French Leave (novel)
French Leave is a novel by P. G. Wodehouse, first published in the United Kingdom on 20 January 1956 by Herbert Jenkins, London and in the United States on 28 September 1959 by Simon & Schuster, Inc., New York.
The title stems from the expression french leave - to leave without saying goodbye to one's host or hostess.
This happy-ending, warm-glowing story is about three American girls and their adventures in France: a story of love at first sight, of mineral-water millionaires, of rascally French policemen, a drunken publisher and of a promised proposal never bound to happen. American chicken farmer Teresa ‘Terry’ Trent, travels to France on a whim, to see how the noble French live, and encounters Marquis de Maufringneuse, who used to be one of those noble men. Though the Marquis has fallen slightly from grace, and from money, and is currently disguised as adventurer, in pursuit of rich American girls to match with his son Jeff, Jeff, the Comte d'Escrignon, a noble novelist in need of a dowry. Of course it turns out eventually that Terry isn't as well off as the Marquis first believed, and he tries to break up the newly formed relationship between her and his son.
It does not feature any of Wodehouse's regular characters or settings, but tells a typically Wodehousean tale of troubled lovers, impoverished aristocrats, millionaires, servants and policemen, mostly set in the fictitious French resort of Roville.
The plot of French Leave had been used in a play by Guy Bolton (Three Blind Mice - 1938) for which Bolton had already sold the rights to MGM. "Do we coyly reveal the fact that your play on which the book was founded has already been made into a picture three times?" Wodehouse wrote him in 1962. "Secrecy and silence, I think, don't you? All moneys will be paid to me as apparently the sole author and I will slip yours -- in pounds, if you are still in England when the advance comes in, or in dollars if you are over here."
The titles of some of the French characters in the novel, the Marquis de Maufringneuse et Valerie-Moberanne, the Comte d'Escrignon and Prince Blamont-Chevry, are similar to those of some recurring characters in Honoré de Balzac's La Comédie humaine: the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse, the Marquis d'Esgrignon and the Princesse de Blamont-Chauvry. A Comtesse de Valérie-Moberanne made a fleeting appearance in The Triumphs of Eugène Valmont, by Robert Barr.
- McIlvaine, E., Sherby, L.S. and Heineman, J.H. (1990) P.G. Wodehouse: A comprehensive bibliography and checklist. New York: James H. Heineman, p. 91. ISBN 087008125X
- The Russian Wodehouse Society's page, with a list of characters