Heavy Weather

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P.G. Wodehouse around age 38

Heavy Weather is a comic novel by P.G. Wodehouse, first published in the United States on 28 July 1933 by Little, Brown and Company, Boston, and in the United Kingdom on 10 August 1933 by Herbert Jenkins, London.[1] It had been serialised in The Saturday Evening Post from 27 May to 15 July 1933.

It is part of the Blandings Castle series of tales and of its amiable but woolly-minded owner, the backwoods peer Lord Emsworth, the fourth full-length novel to be set there, and is a direct sequel to Summer Lightning (1929), taking place only a few days later, with many of the same characters remaining at the castle from the previous story. It also features the re-appearance by Lord Tilbury, who had previously appeared in Bill the Conqueror (1924) and Sam the Sudden (1925).

Plot overview

With the Hon. Galahad's highly inflammatory Reminiscences apparently removed from the market, their spurned publisher, Lord Tilbury, is anxious to get hold of the manuscript, while Lady Constance Keeble and Sir Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe want to lay hands on it for quite other reasons. Once again Lord Emsworth fears that Parsloe-Parsloe is out to spoil the chances of his prize pig Empress of Blandings winning the silver medal at the forthcoming county show, and therefore keeps detective Percy Frobisher Pilbeam on hand to keep watch. Meanwhile, Sue Brown is anxious to hide her old friendship with Monty Bodkin from her always jealous fiance, Ronnie Fish, thereby giving his mother, Lady Julia Fish, yet another chance to talk him out of an unsuitable marriage.

Plot, detailed

Monty Bodkin, despite his wealth, needs to hold a job down for a full year, so when he is sacked from his current job with Lord Tilsbury, he jumps at a tip that a job as secretary to Lord Emsworth is available, especially on hearing that his former fiancee will be on the premises.

Hearing that Monty is on his way, and concerned about Ronnie's jealous nature, Sue Brown immediately heads to London, lunches with Bodkin, and warns him to be distant with her in the future. On the train back they both encounter Ronnie's formidable mother and claim not to know each other. Lady Julia, however, having just seen Sue and Monty at lunch together a few hours earlier, then tells her son, Ronnie, about their suspicious behavior, and Ronnie is at once convinced that Sue loves Monty.

Meanwhile, Connie and Parsloe-Parsloe, unaware of these developments, task Percy Pilbeam with obtaining Galahad's manuscript so that they can destroy it. Lord Tilbury, however, wanting the manuscript for the completely opposite reason, visits the castle but is rebuffed by Galahad. Leaving, he comes across the Empress, but is locked in a shed by Pirbright the pig-man, ordered by a suspicious Lord Emsworth to guard the pig closely. Tilbury is released by Monty Bodkin, whom he persuades to steal Gally's manuscript by offering him a year's guaranteed employment—Monty is now worried about his tenure at the castle, as Lord Emsworth suspects him, being the nephew of his rival Parsloe-Parsloe, of scheming to nobble his pig, the Empress.

Beach, catching Pilbeam nearly in the act of grabbing the manuscript, tells Galahad and is instructed to guard the manuscript himself. When he later overhears Tilbury and Bodkin plotting in the garden at the Emsworth Arms, however, he sees the task is too much for him and hands the manuscript over to Ronnie Fish. Fish is distracted by his loss of Sue's love, but once the storm breaks he feels better; he sees Monty Bodkin, drenched from the rain, and is friendly towards him. But then when he sees "Sue" tattooed on Bodkin's bare chest, his mood turns sour once more.

Sue, having heard Ronnie's kind words, is also cheered and rushes to find Ronnie; when he is once more cold and distant, though, she breaks down and calls off the engagement. Bodkin finds Ronnie and asks him a favor—to get Beach to hand over the manuscript, explaining he needs it in order to marry his girl. Ronnie, inwardly furious, chivalrously hands it over to Bodkin, to do with as he likes. In the meantime, Gally sees that Sue is upset, learns all, and confronts Ronnie about his idiocy. He explains about Bodkin and Sue, and Ronnie once again forgives her. Gally then confronts his sisters, threatening them once more with his book; although Julia is at first unmoved, when Gally relates a few of the stories it contains concerning her late husband "Fishy" Fish, she is defeated.

Bodkin, having engaged Pilbeam to find the book for him, now tells the detective he is no longer needed, and reveals where he has hidden the manuscript. Pilbeam immediately steals it, planning to auction it off between Tilbury and the Connie-Parsloe syndicate, and hides it on the grounds in a disused shed. He then informs Lord Emsworth that it was Bodkin released Tilbury from the same shed earlier, and Bodkin is subsequently fired. Pilbeam is summoned to an audience with Lady Constance but, his nerve failing, first primes himself with a bottle of Champagne. When he does meet her, she is insulting, and Pilbeam vows to sell the book to Tilbury. He telephones Tilbury at the Emsworth Arms promising to deliver it but retires to bed first to sleep off the bottle of Champagne.

Lord Emsworth, having now moved the Empress into the disused shed for safety's sake, finds her eating Gally's Reminiscences. Pilbeam sees this, and hurries off to Connie and Parsloe-Parsloe but is denied his fee when they find the pig has eaten the book. He then rushes to the Emsworth Arms, where he wheedles a check out of Lord Tilbury, telling him that the manuscript is in the pigsty. Bodkin is in the same room, however, and tears up the check, then warns Lord Emsworth by phone that someone is heading for his sty to nobble the Empress. A short time later, now full of remorse, he offers Pilbeam a thousand pounds to employ him for a full year in his agency.

Back at the castle, Emsworth is being badgered by his two sisters to deny Ronnie his money when a mud-spattered Lord Tilbury is brought in the room, having been captured moments before by the vigilant Pirbright. Gally and Sue then appear, informing Emsworth that Ronnie has the pig in his car and will drive off with it if denied the funds that will enable him to marry Sue. Lord Emsworth hastily writes out a check for the necessary amount, and the happy couple depart to be married, much to Gally's satisfaction.

Characters in Heavy Weather

  • Lord Emsworth, absent-minded master of Blandings Castle
    • Lady Constance Keeble, his domineering sister, châtelaine at the castle
    • The Hon. Galahad Threepwood, Emsworth's brother
    • Lady Julia Fish, another sister of Lord Emsworth
      • Ronnie Fish, Lady Julia's not-too-tall son
        • Sue Brown, a chorus girl engaged to Ronnie
    • Empress of Blandings, Lord Emsworth's cherished prize pig
      • Pirbright, Emsworth's pig-man
  • Lord Tilbury, publishing magnate, an acquaintance of Lady Julia
    • Percy Frobisher Pilbeam, a former employee of Tilbury's, now head of a detective agency
  • Sir Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe, Emsworth's neighbor and fellow pig-rearer
  • Beach, butler at the castle
  • Hugo Carmody, formerly Emsworth's secretary

Television film

A television film adaptation, made by the BBC, with partners including WGBH Boston, screened on Christmas Eve 1995 in the UK, and was shown in the US by PBS on 18 February 1996. It starred Peter O'Toole as Lord Emsworth, Richard Briers as Gally, Roy Hudd as Beach, Samuel West as Monty Bodkin, and Judy Parfitt as Lady Constance. It was directed by Jack Gold with a screenplay by Douglas Livingstone, and was generally well received by fans.


  1. McIlvaine, E., Sherby, L.S. and Heineman, J.H. (1990) P.G. Wodehouse: A comprehensive bibliography and checklist. New York: James H. Heineman, pp. 64–65. Template:ISBN

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