Where others merely smite the brow and clutch the hair, he acts.
Napoleon was the same.
Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse, KBE, October 15, 1881 – February 14, 1975, was an English humorist whose body of work includes novels, short stories, plays, poems, song lyrics, and numerous pieces of journalism.
He enjoyed enormous popular success during a career that lasted more than seventy years, and his many writings continue to be widely read.
Wodehouse’s main canvas remained that of Edwardian, pre-1914 English upper-class society, reflecting his birth, education, and youthful writing career.
An acknowledged master of English prose, Wodehouse has been admired both by contemporaries such as Hilaire Belloc, Evelyn Waugh and Rudyard Kipling, and by modern writers such as Stephen Fry, Christopher Hitchens, J. K. Rowling, and John Le Carré.
Grand Master, comedian, creator of the brilliant Jeeves, P. G. Wodehouse – pronounced “Woodhouse” – wrote columns, short stories, books, and was the librettist or lyricist of several early-20th century hit Broadway musical comedies, collaborating with composers Jerome Kern, Guy Bolton, and Oscar Hammerstein. He published from 1902 to 1977.
Even if you’ve never read a Wodehouse book or short story perhaps you’ve heard of his beloved character, the valet and “keeper” of the exceedingly rich man-about-town and priceless chump Bertie Wooster, Jeeves.
Jeeves is almost always depicted on book covers as a stereotypic fat, lumbering old butler, and Bertie shown as a plain boyish-looking young man, but that is not the way they are described in the novels.
Story narrator Bertie Wooster described Jeeves as a “darkish Johnnie” in one of the first short stories in which he appeared, often inferring later through context that Jeeves was a tall, good looking man, I always imagined. No one with that whip-like brain could possibly have a tubby, bulbous-nosed body.
Bertie never once described Jeeves as old, fat, or out of shape, unlike his descriptions of some of the rotund, pondering old butlers he encountered in his adventures, including Beach, the major domo of Blandings Castle.
Jeeves, though an intellectual homebody, was young and lithe enough to get out on the floor and dance on special occasions.
My ideal casting for Jeeves is the urbane, svelte, tall, dark, and devastatingly handsome British actor Rupert Everett. In my mind no one else has the intelligent features and the gravitas to do justice to the brainy, cool, Spock-like Jeeves.
Bertie Wooster was without question good-looking, “willowy”, and guileless. Young women were attracted to him, and he become engaged to many snooty upperclass society girls, engagements from which he later always had to ask Jeeves to unentangle him.
My introduction to Wodehouse wasn’t through Bertie and Jeeves, however.
Browsing one day in a bookstore (an eternal pursuit), I picked up a very thick book called The Golf Omnibus, a collection of golf short stories. I thought that it might make a good gift for a golf-fanatic friend of mine. I had never heard of the author.
I read the first story to determine if the book was worth buying. Then I bought the book, took it home, and read them all.
I laughed and was utterly enchanted, the best description of all of Wodehouse’s “First Time Readers”. I wanted to keep the book, so I bought another copy for my golfing friend.
The Golf Omnibus was my entré into the world of Wodehouse.
I discovered through looking for more books by P. G. Wodehouse that he was the creator of the famous “Jeeves”, whose name I’d heard so often.
I haven’t looked at literature the same since.
P. G. Wodehouse:
P. G. Wodehouse books at Amazon
The Wodehouse Society (fansite)
Wodehouse Quotes at Goodreads
Was Bertie Wooster a silly ass or a wise man?
A. N. Wilson, Telegraph, February 18, 2008
I Recommend: The Oeuvre of Isaac Asimov
August 27, 2011
I Recommend: Gone With the Wind
August 20, 2011
I Recommend: We Don’t Die
October 29, 2011
I Recommend: On The 2008 Financial Crisis
May 18, 2011
The I Recommend Category Page
Original photographer unknown.
© 2012 Cathi Carol. All rights reserved.
Last Updated: October 30, 2012
Please find additional book, movie, and music suggestions at my Amazon store.
Please contact me via my account at Twitter (you have to have one, too) if you have a comment, a related article to share, want to report an editing error, or find a broken link.
© 2012 Cathi Carol. All rights reserved. Please do not republish without permission.