Sunday, May 11, 2014

The World of Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

"This building was run up somewhere in the last century, I have been told, to enable the grandfather of the late owner to have some quiet place out of earshot of the house where he could practice the fiddle. From what I know of fiddlers, I should imagine that he had produced some fairly frightful sounds there in his time [...]"

Wodehouse, exceptionally and profoundly gifted, wordsmith extraordinaire, enjoyed both enormous popular success and critical acclaim. In his remarkable seventy-three-year-long career he wrote more than 90 books and 20 film scripts, 15 plays and 250 lyrics for over 30 musical comedies. Plum is also the creator of Blandings Castle, Psmith, Ukridge, Uncle Fred and Mr. Mulliner. The Jeeves "canon" (novels that feature Bertie and his immortal valet) consists of 35 short stories and 11 novels. With minor exceptions, the short stories were written and published first (between 1915 and 1930), the novels later (between 1934 and 1974).

Sir Pelham (P.G. Wodehouse to his publishers, Plum to his fans) is truly a master of the English language. He was among the best-loved writers in the world during the 1930s, a British institution, and he found that "jolly old Fame" suited him. His prose is delísh, the metaphors top-tier. Jeeves and Wooster is Wodehouse at his absolute funniest. The fact that many of the stories in this book was published way back in 1923 and 1925 and yet is still funny today is extremely impressive. The stories - set in a timeless world (upper crust of late Edwardian society) based on an idealised vision of England before World War II - are very intelligently written. It is rare to find a book almost 100 years old that is still so widely read. His popularity spans generations and his fans range from pre-teens to centenarians. His work has been enjoyed by generations of readers, including successful authors such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, M.R. James, A.E. Housman, George Orwell, Rudyard Kipling, Hilaire Belloc, W.H. Auden, C.S. Lewis, Evelyn Waugh, Eudora Welty, Douglas Adams, Ruskin Bond, and J. K. Rowling. Wodehouse's books and tales are part of our literary and intellectual heritage, they will be read as long as the English language continues to be spoken and read around the world. 

The World of Jeeves is a 774 paperback volume of short stories of Jeeves and Bertie. Jolly good stuff, this! Every story is wonderfully funny, engaging and a jewel in its own way. Jeeves - wise, unflappable and formal, is quite the opposite of Bertie (the fictive author of the Jeeves and Bertie stories). So, "Bertie Changes His Mind" - which employs Jeeves as the narrator - could (after the first reading) seem a tad underwhelming. The first impression might be that Jeeves - the epitome of intellect and sagacity, constantly exercising his large brain - lacks the Wooster-touch, Bertie's wonderfully irreverent (tongue-in-cheek) sense of humour and buoyant style. It is reminiscent of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who, after having had Dr. Watson narrate Sherlock Holmes' adventures, has Holmes himself tell one, "The Adventure of the Lion's Mane." However, on subsequent readings one could appreciate the language and the narrative structure, especially when one realises that Jeeves has shaken off his formal (stately, sedate) demeanour and sounds quite like Bertie! So, is Reginald Jeeves actually Bertram Wilberforce Wooster's alter ego, picking up each other's thoughts? The story is about Bertie's ordeal in a girls' school. And guess who puts Bertie through the ordeal? Jeeves. And he has his reasons. 

"He did not inform you, then, that he was the Mr. Wooster?"
"The Mr. Wooster?" 
"Bertram Wooster, madam." 
I will say for Mr. Wooster that, mentally negligible though he no doubt is, he has a name that suggests almost infinite possibilities. He sounds, if I may elucidate my meaning, like Someone - especially if you have just been informed that he is an intimate friend of so eminent a man as Professor Mainwaring. You might not, no doubt, be able to say off-hand whether he was Bertram Wooster the novelist, or Bertram Wooster the founder of a new school of thought; but you would have an uneasy feeling that you were exposing your ignorance if you did not give the impression of familiarity with the name. Miss Tomlinson, as I had rather foreseen, nodded brightly. 
"Oh, Bertram Wooster!" she said. [From Bertie Changes His Mind]

["Bertie Changes His Mind" appeared in the collection of stories, Carry On, Jeeves, published in 1925. The story was first printed in The Strand in August 1922. The Sherlock Holmes short stories also first appeared in The Strand. The magazine published works by famous writers such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Rudyard Kipling, H.G. Wells and Agatha Christie. Wodehouse also contributed numerous stories to The Strand, including "Extricating Young Gussie," "Jeeves and the Hard-Boiled Egg," "Jeeves and the Yule-Tide Spirit," "Jeeves Takes Charge," "The Heart of a Goof" and "Thank you, Jeeves."]

Most of the Jeeves stories were originally published as magazine pieces before being collected into books. This collection, The World of Jeeves, is three books in one: *The Inimitable Jeeves (1923), Carry On, Jeeves (10 stories - published: 1925), and Very Good, Jeeves (1930 - 11 stories) and the short stories "Jeeves Makes an Omelette" and "Jeeves and the Greasy Bird". Confectionery of the highest order. ~ The World of Jeeves combines all the Jeeves short stories in the canon (with the exception of "Extricating Young Gussie".) The last two stories here have not appeared in any other collection. | *Although 11 of the short stories were reworked and divided into 18 chapters to make an episodic semi-novel called The Inimitable Jeeves, "The World of Jeeves" restore these to their original form of 11 distinct stories. 

