have pictured him pottering about his terraced garden on a December morning with a beaming smile and an uplifted heart.

Instead, prompted by the Countess of Emsworth, he was being the genial host, ensuring that all the guests and a sole imposter present could lay their hands on their favourite tissue restoratives, of which a wide range was available in abundant supply, Plum wine being only one of the many.

On the lavish lawns of Blandings Castle, around fifteen of Plum fans had assembled. Flowers were in full bloom. The birds had ceased twittering and were looking askance at the mirthful peals of uncontrollable laughter emanating from the group.

Once the introductions had been made, the proceedings were kicked off by recalling the Yeoman’s Wedding Song and then a playback of Sonny Boy.

A quiz followed, leaving many a brainy cove stumped and gasping for fresh air. A dumb charade came up next, regaling all those present.

Personal reminences were shared. Many of the characters created by Plum came in for a loving mention. The conversation in the group often touched a high level and feasts of Reason and flows of Soul occurred.

The eldest known fan, Mrs. Sushama Varma, was felicitated on the occasion. She rendered a soul-stirring ghazal in her sweet and melodius voice. She also released the hard copy version of ‘The Indian Curry Dished Out by P. G. Wodehouse.’

In the absence of Angus McAllister, flowers and plants were freely offered by the genial host. Regrettably, the Empress of Blandings was missing in action, having been whisked off to a secret location. Thus, pig-napping was ruled out.

With the assistance of Gerturde, Beach, Miss Twemlow and other maids, the Countess of Emsworth had organized a lavish spread which could well have been the envy of Anatole. Sweets and savouries were plentiful. Cakes beseeching the participants to tuck them in kept pouring in even after the gig was over.

Overall, a grand rollicking time was had by all those assembled. Fun-filled, blissful and overflowing with sublime joy. The Plum wine was intoxicating indeed. The true spirit of fan following was in evidence. Those who ventured to attend left beaming from ear to ear, carrying with them the sweet memories of the fun, warmth and laughter that normally gets uncorked when a bunch of Plum’s fans gets together.

Photographs courtesy The Imposter

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ashokbhatia

 

Mr Schnellenhamer, the head of the Perfecto-Zizz-baum Corporation, the leading movie studio, is reported to be having an odd disagreeable feeling these days. Perhaps, it is caused by what Roget’s Thesaurus would describe as  agitation, fury, violent anger, wrath and similar emotions listed under the heading ‘Rage’, that too of an impotent kind.

Having struck a deal with Coronavirus Global Corp (CGC in short) to unleash upon the public a movie based on the current pandemic, he believes things to be moving a tad sluggishly. He is not able to gather enough goofy ideas to add a sparkle to the script. Discussions with his team of directors, script-writers, music composers, yes-persons, deputy yes-persons, junior yes-persons, nodders and trainee nodders have led to finalization of the basic outlines of the movie. But he feels much more could be done. CGC had mandated that the movie should get released before any…

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ashokbhatia

Of all the reading that I have done, I have never ever had so much fun,
Than whilst perusing Wodehouse, Laughing to burst out of my blouse.

That Bertie Wooster is so British, such a jolly good fellow,
Can erupt like a volcano at times, yet is disarmingly mellow,
Ample bosomed Aunt Agatha et al bully him into the ground,
Bertie would be lost if Jeeves, that paragon wasn’t around.

The aunts make mincemeat of Bertie without so much as a by your leave,
If it wasn’t for Jeeves the saviour, we’d weep for Bertie and for him grieve,
The Wooster name would fall into ruin, rust corrode their noble family crest,
Sans Jeeves to keep a vigilant eye and shoo away both aunt and other pest.

Bertie Wooster is so upper class, so stiff upper lip, simply so very English,
He belongs to the right club, yet tormented by…

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ashokbhatia

The big and fat weddings which keep taking place all across the length and breadth of India are well known. These are occasions on which gullible parents, overjoyed by the prospect of finally getting rid of their respective wards, loosen their purse strings, showcasing their wealth, power and pelf.

