Mr. Mulliner

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Mr. Mulliner is a fictional character from the short stories of P. G. Wodehouse. Mr. Mulliner is a loquacious pub raconteur who, no matter what the topic of conversation, can find an appropriate (if improbable) story about a member of his family to match it.

Like much of Wodehouse's work, the Mr. Mulliner stories were originally written for magazine publication. Thirty-seven of the 41 overall Mulliner stories were originally published between 1926 and 1937. The final four stories appeared much later, being published in widely spaced intervals between 1952 and 1970.

Overview[edit]

Like his fellow Wodehouse character, the Oldest Member, the raconteur Mr. Mulliner can turn any conversation into a "recollection", or funny story. A habitué of the Angler's Rest pub, his fellow drinkers are identified only by their beverages. (Mr. Mulliner is a Hot Scotch and Lemon.) Wodehouse revealed in an introduction that he devised Mr. Mulliner after collecting notebooks full of ideas that could not be used because they were too outlandish, until he had the happy notion of a fisherman whose veracity could be doubted.

The tales of Mulliner all involve one of his relations: there are dozens upon dozens of cousins, nieces, and nephews. These include stories about loves lost, found and rekindled; fortunes made and lost; and opportunities grasped or missed. They take place across the globe: Los Angeles's Hollywood and the English Country House are the settings for many.

Two Mulliner stores ("Gala Night" and "The Rise of Minna Nordstrom") are not primarily about one of Mr. Mulliner's relatives. However, in these two cases, Mr. Mulliner states that the stories were told to him by relatives; he is therefore reporting a story told to him by a relation, rather than a story about a relation.

Stories[edit]

The Mulliner stories all employ an unusual structure. At the beginning of each story, an unnamed first-person narrator sets the scene at the Angler's Rest pub, describing the conversation at the bar-parlour. This will lead to Mr. Mulliner entering the conversation, generally elaborating on the conversational theme, and remarking that it reminds him of a story involving a relative. Then, no more than a page or two into the story, Mr. Mulliner effectively takes over the narration of the tale, describing the events that befell the relative in question. In the earlier stories, the unnamed first-person narrator returns very briefly to close out the tale back at the Angler's Rest—in later stories, the story ends when Mr. Mulliner has concluded it.

Mr. Mulliner himself is rarely a character in the tales he tells. An exception is the story "George and Alfred", in which Mr. Mulliner tries to help out one of his nephews who has been accused of a crime. In this story, we learn that Mr. Mulliner is a friend of Hollywood studio head Jacob Z. Schnellenhammer, and that he has stayed on Schnellenhammer's yacht while it was cruising the Mediterranean. We also learn that Mr. Mulliner's first name, whatever it may be, is not George.

Little else is revealed of Mulliner's character beyond his large family, his choice of beverage, and his hobby of fishing (which he mentions in one story replaced his earlier hobby of golf). Nevertheless, Mulliner narrates forty-one short stories and three books, containing nine stories each, bear his name:

The remaining fourteen stories are scattered in other volumes:

This last volume also contains one additional story, "From a Detective's Notebook". This story is about Adrian Mulliner, who had previously been established as one of Mr. Mulliner's innumerable nephews. Strictly speaking, however, "From a Detective's Notebook" is not a Mr. Mulliner story, as Mr. Mulliner does not narrate it, appear in it, or even receive a mention.

Also note that a handful of what were to become "Mr. Mulliner stories" were originally published in magazines without the framework of Mr. Mulliner telling the story in question. (These include three stories about Bobbie Wickham, as well as one about James Rodman.) When revised for book publication, Wodehouse added the Mulliner openings and narration—and it is these revised versions which appear in all Mulliner and Wodehouse anthologies to this day. These revised stories can generally be distinguished by Mulliner identifying the prime character of the story as a "distant cousin" (or some other far-flung relation) whose surname is not Mulliner.

Known relatives[edit]

Forebears:

  • A Sieur de Moulinières "came over with the Conqueror", presumably in 1066.
  • A Mulliner "once received the thanks of his Sovereign for services rendered on the field of Crecy". (The Battle of Crecy occurred in 1346.)

Grandmother:

  • Unnamed. Died in the late 19th century. It is this grandmother who made William (below) pledge to not drink until he turned 21 -- or 41, William can't quite remember which.

