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August 30, 2007


Mrs. Peperium

Father M., next to Scottish Breakfast tea, Assam is my favorite as well. It sometimes flies under the colors of Irish Breakfast.

Christine once, a long time ago, wrote about Vanilla scented tea. Lovely choice as well. I bet that is a scent that even The Basil would approve of.

Oh and vanilla figures prominently in the scent of my perfume. Not that anyone has shown the least bit of interest in what mine is. Oh and too late to ask now. As Maxy would say, another mystery for the ages...


Harney and Sons make a lovely Vanilla Comoro. Their Peach Ginger is also very fine.


Sent over by Robbo Llama Butcher...

If I may offer some crass familial marketing - my mother sells lovely teas of all varieties at http://teaforallreasons.com

Mrs. Peperium

Thank you jen. Is Harney's your mother's supplier? We won't tell anyone. Just curiousity...

Old Dominion Tory

While living in Maryland, I used to drink Gunner's Tea, made by the Eastern Shore Tea Company. It had hints of apple, cinnamon, and cardamom. On very wet, very cold afternoons that reminded me of coastal New England, I might add a tot of rum.

Basil Seal

My Dear Father M....You are simply priceless, walking around a Modern psuedo-bookstore looking for Saki, Beerbohm, et al....I think you were pretty lucky to find one Wodehouse...I think we'll have to send Miss Eden a CARE package of books...Although those types of places stock Waugh...I could never figure that out, until I was told that today's elites consider Waugh a "gay" authour, therefore he's stocked...

Father M.

Mrs. P. and Lorraine, I am a coffee (black) afficianado and don't really drink tea unless I am somewhere it should be consumed so I don't know from good tea. Irish Breakfast = Assam? Who knew?

Could you please provide a link to your article on Assam that started my hunt to begin with?

Thank you for the link and the kind comments. We'll have to have a DC blogosphere tea (not really tea-- that can be our code word for Black Velvet) with Dawn sometime soon.

Father M.

The bookstore is a block from my Church and HUGE. I thought for sure they would have it. In fact I was expecting multiple Saki volumes from which to choose. I should have known, from the fact that they do not sell The New Criterion, that the place was little more than a fishwrap pusher.

Don't let on that "Eve-lin War" was a Catholic or they'll off him as well...

Old Dominion Tory

When I was in Washington, laboring in the vineyards of politics, there were many excellent used book shops in Washington and Northern Virginia. There also was an excellent one in Chevy Chase. Father M, perhaps you should canvass your parishoners and friends for recommendations as to what shops still exist.


My mother has many vendors from whom she gets her teas. Harney is not one of them, although she loves Harney teas.

I'm biased, but I think her teas are quite excellent.

Robbo the Llama Butcher

Father M - I'm with you on the coffee.

I'm a bit surprised at the singleton Wodehouse you flushed out of Buks R Us. Usually the Plum selection consists of either a full-length Bertie & Jeeves novel or else, perhaps, Leave It To Psmith. (Not a-tall bad choices, of course.) The early Jeeves stories are actually pretty rare.

As for Eve-lin, the only volume of his I ever see on the shelves is Brideshead. Given its, ah, theme, I can only suppose that the stockers put it there because they recognize the name from the telly, not because they've actually read it.

Basil Seal

Speaking of tea, am I the only one who gets all his tea and coffee sent to him from Fortnam & Mason? Bueller? Anyone? Although, like Father M. and Robbo, I am a extra-strong black coffee, with one demerara cube man...The Countess has several teas she drinks based on what time of day it is. I stick with Royal Blend.

Basil Seal

By the way Father M. I suppose my phone must have been off the hook, since I was not invited to the party...

Mrs. Peperium

Hey Toots. Yes, I'm talking to you Seal. I get my comestibles form Fortnum and Mason as well.

You'll be pleased to learn when the Duke of Edinburgh pulled the Royal Warrant from Harrod's, I instructed Mr. P to pull our account from there as well. Of course, you probably pulled yours when Dodi's dad bought the place...

My thinking was at that point was if it's still good enough for the head of my Church, then it's still good enough for me.

Mrs. Peperium

Of course, this was when I seriously started thinking if the head of my Church wasn't to be trusted in regards of the purchasing of tea and silk stockings, then just forget her on matters like salvation.

Robbo the Llama Butcher

I used to get my coffee from Duff & Trotter, but these days it comes from a little bistro in our neighborhood. The owner, a middle-aged Frenchman, has the mashers for the Missus and will fresh-roast a pound especially for her in exchange for a smile. Me? I think it's worth the trade.