Ostentatious decorations, lavish dinner spreads which could make Anatole raise his eyebrows a fraction of an inch, sumptuous upholstering of those in attendance and a chain of rituals which keep the hapless bride and the groom on their toes – all of these create an ambience which befits the social status of the well-heeled parents, making many others green with envy. It is another matter that such display of wealth often makes our tax sleuths sit up and take notice. The Bartholomews under their supervision promptly start sniffing around, their bare teeth on full display. Unless prompt steps are taken through…

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Chakravarti Madhusudana, Australia

P G Wodehouse never visited India. But even a first reading of his works reveals his affinity for India, Indians and Indian things in general. He may not be always complimentary about Indians and sometimes be even wrong, but his observations were totally without malice and always with an acute sense of the absurd.

In “The Indian Curry Dished Out”, Ashok Bhatia has made an extensive study of Indian references in Plum’s stories and novels. He has classified them into more than a dozen categories and presented them in a style that would be the envy of probably the master himself. I particularly liked the section “Missed Ingredients…” which hints at how PGW’s works might have been enriched by looking at other aspects of Indian culture.

This is a momentous work performed with great love and respect for Plum. I am sure it will be read with delight by Wodehouse fans whether or not they have an Indian background.

John Dawson, USA

This is a unique, delightful and informative essay. Of course I knew that Plum had referenced Indian matters quite a few times in his books, but the volume of these references you’ve included were surprising to me. You’ve done a superb job on an ambitious project! I don’t believe anyone has heretofore attempted to gather all of the Indian references in Wodehouse’s books. Please accept my congratulations for a lovely and worthwhile contribution to Wodehouse scholarship.  

Masha Lebedeva, Russia

The article is absolutely wonderful. It not only gives us a chance to enjoy Master’s humour again and again but also a possibility to look through Plum’s eyes at India’s history, politics and culture. Bravo, Ashok, great work!

Kartik Pashupati, USA

Excellent essay. It’s interesting that Plum’s cat was named Poona. “Poonai” is also the Tamil word for cat, although I doubt if that’s what he had in mind. It’s also worth noting that all of the references to gemstones and similar artifacts stolen from Indian temples are parodies of “The Moonstone” by Wilkie Collins, which is said to be one of the earliest detective novels in English.

Nikhil Rathod, India 

Thank you for the fascinating piece. It took me a while, but I finally finished all 50+ pages. You’ve really researched it!

A couple of things stood out to me:

– India was a huge part of British culture. More than PGW having a fascination for India, I got the impression he was just reflecting the popular culture. PGW was quintessentially English, which is reflected in his writing-style and stories. The references to India weren’t particularly knowledge about India.

– Speaking of “stories”, I’ve loved reading PGW. But, I always knew that the storyline or theme of most books never changed. Obviously, that didn’t lessen my enjoyment of his writing. Similarly, the references that you pointed out in your essay were also repeated in several books. The essay really illustrated this point.

I would have said, Happy Reading, in conclusion, but I don’t think we’ll find an author to compare. Again, thanks for sharing your essay.

Pradeep Swaminathan, India

Ashok has taken the pains book by book to correlate all facts that the Master has made about India. Right from the origins of Wodehouse Road in Colaba, Mumbai, to practically every single mention of anything connected with India. I was a small kid living in Colaba, in the early 60s, when my father was working for that very British institution – The Indian Railways. The colonial hangover still lingered. Colaba was where British India administered Mumbai and the surrounding areas. I still recollect the magnificent building we lived in – Beryl House. Just for the record the ICS exams were replaced with the IAS exams after 1947, so this British Structure is still very much there.

Back to Ashok. If and when he decides to share his essays publically do make it a point to delve deeply into them. How PGW without ever coming to India could garner so many facts about India amazes me. How Ashok has managed to pick each of these gems relate it to the book and give the references also amazes me.

Rajeev Varma, India

This is a fabulous collection of PGW’s literary rendezvous with the Indian curry – scorpions, cats, cobras, fakirs and their spikes, the Maharajas, the princes, the Taj Mahal and Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore – all put in an appearance.  Some modern day Indian nationalists might be critical  of what PGW felt about Mahatama Gandhi’s fasting but one must take into account the time and circumstances while he spoke of Indian Civil Disobedience.  Ashok has admirably captured the essence of PGW’s humour and wit. Undoubtedly, Ashok’s write-up will be immensely liked by PGW’s fans all over India and even elsewhere.

