Drones Club

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The Drones Club is a recurring fictional location in the stories of British comic writer P. G. Wodehouse. It is a gentlemen's club in London. Many of his Jeeves and Blandings Castle stories feature the club or its members.

The name "Drones" has been used by several real-life clubs and restaurants.

Overview[edit]

The Drones Club is in Mayfair, London, located in Dover Street, off Piccadilly. A drone being a male bee that does no work, living off the labour of others, it aptly describes the contemporary Edwardian stereotype of rich, idle young club members. At the same time, though, it should be pointed out that many prominent members do have useful occupations. Pongo Twistleton, for example, is reading for the Bar, and other members are mentioned as holding down jobs.

Wodehouse based the Drones Club on a combination of three real London clubs: the Bachelors' Club (existed around the turn of the century), then mostly Buck's Club (established 1919), and a dash of the Bath Club for its swimming pool's ropes and rings. The fictional Drones barman, McGarry, has the same surname as the Buck's first bartender, a Mr McGarry (Buck's barman from 1919 to 1941, credited with creating the Buck's Fizz and Sidecar cocktails). However Evelyn Waugh declared that the Drones did not resemble any real club in 1920s London.[1][2]

A real club has been based at 40 Dover Street since 1893, The Arts Club. Other gentlemen's clubs which have existed on Dover Street, but are now dissolved, include the Bath Club, the Junior Naval and Military Club, and the Scottish Club, as well as two mixed-sex clubs, the Albemarle Club and the Empress Club. None of these were ever considered among London's 'premier' clubs of the kind found on St James' Street and Pall Mall, and so their ambience often had something of the raucous informality of the fictional Drones Club.

About a dozen club members are major or secondary recurring characters in the Wodehouse stories. In addition to Bertie Wooster (Jeeves stories), Pongo Twistleton (Uncle Fred stories), Rupert Psmith (Psmith stories), and Freddie Threepwood (Blandings stories), prominent recurring drones include Bingo Little and Freddie Widgeon, plus Monty Bodkin, Barmy Fotheringay-Phipps, Tuppy Glossop, Catsmeat Potter-Pirbright, Archibald Mulliner, and the club millionaire Oofy Prosser.

Events[edit]

  • The Drones Club Annual Golf Rally.
  • The Drones Club Annual Darts Tournament (sweepstakes).
  • The Drones Club Annual Fat Uncle Contest (sweepstakes).

Stories[edit]

Among the Wodehouse works, what was later dubbed the "Drones Club series" is a loose set of separate stories told by various narrators, which are either told at the club, or have some events happening at the club, or a club member for protagonist.

Main canon

The main canon consists of 21 short stories (eight Freddie Widgeon, eight Bingo Little, one Bingo and Widgeon, and four other Drones, including the one introducing Pongo Twistleton and his Uncle Fred), as eventually collected in the omnibus:

  • Tales from the Drones Club[3] (1982) later The Drones Omnibus (1991)

The same set of short stories is also available in their original collections:

  • Collected in Young Men in Spats (1936)
    • "Fate" (Freddie Widgeon)
    • "Tried in the Furnace" (Barmy Fotheringay-Phipps and Pongo Twistleton)
    • "Trouble Down at Tudsleigh" (Freddie Widgeon)
    • "The Amazing Hat Mystery" (Percy Wimbolt and Nelson Cork)
    • "Goodbye to All Cats" (Freddie Widgeon)
    • "The Luck of the Stiffhams" (Stiffy Stiffham)
    • "Noblesse Oblige" (Freddie Widgeon)
    • "Uncle Fred Flits By" (Pongo Twistleton with Uncle Fred)
  • Collected in Lord Emsworth and Others (1937)
  • Collected in Eggs, Beans and Crumpets (1940)
    • "All's Well With Bingo" (Bingo Little with Oofy)
    • "Bingo and the Peke Crisis" (Bingo Little)
    • "The Editor Regrets" (Bingo Little)
    • "Sonny Boy" (Bingo Little with Oofy)
  • Collected in Nothing Serious (1950)
    • "The Shadow Passes" (Bingo Little)
    • "Bramley Is So Bracing" (Freddie Widgeon)
  • Collected in A Few Quick Ones (1959)
    • "The Fat of the Land" (Freddie Widgeon)
    • "The Word in Season" (Bingo Little)
    • "Leave it to Algy" (Bingo Little with Oofy Prosser)
    • "Oofy, Freddie and the Beef Trust" (Freddie Widgeon with Oofy Prosser)
  • Collected in Plum Pie (1966)
    • "Bingo Bans the Bomb" (Bingo Little with Freddie Widgeon)
    • "Stylish Stouts" (Bingo Little)

Freddie Widgeon

Bingo Little

  • All's Well With Bingo (Eggs, Beans and Crumpets)
  • Bingo and the Peke Crisis (Eggs, Beans and Crumpets)
  • The Editor Regrets (Eggs, Beans and Crumpets)
  • Sonny Boy (Eggs, Beans and Crumpets)
  • The Shadow Passes (Nothing Serious)
  • The Word in Season (A Few Quick Ones)
  • Leave it to Algy (A Few Quick Ones)
  • Bingo Bans the Bomb (Plum Pie)
  • Stylish Stouts (Plum Pie)

