The son of a hundred tramp cyclists: PGW

the book:

A Pelican at Blandings by PG Wodehouse

published 1969    chapter 2


At about the moment when Lady Constance was mounting the stairs that led to the library of Blandings Castle, all eagerness to confront her brother Clarence and let him know what she thought of his outer crust, a dapper little gentleman with a black-rimmed monocle in his left eye paid off the cab which had brought him from Piccadilly, trotted in at the front door of Berkeley Mansions, London W. 1. and ascended to the fourth floor where he had his abode. He was feeling in excellent fettle after a pleasant dinner with some of his many friends, and as he started upward he hummed a melody from the music halls of another day. Thirty years ago it would have been most unusual for Galahad Threepwood to return home at so early an hour as this, for in his bohemian youth it had been his almost nightly custom to attend gatherings at the Pelican Club which seldom broke up till the milkman had begun his rounds— a practice to which he always maintained that he owed the superb health he enjoyed in middle age.

observations: This is a late entry into the chronicles of Blandings Castle, so the world described is even farther chronologically from life outside. But then the books didn’t really exist in any real time anyway. Galahad Threepwood is one of Wodehouse’s great characters: he is always threatening to write his memoirs, to the horror of all about him, particularly those who have – unlike him – settled down and become respectable in old age. But his sister and brother (mentioned in the first sentence above) are also splendid:

One felt immediately on seeing her that there stood the daughter of a hundred earls, just as when confronted with Lord Emsworth one had the impression that one had encountered the son of a hundred tramp cyclists.

The plot is the usual farrago of courting couples, and the pig, and an object of some value that everyone is after – in this case, a valuable painting of a naked woman. And a fake picture. And endless impostors – in a lovely self-referential way, characters refer, mystified, to the way impostors are attracted to Blandings: when one of them confesses to Galahad he says:

Man and boy I have seen more impostors at Blandings Castle than you could shake a stick at in a month of Sundays. It would have surprised me greatly if you hadn’t been an impostor.

Links up with: PGW’s only competitor in the field of impostor characters would be Agatha Christie (click on the label below). In her books the solutions often rely on an impersonation that would have fitted in well at Blandings. Or, better still, several such in the same household.

picture (monocle in the wrong eye) is the distinctive and distinguished character actor George Arliss, who after a very successful career on the English stage became a noted Hollywood actor, director and producer. Well worth a look on Wikipedia.


  1. Moira - Thanks for reminding me of Threepwood and of Wodehouse. It's interesting you mention Christie in the same post. As I'm sure you know, they were great admirers of each other's work. In my opinion you can't say their styles are similar, but at the same time, I see some resemblances.


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