Some of my favorite quotes and exchanges: 

1. "I doubt that the idea that came to me at this juncture would have occurred to a single one of any dozen of the largest-brained blokes in history. Napoleon might have got it, but I'll bet Darwin and Shakespeare and Marcus Aurelius wouldn't have thought of it in a thousand years." [From Fixing it for Freddie]

2. "But then the most frightful shindy started in the bedroom. It sounded as though all the cats in London, assisted by delegates from outlying suburbs, had got together to settle their differences once and for all." 


"I flung open the door. I got a momentary flash of about a hundred and fifteen cats of all sizes and colours scrapping in the middle of the room, and then they all shot past me with a rush and out of the front door; and all that was left of the mob scene was the head of a whacking big fish, lying on the carpet and staring up at me in a rather austere sort of way, as if it wanted a written explanation and apology." [From Sir Roderick Comes to Lunch] 

3. "It was my Uncle George who discovered that alcohol was a food well in advance of modern medical thought." [From The Inimitable Jeeves] 

4. "Jeeves lugged my purple socks out of the drawer as if he were a vegetarian fishing a caterpillar out of his salad." [From The Inimitable Jeeves] 

5. "Unseen, in the background, Fate was quietly slipping the lead into the boxing-glove."
[From Very Good, Jeeves.] 
6. "All is well," I said. "Jeeves is coming." "What can he do?" I frowned a trifle. The man's tone had been peevish, and I didn't like it. "That," I replied with a touch of stiffness, "we cannot say until we see him in action. He may pursue one course, or he may pursue another. But on one thing you can rely with the utmost confidence - Jeeves will find a way. ... There are no limits to Jeeves's brain-power. He virtually lives on fish." [From Jeeves and the Impending Doom]

7. "Young?"
"Yes, sir." 
"The old fathead!" 
"Yes, sir. The expression is one which I would, of course, not have ventured to employ myself, but I confess to thinking his lordship somewhat ill-advised. One must remember, however, that it is not unusual to find gentlemen of a certain age yielding to what might be described as a sentimental urge. They appear to experience what I may term a sort of Indian summer, a kind of temporarily renewed youth. The phenomenon is particularly noticeable, I am given to understand, in the United States of America among the wealthier inhabitants of the city of Pittsburg. It is notorious, I am told, that sooner or later, unless restrained, they always endeavour to marry chorus-girls. Why this should be so, I am at a loss to say, but--" 
I saw that this was going to take some time. I tuned out. 
"From something in Uncle George's manner, Jeeves, as he referred to my Aunt Agatha's probable reception of the news, I gather that this Miss Platt is not of the noblesse." 
"No, sir. She is a waitress at his lordship's club." 
"My God! The proletariat!" [From Indian Summer of an Uncle]

8. "Jeeves, I wish I had a daughter. I wonder what the procedure is?" 
"Marriage is, I believe, considered the preliminary step, sir." [From Bertie Changes His Mind]

9. "Heaven help the tarpon that tries to pit its feeble cunning against you, Jeeves," I said. "Its efforts will be bootless." [From Jeeves and the Greasy Bird]

~ That's the irreproducible 'Wooster sauce' for you. 


The World of Jeeves is a joyous collection of short stories featuring Jeeves, the gentleman's personal gentleman (or valet, but certainly not a butler) of the quicksilver mind, and Bertie Wooster, the amiable aristocrat brimming with 'Wooster sauce' - his unique brand of wit and humour. This collection of stories was specially selected and introduced by Wodehouse himself, who was struck by the size of his selection and described it as almost the ideal paperweight. ("The bulk of this volume makes it almost the ideal paper-weight.") Umm, with some 800 pages between its covers, it is rather in the league of a dictionary, I tell you. Albeit one that is considerably lighter, humourous and a joy to read again and again. So, maybe, calling it a witty encyclopedia (Encyclopaedia Wodehousiana) is more appropriate. Cotton candy for the old lemon and all that.

The endearing Bertram Wilberforce Wooster, known as "Bertie" to his friends, is the stereotypical British upper crust, with a habit of landing himself into the "bouillon" with unfailing regularity, sometimes courtesy his own fruity schemes, and due to his innate and often misplaced sense of chivalry (not to be misconstrued for machismo). Bertie manages to attract a large number of women; he's an Eton and Oxford-educated aristocrat, not too hard on the eyes and quite a pleasant person. He also has an unfortunate tendency to get engaged to just about every eligible woman he has met. Interests: darts, golf, billiards, tennis, singing, banjolele playing, squash, swimming, and reading novels of suspense. A man of 'sanguine temperament,' he is "able to regard the world with that sunny cheeriness which makes a fellow the universal favourite" only after a bit of breakfast. He is never much of a lad till he has "engulfed an egg or two and a beaker of coffee". Bertie adheres rigidly to a "Code of the Woosters". This has two fundamental tenets: never refuse help to a pal in need; and never contradict or offend a female. So, when a friend finds himself in a spot of bother (the "bouillon") and turns to Bertie for help, he can be sure that help will be forthcoming. And when the spot of bother involves, as it so often does, the friend's fiancée, we can be sure that, thanks to the second part of the Code, it will not be long before Bertie is himself in a spot (or two) of bother. Fortunately, Jeeves is usually on hand to get Bertie "out of the bouillon". Jeeves also exercises his "pure brain" for Bertie's friends whenever they get lobbed into the "bouillon" (and are in dire need of a solution to get out of it.) Wilberforce, by the way, was the name of an unfancied horse that Bertie's soon-to-be father had the good fortune to back to win the Grand National steeplechase the day before Bertie's birth, and insisted on Bertie carrying that name.

