Read The Return of Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse Free Online
Book Title: The Return of Jeeves|
The author of the book: P.G. Wodehouse
Edition: Harper Perennial
Date of issue: October 1st 1985
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 31.21 MB
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Loaded: 2475 times
Reader ratings: 6.9
ISBN 13: 9780060807689
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“We’re in the soup, Jeeves.”
“Certainly a somewhat sharp crisis in our affairs would appear to have been precipitated, m’lord.”
The familiar refrain comes with an unexpected twist in this tenth episode of the series : one of the principals is missing, Bertie Wooster having been sent back to school and his place in the soup given to William ‘Billiken’ Egerton Bamfylde Ossingham Belfry, the ninth Earl of Rowcester. The particular trouble alluded to in my opening quote is also somehow familiar : romance is on the menu at Rowcester Abbey in Southmoltonshire, where young m’lord Billiken is engaged to be married to nice girl Jill Wyvern, daughter of the local Chief Constable. Financial woes and ghosts from the past complicate the issue, requiring Jeeves intervention. The soup is brought to boiling point by the arrival at Rowcester Abbey of a couple of foreign visitors : the wealthy American widow Mrs. Rosalinda Bessemer Spottsworth and the famous white hunter Captain Cuthbert Gervase Brabazon-Biggar, of the United Rowers Club, Nortumberland Avenue.
I have given the full names to the main actors and to the locations out of my enjoyment of Wodehouse bombastic references to the high life at lush country mansions – one of his many signature moves that can be found here, together with long running gags about the silently flowing movements of Jeeves or his outrage over too colourful or modern items of clothing. Even with the absence of Bertie Wooster, the characters and the action feel comfortably familiar. A less indulgent reviewer might even call them predictable or recycled. Take for example the first entrance of Jeeves – still capable of raising a smile on my face even after coming across it at least a dozen of times:
The man who entered – or perhaps one should say shimmered into – the room was tall and dark and impressive. He might have been one of the better class ambassadors or the youngish high priest of some refined and dignified religion. His eyes gleamed with the light of intelligence, and his finely chiselled face expressed a feudal desire to be of service. His whole air was that of a gentleman’s gentleman who, having developed his brain over a course of years by means of a steady fish diet, is respectfully eager to place that brain at the disposal of the young master.
With lovers Bill and Jill cast in traditional roles, the surprises and the colourful touches here are delegated to the two outsiders : Rosie Spottsworth and Captain Biggar, with occasional supporting acts from the earl’s sister Moke and her husband Sir Roderick. Rosie, with her fortune inherited from two timely dead husbands, could provide financial relief if she can be persuaded to buy the derelict mansion, but she seems more interested in chasing ghosts and trying to persuade the big white hunter to propose to her. Captain Biggar would also like to declare his love for the shapely American widow, but he is restrained by his own lack of funds ( for which he holds the Ninth Earl of Rowcester responsible) and by his misguided scruples aquired over a lifetime spent in the colonies.
One recalls the nostalgic words of the poet Kipling, when he sang “Put me somewhere east of Suez, where the best is like the worst, where there ain’t no ten commandments and a man can raise a small bristly moustache.”
I’m not entirely sure if Wodehouse is lampooning or regretting the passing of an age of Imperial magnificence here, but it is worth mentioning that the current episode stands apart from other books in the series not only throught he absence of the first person narration by Bertie Wooster, but also by being unusually anchored in current Post-War social developments.
We’re all workers nowadays! exclaim Sir Roderick and many of his landed peers as they contemplate the decline of the ruling class and the overturning of the social order. Sir Roderick is forced to take a job as floorwalker at a convenience store, Jill is working as a veterinary surgeon and even Bill is trying to find money for running his sprawling mansion and paying his servants by moonlighting as ‘Honest Patch Perkins’, a bookmaker at the horse racing tracks. Emblematic for the period, even in his absence, is Bertie:
“Mr Wooster is attending a school which does not permit its student body to employ gentlemen’s personal gentlemen.”
“An institution designed to teach the aristocracy to fend for itself, m’lord. [...] Mr. Wooster ... I can hardly mention this without some display of emotion ... is actually learning to darn his own socks. The course he is taking includes boot-cleaning, sock darning, bed-making and primary grade cooking.”
Well, simmer me in prune juice! as Captain Biggar likes to say, but this social revolution has reached even the Elysian Fields of Wodehouse romances, well known until now for being completely detached from real world events. What next?
... Faithfull readers can relax. Even when not firing from all cylinders, the author can still be relied upon to provide solid escapist entertainment, complete with hijinks in the middle of the night dressed in purple pyjamas, pinching of valuable jewelry, risque plays on words ( ... when I saw Whistler’s Mother pass us on her way to the starting-post, I was conscious of a tremor of uneasiness. Those long legs, that powerful rump ... ) and dancing the charleston with the lady one is not engaged to at the time. Each ‘clever’ solution that m’lord Rowcester and white hunter Biggar deploy in their search for easy money only serves to drive them deeper into the soup, until only one man is left standing resolute and confident in a happy conclusion to the whole unfortunate Whistler’s Mother affair.
I am being vague on purpose, trying to leave the plot developments unspoiled for those of you who are not already familiar with the style of the Wodehouse farces. All I can say in confidence is to trust in the benefits of a steady fish diet:
Let this fish-fed master-mind get his teeth into the psychology of the individual, and it was all over except chucking your hat in the air and doing Spring dances.
The ending of this slightly undercooked story (below his usual high standards) brought me some hope of a return to form in the next one, since (view spoiler)[ in the final chapter Bertie is expelled from his special school for clueless aristocrats:
It’s all most unfortunate, m’lord. Mr. Wooster was awarded the prize for sock-darning. Two pairs of his socks were actually exhibited on Speech Day. It was then discovered that he had used a crib ... an old woman whom he smuggled into his study at night.
It surely looks like he cannot live without his gentleman’s gentleman Jeeves and the duo will be reunited in the next novel (hide spoiler)]
I will close my remarks with two more ejaculations from Captain Biggar:
Well, mince me up and smother me in onions! ... Fricassee me with stewed mushrooms on the side! but I believe I will continue with the series.
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Read information about the authorSir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse, KBE, was a comic writer who enjoyed enormous popular success during a career of more than seventy years and continues to be widely read over 40 years after his death. Despite the political and social upheavals that occurred during his life, much of which was spent in France and the United States, Wodehouse's main canvas remained that of prewar 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 more recent writers such as Douglas Adams, Salman Rushdie and Terry Pratchett. Sean O'Casey famously called him "English literature's performing flea", a description that Wodehouse used as the title of a collection of his letters to a friend, Bill Townend.
Best known today for the Jeeves and Blandings Castle novels and short stories, Wodehouse was also a talented playwright and lyricist who was part author and writer of fifteen plays and of 250 lyrics for some thirty musical comedies. He worked with Cole Porter on the musical Anything Goes (1934) and frequently collaborated with Jerome Kern and Guy Bolton. He wrote the lyrics for the hit song Bill in Kern's Show Boat (1927), wrote the lyrics for the Gershwin/Romberg musical Rosalie (1928), and collaborated with Rudolf Friml on a musical version of The Three Musketeers (1928).
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