and speaking of P.G. Wodehouse…

May 10, 2012 | 3 comments

H. A. Espy

       I just love P.G. Wodehouse.  In times of stress or when I want to be completely distracted from serious thinking, I turn to him.  He’s funny – often outrageous – his characters are impossible and his plots outlandish.  Plus, he often makes me think – usually about nonsensical things, but that’s a welcome change for a deep thinker such as myself.
     My favorites, of course, are any of his books about Jeeves or Bertie Wooster or Blandings Castle.  Right now I’m reading Lord Emsworth and Others and find, as usual words to ponder.  Take, for instance, some of his remarks concerning moustaches:
     Where, I’ve often asked myself, are the great sweeping moustaches of our boyhood,..  questions one of the characters.  The answer:…in the remoter rural districts you will still find these curious growths flourishing.
     Well, I can’t speak for current times in rural England, but here in our own “remoter rural district” I know of one or two remarkable mustaches.  Immediately, Lance Wright comes to mind.  Although I haven’t seen him since a Rodeo Breakfast almost a year ago, at that time his mustache was fabulous.  And, at the high school, there is Michael Cline whose facial décor is truly a most luxuriant “mustachio.”  Wodehouse would have been proud.
     When I was a child, mustaches and other facial hair among adult males were not popular.  None of the fathers of my friends had beards or mustaches, nor did my own dad until he was well into his seventies.  I’m not sure why he changed his grooming habits of a lifetime but, when he did we all thought his trim beard made him look very distinguished.
     My uncle Willard, too, was clean-shaven during my childhood but had a luxuriant mustache in later life.  One of his fans (if you can call an outspoken critic “a fan”) wrote him a downright nasty letter accusing him of harboring vermin and germs and all manner of grotesque items in his mustache.  She even went so far as to say that she wouldn’t read any of his books until she saw evidence that he had shaved!
     The other night on Jeopardy, the answer and question involved a certain type of beard.  I knew what it was immediately – a Van Dyke!  My grandfather, H. A. Espy, had a Van Dyke and it was the subject of many family stories – mostly about how everyone in the family was kept waiting for something-or-other to begin “while Papa trimmed his whisters.”
     When he was in his eighties and “it was time,” his four (still living) children made the difficult decision to place Papa in a nursing home.  The nearest facility was in Vancouver and after getting him settled, they stayed overnight in town so they could visit him again before returning to Oysterville.
     In the morning they were horrified to find that he had been shaved.  Never in all their lives (and they were in their 50s and 60s) had they seen Papa without his Van Dyke.  They immediately checked him out of ‘the home,’ brought him back to Oysterville, arranged for in-home care, and felt a whole lot better when his Van Dyke grew back.
     As for Wodehouse, himself – he was clean-shaven for most of his ninety-four years except for a short time in mid-life when he did sport a rather small mustache.  Perhaps it was the model for the one he complains about in the story I’m reading:  He’ll have to let it grow or shave it off… He can’t go on sitting on the fence like this.  Either a man has a mustache or he has not.  There can be no middle course. 


  1. Nancy

    Sydney: Confession: I have not read any Wodenhouse! A stop at the library is on my list. Loved reading the hairy, whiskery words you configured so nicely. Another great read.

  2. Jo

    I have not read any Wodenhouse, but came across DVD’s of the BBC series “Jeeves & Wooster”, based upon his characters. Through them, I have also enjoyed his humor and turn of phrase. I’ll have to check out Half Price Books for some of his work. Thanks for the reminder.

  3. Stephanie Frieze

    I’m with Jo. We’ll have to hit Half Price Books together!


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