Bertie has a bunch of addle-headed friends with nicknames like - Sippy, Corky, Chuffy, Dogface, Boko, Gussie, Tuppy, Beefy, Catsmeat, Stinker, Kipper, Biffy and Bingo - with whom he likes to totter round town. Charles Edward "Biffy" Biffen is extremely absent-minded - "as vague and wooly-headed a blighter as ever bit a sandwich". The Rev. Rupert "Beefy" Bingham is a friend of Bertie's since Oxford. Bruce "Corky" Corcoran is a portrait painter turned cartoonist. Hildebrand "Tuppy" Glossop, nephew of Sir Roderick Glossop, (prominent nerve specialist or loony doctor) falls in love with an opera singer Cora Bellinger (until she punched him in the eye). Bertie and Jeeves intervene to reunite Tuppy with Angela (cousin of Bertie, daughter of Aunt Dahlia). Tuppy is a friend of Bertie Wooster's since boyhood who was at Magdalen with him. Frequently mentioned as the fellow Drone who bet Bertie he couldn't swing himself across the swimming pool at the Drones by the rings and looped back the last ring, giving Bertie no option but to drop into the water in faultless evening dress. (Despite this recollection being fresh in his mind, Bertie unfailingly helps Tuppy out of several sticky situations, especially those involving his cousin Angela.) Tuppy was also involved in the hot-water-bottle puncturing scheme - thought up by the irrepressible Roberta "Bobbie" Wickham; unfortunately, Sir Roderick Glossop (his uncle) was on the wrong end of the scheme. Bingo Little sports a silly grin and "has about as much reticence as a steam calliope" (too loquacious or expansive). Bingo requires the assistance of Jeeves (for intelligence), and claims sympathy and assistance from Bertie (after "decanting his anguished soul") because 'we were at school together'. To which Bertie can only say: "Oh, right-o! Right-o!" And then the Code of the Woosters takes over. Richard P. "Bingo" Little is the love-struck trencherman renowned for his ability to fall in love with every girl he meets. (He fell in love fifty-three times). Bingo finds and loses girl after girl... until suddenly marrying celebrated authoress Rosie M. Banks, the author of works such as: A Red, Red Summer Rose; The Woman Who Braved All; Madcap Myrtle; Only a Factory Girl; The Courtship of Lord Strathmorlick and other goo. Bertie calls them Mr. and Mrs. Little. Bingeese. [A motif that is somewhat reminiscent of Hans Christian Andersen's folk tale Thumbelina and the Grimm Brothers' Tom Thumb.] Bingo mistook her for a waitress; she was merely gathering material for her next book, Mervyn Keene, Clubman. Bertie proclaimed her work to be "the most pronounced and widely-read tripe on the market" (though thanks to Bingo, he impersonates her once). Bingo nervously changes the subject every time his wife's books are brought up in conversation. [He later becomes editor of Wee Tots magazine.] She submitted an article for Milady's Boudoir (the women's paper of Dahlia Travers, Bertie Wooster's Aunt Dahlia), entitled "How I Keep the Love of My Husband-Baby", which, fortunately for Bingo, hasn't been published. She employed chef extraordinaire Anatole until Aunt Dahlia acquired him from her with the help of Jeeves (in "Clustering Round Young Bingo"), and is thus unlikely to write further for Mrs Travers.) 

"Is Mr. Little in trouble, sir?" 
"Well, you might call it that. He's in love. For about the fifty-third time. I ask you, Jeeves, as man to man, did you ever see such a chap?" 
"Mr. Little is certainly warm-hearted, sir." 
"Warm-hearted! I should think he has to wear asbestos vests. Well, stand by, Jeeves."
"Very good, sir." 
And, sure enough, it wasn't ten days before in rolled the old ass, bleating for volunteers to step one pace forward and come to the aid of the party. 
"Bertie," he said, "if you are a pal of mine, now is the time to show it." 
"Proceed, old gargoyle," I replied. "You have our ear."

