Money for Nothing (novel)
Money for Nothing is a novel by P. G. Wodehouse, first published in the United Kingdom on 27 July 1928 by Herbert Jenkins, London, and in the United States on 28 September 1928 by Doubleday, Doran, New York. Immediately prior to publication it appeared as a serial, in London Calling magazine (UK) from 3 March to 28 July 1928 and in Liberty magazine (US) between 16 June and 22 September 1928.
The action is mostly set at Rudge Hall, home to miser Lester Carmody, and at Healthward Ho, a health farm run by "Chimp" Twist, along with his cohorts "Soapy" and "Dolly" Molloy, who all previously appeared in Sam the Sudden (1925), and returned in Money in the Bank (1946).
As well as Lester and Hugo, John Carroll, another nephew of Lester’s, also lives at Rudge Hall; he’s the manager of the estate. A diffident fellow, he’s in love with Pat Wyvern, the daughter of the irascible Colonel Meredith Wyvern. Pat likes John but deplores his lack of backbone. In any case, the Colonel wouldn’t hear of them marrying because he’s at daggers-drawn with Lester due to an incident involving an explosion.
Lester, who’s a devoted trencherman, despite his miserliness, has enrolled on a fitness course at Healthward Ho. Hugo travels over there with the aim of touching his uncle for £500 to start a nightclub with his friend Ronnie Fish. Predictably he’s rebuffed.
John travels up to London to meet Pat, who’s just returned from France. Hugo hitches a ride. They all go out to a nightclub, The Mustard Spoon, where they’re joined by Ronnie and by Soapy and Dolly Molloy, who Hugo’s just met at a boxing match. Soapy and Dolly are a pair of fraudsters, and partners in crime to Chimp. They’re a married couple, but are pretending to be father and daughter. John proposes to Pat, but she rejects him. The club is raided by the police and they flee.
They all end up at Rudge Hall, where Soapy tries to sell Lester some oil stocks. It emerges, to Soapy’s dismay that Lester isn’t the wealthy landowner he thought he was. In fact he’s broke. Dolly comes up with the idea of stealing Lester’s family heirlooms and claiming the insurance (the heirlooms don’t legally belong to Lester, so can’t be sold). She describes the scheme as “Money for Nothing”. Lester initially attempts to steal the heirlooms himself, with disastrous results, so they rope in Chimp.
Chimp is caught in the act by Hugo, but gets away. In order to get rid of Hugo, and stop him foiling their scheme again, Lester gives him and Ronnie £500 to start their nightclub (we learn in Summer Lightning that the venture is a failure). Chimp is persuaded to have another go, and this time the burglary goes smoothly, or so it seems. But Chimp has been seen and recognised by the butler, Sturgis, who informs John.
John travels to Healthward Ho to confront Chimp. Dolly goes with him and puts knock-out drops into his drink when they arrive. Chimp locks John up in a room with bars on the window, but eventually John turns the tables on the conspirators, and learns to his horror that Lester is in on the plot.
He dashes back to Rudge Hall and confronts his uncle. As a penance, Lester agrees to make it up with Wyvern. In the meantime, Pat, thinking that John has run off with Dolly, has accepted Hugo’s proposal of marriage. When she learns of John’s heroism she realises the error of her ways and sweetness and light reign.
- The Russian Wodehouse Society's page, with a full list of characters