Best Seller

by

P.G. Wodehouse

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Egbert Mulliner Character Analysis

Egbert, the nephew of narrator Mr. Mulliner, is the story’s protagonist. He is an assistant editor with an aversion to female novelists, whose work he views as clichéd and badly written. At the beginning of the story, Egbert appears to be somewhat fragile; his contact with female novelists is enough to make him ill, yet this fragility is understood by and arouses the sympathy of his fellow male editors. While recovering at the seaside, he falls in love with Evangeline and proposes to her. Ironically, Egbert’s words and actions as the relationship develops are just as clichéd and overwrought as the novels he despises, and it quickly becomes apparent that he is less sophisticated than he would like believe. When Evangeline writes a successful novel inspired by their relationship, Egbert is mortified. When she proceeds to spend a great deal of time with her agent, Jno. Henderson Banks, he becomes jealous and demands that she stop seeing him. Initially, his tone is imperious; as Evangeline’s fiancé, he expects her to obey him. But when she refuses, he becomes much less domineering and begs her to do as he asks. It’s too late, however, and Evangeline breaks off the engagement. This rejection changes Egbert: he can now interview even the most sentimental of novelists without becoming ill. Nonetheless, he is still in love with Evangeline, and when she asks for his help meeting her contractual obligations at the end of the story, he enthusiastically suggests passing off his own work under her name. This revelation that Egbert himself once had aspirations as a novelist suggests once again that, beneath his façade, he is just as sentimental as the female novelists he claims to hate.

Egbert Mulliner Quotes in Best Seller

The Best Seller quotes below are all either spoken by Egbert Mulliner or refer to Egbert Mulliner. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Portrayal of Women Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Overlook Press edition of Best Seller published in 2003.
Best Seller Quotes

“’Slovely,” said Miss Postlethwaite. “It lays the soul of Woman bare as with a scalpel.”

Page Number: 164
Explanation and Analysis:

From far away in the distance came the faint strains of the town band, as it picked its way through the Star of Eve song from Tannhäuser—somewhat impeded by the second trombone, who had got his music-sheets mixed and was playing “The Wedding of the Painted Doll.”

Related Characters: Egbert Mulliner, Evangeline Pembury
Page Number: 165
Explanation and Analysis:

For six months, week in and week out, Egbert Mulliner had been listening to female novelists talking about Art and their Ideals. He had seen them in cosy corners in their boudoirs, had watched them being kind to dogs and happiest when among their flowers. And one morning the proprietor of The Booklover, finding the young man sitting at his desk with little flecks of foam about his mouth and muttering over and over again in a dull, toneless voice the words, “Aurelia McGoggin, she draws her inspiration from the scent of white lilies!” had taken him straight off to a specialist.

Related Characters: Egbert Mulliner
Related Symbols: Dogs and Flowers
Page Number: 166
Explanation and Analysis:

Everyone has his pet aversion. Some dislike slugs, others cockroaches. Egbert Mulliner disliked female novelists.

Related Characters: Egbert Mulliner
Page Number: 167
Explanation and Analysis:

As for his proposal, that was inserted verbatim; and, as he listened, Egbert shuddered to think that he could have polluted the air with such frightful horse-radish.

Related Characters: Egbert Mulliner, Evangeline Pembury
Page Number: 170
Explanation and Analysis:

It is these swift, unheralded changes of the public mind which make publishers stick straws in their hair and powerful young novelists rush round to the wholesale grocery firms to ask if the berth of junior clerk is still open.

Related Characters: Egbert Mulliner, Evangeline Pembury
Page Number: 172
Explanation and Analysis:

“Am I a serf?” demanded Evangeline.

“A what?” said Egbert.

“A serf. A slave. A peon. A creature subservient to your lightest whim.”

Ebert considered the point.

“No,” he said. “I shouldn’t think so.”

“No,” said Evangeline. “I am not. And I refuse to allow you to dictate to me in the choice of my friends.”