"It is fixed and settled. She accepted me this morning."
"Good Lord! That's quick work. You haven't known her two weeks!"
"Not in this life, no," said young Bingo. "But she has a sort of idea that we must have met in some previous existence. She thinks I must have been a king in Babylon when she was a Christian slave. I can't say I remember it myself, but there may be something in it."
"Great Scott!" I said. "Do waitresses really talk like that?"
"How should I know how waitresses talk?"
"Well, you ought to by now. The first time I ever met your uncle was when you hounded me on to ask him if he would rally round to help you marry that girl Mabel in the Piccadilly bunshop."
Bingo started violently. A wild gleam came into his eyes. And before I knew what he was up to he had brought down his hand with a most frightful whack on my summer trousering, causing me to leap like a young ram.
"Here!" I said.
"Sorry," said Bingo. "Excited. Carried away. You've given me an idea, Bertie." He waited till I had finished massaging the limb, and resumed his remarks. "Can you throw your mind back to that occasion, Bertie? Do you remember the frightfully subtle scheme I worked? Telling him you were what's-her-name - the woman who wrote those books, I mean?"
It wasn't likely I'd forget. The ghastly thing was absolutely seared into my memory. What had happened - stop me if I've told you this before - was that, in order to induce his dashed uncle to look on me as a chum and hang upon my words, and all that, the ass Bingo had told him that I was the author of a lot of mushy novels of which he was particularly fond. All that series by Rosie M. Banks, you know. Said that I had written them, and that Rosie's name on the title-page was simply my what-d'you-call-it. Lord Bittlesham, the uncle, had lapped it up without the slightest hesitation, and had treated me both then and on the other occasions on which we had met with the dickens of a lot of reverence.
"That is the line of attack," said Bingo. "That is the scheme. Rosie M. Banks forward once more."
"It can't be done, old thing. Sorry, but it's out of the ques. I couldn't go through all that again."
"Not for me?"
"Not for a dozen more like you."
"I never thought," said Bingo, sorrowfully, "to hear those words from Bertie Wooster!"
"Well, you've heard them now," I said. "Paste them in your hat."
"Bertie, we were at school together."
"It wasn't my fault."
We've been pals for fifteen years."
"I know. It's going to take me the rest of my life to live it down."

[...] I'm not much of a lad for reading, and my sufferings as I tackled The Woman - curse her! - Who Braved All were pretty fearful. But I managed to get through it, and only just in time, as it happened, for I'd hardly reached the bit where their lips met in one long, slow kiss, and everything was still but for the gentle sighing of the breeze in the laburnum, when a messenger-boy brought a note from old Bittlesham asking me to trickle round to lunch. | Laburnums are mentioned in J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit by Bilbo to describe (the wizard) Gandalf's fireworks. They are also written about in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis; they are mentioned when the snow is melting, showing the White Witch's spell is breaking. | Bengali author Narayan Gangopadhyay's adaptation of this tale (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) in the Teni-da universe (comprising of Teni-da - Bhajahari Mukherji; Pyalaram - Kamalesh Banerji; Kyabla - Kushal Mitra and Habul - Swarnendu Sen) is top-notch, and worth reading over and over again. It has been made into a movie, 'Char Murti'. | Tenida is depicted as the local big-mouthed (loquacious) airhead (famous for narrating fabricated stories of his so-called heroism), who, although not blessed with academic capabilities, is admired and respected by the other three for his presence of mind and honesty (as well as his voracious appetite). He has "a large nose resembling Mount Mainak". The narrator of the stories is Pyalaram, who seems to share his leader's frailty in academic exertions; Pyalaram followed in Tenida's footsteps, having repeated his final year in school for two years before passing matriculation with the rest of the gang. The other two characters that form an integral part of the quartet are Habul Sen, who speaks with a strong Bangal or East Bengali accent (Dhakai) and Kyabla, the cleverest among the four. [The suffix da used after his actual nickname Teni is short for dada (elder brother) which is used to initiate conversations with an older male in colloquial Bengali. Tenida is the leader of the gang.] Pyalaram, the narrator of the stories, is timid and suffers from a chronic stomach ailment. His unfavorite food items appear to be patol diye singhi maacher jhol (fish curry; singhi maach is magor or catfish). Kushal Mitra (also known as Kyabla) is the most intelligent, smart and brave among them. Clever and a topper among his classmates (topping exams is a habit with him), this handsome and dapper young man is the backbone of this group. Tenida always looks up to Kyabla for finding solutions to tricky situations. Habul Sen stands out in having an independent character - he is timid but not as much as Pyalaram. (Habul knows to box). He is also a very good student unlike Tenida and Pyalaram. [Catfish: Named for their prominent barbels, which resemble a cat's whiskers, catfish are nocturnal, and have no scales. In some species, the mucus-covered skin is used in cutaneous respiration, where the fish breathes through its skin. In some catfish, the skin is covered in bony plates called scutes; some form of body armour appears in various ways within the order. Catfish also have chemoreceptors across their entire bodies, which means they "taste" anything they touch and "smell" any chemicals in the water. | A catfish is someone who pretends to be someone they're not. To be the cat's whiskers means to be better than everyone else.]

In Indian Summer of an Uncle there is references to Shakespeare (Jeeves calls him 'Swan of Avon') and the poet Burns (who penned "A Red, Red Rose"). On one occasion:
"[...] I have no preference in the matter, sir.  It is simply that the poet Burns-"
"Never mind about the poet Burns."
"No, sir."
"Forget the poet Burns."
"Very good, sir."
"Expunge the poet Burns from your mind."
"I will do so immediately sir."
"What we have to consider is not the poet Burns, but the Aunt Agatha. [...]"

Two sisters of Bertie's father play major roles in most of the stories and novels. They are Aunt Dahlia and Aunt Agatha. (Aunt Julia, the widow of Uncle Cuthbert, appears only in Extricating Young Gussie but is mentioned by Bertie occasionally.) | Aunt Dahlia (Travers, Dahlia Wooster, short and solid, married to Uncle Tom - Thomas "Tom" Portarlington Travers) is Bertie's "good and deserving aunt", not to be confused with the insufferable Aunt Agatha, "the werewolf". Aunt Agatha (Worplesdon, Lady Agatha Wooster Gregson), grande dame of the old régime, cold and haughty, is "tall and thin and looks rather like a vulture in the Gobi desert". Her attitude towards Wooster has always been that of an "austere governess"... causing Bertie to feel as if he were six years old and she had just caught him stealing jam from the jam cupboard; whereas Aunt Dahlia is as jovial and bonhomous as a dame in a Christmas pantomime. Bertie once contributed an article on "What the Well-Dressed Man is Wearing" for Milady's Boudoir (the women's paper of Aunt Dahlia).

