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Posts Tagged ‘Seasoned Romance’

ashokbhatia

Other than the topsy-turvy romances of younger couples, P G Wodehouse also regales us with romantic affairs of those who are advanced in age and young at heart. An affection which was discernible in a couple’s younger days – whether declared or otherwise – survives the harsh slings and arrows of life. A chance meeting unearths and rekindles the deep buried embers of love. A well seasoned romance bears fruit. The Valentine Spirit prevails.PGW Man with two left feet

One such couple we get to meet is that of Joe Danby and Aunt Julia, who make an appearance in the story entitled ‘Extricating Young Gussie’ (The Man with two Left Feet). This is how the narrative unfolds.

An inconsiderate Aunt Agatha drags Bertie out of bed ‘in the small hours’ (perhaps around half past eleven in the morning!), much before he has finished his dreamless and sipped his first cup of tea. She is…

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Other than the topsy-turvy romances of younger couples, P G Wodehouse also regales us with romantic affairs of those who are advanced in age and young at heart. An affection which was discernible in a couple’s younger days – whether declared or otherwise – survives the harsh slings and arrows of life. A chance meeting unearths and rekindles the deep buried embers of love. A well seasoned romance bears fruit. The Valentine Spirit prevails.PGW Man with two left feet

One such couple we get to meet is that of Joe Danby and Aunt Julia, who make an appearance in the story entitled ‘Extricating Young Gussie’ (The Man with two Left Feet). This is how the narrative unfolds.

An inconsiderate Aunt Agatha drags Bertie out of bed ‘in the small hours’ (perhaps around half past eleven in the morning!), much before he has finished his dreamless and sipped his first cup of tea. She is most distressed that her nephew, and Bertie’s cousin Gussie Mannering-Phipps, has lost his head over a ‘creature’ in New York who is on the vaudeville stage.

Bertie recalls the fact that his Aunt Julia, Gussie’s mother, was also a vaudeville artist once. His Uncle Cuthbert saw her first when she was playing pantomime and decided to make her his wife. The family had resisted, but to no avail. Aunt Agatha had then pulled up her socks and groomed her impeccably. Twenty five years later, one could not tell Aunt Julia from a genuine dyed-in-the-wool aristocrat.

Gussie had vaudeville blood in him, and it looked as if he were reverting to type, or whatever they call it.

‘By jove’, I said, for I am interested in this heredity stuff, ‘perhaps the thing is going to be a regular family tradition, like you read about in books – a sort of curse of the Mannering-Phippses, as it were. Perhaps each head of the family’s going to marry into vaudeville for ever and ever. Unto the what-d’you-call-it generation, don’t you know?’

‘Please do not be quite idiotic, Bertie. There is one head of the family who is certainly not going to do it, and that is Gussie. And you are going to America to stop him.’

In New York, Bertie runs into Gussie, now going by the name of ‘George Wilson’. Gussie is determined to win the approval of the father of the girl he loves. The father, one Mr. Joe Danby, used to be a well-known stage artist himself. He would not hear of his daughter marrying anyone who is not in the profession.

Helped by the ‘creature’, Gussie’s first show rolls around. Gussie has stage-fright and starts badly, but halfway through his second song a pretty girl beside Bertie joins in, bucking Gussie up and getting a big round of applause from the audience. It turns out that she is Ray Denison, the girl Gussie loves.Bertie image

Bertie, worried by Gussie’s unwavering affection for Ray, telegraphs Aunt Julia for help. Aunt Julia arrives. Bertie does not explain the situation to her but uses the novel technique of letting her sense the problem of her own. He first takes her to see Gussie’s show. Then he takes her to Ray’s show. Thereafter, they call on the girl’s father.

This is how the scene plays out:

‘Joe!’ cried Aunt Julia, and staggered against the sofa.

For a moment old Danby stared at her, and then his mouth fell open and his eyebrows shot up like rockets.

‘Julie!’

And then they got hold of each other’s hands and were shaking them till I wondered their arms didn’t come unscrewed.

