“Pigs have Wings” is one of the series of Wodehouse novels set at Blandings Castle, in Shropshire, featuring Lord Emsworth and his prize pig, the Empress of Blandings. This review includes quotes from “Pigs have Wings”.
Which is the best Wodehouse? Are the Jeeves and Wooster stories pre-eminent? Or are the Blandings Castle novels funnier?
To further my research I am reading the Blandings Castle novels, starting with Summer Lightning (links in bold italics are to other posts on this site). My latest pleasure has been Pigs have Wings.
Pigs feature liberally on the cover of my Folio Society edition
The Blandings Castle novels are a delight. To immerse oneself in the serene calm of the Somerset countryside, whether at Blandings itself or the nearby village of Market Blandings, where the Emsworth Arms serves G. Ovens’ home-brewed ale (I am salivating as I write) is a delight comparable to a sparkling glass of Pimm’s on a warm summer’s evening. You feel cared for, comfortable and at ease, like returning to a cosy home after a stressful journey.
I particularly enjoyed the comedy around Sir Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe being put on a diet by his fiancé Gloria Salt, and in return putting his pig man, George Cyril Wellbeloved, on a drink ban – and the latter’s desperate attempts to procure some alcohol. The mix-ups around the identity of the two prize pigs, Empress of Blandings and Queen of Matchingam, are exquisite.
The comedy at Blandings is so different from that of the Jeeves and Wooster books that it is impossible to rank them. I would argue that the comic situations at Blandings are influenced by the place itself: situations build slowly, pigs are kidnapped with an inexorable inevitability, the entire Blandings ecosystem is so whimsy-packed that by the time you are half-way through the book, everything that happens seems hilarious. Enjoy.
Some quotes from Pigs Have Wings:
- Poor old Clarence was patently all of a doodah. Eyeing him as he tottered up, Gally was reminded of his old friend Fruity Biffen on the occasion when that ill-starred sportsman had gone into Tattersall’s ring at Hurst Park wearing a long Assyrian beard in order to avoid identification by the half-dozen bookmakers there to whom he owed money, and then the beard had fallen off.
- If you like your baronets slender and willowy, you would not have cared much for Sir Gregory Parsloe.
- A week or two ago [Sir Gregory] had become engaged to be married, and he was thinking of Gloria Salt, his betrothed. And if anyone is feeling that this was rather pretty and touching of him, we must reluctantly add that he was thinking of her bitterly and coming very near to regretting that mad moment when, swept off his feet by his radiant beauty, he had said to her ‘I say, old girl – er – how about it, eh, what?’ [Comment: this is uncannily similar to George Mikes’s account of British understatement in proposing to women, in his “How to be an Alien”, published in 1946. “Pigs have Wings” was published in 1952.]
- George Cyril Wellbeloved swallowed painfully, like an ostrich swallowing a large doorknob.
- Binstead was one of those young, sprightly butlers, encountering whom one feels that in the deepest and holiest sense they are not butlers at all, but merely glorified footmen.
- A historian of Blandings Castle had once written: ‘A thoroughly misspent life had left the Hon. Galahad Threepwood, contrary to the most elementary justice, in what appeared to be perfect, even exuberantly perfect physical condition. How a man who ought to have had the liver of the century could look as he did was a constant source of perplexity to his associates. It seemed incredible that anyone who had had such an extraordinarily good time all his life should, in the evening of that life, be so superbly robust.’… He himself attributed his health to steady smoking, plenty of alcohol and a lifelong belief that it was bad form to go to bed before three in the morning.
- In all properly regulated country houses the hours between tea and dinner are set aside for letter-writing.
- For an author Jerry Vail was rather nice-looking, most authors, as is widely known, resembling in appearance the more degraded types of fish.
- She choked, and a tear stole down her cheek. Jerry, seeing it, writhed in remorse. He realised how a good-hearted executioner at an Oriental court must feel after strangling an odalisque with a bow-string.
- It is possible that there are in the world women of meek and angelic disposition who, deserted by gentlemen friends at the church door, are capable of accepting the betrayal tranquilly, saying to themselves that boys will be boys, but Maudie was not one of them.
- He [Lord Vosper] rebuked himself for having allowed his thoughts to wander in such a dubious direction. He had received his early education at Harrow, and Old Harrovians, he reminded himself, when they have plighted their troth to Girl A, do not go about folding Girl B in their arms. Old Etonians, yes. Old Rugbeians, possibly. But not Old Harrovians. [Comment: Wodehouse attended Dulwich College]
- ‘Let’s keep this straight,’ [Sir Gregory Parsloe] said, his voice and chins shaking a little.
- It is not easy to state offhand what is the last thing a young man starting out in life would wish to find on the premises of the furnished villa ready for immediate occupancy which he had just begun to occupy. Bugs? Perhaps. Cockroaches? Possibly. Maybe defective drains. But a large black pig in the kitchen would unquestionably come quite high up on the list of undesirable objects, and Jerry, as he gazed at Queen of Matchingham, was conscious of that disagreeable sensation which comes to those who, pausing to tie a shoelace while crossing a railway line, find themselves struck in the small of the back by the Cornish express.
- It is a very intrepid young man who can see an English butler steadily and see him whole without feeling a wormlike humility.
- A shudder made the butler’s body ripple like a field of wheat when a summer breeze passes over it.
Finally, a fine quote illustrating the absentmindedness of Lord Emsworth:
- Most men, having started out in a car with a lady friend and discovering at journey’s end that she was no longer there, would have felt a certain surprise at this shortage and probably asked a lot of tedious questions. To Lord Emsworth, woken with a respectful prod in the ribs by Alfred Voules at the door of Blandings Castle and finding himself alone, it never occurred to him to wonder what had become of Maudie en route. He seldom worried about things like that. If women vanished out of cars, they vanished. There was nothing you could do about it, and no doubt all would be explained in God’s good time. [Comment: Lord E, an early practitioner of mindfulness]
P.S. You can see all my Wodehouse-related blogs at my “Category Archives: PG Wodehouse“. Wodehouse fanatics – enjoy and share!
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