Posts Tagged ‘Dahlia’

In an earlier post on the same topic, we had considered a wide range of women who dot the Plumsville landscape. Here are some who happen to play the roles of loving as well as obdurate aunts and seniors.

It is no use telling me there are bad aunts and good aunts. At the core, they are all alike. Sooner or later, out pops the cloven hoof.

(Bertie Wooster)




Aunt Agatha 

To residents of Plumsville, she needs no introduction. She is the one who chews broken bottles and kills rats with her teeth. When she issues orders, one simply fulfills them, there being no court of appeal.

Generally formidable in appearance, Aunt Agatha is five-foot-nine, with a beaky nose, an eagle eye, and a lot of grey hair. The mere fact that she brings up someone like Thos, her son – a fiend in human shape – is sufficient to reveal that she has nerves of chilled steel.

When it comes to Bertie Wooster, Aunt Agatha calls the shots, making him an expert at sliding down water pipes or even going off across the Atlantic so as to escape her wrath. Towards the end of The Mating Season, one finds Bertie apparently mustering up the courage to stand up to her.

She is a matchmaker who never quite gives up on Bertie, who has been intimidated by her since he was young. However, partly thanks to Jeeves’ cunning, her plans invariably fail. In Pearls Mean Tears, the party of the other part proves to be a thief, leaving her red-faced. In Sir Roderick Comes to Lunch, the presence of cats in Bertie’s bedroom scratches his fixture with Honoria Glossop, thereby saving him from the gallows.

If it is a matter of protecting saving family, Bertie is often her favoured nephew to go to. In Extricating Young Gussie, he is sent off to New York to ensure that a cousin does not marry beneath the family’s stature.

She does not approve of family matters being placed in the hands of a menial like Jeeves. We even get to meet her pet dog McIntosh, an Aberdeen terrier, in one of the stories.



Aunt Dahlia

Dahlia Travers happens to be a large, genial soul, and Bertie often praises her humanity, sporting qualities, and general good-eggishness. Though typically friendly, she is capable, with effort, of going into an authoritative grande dame act if the situation calls for it, assuming a serious expression and cold, aristocratic tone. There are occasions when she could even resort to such methods as pinching silver cow creamers, getting cats kidnapped and hold out blackmail threats in order to achieve her goals. The threat which often proves to be the most effective is that of denying her nephew access to Anatole’s lavish spreads at Brinkley Court.

She is short and solid and has a reddish complexion. According to Bertie, her face takes on a purple tinge in moments of strong emotion. She wears tortoiseshell-rimmed spectacles for reading. She has a loud, carrying voice. Riding in her youth for years with such fox-hunting packs as the Quorn and Pytchley, she tends to address Bertie as if shouting across ploughed fields in a high wind. Expressions like “Yoicks!”, “Tally ho!”, “Gone away!”, and “Hark forrard!” happen to be a part of her vocabulary. One also runs into her sleepy black cat called Augustus.

Dahlia dandled Bertie on her knee when he was very young, and once saved him from swallowing a rubber comforter. When Bertie had measles as a child, Aunt Dahlia played tiddlywinks with him for hours and let him win, though Bertie maintains that his victories were due to his own skill.

The exchange of telegrams between her and Bertie are the stuff of a legend. However, the vagaries of time have made telegrams and postal services vanish from the public’s mind, depriving us of any pleasure of that kind in the present internet-driven times. On one occasion, Bertie had contributed an article about men’s dress trousers to her publication Milady’s Boudoir.

She is devoted to her husband Tom Travers and is always keen on touching him for a spot of money to keep her publication alive and kicking. Deeply concerned about the lining of his stomach, she does not display a sense of even rudimentary morality when deciding to pinch Anatole from the household of Rosie M Banks and Bingo Little.

(Why does she deserve the honour of being repeated here, despite having been covered in the previous post? Well, when an informal survey was conducted by yours truly within two of the several groups of Plum’s fans on Facebook, she was the one who was remembered most fondly across the board, miles ahead of Bobby Wickham, another all time favourite amongst those who add a dash and a punch to the proceedings in Plumsville!)



Lady Constance

She is Lord Emsworth’s most formidable sister, a strikingly handsome woman, with a fair, broad brow, and perfectly even white teeth. She has the carriage of an empress, and her large grey eyes are misleadingly genial.

