Wodehouse’s second full length Jeeves and Wooster novel is a better entry to the series than the first – Thank You, Jeeves – due to the first novel having racially contentious characterizations. As most (all?) of the novels, this one opens with Jeeves looking askance at a sartorial choice of Bertie’s; this time a white mess jacket he brought home with him from his vacation in France.
“‘Yes, Jeeves?’ I said. ‘Something on your mind, Jeeves?'”
“‘I fear that you inadvertently left Cannes in the possession of a coat belonging to some other gentleman, sir.'” [Loc 148]
Bertie will brook no challenge – so he says – and stares down Jeeves
“Quelling him, as described, with the quiet strength of my personality.” [Loc 212]
Later he sees himself standing up to his Aunt Dahlia with a line that has been in our family for years:
“She seemed about to speak, but I checked her with a gesture.” [Loc 697]
We know Jeeves will get his way in the end. Again, as part of the Jeeves and Wooster formula, Bertie heads out to a summer estate, this time her Aunt Dahlia’s, to try to help a friend, this time, Augustus Finknottle, in matters of love. Having just spent the summer with Aunt Dahlia, he is puzzled why she telegraphs hime demanding he come immediately to help with a problem of her own.
“She seemed glad to see me. In fact, she actually said she was glad to see me – a statement no other aunt on the list would have committed herself to, the customary reaction of these near and dear ones to the spectacle of Bertram arriving for a visit being a sort of sick horror.” [Loc 620]
Things go from bad to worse and Bertie once again finds himself inadvertently engaged to Madeline Basset – the woman he was helping Augustus to woo. Bertie is nothing if not chivalrous. Here she is talking with Bertram in the garden after a falling out with Augustus:
“‘I can never forget Augustus, but my love for him is dead. I will be your wife.’
Well, one has to be civil. ‘Right ho,’ I said, ‘Thanks Awfully'”[Loc 2743]
Bertie’s plans disrupt the entire household, even causing the French chef Anatole to resign. One of the passages that causes me to laugh out loud occurs with Bertie talking with Dahlia and proposes more help.
“I have alluded earlier to the difficulty of staggering when you’re sitting down, showing that it is a feat of which, I personally, am not capable. Aunt Dahlia, to my amazement, now did it apparently without an effort. She was well wedged into a deep arm-chair, but nevertheless, she staggered like billy-o. A sort of spasm of horror and apprehension contorted her face.” [Locc 1346]
At one point Jeeves volunteers Bertram for an errand on a bicycle – one which Bertie does not want to undertake. Jeeves tells Mrs Travers (Aunt Dahlia):
“‘Yes, madam, Mr. Wooster would perform the task admirably. He is an expert cyclist. He has often boasted to me of his triumphs on the wheel'” [Loc 2944]
And it wouldn’t be Wodehouse with the hilarious names:
- Eustace H. Plimsoll, of The Laburnums, Alleyn Road, West Dulwich
- Barmy Fotheringay-Phipps
- August Finknottle
- Reginald Pongo Twisleton
It won’t spoil the story to know that the mess jacket is gone and Jeeves fixes the myriad problems and saving Bertram from marriage.
I can’t think of a better way to while away 2 summer days.