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Galahad at Blandings

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P.G. Wodehouse around age 38

Galahad at Blandings is a comic novel by P.G. Wodehouse, first published in the United States on 31 December 1964 by Simon & Schuster, Inc., New York under the title The Brinkmanship of Galahad Threepwood, and in the United Kingdom on 26 August 1965 by Herbert Jenkins, London.[1] It is part of the Blandings Castle saga, being the ninth full-length novel to be set there.

Plot overview

Blandings Castle, the idyllic demesne of Clarence, Lord Emsworth, that amiable but woolly-minded backwoods peer, is as usual overrun with overbearing sisters, over-efficient secretaries, and love-struck but star-crossed young couples; even worse, an alleged old flame of the widowed ninth Earl has appeared, determined to put an end to his peaceful, pig-loving existence. All of the ingenuity of Emsworth's dapper younger brother Galahad (Gally) Threepwood is put to the test before things are sorted out satisfactorily....

Plot, detailed

Galahad Threepwood is in residence at Blandings Castle and finds his brother Lord Emsworth, the ninth Earl, beset by the usual collection of Wodehousian woes. His domineering sister, Lady Hermione Wedge, fully as imperious as the now-departed long-time ban of Emsworth's existence, sister Lady Constance Keeble, has not only hired a super-efficient secretary, Sandy Callender, to mind his affairs, but has also invited Dame Daphne Winkworth to stay and, as Galahad discovers, to reignite an old flame and take up permanent residence as the next Countess.

Joining the house party are Tipton Plimsoll, a young American multimillionaire who is engaged to Lady Hermione's excruciatingly dimwitted daughter, Veronica Wedge, and Lady Hermione's nephew Wilfred Allsop, a struggling young pianist who is in love with Emsworth's pig-girl Monica Simmons. Wilfred and Tipton had met in New York several days earlier for an evening of dinner, drinks, and unscheduled imprisonment. Wilfred has also been engaged by Dame Daphne to teach music at her girls' school, a prospect that Wilfred, for financial reasons, cannot refuse but is also anxious about, as Dame Daphne is intolerant of drinking among her staff.

Galahad's chief task at Blandings is to deal with sundered hearts, namely those of Sandy and her now-ex-betrothed, Sam Bagshot. Gally has known Sandy for years, and had been good friends with Sam's father "Boko" Bagshott, so he is disturbed by their falling-out over a minor matter of a bet in the Drones Club marriage sweepstakes. Sam needs £700 to fix up his inherited family seat and sell it to Oofy Prosser, and has drawn Tipton in the race for the next-to-be-married. The other front-runners have dropped out, and Sam believes he has a sure winner, as Lady Hermione will not possibly let Veronica lose a multimillionaire son-in-law. Sandy, who knew Tipton from working for his uncle Chet Tipton in New York, believes that this engagement will go the way of all his others, and is upset at Sam for not selling his stake to a syndicate that has offered him a firm £100.

If Sam could come down to Blandings, Gally believes, and plead his case with Sandy, all would be resolved. But when Sam does so, his first accidental encounter with Sandy in Market Blandings proves disastrous: he chases her, she eludes him, and while giving up the chase he is confronted by the local constabulary. Constable Evans informs him, and he discovers that he cannot dispute him, that in rushing out of the Emsworth Arms he has made off with Sebastian Beach's gold pocket watch. Already grumpy from Sandy's rebuff, and knowing that he had absconded with the watch inadvertently, Sam deals with the accusation by punching Constable Evans in the eye and then fleeing on the constable's bicycle.

When Gally hears of this, he insists on bringing Sam into the Castle under the name of Augustus Whipple, the noted author of On The Care of the Pig, Emsworth's revered reference work for the care and feeding of his prize pig, the Empress of Blandings. On encountering Emsworth at the Empress's sty, Sam correctly diagnoses the pig's present malady as not swine fever but instead simple intoxication from the contents of a flask inadvertently dropped into her food. In gratitude, Emsworth invites Sam to stay at Blandings; and Wilfred wins the hand of Monica the pig-girl.