Related Characters: Egbert Mulliner (speaker), Evangeline Pembury (speaker), Jno. Henderson Banks
Page Number: 177
Explanation and Analysis:

When a column on “Myrtle Bootle Among Her Books” was required, it was Egbert whom he sent to the No Man’s Land of Bloomsbury. When young Eustace Johnson, a novice who ought never to have been entrusted with such a dangerous commission, was found walking round in circles and bumping his head against the railings of Regent’s Park after twenty minutes with Laura La Motte Grindlay, the great sex novelist, it was Egbert who was flung into the breach.

Related Characters: Egbert Mulliner, Evangeline Pembury
Page Number: 178
Explanation and Analysis:

“Oh, quite,” said Evangeline. “I will send out for a dog. I love dogs—and flowers.”

“You are happiest among your flowers, no doubt?”

“On the whole, yes.”

“You sometimes think they are the souls of little children who have died in their innocence?”

“Frequently.”

Related Characters: Egbert Mulliner, Evangeline Pembury
Related Symbols: Dogs and Flowers
Page Number: 181
Explanation and Analysis:

Evangeline’s “Oh, Egbert!” had been accompanied by a Niagara of tears. She had flung herself on the sofa and was now chewing the cushion in an ecstasy of grief. She gulped like a bull-pup swallowing a chunk of steak.

Related Characters: Evangeline Pembury (speaker), Egbert Mulliner
Page Number: 182
Explanation and Analysis:

“Before I saw the light, I, too, used to write stearine bilge just like ‘Parted Ways.’”

Related Characters: Egbert Mulliner (speaker), Evangeline Pembury
Page Number: 185
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Best Seller LitChart as a printable PDF.
Best Seller PDF

Egbert Mulliner Character Timeline in Best Seller

The timeline below shows where the character Egbert Mulliner appears in Best Seller. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Best Seller
The Absurdity of Romantic Conventions Theme Icon
...offers to tell the story of how Evangeline came to be married to his nephew Egbert. (full context)
The Absurdity of Romantic Conventions Theme Icon
Mr. Mulliner’s narration begins with Egbert and Evangeline standing on a pier in the moonlight. A breathless Egbert is preparing to... (full context)
The Portrayal of Women Theme Icon
Egbert had recently come to this seaside village in order to recover from poor health brought... (full context)
The Portrayal of Women Theme Icon
The Absurdity of Romantic Conventions Theme Icon
On the pier, Egbert does not immediately propose but instead asks with some trepidation whether Evangeline has ever written... (full context)
The Portrayal of Women Theme Icon
Highbrow Versus Lowbrow Art Theme Icon
Evangeline, inspired by her feelings for Egbert, writes a novel titled Parted Ways. The next time she and Egbert are together, she... (full context)
Highbrow Versus Lowbrow Art Theme Icon
Egbert is distressed that Evangeline’s success seems to be changing her. She is unsure of herself... (full context)
The Portrayal of Women Theme Icon
Highbrow Versus Lowbrow Art Theme Icon
Egbert is heartbroken. To cope with his grief, he throws himself into his work. His experiences... (full context)
The Portrayal of Women Theme Icon
Egbert is assigned to interview none other than his ex-fiancée, Evangeline Pembury. Arriving in her sitting-room,... (full context)
The Absurdity of Romantic Conventions Theme Icon
Evangeline’s answers continue to be perfunctory until Egbert asks how her novel’s sequel is progressing. In response, she breaks into tears and flings... (full context)
Highbrow Versus Lowbrow Art Theme Icon
...because she has decided that she hates writing and doesn’t know what to write about. Egbert advises her to cash the checks and spend the money anyway. (In an aside, the... (full context)
The Portrayal of Women Theme Icon
The Absurdity of Romantic Conventions Theme Icon
Egbert has a solution to Evangeline’s predicament: he tells her that she doesn’t have to write... (full context)