She has an interest in fine arts and frequently invites writers, poets and other artists to Blandings Castle. She expects her brother to pay better attention to family members rather than either in pottering about his extensive gardens or fussing over the Empress of Blandings. She also admonishes her brother on his poor dress sense, expecting him to wear tight collars and top hats at the height of summer while giving speeches at local events. Often, while speaking to her fluffy-minded brother, she suffers a swimming sensation in the head. She connives with the gardener to convince her brother to give up his fascination with a yew alley covered with mossy growth and have instead a gravel path constructed through it but fails.

She strongly disapproves of anyone in her distinguished family marrying inappropriately, and spends much of her time trying to keep nieces and nephews away from unsuitable matrimonial prospects. She is rather fond of Rupert Baxter, the secretary of Lord Emsworth for some time, whom she considers highly capable and on whom she calls whenever she is in dire need of practical assistance.

Towards the end of the story Lord Emsworth and the Girl Friend, one finds her brother having the courage to stand up to her.



Lady Hermione Wedge

Lord Emsworth’s short and fat sister, who resembles a cook, albeit a passionate one. The wife of Colonel Egbert and mother of Veronica, Hermione has all her sisters’ fear of one of the family marrying beneath them, and is incensed when Bill Lister, unsuitable suitor of her niece Prudence, mistakes her, as so many do, for a cook, in Full Moon.

When we meet her again in Galahad at Blandings, she is for a spell acting as a chatelaine at the castle, in the absence of her sister Constance, but gives it up in the face of her brother’s impossible ways; we learn that once, as a child, she struck Galahad over the head with her doll, laying him out cold.

Breeding tells. Lady Hermione Wedge might look like a cook, but there ran in her veins the blood of a hundred earls. She overcame the sudden, quick desire to strike her nephew over his fat head with the nearest blunt instrument.

A Chunk of Baloney is how Tipton Plimsoll is apt to describe her as.



The Five Aunts

In The Mating Season, we get introduced to a bevy of aunts: Charlotte, Emmeline, Harriet, Myrtle Deverill and Dame Daphne Winkworth. They exert undue influence over Esmond Haddock, despite the fact that it is he who foots the weekly bills at Deverill Hall. They come in different sizes and shapes. One is in the habit of soliloquizing to an extent that one comes to believe that if  Shakespeare would have ever come across her, he might have just liked her.

One of the aunts happens to be deaf, one dotty, one Dame Daphne Winkworth, and all of them totally unfit for human consumption on an empty stomach…

(Bertie Wooster)

They happen to be a family rooted in old customs and ways of life and do not take a kindly view of their nephew falling under the influence of Cora Pirbright, a Hollywood diva. In any case, they take a jaundiced view of actors, considering them as rogues and vagabonds. They judge everyone by their narrow county standards.

Having won a resounding approval from his audience at a public performance, the spineless hero eventually musters enough courage to stand up to his aunts, declaring her love for Corky unabashedly. Here is a part of the final words of Esmond Haddock to his aunts:

“…I really cannot have any discussion and argument about it. I acted as I deemed best, and the subject is closed. Silence, Aunt Daphne. Less of it, Aunt Emmeline. Quiet, Aunt Charlotte. Desist, Aunt Harriet. Aunty Myrtle, put a sock in it. Really, the way you’re going on, one would scarcely suppose that I was the master of the house and the head of the family and that my word was law. I don’t know if you happen to know it, but in Turkey all this subordinate stuff, these attempts to dictate to the master of the house and the head of the family, would have led long time before this to you being strangled with bowstrings and bunged into the Bosporous.”


Aunts and Spiritual Growth

Whether good and straight forward or bad and manipulative, aunts and senior ladies in Plumsville perk up the proceedings no end. They display a unique sense of loyalty to their families and can often be blamed for playing spoilsport. But their feudal spirit stands out.

But is there really a point in blaming aunts for any of the challenges faced by their nephews and nieces? At a given point in time, they might look like being worse than fire-breathing dragons. But this is perhaps their way of testing our mettle and the level of passion we have for what we seek. In childhood, they might have dandled us on their knees physically. In adulthood, perhaps this is their way of making us grow into more conscious, more persevering and dashing coves.

In other words, much like the many villains in our lives, they help us to evolve spiritually; to always have a chin up attitude and face the charging dragons and ferocious hippopotami we encounter in our lives with courage, equanimity, tact and resource.


