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Literature / Blandings Castle

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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, a simple, amiable and much-confused fellow whose ambitions in life rarely extend much further than tending to "The Empress of Blandings", his prize-winning pig, and avoiding his many domineering sisters or his terrifyingly efficient personal assistant, who generally have higher ambitions for him. This means that his house 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. In general, the novels tend to position the Earl as more of a background figure occupying his own little subplot at most, whereas the short stories tend to revolve around his misadventures specifically.

The second Blandings novel, Leave It to Psmith, is also the last installment of the Psmith series.

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.


  • Something Fresh (1915) — aka Something New.
  • Leave it to Psmith (1923)
  • Summer Lightning (1929)
  • Heavy Weather (1933)
  • Blandings Castle and Elsewhere (1935) Short story collection with six Blandings stories out of twelve:
    • "The Custody of the Pumpkin"
    • "Lord Emsworth Acts for the Best"
    • "Pig-hoo-o-o-o-ey"
    • "Company for Gertrude"
    • "The Go-getter"
    • "Lord Emsworth and the Girl Friend"
  • Lord Emsworth and Others (1937) Short story collection with one Blandings story out of nine:
    • "The Crime Wave at Blandings"
  • Uncle Fred in the Springtime (1939)
  • Full Moon (1947)
  • Nothing Serious (1950) Short story collection with one Blandings story out of ten:
    • "Birth of a Salesman"
  • Pigs Have Wings (1952)
  • Service With a Smile (1961)
  • Galahad at Blandings (1965)
  • Plum Pie (1966) Short story collection with one Blandings story out of nine
    • "Sticky Wicket at Blandings"
  • A Pelican at Blandings (1969)
  • Sunset at Blandings (1977) — Left unfinished due to Wodehouse's death at the age of 93 in February 1975

This series provides examples of:

