Drones Club

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Buck's clubhouse at 18 Clifford Street, London, one of the clubs on which The Drones was based.

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 Wodehouse's Jeeves and Blandings Castle stories feature the club or its members.

Various members of the club appear in stories included in the "Drones Club series", which contains stories not already included in other series. Most of the Drones Club stories star either Freddie Widgeon or Bingo Little.

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, though some of the members have careers and even jobs.

As decided by a vote of the club's members, the Drones Club tie is a striking "rich purple".[1][2] A Drones Club scarf is also mentioned.[3]

Wodehouse based the Drones Club on a combination of three real London clubs: the Bachelors' Club (which existed around the turn of the century), 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.[4][5]

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 considered among London's 'premier' clubs of the kind found on St James's 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: A yearly golf tournament that was held one year at Bingley-on-Sea.[6]
  • The Drones Club Annual Squash Handicap: A yearly squash tournament. One year, Bertie Wooster was runner-up.[7]
  • The Drones Club Annual Darts Tournament (sweepstakes): A darts tournament held in February.[8] Tickets are purchased for ten shillings and members draw tournament contestants. The darts tournament then takes place, and the member who drew the winner of the tournament wins the jackpot.[9]
  • The Drones Club Annual Fat Uncles Contest (sweepstakes): A contest introduced by Freddie Widgeon.[10] Members enter their uncles in the Fat Uncles sweep and the uncles' names are drawn from a hat. Later, on the first day of the Eton v Harrow match, the members bring their uncles to the Drones Club for lunch. McGarry, the club bartender, having the uncanny ability of estimating the weight of anything to an ounce by sight, estimates the weight of the uncles and determines the fattest uncle. The member that drew the fattest uncle wins the jackpot, which was well over a hundred pounds the first year the contest was run. A change made later to the contest is that fifty pounds is allocated from the jackpot to the nephew of the winning uncle as prize money.[11]

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 about members of the Drones Club. Many of the stories are told at the club or have some events happening at the club.

Main canon

The main canon consists of 21 short stories (nine Bingo Little, eight Freddie 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[12] (1982) later The Drones Omnibus (1991)

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

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)

Freddie Widgeon

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 novels

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

Related stories

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

Relatable stories

Relatable is one story, which features the club and a Drone as a secondary character, and marks the first mention of the Drones Club:

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

Many more stories simply include a Drones member in some scenes, or have mentions of club members.

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"[13] (Bingo Little, included above)
  • "Unpleasantness at Kozy Kot" (Drone Dudley "Biffy" Wix-Biffen) – 1958 "exclusive" story recycled[14] 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". These stories feature unnamed club members, each referred to as an "Egg", "Bean", or "Crumpet". This is allegedly based on the habit they have of addressing each other as "old egg", "old bean", or "my dear old crumpet", though characters in the stories almost never address other characters by these nicknames.[15] A few later stories introduce a fourth subset of Drones Club members known as "Piefaces".

Many of the Drones Club stories begin with these nondescript members 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 narrating the story as he tells it 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",[16] and not all of them crossed the Channel (such as Pongo Twistleton and Horace Pendlebury-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[14])

Real Drones Clubs[edit]

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

  • The Drones Club, a private club in Point Judith, Rhode Island (USA), was established in the late 1930's.
  • A "Drones" restaurant exists since the early 1970s in London at 1 Pont Street off Knightsbridge.[20] Previously a burger-and-fries, it was turned in November 2000 into a gastronomic restaurant by new owner and restaurateur Marco Pierre White.[21]
  • A "Drones Club" existed in London at 12 St. George Street in Mayfair.[22] It 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.[23]
  • Another "Drones" restaurant, aka "Drones Fenwick of Bond Street", exists in London inside the Fenwick department store at 63 New Bond Street.[24] It was linked to "The Drones Club" above.

