||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (July 2013)|
1st US edition
|Author||P. G. Wodehouse|
D. Appleton & Company
|Publication date||16 September 1915|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
|Followed by||Leave it to Psmith|
Something Fresh is a novel by P. G. Wodehouse. It was first published as a book in the United States, by D. Appleton & Company on 3 September 1915, under the title Something New, having previously appeared under that title as a serial in the Saturday Evening Post between 26 June and 14 August 1915. It was published in the United Kingdom by Methuen & Co. on 16 September 1915.
The novel introduces Lord Emsworth of Blandings Castle, whose home and family reappear in many of Wodehouse's later short stories and novels; in a new preface added to Something Fresh in 1969, Wodehouse dubbed this series of stories "the Blandings Castle Saga".
Young neighbours and fellow-writers Ashe Marson and Joan Valentine, newly met and both in need of a change of direction, find themselves drawn down to Blandings, for various reasons attempting to retrieve a scarab belonging to an American millionaire, absent-mindedly purloined by Lord Emsworth. Once within the Castle's idyllic walls, despite impersonating servants, romance cannot help but blossom; meanwhile, Freddie Threepwood, engaged to the millionaire's daughter, is worried about some incriminating letters.
The novel begins with Ashe Marson, a young writer employed by the Mammoth Publishing Company, the creator of the popular "Gridley Quayle" detective novels, doing his daily exercises. Joan Valentine, a young girl living in the same apartment building, looks on and laughs at him. Thus she and Ashe meet, discover that they work for the same publishing house, and Ashe is encouraged to look for a new opportunity among the newspaper ads.
Meanwhile, Freddie Threepwood, the younger son of the 9th Earl of Emsworth, is engaged to be married to Aline Peters, the daughter of American millionaire J. Preston Peters. Freddie pays a visit to his friend R. Jones, hoping to "recover" some letters he sent in the past to a certain chorus-girl, feeling they might be dangerous in her hands, especially following the recent embarrassment of his cousin Lord Percy Stockheath. He pays Jones £500 to sort things out for him.
Clarence Threepwood, the elderly Earl of Emsworth, calls on J. Preston Peters, Aline's father, a passionate collector of Egyptian scarabs. Peters shows him the most precious piece in his collection: a 4th dynasty Cheops. Mr. Peters is called to the telephone, and the absent-minded Earl, forgetting all about the scarab, puts it in his pocket.
Aline Peters has lunch with her old friend George Emerson, a Hong Kong police officer who wishes to marry her. He proposes to her once more, and tells her that, having befriended Freddie Threepwood, he has been invited to Blandings.
Mr Peters discovers the disappearance of his scarab, and suspects the Earl, but cannot confront him for fear of endangering his daughter's marriage. The Earl has already forgotten everything that happened, and thinks the scarab was a gift of Mr Peters.
R. Jones finds the address of Freddie's ex-sweetheart, Joan Valentine, who tells him she has long since destroyed any letters she may have had from Freddie. As he is leaving, Aline Peters, a close friend of Joan, arrives on a visit, allowing the suspicious Jones to listen at the door. He hears Aline's father is offering £1,000 to anybody that can retrieve his scarab. Joan decides that she will go herself to Blandings Castle, posing as Aline's maid, recover the scarab and scoop the reward.
Ashe, following Joan's advice, scours the adverts in the newspaper, and seeing one which grabs his attention, he goes along to an interview with Mr. Peters, who is looking for somebody to pose as his valet and steal the scarab. Ashe, showing Peters some pep, gets the job.
Ashe tells Joan about this, and they both take the train to Blandings. During the trip Joan warns Ashe of the highly complicated system of etiquette observed among servants of a large house. She hopes her words will persuade him to give up his quest and remove himself as her competitor for the reward, but he resolves to do his best.
After their arrival, Ashe meets Baxter, the Earl's efficient and suspicious secretary, on the way to Mr Peters' room, addressing him in a highly un-valet-like manner. He finds that Mr Peters, like Beach, the butler at the castle, has problems with his stomach, so persuades him to do some exercise and stop smoking cigars.