  • Always Someone Better: In Uncle Fred in the Springtime much is made of Claude "Mustard" Pott's skill at the card game "Persian Monarchs". Until he ends up playing the Duke of Dunstable, who wins £300 from him in a matter of minutes.
  • Amazonian Beauty: Monica Simmons, one of the many pig keepers for the Empress (and later a love interest of one of Emsworth's nephews), who is a blonde knockout with bulging muscles, who used to play hockey.
  • 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.
  • Brainless Beauty: Veronica Wedge is the prettiest of Emsworth's nieces and very likely the stupidest (or, at the very least, an Extreme Doormat to her parents wishes).
  • 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.
  • Breakout Character: Though Lord Emsworth mostly plays supporting roles in the novels (due to being too much of a Cloudcuckoolander to participate in the zany schemes), Wodehouse made him the star of most of the short stories, and he is usually the lead character in adaptations.
  • Butt-Monkey: Freddie Threepwood stands out in a series where everyone experiences bad luck at times.
  • Call-Back: In Galahad at Blandings, Lord Emsworth uses the master hog-call he learned in the short story 'Pig-hoooo-ey!' to summon the Empress, who isn't responding to Wellbeloved's calls.
  • 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") and Lord Emsworth's grandson George, and 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 Fiancé: 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:
  • 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."
  • Extreme Doormat: As with Wodehouse's other well-known Upper-Class Twit, Lord Emsworth is rather easily pushed around by the people surrounding him.
  • Fiery Redhead: Ricky Gilpin in Uncle Fred in the Springtime is a male example.
  • The Fool: Many of Wodehouse's protagonists end up coming out ahead despite utter ignorance about things around them.
  • 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.
  • Henpecked Husband:
    • Downplayed with Lord Ickenham and his wife Jane; their marriage seems to be a happy one, but she's the one who sets the rules on what he is and isn't allowed to do.
    • Freddie Threeepwood is utterly afraid of his wife's displeasure and not afraid to admit it.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: The Efficient Baxter to Lord Emsworth. Emsworth hates Baxter for never leaving him alone.
  • Idyllic English Village: Market Blandings is a sleepy, picturesque town located in Shropshire. The community is much invested in the Shropshire Agricultural Show, a county fair where The Empress of Blandings is a perennial shoo-in for the Fattest Pig prize. This leads to a lot of Small Town Rivalry between the Empress's owner, the Earl of Emsworth, and the scheming baronet Sir Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe of Matchingham Hall and his own pig, Pride of Matchingham. However, outside of Sir Gregory's unscrupulousness, the town of Much Matchingham is also presented as a perfectly pleasant little town.
  • I Have Many Names: In Pigs Have Wings, Maudie has previously used the surnames Beach, Montrose, Digby and Stubbs, and adopts another, Bunbury, to visit the castle. By the end of the book she's well on the way to adding 'Parsloe' to her collection.
  • 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.
  • Kind Hearted Simpleton: Lord Emsworth is blessed with both a very kindly, good-natured heart and a mental process that spends most of its time floating around somewhere in the Earth's exosphere.
  • 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.
  • Lower-Deck Episode: The very first book, where Ashe and Joan arrive at the castle disguised as servants and thus spend time mingling with the castle's servants, almost none of whom are ever seen or mentioned again.
  • 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.
  • New Old Flame: In Pigs Have Wings, Beach's niece Maudie turns out to have had a past romantic history with Sir Gregory Parsloe.
  • 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.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe commits one act of genuinely malicious, underhanded sabotage (not counting one much later instance of purchasing an already fattened pig shortly before the tournament from outside the region); hiring away Lord Emsworth's prized pig man right before a competition, and yet for the rest of the series Lord Emsworth and Galahad treat him as if he's a cross between Boss Hogg and Varys, constantly being on the look-out for non existent plots by him, accusing him of anything that goes wrong and often inadvertently sabotaging his affairs.
  • 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.
  • Phrase Catcher: When Freddie seems about to ask a favor of someone, they usually say "Well, Freddie?" in a tone that implies This Is Gonna Suck.
  • Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic: Makes adapting Wodehouse's work to TV or film no easy task.
  • Returning the Wedding Ring: For Fiery Redhead Sandy Callender, merely returning the ring wasn't enough:
    "So she gave you back the ring?"
    "She threw it at me. You may have noticed the slight abrasion on my left cheek."
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: Baxter's false suspicions often lead him in the right direction.
  • Runaway Bride / Runaway Groom: Maudie relates to Galahad that she'd planned to marry Gregory Parsloe, but he didn't show up at the church. She says the situation might sound funny enough in a music-hall song, but it's no joke when it happens to you. She misread his handwriting and got the date wrong, so he showed up three days before and had exactly the same experience.
  • Same Surname Means Related: Double Subversion in A Pelican at Blandings. Lady Constance is led to believe that Vanessa Polk is the daughter of reclusive millionaire J B Polk, and invites her to the castle in that belief. In fact Vanessa's parents were servants who met at the castle, and she played on this trope to get her invitation. But while she's not J B Polk's daughter, she is employed as his confidential secretary — she suspects he also found the coincidence of surnames amusing.
  • Scary Shiny Glasses: Lord Emsworth's secretary, "The Efficient Baxter", has them.
  • Shout-Out: In one book, as Galahad sees the happy ending approaching, he quotes a verse from Rudyard Kipling's The Three-Decker.
  • 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.
  • The 'Verse: The court case lost by John Halliday in A Pelican At Blandings (Onapoulos and Onapoulos vs the Lincolnshire and Eastern Counties Glass Bottling Company) is revisited in the non-Blandings book The Girl in Blue.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Psmith is hired as Lord Emsworths' secretary at the end of the second book and then never heard form again.
  • When She Smiles: A well-timed smile from Joan causes a Love Epiphany for Ashe in Something Fresh.
  • The Wicked Stage: The only girl Galahad loved was a music-hall singer, Dolly Henderson, but his family disapproved of her and forced them apart. When Dolly's daughter Sue (who's also on the stage, as a chorus girl) becomes engaged to to Galahad's nephew Ronnie, Galahad is determined that their relationship shouldn't be broken the same way. His Grande Dame sisters are equally determined that it should.
  • 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.
  • Overly Narrow Superlative: Inverted in one episode when Freddie The Unfavorite begs his father for money and urges him to think about how much this means to "Your only son-besides the other one."