Right Ho, Jeeves
© 1934 P.G. Wodehouse
What ho, readers all! What better way to start off a new month than a Wodehouse story, featuring our favorite lovable idiot Bertie Wooster and his impeccable valet, Jeeves? Unlike previous laughs with Wodehouse, this is a full novel and not just a collection of short stories. The premise is ever familiar: Bertie would like nothing more than to drink and cavort, but he has pals in the soup and an aunt sending increasingly threatening telegrams. There’s nothing to do but be a sport and leg it down to Brinkley House, there to fix the woes of the world — and by “fix”, I mean “make them worse until Jeeves arrives to put things in order again”. After studiously ignoring the attempts of his hand to get him to travel into the country and lend at a hand at an awards dinner, Bertie is forced to do so anyway to lend relationship advice to a few friends (who will wind up engaged to the wrong people), and after some spirits are added, general merriment follows.
The chief appeal of a Wodehouse/Wooster novel is not the familiar plots or even the comedy that ensues when Bertie tries to finesse social situations and make matters worse for the wear of his subtle touches, but Wodehouse’s use of language. I would venture to say that a reader can’t appreciate how funny English can be until they’ve read Wodehouse. All of the Wooster stories are rendered in the first person, through a narrator who is a ball to listen to. He’s brimming with opinions, so full of them that he has to abbreviate things at random., trusting that you know perfectly well what he meant. Mix this in with physical comedy, like drunken speeches and frequent chases through the halls and grounds of places like Highclere Castle (used for Totleigh Towers in the television series), and it’s a hoot all around. This one features a bit of comeuppance against Bertie; ever resentful of people preferring Jeeves’ schemes to his, Bertie spends most of the novel trying to take over. Jeeves has his revenge when he uses Bertie in the grand plan at the end to resolve everything at a stroke.
Ultimately, however, Wodehouse’s language has to speak for itself:
“And yet, if he wants this female to be his wife, he’s got to say so, what? I mean, only civil to mention it.”
“In this life, you can choose between two courses. You can either shut yourself up in a country house and stare into tanks, or you can be a dasher with the sex. You can’t do both.”
These civilities included, I felt the moment had come to touch delicately on the past.
“I’m not saying I don’t love the little blighter,” he said, obviously moved. “I love her passionately. But that doesn’t alter the fact that I consider that what she needs most in this world is a swift kick in the pants.”
A Wooster could scarcely pass this. “Tuppy, old man!”
“It’s no good saying ‘Tuppy, old man!'”
“Well, I do say ‘Tuppy, old man!’. Your tone shocks me. One raises the eyebrows.
“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.”
“You are falling into your old error, Jeeves, of thinking that Gussie is a parrot. Fight against this. I shall add the oz.”
“It seems to me, Jeeves, that the ceremony may be one fraught with considerable interest.”
“What, in your opinion, will the harvest be?”
“One finds it difficult to hazard a conjecture, sir.”
“You mean imagination boggles?”
I inspected my imagination. He was right. It boggled.