Aunt Dahlia (as we know) has a carrying voice... that would easily carry across three ploughed fields, so much so that she could even call the cattle home across the Sands of Dee. Bertie and Aunt Dahlia have on several occasions "chewed the fat together". ["But after all you are my brother's son whom I frequently dandled on my knee as a baby, and a subhuman baby you were if ever I saw one, though I suppose you were to be pitied rather than censured if you looked like a cross between a poached egg and a ventriloquist's dummy, so I can't let you sink in the soup without a trace. I must rally round and lend a hand." [From Jeeves and the Greasy Bird] 

Bertie is not averse to giving the "old oil" (charm) whenever the need arose, most notably to Aunt Dahlia. Just the thought of being barred from her dinner table, and thereby deprived of the roasts and boileds of her supremely skilled French chef Anatole - God's gift to the gastric juices - is usually enough to make Bertie answer Aunt Dahlia's call to Brinkley Court, except when some prize-giving is involved. [Bertie would rather shove it off on to his "horn-rimmed spectacles"-wearing Newt-fancier friend "with a face like a fish" - Gussie Fink-Nottle (engaged to Madeline Bassett who soberly speaks of the stars as "God's daisy chain".)] 

"It surprises many people, I believe, that Bertram Wooster, as a general rule a man of iron, is as wax in the hands of his Aunt Dahlia, jumping to obey her lightest behest like a performing seal going after a slice of fish. [...] When she says Go, accordingly, I do not demur, I goeth, as the Bible puts it..."

Bertie, however, did put his foot down ("cringe like a salted snail" despite being a descendant of the Woosters, who did their bit in the Crusades - according to Aunt Dahlia) and refused to play Santa "before an audience of charming children who wouldn't hurt a fly."

"Well, her efforts were ... what's that word I've heard you use?" 
"Bootless, sir?" 
"Or fruitless?" 
"Whichever you prefer, sir." 
"I was not to be moved. I remained firm. I am not a disobliging man, Jeeves. If somebody wanted me to play Hamlet, I would do my best to give satisfaction. But at dressing up in white whiskers and a synthetic stomach I draw the line and draw it sharply. She huffed and puffed, as you heard, but she might have known that argument would be bootless. As the wise old saying has it, you can take a horse to the water, but you can't make it play Santa Claus."
"Very true, sir."

Bertie is alluding to the crafty and quick-witted Puss of the "Puss in Boots" tale. [Puss has a desire for boots, which could represent seven-league boots. The Master Cat or the Booted Cat uses ingenuity, flattery and deceit to acquire power, wealth, etc. The cat - a creature that has mastered the arts of persuasion and rhetoric - has enough wit and manners to impress the king, the intelligence to defeat the ogre, and the skill to arrange a royal marriage for his (not royal or noble) master. Puss's career is capped by his elevation to grand seigneur. He enjoys life as a great lord who runs after mice only for his own amusement. Master auteur Satyajit Ray's adaptation of this tale in "Goopy Gayen Bagha Bayen" and "Hirak Rajar Deshe" is top-class.] 

The Jeevesian solution: 

"Pardon me, madam."
"Yes, Jeeves?"
"If I might offer the suggestion, I think that perhaps a maturer artist than Mr. Wooster would give a more convincing performance."
"Don't tell me you're thinking of volunteering?"
"No, madam. The artist I had in mind was Sir Roderick Glossop. Sir Roderick has a fine presence and a somewhat deeper voice than Mr. Wooster. His Ho-ho-ho would be more dramatically effective, and I am sure that if you approached him, you could persuade him to undertake the role."
"Considering," I said, putting in my oar, "that he is always blacking up his face with burned cork."
"Precisely, sir. This will make a nice change."
Aunt Dahlia pondered.

[...] She buzzed off, and I turned to Jeeves, deeply moved. He had saved me from an ordeal [...] 

The Wodehousian turn of phrase and use of period slang (not cuss-words) is rather delightful. People refer to each other as "old egg", "old bean" or "old crumpet". You'd wish to slip some Bertie-speak into your daily speech or everyday conversation (with the lightness and restraint that were the hallmark of the original, of course). The archly conservative Senior Liberal Club where Bingo and Bertie decide to meet one day, is "the eel's eyebrows". People "toddle round" for a spot of tea and "have a dash at it". They also "curvet"; "scud off"; "pop off"; "pour [silently] in"; "sally forth" and "trickle round". The playful language and vocabulary makes you want to pop off to that era simply to try it on a cove or two, what? 

Jeeves is the omniscient and unobtrusive Genie to Wooster's somewhat befuddled Aladdin. ['Somewhat befuddled' - 'coz Bertie is kinda full of intelligent humour.] Jeeves just streams in, or floats noiselessly through the doorway "like a healing zephyr". He may appear or disappear suddenly and without prior intimation. 

"[...] The old morale suddenly turned blue on me. It's the sort of thing that might have happened to anyone. 
"I never heard of anything so spineless in my life." 
I shivered like a warrior whose old wound hurts him. 
"I'd be most awfully obliged, Aunt Agatha," I said, "if you would not use that word spine. It awakens memories." 
The door opened. Jeeves appeared. 
"Yes, Jeeves?" 
"I thought you called, sir." 
"No, Jeeves." 
"Very good, sir."

