Thursday, 27 March 2008

Uncle Fred in the Springtime
Uncle Fred in the Springtime

Fans of P.G. Wodehouse will need no encouragement to read this story in which the eccentric Uncle Fred meets not only the inhabitants of Blandings Castle, but also the efficient Baxter! Sir Roderick Glossop, brain specialist, has a small cameo part.

Yes, it's Edwardian country-house nonsense, with a plot so farcical and convoluted I'd hate to have to draw a diagram, but it's also totally brilliant and hilarious.

Wodehouse's observations of his characters are inspired. Try this:

"...there entered a young man of great height but lacking the width of shoulder and ruggedness of limb which make height impressive. Nature, stretching Horace Davenport out, had forgotten to stretch him sideways, and one could have pictured Euclid, had they met, nudging a friend and saying, 'Don't look now, but this chap coming along illustrates exactly what I was telling you about a straight line having length without breadth'."

And try these, from Uncle Fred himself:

"'I seem to have a vague recollection of having met him somewhere, but I can't place him, and do not propose to institute inquires. He would probably turn out to be someone who was at school with me, though some years my junior. When you reach my age, you learn to avoid such reunions. The last man I met who was at school with me, though some years my junior, had a long white beard and no teeth. It blurred the picture I had formed of myself as a sprightly young fellow on the threshold of life.'"

"'We start out in life with more pimples than we know what to do with, and in the careless arrogance of youth think they are going to last for ever. But comes a day when we suddenly find that we are down to our last half-dozen. And then those go.'"

"'You can't compare the lorgnettes of today with the ones I used to know as a boy. I remember walking one day in Grosvenor Square with my aunt Brenda and her pug dog Jabberwocky, and a policeman came up and said that the latter ought to be wearing a muzzle. My aunt made no verbal reply. She merely whipped her lorgnette from its holster and looked at the man, who gave one choking gasp and fell back against the railings, without a mark on him but with an awful look of horror in his staring eyes, as if he had seen some dreadful sight. A doctor was sent for, and they managed to bring him round, but he was never the same again. He had to leave the Force, and eventually drifted into the grocery business. And that is how Sir Thomas Lipton got his start.'"

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