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My Man Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse

My Man Jeeves (original 1919; edition 2011)

by P. G. Wodehouse

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1,064507,883 (3.77)158
Title:My Man Jeeves
Authors:P. G. Wodehouse
Info:CreateSpace (2011), Paperback, 128 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Own, Kindle, Humour, British, 2012

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My Man Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse (1919)

  1. 40
    Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) by Jerome K. Jerome (TadAD)
    TadAD: Imagine Bertie, Bingo and Barmie trying to organize a two-week boating expedition up the Thames. Conversely, imagine J., Harris and George trying to steal a cow creamer for their aunt. There you have it.

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Yes, paperback.
  Xleptodactylous | Apr 7, 2015 |
Of the eight short stories in this collection I preferred the four featuring Jeeves & Wooster over the Reggie Pepper tales.

No one story stood out as especially good or particularly bad, therefore I rate this as a good assortment overall. ( )
  PhilSyphe | Apr 7, 2015 |
Funny as can be. ( )
  leandrod | Feb 10, 2015 |
I try to imagine a ménage-à-trois with Dorothy Parker and P. G. Wodehouse — and then I try to imagine something only slightly less prickly: like being first flayed, then cut into tiny, bite-sized morsels and fried in boiling oil by the Grand Poobah of the Spanish Inquisition. P. G. Wodehouse would first have my eyeballs cut out and set upon a high shelf so that I could watch the entire proceeding. Dorothy Parker would strop her wit upon my optic nerves, then stitch my eyelids to my forehead and drip acid into my eyes. All in all, it would be an experience to be cherished and remembered!

And what of P. G. Wodehouse’s My Man Jeeves? — you may ask. I suspect that Reginald Jeeves, valet to Bertie Wooster, will join that memorable pantheon of literary characters that includes: Homer’s Odysseus; Virgil’s Aeneus; Joyce’s Stephen Dedalus; and Dickens’s David Copperfield and Uriah Heep. Not to mention: Cervantes’ Alonso Quixano (Don Quixote) and his sidekick, Sancho Panza; Flauber’s Emma Bovary; Tolstoy’s Napoleon Bonaparte; and Dostoevsky’s Rodion Raskolnikov. Yes, he’s that memorable. But he’s really more like one of J. P. Donleavy’s characters — say, Cornelius Christian in A Fairy Tale of New York. As is Jeeves’s entire entourage of characters. In short, what makes Jeeves Jeeves is P. G. Wodehouse — a most memorable and remarkable writer.

I believe the adjective that first (and most frequently) springs to mind when I consider Wodehouse’s prose is ‘piquant’ — and remorselessly so.

First, some general observations.

P. G. Wodehouse is not — at least to this particular reader — knee-slappingly funny. But I defy you — which I was not able to do — to maintain, for more than the space of a single paragraph, a straight face. Wodehouse may well be the most gifted comic writer I’ve ever read, and I’m as sorry for having neglected him all of these years as I’m now bothered, in hindsight, by the tragic ponderousness of my own prose.

Wodehouse quite simply has a gift for making light of life and of his social class. If you’ve ever been annoyed (as I quite often have) at the apparent logorrhea of many Brits — and particularly of the Oxbridge set — Wodehouse sets the record straight, cleans the slate of the entire United Kingdom with one fell swoop, and makes irony appear to be mere foreplay in the hands and loins of a polymorphous lover. At the same time, no one, but no one I’ve read in English makes it look more effortless.

The question naturally occurs: was Wodehouse amused by his own prose? I, for one, suspect not. I rather suspect that he worked feverishly hard to make his prose understandable at first glance. That we, in turn, would get the layers of meaning beneath the uppermost might well have been his wish; but his higher calling was to clarity, brevity and wit.

By way of initiation into Wodehousian prose, a (Brit. Eng.) glossary might be helpful to those of us reading and reviewing his work out here in the colonies. While many of these words also appear in Am. Eng., the application of them is, I suspect, Wodehouse’s own — or at least that of an upper crust (i.e., “posh toddy”) set. And so, here follows in no particular order a short list: beastly … bally … rot … deuce … rummy … jolly … lad … chokey … fat lot … old top … scout … (and perhaps appearing most frequently) chappie.

I think these general observations will suffice for my part of this review. What I’d rather do is show you, with specific examples, the genius of P(elham) G(renville) (“Plum”) Wodehouse — who, incidentally, shared the same Alma Mater (Dulwich College) with another great prose writer, Raymond Chandler.

It might first be useful to give a description of Jeeves in Wodehouse’s own words — even if Jeeves doesn’t appear in all of the stories in this collection. On p. 68, we find the following:

“There was Jeeves, standing behind me, full of zeal. In this matter of shimmering into rooms the chappie is rummy to a degree. You’re sitting in the old arm-chair, thinking of this and that, and then suddenly you look up, and there he is. He moves from point to point with as little uproar as a jelly-fish. The thing startled poor old Bicky considerably. He rose from his seat like a rocketing pheasant. I’m used to Jeeves now, but often in the days when he first came to me I’ve bitten my tongue freely on first finding him unexpectedly in my midst.”