Jeeves is unlike Desmond - Rip Kerby's faithful British manservant. The all-knowing and ever-wise Jeeves (in a conversation with a policeman in "Jeeves and the Kid Clementina") refers to himself as both a "gentleman's personal gentleman" and a "personal gentleman's gentleman." This means that Jeeves is a valet, not a butler - that is, he serves a man and not a household, unlike Nestor - the long-suffering butler of Marlinspike Hall. [Nestor (who made his first appearance in The Secret of the Unicorn) dutifully served as butler for the Bird brothers, Marlinspike Hall's original owners and the villains of the adventure. Nestor is the epitome of a butler of French society: Noble, loyal, always the housekeeper. He serves his master Captain Haddock and any house guests such as Tintin, Professor Cuthbert Calculus, or Bianca Castafiore, the "Milanese Nightingale".] However, Bertie has lent out Jeeves as a butler on several occasions, and notes: "If the call comes, he can buttle with the best of them." 

'Worcester sauce', by the way, is not to be confused with Getafix's strength-enhancing magic potion. Jeeves confronts Bertie's wretching hangover (his morning head - the outcome of being "steeped to the tonsils in the juice of the grape") with "a little preparation of my own invention" - his very effective hangover remedy (aka Jeeves' cure) - a glass of reddish liquid on a tray: raw egg, Worcester sauce, and red pepper. Jeeves says: "It is the Worcester sauce that gives it its colour. The raw egg makes it nutritious. The red pepper gives it its bite. Gentlemen have told me they have found it extremely invigorating after a late evening." Bertie attests: "I would have clutched at anything that looked like a life-line that morning. I swallowed the stuff. For a moment I felt as if somebody had touched off a bomb inside the old bean and was strolling down my throat with a lighted torch, and then everything seemed suddenly to get all right. The sun shone in through the window; birds twittered in the tree-tops; and, generally speaking, hope dawned once more." Amazed at his rapid recovery (his equilibrium restored after a heavy night at the raucous Drones Club), and being able to speak once more, Bertie immediately engages Jeeves ("The man's a genius. From the collar upward he stands alone.") 

Jeeves guides him out of trouble time and time again ("these little acts of unremembered kindness"). ... Nevertheless, there are occasions when the Bertram pride was struck and he tried to sally forth using his brainwave (!) completely ignoring Jeeves' advice (whilst the wise Jeeves looks on impassive and/or successfully scuppers the plan.) Bertie's solo flight results in a hot-water-bottle puncturing scheme (with the help of the good old darning needle) and an over-the-top project involving the Giant Squirt and the Luminous Rabbit. Other harebrained schemes like pushing a boy off a bridge (so that a friend (Bingo) can be seen by the boy's sister while in rescue mode), and such like. ["I drew myself up rather haughtily - not an easy thing to do when you're sitting in an arm-chair. I resent this universal tendency to take it for granted that whenever I suggest some particularly ripe scheme, it must be Jeeves's." ~ From Jeeves and the Greasy Bird

Jeeves is also a member of the Junior Ganymede Club, a rather posh London club for "gentlemen's gentlemen", i.e. valets, especially for those whose employers are members of the Drones Club. It is located in Curzon Street in Mayfair. Rule eleven requires all members to inscribe any embarrassing or unflattering information of their employers into the Junior Ganymede Club Book - to forewarn other valets. The section labeled "WOOSTER B" is the largest, containing eleven pages. [The club's name comes from Ganymede, who was the cup-bearer of Zeus. In Greek mythology, Ganymede is a divine hero whose homeland was Troy. Homer describes Ganymede as the most beautiful of mortals. In one version of the myth, he is abducted (from Mount Ida, near Troy in Phrygia) by Zeus, in the form of an eagle, to serve as cup-bearer in Olympus. Zeus either sent an eagle or turned himself into an eagle to transport the youth to Mount Olympus. | Ganymede (Jupiter III) is a satellite of Jupiter and the largest moon in the Solar System. It is the seventh moon and third Galilean satellite outward from Jupiter. Its diameter is 2% larger than that of Saturn's Titan, the second largest moon. Ganymede's discovery is credited to Galileo Galilei, who was the first to observe it on January 7, 1610.]

Jeeves, "that subtle master of prudence, good taste, and ineffable composure" - "glides" or "shimmers" in and out of rooms. ["Jeeves poured silently in".] His ideas or schemes are like "a ball of fire". In his free time, he likes to relax with "improving" books such as the complete works of Spinoza, or to read "Dostoyevsky and the great Russians". He finds Nietzsche "fundamentally unsound". ("You would not enjoy Nietzsche, sir. He is fundamentally unsound." ~ From Carry On, Jeeves - Jeeves Takes Charge.) He admires Sherlock Holmes and William Shakespeare. ("I'm not absolutely certain of the facts, but I rather fancy it's Shakespeare who says that it's always just when a fellow is feeling particularly braced with things in general that Fate sneaks up behind him with the bit of lead piping." ~ From Carry On, Jeeves). Jeeves displays mastery over a wide range of subjects, from philosophy through an encyclopaedic knowledge of poetry, science, history, geography, politics, psychology, and literature. He is familiar with life below and above stairs, and possesses a flawless knowledge of the British aristocracy. Jeeves is also a "bit of a whiz" in all matters pertaining to etiquette, social associations, gambling, car repair, and many more. His mental prowess is attributed to eating fish, according to Wooster, who often offers the dish (a tin of sardines) to him. Jeeves, though, is not a fish-eater.

