167–172: Mulliner Nights; Animal Farm; Bachelors Anonymous; Doctor Sally; The Heart of a Goof; and Quick Service

Time for a Wodehouse smorgasbord with a dash of Orwell. (I’m also in quite a lot of pain at the moment, though not as much as sometimes, so forgive me for rushing these.)

First, I’m going to take you back to Mr Mulliner, that implacable raconteur of the Angler’s Rest. I have, of course, gone through these collections in absolutely the wrong order; the first is (unsurprisingly, I suppose) Meet Mr Mulliner. The second is Mr Mulliner Speaking. The third is this one, Mulliner Nights. It’s not exactly essential, but I should strongly recommend taking them in that order; characters often reappear. (The other collections which contain Mulliner stories, such as Eggs Beans and Crumpets, were all published after Mulliner Nights.) Alternatively, of course, you could dig out a copy of the omnibus, The World of Mr Mulliner; but despite their attractiveness in the home, they tend to be rather unwieldy things.

Anyway. The point is, Mulliner continues unabated. His relatives remain wonderfully varied people leading wonderfully confused lives. Have fun with the absolute insanity of it all.

all animals are equal
but some animals are more
equal than others

I first read Animal Farm at my grandmother’s house, which was (and presumably still is) a gorgeous old place in the East Riding of Yorkshire. I know I promised to be sententious, but I really don’t think I need to sell or describe this book. It’s about the failure and co-optation of revolutions and Utopianism. “It’s not a book, it’s an allegorical novella about Stalinism.” (That quotation then proceeds to claim it sucks. Ignore that part. It’s excellent.)

It seems to be a law of nature that when a confirmed bachelor falls in love, he does it with a wholeheartedness beyond the scope of the ordinary man who has been scattering his affections hither and thither since he was so high.

A quick glance at publication dates will show that Bachelors Anonymous is rather late Wodehouse, unlike the other books in this post. It takes a rather amusing premise – viz., an Alcoholics Anonymous-style organisation for men abjuring matrimony – and works it up into a real gem.

“Squiffy, have you ever felt a sort of strange emptiness in the heart? A sort of aching void of the soul?”
“Oh, rather!”
“What do you do about it?”
“I generally take a couple of cocktails.”

Doctor Sally is a lovely little effort, perfectly suited to enliven a weary hour. The titular Sally is practical and frank (“Tell me about your sex-life”); she is an excellent golfer, and definitely not the same Sally as features in The Adventures of Sally. I think PG was just rather fond of the name. (Bachelors Anonymous, q.v., is also ft. Yet Another Sally.)

The only time when you enjoy golf is when an occasional decent shot is enough to make you happy for the day.

Well, quite. Golf was one of Wodehouse’s great pastimes – he is reported to have described his proudest moment as getting a hole in one. And in the Oldest Member, who lurks about the nineteenth hole, he has indulged this fancy and created a frame narrator of Mullineresque inevitability. The heroes and heroines of these stories are golfers: good golfers and bad golfers, young golfers and old golfers, fat golfers and thin golfers, arrogant golfers and modest golfers. The Oldest Member recalls them all fondly, and recounts their stories to captive audiences.

Also, can we please just mention the neighbour who comes around to borrow a cigarette or, failing that, “a shot of cocaine”?

Quick Service is just another very funny Wodehouse about a girl called Sally. Nothing more to add from me.

Mulliner Nights
Author PG Wodehouse
Published 1933
Pages 183
Best character Lady Bassett, who once shot a man in the leg when he failed to behave like a gentleman. The victim subsequently wrote a book of etiquette.

Animal Farm
Author George Orwell
Published 1945
Pages 116
Best character Boxer.

Bachelors Anonymous
Author PG Wodehouse
Published 1973
Pages 135
Best character Mr Llewellyn.

Doctor Sally
Author PG Wodehouse
Published 1932
Pages 117
Best character Lord Tidmouth.

The Heart of a Goof
Author PG Wodehouse
Published 1926
Pages 194
Best character Barbara Medway. “I can’t be expected to fling myself into his arms unless he gives some sort of a hint that he’s ready to catch me.”

Quick Service
Author PG Wodehouse
Published 1940
Pages 187
Best character Mrs Chavender.


2 thoughts on “167–172: Mulliner Nights; Animal Farm; Bachelors Anonymous; Doctor Sally; The Heart of a Goof; and Quick Service

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