See also[edit]

References, notes and sources[edit]

References and notes
  1. ^ Wodehouse (2008) [1974], Aunts Aren't Gentlemen, chapter 4, p. 23. Aunt Dahlia and Bertie Wooster: "'Don't wear the Drones Club tie.' 'Certainly not,' I agreed. If the Drones Club tie has a fault, it is a little on the loud side and should not be sprung suddenly on nervous people and invalids, and I had no means of knowing if Mrs. Briscoe was one of these".
  2. ^ Wodehouse (2008) [1974], Aunts Aren't Gentlemen, chapter 19, p. 170. Bertie Wooster narrates: "I should have mentioned that in the course of these exchanges Cook's complexion had been steadily deepening. It now looked like a Drones Club tie, which is a rich purple. There was talk at one time of having it crimson with white spots, but the supporters of that view were outvoted".
  3. ^ Wodehouse (2008) [1974], Aunts Aren't Gentlemen, chapter 1, p. 15. Bertie describes advising Orlo Porter to put on the scarf: "I directed his attention to the Drones Club scarf lying on the seat, at the same time handing him my hat. He put them on, and the rude disguise proved effective".
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Wodehouse, P. G. (2008) [1930]. "Jeeves and the Kid Clementina". Very Good, Jeeves (Reprinted ed.). Arrow Books. p. 163. ISBN 978-0099513728.
  7. ^ Wodehouse, P. G. (2008) [1930]. "Jeeves and the Yule-tide Spirit". Very Good, Jeeves (Reprinted ed.). Arrow Books. p. 69. ISBN 978-0099513728.
  8. ^ Wodehouse, P. G. (1968) [1966]. "Jeeves and the Greasy Bird". Plum Pie (Reprinted ed.). Pan Books Ltd. p. 17. ISBN 978-0330022033.
  9. ^ Wodehouse, P. G. (2008) [1954]. "Chapter 2". Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit (Reprinted ed.). Arrow Books. p. 19. ISBN 978-0099513933./
  10. ^ Wodehouse, P. G. (1993) [1959]. "The Fat of the Land". A Few Quick Ones (Reprinted ed.). London: The Guernsey Press Co. Ltd. pp. 7–8. ISBN 0099819503.
  11. ^ Wodehouse, P. G. (1968) [1966]. "Stylish Stouts". Plum Pie (Reprinted ed.). Pan Books Ltd. p. 128. ISBN 978-0330022033.
  12. ^ Hutchinson/London (publisher) (September 1982). "Contents of Tales from the Drones Club (The Drones Omnibus)". CyberSpace Spinner. Archived from the original on 2006-11-10.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ a b Reggie (8 July 2007). ""Wodehouse stories: Unpleasantness at Kosy Kot" (sic)". Blandings, a Companion to the Works of P. G. Wodehouse. Archived from the original on July 23, 2007.
  15. ^ There is at least one story with exceptions. In "The Shadow Passes", Bingo calls his friend Valerie Twistleton "old crumpet", and he calls fellow Drones Club member Horace Pendlebury-Davenport "old egg".
  16. ^ Wodehouse, Uncle Fred in the Springtime, chapter one.
  17. ^ Psmith confirmed in Leave It to Psmith, chapters IV and VI.
  18. ^ 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.).
  19. ^ Hugo Walderwick confirmed in Leave It to Psmith, chapters IV and V.
  20. ^ The Renaissance Club, Directory, Restaurants, Drones
  21. ^ London Online, London Restaurants, Drones
  22. ^ Drones Club.com Archived September 21, 2007, at the Wayback Machine., official website.
  23. ^ Kay, Richard (27 June 2007). "Gamble too far for Ben Goldsmith". Daily Mail. Archived from the original on 11 August 2007.
  24. ^ Drones Fenwick.com Archived August 11, 2007, at the Wayback Machine., restaurant website.
Sources (members and stories)

Wodehouse, P. G. (2008) [1974]. Aunts Aren't Gentlemen (Reprinted ed.). Arrow Books. ISBN 978-0099513971.