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Book Review: Right Ho, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

Rejected submission by cafebabe at 2016-08-06 21:33:35

The genius of the Jeeves & Wooster books is that they are written from an unexpected point of view. A book about an upper-class idiot and his astute butler would be expected to be written from a neutral point of view or from the recollection of the butler. But, no. The full inner state of the idiot and all of his idling is explained in full. By this means, he damns himself with his own words. Set around London in the 1920s, the plot rambles along like Withnail & I [] - and is accompanied with similar quantities of alcohol and nicotine. From Chapter 3:

The first of the telegrams arrived shortly after noon, and Jeeves brought it in with the before-luncheon snifter. It was from my Aunt Dahlia, operating from Market Snodsbury, a small town of sorts a mile or two along the main road as you leave her country seat.

It ran as follows:

Come at once. Travers.

And when I say it puzzled me like the dickens, I am understating it; if anything. As mysterious a communication, I considered, as was ever flashed over the wires. I studied it in a profound reverie for the best part of two dry Martinis and a dividend. I read it backwards. I read it forwards. As a matter of fact, I have a sort of recollection of even smelling it. But it still baffled me.

Consider the facts, I mean. It was only a few hours since this aunt and I had parted, after being in constant association for nearly two months. And yet here she was—with my farewell kiss still lingering on her cheek, so to speak—pleading for another reunion. Bertram Wooster is not accustomed to this gluttonous appetite for his society. Ask anyone who knows me, and they will tell you that after two months of my company, what the normal person feels is that that will about do for the present. Indeed, I have known people who couldn't stick it out for more than a few days.

Before sitting down to the well-cooked, therefore, I sent this reply:

Perplexed. Explain. Bertie.

To this I received an answer during the after-luncheon sleep:

What on earth is there to be perplexed about, ass? Come at once. Travers.

Three cigarettes and a couple of turns about the room, and I had my response ready:

How do you mean come at once? Regards. Bertie.

I append the comeback:

I mean come at once, you maddening half-wit. What did you think I meant? Come at once or expect an aunt's curse first post tomorrow. Love. Travers.

I then dispatched the following message, wishing to get everything quite clear:

When you say "Come" do you mean "Come to Brinkley Court"? And when you say "At once" do you mean "At once"? Fogged. At a loss. All the best. Bertie.

I sent this one off on my way to the Drones, where I spent a restful afternoon throwing cards into a top-hat with some of the better element. Returning in the evening hush, I found the answer waiting for me:

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. It doesn't matter whether you understand or not. You just come at once, as I tell you, and for heaven's sake stop this back-chat. Do you think I am made of money that I can afford to send you telegrams every ten minutes. Stop being a fathead and come immediately. Love. Travers.

It was at this point that I felt the need of getting a second opinion. I pressed the bell.

"Jeeves," I said, "a V-shaped rumminess has manifested itself from the direction of Worcestershire. Read these," I said, handing him the papers in the case.

He scanned them.

"What do you make of it, Jeeves?"

"I think Mrs. Travers wishes you to come at once, sir."

"You gather that too, do you?"

"Yes, sir."

"I put the same construction on the thing. But why, Jeeves? Dash it all, she's just had nearly two months of me."

"Yes, sir."

"And many people consider the medium dose for an adult two days."

"Yes, sir. I appreciate the point you raise. Nevertheless, Mrs. Travers appears very insistent. I think it would be well to acquiesce in her wishes."

"Pop down, you mean?"

"Yes, sir."

Asked for suggestions to contribute to a speech, our protagonist gets cut short just by the tone of delivery:

"Do you know the one about—"

"No good. I don't want any of your off-colour stuff from the Drones' smoking-room. I need something clean. Something that will be a help to them in their after lives. Not that I care a damn about their after lives, except that I hope they'll all choke."

"I heard a story the other day. I can't quite remember it, but it was about a chap who snored and disturbed the neighbours, and it ended, 'It was his adenoids that adenoid them.'"

He made a weary gesture.

In general, geeks will appreciate the anachronistic terms and word-play which add comedy value. For example, the more knowledgeable butler often corrects his master but a minor disagreement leaves them neither requesting nor offering correction. This period leaves the text with howling homophones for uncertain words which should be known be the highly educated toff or could be trivially corrected.

Some of the plot elements are predictable but this may be because they have been subsequently imitated. Others are highly unexpected. It even has its own Noodle Incident [] which provides motive for cowardice and avoidance. Despite being privileged, lazy and terminally thick, the protagonist is a warm character wanting the best for family and friends. Unfortunately, he has no idea how to achieve this and his efforts are often misconstrued.

While reading the book, it feels a little too long. After reading it, it feels a little too short. However, something which is all too rare is that it finishes in a satisfying manner. I suspect this may be a good introduction to the series.

Right Ho, Jeeves is freely available from Project Gutenberg [] and elsewhere.

Original Submission