Mr. Mulliner

Mr. Mulliner

Mr. Mulliner is a fictional character from the short stories of P. G. Wodehouse. Mr. Mulliner is a loquacious pub raconteur who, no matter what the topic of conversation, can find an appropriate (if improbable) story about a member of his family to match it.

Like much of Wodehouse's work, the Mr. Mulliner stories were originally written for magazine publication. Thirty-seven of the 41 overall Mulliner stories were originally published between 1926 and 1937. The final four stories appeared much later, being published in widely-spaced intervals between 1947 and 1970.

Contents

Overview

Like his fellow Wodehouse character, the Oldest Member, the raconteur Mr. Mulliner can turn any conversation into a "recollection". A habitué of the Angler's Rest pub, his fellow drinkers are identified only by their beverages. (Mr Mulliner is a Hot Scotch and Lemon.) Wodehouse revealed in an introduction that he devised Mr Mulliner after collecting notebooks full of ideas that could not be used because they were too outlandish, until he had the happy notion of a fisherman whose veracity could be doubted.

The tales of Mulliner all involve one of his relations: there are dozens upon dozens of cousins, nieces, and nephews. These include stories about loves lost, found and rekindled; fortunes made and lost; and opportunities grasped or missed. They take place across the globe: Los Angeles's Hollywood and the English Country House are the settings for many.

Two Mulliner stores ("Gala Night" and "The Rise Of Minna Nordstrom") are not primarily about one of Mr. Mulliner's relatives. However, in these two cases, Mr. Mulliner states that the stories were told to him by relatives; he is therefore reporting a story told to him by a relation, rather than a story about a relation.

Stories

The Mulliner stories all employ an unusual structure. At the beginning of each story, an unnamed first-person narrator sets the scene at the Angler's Rest pub, describing the conversation at the bar-parlour. This will lead to Mr. Mulliner entering the conversation, generally elaborating on the conversational theme, and remarking that it reminds him of a story involving a relative. Then, no more than a page or two into the story, Mr. Mulliner effectively takes over the narration of the tale, describing the events that befell the relative in question. In the earlier stories, the unnamed first-person narrator returns very briefly to close out the tale back at the Angler's Rest -- in later stories, the story ends when Mr. Mulliner has concluded it.

Mr. Mulliner himself is rarely a character in the tales he tells. An exception is the story "George and Alfred", in which Mr. Mulliner tries to help out one of his nephews who has been accused of a crime. In this story, we learn that Mr. Mulliner is a friend of Hollywood studio head Jacob Z. Schnellenhammer, and that he has stayed on Schnellenhammer's yacht while it was cruising the Mediterranean. We also learn that Mr. Mulliner's first name, whatever it may be, is not George.

Little else is revealed of Mulliner's character beyond his large family, his choice of beverage, and his hobby of fishing (which he mentions in one story replaced his earlier hobby of golf.) Nevertheless, Mulliner narrates forty-one short stories and three books, containing nine stories each, bear his name:

The remaining fourteen stories are scattered in other volumes:

This last volume also contains one additional story, "From a Detective's Notebook". This story is about Adrian Mulliner, who had previously been established as one of Mr. Mulliner's innumerable nephews. Strictly speaking, however, "From A Detective's Notebook" is not a Mr. Mulliner story, as Mr. Mulliner does not narrate it, appear in it, or even receive a mention.

Also note that a handful of what were to become "Mr. Mulliner stories" were originally published in magazines without the framework of Mr. Mulliner telling the story in question. (These include three stories about Bobbie Wickham, as well as one about James Rodman.) When revised for book publication, Wodehouse added the Mulliner openings and narration -- and it is these revised versions which appear in all Mulliner and Wodehouse anthologies to this day. These revised stories can generally be distinguished by Mulliner identifying the prime character of the story as a "distant cousin" (or some other far-flung relation) whose surname is not Mulliner.

Known relatives

Forebears:

  • A Mulliner "once received the thanks of his Sovereign for services rendered on the field of Crecy". (The Battle of Crecy occurred in 1346.)

