My Man Jeeves
© 1919 P.G. Wodehouse
What ho, readers all! My Man Jeeves renews my acquaintance with young Bertie Wooster, exemplar of the aristocracy in decline. Bertie has loads of money and no sense in the least, but is saved from the worst of his foibles by the ever-present Jeeves, he of the unrivaled brilliance. The work gathers a handful of Bertie-and-Jeeves stories, ranging from the whimsical to the inane. There are also a couple of stories about Reggie Pepper, a character who was a prototype for Bertie, and is just about as thick but lacks a Jeeves to see him through. If he survives, let alone triumphs, it is only through that bit of wisdom that God preserves fools. The premise is the same in this as in other collections; either Bertie himself, his aunts, or his friends have gotten him into a fix, and Jeeves must contrive to find a way out of it. Plots thicken, Jeeves stirs, Bertie’s out of the soup and into his recliner to enjoy a whiskey and soda and contemplate the wonder that is his man Jeeves.
In this collection, his friends are typically the culprits. One notable exception is the arrival at his American apartment of one of his dreaded Aunt Agatha’s friends. She is on a tour of American prisons and wants Bertie to take care of her intensely repressed son, Wilmot. No sooner has mummy dearest run off on business than has Wilmost escaped the apartment to engage as much sordid revelry as he can. This is his one chance to accumulate a storied and sinful past, and he’s intent on making the most of it. It’s up to Bertie to keep him from ruining his health with all-night binge drinking and partying, so naturally the ward winds up in prison. There’s often an element of backfire here; Jeeves suggests, for instance, that if friend Corky wants his uncle to approve of his girlfriend, that they arrange to impress said uncle with the young lady’s authorship of a book on said uncle’s favorite subject – not expecting the uncle to be so taken with her that he marries her. The Reggie stories are all backfire While Bertie’s scrapes and Jeeves’ ingenuity are fun reading in themselves, as I’ve noted in prior volumes, part of the fun of reading Wodehouse is the writing. Bertie is an eccentric character and an enthusiastic narrator, the sort who manages to make sitting in a chair fun to read about. He’s like laughing gas, nonsensical and with a contagious effect.
“Lady Malvern was a hearty, happy, healthy, overpowering sort of dashed female, not so very tall but making up for it by measuring about six feet from the O.P. to the Prompt Side. She fitted into my biggest arm-chair as if it had been built round her by someone who knew they were wearing arm-chairs tight about the hips that season.”
Here, in a sentence, is part of what makes Bertie a ball to read. There’s such energy to his narrative, the way he slings out descriptive fun with a healthy sampling of odd slang, some of it assuredly made up on the spot. There is no one funnier to read out loud than P.G. Wodehouse, especially if you do it in a Hugh-Laurie-as-Wooster voice. Even more giggles are to be had from Bertie’s interactions with Jeeves, who reins in his employer’s questionable fashion choices and is often allowed to destroy an offensive article as a reward. While Bertie professes to resent being dominated sartorially by his valet, Jeeves is such a master at getting Bertie and company out of trouble, getting rid of pink ties and colorful sports jackets are a small price to pay. If your interest is piqued, My Man Jeeves is available online for free via Gutenberg, or through Amazon.