"Its brain," I said; "pure brain! What do you do to get like that, Jeeves? I believe you must eat a lot of fish, or something. Do you eat a lot of fish, Jeeves?" 
"No, sir." 
"Oh, well, then, it's just a gift, I take it; and if you aren't born that way there's no use worrying." [From The Aunt and the Sluggard] 

Bertie climbs out of the "bouillon" (his many scrapes - self-inflicted embarrassing predicaments) with advice or more direct help from Jeeves. The "bouillon" includes sundry tasks stuck on to him by assorted characters (most notably Aunt Dahlia, whose ringing voice cracks window-panes and upsets vases.) Jeeves - Bertie's knight-defender - continually rescues (i.e. delicately and effortlessly extricates) Bertie from a "daily act of kindness" (courtesy the young blighted Edwin, the Boy Scout); the antics of his eccentric and dyspeptic uncles; feckless Don Quixotish friends; lovelorn, moping cousins; his many infatuations; an angry swan; an Aberdeen terrier of weak intellect (Aunt Agatha's dog McIntosh), and more. [Not being a person that ignores good advises, Bertie sprinkles aniseed on his trousers (following Jeeves's advise) to facilitate sneaking the dog McIntosh out of Mr. Blumenfeld's hotel room.] ... Bertie, however, has to relinquish some loud item of clothing (purple socks, scarlet cummerband, spats in the Eton colours, Alpine hat, for example) by the end of the tale. [Jeeves even addresses Bertie as "Alpine Joe" on one occasion.] ~ Jeeves has no issues if Bertie gambles or drinks too much, but he will countenance no fiancées, moustaches, or monogrammed handkerchiefs; he holds strong views on socks, ties, trousers, check suits, soft silk shirts as evening wear, hats, spats, cravats, white mess jackets, moustaches, vases, and portraits of Bertie (created by one of the many women with whom he is briefly infatuated.)

"[...] The tie, if I might suggest, sir, a shade more tightly knotted. One aims at the perfect butterfly effect. If you will permit me..." 
"What do ties matter, Jeeves, at a time like this? Do you realize that Mr. Little's domestic happiness is hanging in the scale?" 
"There is no time, sir, when ties do not matter." [From Jeeves and the Impending Doom]


"Precisely, sir," said Jeeves. "If I might make the suggestion, sir, I should not continue to wear your present tie. The green shade gives you a slightly bilious air. I should strongly advocate the blue with the red domino pattern instead, sir." 
"All right, Jeeves." I said humbly. "You know!" [From The Aunt and the Sluggard]

My twopenceworth: The stories in this collection are vintage, a comforting bath in nostalgia. Wodehouse's prose is a delight to read. Many layers of meaning and allusions. This is humour at its finest. His characters (all, not just Bertie and Jeeves) are wonderfully drawn, and the plots amusing. The Jeevesian solutions elegantly peel away the difficulties and make things right. One can read some of Jeeves's best efforts at saving Wooster considerable embarrassment. The World of Jeeves has several masterpiece stories: "Sir Roderick Comes to Lunch," "The Great Sermon Handicap," its pendant "The Purity of the Turf," "Jeeves and the Impending Doom," "Jeeves and the Song of Songs," "Jeeves and the Yule-tide Spirit," "Jeeves in the Springtime," "Jeeves and the Old School Chum," "Indian Summer of an Uncle," and "The Rummy Affair of Old Biffy". Savour them. Read them again and again. Dive deep below what sometimes looks like shallow waters. The Jeeves cannon is a classic (minus the Shakespearean style of writing). 

The World of Jeeves is a great first Wodehouse purchase. Rather a topper. It combines all the best of Wodehouse. It will delight newcomers to Wodehouse (those who want to be introduced to the charming world of Bertram Wooster and his immortal valet), casual readers, as well as loyal Wodehouse connoisseurs. The collection contains some gems, like the first meeting of Jeeves and Wooster and also one that introduces the readers to Anatole, the French chef extraordinaire, for the very first time. The only disappointment is the absence of Sir Roderick Spode. Him and his 'Eulalie' stories would've made this book a complete hit. [Spode is a large and intimidating figure, sort of an "amateur Dictator" and the leader of a farcical group of fascists called the Saviours of Britain, better known as The Black Shorts. He marches his followers around London and the countryside, preaching loudly to the public on the dissoluteness of modern society until a heckler hits him in the eye with a potato. Spode adopted black shorts as a uniform because, according to Gussie Fink-Nottle in The Code of the Woosters, "by the time Spode formed his association, there were no shirts left". Bertie Wooster believes that wearing black shorts is an extreme social and sartorial faux pas (shorts being inappropriate for a grown man outside a sporting context) and uses it to make fun of Spode. Before Spode inherited the title of Earl of Sidcup, he made a living as the "founder and proprietor of the emporium in Bond Street known as Eulalie Soeurs", a famed designer of ladies' lingerie. Out of embarrassment, Spode had long attempted to keep his ownership of the business under wraps, though Jeeves discovered the fact in the Junior Ganymede Club's official Book, where one of Spode's former valets had inscribed it. This discovery allowed Bertie to discourage Spode with public embarrassment and prevent the threatened "jellying process." Indeed, whenever Spode sees Bertie after the point where Bertie mentions the name "Eulalie," Spode instantly becomes meek and acquiescing.]

