Aunt Dahlia

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Dahlia Travers (née Wooster) is a recurring fictional character in the Jeeves novels of British comic writer P. G. Wodehouse, being best known as Bertie Wooster's bonhomous, red-faced Aunt Dahlia. She is much beloved by her nephew, in contrast with her sister, Bertie's Aunt Agatha. Proprietor of the weekly newspaper for women Milady's Boudoir, she is married to Tom Travers, mother of Angela Travers and Bonzo Travers, and employs the supremely gifted French chef Anatole.

Picture of PG Wodehouse.
P.G. Wodehouse

Overview[edit]

Dahlia and Tom Travers make their residence at Brinkley Court outside Market Snodsbury in Worcestershire. They were married "the year Bluebottle won the Cambridgeshire". Dahlia is Tom's second wife.[1]

Aunt Dahlia is "built rather on the lines of Mae West", but with a reddish-purple complexion. Her most notable personal characteristic is her carrying voice. Riding in her youth for years with such fox-hunting clubs as the Quorn and the Pytchley, she tends to address Bertie, over the phone or indoors, as if "shouting across ploughed fields in a high wind."[2]

She is also a Governor of Market Snodsbury Grammar School, for which she has the formidable task to find speakers for prize-giving day. When called, Bertie would rather shove it off on to his friend Gussie Fink-Nottle (and not "Spink-Bottle", as Dahlia insists on calling him).

Dahlia employs the French chef extraordinaire Anatole since stealing him from Rosie M. Banks (Mrs Bingo Little) with the help of Jeeves. Just the thought of his cooking is usually enough to make Bertie answer Dahlia's call to Brinkley Court, except when some prize-giving is involved.

Despite Tom and Bertie's dislike of Agatha, Dahlia does not mind her sister and even goes so far as to invite her to Brinkley Court, over Tom's objections.

Aunt Dahlia and Bertie Wooster[edit]

Unlike Aunt Agatha, the "aged relative" seems to enjoy Bertie's company and occasionally shows him an aunt's love, even if she does call him a "young blot", "an idiot nephew", "a worm", etc. Indeed, Dahlia's famous telegram conversations with Bertie can display some rough love; for instance, after Bertie dumped his prize-giving duty on an unsuspecting Fink-Nottle, she sent:

« Am taking legal advice to ascertain whether strangling an idiot nephew counts as murder. If it doesn't look out for yourself. Consider your conduct frozen limit. What do you mean by planting your loathsome friends on me like this? Do you think Brinkley Court is a leper colony or what is it? Who is this Spink-Bottle? Love. Travers. » (in Right Ho, Jeeves, chapter six)

And a few telegrams later, she sent:

« Well, all right. Something in what you say, I suppose. Consider you treacherous worm and contemptible, spineless cowardly custard, but have booked Spink-Bottle. Stay where you are, then, and I hope you get run over by an omnibus. Love. Travers. » (in Right Ho, Jeeves, chapter six)

Sometimes, Bertie suspects, Dahlia seems to value him more for his association with the exceptionally clever Jeeves than for his own qualities. Her chief use for Bertie, however, is to commit minor burglaries or acts of calculated vandalism, which often misfire and require Jeeves to extract them both from the soup.

Milady's Boudoir[edit]

Milady's Boudoir is a fictional weekly newspaper for women, of which Aunt Dahlia is the proprietor. It is probably based on The Lady[3](Britain's oldest weekly women's magazine; The Lady was managed by David Freeman-Mitford, whose family supplied the original for another Wodehouse character, Roderick Spode). Milady's Boudoir (and not "Madame's Nightshirt", as Tom Travers insists on calling it) never sold well and only stayed in business because of the reluctant largesse of Dahlia's husband. It lasted for three (according to Bertie)[4] or four (according to Dahlia and Bertie)[5] years before being sold to Mr Trotter.

Backstory
  • In Right Ho, Jeeves (1934), Dahlia lost at baccarat the money to pay the printers and had Bertie and Jeeves help her squeeze it out of her tax-burdened husband. When reminded of the episode in Cannes Bertie remarks "ah yes, the casino wanted to put up a plaque".
  • In Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit (1954), Dahlia commissioned a high-priced serial from bestselling novelist Daphne Dolores Morehead in order to give instant credibility to her journal and make it an easier sell, or "salt the mine" as she put it; after being repeatedly foiled, and an attempted blackmail to make her surrender Anatole to the scheming Mrs Trotter, she eventually sold it off with Jeeves's help to newspaper owner Mr Trotter.
  • In Jeeves in the Offing (1960), chapter XVII, the paper "had recently been sold to a mug up Liverpool way", and Dahlia underlined how most issues featured a short story where "the hero won the heroine's heart by saving her dog or her cat or her canary or whatever foul animal she happened to possess."
  • In "Jeeves Makes an Omelette" (1958, written later but necessarily happening before the sale) Dahlia asked Bertie to steal a painting to get a story for her magazine.
  • In "Jeeves and the Greasy Bird" (1965, written later but necessarily happening before the sale), a man too timid to talk to his love is writing articles about girls for the paper.
Contributors include


Stories[edit]

Aunt Dahlia is featured in many Jeeves stories, across most of Wodehouse's writing career:

Aunt Dahlia or her Milady's Boudoir are mentioned in:

Actresses[edit]

Film and TV actresses
Radio actresses
Audiobook actresses

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Sources consulted
  • Kuzmenko, Michel (The Russian Wodehouse Society) (22 March 2007 update). "Wodehouse books". Bibliography. Retrieved 2007-08-13. 
  • Reggie (16 March 2007 update). "Wodehouse Who's Who: Dahlia Travers". Blandings, a Companion to the Works of P. G. Wodehouse. Archived from the original on 13 August 2007. 
Endnotes
  1. ^ Wodehouse 1934, Right Ho, Jeeves, chapter 4. Bertie states that Dahlia "married old Tom Travers en secondes noces"
  2. ^ Wodehouse 1954, Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit. See also descriptions of Aunt Dahlia in Wodehouse 1938, The Code of the Woosters.
  3. ^ Murphy, Norman (June 2010). "Milady's Boudoir: The Lady or Not?". Wooster Sauce (London: P G Wodehouse Society (UK)) (54): 11. 
  4. ^ Wodehouse 1954, Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, chapter V. Bertie explains Dahlia has had her journal for three years.
  5. ^ Wodehouse 1960, Jeeves in the Offing, chapter XVII: from Dahlia ("For four years I was, if you remember, the proprietor and editress of a weekly paper for women.") and Bertie ("It had recently been sold to a mug up Liverpool way, and I have never seen Uncle Tom look chirpier than when the deal went through, he for those four years having had to foot the bills.").

External links[edit]