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 between 1958 and 1972.
Like his fellow Wodehouse character, the
Oldest Member, the raconteur Mr. Mulliner can turn any conversation into a "recollection", or funny story. A
habitué of the
Angler's Restpub, 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.
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. Schnellenhamer, and that he has stayed on Schnellenhamer'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 short stories. Many are collected in the three books, containing nine stories each, which bear his name:
The World of Mr Mulliner is an omnibus containing all 41 stories narrated by Mr. Mulliner. It also includes one other story which has a tangential connection to the series: "From a Detective's Notebook" (1959) is narrated by the detective Adrian Mulliner, who had previously been established as one of Mr. Mulliner's innumerable nephews. Strictly speaking, despite its appearance in the Mr. Mulliner omnibus, this tale cannot be considered a Mr. Mulliner story, as Mr. Mulliner does not narrate it, appear in it, and is not actually referenced in it in any way.
Another story tangentially connected to the series is the very short Mulliner story entitled "Shock Dogs", which was not published in any story collection. The story was published in the 14 February 1940 issue of the British satirical magazine Punch and is not more than two pages long. It is signed with initials only (P.G.W.) but the Articles and Verse listing in the bound Punch volume CXCVIIJ Jan-June 1940 attributes the story to Wodehouse, P. G. It mentions by name Hitler, Brauchitsch, and Goebbels, which is very unusual for an author who so seldom allowed politics to impinge on his novels and stories.
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 often 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.
A Sieur de Moulinières "came over with the Conqueror", presumably in 1066.
A Mulliner "once received the thanks of his Sovereign for services rendered on the field of
Crecy". (The Battle of Crecy occurred in 1346.)
Unnamed. Died in the late 19th century. It is this grandmother who made William (below) pledge to not drink until he turned 21—or 41, William can't quite remember which.
Subsequently, rewritten. First appearance as a Mr. Mulliner story in the 1972 book The World of Mr. Mulliner
Fourteen Mulliner stories were adapted for television as part of the 1974–1978 television series Wodehouse Playhouse, though Mr Mulliner himself only appeared in the pilot episode. In the episode, "The Reverent Wooing of Archibald", Mr Mulliner was portrayed by
Richard Griffiths starred as Mr Mulliner in a series of radio adaptations of the stories, including six episodes in 2002 under the title Meet Mr Mulliner and four episodes in 2004 under the title More Mr Mulliner. The series aired on BBC Radio 4.
^McIlvaine (1990), pp. 115–116, B5. In the first edition of The World of Mr Mulliner, the 40 main stories vary between 11 and 20 pages in length. "Another Christmas Carol" is not more than 5 pages long, and "From a Detective's Notebook" is not more than 4 pages long.