P.G. Wodehouse,
A Man of Means
(Porpoise, 1991)

Although not published in book form until 1991, A Man of Means is an early work by P.G. Wodehouse, dating back to a serial in England in the Strand in 1914 and in the United States in Pictorial Review in 1916. A collaboration with C.H. Bovill, it first appeared as a series of six short stories before being collected as a continuous unit.

The stories together comprise the romantic and financial misadventures of Roland Bleke. Roland is a young, unassuming clerk who requests a pay cut in order to escape an unwanted marriage; the effort doesn't work, however, when he finds himself the big winner in an unexpected sweepstakes. One lucky escape leads to another pitfall when he lands, quite literally, in the garden of a financial wizard in need of ready cash; Roland is only too credulous when it comes to financial advice.

Of course, it works out for the best once again. And so it goes, as Roland Bleke dabbles in theater, publishing, dance and revolution, and always his efforts balance out in his favor. Of course, he is less fortunate when it comes to matters of the heart, as is proven repeatedly.

His chief characteristic was an intense ordinariness. He was a young man; and when you had said that of him you had said everything. There was nothing which you would have noticed about him, except the fact that there was nothing to notice.

This series of stories is brief but charming, a fine example of a young Wodehouse still exploring his style. The book ends somewhat abruptly, as if the serial was canceled before Wodehouse was quite finished with young Bleke, but it certainly stands alone as an enjoyable read.

book review by
Tom Knapp

12 March 2011

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