October 06, 2004

Plum Posting

Having finished off Conrad's Lord Jim, I decided that my next commuter read was going to be an old favorite - Wodehouse's Right Ho, Jeeves. In this novel, written in 1934, we are introduced to two major players in the Bertie & Jeeves cycle, Madeline Bassett and Augustus Fink-Nottle.

Madeline is a soupy, sappy, Gawd-help-us. She is passionately loved by Gussie Fink-Nottle, a fish-faced little recluse whose chief hobby is studying newts. Unfortunately, Gussie doesn't have the nerve to tell Madeline how he feels. One major plotline of the story is how Bertie and Jeeves go about pairing these two up. Bertie has this to say about one aspect of the problem:

Gussie, you see, wasn't like some of my pals - the name of Bingo Little is one that springs to the lips - who, if turned down by a girl, would simply say, 'Well, bung-ho!' and toddle off quite happily to find another. He was so manifestly a bird who, having failed to score in the first chukka, would turn the thing up and spend the rest of his life brooding over his newts and growing long grey whiskers, like one of those chaps you read about in novels, who live in the great white house you can just see over there through the trees and shut themselves off from the world and have pained faces.

This passage always induces giggles, no matter how many times I read it, being at once a perfect example of Bertie's narrative style as well as a subtle little dig by Plum against the more heavy-handed excesses of Victorian romantic litterchur.

The book is full of little gems like this. As I say, it is the first of the Gussie and Madeline stories. It is also, I believe, the first full length Bertie and Jeeves novel. And Plum wrote it near the very peak of his creative powers. As such, this book is fresh, energetic and endlessly funny, as well as exquisitely crafted.

UPDATE: Mr. Enoch Soames, Esq., corrects me. In fact, Thank You, Jeeves beat Right Ho, Jeeves by about six months. I had forgotten about Old Pop Stoker and the gang. This is what comes of not fact-checking. My bad.

Fortunately, this is not an either/or proposition: read 'em both!

Posted by Robert at October 6, 2004 09:47 AM | TrackBack

Wow--I'm not the only one who likes Wodehouse and remembers Tony Dow. Actually, any paragraph in Wodehouse is a gem.

Posted by: Michal Collins at October 6, 2004 11:00 AM

Actually "Thank you, Jeeves" was the first published 'Jeeves' novel...Both were published in 1934, but "Thank you" came out first.

Posted by: Enoch Soames at October 6, 2004 11:37 AM

You probably know these, but for others -





Can't seem to find it, but Australian coyights actually expire so there is a Gutenberg site there with stuff the US group can't put up.

Posted by: John Anderson at October 7, 2004 12:54 AM

FWIW, DVDs of the BBC's "Wodehouse Playhouse" series just released in the USA. [Acorn Video 7222]

Posted by: Old Grouch at October 7, 2004 06:20 PM
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