Uncles:

  • William Mulliner, a businessman

Aunts:

  • Myrtle Banks, married William

Brothers:

  • Wilfred Mulliner, a chemist and inventor
  • Sir Sholto Mulliner, M.V.O.
  • Joseph Mulliner

Sisters-in-law:

  • Angela Purdue, married Wilfred
  • Lady Wilhelmina Mulliner, widow of Sir Sholto

First cousins:

  • John San Francisco Earthquake Mulliner, son of William and Myrtle
  • (unnamed brother of above)
  • Clarence Mulliner, photographer
  • Cedric Mulliner
  • Lady Wickham, novelist under the pen-name "George Masterman"
  • Edward Mulliner
  • Rupert Mulliner
  • Egbert Mulliner, civil servant

Cousins by marriage:

  • Gladys Biggs, married Clarence
  • Sir Cuthbert Wickham, married Lady Wickham

First cousins, once removed:

  • Roberta "Bobbie" Wickham, daughter of Sir Cuthbert and Lady Wickham
  • Lancelot Mulliner, an artist, Edward's son
  • Mervyn Mulliner
  • Anselm Mulliner, a curate, Rupert's son
  • (unnamed older brother of Anselm)

First cousin, once removed, by marriage:

  • Gladys Bingley, married Lancelot

Distant cousins:

  • James Rodman, mystery novelist
  • Agnes Flack, championship golfer and "daughter of a distant cousin"
  • Montrose Mulliner, Assistant Director of the Perfecto-Zizzbaum Motion Picture Corp. of Hollywood
  • Wilmot Mulliner, a "nodder" at Perfecto-Zizzbaum

Distant cousins by marriage:

  • Rosalie Beamish, marries Montrose
  • Mabel Potter, a private secretary and ex-bird imitator in Vaudeville; marries Wilmot

Nephews:

Note that Mr. Mulliner has three nephews named George, all different people.

  • George Mulliner, a stammerer and crossword puzzle enthusiast
  • Ferdinand Mulliner, studying at Eton (older son of Wilfred and Angela)
  • Percival Mulliner, at preparatory school in Sussex (younger son of Wilfred and Angela)
  • Augustine Mulliner, a curate (later a vicar)
  • (name unknown), a student at Harchester, younger brother of Augustine
  • Lancelot Bassington Mulliner, an aspiring poet
  • Osbert Mulliner, a jade collector
  • Frederick Mulliner
  • Dr. George Mulliner, brother of Frederick
  • Archibald Mulliner, member of the Drones Club, son of Sir Sholto and Lady Wilhelmina, and a skilled chicken-impersonator
  • Ignatius Mulliner, portrait painter and ukelele player
  • Mordred Mulliner, a poet
  • Adrian Mulliner, a detective
  • Sacheverell Mulliner
  • Eustace Mulliner, works at the Swiss Embassy
  • Egbert Mulliner, assistant editor of The Weekly Booklover
  • Cyril Mulliner, interior decorator
  • Bulstrode Mulliner, screenwriter in Hollywood
  • Brancepeth Mulliner, an artist
  • Augustus Mulliner
  • Reginald Mulliner, inheritor of a substantial sum of money
  • George Mulliner, screenwriter in Hollywood, identical twin of Alfred
  • Alfred Mulliner, professional conjurer known as the Great Alfredo, identical twin of George

Nephews by marriage:

  • Aubrey Bassinger, married Charlotte

Nieces:

  • Charlotte Mulliner, a poet

Nieces by marriage:

  • Aurelia Cammerleigh, married Archibald
  • Annabella Spockett-Sprockett, married Mordred
  • Hermione Rossiter, married Ignatius
  • Mabel Petherick-Soames, married Osbert
  • Evangeline Pembury, novelist, married Egbert
  • Amelia Bassett, married Cyril
  • Jane, married Augustine
  • Hermione Brimble, married Augustus
  • Jane Oliphant, married Frederick
  • Lady Millicent Shipton-Bellinger, married Adrian
  • Muriel Branksome, married Sacheverell
  • Susan Blake, married George

Nature of relationship uncertain:

  • Theophilus Mulliner, the bishop of Bognor

Original appearances[edit]

