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Eternal Sunshine of the Well-Breakfasted Author – How P.G. Wodehouse Opens a Novel

Despite the title, there isn't a whole lot of heavy weather going on in any of his books, let alone this one

Despite the title, there isn’t a whole lot of heavy weather going on in any of his books, let alone this one

I read somewhere – actually in several places – that you should never start a novel with weather, but that’s all that P.G. Wodehouse seems to do. Occasionally, he varies it up with reflections on somebody’s garden, but mostly he sticks to the weather. I’ve been reading a lot of his novels and short stories and he’s done it so many times that I thought I might collect a few of his opening sentences to prove it.

“The sunshine of a fair Spring morning fell graciously upon London town.” Something Fresh

“Blandings Castle slept in sunshine.” Summer Lightning 

“Sunshine pierced the haze that enveloped London.” Heavy Weather

He really likes the sunshine, whether in London or in the country.

And in the short story “The Custody of the Pumpkin,” he tries a variation on a familiar theme: “The morning sunshine descended like an amber shower-bath on Blandings Castle.”

Also, from “Lord Emsworth And the Girl Friend:” “The day was so warm, so fair, so magically a thing of sunshine and blue skies and bird-songs that anyone acquainted with Clarence, ninth Earl of Emsworth, and aware of his liking for fine weather, would have pictured him going about the place on this summer morning with a beaming smile and an uplifted heart.”

Perhaps his obsession with weather is more of a Blandings Castle obsession. All the above quotes are from his Blandings Castle series and I don’t recall Bertie Wooster opening his novels with remarks on the weather to Jeeves. But Wodehouse’s Blandings Castle series seems to be perpetually bathed in sunshine.

P.G. Wodehouse is also capable of a breakfast obsession.

“Freddie Rooke gazed coldly at the breakfast-table.” Jill The Reckless

Another book cover featuring weather...though no sunshine

Another book cover featuring weather…though no sunshine

“‘A gentleman called to see you when you were out last night, sir,’ said Mrs. Medley, my landlady, removing the last of the breakfast things.” Love Among the Chickens 

“Jeeves placed the sizzling eggs and b. on the breakfast table, and Reginald (“Kipper”) Herring and I, licking our lips, squared our elbows and got down to it.” How Right You Are, Jeeves

“I marmaladed a slice of toast with something of a flourish, and I don’t suppose I have ever come much closer to saying “Tra-la-la” as I did the lathering, for I was feeling in mid-season form this morning.” Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves

This highlights another feature of Wodehouse’s openings: morning. Both the sunshine and the breakfast tend to come in the morning.

Clearly, there is something to all this sunshine and good weather and fine mornings and breakfasts. There isn’t much originality to his opening sentences, but he seems to use it as both a backdrop and a segue. Especially the sunshine. The sunshine is almost always used to segue into the constrastingly troubled brow of Lord Emsworth or some other hapless character.

But the sunshine and breakfast also serve to show that no matter the difficultly, all is still right with the world and always will be right with the world, as soon as the difficultly is inevitably resolved. The day can always begin fresh again, with warmth and bacon. It’s so utterly, positively optimistic, I can’t help grinning my whole way through Wodehouse’s books.

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2015 in Fiction, Literary Thoughts

 

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