Uncle Fred

In actual count of time, he was no longer in his first youth. The Spring now enlivening England with its alternate sunshine and blizzards was one of many that had passed over his head, leaving it a becoming iron-grey. But just as the years had failed to deprive him of his slender figure, so had they been impotent to quench his indomitable spirit. Together with a juvenile waistline, he still retained the bright enthusiasms and the fresh, unspoilt outlook of a slightly inebriated undergraduate – though to catch him at his best, as he would have been the first to admit, you had to catch him in London.

So goes the introduction to Uncle Fred in P.G. Wodehouse’s Uncle Fred in the Springtime. It’s my first Wodehouse novel I’ve read and I’m beginning to sense that quality (which was mentioned to me) a Wodehouse novel possesses – its ability to pull you up out of despondency; this no doubt connected to, as Stephen Fry writes in praise on the book’s back cover, its ‘sunlit perfection,[…] its warmth and splendour’.

I also wanted to give this particular passage a mention because it kind of touches on a point that came up in a conversation I was having recently: when someone refers to maturity, or perhaps more often levels the charge of immaturity (not that the narrator of Uncle Fred is doing so here), what exactly do they mean? What was this measured in then, when Uncle Fred was on the loose, and now? Responsibilities? Appearance? As a work colleague said to me the other day: “My Dad never wore jeans; if he had I would have been shocked.”

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