on 27 May 2012
Lord Emsworth's fearsome sister, Lady Constance, is once more in residence at Blandings Castle, Shropshire's foremost pile. The terrible Alaric, Duke of Dunstable, has invited himself to stay at the Castle once again, this time with his niece, Linda, who is in love with Johnny Halliday, one of Sir Galahad Threepwood's many god-sons. Linda is a ward of court and cannot marry without the Duke's consent. As so often in Wodehouse, there has been a row between the young lovers, and the sundered hearts need to be brought together once more. The Duke is still under the impression that Lord Emsworth is potty, and decides to call in the eminent brain specialist Sir Roderick Glossop to observe him. Sir Roderick not being available, who better to take the job than his junior partner? And what better way for Johnny to get into the Castle, to be near his beloved and repair their rift, than to pretend to be this non-existent specialist? Who else can Lord Emsworth call on to sort out the tangles but his ever-resourceful brother, last survivor of the celebrated Pelican club, the Hon Galahad Threepwood? With the usual mix of young lovers, fearsome sisters, and overbearing Dukes, as well as a roster of villains and imposters, all the ingredients are there for another classic farce in the great Wodehouse tradition.
The title of the review is not strictly accurate. Wodehouse returned to Blandings once more a few years later, but sadly that novel was left incomplete at his death, although it has been published under the title "Sunset at Blandings". This is the tenth Blandings novel, and was published in 1969, when Wodehouse was eight-eight, and not surprisingly, there are signs that the master's powers are on the wane. The writing is much sparser than previously, much of the plot thin and rushed. Yet there is still more than a trace of the old Wodehouse touch, still many of those moments of sheer delight in language of which Wodehouse was such a master. It is the perfect conclusion to a glorious saga, an autumnal final look at a paradise from which man has never been expelled. If this is not first-rate Wodehouse, it is certainly a joyous coda. There is an elegiac conclusion, with brothers, Lord Emsworth, and the Hon. Galahad Threepwood, quietly eating their dinner of good English fare, including a well-jammed roly-poly, while Voules, the chauffer, softly plays his harmonica. The novel's last words have the great Gally raising a glass and toasting his woolly-headed brother. "God bless you, Clarence," he says. God bless Gally, too. And God bless Wodehouse, who gave us so much joy.