Meanwhile, Lady Hermione has learned from Emsworth that Tipton has apparently lost all his money in a stock market crash and is now impoverished. Aghast, she rushes up to London to instruct Veronica to break the engagement in a letter to be delivered by the next post. When Colonel Wedge, her husband, however, still at the Castle, receives Tipton, who is driving a Rolls-Royce and brandishing an £8000 necklace for Vee, he begs Gally to intercept the letter, which Gally is pleased to do. Gally goes a step further and gives the letter to Sam to be used as a possible blackmail threat. On Hermione's return, when Beach informs her that the man who stole his watch is at the Castle impersonating Augustus Whipple, Gally threatens to deliver the letter to Tipton unless Hermione allows Sam to stay. Hermione tries searching Sam's room, but only succeeds in losing Wilfred his job with Dame Daphne when her bratty son sees him singing in the corridor, apparently drunk, as a look-out signal to his aunt.

Sandy confronts Galahad, but ends up persuaded by him to take Sam back. They find him locked in the potting shed, where he has been imprisoned by Constable Evans. Sandy frees him from the shed and they are reconciled. But not all the couples remain happy: Emsworth discovers the fatal letter in his desk, where Gally has hidden it, and has it delivered to Tipton. Gally "tells the tale" to Tipton and convinces him that Veronica meant not a word of it, so Tipton phones Veronica and the rift is mended as quickly as it had been made. Tipton takes then Wilfred and Monica Simmons up to London to gather Vee and head to the registrar's for a double wedding.

But not everything is yet wrapped up. Emsworth is still in peril of matrimony from Dame Daphne, Sam still has to collect on his winning ticket, and the Law still looms over Sam's shoulder. Sandy hears that another Drones Club member has won the sweepstakes, thereby making Sam's stake worthless. And Lady Hermione, having discovered that the letter was delivered and nullified, now announces her intention to expose Sam; Gally leads her to the library where he claims Sam is and locks her in. He rushes to Emsworth, to touch him for the necessary thousand pounds before Lady Hermione can summon aid.

He finds Emsworth rattled and deflated. In Monica Simmons' absence, young Huxley has attempted to release the Empress from her sty. Having a terrible hangover from her inadvertent bender, the prize pig responds by biting the lad's finger. Dame Winkworth deems her dangerous and demands that she be destroyed; appalled, Emsworth calls her a fool and telephones the veterinarian to find out whether there was any risk of infection to the Empress. At that, Dame Daphne leaves the household in a fury. Hermione, finding that Emsworth has driven away Dame Daphne, angrily exposes Sam, declares Emsworth to be impossible to manage, and leaves as well.

The ninth Earl is now reluctant, of course, to lend money to an impostor, but Gally reminds him that he has now been freed of the threat of marriage to Dame Daphne, and of the imperious supervision of their sister Hermione, and that if he does lend the money to Sam all his troubles will be ended, as Sam will also take his overly efficient secretary out of his life. Emsworth joyfully rushes to his checkbook and peace reigns over Blandings once again.

Main characters

  • The Earl of Emsworth, the absent-minded master of Blandings
    • The Hon. Galahad Threepwood, Emsworth's dashing brother
    • Lady Hermione Wedge, Emsworth's short and dumpy sister
      • Colonel Egbert Wedge, Hermione's doting husband
      • Veronica Wedge, the Wedge's beautiful but simple-minded daughter
    • Wilfred Allsop, a nephew of Emsworth, a pianist short in stature
    • Empress of Blandings, Emsworth's prize pig
      • Monica Simmons, Emsworth's pig-girl, adored by Allsop, and majestic in stature
  • Tipton Plimsoll, Veronica's wealthy American fiancé
  • Dame Daphne Winkworth, Emsworth's old flame, now headmistress of a girls' school
    • Huxley Winkworth, Dame Daphne's bratty young son
  • Alexandra "Sandy" Callender, Emsworth's new and overly efficient red-headed secretary
    • Samuel (Sam) Galahad Bagshott, son of an old friend of Gally, who loves Sandy
  • Sebastian Beach, long-serving butler at the Castle
  • Constable Evans, the local policeman

References

  1. McIlvaine, E., Sherby, L.S. and Heineman, J.H. (1990) P.G. Wodehouse: A comprehensive bibliography and checklist. New York: James H. Heineman, pp. 98–99.

External links