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In this, his first novel, P. G. Wodehouse offers a glimpse into the insular world of an English public school scandalized by a recent burglary of its prized sports trophies (“pots”) from its cricket pavilion. At first an overzealous master unjustly accuses one of the schoolboys, who happens to be in need of cash to pay a gambling debt owed to his brother. But, thanks to a Scotland Yard inspector brought in especially for the case, the boy is cleared and his promising career among the elite is left intact.
Along the way, Wodehouse gives snapshots of the everyday lives of various boys: from dealing with the idiosyncrasies of fellow students, to collecting birds’ eggs and sneaking a smoke in the nearby woods while avoiding capture by gamekeepers, to cranking out an underground magazine to raise needed funds. Through it all, the boys, along with their headmaster, handle things with wit and aplomb. Consistent with a worldview in which a man “should be before anything else a sportsman,” sporting contests figure prominently: a boy rises from the canvas to score an unexpected knockout, and another graciously accepts his last-second defeat at the finish line.
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