Free digital copy at: www.gutenberg.org/files/8164/8164-h/8164-h.htm
Information from: http://www.gutenberg.org: Produced by Suzanne L. Shell, Charles Franks and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
I’ve been wanting to make the acquaintance of these chappies for quite some time, don’t you know! I’ve just come out of a particular rummy spot with a lot of awful rotten work that had strained the old bean past endurance — and I felt it was time for a real spree.
This collection of eight short stores by P.G. Wodehouse did just the trick. Four of the stories center on Bertie Wooster, a fellow with more money and breeding than brains, and his unflappable and brilliant butler, Jeeves. The other four feature Reggie Pepper, a prototype character for Bertie Wooster. All of the stories depict a lovely, lost (if it ever existed) world where it is perpetually before 1914, main characters are rich and silly, impersonations and confusions abound, champagne flows, and rich young men fall in and out of love — or are pursued and threatened by older, female relatives who have the power to dry up the funds or generally put a stop to the hilarity. Shimmering through the froth, appearing majestically and magically is Bertie Wooster’s butler, Jeeves, who finds the solution to each and every problem that Wooster and his scatter-brained companions find themselves tangled in. Jeeves’ solutions are not always neat — and some have unpredictable consequences of their own — but they serve to advance the plot into even more hilarious realms. For example, in: “Leave it to Jeeves”, Bertie complains about a complicated Jeevesian solution taking an unexpected turn:
“All right. Please yourself. But you’re going to get a shock. You remember my friend, Mr. Corcoran?”
“And the girl who was to slide gracefully into his uncle’s esteem by writing the book on birds?”
“Well, she’s slid. She’s married the uncle.”
He took it without blinking. You can’t rattle Jeeves.
“That was always a development to be feared, sir.”
“You don’t mean to tell me that you were expecting it?”
“It crossed my mind as a possibility.”
“Did it, by Jove! Well, I think, you might have warned us!”
“I hardly liked to take the liberty, sir.”
The point being, our lives are not our own are they? Even at this light level — if we give our problems over to others, we can’t really get too bent out of shape when we come face to face with some sort of consequence we didn’t imagine. However, in a Wodehouse world, these consequences are never too dire. The Great War, the Spanish Influenza, the upheavals of the early 20th Century never intrude, and why should we want them to?
Another delightful aspect of the stories is the dialogue itself. Why can’t we all walk around talking like Wodehouse characters? How much fun would that be!! I read this compilation on my Kindle and after a while starting highlighting particularly enjoyable bits. Here are a few, all from, “Jeeves and the Unbidden Guest.”
“What’s wrong with this tie? I’ve seen you give it a nasty look before. Speak out like a man! What’s the matter with it?”
“Too ornate, sir.”
“Nonsense! A cheerful pink. Nothing more.”
“She was one of those women who kind of numb a fellow’s faculties.”
“How are you this morning?” I asked.
“Topping!” replied Motty, blithely and with abandon. “I say, you know, that fellow of yours — Jeeves, you know, is a corker. I had a most frightful headache when I woke up, and he brought me a sort of rummy dark drink, and it put me right again at once. Said it was his own invention. I must see more of that lad. He seems to me distinctly one of the ones!”
I’m sorry that it is has taken me this long to get to know these delightful stories and characters and I share young Motty’s wish. I’ll be seeing much more of Jeeves, Bertie and the rest of the gang very soon.