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Some residents of Plumsville may like to join me in recalling our pre-adolescence days. Our first ever encounter withVeryGoodJeeves Cupid’s arrows. The time when innocence slowly started giving way to half-baked romances of a transient nature. The neighborhood crush and the chance encounters. The classroom and the furtive glances. The one-sided affections. The attempts at showcasing gallantry and modesty. The unfulfilled desire to share tips on demystifying Romeo and Juliet. The relentless yearning for companionship. The possibility of a picnic where the presence of a certain person made our hearts go all of a twitter.

A more sinister restlessness crept in when we got infatuated with someone within the dark confines of a cinema hall. Posters of an upcoming movie featuring the adored person invariably got more attention than any text-book at hand. Sneaking off to a matinée, while giving a skip to the homework assigned, was also attempted…

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Some residents of Plumsville may like to join me in recalling our pre-adolescence days. Our first ever encounter withVeryGoodJeeves Cupid’s arrows. The time when innocence slowly started giving way to half-baked romances of a transient nature. The neighborhood crush and the chance encounters. The classroom and the furtive glances. The one-sided affections. The attempts at showcasing gallantry and modesty. The unfulfilled desire to share tips on demystifying Romeo and Juliet. The relentless yearning for companionship. The possibility of a picnic where the presence of a certain person made our hearts go all of a twitter.

A more sinister restlessness crept in when we got infatuated with someone within the dark confines of a cinema hall. Posters of an upcoming movie featuring the adored person invariably got more attention than any text-book at hand. Sneaking off to a matinée, while giving a skip to the homework assigned, was also attempted at times. This, despite the grave risks involved – either getting ticked off at home for errant behavior, or getting some of the juiciest ones on the soft spots by the Miss Tomlinsons and the Rev. Aubrey Upjohns in our lives.

In ‘The Love that Purifies’ (Very Good, Jeeves), we come across boys of a tender age who happen to be infatuated with Hollywood divas. We have Thos, who is besotted with Greta Garbo. We have Bonzo, who is in awe of Lilian Gish. Then, we have Sebastian Moon, whose affections are focused on Clara Bow.

How these infatuations transform the behavior of young boys is the nub or crux of the story. We are reminded that even menaces to society in general assume a saintly disposition when under the influence of the charms of their transient heart throbs.

Thug Thos, Pest Bonzo and Candid Moon

Greta Garbo

Greta Garbo

Many of us would recall that Thos, son of Aunt Agatha, happens to be a juvenile thug. When a Cabinet Minister reports him for smoking, he ends up getting marooned on an island, that too, when it is raining, and with no company but that of a nasty-minded swan. But when Thos comes under the spell of a Hollywood diva, his benevolent self emerges. He thinks nothing of walking a couple of miles, just to fetch a newspaper for Bertie Wooster.

Bonzo, the son of Aunt Dahlia, has a sound reputation as a pest. But if Thos sets a gold standard in devilry, Bonzo is merely a good, ordinary mischief-maker. His proud mother compares the two as follows:

‘Whenever it comes to devilry, Bonzo is a good, ordinary selling-plater. Whereas Thomas is a classic yearling.’

When Bonzo is in love, his nature gets altered. He tries to lead a finer, better life. When tempted to climb on the roof and boo down Mr Anstruther’s chimney, he refuses to oblige. When prompted to burst a paper bag below the chair of a resting old man, he merely walks off in a huff.

Jeeves is not wrong when he avers that ‘Love is a very powerful restraining influence at the age of thirteen.’

Sebastian Moon has goggle eyes and golden curls. He has a breezy candidness about him. Few years junior to both Thos and Bonzo, he happens to have long nourished a deep regard for Miss Clara Bow.

The Good Conduct Competition and the Wager

Lilian Gish

Lilian Gish

Bertie lands at Aunt Dahlia’s place without Jeeves, who is off on his annual vacation to Bognor for shrimping. He meets Mr. Anstruther, a moth-eaten septuagenarian, who had been a close friend of Aunt Dahlia’s late father. He is an agreeable cove but often suffers from nervous breakdowns. Also visiting are Aunt Dahlia’s son, Bonzo, and Aunt Agatha’s son, Thomas.

Anstruther, in an effort to get peace and quiet, has instituted a Good Conduct competition between the boys. The winner will earn a prize of five pounds.

Aunt Dahlia tells Bertie that she has entered a wager that if Thomas wins the prize, Aunt Dahlia will exchange the services of her chef Anatole for those of Lady Snettisham’s kitchen maid. Aunt Dahlia tries to persuade Bertie to get his man Jeeves down to Brinkley Court to ensure that Thomas does not win the contest, but Bertie claims he has a plan to accomplish this result.