  1. "The Truth about George"
  2. "A Slice of Life"
    • U.K.: Strand, August 1926
    • U.S.: Liberty, 7 August 1926
  3. "Mulliner's Buck-U-Uppo"
    • U.K.: Strand, November 1926
    • U.S.: Liberty, 4 September 1926
  4. "The Romance of a Bulb-Squeezer"
    • U.K.: Strand, March 1927
    • U.S.: Liberty, 12 March 1927
  5. "The Story of William"
    • U.K.: Strand, May 1927
    • U.S.: Liberty, 9 April 1927 (as "It Was Only a Fire")
  6. "Those in Peril on the Tee"
    • UK: Strand, June 1927
    • US: Liberty, 21 May 1927
  7. "Came the Dawn"
    • U.K.: Strand, July 1927
    • U.S.: Liberty, 11 June 1927
  8. "The Bishop's Move"
    • U.K.: Strand, September 1927
    • U.S.: Liberty, 20 August 1927
  9. "Portrait of a Disciplinarian"
    • U.K.: Strand, October 1927
    • U.S.: Liberty, 24 September 1927
  10. "Honeysuckle Cottage"
    • Initially published without Mr. Mulliner framework
    • Subsequently rewritten. First appearance as a Mr. Mulliner story in Meet Mr. Mulliner, September 1927
  11. "The Reverent Wooing of Archibald"
  12. "The Ordeal of Osbert Mulliner"
    • UK: Strand, December 1928
    • US: Liberty, 24 November 1928
  13. "Unpleasantness at Bludleigh Court"
    • UK: Strand, February 1929
    • US: Liberty, 2 February 1929
  14. "The Man Who Gave Up Smoking"
    • UK: Strand, March 1929
    • US: Liberty, 23 March 1929
  15. "The Story of Cedric"
    • UK: Strand, May 1929
    • US: Liberty, 11 May 1929
  16. "Something Squishy"
    • Initially published without Mr. Mulliner framework
    • Subsequently rewritten. First appearance as a Mr. Mulliner story in Mr. Mulliner Speaking, April 1929
  17. "The Awful Gladness of the Mater"
    • Initially published without Mr. Mulliner framework
      • UK: Strand, May 1925
      • US: Saturday Evening Post, 21 March 1925
    • Subsequently rewritten. First appearance as a Mr. Mulliner story in Mr. Mulliner Speaking, April 1929
  18. "The Passing of Ambrose"
    • Initially published without Mr. Mulliner framework
      • UK: Strand, July 1928
      • US: Cosmopolitan, August 1928
    • Subsequently rewritten. First appearance as a Mr. Mulliner story in Mr. Mulliner Speaking, April 1929
  19. "Gala Night"
    • UK: Strand, June 1930
    • US: Cosmopolitan, May 1930
  20. "Best Seller"
    • Early version published without Mr. Mulliner framework as "Parted Ways"
      • UK: Strand, December 1914
      • US: Pictorial Review, June 1915
    • Subsequently rewritten. First appearance as a Mr. Mulliner story:
      • UK: Strand, July 1930
      • US: Cosmopolitan, June 1930
  21. "The Knightly Quest of Mervyn"
    • UK: Strand, July 1931 (as "Quest")
    • US: Cosmopolitan, April 1931 (as "Quest")
  22. "The Voice from the Past"
    • UK: Strand, December 1931
    • US: American, November 1931
  23. "The Smile that Wins"
    • UK: Strand, February 1932
    • US: American, October 1931
  24. "Strychnine in the Soup"
    • UK: Strand, March 1932
    • US: American, December 1931 (as "The Missing Mystery")
  25. "The Story of Webster"
    • UK: Strand, May 1932 (as "The Bishop's Cat")
    • US: American, February 1932
  26. "Cats Will be Cats"
    • UK: Strand, June 1932 (as "The Bishop's Folly")
    • US: American, March 1932 (as "The Bishop's Folly")
  27. "Open House"
    • UK: Strand, April 1932
    • US: American, April 1932
  28. "Monkey Business"
    • UK: Strand, December 1932
    • US: American Magazine, December 1932 (as "A Cagey Gorilla")
  29. "The Nodder"
    • UK: Strand, January 1933
    • US: American Magazine, January 1933 (as "Love Birds")
  30. "The Juice of an Orange"
    • UK: Strand, February 1933
    • US: American Magazine, February 1933 (as "Love on a Diet")
  31. "The Rise of Minna Nordstrom"
    • UK: Strand, April 1933
    • US: American Magazine, March 1933 (as "A Star is Born")
  32. "The Castaways"
    • UK: Strand, June 1933
  33. "The Fiery Wooing of Mordred"
    • US: Cosmopolitan, December 1934
    • UK: Strand, February 1935
  34. "Archibald and the Masses"
    • US: Cosmopolitan, August 1935
    • UK: Strand, February 1936
  35. "The Code of the Mulliners"
    • US: Cosmopolitan, February 1935
    • UK: Strand, April 1935
  36. "Buried Treasure"
    • UK: Strand, September 1936
    • US: This Week, September 27, 1936 (as "Hidden Treasure")
  37. "Anselm Gets His Chance"
    • US: Saturday Evening Post, July 3, 1937
    • UK: Strand, July 1937
  38. "Big Business"
    • US: Colliers, December 13, 1952
  39. "The Right Approach"
    • Early version published without Mr. Mulliner framework as "Joy Bells For Barmy"
      • US: Cosmopolitan, October 1947
    • Subsequently rewritten. First appearance as a Mr. Mulliner story:
  40. "George and Alfred"
  41. "Another Christmas Carol"


Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Contents of The World of Mr Mulliner". Blandings.org.uk. Archived from the original on 28 August 2008. Retrieved 4 January 2012. 

References[edit]

  • Usborne, Richard (2003). Plum Sauce: A P. G. Wodehouse Companion. Woodstock, N.Y.: The Overlook Press. pp. 137–207. ISBN 1-58567-441-9. 
  • Garrison, Daniel H. (1989). Who's Who in Wodehouse. New York: International Polygonics, Ltd. ISBN 1-55882-054-X.