The Coming of Bill (or: Their Mutual Child; or: The White Hope, Version 2)

P. G. WODEHOUSE (1881 - 1975)

Their Mutual Child (aka The Coming of Bill and The White Hope) is full of the loveable characters, preposterous situations, and opportunities to chuckle, if not outright laughs, that we expect from PG Wodehouse. It lacks the frantic slapstick of some Wodehouse comedy, but has a quieter more reflective humour.

Kirk, the erstwhile hero, is a typical Wodehousian hero. At the beginning of the story, he is thoroughly likeable, a healthy, but a somewhat weak and malleable fellow. He dabs at beings a painter for a living, and runs with a gang of hangers-on, who sponge off him. However, his life changes dramatically when he meets the charming and lovely Ruth. Ruth is out of Kirk's league socially and financially. She possesses an exceedingly rich father and an excessively dominant and eccentric aunt, Miss Laura Delane Porter. Miss Porter’s claim to fame is her authorship of books and pamphlets aimed at bettering the world through hygiene and eugenics (the highly questionable “science” of race improvement by restricting mating to superior types deemed suited to each other).

Against her father’s strong objections, but with Aunt Laura's approval, Ruth marries Kirk and for a while, wedded bliss surrounds them, crowned off by the birth of their son, Bill. Like all babies, Bill is deemed by one and all to be miraculous—unique and amazing.

However, all good things must end, as they say. Kirk, embarrassed by his inability to support Ruth in the manner in which she is accustomed, heads off to South America to seek his fortune, where he is quickly and thoroughly ruined. However, in the meantime, Ruth and her brother Bailey inherit their father's wealth. Also in Kirk’s absence, enter, of course, Laura Delane Porter, with her scrupulous ideas of hygiene and her horrors of germs, and the baby’s life becomes a nightmare. When Kirk returns, unsuccessful in his endeavors and outraged at the state of affairs at home, the marriage quickly sours.

Can anyone save Ruth and Kirk from themselves and rebuild their happy home?

Their Mutual Child aka The Coming of Bill or The White Hope by P. G. Wodehouse, first appeared in “Munsey's Magazine” in May 1914, under the title "The White Hope.” It was published in the U.S. under the title Their Mutual Child in 1919, and in the U.K. with the title, The Coming of Bill in 1920. (Introduction by Susan Claybrook and Tim Bulkeley with information from the Wikipedia entry.)

Genre(s): Humorous Fiction

Language: English

Section Chapter Reader Time
Play 01 A Pawn of Fate Tim Bulkeley
Play 02 Ruth States Her Intentions Tim Bulkeley
Play 03 The Mates Meet Tim Bulkeley
Play 04 Troubled Waters Tim Bulkeley
Play 05 Wherein Opposites Agree Tim Bulkeley
Play 06 Breaking the News Tim Bulkeley
Play 07 Sufficient unto themselves Tim Bulkeley
Play 08 Suspense Tim Bulkeley
Play 09 The White Hope is Turned Down Tim Bulkeley
Play 10 An Interlude of Peace Tim Bulkeley
Play 11 Stung to Action Tim Bulkeley
Play 12 A Climax Tim Bulkeley
Play 13 Empty-handed Tim Bulkeley
Play 14 An Unknown Path Tim Bulkeley
Play 15 The Misadventure of Steve Tim Bulkeley
Play 16 The Widening Gap Tim Bulkeley
Play 17 The Real Thing Tim Bulkeley
Play 18 The Outcasts Tim Bulkeley
Play 19 Cutting the Tangled Knot Tim Bulkeley
Play 20 Steve to the Rescue Tim Bulkeley
Play 21 At One in the Morning Tim Bulkeley
Play 22 Accepting the Gifts of the Gods Tim Bulkeley
Play 23 Mr Penway on the Grill Tim Bulkeley
Play 24 Dolls with Souls Tim Bulkeley
Play 25 Pastures New Tim Bulkeley
Play 26 The Sixty-first Street Cyclone Tim Bulkeley
Play 27 Mrs. Porter's Waterloo Tim Bulkeley
Play 28 The White-Hope Link Tim Bulkeley