Wodehouse Short Stories (2)

The Amazing Hat Mystery

This one is very simple: two men are inadvertently given the others brand new top hat: the resulting fit causes their beaus to violently reject them, to their incredulous horror. They confer their shared misfortunes, then accidentally swap hats once more, this time with a more serendipitous result. 

I’d assumed, as this story went along, that the original pairings would mend their broken bridges, but Wodehouse neatly applies a twist, where the men each decide to act as an intermediary with the others girl and then find them to be much more suitable as a partner. Rather than straighten out the confusion (and risk anticlimax), he can now tie up the story whilst developing the theme of (our understanding of) love and how it can often be more to do with freakish fortune than our own judgement.

Two pairs of stock gents and debs are the pawns in this brief but interesting gambit, so the characterisations are very flat; the virtue of the mystery is the presentation of the turning upside down of this worlds rigid certainties (that a hat purchased from Bodmin’s could let one down!) and the psychology of the two gallants in their amour. Not spectacular Wodehouse but more like a basic demonstration of his talents: worthy and well done.


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