Ashok’s command over the language and the flourish of presentation evoke immediate interest in his writing. A commendable work indeed!

Shalini Kala, India

What a feat – a comprehensive compilation of Plum’s India, accompanied with a wonderful commentary! Loved every bit of it.  I think it will be a treat for any Indian or Indophile who has enjoyed PGW’s writings.

Sriram Paravastu, India

Brilliant writeup and accompanying cartoons by Suvarna Sanyal sir.

Subrata Sarkar, India

Superb. All people wanted to know about “Plum and India” but were too lazy to find out themselves. Hurry Bongsho Jabberjee is obviously a Bengali. I suspect Plum remembered the surname had something to do with incessant talking “chatter” which he recalled as “jabber”. And hence Jabberjee.

Oh! I must mention Suvarna Sanyal and his collage. He brings the characters to life with an additional x-factor.

Suvarna Sanyal, India

Truly PhD level work.

Swarupa Chatterjee, India

This is brilliant. Such an exhaustive account of PGW’s Indian references. And the accompanying illustration is out of the world!

Thakshila Jayasinghe, Sri Lanka

What a read! Enjoyed it very much. I had no idea there were so many references to India in Plum’s books. I suppose you only realise the extent of it when they’re all compiled together like this. Thank you for sharing this with me. It is truly a labour of love as only a real Wodehouse fan could’ve had such dedication.

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ashokbhatia

 A well-bred professional, a docile male rabbit of about 68 winters, is desirous of the companionship of a gentle and mild dormouse with whom he could nurture a peaceful bond and nibble lettuce.

The Party of the First Part (PFP) is not a patch on the inimitable Rupert Psmith. It follows that the Party of the Second Part (PSP) need not be cast in the mould of Eve Halliday.

Who is PFP?

Born in Mathura (UP), he had his education in Delhi and Chandigarh. Throughout his uninspiring career of over 35 years in senior management cadre, he, being a dumb brick of the first order, kept learning and relearning the same lessons repeatedly. One can be excused for believing how lucky these companies were to get him. In reality, it was the other way round. His inability to grasp what it was all about made him a legend of…

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John Dawson recently shared with me a few excerpts from his book P. G. Wodehouse’s Early Years: His Life and Work 1881-1908.

The Context

Thomas Anstey Guthrie (1856–1934) of Kensington was a comic novelist and playwright who practiced law for a brief period after leaving school. His first published short story was a farce set in ancient Rome called “Accompanied by a Flute.” It ran in the humor magazine Mirth in 1878; a compositor’s error credited “F. Anstey,” the pen name he would use for the rest of his career.

While at Cambridge, Guthrie had begun an ingenious novel of a father and son switching bodies that he called Vice Versa, or A Lesson to Fathers. When finally published in 1882, it became an overnight sensation. Graphic: “A touch of the romance of Arabian Nights, some of the peculiar whimsicalities of Gilbert, a humour akin to Dickens, and an insight into modern school boy life as deep as that of Hughes or Farrar. A writer with a personality and a bright, clever style.”

Novelist Andrew Lang introduced Guthrie to the editor of Punch, F. C. Burnand. The result was “Voces Populi,” a series of sketches of Brits at work and play that were, according to Brander Matthews of Cosmopolitan: “Photographic in their accuracy. Anstey has caught the cockney in the very act of cockneyism, but wholly without bitterness or rancor. He knows his roughs, his ruffians, his housemaids, his travellers. He sees their weakness, but he is tolerant and does not dislike them in his heart”— another description that could have fit the work of Wodehouse.

In 1958 Plum told his biographer Richard Usborne that he was “soaked in Anstey’s stuff.” He had been for a long time; fifty-three years earlier, as he compiled notes for “Sunshine and Chickens,” (published in 1906 as Love Among the Chickens) he wrote: “Cook as old soldier like a man in Anstey’s Fallen Idol [1886] always grumbling and vaguely indignant with other people when he does anything wrong.” (Phrases, Notes Etc.) The character did not make it into the book.

From Wodehouse’s The White Feather of 1907: “In stories, as Mr. Anstey has pointed out, the hero is never long without his chance of retrieving his reputation,” which is the main theme of the story.

