Lord Emsworth and the Girl Friend
|Author||P. G. Wodehouse|
|23 January 1926|
"Lord Emsworth and the Girl Friend" is a short story by P. G. Wodehouse, which first appeared in the United States in the 6 October 1928 issue of Liberty, and in the United Kingdom in the February 1926 Strand. Part of the Blandings Castle canon, it features the absent-minded peer Lord Emsworth, and was included in the collection Blandings Castle and Elsewhere (1935), although the story takes place sometime between the events of Leave it to Psmith (1923) and Summer Lightning (1929). Wodehouse intended to write a sequel, set 8 years after the events of this story.
Despite glorious weather, Lord Emsworth is miserable; it is August Bank Holiday, which at Blandings means the annual Blandings Parva School Treat. The precious grounds are to be overrun with fairground rides, tea-tents and other amusements for the throngs (their numbers padded this year by a number of children visiting from London for the fresh air), and Emsworth is forced by his sister Connie to wear a stiff collar and a top hat, despite the warm weather and his strong protests.
On top of that, Glaswegian Head Gardener Angus McAllister is making noises on his pet hobby, the project to gravel the famous Yew Alley. Emsworth, fond of its mossy carpet, loathes the idea, but his sister is in favour, and stronger personalities overpower the elderly Earl all too easily.
Visiting Blandings Parva, to judge the flower displays in the gardens, Emsworth is frightened by a large dog, but he is rescued by a small girl named Gladys, one of the Fresh Air London children. They chat and become friends, especially when she reveals that, having been spotted picking flowers in the Castle grounds, she hit McAllister in the shin with a stone to stop him chasing her.
At the fête, Emsworth is uncomfortable as ever in his dress clothes, and dreading the speech he will have to make. In the tea-tent, his top hat is knocked off by a cleverly aimed rock cake, and Emsworth flees, taking refuge in an old shed. In there he finds Gladys, miserable; she has been put there by Connie, for stealing from the tea tent, but it emerges she was only stealing her own tea, going without to provide for her brother Ern, barred from the fête for biting Connie on the leg.
Delighted by this family, Emsworth takes Gladys into the house, and has Beach provide a hearty tea. Beach provides a feast to take back to Ern, and Gladys requests some flowers too. Emsworth hesitates, but cannot refuse her; as she is picking her flowers, McAllister rushes up in a fury, but his master, encouraged by Gladys' hand in his, stands up to the man, putting him in his place.
Connie approaches, demanding Emsworth return to make his speech; he refuses, saying he's going to put on some comfortable clothes and go and visit Ern.
The story was adapted for television by the BBC, broadcast in February 1967 as the first of six half-hour episodes. They starred Ralph Richardson as Lord Emsworth and Stanley Holloway as Beach. Unfortunately the master tapes of all but this first part were wiped, and no known copies of the other five episodes exist.
The BBC adapted "Lord Emsworth and the Girl Friend" for television again in 2013, as the fifth episode in the six-part series Blandings. It starred Timothy Spall as Lord Emsworth, Jennifer Saunders as Lady Constance and Mark Williams as Sebastian Beach.