Lord Emsworth and Others, P.G. Wodehouse
When I finished P.G. Wodehouse's The Heart of a Goof last New Year's Eve, I thought I'd read the last of the golf stories. So I was delighted to find that the "others" in the title to this book include three more, with the Oldest Member in fine form. This gives me hope that there may be yet more golf stories to be discovered.
There are nine stories in this book. None of them features Bertie and Jeeves, or Uncle Fred, but otherwise they are a perfect sampler of Wodehouse characters, and this might be a good introduction for a new reader. The first story is set at Blandings, with its "ancient battlements, the smooth green lawns, the rolling parkland, the majestic trees, the well-bred bees and the gentlemanly birds . . ." Into this Eden slithers the inevitable serpent, in this case the detestable Rupert Baxter, Lord Emsworth's former secretary and constant bête noire.
The three golf stories are bookended by a Mulliner story on one end and a Drones Club story on the other. I was lucky enough to find Mr Mulliner Speaking recently at Half Price Books, one of the three books in that mini-series, and I also have the second volume of Drones stories, Eggs Beans & Crumpets, still to read. Mr Mulliner reminds me a bit of the Oldest Member, with a story for every occasion, except that his audience never grows restless or tries to make their escape when they sense a story coming on. And the Drones Club is at the heart of so many Wodehouse stories. It is there that we first meet Uncle Fred, Bertie Wooster is frequently to be found there, and it is from the smoking-room window that Psmith first sees Eve Halliday and sets forth to rescue her with a purloined umbrella.
But the real surprise for me was in the last three stories, which feature Stanley Featherstonehaugh Ukridge. I found a Penguin edition of the Ukridge stories after reading about them in a marvelous essay that Stephen Fry wrote on Wodehouse (which you can find here). But I didn't take to Ukridge, and that book is still on the TBR pile. The three Ukridge stories here, though, are a delight, particularly the first one, "Ukridge and the Home from Home," in which he recounts to his long-suffering friend Corky how he turned his aunt's Wimbledon home into a residential hotel in her absence. When he learns that she is returning three months earlier than he expected, he has to figure out how to evict six comfortably-settled lodgers, all of them with watertight rental agreements that still have three months to run. Some of his dodges are spectacularly successful, and others are complete disasters, and the fun is in watching it play out. I've moved Ukridge up the TBR stack (the Wodehouse section of the stack is surpassed only by the Trollope).