Reading Jeeves and Wooster

Coming off my reading of mythic/hero stories, I thought I’d cast about for something a little different as an organizing principle for my reading over the next few months. Every summer I try to read at least one Jeeves and Wooster story. This summer on our road trip I read “Right, Ho, Jeeves” Written in 1934 it is the 2nd full length Jeeves novel.

Bertie has returned from the south of France with a white mess jacket of which Jeeves does not approve.

“I fear that you inadvertently left Cannes in the possession of a coat belonging to some other gentlemen, sir”

Bertie is determined on reinstating the correct power structure of him running the show and Jeeves acting more feudally.

“This mess jacket was very near to my heart and I jolly well intended to fight for it with all the vim of grand old Sieur de Wooster at the Battle of Agincourt.”

If you’re at all familiar with these stories you know how that works out.

This is the story where Bertie first becomes engaged, accidentally, to Madeline Bassett . He ends up at Aunt Agatha’s place in Market Snodsbury in the middle of two broken romances. He originally came down to repair his cousins broken engagement. Of course Dahlia asked Bertie to come just so Jeeves would be there.

At the same time, Augustus, Gussie, Finknottle is in love with Madeline but can’t seem to speak of anything but newts with her. So, Bertie pitches in trying to put in a good word for him with Madeline and she thinks he is proposing. She turns him down because her heart belongs to  Gussie. But of course, there are complications  and complications of the complications and he finds himself engaged to her.

Finally of course Jeeves’ plan fixes things up, not before Bertie has to take a 16 mile roundtrip bike ride in the dark to pick up a key to the castle after everyone was locked out of the house because of Bertie’s ringing the fire bell in the wee hours of the morning.

You see – a typical P.G. Wodehouse tale.

It’s been years since I’ve read this story and it was great to read the tale of the original engagement between Madeline and Bertie. That got me onto the idea of reading the entire Jeeves and Wooster canon from beginning to end. I went to Wikipedia and found a nice bibliography including the publish dates of the various Jeeves stories. You can find it here.

So, I’ve launched into the first set of stories and have finished five so far this weekend

  • Extricating Young Gussie (1917) (this is not Gussie Finknottle)
  • Leave it to Jeeves (1919)
  • Jeeves and the Unbidden Guest (1919)
  • Jeeves and the Hard-boiled Egg. (1919)
  • The Aunt and the Sluggard (1925)

In the first story Jeeves hardly says anything; I think maybe two lines and is not the brains of the outfit. As time goes on, Jeeves moves more to the forefront coming up with the plans to fix things. These short stories are a bit stiff and don’t really allow Wodehouse to unleash a long complicated story. Still there is plenty of hilarity. In these early stories more is mentioned about Bertie being rich; of course it is assumed in the later works, just not said. We also see an Aunt Julia in the first story that I don’t think is ever mentioned again.

Anyway, P.G. Wodehouse is one of my 5 favorite authors, so I thought I’d turn my attention his way. I don’t think I’ll be reading them all immediately exclusive of anything else, but I will be taking them all in during the next few months.

Rating: ★★★★★ 5 out of 5 stars.

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