On this day in 1881, P. G. Wodehouse — Pelham Grenville, but known as “Plum,” his fans as “Plumheads” — was born, in Surrey, England. Although he had barons, the sister of Anne Boleyn, and noblemen who attended upon Edward the Confessor in his ancestry, Wodehouse’s biographers say he liked to avoid the topic of his lineage.
The Luck of the Bodkins — not one of the Jeeves books but classic Plum:
Into the face of the young man who sat on the terrace of the Hotel Magnifique at Cannes there had crept a look of furtive shame, the shifty, hangdog look which announces that an Englishman is about to talk French. One of the things which Gertrude Butterwick had impressed upon Monty Bodkin when he left for his holiday on the Riviera was that he must be sure to practise his French, and Gertrude’s word was law. So now, though he knew that it was going to make his nose tickle, he said:
“Er, garsong, esker-vous avez un spot de l’encre et une pièce de papier — note-papier, vous savez, — et une enveloppe et une plume?”
The strain was too great.
“I want to write a letter,” said Monty. And having, like all lovers, rather a tendency to share his romance with the world, he would probably have added “To the sweetest girl on earth” had not the waiter already bounded off like a retriever, to return a few moments later with the fixings.
“V’la, m’sieur! Zere you are, sir,” said the waiter. He was engaged to a girl in Paris who had told him that when on the Riviera he must be sure to practise his English. “Eenk — pin — pipper — enveloppe — and a liddle bit of bloddin-pipper.”
“Oh, merci,” said Monty. “Thanks. Right ho.”
“Right ho, m’sieur,” said the waiter….
Daybook is contributed by Steve King, who teaches in the English Department of Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland. His literary daybook began as a radio series syndicated nationally in Canada. He can be found online at todayinliterature.com.