Uncle Fred in the Springtime
First edition (US)
|Author||P. G. Wodehouse|
|Publisher||Doubleday, Doran, New York|
|18 August 1939|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
|Preceded by||"The Crime Wave at Blandings" (short), Heavy Weather (novel)|
|Followed by||Full Moon (Blandings), Uncle Dynamite (Uncle Fred)|
Uncle Fred in the Springtime is a novel by P. G. Wodehouse, first published in the United States on 18 August 1939 by Doubleday, Doran, New York, and in the United Kingdom on 25 August 1939 by Herbert Jenkins, London.
It is set at the idyllic Blandings Castle, home of Clarence, Earl of Emsworth, the fifth full-length novel to be set there. It also features Uncle Fred, who first appeared in the short story "Uncle Fred Flits By", which was included in the 1936 collection Young Men in Spats, and would feature in three further novels.
When Alaric, Duke of Dunstable decides to take Empress of Blandings away from her loving master and get her fit, Lord Emsworth calls in the services of the redoubtable Uncle Fred. Fred arrives full of the joys of spring, with nephew Pongo Twistleton and old friend Polly Pott in tow, and despite the efforts of the efficient Baxter, endeavours to scupper the Duke and bring together a variety of romantic couplings.
In London, Pongo Twistleton is having money troubles, and his wealthy friend Horace Pendlebury-Davenport is in trouble with his girl, Pongo's sister Valerie, for hiring Claude "Mustard" Pott to trail her during the Drones Club weekend at Le Touquet. Pongo resolves to call in the redoubtable Uncle Fred for assistance.
Meanwhile, at Blandings, Horace's uncle the Duke of Dunstable, as well as demanding eggs to throw at whistling gardeners, has taken it into his head that the Empress needs some fitness training, and Lord Emsworth needs help; in the absence of his trusty brother Galahad, he calls in the next best thing: Gally's old friend Uncle Fred.
Horace, having fallen out with his cousin Ricky Gilpin over Gilpin's fiancée Polly Pott, daughter of Mustard, lands Pongo even further in the soup by being dressed as a Zulu rather than a Boy Scout during a round of the Clothes Stakes, run by Pott at the Drones. While Uncle Fred ponders how to get Polly into Blandings to court her prospective uncle-in-law, Emsworth gives them a chance by insulting Sir Roderick "Pimples" Glossop, who he was supposed to engage to analyse the increasingly loopy Duke of Dunstable.
Fred seizes his chance, and heads down to Blandings posing as Glossop, with Pongo playing the role of his secretary and nephew, and Polly his daughter Gwendolyne. They meet Glossop on the train, but head him off, only to pass him into the hands of Rupert Baxter, now working for the Duke. Arriving at Blandings, they are met by Lord Bosham, who was conned out of his wallet by Uncle Fred the previous day.
Baxter is sacked, having been seen at a ball by Horace, but is taken on again when Uncle Fred persuades Horace, and the Duke, that Horace is suffering delusions. Horace heads off for a rest-cure, and Baxter is left unable to reveal that he has seen through Fred's disguise, having met the real Glossop before. Baxter, however, is put on his guard, and informs Lady Constance; she in turn has Bosham hire a detective to protect her jewels, and he of course selects Mustard Pott.
Dunstable's scheme to acquire the pig continues apace, and he calls in his strapping nephew to help, but when Gilpin asks for funds to buy an onion soup bar, thus enabling him to marry Polly, the two row and part. Dunstable ropes in Baxter instead. Uncle Fred, meeting Pott just after he has taken £250 from Lord Bosham at Persian Monarchs, takes the money off him, insisting it will help Polly marry wealthy Horace. Pott, meeting Gilpin at The Emsworth Arms, tells him this story, and the enraged poet chases a fearful Horace back to the Castle. Fred gives the money to Pongo to pass on to Polly for Gilpin's benefit, but she is spurned by him, and lets Pongo use the cash to pay off his debts.
When Fred has reunited the couple, more money is required. Pott is persuaded to take it from Dunstable at Persian Monarchs, but the wily peer wins himself £300. Fred tries to get it back, but Dunstable has the pig, captured earlier by Baxter, hidden in his bathroom, and is keeping his room under lock and key. Having knocked out the vigilant Baxter with a Mickey Finn, Fred finally gains access to the room, Pongo having lured Dunstable away with a rendition of "The Bonnie Banks o' Loch Lomond". He is caught by a shotgun-bearing Bosham, just as Pott drinks a second Mickey destined for Dunstable, and is locked in a cupboard.
Valerie arrives, reunited with her man and hot for vengeance on the uncle that made Horace think himself insane, and confirms Fred's identity; Fred convinces all that Emsworth has become infatuated with Polly, and that he is there to put a stop to it. He takes Dunstable's roll of cash to pay the girl off, insisting that his visit remain a secret to maintain the Threepwood dignity, and heads back to London with not only the money for Gilpin's soup bar, but an extra fifty quid for himself to blow on a few joyous weeks in the city.
Characters in "Uncle Fred in the Springtime"
- Lord Emsworth, absent-minded master of Blandings Castle
- Alaric, Duke of Dunstable, a cantakerous peer
- Pongo Twistleton, an impoverished friend of Horace
- Sir Roderick Glossop, a prominent nerve-specialist
- Beach, butler at the castle
Uncle Fred would return in:
- Uncle Dynamite (1948)
- Cocktail Time (1958)
- Service with a Smile (1961) – in which he and Dunstable revisit Blandings
- Summaries of most of P.G. Wodehouses books, information on characters, quizzes
- The Russian Wodehouse Society's page, with a list of characters
- Fantastic Fiction's page, with details of published editions, photos of book covers and links to used copies