Literature / Blandings Castle
Blandings Castle is the setting of a series of novels and stories by P. G. Wodehouse
Blandings, a castle which "has impostors the way other places have mice", is the home of the elderly and ineffectual Earl of Emsworth, which is routinely used by his many domineering sisters to imprison nieces or nephews intent on an unsuitable marriage. The would-be fiancé has to infiltrate the castle in disguise, often with help from the Earl's ne'er-do-well brother Galahad Threepwood
, and capable, sporting butler Sebastian Beach, or less often his good friend Frederick Altamont Cornwallis Twistleton, Earl of Ickenham, who aims always to spread sweetness and light, and persuade Emsworth to overrule his sister.
The second Blandings novel, Leave It to Psmith
, is also the last instalment of the Psmith
The Blandings series has seen Clive Currie and Horace Hodges as Lord Emsworth in movie versions, and Fritz Schultz (in German), Sir Ralph Richardson, Peter O'Toole and Timothy Spall on television, although many regard the BBC radio Lord Emsworth, Richard Vernon (who also lent his voice to Slartibartfast
), as definitive.
This series provides examples of:
- Ambiguous Disorder: Timothy Spall, who plays Emsworth in the 2013 miniseries, said of the character that "nowadays he'd be diagnosed with some kind of condition."
- Beetle Maniac: J. Preston Peters in Something Fresh.
- Be My Valentine: The heroine of the very first Blandings novel, Something Fresh (1915), was named Joan Valentine.
- Breach of Promise of Marriage: In Service with a Smile, the false threat of this is used to extract money. The Duke of Dunstable wants to derail his son's wedding, but Uncle Fred warns that simply bullying the son into to backing out (as would be Dunstable's first instinct) might result in a breach of promise lawsuit. Dunstable therefore pays the fiancee a substantial sum of money to go quietly. In fact, Uncle Fred knows perfectly well that both parties want out of the engagement anyway - they each have other spouses in mind, being stopped by (among other things) a lack of money. Dunstable certainly wouldn't help with that problem voluntarily, but by pretending that the fiancee needs paying off when she's actually quite pleased, Uncle Fred gets the money out of him anyway.
- Butt Monkey: Freddie Threepwood.
- Children Are Innocent: Subverted at every opportunity — if a child appears in a Wodehouse story, nine times out of ten he (it's usually a he) will be an obnoxious grubby little pest. The only kids portrayed sympathetically are Gladys and her brother Ern, little Cockney children in "Lord Emsworth and the Girl Friend" - even they are mischievous, but towards unsympathetic people.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Lord Emsworth is a doddering old man who cares about nothing more than his pig (which he christened 'The Empress of Blandings'). Want to talk to Emsworth? Chances are he'll end up rambling about pigs, derail the conversation based on semantics, or just plain space out and not listen to you at all. Even if you're lucky enough to have a lucid conversation with him, ten minutes later he'll have forgotten about it (and quite possibly you) anyway.
- Coincidence Magnet: Gridley Quayle, the protagonist of the detective series authored by Ashe Marson in Something Fresh. While Ashe admits that Quayle only manages to pull through because of a Contrived Coincidence Once per Episode, he gradually comes to realize that he's an example of this in his own right.
- Cool Old Guy: The Honourable Galahad, regularly helping his younger acquaintances out of trouble, often with rather impressive Zany Schemes.
- Crossover: The setting of several. Besides Leave It to Psmith, there's Summer Lightning, which Wodehouse referred to as "a sort of Old Home Week" for his characters.
- Crusty Caretaker: Angus McAllister, the head gardener.
- Disposable FiancÚ: Freddie to Aline in Something Fresh. They aren't really interested in each other to begin with, so the inevitable breakup doesn't hurt anyone.
- Likewise, Gloria Salt is this to Parsloe-Parsloe and Lord Vosper is this to Penelope in Pigs Have Wings. Since Gloria and Vosper are formerly a couple who reunite at the end, Parsloe-Parslowe and Penelope are this trope as well, for them.
- Dogged Nice Guy: George in Something Fresh.
- Dumb Blonde: Freddie.
- Dysfunction Junction: Described as such in press releases for the Blandings TV series.
- Early Installment Weirdness: In Something Fresh, Beach is written as a positive hypochondriac who loves to talk about his symptoms; this disappears in later books.
- Evil Matriarch: The horrendous aunts. Or, in Lord Emsworth's case, the horrendous sisters. Although they're in turn aunts to some of the young persons.
- Expy: Plenty. Freddie Threepwood is yet another example of Wodehouse's classic Upper-Class Twit. An interview also quoted Wodehouse as saying, "In a way my character Galahad is really Psmith grown up."
- Fiery Redhead: Ricky Gilpin in Uncle Fred in the Springtime is a male example.