He tries to get Thomas to lose control by making snide remarks, which are promptly laughed off by Thos. Soon, things take a sinister turn when Thos is found walking around six miles at an early hour, merely to fetch the Sporting Times for Bertie. This unselfish act of kindness gets him a bonus of twenty marks.

Bertie loses no time in reporting the matter to Aunt Dahlia.

She was stunned. Aghast, you might call it.
‘Thomas did that?’
‘Thos in person.’
‘Walked six miles to get you a paper?’
‘Walked six miles and a bit.’
‘The young hound! Good heavens, Bertie, do you realize that he may go on doing these Acts of kindness daily – perhaps twice a day? Is there no way of stopping him?’
‘None that I can think of. No, Aunt Dahlia, I must confess it. I am baffled. There is only one thing to do. We must send for Jeeves.’

Golden Curls and Despondency

Jeeves, when called upon to offer a solution, suggests bringing in Master Sebastian Moon, the boy with golden curls.

Clara Bow

Clara Bow

Jeeves thinks that strongest natures are sometimes not proof against long golden curls. He goes on to elaborate as follows:

‘I do not think I am too sanguine, sir. You must remember that Master Moon, apart from his curls, has a personality which is not uniformly pleasing. He is apt to express himself with a breezy candour which I fancy Master Thomas might feel inclined to resent in one some years his junior.’

However, the plan to let Thos and Moon be alone somewhere and let Nature do the rest comes unstuck. Upon Moon getting a nail in his shoe, a saint-like Thos carries him on his back in hot sunshine all the way back home. After all, Thos’ idea is to spend the remainder of his life trying to make himself worthy of Greta Garbo.

Depression sets in. This is how Bertie confesses his skepticism towards taking things for granted.

You know, the older I get the more firmly do I become convinced that there is no such thing as a pip in existence. Again and again have I seen the apparently sure thing go phut, and now it is rarely indeed that I can be lured from my aloof skepticism.

Anatole’s cooking streak fails to lift the spirits of the members of the Wooster clan. Food melts in the mouth but eyes are invariably full of unshed tears. The prospect of losing Anatole is too much to bear.

The Thug succumbs to Jeeves’ cunning!

Then, on the very last afternoon of Mr Anstruther’s stay, Thos, who gets the top slot in Bertie’s Rogue’s Gallery of repulsive small boys, succumbs to Jeeves’ cunning.

It is a warm, drowsy and peaceful afternoon. The birds are hopping, the butterflies are fluttering, the bees are buzzing and the old Mr Anstruther is enjoying his afternoon siesta in the garden when all hell breaks loose.

While playing together in the stable-yard, Thos is stirred to his depths by some brutally disparaging remarks made by Master Sebastian in respect of Miss Garbo. Prompted by Jeeves, Sebastian apparently conveys his opinion that Greta Garbo is definitely inferior to Clara Bow – both in beauty and talent!

Predictably, an altercation follows. In the ensuing melee, the old man gets rudely woken up and somehow gets drenched in a bucketful of water. Moving adroitly for his age, he picks up a stick which is lying around and goes into action like a two-year old, chasing Thos round the house.

Marie Lloyd

Marie Lloyd

Thanks to Jeeves, Bonzo wins the Good Conduct Contest, Aunt Dahlia wins the bet and Anatole continues to churn out his lavish spreads at her place at Worcestershire.

Bertie remarks thus:

‘Jeeves, this Younger Generation is hot stuff.’
‘Yes, sir.’
‘Were you like that in your day?’
‘No, sir.’
‘Nor I, Jeeves. At the age of fourteen I once wrote to Marie Lloyd for her autograph, but apart from that my private life could bear the strictest investigation.’

Jeeves wins an extended holiday at Bognor, obviously giving a tough time to all the shrimps which attempt to pit their feeble cunning against him.

Cupid’s arrows happen to be democratic in nature. These do not discriminate based on religion, sex, ethnicity or age. One could be of an advanced age. One could have attained adulthood. One could even be of a very tender age.

These also have an uplifting effect on the soul. One aspires to lead an exemplary life. One wishes to rise in the esteem of the beloved. One aspires to be worthy of the adored person.

Unluckily, such infatuations happen to be transient in nature. Were these to last long, there would perhaps be no need to have reformatory systems in place for the kind of heinous crimes pre-adolescents appear to commit at times!

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