Sebastian Beach

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Sebastian Beach is a fictional character in the Blandings stories by P. G. Wodehouse. He is the butler at Blandings Castle, seat of Lord Emsworth and his family, where he serves for over eighteen years.

Background and character[edit]

Like all butlers in properly-run Edwardian homes, Beach is always known by his surname. He is a heavy-set man, whose favourite pastime is drinking port in the pantry, though he occasionally switches to brandy during crises. He has a pleasant singing voice, a mellow baritone reminiscent of a cask of very old, dry sherry.

He is somewhat more emotional than Wodehouse's other famous domestic servant, Jeeves, although when in the company of his masters Beach generally limits himself to a slightly-raised eyebrow, even when strongly moved. He suffers from corns, an ingrowing toenail, swollen joints, nervous headaches, and especially from the lining of his stomach, which is not what he could wish the lining of his stomach to be.

Before joining the staff at Blandings, he was once employed by the somewhat eccentric Major-General Magnus. He has grown very proud of the castle, and of its museum. A discerning man, he regrets Lady Constance's fondness for artistic types, finding their dress sense inappropriate. He is also very proud of the Hon. Galahad, who, in the general opinion of the Servants' Hall, sheds lustre on the Castle.

He is very fond of Ronnie Fish, whom he has known from childhood and used to take fishing on the lake; he is particularly malleable to that youth's persuasions. Ever grateful for Ronnie's reliable racing tips, he is at one point persuaded to assist Ronnie in keeping the Empress of Blandings in a cottage in the woods. The strain on his conscience is, however, grave. He later repeats the feat, helping Fish load the pig into the dicky of his car.

He has similar relationships with Angela, whom he has also known since her childhood and for whose entertainment he (quite convincingly) impersonated a hippopotamus, as well as with Millicent, who also sported in Beach's pantry when a child; he cut elephants out of paper for her, and taught her tricks with pieces of string.

His mother lives in Eastbourne and his niece, Maudie, the bohemian of the family, ran away from home to become a barmaid at the old Criterion (where she was familiar with Galahad and Sir Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe) under the name of Maudie Montrose; she later married several times before getting back together with her old flame "Tubby" Parsloe.

Appearances[edit]

Beach plays some part in almost all of the Blandings stories. In early stories, such as Something Fresh and Leave it to Psmith, he is required to do little more than buttle, which he of course does with effortless dignity; in later works, he plays a more significant role in the action.

He decides to give notice on one occasion, because of Lord Emsworth's beard, an admittedly dubious fixture which Beach fears will ruin Emsworth's respectability in the community. Since he cannot honorably criticise his employer while serving as a butler, Beach makes the painful decision to resign first, but is fortunately prevented from doing so by his master's decision to shave, in "Lord Emsworth Acts for the Best". He is placed in a similar position soon afterward, when Emsworth expects him to stand in the moonlight practising pig-calls, a practice he considers beneath his dignity, but is persuaded to overcome his foibles by the presence of young Angela, in "Pig-hoo-o-o-o-ey".

His strength of character is sorely tested, when called upon by Ronnie Fish to help in his schemes involving the Empress, in Summer Lightning and Heavy Weather; he later does indeed resign, after shooting Rupert Baxter with an air gun. However, Emsworth cannot do without his butler, and he assures his faithful servant of continued employment, in "The Crime Wave at Blandings".

He buttles on quietly through Uncle Fred in the Springtime and Full Moon, but returns to the fore in Pigs Have Wings, where not only does he celebrate a birthday, but he is also called on once again to assist in the affairs of the Empress and her challengers, feeding one of Parsloe-Parsloe's pigs when it has been kidnapped by Galahad, and moving it when its location has been discovered by the enemy camp. His pantry is the scene for several councils of war between Gally, Beach and Penelope Donaldson, while his niece Maudie pays a visit to the castle under an assumed name.

In the later short "Sticky Wicket at Blandings", his position at the castle is again threatened, when Lady Constance decides he has become rather slow and wheezy in his old age, and considers replacing him with a younger, smarter butler. Her scheme is foiled after Gally persuades Beach to undertake a daring and dangerous night-time rescue of his master from the clutches of Colonel Fanshawe.

Television[edit]

In the BBC's 1967 series of Blandings short-story adaptations, Stanley Holloway played Beach. Much of the series was later wiped from the BBC archive, and only 1 episode is known still to exist.

In a 1995 adaptation of Heavy Weather made by the BBC and partners, broadcast in the United States by PBS, Beach was played by Roy Hudd.

In the 2013 BBC series Blandings he was played by Mark Williams in the first series and Tim Vine in the second series.

External links[edit]