- The Fool: Many of Wodehouse's protagonists.
- Forced into Their Sunday Best: In the short story, "Lord Emsworth and the Girl Friend"note , the eponymous peer is forced by Lady Constance, over his strenuous objections, to put on a top hat, frock coat, and a stiff collar to preside at a public fête held on the grounds of Blandings Castle.
- Forgetful Jones: Lord Emsworth.
- Genre Savvy: In Something Fresh, Ashe uses the knowledge of detective fiction he gleaned when writing the Gridley Quayle series to track down the purloiner of the scarab.
- Grande Dame: The formidable Lady Constance. To a lesser extent, all of the other sisters.
- Hypercompetent Sidekick: The Efficient Baxter to Lord Emsworth. Emsworth hates Baxter for never leaving him alone.
- Janitor Impersonation Infiltration: In Something Fresh, Ashe and Joan disguise themselves as a valet and a ladies' maid as part of opposing efforts to steal a prized scarab.
- Last Name Basis: Gally is at one point surprised to learn that Beach's name is Sebastian.
- Lonely Together: The reason Ashe and Joan initially befriend one another in Something Fresh.
- Love at First Sight: In almost every story. Usually the likeable male lead falls for a girl and it takes her a while to return his affections.
- Love Epiphany: Fairly frequent.
- MacGuffin: This is very often a diamond or pearl necklace, though the Empress of Blandings herself often serves as a Living MacGuffin.
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Despite not being particularly manic, Joan Valentine in Something Fresh undoubtedly plays this role for Ashe, shaking up his boring life (and instigating the wacky plot) by encouraging him to do something new.
- Messy Pig: The Empress of Blandings and Sir Gregory's pig, The Pride of Matchingham.
- Mistaken for Servant: Lady Hermione Wedge, mistaken for the cook.
- Mock Millionaire: Sue Brown in Summer Lightning and Heavy Weather.
- More Deadly Than the Male: Rudyard Kipling's famous line is quoted in the American version of Something Fresh when Baxter speculates that women might make better purloiners of scarabs.
- Noodle Incident: Repeated references are made to the never-actually-recounted "Story of the Prawns" which relates a humiliatingly hilarious incident in the youth of stuffed shirt Sir Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe. At the end of Summer Lightning, Galahad Threepwood starts telling the story, but the book ends before we would find out what it's about.
- Oh Crap!: In Pigs Have Wings, when Wellbeloved realises that Binstead has fed slimming tonic to the wrong pig.
- Parental Marriage Veto: A regularly-appearing plot development, to the point where Wodehouse himself had his own names for all the character tropes involved. The "parent" was always one of Lord Emsworth's governess sisters, and the resolution almost invariably ended with the Hon. Galahad Threepwood (or sometimes Uncle Fred) blackmailing said sister into letting the marriage through, generally using an element of the B-plot.
- Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic: Makes adapting Wodehouse's work to TV or film no easy task.
- Right for the Wrong Reasons: Baxter's false suspicions often lead him in the right direction.
- Scary Shiny Glasses: Lord Emsworth's secretary, "The Efficient Baxter", has them.
- A Simple Plan: In contrast to Jeeves' elaborately plotted fixes, the Blandings invaders start here and go from there. It's common for Uncle Fred to come up with his ultimate solution while resting in his hammock at Blandings.
- Strongly Worded Letter: The Duke of Dunstable frequently writes these to the Times or the government.
- Talks Like a Simile: Comedic similes are a staple of Wodehouse's writing. A particular good one comes when the narrator describes the silent calm at the castle being shattered "with a sound like G.K. Chesterton falling on a tin roof."
- Title Drop: Summer Lightning, Heavy Weather, and more.
- The Unfavorite: Freddie. Not only is he the youngest son (and therefore gratuitous), he tends to pile up debts and have to be exiled to Blandings, where he sulks around and longs to be back in London. Lord Emsworth can't stand him and would do anything to get him off his hands.
- Upper-Class Twit: Lord Emsworth's sons, particularly Freddie Threepwood, are rather air-headed. As is Emsworth himself, really.
- When She Smiles: A well-timed smile from Joan causes a Love Epiphany for Ashe in Something Fresh.
- Xanatos Speed Chess: What Gally usually has to resort to.
- Zany Scheme: Blandings is host to one of these about twice a week.
The 2013 Blandings TV series provides examples of:
- Having a Gay Old Time: The show quite gleefully invokes period-accurate terms that now sound inappropriate. Most prominently, Freddie takes any chance to talk about his club, "The Pink Pussy," sometimes shortened to "The Pussy."
- Once an Episode / Running Gag: In series 1, Freddie always crashing his car into the same tree every episode; in series 2, the precariously-placed vase in the entrance hall being knocked over.