Between the reunited lovers, back-falls on the stage get discussed. Buns and ham sandwiches offered to Aunt Julia get recalled. Seed-cakes lavished on to her by Joe Danby get fondly recollected. Her singing ‘Rumpty-tiddley-umpty-ay’ in a double act called ‘Fun in a Tea-Shop’ gets remembered.

Both undergo a transformation which leaves Bertie twiddling his thumbs. Aunt Julia sheds her grande-dame manner completely, blushes, smiles and even giggles. Danby, ‘a cross between a Roman emperor and Napoleon Bonaparte in a bad temper’, behaves like a school boy.

Old Danby made a jump at her, and took her by the shoulders.

‘Come back where you belong, Julie!’ he cried. ‘Your husband is dead, your son’s a pro. Come back! It’s twenty-five years ago, but I haven’t changed. I want you still. I’ve always wanted you. You’ve got to come back, kid, where you belong.’

Aunt Julia gave a sort of gulp and looked at him.

‘Joe!’ she said in a kind of whisper.

‘You’re here kid,’ said Old Danby, huskily. ‘You’ve come back……Twenty-five years!…..You’ve come back and you’re going to stay!’

She pitched forward into her arms, and he caught her.

‘Oh, Joe! Joe! Joe!’ she said. ‘Hold me. Don’t let me go. Take care of me.’

Meeting Gussie soon after, Bertie hears that Julia and Danby are to be married, as are Gussie and Danby’s daughter.

The narrative ends with Bertie receiving a telegram from Aunt Agatha.

‘What is happening? Shall I come over?’

Bertie resolves to avoid England for a long time and responds thus:

‘No, stay where you are. Profession overcrowded.’

When it comes to Cupid’s machinations, age, caste, creed, profession and social status do not really matter. Love may remain dormant for a long time, but can get revived in a jiffy – much like a Psyche getting revived by a Cupid’s kiss!

Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss

Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss

Yet another mature romance we come across in Plum’s works is that of Piggy and Maudie. We get introduced to this couple in ‘Indian Summer of an Uncle’ (Very Good, Jeeves).

Aunt Agatha, eager to protect the family name, plays a spoilsport in both the narratives – ‘Indian Summer of an Uncle’ and ‘Extricating Young Gussie’*. In both cases, she fails, much to the delight of the romantics amongst us.

In both the cases, to escape the fury of an aunt scorned, poor Bertie has to stay away from England for a long time, missing Anatole’s delectable spreads, rave parties and the Drones Club!

*(A century back, this story was first published in The Saturday Evening Post of USA in September 2015).

(Related post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/02/04/piggy-maudie-and-a-seasoned-romance)

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In old age, lust gets mellowed down and wisdom acquires a brighter shade of orange. Holding hands and physicalVeryGoodJeeves contact gets relegated to the background. Instead, common ailments and related medications and therapies rule the roost. At times, the lining of the stomach paves the way for a couple to start sharing the trials and tribulations of life together. One of the stories where P G Wodehouse puts this across succinctly is the one titled ‘Indian Summer of an Uncle.’

Uncle George is unduly attached to the pleasures of the table. The lining of his stomach is no longer in a good shape. Twice a year, his liver lodges a formal protest and he goes off to Harrogate or Carlsbad for some rest and recuperation.

He is contemplating a matrimonial alliance with a much younger Miss Rhoda Platt who happens to be a waitress at his club. Jeeves is of the firm opinion that Uncle George is experiencing an Indian summer. This is how he sums up the situation to Bertie Wooster:

‘One must remember, however, that it is not unusual to find gentlemen of a certain age yielding to what might be described as a sentimental urge. They appear to experience what I may term a sort of Indian summer, a kind of temporarily renewed youth.’

Uncle George’s plans to saunter down the aisle with a girl from the lower middle classes face a serious glitch – that of a stout disapproval from Aunt Agatha. After all, family honor is at stake. She promptly gives a blank cheque to Bertie who is expected to rally around and pay off the girl so as to secure a ‘release’ for Uncle George.