Other

  • Tried in the Furnace (Barmy Fotheringay-Phipps and Pongo Twistleton) – (Young Men In Spats)
  • The Amazing Hat Mystery (Percy Wimbolt and Nelson Cork) – (Young Men In Spats)
  • The Luck of the Stiffhams (Stiffy Stiffham) – (Young Men In Spats)
  • Uncle Fred Flits By (Pongo Twistleton with Uncle Fred) – (Young Men In Spats)
Additional short stories

Can be added the three interlocking Archibald-and-Aurelia short stories about Drones member Archibald Mulliner (the first one starting at the Club), also part of the Mr Mulliner series:

Additional novels

Can be added five novels about the adventures of Drones as main protagonist:

Related stories

Related are all stories about those Drone members already part of another series (Jeeves and Bertie, Uncle Fred and Pongo, Psmith, Blandings's Freddie Threepwood), but more especially:

  • The Inimitable Jeeves (1923) – Jeeves semi-novel, Bertie and Bingo, some events at the club
  • Leave it to Psmith (1923) – Psmith and Blandings novel, also Freddie Threepwood, some events at the club
  • Summer Lightning (1929) – Blandings novel with Hugo Carmody and Ronnie Fish
  • Heavy Weather (1933) – Blandings novel with Hugo Carmody and Ronnie Fish, also Monty Bodkin, some events at the club
  • Uncle Fred in the Springtime (1939) – Uncle Fred and Blandings novel, action started by Pongo, Horace, and Oofy at the club
  • Cocktail Time (1958) – Uncle Fred novel, some events with Pongo at the club
  • "Life with Freddie" in Plum Pie (1966) – Freddie Threepwood novella, some events with the club's barman
Relatable stories

Relatable is one story, featuring the Club or Drones as secondary characters:

  • Jill the Reckless (1921) – novel, Drone Algy Martyn as secondary character, one chapter at the club

Of course, many more stories simply include Drones member in some scenes, or being mentioned.

Not included

Not included are all identical stories published under other titles (in magazines or U.S. versions), or "recycled" stories, especially:

  • "Comrade Bingo" and "Bingo and the Little Woman" (Bingo Little) – 1922 magazine stories merged into the semi-novel The Inimitable Jeeves (1923)
  • "Quest" (Freddie Widgeon) – 1931 magazine story rewritten as "The Knightly Quest of Mervyn" (Mr Mulliner, non-Drones story, still featuring the Oofy stand-in "Alexander C. Prosser")
  • "The Ordeal of Bingo Little" (Bingo Little) – 1954 magazine story rewritten as "Leave It to Algy"[4] (Bingo Little, included above)
  • "Unpleasantness at Kozy Kot" (Drone Dudley "Biffy" Wix-Biffen) – 1958 "exclusive" story recycled[5] for the U.S. edition of A Few Quick Ones (1959) from "Fixing it for Freddie" (Jeeves story)
  • "The Great Fat Uncle Contest" (Bingo Little) – 1965 magazine rewrite of "Stylish Stouts" (Bingo Little, included above)

Eggs, Beans, and Crumpets[edit]

Most of the Drones short stories are also "Eggs, Beans, and Crumpets stories", as Wodehouse divides the club members into "Eggs", "Beans", and "Crumpets". This is allegedly based on the habit they have of addressing each other as "old egg", "old bean", or "my dear old crumpet" ... although, in fact, no character in the stories actually addresses another character by these nicknames.

A few later stories introduce a fourth subset of Drones Club members known as "Piefaces".

Many of the Drones Club stories begin with unnamed members of The Drones Club talking about the latest exploits of Freddie Widgeon, Pongo Twistleton, Bingo Little, or another of their number. The story then transitions into a particularly well-informed Crumpet detailing the specifics of tale to an uninformed Egg or Bean:

"Beau Widgeon?" said the Egg, impressed. "What ho!" A Crumpet shook his head. "You won't catch Freddie joining any Foreign Legion, once he gets on to the fact that it means missing his morning cup of tea. [...]" (in "Noblesse Oblige")
"[...] I allude, of course, to the Bella Mae Jobson affair." The Bean asked what the Bella Mae Jobson affair was, and the Crumpet, expressing surprise that he had not heard of it, said that it was the affair of Bella Mae Jobson. (in "The Editor Regrets")
"He can't do that here," said an Egg, [...] "Hoy!" he went on, addressing the Crumpet, who had entered as he spoke. (in "The Word in Season")

Wodehouse had already used this technique in the stories told by his Mr Mulliner, who refers to his anonymous interlocutors by the name of their drink.