At night, Ashe and Joan are both trying to get at the scarab when the watchful Baxter hears them. Ashe, with his prepared excuse of reading to the insomniac Mr Peters, helps Joan escape. Next morning, Ashe and Joan decide to become allies and, after flipping a coin, that Ashe will take first try at steaing the scarab.
Aline is following the same diet as her father, composed mainly of legumes, and George, worrying she is suffering from malnutrition, prepares a feast to bring to her at night. As he makes his way to her room, he and Ashe collide in the dark hall of the castle and start a noisy fight. Baxter rushes in, but by the time the lights come on, Ashe and George have fled, leaving Baxter surrounded by food and broken china. He is blamed for waking everyone, and roundly criticised by his employer, Lord Emsworth, for sneaking food in the middle of the night.
The next night is Joan's turn, but she finds the scarab is already gone. The following morning, Ashe finds that Freddie needs money to pay R. Jones for the letters to Joan; he confronts Freddie, who confesses to the theft, and Ashe gets the scarab and gives it to the rightful owner, Mr Peters.
George Emerson, recalled to Hong Kong, sadly wishes Aline good luck with Freddie; Aline, her mothering instinct finally aroused by his disappointment, decides to leave Freddie and elope with him. Ashe and Joan finally realise they are made for each other, and enter Mr Peters' employ. Lord Emsworth agrees to let Freddie return to London, on condition he doesn't make a fool of himself again.
Characters in Something Fresh
- Ashe Marson, a writer of detective novels
- Joan Valentine, Ashe's neighbour, who writes stories for a gossip magazine
- Aline Peters, an old friend of Joan Valentine
- J. Preston Peters, Aline's father, a wealthy Scarab collector
- The Earl of Emsworth, absent-minded master of Blandings
- Freddie Threepwood, his younger son, engaged to Aline
- Lady Ann Warblington, Emsworth's widowed sister, chatelaine of Blandings
- Rupert Baxter, Lord Emsworth's very efficient secretary
- Sebastian Beach, dignified head butler at Blandings Castle
- Mrs Twemlow, housekeeper at the Castle
- George Emerson, a Hong Kong police officer, in love with Aline
- R. Jones, an obese bookmaker, a friend of Freddie Threepwood
There are some significant differences between the US edition and the later UK edition, though they do not affect the main plot.
Something New includes a lengthy scene in which Baxter finds a paint-splashed lady's shoe in the library after the theft and attempts to identify its owner: this scene was omitted from Something Fresh; Wodehouse had previously used the same sub-plot in the second part of the school novel, Mike.
In Something New, Ashe Marson, Joan Valentine and George Emerson are Americans; Ashe (who comes from a town called "Hayling", near Boston, Massachusetts) and Joan (who was born in New York) are living in England, while George is a member of a New York law firm. Because of the change of nationality, there are numerous consequential changes in descriptive passages and, particularly, in the dialogue.
Hayling Island is a peninsula on the South Coast very near to Emsworth.
The 1972 US paperback edition published by Ballantine (still titled Something New) contains the text of the original UK edition of Something Fresh.
References and sources
- McIlvaine, E., Sherby, L.S. and Heineman, J.H. (1990) P.G. Wodehouse: A comprehensive bibliography and checklist. New York: James H. Heineman, pp. 27–28. ISBN 087008125X
- Wodehouse, P. G. (1969). "Preface [new since the 1969 edition]". Something Fresh. "Something Fresh was the first of what I might call – in fact, I will call – the Blandings Castle Saga."
- "Something Fresh (Something New)". The Russian Wodehouse Society. Retrieved 2006-04-07.
- "Information Sheet 4". The P. G. Wodehouse Society (UK). Archived from the original on 4 May 2006. Retrieved 2006-04-07.
- Wodehouse, P. G. (2005). Something Fresh. New York: The Overlook Press. pp. 7–260. ISBN 1-58567-658-6.
- An analysis of the book, with annotated text, synopsis, lists of characters and locations, and selected quotes
- The Russian Wodehouse Society's page, with photos of book covers and a full list of characters
- Fantastic Fiction's page, with details of published editions, photos of book covers and links to used copies
- Something New at Project Gutenberg