The family remembers that years ago, long before this uncle came into the title, he had had a dash at a romantic alliance. The woman in question then had been a barmaid at the Criterion. Her name was Maudie. He loved her dearly, but the family would brook no such nonsense. Eventually, she was paid off and the family honor protected.

Enter Smethurst – Colonel Mainwaring-Smith’s personal gentleman’s gentleman. He happens to be in love with Rhoda, who has to make a choice between love and ambition. If Bertie succeeds in his mission to wean off Uncle George from the influence of the young woman, she would possibly refrain from permitting herself to be lured by gold and the glamour of Uncle George’s position. Such a state of affairs would be a consummation devoutly to be wished by Smethurst.

Bertie does call on the young woman but instead ends up meeting her jovial aunt. The aunt is a kind-hearted soul, but definitely of the people, what with her orange hair, the magenta dress and the verbose outlook on life. Her intention is to continue residing with her niece after the latter’s marriage. 

Bertie’s nerve fails him and the matter is put in the hands of a higher power – that of Jeeves. His suggestion is to arrange a meeting between his lordship and the aged aunt. Once the two meet, this reflection might give his lordship pause.

Aunt Agatha takes a dim view of the proposal to arrange a lunch meeting of the two, thereby lowering the prestige of the clan by allowing menials to get above themselves. However, Bertie and Jeeves decide to proceed with their little act of doing good by stealth. However, Jeeves has a deeper purpose in mind – that of assisting Smethurst.

Bertie describes the meeting thus:

There was a stunned silence as he went in, and then a couple of startled yelps you hear when old buddies get together after long separation.

‘Piggy!’

‘Maudie!’

‘Well, I never!’

‘Well, I’m dashed!’

‘Did you ever!’

‘Well, bless my soul!’

‘Fancy you being Lord Yaxley!’

‘Came into the title soon after we parted.’

‘Just to think!’

‘You could have knocked me down with a feather!’

I hung about in the offing, now on this leg, now on that. For all the notice they took of me, I might just as well have been the late bw, disembodied.

‘Maudie, you don’t look a day older, dash it!’

‘Nor do you, Piggy.’

‘How have you been all these years?’

‘Pretty well. The lining of my stomach isn’t all it should be.’

‘Good Gad! You don’t say so? I have trouble with the lining of my stomach.’

‘It’s a sort of heavy feeling after meals.’

‘I get a sort of heavy feeling after the meals. What are you trying for it?’

‘I’hv been taking Perkins’ Digestine.’

‘My dear girl, no use! No use at all. Tried it myself for years and got no relief. Now, if you really want something that is some good –’

I slid away.

So, Uncle George and Aunt Maudie were like deep calling to deep. Between the sweet and cheese courses, their engagement gets announced.

Aunt Agatha is told that his lordship is going to get married to a Mrs Wilberforce. While she is trying to figure out which branch of the Wilberforce family the woman of sensible age belongs to, Bertie and Jeeves plan to quickly get off over the horizon to a place where men can be men. This appears to be the only way to avoid facing her fury when she learns of the lower middle class status of the future Lady Yaxley.

In most of his works, P G Wodehouse regales us with the topsy-turvy romances of couples who are invariably in the impressionable phases of their lives. The narrative in ‘Indian Summer of an Uncle’ (Very Good, Jeeves) somehow celebrates a seasoned romance. Gone are the impulsive break-offs linked to sharks, moustaches and beef puddings. Nor are we treated here to an impetuous affair kick-started by the heroine’s cat being saved by a chivalrous and dashing hero. Instead, we are allowed to bask in the soft glow and warmth of a long drawn out romance the embers of which get rekindled after several years – thanks to Jeeves and the lining of the stomach!

(In response to the fruity initiative of Plumtopia: http://honoriaplum.wordpress.com/2014/01/15/wodehouse-fans-needed-for-valentine-series-the-great-wodehouse-romances)

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