I just finished 6 early Jeeves and Wooster short stories, the last being Jeeves Takes Charge first published in 1925. In this story he is staying at his Uncle Willoughby’s place in Shropshire. Bertie has just hired Jeeves after having sacked Meadowes, his earlier gentlman’s gentleman, upon finding out he was a kleptomaniac.
Bertie is engaged to Lady Florence Cray who is trying to improve him by having him read some philosophical treatises. (Craig Delk, you’d probably like the book he was reading but it was by no means suitable for poor Bertie). Meanwhile his uncle has been writing a remembrance of his early days telling about wild times with his old friends who are now established and reputable men. Florence has read a couple of the stories and tells Bertie he must destroy the manuscript before it reaches the publisher or the engagement is off. She is worried what a scandal the book will provoke.
Bertie grabs it and is almost found out; Jeeves saves Bertie from great embarrassment by safely storing it away just before Bertie is to be found out as the thief. Bertie is very relieved at the engagement being on and very happy with Jeeves’ performance. The next day the manuscript makes its way to the publisher and Florence breaks the engagement. Bertie is very unhappy with Jeeves, who had sent the manuscript in, and fires him. Jeeves discusses what he will later call “the psychology of the individual” where he explains that the gentlemen mentioned in the book will be quite pleased to be seen as having been wild in their younger days. Jeeves, not being an employee any longer, explains to Bertie why she was not a suitable match. Jeeves had discovered that Florence was going to have Bertie start to read Nietzsche who, as Jeeves put it “is fundamentally unsound”.
Upon reflection Bertie sees that he would have been unhappy in the marriage and rehires Jeeves. Bertie is so happy that he has Jeeves give away his suit that Jeeves did not approve of, Jeeves had already given it to the under gardner the night before.
There is a very similar structure to the Jeeves and Wooster stories. The two have a disagreement about some aspect of grooming (the suit) Bertie is engaged; has to take on some sort of task for which he is unsuited, almost gets caught until Jeeves saves the day usually solving at least two problems in one fell swoop. The engagement is off and Jeeves gets his way on the grooming disagreement.
However, this story also has a few striking differences from later stories.First and foremost is his reaction to being engaged to Lady Florence Cray; in this story he is quite content with the idea until the end. Normally he is in a panic about it from the start. Wodehouse also goes on and on about Florence’s “profile”. Girls’ looks are mentioned in other stories, but he really piles it on in this one.
We also see Uncle Willoughby who I don’t think is mentioned in other stories – I’ll keep my eye out. This uncle apparently is the source of Bertie’s fortune.
Finally, Jeeves’ extensive lecture about Lady Florence’s short comings and recounting the other servants view of her is very atypical if I remember correctly. Perhaps I’m wrong about that – I’ll keep a look out in my later readings.
I seem to recall this story in some other setting; I’ll also keep a look out for a retelling or reworking of the story.
These things are just what I was hoping to get into as I read all the J & W stories.
Rating: ★★★★ 4 out of 5 stars.