Jill the Reckless

Jill the Reckless
by P. G. Wodehouse
(London: Everyman, 2005)
First published: 1920

Until this moment he had been able to detach his mind from a state of affairs which would have weighed unceasingly upon another man. His mind was a telephone which he could cut off at will, when the voice of Trouble wished to speak. The time would arrive, he had been aware, when he would have to pay attention to that voice, but so far he had refused to listen. Now it could be evaded no longer.

The plot of Jill the Reckless follows Jill Mariner’s failed engagement to Derek Underhill (a member of the peerage, although, as his name implies, from its lowest class), and her subsequent engagement to Wally Mason (playwright and annoying childhood friend … grown up spunky and charming). By 1920, however, the medium of the telephone appears to have become an almost unremarkable staple of the everyday. People call just to see if others are home. Secretaries ring to make appointments, messages are left. People offer to call each other back rather than talk. Office-boys rub elbows with ‘telephone-girls’. Phone and telephone are interchangeable as words in thought and conversation, as are the telephone book and the directory, in which people just as casually (and without any mystery) ‘look each other up’.

Although the telephone is not necessarily the reason that anything happens in the novel, it is, perhaps, part of the reason why some things start to happen much more quickly.

by Don Sillence