Fr. M.

I have a few 'real' bookstores I like to go to and there is a great one up in Frederick, Maryland which I visit a couple of times a year. I had to go to B & N as it was a literary emergency and I needed the book right away.

I have purchased other Wodehouse works there before but they only had the one. They did have the entire range of Flashman and one Belloc (Marie Antoinette) so I didn't call down wraith from the heavens, but none of those are what I was looking for by way of a Patum Peperium Rosetta Stone.


Any time you want to rev up the old Tiger Moth and careen it this direction we will all be happy to have a party in YOUR honor. Nota Bene: Please respect the no-fly zone here in the Nation's Capital or we'll be picking bits of you out of the trees...

Here's the link to Christine's article on Assam.


Dawn Eden

Dear Wodehouse fans, please help me out here.

Riding to and from work today, I read the first two stories in the collection: "Extricating Young Gussie" and "Leave It to Jeeves."

"Extricating Young Gussie" was a delightful read. The second one had its moments, but wasn't so enjoyable, because I began to detect a, shall we say, pattern.

So, I have a couple of questions:

Is every story about how witty, indolent Wooster and witty, ultra-capable Jeeves get into and out of various messes involving marriages or attempted marriages?

I realize I am reading the very first Jeeves/Wooster stories. Were the stories that Wodehouse wrote later in his career more involved and less predictable? Or did he basically keep writing the same story over and over? In which case, is the fascination with Wodehouse some sort of existentialist "Waiting for Godot" thing, where the point is that you know what's going to happen and you just want to see how he does it? Like the Road Runner cartoons?

Off the top of my head, the only utterly predictable work of art that I enjoy every time is "The Honeymooners," but that's just because I love the acting. The existentialism is secondary.

Does it get better? The Wodehouse oeuvre of Jeeves stories, I mean. Please, tell me; I'd really like to know, so that I can have hope of finishing this book and enjoying Mr. Seal's generously offered care package.

Mrs. Peperium

Welcome Miss Eden. While many here can answer your questions, I think Sir Basil should have the first go. I will alert him.

Meg Q

"There was even something called "Republic of Tea" which on principle was completely unacceptable. Most likely there had, at one time, been a tranquil Kingdom of Tea and then some socialist tempest-in-a-teapot came to pass and infused the Teas with a bureaucratic Tea welfare state where no one gets to spout off and everyone gets steamed, hence, no Republic of Tea for me. No Sir. I settled on a nice variety box of recognizable teas and shook the dust from my capped-toed shoes."

You don't know the half of it. Republic of Tea thinks it most amusing to describe their customers as "Citizens of the Republic of Tea", and to refer to their company officers as "Minister of Tea", "Minister of Propaganda", etc. At the moment, they are hiring a "Minister of West Commerce/Regional Sales Manager - California" - seriously, see here:
Because, you know, Communism is cute.

Dawn, let us say rather that the Jeeves stories are usually variations on a theme: Master Bertie gets in the soup, faithful Jeeves seeks to extricate him, hilarity ensues. Along the way, we meet all manner of drippy girls, foppish Etonians, frightening judges, terrifying aunts, and other fascinating characters. My personal favorite would be Sir Roderick Spode, leader of the "Saviours of Britain", aka "the Black Shorts", at whom Bertie launches a superb stemwinder. Spode has an . . . interesting side business. Also, I love Gussie Fink-Nottle, the hapless newt-fancier. Others will have their favorites.

Meg Q

Oh, sorry, didn't mean to jump the gun.

Robbo the Llama Butcher

Dawn -

As to the repetitiveness and predictability of his plots and characters, Wodehouse himself had this to say in the preface to Summer Lightning, one of the very best Blandings Castle novels, imho:

"A certain critic - for such men, I regret to say, do exist - made the nasty remark about my last novel that it contained 'all the old Wodehouse characters under different names'. He has probably by now been eaten by bears, like the children who made mock of the prophet Elisha: but if he still survives he will not be able to make a similar charge against Summer Lightning. With my superior intelligence, I have outgeneralled the man this time by putting in all the old Wodehouse characters under the same names. Pretty silly it will make him feel, I rather fancy."

The short answer is yes, Plum was very formulaic and the plots generally ran along the same line. The pleasure is in watching how he spins out each one.