Members[edit]

The total number of members is not established. At the Drones Club weekend in Le Touquet, France, were "about 87 members",[6] and not all of them crossed the Channel (such as Pongo Twistleton and Horace Davenport). Comparatively, only a few Drones have been depicted:

Confirmed Drones members include
Possible Drones members include
Club staff includes
  • Bates (hall porter)
  • McGarry (a barman)
  • Robinson (a cloakroom waiter)
Virtual Drones members include
  • "Eggs, Beans, and Crumpets" (unknown narrator(s) and various nondescript members)
  • Dudley "Biffy" Wix-Biffen (exists only in a non-canon, recycled story[5])

Real Drones Clubs[edit]

Some real "Drones" clubs or restaurants exist or have existed, including:

  • A "Drones" restaurant exists since the early 1970s in London at 1 Pont Street off Knightsbridge.[10] Previously a burger-and-fries, it was turned in November 2000 into a gastronomic restaurant by new owner and restaurateur Marco Pierre White.[11]
  • A "Drones Club" existed in London at 12 St. George Street in Mayfair.[12] Also previously owned by Marco Pierre White and Piers Adam, the smaller restaurant was purchased in 2004 by businessman Ben Goldsmith and turned into a members-only dining club. Membership included pop stars, peers, CEOs, and princesses. This club closed in March 2007 due to losing its location to a restaurant, and may not reopen.[13]
  • Another "Drones" restaurant, aka "Drones Fenwick of Bond Street", exists in London inside the Fenwick department store at 63 New Bond Street.[14] It was linked to "The Drones Club" above.
  • The "Drones Club of Belgium" is the name of a P. G. Wodehouse fanclub, founded in 1989, about 60 members as of 2007.[15]
  • The Swedish men's style blog "The Drones Club", focuses on well tailored men's clothing, hand sewn shoes and other premium quality men's accessories. According to the editors "An institution for retaining men's style and reintroducing the well dressed man as a natural element in everyday life". Contains detailed descriptions and manuals for obtaining the optimal fit when buying a suit, numerous posts on how to combine a suit and shirt with ties, handkerchiefs, cufflinks and so on. You will also find other useful things, like how to make your own Sauerkraut. Concentrated dandyism and vanity in pictures and writing. A forum for rakish, style conscious men.

References[edit]

Sources consulted (members and stories)

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Alexander-Sinclair, Ian (report) (2007). "Bertie Wooster's Mayfair". Norman Murphy's talk at Wodehouse Week 2007 (The PGW Society UK). Archived from the original on 11 August 2007. "Norman [Murphy] explained that Dover Street was the street of new clubs in the 1920s and 30s. So here Wodehouse found the ideal site for the fictional Drones Club, originally based on the real Bachelors' Club, but subsequently the source of the Drones was transferred to Buck's Club, founded in 1919 by Herbert Buckmaster in nearby Clifford Street. Buck's had by then replaced the Bachelors' as the young man's club. But the Drones Club's swimming pool, complete with its notorious ropes and rings, was taken from the Bath Club, also in Dover Street, at Number 34, amongst whose founders was one of Wodehouse's many uncles. Tuppy Glossop's mean trick on Bertie of looping back the last ring "causing me to plunge into the swimming b. in the full soup and fish" (i.e., full evening dress) was based on fact – it happened all the time in the Bath Club pool." 
  2. ^ Ring, Tony (October 1999). "Life of P G Wodehouse". Wooster Sauce, the Journal of The PG Wodehouse Society UK (at Wodehouse.ru). Archived from the original on 11 August 2007. 
  3. ^ Hutchinson/London (publisher) (September 1982). "Contents of Tales from the Drones Club (The Drones Omnibus)". CyberSpace Spinner. Archived from the original on 7 July 2006. 
  4. ^ Stone-Tolcher, Charles (29 June 2006). "Re: The Ordeal of Bingo Little". alt.fan.wodehouse Usenet thread. Archived from the original on 21 July 2007.  – First-hand information posted by a Wodehouse fan.
  5. ^ a b Reggie (8 July 2007 update). ""Wodehouse stories: Unpleasantness at Kosy Kot" (sic)". Blandings, a Companion to the Works of P. G. Wodehouse. 
  6. ^ Wodehouse, Uncle Fred in the Springtime, chapter one.
  7. ^ Psmith confirmed in Leave It to Psmith, chapters IV and VI.
  8. ^ Stiffham's membership is disputed (Reggie, op. cit.), but his short story "The Luck of the Stiffhams" is part of the omnibus canon (Hutchinson/London, op. cit.).
  9. ^ Hugo Walderwick confirmed in Leave It to Psmith, chapters IV and V.
  10. ^ The Renaissance Club, Directory, Restaurants, Drones
  11. ^ London Online, London Restaurants, Drones
  12. ^ Drones Club.com, official website.
  13. ^ Kay, Richard (27 June 2007). "Gamble too far for Ben Goldsmith". Daily Mail. Archived from the original on 11 August 2007. 
  14. ^ Drones Fenwick.com, restaurant website.
  15. ^ The Drones Club of Belgium, Drones.be