P. G. (in the voice of Jeeves) on the U. S. of A.: “‘In a nutshell, sir, what I mean is this: His grace is, in a sense, a prominent personage. The inhabitants of this country, as no doubt you are aware, sir, are peculiarly addicted to shaking hands with prominent personages. It occurred to me that Mr Bickersteth or yourself might know of persons who would be willing to pay a small fee — let us say two dollars or three — for the privilege of an introduction, including handshake, to his grace’” (p. 69).

P. G. on marriage:
“He chewed the knob of his stick.
‘Women are frightfully rummy,’ he said, gloomily.
‘You should have thought of that before you married one,’ I said” (p. 87).

P. G. on humanity in general:

“‘He was a man who acted from the best motives. There is one born every minute’” (p. 96).

P. G. on man’s inhumanity to man:

“‘Reggie,’ he said, in a strained voice, ‘one moment. I’ll stand a good deal, but I won’t stand for being expected to be grateful’” (p. 106).

P. G. on children:

“Just then the kid upset the milk over Freddie’s trousers, and when he had come back after changing his clothes he began to talk about what a much-maligned man King Herod was. The more he saw of Tootles, he said, the less he wondered at those impulsive views of his on infanticide” (p. 107).

P. G. on man’s inhumanity period(!):

“‘Am I to understand, sir, that, because you are rich and I am poor, you think that you can buy my self-respect?’
‘Oh, come!’ I said.
‘How much?’ said Voules.
So we switched to terms. You wouldn’t believe the way the man haggled” (p. 124).

P. G. on a good valet:

“Voules’s mind had got to be eased as Stella’s had been. I couldn’t afford to lose a fellow with his genius for preserving a trouser-crease” (p. 128).

P. G. on life (or rather Life):

“I spent the afternoon musing on Life. If you come to think of it, what a queer thing Life is! So unlike anything else, don’t you know, if you see what I mean. At any moment you may be strolling peacefully along, and all the time Life’s waiting around the corner to fetch you one. You can’t tell when you may be going to get it. It’s all dashed puzzling” (p. 130).

P. G. on interrupting a couple in the throes of love:

“There’s just one bit more. After dinner that night I came up for a smoke, and, strolling on to the fore-deck, almost bumped into George and Stella. They seemed to be having an argument.
‘I’m not sure,’ she was saying, ‘that I believe that a man can be so happy that he wants to kiss the nearest thing in sight, as you put it.’
‘Don’t you?’ said George. ‘Well, as it happens, I’m feeling just that way now.’
I coughed, and he turned round.
'Halloa, Reggie!’ he said.
‘Halloa, George!’ I said. ‘Lovely night.’
‘Beautiful,’ said Stella.
‘The moon,’ I said.
‘Ripping,’ said George.
‘Lovely,’ said Stella.
‘And look at the reflection of the stars on the—‘
George caught my eye.
‘Pop off,’ he said.
I popped” (p. 134).

P. G. on meeting the husband of the woman who threw you over (for him):

“Have you ever been turned down by a girl who afterwards married and then been introduced to her husband? If so, you’ll understand how I felt when Clarence burst in on me. You know the feeling. First of all, when you hear about the marriage, you say to yourself, ‘I wonder what he’s like.’ Then you meet him, and think, ‘There must be some mistake. She can’t have preferred this to me!’ That’s what I thought when I set eyes on Clarence.

He was a little, thin, nervous-looking chappie of about thirty-five. His hair was getting gray at the temples and straggly on top. He wore pince-nez, and he had a drooping moustache. I’m no Bombardier Wells myself, but in front of Clarence I felt quite a nut. And Elizabeth, mind you, is one of those tall, splendid girls who look like princesses. Honestly, I believe women do it out of pure cussedness” (pp. 139-140).

P. G. on dealing with that same woman ex post facto:

“‘Do you remember, Reggie, once saying you would do anything in the world for me?’

There! That’s what I meant when I said that about the cheek of Woman as a sex. What I mean is, after what had happened, you’d have thought she would have preferred to let the dead past bury its dead, and all that sort of thing, what?

Mind you, I had said I would do anything in the world for her. I admit that. But it was a distinctly pre-Clarence remark. He hadn’t appeared on the scene then, and it stands to reason that a fellow who may have been a perfect knight-errant to a girl when he was engaged to her doesn’t feel nearly so keen on spreading himself in that direction when she has given him the miss-in-baulk and gone and married a man who reason and instinct both tell him is a decided blighter” (p. 142).