Now I wasn't going to say so before, but I feel that the early Jeeves stories are a bit rough, a bit unseasoned, not quite varsity form. If you want to see Wodehouse running on all eight cylinders, probably the best place to start is Right Ho, Jeeves!, followed by what I consider to be the very best in the series, The Code of the Woosters.

Tired of Bertie and Jeeves? Give Blandings Castle a try. My favorite is the above-mentioned Summer Lightning, but there are various others as well.

Want singleton casts of characters? Wodehouse wrote plenty of one-offs as well, although they all (of course) center around boy meeting girl, boy struggling for girl and boy eventually getting girl. A couple of the very best examples include Hot Water and Money in the Bank.

It's probably heresy to say so, but in addition to some of the clunkier stuff he wrote in his youth that you've already marked, Wodehouse's writing started tailing off later in his extremely long life as well. As a general rule, his best stuff was written in the 30's and 40's, when he was at the height of his powers.

Oh, and be careful about probing the existentialism too deeply. Alexander Cockburn (whom I otherwise loathe) had this excellent observation in the Forward to my copy of Code of the Woosters:

"P.G. Wodehouse, when asked once what stimulated his creative juices, replied laconically, 'Oh, I don't know, I just sit down at the typwriter and curse a bit.' Typical Wodehouse: an impenitrable, offhanded joviality; self-deprication that leaves the question perched foolishly on one leg.

It's this question of tone that is troubling for anyone writing about Wodehouse. High seriousness about him brings to mind poor Professor Scully. This professor's attempt, in 1902, to describe a smile scientifically was quoted by Richard Usborne in his fine book Wodehouse At Work. Scully doggedly dissected, 'the drawing back and slight lifting of the corners of the mouth, which partially uncovers the teeth, the curving of the naso-labial furrows...'

Wodehouse is particularly resistant to what we might term the naso-labial approach, which is possibly why critics have always had such a hard time with him. It is, of course, the work of a moment to knock together something about the master-servant relationship as displayed by Wooster and Jeeves, and the relevance of same to British social history. Such an approach is not actively harmful, but it suffers from naso-labialism - leaving the mystery of Wodehouse's genious intact."

If you can, you should find a copy of Code of the Woosters with this forward and read the rest. I think it's spot-on.


Dawn Eden

Robbo, thanks for the enlightenment -- good to hear that the stories get better. (Meg, am I right in assuming you're saying they _don't_ get better?) But what do you mean by "rough and unseasoned"? Is it simply that the early stories aren't as witty, while the later ones are same-old same-old with more wit? If you mean that the stories eventually acquire something more than the coyote-Acme-bomb formula, then I think I will put down Enter Jeeves 'til after I've read whatever Mr. Seal cares to send along in his care package (though, by now, I'm fearing it may be an old shoe).

Robbo the Llama Butcher

Oh, heck. As long as I've got the book out, let me quote a little more from Cockburn's thesis about Wodehouse's character, language and action:

"And there is Madeline Bassett, prime example of the soupy girl with whom Bertie was always trying to avoid a marriage enforced by circumstance:

'Oh, Bertie, you remind me of Rudel.'

The name was new to me.

'The Seigneur Geoffrey Rudel, Prince of Blaye-en-Sointonge.'

I shook my head.
'Never met him. Pal of yours?'

'He lived in the Middle Ages. He was a great poet. And he fell in love with the wife of the Lord of Tripoli.'

I stirred uneasily. I hoped she was going to keep it clean.

'For years he loved her, and at last he could resist no longer. He took ship to Tripoli, and his servants carried him ashore.'

'Not feeling so good?' I said, groping. 'Rough crossing?'

'He was dying. Of love.'

'Oh, ah.'

'They bore him into the Lady Melisande's presence on a litter, and he had just strength enough to reach out and touch her hand. Then he died.'

She paused, and heaved a sigh that seemed to come straight up from the cami-knickers. A silence ensued.

'Terrific,' I said, feeling I had to say something, though personally I didn't think the stoyr had a patch on the one about the travelling salesman and the farmer's daughter. Different, of course, if one had known the chap.

If this kind of stuff won't cause curvature of your naso-labials, nothing will. Wodehouse is not for you."

Yes, indeed. Good luck!

Dawn Eden

Robbo writes: "If this kind of stuff won't cause curvature of your naso-labials, nothing will. Wodehouse is not for you."

There was the beginning of the prelude of a slight and almost unmistakable twitch at the "farmer's daughter" line. Ah, well.

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