Uncles:

  • William Mulliner, a businessman

Aunts:

  • Myrtle Banks, married William

Brothers:

  • Wilfred Mulliner, a chemist and inventor
  • Sir Sholto Mulliner, M.V.O.
  • Joseph Mulliner

Sisters-in-law:

  • Angela Purdue, married Wilfred
  • Lady Wilhelmina Mulliner, widow of Sir Sholto

First Cousins:

  • John San Francisco Earthquake Mulliner, son of William and Myrtle
  • (unnamed brother of above)
  • Clarence Mulliner, photographer
  • Cedric Mulliner
  • Lady Wickham, novelist under the pen-name "George Masterman"
  • Edward Mulliner
  • Rupert Mulliner
  • Egbert Mulliner, civil servant

Cousins by marriage:

  • Gladys Biggs, married Clarence
  • Sir Cuthbert Wickham, married Lady Wickham

First Cousins, once removed:

  • Roberta "Bobbie" Wickham, daughter of Sir Cuthbert and Lady Wickham
  • Lancelot Mulliner, an artist, Edward's son
  • Gladys Bingley, married Lancelot
  • Mervyn Mulliner
  • Anselm Mulliner, a curate, Rupert's son
  • (unnamed older brother of Anselm)

Distant Cousins:

  • James Rodman, mystery novelist
  • Agnes Flack, championship golfer and "daughter of a distant cousin"
  • Montrose Mulliner, Assistant Director of the Perfecto-Zizzbaum Motion Picture Corp. of Hollywood
  • Rosalie Beamish, marries Montrose
  • Wilmot Mulliner, a "nodder" at Perfecto-Zizzbaum
  • Mabel Potter, a private secretary and ex-bird imitator in Vaudeville; marries Wilmot

Nephews:

Note that Mr. Mulliner has three nephews named George, all different people.

  • George Mulliner, a stammerer and crossword puzzle enthusiast
  • Ferdinand Mulliner, studying at Eton (older son of Wilfred and Angela)
  • Percival Mulliner, at preparatory school in Sussex (younger son of Wilfred and Angela)
  • Augustine Mulliner, a curate (later a vicar)
  • (name unknown), a student at Harchester, younger brother of Augustine
  • Lancelot Bassington Mulliner, a poet
  • Osbert Mulliner, a jade collector
  • Frederick Mulliner
  • Dr. George Mulliner, brother of Frederick
  • Archibald Mulliner, member of the Drones Club, son of Sir Sholto and Lady Wilhelmina, and a skilled chicken-impersonator
  • Ignatius Mulliner, portrait painter and ukelele player
  • Mordred Mulliner, a poet
  • Adrian Mulliner, a detective
  • Sacheverell Mulliner
  • Eustace Mulliner, works at the Swiss Embassy
  • Egbert Mulliner, assistant editor of The Weekly Booklover
  • Cyril Mulliner, interior decorator
  • Bulstrode Mulliner, screenwriter in Hollywood
  • Brancepeth Mulliner, an artist
  • Augustus Mulliner
  • Reginald Mulliner, inheritor of a substantial sum of money
  • George Mulliner, screenwriter in Hollywood, identical twin of Alfred
  • Alfred Mulliner, professional conjurer known as the Great Alfredo, identical twin of George

Nephews by marriage:

  • Aubrey Bassinger, married Charlotte

Nieces:

  • Charlotte Mulliner, a poet

Nieces by marriage:

  • Aurelia Cammerleigh, married Archibald
  • Annabella Spockett-Sprockett, married Mordred
  • Hermione Rossiter, married Ignatius
  • Mabel Petherick-Soames, married Osbert
  • Evangeline Pembury, novelist, married Egbert
  • Amelia Bassett, married Cyril
  • Jane, married Augustine
  • Hermione Brimble, married Augustus
  • Jane Oliphant, married Frederick
  • Lady Millicent Shipton-Bellinger, married Adrian
  • Muriel Branksome, married Sacheverell
  • Susan Blake, married George

Nature of relationship uncertain:

  • Theophilus Mulliner, the bishop of Bognor

References


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