Wodehouse for the weekend

I’ve been dipping into this lovely Vintage Classics edition of Wodehouse snippets called Week-End Wodehouse. It’s so delicious that I thought I’d share a little something from it to get the weekend off to a good start. Published in 1939, the book has chapters & anecdotes from all the Wodehouse series. This story is called The Salvation of George Mackintosh & it’s from The Clicking of Cuthbert, one of the collections of golfing stories told by The Oldest Member.

George is miserable because he doesn’t have the gift of the gab. He’s in love with Celia Tennant but doesn’t have the confidence to propose to her. He wants to ask his boss for a raise but is too timid. The Oldest Member suggests he write away for a booklet on “How to Become a Convincing Talker” advertised in a magazine. The Oldest Member forgets the incident until he meets George a few weeks later & discovers for himself just how confident a talker he has become.

The George Mackintosh I had known had had a pleasing gaze, but, though frank and agreeable, it had never been more dynamic than a fried egg. This new George had an eye that was a combination of a gimlet and a searchlight. Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner, I imagine, must have been somewhat similarly equipped.

Exuding “a sort of sinful, overbearing swank”, George describes how he talked his boss into offering him double the raise he’d asked for by talking at him for an hour and a half. George had always been a favourite at the golf club with more offers to play than he could accept but now his incessant talking had driven all his former playing partners to distraction & they ran to avoid him. His new-found confidence leads to a successful engagement with his beloved Celia but even she is wilting under the incessant flow of talk.

“When he proposed,” said Celia dreamily, “he was wonderful. He spoke for twenty minutes without stopping. He said I was the essence of his every hope, the tree on which the fruit of his life grew; his Present, his Future, his Past…oh, and all that sort of thing. If he would only confine his conversation now to remarks of a similar nature, I could listen to him all day long. But he doesn’t. He talks politics and statistics and philosophy and… oh everything. He makes my head ache.”

The last straw comes during a round of golf. After talking throughout Celia’s every tee shot so that her ball invariably lands in the rough or in a bunker & then telling her what she did wrong & how she could improve her stroke, Celia is driven to desperate straits when George begins discoursing on the price of rubber & why this should mean that the price of golf balls should be cheaper. She hits George over the head with her niblick.

“I had just made my eleventh attempt to get out of that ravine,” the girl went on, “with George talking all the time about the recent excavations in Egypt, when suddenly – you know what it is when something seems to snap-… He bent his head to light his pipe, and well – the temptation was too much for me, that’s all.”

Although the Oldest Member thinks Celia was completely justified in her actions, he agrees that they should see whether George has really been killed after all. The result is not exactly what they expect but leads to a happy ending for all concerned with George back to his usual inarticulate self.

I’ve never really been attracted to P G Wodehouse’s golfing books because sport doesn’t interest me at all but if the other stories are half as funny as this one, I’m ready to be converted. All Wodehouse is beautifully written, he had such a command of the language that what reads so effortlessly is really incredibly complex & so clever. I laughed all the way through this story, it’s so ridiculous but so true to life in the central idea. We’ve all known someone who can talk on any subject at great length & always knows more about it than anyone else. Queen Victoria complained that Gladstone addressed her as if she were a public meeting but she hadn’t met George Mackintosh. Wodehouse is perfect reading for the weekend.

6 thoughts on “Wodehouse for the weekend

  1. I avoided the golf stories for years too, until a friend assured me that golf is just the setting. I recently read The Clicking of Cuthbert, and it has one of the funniest Wodehouse stories I've ever read (The Long Hole).

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  2. Darlene, I think it would definitely whet your appetite for more. I've read a few of the Jeeves & Wooster & Blandings castle books as well as a couple of standalone novels & enjoyed them all. Now that I've read this story, I'm feeling game for the golf books as well. Lisa May, I think I'll have to get to the golf books sooner rather than later. Nan, it's a beautifully produced book, isn't it? I think you're right, I never thought I'd laugh at any sports story but PGW had me laughing out loud.

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  3. I know exactly what you mean — I usually run screaming from anything involving sports, especially golf, but I've really enjoyed some of the Wodehouse golf stories. A couple of times I've been listening to a Wodehouse audio in the car and they're mixed in with the other stories, so I force myself to listen and end up loving them anyway. I think often the stories aren't really about golf itself, just a backdrop for his usual mayhem. I found Dick Francis to be the same way about horse racing, another sport about which I know nothing.

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