Wodehouse is read for the characters and the language (humour, wit, striking similes and metaphors, understatements, analogies, classic satire, turns-of-phrase, use of words, choice of vocabulary, and the like). In these, Wodehouse, like Jeeves, stands alone. The World of Jeeves contains some of his fruitiest. | Plum himself characterized his stories as "a sort of musical comedy without music." Wodehouse's way with words and virtuoso wit is highly distinctive and almost impossible to match. He had a scholar's command of the English sentence. He delighted in vivid, far-fetched imagery and in period slang. Evelyn Waugh, himself a great writer, once said that Wodehouse was capable of two or three striking metaphors per page. ~ He looked like a sheep with a secret sorrow. [The Inimitable Jeeves, with Soapy Sid described as looking 'like a sheep with a secret sorrow' (which incorporates a quotation from Longfellow: "Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.")] One young man was a great dancer, one who never let his left hip know what his right hip was doing. She had just enough brains to make a jaybird fly crooked. He had the look of one who had drunk the cup of life and found a dead beetle at the bottom. The metaphors are consistently funny, but they are more than that. They are superlative. They are memorable. They connect things that cannot be or are not usually connected. They show wordsmiths (including aspiring ones) how wordsmithing should be done. If the ability to use metaphor was a mark of genius, Wodehouse not only has a lot to teach anyone who works with words, he is a Black Belt of Metaphor. Wodehouse is worthy of imitation. But to imitate, one must read ~ it calls for an ongoing and consistent reading of Wodehouse. If you have not yet been exposed to Jeeves and Bertie, do seek out this book and make it part of your reading menu. The Wodehouse oeuvre is a treasury, a storehouse of words, very elegant turns-of-phrase, of common sense and insight, of knowledge and wisdom: a gift that keeps on giving. I am awestruck at the masterful writing. The stories are not whodunits, rather, howhedunits. The casual and playful language, special vocabulary (the playful, elliptical words and elegantly turned phrases, metaphors, colloquialisms, idioms et al) is as charming as ever. The writing is excellent, light and fun, not a semi-Shakespearean prose that can be hard to get through at times; it is also unlike the complex language of "Paradise Lost". Plum has infused the tales with a nice helping of humour (good for the "old lemon" and the funny-bone). This volume is a veritable feast, and the 34 stories are top-notch... best savoured one at a time. As Wodehouse himself advises in his preface, these stories should be savoured individually. ("Take it easy. Spread it out. Assimilate it little by little.") It takes a true master to not overdo it - and P.G. Wodehouse is just such a master. If you're ever feeling tired, glum, mirthless, lonesome, or grouchy, Wodehouse is almost certainly the cure. 

There is something delightfully satisfying about holding a good book; this one feels nice, the pages are smooth and clean, the 800 or so pages giving it a comforting weight to hold. (In Plum's own words: "Placed upon the waist-line and jerked up and down each morning, it will reduce embonpoint and strengthen the abdominal muscles.") Editing is fine (adding to the reading pleasure). For those who "get" P.G. Wodehouse, he is the "revered master". He leaves the reader with a thought (courtesy his arresting analogies and mixed metaphors). Book jackets are a reader's first impression, the famed 'Worchester sauce' graces the cover of The World of Jeeves. 

"Jeeves knows his place, and it is between the covers of a book." - P.G. Wodehouse.

About the author: Pelham "Plum" Grenville Wodehouse was born on 15 October 1881 in Guildford, Surrey, England, the third of four sons born to Eleanor and Henry Ernest Wodehouse (1845-1929). Young Plum attended boarding school; in 1894 he entered Dulwich College, graduating in 1900. His first novel The Pothunters was published in 1902. It was followed by A Prefect's Uncle (1903), Love Among the Chickens (1906), The Swoop (1909), Psmith In The City (1910), Psmith, Journalist (1915), and The Prince and Betty (1914). While writing for various magazines, he also started to collaborate on musicals. His prodigious output of stories and novels include Meet Mr. Mulliner (1927), Doctor Sally (1932), Quick Service (1940), The Old Reliable (1951), Uneasy Money (1917), A Damsel In Distress (1919), Jill The Reckless (1920), The Adventures of Sally (1923), A Pelican at Blandings (1969), The Girl In Blue (1971), and his last novel Aunts Aren't Gentlemen (1974). In 1975 Wodehouse was Knighted Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II. Feb 14 1975, P.G. "Plum" Wodehouse, to use his own phrases, "handed in his dinner pail" and "went off to reside with the morning stars." Sunset at Blandings was posthumously published (in 1977).

Details of the book: The World of Jeeves/ Author: P.G. Wodehouse/ Publisher: Arrow Books, an imprint of Random House India/ Binding: Paperback/ Language: English/ Publishing Date: 2008 October/ Genre: Fiction/ ISBN-10: 978-0-09-951423-7/ ISBN-13: 9780099514237/ Pages: 798 (including cover)/ Price: INR 699.

Picture: The book jacket cover of The World of Jeeves. Courtesy: randomhouse.

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