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The origins of the banjo…

One of Wodehouse’s New Year Resolutions in 1905, when he was a 23 year old, was to learn to play the banjo, an ambition which he sought to realise while living at the relatively isolated house in Emsworth, Hampshire, called Threepwood. One of his less reliable friends, Herbert Westbrook, was staying with him at the time, and took the opportunity to borrow and pawn the banjo. Who is to say whether it was musical or financial considerations which caused him to lose the pawn ticket?

This provided a piece of dialogue in the short story Ukridge’s Accident Syndicate (1923), with Ukridge amazing his friends with his claim that he could raise ten bob:

“What! How?”
“I’ll pawn a banjo”
“You haven’t got a banjo”.
“No, but George Tupper has, and I know where he keeps it”

And then, at the beginning of Thank You, Jeeves (1934), Bertie Wooster has taken up the instrument, and practices assiduously for at least two hours a day. Jeeves, having perhaps more of an ear for music than Bertie, enters a nolle prosequi………

Tony Ring, Member of the Wodehouse Society


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