Enter Baboo Jabberjee

Guthrie’s most notable imprint on Wodehouse’s work comes from the pages of Baboo Jabberjee, B.A., published in 1897. Murphy: “At the end of the nineteenth century, hundreds of young Indians came to London to read law, which led F. Anstey to write a series of essays for Punch in the 1890s, supposedly written by one of them. They became the rage and the whole country quoted Mr. ‘Baboo’ Jabberjee, a pompous young Indian law student, who wrote weekly letters to ‘Hon’ble Punch,’ describing his experiences as a visitor to England. His style of speech was orotund eighteenth century Augustan English, and ten words were used when one would do, mixed in with Shakespearean misquotations.” Indeed—in the first installment, Baboo introduces himself to the editors: “Since my sojourn here, I have accomplished the laborious perusal of your transcendent and tip-top periodical, and hoity toity! I am like a duck in thunder with admiring wonderment at the drollishness and jocosity with which your paper is ready to burst.

Plum’s first quotes from the garrulous Indian appear in “The Manoeuvres of Charteris” and in book form in A Prefect’s Uncle: “The Bishop, like Mr. Hurry Bungsho Jabberjee, B.A., became at once the silent tomb.” The silent t. wheeze is one well known to Wodehouse’s readers.

It might have brought a smile of satisfaction to Wodehouse in May 1906 when Ernest Foster, then editor of Chums, the constant companion of his boyhood, commissioned him to write a “not so public-schooly serial with rather a lurid plot.” He turned to Bill Townend for ideas, and under the alias Basil Windham the pair collaborated on a serial novel “full of kidnappings, attempted murders, etc.” called The Luck Stone. It had a long gestation; serialization wasn’t begun until September 1908. Plum referred to the story in a 1911 letter to L. H. Bradshaw as “in the Andrew Home vein.” The formulaic page-turner might best be described to Americans of a certain age as a British version of a Hardy Boys adventure. ‘Basil Windham’ lifted Baboo’s rem acu tetigisti (Lt., you have touched the matter with a needle) which Anstey had cribbed from the Roman playwright Plautus, and mens sana in corpore sano (Lt., a sound mind in a sound body) courtesy of Juvenal; both phrases are well known to Wodehouse’s readers. The authors created a delightful Baboo clone with the Indian student Ram:

Misters and fellow-sufferers permit me to offer a few obiter dicta on unhappy situation in re lamentable foodstuffs supplied to poor schoolboy. For how without food, even if that food be the unappetising and a bit off, shall we support life and not pop off mortal coil, as Hon’ble Shakespeare says? ’Tis better, misters, as Hon’ble Shakespeare also says, to bear with the snip-snaps we know of than fly to others which may prove but a jumping from frying-pan into fire. Half a loaf is better than an entire nullity of the staff of life. (Abridged from original text)

Plum deprived English literature of what would surely have been a comic masterpiece by not letting his readers in on Ram’s recitation of Hamlet’s soliloquy: “Even in its original form this is admitted by most people to be a pretty good piece of writing, and Ram improved on the original. He happened to forget the exact words half-way through, and, scorning to retire gracefully, as a lesser man might have done, he improvised.”

Usborne detected Baboo’s influence in the speech patterns of three of Wodehouse’s most famous characters: “Take your line through Ram, into Psmith the buzzer, Bertie the burbler and Jeeves the orotund, and you may feel inclined to pay a passing tribute to F. Anstey for planting a seed in the rich soil of young Wodehouse’s burgeoning mind. Jabberjee was powerfully seminal to Psmith. Some of his false concords [disagreement of relative and antecedent, misgovernment of pronouns, mistaking the adverb for the adjective, etc.] are repeated verbatim by Bertie Wooster, and some of his inflated phraseology goes into Jeeves’s vocabulary. It was Jabberjee, not Bertie, who first misunderstood Shakespeare’s “an eye like Ma’s to threaten and command.” (“An eye like Mars, from Hamlet)

Chapter 10 of the book, entitled “A Booky Sort of Person,” discusses Wodehouse’s early reading habits and literary influences.

For all Plum enthusiasts, the book is a treasure trove!

(Permission to reproduce these excerpts on this blog site is gratefully appreciated).     

 

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The Indian Curry Dished Out by P. G. Wodehouse

  

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