P. G. on the Artistic Temperament:

“And then I began to see daylight. What exactly was the trouble I didn’t understand, but it was evidently something to do with the good old Artistic Temperament, and I could believe anything about that. It explains everything. It’s like the Unwritten Law, don’t you know, which you plead in America if you’ve done anything they want to send you to chokey for and you don’t want to go. What I mean is, if you’re absolutely off your rocker, but don’t find it convenient to be scooped into the luny-bin, you simply explain that, when you said you were a tea-pot, it was just your Artistic Temperament, and they apologize and go away. So I stood by to hear just how the A. T. had affected Clarence, the Cat’s Friend, ready for anything” (p. 144).

P. G. on learning that a friend has just received the news of an early and bounteous inheritance:

“It was only then that I really got on to the extremely rummy attitude of the chappie, in view of the fact that a quite unexpected mess of the right stuff had suddenly descended on him from a blue sky. To my mind it was an occasion of the beaming smile and the joyous whoop; yet here the man was, looking and talking as if Fate had swung on his solar plexus. It amazed me” (p. 159).

P. G. on New York City:

“It’s got moral delirium tremens” (p. 160).

P. G. on the ultimate elixir for all occasions (even if not for all nationalities)-- viz., tea:

“At this juncture, with the conversation showing every sign of being about to die in awful agonies, an idea came to me. Tea—the good old stand-by.

‘Would you care for a cup of tea?’ I said.

She spoke as if she had never heard of the stuff.

‘Nothing like a cup after a journey,’ I said. ‘Bucks you up! puts a bit of zip into you. What I mean is, restores you, and so on, don’t you know. I’ll go and tell Jeeves’ (. 167).

P. G. on dressing (or being advised on properly dressing for) the part:

“‘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!’” (p. 185).

If you’ve indulged me (or at least P. G.) this far, would you allow me to describe the above, in Am. Eng. slang, as “zingers?” Trust me: I’ve given you only a taste of P. G.’s heady brew. The cup — if you will — is positively running over with venerable mead. Now, go and imbibe. Throw caution to the winds and intoxicate thyself on some Château Wodehouse. The buzz — I assure you — will be exquisite!

Brooklyn, New York, U.S.A.

( )
  RussellBittner | Dec 12, 2014 |
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Jeeves—my man, you know—is really a most extraordinary chap. So capable. Honestly, I shouldn’t know what to do without him. On broader lines he’s like those chappies who sit peering sadly over the marble battlements at the Pennsylvania Station in the place marked “Inquiries.” You know the Johnnies I mean. You go up to them and say: “When’s the next train for Melonsquashville, Tennessee?” and they reply, without stopping to think, “Two-forty-three, track ten, change at San Francisco.” And they’re right every time. Well, Jeeves gives you just the same impression of omniscience.
I'm a bit short on brain myself; the old bean would appear to have been constructed more for ornament than use, don't you know.
He's like one of those weird chappies in India who dissolve themselves into thin air and nip through space in a sort of disembodied way and assemble the parts again just where they want them. I've got a cousin who's what they call a Theosophist, and he says he's often nearly worked the thing himself, but couldn't quite bring it off, probably owing to having fed in his boyhood on the flesh of animals slain in anger and pie.
I was so darned sorry for poor old Corky that I hadn't the heart to touch my breakfast. I told Jeeves to drink it himself.
Jeeves smiled paternally. Or, rather, he had a kind of paternal muscular spasm about the mouth, which is the nearest he ever gets to smiling.
I'm not absolutely certain of my facts, but I rather fancy it's Shakespeare--or, if not, it's some equally brainy lad--who says that it's always just when a chappie is feeling particularly top-hole, and more than usually braced with things in general that Fate sneaks up behind him with a bit of lead piping. There's no doubt the man's right.
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Book description
Short story collection containing: "Leave it to Jeeves"; "Jeeves and the Unbidden Guest"; "Jeeves and the Hard-Boiled Egg"; "Absent Treatment"; "Helping Freddie"; "Rallying Round Old George"; "Doing Clarence a Bit of Good"; and "The Aunt and the Sluggard".
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 146626893X, Paperback)

This anthology is a thorough introduction to classic literature for those who have not yet experienced these literary masterworks. For those who have known and loved these works in the past, this is an invitation to reunite with old friends in a fresh new format. From Shakespeare s finesse to Oscar Wilde s wit, this unique collection brings together works as diverse and influential as The Pilgrim s Progress and Othello. As an anthology that invites readers to immerse themselves in the masterpieces of the literary giants, it is must-have addition to any library.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:00 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Containing drafts of stories later rewritten for other collections (including Carry On, Jeeves ), My Man Jeeves offers a fascinating insight into the genesis of comic literature's most celebrated double-act. All the stories are set in New York, four of them featuring Jeeves and Wooster themselves; the rest concerning Reggie Pepper, an earlier version of Bertie. Plots involve the usual cast of amiable young clots, choleric millionaires, chorus-girls and vulpine aunts, but towering over them all is the inscrutable figure of Jeeves, manipulating the action from behind the scenes. Early or not, these stories are masterly examples of Wodehouse's art, turning the most ordinary incidents into golden farce.… (more)

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